Disclaimer: All characters and settings from "Howl's Moving Castle" belong to Diana Wynne Jones and her publishers. All rights to the movie belong to Miyazaki Hayao, Studio Ghibli, and Walt Disney. Unfortunately, I am none of these people or entities, so, alas, only the idea for this story is mine.

Author's Note: This is the first piece I've finished in this crazy project I've decided to undertake. In the anime community, there is something known as the "30 kisses" challenge. The object is to take your favorite pairing and write a "kiss" story using the suggested theme.

There are 30 themes. So my goal is thirty pieces of fiction with at least a reference to a kiss in each. And so I don't flood the DWJ category with my nonsense, I'll just post them under the blanket title, rather like most people do with drabbles.

I mean, Howl and Sophie get to hold hands and hug in canon, but no kisses! Since the book has been adapted into an anime movie, I consider it fair game.

Special thanks goes to the "movingcastle" community on LiveJournal once again for their encouragement with this piece. :) I don't know how they put up with me.

Enjoy, everybody, and wish me luck!

Kiss Theme #3 - Jolt!
Rating: PG
Pairing: Howl/Sophie
Genre: Humor/Romance
Summary: In which Sophie is accosted, and it isn't even May Day!

Kiss From a Stranger
by Mimea

It had been a particularly good day at the market. Sophie hustled through the streets of Porthaven as best she could with her basket heavily laden with the spoils of her victories.

She always enjoyed bargaining with the market sellers. The honest ones she only engaged in token battles of wills, offering them honest prices for their wares and even throwing a bit of bartering in for those in need of potions. The unscrupulous ones, however, never lasted long. They never accepted her offers, even when the other sellers would whisper of the power of Sorceress Jenkin. Some went so far as to insult her. Then suddenly their wares would start to spoil, or their products would sing out the seller's crooked practices for all passers-by to hear.

Sophie beamed with pride as she remembered the morning's singing carp. A particularly nasty fellow had tried to sell her several fish, claiming they were fresh. But she had been able to see one of Michael's own preservation powders sprinkled on them, and thus exposed the fraud when she convinced the carp to start a little ditty about how it was their third day away from the sea.

Yes, it had been a very good morning.

So caught up was she in her own cleverness that she didn't notice the slender shadow following her from the darkness of the alleyways. It traced her jaunty steps, sliding effortlessly from one dark patch to the next. It watched. It waited for the perfect opportunity to strike.

But even Sophie's good mood couldn't assuage the burning in her shoulders from carrying such a heavy burden. As she rounded the corner that separated the market from the residential district, she slipped into a doorway and set her basket down. She slowly stretched her neck from side-to-side, and rotated her shoulders up and down. Finally, satisfied she could last until she reached home, she picked up her prizes and set off at a trot.

She had only taken a few steps before something clasped onto her left shoulder and a hand slipped over her right cheek in a slithering caress, applying inexorable pressure to the hinge of her jaw. Her whole head was forced to the side, her basket dropping on the ground. If she'd had a chance, she would have seen the contents were suspiciously unharmed, but she had no opportunity to spare any thought for her groceries. Her eyes squeezed shut as she prepared to open her mouth to scream. Then suddenly a pair of rough, hard lips came down on hers.

Sophie squawked, but it was muffled by the stranger's mouth. She tried to reach around and jab her assailant, but her arms were too short. She tried hitting him someplace sensitive, but his lower body danced out of her trajectory, never breaking his hold on her.

The hand on her shoulder gravitated down to her waist, then his arm was around her, keeping her from any more attempts to attack him.

Sophie felt trapped, helpless. She HATED that! But without her power of speech, she was bound.

"And it isn't even May Day," she thought miserably as desperate tears formed and slid from the corners of her eyes.

All at once, the pressure on her lips lifted, the hands gripping her body slackening. "Sophie?"

She would know that voice anywhere. Her eyes flew open to see the pale cloud of his dyed blond hair and his green eyes full of concern.

"Howl!" Now she did fight. She ripped herself out of his grasp, planting one foot in the carefully preserved basket of foodstuffs. She lost her balance, but Howl caught her arm and gently pulled her upright.

