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Moana fic: Changing Tides (1/2)

December 6th, 2017 (08:52 pm)
moody

feeling: moody

Title: Changing Tides (1/2)

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: Right, so, this happened. I watched this movie a bunch with my kids and my mind always gravitates to fic. I’m not sure whether to apologize or not. Either way, I’m going with this :) No beta. Fills my drowning square for hc_bingo.

Summary: Sometimes the tides worked in your favor. And sometimes, Moana might learn the hard way, they didn’t.



-o-

As far as Moana was concerned, life was pretty much perfect.

She was able to lead her people and love her island.

She was able to be herself with her parents and enjoyed their trust.

She was able to fulfill her dreams and live out her destiny.

All in all, there was nothing she wanted. Her life was completely, utterly and wonderfully perfect. She just had to trim the sails, look to the stars and hope that life would never change.

That was the problem with life, though. It was like the ocean, ever constant and ever changing.

Sometimes the tides worked in your favor.

And sometimes, Moana might learn the hard way, they didn’t.

-o-

In the six months since she’d returned from Te Fiti, a lot had changed in Moana’s village. After restoring the fleet of boats, the village then restore its destiny and took to the sea. The first few voyages had been short and close to home, just enough to give everyone their chance to set out on the waves. After a few weeks, the initial excitement calmed down, and Moana was able to start thinking about targeted expeditions.

It was ambitious, to be sure, but her father had been nothing if not supportive. Moana had spent countless hours talking to him and the other elders, designing plans for the first round of voyages. They had a lot to discover, after all, about life beyond the reef.

And Moana was ready to lead them there.

Lead is exactly what Moana did. Her father came on the first exploration mission, and her mother had joined her for the second. But this one, six months later, was the first that she took control of all by herself.

She stood proudly at the stern of her lead boat, smiling at the feeling of the ocean air on her face.

This was where she was meant to be.

The ocean chose her.

And she chose the ocean.

Which had come first, Moana couldn’t say. Ultimately, she had to think it didn’t matter.

As long as she lived her destiny, everything was going to be just fine.

Her smile widened as she felt a fresh gust of wind catch in the sail.

No, she amended to herself, climbing up to help tip the mast. It was going to be amazing.

-o-

“Well,” she said, gathering a breath. “How are we looking?”

This was, to some degree, a question she already knew the answer to. After all, she was in charge of this voyage. She was the leader. It was her responsibility to know how things were going, and she had been tracking every part of the trip from the day they set off from Motunui three weeks ago. She’d been the one to find the first island -- small and tropical with more coconut trees than Moana had ever seen -- and she’d been the one to steer them to the second island past the horizon, which had been widely populated and quite friendly.

She’d been the one to facilitate trade and work through the issues of dialect. She had presented their offerings of thanksgiving, and she had been the one who sat down with the elders to share stories of days gone by. She was the one who had charted every course, made very small correction.

So Moana knew what was going on.

And she knew how important it was to keep her people involved -- for her sake and theirs.

In front of her, her second in command lifted his chin. This was a recent promotion for Manu. He’d been one of the younger fishermen, and he’d always been the one who went the farthest. Once, a few years back, he’d wrecked out on the reef and been reprimanded in front of the elders.

That wasn’t exactly why she’d picked him for this job -- his navigational skills were far and away superior to most other people’s on the island -- but his love of the open water hadn’t exactly hurt either.

“Our supplies our good,” Manu reported from the deck of the lead boat. He’s been a quick study; and he’s learned to follow Moana’s lead, even when she doesn’t have time to give the orders. “They were more than generous, as you know, on the last island, so we got more supplies than we gave. And the stock of coconuts from the first island are a real score. Our crop is still recovering from last year.”

Moana nodded in affirmation. She’d never been big on meetings, but if more of them could be conducted on the open sea, Moana was pretty sure she could get used to that. “We’ll have to remember both of those things for the future,” she said. “We may be able to continue stocking our coconut supply as needed over the next few years until the groves are reestablished. And if we make it out this way again, we need a more significant gift for the elders at the second island. You know, in the name of friendship.”

The fact that Manu agreed with her was still something of a revelation to her. She had spent most of her life being told she was crazy -- for her love of the ocean, her devotion to a pig and her protection of the stupidest chicken who had ever been hatched -- and now they all agreed with her.

She was right, of course, but still!

Pua, who was perched at her feet, grinned up at her knowingly.

It was a good feeling.

“We’re also making good time,” Manu continued. He pointed to the sails, which were fully and billowed. “The wind has been with us ever since we disembarked. It may have taken us over three weeks to get out this far, but with wind like this, I think we can be home in a week.”

