Disclaimer: I do not own Sophie, Howl, Calcifer, Michael, Martha, Lettie, Fanny, the Witch of the Waste, her fire demon (Miss Angorian), the King, Prince Justin, Wizard Suliman, Mrs. Fairfax, Mrs. Pentstemmon, Megan, Gareth, Cesari's, Neil, Mari, Rivendell, Howl's old car, Neil's homework, the guitar, the castle, the hat shop, the Count of Catterack, Jane Farrier, Ingary, Strangia, the bees, High Norland, the apple blossoms, Folding, Porthaven, Kingsbury, the Waste, the field of flowers by the Waste, Howl's blue-and-silver suit, or any other things or people or storylines from Howl's Moving Castle, written by the great Diana Wynne Jones.
In Which Sophie Discovers Happily Ever After is Complicated
"Besides, it's raining out there in Market Chipping."
In fact, it was raining "quite a bit", as Mrs. Fairfax described two minutes later.
In those two minutes, the following happened. Calcifer, eying Howl and Sophie holding hands, said with a rather wicked purple grin, "I'd guess the lovebirds would've held out for at least another week. Michael, I owe you an invisibility spell."
At which, everyone turned to look at Michael, who blushed a little and shrunk slightly away from Martha's raised eyebrow, with a sheepish sort of grin on his face. Sophie thought that Howl must have been a very bad influence on Michael indeed, and she could've sworn she saw his green eyes twinkle out of the corner of her eye. But she could've been mistaken, because meanwhile, everyone had taken Michael's reaction as a cue to start trying to get Howl's and Sophie's attention again.
"Sophie, this man needs to go home, Prince -uh," Fanny flustered, realizing she didn't know the name of the prince.
"…practicality is key. I always find that new wizards nowadays don't know an inkling about practical magic," Mrs. Fairfax continued where she had left off. "Wizard Howl, do you find it more useful to use the Chester method? I myself, am specialized in honey-based, but I sometimes find that…"
"Sophie, I need you to help me," Lettie insisted, tapping Sophie's shoulder.
"I'm sorry I must have frightened you before, Missus," Wizard Suliman apologized into Sophie's other shoulder. "However, if I may change the subject for a second, I find your particular brand of magic-"
"Wizard Howl," Prince Justin addressed, "Your assistance was greatly appreciated. I'll be sure to inform my royal brother of your hand in defeating the Witch of the Waste."
"I'm so happy for you Sophie," declared Martha, throwing herself in to hug Sophie.
Meanwhile, Fanny was trying to get Wizard Suliman's attention to help her help Prince Justin, while Sophie was trying to tell Lettie to decide herself, while Mrs. Fairfax was going on about the magical properties of flowers. Through this, Michael and Howl seemed to be having a conversation, heads bowed together to hear each other through the din.
Howl was shooting a concerned look over to Calcifer, while Michael was asking him in a raised tone, "How do you think the house is going to hold together now that-"
Which was when, a large chunk of plaster fell off the ceiling onto Michael's head. That piece of plaster seemed to be the last damage the ceiling could take (1), and rain started immediately pouring down from the gaping hole in the ceiling. Which was when Mrs. Fairfax said, "It seems to be raining quite a bit out there," as she, like everyone else, scrambled out of the rain.
Sophie wonderingly looked up through the hole, through which buckets of rain were somewhat impossibly coming down, because even as her toes were getting shiveringly wet, she could still make out the ceiling of Howl's bedroom (spiderwebs and all) through the hole. Calcifer quickly jumped out of his grate to escape the puddle quickly forming there, and started hovering near the stairs, as far as possible from the hole in the ceiling.
Sophie knew there were probably more important things to worry about in the meanwhile, but shouldn't help but think about all the cleaning she would have to do tomorrow. All the things in the house seemed to have been knocked about, the bed was still out and getting wetter by the second, various pieces of plaster lay on the floor, the floor was flooded, and now Calcifer was scorching the ceiling. And now, she could've sworn the house began to sway.
"What's happening?" Sophie shouted at Howl, as she finally went into action, and grabbed the cleaning bucket from the broom closet.
"There seems to be a few complications with the house being in a lot of places at once…" Howl offhandedly muttered, concentrating at the hole in the ceiling. "Michael, get the basic summoning candles."
"Shouldn't you have dealt with these 'complications' before, Mr. Wizard?" Sophie retorted as she threw the cleaning bucket on the floor under the hole. Someone, probably Martha or Mrs. Fairfax, had fished various buckets and watering cans from the sink and placed them to catch the rain already.
"So now Mrs. Nose is blaming me while all my poor spiders and I are being drowned," Howl lamented, as he ran around with Michael setting lit candles around the room.
Sophie snorted at his drama, dumping full buckets of water down the sink.
Prince Justin, Mrs. Fairfax, and Fanny were around the room balancing various papers, gadgets, and things they had scooped off the floor and saved from the water. Martha had found a broom, probably Mrs. Fairfax's and was attempting to sweep some of the water out the door into Market Chipping. Lettie was hauling water buckets with Sophie, while Wizard Suliman had rolled up his sleeves and joined in with Howl and Michael, running around, setting up lit candles. Calcifer, for his part was following Michael and Wizard Suliman around, telling them where to put the candles and lightning them quite usefully.
Finally, after what seemed to be a decade of switching buckets and splashing them down the sink, all the candles were set up, and a look exchanged between Howl and Calcifer. The slight swaying and the raining stopped. There was a still silence, except for the pattering of the downpour outside in Market Chipping, as everyone took stock of the general damage of the room.
"Everything's wet," sulked Calcifer.
'Pretty much summing up the situation,' mused Sophie.
Lettie opened the door to black-down, yellow-down, and purple-down in quick succession. It was pouring buckets and buckets in Market Chipping, but it was even worse by the Marsh.
"It seems to be making up for all the years of the Witch," remarked Wizard Suliman.
Lettie then opened the door to orange-down, where it appeared to be lightly sprinkling, and still a bit gray, but otherwise warm, and now, quite inviting. The coachman and the footman now appeared to be dozing, as the horse flicked away flies with its tail.
"It's storming everywhere," Howl announced to everyone.
There was a slight silence again, until, "Goodness gracious. I do demand that you all stay to my house up on the hill," Fanny declared. "At least until the storm lets up. There's certainly enough room, Mr. Smith would be delighted to have you all, and none of you are traveling through that monstrosity."
To which Calcifer asked, "Is there a nice fireplace?"
(1) Just in case you don't remember, quite a bit of plaster came down when Howl used the words of power to get the Witch of the Waste's heart from her fire demon (Miss Angorian). I also imagine the ceiling to be slightly scorched in places, what with the fire demons and the flaming walking stick of death and all.
(Author's Note: Don't worry, they won't be staying at the mansion for long.)
A/N: My first Howl's Moving Castle fic. If you haven't figured it out already, this takes place right where the book left off. Anyway, I'm not very good at writing big group scenes, so don't worry, this chapter was really just taking the status-quo/epilogue, blah blah. In the next chapter the plot will really get moving! (Plus I'm relieved to be getting back to the smaller group dynamic.) Please read and review! (Though, I suppose you've already read to get to my rambling author's note…) So send thoughts, suggestions, grammar-mistake naggings, complements, flames (constructive)!