Notes: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! After watching My Fair Lady enough times, I found my long-dormant shipper heart awakening in regards to Freddy and Eliza. So, I picked up a modified version of the 30-day OTP challenge and started this—what will eventually be a series of 30 vignettes, one for every day of the challenge. These will, as a result of how the prompts are set up, be out of order, with the exception of a few mini-arcs I have planned. Also, since I am terribly out of practice with writing romance, these vignettes and ficlits will cover a variety of genres. Lastly, this is, indeed, movie-verse, but I am drawing a couple elements from Shaw's epilogue. Challenge 1: Holding Hands.
It had been nearly a year since the Embassy Ball, and in that year, so much had changed. Indeed, as she headed back to a small, but welcoming, flower-and-grocery shop from having delivered an order to a grateful customer, Eliza Eynsford-Hill, nee Doolittle, had to admit that she could never have imagined her life taking the turns that it had taken. She'd have expected that she would've still been selling flowers on the street, alone, instead of in a proper shop, alongside her husband.
Of course, she would have hardly expected to have been married—and to Freddy Eynsford-Hill, of all people! Professor Higgins, of course, had dismissed Eliza as foolish for choosing him (though he had attended the wedding—albeit most begrudgingly), but paid him no mind. However, the reality that their little shop was struggling, that the two of them had to take up residence in the back rooms of the shop (which proved to be most aggravating at times, for they were attached to the train station; though they had learned to ignore the constant hustle and bustle, it was very hard to ignore the Express whenever it barreled past them), and that they just barely had enough money to make ends meet did hang over their heads like a thundercloud. But Freddy repeatedly insisted that however gloomy that cloud was, it would never be able to ruin the love that they shared. And she returned his sentiments.
And he did his best to treat her like a queen; he was the first one awake in the mornings and the last to retire at nights in order to make things as easy as possible for her. Sometimes, he would even forego sleep altogether; he had been doing so for the last couple of nights, trying to calculate the accounts himself. But no matter what he was doing, he would always set aside at least fifteen minutes at the end of the day to massage Eliza's feet.
Eliza would try to return the favors in whatever ways she could. With the both of them also attending evening classes, she would work her hardest to handle whatever orders came in through the day on her own to allow Freddy the chance to study during the slower hours in between serving customers who arrived in person; Eliza usually did her own studying in the morning and at night. It was a most hectic schedule, but one that always seemed to work—and there was always the weekend to look forward to, as those was the two days in seven that they had entirely to themselves. But today was not the weekend, alas; it was Thursday, and that meant having to prepare for their classes.
She finally arrived back at their shop, suppressing a sigh as she entered. A small bell attached to the door rang cheerfully, announcing that the door had been opened.
"It's only me," she called.
She was both surprised and concerned when she didn't receive a reply, and, at first glance, there didn't seem to be anyone else in the shop.
Still no answer.
Her first thought was that Freddy had stepped out to get something, but there was usually a note on the door when that happened—and there wasn't one now.
"Freddy?" she called again, her voice, in her concern, starting to betray her East End roots.
This time, she was rewarded with a quiet sound from behind the counter. She quickly rushed back there, her heart in her throat.
"Freddy!? Freddy, what happened?! Why are you—? Oh…"
He was fine, thank goodness, but three nights without any sleep had finally caught up with him. He had, apparently, been working on the accounts and trying to study at the same time, if the scattered books were any indication. Out of sheer exhaustion, he had closed his eyes, intending to only do so for a minute or two, but had instead fallen into a deeper slumber—and had fallen out of his chair in the process.
She gave a slight shake of her head as she knelt on the floor beside him, gently moving his upper body so that his head rested on her knee; she suppressed a smile as she realized how she had sang about wanting such a thing that very night after they had literally bumped into each other. It was all still clear in her mind—the rainy night, the spilled violets, his hasty apology before running off into the rain… Of course, it had also been the night she had met Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering only minutes after meeting Freddy, as well—the night that had started everything, leading to where she and Freddy were today…
The smile she had been holding back did, finally, push through her lips as she took her husband's hand in hers. Freddy finally stirred at this, though he kept his eyes shut.
"Yes, it's me. Go back to sleep."
"No… No, I can't; I have work to do…" He flinched, trying to lift his tired limbs. "What's the time?"
"Never you mind," she insisted. "You've already driven yourself to exhaustion; I'm not about to let this go any further."
Freddy would have protested had he not been so exhausted; as it was, he grasped Eliza's hand in order to reciprocate her previous gesture of holding his.
"…Sorry," he mumbled.
"Whatever for?" Eliza asked, surprised. "For falling asleep after three nights of doing the accounts? By all rights, I should've put a stop to it before it got this far."
"Don't you blame yourself; I won't hear of it," Freddy insisted, opening his eyes to look up at her. "You are wonderful."
Eliza just smiled again.
"I do mean it," Freddy insisted, softly.
"I know," she whispered back.
She had previously had her doubts about the praises that Freddy had showered on her—the entire reason why she had ranted to him about being tired of hearing words that night after the Embassy Ball. But it wasn't long until she began to see the sincerity in his words—that he did consider her to be the world.
Still smiling, she gave his hand a squeeze.
"Go back to sleep," she instructed him. "You need it. I'll wake you when we have to leave."
"But the shop—"
She placed her free hand over his eyes.
"The shop will be fine. Everything will be fine," Eliza promised.
Freddy sighed, quietly, and Eliza knew why. "Everything will be fine" had been their mantra for the past several months; it was the one thing (aside from Colonel Pickering's generous help) getting them through the harsh realities of what they had to contend with: the days when there were no customers and money was due to their creditors the next… the days when they were both frustrated from the amount of studying they had to do in addition to their work… the disdain they constantly received from their families for the choices they had made… the heartbreaking moments when they discussed that they both wanted children, but knew all too well that they had to wait until they could afford to provide for them…
And whenever one of those moments drove one of them half-mad, it was the other who would provide comfort with open arms and a reassuring whisper. Someday, things would have to get better.
They never once questioned their decision to get married, though; that was the one thing they did not regret. On the days when they were despairing, each was able to find solace with the other.
It was on these occasions that Eliza would often feel very badly for Freddy; she, at least, was used to having very little. Freddy, for his part, lamented that he could not give Eliza all that she deserved. He would spend countless hours discussing the kind of life he wanted for her—one where they would not have to worry about making ends meet and where they could have the family they wanted… Promises that he wasn't sure he could keep, but would certainly try to do so… Castles in the air in a realm of dreams where he was the king, and Eliza was his queen… For her, always for her; there was never any selfishness on his part.
Eliza pulled herself back to the present, removing her free hand from Freddy's face to see that he had fallen back asleep, despite himself.
"I know that we don't have all that we want," she said to his sleeping form as she continued to hold his hand. "And maybe someday, we will get it. But, for now, we have all that we need."
Gently, she raised his hand and held it against her cheek.
"Thank you, Freddy," she said. "I love you."
She watched over him as he slept, not moving until it was time to wake him. Softly, she hummed a familiar tune to herself as she kept her vigil, finding that she was now able to answer the question she had asked herself so many months ago.
Yes—it was loverly indeed.