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Caring For Your Crab Monster: A Field Guide

Chapter Text

The wilds of Lalotai were calm as night began to fall. The other monsters must have sensed the eel monster’s approach as they flew over the dense flora and foliage. The air tingled with electricity and anxiety. Kanapu, however, was not prowling for prey in the twilight, but searching. Searching for guidance. They could sense the chatter and flapping of bats off in the distance. If the bats were about, then Remuroa must be too, Kanapu reasoned.

Sure enough, it did not take long for the eel to find the juvenile crab monster perched on a carved rock formation that jutted out from the jungle. She was sporting a large collection of skulls and bones on her back now, a stark contrast against her dark shell. Her eyestalks turned toward the eel as they approached, but did not move otherwise. Kanapu was not an enemy.

“I do not mean to interrupt your brooding,” Kanapu remarked, trying to contain the anxiety in their timbre. “B-but...your uncle may be...broken.”

Remuroa’s steady monotone voice perked up as her eyes narrowed. “You broke him?”

“If only I were the cause of it, Remmy,” snarled Kanapu. They were the only ones who should be allowed that honor. “This was Ahi.”

“Who?”

“Another eel, but who they are doesn’t matter,” Kanapu hurried. “He did it to himself. Ahi was going to kill him. That was certain,” Kanapu wavered upon hearing those words out loud before shaking it off. “So he tore off his arm and threw it at them.” Kanapu paused with a small smile. “He yelled, ‘LOOK! A DIVERSION!’ as he did it. I cannot say that it was not effective as Ahi was thoroughly confused by his behavior, allowing me to seize the moment to attack so he could escape.”

Remuroa glanced over the eel and noted that it seemed like an intense battle as their wounds were still healing. She decided to respect her friend's privacy and kept on the topic of her last living relative. “Yeah, that's the throwing-your-own-arm trick we do,” Remuroa mused. “He’s not going to be able to pull that off a second time.” The edge of her lips turned up slightly in a grim grin.

“That was awful,” the eel cringed while also trying not to snicker at her bad joke.

“The word you’re looking for is 'awesome', Kapu,” she winked. “So let me guess, he’s taking this well.”

“He hasn’t left his den since then. Or eaten. Or anything, really.”

“Right, so he’s taking it well,” she repeated with a stronger tone of indifference.

Kanapu gave up on hiding their concern. “Remmy, is he dying?”

“No," she hummed. "Just being dramatic. But losing an arm is kind of a big deal. It’s, like, our primary weapon.” Remuroa clicked her own claws with no enthusiasm as she did it. “He’s probably finally come to his senses and realized that he can’t get out of not molting anymore if he doesn’t want to get killed next time he runs into a monster...or Maui.”

Kanapu cocked their head to one side.

“Y’know? Molting? It’s how we get bigger?” Remuroa shrugged. “He hasn’t done it in well over a millennia. Not sure when Maui took his leg, but going so long without a molt is not exactly healthy for us crabs. Losing his arm is probably the best thing to happen to him.”

Kanapu’s lips curled in a snarl. “Why be so foolish? I understand he is the embodiment of foolishness, but still, it seems excessively so.”

“It’s Uncle Tama. He likes his shine. If he molts, he has to start all over again. He’s as lazy as he is vain,” She rolled her eyes in standard apathetic teenager fashion. “Tch! To think he called me immature for keeping that skull on my back for as long as I did.” The crab’s chill demeanor started a simmering boil. “He’s the one clinging to the past! I’ve at least moved on! He could have had his leg back a long, long time ago!”

“But he can get it and his arm back if...he molts?”

“...Y-yeah,” Remuroa eased back onto her rocky perch like a stone gargoyle once more. “Heh, it’s cute how you wanna help him out, Kapu.”

The eel reeled back in alarm before regaining their balance. “Hmph. My own entanglements is why he lost his arm, not his. He should not have lost it, and I do not like unnecessary loss.”

“You keep telling yourself that, Kapu.” The eel both loved and hated Remuroa’s insight.

“What about you?” the eel retorted. “If you despise your uncle, why help me help him?”

Remuroa blinked, but otherwise did not react to the accusation. “Eh, never said I hated him. That takes too much energy and I can’t bother to care about someone who pretends to ignore my existence. But you’re pretty cool, Kapu, and if you want to help him out, then I’ll help too. That’s how friendship works.”

“Hmph,” Kanapu chuckled. “Monsters having friends, of all things.”

“It’s pretty sweet, yeah?” Remuroa flashed a fanged grin. “Also, if he molts, I might be able to eat him.”

“Do not eat your uncle, Remmy.” Kanapu replied with an less than amused expression.

“I’m joking...sort of. That’s kinda how our family managed to all eat each other. Our shell is so soft and we can’t really move. It’s easy pickings.” She thought for a moment and mumbled, “Not molting probably kept him from getting eaten, actually. That’s almost genius...”

“I do not understand you decapods,” Kanapu sighed.

“Yeah, me neither.” Remuroa mused. “So anyway, here’s what I can tell you about molting.”

Kanapu’s eyes were dilated wide with focus. “Go on.”

“Seems like Uncle Tama’s really trying to fight off this molt by not doing anything. But he’s probably starving and he’s gonna need a lot of food to make a new arm.”

“Okay, food is easy. What else?”

“Take him to a lake so he can soak for a good while, but uh, make sure it’s not too deep because we don’t swim. Some of our family learned that the hard way,” she sighed.

“Do not drown him, got it.”

“Lastly, his den’s too bright and the sand is too dry. If he insists on staying there, it’s gonna need some remodeling… And uh, since he’s missing an arm, he might need help digging or it’s gonna take forever. After that, he’ll just do what comes naturally, I guess.”

“I know the tunnels in Lalotai well. I am sure I can find a suitable den,” Kanapu noted. “Thank you, Remmy. This information is invaluable.”

“If he gives you any grief, let me know. I can always pay him a visit.”

The eel grinned. “I will be sure to warn him.”

Chapter Text

Beneath the jungles of Lalotai existed a complex network of tunnels and caverns where many monsters lurked in the darkness. Over the course of their life span thus far, Kanapu was more than familiar with this subterranean world. They knew the location of every underground lake, cavern, and spring within the boundaries of the monster realm. So when Remuroa told Kanapu the requirements necessary for a crab monster to molt, the eel immediately had a few areas in mind. It took a round of reconnaissance of these potential den sites before they settled on one location in particular.

All this was the easy part for Kanapu. The hard part was leading a giant crab monster to water.

The scrapping of stony sentiment against carapace echoed through the damp walls of the deep tunnel lit only by Kanapu's electric blue glow as they dragged Tamatoa by one of his back claws. He wasn’t struggling, but he wasn’t helping either. The eel had dragged him for miles upon miles with very few periods of rest. He was kind of impressed by Kanapu’s determination to drag him through the depths of Lalotai for this long. Any inquiries of where they were taking him was only met with disgruntled growls. If Tamatoa was not going to help by walking of his own power, Kanapu retaliated in not letting him know where they were going.

