Well, hello there.

Okay, please don't be mad but this takes place after the first BOOK of the HMC series by Diana Wynne Jones, not the anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki. There was no category for the book (but I am a terrible finder so that by no means concludes that there isn't one) so I published under the anime genre. The story is not so different, but there are definitely references that will not be understood by those who haven't read the book (I'm sorry! But you should read the book, it's literary pudding for the soul)

Despite that, go for it anyway because life is short and you have already taken the time to load this page, take a chance on this page!

So this a one- shot fic that takes place just after the HMC book, Sophie and Howl are together, Michael is still Howl's assistant and with Martha (Sophie's sister) and Calcifer is free as a bird. Sophie has some lingering anxieties and Howl is ridiculous - Enjoy

DISCLAIMER: I do not and will never delude myself into thinking that I in any shape or form own these characters or the Howl's Moving Castle world, they live with the late Diana Wynne Jones, who is a literary master and nice enough to let me play with her creations while she's not using them.

Flowers and Fickle-Minded Magic

Sophie awoke to an empty bed the following morning, and could hear the gushing of water from the bathroom downstairs.

She noted that her hair was lain at her side like a sheet, Howl had been playing with it in her sleep, how he was fascinated by such a shade of fire.

When she arrived downstairs, Sophie was greeted by the shadow of Calcifer amongst the newly thrown logs, his large purple teeth poking through in a grimace.

"And don't you dream of having bacon for breakfast you wicked woman!" He groaned, "Howl is working me like a slave with his bath this morning, as if I were still pinned to this hearth!"

Sophie busied herself fetching cheese and a hunk of bread from the pantry.

"Well it seems that you could show him by shooting up that chimney and leaving him with cold water," She suggested, settling into the fireside stool, "I'm sure that would be hint enough for even him."

Calcifer crackled once and seemed to become even grumpier.

"It might interest you to know that Market Chipping is a torrent this morning, for now at least this is my familiar prison."

"Ah! See, what an outstanding alternative for you to offer Master Howl! Here you are, slaving, only to have water by the hat-full falling from the sky outside. Truly you have been exploited my dear friend."

The fire demon gave her a spiteful look, his flame deepening to an angry navy.

"Taunting witch, you and Howl deserve one another."

Sophie laughed quietly to herself as she ate her food, contemplating whether or not to be pleased by the comment. Surely she had regained her tongue upon her youth, but sometimes she felt herself scarcely changed from her elderly shamefulness.

Michael came bouncing down the staircase merrily soon after, wishing Sophie a happy morning and fetching himself some ingredients for a spell.

"What are you working on today Michael?" Sophie inquired, going and looking over his shoulder at the piece of paper he was referring to.

He tried to snatch it away but Sophie caught its name, and took Michaels shoulders into her arms affectionately.

"A growing spell?" She cooed, "You intend to stretch yourself out like a tormented suit? Don't we know how that turns out?"

The mile long suit had transformed into a lovely summer dress by Sophie's hand, one that Howl both favoured and resented, a struggle he continued to contemplate.

"I'm sure I've perfected it now, it'll only aid me two inches or so." He said defensively.

"Whatever for?" She pandered, squeezing him till he coloured and smiled.

"Martha is presently as tall as me." He confessed, pushing Sophie away.

Calcifer sniggered from his place among the logs and Sophie picked up a bowl of bacon from the table and threatened him with it.

"Just try it," Calcifer grumbled, "And I'll move this place into the ocean."

She placed the bacon back down and faced the bashful Michael.

"Our Martha loves you for yourself Michael, you know that, as you love her for what she is."

Michael nodded solemnly, and stated assuredly:

"Yes, that is true, and I will still love her just the same, but from a vantage point of two or three inches."

Then he swiftly turned his back to her and resumed his work.

The bathroom door swung open and Howl erupted from the cloud of steam that exhaled into the room.

He wore Sophie's favourite grey and silver suit, with a jade jewel swinging from his ear.

The strong whiff of honeysuckle hit her like a wall, but she pretended not to notice.

Howl was preened to the highest quality and looked a prize fit for marvel, but Sophie found endless joy in teasing him for his troubles.

"Good morning Howl." Both she and Michael said in unison, Sophie set to stitching herself a design for her new shawl.

"Sophie dear, is there a moment in time when those hands of yours are not occupied by either the ruins of my clothes or the thread of my curtains?" Howl asked, leaning against the bathroom door frame, the very centre of her gaze.

"Hard to tell Darling, You do so fidget in that bathroom it would be a slight window to judge."

