Howl's Moving Castle: The Aftermath

Chapter 1: In Which a Dream Occurs

Sophie stretched out on her new bed. A few days after she'd broken Howl's contract with Calcifer, Howl had magicked a brand new bed that fit cozily in her cubby. It was still very early, and she didn't expect anyone to be up, which suited Sophie just fine. She was still in charge of the flower shop, and so she slipped into her now baggy grey dress, and her dowdy old shoes. It was such a great relief to be young again. Sophie felt herself sympathizing with that loony Witch of the Waste. Being old was definitely not appealing. Sophie shuddered though; that Witch had been a nasty piece of work, and she'd only just acknowledged that grim satisfaction she'd felt when Howl crumbled the Witch's heart in his hands. Now that she thought of it, it was more so the witch's demon who'd been a fright. It made Sophie a little wary, after Howl's victory, around Calcifer, until he annoyedly assured her that he wasn't going to go stealing hearts at any time. Howl had just given her a smile that sent her heart pitter-pattering, and said, "Oh, my Sophie." And that was the end of that.

Sophie put a log on Calcifer as she passed by to get the tub that Michael magicked to hover around.

"Morning, Sophie."

"Good morning, Calcifer. Just going to get some flowers for today."

"Okay. I really like your voice now Sophie. Better than that old croak…"

"Yes, Calcifer, I've heard you before," said Sophie rather crossly, before she headed out the door, the purple paint blob showing.

The sun was just rising on this edge of the Waste, and the aromatic smell of the flowers slammed up Sophie's delicate nostrils not unpleasantly. With the tub hovering behind her full of water, and with scissors ready at hand, Sophie made her way through the throngs of flora. The day was so nice already, and the heat was more bearable at this time. Sophie tucked a piece of red-gold hair that had fallen in her face behind an ear, and bent down to cut a bundle of lilacs that grew on a mini-bush. A lot more customers had flocked to the shop, carrying rumors of disenchanted Aunt's, and handsome Wizards with new hearts. Sophie hummed parts of Calcifer's "saucepan" song, and wondered if she should explain she wasn't really Howl's aunt. Not that it mattered much; as people from her childhood were catching on that she was, indeed, Sophie Hatter, step-daughter of the former owner of the hat shop, Fanny. Still, there were some odd ones that gave her curious looks that implied they were dying to ask if she'd been enchanted young, disenchanted old, or otherwise, but they were too polite to pose a question. Sophie shook her head, her thoughts not making sense. In any case, the shop was definitely raking in a good amount to add to Michael's horde. Just because Howl had his heart back didn't mean he stopped being a vain spendthrift. He might truly love Sophie now, but she guessed that was his green light to primp as long as he wanted without it being paralleled to his inability to properly love. Love…the word took Sophie aback a little. Howl truly loves me…do I love him? I think so…but…love? DOES he truly love me? Sophie was so busy pondering to herself, that she failed to notice where she was cutting.

"Ouch, darn it!"

The tips of her now slender fingers had a small cut across the tops, and they were oozing a bit of red. The stinging pain was startling, and Sophie made to stick all four fingers in her mouth to suck away the pain. However, her motion was obstructed.

"Really, Sophie dear, you should pay more attention."

Sophie started. Howl had appeared right in front of her out of nowhere, an annoying habit he was starting to pick up. He gently took her hand, and placed the wounded fingers in his mouth, licking the cut lightly with his tongue in a way that made Sophie feel hot and bothered. To her surprise, she quite liked it. This thought made her arched brows turn downward. Howl removed her fingers, and gave them a kiss, before entwining his hand with hers. Sophie could no longer feel any stinging and guessed he'd healed them.

"Now Sophie, frowning may have looked nice when you were a granny, but as a young lady it is quite unbecoming."

"Sorry." Sophie didn't stop frowning. His hand was very warm and soft and firm and it made Sophie dizzy with a myriad of feelings.

"Sophie…" Howl growled playfully. She sighed, and lit her face up with a fake, cheery smile.

