Authors Note: I noticed after writing this that there was an insane amount of dialouge o.0 Hm, anyways, don't worry, there aren't any lemons, but there is some 'citrusy content' if you know what I mean. Any ways, enjoy!

xxx

Markl woke up. It was late, and they were fighting again. Sophie and howl were the closest thing to parents he had ever had, so hearing them fight was more than unsettling. Sometimes the screaming would go on for hours, and Markl, being a light sleeper, found it difficult to obtain the necessary amount of rest. His magic drained him of his energy and the store kept him occupied until dark. Then he collapsed into his bed, catching as much sleep as he could before Howl returned, when the fights started.l Markl rolled over to turn on his lamp.

"I love you Howl, but if you want to make this work, you need to stop looking in the mirror so damn much and look around! Markl needs you to teach him! I need you! Would it kill you to talk to me some days? or to say 'I love you' now and then?" Sophie's voice rose up to the second floor.

"Sophie, I love you! I love you! You know I do! But there's a war going on! Other people need me too right now!! Howl spoke with much more confidence and volume than Sophie did, and Markl sensed her shrinking.

"I know that Howl! But you leave before I wake up, then return after I'm in bed! We sometimes don't even see each other for days!" Markl strained to hear what was going on. There was some rustling, a whimper, then Howl's voice, cracking with tears, "Sophie!" and then the slam of a door.

"No!" Markl whispered to himself and shot up out of bed. He put a silencing charm on his slippers before creeping down the hallway and crouching at the top of the stairs. He leaned beneath the railing to see his master, collapsed and head down in a chair by the fire. He was breathing heavily, and if it weren't for the sudden sniffs and heavy gasps of air, he could have been asleep.

Calcipher began to speak, "Y'know, one of these days she's not going to come back..."

Markl sighed in relief, if Cal didn't think that this time Sophie was gone, she probably wasn't. Howl straightened himself and wiped the lines of moisture off his cheeks, "Calcipher, get some hot water for my bath, and Markl-" Markl flinched, "-get to bed."

xxx

Sophie opened Markl's windows to let the light in. Markl groaned, "Five more minutes!"

"Nope! Breakfast is ready and warm and you need to take care of the shop today!" Sophie smiled.

"Sophie I have a question for you..." Sophie looked surprised, but nodded. "Sophie, are you going to leave us?"

Sophie's eyes widened and her smile disappeared, "You heard us... last night..." Markl nodded. "I don't know Markl, I don't want to... but Howl needs to grow up."

Markl sprung from his bed, fully awake now, and latched himself to Sophie, "Dong go Sophie! Please don't go!" Markl wailed, remembering is master last night, crying like a child who was abandoned by his mother... he still had just the heart of a child.

Sophie sighed, "I won't leave..."

"Do you promise?" asked Markl.

"I promise," she whispered, then smiled, "but only if you go downstairs and eat your breakfast!" Markl jumped out of his room and down the hall and stairs. Sophie giggled and made her way down. At the base of the stairs, someone tapped her on the shoulder. Howl wrapped his arms around hare and whispered in her ear.

"I love you Sophie. I really do," he hesitated, "I really, really, really love you..."

Sophie scowled, "It's about time that you proved it." She pushed him away. Howl flinched and let go of her. He grabbed a slice of bread before walking straight out the door. Calcipher stared at Sophie.

"Sophie... I know that you guys are fighting and stuff, but was that completely necessary?" he asked.

"Cal, all that man has done his whole life is break girls' hearts, one after another. I think it's time he learned what it means to be in love- but first, his heart needs to grow," Sophie answered, "but don't worry, I still love him."

xxx

It was late when Howl got home. Turning back into a human from his bird form was so much easier with a heart, but it seemed like every time he rid himself of a demon, a new one began to torment him. Howl collapsed into the same chair by the fire, exhausted.

"You don't look too good..." Calcipher said. It was true. His hair was completely messed up, shirt un-tucked, sleeves rolled up and shoe-laces untied.

"How do you think I can get Sophie's hear back?" Howl asked.

"Howl her heart isn't gone or anything, she's just frustrated with you," Calcipher rolled his eyes.

"How do I get her happy with me again?"

"I don't have much experience in this department, but I would go with a practical approach..."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I would start by fixing the things she complains about," Calcipher said.

"Like what?" Howl aked.