Sophie replied dryly, making a point of not looking up as she yanked the needle up toward her.

She could see out the corner of her eye the whites of his teeth as he watched her, and found herself less willing to play her little game.

"But wait, there's something missing, where is the smell of the bacon I bought for you and Michael? Even you could have spotted it on the table where I left it this morning."

Sophie glanced over at it with a vacant expression, and simply said:

"Oh, is that so..."

"Calcifer is not cooking today." Michael said, purposefully shielding the spell with his body.

"Yes, Calcifer is not cooking today." Sophie repeated.

Calcifer was shrunken against the hearth, trying to appear to Howl as being either very weak or very tired.

Howl was not looking at Calcifer, he was staring at Sophie cheekily.

"Say, Michael," He said, still staring at Sophie, "Do you remember that little old woman we gave sanctuary a little while back?"

"Oh yes, it is quite hard to forget."

Howl grinned and began to pace around the hearth in slow movements, by which he ensured that he was visible to Sophie and his honeysuckle scent was right up her nose.

"I remember her well. The hale old thing waltzed in here willy nilly from the wastes of all places and bullied her frying pan onto the head of a mighty fire demon, all so she could have cooked bacon for breakfast."

Sophie felt his hand nudge her as he passed behind her stool.

"That woman, hard as stone to everyone and even harder on me. She made it her life's purpose to test my sanity."

He leant himself back against Sophie's hidy hole and crossed his arms across his chest.

"What spirit she had, I bet you Michael that if she were here we would be having crispy bacon for breakfast."

Michael dared not answer, he still had the sense to fear Sophie's temper.

"Seems all that remains of her is her love for destroying my suits." He concluded mournfully.

"What a dim woman she must have been," Sophie murmured to the stitching, "To only stop at his suits."

Howls smile faded slightly as he considered the legitimacy of her words, and leant in a little to identify exactly what nature of thread she was using.

"Calcifer, can you move the castle to the western border of the flower fields today?" Sophie asked the demon politely, "The rain has waterlogged most of the Eastern side and manoeuvring has become very difficult."

"Well why not? Surely I have nothing better to do." He hissed and Sophie felt the gentle lurch of the castle taking pace.

Howl, apparently weary of his efforts to attract Sophie's attention, strode over to Michaels table and began overseeing his progress.

As an abashed Michael began to explain his choice of enchantment, Howl interjected sullenly with:

"There's not enough crushed geranium, that's about as powerful as four leather straps and a pulley."

As he was discouraged by Sophie's indifference, Howl did something very unlike his character, and worked very hard on the spell with Michael for the following hour.

When nine o'clock was approaching, Sophie laid down her work and announced that she was going to collect the flowers for today's stock.

Both the men were deep in concentration and did not answer her, so she happily slipped out the door purple-side-down and began her daily pickings, escorted by Michaels carrying invention.

Even after months of her trade Sophie still delighted in this morning ritual of wandering about the meadow of blossoming flowers.

She had, as was her talent, talked life into the floating tub that collected the cut offs and it contentedly shadowed her path without fail. The significance of this particular object was it's ability to converse, which marked the improvement of Sophie's abilities. Howl had been surprised, and Michael extremely proud.

Together they walked in the crisp sunshine and discussed the beauty of the flowers. The tub was perhaps a little too agreeable at times, but its disposition was outstanding.

"The rhododendrons are particularly ravishing today." Sophie would remark.

"Indeed they are, Miss." The tub would reply in a soft voice.

"Those roses are coming along nicely now."

"Oh yes, they will be open on the morrow, Miss."

"The fragrance of these white and pink ones is truly wonderful."

"Most certainly Miss, they are a type of orchid."

"Are you alright with that load?"

"All too happy to have the work Miss."

They came to a scattering of sunflowers where the air was heavy with scent, and Sophie lead the way toward a patch of multi-coloured wild flowers.

"Do you see anything very striking for our window ornament?" Sophie inquired of the tub as she inspected a patch of honeysuckle.

"Oh yes, most definitely." Came the unmistakeably husky voice of Howl, just as fingers wound into her hair.

"And how much do you see it sold for?" Sophie asked, her eyes closing as his lips found the back of her throat.

"Hmmm..." The breath that came was warm as the sunshine, "Such a specimen should only be used for enticement, not for purchase."

Howl let one hand free of her hair and wound it around her body, so as to hold it to him.

The smell of him took to her senses and she found herself feeling soft and in the need of a good chair.

"The smell of honeysuckle is truly divine, don't you think?" Howl said to her jawbone, his mouth nudging against it many times.

