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solemn virtues

Chapter Text

“I don’t know why you’re mad.”

“She fucking bit me!” Moomintroll cried out, wincing when Snufkin yanked a bit too hard on his fresh bandages.

“She told you she was going to if you didn’t stop. You continued, so she bit you. At this point it’s your fault,” he replied. It was quite unusual for Moomin to cuss, Snufkin noted, but the situation justified his prompt irritation. Prior to his injury, Moomin and Little My were wrestling about in the living room. Everyone was irritable on this murky day- the sky wore a pale, overcast film of rain clouds. It was not downpouring just yet but the atmosphere told them it would. While everyone waited for the storm to begin, the two were struggling to apply medical wrap to poor Moomin’s wrist. Snufkin ripped it off and tucked it into the thin cast, acknowledging his friends’ whining.

Moomin sighed unsteadily, averting eye contact. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "Today has been such a clusterfu-"

"Don't finish that, you're perfectly fine. Everyone seems to be in a bit of disarray, it's not just you." It wasn't much of a reassurance as it was not wanting to hear profanity. Snufkin shifted in his spot to where he perched beside his friend, leaning forward with his elbows on his lanky knees. "You don't have to keep amplifying your sentences with cursing. It may seem like an adult thing to do, but by the valley's standards, we're all still kids."

Almost by instinct, Moomin cut him off with a sharp retort. "But we're not kids! When will everyone realize that we're growing up? Even Sniff has gained a sense of maturity, as little as it can be."

The Mumrik stood and began making his way to the door, not wanting to argue about something so little. "It's not a matter of age. It's just a matter of perspective, and it happens to be that not many of us have a good one," he spun and evenly replied, a colder undertone to the words.

Moomin was forced to sit on his bed, uncomfortable and contemplating running off as adolescents do under pressure. Or maybe it was just him and his social group. Even then, it was simply him and a handful of others who ever left while feeling stressed, and only as a last resort. Then again.. it would be better than sitting in his room and throwing a tantrum while his fresh wound nagged at his nerves. He couldn't tell which hurt worse- being left by his closest friend or bit by the gremlin downstairs.

The troll decided against it, though, instead of potentially being swept away by the oncoming monsoons. At some point he'd have to venture downstairs for dinner. Until then, he'd long for the days him and his friends would go out and give no thoughts to the rest of the world, about responsibilities, or of future worries. Where they'd travel out to the beach and find the tallest rocks to leap into the water off of, and they'd catch fish by the pier or just sit and watch the sky. Or when they'd sneak off in the evening and pick the strangest plants to keep, or trace flowers onto paper to color later. Or.. or when he'd be out for hours on the bridge with Snufkin, climbing trees with Sniff, and sharing tea with Snork and Snorkmaiden.

He'd been thinking little in favor of the future. If the whole ideal was terrifying for Moomin, he was scared as to what it meant to his friends! Who'd be the first to leave? Who'd be the last to leave? Where would they go? Would he never see them all again?

Would Snufkin leave if Moomin did?

And all this pondering sprouting from a small fight between Little My and himself. How childish, he told himself, that I'm having a mental breakdown over spilled milk. How petty I must seem to the rest.

━━ 🥀 ━━

It was nine steps down the hallway to the stairs, several dozen steps down, and three to get into the living room. Snufkin was only a few meters away from him and the distance had never felt so vast.

But he wasn't here to have his world revolve around Moomin, so besides the point.

Snufkin tip-toed down the staircase, silently hoping he wouldn't draw attention to himself while the fellow dwellers of Moominhouse did as they pleased. Pappa was now just starting to close and secure each window to prevent leaking, and Mamma shakily handed the newest resident a little hat to keep warm. In previous years, the small home became a destination for on-the-go travelers in need for shelter. Now that monsoon season had been brought upon the valley, each soul wished to seek refuge within their quaint little residence.

Salem the wide-eyed, scruffy-pelted, poncho-donning cat from a faraway town, stumbled upon the trolls’ home not long ago. He surely pulls his weight, constantly asking to participate in daily chores in hopes he didn't come off as a burden. Mamma enjoys his company despite his overly eager need to help out. Plus, he wears her little gifts almost religiously, refusing to take off any hats or pair of stockings he could get his paws on. Snufkin estimated that his sentimental attachment to these items was due to where he came from. Though Salem was a sweet little creature, he was an airhead as well, and always trailed off while describing his past.. All he got to explain was his life alone in the distant dunes. And since he was pretty much tethered to Moominmamma, he could keep an eye on her when she was feeling ill.

