Disclaimer: All characters in HMC belongs to Diana Wynne Jones. "And You, Helen" is a poem by Edward Thomas. And me? I'm just a (perverted) writer wannabe who wishes she can earn money through writing and not starve…

September 18, 2005

Revelations About the Birds and the Bees…
(and other things not mentioned as the aftereffects of "Happily Ever Afters")

Chapter Six
by Ina-chan

Sophie found Howl as exactly how she had left him… clutching a pillow, snoring softly and completely dead to the world. Typically, she would have stared at her husband in wonder at how he could have possibly slept through the noise and commotion downstairs. But then, there were a million and one thoughts running through her mind. The most important at the moment was to wake him and start sharing each and single one of them with him.

"Howl," she called out to him as she reached out and shook his shoulder

Howl tuned over on to his back with a mumbled, incoherent reply and went on with his snoring.

Like an annoyed child, Sophie climbed onto the bed, straddled his waist, and bent over him as close as she could get to his ear. "HOWL!"

Howl's eyes snapped open at the sound and he started flailing about in confusion, almost throwing Sophie off the bed. Somehow, Sophie managed to hold on to him until recognition lined his features.

"At another time, I would be been thrilled at waking up with you on top of me like this, cariad." Howl smiled weakly at the compromising position his wife had unwittingly put herself into. He emphasized his point by twining his fingers on the strands of long red gold locks from her now loosened chignon, which splayed like a delicate curtain over his head. "But I'm afraid I'm just too tired to do anything else other than appreciate the view."

"I'm about to tell you something very important," Sophie stated firmly, ignoring her husband's sleepy protests, "and no, it can't wait."

"All right…" Howl mumbled in agreement, though he had already started to drift back to sleep

Sophie glowered at her husband indignantly. Whether it was intentional or not, why was it that whenever she had made up her mind about going through with this, her husband always found a way to get himself indisposed? Well, she wasn't going to delay this any longer. At that point, with her discussion with Cacifer driving her, she didn't care about anything else anymore except telling him how she felt.

"WAKE UP!" Sophie yelled in frustration, emphasizing her annoyance by punching her husband's arm.


"OW!" Howl's eyes snapped open again, this time, pain completely driving sleep from his mind. He glared at his wife as he nursed his injured arm. "What's gotten into you?"

Sophie ignored his whining as she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath before speaking, "I've decided that I was going to tell you that I love you, even though you probably don't deserve it."

"Well, you definitely have a funny way of showing it," Howl complained sulkily as he continued to rub his sore arm

"And further more," Sophie continued on, "if you have any intention of running away with your tail between your legs now that I've told you, you should know that it won't do any good. You're stuck with me, Mr. Jenkins. And you already know from experience how determined I can be. I will hun…"

Howl froze, as his wife's words finally registered clearly in his consciousness. He grabbed Sophie's shoulders and shook her gently, "Wait, wait… stop… HUSH!"

"The cheek!" Sophie glared at him crossly, "Don't you hush me! I've been waiting all these months to speak my mind and I will do it. So don't you interrupt!"

Howl's hands tightened their grasp on his wife's shoulders impatiently, ignoring her complaints, "What you just said right now… say it again."

"I will hunt you like the dog that you are?" Sophie eyed her husband strangely, feeling a bit bewildered as to why he would want to hear her threats again

Howl shook his head, "No! BEFORE that! What did you say before that?"

Sophie frowned as she quickly tried to recall her words, which is no easy feat when you are speaking in the heat of the moment. "You're stuck with me?"

Howl shook his head again as leaned closer to her, forcing Sophie to look deeply in his green orbs. His voice dropped into a low tone as she felt his hands leave her shoulders to cup her face, "Before that."

All at once Sophie immediately knew the words that he wanted to hear. Her expression softened as she reached out to caress his cheek, "I love you."

Then there was silence.

