A/N: For my friend, Aurum, whose company I've enjoyed for nearly a year now in our merry one piece discord chat. I'm honored to give you this gift, and also you spurred me to actually complete a moomin fic! Been trying for that since June.
"There's just something soft about Snufkin and Moomin getting used to each other. About Snufkin learning to be more comfortable in space with people, and their usual physical affection. And it's so sweet and warm and it makes me feel sleepy.
But in a good way." - Lunai
Snapshots of finding each other. From their first meeting to their first reunion in that first Spring
Snufkin comes across like a babbling stream. That's Moomin's first impression, anyhow, as the traveler offers them snacks and a seat at his campfire and wealth of stories in exchange for a cup of coffee. For the troll it's refreshing. After all, he often finds himself to be one of the more interesting people in the room (he doesn't mean to be rude, but Mr. Hemulen's stamps and Muskrats philosophy grow dull quickly. Most of My's prank tales just make him feel bad for the victim being laughed at). But for once he doesn't need to fill the space with chatter, Snufkin has more than enough to say. Surely too much to say in one night! And Moomin listens with rapt attention, hoping to soak in as much as he can.
He listens to tales of the sea and recounts of strange forest creatures and explanations that border on lectures or rants of the gall of parkeepers to try and privatize natural areas.
Moomin feels like he has an awful lot to learn.
So in the morning he asks, before any of them are truly awake, if Snufkin would like to travel with them for a time.
"Oh please," My scoffs, bent over her travel bag. "What would he want to travel with us for? He can walk way faster and he doesn't even like traveling companions."
"How would you know My?" Moomin argues, flushed with embarassment, while Snufkin stands beside him, still blinking in surprise at the question. "If he doesn't want to travel with us then fine- but it makes sense to ask!"
"In all of his stories he was alone ," My points out. "He only carries one of everything. And he smells. Besides." She folds her arms. "Why would he want to come with us somewhere he's already been."
"My!" Moomin scolds but Snufkin shakes his head, smiling slightly.
"She's not wrong." He says, reaching behind him for his hat and kerchief. "I do usually travel alone and I'm not used to continuous company. I'm not so worried about that though. I'll leave whenever I need to. But I hate to mislead you Moomin- I'm not the most pleasant person to travel with ."
"Why wouldn't you be?" Moomin tilts his head in question, puzzled. "I think you're wonderful!"
"Well, thank you." Snufkin says, "But I can't be like I was last night all the time. I'm usually much quieter. It's just a nice thing to do when I meet others on the road. We always have a grand time. And if I couldn't muster up the energy for it then I'd camp somewhere I wouldn't meet anyone."
"Oh." Moomin says, still a little confused as to why all this matters. "You don't have to be different for me. Just be yourself! I'd love to hear more stories but if you just help us get to the observatory I'd still be grateful!"
"Alright then," Snufkin nods. "As long as you won't be offended."
Moomin opens his mouth to ask why he'd be offended but Sniff calls out that he's going to eat the last biscuit if Moomin doesn't finish his breakfast and he turns away to resolve that.
Later when they're walking and Snufkin is much quieter, Moomin feels it would be strange to ask for clarification on that earlier statement. And then, as the days go on, he forgets about it entirely.
Snufkin is a little different. He speaks softer and slower than he did that first night. Moomin does too, not wanting to be loud or disruptive. It's a nicer pace anyhow (My doesn't agree and screeches on but that's My). Sometimes Snufkin will go to bed earlier while the rest of them are still eating. Other times he's gone in the mornings and only reappears at the tail end of breakfast. But he's hardly ignoring them. He's not a different person. He's the same Snufkin he was when he called out to them as they hiked up that ridge. There's nothing to be offended about. There's just a new friend that Moomin is quickly coming to love.
(The comet is long past and the world has settled back into a new rhythm different than any Moomin has ever lived by before. Snufkin is an amazing person, Moomin loves spending time with Snufkin.
