Moana of Motonui is happy right where she is, voyaging with her people and seeking out new stars and islands like treasures scattered across sky and sea.
The bigger islands are truly priceless: a chance not just to rest and shelter, but to plant and harvest and build. To renew their supplies and canoes, restore and replenish those things the ocean cannot provide.
One of those things is privacy- upon making land again, there’s always a great deal of that happening. Among the livestock, among her people. Instead of the sound of the waves and the boats, there are different sorts of sighs and moans on the breeze at night.
But not for her. She is puhi, and expected to remain chaste until she marries, even if she understands the joy and pleasure and connection that gives. Her child will be chief; that life must be created in a bond of commitment and caring. Her parents have been thinking and talking about her taking a husband more often as the years pass. She is old enough and they do not wish for her to be alone.
“I’m never alone- not really. And I’m not lonely. So why rush when there is nobody I wish to be joined with?”
Why indeed? Tui and Sina accept this as they have learned to accept the other remarkable traits of their daughter. She knows her own way, and she will find it.
But they wonder a little, as she does, if she will ever hear that call, if the chain of their line might just end if she doesn’t.
It’s typical, really: he’ll drop in on her like a Kakamora, smirking and confident and hey, Moana, how you been? So there’s a funny story about how this particular sea monster whose territory you’re deep within, by the way, got so fond of eating mortals-
And her response is typical too- she’ll hug him exuberantly before she rolls her eyes, tugs his ear and nags him mercilessly until he tells the whole story and helps her fend off/negotiate trade agreements with/earn the forgiveness of the monstrous whale/serpent/anemone etc.
Hey, it’s a kooky system, but it works.
She adores him despite his many, many flaws- how can she not? Maui is woven into the fabric of her life now as much her family. They've taught each other so much. And she can never forget his willingness to sacrifice everything, even himself, in a desperate bid to help her.
So she’s not at all unhappy when an iridescent beetle drops onto her shoulder and gives her a saucy wink before speaking. “Well, well, well. Look who Matariki dragged past Tahiti.”
She grins. “Hey Maui. Better tell me quick what’s wrong with this island.”
He leaps off her shoulder before he shifts into his usual form, looking mildly surprised.
“Nothing, actually. You’ve finally managed to wayfind to a place that is free of things that would love to eat delicious, nutritious people. I figured congratulations were due for this truly momentous feat.” He bows dramatically.
She laughs, pleased. “Really?”
“Hey, would I lie to you?”
“Yes,” she laughs, but she leaps into his arms for a hug anyway. He hugs her back just as enthusiastically- it’s been months and he has a rather large soft spot for this particular mortal.
She’s sprouted again- it’s hard not to notice the additional height and the swell of her breasts, how she smells subtly different from the girl she’d been.
It’s even harder not to notice the awareness in her eyes as she looks at him after holding on for an instant too long; of her confusion right on the tail of that.
But she smiles brightly and firmly ignores- she’s had years of practice at repressing tantalizing ideas. “Okay, so why are you really here?”
He gives her a once over because he can’t help himself -–she’s grown into a truly lovely woman, poised and vivacious-- even if he holds up his hands and speaks quickly to avoid the impending grilling.
“Seriously. I just wanted to see how you were doing, catch up. Maybe give you a bit of a tour- you know I pulled up this place from the ocean floor?”
That perks her interest. “Ooh, this was one of the islands you made? We love it so far—lots of fish, plenty of healthy trees and good, rich soil. There are even some mature coconut trees, so we don’t need to wait on our seedlings.”
He preens a little, pleased. “You’re welcome! Come on- let me show you around! Pretty sure I put in a waterfall with a sweet little pond.”
Moana hesitates, thinking quickly about the things she’d meant to do. But really, the women will get along fine without her there to help weaving, and the boats are in fine hands with her father. Plus it would be a shame to lose such a fine opportunity.
So she smiles and nods. “Sounds fun! We need to explore the interior of the island anyway.”
He beams and offers her his arm. “Well then, shall we? I thiiink I can find a path that might be doable for someone who huffed and puffed all the way to the entrance to Lalotai.”
She rolls her eyes before she takes the proffered arm, although she’s surprised by the fluttery little thrill that sizzles through her.
Whatever. She’s just happy to spend time with a friend. Who happens to have very nice arms.
It’s a lot like old times: they trade tales as they hike through the forest and keep an eye out for each other- she yanks him back before he treads on a trail of fire ants, and he offers a hand to scramble over a crumbly bit of cliff. It’s nice to be able to talk about how to settle villager disputes with someone genuinely unbiased, to see him roar with laughter when she relays some of Heihei’s truly spectacular accidents, to try to figure out how much of his story about the fruit they picked is embellished, and to snicker at mini Maui’s delight when she gets in a sly verbal jab.
She’s missed him.
It’s nice to feel warm and giddy when he looks at her with undisguised admiration, too.
That part is different somehow. Also the heady rush she feels when she helps tie up his hair before they leap in the water, watches the play of his muscles under the tattoos on his skin, feels the heat and strength of his body when it brushes against hers as they swim.
