A WHILE AGO: Disclaimer- Contrary to popular belief in my happy, perfect world, I do not own 'Howl's Moving Castle'.
Suzu- Hey, and welcome to my first ever one-shot! It's also my first fic that's not Inuyasha…but anyways, I hope you'll all enjoy it. I've read the book by Dianna Wynne Jones first, but then I saw the movie graphic novels (four in all). I just can't wait to see the movie on DVD.
While you might think Sophie begins a little OOC, I have to say this Sophie is a little more to the original book. However, the movie had moments of Sophie in tantrum too, only as an old woman. There's no reason she can't act that way as a girl of her age either. Meanwhile, we've all got little things to keep us entertained. Hope you all enjoy this!
THE PRESENT: Hello everyone. This was my first ever oneshot I wrote a year or so ago, before I ever began Seven Days. Since the writing of Seven Nights will probably take a long, long time (I'm trying to get through high school), I thought I'd serve everyone with a story that I wrote before and finally decided to finish.
Thanks to all, and I hope you enjoy this to the fullest!
The setting is the HMC movie, where the castle is flying in the sky. It's after the balcony kiss.
The Sophie is somewhat more bold but just as confused as the one in Seven Days. And somehow, the couple is still as dense as ever.
In which everything revolves around the bathroom.
Sophie Hatter's shoulder length hair --one had deemed it the color of starlight--bobbed up and down as she furiously attacked the remains of the spoiled batter. Some might say she was a bit obsessed at times like these; although one could hardly blame her if they saw the conditions she had to live with.
"It's not my fault! Howl's taking too long in the shower again!" A fiery head popped up from the wood piled up at the fireplace hearth. "Blame Howl." Calicifer whined, and ducked under the logs again as soon as Sophie shot him a look.
"And what, Calicifer, does that have to do with it?" Sophie seethed as she scraped the charred edges off what she had said was a pancake. Dumping the more-black-than-light-brown parts to a side, she lifted the frying pan off the glowing embers to have a better look at the cowering fire demon.
"It's Howl!" Calicifer repeated, his voice still clearly discernable from under the tinder. "I'm doing my best to keep the castle moving and heat his bath water at the same time, but you can't all expect me to do all the work!" The fire demon rose up and glowed fiercely as his voice took a defensive edge.
Sophie exhaled readily enough. "Fine. I guess I'm just moody lately." She sighed, emptying the edible parts of her food disaster into a nearby plate. "You're telling me Howl's back? He was away all of yesterday, and the day before that too. When did he come back? Why didn't he come see me?" she demanded.
The fire demon, feeling it was safer to come out of the logs and stay out now, looked up at Sophie's knit brow. Her skin was unblemished and she hadn't turned old again for a month—ever since Howl had gotten his heart back again. "You haven't been this creepy since the time you set out to clean the castle." Calicifer repeated his thoughts.
Sophie's mouth twitched as her eyes narrowed slightly. "Don't remind me. This place was a mess."
Calicifer shrugged, flames hunching around where his two sides. "That ash wasn't that bad. I mean, this convenient set up of logs is nice too, but-"
"You should've seen Howl's bathroom." Sophie added on before the fire demon could add another word. "Speaking of that, I'm going to check up on Howl. Why isn't he outside with Markyl and the others?"
"Maybe he fell in the toilet." Calicifer called as Sophie walked up the stairs. "I'm still not all that sure of where that route leads."
The stairs squeaked lightly as Sophie ran up, one hand clutching the hem of the dress Howl had gotten her a week ago. It was a light pastel green, and Howl had said it would match with the new green suit he'd gotten for himself. She stopped abruptly in front of the mahogany door.
"Howl! Howl Pendragon or Howl Jenkins, come out this instant!" She fumed at the thought of him toying with hair colors again. He was good looking enough without having to beautify himself every morning, afternoon, and evening. Besides, what had he been doing all of yesterday and the day before? Maybe…girl-catching? What if he was going to meet her again today?
A large splash came reached Sophie's ears through the bathroom door, followed by spluttering and coughing. 'What's he doing in there?' Sophie started for the door, and she got as far as to touch the doorknob before the door was flung open, leaving her face to face with a wet and dripping Howl.
Sophie's words were cut off as Howl's large blue eyes stared at her skeptically before the wizard started ranting. Sophie had forgotten just how it made her heart run the marathon complete with hurdles whenever she stared directly at him. His raven hair dripped water onto the floor and her as she stared back at him, at a loss for words. Not that he let her get a word in, either.
