It’s just a delicate sprinkle now, like powdered sugar.
The stairs protest, like they’ve been woken from hibernation too, as Snufkin pads delicately down in the grey morning. Cool and still, suspended in time beneath the blankets of snow.
It couldn’t possibly get deeper - or so Snufkin told himself.
Even the living room rug feels somehow chilled beneath his paws. Snow is piled up over the first floor windows, leaving the room dark but for the light pooling down from the staircase. He takes a match from the box in the side table and strikes it, lights a single lantern.
The warm bloom of firelight makes him feel like an island, adrift in a frozen ocean. Passing through lands both familiar and somehow not, the contrast of orange and grey light bringing out something in the wood and the hollows of the house that he’d never seen before.
He taps a single finger along the spines of several books up on the shelf. Plucks one on gardening.
The silence strains his ears. He sets himself on the very edge of a couch cushion, the lantern on the table beside him. A faint dust curls up into the light. The delights of spring detailed in the pages are familiar and comforting, even if they’re tinged with the ache of yearning.
Moomintroll had never been so sure in all his life that he would sleep the whole winter through. That he would wake in the spring warm and rested as if no time at all had passed, just like when he was little. Any time bad dreams should disturb him, he could simply reach over and pull Snufkin closer, secure in his safety.
But then that morning came. When he reached over and pawed at the bed beside him, grabbed at the blanket, mistaking in for Snufkin’s nightshirt until he tugged and found it had no weight.
His brows knit together as frustration and confusion swirled in his head. Suddenly he couldn’t remember if what he knew was real - if Snufkin had agreed to stay at all or if he had even asked, or if it all had been a dream. It would not be the first such dream.
Moomin threw himself up onto his hands and looked around the room. The weight of disappointment that had already begun to settle in his chest was relieved with a sigh; Snufkin’s hat still hung from the peg by the door, and his bag was still resting against the night stand, recently disturbed.
Throwing his legs over the side of the bed, Moomin studied the tracks left behind.
Leaning out from the bed, he peered into the jostled bag. He wouldn’t look through Snufkin’s things, of course, but certainly, if one left a bag open… well, really, he didn’t know all of what was in it to begin with, so he couldn’t know if anything was gone. But Moomin did spy the shiny silver of the harmonica, laid haphazardly toward the top. It must have been considered and decided against.
Snufkin’s pillow sat on the floor, looking like a lumpy doll that had fallen out of bed onto its head. Moomin took it by a corner and pulled it back up. The scents of soaps had faded from it by now and all it smelled like was Snufkin - in the way that all people smell like something that’s very hard to name.
Moomin slipped off the bed onto his feet, to the complaint of the tired wood. The window was still shut tight, its icy crust unmoved. But, as he looked closer, Moomin could see a single pane with a cleared spot that was already fading away.
The door handle was cool and smooth in his grip. The hall much darker than his room.
Unknowingly, Moomin finds himself retracing his partner’s path, his footsteps becoming the other half to Snufkin’s. He glances out the same windows, and he’s glad the snowfall had been a bit lighter this year.
He spots Snufkin’s light in an instant, like a firefly calling to its mate. Snufkin’s rosy nose and cheeks seem to grow just a bit darker at the sight of him. Moomin hurries down the last steps.
Another little plume of dust rises as he plops down next to Snufkin, who smiles some.
“What are you doing up?” He lays a hand on Snufkin’s sleeve.
His first answer is a noncommittal head tilt. He plucks lint from the front of Snufkin’s nightshirt and fluffs the flattened hair away form his ear while he waits for another.
Snufkin lays the book aside, takes the lantern in both hands and watches the soft flickers.
“Restless, is all,” His voice is hushed, “Not used to so much stillness.”
Moomin’s ear flicks. The creaking of the house and knocking of the wind, soft snoring upstairs and fire crackling down here, it doesn’t sound all still to him at all. He places his hands over Snufkin’s so they’re cradling the lantern together, and gives a consternated nod.
“It’s understandable.” He says.
Snufkin gives a softer nod, stroking his index fingers against Moomin’s palms. A quiet passes between them, each watching the fire sway.
“Maybe a snack will help.”
Snufkin touches the door-frame as they pass into the kitchen.
The larder is still quite full, though the neat rows of jams and preserves have been disturbed once or twice. Snufkin gently pushes apart a few jars, glass clinking together, until he finds the jar Moominmama left just for him. He smiles at it before tucking it into his elbow and grabbing the bread.
At the table, Moomin hands him a butter-knife and he gives a generous slather to a thick slice, then cuts it in half longways. One half he gives to Moomin. It’s sweet and tart and definitely not going to help him get back to sleep. But it’s a comfort for now. The shadows of the kitchen are deep and they play strangely in the firelight, dancing for them while they eat. The tuft of Moomin’s tail sweeps the floor happily.
When they’re done, Moomin cups the crumbs off the table while Snufkin washes the knife.
Snufkin’s paw slips comfortably into Moomin’s as they make their way back upstairs.
A little part of him wants Snufkin to climb in first, so that he couldn’t sneak away without Moomin noticing again - but that part, he knows, is selfish, and he tells it to hush up and not treat Snufkin that way. So Moomin throws back the sheet and crawls back into his spot, waiting for Snufkin with his hands folded on his tummy.
Snufkin slides in, drawing up the covers as he goes. He nuzzles his cheek into his pillow, facing him, and Moomin smiles and rolls to gently bump his nose against Snufkin’s, drawing a little laugh from him.
Outside the wind blows and the window crackles with tiny icicles. The trees sigh; they’re sleeping too. Maybe, Moomin thinks, Mumrik ears don’t hear those things as well. So Moomin takes him by the wrist and pulls his hand to his chest; Snufkin is limp and complacent in his grip.
“It’s not all still in here, see?” he whispers.
Snufkin spreads out his fingers in the soft fur. Faintly he can feel Moomin’s heart beat, and it makes him smile.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”