As they grew, certain things became more and more obvious to Moomin Valley as a whole, and those closest to the trio in particular.
Namely, that though it had started almost as play, the relationship between Snorkmaiden and Moomin was growing stronger.
It had gone through a few rocky patches as they grew, as they each were influenced by outside things and tried to discover who they were. When one of them let a book go to their head, when one of them let someone or fashion or a fad carry them away into something.
The times Moomintroll was completely oblivious. The times Snorkmaiden tried to hard to be properly ladylike, got herself worked up and jealous over things that didn't really matter, not to her, but that she'd been talked into thinking they were.
It took a lot of patience, a lot of talking, a lot of stubbornness, and a lot of time to get to a long term relationship that was happy and healthy, but it was, and they both were very happy and in love.
All of that, and a lot of advice from both Moominmamma and Joxter, who had appeared and was slowly rebuilding a relationship with Snufkin, Little My, and Mymble.
But the other thing that became more and more obvious was that what was brewing between Snufkin and Moomin was more than just friendship.
They were both oblivious to how they felt about each other, to the frustration of many as they all grew into full blown adults – oblivious, deeply in love adults.
It was the reason for more than one of Snorkmaiden's jealousies, as Moomin pined over and waited for Snufkin.
She'd always known he would pine for Snufkin – she'd used the exact word before, the year Moomin got sick and Snufkin was late and she tried to convince her brother she had to go find Snufkin. When it came right down to it, there were times now when she pined a bit for Snufkin to come back as well.
It was just...Snufkin was amazing. He was calm, cool, collected, he was wise and kept his head in emergencies. And he'd always been adorable, but he was only getting easier on the eyes as he grew.
How was she supposed to compete? And Moomin pined over Snufkin in ways she was sure he'd never pined for her.
Sometimes, she was sure that someday, Moomin was going to let her down oh so gently before going off and confessing to Snufkin.
Snorkmaiden never thought someone else would try and get her out of the way so they could have Moomin to themselves.
Snorkmaiden pounded on the rock again, doing little more than bruising her paws. It was easy to move the rock from outside, but from inside, it seemed impossible.
How were they going to get out? How could she have been so silly, to just go along with this?
Behind her, Snufkin was curled on the cave floor, his tail wrapped around himself.
He'd been in here when Snorkmaiden had found herself shoved inside, shoved in with enough force to sprawl her onto the ground while the rock was heaved back into place.
Finally at her wit's end, Snorkmaiden sat down next to Snufkin. They both were silent at first, lost in their own thoughts.
“His head's been turned before,” Snorkmaiden said sadly. “I hope Moomin doesn't get so caught up in the fantasy he forgets about us.”
“It's been a long time since he's done that,” Snufkin said. “He never forgets for long.”
“He never forgets about you,” Snorkmaiden said, huddling deeper into herself, the words slipping out without her consent. “He'll come for you before he does me.”
Snorkmaiden refused to turn and look at Snufkin after the words escaped, but she could see him gaping at her out of the corner of her eye.
“Snorkmaiden...” he said, at a loss.
“You're amazing. You're handsome, and so smart, and you're calm in the face of danger, and you've been so many places and know so many things, and you're kind and gentle and noble and Moomin pines for you. He loves you so much more than he does me,” she ranted, a wobble to her voice as everything she'd been keeping locked up poured out. “I'm so horrible sometimes. I'm always afraid he's going to leave me for you, and I want you both to be happy, but I'm so afraid there's no room for me there. Not when there's someone like you.”
“Snorkmaiden,” Snufkin said again, this time, shock and dismay in his voice. She heard him move, not looking up from where she'd buried her face in her arms as soon as she'd finished her rambling. “Snorkmaiden? Look at me?”
Snorkmaiden shook her head, and suddenly felt Snufkin's paws on hers, tugging gently.
She uncurled in surprise and after the briefest of internal debates Snufkin crawled into her lap.
Snorkmaiden's brain stopped functioning as she stared at Snufkin, feeling the full weight of him in her lap as he touched her snout.
