There wasn’t a single cab anywhere. With a noise somewhere between a growl and a sigh, a man slumped against a nearby wall, glaring at every passing vehicle as if it was to blame. This was getting ridiculous. Alright, fine, he thought bitterly, I’ll get a damn car.
A sudden insistent buzz in his pocket startled him out of his foul mood and he jumped. Shaking his head when he realized it was just his phone, he yanked it out and barked, “Yo, this is Marty.”
“Marty?” A note of incredulous humor rang through the elegant, lilting accent.
“That voice…” He frowned, not sure whether to allow himself to be pleased, or pull disbelief around him like a familiar safety blanket. His brain opted for a sort of giddy shock. “Morgana?”
The musical sound of her laugh was unmistakable, and even before she confirmed it with a soft “of course”, he already knew it was her.
“Good lord, girl!” Suddenly, he was glad for the dingy city he’d been cursing all morning. No one even spared him a glance as he leaped to attention and nearly shouted, “They have cell phones in the Otherworld now?”
Morgana laughed again. “Of course not, Merlin. And even if we did, how in the world do you think we would get the signal through the veil for me to call you?” She paused, and when she spoke again her voice was softer, laced with grief. “I’m not in the Otherworld.”
The frown reclaimed its rightful place, beating back any hint of defiant joy that threatened it as confusion made a hostile takeover, aided by trepidation. “You’re not? When Avalon receded into the mists, I remember you swore you’d never leave it again.”
He swore he could almost feel her anguish through the airwaves. “Avalon is lost, Merlin."
In that moment, his heart ached so badly that he didn’t think he’d notice if a bus hit him. “How?”
“It doesn’t matter. There’s no time to explain. All that matters is that it’s gone… My sisters, as well.”
He winced. “My dear, I’m so-”
“Shut up, old man. We haven’t the time. I managed to escape with Arthur, but he can’t stay in the Otherworld. It’s not safe for him there, right now.”
A crotch-rocket screamed by, and Merlin felt his stomach drop. “…You’ve brought him here, haven’t you?”
“No, I brought him to Mars. Of course he’s here!”
It occurred to him that Morgana had gotten quite crabby in her old age. “You want me to take him, don’t you?”
“I can’t stay here, Merlin, and he can’t stay there. He’s your responsibility now.”
“Has he had his first panic attack yet?”
Another pause. Then, “I’ve knocked him unconscious. I’ll leave his questions – and his panic attacks – to someone far more knowledgeable about this age than me.”
The wizard groaned, leaning back to knock his head against the wall. It didn’t help. He was still standing next to a busy city street, talking on a cell phone to Morgana la Fay about letting King Arthur roam freely in 2013. “Where are you?” he drawled, making sure she heard his displeasure and resignation in every syllable.
Merlin sighed. “He is so going to have a panic attack.”