Home -- that sounded nice. It was something her father had failed to understand for the longest time. Moana had always loved the ocean, but she’d loved her island, too. Now that she’d finally gotten to go to sea, she found that she loved coming home even more.

“Very good,” she said. “Make sure that everyone knows what their portions are for the day, and switch up the crews as needed. And just let me know if something changes.”

“Of course,” Manu said. He hesitated, looking embarrassed. “Also, I wanted to say thanks.”

“What?” she asked, taken aback.

His blush deepened on his cheeks. “Going out this far -- I never thought I’d get to do this,” he said. “So, thank you.”

Her chest filled with warmth. “I didn’t do anything,” she said. “If you’re going to thank anyone, thank the ocean for being here.”

Manu chuckled. “I’ll thank both of you,” he said. “How about that?”

Moana nodded. “Well, on behalf of the ocean, let me say,” she said, overly grand. “You’re welcome.”

Manu didn’t get it, of course.

But that didn’t matter.

Moana got it.

She turned back toward the horizon line, beaming.

And the ocean got it, too.

She had a feeling that was what mattered most.

-o-

Going out alone had been an adventure, to be sure. She’d needed that, to figure things out for herself. It had been her journey, and she had needed to make it by herself.

Going out with others, however -- that was pretty nice, too. Sure, it wasn’t as much touch-and-go excitement, but it gave her a chance to let someone else do some of the heavy lifting.

She smiled proudly at her crew, and the crews on the other vessels in her fleet.

For a people who hadn’t sailed in a thousand years, they were pretty good at it.

On her lap, Pua snorted happily, tipping his nose up as a spray from the waves misted over them.

This time, she giggled. It was also nice to have someone you cared about to share it with.

“Isn’t it great?” she asked, nuzzling the top of Pua’s head as the boat crested another wave. “Everything we ever thought it would be.”

He nodded vigorously, his little tongue wagging out to taste the salt.

“Oh,” she said with a sigh. She closed her eyes for a moment, soaking it in. “You know, Pua, there are times I think about not going back.”

He craned his neck back to look at her.

She opened her eyes with a shrug. “I wouldn’t,” she said with an emphatic flair. “I mean, I couldn’t stay away from the island. The village or my family.”

He knitted his little brows together, bumping her with his nose.

“You’d be with me, so what are you worried about?” she teased.

That was an answer he liked.

“Besides,” Moana said, scratching behind his ears. “Wayfinding isn’t about where you’re going as much as where you’ve been.”

Another powerful wave cut at the side of their boat, rocking it gently and spraying fresh water over them both. Moana laughed, water dripping down her hair while Pua squeaked giddily.

“Sometimes, though,” she said, sighing again this time. “Sometimes I think I could stay on the ocean forever, if I had to.”

Contentedly, he settled back down in her lap, looking out over the waves. It was hard to explain to people how the ocean felt like a person to her, just as much as Pua did. She loved the waves, almost with the same intensity that she loved her mother and her father. Gramma Tala would have understood that, she knew.

She cuddled Pua closer, eyes out thankfully on the waves.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

He squawked, licking her chin.

“The best thing that happened to both of us,” she amended with a giggle.

-o-

It was midday, and she was on watch at the stern when she saw the flash of lightning along the horizon. Pua was napping at her feet, but Manu came up beside her.

“Looks like a storm, huh?” he said. He hung, a little anxious, by her side.

During clear skies, the people had taken to the water effortlessly. When the seas got choppy, that was a different story. They’d sailed through a few storms so far, but nothing like Moana had experienced her first night out on the ocean. It was only natural, she knew, to question their ability in a crisis. Moana could still remember calling out for help that night herself.

Still, they would need to experienced eventually -- Moana included -- if only to prove to themselves that they could.

And she believed, wholeheartedly, that they could.

Therefore, Moana strived for diffidence. She wouldn’t be nonchalant, but she couldn’t be too worried either. That wasn’t how you led. She’d seen her father do it countless times. “Doesn’t look too bad now, but we’ll watch it.”

Manu looked out over the water warily.

Moana smiled at him warmly. “Trust me,” she said, confidently now. “We can handle a little stormy weather.”

“I don’t know,” Manu said with another uneasy glance around. “All the way out here, surrounded by ocean. If something goes wrong--”

She gave his shoulder a reassuring pat. “You have to trust the water,” she said.

“But what about the wind and the rain?” Manu asked.