But sometimes he worries about him. Snufkin's seen a lot more of the world than Moomin has, and has lived in his tent for years and years- but when a summer storm blows into Moomin valley Moomin can't help but worry. The wind screams louder than banshees and the thunder shakes the little round house in its foundations. Curled up in bed with the covers over his head Moomin can still feel the cutting damp of the air outside seeping in through his window sill. The electric charge on the air still seems to dance into the dark space and then dart back out of existence once it's had its fun. He's not scared of storms, but he had been hoping to sleep. Instead, he pulls his blankets tight around him and goes to sit in the window, picking out Snufkin's tent in the dark and the gales. It's hard to watch the little tent get buffeted one way and then another in the wind but Moomin can't look away.
Snufkin had insisted. He didn't want to come inside, not even for a cup of tea to wait out the worst of it. If he'd known that Moomin would be watching him all night maybe he would have only to save him the trouble. But. Moomin doesn't want to force his hand either.
Lightning crashes down again and some tree in the forest has an unfriendly encounter with the sky. The little tent wobbles back and forth and if Moomin listens very hard he can almost pretend to hear Snufkin's harmonica, drifting stubbornly over to him, despite the sounds of the storm drowning everything in the valley in the torrential greeting of midsummer. )
"Moomins hibernate?" Snufkin asks to clarify, startled. Moomin doesn't seem to notice, which just goes to show how out of sorts he is.
"Yes, every winter." He sighs. "Don't you?"
"Not that I know of." Snufkin says, staring down at the bobber on the end of his string. "And if mumriks did I'm not sure I'd like to anyway."
"Well, most of the valley spends the winter asleep. Winters here are dangerous! The cold and the snow and at midwinter the Lady of the Cold comes around. It's better to sleep through it and moomins always have!" he pauses and then sighs again. "Still, I wish I didn't have to. Even if it's dangerous, I'd much rather be having fun with my friends. The valley would be a completely different place to explore if it were covered in snow!"
He kicks his feet over the edge of the bridge and Snufkin looks down at the clear blue water. A crumpled orange leaf drifts past them and disappears under the bridge. Snufkin reels in his line and casts it again, pondering all this.
Moomin will be asleep for three months; the valley will be silent and cold and dangerous. He's been getting restless. Taking more hikes for himself and bushwhacking new trails when he feels restricted by the signs telling him where to go. He's been trying to figure out what to do. He's tired. Tired and crowded and yearning for parts of the way his life used to be even though Moomin and the rest of them do everything they can to make him comfortable.
But he also doesn't want to leave Moomin.
And now, hibernation is coming around.
He realizes the best plan right as Moomin raises his head from watching his own reflection in the water.
"Snufkin!" He says, energy and cheer back threefold from where it had fallen to before. "Maybe I can stay up with you! " He claps his paws together and gazes up at the sky, thinking through the details. "I'll probably still be tired, so I might have to sleep a little, but with you around I won't be lonely and Mamma and Pappa won't worry about me because you're so capable!"
"Moomin," Snufkin starts, knowing that if he doesn't say anything Moomin will just keep going .
"I'll get to see snow! You will too, but I bet you've seen it before. I have too but not all the snow like we get here."
"You can stay in the house of course, to stay warm. Or we could build an igloo for the tent- Pappa said he made one once in his youth and it was very warm-"
"Moomin." Snufkin shifted the fishing rod to his other hand and reached out for his friend's arm. The troll quieted immediately. It's not that they never touched each other- Moomin was fond of hugs and Snufkin had grown to like them himself. But he didn't initiate things.
"What is it Snufkin?" Moomin turns to him, giving him all his attention. It's good and important, and Snufkinis grateful, but the way the sensation of meeting Moomin's eyes makes his skin crawl just cements things in his mind. He has to leave.
"I need to leave this winter."
"What?" Moomin asks and it's heartbroken. Snufkin feels two emotions rise in him at once. Defensive anger, and sorrow. They batter against his insides as though fighting each other for dominance within the confines of his skin.
