Just a silly one-shot about HMC the movie… that doesn't belong to be but Miyazaki… and Diana Wynne Jones of course who thought of the idea in the first place.

I loved Markl in the movie… Don't ask why, I just did. He was so sweet when he cries... Anyway this is a story with the most boring title you can imagine that says it all. Little Markl as we all know, was orphaned very young and therefore never had a real family, not even a mother. However, now that Sophie's here, could he finally have the mother he's been wishing for?


Mother

Markl had been alone ever since he was little. His parents had died when he was very young and he barely remembered them. Over the past few years, Master Howl had been the only thing close to a parent he had. Though Howl didn't like responsibility, Markl looked up to him and saw him as a father-figure. In all these years he had been alone there was only one thing that Markl had really wanted. He asked for every time he found an angel feather, saw a shooting star, or blew out the candles on his birthday. He always asked for a mother. The sort of mother he wanted was the type of mother everyone had; a mother who was nice to him, who would look after him when he was ill, who smiles and talks to him about things that mattered to him. He wanted a mother who would read him stories before he went to bed, tuck him in, kiss his cheek and tell him she loved him.

That was all he wanted.

For a long time this only existed in his dreams. He'd imagine how everyone lived in the castle and were a family: Howl, the mother and him, and Calcifer, of course. He was some sort of grandfather, sitting in his heath, making jokes and going on and on. It was funny. In reality, it was just the boys. Howl could never get a girl to stick because she would always dump him, and then all Markl would have was green slime.

And then one day, there she was! She just turned up one night. Markl woke up and there she was, this snoring old lady who had all of her teeth! Markl was not in the mood for an old lady, but she was a blessing in disguise. When she first stepped into the castle she drove them mad with her obsessive cleaning. But Sophie was still a blessing. She was not a mother, but she was the next best thing. She could be my grandmother, he thought to start with. But there was something about Sophie. She was strange. She didn't act like old woman. She was far too young at heart…

Of course, she was a young woman in reality!

"Please don't leave Sophie! I love you and I want you to stay!"
"I love you too, and don't worry. I'm staying."
"Because we're a family now, right?"
"Yes, we're family."

And now as Markl sits out in the garden, looking down at the world below, and glancing at Sophie now and again as she cares for Witch, he thought that the family was complete. Sophie was young again, and although too young to be his mother, she was becoming more and more like a mother every day.

He rubbed his head. He was feeling a little warm today. It was probably nothing. It is aching a little though, Markl thought as he felt a sudden sharp pain in his temple. Maybe I'm getting a headache.

Sophie walked towards him, her starlight hair shining in the sun and blowing in the wind. She looked so pretty with her hair that way. It seemed she liked it too, the way she liked to feel it and run her fingers through it. Markl had noticed this. It was like you did with your mother, you know her habits. The sweet scent too. Sophie always seemed to smell like something sweet and milky. Markl liked the scent. He thought it was what a mother should smell like.

"Are you okay, Markl?" Sophie asked, smiling. The two of them sat on the grass and looked at one another. "You don't look very well today…"

Markl looked pale and droopy, which was very unlike him, normally full of life. He felt even yuckier than before now someone had pointed out his strange paleness. He found himself groaning as he answered, "I'm fine!"

She reached out her hand and touched Markl's forehead. It was a cool touch and it felt nice against Markl's forehead that felt like it was on fire. Sophie gasped at this and instantly wrapped her arms around him. He seemed to feel that he wanted to collapse into them, the scent that was so soothing made him feel a lot better.

"You're burning up!" she exclaimed as she picked Markl off the ground. She hurriedly walked towards the castle, carrying him in her arms. He really wanted to sleep. He felt that it was the only way his head would feel better…

"Markl?"

He opened his large brown eyes to find Sophie, Howl and Grandma Witch all gathered around him. Grandma Witch was rubbing his freezing cold feet, and Howl sat admiring Sophie as she dabbed a wonderfully cold flannel over his forehead.

"Sophie?" Markl croaked. His throat was so painful and his mouth felt so dry. It tasted like blood.

"Just try and relax," Sophie said soothingly, she sounded so motherly. "You had us worried." As she spoke, Markl felt a beam of happiness run inside that made him feel cared for. She reached over and once again rinsed the flannel so it felt cool again. That felt good too. "I'm going to have go out in a minute to get some medicine for you, so Howl's going to dab your forehead. 'Kay?"

Markl nodded weakly, only to hear the Grandma Witch speak up; now she was the grandmother of the house. "How long do I have to keep doing this, dear?"