Moana clicked her tongue with a chuckle. “You just got to have faith!”

That answer appeared to vex Manu. “In what?”

She sighed patiently. “Trust me,” she said again, even more emphatic this time. “The ocean has a plan for us, our people. Do you really think that plan involves drowning us out here?”

Manu considered this, eyeing the water with some suspicion.

“Oh, come o n,” Moana cajoled with a roll of her eyes. “Let’s check the wind and adjust course.”

-o-

All bravado aside, Moana did take precautions. She had meant what she told Manu, but she’d spent too much time around her father not to be proactive. Preparation didn’t make you scared; it was what you needed to be unafraid even when others around you quaked.

In other contexts, she’d had trouble with that one.

Out here? Surrounding by the ocean?

It was easy.

With Manu’s help, she sent word to have everyone stow the belongings, and she had the whole fleet trim their sails to catch the updraft. It was her hope that they could ride out the storm in front, maybe until it dissipates, and they’d have no problems at all.

Each time she looked back, however, she could tell the storm was gaining on them.

That was to be expected, probably.

It was just as well, she told herself. It would be silly to let anyone believe that this would all be smooth seas and easy sailing. If this was a question of sooner or later, then she’d take the sooner.

The darkening cloud cover seemed to inch closer to her still. She felt a fresh gale in the sails, pushing them forward.

At this rate, it would be much sooner.

She looked at Pua, who gave her a curious glance in return.

“Just stay close,” she said. “And everything will be just fine.”

-o-

Fine was probably a term most of her people would argue with.

At least, if they had the time before the winds blew up strong and sudden and the sky rumbled with thunder. The lightning danced in the sea around them, and Moana could feel its electricity thrumming through her veins.

At the bow, she stood face to face with the ocean and did her best to keep her smile to herself.

“Okay,” she said, feeling the adrenaline rise within her. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

-o-

With the storm right behind them now, the sails were down, and Moana had as many people as possible positioned at the interior of the boats. This way, the canoes were weighted evenly, and heavy with the haul from the last island, they at least had some weight to keep things steady.

When the rain broke out over them with a crash of thunder, Moana knew they were as ready as they could be.

She gave her people a cursory look, trying not to be bothered by how worried they looked. It was only then, she realized, that they were all looking at her to assuage their own doubts.

Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself on the deck. “Okay, everyone,” she called out, as loud as she could over the heightened deluge. “We have to remember to work with the ocean -- don’t fight it.”

The wind thrashed against them, and a bolt of lightning sizzled not too far away.

“As long as we all do that,” she said. “We’ll get through this together.”

If anyone wanted to question her on that point, the sound of the storm quickly drowned them out.

-o-

The clouds had scarcely done it justice. The squall was furious and sudden, and the gusts of wind left them reeling, and Moana strived for calm as she held her ground in front of her people and facing the sea. She couldn’t hear them whispering their doubts to one another, but she could feel their eyes.

That fact just made her bolder.

She knew her destiny.

She would stand and face it -- alone, if needed.

At her side, Pua stood defiant in the face of the storm next to her.

It almost made her smile.

Not alone, she thought to herself, taking a step closer to her pig.

Never alone.

-o-

It was rocky and wet -- and Moana instructed everyone to steer clear of the masts -- but there wasn’t much else to do but ride it out.

If they kept control of themselves and kept their heads -- this would be no problem at all.

At least, that was how it played out in Moana’s mind.

Unfortunately, while Moana was a very good wayfinder and a pretty good village chief, she still had some limitations in telling the future.

Because as she as she let herself believe that the worst of the storm had passed, a new gale whipped them around, nearly sending everyone tumbling. Moana struggled to keep her feet, looking around wildly to make sure that everyone else had fared okay. Her eyes swept the deck -- water weary and pale faced, she could account for everyone on her boat.

Pua bumped into her leg.

Every one and every pig.

She was letting herself breathe a sigh of relief when the waves cut viciously across them, spinning them out again.

Right into the path of another boat.

“Hold on!” she called out, reaching out for the closest thing.

They crashed hard a second later, the reverberation sending everyone falling again. Moana kept her feet -- barely -- and careened around in time to see the boat next to them catch a gust of air, and hit a wave.

And tumble back, tipping precariously to one side.

The ocean swelled again, almost tipping the boat past the point of no return and sending it crashing.

Right toward them.

She ran forward, screaming over the rain. “Balance it out! Balance it out!”

A few of the more skilled fishermen started to move to compensate, but it wasn’t enough. Another gust and the waves crashed harder, and the boat wobbled, balancing on its end for a horrible, precarious moment.

