Disclaimer: I pretty much have nothing. I don't own any of the characters or the song, and even though Howl seems a bit inclined to hand out his heart at random, I even showed up too late for that! Life hates me!
Author's Note: I've started a long chapter-fic for HMC, but I don't want to start posting it till I have more written, due to my notorious habit for procrastination. So, this is technically my first fic… and it's a song fic! Man! I just know how to dish it out, don't I? lol. The song is Walking in the Air by Nightwish, though my favorite version is actually the Celtic Women one… but we won't get into that.
OKAY! LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN! FOR SOME REASON, IT DECIDED TO CUT OFF THE WHOLE LAST FOURTH OF THE FREAKING STORY! GOD!
Anyway, enjoy the fluff!
.: Walking in the Air :.
We're walking in the air
We're floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly
The girl shifted restlessly in her sleep, starlit hair splaying across her face in an unruly manner with each unconscious shake of her head. The moon shimmering in through the window was the only witness to the sparkling tear trekking its way slowly down the porcelain contours of her face. "Howl…" she murmured, her brows knitting together wretchedly.
Howl, indeed! It had been two solid months since young (well… old, at the time) Sophie Hatter had managed to break the contract between one Howl Jenkins and his fire demon. And considering the fact that she had literally handed his heart back to him in the process, one would imagine that the wizard would have fallen head over heals in love with his savior, like in all of those ridiculous fairytales young girls are read at bedtime. And Sophie hadn't been the only one to come out of the ordeal sorely disappointed in the wizard's antagonistic actions, either. All involved had expected Howl to proclaim his love for his ex-cleaning lady at the first given opportunity, but then again… life is far from a ridiculous fairytale, isn't it?
After the breaking of the curse, the mismatched little family had seemingly gone their separate ways. Well, Sophie and Howl had, at least. Considering that there was no longer a castle in existence for her to clean, there was no excuse she could find to so deeply offend propriety by living in the same home as a handsome, young, and oh-so-wicked wizard. And to her well-hidden consternation, Howl had made no objections as Sophie's mother had made immediate arrangements for her daughter to be tucked away from his evil ways in the safety of her new step-father's home.
Glancing back at Howl as her mother had led her gently, but rather firmly, away from the ruins of the wizard's moving castle, Sophie had thought she'd caught a glimpse of something in his eyes. Something that screamed for her not to leave, to stay with him forever and always…. But it must only have been her imagination. Howl was in his prime—powerful, gorgeous, and very eligible. How could she have expected him to fall in love with the countenance of a ninety-year-old woman…? Despite the nineteen-year-old girl looking out from those old eyes, desperately begging for that love?
No, she had not seen feather, nor hair, of Howl since that last glimpse over her shoulder.
But, the fact remained, that Sophie was truly, deeply, and rather irrevocably, in love with him. And there seemed to be no lifting of this particular curse.
We're holding very tight
I'm riding in the midnight blue
I'm finding I can fly so high above with you
She huffed unconsciously, curling into a fetal position, turning away from the window as fleeting images of a certain wizard's handsome face swirled restlessly about her slumbering mind.
Being thus preoccupied—in the sense that she had no conscious attention to give out to such things—Sophie took no notice as the golden latch of her window slowly unhooked, and the window swung slowly and silently open, entirely of its own accord. She took equally as little notice when the figure of a man seemed to float down onto her windowpane, soundlessly kneeling on the wooden shelf, staring intently into the dark room.
Her attention, as well as her consciousness, was very efficiently caught, however, by the soft whisper of her name that seemed to echo about the room and through her mind like hushed thunder.
Sophie's eyes snapped open fearfully, staring at the shadow cast on the wall before her, her fists unconsciously clenching the sheets to her chin in a sort of subdued terror.
She had had quite enough of dangerous and frightening situations by now. Having had a terrible spell cast upon her, bombs dropped on her, and then faced with the prospect of forever losing the man she loved, she would have been quite content for her heart never to break into that frantic pounding again in her life. But then again, fate never had seemed to be on her side, had it?
"Sophie…" The quiet rasp floated once again across the room to her terrified ears and she shut her eyes rather tightly, taking in a deep breath in a desperate attempt to calm herself, before facing this horror head-on, as she knew she must. Whatever had happened to that indomitable courage that had seemingly come with old age?
Snapping her eyes open, she gritted her teeth and sat up, drawing the covers protectively around her in one smooth motion. "Who are you?" she squeaked in a weaker voice than she would have liked.
Far across the world
The villages go by like trees
the rivers and the hills
The forest and the streams
The Wizard Howl gazed back at her, that infuriatingly calm, gentle half smile set firmly about his lips and his oceanic blue eyes twinkling mirthfully at her from beneath a perfect head of midnight black hair.
