Humans might have a thing or two to say about letting sleeping monsters lie but Maui has never had the same kind of caution as them, especially when it came to one monster in particular. Tamatoa was trying to nap the day away, the key word here being trying as Maui was intend on pestering the lazy crustacean to go adventuring with him.
"Come on Tama, when was the last time you went out for more than just a quick snack anyway?" Maui urged, itching to go out and explore the dangerous realm with his crabby companion. Tamatoa merely ignored him as he'd been doing since Maui had interrupted his nap with his arrival.
The giant crustacean was lying on the ground with his eyes closed, which Maui realized with sneaky glee put the other's face in perfect poking reach of his hook. The monster twitched as Maui nudged his cheek with the handle of his hook but his eyes remained stubbornly closed.
Maui let out a huff as he dropped down on the sand, annoying Tamatoa was no fun if the other didn’t react to it. "I'm bored."
"Not my problem." The monster muttered sleepily though no less snide.
Maui decided to ignore him.
"How about we go east today?" He suggested. Maui hadn't actually expected to get a reaction from the other so he was surprised when Tamatoa peeked one eye open to look at him.
"Not a good idea, babe." The monster said before closing his eye again. Maui quirked a brow at the crustacean.
"Why not? We've explored everywhere else within a day's travel from here but we've never gone east so I say we go check it out." If he'd been eager to go out before he was double so now. It was true they had always avoided going east but as there'd been so much of Lalotai to explore Maui had never brought it up. He'd latched on to the idea now though, his adventure senses tingling.
Tamatoa didn’t share his excitement however. The monster let out a sigh, opening his eyes to shoot Maui an annoyed look.
"The territory to the east is claimed." Tamatoa stated though it did nothing to deter the demigod.
"So what? If anything gives us trouble I'll take care of it, no problem." Maui shrugged, not at all concerned. Over the years he'd faced many fearsome creatures and always come out victorious in the end— sure sometimes Tamatoa had to patch him up afterwards, nagging at him all the while, but that was neither here nor there.
The crustacean shook his head. "There are monsters down here that even you can’t handle."
Maui shot the other an incredulous look.
"Yeah, right. I can take down any monster with one hand tied behind my back." He bragged which had Tamatoa rolling his giant eyes at the demigod.
"Sure you can, but this is not just any monster, it's a snake and a very dangerous one at that." Maui didn’t get what was so dangerous about a simple snake, you just had to mind the fangs and keep your distance, no real challenge there. Tamatoa must have been able to tell he wasn't worried about a mere limbless lizard because he cautioned further.
"I'm telling you Maui if you know what's good for you you'll stay away from that one." Demigod and monster shared a look, a silent argument passing between them. In the end it was Maui who let out a defeated sigh. He could tell the crustacean was serious and wouldn’t be coming with him no matter what he said.
"Fine. We can just sit here and be bored then." Maui grumbled as he let himself fall back onto the sand, limbs spread out like a starfish.
"You won't hear me complaining." Finally content now that Maui was no longer bothering him it didn’t take long for Tamatoa to fall asleep.
Just as Maui had expected.
The demigod lifted his head to peek at the crustacean, slowly rising to his feet while keeping his eyes on the slumbering monster. When Tamatoa didn’t so much as twitch he quietly sneaked out of the lair, his destination set in his mind.
While before he had just been in the mood for an adventure now he had something to prove.
A monster that he couldn’t handle? Yeah right. He'd show Tamatoa how wrong he was.
Once he was far enough away from the lair Maui whipped his hook around and transformed into his eagle form before taking to the sky. This way he could cover more ground and his enhanced eyesight would make spotting the snake Tamatoa had warned him about much easier.
Having never flown this far east before Maui was surprised when the land started to even out beneath him, sand taking over the soft moss and grass as even the trees started to disappear until all he could see was a large desert stretching out for miles all around him. After some minutes of flying over the barren landscape Maui spotted something long and off-colored slithering amongst the sand dunes, its shape clearly serpentine. Maui smirked as he let out a crow and swooped down at his prey, transforming back into his human form as he landed in front of the creature.
