A/N: I'm from Finland. Please forgive me my defects in writing.


Sophie yawned and straightened her back, which was protesting with loud crunching. She groaned, because every clack passed painfully through her back. Besides, no one was listening - Michael had already gone to bed and Calcifer was sleeping in the fireplace. Howl was in his room upstairs as well, so Sophie was alone in the downstairs and could moan and groan without getting any pitying or odd looks on her.

Sophie dipped the rag into the water and started to hum a song Calcifer had taught to her. Her old woman's voice was fragile when she sung softly: "Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine..."

"Thou art lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry Clementine!" continued a familiar voice from the stairs. "Sophie, Sophie." Howl said her name smiling softly but shaking his head at the same time. "Always at work."

When Sophie heard his voice she flinched, and then turned around angry that he had been eavesdropping her. However, she did her turn too fiercely, and something clicked in her back. Involuntarily she cried out loud and bent to double.

Howl's eyes grew big and he strode to Sophie.

"It's nothing, I'm okay", she tried, but Howl put his hand on her back, exactly on that spot where the pain was the most severe. Sophie moved her old eyes on Howl, and she thought she saw a slight flash in his glass-green eyes. Then he pulled his hand off and Sophie stood back astonished - the pain was gone.

The peculiar moment lasted for a few heartbeats, but then Sophie recuperated her shock. "Young man, do you eavesdrop me?" she demanded.

Howl smirked, looking like his own self again. "Not at all. I only came down to see were you still drudging. You should get some sleep!"

"As an old crone you don't really need that much sleep anymore."

Howl looked at Sophie incredulously. Sophie raised her hands defiantly on her hips, when Howl in turn lifted his hands up to air. "Peace! I don't want to fight, I only came to watch that you wouldn't work yourself alive. Although", he added, "I think that's not possible."

Sophie sighed and put her hands down. Howl offered her a chair, and she sat down without any complaints - she was admittedly exhausted. Not until now she properly took notice how mess his hair was, how shabby his nightshirt was, and how handsome he was. Howl was looking quite natural now, and yet he was truly handsome. He was as handsome as always, and Sophie just couldn't understand why he made so much effort with his aspect, because without all that magic and spells he was still looking like that.

Sophie realized that she was staring at him. She also realized that he had caught her staring at himself. Howl grinned and Sophie blushed and snorted.

"Do you have still much to do?" Howl asked.

"Well, not actually, I'm going to bed quite soon."


Today had been a hard day, scarecrow's attack and everything. Howl was exceptionally concerned.

"Umm, by the way, Sophie, do you have a family?" Howl asked suddenly. Sophie was not able to see his face, because he was standing his back facing her.

Sophie got confused. Family? Howl assumed, of course, that she was as old as she looked like, and was meaning probably a husband and children. Sophie decided to answer truthfully.

"I have as much children as I have husbands - none", Sophie said, still sitting on the chair, leaning against her cane, her back bent.

Howl turned to look at Sophie. "Have you ever had one? A spouse, I mean?"

A very bizarre question. Sophie thought should she start to tell untruths about 'poor deceased Alfred-dear', but she ended up to that result that it was better to lie less.

"I am what I am - a lifelong old maid." Then she decided to add her credibility. "My parents were mourning about that, but I said; what to sorrow, we got my dear sisters and their dear children, and my mother and father are able to be proud of them. They are gone now, my parents, but I can still remember how my father looked at me with that sadness in his eyes when he saw how I got uglier and uglier, day after day." Sophie sighed sounding dramatically sad. "Why are you asking, laddie?"

Howl's face was indecipherable. His eyebrows were elevated in a strange way. Slowly he straightened his legs, stood up, stretched himself and yawned loudly. He smacked his mouth and said: "Good to know."

That was indecipherable, too.

"But if that really is true, you getting uglier day after day, I would have liked to see you when you were young, indeed. You were probably the most beautiful woman in the whole city", said Howl sleepily, without any mockery when he was climbing up the stairs. "I'm going to sleep. Good night, Sophie."

Sophie did not answer, and Howl was not expecting her to do so. The girl was sitting on the chair as an old woman, looking at the sleeping fire. Eventually she blew out the candles and crawled into her bed under the stairs and fell to sleep. Slowly glided the Howl's moving castle in the waste, at the same pace with the moon.