"What do you mean 'come out this instant' Sophie, I'm in nothing but a towel." Howl's gaze pierced into her eyes as he flicked the water off his bangs impatiently. His tone was perfectly calm and just a little melodramatic as he exaggerated his woe at being interrupted in his lonely hours in the bathroom.
Sophie's eyes widened but her cheeks stayed—thankfully—the same shade as the thought registered. However, a well of energy came to her, much like the first time she ventured upstairs in the castle. She would have been well contained if she hadn't seen the hint of what looked like a jovial smile pulling on the edge of Howl's lips.
"Well…that didn't stop you the last time! You ran down faster than Markyl eats his breakfast!" With a pause, she continued her outburst, blurting thoughts so fast even she couldn't decipher exactly what point she was trying to get across. "And if you don't know, that's pretty fast! Besides, you ruined my batter and you're working Calicifer to death! And…and I had just wanted to make a nice meal…What with that fire demon saying you're drowning in the toilet and all, I'd think you'd be thankful I'll come up to check on—"
It seemed Howl had only caught a bit of all she'd rambled on about, since his mouth fell open a little and his eyes widened in surprise. "You want me to fall in the toilet?" he breathed.
Sophie could have sworn her cheeks betrayed her that time, and with a little huff she pushed Howl backwards and shut the door with a bang. She heard an 'oomph' on the other side, and inhaled deeply to regain her composure.
Looking down at the floor, she saw the edge of a blue towel caught between the crack at the bottom of the door. Biting her lip and ready to explode inside, Sophie stomped down the stairs, ready to take out her anger with weed killer in the lawns outside.
"What is wrong with me?" She muttered as she placed a hand on her forehead, making sure she hadn't caught some dangerous fever.
It might have been love.
Howl's lips turned downward at the edges as his hair was dunked once more into the steamy bathwater. Lifting his head again, he let the water cascade down into the nearly filled tub. He had absolutely no notion why Sophie was so upset. She had seemed fine for weeks before. Or at least…she'd seemed fine. Sophie was too big-hearted to let on anything was wrong.
So there he sat, submerged halfway into the warm water of his bath, thinking about the peculiar girl that had granted him back his heart. He hadn't spent time with her for two days straight. And to think…she wanted him to fall into a toilet. How distressing. He would have expected something even a little more romantic—or practical. Sophie was always practical.
"You'd think that girl hated me!" Howl declared to no one in particular in a melodramatic fashion as steam continued to rise and well out the window of the upstairs bathroom in the moving castle. Seriously, Howl would believe that they had a nice, mutual relationship going. He'd kissed her just once, on the banister at the top lookout point in the moving castle.
Howl summoned a picture of Sophie in her pale yellow frock. It looked pretty good on her, along with that bonnet. Without much effort at all, it had just clicked. He'd leaned down and it had happened. There!—no real trouble to it at all. They'd kissed, and not made a big deal of it.
So why was she in such a bad mood now?
The wizard cupped his hands and absently sloshed the surface water around. Sophie's eyes, her hair, her smile and kindness were all wonderful features. Howl groaned as he sank into the warm water again. It really had shocked him to have practical Sophie come and demand him to go outside while he was bathing. Very brash… Howl's eyes gleamed as he remembered the expression on her face when he'd opened the bathroom door. He could have sworn he'd made her cheeks color.
Howl's thoughts started drifting to himself as he thought more and more about the perfection of Sophie Hatter. She was indeed very spirited and generous. But what was he? His blue, piercing gaze traveled to the moving scenery outside. The mountains and valleys passed by as the castle moved to and fro amidst the range. Calicifer did a good job. And he-Howl- well, he was the lord of the castle. But was that really good enough?
To be honest, he'd spent the days before completely absorbed in town. If he wasn't clothes-shopping, then he was picking up news of the stop to the war. He'd gotten himself a nice new lavender shirt, to boot.
"Sophie…you'd always stressed that beauty doesn't matter. So what does matter to you?" he mused. Howl pondered these thoughts as the water grew tepid around him. He frowned a little deeper as he ran a soaked hand through his dark tresses.
If he was to get things straight between him and the cleaning lady of this household, he'd have to…well…that was the problem. Howl didn't quite know. Sophie was quite unique, in a range of her own. So what does a guy do when he doesn't know how to win a girl?
Howl sighed emphatically as he sat up in the tub again. Sophie and him…would she stay in the moving castle with him? And as what? His cleaning lady? His mistress, perhaps? The man's concentration broke again as his thoughts muddled.
