Tickletober Day Two - Chase
Notes: Tagging @lizzienaut as I’m using their list for this particular prompt. For the request by @ticklygiggles ^^ I’m not sure if you’ve read the book version or not, but it’s basically the same with a few minor plot differences. This fic is based off the book more than the movie, primarily because I wanted to include an annoyed teen Michael (Markl) and to show just how unbelievably dramatic book!Howl is lol. Hope you enjoy!
Summary: Howl refuses to sacrifice his Saturday morning to clean and Sophie shows him what happens to those who slack off.
Michael’s afternoon was disturbed by the rather annoying thump of the door slamming into its frame. He barely had time to glance up, let alone set down the broom still in his hands, before an unusually frantic and unkempt Howl came barreling into him. He yelped as Howl gripped his shoulders, whirling behind him as though somehow the teen would serve as an effective shield.
“Are we in trouble?” Michael asked suspiciously, glancing towards the locked door on the other side of the room. A panicked Howl usually meant he had been caught for something, and with his penchant for avoiding work (as well as any other responsibility thrown his way), this usually meant Michael and the others would be forced to clean up his mess. The door seemed fine, however. Still locked as it was this morning, which meant no intruders at the very least. “Or more accurately, are you in trouble?”
“It’s that damned woman,” Howl spit, not looking nearly as irate as his tone suggested. Mirth danced in his eyes, a helpless, leaping thing. “She is forcing me to clean, like a peasant, in my own home! I have business to attend to! Do you know how many meetings I have today that I will be forced to miss if I waste away my day sweeping and mopping cupboards?”
Michael raised a brow. “None?”
Before Howl could deliver whatever indignant response had been brewing on his tongue, there was yet another slam to the door (Michael was beginning to get concerned for the poor wall behind it enduring such abuse) followed by Sophie’s small but determined frame. She held a mop in one hand which she wielded like a weapon as she pointed it at Howl.
"You have been nothing but trouble all day and I have half a mind to leave the rest of the cleaning to you if this is how you choose to behave yourself.”
“And I have half a mind to turn this house around and drop you back in your hat shop; it would certainly free some unneeded stress off of my shoulders.”
“You’d be hard-pressed to,” Sophie snipped, eyeing the fireplace haughtily. “Calcifer likes me best, and he knows better than to intervene.”
It was like a dam had broken between the two as they argued, exchanging witty retorts and snappy comments like they were bullets. But like he had noticed before with Howl, there was something off about their anger. It was passionate, sure, but Michael knew what both of them were like when they were truly annoyed—and that would not have been an exchange he would have stuck around for.
He wrinkled his brow in disgust when he realized, dodging out from in front of Howl to continue working on his pile. “Can you guys go flirt somewhere else, please? I can’t work with all this tension in the air.”
Howl gaped and Sophie spluttered and Michael rolled his eyes because their whole routine had grown exhausting at this point.
“This is hardly flirting,” Howl sniffed, straightening up and dusting off his shirt. It was still half buttoned up, implying that Sophie had grabbed him in the middle of his early morning preening. “Flirting is an activity reserved for people I like, not people who force me out of bed in the morning on a Saturday.”
Sophie only raised a brow but it was enough to send a shiver down even Michael’s back and it wasn’t even directed at him. “Oh, was the timing inconvenient for you? Well, I apologize that we cannot all revolve around the great wizard Howl’s schedule. Some of us have responsibilities to attend to.”
In an act of admirable but foolish bravery, Howl straightened up, facing her gaze head on. “I hardly need to attend to such troublesome things as responsibilities when I have such valuable help around. Such as Calcifer, or Michael. Not to mention, you seem to enjoy cleaning the castle; I wouldn’t want to take that time away from you.”
“I’m not just the help—” Michael began to protest, but Sophie quickly interrupted.
“Well then. If reasoning won’t show you the value of cleaning, perhaps I’ll resort to other methods of motivation.”
