|A Year in the Life, Part Two
Author: Tintinnabula PM
The M rated parts of A Year in the Life, omitted from that story. These chapters are intentionally separated from the rest of the story as they are explicit. Chapters labeled as they'd appear in the original story. Lots of detail. You've been warned!Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,297 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 38 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 10-18-06 - Published: 10-14-06 - id: 3198683
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 1 A Frank Conversation (mature)
Disclaimer: Howl's Moving Castle and the characters portrayed within that book and movie are the sole property of the talented Diana Wynne Jones and Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli. They are not my property.
Please note that this chapter contains content that may be seen as inappropriate for children under age eighteen, including nudity and a discussion of sexuality. I am including it because Sophie and Howl are adults, and sexuality is a key part of human nature, and a facet I think is worth exploring. If you feel this may not be suitable for you, please skip on to the next chapter! You won't be missing much in terms of plot, but you may not learn all there is to know about the couple, particularly Howl's history.
Sophie awoke to the sound of rain and the almost-dawn that occurs on overcast days. She got up to close a window, and returned to the bed, intent on curling up against the soft, luxurious form of her raven angel. There he was, lying on the bed, but he wasn't an angel. He had changed back to human form, Sophie saw, and lay sprawled across the better half of the bed. His blue-black hair covered his face, and his sapphire robe was open to the waist. Sophie couldn't help gazing at his slim, muscled chest and the light scattering of raven hairs that started at his waist and moved up his torso. He was so masculine, Sophie thought, despite his slim frame and his silly affectations. She felt her heart flutter slightly and warmth radiate from her core as she looked at him. How was it that he could make her feel this way? Sophie sat on the bed and turned to consider her fiancé. How could a man this handsome, this perfect, want her as his wife? But he did, she told herself, and smiled. What would happen once they consummated their relationship, Sophie wondered. She had a very poorly-formed idea of marital relations, which had been shaped largely by Fanny's views on the matter. But Sophie's judgment almost never matched her mother's. Perhaps Fanny's negative views of the activities involved in sharing a wedding bed should not be trusted.
Howl stirred slightly, and his robe opened fully to reveal his naked body. Sophie blushed instantly, and turned away. But curiosity got the better of her, as it typically did, and moments later she found herself peering intently at the evidence of her partner's sex. It looked different, Sophie realized, than what she had glimpsed during the green slime episode. It stood up straight from his body, and seemed larger somehow. Was something wrong with him? She longed to touch him, but did not dare. She was certain something would happen if she did, and Fanny's many words about the pain associated with a woman's duty lingered in her mind. It wouldn't hurt to look, though, she told herself, and continued her observations.
Howl stirred then, and half-awakened. He lifted his wing to wrap it around his love, and found that he was unable to move it. He moved his arm instead to pull Sophie close and felt the caress of his silk sleeve and the most definite absence of his love's soft body. He bolted up in bed, confused, and saw Sophie looking at him. Or to be more precise, looking at a very specific part of him. He blinked rapidly as her cheeks flamed and her eyes opened wide.
"Howl. I was just coming back to bed. The window was open, your things were going to get soaked, and I thought you must be cold without a blanket to cover you. I was just about to do that… Here." She pulled the coverlet from the floor and quickly draped it over him, avoiding his eyes as she did so.
She was still a terrible liar, Howl laughed to himself. "Well, we'd better get the day started. I'm going to take a bath. Care to join me?" Sophie went white at this comment and jumped away from the bed, sputtering. Howl grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. "Sophie, that was just a joke. Come here. I won't bite. We really need to talk."
Sophie sat on the edge of the bed.
"Next to me, Sophie. Really, you can trust me. You've lain next to me before and nothing's happened, right?"
"You weren't naked before," Sophie said to herself, but slowly, tentatively she spread out next to him, above the coverlet.
"If I'm reading things correctly, I'd guess that you've gotten a pretty good look at me. A better look than during my temper tantrum, anyway. Do I scare you, Sophie?"
Sophie opened her mouth in shock and glared at the arrogant young wizard, with the beginnings of fury building in her chest. "Your temper tantrum? What exactly do you mean? You did that on purpose? To an old woman?" It hardly seemed possible, but she turned redder still, the fire in her cheeks spreading to her ears, her neck and satin smooth décolletage. Howl was stunned again by how beautiful anger made her.
