Title: Still Life with Imperfect Husband
Genre: Romance (Fluff)/Humour
Still Life with Imperfect Husband
The second time Sophie saw Howl without any of his cosmetic spells was the first morning she woke up next to him in bed.
It was rather a shock, though not nearly as much of a shock as it was to be waking up next to a man -- who happened to be her husband -- who happened to be Howl, whom she adored in spite of herself (and all of his faults) -- who happened to look completely natural (apart from his dyed-black hair) for once.
Sophie watched him quietly for a few moments, unable to help a fond smile at the soft snoring and drooling he was doing in his sleep. She reached over and combed his bedhead hair-do with her fingers, trying to picture the black haystack as the perfect coiffeur it had been just last night. She smoothed a hand over his imperfect complexion, the stubble he'd grown overnight tickling her palm. That seemed to wake him.
"Mmf...ungggh...fi' more minutes..." he mumbled, squeezing his eyes shut and turning his head on the pillow so that he faced her instead of the morning sunlight which had been shining into his eyes. Sophie kept smiling. She knew Howl was not a morning person -- especially not after the amount of alcohol he'd consumed at their wedding reception the night before.
She leaned down and scolded softly in his ear, "You are quite impossible, you know. You didn't tell me that you snore, Howl."
Hearing her voice seemed to bring back to him where he was, and red-rimmed green eyes snapped open to register the affront. "I do not snore," Howl said with dignity. "YOU, however, Mrs. Howell Jenkins, sound like a small but enthusiastic foghorn. It's a wonder I got any sleep at all."
As usual, he could provoke her temper without even trying. Sophie's colour rose, and she was just about to come back with an insult of her own when she saw the tiny smirk which had slithered onto his perfectly imperfect face. "How terrible for you," she said, instead. "I'll just have to go back to sleeping in my own room..." She made as if to get out of bed, and Howl threw his arms around her and pulled her back, just as she knew he would. Sophie tried -- and failed -- to suppress her laughter.
"Saucy pedantic wretch," he opined, sullen. "I've no idea why I married you." His words did not match his actions, however, which were to pull her close and bury his face in her bosom.
"Perhaps I put a spell on you," she offered, colouring for entirely different reasons.
"Yes," he agreed. "That must have been it." Sophie stroked his hair, another tiny smile illuminating her features. She couldn't help herself. She was certain she had smiled more since Howl got his heart back than she'd smiled cumulatively in her entire life. They remained that way for several blissful heartbeats before Sophie tried to get away in earnest.
"Howl," she said gently, "I really should get out of bed and make sure Calcifer is all right, put on some breakfast. We've left him alone for an awfully long time."
"Dear Sophie, you keep forgetting that Calcifer is free now. He's not going to go out merely because we haven't left enough logs where he can reach them."
That patronising tone of his never ceased to rankle Sophie. It was difficult to hear the words when Howl spoke to her that way. She was just eyeing the candlestick on the night table as a possible bludgeoning device when her husband looked up at her, the sincere expression in his no-longer-glass-green eyes holding her in place.
"Don't leave me, you horrible woman. I had to marry you to get you into my bed, and now the first thing you want to do is leave it.
I love you, Sophie. Stay with me for a little longer."
Oh, Howl, she thought. You're being honest again. That was more difficult to get used to than waking up next to a Howl devoid of cosmetic spells. But what she said aloud was, "For the rest of my life, you wicked man, even if you try to slither out." She kissed his temple and put her arms around him in turn. "I shan't let you."
"Hmm..." He did seem to enjoy having his face right there. "Slithering out was not precisely what I had in mind at the moment."
And there was no further argument -- or talk -- between them for quite some time. It was a good thing Calcifer could reach his own logs, now.
Author's Note: Howl's first insult to Sophie owes credit to John Donne for originally writing it in "The Sun Rising" anda fellow DWJ fan in Livejournalfor both pointing out the reference and poem to me as well as suggesting the application.