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He’s completely silent. So silent and so still that anyone else would wonder if they are doing this right at all.

But Moomintroll is not fooled; for he is able to perceive his friend’s subtle tension. He can see it in the way Snufkin grips the fur at the base of his nape, or in how his long white legs, untouched by the sun, coil around his waist like a belt. His whole body is filled with a certain tightness, taut like a spring about to jump.

He also nuzzles the troll’s neck from time to time, inhaling him, burying his sharp nose in the softness he finds there; and the feeling is so majestic Moomin fears he might faint from it. It makes him shiver a little and his face grow redder than it already is. So he just sticks to gripping Snufkin by the waist instead, holding on to him for dear life, keeping them as flushed together as possible.

It’s incredibly funny how this development seems the most natural thing for both; an innate outcome. Akin to the succession of events that make a rainbow appear in the sky after a storm. Organic in shape and result.

Incredible because, well, it just feels amazing. Funny because it isn’t something he could say he had expected, or planned, or even thought about, really. He just figured he would eventually know what he wanted from Snufkin at any given moment of their relationship and would just… take it. He was in the position to do that now. Be it holding hands, which was perfectly fine and made him the happiest person in the world, or this.

They had just been fooling around after all.

Hanging out in Moomin’s room and reading aloud some funny entries from Moominpappa’s private ‘Wheezing’ gazette collection, laughing and rolling around on the bed like frolicking kittens. For them it was a sleepover more.

But then Snufkin pushed him over onto the bed, tickling him, and Moomin had to kiss him after seeing that glorious cheeky smirk adorning his lips. But kissing and teasing somehow ended up with the mumrik seated on top of him, as he was now, wearing nothing but the baby blue nightshirt he had borrowed from Moomin upon arriving. With his blushed face hiding in the troll’s shoulder and his dead silence and his tail lashing about excitedly as if trying to smack someone. And if he paid enough attention, he could even feel Snufkin’s quickened heartbeat on his own chest, so close they were. It made him giddy to know he could ruffle up Snufkin this much.

He paws at the mumrik’s disorderly locks. Patting and rolling them between his claws, reveling in the feathery texture of it. Snufkin shifts.

“Are you ok, Snuf? Are you uncomfortable?” He asks with his brow creased, looking down at the beautiful person on his lap who resembles a human boy so much but isn’t. That has always caused him wonder.

“Uh uh.” Is all he gets for an answer, along with a light headshake. Suddenly, Snufkin retreats from his hiding place at Moomin's shoulder and faces him, asking in a very small voice that reminds him of when they were younger, “…What about you?” Memories of meeting a tiny green boy, one third of his current size, in the middle of the road that goes to the northern woods, flood his mind instantly.

“I’ve never been better.” He answers happy and truthfully before planting a kiss on his strawberry blond head. Snufkin rubs the spot idly as he smiles one of those sweet smiles of his. A little shy, a little awkward, but very alive and pretty much there as well. That’s what makes Moomin snap.

He topples them over, making Snufkin land beneath him on his back. “Hey! What are you doing, Moomintroll?” He asks, feigning indignation.

“I couldn’t help it, you looked too lovely. I had to stop you from being so lovely. It messes with my head.” Moomin answers in a very serious voice, saying the word ‘lovely’ twice because it was important, and delighting at the furious blush it elicits from the other’s face. “Oh, your freckles are more visible this way. I like it.” He closes the distance to the other's nose and deliberately stares.

“Oh, for the Bobble, you’re too much sometimes...” The ashamed mumrik's voice says, muffled by the arm he is shielding his face behind.

But Moomin is feeling rather confident tonight, a whole lot, in fact. He wouldn’t stop for anything in the world.

So he grabs Snufkin's arm and delicately moves it aside to reveal his wide eyes once more. Setting it beside his head on the bed.

“I’m… being serious. You’re too lovely to be true, Snufkin.” Upon saying this, he inches forward and settles on kissing right in-between the other’s neck and shoulder. For no particular reason, he just felt like it.