Beau and Vakadin often came around as well, an avian described by their strange authoritative aura and a picky little fellow who enjoyed being around Snork. One may assume their relationship, but one does not say. There was that moth child, too, and the woodies who strayed near the mountainous regions. Whispers of another wanderer picked up between the locals, and as most rumors do, it went through one ear and straight out the other. Not for Snufkin though, no. He believed the man they spoke of had a lot more to do with this place than he seemed to let on.

Now, he had successfully made it past the den, planning to head off to his tent and remain there for the time being. It was, to put simply, a natural call. But before he had made it to his one escape, Little My made her move, hopping from a nearby cupboard and in the path of Snufkin. Of course.

"And where are YOU scampering off to, you little rat you?" she chimed, remaining in her little defensive power stance. Emphasis on the little.

He rolled his eyes and let out a hearty sigh. "It's none of your business; never has been, never will be."

"Everything's my business if I wish for it to be. I can get myself involved in nearly anything, as long as I want it to be my ordeal." My stood a bit straighter, pulling a traditional arm-cross to seem interrogative. "Now answer my question, unless you want me to get Mamma and tell her you plan to sleep out in the rain."

He clutched his hands behind his back, the littlest bit amused, and it truly showed. "Just leave me be. You've done enough damage for the day."

The small Mymble's expression dropped momentarily, before she stormed off in annoyance. "Whatever, I'll just ask Moomin why you're being such a downer. Maybe I'll even apologize." Snufkin snorted with disbelief clear in his expression and swung the door open. He heard her last shout before heading to the tent to gather his necessities and belongings.

"Some people can change, you old goof! Realize that and maybe you'll be able to function properly!"

Duly noted.

Chapter Text

Moomin stepped out onto the sanction of the porch, eyes boring into Snufkin's back as he watched the first sprinkle of what was to be a drastic weather event. There was a sudden change in atmosphere, and he knew that they were both aware of each others' presences.

“What is it you're trying to do now?” Snufkin's casual voice broke the silence and somewhat startled the troll.

He fidgeted with his paws. “Can I at least try to say sorry? I can't stand the tension between us when we have our little arguments, especially given the fact that we'll be around eachother for a while longer,” Moomin began, watching as his friend turned with arms full of possessions. "I can obviously let you stay in my room during the storms, and if they're as bad as all of the Hemulens claim, you're gonna want to settle in for a bit." Snufkin hesitated, thinking it over. "And I don't mean just for three days until you go camp out in some cave somewhere, I mean for real. Just give our shelter a chance."

The Mumrik lifted his head, wilting flowers toppling off his hat brim. "It's not security that I'm afraid of and you know that."

Before Moomintroll had a chance to elaborate, Pappa barged in through the door behind him, startling the both of them. "Supper is ready. I suggest you come inside before you get drenched. And be sure to get as much as you can- you know how ravenous Luther's appetite can be. Mamma won't be out, so you have to make it on your own."

━━ 🥀 ━━

Silverware clanked and scraped against porcelain plates; the room lit by overhead lights and one single source outside. The clouds had already fallen and deepened to a pale navy, but the remnants of the sun still peeked through one side of the sky, reflecting off of little raindrops. Puddles gathered at the foot of the veranda, catching light from Snufkin’s lantern.

He wasn’t bothered by anyone in the house in particular, no. He didn’t have a reason to be outside in the first place other than a simple need to. There was no quarrel, no unease; all he did was ask Moominmamma if he could eat dinner on the porch. It would be a long while before he could be outside comfortably, so may as well make the best of it before the storm truly hit.

“Snufkin?” he turned after a moment, face blank until he realized it was just Salem. Moomin must still be eating- he’d be done eventually. The short cat hopped out onto the worn wooden surface, slowly and carefully shutting the screen door. “Missing the great outdoors, huh?”

He shrugged and loosened up, leaning back against the pole supporting his back. “I suppose you could say that.”

Salem hopped up beside him and stood, maintaining his balance adequately. With Snufkin sitting and slouching, they were about eye-to-eye now. “I don’t get you sometimes. It’s perfectly warm and safe inside, why aren’t you in there all summer? Why do you insist to be alone and wander like a sheep?”

