Based on: Pygmalion by G B Shaw
Pairing: Professor Higgins/Colonel Pickering
Note: This didn't quite turn out the way I intended. When does it ever? <sigh>
Beta'd by and dedicated to Caroline Baker with grateful thanks for suggesting this pairing.
Like a Man
'Why can't a woman be more like a man?'
-Professor Henry Higgins, 'My Fair Lady'
So, she had left. Gone to her beloved Freddie.
Freddie! Hah! No 'happy ever after' there! Typical. Damned woman. He had transformed a flower girl caterpillar into a princess butterfly. And she was throwing herself away on a brainless idiot like Freddie Eynsford-Hill. Well, good riddance to her!
Oh, but hadn't she been magnificent, there at the end? So wonderfully vibrant and scathing. A viperous virago damning him to hell. A worthy opponent. Threatening to outdo *him*; to use *his* methods to teach others.
Truthfully, he wished her well. And she'd need all the well-wishes she could get. Angry determination was all very good, but she had no real idea what she was taking on. *Freddie*! As indolent a drone as he'd ever met.
She could have had a prince!
She could have had...
Well, no, that didn't seem very likely, did it?
He laughed, only a little bitterly.
'You're thinking of her again.'
'Eliza. You were thinking about Eliza.'
'Don't be ridiculous, man!'
He really didn't portray righteous indignation very well. And after all the practise he'd had, too. It still sounded like blustering.
He felt a hand on his arm, astoundingly comforting.
'It would never have worked, you know.'
He gazed into Pickering's face. His friend's normally amiable expression was missing, replaced by an uncomfortable look of understanding.
'I know, dear fellow, I know.'
Pickering was right, of course. He usually was, though it would never do to admit that aloud.
It would never have worked. His bachelor existence had no place in it for a woman, he knew that. Only his obsession with winning the bet had allowed him to endure Eliza's presence for so long in his home. If she had stayed, then what? She was not a relative of his. Theirs was not a father-daughter relationship. He had transformed her beyond the capacity to be the servant her breeding might have shaped her to be. Not a sister, nor a daughter nor a servant. What was left? Most definitely not a mistress nor a wife, no matter what she said. ("We were above that in Convent Garden...I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me; I'm not fit to sell anything else.")
Oh, Eliza, he reflected, how I have wronged you. In my pride and my ambition, I have damned you. I could not, *would not*, be what you needed of me. Even you could not change me, my beautiful, maddening, impossible creation. I am a crabby old bachelor. It's what I was meant to be.
He was distracted from his brooding as he heard his club coming slowly, indolently awake on a lazy Sunday morning. His mind automatically catalogued the sounds: a couple of servants chattering quietly as they passed the room (he recognised their accents and made a note to seek out one of them later); a door opening and more cultured accents met his ears; the rustle of fabric, a foolish giggle; the panted breath and muttered invocations of someone bearing a coal-scuttle a little too heavy for comfort. Ah, the joys of a gentleman's club!
He smiled, suddenly. What would his mother say if she knew that there was still *one* club in London that would let him through its hallowed doors with a semblance of welcome? Not that there was *anything* hallowed about this place. And not that his mother would ever be made aware of its existence, God forbid! A 'Gentleman's Club' with a difference... How happy he'd been to find out that Pickering also belonged to this rather exclusive club.
A hand reached out from underneath the bedclothes and pulled him down.
Yes, he'd been *very* happy to make that particular discovery. The good Colonel had learned some very interesting skills in his travels. And was not backwards in employing them when the mood took him.
He found himself being turned over and positioned with a practised ease. Knowing fingers and a talented tongue roamed over his body. He felt hands part his buttocks and stifled a moan. He heard Pickering chuckle as he automatically widened his legs and thrust up.
A good-natured chuckle sounded close by his ear.
'Easy there, old man. Slow down, there's no hurry.'
Damn the man! How the hell was he meant to 'slow down' with those blasted hands taking liberties with his person? Not that he *minded* those liberties, to be sure, but it was getting difficult to concentrate...
He forced himself to relax. Never let it be said that Henry Higgins could be controlled by mere bodily responses. And Pickering calling him 'old man' was a telling point. He wasn't old, of course, he'd deny it with his last breath. But... if he spent himself so quickly now that would be the end of it.
