Rapunzel

Disclaimer: Moving castles have parts that are liable to be swallowed by small children.
Author's Notes: Rapunzel was the lesser of two evils. One-shot.
Summary: Howl began to suspect something was amiss the day that Sophie had an inexplicable urge to eat lettuce. He was well acquainted with a girl who's mother had suffered from a similar ailment and knew that this could only end disastrously.


"Does Sophie seem different to you somehow?" Howl asked Calcifer in a low voice as he listened to his wife puttering around in the kitchen.

"No more than usual." the fire demon said, reaching for another log. "Why?"

"She's been acting… strange lately." Howl said in a strained voice.

Calcifer raised a flaming eyebrow. " Oh?"

"Not that I don't love her little idiosyncrasies," Howl said defensively. "It's what made me fall in love with her in the first place, but ever since we've gotten married, she's been acting stranger than usual."

"How so?"

"Well, just this morning, I thoughtfully made her breakfast in bed. You know my specialty, an omelet stuffed with peppers, bacon and cheese. Scrumptious, really, but she refused to eat a bite, claiming the bacon in my omelet was making her sick. I assured her that I had cooked it thoroughly, but when I pressed her to at least try some of it, she turned a fantastic shade of green and ran out the room."

"Well, your cooking does have that effect on people," Calcifer reasoned. "I remember Michael couldn't stop breathing fire for weeks the last time you made your Super Special Chile Paste."

"But that's not all," Howl said mournfully. "After I had thrown away a perfectly good omelet, I headed to the bathroom to engage in my daily facial routine, which lasts much shorter than my usual full body routine, mind you, when lo behold the door was locked. I knocked on the door and told Michael to hurry up, when Sophie's voice came out from in-between the cracks and informed me that I would have to make due without today since she would be occupying the bathroom for the duration of the morning."

"You should be one to talk. If I remember correctly, your full body routines usually last all morning and a good part of the afternoon!"

"But then after generously relinquishing my time in the bathroom," Howl said continued gravely, ignoring Calcifer's comment, "I was wandering around trying to find something to occupy my time when I spot Sophie's latest masterpiece perched precariously on the couch. Risking life and limb, I valiantly rescue the poor mittens from being lost forever in-between the cracks, when I find that the mittens she was knitting for me, were two sizes too small.

"So then, being the wonderful husband that I am, I wait until she comes out of the bathroom to gently point out that perhaps knitting is not her strong suit. Of course I made sure to reassure Sophie that I would still love her regardless of the fact, and that she had no reason to extend herself in an effort to produce homemade sweaters like other women.."

"How thoughtful," Calcifer interjected sarcastically.

"When she gave me a funny look and told me that they were socks, not mittens," Howl finished. "Socks, Calcifer! Like any of us have feet that small."

Calcifer frowned. "So she's been knitting small socks. Why is that so strange?"

"I'm not finished," Howl said impatiently. "Because afterwards, I figured that I should prepare her lunch to make up for the horrible incident at breakfast. When I asked her what her heart most desired, and she told me she it desired sour cucumbers and lemon gelato." Howl shuddered. "Just thinking about it gives me chills."

"A classic sign," Calcifer said to himself, somewhat bemused. He had long since put two and two together and was certain the boy would also realize what Sophie's strange behavior was leading up to…

"So you're saying eating sour cucumbers with gelato is a classic sign of married women?" Howl asked utterly perplexed. Perhaps Calcifer had given Howl too much credit.

"Of course not, you silly goose," Calcifer said impatiently. "Look, I'll lay it out for you. Point one, she's been getting sick in the morning. Point two, she's been eating funny food. Point three, she's been knitting unusually small articles of clothing. Soon she'll have to go to the doctor's."

"You mean…" Howl's eyes grew wider as he became more alarmed. "This is terrible. I won't believe it!"

"I thought you'd be happy," Calcifer said confused. He flickered impatiently. "Don't tell me you hadn't thought it would happen sooner or later."

"How can I be happy when I know that…" Howl broke off, a tear glistening in the corner of his eyes.

"Now, now," Calcifer said awkwardly. "It won't be that bad. You've got Michael who can help out afterwards. It won't be so bad…"

Howl looked incensed. "How can you be so calm about this? Don't you care that Sophie's dying?"

If Calcifer was in possession of a pair of hands, he would most certainly have boxed Howl's ears for being so dense. "No, you pea-brain, she's obviously pr--"

"Hooowl! Diiinner's ready!"

Hearing Sophie's voice coming from the kitchen, Howl scrambled quickly to his feet to comply, leaving a muttering Calcifer to gripe alone. "Stupid wizards…"

As Howl walked into the kitchen, he took a moment to admire Sophie from the doorway. He was especially fond of the chestnut curls that flowed past her shoulders. He felt that they were a perfect match to her warm brown eyes. Howl sighed. Was it just him or did she look more beautiful everyday? His eyes teared up again as the thought of Sophie's illness came to mind.

No, Sophie wouldn't die. Not if he could help it. And by God, he would give her all the magic in his possession in order to keep her as happy and as healthy as she looked now.

Heck, he'd buy her all her sour pickles and lemon gelatos she wanted. And even wear all the tiny socks she knitted. Just as long as she was happy.

Bounding up to his wife, Howl hugged her from behind, nuzzling her neck affectionately, breathing in the scent of soap and flowers. "And what has my beloved wife prepared for us tonight?"

"Rapunzel soup!" Sophie said smiling sweetly.

Howl made a face. "Rapunzel? But that lettuce is only suitable for only rabbits and pregnant wo-" Howl stopped mid-sentence. His face looked stunned as if caught in the throes of a sudden revelation.

From his spot in the fireplace, Calcifer let out an ungentlemanly snort. "Took you long enough."