All Sophie could hear was the loud thumping noise in her ears as her heart pounded fervently in her chest. She felt her breath hitch as she stared in to his eyes. There was an unreadable expression in them, and he stared at her as if her words had robbed him of ability to speak. She felt his thumb graze lightly against her lower lip and it took all she had to fight the strange, sudden urge to close her eyes and take it in her mouth.

"Say it again," Howl repeated again in a soft whisper

"I lo—fff…" Sophie began obediently, as if under a spell. But before she could even finish her sentence, his mouth was devouring hers with hunger and passion, as if he were attempting to swallow her words.

When they finally broke for air, Sophie couldn't help gazing at her husband with an odd sense of astonishment. She thought that she was no longer a stranger to her husband's passions… it was only until that moment that she realized, with a shock, how much he had been holding back from her.

Then for a brief moment, her mind froze with a strong sense of uncertainty. She knew all at once that after this, everything between them would change. It frightened her. It thrilled her. She wanted to stop, run away, and leave things as they were. She wanted to run forward… run to him… to explore and experience these new sensations he was making her feel. Then in the end, she decided that she didn't know how to feel. In that brief, anxious, perplexing moment of introspection, she considered the thought that she was probably going mad.

But it was only a brief moment…

Before her mind could conjure more of her self-doubt, it was easily overpowered as her husband led her to the age-old ritual of song and dance. The orchestral rustle of clothing amidst their pants and moans and sighs sang throughout the room like a melodious duet. There was an occasional odd misstep, or an awkward measure to disrupt their rhythm as punctuated by an intermittent nervous giggle. But all that was forgotten when instincts took over…

"Sophie fach… angel… cariad… rwy'n dy garu di…"

She couldn't understand the disjointed words he murmured in her ear, but her heart understood enough from the passion in his voice the meaning behind them. She knew that they could only be a resonance and reflection of what she had been feeling. Thus, Sophie simply let the sensations their song and dance was creating wash over her with pain, pleasure, uncertainty, comfort and unmistakable joy.

It came to the point where it started to feel overwhelming. The sensations were pulling at her from many directions at once. It was pushing her towards something unknown, against her will. For a moment or an eternity, she felt like she was going to drown or be pushed off a high cliff and fall, or both. She quickly realized that not even the power of words could save her. This feeling had even robbed her ability for words to form in her mind. All she could do was cry out her husband's name, as she clung to him tightly. Desperately hoping that he would somehow understand how frightened she was of what was happening. But not even his whispered murmurs of reassurance pacified her terror of the unknown.

"I… I… Howl!... falling…" She managed to cry out to him frantically, trying to make him understand

"Then fall," he whispered into her ear breathlessly. "I'll catch you."

Before she could protest, not that she could… or even want to… Her feelings pushed her to a place where light, sound, and sensation merged to magnitude proportions. It was beyond what her senses could handle. It seemed for one brief moment… or eternity… it felt as if the world stopped and she was going to step towards the verge of death… had it not for the comforting warmth that seemed to envelope her and pull her gently back to the ground.

It took a significant amount of time later, within a tangle of clothes, linen and sweaty limbs that the world started to move again. The haze misting Sophie's reasoning finally cleared enough for her to be able to form coherent thought. She turned to face the body still holding onto her with a sense of awe.

Howl smiled in reply and ran his fingers through her hair, "Are you all right?"

"I thought I died," Sophie replied in a tone as if she couldn't believe that she was still very much alive

"Well, that's one way of putting it!" Howl laughed. "Then I would assume that Mrs. Jenkins is quite satisfied?"

Sophie grinned impishly as she rolled on top of him and folded her arms on his chest so that they were looking at each other face to face. She put on a thoughtful expression as she ran small circles on his shoulder with her forefinger. "Well, I admit that the finale was quite spectacular. But there were sections near the beginning and the middle that were a little awkward."

"Is that so?" Howl replied in the same tone, one eyebrow arching in amusement, "And what does Mrs. Jenkins recommend to resolve that?"

Sophie snuggled against him until she found a comfortable position, resting her head underneath his chin before replying, "Practice, Mr. Jenkins. And lots and lots of it."