Moana’s reluctant to end the expedition although she knows her people have to be wondering where she got off to without leaving word. And she maybe holds on a little too long again when they hug before he takes off again.
She’s weary but heart happy when she trudges home with a basket full of fruit on her head and a couple strings of freshwater fish. She relays the brand new stories with relish, passes on the locations scouted- concentrations of useful trees, herbs and mushrooms.
But that night she finds it hard to sleep. That ache between her thighs has lingered all day.
She knows what to do: she rubs her nipples and gently massages the folds between her legs until she’s as wet and warm as the shallows in the sun. And then she plies the molten core of herself until the inevitable eruption leaves her gasping and shuddering. Sleep has always come easily in the languorous bliss after.
But she can’t stop thinking of him as she touches herself tonight, the way his muscles felt under her hands, his masculine scent, the way he’d looked at her with stunned awareness and hunger. She’s both appalled and thrilled by the way thinking of him is spurring that desperate urge, shocked by the incredible intensity of her release.
And she curls up guiltily after.
Maui is one of the constants in her life, an immortal demigod, her friend.
She can’t feel this way for him. It’s embarrassing. Impossible. Foolhardy.
Sleep takes a long time to claim her.
She’s irritable the next day.
By the time she’s stormed out of a dancing lesson, burnt a number of coconuts and snapped at even Pua, the whole village is giving her a wide berth.
And knowing she’s being perfectly unreasonable, she makes up her mind and gathers the supplies she needs.
“Mom, Dad: I’m going to go on a little trip past the reef by myself until I’ve… figured out some things. I won’t go far- I just need some space from everybody for a little while.”
Sina presses her lips together and shares a worried look with her husband before she nods, helping her bundle taro, breadfruit and good woven lines. Tui goes to the stream to gather her freshwater supplies himself so she can make her canoe ready.
As he gives her the gourds, he speaks. “Moana, whatever troubles you- you must know you can tell us.”
She smiles and embraces them, grateful. “I know. But I think this is another time I should try to seek the answer on my own first.”
They both smile with both pride and worry as she turns to go with a wave.
None of them notice the caterpillar that stealthily inches onto her canoe before she pushes off.
Moana’s so jumpy and unnerved, anxiously scanning the horizon and the waves, that Maui quickly decides that his impulsive decision to secrete himself in this teensy form was a stroke of genius. The ocean makes worried sounds at him and he waves his antenna furiously to tell it to back off already.
He’s got this handled.
Course, he’ll just hang out down below for a bit until she’s got that ready-to-crawl-out-of-her-skin pacing thing settled down a bit. She’s a Master Wayfinder; she’ll be fine. And if both he and the ocean watch her worriedly, that’s neither here or there.
It’s not until nightfall that that nervous energy finally seems to give out, and she slumps onto the deck and slides her hand into the ocean.
“If you can hear me, I need to talk to you. My body and heart feel like they’re tangled in knots. I need to figure out how I can make all these feelings stop before they ruin everything.”
“So that’s what’s been making you bite everybody’s head off?”
She screams and jumps back from the caterpillar poking its head up between the slats.
“Maui?! But I’ve been watching for- How did you-“
He shrugs. “Too obvious to fly up. I snuck aboard like this before you pushed off.”
She nods and looks away, cheeks flushed. She crosses her arms over herself miserably when she hears that muffled zap that tells her he’s shifted form again.
“I’m fine. You can go.”
He looks at her and tilts his head. “You don’t look fine. You’re certainly haven’t been behaving fine.”
“Please go. I want to deal with this by myself.”
“Oh, but having this big drip around is just fine,” he notes, waving at the ocean around them.
He gets a squirt in the face for his trouble, but he keeps standing there regardless. Some things just need to be faced down.
Still, refusing to look at him, she starts pacing restlessly again. “I just…need a few days of sailing again. The exercise, the exertion, the quiet at night- it’ll help. It has to.”
“You trying to tell me this moody sap ever shuts up?”
“You know what I mean. No… people sounds.” She presses her thighs together.
And he understands. “You’re lonely. At night. When you can hear others coupled up.”
She tries to deny it, but ends up looking away again. “How many nights did we spend together when we sailed across the sea? And I never felt like this.”
He shrugs, sitting down. “You think you’re the only one to feel this way when your body is giving you urges? To witness all the love people give each other and not feel cold and lonely and sad when you’re left out?”
She gives him a rueful smile. “…I know I’m not.”
“Well, just know that I get it. But I’m a demigod who’s fated to die between the legs of a woman. You’re smart, determined and beautiful. You can go anywhere; your people adore you. What’s your excuse for not finding yourself some loving?”
She looks away, ashamed all over again. “I…can’t be with the man I want.”
He’s instantly jealous before he reins in that selfish emotion. He can rail at the cruelty of the gods some other time. This is about her right now. So he swallows and keeps his tone as even and reasonable as he can.
“…Okay. So he’s already married or something?”
She doesn’t answer for a moment. “…no.”
He’s baffled. “Well, what’s the problem, then? Is this some socioeconomic class thing that I missed while I was stuck in that blasted cave?”
She looks down at her hands. “We’re friends. Good friends. I don’t want to change that.”