That's silly though. He feels them both, no dominance required.
"I'm sorry my friend." He pulls the fishing rod back into his other hand and resettles his hands there. Grounds himself. "You know how I am. I've been in the same place for so long now- I've never stayed anywhere this long. If you're meant to be asleep and I'm meant to travel to find my own space in my mind. It only makes sense to do them at the same time, wouldn't you say?"
"But…" Moomin hesitates. He has a thousand things he wants to say, Snufkin can see them all in the scrunch of his snout and the wrinkle of fur between his eyes. "But haven't you been enjoying Moomin Valley? Aren't you happy here? I've been trying my hardest-"
"It's not you Moomin." Snufkin assures him. "And it's not that I'm unhappy. Only that I will be unhappy if I were to spend the rest of my life here. Or even the rest of the year. I've been realizing it over the past few weeks but I wasn't sure what to do about it until just now."
"There's nothing I can do?" Moomin asks. He laces his paws together and looks down at them. Snufkin isn't unhappy with the lack of eye contact, it's a weight off his shoulders. He hates it when Moomin cries but he's sure that this will pass quickly. It must, for they have the rest of the fall to play out together.
"Nothing." He assures him. "It's just my nature, and there's nothing you or I could do to placate that."
"Alright then." He sniffs and Snufkin knows that he didn't mean to let that much of his sorrow show. "C-can I hug you?" Snufkin considers it. He's a touch hesitant because Moomin is in such a state, but that's also exactly why he should allow it. The thought of arms around him doesn't bother him so he nods.
Moomin almost throws himself across the scarce inches between them. His arms wrap around Snufkin's shoulders and his chin falls into the side of his neck, fur of his snout tickling the nape of his neck. Snufkin lets go of the fishing rod with one hand to reach around and hug back.
Moomin does a lot to accommodate his strange needs so Snufkin doesn't much mind doing small things like this. Not for a friend.
"I'm going to miss you." Moomin sniffs. "You're my very best friend Snufkin."
"You're my very best friend as well, Moomin." He whispers, settling his chin in the crook if Moomin's neck. "But you won't miss me. You won't even know I'm gone."
Moomin stills in his arms, sniffs heavily and then pulls away, wiping a paw across his face to clear his eyes.
"I'll wake up and you'll be gone." he argues, "If you leave I won't- I won't just forget you!"
"I don't expect you to." Snufkin says, surprised. "But you'll be caught up in dreamland for three months. How could you miss me?"
"Do you mean," Moomin sniffs again, eyes wide with surprise. "That you'll come back?"
"I'd like to." He says honestly. He hadn't even realized that he was talking about coming back. It simply felt like the only option. Live with Moomin in Moominvalley for all time? He would never. But leave knowing that there's no certainty that he'd ever see Moomin again? He couldn't imagine that either. "Yes. In the Spring I'll come back. So you wake up and it's like I never went anywhere at all."
"But Snufkin, you've never come back to anywhere." Moomin says, surprised. "You told me! You said that there were too many places to go to go anywhere twice unless you were just passing through."
"I've never stayed anywhere for this long either." Snufkin reminds him. "This is different."
"Ha…" Moomin laughed but it just spurred a few more tears out of his eyes. "Moominvalley is a special place."
"It is." Snufkin concedes with a smile. "But the reason I'd like to come back is the special people."
(As it happens, Snufkin is delayed for his departure, and when an old friend appears on their doorstep the first day of winter all the Moomins are still getting the boy packed for his trip. The Joxter realizes the situation very quickly, and has a good laugh about it for a moment before sobering and explaining things to Snufkin and the family. It doesn't change Snufkin's plans. Moomin- despite his early conviction to stay awake for a large part of the winter- has dropped off to sleep three times before it's half past noon. Snufkin is itching to walk out the door from the top of his hat to the tips of his toes.
Joxter understands, and asks if it'd be fine to accompany him.
