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Claustrophobic

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Spring was always so wonderful. It was Snufkin's favorite season. It was filled with flowers and songs and parties and best of all, friends. One friend, in particular. 

"Moomin!" Snufkin had called out on that first day. When the two's friendship was still budding, they would normally just greet each other with a handshake or high five. Now, they could barely stop themselves from running full speed to one another, slipping effortlessly into a hug. It was wonderful and Snufkin's favorite part of the year. They would then laugh and chat, sitting on the bridge and soaking up the newfound company. 

Snufkin loved the spring. He loved His friends. He loved Moomin. These were all things Snufkin knew well. 

Snufkin was never afraid of much. He was a strong adventurer, so there wasn't much room for any fear. He could battle any beast, traverse any land. But, there was one thing he was most definitely afraid of. Snufkin could never stand to be in enclosed spaces. 

The idea of being physically or mentally trapped made his stomach drop. He couldn't stand it. He was like a bird; always needing to be free. That's why he left for the South every winter. 

So, Snufkin was of course a bit wary to accept Moomin's proposal to explore a small cave he had found near the ocean. He knew something would go wrong. It would be too small, or the walls would cave in, or a rock would fall and hit him...

But Moomin looked so excited. He really wanted to do this with Snufkin. 

"Well, I guess we could," Snufkin said apprehensively. His worries were immediately dissolved when Moomin gave him a big hug and cheered. Snufkin felt his face heat up from under his hat. Maybe it wouldn't be so awful after all. 

Snufkin happily let Moomin tug him along the beach, their paws entwined. He was getting a bit more nervous with each step, but he knew that he had to do this for Moomin. He didn't want him to be disappointed or, god forbid, think he was a coward. That would be worse than being in a cave for a bit. 

Once they reached the cave, Snufkin was trying desperately to grasp onto his remaining confidence. He had to stay strong. 

"Here it is! Looks spooky, yeah?" Moomin said with delight. Snufkin nodded, trying not to squeeze on Moomin's paw so hard that it fell off. 

As they walked through the cave, Snufkin began to loosen up a little. The exit was close by, and Moomin was next to him. Nothing bad could happen. Everything was going to be fine. 

That was exactly when Snufkin heard the rumbling of rocks above them. Moomin dove in, shoving Snufkin away from a falling pile of boulders. 

"That.. that's not good..." Moomin said, squeezing Snufkin's hand. "Well, we should leave now. Come on, the exit is just over- oh. Oh dear.."

The exit, Snufkin's previous savior, was blocked off. 

Snufkin felt his breathing go quick. Oh no. They were trapped. 

"Well, we can find another way out, right Snuf? ..Snuf? Snufkin?" Moomin said, suddenly worried. 

Snufkin could barely think. He was just staring at the exit, starting to freak out. He was shaking. It felt like the walls were closing in, the air suddenly being pushed from his lungs. Oh god, he was going to die. This was it. Snufkin was going to die in a hole without even confessing to Moomin. Without doing all the things he wanted to do in his life. Oh no. His breathing quickened. His knees started wobbling under him.

Moomin caught him, guiding the Mumrik down to the floor of the cave and enveloping him in a tight hug. "Are you okay? Please, just breathe. It's alright, it's okay.." Moomin murmured, holding onto him as tight as he could. 

Snufkin clutched at Moomin's fur, tears suddenly pooling in his eyes. "M-Moomin," he choked out shakily, letting out a shuddery breath.

"Oh, Snufkin.." Moomin mumbled back. 

"I'm.. I'm sorry, I-I should've.. I should've.." Snufkin felt so.. embarrassed. He didn't want to act like this around Moomin of all people. He felt weak. 

"Snufkin, it's okay. Now, let's get out of here, yeah?"

Snufkin nodded. He didn't let go of Moomin's arm until they got out of that cave. 

***

That night, Snufkin couldn't sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, being trapped was all he could think about. Eventually, he couldn't take it anymore. He stood up and walked to Moominhouse. 

Snufkin climbed up the rope ladder up to Moomin's window. He knocked, nervously waiting. This is stupid, Snufkin thought to himself, biting his lip. 

Suddenly, the window opened. "Snuf? Why are you up so late?" A groggy Moomin asked, rubbing his eyes. 

"I.. I couldn't sleep," he confessed, "I.. could I sleep here tonight?"

Moomin's features softened into a warm smile. "Of course."

The two sat in Moomin's bed, talking quietly. 

"I never knew you were claustrophobic. I could've guessed, but still.."

"Yeah, I.. uh, I don't like talking about my fears."

"Well, you can, y'know? You're always welcome to talk to me about anything." Moomin grabbed his paw. 

Snufkin felt his face heat up. "Well, I guess there is something I've been meaning to tell you.."

Moomin looked at him expectantly.

"I.. I like you. Lots. Not in-not in the friend way, although I do think we're amazing friends, I.. it's more of a.. the other kind of like," Snufkin mumbled anxiously. 

Moomin smiled. "I.. I like you too," he said bashfully. 

Snufkin then bumped their noses together, giving a proper Moomin kiss. He then hid under the covers as Moomin hit him with a pillow. 

"I wanted to kiss you first!" Moomin said with a laugh.

"Well, you can always kiss me next time.." Snufkin said, blushing. 

Moomin smiled, cupping Snufkin's face in his paws. 

"I think I will."