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Advent Calendar, Day 2: Surprised (Amazing Grace fanfiction)


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I've tagged this one "Fanfic" and not "RPF" because while it's based in history, it's primarily based off of the movie Amazing Grace and the actor who played him. The fic itself is inspired by some research done by Myownprivatesfc. So yes, something like this actually happened, apparently.

“How much longer do you think you’ll be up, William?” Barbara Wiberforce asked, looking into her husband’s study.

“Just an hour or two, I hope,” William answered, smiling at her reassuringly, “I just want to read over a few of these old Parliamentary debates to see if I can find anything to help the cause.”

“I hope you find something,” Barbara said sympathetically, “I’ve put your evening opium dose on your bedside table, so you won’t have to pour one for yourself.”

“You’re a darling,” William said warmly, “Good night. Sleep well.” Barbara blew him a kiss and retreated, leaving him to his work. He smiled after her and bent over the papers once more.

As it turned out, he was up for three hours, writing down ever little bit of evidence he found and trying to work them into his latest speech. Feeling relatively confident, he continued mulling things over as he prepared for bed, eventually falling asleep as he rehearsed the speech for the fifth time.


The first thing William felt when he woke up was a positively dreadful tickle in his nose. He had barely lifted his hand off the bed to rub it away before the sneezes came upon him. “Kp-shew! Tshoo! Eh-shi!” Rubbing at his nose didn’t seem to do any good, because a moment later his head snapped towards the pillow with a slightly harsher “TCHH!!!”

“Bless you, William!” Barbara said, concern very evident in her voice as she entered the bedroom. He nodded his thanks, managing to sit up before sneezing again. “K-shah! Tach!”

“Are you feeling all right?” Barbara asked, resting her hand on his forehead, “You weren’t like this last night.”

“I’m as puzzled as y-you are,” William said, jamming a finger under his nose in an attempt to keep from sneezing on her, “Other th-than the sneezing and a m-mild ache in my stomach, I feel fi…fine. Ker-chh!

“Bless you.” Barbara moved to his dresser and started rooting around for a handkerchief. “Perhaps you sat in a draft last night and caught a chill?”

William shook his head. “My study was quite warm. If anything, I was too hot.” He gratefully accepted the handkerchief Barbara gave him, putting it to his nose. “Hsst!

Barbara ran her hand over the bed frame. “The servants clearly dusted in here, so that can’t be it either. Do you think I should send for the doctor?”

“It might be for the best.” William conceded, sniffling wetly. The sneezes had abated for now, but a lingering itch in his nose told him that he wasn’t finished yet. He lowered the handkerchief and added, “Perhaps this is a previously unknown symptom of Colitis.”

“I certainly hope not,” Barbara said with a wince, “You have enough to deal with as it is.” Giving his arm a reassuring squeeze, she left the room, leaving William to his thoughts…and his sneezes. “Ut-chh!

Leaning back in bed (it seemed foolish to get up and dressed if there was a chance the doctor would order him back to bed), he tried to sort out what was making him sneeze. It almost certainly wasn’t a cold—his sneezes when ill had a tendency to echo though the house. These sneezes were far more small and cat-like, and came on much faster. Speaking of which… “Msst! Kmmp! Ngsst! Exxt!” William muffled the sound in his handkerchief and tried to continue his line of inquiry through the fit. These didn’t feel like dust-induced sneezes, either. The itch in his nose would have felt much more prickly if that was the case. During a short break in the sneezes, he gingerly felt around the edge of his nose for any trace of feathers, before examining his pillows and duvet for any sign of damage. No, that didn’t seem to be the case either. But what else was there?


William jumped, so caught off guard by the doctor’s entrance that it even stopped him from sneezing for a minute. “My apologies, doctor. Thank you for coming.”

“No trouble at all. Your wife gave me all the information she was able. There are no other symptoms besides sneezing, correct?”

“William nodded.” And I can find no cause for them. Do you have any ideas?”

“I might,” the doctor said, as his eyes lighted on something on the bedside table. Picking up a glass, he sniffed it experimentally, then showed it to William. “Tell me, is this your morning opium dose?”

“William blinked. “No. Goodness, that’s from last night. I was so preoccupied with my work that I forgot to take it.”

“And the mystery is solved,” the doctor said with satisfaction, setting down the glass, “Opium has many peculiar qualities, affecting people in different ways. Missing a dose has been known to do strange things. Some get awful headaches, some feel an immediate increase in pain, many feel irritable or out of sorts…and a few people start sneezing.”

William blinked at him in disbelief. “Just from missing one dose? What brings it on?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that,” the doctor said apologetically, “The best guess I can offer is that your body is reacting to the lack of medicine by alerting you to the fact that something is wrong.”

Naturally, William’s body decided to prove the doctor’s point. “Hih…chihh! Chi!

“Bless you.” the doctor said, unable to keep the amusement out of his voice. Despite everything, William managed a smile too. “Wh-what…kchnn! What can I do about it?”

“Other than taking your regular dose to restore equilibrium, all that can be done is to let the sneezes run their course. It will hopefully clear up by this afternoon, though occasionally this lasts for most of the day. You don’t necessarily need to stay abed, but I wouldn’t exert yourself too much.”

William nodded, but another wave of sneezes came upon him and left him unable to speak. Fortunately, Barbara was able to answer for him. “Thank you very much, doctor. I’m sorry we brought you out here for something relatively trivial.”

“I’m glad you did. Otherwise, you would have been left utterly baffled and worried that this was a prelude to something worse.”

William, in the process of rubbing his nose, said dryly, “I’m still baffled, to be honest.”

Both Barbara and the doctor laughed. “I can’t say I blame you, at that. Well I should be on my way. Good luck, Mr. Wilberforce.” With a tip of his hat, the doctor left the room, Barbara on his heels to see him out. When she returned a minute later, she was shaking her head with a mixture of amusement and sympathy. “I’m so sorry, William. It seems the world has it out for you.”

“It hasn’t killed me yet,” William answered, settling back in bed, “And as symptoms go, this is refreshingly mild. I can cope with this on occasion.”

“Will you be staying in bed today, darling?”

William nodded. “I might as well. Fortunately, Parliament doesn’t meet for another two days, so I won’t have to send my regrets. But if you wouldn’t mind bringing me the papers from my study? I can at least try not to let this get the better of me.”

Barbara gave him a warm smile as she left the room. “It won’t. I won’t be surprised if you keep the sneezes at bay by sheer force of will. That’s just the way you are.”

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I literally just made an "eep!" sound when I saw this...and then another when I saw your author's note! Oh, Wilbur, the world really does have it out for you...occasionally in the most delicious ways! :evil:

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Thank you again for finding that fantastic little tidbit. It's like the Plot Bunny Gods handed the story to me on a silver tray.

Glad you enjoyed it!

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