Title: Traffic Jam
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Uther
Summary: Arthur never broke his word, no matter what.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: I Will Be Home For Christmas
Author's Notes: I apologise for the very unimaginative title!
Arthur sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. He focused on his breathing for a moment before he spoke.
“You know what,” he said, his voice calm, “I’m leaving.”
“Don’t walk away from me-,”
Arthur turned his back on his father. His footsteps echoed on the cold tiles as he walked the long hallway. He opened the door, thankful that Christmas Eve was the one day off George received. If the butler had tried to open the door for him, Arthur thought he might have punched someone.
The door banged shut behind him. The air outside was frigid and Arthur shivered, regretting having left his scarf in the car. Already, a thick frost was forming on the ground and his feet crunched as he walked back to the car.
Once inside – with the doors locked just for good measure – Arthur thumped the steering wheel, letting his frustration out. Turning up the heating, he waited for a few moments before the temperature started to rise.
He knew this would happen. After last year’s fiasco of a Christmas at the Pendragon’s, Arthur had agreed whole-heartedly with Merlin that they didn’t want to do that this year. Instead, Merlin’s mother had come to stay. Arthur’s lips twitched. His boyfriend hadn’t thought it through. Despite Merlin’s reassurances that the walls were thick enough, Arthur flatly refused to have sex with Merlin’s mother in the next room.
But his father had been furious. Arthur’s compromise was that he would come for dinner – alone – on Christmas Eve. Now he was regretting that: a building headache and the late hour meant he knew it was going to be a painful journey home.
It had been a bad idea from the start. If he hadn’t had to go into the office for a few hours (Merlin’s protests that it was Christmas Eve still ringing in his ears!), then Arthur wouldn’t have ever left the flat. But he had given his word: a Pendragon never broke their word and Arthur wasn’t starting now.
It hadn’t taken long for his father to start nagging and picking, criticising Arthur’s performance at work and his lifestyle choices.
Arthur had had enough!
Finally, the car was warm enough and Arthur pulled out of the drive without looking back. The first few miles were easy, but the traffic swiftly started to build before long. Arthur’s speed slowed until he was moving at barely more than a crawl.
Looking ahead and behind, Arthur saw a row of lights. He was going to be stuck here for some time.
Switching on the radio, Arthur drummed his fingers on the wheel and attempted to let go of his frustration.
Two hours later, at nearly 11pm, his phone rang. Grateful he had already connected the Bluetooth to the car, Arthur answered.
“He hasn’t killed you and buried you in that absurdly big field you call a garden, has he?”
“I’m still alive,” Arthur chuckled. Merlin hated Uther, and Arthur knew the feeling was reciprocated. “Stuck in traffic.”
“This late in the evening?”
“It’s Christmas Eve, love. I’m not the only one trying to get home.”
“You will make it home, won’t you?”
Arthur could hear the concern in Merlin’s voice. While he knew his boyfriend was worried over how long Arthur was going to be stuck in traffic for, he also knew it was more than that. Merlin and his mum had Christmas traditions, and Arthur knew they started early Christmas morning. He had been looking forward to enjoying some of them himself. He sighed, looking again at the lights.
“I’ll be home for Christmas,” he promised, “you have my word.”
They chatted for a few moments longer before Merlin hung up, allowing Arthur to concentrate on the road. Not that there was anything to do other than sit with the engine idling.
As he neared the town centre, Arthur wondered if he should pop back into the office, even if just to stretch his legs. But he knew what he was like: something would catch his attention and he wouldn’t make it home at all. So he dutifully sat, ignoring his bladder and cramping legs, and stared through the darkness, thinking about Christmas.
This was the first year that he was looking forward to it. He didn’t have to dress up, didn’t have to follow the rules of a formal dinner and listen to his father make a speech about the business, despite only Arthur and Morgana being there to hear it.
He winced, thinking of his sister. She had been furious when he told her that he wasn’t coming on Christmas Day, but he knew she understood. She just hadn’t wanted to deal with Uther alone. The last Arthur heard, she was bringing her new boyfriend. She assured Arthur – with a smirk – that if Uther hated Merlin, he was going to detest Gwaine. She had sounded far too gleeful about it all.
Arthur jolted, realising the traffic was moving. Slowly, inch by inch, he moved through town. As he soon as he reached the outskirts the other side, it was as if the cars just vanished. Arthur had no idea where the cars had gone, but the road was clear. He didn’t hesitate, touching the accelerator and hoping to make up for lost time.
Finally, after hours of driving, he was home. Arthur stumbled from the car, put his key in the lock and let himself in. He glanced at his watch as he did so. 11:59. Just as he had promised, he had made it home for Christmas. Arthur never broke his word.
Merlin had gone to bed. But there were a plate of cookies on the kitchen table. The For Santa had been replaced with For Arthur and he grinned, taking one.
Eating it on the way up the stairs, Arthur shrugged off his clothes and fell into bed. Merlin rolled over sleepily.
“You made it,” he said, smiling despite not being awake.
“Told you I would,” Arthur replied.