Dark clouds suddenly cast a shadow across the Waste, blocking out the sun almost entirely. The air stilled, suddenly heavy with the scent of ozone laced with something faintly reminiscent of sulfur. Michael leaned out of the Castle window, hooking his boot-clad feet into the cabinet handles as he craned his head to catch a glimpse of the sky above. His brow furrowed with worry when he realized that the sky was tinted more of a bruised-yellow than a healthy blue.
"Calcipher," he called over his shoulder a little hesitantly, "Master Howl can't control the weather, can he?"
"With the stuff he pulls, I wouldn't put it past him," the fire demon said wryly, letting out a huff of flame. "Why, is there something wrong with it?"
"…Not particularly," he admitted. "It's just—"
The color deepened to a decidedly sickly hue.
He frowned again. "—is it natural in the Waste for it to be a sort of greenish color?"
Calcipher raised a fiery eyebrow. "Normally he can't, so I think there shouldn't be anything to worry about. He's been pretty happy-go-lucky for the past couple weeks, so I wouldn't worry about it too much, unless—"
A low, threatening rumble of thunder was the only warning before a sudden loud 'crack!' sent their front door flying forward on its hinges, leaving to list, barely, to one side. A flash of lightning illuminated a figure sagging against the doorway.
Michael hastily jumped to his feet, rushing to the doorway. His own heart thudded with alarm as he saw his master's form suddenly pitch forward almost without warning. He shoved his own small frame into the man's side just in time, catching him around the waist before his feet gave out entirely.
"Sir, are you alright?" Michael strained his ear to catch some incomprehensible string of mutterings from his master's lips, growing more anxious by the second.
"H-hey Howl—are you okay? You don't look too good," Calcipher said, leaning forward anxiously from his spot in the hearth as Michael half led, half dragged the man over to one of his favorite chairs beside the fireplace. The man collapsed heavily against it, his head listing forward as if even this were too much weight for him to bear, requiring more effort than he could spare.
"She dumped me," he deadpanned, not even bothering to lift his head.
Michael blinked, shock causing his next question more out of automatic response than actual thought process. "Who did?"
"A girl, obviously," Howl replied miserably, burying his head in his hands. Michael had never seen anyone look so heart-wrenching despondent in all his life. It tore at his heart to see his master like this. He reached out a hand to hesitantly pat the older man's leg, totally at a loss with how to best handle the situation. "I-It's okay," he said, feeling a little awkward.
"No, it's not!" Howl wailed, slumping forward in despair, dramatically – albeit dangerously close to Calcipher's flames. The fire demon hastily scooted himself backwards to avoid the impending waterworks. "He-Hey, hey! Watch where you're going, there!" he exclaimed.
"It doesn't matter," he moaned. Then, more quietly, "Nothing matters anymore."
Was it just Michael's imagination, or did the atmosphere seem a bit more, foreboding somehow?
There was an ominous creak as the castle seemed to almost shudder under some invisible force, causing a light cloud of dust and loose debris to rain down on their heads. Michael coughed, his eyes smarting as he squinted up in alarm. Calcipher pulled another log over his head and glanced anxiously at the ceiling. The structure groaned again, the supporting beams suddenly giving a sickening crack. Michael's stomach twisted in fear. He whirled around, eyes as wide as spyglasses. "Calcipher, what's happening?!"
The demon flinched as another cloud of rubble rained down on him, causing his body to hiss and sputter. "I don't know! I can't seem to control it anymore – you need to get him to calm down!"
Michael spun around, his eyes impossibly wide as he glanced in Howl's direction, who was disarmingly slumped and – for all intents and purposes – dead to the world. "You mean he's doing this?"
"Probably not on purpose," the flame demon replied wryly. "a-ah, howl, hey, um, buddy, could you please, just, c-calm down, just relax, okay, buddy? There are, um, plenty of other women, I-I mean fish in the sea, or women, y'know, out there, somewhere, so could you please just—" his voice pitched a bit more frantically now "o-okay, howl, could you um, please not do that-"
Michael's eyes widened in panic as he saw his master's body begin to slowly ooze some sort of green, gelatinous substance onto the floor, the fireplace, everything, as if the man were simply trying to melt into his surroundings in the most alarming way possible. Calcipher was doing his best to scramble out of his way, but the fire demon only had so much room to work with, and he was running out of ground. Fast.
