Snufkin had, when he first received the news, intended on striking up a deal with Moomin wherein neither of them was allowed to cry in front of the other and that neither was to say “goodbye” to one another. This was an idea that Snufkin came to on his own, simply because he knew Moomin would cry when he heard the news. Weeping was something Snufkin could endure in the winters where he was the master of his own departure. However, now that he had no say as to if he would return— the prospect of trying to comfort Moomin seemed like far too much to handle.
When Snufkin finally pressed the draft letter into Moomin’s hands on a quiet auburn afternoon, he knew at once that he was selfish to ever want to maintain a front of stoicism under these circumstances. As Moomin let out a soft exhale–just the word, “oh”–Snufkin could already feel a miserable pressure in his throat. Snufkin had initially avoided even looking at Moomintroll, but his curious eyes eventually flicked over to his friend. Moomin’s gaze was fixed upon the very thing Snufkin most loathed, scrutinizing the words as if there was something that they both were missing in the text. A mistake, perhaps. A slip-up.
Snufkin could practically feel the mental acrobatics Moomin was going through, as if he had just been tossed midair with no one to catch him. He imagined Moomin looking for something to be misspelled, the way his voice would crack as he tried to conjure up a story that would convince the both of them that things would be alright for at least the rest of the afternoon. Perhaps reality would set in by dusk, or perhaps Moomin’s fanaticisms would truly save Snufkin from war. Lord knows, if anything could–
“Do you…it doesn’t say when you leave. Do you know when you leave? And where you will be stationed?”
There were going to be no lovely stories with which to save Snufkin.
“That’s…that’s just the primary letter. I have some basic notices. Given the state of things, I likely have no more than two weeks.” Snufkin fought to keep his voice steady, facing Moomin now and studying his expression. This was admittedly a calmer a reaction than he had anticipated.
Moomin nodded, and when he looked up at Snufkin his eyes were watery. Ah, there those tears were. How Snufkin had wished to not see them, and wished even more to not have caused them.
Snufkin’s voice wavered, as he himself tried to grasp for a story to tell. “Oh, Moomin!” He forced a jovial gayness to his tone, the type of voice he had heard Moominpapa use in fond reference to Snufkin’s own father. “It’ll be alright. This is just another jaunt, if you think about it! Usually the cards tell me where to go, but sometimes destiny can be a bit more…” Snufkin sighed, “heavy-handed. But it’s no matter! I’ve seen worse things than war, I am sure, and before you know it, I will be right back here!”
Snufkin was a royal idiot. He was a court jester. He was a clown, and not even a particularly good one at that—for Moomintroll broke out in the kind of tears that Snufkin was not sure he had seen since Moomin was a child. Though, contrasted with then, this crying wasn’t loud. It was just messy.
It would really be a lot easier for Snufkin to not have to see Moomin cry like this. Truthfully, it would suit him much better if they could just pretend that all was well so that Snufkin wouldn’t have to wrap his mind around the situation in full. But that wasn’t fair to Moomin, and avoiding the matter wasn’t going to make things any easier.
Snufkin felt hot tears burning in his eyes and he swallowed thickly. Moomin’s breathing was heavy and jagged, and he covered his face with his hands as he slurred out apologies. No, no—that simply would not do.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. Oh, Moomin, my dove-,” It was at this point that Snufkin’s voice broke, and tears began to spill down his face. He took a step forward, and moved Moomin’s hands gently from his face, taking them in his own. He met Moomin’s eyes, despite very much not wanting to.
“Moomin, I have no idea what is going to happen to me, and I’m terrified and war is a cruel thing enacted by crueler people, and I want no part in it, and I’m angry and miserable, and if fate listened to the wills of the despondent I would stay tucked under your chin until I grow so old and weary that you would have to carry me everywhere you go.”
“Hey!” Moomin laughed softly, “if you’re old, I’ll be old too!”
Snufkin visibly relaxed, reassured by Moomin’s hint of a smile. “Ah, yet you seem to forget I am two years your elder. It may not seem like much, but I assure you that my bones will feel it! Anyhow, are you to tell me you will not be a strong and gallant gentleman and carry your weary beloved when I become frail? How cruel!”
Moomin gave Snufkin’s hands a squeeze, and Snufkin squeezed back. Moomin hiccuped from his weeping, and squeezed again. And Snufkin squeezed back.
“…But I cannot keep you tucked under my chin for the rest of our days?” Moomin asked, all too sweetly.
“It…It would seem not so. Fate does not listen, and is neither all that kind, nor all that cruel. I do wish the scales could have weighed in the favor of kindness, but I also don’t really know how much good wishing does, especially in the light of such a violence as war.” Snufkin lifted Moomin’s hands to his lips, and spoke against his knuckles, “And while I would love to be a vigilante with you and run off, there is still a war out there. And perhaps if I do my part, it’ll end. I think maybe I owe you that, at least.”
“Oh, Snufkin.” Moomin’s voice trembled, and he moved forward to wrap his arms securely around his friend. Moomin buried his face in Snufkin’s shoulder as Snufkin, without missing a beat, pressed his nose against Moomin’s pale curls. “I’m just so scared for you.”
Snufkin let out a pained sound, nodding as he tightened his hold on Moomin and hugged him close. Snufkin was going to lose his agency, his love, and likely his life—all in one vile venture.
“I’m scared, too. It is rare that I truly feel as though I have no say in my affairs.” He sighed, rocking Moomin slightly in his arms. “I don’t care for it. God, I don’t know if I’ll be back in the spring. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back again.” Snufkin’s eyes began to well up.
Moomin pulled back. “Perhaps we are best to believe you will? Or at least that you may?” Moomin tapped at Snufkin’s back. “We’ll make a bet. If you come back, I win, and if you don’t–you can have the satisfaction of having proved me wrong.”
Snufkin laughed sharply. “How grim! Yes, I’ll take you up on that bet, my love.”
Moomin hummed, “If I win, you shall bestow upon me a plethora of your finest kisses.”
“Well, I think that would go without requesting it.” Snufkin murmured, pressing a couple of kisses to one of Moomin’s cheeks to emphasize the point. Moomintroll snorted, hugging Snufkin close to him.
Snufkin felt his heartbeat steady with the sound of Moomin’s laughter, but the laughter eventually faded and a somber silence hung in the air surrounding them.
“I still have time before I go, and I’ll write you a letter to keep with you while I’m gone,” Snufkin offered, “and perhaps you could write me a letter too. I think I’d quite like that.”
Moomin pressed his cheek against Snufkin’s shoulder, and nodded. “There’s still time,” He agreed, clinging to the fabric of Snufkin’s jacket as he held his friend in a close embrace. There was still time, even if that time was due to run out soon.