Sophie rolled over onto her stomach, her lavender silk nightgown twisting around her legs. She clutched at her sheets desperately, too enraptured in her dream to hear the soft creak of her bedroom door opening, and even the chuckle that drifted from the doorway.
"Howl .. nmph .. mmm … How-ow-mmph .." she muttered incoherently, suddenly gripping the sheets harder and slightly arching her back, restlessly turning her head this way and that.
Howl shut the door as quietly as he had opened it, satisfied now that nothing was amiss with his fiancée. Just a harmless nightmare, he thought sleepily to himself, smirking a little as he re-entered the kitchen, eager for a bit of a midnight snack.
Calcifer, awoken both by Sophie's dream-induced outburst and Howl's walk down the stairs, flickered wickedly at him from his place in the hearth.
"You see," he said, annoyed at the distruption, "She's having nightmares about spending the rest of her life with you. She reminds me of myself."
"Don't be ridiculous, Calcifer," Howl replied cheerfully, feeling energized even at such an ungodly hour. "She's dreaming of the wedding. You heard my name – she's reciting the vows."
"She's crying it out mournfully as she runs back down the isle."
"Bend down your head, old friend."
"Never!" spat Calcifer, flaring up and sending orange and red sparks into his surrounding ashes. "You have the audacity to wake me in the middle of the night, then ask me to cook for you? I'm going back to sleep."
"I only want some warm milk. Besides … wasn't it Sophie who woke you?"
"It's not Sophie with a pan in her hand at the crack of dawn."
"Fine, then. I'll set your logs out in the fog for a few hours, let them soak it all in. How would you like that?"
Calcifer flickered low on his log, his narrowed eyes peering up at Howl with obvious dislike. The blue-eyed young man only smiled down warmly in return, and with a black puff of smoke, Calcifer relented.
"Only because it's Sophie's wedding day," he muttered, bending down.
Several hours later, Sophie stirred in her bed, her eyes fluttering at the sun that poured in through the windows lining a single wall of her bedroom. She yawned, pulling herself up and stretching her arms into the air, her silver hair cascading messily across her shoulders.
It was then she noticed that her nightgown had worked itself up to the middle of her thighs, her sheets twisted horribly and piled toward the end of her bed. She blinked, remembering suddenly the dream that had consumed her only minutes before … and then proceeded to blush various shades of red, each deeper than the next as she recalled each new detail.
She swallowed hard, trying to rationalize the memories as best she could.
It's perfectly natural, she thought meekly to herself. I'm sure every girl feels eager, or nervous, or scared, just before her wedding night.
The only problem with this excuse was that, in her dream, she had felt neither nervous nor scared – mostly, she had just felt wild and deliciously out of control, and mostly, she had just wanted more and more.
Sophie bent her head in shame. A person can't control their dreams, she thought to herself, climbing out of bed and resting her bare feet on the cool wooden floor below. She looked toward the windows, seeing her wedding dress beautifully displayed in the sunshine.
It was a simple gown, as anyone might expect from her, but still quite lovely, beautiful even. Lettie had helped her pick it out, and she remembered standing before the shop's three-way mirror, every angle of her body draped in luscious white silk. The dress had off-the-shoulder sleeves meant to be paired with arm-length gloves, and had an empire waist singed with a wide white silk bow that tied in the back. The collar was a gentle v-shape that displayed her neck and collarbone. And, of course, the whole piece was covered with a long, sheer white veil.
Sophie smiled shyly at the dress, hardly believing that today was the day she would wear it, taking Howl's hand in silk-gloved fingers, her flushed cheeks hidden behind the veil until the wonderful moment when he would lift it and gently raise her chin, kissing his new wife.
Her insides stirred happily at the final word. Finally, there would be a sensible reason for her cleaning a man's house for no money, and finally, she would move from her own little bedroom and into the lavishly decorated, if wildly cluttered, bedroom kept by Howl.
Sophie felt guilty for disliking the room, as Howl had given it to her with such warmth, and out of such kindness. He hadn't known that the shelves and table lining the wall represented to her the life she had almost gotten herself trapped in. That, and it was painful, in an aching, discomforting way, to kiss Howl goodnight only to quietly shut the bedroom door on his retreating back.
"Well, no more of that," she whispered to herself, gleeful at the chance to forsake being prudish within a situation that fully allowed for it. It felt silly, sometimes, to still adhere to the rules of society even as she floated miles above it, housed with the Wizard Howl and a fire demon, but Sophie had been raised to be a good girl, and it was a good girl she had remained.