For a monster it was rather small. The snake stood only slightly taller than him, its head raised as it peered at him with black, beady eyes. Its scales were a bright yellow except for the black hood that flared around its head making it appear more menacing. The snake opened its mouth and threateningly hissed at him but Maui didn’t heed its warning as he twisted his hook in his hand and shot the monster a challenging smirk.
It immediately lunged at him, mouth wide and fangs flashing but Maui was quick to leap back as it snapped at the air he'd previously been occupying. Not wanting to be pushed onto the defensive Maui struck out with his hook in a mighty swing. He caught the creature at the 'neck' though where he'd expected to take its head clean off he quickly figured out it wouldn’t be that easy. The monster's hide was tougher than he'd thought and while not a mortal wound he did still leave a deep cut behind.
The pain had the snake rearing back, an angry look in its dark eyes. The monster lunged at him repeatedly forcing him to fall back and deflect the hits with his hook to avoid getting caught by those fangs. His hook caught the snake in the mouth, its jaw wide around the weapon as it hissed at him, fangs dripping with venom. The monster was strong but Maui was stronger as he pushed back and threw the creature away from him.
The snake landed in the sand though it quickly raised itself up again, keeping at a distance as it surveyed him. It had figured out he was no easy prey but Maui could tell the monster did not fear him. The demigod was used to that though, monsters often underestimated him but this worked to his advantage and only made the victory that much sweeter.
Maui didn’t wait for the next strike to come as he lunged at the snake, his hook glowing with magic. It evaded his hits but had no chance to retaliate, the constant avoiding it had to do not allowing for a good position to strike back at him. Finally a hit caught, his hook drawing blood for the second time as he sliced up the length of the snake's body.
The monster reeled back, flaring its hood and revealing sharp fangs. Maui expected the snake to lunge for him again but was taken by surprise when it spat a spray of venom at him.
The venom hit him right in the face, burning his eyes. The pain was excruciating and he screamed, clawing at his face when the world abruptly went black.
He must have passed out because when he opened his eyes again the monster was gone. It felt like only seconds ago he had been fighting the snake but he must have been out for some time as there was no trace of the creature. His eyes still tingled but the terrible burning sensation was gone, the only remnant of the snake's venom a strange body wide lethargy.
Maui dragged himself up, his energy slow to return which meant he wouldn’t be transforming anytime soon. While he didn't look forward to the long trek back to Tamatoa's lair he looked even less forward to the monster telling him 'I told you so'. Maui could argue he'd been winning the fight and the snake had fled on him but much as it hurt his ego to admit it that trick with the venom had knocked him clean out. In fact he should consider himself lucky the snake had decided to run instead of finishing the job when it had the chance.
The desert stretched endlessly around him but Maui wasn’t a master navigator for nothing and quickly found the way back to Tamatoa's lair. The journey passed around him in a blur of sand and before he knew it he found himself in front of the entrance to the lair. The sudden appearance of the monster's cave surprised him but fatigue still weighed on him so he didn’t question it. His main concern was Tamatoa anyway, the crustacean would probably be awake and quite cross with him— no doubt he was in for quite the lecture.
The monster was facing away from him but when he heard the demigod shuffling in he turned towards Maui, a frown on his face.
"What are you doing here?" Tamatoa sneered, the look in his eyes one Maui had never seen directed at him before.
Loathing. The monster's gaze was heavy with it as though the very sight of the demigod disgusted him.
"Tamatoa?" Maui croaked. He'd figured the crustacean would be angry with him but he hadn't expected this strong of a reaction. A shadow fell over the monster's face as he glared down at him.
"I thought I told you I never wanted to see you again." A painful spike lanced through Maui's chest at the other's harsh words. Even during their harshest arguments Tamatoa had never spoken to him like this, sure the monster's remarks could be cutting but he could always tell the other didn’t really mean them.
This time he wasn’t so sure.
"What? Tama, what are you talki—" He tried to ask but a claw slammed into the ground next to him, startling him into silence.
"Leave." The low rumble of the monster's voice promised consequences if he didn’t listen but Maui refused to heed it. He didn’t know what he'd done wrong but if they could just talk he was sure he could make things right again.
