Taming Petruchio

By Lady Mac

Helllooooo, readers! Sorry for the ridiculously long hiatus. I started college last fall, and was basically busy the entire time. No kidding. Didn't even open this file to work on it.

But now I'm back, whipped the end of this chapter together (sorry if it's a bit short), and I've got some interesting ideas for the future. I had a whole other A/N typed out at the beginning of this, but I alluded to a lot of stuff that I can't remember at all, so I just took it out. Enjoy the story!

Now playing: Random symphonies. Yeah!

Disclaimer: Howl and Sophie belong to DWJ and Ghibli. Kate is copyright 2005 to K. Gross. Additional thanks to Meike and Crystal for coming up with lots of random chicks, and good ol' LU for letting me out for the summer!

Chapter Two

Kate

On the first day of school, Sophie arrived an hour early and found her locker without incident. The remainder of band camp had gone smoothly enough, and she'd managed to avoid any more one-on-one situations with Howl. She'd even begun making a few friends with other juniors in the flute section, though she liked the clarinetists better.

Sophie sensed someone standing behind her, and turned around to face a girl about her height with deep black hair. She was wearing a black tank top and pants with chains, and had a silver stud through her right eyebrow. "Yes?"

"Is this your locker?"

"Yes …"

She stuck out a hand wrapped in a pink fishnet stocking. "I'm Kate, your locker partner."

Sophie accepted. "Sophie Hatter. Nice to meet you."

"You messy?" she asked, stepping around her and slinging her messenger bag to the floor.

"I … don't really know. We didn't have lockers at my old school."

"Well, I'm a neat-freak. So if you're nice to me, I might clean up your stuff for you." She turned to the locker and started putting her things in. "On the other hand, if I decide I don't like you, I'll make your life a living hell."

Sophie couldn't help but be a little overwhelmed by this. "Uh … okay?"

Kate turned and smiled a frightening sort of smile. "You'll be good, I think. It's been a while since I've had a locker partner."

"I … thanks?"

"Good morning, Sophie."

She nearly died from the shock of realizing that the deep, Welsh-accented voice behind her belonged to none other than Howl Jenkins.

"How do you know Sophie?" Kate demanded.

He shrugged. "She's in band. Why, am I not supposed to, or something?"

She turned back to the locker. "Get outta here, Brit Boy, you're scaring my locker partner."

"Yeah, like you won't."

"Go to class."

"Why should I?"

"Builds character."

"I've got plenty already."

"Do it anyways."

"Fine. See you later, Sophie!" He waved over his shoulder as he walked away down the hall.

She waved feebly back. "Oh, God."

"What? And don't tell me you're an ultra-conservative Christian or something."

"Oh, no, not at all. Just … I don't think I can deal with having Howl around this much."

Kate sighed. "Well, I think you'd best get used to it. He's got the hots for you and he's not trying to hide it at all. My advice is to either learn to like him or scare him away."

"How do I do that?"

"Turn into me," she said. "Though he actually went out with me for a while, until we realized that The Gap and Hot Topic are not exactly a cute couple. Whatever you do, though, watch out. I know you're new, so you haven't heard all the stories yet."

"Stories? What sort of stories?"

"Howl is a notorious womanizer," she said bluntly. "Since freshman year he's had ten girlfriends. I was number nine."

Sophie's face paled. "Ten girlfriends?"

Kate nodded. "Yep. So watch out, if you don't like him. He's unbelievably persistent."

"How in the world did he have ten girlfriends?"

"He usually broke up with them pretty quickly. There were a couple he lasted a while with, but most he dumped them after just a week or so. Except the last one. They went out for, like, three months, and he really liked her. But then he caught her cheating with some guy from swim, or something. Totally crushed him."

"Wow. I'll bet that's a real slap in the face for someone like him."

"Oh, definitely," Kate said, digging through her things. "So much in fact, that his grades started to drop. Erin pulled him back together in time for exams, but it couldn't save his Latin grade."

"Who's Erin?"

"She was number three. They got along really well, but they broke it off when she realized she was lesbian."

Sophie was more than a little stunned. "Woah."

"It's fine, though," Kate said, standing up with an armful of books. "They're best friends now, totally inseparable. Come to think of it, you'd probably like Erin a lot. She's a friend of mine, too." She glanced up at the clock. "I've gotta go. I'm a TA for Photography, so I have to be there early. See you later!" With that, she strode off down the hall.

Sophie quickly gathered what she needed for her first two classes, then set off to find her A.P. Chemistry class. It wasn't too difficult to locate, though it was at the end of a hall, and the teacher looked up when she walked into the otherwise empty classroom. "Are you Sophie Hatter?"

"Yes," she said timidly.

"Great," she said. "I'm Mrs. Walker. Did you get the homework I sent out for the summer?"

Sophie nodded. The assignments and workbook had come in the mail, and she had managed to find a copy of the book at the public library.

"Great," Mrs. Walker said. "I was a little worried that you might not be on top of the work, since you weren't here last year. But it sounds like you're all set." She looked up again, and noticed that Sophie was still standing sort of uncomfortably by the door. "You can sit wherever you want," she prompted.

Sophie quickly chose a seat near the back, and relaxed a little when she heard some voices coming down the hall.

"Oh my God, are you kidding?" said a girl. "So much for being smooth!"

"Well, it isn't like I was trying to make her uncomfortable. I think she's just naturally shy."

Sophie's brain froze. No …

Howl walked into the room, accompanied by a girl with short red hair whose t-shirt read "$3 bill." Sophie barely registered that this must be Erin.

"Hey, Sophie!" Howl said, turning suddenly as he noticed her. He dropped his books on the desk in front of hers and sat down, straddling the back of the chair. "Fancy seeing you here!"

"Leave the poor girl alone," Erin said, smacking the back of his head with a binder. "I wouldn't blame her if she doesn't talk to you for a year. Shame on you, lady-killer."

"You say that like it's a bad thing," he said, turning around and leaving Sophie temporarily to herself. "I seem to recall I even got a lesbian to date me."

"I wasn't fully aware of myself at the time," she retorted haughtily.

"That's just an excuse."

-----#&#-----

Sophie ran into Kate at their locker after having stumbled through the first half of her day.

"Hey kid," said Kate. "How's your day treatin' you so far?"

"I'm just glad it's almost lunch," Sophie replied with a sigh. "I have Symphonic Band, then I get a break. I only hope I don't have to deal with Howl too much more."

"More?" Kate said, obviously surprised. "Don't tell me you have class with him!"

Sophie nodded dejectedly. "First hour AP Chem, third hour Precalc, and just now English. And he won't leave me alone!"

"Oooh, then you won't be too happy with what's up next," Kate said with a shake of her dark head. "He's in Symphonic Band, too, which means you'll have the same lunch."

"When do you have lunch?" Sophie asked hopefully. "Maybe I could sit with you?"

"Sorry, kid. I have B lunch, then Jewelry and Metals, which I can't afford to miss a minute of. Lofty ambitions and the like." She gave a brief salute and headed off. "Good luck."

"Thanks," Sophie muttered, mostly to herself. Then, with a glance at the clock and a deep sigh, grabbed her brown paper bag and headed to the Band room.

TBC...

Yeah.. hopefully more soon. Please review! Constructive criticism appreciated!