"Oh, woe… I think I've awakened a monster," Howl moaned theatrically as his fingers continued to play with his wife's long tresses, which spread about them like a blanket

"You've only got yourself to blame for it," Sophie retorted sulkily, "We would have had a head start months ago if it weren't for your delays."

"Blame me for thinking about you…" Howl replied huffily, "Not that it matters now. But I simply made a promise to myself to postpone this until I'd given you a proper wedding."

Sophie raised her head and gave him a funny look, "A wedding? But we already had one."

"No offense, cariad. But that ritual was imposed on us by a group of Mad Hatters, who don't know when not to keep their long noses out of other people's business. I only went along with it because it seemed to be the only way for me to keep you," Howl explained with dramatic flourish, "I wanted to give you a real wedding. The stuff in traditional fairy tales that every woman dreams of at the conclusion of every story … you know… with the poofy dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers and the cake…"

"Whatever gave you the idea that's what every woman dreams of?" This time, it was Sophie who fell into a peal of amused giggles as she stared at her husband in disbelief. "I don't want any of that. Everything I could ever want is right here." She emphasized her point by giving her husband an affectionate peck on his lips before continuing with a warm smile. "Besides, I think our story has already broken every fairy tale tradition. What's the problem with breaking one more?"

Howl smiled back as he reached out to capture her lips for another kiss. Sophie felt her pulse immediately quicken, feeling the electricity from his fingers as they released the nape of her neck to run along the contours of her shoulders and down the small of her back. Then he pulled away as if a thought suddenly occurred to him. Sophie couldn't help letting out a sigh of annoyance as he moved. She disentangled herself from his arms, but was determined not to let him slither out again and made her point by straddling his lap.

Howl didn't seem to disapprove or even notice her intentions. He closed one hand into a loose fist between them, then looked up at her, as if to make sure she was watching, "Before anything else, there's one tradition that I'm afraid that we can't skip."

"All right…" Sophie gave in. She looked down at his hand curiously, her nosiness getting the better of her.

Howl opened his fist to reveal a ring in his palm. Sophie gasped upon seeing it. It was an intricately carved silver band. It looked very old, though it didn't look particularly valuable. But there was a particular aura around it that even a person who wasn't gifted with magical talents could tell that it held a history that even all the currencies in the King of Ingary's treasury could never match.

"It was my great grandmother's," Howl stated, as if to confirm Sophie's thoughts, "My great grandfather made it and gave it to her as a promise ring. Then he answered the call of king and country during the First Great War. My great grandmother gave it back to him as a talisman so that he would return safely. Family legend has it that he accidentally dropped it one fateful day and got shot in the arse. Well, at least it got him shipped home."

If Sophie wasn't on the verge of bursting into tears, she probably would have laughed. But knowing how her tears upset her husband, she simply nodded and concentrated on holding back the dam threatening to burst from her eyes.

"Since then my great grandmother gave this ring to my grandfather for him to give to his bride, and my grandmother to my father to give to my mother…" Howl paused as an unreadable expression crossed his face, before continuing. "Before my mother died, she sent it to my grandmother for safekeeping… so that I could give this to you."

Sophie could only swallow the painful lump in her throat as she looked back at her husband's gaze.

He lowered his eyes, looking a bit embarrassed, "This wasn't exactly how I was planning on giving this to you. There was just never a good opportunity and I kept messing up that poem…"

"Poem?" Sophie asked hoarsely

"One of my mother's favourite poems, my father read it to her when he proposed," Howl explained, looking a little sheepish, "I have to change it a bit to fit…"

"Let's hear it," Sophie whispered

Howl gave her nervous smile as he took her right hand with his free hand. He kissed it before slipping the ring on her finger, "And you, Sophie…

…what should I give you?
So many things I would give you
Had I an infinite great store
Offered me and stood before
To choose. I would give you youth
All kinds of loveliness and truth,
A clear eye as good as mine,
Lands, waters, flowers, wine,
As many children as your heart
Might wish for, a far better art
Than mine can be, all you have lost
Upon the traveling waters tossed,
Or given to me. If I could choose
Freely in that great treasure-house
Anything from any shelf,
I would give you back yourself,
And power to discriminate
What you want and want it not too late,
Many fair days free from care
And heart to enjoy both foul and fair,
And myself, too, if I could find
Where it lay hidden and it proved kind."