“You’re mistaken,” the Mumrik began, having already thought up a response. “I’m no sheep. I’m me, just old Snufkin. But if I were to be any other creature, I'd be a bird. The whole valley is my nest; I’ll eventually leave it, but after the winter, I’ll return. Maybe not in the same way, but such is nature.”

The black cat snorted. “You’re no bird. You’re just a fool. Surely no cat, because I’d know,” he cooed, flicking his tail. Salem leapt down and glanced back up at Snufkin. “But, if you were a bird, you’d be a lovebird. Never straying far from your other half, having that," he shook his little paw in false amusement, "natural call."

Snufkin was quite intrigued by his input. "You're awfully wise for your demeanour."

"I'm twenty, you refried bean."

Chapter Text

It was the very next day, and a far more peaceful one at that. Mamma hadn't raised from her bed that day. Moomin was focused on something in his paws. Snufkin raised his head and observed his friend from his comfortable spot on the bed.

“Why are you painting those roses?”

Moomintroll chuckled, peering up for a moment to check if his friend was being serious. A perplexed look had plastered itself on his pale face. “That’s rare. You rarely have any genuine questions.”

Mentioned friend propped his head up with a paw. “I was just curious. What’s so bad about that?”

Moomin eyed Snufkin with a squinty gaze. They had previously been plucking around in the foliage for herbs and such between storms, narrowly avoiding the next rainfall, but they took the risk once they came across an untamed rosebush patch deep in the woods. After stripping them of their thorns, the two raced through the river banks and grew bored in the safety of Moomin’s room.

“Well,” he began. “For starters, I’ve been getting better at my artistic abilities. It’s not like me to be this bold with a canvas, and acrylics aren’t quite my forte. But, in your words, what’s so bad about that?” The moomin mocked his baffled friend. “I just enjoy a challenge. Plus, it’s pretty.”

The mumrik took another sip of Mamma’s soup, grinning to himself. “You really have changed since we were younger.”

Moomintroll chuckled. “You say that like you’re some old wiseman.”

“Well, it’s not like my mother remembers when I was born. Much less my father. I could be a thousand years old and you’d never know.”

Moomin frowned, thinking back to the Mymble’s visits and that one abrupt time he met the Joxter. The idea of this vagabond coming from either two disturbed him. He tried to change the subject. “I think you’d tell me if you were some immortal deity.”

Snufkin shifted in his spot, setting the warm bowl of soup on Moomin’s nightstand, careful to not topple anything over. The air around them grew chillier and a bit less humid as the day went on, almost pleasantly. A perfect day to do nothing is all they needed.

Moomin pushed himself up, standing quickly before rushing to his wardrobe. In it were other compartments, toppling over with supplies. He rummaged through them before retreating with new brushes. “You wanna join in? Doing shit gets my mind off the dreary weather. You can tell because, Exhibit A; my room is finally clean.”

He didn't show any sign of a distinct reaction. “It’s okay to just be sometimes– we’re beings, not doings.”

Moomin raised a brow, wondering where such a statement had come from; probably deep in his friend’s mind. This was a sort of conversation where considering proper words before speaking wasn’t a problem. Speaking off the bat with no worries, or just simply talking to fill the silence.

With a small cough, Moomin plopped down onto his bed, a foot or so away from Snufkin. He leisurely splayed out the utensils, choosing his palette mindlessly. Snufkin was a tad bit more brisk- he picked up a handful of roses and laurel, planning to twine them together rather than coat them in acrylics.

Moomintroll understood, knowing how his friend can be. His plethora of hues began to swirl and layer on each petal, not necessarily detailed (his paws were somewhat large and couldn’t make such miniscule features) but nonetheless a gorgeous mix. He sat back and twirled the rose, examining his work with a prideful grin. His focus shifted from the flower to Snufkin, a focused expression painted onto his face. The Moomin grinned lightly to himself, cherishing the moment.

Snufkin rarely had a new look- either a cool and collected grin or an empty, blank stare. But seeing him now- eyes squinted, nose scrunched-up and tongue sticking out the side of his mouth- was more than enough to make him start giggling.

A perplexed feature covered his face now. Damn, he ruined it. “What’s the matter? Does it look bad?"

"No, no," he reassured the Mumrik. "It's just- well, you had a peculiar look on your face." He didn't mention how it stirred something inside of him that made his blood pressure skyrocket and the edges of his mouth curve up oh-so delicately. "I couldn't resist laughing. Sorry."

Snufkin had the trace of a smile on his face. "It's alright. You yourself had a funny little grin in your face earlier. I'm sure that even if the moon were to have come down and speak to you, you wouldn't of noticed."