Howl grasped her hand and kissed her palm, an entreaty in his eyes. "But you weren't old, Sophie, and I knew it by then. I knew exactly who you were, and I wanted you to notice me. I was hoping you'd fall in love with me. And," he said sheepishly, "I thought you deserved some embarrassment after ruining my hair."
The earnest expression on his face made his actions seem okay, Sophie thought, although clearly it shouldn't. Did he really think that a look at his naked body would make her fall for him, or that displaying herself to her in that way could be appropriate whatever her age? The strutting, crowing peacock. Absolutely nothing was normal in this relationship. Men and women didn't talk like this—not any that she knew of anyway. They were different species, with different languages, that happened to coexist and interact sporadically. But here Howl was, talking to her honestly, caring about her. Treating her like her thoughts and feelings mattered—like a partner, as though she were his equal.
She could be honest, too. "Yes, Howl," she said with an effort, unable to meet his eyes. "I was looking at you. I was a little surprised by the way you looked—it was… different than before. And… I know that sometime soon we'll be lying together the way a husband lays with a wife and I really don't understand…" Her voice trailed off. This really was too difficult.
Howl leaned into her and kissed her gently on the nose. "Sophie, don't be scared. When it happens, it will be perfect. Trust me."
His words did little to assuage the trepidation Sophie felt, but she forced herself to stay close, to listen and trust. "Sophie, the way I looked during the slime incident and the way I looked just now are both normal for a man. Men become erect—like you just saw—in the morning, and during love-making."
"Yes, Sophie, making love. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's how two people who love each other express it to each other. It's special and private and intimate and I know that with us, it will be like nothing we've ever experienced." Howl's words were gentle, and it was clear that he was telling the truth as he knew it.
"My mother never said anything about love-making. She only told us about wifely duties and men's needs and…"
Howl sighed, sunk a bit deeper into the pillows and rolled his eyes. He wriggled his arm under her back, pulled her a bit closer and said, "Why don't you start at the beginning? I have a feeling we need to straighten a few things out."
"Well, she said lots of things. Men constantly need to be satisfied, and it's the wife's job to make sure his needs are met so he doesn't go off elsewhere. That they are usually happy if you, uh, meet their needs twice a week and you may be able to get away with just that much. But," she grimaced at this, "if you please them more often, they may buy you things. My mother is so shallow. This is embarrassing, Howl." He looked at her and smiled gently, and she realized he would not mock her for her words. She forged on. "Um, what else? That meeting a husband's needs is messy and unpleasant but usually doesn't last that long, that it sometimes hurts, always a lot the first time, and that can't be avoided and is the price women pay, like having their monthly visitor, for being able to have children. That goods aren't valuable if they are given away freely. Something about milk and a cow—I'd stopped listening by then." Most of these words had come spilling out in rapid succession and Sophie's cheeks were newly aflame by the time she finished this litany.
"Wow, Sophie. You know, just about none of that is true, not really. I can't wait to meet your mother."
"Howl, I'm not stupid. I may only be a girl from Market Chipping, but I know what mating is. I've seen plenty of howling cats in the middle of summer, and it looks unpleasant, even painful, especially to the female cat. Who would want to have her neck bitten?"
Howl closed his eyes, a small crease appearing between his brows as he considered the images Sophie had so vividly painted. He would have grey hair, he worried, by the time he set Sophie straight, it seemed. And that would not be becoming.
"Pardon my asking this, but Sophie, did your parents love each other?"
Sophie blushed at this. "Howl, all parents love each other. I really don't want to think about my parents …mating…" Sophie looked ready to bolt from the room, but stopped herself. This was her future husband, after all, and knowing Howl, they'd have this conversation eventually. Why go through this agony twice? She considered for a moment and spoke more slowly. "Actually, I know that's not true. My father loved my mother deeply, but he wasn't enough for her. Not rich enough, or handsome enough, or accomplished enough. My dad was so kind, so loving, he was a wonderful person—this is a horrible thing to say about my own mother, but I think he deserved better."
"He was a lot like you, wasn't he?"
"Yes. I was definitely daddy's girl. I even look like him." A memory flickered across her face and she smiled.
"I think your mother didn't realize what a jewel she had in him." He turned to Sophie, and lifted her chin so that he was looking into her eyes. "Sophie, darling, if your mother didn't love your father, what could she possibly know about making love? What she described is rutting, mating, breeding. What animals do. It's pleasant enough for the man, but usually not for the woman. Making love is different, Sophie. The point is to make each other happy, not to meet someone's animal needs."