"I'd intended to enjoy the fireplace of an old friend for a spell," He explains, blinking languidly at his son who already has his pack on his shoulders. "But sharing a hike with my son would be just as pleasing. I've already missed a lot of time with you. Could you spare an hour or a mile or a day?"
Snufkin doesn't know how to be a son. And he's not scared per se, but he is unsure. It's a strange territory, but he'll give it a chance. Moomin pulls him aside right before he goes out the door, Moominpapa keeping the Joxter in place while Snufkin stands in the cold with Moomin watching him carefully as the snow drifted down to pepper his hat with intricately carved white flakes.
"You're a really good friend." Moomin says, sincerely, and Snufkin tilts his head, unsure where this is going. "But you're the Joxter's son. You can be friends too, but it's different."
"I'm not going to change myself for him Moomin." Snufkin replies. "You must know that."
"I do!" He says. "That's what I'm saying. When we met, and you said I shouldn't be so interested in you. Of course I was but I didn't have to be. Joxter doesn't either but he wants to be." He shuffles his feet a little, hesitant, but continues. "And if he makes you uncomfortable or if you really just need the space that's fine and you should go but don't think… don't think that he shouldn't want to spend time with you. He just wants to get to know you. Don't tell him not to just because you don't think he will." Moomin opens his arms for a hug and Snufkin drifts into them almost without noticing. It's a magnetic pull right beneath his breastbone.
"I'm so lucky that you let me get to know you." Moomin whispers and if Snufkin had any doubts about coming back they scatter like sparrows at the hint of a hawk.)
Moomin wakes up a few times before Spring comes. It's cold and he goes back to sleep but each time is a little warmer and a little less difficult to stay awake. His dreams are fluid and fleeting, like trying to catch mist between his paws. But he knows that Snufin is there, all the time and always in most every thought and feeling. And beneath all that, he knows that Snufkin is gone.
But he dreams. Dreams . And in those he sees days and days of adventures and Snufkin and Spring, Summer, and Fall. He pictures them camping and swimming and searching for seashells and weaving flower crowns. His mind conjures cookies and pies and jams freed from their jars to make every early breakfast shared watching the sunrise.
It's one season of winter but they do it all and Moomin has never before appreciated how hibernation can feel longer than those three months. (Maybe if he were awake he'd remember or he'd realize, but the truth is that those dreams are only dreams. Snufkin would never make it through all the outings, they'd never have that perfect weather every day, and My would absolutely mess everything up on at least a few occasions. But the thoughts warmed him, made him smile in his sleep, and kept the world rose colored until that first day of Spring dawned through his window curtains.)
Out in the wilds of winter Snufkin put one foot in front of another. With a season passed between the last time he'd seen Moomin and now, just a day or two before they were to meet again, his thoughts had stagnated and aged to be different than he was expecting.
Snufkin was at once a creature of habit and one who rejected all sorts of routine. Of course he would see Moomin again, but after that… He was starting to wonder if staying would be the right choice.
The mountains had cured his occasional insomnia with dark forests and soothing stream chatter and the clearest skies to watch the stars dance in. The travelers he'd interacted with for a day or a meal or a moment had all been a balm for his wanderers soul which had kept to the same group and set of space for so long. He felt refreshed, like he could, if he wanted to, spend the next three seasons in Moominvalley. And part of him wanted to. Part of him yearned for Moomin's paw around his own and Moomin's shadow next to his and Little My's strange schemes and troubles and Snorkmaiden's empathetic care for all of them- even him. But the other part, the part that bloomed like a mountain orchid in moonlight when he had time to himself, ached at the thought of giving it up. He put one foot in front of the other, intent on a destination- but his mind couldn't help but turn to the other destinations that lay beyond the Valley. Where might he go next, were it only a waystop instead of a… a home?
On that first day of Spring, the Valley is stirred by a harmonica song. Snufkin keeps the cool metal pressed to his lips and Moomin throws back the warm covers and stumbles out of bed.
