This is my first Howl fic. I might not have the characters down but I try. I figured I needed to write something before I loose my touch. Those who have read my Phantom fics will know how much my writing has changed. I blame this on school and the fact I have had no time to write anything. Anyways. I am in love with Howl. That is why I started this fic. Hope you like it. This is my first so flames and reviews to help me with my story are more than welcome. I have not read the book, but am trying desperately to find it. I have only seen the movie by Mayazaki-san (great by the way, loved it adored it, trying to find it at less than $30. but whatever.) Please enjoy and remember any review or flame is welcome. (as long as they help me improve or point out the problems in my story)Thank you!

Peace. If someone were to ask Sophie what her life was like the first few months after the war, she would have said that they were peaceful. It was really blissful. She was living with Howl, Calcifer, Markl and the Witch of the Waste (which everyone began to affectionately call Granny.) She had been so happy because at last her curse had been broken, she was young again with just a minor set-back. Her hair was still that dull gray color.

Howl would laugh when Sophie brought it up. "But Sophie, it's the color of starlight!"

Sophie would just quirk an eyebrow at him then break into laughter herself.

"I could change it, Sophie, if you want," he had asked more than once, his fingers in her hair, a smile on his face.

Sophie had shook her head and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. "I like it if you like it."

Things had been simple then. Not as simple as Sophie would have liked but simple enough that Howl didn't leave at weird hours of the night and come back three days later to a worried Sophie.

The first couple of nights he had done that, Howl would return and find Sophie with tears of joy in her eyes to see that he had finally come home.

In those days he would catch her in his arms and apologize softly in her ear for making her worry like he did. Sophie at first didn't understand why he left like he did even with the war over.

The papers had said it all over the front, the war was over, Prince Justin had returned. There were even talks of peace from both kingdoms, they were to sign a treaty.

Granny had seen Sophie one night reading the paper at the table. She must have seen the look of desperation on her face for she said, "Never believe what the papers say. Who will you believe, the paper or the man that loves you?"

Sophie had been struck dumb with the question. Or the man that loves you… Of course she should trust him wholly and fully with every breath she took, she had always thought that was what happened with love.

But did he love her? He had never said it. Not once.

Sophie grumbled as she threw the newspaper in the trash. That part of her consciousness was nagging again, she hated feeling so insecure about the relationship between herself and Howl.

As she sat at the table with only Calcifer to keep her company so late at night, she found herself looking at the rolled up newspaper in the bin. The front page seemed to taunt her and fill her with anger.

"Calcifer," she whispered so that she wouldn't wake the others in their respective rooms.

"Hmm," the little ember said softly.

"Calcifer, what have you heard of the war?"

The ember smacked his lips and looked her groggily. "What?"

"The war, Calcifer, what have you heard of it?" Sophie asked just as softly.

"Well, what have you heard of the war, Sophie?" He asked right back.

Sophie shrugged. "It's over. That they want to make amends-"

"Well, then that's what's going on, good night!"

"Calcifer!" Sophie almost shouted, she noticed her tone and whispered again. "If that is true, then why is Howl gone half the time?"

Calcifer seemed to shrug then turned his back to her from the hearth. "I'm not his mother-"

"Please!" Sophie almost begged. "What do you know?"

Calcifer sighed. "I really don't know what Howl does, really." He turned to her again. "If I knew, you know I would tell you."

Sophie sighed and placed her head in her arms. "I'm just so worried about him. I don't want him to feel like he's being smothered. I don't know what to do."

"Why don't you try talking to him?"

Sophie nodded sleepily. "Maybe." She yawned, she was so tired, she had been kept up half the night worried about him. "When he comes back, I'll ask him."

Sophie was startled awake some time later by the ringing of bells. She knew it was one of the doors of the many places Howl owned in different cities. When she looked up at the dial, she found it was on the blue color.

Both she and Calcifer looked to the door and watched the young man almost skip inside.

Someone was in a fairly good mood.

"Ah, Sophie," his soft voice said. "What are you doing still up?"

She ran her fingers through her hair. "I-I was worried, you've been gone for three days."

He waved a hand, dismissing her. "You don't need to worry about me, Sophie. I've been gone for longer."

He placed his hands over Calcifer as if to warm himself. "Has Calcifer been good?"

"Wh-What kind of question is that?" A new voice spoke up.

Sophie watched as the little ember's face grow angry. "Have I been good? Of course I've been good! What am I, a child? If it's anyone you should be worried about it's that damn witch of the waste! We've been living together for months and she still stares at me!"