Snufkin’s tail shoots up instantly, flailing blindly in an attempt to find purchase, somewhere to get a grip on and relieve its apprehension.

Fortunately, it finds the troll’s tail in its wake and intertwines with it as if that was its sole purpose of existence all along. Safe.

Moomin insists on kissing and licking the same spot on the side of his neck, certainly pleased by Snufkin’s reaction. He hadn’t even dreamed of doing this before but already felt competent enough for the endeavor; if the mumrik’s wiggling toes and the chokehold his black tail kept on his own were any indication.

“M-Moomin…”

He thinks he had never in his life heard Snufkin stutter.

And even as his own eyes go wide, filled with starlight, and the tip of his ears tingle from getting so red, he realizes he wants to hear it again; so he continues.

 

His right paw finds the other’s left hand, laying palm up beside his head, and with trembling claws he grasps it. Snufkin curls his fingers around the paw in answer and Moomin marvels at how much smaller from his they are. He sighs contentedly against his neck.

 

-o-

 

Moomintroll came down the stairs the next morning and walked into the kitchen to find his mamma and pappa already there.

Moominpappa was sitting at the head of their breakfast table reading a newspaper from ten years ago, an empty plate in front of him. Moominmamma, on the other hand, was busy washing some dishes.

Moomin plopped down on his chair marked by a plate with waffles covered in raspberry jam.

“Good morning, son.” Said Moominpappa without looking away from his newspaper.

“Oh, Moomin. I didn’t hear you come in, dear. Good morning.”

But the aforementioned didn’t answer.

“Where’s Snufkin? His waffles are going to get cold.” Commented Pappa.

“He left earlier; I was still asleep…”

“Is that so? How unusual, I even put some fig jam on his waffles as he likes it.” Said Mamma, a worried note in her voice, but kept washing the dishes. “That busy boy, maybe you should take them to him later.”

“…”

“Moomin?” This time Pappa did look at him and found him staring at his waffles with empty eyes. “Is everything alr—“

“I slept with Snufkin last night.”

He didn’t mean to blurt it out like that but knew that if he didn’t do it soon he might just explode. Or simply die on the spot. Or something worse, who knows.

Mamma and Pappa turned to him in unison and then to each other, exchanging a look. Moominpappa set down the paper, folding it, as Moominmamma dried her hands on her apron and approached the table to take a sit as well.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She was the first to speak.

Moomin only nodded weakly.

“Well? Was it what you expected?”

“I… didn’t expect anything, really. It just… happened.

“As it tends to do.” Chimed in Moominpappa, nodding wisely.

“And how was it?” She asked, in that extremely gentle voice of hers.

“It was, oh, it was— Well, I— Just— When we— I—” He lightened up for a moment as he fumbled with the words and gestured with his paws in the air trying to find the right one.

“In fact, I don’t know how to put it into words… I-I may be rather speechless…”

“That’s ok, son. Perfectly understandable.” Reassured Pappa, still nodding wisely.

“Then what about your feelings? How do you feel about it, dear?”

“I…..” Moomin trailed off as his eyes watered. Soon, he couldn’t see his breakfast at all, just a blurry mess of raspberry red and waffle yellow dancing in front of his eyes. His parents waited patiently, even as the tears started to drop and soaked through the once crunchy waffle.

“I actually felt really good! I kept thinking everything had gone really well and I was happy and—and—” A sob wracked through him and impeded him from saying further.

For a moment he just remained like that, crying his eyes out and unable to speak.

“Ow, darling…” His mamma handed him over a handkerchief from her handbag.

“It’s okay, son. It’s okay. You just let it out.” And Pappa rubbed soothing circles on his back.

When his sobbing subdued, he continued, “I-I just don’t understand! W-Why did he leave like that?! I thought… I thought…!” He hiccupped and held his face with both paws in utter desolation.

“Maybe he just got nervous, dear. You know how he is; very reserved. Sometimes it’s difficult for him to express what he’s feeling, you know that.” Explained Moominmamma, giving motherly insight.

“Or maybe he worried he had done something wrong. This is no small matter, after all.” Added Moominpappa.