"Hey Howl! G-Get it together already will you? At this rate, I'm gonna go out! And believe me, this would be a really, really, terrible way to die… Michael, do something!"
Michael was already running around the room in a panic, stuffing broom handles under buckling roof beams and fixing them in place with hastily spoken spells while simultaneously shoving pots and pans under Howl's body in an effort to catch the mucus sloughing off of him. "I'm trying!" he ground out between clenched teeth. He wasn't sure if the nasty stuff was important, but he would be loathed if he were unable to restore his master without it.
Calipher let out a whimper, frantically dragging more logs onto the hearth as he attempted to put more distance between himself and the bi-product of Howl's depression/despair. "Howl," he whispered urgently, silently praying for his words to reach him, "would you just listen to me? This is NOT the end of the world here!"
"It is for me," Howl muttered, face firmly planted in the hearth. At this, even his body seemed to sag even more grotesquely.
"No, it is not" — Calcipher hissed, kind of wishing he could bite him, but he was fairly certain that would be a bad idea, since Howl was currently covered in the very stuff he was trying to avoid – "listen, alright? Do you remember our first encounter?"
Very slowly, the magician inclined his head.
"Do you remember what happened, after you bound me and sealed the contract? There was a girl, there, right? Do you remember what she said?"
Howl froze, momentarily –blessedly –distracted from his brooding.
"Wait for me," he breathed. "Wait for me – in the future."
Calcipher held his own breath, waiting for the time-old distraction to take over entirely.
"She was beautiful, Calcipher." Howl raised his head, voice awed by wonder, "….like starlight."
"Yes," Calcipher responded, trying not to sound too relieved, lest he jinx the sudden reprieve. "Now tell me – is this situation, right here, right now, anything to get so worked up about?" Please don't say yes.
A shadow crossed Howl's face again, and Calcipher, sensing his falling mood, quickly added, "This girl said she could save you – could save us. This isn't some random tryst, here, Howl – we're talking about an encounter engineered by fate itself. If there's something we can do to break the curse, don't you think she could be the one? And even if she isn't," he added thoughtfully, voice softening at the memory of how Howl's eyes seem to light up whenever he spoke of her, "I have a feeling that's not going to even matter to you anyway."
Howl stared at him. Finally, some of his previous spark seemed to return to his eyes. "Perhaps you're right," he murmured thoughtfully. His body seemed to sag a little less at the thought.
"You know I am," Calcipher replied confidently, trying not to do a downright jig out of relief. He contented himself with a happy little wobble; it was pretty much the only thing he could manage given his current grievous lack of space. "Now if you don't mind," he chided dryly, "it would be really nice if you could get your ooziness away from me, I really don't know if it's going to drown me or if it's extremely flammable or not, so if you could please just back up a bit, that would be wonderful—"
"Wha-what is this?" Howl exclaimed, looking at the ghastly slimy substance dripping from his hands.
Ah, he finally noticed. Calcipher tried not to roll his eyes.
"…It appears to be you, Your Sliminess," the demon remarked wryly. "Now would you please move—"
"Wh-wha – it's everywhere!" Howl cried out in horror, frantically twisting around his arms and whipping his head around at almost comical angles to survey the damage. "How did this happen to me?"
"For a rare moment, you seemed to really have let yourself go," the demon observed sardonically, slowly beginning to enjoy his partner's distress.
"Arrrhhhgh, I'm hideous!" he wailed.
"Master Howl!" Michael cried out, alarmed, rushing to his side (and armed with more trusty pots and pans).
Howl let out a strangled moan. Not for the last time that night, the magician collapsed, once again, in a pathetic heap of freshly made, self-perpetuating goo. Right back where he started - On top of the hearth.
It was going to be a long night.
Also, Calcipher was beginning to seriously question the stability of their arrangement.
Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed the story. I don't know about you guys, but I've always wondered about the "other breakup" mentioned in Howl's Moving Castle. And well, it didn't say any more about it in the actual book… so I decided a little speculation never hurt…
Anyways, while this isn't my first ever attempt at writing, it is my first ever HMC fic on this site, so please, feel free to share any and all thoughts with me in the reviews! Have questions? Comments? Ideas of what you'd like to see next? Send it my way- It may not seem like a big deal, but it would make me ever so happy if you did ^-^