Knowing better than to put his head anywhere in the vicinity of her legs at that moment, he spoke a few words accented by a bit of thunder, and the basket dissolved from Sophie's foot to reappear a yard away. The contents, though, were now irreparably crushed.

Sophie snapped. She called him several creative and not-so-creative names that showed what an apt pupil of Martha's she was. She continued to harangue an impressed, wide-eyed Howl until she ran out of breath.

"What… were… you… thinking?" she panted at last.

Howl gave her a look eerily reminiscent of a child caught in the repercussions of his own prank. "I only meant to surprise you. I didn't realize you would be so lost in thought that you wouldn't recognize me."

"Well, you've never been quite so," Sophie colored to the roots of her hair, "forceful."

"So you'd prefer I not be?"

"I didn't say that!" She blushed even harder, but continued anyway. "But just jumping on me from an alleyway isn't exactly the best idea! What if it hadn't been you?"

"He wouldn't have known you well enough to realize you would fight back. I narrowly escaped your onslaught as it was." He gave her a teasing grin, trying to cover up his concern with flippancy, but there was a shadow of worry in his eyes. "Regardless, I think you should start paying more attention to your surroundings, cariad." The affectionate term in his native tounge slipped out before he even realized it.

Guilt wormed its way into Sophie's heart. Howl was right, even though she would rather die than admit it directly.

"Because you never know," he continued, "what kind of ruffian will take it into his head to accost a pretty young girl walking down the street with her hands otherwise occupied."

Sophie sighed in defeat. "I'm sorry."

Howl tentatively stepped closer to her. When she showed no signs of lashing out again, he gently took her right hand in his left, stroking the back of it with his thumb. "Not to worry. The wife of Sorcerer Jenkin is just too precious a commodity to lose."

Sophie gave him a loving smile that immediately had Howl quaking in his fine boots. His fears were confirmed when it melted into a calculating quirk of her lips. "Speaking of precious commodities, I believe there is still the matter of a squashed basket of food that I seem to recall stepping in when my husband scared me."

"That's nothing," Howl airily declared. "I shall simply replace--"

"Oh NO. You're not slithering out of this, Howl Jenkins." She withdrew her hand from his grasp to settle both fists on her hips. "I spent all morning getting those. Now you're going to spend part of the afternoon helping me replace them."

Howl glanced up at the sky. "My, my, look at the time. I have a very important meeting in Kingsbury at two…"

"I'll set things straight with the King, especially since it's half past two already."

Howl looked startled, glanced up again, then his face heated in embarrassment at having been caught.

Sophie pinned him with a glare as she moved to empty the ruined contents of the basket into the gutter. As she slid the remains of her shopping onto the grooved stones, she convinced any remaining scraps they'd be lonely where they were, so they should join their brethren on the ground. Once her basket was thoroughly clean, she gleefully trotted over to Howl and presented it with a flourish.

"Now, Sophie, don't be unreasonable. A delicate flower such as I—"

"Shush. You're a man, aren't you?" She shoved the handle into his protesting hands. "If I can do it, you can."

Realizing he had been effectively dragooned into helping her, Howl resigned himself to the inevitable.

Besides, maybe if he pretended to behave for once, Sophie would be willing to give him a treat when they got home.

With his shoulders slumped in an attempt to hide his roguish grin, he followed his wife back into the marketplace, enjoying the lovely view of her swaying backside.

That's all for now, folks!

Author's Note: You may notice that when talking about the "Sorcerer" or "Sorceress" in Porthaven, the name is "Jenkin". No, that's not a typo. On page 86 of my edition of the paperback, Michael lists Howl's aliases. He's "Wizard Pendragon" in Kingsbury and "Sorcerer Jenkin" in Porthaven. The last name Howl was born with is "Jenkins". Why do I have this little note here? Because I know one of my wonderful readers will pick up on that. I adore you guys here in the DWJ books section, you're all so helpful and give such wonderful constructive criticism and positive feedback! You guys are the best!

If you'd like to leave a review, please do! It makes my day to see someone took the time to actually write a little something:) Thank you!