Fortunately, Tamatoa had now known the eel long enough to not be too concerned. For as much the scene looked like a hungry predator taking a meal down into the security of a den littered with bones and carcasses, Kanapu seemed to have given up on eating the crab a long time ago. They were satisfied to only demean and irritate Tamatoa, with a few intimate encounters on some irregular occasion. As for Tamatoa, he hardly seemed to mind their odd arrangement anymore. It was expected and comfortable now.

That made him a little uncomfortable.

The view of the tunnel wasn’t much to look at. His remaining claw was outstretched in front of him, the dim glow that radiated off his bioluminescence only highlighted the absence of the other. When it became too hard to look at, Tamatoa’s eyestalks wandered to examine the slick walls of the tunnels. Markings on the wall suggested that this particular tunnel was carved by another monster, but that it had been made ages before he was hatched. He considered the possibility that it was made by an ancestor of his, as he came from a family of diggers. Tamatoa wasn’t exactly a stranger to the underground himself, but he had never needed to venture this deep.

Tamatoa glanced back at the eel. Kanapu had their eyes on the path ahead, but like a seventh sense, one of their eyes looked back to meet his gaze. It was hard to read the energy that radiated from them. It wasn’t hostile, that much he could tell.

The walls were beginning to close in from all sides as they traveled deeper and deeper still. A rock scraped across the edge of Tamatoa’s back, knocking some of the trinkets onto the ground. Kanapu did not care. The same could not be said for Tamatoa.

“H-hey! Watch it!” He began to panic, digging his legs into the earth as he reached out to try to pick them up. It was a difficult task when he now only had one claw.

“Now of all times you decide to move?!” Kanapu grumbled, increasing the force of their pull to get moving again. “Your attachment to this trash is, at this point, irrational!”

“You dragging me all the way down here is irrational!” Tamatoa snapped back, still resisting to move another inch.

“I - am - trying - to - help - you - you - buffoon!” Kanapu punctuated each word with a jerk backwards.

“I - didn’t - ask - for - your - help!” Tamatoa stood firm, not seeming to care that Kanapu could very well remove yet another limb.

“I - DON’T - CARE!” Kanapu mustered the strength for one more firm pull at the same moment Tamatoa lost his footing on the slippery rocks and the two monsters tumbled backwards through the tight tunnel into a less claustrophobic space, that space being literally nothing beneath them.

Down they fell into the shallows of the glassy black water below that erupted into the air as they crashed down. Kanapu felt their body hit the sand. Lifting their head above the water, Kanapu turned to see the wild splashing of Tamatoa’s back legs as they flailed helplessly at the surface. With only a moment’s hesitation for timing, Kanapu’s head sprung forward to grab the crab’s flailing claw again. They pulled the frantic crab’s head out of the sandy bottom and set him upright.

“Tamatoa,” Kanapu called for the crab’s attention has he continued to struggle with eyes closed. “TAMATOA!” The eel’s roar rang through in the open cavern and he finally froze, realizing that he was no longer in danger of drowning. His eyestalks swung around to glare at Kanapu before the rest of his head turned to deliberately spit water at the snickering eel.

“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!” Tamatoa snarled.

“Give me some credit,” Kanapu scoffed. “There are far more efficient ways to kill you and I would have done it ages ago if that were my intention.” And with that, their head disappeared into the water.

“Hey! Don’t you run from me!” the crab spun around in search of the eel’s glow beneath the surface. Now that he was looking at the water, he did notice that it was not completely black. In fact, upon closer examination, the water was reflecting a blanket of shimmering sparkles. Tamatoa craned his head back to look up into expansive ceiling above. It was littered with...stars? No, there are no stars down in Lalotai. But there were hundreds, thousands of glowing blue lights overhead in numerous irregular clusters among the stalactites.

“Glow worms,” Kanapu said, their head above the water just enough to see their lips curled in a soft smile.

“I know what glow worms are,” Tamatoa snapped without taking his eyes off the ceiling. Kanapu rolled their eyes half-heartedly before slipping back into the water. They soon appeared again a moderate distance away.

“There are some rocks over here you can sit on while still keeping most of your body submerged,” Kanapu pointed out. “You should sit here for a while.”

Tamatoa took his eyes off the ceiling one by one to look over at Kanapu and proceeded with caution through the water to where the eel sat before he returned his gaze to the glow worms overhead. Kanapu opted watch them on the water’s surface instead, occasionally glancing at Tamatoa’s reflection to watch the wonder on his face.

“I know what you are doing,” he finally said once he settled in the water more comfortably.

“Remmy said you would need this to get back your arm.”

“Feeling guilty, are you?”

“Where is the glory in defeating your mortal enemy if they are not at their full strength?” the eel hummed.

“Ha,” he mocked. “It was your fault that eel tried to kill me!”

“Yes, that too.” Kanapu admitted. “It was never my intention for you to be involved in the affairs of eels.”

Tamatoa had stopped looking at the glow worms to look at Kanapu once more. “What is their problem anyway?”

“That is just Ahi,” Kanapu avoided the crab’s gaze. “Their problem lies with me more than with you. They should not come after you again. They only wanted to kill you because you happened to be there...”

“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“That is understandable,” Kanapu replied as they rolled themselves back into deeper water.

“And where are you going now?” Tamatoa huffed.

“To hunt,” Kanapu called back as they continued to tread through the shallow water in search of an underwater tunnel. “You will need food.”

Tamatoa had to admit that the hunger pangs were getting a little more distracting. He opened his mouth as if to say something but stopped. After all Kanapu had done so far, it did not feel right to make a request for anything specific. He could have said thank you, and Tamatoa seriously considered it, but he just sat there awkwardly as the eel disappeared into the water again.

Not much time passed before Kanapu returned with their first victim, a puny little crayfish monster. Tamatoa gave the eel a look that said they would need to do much better than that. The crayfish wasn't even big enough as an appetizer. Kanapu returned a look in kind that said to deal with it. Over several more trips, the eel hauled in a couple unfortunate giant cave salamanders, a few stubborn isopods, and a sizable millipede back into the glow worm cavern. And Tamatoa devoured them all with zero restraint.

The eel lifted themselves onto the rocky shelf and curled up beside the crab as he ate. Now that they had finally taken a moment to stop, the exhaustion hit them like a wall. Their eyes began to flutter out of sync as their head sank into the water. They could still hear the muffled sound of Tamatoa’s ravenous eating, but it soon faded as they slipped into a deep slumber.

Kanapu could not be sure how long they had been out, but a sound had eventually roused them from sleep. As their senses came into focus, Kanapu recognized there was a definite melody to it. Tamatoa must have fallen asleep himself after such a heavy meal, and as Kanapu learned in the time they’ve spent in each other’s presence, the crab hums in his sleep. The eel lifted their head just enough for their eyes to peek out of the water. Tamatoa was humming, but he wasn’t asleep, which Kanapu found peculiar. The tune wasn’t familiar either. He was still watching the glow worms, but he must have noticed the eel stir because he stopped humming.

“Do not stop on my account,” said Kanapu. The eel could not deny that they had begun to enjoy it.

“Eh,” Tamatoa mumbled. “I was out of ideas, anyway.” He stood up in the water, and for a moment Kanapu thought that maybe it was time for him to start digging already. However, he turned himself toward the eel instead, though his eyestalks avoided looking directly at them. Kanapu watched as he seemed to be searching for words to say. The crab knew very well what to say, but those words were taking a long detour in the journey from his brain to his mouth.