Sophie couldn't help but smile. "Yes, Calcifer's been good-"

"Excellent!" Howl said interrupting her, dismissing her, yet again. "Calcifer, hot water for my bath."

As he went up the stairs Sophie couldn't contain herself any longer. "Wh-What about the others?"

Howl stopped in his tracks and turned to her, halfway up the stairs. His dark blue eyes looked confused.

Sophie wasn't used to speaking for herself and as she did, she felt as small as a child, especially under the scrutiny of his gaze. It was almost as if he was looking at her with expectancy.

"The others?" he asked her.

"M-Markl, just the other day, Calcifer let him make lunch. He made us a wonderful meal and he also started mixing potions- well, he spilled a little on the floor and it turned the wood green, it was frightfully hard to get rid of." Sophie was babbling, she knew, she had a tendency to do that when she was nervous. She wrung her hands in her apron. "And Granny the other day, she told the most wonderful story about this man she met a long time ago in the Waste, although that poor man got a nasty spell put on him and never got to turn it back. Actually half the people that she puts spells on, she says, never get them undone."

She looked up from her hands and found Howl still looking at her almost as if he was expecting something. "Is that all?"

Sophie was stunned a little by his harsh words. Didn't he care? "Um, well, yes, I guess."

"Good," he turned again and headed towards the first door on the landing.

"And me!" Sophie bit back a groan when she saw the way he was looking at her. He looked completely bored, he didn't care.

What was it about that look on his face that made her feel as if she was the smallest person in the world?

The way he looked might have something to do with it. She had always thought herself a bland girl with chocolate brown eyes and gray hair, no matter how many times Howl debated it so, and now she was being stared down by a handsome, tall and incredibly beautiful wizard. One that she was in love with.

That was what probably confused her the most, she had broken his spell and he had broken hers. Granny had said it was true love that had done all that, yet here he was staring her down like she was vermin.

She shook herself out of her daze and stared again at her wringing hands, trying to get the courage to speak again.

"And I-I- I made you a new jacket. You used to wear one all the time until, well…" She let the sentence trail on. She pointed at the box on the table. "It's on the table, if you want to see it." Her voice faltered, she had started speaking softly but the sentence died in her throat. She frowned. She was never like this, what was wrong with her. Was she scared of him?

She snapped out of her reverie when she heard him say, "Well, if that is all, I'll be leaving now."

She looked at his receding back. Was he serious? He wasn't going to ask her about her day? Didn't he care if the jacket that had taken her weeks to make was just the right color or the right size?

The rage that had been inside her reached its bowling point.

Calcifer noticed this and began to call his friend back when-

"Don't you even care!"

Both Howl and Calcifer broke from what they were doing.

Calcifer's mouth was open just as he was about to call Howl and Howl himself had a hand on the doorknob. They both stared at the girl with starlight in her hair and glowing embers in her eyes.

Her eyes were burning with fury and Howl noticed how suddenly she had straightened her posture. Sophie, when determined, was an unstoppable force all on its own.

"After what I've just told you? You still don't care?"

Her voice was a little louder than what Howl would have liked, she would wake the others. He hurried down the stairs and stood next to the girl. "I would appreciate it if you didn't yell."

Sophie looked at him enraged. "I just told you that Markl –your apprentice- finally managed to do something that has been his goal for years and you just shrugged it off!"

"Sophie-" Howl started.

"I just told you that I have been worried sick for days wondering about you and all you can say is that you're gone all the time and that it's nothing new?" Sophie whispered harshly.

He reached out for her arm but she pulled it away. "I have been out of my mind for days, Howl! You've just disregarded my feelings entirely!"

"Sophie, stop."

Sophie did stop, but it wasn't because he told her to, but because of the manner in which he had said it. Cruelly and callous, not the way she had ever heard him speak to her.

She hadn't even noticed the tears brimming in her eyes.

He took a step toward her with malice in his eyes. What was wrong with him? He had never been this way.

"I refuse to come into my own home and become bombarded with useless, meaningless questions and comments. This is my home, my domain; I refuse to be put down by some insipid girl who knows absolutely nothing. Why don't you go back to work? I'm sure there's something to keep you busy."

If Sophie had gasped in response, she didn't know, she was too transfixed by his eyes. They held so much anger, so much fury, that she didn't second guess him. He wasn't lying. Every word he said was true. He did think of her that way.

Calcifer watched in shock at what was happening before him.

Howl- he really couldn't mean all those things he said. No, he knew that he loved Sophie. He had felt it in his heart once. Once. Yes, long ago. But feelings like that could never change. Calcifer was a demon, not a moron, he knew things like that could never change in humans.