"Not until you tell me what's going on." Maui said, steeling himself. Surely Tamatoa had to see reason, whatever wrongdoing he'd perceived Maui could explain and things would be alright again, they had to be. His hope was swiftly dashed as the monster growled at him, anger only seeming to grow as he stared at the demigod with disdain.
"If you won’t listen I'll just have to make you." Tamatoa hissed before raising his claw to swipe at him, forcing Maui to jump back as the sharp pincer came mere inches from tearing through his abdomen. He quickly pulled out his hook to deflect the next blow and the next, Tamatoa not letting up on his attacks even though Maui wasn’t fighting back.
"I don’t want to fight you!" Maui yelled but Tamatoa wasn’t listening and the blows just kept on coming. His fatigue from the snake's venom was catching up with him though as suddenly one of his legs gave out beneath him, bringing him to his knees. He had just enough time to raise his hook over his head to catch the incoming claw that would have certainly crushed him if he hadn't moved in time.
The realization that Tamatoa was actually trying to kill him froze him to the bone.
Tamatoa chuckled, the sound dark and echoing and when he looked up into the monster's eyes he saw nothing but hatred and disgust.
"Don’t think I won’t kill you just because we used to be friends." The other spat the word at him like it was something foul, punctuating it with another strike of his claw against the demigod's hook. The force of the blow shot down his arms like lightning but pinned as he was by Tamatoa's hateful gaze he barely felt it.
Not even finding out the truth of his parents abandonment had ever felt as painful as looking into the eyes of his friend—his first and only friend— and finding only hatred.
Maui started to tremble, his hook shaking in his hands as he felt tears burning behind his eyes.
The demigod had never ran from anything but that look was more than he could bear and Maui knew if he spent one moment longer forced to see the hatred in his friend's eyes he might shatter.
Tamatoa snarled but didn’t follow after him, likely he thought Maui wasn't even worth the effort of chasing. "Go, run back to your precious humans! They'll realize soon enough what you truly are!"
He ran and ran for what seemed like ages, the world around him turning into an unrecognizable blur as his lungs burned from lack of air. He ran until he couldn’t take another step, his legs giving out as he collapsed onto the ground, panting. When he managed to look up again he realized he had left Lalotai behind and had come to an island. It was dark, the moon barely a sliver in the sky, but he could see fires in the distance which meant there had to be a human village on this island. The thought soothed the ache in his heart somewhat and Maui dragged himself up from the sand, staggering his way towards the gathering of light.
Suddenly there was the sound of a drum seeming to echo across the island, the sound heavy with foreboding. A bad feeling crept like fear up his spine and when he looked towards the tree line he realized the lights were coming closer. Humans carrying torches appeared from between the trees and when they spotted him they yelled out, the light of the fires turning their features harsh and hateful.
Maui stood frozen as more and more humans broke from the tree line and surrounded him, jeering taunts and flinging insults at him.
"Trickster!" "Liar!" "Pretender!"
Every way he turned humans with angry glowing eyes stared back at him, the sound of their voices growing in volume until it was deafening. His hook was yanked from his hand and he startled, jumping to chase after it but the moment he moved he was instantly tackled by a group of humans. He struggled but they managed to wrestle him down and he lost sight of his hook in the scuffle, his hope of escape with it.
Rough coils of rope were pulled tightly around his wrists and ankles, tying them together and no matter how hard or which way he twisted he couldn’t pull himself free. Eventually he exhausted himself and the demigod laid defeated upon the sand at the mercy of the people he'd once protected. A cheer rang through the crowd as they looked at their once-hero, the smiles on their faces replaced with hateful glares.
"Death! Death! Death!" Someone yelled and the chant was picked up by the crowd as faceless men dragged him away from the gathering by the shoulders. He watched his feet make trails in the sand so he wouldn’t have to look at the faces of the people calling for his death, watching the loose grains turn wet and muddy.
There was the sound of waves lapping at the beach behind him and he realized with a start they were dragging him to the sea.