“If you really want to thank me, Tamatoa,” the eel began, “You will go through with your molt.”

Tamatoa’s eyes glanced at his treasure-glittered back with apprehension. “It won't be easy.”

“Nothing good for you ever is,” the eel mused, reaching up with their whisker to poke Tamatoa between his eyestalks to calm him. “That is why I am here.” Tamatoa leaned into the eel’s affectionate touch and settled his body on top of them to form a two monster pile island in the calm, shining waters.

With his remaining claw, Tamatoa gently scratched the eel near their gills. “Please try not to shock me in your sleep this time, babe. There’s...a lot of water here.”

“I cannot make such promises,” Kanapu yawned as their eyes fluttered closed again. “But for you, I will try.”

Chapter Text

Several more weeks of bathing and eating would pass before it became apparent to Kanapu that Tamatoa was still stalling the process. He kept ignoring the large plot of earth tucked in a dark enclave attached to the underground lake, never pulling his body fully from the water and seemingly distracted by the glimmer of the glow worms overhead. Kanapu attempted to start the dig themselves at first, but their stubby legs proved to be inefficient. They needed to motivate him somehow...

“Oh, Tamatoa,” the eel cooed as they writhed around in the dirt. “Look, I have presented my body to you as tribute to your illustriousness.”

In the lake, the crab turned his head toward Kanapu and blinked with a stone-faced expression that could rival that of his stoic niece. “I'm not falling for that this time.”

“But Tamatooooaaaa,” Kanapu continued their pathetic mewling as their glow pulsed wildly to get his attention.

“You've got to do better than that.”

The eel continued to make lewd noises with increasing volume and intensity. This display went on for several minutes before Tamatoa finally stood up from the water to approach them.

“I'm only coming over there to shut you up,” he grumbled. “Who knows who else can hear you…”

“Yes, punish me!” the eel cried. “I have been a naughty, dirty eel! Put me in my place!”

Tamatoa’s claw clamped onto the eel's snout with just enough force to lock their jaw shut, muffling their pleas. Kanapu then deployed a piercing “Take me now” stare but there was still no reaction on the crab’s part. As they looked at his tired face in the darkness, Kanapu noticed that not only did his glow seemed to have lost its luster, but his eyes looked dull as well. As soon as Kanapu stopped struggling, the crab eased his grip to allow the eel to speak.

“Fine,” they sighed in resignation. “But now that you are over here, you can get to work. This sand has an appropriate amount of moisture thanks to the lake beside it.”

Tamatoa stuck out his tongue in disgust as he pulled his claw away.

“Hmph!” The eel growled. “Remmy was not nearly this difficult when she had to give up that skull to harden her own shell and she is still literally a child.”

“There is absolutely no comparison between me and her,” he snorted.

Kanapu tapped Tamatoa’s face with their whisker. “Prove it.”

“I don’t need to prove anything! I am amazing just by existing, and that’s all matters!”

“Is that so?” Kanapu sneered. “Because if your greatness is inherent and constant, then why would you be so scared of a change in your appearance, hm?”

“Who said I was scared?!”

Kanapu gave him a look, and that was enough for Tamatoa to shrink a little and his glow to pulse anxiously.

“Okay, maybe a little.”

Kanapu’s stare got more intense.

“...Maybe a lot.”

The eel used both long whiskers to squish Tamatoa’s face. “Look, you idiot. It is impossible for me to think any lesser of you than I do now because I think you are absolute trash in all forms.”

“How sweet,” Tamatoa said flatly.

“I am trying to tell you that whatever you think will change? It won't,” Kanapu stopped to glance at where Tamatoa’s arm would have been. “Well, you will have an arm and leg which is a marked improvement for defending yourself from the likes of Ahi, or perhaps, with more likelihood of success, that demigod, Maui.”

Tamatoa’s face twitched.

“Your precious shine cannot and will not save you! It did not stop that human, it did not stop Ahi.” Kanapu’s tendrils flared out as their frustration grew. “You WILL be killed if you continue to be this stupid, and I refuse to have that taken from me!”

“Umm,” Tamatoa interjected, “Not to take the conversation away from me, which I honestly can't believe I'm doing either, but that sure is lot of trouble to go through just to end up killing me in the end, you know.”

“I do it because I loathe you with every fiber of my being.”

“I think the word you are looking for is ‘love’, babe,” Tamatoa smirked.

“Same difference.”

“Not really, but forget it,” Tamatoa conceded. “You’ve made it crystal clear that you aren’t going to let me get out of this.” Coyly, he turned his head so that one of the eel’s whiskers was within range of his mouth. Kanapu squinted with some annoyance, but let the crab to proceed to lick their whisker. The eel couldn’t help but shiver upon the contact on their most sensitive part, which made Tamatoa smirk even more before he pressed his lips against the appendage that tingled with static. But before the crab could take the whisker into his mouth, everything went white as Kanapu gave him a hard shock.

“I offered myself to you before, and you refused,” the eel chuckled as the crab’s head rolled from the hit, antennae twitching in confusion. “Now the only way I will let you have me is if you dig a hole.”

Once the crab regained his bearings, he began to dig, begrudgingly.

---

That was where would Tamatoa lay dormant for a time and at first, Kanapu remained perched atop the damp sand dutifully standing watch. Having a life that spans across thousands of years and beyond meant that a century or two here and there didn't amount to much. But because so much of Kanapu’s routine had included Tamatoa over time after their initial encounter all those years ago, his absence now made time all the more noticeable.

For those first few years, Kanapu did not leave the den where Tamatoa was buried. There were many extended naps and occasional clashes with other cave dwellers attempting to claim new territory as well as some helpless fretting when the waterline of the lake got too close for Kanapu’s comfort. Every so often, Kanapu would rest their whiskers on the ground to listen for the crab’s distinct sleep humming.

But there was always silence.

After those first years, Kanapu began to get antsy. Nothing bigger than Kanapu had tried to take the glow worm cavern as their own, so the eel determined that it would be safe to wander to other areas of the underground. They would be gone for weeks at a time but the eel always returned to Tamatoa's resting place to sleep.

By the sixth year, Kanapu was growing desperate for company other than their own and so they began to leave the underground all together and found Remuroa continuing her business as usual.

“It's probably going to be a few decades at least,” she told Kanapu.

“That long?”

“Yeah, well, he’s big. He’s old. And he’s out of practice with an arm and a leg to remake,” Remuroa replied as she rummaged around the dirt for any buried carcasses.

“...What's it like when you are in there?” Kanapu asked out of pure curiosity.

“Eh, not all that different than sleeping, I guess. Our bodies know what to do. But I do get some of the wildest dreams.”

Kanapu shook the creeping thought of the possibility that Tamatoa could have been dreaming of them. How ridiculous, they internally sneered. “How can I tell if he is going wake up?”

“I guess you'll hear him moving around more. But you still got a lot of time, so don’t expect to hear anything for a while.”

“Would you care to pay him a visit? I could not have selected a better den, if I do say so myself,” Kanapu puffed themselves up with pride.