'He'd know,' Moomin thought wistfully. 'It's as if Snufkin hung the moon himself; he'd know if it was paying a visit.'

Chapter Text

“I can help you. You’ll get better if you stop putting such a strain on yourself, Mamma.”

Moominmamma chuckled, a pitiful little noise. If the house weren’t dead silent, he was sure it’d go unheard. “You sound unsure,” she rasped, tears threatening to spill just by the effort of speaking. She shivered with each breath, looking as frail and weak as a sheet of paper. Moomin sighed and hoisted his mother up with a solemn expression.

He felt a twinge of guilt when, as he helped her to the restroom, she buckled for a moment and he was forced to hoist her upright again. If he had known any better of this strange illness, he'd of been aware that would only make things worse. Nonetheless, in given time, she returned to her bed.

Shortly after, Moominpappa creaked open their bedroom door, his somber look not faltering beneath the smile. For the past month and all through monsoon season, ever since his dearest wife grew sick, he was just so.. passive and dismissive. Whether it be a quick chore or simply answering the door, he couldn't bring himself to do anything of the sort. Moomin told himself that's what anyone would do if such a terriblr illness struck their beloved.

He and his father eventually learned to let her go, drift like fog between their fingers or sand through their paws. A slow burn, it was; her time was inevitable, though no one dare admit it. There was no treatment to Mamma's ailment. They called in the best doctors, the most talented witches, and went as far as they possibly could so they could figure out what led her to be in such a state. Not even Grandma's reliable remedies would cure the state she was in. It simply said 'give time to heal'. To whom it regarded, well, they weren't sure of.

She still smiled. She still told them to take care of themselves and the house during the storms. From her bed where she'd remain most of the days, Mamma reassured her family. Nobody would mention anything about her condition unless it was asking if she were feeling better.

"Dying," she'd murmur, which shocked everyone, "is just a haze. It's a change that comes with all other changes. Such is life. You can't have one without the other."

Despair would undertone the valley moreso than it ever had, seeping in like Moominmamma's sickness. Someone had to say it.. what was to happen once she was gone? She cradled the whole valley in her arms; they would crumble as soon as she did. Groke knows how they'd function if she did- when she did. Nobody could function when she left with Snufkin for a trip to renew her culinary skills. How would they go on with her gone forever?

At the very start of what was presumed to be the common cold, she had been up and about per usual. Only the occasional coughing fit racked at her state. They all shrugged it off and expected it to pass over, since the storms were calming down and warm weather was on its way. No more soaked patches of vegetables or muddy footprints trailing around the house, no more spontaneous power outages or cold nights playing poker with a leaky ceiling.

Now those occurrences passed with ease, but her illness remained. They gave it a bit more time, more weary at this point, and Mamma seemed to have gotten better too! Things began looking up for everyone in the valley.

Until the day she fell.

It was a Thursday, or maybe a Friday, and Moominmamma donned a fancy sunhat she dug up from their old trinkets and treasures. She was checking her flower garden for any severe damage, coughing every few seconds but ignoring it. Snufkin was fishing down by the banks, and her husband was showing Moomintroll how to properly clean a pair of shoes despite not owning a fancy pair themselves. A plethora of thriving petunias, orchids, daffodils, and tulips sprung from the earth. almost as if someone spilled thousands of paints and made a beautiful mess of nature. But heartbeats later, she grew weak and lightheaded, feeling drowsy and dizzy at the sight of the sun. She collapsed right then and there, her senses growing blurry and dull. Muffled voices lifted her from the ground, and she could swear she saw a worried frown on Little My's face at some point. The children stayed outside, conversing among themselves on the veranda. Did she get a terrible allergic reaction? Was she simply dehydrated? Nobody knew, but once Pappa popped his head outside the screen door to call for Moomin, it came to them that this wasn't some small cold.

Moomin seeked refuge for his sorrows in Snufkin as he always had done, but for the majority of the time, he had been apprehended by the Police Inspector for a minor crime. He was 'recklessly startling the forest's inhabitants with his wretched music', and 'disturbing the peace'. Once the news about Mamma hit the Hemulen's ears, he offered to escort Snufkin to Moominhouse and pay his respects, but postponed his trip after an unkind exchange. Snufkin called it a "foolish raincheck" in his angered stupor.