Sophie was beginning to feel short of breath and lacking focus.

"I have no doubt, to those who are partial to it."

He turned Sophie to face him and took her into his arms happily.

"Do you know of anyone partial to it my dear? I would very much like to pay them a visit."

Sophie pushed up on her toes and kissed his lips, once... twice... four times...

"Sophie- darling... Tell me you love me." Howl whispered.

When she opened her eyes, his were watching her warmly, though there was a flicker of interest bellow the green surface.

"I will not do such a foolish thing!" She grinned, pecking the tip of his chin.

"Why ever not? Are terms of endearment one of your many personal hates, along with my beloved spiders?" Howl asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I cannot utter such a thing because you will answer in those same words and I will have no choice but to devour your heart and set off in search of another lonely wizard to seduce." She laughed, pinching his shoulder playfully, "And I've just made myself comfortable here."

He let his smile drop slightly, those warm eyes looked as though they'd felt a draught.

"Ah but I would trust you my little maid, surely by now you have proven to me that you have trained your eyes to settle on one scenery."

Sophie ceased her light heartedness and slowly pulled away from his touch.

He stood as straight as a pillar and his well searched face fell into a sober expectation.

"Or am I mistaken?" He asked quietly, his gaze unfaltering.

Sophie couldn't help but wish the tub was still here, just for the break in tension.

"Perhaps, my handsome wizard, you underestimate how easy it is, when the view becomes quite plain, to simply turn one's head and discover a whole new scene of wonderful new opportunities." She let her gaze drop, shamed by her own insecurities.

There was a lingering silence, by which only the rustling of leaves could be heard.

"I see." Howl said coldly, and when Sophie found the courage to look up he was nowhere to be seen.

She found the tub by the sunflowers, peacefully floating on the thick breeze.

"How I wish you had not wandered off so." She grumbled sadly.

"I apologise Miss," the tub replied, "These fields are just so wonderfully tranquil one can easily loose oneself in the serenity."

Sophie walked back through the flowers, toward the rising smoke. As she passed them, the flowers shrank in on themselves and appeared depressed to a severe degree, opening only as her shadow left them.

She was beginning to doubt just how tranquil these gardens were.

Howl did not reappear for the remainder of the day.

When Sophie had asked Michael of his location, she was informed that he had left the house in a black-ways direction, and had told Michael to help Sophie mind the shop that day as he would not make it home for supper.

When she went upstairs to look out the bedroom window, the Wales backyard was empty, no sight of Mari or her scolded uncle.

Sophie tended the shop as usual, and not once did Howl make an appearance, much to the disappointment of his loyal customers, all of them wide eyed women.

"Miss Hatter?" Francine Grouse whimpered to Sophie, "Will Master Jenkins be joining you today?"

Sophie snapped at the stalks of a bunch of geraniums violently, making the timid woman jump.

"The Master is in a mood this day, Miss Grouse, and he thought it better for his business if he didn't perform a tantrum in front of his customers."

Miss Grouse stared at Sophie as though she were speaking in tongues, and purchased only half her usual haul.

In her defence, the flowers that day were average indeed.

Ever since their argument that morning the plants had shrunken and paled to a degree that Sophie herself refrained from selling a great majority of them.

"That's the problem with magic," She grumbled to a discouraged poppy, "It's as fickle as its beholder."

After they closed the shop at sunset, Sophie and Michael ate sweet cream pie from Cesari's and did not talk extensively.

Calcifer, having excited at the prospect of no rain, was absent for the remainder of the fair weather. The room seemed so empty without his presence in the hearth.

"How is your spell coming Michael?" Sophie inquired over her fork.

"Gradually, it involves a leave of one moon cycle to settle." He answered flatly, Sophie had the feeling he had taken Howl's side in this instance.

Sophie waited until late for Howl to return, busying her hands with a thread and needle by the dark hearth.

When he did not come back, she was inclined to take herself up to bed; after all, Howl had a tendency to not come home until day break.

Just before she lay down for the night, she took one last look out the bedroom window and her heart leapt when she saw Howl and his sister talking near the swing down in the courtyard somewhere far below.

She leant in to try and discover what they were discussing, but merely from their demeanour could Sophie understand that this was no ordinary interaction.

Howl was calmly and soberly explaining something and his stern sister was listening respectfully.

When her face fell into a sympathetic frown, Sophie almost fainted with shock.

The two siblings, opposed to each other, where sharing a deep and meaningful matter between themselves.

Howls sister began offering some kind of suggestion and Howl was digesting each word intensely, his face a brand of serious Sophie did not recognise.