Would you really call what was between Sophie and him 'love'? After all, she'd shoved him into the bathroom again--hardly any attraction there, really. One little, rather innocent, kiss. With all his charm, one like himself would be rather embarrassed to admit that's all that had transpired between Sophie and him.
Sure, he liked her enough. But what would it take for both of them to realize true affection! In fact, Sophie still insisted on doing the laundry in a brusque manner, hardly blinking an eye when she chanced upon undergarments. He hadn't much trouble dealing with romance in his old girlfriends—there were quite a few of them—but Sophie was hard…she was different. If he messed up royally, who knew what waited in store for him?
"Ugh! I'm going to get wrinkles from all this worrying in a week!" (A/N: Everyone's always saying how your beauty suffers one way or another from worrying.) Howl stepped briskly out of the tub as he dried himself off and slipped into some simple, breezy clothes for the afternoon. You simply did not wear any expensive suits around Sophie, or she'd cut them up. If you tried to dye your hair, she'd mix up the potions so you'd end up with heinous hair.
Howl's expression relaxed as he thought of Sophie's kind and determined face again. Really, you couldn't stay mad at her either. He laughed to himself at the memories and his demeanor grew soft as he thought of Sophie's reaction to his gift to her—the fields of flowers.
She had said she loved it.
This was quite a lot to think about in an afternoon. Now he'd get wrinkles for sure.
"Sophie! Sophie, wait!
Markyl's tussled orange curls flopped to one side as he scrambled to get a hold of the shaggy dog currently running around the patch of green lawn Sophie had managed to grow on the moving castle.
"Get back here!" Markyl yelled desperately at Sulliman's dog, Heen.
Maybe it wasn't exactly accurate to call the dog Sulliman's anymore. The animal was happy staying with Markyl, the Witch of the Waste, Sophie, Calicifer, maybe even Howl. It didn't go back to Sulliman often, although it would run out of the house and disappear for about a day. They could only guess he was paying annual calls to his original master.
Still, Markyl loved him. He'd always wanted a dog, you know. After rummaging around in some of Howl's old collections of books, he'd found out that you were supposed to give the dog extra care: like food, rest, exercise, and, of course, a bath. This was a non-negotiable topic, and Markyl had waited long enough to set out to cleanse Heen.
A voice chuckled at him as he leapt to tackle Heen, but missed-again. The Witch of the Waste sat in a rocking chair as she folded and unfolded her hands excitedly. "Sulliman's Dog won't be that easy to contain, you know." Her eyes drooped as the sunshine and beautiful late spring weather permeated the atmosphere.
Markyl lifted himself off the ground and dusted his soiled green vest, although his dirty hands only created streaks of brown in his clothes. Sophie would be maaad. Even he'd noticed earlier that day that she was in a brisk and dangerous mood.
"Heen! We need to get you cleaned up!" Markyl cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted over to the dog, who was now rolling around in a clump of weeds.
It was no use, however, as Heen just ran around in circles again, exulting in his freedom. Markyl would have turned purple if he didn't turn around quickly and march indoors. Calicifer's voice greeted him as the eyes in the fire demon took in the state of the young apprentice.
"Wow, Markyl. Sophie's gonna get you now!"
Markyl grimaced as the hairs at the back of his neck prickled. Calicifer's smart-aleck talk wasn't even a joke this time. Sophie was gonna get him. And only because he was trying to give Heen a bath.
"Never try to force Heen. Besides, don't you hate baths too, Markyl?" Calicifer's tendril-like arms reached out to a nearby log and stacked it on top of the other tinder he was on.
"You're not even done with those logs yet." Markyl pointed out with a pudgy frown.
Calicifer shook his head. "For protection. Against Sophie." With that, the fire demon sank into his fortress of wood.
Calicifer had good timing too, since a steaming Sophie marched into the room at that moment. She stopped dead in her tracks as she glanced at Markyl's soiled appearance.
"Sophie! Don't get mad! I was just trying to give Heen a bath! I'll…I'll go take one myself right now!" Markyl shrunk away as he started to run around Sophie to retreat upstairs.
The object of his fright sighed. "Don't bother, Markyl. I'm not mad. Besides, Howl's in the bathroom," she said soothingly.
"Oh." Markyl responded. "Um…okay. Bye, Sophie." With that, Markyl scampered up to the safe confines of his room.
Sophie pulled up a chair and sat down in front of the hearth, which was glowing dully from Calicifer's flame. "Cal…" she cooed softly, trying to get the fire demon to come up and chat.