It's the first time; neither of them are quite sure how this is going to go, but both want so terribly that they feel it in the depths of their bones. Snufkin plods on, song wafting out like a bird call, and Moomin pounds down the stairs, forgoing any of the winter clothing he usually puts on for the first week or two of Spring. And there's Snufkin, making his way down the path, heading up onto the bridge. Snufkin glances up from the harmonica and catches his eyes and- he looks so happy they both think.
Did time apart do that much for him?
Moomin slows his pace as he comes up to the foot of the bridge and Snufkin stands at the apex of the arch, focused on bringing the song to a close. Moomin hasn't heard this one before. It's new. It sounds like two harmonies chasing each other in circles, one giving while the other takes and then turning so that they switch roles. Moomin already loves it. He remembers now, watching the angle of his friend's hat and the peace in his face, that the Snufkin of his dreams is different. With the actual Snufkin he has to watch his every touch and wait till the songs are done and keep conversations slow even when he's so excited he feels he could talk as quickly as possible for hours. He finds his voice and closes his fingers tight around it. Stills his feet, slows his approach. Snufkin needs space.
Snufkin looks at the glow in Moomin's eyes like the warmest embers of a rising fire. Sees the energy and the sunshine in his step and his smile and pictures what it will be like to hear his voice again. It'll be smooth, like butter, and hold its own kind of melody that Snufkin can't make on his own. They're Moomin's sounds. Snufkin remembers now, why it feels like he can stay. Because Moominvalley has two suns and one of them is his whenever he can handle the light. After three months spent unknowingly in the dark the light makes it feel like he's about to be blinded but also thawed. He's got to get used to being warm now- for Moomin. And because he'll like it if only he can convince himself to give it a chance. Moomin needs contact.
The song peters out and Snufkin lets the harmonica fall from his lips, tucking it into his pocket and looking up to meet Moomin's eyes.
"Hello," Moomin says, still idling a few steps away. He clasps his paws together to keep himself from reaching out. Still, energy seems to seep from his voice and his smile and his posture. Snufkin feels himself starting to melt.
"Hello to you too, Moomin." He smiles back and crosses the distance between them in three quick steps. Moomin opens his arms, startled but ready to receive Snufkin's hug and the two cling to each other for a moment. Moomin's fur warm against his ear and neck, Snufkin's coat cold from weathering the mountain winds.
Winter is over, and Spring blooms crocuses wherever the snow melts.
(Moominmamma rests her paw on the back of the couch just next to Snufkin's shoulder. He glances up at her and she smiles in that soft way she has. "I've got some baking to do and I was hoping you could lend me a hand in the kitchen for a bit."
"Not me!" My stands up on her stool and crosses her arms. Her hand of cards flutter down to the floor and the mismatched suits stare up at Moomin and Snufkin, winking. "I've got things to do! And you made me help with breakfast yesterday! I'm not doing anymore cooking." She huffs and Mamma smiles indulgently.
"Alright My," She says. "How about you boys then?"
"Okay Mama," Moomin pushes himself to his feet and Snufkin follows suit. Usually he cooks on an open fire but the kitchen is warm and smells like home and he does like contributing to things in the moomin household seeing as they include him in more things than not.
And so Snufkin sits himself at the kitchen table and rolls out large flat expanses of dough which Moomin coaxes into pie pans and then crimps the edges into gentle curls. Mama mixes filling at the counter and the oven keeps the whole room toasty and smelling like the long history of meals and smiles and laughter that the kitchen holds. When they have the pies in Mamma goes to check the laundry and Snufkin starts on the dishes. Moomin hums and putters about, wiping the countertops down and setting a kettle on the stove to boil water. He glances at Snufkin and then sneaks a peek in the oven, propping the door open just enough so he can see.
The smell of it fills the room, cherries, and Snufkin smiles down into the soapy water he's up to his elbows in as Moomin breathes it in at his side. The pies will be ready soon, and the tea done brewing before that. It feels strange to be completely at peace in a bustling environment. But at the same time, it is the only thing that feels right. )