Moomin calmed down a bit and considered their words carefully.

“D-Do you think… He may be… Embarrassed?” Blowing his nose on Mamma’s handkerchief.

“Likely.” His parents said in unison.

“The best you can do is reach out to him, dear. Talk things through.”

“After all, relationships are about communication, son. Never forget that.”

“But first you need to calm yourself down. Have some breakfast, take a warm bath, and wait until you feel better.”

“And also give Snufkin some time to think. He’s a mental fellow and may need some space to figure things out too.”

He was always thankful for his parents, but probably never as much as he was now. He wiped the last traces of tears from his face and then picked up his knife and fork decidedly.

“Okay.” He resolved and stuffed a piece of waffle in his mouth.

 

-o-

 

He went out to play that day even if he didn’t feel quite in the mood for it. His friends came looking for him at midday, as always, and dragged him out the door to plan one thing or other.

“—and so! I think we have enough wood to build two forts and then we can start a war!” roared Little My.

“Right.” that’s all Moomin said. Little My eyed him but kept her thoughts to herself.

“I wanna be on the winner side and have many riches!” said Sniff, eagerly.

“Oh, but you cannot choose to be on the winner side, Sniff. Then what would the point be?” explained Snorkmaiden.

“Yeah! You have to fight for it!” Little My grinned, an almost evil glint in her olive eyes. “Either you conquer or be conquered, Sniff. Also, the loser side will be the winner side’s slaves. That’s how war works.” she added, nonchalantly.

Sniff gulped and looked elsewhere, “Then maybe it’d be better to play something more pacific, don’t you think? Moomin?”

“…Huh? Ehh, yeah. Sure, Sniff, I agree with you!” he tried to follow the conversation but failed in a pretty obvious fashion. If Snorkmaiden noticed something odd, she also didn’t comment on it.

“Pacific is for cowards.” insisted Little My, closing on him like a predator.

“We could—we could do other things with the wood!” Little My looked about to tackle him, to what Sniff put his arms up in surrender and screeched before she pounced. “Why don’t we ask Snufkin?! He will know what to do with so much wood!! Maybe carving?!”

“…?” everyone looked at him. Especially Moomin, who broke into a sweat and to rack his brain for an excuse to not to go see Snufkin.

“Oh, actually, carving would be nice. Snufkin said he could teach me how to make a wooden doll!” Snorkmaiden stood on the tips of her feet.

“Even if there’s no war, a sword may still be useful.” Little My considered.

“S-See? It’s better to go see Snuf—”

“NO!” Moomin suddenly intercepted. He didn’t mean to shout, so he covered his mouth with his paws instantly as if a bad word had escaped him.

No?” questioned Little My, scrunching up her nose and crossing her arms in annoyance.

“I-I mean… He might be busy fishing, being minnow season and everything. It may be better to not go see him today at all!”

“Well, well. Moomintroll not wanting to go see Snufkin, the world may soon be over.” she snorted.

“It’s not that!” Moomin glared at her, while Sniff only looked back and forth between them.

“Are you alright, Moomin? You look upset. Did something happen between you and Snufkin?” Snorkmaiden cautiously asked, putting her paws together in worry.

“What?! No! Everything’s fine!”

“That doesn’t sound very convincing.” sentenced Little My, while Snorkmaiden lit up with a sudden idea. Sniff also catching onto her abrupt excitement.

“Could it be…” began Snorkmaiden.

“…A lover’s quarrel?!” Sniff finished for her.

Moomin died that day.

He collapsed to the floor and covered his surely tomato-red face with his paws, kicking and screaming that it was “not like that”.

Little My peered at him from behind her other two friends, as they tried to sneak the tiniest detail of what could have happened out of an agonizing Moomin. After a few moments of deliberation she turned away, marching in the direction of the woods.

“Little My? Where are you going?” asked Snorkmaiden and then Sniff.

“This is boring. And I’m too hungry to carve wood anyway. So I’m gonna pick up some berries and ask Mamma to bake me a pie.” she stopped and looked back at them. “Are you coming? I could use your secret berry-picking spots, Snorkmaiden. They’re the best of all.” her smile impish.