There was no stopping it, though.

It was going to fall.

Worse still, it was going to fall right on them.

And Moana knew that a collision like that wouldn’t just send people into the water.

It would send both boats to the bottom of the ocean.

Frantic, Moana dived, moving as fast as she could to use the keel to turn them. “Turn!” she yelled, watching as Pua scampered along after her. Across the deck, Manu understood.

“This way, this way!” he yelled, sending the people scattered to the far end, just enough to give Moana leverage to turn.

It was a turn with little energy behind it, but the force was enough to steer them clear of the other boat -- barely.

Moana could see it, mere feet for their boat. In the sea, people were scrambling to grab onto it again.

There were screams and a few cries. Manu braced himself next to her, yelling over the crash of thunder. “Moana!” he exclaimed. “What do we do?”

There was a time when this might have frightened Moana.

She’d come a long ways since then.

“Secure our boat, and keep it level,” she ordered, removing the more ceremonial parts of her dress. It always seemed too formal to her, but her father had told her it was a good way to identify herself as the leader. “I want you to get in position to pick up as many people out of the sea as you can, but make sure you don’t hit the boat.”

Manu nodded, trailing after her. “What about you?”

She glanced back, tucking her hair behind her ears. “I’m going after them,” she said. “And the boat and the supplies.”

Manu looked lost, mouth hanging open.

“You’ll be fine,” she coached, moving closer to the smallest point between the two vessels.

At her feet, Pua looked up expectantly.

She shook her head. “Pua, it’s dangerous.”

He stood his ground.

She sighed, scooping him up. “Fine,” she said. “But stay close, okay?”

He nodded readily.

Not looking back, Moana held Pua closer, balancing adeptly at the edge of the boat, waiting for the right moment between waves.

And there--

Seeing her opening, she leaped across, refusing to let herself look back.

-o-

To her people, this move probably looked like suicide. As swimmers flailed to get aboard a different boat, Moana was jumping to the one that had capsized.

Still, appearances weren’t always what they seemed. These boats were designed to withstand rough seas; moreover, they were designed to stay afloat no matter which direction they flipped. Even upside, the boat wasn’t likely to sink unless it incurred real damage. If Maui were here, the boat could be flipped over in two seconds flat, and everything would be perfect.

Moana looked up through the pelting rain, squinting at the swirling cloud cover above. Maybe not perfect.

Her attention was pulled downward again but the sight of Pua bounding across the canoe toward the far side. He looked back at her distraught, and Moana followed his eyes and realized why.

People on the close side had already started pulling themselves to safety on another boat. On this side, however, they were facing tumbling waves and a capsized boat.

Hurrying, Moana balanced her way across. She fell to her knees, reaching her hand down to the first person she saw.


“Come on!” she called, recognizing the woman as one of her former babysitters. “Help me pull!”

Gritting her teeth, the woman visibly blanched, grasping Moana hard by the wrist to help give her more leverage. Working together, they got her out of the water. She paused, hugging Moana gratefully.

“Hurry!” Moana yelled into her ear as they hugged. She pulled back, hands on the woman’s shoulders. “Follow Pua!”

The woman nodded, turning toward the sturdy central connector, where Pua was waiting anxiously. The boat rocked and they all lurched to the side, but with several quick steps, the woman had crossed behind Pua over toward the point where Manu was waiting with outstretched arms.

It was a relief to save her, but Moana looked out at the water.

This was a smaller vessel, but it’d still had nine people. With the four already rescued and this woman, that left four more.

Another person -- a fisherman this time -- paddled closer, gulping for air.

“Moana!” he called out, spitting water. “Help!”

Moana loved the ocean, yes.

But she was here for her people.

No matter how much she dreamed, she’d always known her priorities.

She went to her knees again, thrusting her arm out. “Grab on!”

The man fumbled once, but as a wave swelled him upward, he latched on. Moana heaved, ignoring the strain in her shoulders.

For Moana, saving her people had always -- always -- come first.

-o-

The rain made it hard to see; the wind nearly toppled her. The waves worked against her, and the weight of her people had never felt heavier.

Still, Moana prevailed.

One by one, she plucked her people out of the ocean and delivered them to safety on Manu’s craft. Pua, ever faithful, helped guide the way, making sure every person got across safely.

When the last one was clear, Manu held out his hand to her against the raging storm. “Okay!” he shouted over the wail of the wind. “Your turn!”

Moana looked back at the boat. She looked at Pua.

He tipped his head, telling her it was her choice.