"Until his fever goes down to his toes" Sophie explained. "We need to keep his head cool and his feet warm. By rubbing his feet, you're bringing the fever down from his head. He'll feel much more comfortable that way…"

She smiled, knowing just the thing to do as Howl pointed out. "I wouldn't have known what to do. I'd have just told him to stay in bed until he felt better!" he chuckled.

"It's amazing how many people think that's the way to go about a heavy fever, but really, I find my way is the best way!" Sophie replied as she handed Howl the flannel. She leant over Markl and kissed him on the forehead. "Don't worry, I'll be back soon."

She disappeared for a while, leaving Markl in the company of Howl and Grandma Witch, who spoke between themselves about things that Markl couldn't remember. It was only when he entered the convocation that he began to listen.

"Why don't you two leave me?" he asked. "You might catch my illness!"

"Sophie told us that we have to 'draw the fever down from your head', and until she gets back, I don't think we're going any where," Howl pointed out. He then chuckled again, "Besides, it wouldn't be the end of the world if I caught your fever!"

"You'd love that, wouldn't you?" Grandma Witch said, switching her attention from Markl's left leg to his right. She covered and wrapped a blanket around the leg just as Sophie had told her to. "You'd do anything to be the centre of attention, wouldn't you? Not to mention having dear Sophie waiting on you hand and foot!"

"My idea of Heaven!"

Tell me about it, Markl thought. There was laughter as they heard Sophie come back in downstairs. It took her a little while to make her way back up stairs. She was carrying everything in a little straw basket of hers; the medicine, vinegar and fresh sheets. She also had a glass of water balanced in there. It was in the other hand that she carried another cup.

"What's that?" Howl asked.

"My secret magic for a nasty fever," Sophie beamed as she made her way back to Markl's side. She placed the basket and the cup on the table next to Markl's bed, and turned her attention to Grandma Witch's work. Sophie placed her hand on Markl's right leg and smiled. "It's still a little too cold, but it's coming along well."

"My hands are burning from all this rubbing!"

"I'll do it then."

And with that Sophie sat at the end of the bed and toom over from the Witch's work. Once she was convimced the leg was warm enough, she quickly wrapped up the leg with one of the sheets from the basket, and wrapped both the legs together in one of Markl's blankets. Markl knew that the medicine was coming next.

"Howl, could you get me a spoon?" asked Sophie.

She grabbed the medicine out of the basket and shook it. Markl flinched at the horrid smell. As Howl came back with the spoon, he sat up and moved his head away as Sophie attempted to feed it to him.

"I prefer Howl's method," Markl protested. "Just leave me here and I'll get better!"

"Don't be silly, Markl!" Sophie snapped but not in an angry way. She held the spoon at his mouth, and again he would not open. Sophie sighed, "Do what I do and imagine you're swallowing something you really like… Now, open!"

Markl took it and swallowed the disgusting mixture, "Yuck!"

"It helped, didn't it?" Sophie smiled as she reached over to hand him the cup that she had brought. It was warm and felt nice in Markl's hands. "Here, this is my special medicine for a nasty fever."

"What is it?"

"Milk and honey."

Milk and honey. That was the smell Sophie reminded him of. The smell of something sweet honey and milk. The best smell, the best taste and the best feeling to have when you're ill. When you're ill, your mother cares for you and makes you feel better. She'll look after you, she'll know what to do and she'll mother you until you feel better.

Markl had never known this feeling until he met Sophie. She was kind, sweet and gentle, just like a mother is. She was patient with him and cared deeply for everyone in her life: for Howl, for Grandma Witch, for Heen, for Calcifer and to his great relief and happiness, for him.

Sophie did not leave Markl that night. She sat by him the whole time, speaking to him when he was awake and waiting quietly while he slept. At one point, late at night, Markl awoke feeling much better. To his surprise there was Sophie lying next to him, embracing him with such motherly affection that Markl dared not move from fear of waking her.

Howl had once said that Sophie looked so beautiful and innocent asleep. To Markl she looked like an angel. He would never think otherwise. He would always remember the taste of milk and honey when he was ill, but would always remember the smell of milk and honey as Sophie. He felt that for years to come, they would be a family. He knew that within time, Sophie would have her own children. But Markl could be their elder brother.

Please don't love me any less then them, Markl thought as he started to fall back to sleep, I've waited so long for my real family to be complete. And it is complete. Heen is the family pet, Calcifer is the grandfather, the Witch is grandmother, Howl is the father, and... Markl sighed as he drifted away into his dreams, feeling much better now. Thanks to the milk and honey, he knew everything would be okay… As for Sophie, she'll always be my mother.