When they hugged Sophie felt enough guilt to look away and go to bed. Her snooping ways always got the better of her judgement, that and Howl was very aware of that windows presence.

Sophie woke to the compression of the mattress beside her, as a familiar shadow sank into the bed. Howl lay on his back, fully clothed, and let a great sigh leave his chest.

Sophie rolled over and rested herself into his side like a little cottage cat.

"Well hello Miss Snoop, you underestimate my ability to see through my own windows." He said with disheartened humour.

"I was worried." She replied, placing her hand over his chest.

"About me, or for yourself? Did you not think I would come back?" He whispered spitefully.

"How long will this madness keep up my dear? It is so unlike you to act this way."

Howl made a sarcastic noise and turned his face away from Sophie.

"You mean it is unlike the image of me you withhold, my dear?" His words were stiff and cold.

"It's the image of you I know; would you have me forget it?"

"Can a man not change his ways for the one he loves?" Howl snapped, his face sinking into a shock at the words he'd let himself speak.

Sophie leant up onto her arm and looked down upon her embarrassed wizard.

"Do you love me, Howl?" Sophie asked, placing her hand against his fine face.

He hesitated, his face did not lift.

"Do I have a choice?"

Sophie smiled, despite herself, and leant her face down to kiss him.

Howl made a small, submissive noise from the back of his throat and proceeded to entangle his fingers into Sophie's hair.

"Crazed witch, you render me useless under that spell of yours. I've gone soft!" He exclaimed, holding her close.

Sophie rested her ear against Howl's chest; one of his hands remained entrenched in her hair.

She closed her eyes and listened for a moment.

"I can hear that heartbeat of yours, my dear." She smiled.

"Yes, I can't seem to switch the darn thing off, it's very disruptive."

"Howl," Sophie whispered, "I love you."

There was a silence.

"Poppycock."

Sophie raised herself up from her position abruptly.

"What did you just say?"

Howl was grinning like trouble and reached up to stroke her shoulder with the back of his fingers.

"What I said, was that I don't believe you Sophie."

Sophie slapped his hand away, shocked.

"I did not lie! I meant the words I spoke."

Howl beckoned her downward. She, very reluctantly, edged her way down until he was within range of whispering into her ear.

"Prove it."

Sophie was just confused now.

"No."

"Why ever not?"

"You didn't have to prove it."

"I meant the words I spoke."

"As did I!"

"And here we are, full circle, and hence I repeat my words again: Prove it." Howl stated plainly, those eyes brimming with amusement at Sophie's expense.

Tired and unwilling to play games at this hour, Sophie clutched her head to her hands in an exasperated fashion and let a great huff exit her body.

"And what, my dear, would you have me do to prove myself to you?"

Howl scratched his chin and gazed off, contemplating her mission.

"Hmmm, oh yes, that will do quite fine."

"What?" Sophie urged.

Howl continued to look away even as he spoke:

"Marry me."

Now Sophie had to lie down.

She flopped back onto the mattress with a mighty thud, and stared over at Howl in an indignant manner.

"What? It's a reasonable request." He said defensively.

"I would much like to argue that point further." She answered.

"I see no problem if we truly love each other, shouldn't we be racing to the alter as I speak?" He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

"Now that just isn't fair!" Sophie exclaimed.

"I've heard life is of the same calibre," Howl said soberly, "So, is it a deal?"

Sophie couldn't believe his nerve, the manipulator!

Howl waited patiently for her response, Sophie was deciding which swear word would be most appropriate to scream.

He held out his hand.

"Sophie..."

He stretched out into the light so his handsome face fell into a blue hue, most deliberately.

Like she could deny that face, the pope could not deny his wicked face.

"Oh- you!.. Fine."

Howl nudged his hand forwards.

"Shake on it."

She thrust her hand into his and shook it in as violent a fashion as one can.

He pulled her palm up to his lips once, and then let her go.

When she glanced upon her finger, a silver stone sparkled up at her in a smug fashion.

"Well, I'm glad that was established, goodnight my dear." Howl concluded, and presently rolled over.

Sophie found she could not pull the rig off her finger, and let out one last frustrated growl, before she rolled over onto the far edge of the bed and contemplated how her vain fiancée had turned their private moments into bargains.

You like? Please review if you did, and even more if you didn't (if no one tells me i'm terrible, i'll never change and the world will never become a better place).

Sorry for any typos, I went over it at least twice but them errors are slippery little buggers, can't catch them all, (they're not pokemon)

Chloe :)