She looked up at Manu again. “I need to stay here!” she said. “Clear the supplies and keep this canoe with the fleet!”

“It’s capsized!” Manu yelled.

“And it’s virtually undamaged,” Moana said. “We can’t afford to lose a boat!”

“And we can’t afford to lose you!” Manu yelled.

Moana lifted her head; she puffed out her chest.

She really was turning out just like her father.

“Man the lead boat and protect the rest,” she ordered, not giving any way for Manu to mount a protest. “I’ll stay here.”

Pua nodded at her.

“Come on, Pua,” she said, turning around again. “We got this.”

-o-

While the people huddled for safety, Moana navigated around the capsized boat, checking every piece of rigging she could. It wasn’t easy work, what with the wind and the waves, but she was quickly able to ascertain that the mast was intact and the storage compartments were secure.

Still, she knew that there was a risk of taking on too much water with the access points submerged. More than that, the goods could take a little washing. Prolonged water exposure, however? Would prove costly.

There were many ways to save her people.

Moana would not shirk away from any.

“Okay,” she said, pushing her hair out of her eyes while Pua waited expectantly for her. “The storage on the far end is too deep -- we’ll never get in. And if we only empty out one side, we’ll tip the balance too much -- and we could flip uncontrolled.”

His brows knitted together. In a flash of lightning, she could see the unbridled trust in his eyes.

“But,” she continued, feeling her own emotions flutter anxiously in the pit of her stomach. “If we go from the middle--”

Pua snorted decisively.

Moana found herself smiling. “Great,” she said. “Now, stay close.”

His tailed waggled.

She pressed a hand to his soggy head. “Follow me,” she said. “And this will all be over soon.”

-o-

The storm had raged for what seemed like hours.

Moana knew, however, that time had a different meaning on the sea. It all seemed the same, out on the water. Measuring distance was easy, once you knew the stars. But time?

Time slipped and tumbled, it ebbed and flowed.

It was like the tide.

You couldn’t fight it.

You just had to ride it out.

Just like this storm.

Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty -- it didn’t matter.

The ocean would test you as long as it thought was necessary. And it was scary, sometimes.

But if she stood tall, Moana knew she could prevail against even the roughest seas.

The supplies were stored in the hollowed out shell of the canoe. Fortunately, the thin design of this canoe made it possible to secure herself in the woodwork before plunging her hand beneath the waves to find the opening. It wasn’t easy, sliding the lid mechanism away. And it was harder still to catch the fruit and other goods as they floated into the pocket of water between the wood.

She plucked as much as she could, almost dropping it back in the water as it threatened to roll off the deck. Pua scrambled into action, catching and corralling what he could.

“Here,” she said, offering some to him to put between his teeth. “Take it over to Manu and get it clear--”

Before she even finished, Pua was already moving. Small and fat as he was, Pua had always been drawn to the sea as much as Moana had. No one could have guessed a pig would be so seaworthy.

She watched, just for a second, while Manu took the first shipment as Pua quickly trotted back for another.

Satisfied, she turned back to her lot in the water.

“See,” she said under the sound of the roaring sea. “I knew you had a plan for this.”

-o-

The perishable items had been retrieved. The boat was balanced. Her people were safe.

Looking up at the sky still gnarled with storm clouds, she could tell that the storm was passing, too. She could see the blue sky at the end of the horizon.

Feeling her pride swell, she made her way back toward the other boat, Pua trotting behind her.

“See?” she said, throwing a piece of the rigging across toward him. Once the storm had settled, they’d work together and flip the boat back. “I told you everything was going to be fine.”

The words had no more than left her tongue when she felt it.

The turn in the breeze.

The rattle of thunder and the flash of light as it crackled on the open water not far away. She could smell it, like the air itself was burning, and the waves contorted around it as the wind gusted in fast, chaotic swirls. The boat tipped; it turned.

The lead boat, where Manu was still keeping watched, tossed as well.

In the opposite direction.

The first collision was load, but superficial. People tumbled to the deck, and Moana had to catch herself, watching helplessly as Pua skittered to the very edge on his slick hooves.

That was bad.

But the next collision -- the one Moana could still see coming -- was going to be worse.

Both boats rocked, the momentum from the waves sending them back and forth with unexpected force. It was a matter of seconds before they crashed again -- and this time, Moana knew they couldn’t stay lucky.

She had to act.

Now.

With a mighty leap, she scaled her way back to the other side of the boat. The rocky seas almost made her lose her balance, but she grabbed on tight to the rigging and threw herself as far as she could away from the lead boat.

