Title: When You Wish Upon A Star
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin runs into a spot of (fortuitous) trouble when he leaves home without his inhaler.
Word Count: ~965
Prompt: #88 ~ Breathless
Author's Notes: Okay, this was *so* not the route I was planning to take with this prompt when I signed up for it, but... what can I say? Who can resist Christmas fluff? (And look, something I wrote was actually under the word limits! Will wonders never cease!)
In hindsight, Merlin realized he should have known better: the air that day was brisk and cold and that never did good things to his lungs. But there was a lovely dusting of snow on the ground and the sky was bright and sunny. With just a week before Christmas, Merlin just couldn’t resist being out there in it, basking in the sunshine and holiday spirit.
And so, with his head covered by an argyle alpine knit cap, his glove-clad hands stuffed into his coat pockets, and his chin tucked down into the woolen scarf at his neck, Merlin navigated the bustling sidewalk. As he paused from time to time to window shop, he also watched the many couples meandering hand-in-hand through the crowd.
“Someday,” he thought with a wistful sigh. “Someday that will be me.” Merlin suddenly flinched and closed his eyes against a brilliant flash coming from the display window. Upon opening his eyes again, he discovered that the light in the star atop the Christmas tree had suddenly flickered on.
“Huh,” he murmured, staring at the brightly lit star for a moment before he shrugged one shoulder in puzzlement and turned to walk away.
It was then that Merlin started to feel the familiar tightening of his lungs that indicated an oncoming asthma attack. Making a rush for the shop door, he pushed his way in blindly, patting at his trouser and coat pockets with escalating alarm. His pulse thrummed in panic when his search did not yield his inhaler.
Ducking into a less crowded aisle of what turned out to be a bookstore; Merlin slid his messenger bag off his shoulder and dropped it onto the floor, kneeling to frantically paw through its contents. He swayed a bit drunkenly as the blast of warm air he felt after being so cold constricted his chest even further. Rainbow colored sparkles filled his vision and Merlin knew with certainty that he was about to pass out.
But suddenly there was a hard, lean line against his back and a hand at his hip to steady him. An arm wrapped around him from the other side and then a familiar piece of plastic was wedged between Merlin’s lips. Then a deep, masculine voice rumbled in his ear, “On three… Ready? One. Two. Three…”
Merlin sucked in as deep a breath as he could manage around the end of the inhaler as its plunger was depressed. Tears of relief leaked from the corners of his eyes as the medicine started to ease the vice-like grip around his torso.
“Again,” the voice demanded. “One. Two. Three…” And Merlin breathed in, the air moving more easily this time. The haze in front of his eyes began to dissipate, although his limbs still felt watery and weak. He thanked goodness that whoever was there with him had the foresight to brace Merlin against his body beforehand, or else Merlin probably would have listed sideways onto the floor by now.
In fact, the comforting touch at his hip did not move until well after the trembling in his muscles had stopped. Still, it only slid so far as the middle of his back, guiding Merlin from his knees into a sitting position upon the bookshop floor. “All right now?” the voice asked, concern clearly evident in its tone.
Merlin nodded wordlessly and turned his head to look at his rescuer for the first time. The man was stunningly gorgeous: arresting blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and full, lush lips set in a sculptured face that was framed with golden hair burnished by a shaft of afternoon sun. After staring for what felt like a wildly inappropriate length of time, Merlin shook his head as if to clear it.
“Thank you,” Merlin croaked, rubbing a hand against his throat. He was quite relieved that he was sitting down at that moment because the devastatingly handsome smile Merlin received in reply made him feel more than a little punch drunk.
“How did you know?” Merlin asked as he watched the man cap the end of the inhaler.
His rescuer lifted one shoulder in a self-conscious shrug. “My nephew has asthma; I recognized the signs. In fact, my sister insists that I carry one of these—” the man held up the inhaler before stowing it in a zipper pocket of his backpack, “—on me at all times, just in case.”
“Good job for me that you happened to be in the book store, then.”
The man chuckled and said, “Guess so.” He pushed himself to a stand and shouldered his backpack before offering Merlin a hand up.
Merlin grasped it and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. “Thank you…” he trailed off as he realized he didn’t know his rescuer’s name.
“Arthur,” the man supplied, turning their grasp into a handshake. “Arthur Pendragon.” He paused, and then said, “You’re welcome…”
Taking the hint, Merlin beamed at Arthur. “Merlin. Merlin Emrys.”
“Merlin,” Arthur repeated as if testing the name on his tongue. “Nice to meet you, Merlin.”
“Likewise,” Merlin replied pleasantly.
There was a pause as Arthur looked down at their still-clasped hands. Then he cleared his throat and asked, “Well, Merlin… Could I interest you in something warm? Coffee…or some hot chocolate, perhaps? I know a great place right around the corner where we could go. I’d hate to send you back out there in the cold all alone…”
Merlin’s smile was so wide that it made his eyes crinkle at the corners. “I’d like that,” he said, turning his hand in Arthur’s so that their fingers threaded together.
Beaming, Arthur tugged lightly at their clasped hands and led Merlin out of the shop.
They were so intent on each other that neither one of them noticed as the lit star on top of the tree flickered and went out, ready to grant its next Christmas wish.