In Which Sophie Gives Howl A Piece Of Her Mind

Sophie groaned in pain as she slowly heaved herself into sitting up. Why was she so sore? Old age did wonders for her bravery and gall but when it came to her physical abilities and attributes...

She poked her head outside her cubby hole and found that Calcifer was still asleep dozing between two rather worn logs. The first sound she noticed was the barely audible pitter - pat of rain outside the window above the sink. Ah, joyful wonder. It wasn't until that moment that Sophie actually believed that the elderly suffered on rainy days. But then again, maybe it was all the cleaning and scrubbing she had been forced to do when Howl had thrown that tantrum of his. Honestly! The man was selfish, vain, and immature! And that was just the start of the man! She was sure if she continued living with him she would have no trouble at all in writing a book about just how much of a bratty child he was.

And speaking of the devil, the second and third noises that she heard was the shower- - and Howl's low, but off tune, singing. She snorted, it seemed he wasn't perfect in everything. Though had she not been so upset at him, she wondered if she would even care if he could or couldn't sing.

How could he be singing when not fifteen hours ago he'd been bemoaning his fate, doom, anguish, and despair!

How could he be so- - so- Fickle! The heartless wretch!

Give her a woman any day of the year, this man who had tendencies worse then most of the fussiest women she'd ever heard about, was enough to drive her to her wits end!

Was he so cheerful because he'd found a new way to win Martha! (Well- Lettie to him, but still...)

The plans and thoughts she'd been having before she fell asleep came quickly to mind. She had to get to her sister, and quickly. While that- man, was still primping. He'd be in there half the morning more then likely! If he did have intentions to go skirt chasing today then she should get a head start on him!

She slipped on her worn dress over her chemise, put on her stockings and shoes, and hauled herself out of her little nest. She would grab her cane- AH! There it was! Then make a beeline for the door-

Halfway there, her escape fell to pieces by none other then the spoiled wizard himself. She knew he was there simply because his apple blossom perfume wafted before him, as if to let those ahead know what lay behind (though in the mood she was in she considered it more of a warning then an announcement). So upset was she at his interrupting her plans for warning her sister that she barely caught his chipper announcement that he liked his hair.

That poked a sleeping fire, or more like a sleeping dragon.

"Oh do you?" she snapped. "Fancy that!"

Howl took a nearly imperceptible millimeter or so back away from her, an expression of confusion, then surprise crossed his face before he settled for the tactic of acting as if she wasn't about to stab him with a mere glare. Instead he remarked that his hair matched his suit, and that her needlework was nice- the suit better for having been in her hands. Seeing him so handsome in the clothes she'd mended did nothing for her. That it did go with the hair only added to set off her temper further.

"Be still my beating heart! I was so worried, not knowing how I would go on if your suit hadn't done you and your hair justice!" the words were out before she could stop them. Behind and off to Howl's right, was Calcifer, perking up his head, awake and listening intently.

Howl who had yet to move from his spot (Was he feeling guilty about having caused such trouble? Was he trying to make up by calling a verbal peace?) tilted his head. His brow hadn't furrowed (the peacock would probably be too vain to look worried! Cause wrinkles or some such nonsense!) but she was rather sure she'd succeeded in confusing him again. "Is it aches and pains troubling you? Or is it something else?"

Wouldn't he just love if it were merely 'aches and pains'. Free of any guilt or understanding of what he had done yesterday! She would not let him leave it off right there. She set her face into a very severe glare and hobbled over to Calcifer's pile of logs, and as she did so she told him exactly what was on her mind.

"My aches and pains are nothing compared to you, Howl Pendragon- - Jenkins, whatever it is that you are!" She seized a log viciously and slammed it onto the hearth. Not on Calcifer, she wasn't angry at him. He gave a cry for her to, 'Watch it!' but she ignored him for the moment. "Do you have any idea- any understanding of what happened yesterday?" She glanced at him from out of the corner of her eye, he was backing away several paces to keep a good distance between the two of them. (As if she could ever succeed at physically attacking him!)

There was a look she understood. The coward wanted out. Of course he did.

"Sophie- I really don't have time for-"

"You never do!" she spun around to face him, "Yesterday for something as trivial as your hair you terrified innocents in Porthaven and nearly killed Calcifer! And if I have any fair understanding of what's going on- - THAT might have hurt you as well!" she could have bitten her tongue. That would have implications that she had been worried about him.

Howl who had been taking the tongue lashing with a grain of salt (whilst very slowly edging his way towards that heavenly door) caught on this immediately, and once more stopped, now he was giving her that look again. As if he was trying to see through her.

What Sophie had no clue of knowing was this: For a brief second, he saw something- and it wasn't the old crone he'd been housing. As if there were an illusion cast over her instead of a tangible form- and it was flickering. So shocked was he that he'd forgotten all about how much he had been wanting to leave.

Gathering herself she blundered on with the more important reasons of why she was so angry. "Not everything is about your hair, Howl! Or how wonderful your face looks! Or even if your clothes are nice! There are things deeper then that! Deeper then conquest, deeper then just lust, base desire, and yourself! You go about courting these ladies and then hurting them when you've had your fill! That's cruel, Howl! You're using them! No matter how much you may think you 'love' them!"

The illusion was becoming opaque again.