True, her weight wouldn’t be much to counter the force of the seas, but the boat was light right now. With the added force, the canoe was far more likely to stay balanced. It might be just enough to avoid a collision.

She felt the waves against her as she yanked hard, half screaming her determination. She could feel the canoe pull against the ocean, and she saw it crash down -- just short of the lead boat.

It hadn’t been just enough, though.

It was too much.

Moana had no time to compensate as her own weight worked against her, pulling the canoe off kilter in the other direction. The far side tipped up, and Moana thought for a second they might have a chance of dipping back into the ocean before the waves raced and the wind roared, sending their canoe toppling back out of the water. She watched it, in a horrifying moment under the electrified sky, seeing as the mast jutting up.

Just as she plunged down.

-o-

For as much experienced as she’d gained over the last six months, there was still something inherently disorienting about being plunged into a rocky sea. The water was dark and encompassing, and as the waves tumbled her head over heels, it was easy to lose her perspective.

Underwater, her lungs burned and her eyes struggled to see anything in the gloom. The rigging was pulled from her hands, and she tumbled again, flailing without purpose as she tried to get her bearings.

Her heart pounded in her ears. She could still remember that first night on the water, that first storm. The ocean had protected her then, in ways she hadn’t been able to see at first. Everything happened for a reason.

She gurgled, trying to hold her breath.

Everything happened for a reason.

She felt her heart still and she let herself go limp. On the currents of the water, she felt a familiar pull until she managed to turn her face up and ascend. She kicked, pulling toward the surface. A little farther, a little farther.

Breaking the surface, she gulped for air greedily. The waves washed over her again, but she was able to keep herself steady this time, head above the water. The canoes weren’t far away, and for all that she was wet and cold, her entire fleet was safe and in order.

All the boats in one piece; all her people accounted for.

Except.

Her heart stopped again, but the rushing in her ears increased. She turned, looking for any sign of movement on top of the waves. Frantic, her eyes skimmed the canoes, searching for a familiar, small figure.

Because she hadn’t been the only one on that boat.

Her stomach clenched; her eyes burned.

“Pua!”

-o-

No.

That was the only thing she could think.

No, no and no.

She wasn’t going to let anything happen, not to her people, not to her best friend, not to Pua. No, no one would get lost at sea. No, Pua would be found. No, the ocean would not take this from her.

Chest tight, she dove under the water, looking for any sign of whiteness. Breaking the surface, she turned again, swimming several feet farther out.

“Pua!” she yelled, her voice carrying over the dying storm. “Pua!”

The waves rocked her and she dove again.

This time, she swum deeper, kicking her way down before looking in all directions. She pushed herself until her lungs protested, and she broke the surface with a gasp.

She was surprised when there was a canoe, almost right on top of her. And Manu, holding his hand out to her. “Come on!” he called out. “Give me your hand!”

Moana shook her head. “Pua’s missing!”

Manu’s brow furrowed. “We’ll look for him,” he said, his hand almost insistently stretched out for hers. “But first, we need to get you safe.”

Her own safety -- that was almost laughable. She didn’t take unnecessary risks; contrary to what some probably believed, her love of the ocean had never been about thrill seeking. Moana understood that sometimes dangerous situations could be avoided, and she was prudent in those moment.

There were also moments, however, when a risk had to be made.

This was one of those moments.

She shook her head, vehement. “We need to find Pua,” she said. “Now.”

That wasn’t the answer Manu was looking for.

It was a rough night for things like that. They were all being challenged with answers they didn’t want to accept.

Manu, though, acquiesced. “Okay,” he said. “You swim that way -- we’ll handle over here. But don’t get too far!”

Moana nodded, more grateful than she’d ever been for her novice first mate. “We have to find him, Manu,” she said, emphatic.

Manu offered her a small, tight smile. “I know.”

-o-

The water had called to her all her life. It had beckoned her, protected her, enthralled her. It had been the ever present force, the thing that defined her.

It threatened her now.

Not just to drown her -- though she had to acknowledge that risk as she dove underwater again -- but to take something that mattered to her. Moana was no stranger to death; her grandmother’s passing had been a huge catalyst for her. That was how she’d made sense of it; that was how she’d seen the reason behind it.

This?

Losing Pua to the waves?

There was nothing that gave this context. There was no purpose here.

Which was why it couldn’t happen.

She surfaced for air, barely sparing a moment to look back toward Manu, who was still scouring the sea in the other direction. The skies were starting to clear now, but the calm seas did nothing but heighten her sense of urgency.

