Epiphany, Part 5
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Fifteen years later -- Spring
Moomintroll sat on his rocking chair, using just his feet to move back and forth as he stared out into the forest. The wood on the porch was going to need some tending to this year, and he’d been meaning to carve a few more statues to line the front of the house for awhile now. But at the moment, all he needed to do was sit and wait.
Moomintroll smiled softly, lifting his head just as one of his kids skidded to a stop in front of him. “Yes, Morny?”
Morny didn’t respond right away, staying hunched over as she caught her breath. Her blue dress was scuffed up, so no doubt she’d gotten into a tussle with one of her siblings. The thin coat of light brown fur on her face was clean, though, so it must not have been a bad fight. “Moomie won’t share the pancakes!!”
“Don’t listen to her, papi!” Moomie ran over then, her flushed cheeks obvious behind her white fur, and her upright ears twitching back and forth in annoyance. “She already ate all of hers and now she wants mine!”
“Girls, girls.” Moominpapi bent down, picking the both of them up and setting one on each knee. “Don’t fight over this. More pancakes can always be made.”
“But these ones were made by Moomin!!” Morny huffed. “And you know he makes the best ones.”
Moominpapi chuckled and shook his head. “Don’t let your mother hear that.” He playfully looked both ways before leaning in, whispering, “But I agree.”
His two little girls burst into giggles at that, kicking their legs as they forgot all about their fight.
“He learned how to make them from you, right?” Moomie asked, pawing at Moominpapi’s chest. “Can’t you go make some more for us? Pleeeaaase?”
“Not right now, my dears.” He looked back towards the forest, smiling softly. “I’m waiting for someone.”
“Ooh.” Morny turned her gaze to the forest as well. “Uncle Snuffy, right?”
Moomin snickered a bit, grinning to himself. Snufkin hated the nickname, but it was easier for the little ones to pronounce. “That’s right. He comes in the spring, remember?”
“With more songs and stories!” Moomie exclaimed. There were practically stars in her eyes as she put her hands to her cheeks. “Do you think he’s finally met a princess?”
“Or an actual knight?” Morny scoffed, crossing her arms. “Not that lame, pretend one guarding a stupid bridge.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Moominpapi hummed, leaning back in his chair. “Why don’t you go ask your brother to make some more pancakes for you -- nicely.” He looked mainly at Morny as he said the last part.
Morny sat up straight, her hands behind her back as she smiled just a bit too wide. “I’m always nice!”
Moominpapi resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Right. Just take the reminder as you will, then.”
“Race you!” Moomie jumped off of her father’s lap before running back inside, followed closely by Morny as loud laughter trailed behind.
Moominpapi took a breath, resuming his rocking as he closed his eyes. A few moments later, he heard the distinctive, soft footsteps of his love.
“Hello, dear.” She nuzzled her nose against his cheek, humming lightly. “I take it you haven’t eaten yet.”
“Not yet.” Moominpapi smiled weakly, opening one eye so he could look at Mymletta. “You know how I am in the spring.”
She had her hair down, the long, red curls reaching her hips and complimenting her lavender dress nicely. Her bright, green eyes always shone with mirth, but she seemed especially cheerful today, her rosy lips turned up into a warm smile.
“That, I do.” She chuckled, glancing down at the child in her arms. “And you know how this one is starting to get.”
The little boy turned his attention away from the sky, his big, periwinkle eyes staring at Moomin expectantly. He was dressed in a simple, light green frock, his own ginger fringe loosely held back with a yellow bandana, and his long, white tail slowly wagging back and forth.
“Right.” Moominpapi chuckled, reaching over to take the small boy into his lap. “Want to wait here with papi, Mumri?”
Mumri nodded, his face not changing as he looked towards the forest. He wasn’t the best at expressing himself just yet, but with rowdy sisters like Morny, Moomie, Mellie, and Mynow, well… he was sure to get over that eventually.
Mymletta sighed softly as she, too, looked out into the forest. “You think he’ll come today?”
“Yes.” Moominpapi nodded, reaching for her hand and squeezing it tightly. “I’m sure.”
She tilted her head down, glancing between her husband and their little one before smiling wide. “Good. There’s only so much winter mopiness a woman can take.”
Moominpapi’s cheeks flushed as he stammered, “I don’t m-mope!”
“Oh, maybe not obviously.” She chuckled, planting a kiss at the base of his ear just so it would twitch a bit. “But a wife can tell these things.”