“Oh! Sure.” her snout turned pink, a little flattery never being too little for her.

Pie? What kind of pie?” asked Sniff, almost anxiously.

“All kinds. Strawberry, blueberry, cherry and maybe even fig or something.” she answered with ease.

“Oh, oh! Then I wanna come too! I love fig!”

“Good. You and Moomin can carry the baskets.”

As Sniff complained that it was unfair, Moomin looked up from his paws and his eyes met Little My’s for a second. He understood. He got up and broke into a run back home to grab Moominmamma’s berry basket thinking about one thing only on the whole way back.

‘Thanks, My.’

 

-o-

 

A couple of days passed like that. Uneventful evenings of picking mushrooms, weaving wreaths for their heads or building pillow-forts in Moomin’s living room. And still no sign of Snufkin whatsoever.

At first, worry was eating Moomintroll alive; gnawing at his insides and making his head hurt. But as the minutes, the hours and then the days ticked by… He started to think all of this was a bit ridiculous.

“C’mon, we are dating. It was bound to happen at some point.” He grumbled to himself from under the covers. It was raining outside, and clouds were painted a brooding gray. The day was particularly cold too, so there was no afternoon escapade away from his thoughts this time. The dark sky rumbled.

“Besides… He didn’t look like he disliked it...” He hid his face on the pillow, getting flustered at the thought and the vivid memories of Snufkin’s sweet figure beneath him.

He rolled about this way and the other, trying to take a nap and escape this cruel world when, suddenly, he found he could take it no longer.

Shoving his nest of layers aside, he angrily jumped out of bed. There was fiery determination in his eyes; rainy days be damned.

“I’m going to find you, Snufkin. You can’t hide from me. We will talk about this and put it behind us, and we will hug, and everything will be good and nice again.” He said with fervor as he aggressively splashed some water on his face, steeling himself for the task. And he kept saying it as he ripped his scarf from the hanger and swiftly wrapped it around his neck, stepping out of his room.

Moominpappa saw him as he came stomping down the stairs and gave him a curious look.

“Moomin? Where are you going, son? It’s pouring outside.”

“I’m going to go find Snufkin. I need to talk to him.” He went out the front door in an instant and closed it behind him without waiting for an answer from his pappa.

“So it’s that time already, huh?” Moominpappa took a draft of his pipe and went back to rocking on his chair. “At least he’s ready now.” He enjoyed the sound of rain.

 

-o-

 

Moomin, on the other hand, had barely made it out the door when a voice he would recognize even when asleep called to him from the veranda.

Moomintroll?” It was Snufkin, of course, hiding in the shadows of the porch. And he sounded every bit as taken aback as Moomin felt in that moment.

Snufkin?!

And Moomin would have wanted to be a tiny bit angry at him for disappearing like that, but the moment he laid eyes on the mumrik his heart overflowed with a vehement need to hold him in his arms. So he did. He ran up to him in three long strides, as the other descended from the handrail he had been sitting on, and practically crushed him against it. Only to discover…

“For the Bobble, you’re soaking wet!” he grabbed Snufkin’s face between his paws, “and so cold!”

Obviously he had been standing there for a while, like an idiot, while the sky itself fell upon him. With rain so icy his tail was nowhere in sight, presumably curled around one of leg or the other and shivering pathetically. Well, that was on him; it was only adequate he would finally reveal himself in such horrible weather conditions.

“What are you doing here?!”

“I didn’t expect you to find me like this.”

Well, Moomin supposed being dramatic was part of his charm.

“Why didn’t you come in??” Moomin hugged him tightly then, pinning him against the handrail, in a desperate effort to warm him up.

“I… wasn’t sure if I should.” His eyes were downcast, and Moomin felt a pang of guilt for wanting to be a tiny bit mad at him before. In his mind, he realized, the only emotion Snufkin could ever deserve was boundless love.