Sophie wriggled a bit to escape Howl's penetrating gaze. "Howl. Did your parents love each other?"
Howl turned Sophie towards him again, and rested his hand on her warm back. It was a struggle to remain calm around her. He closed his eyes for a moment and when they opened, Sophie saw a far-away look she had never seen before.
"Yes, Sophie, they loved each other." Howl's face became angelic as warm memories of his parents' past washed over him. "They died when I was little. My dad died in a war when I was four, and my mother died two years later, of grief. But the time they spent together was beautiful." Howl noticed Sophie's confused look and continued, "I didn't remember much about either of them, but when we built the portal, I discovered I could go back in time, the way that you did, Sophie. I desperately missed my parents, so I decided to look in on their past and I…" He paused. "It was by spending time in their past that I learned what love really is, and how I became able to love you, Sophie."
Howl saw the deep compassion in Sophie's eyes. "Howl, what were they like?"
"Hmm. My mother was a spitfire, a bit like you really. She was a free spirit and ran away from Kingsbury and her family, the Pendragons. You can see," he waved his hand casually to encompass the room, "that she grew up in luxury, but this wasn't important to her. She wanted to marry for love, to pursue art, and that wouldn't be possible to her in the life she was destined to lead. So one day she got up and moved herself to Porthaven to become a weaver. She met my father there. I think I take after him, although I have my mom's eyes. He was a sailor and had been a Porthaven street urchin, like Markl. Obviously he was penniless, and poorly educated, but when he and my mother met, they knew very quickly they were meant for each other. Sailors are free spirits, too, and my mom knew they'd be separated often, but she didn't worry about this. She didn't worry about conventions or what others might think, either. She did what her heart told her to do. She didn't even want to get married, Sophie. She didn't see the point in it. I think she was nine months pregnant with me by the time she agreed to marry. They loved each other completely, Sophie."
"But she died of grief?"
Howl's expression changed to one of sadness mixed with anger. "My father had been released from his duties with the navy, and had begun training as a carpenter, but was called up again. He died soon afterwards. My mother had been livid when he was called up and had begged him to run away with her. She saw no point in the war and in him being cannon fodder. It took months for her to receive the news that he had died. Her family had disinherited her when she had left home and she had no one to turn to. She took to her bed and became… empty. She complained of pain, but the local herbalist and even the wizard from a nearby town could find nothing wrong with her, apart from the sadness. They gave her laudanum to take to numb the pain, and one day, she took too much. They said it was an accident, but it wasn't."
"You saw it? As a child?"
"Yes, but I didn't understand it then."
"Howl." Sophie was crying. "I'm so sorry." She covered his face with kisses, and pulled him closer to her. Her lips met his in a tender kiss which she quickly deepened. She kissed the rough, unshaven skin of his face and throat and the smooth skin at his collarbone, and felt him shudder and then tense. Why wasn't he returning her embrace? She pulled away from him. "Howl. What's wrong? Don't you like this?"
The sadness of Howl's memories combined with the frustration of the current situation was too much to take. "Sophie, isn't the answer to that question obvious? Do you know what you do to me? I've been meaning to say this to you, but I've been afraid you would misunderstand. Sophie, I want you in my bed. I want you sleeping in my arms, but also I want you—I want so desperately to make love with you. But I know you're not ready." Sophie's eyes filled with tears, as Howl pulled her to him. "Please don't be upset! I'll wait as long as you need—even years, Sophie, if that's what you need. But the thing is, having you so close to me is driving me crazy. I can't sleep when you're next to me. All I can think of is how beautiful you are, how much I want you. I thought transforming into a bird might help, but the problem is, once I fall asleep I always turn back into human form. And Sophie, I can't resist you in human form. Sophie, I don't want to push you into this too soon." Howl looked into Sophie's eyes, and for once he could not tell what she was thinking. "Sophie, do you think I am an animal?"
It took a while for Sophie to answer, as she struggled to understand the range of emotions she was feeling. "No, Howl, I don't think you're an animal. Apart from being a bird, anyway. I feel…desire for you, too, Howl. I think I feel the same way you do. I think I understand," She paused, unable to tell her love how much she wanted him. "Howl, I won't make you wait long. I promise."
"It's going to be lonely without you," Howl said.
Sophie nodded. Why did she feel rejected?
"Well," Howl jumped up, glad to change the subject. "We have a big day ahead of us. What do you think our family will think of our news?"
"That we're not sharing a bed?"
"No! That we're getting married!"