Calcipher rolled his eyes again, "Don't you ever listen to her when she is yelling at you?"

Howl tried to remember what Sophie said to him the night before, "Uhm... to stop looking in the mirror so much, to pay attention to Markl and her... to say I love you now and then..."

"So do that." Calcipher stated.

"You make it sound so easy," Howl groaned, then made his way up the stairs to his room.

xxx

The next morning, Sophie was late to breakfast. She had been tending to the Witch of the Waste, who's health was declining. Howl hadn't gotten much sleep. He stayed up most of the night wondering how to go about making Sophie happy again.

"Umm... Sophie, could we talk?" he asked as she washed the dishes. She nodded hesitantly, then dried off her hands. Howl caught sight of Markl, who's eyes were glued to the two. "Privately, please?" Sophie nodded and let him take her hand and guide her to the door. He switched the dial to pink, and led her out the door, and into the ocean of flowers. Instantly they were swallowed by the overwhelming perfumes of a throng of blossoms and flowers. Save the tension pervading the atmosphere, the scene was quite romantic. They walked out until they were near the water and then sat down in the tangle of beauty.

"Howl, why did you want to talk to me?" Sophie asked.

He stared at her then answered, "I wanted to telly you that from now on, I'm going to try to be a better boyfriend, or significant other... or whatever." Howl avoided eye contact, feeling his face blush, but before he could do anything, Sophie straddled his outstretched legs, pushed him onto the ground and kissed him. It was so short that Howl didn't have enough time to wrap his arms around her or slide his tongue into her mouth. She had jumped up and started walking back to the castle. Howl groaned. How cruel...

"What was that for?" he asked, rolling onto his stomach to see her more clearly.

"You've made a step forward, Howl. That was your reward, but if you want anymore than that, you are going to have to work harder!" She turned back around, the wind blowing her silver hair behind her as she walked back to the castle.

Howl stood up, smiling, "bitch..."

xxx

"Why are you preparing such a good meal today?" Markl asked Sophie, who was marinading a full chicken.

"Because, I have a feeling that Howl will be coming home for dinner tonight," Sophie responded.

"What if he doesn't?" Markl said.

"Then more for us!" Sophie laughed, "Markl as long as you aren't tending to any customers could you give me a hand?"

Markl groaned, "but cooking is no work for a future wizard!"

xxx

Howl came home for dinner, and even the Witch of the Waste sat at the table that night, Sophie had prepared a bigger meal than they could eat, so Calcipher had his full that evening too. Howl sat next to Sophie at the table that night, and just being able to touch her hand casually while eating made him smile. As he dressed himself in his pajamas, he couldn't help but think of what reward he would get that night. He went downstairs, but Sophie wasn't there. She must be in her room... Howl walked to her bedroom and knocked.

"Howl?" Sophie asked.

"May I come in?" Howl asked.

"Yeah," she responded. He walked into the small room. Sophie was in bed and the lights were off.

"Soph, do I get a reward tonight?" he asked, his inner child coming to the surface.

"Why should you?" she responded tiredly.

"Awwww! Soph! Come on!" he whined, jumping up and down slightly, "I was paying attention to my family more by coming home for dinner!"

"Hm... I guess you are right."

"So? Do I get a reward?"

"What do you want?"

His eyes sparkled, "You know what I want..."

She scowled, "You aren't getting anything like that until you make a big improvement."

Howl cursed to himself.

Sophie was quiet for a while before speaking again, "I know what I'll do. But you don't get it until tomorrow."

"That's not fair," Howl whined again.

"Fine. You can get a little reward now," she rolled out of her bed.

Howl jumped excitedly, "And I still get one tomorrow?"

Sophie rolled her eyes, he is such a child..., "Yes, you do."

He beamed as she approached him confidently and deliberately. She slid her petite hands up his chest and around his neck, then pushed her lips against his. He wrapped his arms around her waist and responded to the kiss. She licked his lips and slid her tongue into his mouth, and once again, Howl responded with twice the energy and excitement. He sent shocks of pleasure through her with his magic, then started to let his eager hands roam. Sophie pushed away, smiling. Howl wished it could have gone on longer, but he wished a lot of things.

Sophie stood several feet away, "You know Howl, this isn't supposed to be about the rewards, it's supposed to be about you getting reconnected with your family."

Howl stared at Sophie.

"Howl, are you even listening to me?"

