A.N: HMC fluff. I do not own the book. Diana Wynne Jones does, and she rocks.
Two years of being married to Howell Jenkins.
Two years of falling asleep next to him.
Two years of waking up next to him, and still being a little surprised by it.
This particular morning, it was not Sophie that woke herself up, but the sun falling warmly on her. It felt nice, until she remembered that she was normally up before the sun was.
Sophie shot up. Howl was lying next to her, propped up on his elbows, watching her with a dreamy expression.
"Stop that," Sophie said, "Why didn't you wake me? Why are you still in bed?"
"I let you sleep in," Howl said, placing one hand on her hip, as though to ease her back down to the bed, "People normally do that on Sundays."
"No they don't."
"Well, they do in Wales," he said crossly. "Sophie, just stay in bed, would you?"
He was looking at her with such a loving, yet annoyed expression that she relented.
Sophie settle into his embrace and warned, "I'm not going back to sleep."
"I didn't expect you to." Howl responded gruffly. He rested his hand on her bulging stomach. "How are you feeling this morning?"
Sophie thought for a moment. "Fine, actually. I don't feel nauseated at all."
The past few weeks, Sophie had been waking up with horrible morning sickness that sent her running to the bathroom, to be followed a few minutes later by Howl. He would complain at first at be woken so early, but he would become increasingly less grumpy that more she threw up, and by the end, he was holding her, shivering in his lap. A few minutes later, she would be up, slowly making breakfast while her stomach returned to normalcy.
"Perhaps the reason you feel fine," Howl said reproachfully, "is because you are waking up at a sane time for once."
"Hush," Sophie said.
Howl smiled. He moved down to her stomach and kissed it softly. "Thank you for not giving your mum too much trouble this morning, little one."
The one thing Sophie had not expected from her pregnancy was the sudden tenderness from Howl. He had always been romantic in his own way. They'd bicker, he'd kiss her, and then they would eat dinner. They weren't dispassionate, it was just their way.
But now, he was so much more openly romantic. One night after a fight, they ended up with Sophie pressed against a wall while Howl kissed her. He then spent the next five minutes worrying that he'd hurt the baby somehow, and then ten minutes after that apologizing. And it wasn't just that. He was much less condescending, and tried not to pick fights as often as before.
Not that they still didn't bicker. Sophie was glad she had that to hold on to.
Howl began to rub her stomach in lazy circles. "How much longer?"
"Four months, Howl."
"That's much too long," Howl sighed, "I don't think I know if I can stand it."
Sophie moved her head away from his. "Excuse me? You can't stand my morning sickness, my back aches, my insomnia, my-"
Howl silenced her, as he so often did, with a kiss.
"I can't stand seeing you in pain, and I can't stand knowing it'll be that long before I see our child."
Howl kissed her forehead. Sophie smiled and put her hand over Howl's on her stomach.
They lay like that for a half hour, seldom talking, just feeling each other in a sleepy haze.
"Howl," Sophie whispered, "I want to do this sleeping in thing again."
"Good. I'm very fond of it myself."