Sophie sat there and stared back into the deep green pool of his eyes as if he held her in a trance. Howl's words echoed in her head against the loud hammering in her chest. A number of visions ran through her mind's eye… All the trials they'd endured together, their arguments, and their endearing moments. Visions of their children yet to be born with the two of them together watching them grow up. The two of them watching each other grow old…

Her husband's finger brushing against her cheek brought her thoughts back to reality, and it was only then that she realized with great embarrassment that she wasn't able to stop herself from crying. Though this time around, he didn't seem to be overly upset to see her tears. "I know it's a bit silly asking this now. But will you have me, Sophie?"

He was looking at her, expecting to hear her answer. But Sophie found that her throat had closed up painfully and refused to release her voice. So she answered the only way she could at the given situation… She wrapped her arms around his neck and started kissing him with such passion that he had to take her by the shoulders to gently push her away so that he could come up for breath.

"I would take that as a 'yes'," Howl gasped

"Yes," Sophie replied, finally finding her voice, "yes forever and ever and ever and ever!"

Howl smiled again and bent down, proceeding to a shower a downward trail of kisses on her jaw to her neck.

"I think I like your father, he had a very good taste in poems," Sophie commented idly as she closed her eyes at the sensations her husband was creating. "I would have liked to have met him."

"You probably will, eventually." Howl stopped and snorted, not hiding his annoyance, "Megan receives the odd postcard from him now and then. But no one's really seen the old coot since he retired and set off to travel and find himself… whatever that means."

Sophie blinked in surprise. From the way Howl spoke about him earlier, she had assumed that her father-in-law had gone the same way as Howl's mother. It was only then that she remembered what Calcifer said about her husband still having a number of unresolved issues. She couldn't help feeling a bit intrigued. Her husband's family situation was making Fanny's nosiness a rose in a field. "You have a very odd family."

"And I don't feel like thinking about them when there are other things that I'd rather be doing right now," Howl whispered lewdly as he gently nudged her legs to wrap them around his hips

Sophie flushed in embarrassment, but she managed to flash him a mischievous smile, "Does Mr. Jenkins wish to go over and practice the awkward sections?"

"Practice is the only way to master it, cariad. I'm a perfectionist, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to subject you to lots of it," Howl sighed mournfully, as he rolled over her. She complied with a lot of self-conscious giggling as he bent over her lovingly. "Lots and lots of it."

The End!

Author's squawk:

Just a quick reference note… the poem Howl played around the words with is originally titled, "And You, Helen" by Edward Thomas. It was stolen from "The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English" (1977). It's a very kewl book. I specially loved the medieval poets who delved on courtly love… they're a bunch of horny bastards and I was thoroughly entertained by their honesty. A nice contrast from the usual "Long live insert ancient Welsh-speaking King here and kill all the invading English bastards!" poems from the period.

Okay… this is the tame version of this chapter. I really thought very hard about posting this before I finished the "untamed" version. But after staring blankly at an empty computer monitor for several weeks, I knew I had to post this version as soon as Mimea (thank you for your patience! I love you! .) finished editing it 'cause I'll probably never get around to finishing the untamed version at this rate. I will post the smut in adultfanfiction-dot-net and mediaminer-dot-org… eventually. I'm kinda inexperienced with writing this genre… while I can easily discreetly allude to it, writing a graphic version kinda overwhelms me… When I'm overwhelmed, I have the tendency to escape from the task by falling asleep… I know, weird!

Anywayz, just check out those two archives periodically to find out if I finally posted the "adult-only" version… until then, comments and criticisms will be gladly accepted via the review button…