“What do you even mean, you silly?” Moomintroll couldn’t stop himself anymore, he leaned brashly and kissed his friend full on the mouth, still cupping his face. He inadvertently put his weight onto Snufkin, pushing him harder against the veranda and making the wooden handrail dig into his back. Still, the mumrik didn’t seem to mind, since his only answer to the sudden manhandling was to lift his hands and let them rest over Moomin’s paws against his face.

When they finally broke the kiss, Moomin could see Snufkin’s freckles flaring up in the darkness of the porch. Even with his faced shadowed, he could clearly make out the other’s lovely features and see the bashfulness in them and feel ecstatic to call him his.

“I missed you so much, Snuf. I was very sad.” He said tenderly.

Snufkin fidgeted with the edge of his soaked hat, as if preparing to speak.

“Moomin…”

“I worried I had done something to make you feel bad. I’m sorry if that was the case.”

“No, it’s not like that! I just… I didn’t mean to make you sad. I was just—” the troll silenced him with a paw to his lips. He knew it was better to give Snufkin ample time to process what he had just been told and think of what he wanted to say back.

“It’s okay. You can tell me later, once you have taken a bath. I don’t want you catching a cold.” That was also true.

As if on cue, Snufkin sneezed.

“See what I mean?” Moomin scolded mildly.

“Yeah. You’re probably right.” Snufkin smiled at last.

And with that Moomin took Snufkin’s hand in his and happily escorted him inside the house.

 

-o-

 

The mirror fogs up drastically as the water fills up the tub. Moomintroll had insisted on drawing a hot bath for Snufkin right that instant lest he wouldn’t get sick for real.

Snufkin doesn’t know what to do, since he feared this exact scenario played out, so he only stands stiffly in the middle of the bathroom; with his soggy garments clinging to him in an uncomfortable way and his wringing hands behind his back, while Moomin tests the water with a single finger. When he deems it to be at an adequate temperature, he takes a small glass vial from the counter and adds a few drops of bergamot oil to the water for good measure. The citric, musky smell hits Snufkin’s nostrils and he can’t help smiling; Moomintroll is ever so kind and thoughtful, minding even the tiniest detail.

“Ok, it’s ready!” Moomin faces him. “Come here.”

He hesitates for a second but steps forward into the troll’s range all the same. Moomin receives him by taking his crumpled hat from his head and gently setting it on the counter, then he kneels and reaches for the boots’ cords, unlacing them for him. After they are out of the way, neatly arranged in a corner, and the mumrik finds himself barefoot on the cold tiles, Moomin reaches for his scarf next but stops at feeling Snufkin flinch slightly.

Moomin’s stomach drops.

“…Is this not ok?”

He starts letting go of the scarf but Snufkin catches his paw before he can fully remove it and keeps it in place without looking at him. Moomin swallows and undoes the knot, unfurling it from the other’s neck. Only to let go of the scarf again, dropping it to the floor in bewilderment, a moment later. Because the purplish bruises scattered on his friend’s neck, and peeking from under his coat in places, occupy his full attention.

“Snufkin! Your neck!” he covers his mouth with both paws, mortified.

But Snufkin just scratches the back of his head, a tinge of pink crossing his nose, and refuses to make eye contact.

“That’s why I didn’t want you to see it—I feared you might worry about it.” Moomin’s eyes widened.

“Wait… I did that?”

“…”

“Oh, Snufkin, I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay, Moomin, really.”

“I-Is this why you left that day? Why you disappeared for so long?” He presses, shaking at the new implications.

“Well, I woke up and discovered them and didn’t know what to do about it. I did know I didn’t want you to see them, though.”

“Oh, dear, I can’t believe it! All this time I had to spend away from you, missing you, wondering how you were… And it was all my fault! For being so thoughtless and rude!” he clenches his fists and feels his stinging eyes about to betray him. “I didn’t even ask you! Not at all!"

“It’s not like that, Moomin! I just—didn’t want to run any risks. I wasn’t sure if it would… Well, happen again.” Snufkin is still blushing when he finally meets his eyes.

Moomin gasps.