"H-Howl…?" Her voice came out as little more than a whisper as her eyes took in the face that she had been dying to see for two months now. Without really knowing what she was doing, she found herself shoving her bedding aside and rising to her feet, taking several hesitant steps toward him across the room… helplessly drawn to him, as usual, not taking into account, of course, that just maybe, he had a bit of a hand in that.
He grinned at her roguishly, his hair falling into his eyes in a strangely charming way as he held out one perfect hand in her direction. "Sophie."
Sophie drank in the sight of him, completely dumbfounded as she tried to comprehend what was going on. Could he really be here, summoning her to his side? It seemed so impossible, but so wonderfully right at the same time.
"Come with me," he whispered, beckoning to her once again.
How could she possibly deny him? She had always given him her hand when he asked for it, without a second thought, trusting him completely. How was anything different now? Well… except for the two months of absence crowned by his suddenly appearing at her window in the middle of the night.
Having taken a short eternity to cross the room to stand before him, Sophie gazed at him with confused chocolate eyes, her hand hesitantly hovering over his. He gave her one more gentle, reassuring smile. "Trust me."
And she did. Sliding her hand slowly into his, she placed all faith implicitly in this mysterious, dark wizard who had come so close, and possibly succeeded, in ripping out her heart as his reputation and legend suggested.
"That's my girl!" Howl murmured affectionately, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
And immediately, to Sophie's great consternation, she felt her bare feet slowly part with the lush carpet, even as Howl rose elegantly out of his kneeling position and out into the open air, drawing her with him. Her eyes widened, staring at him fearfully as he laughed happily, pulling her completely out the window.
"Howl!" she cried, glancing swiftly down to see that three stories of empty space was all that stood between her and an unpleasant meeting with the cobblestone.
Children gaze open mouth
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes
Taking pity on her, Howl drew her into the warm, protective circle of his arms as they rose slowly through the chilly, misty air up above the towering trees surrounding her stepfather's estate. She gasped, terrified, but reminded with a pang of that first time she had ever laid eyes on him, during their stroll through the sky.
He ran a comforting hand through her hair, nestling her head gently against his chest as he carried her up, up into the silvery clouds. "Don't be scared, Sophie," he whispered in her ear, "You should know by now that I would never drop you."
She let the smallest of smiles flit across her face, unseen, as he gazed up above them into the approaching Heavens. He hugged her closer to him, reaffirming his possessive grip around her waist subtly. "I will always protect you."
That caught her attention pretty quickly, and her head snapped up, worrying about gravity be damned, and glared at him. Feeling her sudden movement, he looked down at her, the gentle smile on his face melting away as his eyes widened in confusion. "Sophie?" he asked uncertainly, his hand coming up to brush across her cheek in what he hoped was a comforting manner. She batted it away impatiently, not wanting anything to even slightly disrupt her annoyance at the childish wizard, and any unnecessary physical contact would surely send her reeling into fits of ecstasy… very bad for being mad at someone.
"Always protect me, indeed," she humphed, turning away from him as much as she could while still clasped closely to his chest, hundreds of feet in the air. She could almost feel his confused, inquisitive eyes boring into the back of her silvery head, but for once, it seemed he took the mature route of letting her begin her fuming when she was good and ready. And when she finally turned back to him, he was very unprepared for the angry tears pooling in her eyes. "Where were you these last couple of months, then, Howl Jenkins?" she demanded.
His azure eyes widened, and he tightened his grip on her unconsciously. "You weren't in danger were you?" he demanded, so frantic that Sophie almost forgot to be mad at him, "My charms should have warned me of any danger so I could get to you immediately!"
'He's had me be-spelled this whole time…?' Sophie thought to herself. She shook her head. No. Nothing was going to distract her from seething at the handsome wizard for all that she was worth. "No, Howl," she whispered, looking out over the town as they continued to rise, "I wasn't in any physical danger." He gave a very noticeable sigh of relief. "The danger I was in was from having my heart stolen by the cruel and evil Wizard Howl."
She glanced up at him through the fringe of her bangs, easily catching the beginnings of a panic seeping into his eyes. 'Gods, is he taking me literally?' she wondered as she felt his arms loosen their grip on her ever so slightly. She decided to quickly correct herself before he accidentally dropped her in the throes of a tantrum.
"Why did you send me away, Howl?" she murmured, burying her face in his shirt so he could not see the tears beginning to dribble down her cheeks. "Did you really want me to leave that much? I know that I'm not pretty, and I was just your cleaning lady… but… I thought—" The tears cut her off before she could complete her rant, and she decided to just angrily soak his shirt instead.
Somewhere above her head, Howl sighed in a mixture of understanding and exasperation. Firmly stopping their ascent, he wriggled his feet underneath hers, giving her a solid place to stand as he let go of her with one arm, instead lifting her tearstained face with a gentle hand. He stroked away a tear with his thumb, and Sophie nearly gulped at the intensity blazing in his eyes. And for the first time, she realized just how mature those eyes had grown. There was no child-like light in those beautiful blue orbs anymore.