Oh booble, Snufkin was sitting in her lap, she might just die right here and now, her paws hovering as she didn't have a clue what to do with them. The easiest spots were also ones she wasn't going to try for without express permission.
If she hadn't realized she had a crush before, she would have right now as every system went into panic mode. It wasn't fair, Snufkin shouldn't be allowed to be so...so...
“Now that I have your attention,” he said, with the shakiest, most unsure smile she had ever seen grace his face. “Snorkmaiden, you're not giving yourself nearly enough credit. And you're giving me too much. I can be short tempered and I stay alone too much and I have to leave, I can't be here for Moomin all the time. I've got more baggage than I've let any of you see. And you're...you're beautiful and generous and passionate. You're kind and loving and intelligent. What I mean is...you're amazing. Just never doubt that, okay?”
Snorkmaiden gaped at Snufkin before she finally giggled, a little wetly. “I won't if you won't. Now that I know you doubt it too.”
Slowly, gently, she rested her paws on his hips, watching as his eyes went wide and he blushed, feeling the way his tail whipped against her legs, but he didn't protest. Her thumbs rubbed small circles against his side as she carefully leaned in and pressed her snout to his smaller nose.
He froze up and she pulled back. “Um, Snorkmaiden? What was that?”
Oh. Right. Mumriks kissed differently to snorks and moomins. “A kiss, silly,” she said. Snufkin went red, and it was a very nice color on him, Snorkmaiden decided.
She tried it again, angling her head to meet his lips. They were soft and a little chapped against hers, and he hesitated before pressing back.
“Um, Moomin?” he asked when she pulled back. “I mean, Joxterpappa explained to me about how it could all work when he caught me pining but I'm not sure if Moomin...”
“Is going to be over the moon,” Snorkmaiden said. “I was so afraid of losing one of you, I never told him how I felt. But I think everyone except you knows how he feels about you. And I've loved you for a long time, I just didn't want to admit it.” She brushed a bit of hair away from Snufkin's face gently. “We can't do that anymore. I was just...so afraid of losing one of you if I said anything. I'm not...” she took a deep breath, and changed what she was going to say. “No, I was afraid I might not be enough for both of you. But I am, and you are, and we can do this, if we all stop pining and do something.”
“You sound like my father when he was trying to get me to say something,” Snufkin laughed, softly and ruefully. “And honestly? The thought of losing either of you scared me too much to say anything, too,” Snufkin added, leaning closer into Snorkmaiden, his paws to her shoulders. “We do need to talk more. Is that why you've been sort of avoiding me lately?”
Snorkmaiden went pink, fading back to her normal light minty green after a moment. “Maybe. Okay, yes. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have, I wasn't thinking. It just hurt.”
Snufkin pressed his nose against her snout. “It's okay now. I understand.” He leaned back, still sitting in her lap, and tilted his head. “We'll have to have a long talk later. I don't want to but I think we do. But first...what are we going to do about being stuck in here and what are we going to do to her when we get out?”
“My to the rescue!” Little My crowed, making them both jump. “Hurry up, this rock is really hard to hold up. Unless you're too comfy to move.”
Snorkmaiden flashed a deep pink as they scrambled to their feet, snatching up Snufkin's hat and hurrying out of the cave.
Little My let go of the rock, which settled back into place with a solid thud. “Really easy to move from outside. I was listening to make sure you talked. About time you did that.”
Snorkmaiden and Snufkin blushed and looked away, but hooked paws. “How did you find us?” Snorkmaiden asked.
Little My shrugged. “I followed you and her. Figured someone should lock you and Snufkin in a closet to talk so I just waited to see if it'd work. Now, what do we do about her? She's back at the party hanging all over Moomin, and he's looking a little desperate for an escape.”
“Well...” Snufkin said slowly. “With the three of us working together...and isn't my father around too?”
They shared a grin as a plan was formed.
Chaos Quartet powers activated.
Moomin tried not to sigh as the diva fluttered her lashes at him.