“Eeeeh, it’s probably better I didn't know, actually,” Remuroa sighed. “No joke this time. I'm gonna get real hungry if I'm nearby when he comes out. And I'll feel real bad about ruining all the work you put in getting Uncle Tama to molt.”

“But you wouldn’t feel bad that you ate your uncle?”

“Naw,” Remuroa giggled. “Uncle Tama sure does feel bad about his Gramma, though. Ask him sometime. It's great. Last time, I think he cried.”

Kanapu would remember that for later, as Tamatoa refused to show such weakness in front of the eel so it was hard for them to believe. Remuroa was certain it would be several decades, so the eel would have to find new hobbies to pass the time. They soon found themselves leaving Lalotai all together and chasing after the Kakamora on stormy seas. Really, they just wanted something to torment with little repercussions. Humans, both voyagers and villagers, were explicitly off limits. Every monster knew that to break this rule, they would certainly have to answer with their hero and his mighty fishhook.

Speaking of the Hero of Men however…

“Well, if it isn't Coconut Guts!” The hawk called out from the grey skies after investigating the remnants of a Kakamora ship bobbing on the ocean’s surface. Kanapu cringed at the sound of his voice, but it was too late to just slink back into the ocean as he was already circling around them. “What’d those little twerps ever to do you? Not that it’s any of my business.”

“It isn't,” Kanapu growled, continuing to swim through the ocean waters. “Have you managed to slay Ahi yet? That’s the red eel, in case you forgot. That’s the one that kills humans for fun.”

“Hey, I'm workin’ on it,” Maui’s feathers ruffled in offense as he circled back toward Kanapu. “They don't make themselves easy to find....”

“To answer the inevitable question, no, I have not seen Ahi. It has been well over a decade since our paths last crossed, and I intend to never see them again if it can be helped.”

Maui caught the breeze under his wings that allowed him hover near Kanapu as they moved through the water. “Actually, since you’re here, I was gonna ask if you’ve seen ol’ Crabcake.”

“Tamatoa?” Kanapu’s eyes darted at Maui with a dangerous glare. There was no chance in Lalotai that they would ever reveal to the demigod where the crab slumbered. Especially not now that they knew he was the reason Tamatoa had been missing a leg this whole time. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason,” Maui tried to shrug as he would have in human form but lost his balance in the air before quickly playing it cool again. “Just the last few times I've been in Lalotai, there’s been no sign of him. It's a big place, but the guy was always a major homebody.”

Kanapu couldn't tell whether the sound of disappointment in his voice was because he no longer had a punching bag or that maybe somewhere among all the hair and tattoos, part of him still cared for the crab’s well being. A toothy grin crept on the eel's face in a way that made Maui drop back a few more feet out of the eel's immediate bite radius.

“Well, demigod,” the eel began, “Tamatoa should be no concern of yours anymore. He was quite a delicious meal once I got around all that disgusting gold trash.”

The hawk faltered again mid-air. “You ATE him?!”

“That is what we monsters do, yes.”

“But weren't you two…” Maui didn't really have a good enough idea of their relationship to have an appropriate word for it. Kanapu wouldn't have been able to help him much there either.

“I was a predator and he was my prey, and who doesn’t like to play with their food every so often,” Kanapu smirked as they studied the shocked expression on the hawk’s face. It was clear that he did not know what to think of this news. The eel supposed that perhaps there was part of the demigod that cared for Tamatoa, but they did not feel bad for tricking a trickster.

“How terrible of me, to rob you of another grand feat of victory over us lowly, despicable monsters,” the eel snickered at Maui, who only scowled as much as a hawk could scowl in return. “I am sure you will get over it quickly.” And the eel dove back into the deep blue.

Fortunately, the demigod did not follow.

That day was one of the more notable days the eel could remember. Kanapu hoped that if Maui believed the crab to be dead, he’d stop looking for trouble. At least, perhaps by the time Maui realizes he had been tricked, Tamatoa would have armored himself back up to stand up to the demigod.

While meddling in interpersonal relations like this wasn’t something Kanapu cared for, they were really bored.

Things began to move more quickly as Kanapu occupied themselves with more things and traveling farther from the realm of monsters with each pass of the seasons. They had even spent some time with the eel of the west, Ta’alili, an old and dear friend of Kanapu. It was a pleasant visit, as Ta’alili was the most personable out of the three, their bright yellow glow like the sun in the sky and a personality just as warm. They also had no knowledge of the whereabouts the great dread eel of the south. Such a monster was hard to track when unlike Kanapu or Ta’alili, Ahi could thrive in the bellies of volcanoes. It was no wonder that’s where they felt most at home, Kanapu thought.

Kanapu returned again to Tamatoa’s den close to the fortieth year since beginning his molt cycle. They found everything still in order aside from a giant cave salamander trying to take residence in the lake. They were disposed of quickly. If Remuroa’s estimations were correct, Tamatoa could be waking soon. The eel tried not to get themselves too excited, however, as they still did not hear any movement beneath them.

Still, they began to keep their explorations within the underground once more as the time drew closer. They kept a routine patrol, taking care to divert or dismiss any monsters who wandered too close to the glow worm cavern. One day, however, the eel’s whiskers picked up the distinct smell of sulfur from a dark pit only a few miles from where Tamatoa rested. They froze, their blood running ice cold as the air around them began to burn their skin.

Four fiery eyes stared at them from the darkness before that familiar eel grin appeared. Kanapu could not help but tremble. The dread eel always had that effect on them, being the biggest of the three and the largest appetite for causing severe amounts of pain. Kanapu had always been their favorite victim.

“You’re looking better than the last time we met, Kanapu,” Ahi purred. “I'll fix that for you real quick.”

Chapter Text

Forty years of sensory deprivation opened like floodgates and Tamatoa was now aware of everything around him with great intensity.

These sensations did little to help him, however, as he could not move a muscle anywhere on his body. Paralyzed and terrified, the movement and moisture of the cool cavern air against his soft exoskeleton made his vulnerability all the more apparent. The lingering fog from his extended unconsciousness began to dissipate, allowing his mind to interpret some of the information overload.

The smell in the air was unmistakable. It was the eel. This would have put Tamatoa more at ease if he did not also notice, as his eyes scanned the darkness of the cavern, that the eel was not present. But the strength of the scent was a good indication that the eel must have been there recently. They would be back, he hoped.

Tamatoa tried to stave off the creeping and consuming anxiety of being without any defenses and strength to escape if necessary. As it turns out, he was terrible at this. He sat there helpless with his own thoughts and they were far from pleasant ones. If another monster were to find him, that would be it. It would be over. Kanapu would come back to a very dead crab. And he must look like an absolute wreck, lying there, immobile and soft. Did he even want Kanapu to see him like this?

Even though he had been asleep for decades, Tamatoa resigned to let himself fall asleep again as a last ditch effort keep the bad thoughts at bay. It helped for a time, until he started to dream.

Tamatoa was small again, small by giant crab monster standards, at least. Hungry eyes of all kinds from other monstrous residents of Lalotai looked down upon him. He tried to retreat back into his borrowed shell, but it was gone. Their teeth were bared now and drawing closer. He couldn't move as they lunged forward...