"Sophie," he murmured, his nose nearly brushing against hers in their proximity, "How many times do I have to tell you?" Slowly easing his other hand up her arm, he gave her ample time to clamp her arms around his waist to keep from falling as he gently cupped her face in his warm hands. "You are the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on."
We're surfing in the air
We're swimming in the frozen sky
We're drifting over icy
mountains floating by
She blushed in spite of herself, turning away as much as she could with her face encased firmly in both of his hands. Why did he always have to lie to her…?
"I thought that maybe, you would want to spend time with your family…" Howl continued softly, "you hadn't seen any of them for so long. And besides, however much I wanted to keep you by my side, I figured that thoughts of indecency would seep their way into that pretty, obstinate little head of yours at some point. After all, we would be a single man and woman of marrying age, staying under the same roof. With the wicked man very much aware of the innocent young woman's beautiful presence. And besides," he murmured, bringing her face up to gaze into her eyes once again, smiling charmingly, "I didn't exactly have a roof to offer you, either, now did I?"
Sophie flushed indignantly at her own harsh anger. He had only the best of reasons for their separation. Reasons that she, herself, would surely have worried over. She shook her head lightly, her unbound hair whipping about her face in the cold breeze. She shivered, and said, "But… you didn't even say goodbye. You just… just stood there."
Taking note of her tremor, as well as the goosebumps popping up on the skin not protected by her three-quarter sleeves, he made sure that her grasp on him was still firm before quickly divesting himself of his ridiculously flamboyant pink and yellow jacket and wrapped it warmly about her, then hugging her to him once more. She nearly giggled as she nestled into the warmth of the jacket; only Howl would have gone to the trouble of saving that hideous thing.
"Sophie, Sophie…" he murmured into her hair, "I wouldn't have been able to say goodbye. Don't you see?" She looked up at him, silky tufts of his midnight hair tickling her cheeks, "If I had opened my mouth, I would have ended up cursing you to stay within a ten foot perimeter of my person for the rest of your life. I had to let you go without a word." He chuckled at the scandalized expression on her face, raising a hand to twirl strands of spun starlight around his fingers as he gazed, transfixed, into her beautiful, flushed face.
She cleared her throat uncertainly, not knowing what to do as he systematically destroyed each and every reason she had for being angry with him. "And… and…" She cast about her mind, trying to keep from falling to distraction at the soothing, wonderful feeling of his hand in her hair. "Why didn't you come see me sooner?" she whispered finally, gazing up at him hesitantly.
He met her eyes with all sincerity, his thumb skimming over her bottom lip as he cupped her cheek tenderly. "I had to completely finish my project before I saw you again, or I wouldn't be able to help myself from spiriting you away out your window to come see it!"
"See what?" she whispered, not really caring, as she was totally mesmerized by the movement of his perfect lips as he spoke, but her nosy nature had to ask.
He grinned widely, turning her swiftly about in his arms and taking each of her small hands into one of his. "Come see!" he said excitedly in her ear, "Do you remember that first time we met…? How we walked, then?"
Sophie smiled at the memory, glancing down to see his booted feet begin to stroll through the misty air. Gently squeezing the fingers that had somehow become entwined with hers, she followed his example and took her first step.
We're walking in the air
We're dancing in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly
She could practically feel Howl's proud smile as they meandered together through the moonlight, away from the fleeing visage of Market Chipping. "I told you you were a natural," he murmured, his warm breath teasing across her skin, causing a delightful shiver.
Uncertain as to how long they had been walking, Sophie allowed herself to become lost in his gentle touch, oblivious to everything around her save for the wizard at her side.
Finally, after an eternity that was all too short in Sophie's opinion, Howl stopped, pulling her back to his side with an excited jerk of his arm. "Look!" he exclaimed, pointing into the black distance, "Do you see it?"
Sophie squinted, staring at where his finger was directed in confusion. Nothing. Perhaps he had gained a bit of insanity along with that maturity…? But then, suddenly, a single speck of light flitted into existence. Sophie stared, as the light seemed to come closer. "Howl, what is it?" she asked, fighting back the small tongues of panic licking at her mind. In her experience, most things that took to the air were not of a friendly nature.
"Just wait…" he said mysteriously, wrapping her in a one-armed hug as he claimed her hand with his, floating high above the desolate land that was the Waste, waiting as the hovering twinkle of light came closer and closer.
But as the thing neared, Sophie stared as she noticed that it was not just a light at all, but a lantern firmly attached to a castle. A castle that had… wings.
She looked up at Howl quickly as he watched the thing come, with the expression of a proud father. "They came to meet us," he smiled, catching her eyes, "Look at it! Isn't it great!"