"Wait, you can't do this! Please, don’t!" He pleaded as he struggled anew but his pleads fell on deaf ears as he was pulled into the ice cold water and pushed under. He tried to kick up to breach the surface but the water seemed impossibly deep and with his limbs all tied he was sinking like a stone.
His lungs started burning and though he tried to hold on he could only keep his mouth closed for so long before it became too painful. He gasped, watching helplessly as what little air he had escaped, the bubbles floating up as he sank deeper into the dark.
He tried to scream for someone to save him but he knew no one would, they all hated him; Tamatoa, the humans, not even the gods would save him this time.
The water was in his mouth, choking him, and blackness was starting to creep into his vision.
He felt himself giving in to its pull.
"Maui!" The loud shout broke through the crushing pressure of the sea, startling him into gasping. When the expected rush of water into his lungs didn’t come he realized he could breathe and took several gulping breaths. With each lungful of air the panic of his near death slowly abated until he found he could open his eyes, colorful spots blurring his vision. The light after the darkness nearly blinded him and though everything appeared fuzzy he recognized the large shape haloed in a familiar golden glow towering over him.
"Tamatoa?" Maui whispered, confused by the crustacean's sudden appearance. Had the other pulled him from the sea because he wanted to finish the job himself? He tried to move away, to escape but his limbs refused to obey him, trembling with fear.
"Don't try to move, you need to rest and recover your strength." Tamatoa's voice was steady though there was an underlying tone of worry that was the stark opposite of the bitter, raging thing it had been before. Maui forced himself to look up into the monster's eyes even though the memory of that hateful look still felt like a spear in his chest. There was nothing of that angry Tamatoa in the other's gaze now, only concern reflected back at him. He couldn’t bear to look at the other for long though, the memory of Tamatoa's disdain and his hateful words still too fresh as he dropped his gaze to the ground.
"What happened?" Maui finally asked. He was so confused, he'd been moments from drowning but when he looked around there was no trace of the island or its people and instead of an endless ocean there was only a desert.
"You got poisoned." Tamatoa said. Maui looked up again but still avoided the monster's gaze, looking at the nervously twitching antennae instead. "I warned you not to go after that snake."
He remembered now. Before his fight with Tamatoa he'd fought a snake, it had spat venom in his eyes and he'd passed out.
It felt like a lifetime ago.
"That snake's venom makes anyone who gets hit by it experience their greatest fear." Maui's eyes widened in disbelief. Could it be that everything that had happened was just a dream, a horrible nightmare? He wanted so badly to believe it but he still felt the pain of all that had happened like a fresh wound on his heart.
Tamatoa must have realized Maui didn’t know what to believe as he used an antenna to nudge his chin up and make him look into the monster's eyes.
"Whatever you saw, it wasn’t real." Tamatoa stated, no hint of a lie in his giant eyes. Maui gasped, his vision blurring with tears.
It wasn’t real.
A sob broke from his chest as tears spilled down his face, all the hurt he held inside spilling out with it. Normally he would have felt humiliated to be seen crying but right now he was too shaken to care.
The humans didn’t hate him.
Tamatoa didn’t hate him.
Relief grew in his chest as he repeated those words to himself over and over again, holding on to them like a lifeline. He didn’t know how long he sat there, his tears dripping down his cheeks to fall onto the sand below when he felt the light touch of the monster's antennae wiping away his tears. He looked at Tamatoa—his friend, still his friend— and saw the monster's eyes were wet with tears of his own and when he spoke his voice was watery.
"We should get back to the lair. I took care of the snake but it's not safe to stay here longer than we need to." The monster explained but as he started to move back more than an inch Maui felt fresh panic clawing its way up his throat.
"No!" He clung to the nearest part of the monster he could, which happened to be his claw, and looked up at Tamatoa's surprised face with wet, pleading eyes. "Don't leave me." He said in a small voice as new tears spilled down his cheeks.
Tamatoa lowered himself closer to the ground as he used his claws to gently pull the demigod closer into the protective bubble of his body. "I'm not going anywhere."
Reassured, Maui sobbed within his friends embrace until a dreamless sleep overtook him.