Howl hadn't seemed to mind. Though his kisses had deepened over time and his hand on her waist lingered, he hadn't pushed her, or even gave the slightest hint at wishing she thought differently about the rules set up for a courting girl and boy. He had been so patient – seven months, it had been, since the day she returned his heart and set Calcifer free.
Calcifer – breakfast! Her mind yelped. Here she was, daydreaming about the wedding, when she had a whole morning of preparations ahead of her!
She threw a robe over her nightgown, tying it quickly around her as she opened the door to the kitchen. Calcifer immediately flared up at her entrance, more today than usual, the tips of his flame an alert bright orange.
"Good morning, Sophie," he announced, his eyes watching her carefully as she went to fetch the kettle for a morning cup of tea, and a frying pan to fix breakfast for everyone.
"Hello, Calcifer," she said, being sure to flash him a proper smile, despite her thoughts being held elsewhere.
"You look pretty," he said cautiously, his flame lowering shyly.
Sophie chuckled, fetching eggs and bacon from the basket. Most brides had mothers and sisters and aunts to flatter them on their wedding day – not talking fire demons!
"Are you trying to flatter me into serving sliced bread and cheese for breakfast?" she said playfully, raising the pan over the hearth. "Because if you are, it won't work! I don't want anyone sulking today, let alone fainting from hunger at the ceremony."
"I just said you looked nice," Calcifer mumbled, lowering his head obediently. Sophie set the pan on the flame, cracking eggs against it and throwing the shells to Calcifer, who munched them happily. Sophie had introduced more sophisticated meals to the castle family since her first days living there, but this particular meal, her first with Howl and Markl, held special meaning for her. Weddings were suitable for nostalgia, anyhow.
"I'll bet," Calcifer said between bites, "That Howl … yummy … put some beauty spells on you last night … mm, yummy … you know how he loves those."
Sophie froze, the pan standing still as she suddenly stopped gently shaking the bacon sizzling within it.
"Last night?" she asked weakly.
"Howl heard you cry out in the night," Calcifer said matter-of-factly, still chewing on the final shell. "He .. mrrum .. he came down to check on you. He said you were dreaming of your wedding vows. Is that true?"
Sophie's face went white, then gradually filled with color, blotching red shades that grew darker and darker, revealing her embarrassment.
"I knew it!" Calcifer yelped, his flame jumping up in his enthusiasm. "I knew it was a nightmare. Well, I don't blame you myself, Sophie. I know Howl is your true love and all of that, but he's a slavedriver. It'll be just like when you were an old woman, only of course you'll be married this time, so no one will ask questions. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, while the fool soaks in his boiling hot bath!"
"It … it wasn't a nightmare," Sophie tried to explain, having heard only half of Calcifer's rant. "I'm not frightened of … of marrying Howl."
Calcifer sunk down his flames suspiciously.
"Well then," he said, perhaps a bit hurt, "Don't come complaining to me when you're on your hands and knees, drying his wet footprints."
Sophie only blushed further, glad, at least, that the conversation had exhausted itself. She composed her mind, trying her best just to clear it for the time being, and looked down into the pan.
The sizzling had died down into crunchy kind of crackle, and Sophie realized in horror that the bacon had blackened, burnt entirely down onto the pan.
"Oh, no," she whimpered, quickly pulling it off the fire as if that would solve the problem. "And that's all the bacon we … oh, damnation!"
Calcifer flared up again at her use of an explicative, raising a fiery eyebrow.
"Breakfast is ruined," Sophie sulked, grabbing a fork and using it to rather desperately scrape the burnt scraps into Calcifer's waiting mouth.
"Mmm," he said in a serious tone, munching at the burnt bacon with a quiet cackle, "Burnt bacon on a wedding day. You see, Sophie? It's a sign."
Like most everyone who has written a story here, I saw the movie and was absolutely spellbound … and then I read the book. For that I apologize, because I find myself tempted to put "Michael" instead of "Markl" and so on. I'll do my best to stick to movie canon, as that seems to be what has inspired most people.
If you liked this, please review. It's hard to go on when no one seems to like what you're doing. I thought this might be a breath of fresh air for those looking for HMC fanfiction here – it all seems so tragically fluffy and adorable and G-rated – to have a story with a little human sexuality.