He blinks. “…But you of all people know how good change can be, even if it’s scary before you make that plunge. How do you know he doesn’t already feel the same way about you? …I would.”
There’s only the sound of the waves and the wind as they both realize what he’s just confessed.
She finally dares to look at him, and her face softens when he looks down, as humbled and vulnerable as she’s ever seen him.
Taking heart, she approaches him and kneels, cupping his cheek lovingly. “…also, he’s fated to die between the legs of a woman. I could never ask that of him.”
He inhales jaggedly and covers her hand with his for a moment. Then he lifts his head and gives her the ghost of a smirk. “Maybe he’s not afraid of the consequences. Maybe he already made that choice once- and some curly haired not-princess just forgot.”
She makes an appalled noise. “What?! I did not-“
“Did so. Who was playing defense with a shattered magical fishhook while you were figuring out where to put a little green pebble?”
She makes a face. “You’re ruining the moment on purpose.”
He readily agrees. “Classic defense mechanism-”
She sighs and brings her forehead to his, and he relaxes and closes his eyes. Their breaths mingle for a few moments, a calming rhythm in the storm of powerful new emotions.
“…I think you know how I feel about you now. And it still scares me. But I’m glad you’re here to help me figure this out,” she says softly.
“Me too. For all of it. And… I guess we’re a half-decent team.”
She smiles and turns her head so she can brush her lips against his.
And she sighs when he pulls her close and kisses her back wholeheartedly.
Moana returns to her people the next day. Those watching her boat come in notice a great eagle hawk taking flight from her canoe just beyond the reef.
She seems to have found some sort of peace on her short trip, carrying on the work of building the new settlement cheerfully, even joyously, although she looks to the horizon rather more than she did.
And she smiles with delight when she finally spots a boat in the distance. She urges her parents to greet the visitor with respect, and many of the villagers go down to the beach with them out of pure curiosity.
He’s swarthy, with a glorious head of hair, and fantastically tattooed. His boat is heavily laden, but he mans it nimbly despite being alone. After he makes it secure, he approaches them deferentially.
“Chief Tui of Motonui. I come to offer gifts for the right to court your daughter and become one of your people.” And he points out the bows, spears, sailcloth and nets, baskets of fresh fish, kumara and breadfruit, and even the boat itself.
It’s an impressive offer, but Tui smiles calmly. “Moana is a Master Wayfinder and our future Chief. She delivered Maui across the Great Sea and restored the Heart of Te Fiti. She holds the highest status among our people.”
It’s a bargaining tactic, as well as a display of pride. The man nods seriously and adds an assortment of decorated whalebone fishhooks, greenstone carvings, pearls and gold nuggets to his offer.
He pauses. “I would even offer this, although nobody can use it but me. A symbol of the services I can provide.” He seems to whisk a giant, intricately carved fishhook out of nowhere before he holds it up reverently in both hands. Everyone freezes- even Moana’s eyes widen and she shakes her head slightly.
They all understand exactly who this stranger is now.
Chief Tui exhales, obviously reeling. “A most… generous offer. We-”
They're all distracted when Heihei blithely struts across the sand between them, straight toward the foaming surf.
They all watch, gaping and frozen as he continues obliviously towards certain death, before Maui leaps into action. “Whoa there, drumstick! Still got serious issues recognizing hazards, huh?”
That snaps the tension, and there are approving smiles among the villagers as he gently turns Heihei around away from the sea. Maybe even a demigod is not so strange and awe-full after all.
Chief Tui beams at his daughter. “Moana. This suitor appears both generous and kind. Will you accept his court?”
She stands straight and proud, meeting Maui’s eye. “Yes.”
His answering grin of delight is all she needs before she runs to hug him the way she always has. And their obvious joy to be reunited when their foreheads touch make Sina and Tui squeeze each other’s hands with equal happiness.
She always finds her own way.
Maui courts her for as long as it takes to build them their own home-- which is not very long. (Being a demigod comes with certain perks.)
And they pledge to each other as her people always have, dressed in beautifully woven white cloth and wreathed in flowers. They’re witnessed by the whole village before the sky, the land, and the sea (which seems to laugh and weep in turns). And then they all feast and dance in celebration for hours.
That night they lay together. And despite her trepidation for what this may mean for him, desire and love run stronger, and he is unafraid. As they join their bodies, he seems to feel more alive than ever, so they both strain together until they’re engulfed in the blinding light of a magic only mortals get to taste.
He’s stunned as he lays under her after, basking in the rapturous pleasure, the incredible intimacy. “If that was dying, it was… awesome. Gimme a few minutes and I think we can do it again.”
She laughs with relief and kisses him, long and lingering. “Deal. That was… amazing.” She has to laugh. “You’re so amazing,” she whispers.
He laughs too. “We’re so amazing,” he corrects.
It’s not until the next morning, when she sees how the tattoo at the top of his back has shrunken to make room for a new one that they realize what has actually happened.
He’s retained his ability to shapeshift with the hook, but he’s as mortal now as he had been when he was born.
And he may no longer live forever, but proof of their bond now grows inside her, created with love and commitment, a wholly different kind of endless.
For sometimes change can be a good thing.