Moominpapi pouted a little, but he brought her hand up to his lips for a kiss anyway. “You are quite good at that, I’ll admit.”
“Thank you.” She giggled a little, leaning down to kiss the top of Mumri’s head before standing tall again. “I better go help Moominlad in the kitchen. Don’t fall asleep now, you two.”
“We won’t.” Moominpapi bent down so he could look into Mumri’s eyes, joking, “You’ll keep me awake, won’t you?”
In response, Mumri pressed his palm against his father’s cheek and nodded. The two parents had to bite their tongues to not squeak over how cute it was.
Moominpapi nuzzled his snout against Mumri’s cheek instead, smiling wide. “You’re such a good boy.”
Mumri gave a little giggle of his own as he pushed at his father’s face, wiggling happily between his father’s firm paws. Mymletta gave one last chuckle of her own before walking off, back into the tall, dark green house Moominpapi had built twelve years ago. Just two years earlier than that was when Mymletta and her family had decided to travel through Moominvalley, and the two had started their budding romance.
Moominpapi smiled softly at the memory, leaning back in his chair once more and gently prompting Mumri to rest his body against his own. He began rocking again, and stifled a laugh at how Mumri’s eyes immediately started to close. This little one could never handle the power of a good rocking chair.
Long, tinny notes echoed quietly in the distance, Moominpapi’s ears twitching and straining to hear the nostalgic sound as his heart pounded. He closed his eyes, letting time pass as the music wound its way through the air, occasionally being carried off by the wind to bring silence to him.
Once it was loud enough for an actual tune to be heard, Moominpapi opened his eyes again, grinning at the sight of his closest friend coming over a hill, holding his faithful harmonica to his lips.
He still wore the same green hat he’d worn since they were children, albeit with a few patch jobs here and there and a few embroidered flowers decorating the brim. But something must have happened to his tunic this past winter, as he was dressed in a completely new outfit.
“Suspenders?” Moominpapi called out to him, raising a brow.
The harmonica stopped, Snufkin lowering it to his chest so he could grin properly. “Do they not look good on me?”
“I didn’t say that.” Moominpapi looked him up and down, admiring the poofy, green and brown striped pants and the loose, green shirt tucked into it, the light brown suspenders just tight enough around his shoulders. “It’s just more surprising to see you with a tucked-in shirt.”
Snufkin snorted once, pocketing his harmonica in the deep pockets of his pants as he sighed. “I was hoping Mymletta could make me another tunic. I’d been stuck in a more ‘fashionable’ town when my previous one ripped right down the middle. I mended it myself, of course, but this one lass would not leave me alone until I tried this on, and then she stole my clothes!”
Moominpapi snickered a bit as Snufkin took a seat on the rocking chair next to him. “Girls are strange sometimes.”
“They are.” Snufkin crossed his legs as soon as he sat down, twisting his body to smile at the little one in Moominpapi’s lap. “This is the second year that Mumri’s also waited for me.”
Moominpapi laughed, glancing down at the little one who was, in fact, asleep now. “Well, he’s only three. It’s not like he had much of a choice last year.”
“Still.” Snufkin hummed, leaning against the armrest, his watchful eyes never leaving Mumri’s peaceful face. “His fur is turning more white, hm?”
“Aside from his hair.” Moominpapi nodded, beaming down at him. “And his tail got longer over hibernation.” Mumri was definitely the child that looked the best mix between he and his wife; it was funny to him, since he was the youngest. Where the boy’s quiet personality had come from, Moominpapi had no idea.
“How are the others?” Snufkin asked, catching Moominpapi’s eyes with his playful, hazel ones as he added, “I finally have a good princess story for Moomie, by the way.”
“Oh, she’ll be thrilled.” Moominpapi laughed. “They’re good. Right now they’re enjoying some of Moomin’s pancakes.”
Snufkin grinned a bit. “Is it still weird for you to say that name?”
“Eleven years later and I’m still not used to it,” Moominpapi admitted wearily. “I don’t know how Mamma and Pappa handled it when I was born.”
Snufkin snickered, ducking his head a bit to hide his smile. “Well, I suppose that’s why moomins typically only have one child.”
“Six is getting a bit tiring,” Moominpapi admitted, glancing down at Mumri again. “But they’re darling, all of them.”
“Any more planned for the future?”
Snufkin had to actually cover his mouth then, his body shaking with unheard laughter.
Moominpapi smiled back, his heart warming at the sight of his best friend letting loose in front of him. He was really, really glad that hadn’t changed after all this time.
