Disclaimer: Howl's Moving Castle characters © Diana Wynne Jones. Not mine. TT

Summary: Inspired by "30 kisses"—a one-shot for every theme. Pure fluff.


1. Look over here!

You'd think she would've gotten over it by now—or at least seen through it, but his Sophie, he supposed he should've known, would just never learn with some things. In this particular case, he found it especially endearing that she didn't get the hint. Cute, really.

"Howl," Sophie pattered from the sink, "come take a look at these, would you? Something queer seems to be hanging about the roots."

Ever the diligent worker, Howl thought with some trepidation. You'd think, too, that having been promised a happily-ever-after would whittle away the stubborn woman's unexplainable need to cook and clean herself to a frenzy, but no! Not his Sophie.

Even after hours, she was still pining away at flowers to be gathered, flowers to be tended, flowers to be cut and prepared for sale…always work, work, work. There was no rest for this woman.

Howl sighed.

"Howl!" his ginger-haired devil huffed. "Quickly! I think something's happening!"

No rest indeed.

Despite the moroseness of his thoughts, he crossed the room with long, quick strides and was at Sophie's side in an instant. What could it be that had her so distressed?

The moonlight played in through the window above the sink. White and blue and silver all at once, the light washed him of worries and little thoughts until his full attention settled on the woman beside him and the quandary that creased her brow.

Howl sighed again.

"Let's have a look, shall we?"

He took the greenery in question from her open hands and studied it in the ethereal light, half-distracted by the feather-light pressure of his arm against Sophie's as they stood side by side. All too often, Howl mused, he found himself in situations such as these with nothing to prove for his efforts for contact. Always distracted, always working, always not thinking of him, Sophie scarcely noticed his attention.

Another restless breath tumbled from his lips.

"Well?" Sophie demanded.

His glass-green eyes traced the tangle of roots for any oddities that might upset the flower's growth but found none. The only distress he could find was in noting that the flower had not yet bloomed. Odd, since the plant looked to be well past mature…

"I can't seem to find the trouble, Sophie dear," he finally conceded. "It all looks fine and healthy to me. Perhaps those old eyes of yours are playing tricks on you, eh?" His lips twisted in a sardonic grin.

Sophie tossed her hair over her shoulder in a show of vanity and snorted. "I'm quite young again, thankyouverymuch!" she huffed.

"I need no reminder of that," Howl muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" Sophie snapped back. "Oh bother you. Nevermind. It just won't bloom!" Here, the azure eyes took on a hint of frustration. "I've tried everything. Everything! The blossom simply can't be coaxed from their buds." At this, his lovely maiden frowned. And wait…was that a hint of a pout he saw on those lips?

Far be it from him to keep his damsel disappointed.

He made to look as if he were concentrating on finding some sort of flaw as the words to an opening spell trickled in a low murmur from his mouth. Moonflowers, he recalled, always needed a little bit of encouragement to open their pale, lovely faces. He finished the incantation just as Sophie turned to leave.

"Well, hello!" he chirped. "Would you look at that!"

Sophie snapped around so quickly Howl hardly had time to wonder how she managed to not break her neck. He watched her eyes widen as the bloom peeled open before them, like a cat stretching after a long nap—unfurling fold by fold until a bright white face stared up at them from his cupped hands. As he suspected, it hadn't taken much for Sophie to become completely absorbed in watching his little manufactured phenomenon, so he took the opportunity to steal a little kiss.

"Howl, it's beau—"

There, he swooped in and gave her a quick peck right on the corner of her mouth, where she'd least expect it.

Sophie stiffened and jumped back almost faster than she had turned to him. Her expression would've made any sort of rebuke she dished out absolutely worth it.

A laugh bubbled up inside of Howl, and although he tried to hold it back, he couldn't help but chuckle a little at his Sophie.

"Howell Jenkins!" she uttered with indignation, flower forgotten. "I—I can't believe you—you impossible—!" Her cheeks were quickly burning to match that ginger hue she so adamantly claimed as red-gold.

Pleased as he was with the results, Howl predicted he didn't have much time before he was straight in the line of her warpath. Hatter women had terrible tempers, he remembered with a flinch.

He glanced nervously to the side and wracked his brain for some kind of distraction. Master slitherer-outter that he was, it didn't take long. Feigning a startled look up away to the door to the castle, he made to shade his face in embarrassment. Sophie had him backed in a corner, after all, and what with her appearing the fierce lion she was, he molded his part to fit the role.

"Michael! What are you doing here?" he called out to the empty air.

Thank the fates his Sophie was so gullible, and so quick to embarrass!

She did another of her lightning-fast twirls with stricken panic naked on her face.

Gods above, Howl thought with irritation, his seconds' opportunity for escape ticking away. Just one more…

He leaned down again—just a little one!

And was pleasantly met with the rosy warmth of an open mouth.

Howl was just as surprised, if not more, than the wide-eyed Sophie. The traces of residual fury melted quickly into shock and—outrage? Howl was wide-eyed as well, if not from shock then from the happy oblivion with which he accepted his fate.

They stared at each other over their locked mouths for a moment as the seconds ticked by and the situation disintegrated into awkward silence.

A shaft of light suddenly pierced the soft darkness, accompanied by the click of an opening door.

"Sophie, have you seen—" A sharp whoosh of air—breath being taken in like a vacuum.

Just like that, Sophie and Howl broke apart as if slapped, both blushing to high heaven. They didn't dare to make eye contact, let alone meet the eyes of their intruder.

The door slammed shut.

"Sorry!" Michael's voice came muffled from the other side. He seemed rather to be in a panic. The hurried shuffle dying away said as much.

Silence descended once more.

"Ah yes," Howl coughed, still not making eye contact. "I expect he was in about that spell…must've been having some trouble. Important matters, you know…goodnight, Sophie!"

Quick as he could, Howl rushed out the door and shut it quietly behind him.

Howl sighed and sagged against the door.

Straightening, he skipped across the courtyard and through the common room, laughing aloud at the wary expression etched in Calcifer's flaming face. He floated up the stairs in a cloud of happy oblivion, feeling warm from the tips of his dyed golden hair to the ends of his toes.

Flopping down on his fluffy mattress, he couldn't help but grin into his blankets and sigh again over his good fortune.

He would have to remember to get Sophie distracted more often.

Author's Note: Mindless drabble. Unproofed, unchecked, very raw. A lot more where that came from, too, I'm guessing. Maybe. I loved the book! And of course, this has even less substance if you haven't read the book. Ah, the joy of one-shot fanfiction—completely effortless and nonsensical. No offense meant to people who actually write substantial one-shots. )

Thanks for reading!