Howl was human now, after all, not a monster. Sophie had broken their curse with her own love.

What the hell was wrong with Howl?

Sophie only stared, the distance set between them because of the table not enough. In her fear, Sophie had walked behind the table and stood there.

She picked up the first few things she could find and threw it at him. "You selfish, egotistical jerk!"

All three apples vanished when they almost reached him.

Sophie ran to her room and locked it, doing her best to hide her tears. She fell to the floor on her knees and cried into her hands.

How could he? How could he use the one thing she doubted herself, and use it against her? She had always been called ugly ever since she was a child, the boys used to tease her about it all the time at school. Men would even choose her younger sister over her all the time. She knew she was trite.

It never used to bother her that much before but that being confirmed by the one person you loved-

Sophie cried new tears silently, she didn't want him to hear. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

She couldn't tolerate this anymore. He was using her.

She bit back a sob. Of course he was using her. She cleaned his house, broke his curse, what else could she do for him? He only had to tolerate her long enough to break his curse. That was the only reason she had been with him for so long, the only reason he tolerated her.

"Well, then," Sophie said softly to herself as she stood. "No use in keeping up with pretenses."

Sophie dressed back in her old blue dress and old shoes before heading out the door. She wanted nothing of Howl's with her at all. She placed the shall over her shoulders and packed the untouched dinner into a small bundle. (She had decided to eat in her room but had suddenly lost appetite.)

She looked out the window and saw the stretch of land that was the Wastes at night. She could almost see the sun rise, the sky was beginning to turn to that beautiful orange hue. Dawn was beautiful when she saw it out on the balcony when the castle was in the sky. It wasn't there now because Calcifer was asleep, and Calcifer when sleeping was especially lazy. He didn't like to keep the castle in the sky while sleeping.

She walked out of her room when she saw that nothing was amiss. She began to put things in the kitchen in order as quietly as possible when Calcifer spoke up.

"Uh, Sophie, what are you doing?"

"I'm putting things in order before I leave," she answered him.

"Leave? You're leaving!"

"Yes, Calcifer," she told him as she turned towards him. "I'm not needed here."

"Wh-what?" Calcifer said almost outraged. "No! No, you can't leave! Not because of dumb old Howl! Forget what he said! Stay!"

Sophie smiled kindly at him and kneeled down in front of the hearth. "Oh, Calcifer. I won't forget you, you know."

"You won't forget because you'll be here!" Calcifer placed his little fire hands together. "Please stay Sophie!"

She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I can't. Howl made me realize that I'm not needed anymore. You all need each other." Sophie stood. "There's enough food for the next week, please make sure to tell Markl that."


"Now, please Calcifer, let him cook, Granny and him both need it. They can't live on moldy cheese and bread for the rest of their lives."

"Sophie, please."

Sophie kneeled before him again. "Take care of them, Calcifer. And don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I have family back home, remember?"

"What's left of it," Calcifer reminded her.

Sophie smiled sadly. "Take care of them, please? They need someone to take care of them. Will you do that for me, Calcifer?"

Calcifer sighed. "All right, all right. Just make sure that there's no buckets of water around. Now that I can't use that whole I die- he dies thing, Markl will do anything destructive to me once he finds out you're gone."

Sophie smiled but it disappeared quickly. "If there was only a way to keep in contact with you."

Calcifer looked deep in thought then his embers burst in excitement. "I know! Over there, Sophie! In the top drawer there should be a blue pendant."

Sophie walked to the cupboard to where Calcifer had said. She rummaged around until she found a dark blue pendant held onto by string. A small light emitted from within it by Calcifer's fire and Sophie wondered if I was a sapphire.

"What is it?" She asked.

"Markl did it not long ago. It turns color when it's called. In this case, when we need you, I'll call the pendant and you'll know when to come."

Sophie's brow furrowed. "Won't you need Howl's magic? I don't want him to know-"

"Leave that arrogant man to me. Markl can do it, he will be all too happy to oblige. Besides," he said with a teasing pompous tone, "I can do magic of my own. I am after all a fire demon."

Sophie had a genuine smile on her face as she placed it over her head and around her neck. "Thank you Calcifer." She walked to the hearth and blew him a kiss as she picked up her bundle.

At the door, she looked around the house once more before turning to the green dial and stepping out into the Wastes. "Wish me luck, Cal!"

The door slammed due to the wind and Calcifer sighed. "Good luck, Sophie."