“How was your travels this year?” Moominpapi asked, resting his head against the tall back of his chair as he stopped rocking. “Meet any other strange, new characters?”
“A few,” Snufkin replied vaguely, his eyes shining as he lowered his tone, teasing, “maybe I’ve finally found another moomin to know intimately after all these years.”
Moominpapi tutted, rolling his eyes. “Haha, yes, that joke hasn’t gotten old at all.”
“What?” Snufkin snickered, pretending to idly inspect his claws. “Maybe he, too, wanted me to stay a bit longer. But I told him I had some very important people to meet.”
Moomin felt his stomach twist a bit; the slight jealousy that always came when Snufkin joked like this. Along with a desperate hope that it was just a joke, and then a clawing guilt that he felt either of those ways in the first place.
“Mynow will be happy to see you,” Moomin said eventually, not knowing how to respond to Snufkin’s last statement. “I think she’s developed a bit of a crush.”
Snufkin snorted, tugging his hat over his eyes, his canines glinting in the sun as he grinned. “Like father, like daughter?”
Moominpapi sputtered a bit, his cheeks darkening, but thankfully he didn’t have to respond when Mumri shifted in his lap, lifting his big head and dazedly blinking.
“Why, hello, little one.” Snufkin tilted his hat back, smiling warmly as Mumri turned to him with slowly widening eyes. “Remember me?”
Mumri shot out his hands, almost tumbling forwards if not for the grip Moominpapi had on him.
“Slow down,” Moominpapi chuckled, carefully picking the boy up and handing him to Snufkin. “He’s not going anywhere for awhile.”
“That’s right.” Snufkin hummed, holding the small boy underneath his arm pits and holding him as if to inspect him. He tilted his head, laughing when Mumri copied him. “It’s springtime, after all.”
Snufkin winced, shooting Moominpapi a quick glare that sent the old moomin into a fit of laughter.
“What?” Moominpapi smirked just as Morny and Moomie ran up to them. “It’s easier to say.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s the only reason they say it.” Snufkin rolled his eyes before settling Mumri in his lap, leaning down to inspect the two little girls bouncing on the balls of their feet in front of him. “Who are you, again?”
“Uncle!!” Moomie giggled, pushing at one of his knees. “It’s us!!”
“Ah, that’s right -- Moomina and Morningstar?”
“No!!” Morny snorted, falling onto her back with laughter. “How are you so wrong every year!!”
“Oh, blast this old head of mine.” Snufkin tapped his temple with his fingers, trying not to chuckle too much and ruin the joke. “Names are tricky, you know.”
“You remember me, though, right?” A taller little girl came up to them then, a plate of pancakes in her hands. She had a full body of thick, white fur, though her face was distinctly mymble shaped, and she preferred to wear a pale, red apron over her front.
“Ah, Mynow,” Snufkin greeted with a nod, taking the plate she offered him. “How could I forget?”
The girl blushed, putting her hands to her cheeks as she smiled. “I hope you like the food. I made those ones all by myself! Well, Moomin helped a bit --”
“A bit?” Moomin came over then, looking just like Moomintroll did at his age, though his fur was more eggshell than pure white. He had his hands on his hips as he huffed. “You almost burned your hand three times!!”
“But I didn’t!!” Mynow crossed her arms, turning away in embarrassment.
“I’m sure they’ll be delicious, dear,” Snufkin assured gently. He made sure Mumri was properly supported on his lap before he cut into the pancakes, humming contentedly as soon as he took a bite. “Mmm, yes. Very good.”
“Snufkin!” Mymletta’s singsongy voice carried easily over the porch, another plate of pancakes in her hands. “Thank goodness you arrived when you did -- this one’s barely eaten anything since he woke up.
“Mymie!” Moominpapi flushed again, covering his face as Snufkin snickered. “I’ve been eating fine! And it’s only been two days.”
“He only eats if mami forces him.” Their other daughter, Mellie, spoke up from behind her mother, her eyes never leaving the book she was engrossed in. She was the spitting image of her mother, though she had her own curly locks pulled up into a bun.
“That’s not surprising,” Snufkin replied, taking another bite of his pancakes. Mumri had taken to clutching at Snufkin’s suspenders, leaning his big head against the mumrik’s chest. “One year I think he got sick waiting for me.”
“Hey, kids!” Moominpapi decided to change the subject, looking purposefully at Moomie. “Snufkin says he has a nice princess story for us all!”