"Sophie... You are so beautiful..." he responded in a daze.

Sophie shook her head, "You are hopeless. Goodnight Howl."

xxx

Markl had two full nights of sleep in a row, so when Sophie woke him, he felt more rested than usual.

"Morning Markl!" she said smiling.

"Good morning Sophie!" he yawned, getting out of his bed, "Hey, Sophie, are you and Master Howl still fighting?"

"Of course not!" answered Howl, who appeared in the doorway, then slid and arm around Sophie's waist and another around her neck. Markl's eyes went wide and he tried to make a break for it. Howl laughed, "Markl?" Markl turned around, covering his eyes with his hands, "I'm going to get home early, so we can go over some new methods in your spell book, okay?" Markl nodded then ran down the stairs. Howl closed the door with a wave of his hand, then turned back to Sophie. "So Sophie, what is my reward?" He pulled her closer, and the atmosphere changed. Suddenly there was nothing Sophie wanted more than to be alone with Howl, letting him undress her and touch her and lick her and do anything with her he pleased. "Hm?" Howl caressed her cheek with his hand then kissed her neck. She pictured him, felt him, inside her and loving her. The way he pleased her and kissed her and used his magic to tickle and tease whilst they amazed and shocked each other in unexpected ways... in amazing, fantastic, magnificent ways... Sophie groaned. He slithered his right hand around her, pulling her closer. Closer Howl, Closer... He slowly unzipped her dress, massaging her breast with his other hand. "What's my reward Sophie?" he whispered. In a trance, Sophie lowered her hands to remove his trousers.

Wait... this isn't his reward... Sophie pushed Howl violently off her, and the atmosphere lifted, "Howl Pendragon! How dare you use your magic like that! That's one step backwards for you!" Sophie struggled to zip her dress back up and stormed down the stairs. Howl whimpered.

"Please don't be mad Sophie..." he asked, but she couldn't hear him, and she was already furious.

xxx

Breakfast was tense. Sophie ate quickly and angrily, while Howl flashed apologetic glances in her direction. Markl looked confusedly between them. Sophie collected the dished and told Markl to go feed the Witch of the Waste her breakfast. Howl helped Sophie wash the dishes.

"Soph-"

"Howl!"

"Can you just hear me out?"

Sophie glared at him, "fine."

"Just forget that happened this morning and listen."

"Okay."

"I wanted you that I'm going to talk to Sulliman and Turnip-head- well, Prince Justin. We are putting an argument together to present to the King. About how we need to end this stupid war. Apparently Sulliman had a change of heart, and is on our side all of a sudden or something, but she was willing to support us so we accepted." Howl didn't like having to ally with his former master or the jealous vegetable, but it was all for the better of his family... and the country.

Sophie nodded, "Good."

Howl cautiously approached her, "And I also wanted to tell you that I love you, and I have to leave, so I wanted to say goodbye..." He cupped her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers. It was a short kiss, so he leaned in for more, but Sophie stopped him.

"You don't get any reward for what you did this morning," she said sternly.

"Do I still get my surprise later?" Howl asked.

"Only as a reward for coming home and helping Markl," she said, "and that's a maybe."

Howl nodded, then kissed her hand, waved and walked out the door.

xxx

Sophie was tending to the Witch. Her temperature was extremely high. Sophie still needed to prepare lunch and fetch a doctor.

"Markl!" Sophie called.

"Yeah," the apprentice entered the former witch's bedroom.

"Could you get a glass of water for her?" Sophie said holding a cold towel to the woman's forehead, "then you are going to need to help her drink it. I need to make lunch."

Markl nodded then ran off, soon returning with a glass of ice-water. He grabbed a chair and took Sophie's place taking care of the Witch.

Sophie went into the kitchen and opened the cupboards, looking for some meat of something to cook, to find them completely empty except for some moldy bread, two slices of cheese and a half consumed fish. I haven't been doing too well at my job as cleaning lady... She fed the spoiled food to Calcipher and sighed. This meant that she had to go to the market too. She walked to the door when she heard the dial turn and a very familiar wizard walk in with a basket of food.

"Howl," she said, more as a statement than as a question.

"Hey Sophie!" she eyed the basket suspiciously.

"Why are you home so early and why-"

"Soph," Howl smiled, "relax. This morning I noticed we were short on food. You were too busy taking care of the Witch to notice, so I decided as soon as my meeting was done, I would go get some food for lunch," he said, "and I told you this morning that I would be home in time to teach Markl, didn't I?"

