Summary: A witch's curse is not something one just shrugs off. Sensible Sophie is asking the right questions and Calcifer has no clue how to answer. Howl and Sophie one-shot, MOVIE-VERSE.

I do not own these characters in this little baby of a story… a sweeping bow in reserved for both Diana Wynne Jones for her incredible book and Hayao Miyazaki for his wonderful film. I tip my metaphorical hat to both.

This was written for my good friend, Meru-chan, whose smiles are like sunshine and happiness.

The Family that Grew

Sophie huffed, her bangs flying up with the soft burst of breath on her brow. She approached the center of the room, taking a seat before the richly decorated fireplace. The demon lazing on the logs greeted her with a crackle of sparks, eyes aglow with amusement and fondness. She returned the salutations with a smile and a nod, glancing toward the Witch of the Waste. The older woman dozed nearby in her favorite sofa, a blanket over her and the dog nestled on the curve of her knees. Her multiple chins prevented proper breathing as she rested, evident in the intermittent snores between exhalations.

The young woman smiled with crooked affection at the once evil Witch turned crone, then turning her attention back to the fire demon flickering over dark wood. Calcifer looked up, sensing her scrutiny, and chuckled. "What troubles you, Sophie?" he drawled, the snapping of flames dancing in his speech. Sophie reached forward to play with a plume of smoke and the demon haughtily made hoops for her, making the girl with the starlight hair giggle into her other hand.

Dropping her hands back onto her lap, she sat very still as she considered her words carefully. Deciding that taking the direct method would be best option for her, she openly aired her doubts. "Calcifer…" she began, strongly. "I'm not bleeding."

For a moment, Sophie swore the demon actually gagged in masculine surprise.

Recovering, Calcifer bounced back but with little flair, unable to keep the tremor out of his voice. "Wha-what makes you say that? You could be mistaken."

The look she shot him could have curdled milk and Calcifer shrank away from her, appropriately terrified. It was a well-known legend in this house, Sophie's temper, managing to even frighten the Horrible Howl into obedience. Cunning and ruthless, Sophie was an enemy to be reckoned, and reckon they did. Only too gladly would they bow to her whims rather than face the business end of her mop, broom, pan or whatever other object that lay close at hand. Only Markl was able to escape the brunt of her tantrums, though he would get scolded whenever he managed to dirty himself or lacked propriety.

Sophie smirked inwardly at the shooting star's obvious fear but controlled the tell-tale twitch of lips on the outside, determined to see the matter through. "I have been here almost a year, Calcifer," she informed him primly, silvery hair billowing from a breeze swooping in through the open window nearby. Currently, the fire demon resided in their Market Chipping residence, allowing for the flowery scent from the shop to flow in and the undertone of smoke from the train that rushed by every two hours or so to creep into the room as well. Howl held extreme distaste for the human invention, often wrinkling his nose delicately, but Sophie knew the wizard was extremely taken by the gears in the large, metal contraption, having caught him studying them once or twice. No matter his talents, Howl was incapable of creating his Moving Castle without mechanical knowledge at his back to support the monstrosity he called home. A mix of magic and engineering, Sophie knew the Moving Castle was a wonder on slim, insect-like legs, Howl's very own invention. Despite his selfish and cowardly attitude, the magician was actually an avid scholar and knew his art from every direction. A vast memory, continuous thirst for knowledge and a child-like curiosity for the world, Howl was a genius in his field.

That, however, was not what bothered Sophie at this moment. Half-angry and half-upset, the young woman was reasonably worked up. It had been a year since the curse had been placed on her and almost seven months since Calcifer broke it. As an old woman, she understood why she would not bleed, given that she'd already passed the age when fertility stops and a woman is left barren. Now, back to her proper age, it bewildered her she'd not fallen into rhythm again… and it scared her as well. Howl made his intentions and feelings towards her no secret and they'd been discussing expanding their family in the intimacy of darkness, whispers, and sweet kisses.

It made Sophie anxious that she was no longer bleeding appropriately and she was determined to find out why. Of course, due to the… personal nature of the question, Sophie was a little shy about asking Howl. She'd been thinking about asking the wise Witch, but since she was dozing, Sophie had ended up blurting it to Calcifer.

The once shooting star looked uncomfortable and vaguely ill, a slight green tint in his flames. Sophie smiled apologetically and Calcifer returned it, reading between the worried lines of her brow.

"Has he asked you yet?" The demon wanted to know, an interested gleam in his eyes. The young woman blushed scarlet, the hue decorating her visage prettily. Amused at having turned the tables, the demon awaited a response. When none came, he frowned a little. "No?"

"Not directly," Sophie picked at her sleeves a little, a nervous habit Calcifer recognized from Markl. Sighing, she stilled her hands and looked up to the small fire among the logs. Noticing that the volume of logs was diminishing, Sophie stood to fetch another, handing three to Calcifer, who took them greedily and arranged them around himself. Purring softly in satisfaction, the demon considered her carefully. He didn't want to reveal that Howl had practically driven a hole in the wooden floor from pacing naught but two days ago, fretting as he held a small jewelry box and juggled it. Knowing the wizard would propose on his own time, the demon decided to stay quiet about that.

"Well, them… I…. um, that is… You see, Sophie," the demon gave a few false starts, unsure of how to even begin to explain. Though he knew many things, sharing was not his forte and Calcifer was at a loss of how to illustrate what was happening to her body. The demon was better at hinting, but he was no good at giving speeches.