Moomie gasped, her eyes widening in joy as she clasped her hands together and jumped up and down. “Really??”
“Ugh.” Morny rolled her eyes. “I wanted a knight!”
“Well,” Snufkin’s mouth was full as he talked, “this princess actually sneaks off to be a knight --”
“Really!?” Now Morny was invested, her hands clenching into fists as she joined her twin in jumping up and down.
Mymletta laughed, handing Moominpapi his plate of pancakes before going over and patting her excitable daughters on the head. “Now, now. You know Uncle Snuffy prefers to tell his stories over a campfire.”
Moominpapi turned his head to the side to avoid the light glare Snufkin shot at him.
“But mami!!” Morny and Moomie whined in tandem.
“No buts.” She chuckled, nodding her head towards the woods. “Why don’t you run off and play for a bit?”
“Yeah!” Morny grinned, running over to tug on Mellie’s orange dress. “Come with us!”
“No, thank you,” the slightly older girl said, though she was letting herself be pulled anyway. “I just got to a good part.”
“You always say that!!”
Mellie smiled a little, closing her book just in time to step off the porch and follow after her sisters. “Fine. Just to supervise.”
Moomie had already taken off into the woods, so she yelled at her sisters to hurry up.
“I’m going to see if Alicia’s free,” Moominlad announced. “She said she had a spell that could make me jump really high!”
“Do be careful with that,” Moominpapi advised, watching his eldest walk off. “Witch’s spells can be dangerous, you know!”
Moominlad simply waved his words off, not breaking his stride.
“Is this what being a father feels like?” Moominpapi mumbled. “Ignored, unimportant?”
Mymletta laughed, leaning in to nuzzle his cheek. “You know he loves you.”
“Are you going to stay with us for a night, Snufkin?” Mynow asked, her cheeks still flushed as she looked at the traveller, her paws clasped behind her back.
“Mm,” Snufkin hummed in thought, glancing down at Mumri who stared back with hopeful eyes. “I suppose one night in a sturdy house won’t kill me.”
Mumri beamed, nuzzling his face against Snufkin’s chest.
Mynow also seemed pleased as she clasped her hands together. “I’ll go fix up the room next to mine!” She ran off before her mother could tell her that the normal guest room would be fine.
Mymletta sighed softly, shaking her head. She turned back to her husband, caressing his cheek as she asked quietly, “Wish to be alone for awhile?”
“If you don’t mind.” Moomin placed his paw over her hand, staring into her warm eyes.
“Of course.” She kissed the tip of his snout before glancing at Mumri. “Come along, dear. These two need to catch up.”
Mumri clutched at Snufkin’s suspenders tightly, shaking his head.
Snufkin laughed, ruffling the little one’s bandana. “Oh, he’s fine where he is, Mymletta.” He looked up at her with a sheepish grin. “Also, I was wondering if you could --”
“Make you a new dress?” She chuckled, crossing her arms as she teased, “You do look just a bit uncomfortable in that getup.”
“You’ve gotten to know me quite well.” Snufkin relaxed, nodding. “If it’s not too much trouble.”
“I’d be happy to.” Mymletta nodded once, sparing another smile at her child before heading back inside.
The two old friends remained on the porch, the little half-mymble sitting peacefully in Snufkin’s lap.
Moominpapi cut into his own pancakes, starting to rock in his chair again as he admitting quietly, “You do look quite dashing in that outfit, though.”
Snufkin grinned slightly, quietly cutting up the rest of his pancakes. “Mm. I had a feeling you’d think so.”
Moominpapi smiled to himself, focusing on the food in front of him. He simply enjoyed Snufkin’s presence for a moment, his ears twitching at the sound of their forks scratching occasionally at the porcelain.
If you had asked Moomintroll fifteen years ago what he envisioned for his life, he would have panicked at trying to think that far ahead. All he did know was how he wanted to feel when he was older: calm, happy, satisfied, fulfilled, and, most of all, loved.
He turned his head lazily to the side, watching his darling, little boy clinging to his best friend, who was now starting to hum a low, simple melody as he ate. Moominpapi smiled, his ears twitching as he tuned into the faint sounds of Mymletta singing a different song as she cleaned up in the kitchen.
Yes. Moomintroll certainly felt loved, that was for sure.
“How long are you thinking of staying this year?” Moominpapi asked quietly.
“Mm…” Snufkin set his now empty plate on the porch, a soft smile on his face. “I’m not sure. Perhaps till midsummer.”