Sophie was speechless and watched Howl as he prepared the meal, "Uh... I have to go call a doctor for the witch now though," she said.

"Done," Howl smiled, "He will be here first thing Tommie morning."

Sophie stared at him, then smiled hesitantly, "Thank you..."

He smiled, "How about you go take a nap, I will go fetch you when it's time to eat."

Sophie couldn't think of what to say, so she nodded and obliged.

xxx

Howl was done preparing the meal and went up to wake Sophie. He was happy with her new reaction to his sequence of good deeds, but he even felt good with himself. He couldn't wait for his reward either. Howl opened Sophie's door to find- nothing. Her drawers were empty and her bed was unoccupied. His heart skipped a beat... did she leave?! NO! She couldn't have left, especially after he did such a great job! Howl wandered around the second floor absentmindedly until he heard her steady breathing coming from... my room?! Howl smiled. My surprise! He opened the door to find Sophie fast asleep in his bed on the right side- where she slept before the fights. Howl looked around to see all her clothes replaced in the dresser and her possessions exactly where they used to be. Howl was ecstatic, and he jumped onto the bed to wake up Sophie.

"Soph!" he said and she woke up, "is this my reward?!"

Sophie nodded.

"So tonight can we-"

She shook her head, "You did well Howl, but not that well."

Howl pouted, "That's annoying."

She laughed, "Is lunch ready?"

He nodded and they both went downstairs.

xxx

"Nearly there Markl. Review those symbols and you'll have it in no time!" Howl smiled and patted Markl on the head," but now it's time for you to go to bed, and Cal, I need a bath."

Calcifer groaned. Sophie tucked the Witch and Markl in then changed into her night gown. She curled up into a ball to keep herself warm under the covers. She had trouble getting to sleep in Howl's room. She was accustomed to having a presence next to her when she lay surrounded by his numerous possessions. She closed her eyes and tried to lull herself to sleep, her attempts not being very successful. She felt strong, warm arms wrap around her fragile body. Sophie rolled over to see Howl.

"Can we still do this?" he asked hopefully.

Sophie nodded and wrapped her arms and legs around him. She kissed his neck playfully and he held her tighter. He looked at her and leaned in for a kiss. Sophie licked and nipped his bottom lip and Howl groaned, "Sophie you are so cruel..." He held her tighter still, trying to restrain himself.

"I know..." she kissed him on the collar bone before surrendering to the temptation that was sleep. Howl was soon to follow, her steady breathing his extremely potent lullaby.

xxx

"Master Howl! It's Sophie!! She's gone! I can't find her anywhere!! She left us!!!" Markl cried as he ran into his Master's room.

Howl groaned, "What?"

Markl's jaw hit the floor. He stared at the tangle in the bed that was Howl and Sophie. "Uh... nothing, never mind..." The boy dashed out of the room.

Sophie giggled and rolled on top of Howl, "Good morning, Howl."

He yawned, "Good morning, Soph." He caught her face and kissed her, "I'm so happy you are mine again..."

"Don't get cocky Howl. You still have work to do."

xx

"How is she, doctor?" Sophie asked the doctor.

"Oh, nothing serious, she just has a pretty high fever. Get plenty of fluids in her, and make sure she gets plenty of rest, and she'll be better in no time," The doctor smiled, "Give her these if she has any trouble getting to sleep." He gave her an orange prescription bottle and Sophie nodded.

"Markl, pay him please."

xxx

"To the end of this fuc-"

"Howl!"

"er... stupid war," Howl made the toast. Once again he was home in time to eat with everyone else. Sophie washed the dishes and took a bath. Howl was still awake when she got into bed.

"I couldn't sleep without you," he smiled childishly. Sophie laughed and kissed him. "Do I get you tonight? All of you?" Sophie shook her head. "That's not fair..."