Howl tensed, most likely sensing as Michael was that he had touched on a nerve and was about to pay the unfortunate consequences of his actions. It came as a shock to both when Sophie dropped the mop and began to race towards him. Spurred on by some instinctual self-preservation instinct, Howl yelped and scrambled backwards, flinging himself around the corner.
And thus began a rather odd chase of sorts, with Michael as the confused witness to their chaos. There wasn’t much room in the house and both of them tripped and scudded around objects to try to outmatch the other. In a normal race, Howl might have had an advantage over her, being the owner of both longer legs and the ability to fly if he so chose. However, Sophie was determined and Howl was panicking, and a minute later a hand snagged on the back of Howl’s shirt, untucking it from his pants and jerking him back.
Neither had thought the plan through and the two flailed back onto the floor with matching grunts of pain. Howl tried to scramble back to his feet, but Sophie slung a leg over his waist, straddling his back with frightening speed. Michael was just beginning to wonder if he should intervene when—
He was met with the sound of laughter instead?
Michael peeked around the counter to see Howl’s face buried in the carpet, his arms frantically reaching back to grab at Sophie’s, who were currently buried in his sides. She pinched his hips curiously, her smile growing with each spasm the act provoked.
“Ticklish,” she murmured. “Of all people, Howl is ticklish.”
“Yes, yes, yes, juhust—” he broke off with a frustrated giggle when she scratched at the spot, wiggling his hips uselessly. “GahAH pleheease!”
“It’s funny; I threatened the act but I never actually believed it would work.” Any remaining anger had faded from Sophie’s face, her attention quickly focused on this exciting new discovery. “And far more so than anyone I’ve met. I’m hardly even touching you and you’re already falling apart at the seams.”
“Lihihies,” Howl choked out, finally grasping her wrist but doing little to actually move it in the inconvenient position. “Thihihis ihihis tohohorture!”
They both looked up at Michael’s voice, but Howl could only afford him a second of interest before returning to his earlier task of thrashing for his life. Michael kneeled down besides him, a shit-eating grin eclipsing his features. “How come I never found out about this?” He poked him in the ribs, much to Howl’s dismay, who jerked back in response. “I’ve lived in this house for years and never found out. Were you hiding it from me?”
“I agree,” Sophie said, curling her fingers in towards his stomach. Howl wheezed out a flustered noise, attempting to somehow curl away from her while pinned. “I may not have been here as long as Michael, but I am your wife. I have a right to know about any pertinent information, such as that the infamous Howl Jenkins Pendragon is ticklish.”
Red had spread all the way to the tips of Howl’s ears by now, and it was clear the two-force teasing was getting to him. Not only that, but Michael had continued his poking, forming a haphazard pattern over his ribs. With both of them here now, struggling was rendered useless, and Howl resorted to clamping his arms to his sides and covering his face to hide any further embarrassment. His giggles were muffled against his palms, but not silent, and both Michael and Sophie exchanged a knowing smile that said neither of them were going to be forgetting about this anytime soon.
“I’ll cut you a deal,” Sophie said, her voice far too sweet to be trusted. “All you have to do is agree to help us with cleaning and we’ll stop. How does that sound?”
“Mihihichael!” Howl shrieked instead of answering, risking his position by turning a pleading face towards him. “Hehehelp, plehehease! Shehe’s k-kihihiling me!”
“Mm.” Michael pretended to mull it over. “Well, I would, but I’m afraid I’m just the help. I should probably get back to cleaning house, if that’s all I’m good for. I’m sure you can find your own way out of this one.”
He patted Howl on the shoulder gently, before standing up to retrieve his fallen broom. Howl, fittingly, howled behind him, his legs kicking out desperately as Sophie finally managed to wiggle her fingers underneath him to properly tickle his stomach.
Michael would come to his rescue eventually, but for now he was content to let Sophie have her way with him and afford himself a bit of peace for the afternoon.