Tamatoa woke up.

There was some relief in that a bit of his strength had been restored. Enough so that he could lift his head and inspect his newly formed arm and leg. The new claw seemed a bit smaller and shorter than before, but it was significantly better than having no arm at all. And then there was his leg, the scar of a bitter and bloody clash now just a memory. His eyestalks swiveled around to look at his shell. It was an eerie, ghostly pale shade, not a bit of shine to be seen. Tamatoa’s eyes darted away. If he didn’t see it, then it wasn't not there.

Unable to bear all of his own weight just yet, he found himself dragging his body a short distance away from the shell of his former self. The crab’s antennae swung around his immediate area looking for more definitive signs of the eel. It did not take long for the furiously twitching antennae to detect the presence of blood soaked in the sand. Tamatoa had been in enough scraps with Kanapu himself to recognize its source. It wasn’t fresh, but the strength of the scent was enough to know that it had been recent. There weren’t any other scents for Tamatoa to determine what might have fought Kanapu, so the struggle must have happened elsewhere. But then where did the eel go off to?

More time passed, and Tamatoa was starving. The only thing available was the husk he had left behind. This was standard practice for crabs, he recalled from his previous molts all those ages ago. The only thing that made this difficult was that there was still treasures attached to parts of it. He needed to keep those. When he did start to eat the parts of his old shell not covered in shine, it was still difficult to swallow in the figurative sense. He had spent so much energy making himself look magnificent. And now it was gone.

In eating his exoskeleton, however, his body could start to restore his armor, and it was not too long before he could stand on his own. The weight on his newly formed leg was strange. It had been so long, even for a long lived creature such as himself. It would take awhile for him to remember that it was there now.

Tamatoa scuttled over toward the lake’s edge with caution. The glow worms still shimmered like a night sky above and the black lake was still as glass. He gulped before leaning himself forward over his own reflection. His ghostly visage blinked back at him, which made him recoil in disgust. He knew he would get his color back as his armor hardened, but the crab couldn’t stand to see himself this way.

He looked pathetic. He looked just like how he felt, for once.

Tamatoa tried to look at his reflection again, hoping that there was something there he could salvage. His new claw scratched at his now barnacle-less chin. At least those bothersome things were gone, though it'd be a matter of time before they came back. As he leaned closer for further inspection, two sets of wide, pink eyes stared back at him from the abyss. Startled, Tamatoa skittered backwards into a stalagmite.

“Where have YOU been?!” He snapped from behind his claws, which would do nothing to protect him.

Kanapu’s eyes narrowed with annoyance as they lifted part of their body onto the shore in silence. Deep gashes across large areas of the skin were exposed, peppered with scores of burns that had begun to blister. They had stopped bleeding, at least.

“Where I’ve been does not matter as I am here now. I spent a large portion of my time guarding this den while you slept, actually, so do not give me any of that,” the eel muttered as they flopped on to the ground. “...You are looking well.”

“I look disgusting,” Tamatoa whined.

Not lifting their head, Kanapu looked over the crab monster’s trembling body. “So you are going to be a diva about this, are you? You’ve always been disgusting.”

His eyes popped up from behind his claws with a furious glare. “You don’t have tell ME that!” His glare softened and quickly grew morose. “I already know. I always have.” Tamatoa sunk back into his soft shell of self-pity.

Kanapu said nothing, but stared at the crab expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “You’ve wasted all this time on absolutely nothing.”

That surprised Kanapu enough to where they lifted themselves on their legs to turn toward him. The eel struggled to keep steady, their injuries taking its toll.

“There is no need to apologize for something that I have chosen to do,” said Kanapu, dragging their body along the through the sand on their quivering legs. “Besides, you are in appropriate company. You are welcome to look at me when you cannot bear to look at yourself any longer. You’ll find I am just as disgusting.”

Tamatoa moved his claws that obscured his face to get a better look at Kanapu. They looked ragged and worse for wear, their wounds healing poorly. It was actually fairly disgusting and alarming.

“I do not get to shed the scars from my foolishness and incompetence, so I suppose you have beaten me in that regard,” Kanapu flopped beside the crab, and their long whisker stroked his soft face before curling back toward the eel’s body. “But I take comfort in that I am not completely alone in the filth of this world.”

Tamatoa blinked, his expression unreadable as he tried to process what the eel had said. It amused Kanapu, and they smiled as their eyes fell closed and their body relaxed.

“H-hey! Hey, babe!” he yelped, timidly yet urgently prodding the eel’s head. “Y-you better not be dying! If you die, I WILL eat your body. You know I would!”

Tamatoa’s eyes scanned helplessly for any signs of life.

With a groan, Kanapu took a deep breath, eyes still closed. “Not dying, just tired,” they sighed. “Ahi never seems to let me die. They enjoy hurting me too much to let me have such peace.”

“G-good!” Tamatoa huffed in both relief and exasperation. “Not about you being hurt, which is not good if it's not coming from me, but the not dying part, I mean. Ahi can go gut themselves, honestly.”

“Tell me, Tamatoa,” Kanapu hummed as they shifted themselves in the sand to get more comfortable. “If you were to eat me, would you feel better or worse than when you ate your grandmother?”

He got flustered again. “What’s THAT supposed to mean? Wh-who said I felt bad about eating Gramma?!”

“Remmy,” the eel replied. “Who, by the way, will feel no remorse in eating you, I was also told.”

“Brat,” the crab growled. “The feeling is mutual!”

“So?”

Tamatoa had to consider this question more carefully. The circumstances in each situation were different and meant different things to him. He continued to weigh this question as he moved himself to rest his claws over the eel, despite knowing full well he could do nothing to protect Kanapu in this state. The two made quite a pathetic monster pile and for the first time since ever, Tamatoa could feel the connection between himself and the eel’s skin against him in a way he could not before. It was nice.

“I’d feel worse,” he finally said.

Kanapu chuckled. “I thought you would have thought more highly of your grandmother than that.”

“Well, let’s just say that there are some things I'd miss doing with you that I would never do with my gramma,” he replied with that low grumble in his voice.

“Duly noted,” Kanapu smirked. “For later, of course.”

Chapter Text

A still calm wafted through the air of the underground cavern. It was not something Kanapu often came across in the savage realm of monsters, so the peaceful atmosphere was something to relish in while it lasted. The always present threat of Ahi felt much farther away than it was, though Kanapu was confident that the dread eel had their fill of malevolence to last another half century.

With Kanapu’s serpentine body coiled in the soft sand lakeside, Tamatoa had settled himself in the ring formed by the eel’s body, limbs splayed out and resting on top of them. There was enough light to see that he was starting to show more color with a soft pastel tint on his previously pale exoskeleton. It was still awful, but it was a sign that his exoskeleton was building its strength back.

Having been solitary for decades, the new attachment took some getting used to for Kanapu, but it was not unwelcome. Tamatoa would only leave their side to continue eating his old shell and organize his assortment of shiny trophies he picked off of it into an intricate system of cool things to coolest things. Even when occupied with these tasks, however, the crab kept himself close enough to where his antennae or an outstretched leg could continue to touch the resting eel.