"It's getting there; we'll get that grumpy granny out of you yet…"

He was leaning in very close, so close that Sophie could catch a hint of his breath. It smelled very good, lacking his usual perfumes. Howl brought up their twined hands so that they lay between their chests, and he kissed her knuckles.

"I've been asked to see the King with Suliman," he said thoughtfully. "I suppose it's something to do with the position of Royal Wizard, and I've no mind to compete for it. I really don't see any reason to go."

Sophie didn't like the way he was suddenly eyeing her with his blue-green beauties from behind his shaggy hair.

"In fact, I can think of plenty of reasons I should stay…"

"Oh really?" Sophie managed to say. Howl had curled his arm around her waist, pulling her in closer, so that she had to put her free hand onto his chest to prevent it from being squished. Her fingers splayed across his chest felt his warmth, and his softly beating heart. He wouldn't let her break away from his gaze, so her chin was tilted up in order to see him.

"Yes. Y'know Sophie," he whispered as he lowered his face. "Gray really isn't your color."

Before she had a chance to retort, his lips were on hers. Her eyes widened in response, and slowly closed as joy raced through her veins. His lips were soft and warm, and the moved in odd, pleasurable patterns with her yielding ones. A small sigh escaped her, and she felt Howl smile against her mouth, crushing her to him, releasing his hand from hers so that he could dig it into her abundant hair. Her bun fell out, releasing shanks of red-gold hair. Sophie swore she could've heard Howl say, "That's more like it," but she was becoming thoroughly distracted. Her freed hand rose to cling onto the back of his neck, pulling him further down to her. His tongue slipped through her lips and danced with hers, creating the oddest sensation for Sophie.

Howl made a groan, and leaned into Sophie, causing her to arch her back slightly. The kiss was becoming quite destracting, and Sophie could barely breathe. She was becoming dizzy, but she clung to Howl, wanting more and more of this feeling. Both her hands clasped to Howl's head, and his hands were, well, everywhere. Dancing up her spine, running through her hair, cupping her face. It wasn't till he made his way halfway up the curves of her waist that Sophie lost her balance, causing her to fall backwards, pulling Howl along with her.

He landed right on top of her, and all her remaining breath whooshed out. Howl, breathing as raggedly as she was, pulled off her slightly, so that she wasn't squished, but he was still on her.

"You alright Sophie? You took to that with quite a lot of gusto. I was afraid you'd bang the top of my head if I tried that," he chuckled, and his smile made her feel all buttery again.


She pulled his face down again, and she felt his slight surprise and amusement at her eagerness. His lips met hers eagerly enough though, and he pinned her hands over her head with his. His lips surged against hers with a new intensity, and she felt her mind star-sparkled. A warmth spread through her torso, and it caught fire as his lips left hers, and began trailing down her neck to her collarbone, and back. Howl did that a few times, till Sophie was breathing hard and her nerves were on fire. He laid his head on her stomach.

"I think I must go," he murmured. "If I don't stop now, we'll never leave." Sighing, he pulled himself onto his knees to Sophie's side, and then pulled her up into a sitting position.

"Time to go get ready." He stood them both up, and walked with Sophie back towards the castle, the flower tub hovering forgotten behind them.

"Sophie, Sophie, Sophie…"

Everything dimmed out, but Howl's voice was still there, though a little more insistent.


Her eyes jerked open. She was still in bed, in her nightgown no less, and she immediately pulled up her quilt to her chin, blush rising on her fine cheekbones. So it was all a dream. Sophie sighed, and felt herself pout.

"You've been making these weird moaning noises, and its scaring Calcifer. As a matter of fact, it's frightening me a little too." She hid under the covers, realizing how her hair must look, but before she caught a glimpse of the genuine perplexity in his eyes.

"It was probably a dream Howl. Go away so I can dress." She felt him get off her bed, and heard his footsteps fade away. Peeking out of her covers, she saw that he'd thoughtfully closed her privacy curtain, and the doorway to the stairway. Damn. It was only a dream.