"I'm not buying it, Sophie." Calicifer's voice mumbled drearily. Sophie leaned forward, eyes narrowing.
"Calicifer, what's the matter with me? What's the matter with everyone in this household?" She got only a small response from the fire demon.
"Go ask Howl. Here he comes now."
Sophie spun around to catch a man in a purple, loose blouse and black pants coming down the stairs. His dark locks were still a bit damp, and he looked fresh out of the bath. Sophie eyed him quizzically.
Howl seemed to take no notice of her blatant expression, but leaned over the hearth instead. "Hey Calicifer, what in the world are you doing under all those logs?" When Calicifer didn't respond, his gaze turned and fell on Sophie, whose eyes widened at first, but then averted themselves so she was staring fixedly at the floor.
"Hello Sophie. I believe this is our second encounter this morning." Howl said lightly. "No breakfast?" He frowned lightly as he combed back some stay strands of glossy black hair.
Sophie looked up at him warily. "No…just get some bread and eat like you did before I ever came here, Howl." She muttered and dusted her hands, preparing to go do the garden chores.
Howl fixed his gaze on her, puzzled. "But Sophie…we all ate wretchedly before you came! I would never want to go back to those sad days." He said with mock hurt. "Look, stay and make breakfast for Markyl and the others?" He caught her wrist before she had turned around completely.
To Howl's genuine surprise; the face Sophie had on when she turned around was all but completely downcast. "Don't start with me…you never ate much anyways. I'm just your cleaning woman, aren't I?" She said softly.
"Of course you are, Sophie. I think you're wonderful at tidying things up." Howl smiled softly up at her, but Sophie's face contorted again until she was staring angrily at her hands, held in front of her. Then, rigidly, her arms fell to her sides again, and she marched out into the lawn without another glance at Howl, who was now feeling quite neglected that she hadn't come welcoming him home after the last few days.
"Howl, you never were really good at consoling women." A voice from the hearth piped up as Howl collapsed in his chair, giving the hearth a paranoid look.
"Weeds...you'd wonder how they get into this lawn too!" Sophie leaned over to examine the sprigs of green poking through the evenly trimmed grass.
The blue sky and white, cream clouds overhead would have been something one would think would cheer up the brightest of moods-but not Sophie's. She was in a rather cloudy, dismal, but still upbeat tone. In fact, one could tell whether Sophie Hatter was in a good mood or not by the way she handled her work around the castle these days.
Whose fault was it this time?
Most likely the man of the house.
Speaking of which…
"I could help you with those weeds, you know." Howl suggested in his most gallant voice an inch from her ear. It rather took Sophie's breath away, but she controlled herself in a sensible manner.
When his careful opening line was met with silence, Howl stood up straight again and wandered over to the patch of tulips Sophie had carefully planted over from the field of flowers. They were a bright, vivacious pink. However, one on the tulips wasn't as colorful…it was somewhat white-ish and pale rose.
Howl smiled as he fingered the petals of the odd flower. "Well, Sophie. I do believe this flower is my favorite."
"Why?" Sophie pursed her lips as soon as the words came out. Regrettably, she had just had to ask.
Howl's face grew serious and quite serene as he fingered the budding top. "It reminds me most of …you," he whispered softly.
Sophie turned away as butterflies gathered in her stomach. "You mean because it's not as pretty as the others?" she muttered sullenly, looking back toward the weeds.
Too late. Howl's blue-eyed gaze drew her attention to him before she could quite fight it off. Her own eyes widened hesitantly by the intensity of his look.
"No," he corrected softly. "It's because I never did see another flower as interesting or unique."
Sophie waited tensely for Howl to crack a large grin and shake off the whole thing, but he just stared at her, unmoving. Shoot…darn it, he was being sincere! Howl was vain; cowardly…a real slither-outer. It tied her tongue in a knot when Howl started to act sincere, which really wasn't often. Her own vision's focus refused to move either, as the sight of him kneeling by the flower bed engrained itself in her head.
Not a thought registered as Howl's hand reached up to cup the side of her jaw tenderly. His gaze was steady as his position shifted in a fluid motion to close the distance. Sophie was about to lean down and close her eyes when…
"Hullo. Is it time for breakfast yet?"
Sophie moved back as if she'd been bitten. Still in shock, she looked up to see the Witch of the Waste staring at them with an innocent, round eyed look. The glisten in her eyes hinted at amusement, but Sophie couldn't really tell.