“What's that one?” Kanapu would ask whenever they watched Tamatoa sort treasures. The answer that followed was always a detailed account of where he “found” it, what it is, and why it's cool. This time, the eel was pointing at a portion of a large skeleton.

“That's a polished spine of a humpback whale,” Tamatoa explained. “Got that from Remmy.”

“Aw, she does care about you,” Kanapu snickered, their whiskers clasping their face in a mocking gesture.

“Puh!” Tamatoa scoffed. “I would’ve just taken it from her in a battle to the death, but she knew she couldn't defeat the legendary Tamatoa, so she ‘let’ me have it.”

“Did she say something about how you aren't spineless after all?”

“...ugh, yes!” Tamatoa cringed while giving Kanapu a soft smack with his antennae to signal his distaste for the joke. “And she had the stupidest grin while she did it too!”

Kanapu’s lips curled up to make a grin of their own.

“Ugh!” the crab groaned, before resuming to sort his treasures. “You two are literally the worst.”

Things continued this way during those first days of recovery and Kanapu did not mind Tamatoa's newfound clingy-ness. After the thrashing had Ahi given them, any non-violent touch was soothing. Unlike their crustacean companion, their entire existence was one of constant awareness to sensations in their skin. It was how they sensed the whole world around them at times. While Tamatoa may not have liked having a soft, smooth shell, Kanapu loved it, their whiskers often idly exploring every inch of him within reach. It would always give the crab chills. He was disappointed, though, upon learning that this was just Kanapu gathering information and not exactly an invitation for intimacy. Eels were perplexing.

Surprisingly, Tamatoa did some minor caretaking of his own in that time. He kept a close eye on Kanapu’s wounds as they healed and picked off any dead flesh he came across in his examinations. Unsurprisingly, though, he would end up eating it. It would be wasteful not to. The eel found it particularly unappealing, but they allowed the crab to continue this unfamiliar grooming behavior since it was probably as best as he could help them, anyway. Crabs were also perplexing.

“Have they always done this to you?” asked Tamatoa as the tip of one of his legs traced some of the eel’s older scars on their back. “Or is this normal for you eel types?”

“A peculiar question of what’s normal coming from a monster whose family appears to have eaten each other out of existence,” Kanapu snickered.

“That’s why I asked, babe,” Tamatoa softly prodded the eel’s side with the leg tracing the scars. “For all I know, Ahi has been flirting with you this whole time… Do I need to be taking notes?”

Kanapu cackled, both at the idea that Tamatoa felt threatened by Ahi’s presence as a suitor rather than a predator, and the fact that they were ticklish at the particular spot the crab had poked them. “Eel courtship is not nearly that violent, Tamatoa.”

“You could have fooled me,” he said with a wink.

“It was not courtship...the first time.”

“So every other time, hm?”

“I…” Kanapu trailed off as they recalled all of their past encounters, “...I suppose, but I am an outlier and should not be included in your assessment,” they remarked. Tamatoa watched the eel’s lighthearted expression fade into a solemn frown. “Looking back, maybe I had learned that from Ahi.”

“So, back to my original question,” Tamatoa continued as his claws and first set of legs gently stroked Kanapu’s tendrils. “Has it always been like this? In the time that I’ve known you, I've seen you like this -” he looked up thoughtfully and counted under his breath, “- three times now. It feels like this might be a thing.”

“No, it wasn’t always a ‘thing’ as you put it,” the eel said with a sigh. “There was a time when there were four ‘greater’ eels of the ocean. We co-existed, if not in peace, in acceptable tolerance of one another in our respective dominions. Our matriarch kept us in relative harmony until she crossed paths with a shapeshifting demigod of the wind and sea who sought to defeat the greatest of us eels and bestow a gift to those lowly humans.”

Tamatoa growled, “He has a way of mucking things up.” His grip on Kanapu had become tighter so he made a conscious effort to relax again.

“Yes…thanks to him, Ahi no longer had anything to check their ambitious and malicious hunger and here we are…” Kanapu muttered. “Speaking of demigods, I came across him quite some time ago while you slept.” Tamatoa’s eyes narrowed. “I told him that I ate you, so if he seems alarmed next time -”

“I’d rather there not be a next time! I may as well had been dead to him, anyway!” the crab grumbled. “Let’s talk about something else, babe. I was in a great mood until you brought him up.”

Kanapu rested their head on the sand and looked away from Tamatoa. “You asked why Ahi is as they are, so it is not my fault your mood was fouled because I told you the truth. You should be grateful I share anything with you...”

“You could have just left that part out!”

“Yes, because I’m supposed to know how deeply this upsets you when you refuse to mention whatever transpired between you and the demigod, which I’ve come to suspect is because it is as much your fault as it is his!” Kanapu snarled, their head tendrils whipped around as their patience unraveled so the crab could no longer pet them.

“You have no idea what you are talking about!” Tamatoa snapped as he stood up from sitting on the eel.

“No, I do not, but what does that matter?” Kanapu hissed. “It is not as if I have revealed to you the reason for the blight that has plagued my life for millennia in an attempt to form some sort of mutual understanding. I clearly cannot be trusted to return the same gesture, I suppose. I could very well continue to not share anything if that is what will keep you in a good mood!”

The eel thrashed their body around to uncoil themselves, which sent Tamatoa tumbling back into the sand. By the time he righted himself up, there were only ripples on the black water where the eel had slipped away.

“Aw, come on!” The crab roared as he scuttled over to the water’s edge after them. When Kanapu did not immediately resurface, Tamatoa waded into deeper water. His soft exoskeleton made him more susceptible to the unpleasant chill, so once the waterline reached his underbelly, he stopped. “See this is the problem with you eels!” Tamatoa shouted, his voice ringing on the walls of the cavern. “Things were nice for once, but things can't ever be just nice with you, can it?!”

The eel erupted out of the water with a bellowing hiss, towering over Tamatoa in a blinding glow of rage. “I HAVE SHOWN YOU EVERY BIT OF COURTESY YOU DESERVE AND MORE, BOTTOMFEEDER!”

Tamatoa shrank in the growing shadow of the eel as they lifted their whole body out of the water. Electricity sparked with blazing intensity against the cave walls, and several clusters of glow worms went dark. One by one, they extinguished until the only light came from the eel and the arcs of electricity pulsing off their body. In that moment, Kanapu wanted nothing more than to strike down the insolent crab that gazed up at them, frozen in statuesque fear. It would be so easy and justified, and yet, when they saw Tamatoa trembling, wide eyes full of real terror of the enraged monster, the task became so difficult. Fear jolted through Kanapu at the sight, their rage bowing to this new unfamiliar feeling in the pit of their stomach.

“How pathetic,” Kanapu muttered as their tendrils lowered. Sparks subsided as they eased their body back into the water. “Even when presented with a simple kill on a platter right before me, I am powerless.”

They were mostly submerged now, with only their eyes and mouth above the waterline, staring into the darkness below them. It took Tamatoa a short moment to shake himself out of the paralysis from having witnessed his whole life flash before his eyes. Realizing he hadn't been maimed, he looked down at the sulking eel in the water. Their gills flared with heavy breaths. Their eyes darted around the water’s edge. Their glow was dim and erratic.

