Disclaimer: I still own nothing.

A/N: I feel bad for not writing much when it's summer right now and I've had all this time. So I just wrote this up because I had an urge and I wanted some angst in there. Any who, this is after HMC, which I hope is fairly obvious. Lastly, thanks to my reviewers and people who have followed/favorited!

Answers

Howl was ignoring her. Again.

Sophie didn't know what to make of the situation, just that it certainly was not what she had pictured when he had promised her happiness (forever, too). It didn't even matter when she tried to strike up a conversation, because he slithered out every time.

'I've just got to see about those custom-made shoes first, Sophie dear,' he would say. Her new favorite was, 'I'm hard at work to keep this household together. We'll talk later,' which was funny because he was the least diligent person she knew and she could barely call the castle a household. The mundaneness of the word just couldn't possibly describe the chaos within.

Michael and Calcifer were out, and Sophie wasn't really even concerned. The only person she wanted to speak with was across the room.

She glared at Howl out of the corner of her eye, the light from the window shining off his spell-enhanced hair. He was crafting a new spell at the work bench, unsuspectingly reaching for a coil of thick wire as Sophie stalked across the floor from the bathroom and descended upon him. Just as she was about to tap him on the arm, he pulled away, just slightly, to make a few strands of sunshine yellow hair fall onto his back.

The extended hand stopped in midair, close enough to feel the heat of him. She automatically felt upset. Not in the terror-inducing weed-killing angry way, though. It was more in the way of feeling your airway constrict and the half-second pinch behind your eyes, of your heart pounding furiously in your chest and heat creeping up your cheeks. She exhaled loudly unintentionally, and even to her it sounded like a frustrated sigh. Howl turned around. Maybe something in her expression had put him off, but most likely it was the tears pooling in her squinted eyes and making her vision blur that gave her away.

"Take it easy there," he said coolly, grabbing her round the waist and pulling her next to him. The wood hit the backs of her knees and she sat down hard, a small grunt escaping her lips. He kept his arm where it was, but turned back to the spell. "Now, what is it?" he asked.

Sophie scratched the side of her face and blinked rapidly in the other direction, feeling rather foolish. "Why won't you talk to me?" she said, trying to sound annoyed. Being straightforward was usually the only way to get a response out of Howl anyway.

"I'm working," he answered shortly. Sophie felt a white-hot anger rise up inside her and she savagely pushed his arm away from her torso and stood up.

"I mean for the past month!" she screeched, the tears still there but less prominent. Howl seemed to find her amusing and grinned, infuriating her further.

"I've been busy." Sophie forced herself to sound calm when she spoke next.

"Did you actually mean it when you got your heart back or was that just you trying not to hurt my feelings?" Sophie asked quietly. She had been speculating on this for quite some time. Had he just said it because he thought it was the right thing to say, because he was just happy that he was still alive? Because she really had thought he meant it.

"Mean what?" he said, still smiling and avoiding looking at her.

"That we should live happily ever after," she said, hating the way her voice sounded, thick and hopeful and trying to be nonchalant but failing grievously.

"Yes."

"'Yes' you meant it or 'yes' you were just trying to be nice?"

"Yes."

Sophie could've smacked him. This was one question he couldn't evade; it was the one question whose answer would decide her future, because if he didn't really love her then she would pack up and leave, then and there. She tried not to entertain the idea, but it seemed to demand her attention, setting up shop in the forefront of her mind and offering visions of life without an insane wizard and magic and love.

"I don't have to stay here," she said, wanting it to hurt him and force a real answer out of him. An hour seemed to pass, weighted and drawn-out as she waited for him to give her any indication that she was wanted there.

Howl sighed dramatically, turning to face her full on as he pivoted on the bench. He rested his elbows on his knees and folded his forearms across each other lazily. "I am fully aware," he said drily.

She harrumphed and her hands turned to fists at her sides. "Howl, do you want me to stay or not?" she shrieked, angry tears in her eyes now, her chest heaving. "I don't care if you hate unpleasantness, just tell me!"

Sophie could pretend to be angry very well when she felt insecure, scared, or sad, but now that she was all three at once, as she took one pointed step forward, she realized that she would have to take the answer from him. So she leaned down, placed her hands on his shoulders, and pressed her lips against his in a marvelous and glaringly obviously inexperienced way. She kept her eyes shut tightly and gripped the fabric of his shirt. Then all at once she was sitting in his lap as he pulled her closer in the circle of his arms and kissed her fervently back. Sophie was the first to pull away, but not for lack of enjoyment. She needed air.

Howl was studying her face carefully as she breathed in slowly, his arms holding her securely against his chest as if she would try to spring up and run for the hills if he let go. She composed herself and glared at him.

"Well why didn't you just say that?" she asked, the corners of her lips twitching, and kissed him again.