And she looked, seeing the little fence that separated a yard from the open air, at the yard that led to the door. And then, at the little redheaded figure that came streaking out into the lantern light of the yard, scrambling up onto the fence and waving frantically. "Sophie!" he yelled in greeting, as the figures of a hunched old woman and a tiny, shuffling dog exited the door to join the welcoming committee.
Sophie felt tears of happiness pooling in her eyes as she waved back. "Markl!" she called excitedly. Feeling his arm tighten about her waist, she smiled up at Howl.
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"I love it!" she cried eagerly.
He burst into a grin. "Good!" he exclaimed, before sobering a bit. Looking deeply into her eyes, he caught both of her hands in his, and eased his feet beneath hers again, as he turned her fully toward him. "Sophie…" he murmured, "There is a bedroom that's just perfect for a cleaning lady…." She smiled, wrestling a hand free to touch his cheek hesitantly. He closed his eyes, leaning into her touch as he whispered, "And we are in desperate need of one, as a matter of fact."
"When is my interview?" she asked teasingly.
"You're hired," he said simply, leaning down to catch her lips gently with his own.
Her eyes widened in shock for a moment, before they fluttered shut and she wrapped her arms tightly about his neck, needing all of the support she could muster to keep from falling the thousands of feet back to earth as she went limp in his arms. He smiled against her lips as one arm snaked subtly about her waist and his other hand crept up to hold her head firmly in place.
Their hair swirled and mingled about their heads as they lost themselves in each other, neither noticing or really caring as the castle came to a halt a few feet from their indisposed forms.
"Ew!" Markl cried, breaking the couple from their reverie, "Master Howl! That's gross!"
"What a handsome couple!" the Old Crone Formerly of the Waste smiled.
Sophie blushed bright enough for her face to be a glowing beacon in the darkness, and Howl just smiled smugly, melding her to his side like she'd been made to fit there.
"Let's go inside," he said, "You're going to freeze out here, and I'm sure Calcifer is dying to see you." He maneuvered his arm underneath her hand, and opened the latch of the little gate with his free hand, allowing them to step finally back onto solid ground—even if it was solid ground floating thousands of feet above the rest of the solid ground.
"Sophie!" Markl chirped, flinging himself at Sophie's waist, burying his face in her nightgown. Sophie laughed, hugging him fiercely with the arm that was not clutched around Howl. "I missed you!" the little boy crowed.
"I missed you, too, Markl," Sophie replied happily as he broke away, running back toward the door. "Come on, Sophie!" he yelled, flitting inside, "We have to give you the tour! It's all brand new! It's great!"
The old woman just smiled at the couple before turning to hobble her own way inside. Howl slid Sophie's hand into his own, entwining her fingers with his as he led her across the yard.
"You know," Sophie said, rather mischievously, pausing in the doorway to glance up at him coyly, "You haven't gotten off the hook for putting me through two months of worrying about the lot of you. I didn't know where you were, if you were hurt… You could have been lying dead somewhere for all I kne—"
He chose to break off her teasing rant, pinning her soundly against the door and swallowing the rest of her complaint as his lips crashed onto hers. She sighed, utterly content to be interrupted if that was how it was going to be done, and simply melted into his kiss.
"You always did talk too much," he murmured, breaking away to rest his forehead against hers, leaning over her with an arm resting high above her head on the doorframe. "I am a man of action, Sophie Hatter, as you must well know, and I cannot allow you to—"
Sophie quickly returned the favor of his interruption with one of her own, standing up on tiptoe to press her lips to his. She pulled away quickly, blushing at her forwardness. "Now who is all talk and no action?" she inquired with a quirk of a silvery brow.
Howl stared at her for a moment, before a rather unwholesome grin spread over his countenance and he leered at her like some sort of predatory bird that had cornered its prey. "Well, then," he murmured, drawing closer and closer, "If that's how we're going to play…"
"Okay, okay! Enough, already!"
Howl reeled away from her in shock, spinning to glare at the toasty pink face in the hearth. He scowled at Calcifer accusingly as Sophie stepped inside, straightening Howl's jacket about her shoulders in an utterly chastened manner.
"For future reference," the fire demon grumped, slowly dwindling back to his natural color, "Please save all accosting for a room that does not require my presence."
Howl gawked at the demon in shock, as Sophie giggled uncomfortably, her face flushed.
"Welcome home, Sophie," Calcifer sulked.
"Thanks Calcifer," she smiled, timidly stepping over to take Howl's hand in her own. He shook his head at the demon, before smiling down at Sophie, squeezing her hand. "It's good to be home."
We're walking in the air
We're floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly
Haha, yay! It's so fluffy you could choke on it! But I haven't written one of those in a terribly long time. Hope you enjoyed! Reviews are very welcome!