There was a time, he knew, when his head would have been turned. When he would have been doing her bidding because she was a diva and therefore somehow deserved it.
He knew because it had happened once.
But that was then, this was now, and he was humoring her but wishing she'd find someone else to latch onto. That, and wondering where Snufkin and Snorkmaiden were.
He could understand Snufkin not being here – it was a large party and that wasn't Snufkin's thing, really, unless he'd found himself an out of the way spot or joined the band, but Snorkmaiden usually enjoyed these.
Unless he'd been ignoring her too much (not that he'd meant to, but the diva had caused such a ruckus earlier when she hadn't been getting the attention she felt she deserved) and she'd gone home hurt. It had been awhile since that had happened, since they'd listened to Moominmamma and Joxter's advice and started talking more. But still, she might not have wanted to cause a scene...
The diva clung to his arm, forcing his wandering attention back to her. “Moomee, you weren't paying attention,” she whined.
Moomin's ears tried to flatten with irritation. Snufkin got to call him 'Moomee' when he was feeling silly, and maybe his friends, his family, Snorkmaiden could if they wanted, but hearing it from her was grating.
Actually, just about everything about her was grating. No wonder Snufkin disappeared so early in the evening. Snorkmaiden too.
...now that he thought about it, Moomin hadn't seen Joxter or Little My for awhile, either. That was worrying.
As if the thought had summoned them, Snufkin and Snorkmaiden appeared on the edge of the party.
Moomin felt his breath stop, not quite sure what was happening.
Since when...why were...was Snorkmaiden...but why...
Snufkin hesitated, and Snorkmaiden tugged his paw, looking at him reassuring and lovingly. He smiled back, tail whipping joyfully, and they made a beeline for Moomin.
The diva was ignoring them, playing court to the people around them and clinging to Moomin, but the people around them were noticing Moomin's stare and beginning to look.
The two paused at the edge of the group, and the diva finally paused for breath, glaring at them.
“Hello. We've come for our boyfriend, thank you,” Snorkmaiden said.
She and Snufkin reached for Moomin's paws, pulling him firmly away from the shocked diva, who began screeching after them as Snufkin and Snorkmaiden pulled the stunned and starstruck Moomin after them.
The screeching reached a shocked crescendo, and there were yells from behind them.
“Don't look,” Snorkmaiden said firmly when Moomin faltered.
“She upset Little My,” Snufkin said. “And annoyed Joxterpappa. They're doing something about it.” Moomin looked between them – Snufkin with the faintest tinge of red to his cheeks from all the attention, Snorkmaiden pretending to ignore it, both their paws firm in his – and decided what was going on here and now was more important than whatever had caused those two to go for retribution.
He'd be hearing all about it later, anyway.
“So, um...what's going on?” Moomin asked. “Not that I'm not enjoying this but um...”
“Snufkin and I finally talked things out after the diva trapped us in a cave together,” Snorkmaiden said serenely. “And we've decided that we were being silly. So from now on we're all dating. You, me, and Snufkin. Because you're amazing, and I'm amazing, and Snufkin's amazing, and we all love each other, and the thought of losing the other two scares all of us. So we're sharing.”
Moomin stopped short, forcing the other two to stop as well. He was staring ahead blankly, mouth agape.
“I think we broke him,” Snufkin whispered to Snorkmaiden.
Abruptly Moomin threw their paws in the air, letting out a whoop that echoed across the valley. He threw his arms around Snufkin, lifting Snufkin off his feet, spinning them around and around as Snufkin laughed breathlessly.
He let Snufkin down to stagger with dizziness and drop to the ground, sprawling on the grass as Moomin snatched up Snorkmaiden and did the same to her.
Moomin toppled over as momentum caught up to him, tumbling the three of them into a laughing pile.
They slowly caught their breath, gazing up at the sky. “This is wonderful,” Moomin said, ecstatic. “Oh, I'm so happy!”
They laughed, linking paws and slowly calming.
“...wait, what do you mean she trapped you in a cave‽”