With the glow worms still in hiding, the two monsters were in near complete darkness.

“It was nice,” the eel sighed, eyes still staring into another world. “But monsters do not get to have nice things, do they? This is our nature. We are only monsters after all.”

The quiet that lingered in the cavern was now filled with the silence of words unsaid. Having been careless before, Tamatoa had to tread with extreme caution and consider if the words coming to him were useful, much less the right ones. This was not a regular situation he had ever come across. Monsters generally did not need to console other monsters, and Tamatoa especially had little reason to think of anyone but himself before. But seeing Kanapu like this stirred something inside of himself. Some may have known this as empathy. This was new for Tamatoa.

The crab took a step closer toward the eel, the sloshing of water echoed in the silence. They didn’t move. One more step, and still no response. Just as Tamatoa lifted his claw to touch the eel, Kanapu drifted forward to bump their snout against him. There was still static lingering on their skin, but the contact was relief, one Tamatoa expressed with a soft sigh. The timid and slow touch of Kanapu’s whispers on him confirmed with certainty to the eel that he was there.

His claw slipped back into the water to pet the eel’s chin, which they rubbed into his claw to encourage him to continue. He obliged and as he scratched the eel’s smooth static skin, some words finally came to him. Tamatoa lifted Kanapu’s head out of the water closer to his face.

“We are monsters, but…” Tamatoa hummed softly. “We could be heroes...”

“...w-what?” Kanapu looked directly at him now as if the crab had just told them a riddle. Monsters are quite the opposite of heroes. And while he had a little smirk on his face, nothing about Tamatoa’s demeanor suggested he was making a joke.

I,” he began. “I will be king.

“Oh, it’s a song. You are singing now,” Kanapu mumbled, unimpressed by the crab appointing himself into a grand position of authority.

"And you,” Tamatoa continued. “You will be queen.

“I should object to that, but go on.”

Though nothing, will drive them away,” he leaned forward to press the side of his face to Kanapu’s snout. “We can beat them, just for one day. We can be heroes, just for one day.

The eel still had no clue what to make of any of this. They did genuinely enjoy Tamatoa’s singing, however, so they weren’t about to stop him as he started to slowly spin the two of them around in the dark water.

And you, you can be mean,” he continued.

“I consider that an understatement of my cruelty.”

And I,” he stumbled briefly, “don’t think all the time.”

“I am not sure if you ever do, honestly...”

'Cause we're lovers, and that is a fact.” The eel’s eyes went wide in alarm and their glow pulsing flustered. This only made Tamatoa grin more. “ Yes we're lovers! And that is that.

Kanapu had a hard time looking at Tamatoa now that they were confronted with the undeniable truth that they were affected by this overtly romantic gesture from a creature they once looked upon as prey.

In their growing shame, they looked away and noticed that the glow worms were beginning to shine once more now that things had calmed down. The weird feeling in their stomach transformed into some combination of disgust in how saccharine this scene had become and anxiousness that it was actually happening to them.

Though nothing, will keep us together…” Tamatoa’s claw gently directed Kanapu’s attention back to him. “We could steal time, just for one day. We can be heroes, forever and ever. What'd you say?

Kanapu blinked, trying not to panic at the obvious cue to join in. They wracked through their brain frantically looking for words. Though Tamatoa watched intently, he did nothing to try to rush the eel. They did that to themselves. “I…” The eel gulped. “I wish you could swim.

“What?” Not a statement Tamatoa expected, but he wasn’t going to judge.

Like the dolphins,” they stumbled, “like dolphins can swim...

“Well, that’s not happening any time soon, babe,” he chuckled.

Though nothing, nothing will keep us together.” Kanapu began to regain their confidence, their tone stronger and determined. “We can beat them! Forever and ever! Oh, we can be heroes! Just for one day!”

I, I will be king!” Tamatoa matched Kanapu’s intensity. “And you, you will be queen!”

Though nothing, will drive them away!” They were getting more in tune with the song.

We can be heroes!  Just for one day!” he replied.

We can be us! Just for one day!” the two sang in unison as their circling around each other in the lake picked up a faster pace. “We can be heroes! Just for one day!

If either monster had been asked all those years ago if they thought they would find themselves singing with each other under a sky of glow worms in an underground cavern and actually enjoy each other’s presence, both would assume it was a cosmically bad joke or some sort of fever dream. Neither of them ruled out those possibilities just yet, but they both knew they were here now, enjoying it while it lasted as these things hardly ever did in Lalotai. Their pace slowed to a full stop as the two of them remembered that good things would come to an end eventually.

We're nothing, and nothing will help us,” Tamatoa sang softly.

Maybe we're lying,” was Kanapu’s solemn reply as they sank and stared back into the dark water. “Then you better not stay.”

Tamatoa rested his face on top of Kanapu’s. “But we could be safer…

Just for one day...” the eel trailed off. The two sat in silence once more under the twinkling lights of the glow worms.

“You know, actually, it could be several days, really,” Tamatoa remarked thoughtfully as his claws stroked the eel behind their gills. “I’ve still got some time to go before my shell is hard enough for me go back out there. It’s...just us down here, babe.”

Kanapu’s eyes locked with Tamatoa’s soft gaze. Their whiskers slowly traveled across his body, from his neck, over his shell, then down across his chest toward his abdomen. He shivered under their curious wanderings.

“Then,” the eel whispered, “Nothing should get between us as we...enjoy each other’s company.”

“Is that...an invitation, babe?”

The eel pressed their snout against his face and purred. “I am yours as you see fit, Tamatoa.”

Chapter Text

Sprawled in the sand of the lake shore was Kanapu, belly up toward the glimmering glow worms as Tamatoa sat on their chest. Their long whiskers moved along his bare back in idle motions, waiting with half lidded eyes as the other monster assessed the situation beneath him.

Tamatoa could do anything with them as he pleased. It was difficult to know where to begin. Kanapu’s soft, tranquil glow signaled their receptiveness to him and their skin seemed to emit an unfamiliar, but overwhelming scent that had Tamatoa’s antennae all over them in amorous investigation. It was never part of their seduction display before. Maybe this was a part of eel courtship that they hadn't thought to cover yet, he thought.

“Having trouble already, are you?” Kanapu teased, giving the crab an amused look before lifting their head enough to give an encouraging lick to his chin. “It is unlike you to spend so much time thinking with this amount of concentration.”

“And you seem unusually hasty, mon petit nuage de tempête,” Tamatoa quiped as his back set of legs poked at Kanapu’s sides before settling on rubbing their sides with light, slow strokes. They wiggled at his touch.

“You have grown larger, but not enough to where you can start calling me ‘little’,” they replied, continuing to nuzzle at his neck with their snout as their shorter whiskers explored his face.

“Um, you DID say I could do with you as I see fit,” Tamatoa pointed out, giving the eel a defiant, smug look. “I am doing exactly as I mean to, thank you very much.”

“I just thought you would do more with that than create more pet names.” Kanapu’s eyes had a kind light to them. The crab did not feel as slighted as he would have been any other time.

But he really wanted the eel to stop talking.