"Good morning! Nice weather we're having, isn't it?" Howl didn't look fazed in the slightest as he addressed the older woman cheerfully, still kneeling on the somewhat damp grass.
"Oh hullo, Howl!" The witch winked at him as she picked up her skirts to make the trek back to the house. "You're looking good today."
Howl only smiled graciously in return, as Sophie noticed from the corner of her eye.
"My, Sophie, dearie…I say we have a brunch. It's so close to midday that we might as well." The Witch of the Waste's voice wafted over pleasantly. Sophie nodded her consent as she ran after the witch with Howl following them a few steps behind, smiling rather reluctantly, as if he'd missed a great opportunity.
The Witch snoozed contentedly on what could be deemed as her favorite seat in the downstairs living room. She sat with her arms tucked up neatly in front of her, eyes closed, and mouth curved into a little smile. What she was dreaming of…cigars, young men, and young men's hearts…that was anyone's guess.
Sophie sat stoic still on a bench near the table, hands folded neatly in front of her, while her eyes stared fixedly ahead. She eyed the wood grains on the table, following swirls and knots. Thoughts were flashing across in her mind, and she didn't really know what to do with them. An infinite amount of figments from her head were crashing about, always centering on one thing in general.
Her whole world was caught in the flow of time. Sophie could neither shake off nor ignore the crushing sensation that pressed against her chest whenever Howl chose to inhabit an area within 5 meter radius of her. A lock of hair fell into her eye as she felt an overwhelming amount of despair rush at her.
Everyone had always told her that she was far too sensible. Boys liked sociable, vivacious young girls like Lettie. Sophie was…plain…and far too much like an old lady in mind-set to attract any men.
Calicifer was out of the fireplace, currently enjoying the luxuries of being free outside. Markyl was out to get an ingredient for one of Howl's spells. The wizard himself…well, he was probably upstairs primping.
Howl, in the meantime, was taking his second bath that day.
He really couldn't understand why Sophie was ignoring him recently.
Sophie decided that men took way too much time brooding in solitude in the upstairs room. After consulting Calicifer, who told her cheekily that he was brushing his teeth upstairs and was likely spending too much time trying to decide on lip balm, Sophie decided to just trapeze up the stairs and apologize.
For what, she had no idea.
But whatever it was, it couldn't have been love. She had decided that promptly seven minutes and forty seconds ago after mulling it over on the crowded kitchen table.
So she would go up to him and announce it heartily.
The stairs seemed to take an eternity.
Howl was now wondering why Sophie blushed every single time he talked to her, while sponging himself off and reaching for the towel.
Sophie was staring at the bathroom door, and thinking what she should say to Howl as he was brushing his teeth, and thinking that she should say that she was going to leave for her sister's soon so she could clear her thoughts.
So she opened the door and opened her mouth to speak that though spring was here, there was no reason for every young man and woman to fraternize and decide to have children following the birds and the bees.
Sophie saw him dripping instead.
Well, it was onto a particularly nice tiled floor that she'd just cleaned yesterday, but that wasn't the point. She would have tried to shake her head quickly to clear lecherous thoughts, but that wasn't the point either. Why was Howl so obviously good looking in nothing but a towel?
And why was it that her hormones seemed to be acting up more as a young girl than when she saw him as an old woman? She was the same underneath, right?
Right. Pituitary gland. Okay.
The question was, should she scream?
Was it sexual harassment for him to be dripping onto the bathroom floor like that after his bath, even if she was the one who barged in because Calicifer said he was brushing his teeth?
Oooh…what she wouldn't do to that fire demon.
Howl thought it was just his luck.
She was blushing a really, really intense shade of scarlet?
Did that mean something?
Well, let's just say Howl wasn't a smart cookie for nothing. He could put two and two together just fine. And if a girl liked a guy in a towel enough, then it was obvious they were meant for each other.
After all, his old natural sciences teacher had taught him through an interesting text book that:
Courtship- type of behavior in which an animal sends out stimuli-such as sounds, visual displays, or chemicals--in order to attract a member of the opposite sex
He grinned like a lunatic.
In a towel.
When he said it, Sophie wanted to tackle him.
"Sophie, I think we're in love after all!" Howl said, beaming at her.
In a towel.
Whether Sophie wanted to do the aforementioned act due to the physical pheromones and stimuli Howl sent out or because she was really, really mad at him was another story altogether.
Reviews are greatly appreciated, as I don't plan on writing much else for this fandom until Seven Nights. I still love Howl and Sophie muchos, though.