Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, I haven't memorized the movie, and I haven't read the book (yet). I just watched and fell in love with the Howl's Moving Castle movie, and started writing this directly after.

Howl's Refuge

The door opened. A huge, black, bird-like form entered the kitchen and dropped into a chair in front of the hearth. The creature lifted its dripping wet feet and crossed them in front of the warm fire. Two eyeballs emerged from the flames and gazed steadily at the reclined creature in the chair.

"Howl, you don't look so good," Calcifer said, his flaming eyes sharpened with concern.

Howl did not respond in words, but with a soft moan as he painfully transformed back into a human. Black feathers fell from his face and body onto the floor beneath the wizard's chair, disappearing a second later. The wizard remained motionless with fatigue in the chair.

Maybe he had pushed himself a little too hard today, Howl admitted to himself; but it was necessary. He had to use every ounce of his strength to put an end to the dark powers of death and captivity that were causing the war. He had to stop them, or they would ruin every good thing left in the world, and destroy every place of refuge. He would rather die than see that happen.

From her curtained-off bed in the corner of the kitchen, Sophie breathed softly and evenly as she slept. When Howl gradually became aware of the faint sound, he realized that he, too, should be asleep in his bed. Wincing slightly, he dragged himself to his feet, started walking up to his room—and suddenly stopped, listening. His senses became more alert, and his heartbeat quickened. Sophie's breathing had changed.

Silently as a cat, the wizard walked over to Sophie's bedside and drew back the curtain to check on her. He sighed slightly—in relief—when he saw that she had merely change positions in her sleep; he had not woken her, and she had not seen him.

Good, he thought—just as it should be. He did not want her to see his other form; he wanted his perfect human face to be the only Howl that she would remember—just as Sophie's young, true-aged face was the only Sophie he ever pictured when he thought of her.

Howl closed the curtain, turned, and headed back up the stairs. Once more, his body felt almost too weary to stand; but now, after seeing Sophie's peaceful, content young face, Howl felt different somehow. Had he still had his heart, it would have felt warmer and lighter; but even as it was, without it, the darkness— worry and anger and bitterness—that had been growing within him all day lessened.

Howl opened the door to his rather eclectically decorated bedroom, took two steps, and flopped down onto his bed, closing his eyes with a sigh. A smile played on his lips as he fell into a deep sleep. Yes, the outside world was crazy; but in his moving castle, there was still serenity, and all was as it should be.

From within the logs in the fireplace, the fire demon glowed contentedly—and on the lonely moors of the Wastes, the moving castle passed silently through the fog.

Well, what did you think? I hope you enjoyed it. As always, I would be honored to receive some helpful reviews!