Peals of laughter rolled about, lighting up the house as the entire building celebrated the new arrival. Soft footfalls sounded from the stairs and flashing blue-green eyes bounced merrily as Howl swept into the room with his usual grace. Unnaturally beautiful and as elegant as the sleek cranes that bathed in the river that cut across her home town, Howl was a sight to behold even in simple hose breeches and a chemise of flowing white. Bejeweled bobs of emerald hung from his ears, peeking in flashes of color behind the curtain of silky black tresses. He descended the steps, each and everyone singing in creaks of wood, welcoming their master home.

"You could have taken your questions to me," he chided as he glided towards her, snagging a chair from the table and placing it next to hers. He sat down with great aplomb, smiling in that impish way of his that both annoyed her and endeared him to her heart. Loving this man with so many masks was a difficult task, but never let it be said that Sophie Hatter was a woman who shied from challenges. The twinkle in his eyes told her he was not the least bit serious, but her jaw tightened in response to his teasing anyway.

"Yes," she agreed but said no more, causing the wizard to pout dramatically at her antics. She'd turned away from him to look at Calcifer resolutely and the fire demon ducked behind the cover of his log barricade, determined to be kept out of this argument. The last time they'd gotten into a fight, Howl had almost torn the house asunder with his anguish, consoled only when Sophie gave in and showered his brow, nose, cheeks and lips with kisses as light as a butterfly's wing beats.

Tossing his groomed hair over a slim shoulder, Howl leveled her with a steady stare, seriousness making his mouth into a straight line. "Sophie," said he, drawing her attention to his face. Blue swirled with kind green, and Sophie's own pale jade orbs were bright with worry, fear and sadness. Understanding what she was not brave enough to voice, Howl took her hands into his own, reassuring her.

"Take heart, my love, it's all alright." He told her, smiling benignly. Blinking away the tears that welled and nearly spilled, Sophie sniffled, lower lip trembling with effort. Completely besotted, Howl had to compose himself and resist the urge to chase the sadness away with kisses, restraining the desire down to mere caresses she permitted to her folded hands. "You see, Sophie, the magic in the curse caused a change in you."

Bewildered, Sophie leaned forward, twining her fingers with Howl's. Pleased and a little flustered by the returned gesture of affection, Howl fairly glowed with joy as he turned toward the cowering fire demon in the hearth. "Calcifer, you suffer a similar fate, do you not?"

The demon peeked from over the logs, wide-eyed but willing to join the conversation once he deemed it safe from destruction. "Well, yes, though my contract with you shortened it."

Now more confused than ever, Sophie pulled at Howl's hands as the man hummed thoughtfully, head cocked to the side as he paused, lost in thought. "Howl?"

Smiling winsomely, the wizard took pity on her and explained. "You're ageless, Sophie." She cocked a brow, since his answer was as unhelpful as the others he'd given, and the magician exhaled softly. "Timeless, completely untouched by the passing of time," he supplied. For the third time, Sophie shot him an exasperated look and Calcifer decided to intervene.

"Sophie, you're not bleeding because your body had paused in its cycle. Because you're not aging, you're stuck in a single moment in your life." Eyes the palest shade of cadmium widened in dismay, tears springing readily from them in response to Sophie's distress.

Howl shushed her softly as he stood, brushing away a stray tear from pale, flawless cheeks. Kissing petal lips fleetingly, Howl whispered against them as he inhaled her sweet scent of honey, sugar and sunshine. "You cannot have children," he reiterated, and Sophie inhaled sharply, masking a sob.

As he passed by her, a mischievous curl in the depths of that little smile lighting his handsome features, he finalized. "Unless I desire it."

Calcifer laughed heartily from his place in his fort of logs, flopping against the wood as he chortled gaily. Howl made his escape with a saucy toss of his hair, running out into the red door then quickly closing it, his laughter echoing with Calcifer's own glee. The fire demon took unholy delight in Sophie's flaming face, overjoyed that the woman had been completely tossed off kilter by the wizard's response.

It's all alright.

The box that sat in her lap was a weight in her heart, but Sophie could not help the tears of joy that trailed down her cheeks like twin rivers. Calcifer looked on, smug and smiling ridiculously, for Sophie found the most beautiful band of starlight jewels glimmering in their spot set into the ring of dazzling silver. Magical words jumped from the gleaming metal, whirling and making sparkling swirls of color in the air.

Marry me.

Her positive response sent the lights into drunken revolutions, put in a tizzy that reflected Howl's answering joy that gave away the fact he'd been eavesdropping to hear her agree to his wish to wed.

Three more words whispered across her skin like a lover's caress, a promise of things to come and a vow of eternity they would share.

"I love you."


If anyone reads the books, they do indeed get married and even have a son.

My theory in scientific terms is that Sophie's cells are no longer reproducing, instead continuously rejuvenated as an after effect of the curse. As such, no mitosis is going on… and no meiosis either. Meaning, Sophie is completely unable to have a child because her ovules are not reproducing as they should be, ergo, no menstruation. It's a magical state, though, so Howl would only need to modify it to make her wish for children true.

Therefore, he is the only one who can get her with child. Basically, Howl is her salvation, a role he readily stepped into in both the book and movie.

Hope everyone likes my first attempt at Howl's Moving Castle fiction!