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A nose by any other name...


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A little story I wrote for tma that she very generously allowed me to post here.


For everyone who doesn't know the movie: the movie deals with the theory that Shakespeare didn't write the plays or the sonnets. That Shakespeare was an ordinary actor, an illiterate one at that, who just put his name to the plays to cover up the fact that they were written by someone who was not allowed to sign any of his plays... Someone high-born: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Picture: http://www.sfgate.co..._0504329165.jpg (holding the mysterious Tudor Rose... heh.gif )

Very much hope you enjoy reading! smile.png


"Ben Jonson: You are the soul of the age...

Undeniable perfection that plagued my soul."

Jonson looked up. This night, as every night since this accursed business started, the royal box was occupied by the earl and his manservant Francesco.

The ink-stained fingers of his right hand were waving along with the rhythm of the play, his eyes alternating between the stage and, oddly enough, Jonson. It unnerved him immensely; what interest did he hold for this high-born person, other than his silence?

The man's plays were brilliant, Ben couldn't deny that. More than brilliant, if he were being honest. It drove him to desperation.

This night, the earl was looking distracted. Even as one perfect line after the other tumbled out of the actor's mouths, Oxford looked absent, where normally he'd survey the execution of his work like a hawk would it's prey...

As soon as the last line was spoken and the applause began, he made a slightly hasty exit. His handkerchief pressed to his face under the pretence of emotion (was Richard the third not a tragedy?), he fled into his carriage.

Finally alone, he lowered the cloth to reveal a face contorted in ticklish agony. His red-tinged nose twitched violently, freed from its linen prison, and vocalised gasps forced open a reluctant mouth.

'Ehh... hhehhhh...' his deep voice rising in pitch with every inhalation until finally '.. ehh... hehhhTCHOO!' He bent forward, the handkerchief once again pressed to his nose.

With a relieved sigh, he leaned back in the carriage. A faint 'bless you' came from the coach box. 'Thank you Francesco', he responded.

Carefully, he blew his nose, attempting to avoid irritating the inflamed tissue further. Long nights writing had finally taken their toll on his health in the shape of a chill/cold. It wasn't quite serious enough to confine him to his bed, but it was a blasted inconvenience. He could barely breathe through his nose without snuffling, his head felt heavy and fuzzy and worst of all was the humiliation of the sneezing.

His other symptoms could be masked with reasonable success, even the roughness of his voice was relatively easy to conceal, but the twitching, trembling and worse insubordinations of his nose were unacceptable.

Speaking of which... 'hehh... ehhh.... EHTChUH!' He groaned as his temples pulsed with pain. The cloth didn't leave his face again until the carriage drew to a halt.

As quickly as his head permitted him, Edward got out of the carriage. 'Francesco, please make sure there is a hot bath ready within half an hour.'

Tiredly, he pinched the skin between his eyes, the coolness of his hand giving him a moment of relief.

'Of course sir.' Those were possibly the best words he'd heard all day.

Keeping a swift pace in an attempt to avoid the rest of the household, he retreated to his study. Even in sickness, the voices did not stop. Feverishly, he straightened out a piece of parchment, dipped his quill in the black ink and felt the tension in his shoulders seep away with the comforting scratches or quill to parchment.

So intense was his concentration that he failed to notice Francesco's entry into the study, nor the soft clearing of throat to announce his presence. Edward was lost in a world entirely his own, filled with laughter, joy, villains getting their dues, heroic sword fights...

A gentle touch to his shoulder abruptly brought him back to reality and his state of misery. 'Your bath is ready.' The words were spoken before his rage could erupt and calmed his temper before it had fully flared up. 'Thank you, Francesco.'

With a tender caress, he closed the bound pages and put them on a shelf, his eyes lingering, longingly, on the leather binding. A silent promise to return swiftly, made as by a lover.

The bath was delightful. The steam that lazily rose from the surface soothed his pained sinuses and the heat drove all aches from his tired bones.

Pungent oils had been added to the bath water; they made his eyes prickle and loosened the congestion, causing his nose to run incessantly. The mild disgust did not outweigh the delight of being able to breathe through his nose again.

The relief, however, was short-lived, as the scent from the oils was now able to break through the lessening congestion, setting his nose ablaze anew. With a tired sigh, that turned into a desperate hitch, he cupped his hands over his nose and mouth and, in the privacy of the bathroom, allowed the sneezes to come unhindered.

'Hhhh... hehhh.... ehHH...' His nose rejected his submission, seemingly bent on dragging out his torture. For what felt like eternity, he was perched on the edge of an impossibly tickly sneeze.

If he had been able to see himself, he would have been mortified. Pink nostrils flaring wide, eyebrows raised, wrinkling his aristocratic forehead, mouth agape, lips moving to accommodate the desperate sounds that forced themselves out. Despite all this, he still managed to retain all of his natural elegance, even in his state of helplessness.

'Ehhh.... KSHOO... ehhh... hhhETCHUH... huhhh... ahhh... huaaTCHOO!' He pitched forward forcefully and the soapy water sloshed over the rim of the bathtub. Suddenly, the bath lost a lot of its appeal.

Even with the diminishing light and the fatigue that claimed his body, his mind was restless. Francesco convinced him to rest awhile and for several hours a fitful sleep claimed him.

Before the sun had risen, he could no longer remain still. The Voices hammered through his head, making it pound with the feverish blood.

Not much later, now fully dressed, his fingers played with the leather bindings again, gently caressing the word-filled pages until he reached one that was still creamy white. 'Untouched' flashed through his mind. After carefully smoothing the page, he moistened his quill and filled it with verse.

Page after page he blackened, words flowing from his quill, his whole being completely engaged in the process.

Francesco found him like this some hours later. His master looked pale and fatigued. Experience had taught him any protest was futile, so he merely took his place besides Edward and made sure nothing disturbed the earl until the time they would leave for the theatre came around.

Only one thing managed to break through the deep concentration. Small fits of coughing went unnoticed, snuffles were just part of breathing, but sneezing pulled him out of his state of reverie.

His eyes would lose their focus, a quick scramble for a handkerchief ensued before Oxford submitted to the teasing build-up that eventually ended in some number of sneezes. A disgruntled but gentle blowing of his nose signalled the end of the disruption.

This cycle repeated itself a fair few times before the time came around to watch one of his works being performed. With half-regret, Edward de Vere put down his quill and returned his words to rest once more.

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Mmm, what a very interesting and delightfully well-written ficlet, dear :) I don't particularly know the characters or the film, but I do like to think I know good writing when I see it and for me this most definitely falls into that category :yes: I also like the way you've set it out on the page.

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Ah, the Looney theory! Beautifully sneezified. How unwise of his lordship to take a bath monthly......

I was an Oxfordian when young [ 'and your good servant ever' Geddit? E . Vere?] Until I realised that only a man of Kent [and Cambridge] could have written the masterpieces, and anyway the whole Marlowe story is a far better conspiracy theory.....

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