“So, you didn’t want it to…?” The troll’s voice is barely a whisper when he asks this, quiet and dejected, and even his ears look sad when he lowers his gaze to stare at the floor.

“I didn’t say that…”

An awkward silence stretches between them as Moomin’s tears drop drop drop to the floor. Snufkin clutches his cloak at the chest, probably trying to squeeze the unease out of his heart, and sighs.

“Actually, I don’t mind it that much, Moomin.” He says, releasing the cloak. Then he softly lays his hand over the white broad shoulder.

“But I hurt you!” Moomin’s voice cracks, bawling into his paws. “You’re in your full right to be angry at me!”

That’s when Snufkin pulls him in his arms and hugs him deeply.

“The last thing I wanted was to make you sad, Moomintroll. You didn’t hurt me and I’m not mad at you, so please don’t cry.”

But the little troll clings to his neck desperately and keeps weeping there while Snufkin cradles his body in his arms, trying to convey his feelings. But when Moomin’s grief doesn’t seem to subdue, it takes all the mumrik’s strength to make the next confession.

“In fact, I wouldn’t get mad even if you did it again.”

Moomin’s ears twitch and regards him slowly, processing the new information.

“T-Then why would you leave…?”

“I told you. I just figured it would be best to wait until the marks faded before seeing you again.” he puts some distance between them to cup Moomin’s face between his hands and add, in spite of his fierce blushing, “Because if I saw you, I may have not been able to contain myself.”

Snufkin…” Moomin gapes at him, eyes sparkling both out of commotion and relief, as he fixes them on the creature he loved the most in the whole world. And immediately getting overwhelmed at finding nothing on his expression but the same boundless love he himself professed.

“...I really love you; did you know that?” Moomin says, wiping his tear streaked face with an arm.

“I suspected it.”

“Hey…” Moomin glares and Snufkin chuckles, feeling at last so free and comfortable in the realization of how much affection was shared between the two of them. He brings his nose up to the other’s and bumps it, rubbing them together.

“I love you too, Moomintroll. I was dying to see you.”

Moomin grins from ear to ear. “I’m so glad to hear that.” this time happy tears being the ones to roll down his cheeks.

They remain like that, fully immersed in each other. Until they feel a sudden wetness lick their feet.

“Oh no, the tub!” shouts Moomin, untangling from the embrace and running to close the faucet. Snufkin can only laugh heartily.

“Stop laughing, you! Look at this mess!” he points at the overflown water indignantly. “Oww, Mamma will not like it… Are you going to get in or not?” the troll tries to summon his sternest voice and look as annoyed as possible when he says this, he even sits his hands on his hips, emulating Little My. But the sight of a guffawing Snufkin is too much for his heart to handle and he breaks, surrendering to laughter too.

After he recovers from his fit, he steps closer to the mumrik and paws at his cloak, questioningly. Snufkin nods. He removes the cloak with gentle reverence and stops to admire Snufkin’s skin once it’s revealed; tracing the love bites he had left on his wake a few nights ago with curiosity. Up close, he can see now that the bruises have already turned green in most places, a sign that they are about to fade, and he feels a strange sort of disappointment at the idea.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“It’s you who makes them; therefore, I am sure.”

Moomin’s face flushes at that.

“But promise you’ll tell me if it hurts.” His eyebrows crease in worry and seriousness. Snufkin rests his forehead against the other’s before conceding;

“I promise.”

Moomin snickers and it’s so crystal clear it bounces off the bathroom walls, joyful and pure. Snufkin revels in its sound as Moomin continues to undress him, giggling a bit himself.

 

Moominpappa was passing by the bathroom door in that moment and happened to hear it too. He couldn’t help rolling his eyes in amusement.

“Ah, to be young and discover love. You’d be proud, Jox.” He murmured on his way to his studio to continue working on his memoirs.

 

 

In the end, they bathed together to keep warm; since the water had already cooled down mostly by the time Snufkin managed to get in. Still, it was a very enjoyable experience for both. They slept like puppies that night, curled up around one another and tails intertwined.

But not even that saved Snufkin from waking up with a bad cold the next morning.

 

 

FIN