The man was positively infuriating when he was like this. Tell me, Pickering, which is the real you? he asked himself. The amiable and bluff uncle-figure who dealt with Eliza so well or this satyr who enjoys tormenting me far too much? Would Eliza recognise you in this guise? Would anyone in 'polite society'? Who else knows of your leanings, your wickedly talented hands?
Those same hands were moving gently but surely over his body, preparing him, opening him. Now that he had stifled his initial over-enthusiasm he was able to sink into the welcome familiarity of the whole act...
...the older cousin, nervy, too highly-strung for his own good. Kisses, near-enough innocent, exchanged in a not-so-innocent secrecy...
...the tall, clear-eyed classmates who had flirted, laughed and touched him...
...the sloe-eyed gypsy lad who had taught him things he'd never even *dreamed* of...
...the berry-brown son of his grandmother's coachman, with whom he'd spent an idyllic summer. Who, when last seen, had grown sturdy and coarse and ordinary, with countless offspring...
...another young man, cheerful and feckless: his own Freddie Eynsford-Hill, lost on some godforsaken battlefield too many years ago.
Another memory, lacking the satisfaction of the others: a stay at a country house, a maid (but most definitely not a *maiden*) eager and forward. Despite his body's responses, he had been wary of her softness; repulsed by her lush wetness; had found the very ease of the act ironically unnatural. It had been a joyless union, regretted even before its completion. He had dreaded another encounter; had experienced a guilty relief when the same maid had been caught soon afterwards with the fifteen year old son of his hostess and turned off without a character.
Oh, Eliza, he thought sadly, I never promised you a happy ever after, no matter what you might have thought. Foolish child, to think that I promised you anything. I could never have given you what you needed. I have been cruel, but not so cruel as to pretend to be anything I am not.
She wouldn't really have wanted him anyway, not if she'd really known what he was like. His irascibility was the least of his sins. Their relationship had been coloured by the fact that he'd been the first man to ever pay her any attention. Like many a student before her, Eliza had developed feelings for her teacher.
And he could not return those feelings, nor realistically expect to initiate any...romantic... involvement with her. Romance was not something with which he had any familiarity. Men did not *romance* other men, at least in his experience.
Why did women need romance anyway? It was beyond his comprehension. But then, he had never understood women. As a young man he had been confused by them.
As he had grown older he had been increasingly convinced that women were barely of the same species as himself. He had more in common with Alfred Doolittle than he had with any of them!
His musings were shattered by a burst of sudden pleasure intermingled with pain: fingers probing his most intimate place, teeth biting down hard on his shoulder.
'You're thinking of her again.'
The fingers were removed. Cool wetness was applied, making him gasp with mild discomfort. Something larger pressed at the entrance to his body.
'Damn it, Pickering!'
'Stop thinking about her or I could become miffed, you know. Concentrate on what's going on here. A little more participation would be welcome, old fellow. Feel free to join in when you feel like it.'
Contrary old man, he fumed, I'll give you participation...
He reared back, impaling himself swiftly on to Pickering's manhood. There was pain, but it was fleeting - his body had experienced this act many times before - and it was worth it to hear Pickering's blistering oath and feel his body shudder as he tried to hold himself still. He knew the precise moment when the good Colonel gave up any attempt at control. His companion gave an inarticulate moan and initiated a driving rhythm.
So much for taking things slowly, he thought in satisfaction.
Then even he stopped thinking for a while...
'Are you going to your mother's today?'
He opened his eyes and regarded his bed mate. Had there been more than one reason for that question?
'No, I don't think I will. I'm sure that my mother has had *quite* enough of my presence for a while. In fact, I do believe she told me as much when I last visited her. Besides, Eliza is still there.' As if you didn't know, you cunning old goat, 'I think I'll spare my mother the job of mediating between the two of us today.'
The smile he received was amiable, a sleepy sated look that held just a hint of the proprietary. No, not an old goat, more like an ageing tiger, hiding still sharp teeth and claws with a semblance of lazy antiquity.
He snorted softly at the fanciful image.
With a sprightliness which belied both his years and his recent exertions he clambered from the bed.
'Come on, Pickering. If we don't hurry up we'll missed breakfast. We've stayed abed disgracefully late. And you an old soldier too! Come on, man, let's move.'
Old soldier, genial companion, insatiable satyr: no matter which guise *Pickering* wore, he, Higgins, could be himself with his friend. No watching what he said. No need to be anything other than he was. Not his mother's son, not Eliza's mentor, just himself.
And with that, he thought, even I can be content.