Plunging underwater again, she kicked harder than before. She pulled through the water with more force than she thought she could muster.

She would find Pua; she would save him, just like she did all those years ago. She would save him like she saved Maui, her parents, her people, her island and the world. If she could do all that, then she could do this.

Underwater, the salt stung at her eyes and her chest clenched so hard that she almost choked right then and there.

She’d told herself there was more beyond the reef, and she’d always been proven right.

But now, searching the empty blackness, she was faced with the horrible possibility that this time there was nothing more.

She broke the surface crying this time, and she swallowed a sob along with a mouthful of salt water.

Before diving in again.

She hadn’t quit before.

And she wouldn’t quit now.

Not while Pua’s life depended on her.

-o-

The skies were clearing; the waves were receding.

But Moana’s heart thrummed to the sound of a desperate drum, faster and faster. She dove deeper, swam wider and searched harder. Nothing had been out of her reach. As a child, she’d defied every expectation and managed to find her own way when all paths seemed blocked. She knew how to get what she wanted.

No, not what she wanted.

She wasn’t a vain, conceited girl. Proud and determined, yes. This wasn’t about her whims and fancies. This was about what she needed.

Who she was.

And the people that helped make her that person.

No matter what anyone said, Pua was one of those people. She needed Pua.

She would find him.

Diving down once more, she let the currents take her and she pulled herself along. Deeper and deeper until--

A smudge of something white.

Swimming harder, she strained to make out the figure. Small and round with floppy ears and gray spots.

It took her self control not to yell for him. Instead, she doubled down, ignoring the burning in her lungs as she swam toward him. He was adrift beneath the waves, little body listless as she pulled him close to her and tucked him against her side.

But she had him.

She refused to consider anything more than that.

-o-

At the surface, she inhaled greedily, sputtering for a moment. She hoisted Pua up above the water, fingers wrapped in his wet, stiff fur.

“Hey!” she yelled, treading water as she tried to keep her head above the rolling waves. She lifted her free hand out of the water, keeping Pua’s little pink nose aloft as she did. “Hey!”

She was farther away from the boats that she recalled, but Manu was keeping an eye out for her as much as Pua. He saw her; then, he saw Pua.

It was only then, as she started to swim back, that Moana realized how exhausted she was. How long had the storm lasted? How long has the search endured? Minutes, probably. A blink of an eye in the enormity of the ocean, but the exertion was still something she felt down in her bones. Her arms ached as she paddled back one handed, and she found herself more than a little relieved when Manu made quick work of the waves between them, slicing through toward her with a speed Moana would have to compliment him on later.

“Here,” Moana said, lifting Pua up as much as she could.

Manu reached down, taking the pig.

“Careful,” she said, watching as Manu laid Pua down on the deck. Someone had reached a hand out to her, and she let herself be pulled on board as the healer -- a soft spoken woman named Kalama -- came over.

“Moana,” Kalama said.

Moana shook her head, shaking away the hands of the people who were crowding around her now. “Pua first.”

“But we have to look you over--”

“Pua,” Moana said, pushing past them all. She went to her knees, wiping away some of the water dripping from his hair. “Pua, look at me.”

He was sprawled on his belly, little ears wet and floppy. His pink nose looked dusky in color, and his eyes were closed.

“Pua,” she said, feeling the strain creep up on her more insistently now.

With a sigh, the healer brushed past her, going to Pua’s other side. Gently, she turned him over, rubbing his tummy for a moment before laying her head down close to his chest. With a frown, she straightened, pressing her fingers more firmly to his stomach. She jostled him -- once and then twice, pushing down hard enough to make Moana wince.

“Is he…?” she started to ask.

Kalama shushed her. She pressed again, and this time, Pua spluttered, water spilling from his mouth and down onto the deck below.

Moana sobbed in relief, watching as Kalama turned Pua back over again, stroking him gently.

“He’s swallowed a lot of water,” Kalama advised, massaging Pua’s head between his ears. The pig spluttered again, forehead creasing even as his eyes stayed closed.

“But he’s alive,” Moana said, feeling the urge to laugh niggle at her self control.

“Yes,” Kalama said. “But I want to warn you that there are still potential complications.”

Concerned, Moana looked up. “Like what?”

Kalama gave her a gentle smile. “Moana, you know how it is,” she said. “You grew up surrounded by water. You know how dangerous it can be.”

Moana did know. She knew of the people who got pulled out by the currents, the ones who fell off the cliffs. She knew of the storms that took the fishermen, even in the relative safety of the cove. She knew of children who wandered off, and she knew of the way water settled into the lungs, drowning some people a second time.

