Fandom: Howl’s Moving Castle, movieverse
Word Count: 515 words
Author’s Note: A birthday fic for katsie. Her prompt: “something involving Howl's thoughts after he sees Sophie asleep as a young woman.” I’ve never written in this universe before, hope I did it justice. :) Thanks to van_el for both alpha and beta help.
He breathed in and out, his breath only a whisper on the wind, but overly loud in his own ears. Every overuse of his magic seemed to bring him closer and closer to destruction, his body deformed beyond imagining. He was tired, so tired. He felt older than even the Witch.
Howl lifted a ghostly, feathered claw to open the door to the common room. He wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball somewhere, to recover from his wounds, physical, spiritual and magical. By now, everyone would be asleep…
The door creaked open, and he swiftly took stock of the room. Calcifer’s flickering light bathed the room in a warm glow. One wall was only a pile of rubble now, brick and mortar mingling with wooden beams. It was easily fixed, but not now. On the couch across the room, balanced precariously amidst the mess, the Witch of the Waste slept with an unattractively open mouth. Heen, the dog, slept curled up on the blanket beside her and Sophie did not stir either.
Howl brought his gaze back to Sophie with a start. In sleep she had reverted to her young appearance. She seemed fragile, and out of her element… but yet, she also seemed stronger, and perfectly at home here at the same time. How odd. Strange that her grandmotherly form would seem so much more sturdy. Her confidence must be growing…
His heart – were it not trapped within Calcifer as part of the contract – would have gone out to her, this young girl who was under an unkind curse. Not once had she tried to explain to him what had happened. Not once had she reminded him of the time he saved her on the streets of Ingary.
And not once did she ask him to change her back.
His brow furrowed. This is what people expected of wizards – to solve the unsolvable, to do the impossible. But not his Sophie (had he just thought of her as ‘his’?) – she only wanted to make herself useful.
Suddenly he wanted to get to his room as soon as possible. He could not risk that she would wake up now, that she would see him in this… this horribly gruesome bird-form. That she might see the terrible toll his magic had taken on him tonight.
Howl closed the door behind him as quietly as he could, catching Calcifer’s attention. But he was in no mood to greet the fire demon. He moved across the floor silently, feathers drooping, unaware that he left a bloody trail of footprints in his wake.
The Calcifer lifted his eyes to the wizard in alarm. “Oh, no! You’ve gone too far.”
Howl did not respond. His only thought was to get past Sophie without waking her. He drifted up the stairs, ephemeral as a spirit. Reaching his cavernous sanctum, he moved through the door and closed it with a quiet click.
Little did he know that the very girl he was hiding from, the girl whose courage had challenged his own cowardice, had just awakened.
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