"-You obviously never loved them. I know because you were able to leave them so quickly! I never had love like the type you claim you had for them- but not once have I ever heard that love meant you could abandon 'Your One True Love' like a pair of worn socks. Love is constant and kind. It is patient, forgiving, and understanding! Love will still be there even when a person is plain looking, sick, angry, or old-"

The illusion flickered and seemed to be gone- and before him was the confirmation of whom he'd thought she was. It was his ginger haired mouse. Howl couldn't control his features, his smile breaking through without his consent. In response Calcifer seemed to have gotten a bit bigger, a steady beat that only Howl seemed to hear, was coming (a bit faster now) from the hearth. If only she knew what he'd been trying to do for her!

"And you Howl, have not had it." Howl's joy was stopped short and his smile disappeared. Admittedly, the smile had nearly stopped Sophie, Howl grinning like an idiot was not reassuring. But still she continued, "Not given to them. Or from them." Her expression was no longer severe or angry, it was unhappy and pitying. "You never had their love, Howl. Simply because you never showed them the real you. It was a game. You lied to them. You can't love a lie. Or an illusion. Real love would have seen through that. If they had loved you for you, you could have showed up in rags without all your spells and creams of beauty, and they wouldn't have cared- except for the happiness of seeing the real you. And in return you would have done the same. Plain or beautiful, your love would have stayed."

Howl was sure had his heart still been in his chest it would have been thudding loudly within it. He had been falling in love with her. Illusion or not. No he hadn't wanted to hear the words Calcifer had said to him when they'd finally spoken in private (it felt like so long ago). Him, love? Without having ever seen what she'd really looked like? The idea was absurd! Beauty was everything! But he had. Been falling in love, that is. And that had scared him more than anything, until he had decided to fall on his usual (yet unique) techniques for wooing a young woman.

"But your 'love' for them didn't. And it hasn't. And all you can ever worry about is how to woo the next girl, what a trophy she will be, and how to keep on looking handsome until that happens, and more so when it does. That's not life. That's- - I don't know what it is Howl. I doubt I could teach someone like you, anything. But that is why I am angry. I'm sure there's more- but I can't reach you. Nothing I say could ever convince you-" her words faltered and she turned away from him, placing both hands on the hearth, staring down into Calcifers orange eyes.

Calcifer was looking up at her, an unreadable expression on his face. Perhaps he was surprised? Curious? Bored? Why was he looking at her so? He closed his mouth, that strange look still on his fiery face. Was he upset at her for what she had said to Calcifer?

She lowered her head and closed her eyes tightly, missing the fact that her hands were no longer old- her bones no longer ached-

All she'd ever be was some helpless old nosy woman to Howl. Her opinion of him would never matter- and God forbid should he see her how she'd been when she'd been eighteen! He would have laughed himself sick. She cared about Calcifer and Michael! And in her own way, Howl. If she hadn't, the things he did wouldn't be annoying her half as much as they were.

Howl, who had been reaching out to touch her ginger hair, watched as the illusion- as the CURSE slammed back into place, tightly weaving itself about her more thickly then the slime that had been with him the night before. His hand did not recoil, but his hand was now hovering immobile.

Why- what- what had happened?

So many confused and hurt emotions were running through him. Why had the curse faltered? Why hadn't it broken? Why would Sophie care about his life? Maybe she was just naturally a nosy person. Could there have been more behind her anger? Like there had been more behind his last night?

"Sophie." he breathed her name and placed his hands on her now much older shoulders, and gently squeezed them. "I don't understand it. You're right. But there are reasons- I am what I am... but that is my affair."

Calcifer's orange eyes shot up towards his face, which was easy to see, Howl was off to the side of Sophie, so the view to him was unblocked. He was sure Calcifer wanted to know where that shred of honesty had been torn from but Howl didn't want Sophie to have another go at him (with Calcifer as backup). It didn't seem as if she was going to be loose of the curse any sooner then before so he backed away from her. "I have to go see the king today, it will probably take up the day, tell Michael there's a spell for him on the bench that I want him to study."

Sophie could hear him quickly walking away from her. She turned around to face him, the movement causing an ache in her knees and hips. Howl looked distracted and very much at a loss. He stopped at the door and turned his face, and then his body, towards her. "I apologize, for what it's worth."

With those words spoken he left, closing the door behind him.

The Author's Notes:

This was inspired while reading 'A Woman True and Fair' by The S. She has done the best story on the face of the planet. Well, she re-wrote HMC (well, is re-writing, I should say) from Howl's point of view. And it is bloody brilliant! I suggest you read it if you haven't already, its wonderful! So wonderful that it's impossible for me to list the numerous reasons why. But it was Howl's thoughts (well, how she wrote them) that inspired me to do this.

ANYWAY I wrote this and mixed a bit of book and movie with it. In the movie while she slept the curse was gone, in the book, that wasn't how it was. So it was a 'What If the curse itself depended on her hold of it?' (Instead of it being either completely there or not at all.) Certain emotions/thoughts having an effect on it's staying power. Many reasons behind why she started shifting but it's difficult for me to describe why.

You might have noticed that the POV seems to change, yep, it's on purpose, I couldn't figure out a proper way of writing the responses I wanted but still have it written in the way I wanted...

There will be spelling and grammar errors, you name it, I have it. BUT I was just enjoying the writing. I might have gone ooc, but I find writing for Howl's personality is not an easy thing. He and Peter Pan have some rather twisted, yet complex personalities. I had an easier time identifying with Sophie so I think I managed to keep her in better character.

Seeing as the Author Notes are now longer then the actual story, I will leave this off with a, 'Please leave a contribution in the little box'. Extra points if you tell me the movie that quote is from.