She giggled, "You can have more of me though..." Howl's eyes sparkled as she rolled on top of him. Sophie let him caress her face and nibble her neck. He led the kiss this time, instantly forcing the presence of his mouth on hers. As tongues met, Howl sent those unique sensations through her, slight sparks and tastes as they intertwined with each other. Sophie moaned, and let his hands slither up her gown, her only response to that being more energy- pulling herself up against him, unbuttoning his shirt and tangling her hands in the undefined black mass of hair on his head. He broke the kiss momentarily and in one swift movement he lifted her gown over her head, then brought his mouth to her now exposed breast. She let him do this- not having the power- nor wanting- to stop him here. Howl nipped her and moved lower, marking his path with his tongue, and he was about to remove her remaining clothing that guarded everything he wanted at that moment, when Sophie pulled her gown back on and unlatched herself from Howl.

"Damnit..." he said, "So close." Sophie cuddled up against to Howls still unclothed chest, soon falling asleep.

xxx

"Hey, Sophie, is this yesterday's mail?" Howl asked, gesturing to a pile of letters which he was going through.

"Yeah..." she nodded, eating her breakfast.

"Shit! I'm supposed to go talk with Sulliman about... something important, from the looks of this letter..." Howl grabbed his coat, kissed Sophie on the cheek, and left.

xxx

Sophie was making lunch and Markl was giving the Witch her sleep medicine.

"I think that she is getting better, Sophie," Markl said, walking back into the kitchen.

"The doctor was right, I guess," she just needed more sleep."

"Howl seems to be a lot happier too, Sophie, are you guys a happy couple again?" Calcipher asked.

"Almost, Calcipher. I think I've beaten the bully and vain-ness out of him," she said smiling. Howl was once again home in time for lunch. He returned with a slight spring in his step, so Sophie asked what Sulliman wanted.

"She was looking for someone to replace her as head sorcerer, and she was hoping I would be willing," he said as Sophie placed food on the table.

"What did you say to her?" she asked. She was almost sure that Howl would accept an offer like that. She was happy for him, but the head sorcerer lives in the palace with the king...

"I said no," he smiled.

"What?" Sophie almost dropped her tea.

"Why would I want a job like that? All you do is work. I'd be stuck in that stupid palace all the time. Plus, I have you guys to worry about, so I'd much rather be in our Castle."

She stared at him, "Really?"

He nodded, and she threw herself at him. Howl was barely able to keep the chair upright.

"I love you Howl..."

xxx

For that afternoon Howl was busy assisting Markl with his magic, and after dinner he helped Sophie with the dishes.

"Markl, can you promise not to get to bed too late?" Howl shouted up the stairs, where Markl was practicing his spells.

"Sure, I guess. But why?" Markl replied.

"Sophie and I are going out, and I don't know when we will be getting home," Howl said.

"Okay, I promise."

"We are going out?" Sophie looked at Howl in confusion.

"Not far," he responded, then grabbed her hand and dragged her once again out the door, through the pink portal. They lay down beneath the endless blanket of stars. The weather was perfect. No clouds, and a slight breeze. Maybe that was Howl's manipulation, maybe not, but either way, everything was perfect, and there was no place that Sophie would have rather be.

"Howl... why did you bring me here?" she asked.

"I just thought that we needed some time alone, together," he said. Sophie nodded, looking at his face. Suddenly everything about him was flawless, and she knew that this wasn't the responsibility of a spell. His voice, his face, clothing, the way each of his ebony hairs fell around his face as he lay in the grass, and his soft perfumes were so... irresistible. She rolled on top of him and kissed him. Not as a reward, no, that whole ordeal was behind them, and she knew he felt exactly the same way. There was no longer any limits, and Howl was permitted to do whatever he pleased, and that's exactly what he did.

xxx

"Where have you guys been?! I didn't know you'd be out all night! I almost went out to get you myself!" Markl criticized his 'parents.'

"Looking at Howl's face, be glad that you let them be..." Calcipher smirked.

Sophie giggled, "I'll make you guys some breakfast, you must be starved."

"Sit, Soph, I'll do it," Howl produced a chair for her.

"Howl, I got it."

"Sophie, dear-"

Markl groaned loudly, "You guys just got over fighting about how the other should do the work, and now you are fighting because you both want to work! Please just get me food!"

Sophie giggled again then hugged Howl, and ambush, she was going to push him into the chair when-

"Wait!" Sophie hissed. Howl eyed Sophie.

"What?"

"Shhh! Listen." Sophie remembered when seh returned Howl's heart- it was so small, and fluttered like a butterfly.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

The beat surrounded them. It was strong and steady, Howl's heart was no longer the heart of a child.

xxx

Please Review, dearies!

Constructive critism is appretiated :D