This was written for Christmas 2006 for Xandra, who requested Howl and Calcifer chatting.
Howl poked at the fireplace with the poker, stirring the coals and turning them over until their glowing red insides showed amongst the black and grey ashes.
A slight fizz and a cloud of soot was his only warning before the flames burst up.
"Welcome back," he said, throwing Calcifer a log.
Calcifer absorbed the log eagerly. "It's raining out there," he said, resentfully.
"I know," said Howl. He put the poker aside.
"Fabric shopping with Martha," he said. "Again."
Calcifer crackled sympathetically. "I thought she was done?"
"Apparently that was just the petticoats," said Howl. "I will never understand women's dresses."
fire demon fizzed a little in agreement. "You can do six
impossible things before breakfast, but you can't solve the mystery
of the female mind," he observed.
"And it wouldn't be so bad," said Howl, resentfully, "but she just sews and sews and sews and she doesn't say anything, when I know she has to be thinking about it!"
Calcifer flickered in agreement. "I've seen her at it."
"And she keeps asking questions about what kind of magic she should be sewing into the dress! I tell her the usual - happiness, good fortune, but she keeps coming up with more."
"Better than the alternative," said Calcifer.
"That's true, at least she's thinking it through."
The castle door flew open, and Sophie came in, shedding umbrella and water-proof cloak (Howl's creation) in the stairwell. In her arms she carried swathes of white, silver and blue fabric.
"Sophie," called Howl, as she bustled towards her sewing room (formerly half of Howl's workroom, and sometimes he missed it), "what colour should I have my hair for the wedding?"
She looked at him for a moment. "Silver," she said, shortly, and disappeared behind the door.
Howl pulled a lock of dark hair in front of his eyes. "At least with silver hair I might get some respect for once."
Calcifer popped impolitely and gobbled up another log.
"In many ways this was a lot easier when you had my heart, old friend," said Howl, leaning his chin on his hand wistfully.
"I don't miss it," said Calcifer. "It's heavy stuff, having a heart."
Howl smiled slightly.
The workroom door opened again and Sophie's head appeared. "Howl," she said, "do you think it's safe to wish for faithfulness?"
He hesitated. "People do change sometimes," said Howl, doubtfully. "You wouldn't want to trap them."
Sophie huffed at him, and closed the door forcefully.
He felt Calcifer's eyes on him. "Well, what was I supposed to say?" he protested.
"Michael is your friend too," said the fire demon.
"All the more reason not to put shackles on him," said Howl, matter-of-fact.
Calcifer didn't look convinced, and Howl began to feel a little guilty.
"I stand by what I said, though, you shouldn't be using magic to enforce magical changes in personality on people, or to reduce personal freedom," Howl began.
Calcifer didn't say anything.
"Do you think I should..."
"You may want to hide your favourite suit," said Calcifer. "Just in case."