The way they try to appear cool and collected always bothered him. Even now, in their most intimate encounter yet, the eel couldn't shed this last barrier. But the crab didn't mind the challenge.

Tamatoa moved his head to take the eel’s two shorter whiskers into his mouth. They couldn't help but gasp as he sucked them, emitting a small electric charge while their claws clasped to his abdomen. The whiskers were an easy target, being their most sensitive organ. A sure way to get the electric eel to overload with both pain or pleasure. If Tamatoa wanted this done fast, that would be all he would need.

But the usually impatient crustacean did not want this to be quick. They had all the time in Lalotai.

Using his back claws to shimmy himself a little farther down the eel’s body, Tamatoa let the two whiskers slip out of his mouth so that he could press his lips against the crook of the eel's neck. Whatever pheromones they were oozing from their skin gave them a taste the crab could not describe other than irresistibly delicious. With lips pressed against their throat, he felt Kanapu gulp with some anxiousness. Tamatoa had found a thread that would help unravel them.

Tenderness was still a relatively new concept to Kanapu, or at least one they had long forgotten. At the very least, it was still a new thing between the two monsters. In one previous encounter, Kanapu recalled being pinned to the ground at the very spot Tamatoa was now nuzzling in affectionate hunger. They let out a low, soft sigh that radiated throughout their body. This was better than trying to kill each other, they had to admit.

Tamatoa continued to trace down along their neck with affectionate pecks and nibbles until he reached a distinct, familiar scar. He paused, lingering on that memory of their first violent clash. Kanapu tilted their head to look at the pensive crab, their long whiskers reaching out to pet the back of his head.

“Would now be a good time to ask you, Tamatoa,” they thought out loud, “what was it that made you fight back?”

“First off, it isn't a good time,” he replied as his eyes peered upward at the eel with more curiosity than annoyance. “Secondly, I didn't want to die. Satisfied?”

“Mm, no.” Kanapu hummed. “It would be easy to say that it was pure survival instinct but I was so certain that you would have given up. You were defeated, humiliated, and forgotten.”

“You really ought to stop while you are ahead,” was the crab’s blunt reply as he clamped a soft claw over the eel’s mouth.

“I am trying to make a point,” was their muffled response. Kanapu gave him a soothing tap between his eyestalks to assure that their words held no ill intentions. Shaking out of the momentary trance, Tamatoa warily released the eel to continue to speak, his claw then occupied itself with stroking them near their gills. “For you to have fought back against me,” the eel mused, “You would have believed you did not deserve such a fate even at your lowest, when you felt most worthless.” Kanapu looked away. “I loathed that you had been beaten me in pure strength of will, but at the same time, I have come to...respect that about you.”

“I'm not going to tell you to stop flattering me but...you know I wouldn’t’ve gotten through this without you, right, babe?” Tamatoa punctuated his question with a lingering kiss on the scar he left.

The eel shivered. “I did it for purely selfish reasons.” Leaning their head forward to press their nose against the back of his neck, Kanapu spoke in a soft growl. “As infuriating as it may be, you are as much mine as I am yours.”

“The word you are looking for is ‘infatuating’,” joked Tamatoa as he slipped his claw between the eel and the sand to bring their bodies closer. “Now...not that what you are saying isn't lovely, babe, but let's talk about this later, shall we?” He paused. “But if you insist on being chatty, you should tell me whether or not you like this,” Tamatoa growled before he bit a little harder on the eel’s neck.

They uttered a strangled gasp, body shifting suddenly in the sand with surprise before settling back down into its slow, rhythmic writhing. “Yes, it is most enjoyable,” Kanapu purred, one pair of eyes closed while the others gazed at Tamatoa in a lustful stupor. They were impressed how despite not fully explaining the details of proper eel courtship, he still seemed to hit the right notes.

Each little lick, suck, and bite on the eel’s smooth, wet skin elicited a light discharge of static build up. This gave both monsters a tingling sensation where they met; literal, but small, warm sparks between them. Tamatoa had been familiar with this before, but with his softer shell, it was even more electrifying, in the figurative sense. His first set of legs joined the other set in rubbing the eel down their sides to stir up more of a charge while his antennae continue to stroke by their gills. Tamatoa was managing his many appendages attending to the eel very well, his focus fueled by determination.

Kanapu couldn't keep their breathing steady at this point, gills flared, chest heaving and their mouth agape. Their attempts at giving the crab verbal directions were thwarted by their own rising anticipation, the tingle of electricity slowly surging in their skin.

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you, babe,” Tamatoa asked with his face still buried in the eel’s chest. Seeing the eel continue their struggle to keep cool stoked the crab’s fire. It wouldn't be too long now, but again, he wanted to relish in the eel’s pleasure for as long as possible.

Kanapu rolled their body upward against him. “Go lower,” they choked in a raspy tone. It actually hadn’t occurred to Tamatoa to venture past their legs, but the sound of desperation in Kanapu’s voice was all that was necessary to motivate him to oblige. He clambered backwards down the eel’s squirming body, but not without sampling their belly as he did with their neck and chest.

Tamatoa soon arrived at the destination, which the eel made sure he did not miss as they kept rolling their body to rub it against him. “Th-there.” Kanapu was panting now, and the scent of their pheromones saturated the air that it was all he could perceive of their surroundings. Kanapu was the only world he cared for right now. “T-touch me there.”

He only managed to hold himself back because his desire to make Kanapu squirm was that strong. And they were definitely squirming now. “Come on now,” he smirked. “You were so talkative before.”

Tamatoa.” The eel moaned, echoing through the glowing cavern. Oh, how he loved to hear Kanapu say his name, especially with that deep tone of desperate need. The fire within him was blazing wild now. “P-please, I am yours for taking. There is no need t-to torment me so.”

“Me? Tormenting you? Never,” he feigned collected restraint. Kanapu really was beginning to rub off on him, in more ways than one. It was taking every last bit of willpower he had to not indulge. The air moving across the eel’s skin as Tamatoa spoke was enough to get the eel to begin whipping their tail in aggravated anticipation.

Kanapu knew very well what he was doing, and that earned Tamatoa a small jolt of electricity.

“Fine, fine,” he huffed with sarcasm. “If you insist, I guess it’s the least I could do for you after all you’ve done for me.”

Both sets of claws clasped onto the eel’s squirming body before Tamatoa lowered his head to finish the eel off. At this point their taste was downright intoxicating. The writhing eel was practically howling in pleasure under the deft work of Tamatoa’s tongue work before the electricity in their body reached capacity. The crab was grateful that the eel retained just enough control to release their charge through the ground and not through him, but the latent voltage still gave him those static tingles that made him shiver.

Kanapu fell limp, their energy fluttering back into equilibrium as they attempted to catch their breath again. They opened an eye to see Tamatoa’s smug grin as he watched them. Any other time, it would have annoyed the eel, but now they could only crack a small smirk of their own. He shimmied himself back toward Kanapu’s head, and when he was close enough, the eel lifted their head up to give another affectionate lick across his face.

“I have a hard time believing you would feel bad about eating me after that, Tamatoa,” the eel chuckled.

Tamatoa bapped the eel with his antennae. “If you keep it up with these awful jokes, babe, I won't feel bad at all.”