Moominpapi’s heart clenched a little, but he simply nodded in response, setting his own half-eaten plate down. “It’ll be nice to have you till then.”
Snufkin’s smile tensed just a bit before he locked eyes with Mumri. The two stared at each other for a long time, blinking slowly, expressions hardly changing. Moomin was never quite sure what kind of things they were telling each other when they were like this.
“I think this little one wants to go on a trip with me this year.” Snufkin turned to grin at Moomin. “What do you say, papi?”
“Absolutely not.” Moominpapi shook his head, huffing indignantly. “He’s too young!”
“Come now. I was toddling around the forest at his age.”
“Yes, but your claws were a bit more sharp.”
“He’d be with me the whole time.” Snufkin lifted the child up, holding Mumri right by his face just so the two of them could pout and give puppy-dog-eyes together. “Please?”
Moominpapi felt his heart jump as he looked between the two. He was already weak enough against just one of them, but to have both sets of eyes staring at him so earnestly?? He covered his eyes with his paws, groaning, “You two are terrible together!”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s a, ‘I’ll have to talk with Mymletta about it’.”
“Wonderful.” Moominpapi peeked through his fingers to see Snufkin and Mumrik sharing triumphant smiles. “We’ll depart in two weeks, little one.”
Mumri giggled and gripped the brim of Snufkin’s hat between his hands, tugging with excitement.
Snufkin simply chuckled, nuzzling his nose against Mumri’s forehead as he sighed softly. “Coming here often makes me wish I’d decided to settle down after all, old friend.”
“Really?” Moominpapi’s eyes widened a bit at that. “You think you could be a family man?”
“Perhaps.” Snufkin lowered Mumri back into his lap, letting the boy take his hat with him. He wore a polite smile as he whispered, “If I had a good partner.”
Moominpapi’s heart flipped once in his chest. He swallowed, turning his gaze to the forest. “It’s… never too late to find one, you know.”
“A nice sentiment,” Snufkin replied. He took a breath, practically exhaling his next words, “But I think it’s a bit too late for me.”
Moominpapi’s mouth was dry, his brain thinking far too fast for him to know what to say in response.
“But, all in all,” Snufkin looked up at him with a grin, his eyes sparkling playfully, “I rather enjoy being Uncle Snuffy, despite the horrid name.”
Moominpapi snorted, covering his mouth as he continued to laugh. “What? It’s a good name!”
Snufkin actually rolled his eyes before picking up Mumri again, chuckling at the way the small boy was now chewing on the brim of his hat. “Promise you’ll call me my actual name when you’re older, all right?”
Mumri blinked up at him, slowly taking the hat out of his mouth. Then, in a high, squeaky voice, he chirped, “Snufkin.”
Moominpapi gasped, gripping the edges of his rocking chair as he stared at his little boy. He so rarely spoke, so when he did choose to say something then they tried to encourage it as much as possible. “Yes, yes! That’s right, Snufkin. Perfect pronunciation.”
Snufkin appeared to be frozen, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly parted as he simply stared into Mumri’s wide eyes. Tears formed at the edges of Snufkin’s eyes before he pulled the little one close, hugging him tightly and nuzzling the top of his head. “It was perfect, little one.” He laughed softly. “Could you say it again?”
Mumri squirmed in his hold for a moment before squeaking once more, “Snufkin!”
“You’re getting so good!” Moominpapi laughed as well, adoring the sight of Snufkin cuddling the little boy so close. “You’ll have to say it again when mami comes out, all right?”
Mumri smiled a bit before hiding his face in the crook of Snufkin’s neck, shy from all the attention.
Snufkin chuckled and just held him there, turning his head to smile at Moominpapi again. “Really, how did you get such adorable children, Moomintroll?”
Moominpapi flushed a bit, rubbing the back of his neck. “I put the blame entirely on their mother.”
Snufkin snickered, shaking his head. He stared at Moomin for just a bit longer before holding his hand out to him.
Moominpapi stared back at it, raising a brow as he slowly placed his paw in the outstretched hand.
Snufkin smiled, squeezing his paw before leaning back in the rocking chair, sighing up at the sky. “It’s a calm, spring day,” he said, closing his eyes. “Just makes you want to relax with the ones you love, doesn’t it?”
Moominpapi felt his heart flutter. He swallowed, also turning his gaze to the sky as he squeezed Snufkin’s hand back.
“I’d have to agree, my dear friend.”