About midway through her bedridden state, Snufkin returned, bitterly rebuking the officer for being so ignorant upon entry. These harsh words met Moomintroll unkindly- after four days of being behind bars, all he had to say was that the Police Inspector was a scum of a person? But his worries dissolved once the Mumrik visited Mamma in her room. He stayed beside her for a long while, playing her tunes on her favorite instruments and telling her the stories he'd never get to tell at the breakfast table; comforting her all while keeping himself together.

She chuckled one last time to Snufkin's many tales and paused for a long while. Out of the blue, she began to speak, soft as ever. "Snufkin. When I'm gone, and by now we know I will be, I.. want you to take care of yourself. Take care of Moomintroll and My if you can. And keep an eye on Sniff, will you?" Her voice broke off as she cleared her throat. "Pappa will try his best, which won't always be that great, but we all must love that for him. Goodness, I still remember when he traveled to Miss Fillyjonk's house to bargain with her about some fabric for your woven binder. Do you remember that?" He nodded. "Ah, lovely times. I'm grateful you were there to share them with me. And I may not be your blood mother, and I do agree when you say your own mother never played a big role in your life, but I'm glad to say I was the closest thing to it. I'm proud of you, Snufkin. So very proud."

Naturally, Moomin was taking it the hardest. He even began shedding in the spring from all of the stress, which had never happened. He began chewing his claws, cheeks, tongue, paws, sticks, pens, pencils, and even his Mumrik friend's fishing pole once. To avoid this from becoming a dangerous habit, Snufkin wrapped his paws with the same medical wrap he had on his arm, when My bit him. It served as a reminder before all of this had happened. That things change. Luckily, the biting toned down, and he just shed fur everywhere he went.

There was hope she'd recover, though, even after it was confirmed that she had no way of being cured. Wishful thinking, most likely, on everyone else's behalf. Miss Fillyjonk, Too-ticky, the Mymble's Daughter and many others gave her their best regards and discussed the many pleasant memories she shared with them. Even Mymblemamma herself stopped by for a day- this time leaving her children with the Joxter to avoid making a ruckus. She spent her days listening to old friends reminiscing and even mutuals wishing they had known her longer.

It seemed to go by so quickly, too.

When Moominmamma passed, it was in her sleep. That came as no surprise to anyone though, since she was almost always asleep those days. Moomintroll tiptoed his way one dismal morning to see Pappa sobbing softly beside his wife, despite preparing himself for the moment it happened. My clung to his limp tail, feeling her sides shake and only occasionally hearing a sniffle. Tears stained his fur, a mixture of Moominpappa's, Little My's, and his own. Salem ran out in disbelief, panicking down to the river where he lay for the rest of the day. Snufkin couldn't bring himself to enter the room, remaining outside the door to mourn by himself.

Everyone found their own ways to cope. Moominpappa had taken his wife to bury her down by the beach with the help of Moomin, Snorkmaiden and Luther. It was almost like the place they had first met, but now he had lost her instead of saving her. She had a patch of sweet flowers planted all about, scattered with little precision but much care.

Afterwards, Pappa only ever wrote and cooked, and solely so. He wished to take care of his son and the many children (who weren't quite children anymore) in Moominvalley like his wife did before him. He came off as fine to anyone who tried to talk about it with him, but anyone with a working brain could notice he was not fine. Hell, whenever he locked himself away in his study, Moominpappa weeped to himself and furiously scribbled cursed words on loose leaf scraps of paper, only to toss them out in a fit.

Afterwards, Little My grew careless with what she did and often found herself in harms way. When she wasn't pulling dangerous stunts, she was consoling Snorkmaiden quietly and letting her friend vent for hours. Not only had she lost her real mother, but now Moominmamma was gone too. My assured her it was just the way of life, but Snorkmaiden couldn't help but think that life was targeting her and her loved ones deliberately.

Afterwards, Salem announced he was going to set off to the King's party that week and find his place there among other settlers. He was hurt, Mamma's absence leaving a gash in his already leather-bound heart. He left with a small goodbye, and payed her resting spot one last visit before disappearing forever.

Afterwards, Moomin and Snufkin were inseparable. They shared few tears and even fewer sentences between eachother, but just remaining by one another's side numbed the pain. Maybe it was out of fear of losing another loved one. They weren't so sure themselves.

The death of Moominmamma was a hollowed out crater in everyones lives; to every single creature who had the chance to meet such a graceful, wise woman. She was a mother, a lover, a wife, a friend.

Nothing would ever be the same.