They didn’t talk about this, and it was a side of the ocean she’d never truly come to terms with. She’d never truly understood how something so inviting could be so dangerous. But that was the way it was, wasn’t it? The ocean was a toy, Gramma Tala used to say. It was powerful and sometimes man forgot that power, to his own detriment.

Moana looked worriedly at Pua again.

Kalama sighed again. “You got him out; you gave him a chance,” she said, reaching across to squeeze Moana’s arm. “No one could have done more.”

That was supposed to be a comfort, Moana knew.

Watching Pua taking rasping breaths, Moana didn’t feel all that comforted.

-o-

The skies cleared quickly, and it wasn’t hard to assess the damage. The canoes were mostly in order. There was minor damage to two of the craft, but even the one that had flipped seemed no worse for wear. Minimal supplies were lost, and all lives were accounted for.

“Thanks to you, this didn’t turn out so bad,” Manu said, trying to sound upbeat.

Moana swallowed hard and tried to smile.

Manu shuffled his feet apologetically. “Listen,” he said. “I can take care of stuff for a while. Why don’t you go and stay with Pua?”

She blinked at him in surprised. “But my responsibility--”

“Go on,” Manu said. “He needs you more than the rest of us right now.”

There were no words to describe her gratitude. Manu had proven himself to be a capable wayfinder, but right here, right now -- he was proving something more. He was proving himself to be a good friend.

Moana had spent most of her life in the company of her family and her pets. No one had totally understood it, her desire to hang out with a stupid chicken and a fat little pig. But Heihei had never been smart enough to question who she was, and Pua had been the only one who wanted her to be happy on her own terms. No one else had grasped what the ocean meant to her, not even her parents.

Besides, being the daughter of the village chief had made her the most popular girl on the island.

It also made her the loneliest.

Everyone wanted to follow her.

No one wanted to let her follow for a little bit.

A lot had changed since Moana came back from her voyage, and this was one of those ways.

“Thank you,” she said with an earnest nod.

She looked over to wear Pua had been swaddled in blankets and tucked securely near the mast.

For all that had changed, she knew as her stomach twisted painfully, some things had stayed the same.

-o-

Next to Pua, Moana found herself hesitating for the first time in months. Her journey had given her unbridled confidence, but then again, she hadn’t faced failure. Not since she gave the heart of Te Fiti back to the ocean in apparent defeat.

The call of her ancestors and the support of her grandmother had made her reclaim it.

Out here, though, she was somehow all alone.

Kalama smiled as she approached. “He’s just resting,” she said kindly. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a little bit of a snuggle. The body heat would do him good.”

With a polite nod, Moana sat down gingerly. It occurred to her how cold she was after her own time in the ocean. She could feel her skin prickle in the waning daylight.

“Hey, Pua,” she said, trying not to notice how her voice wavered.

She cleared her throat awkwardly, and Kalama busied herself with another task.

“Crazy day, huh?” she asked, running her hand along the nape of his neck. She pressed the wet strands of his hair back down. “The island doesn’t sound so bad right now, does it?”

She was surprised when he stirred under her touch.

“Pua?” she asked, hopeful.

From the deck, his brow furrowed, little tufts of hair still glistening while his eyelids fluttered open tiredly.

She smiled, the sensation almost bursting out of her chest. “There you are,” she said. Carefully, she reached down, plucking him up and holding him so he was nose to nose with her. “I’ve been worried.”

He looked dimly confused, and he sneezed hard enough to send them both rocking.

“Whoa, hey,” she soothed, tucking him into her arms like she might a baby. She could feel the minute tremors in his body. “You still need to rest.”

Rest had never been a big priority for either of them. No matter what antics Moana got into at the village, Pua had always kept step. She’d never seen him this still -- not since she first saw him, rejected and alone at his mother’s teat.

Her heart constricted.

She’d saved him then, by sheer force of will.

Snuggled him closer, she shushed him again, running a finger down the bridge of his nose. “Just rest, okay?” she said. “Let the waves be your lullaby tonight, and I’ve got you.”

He blinked drowsily a few more times before settling down with a wheezing breath.

She was holding him still when he fell asleep and the stars started to appear. Looking out, Pua nestled against her chest, she found the sky unfamiliar tonight.

And the sound of the waves, for once, was unforgiving.

-o-

She slept there on the deck with Pua all night. In the morning, she helped feed him, trickling fresh water into his throat. Kalama smiled and said they were doing everything they could.

Moana hated the platitude more than she could bear. She was almost grateful when Manu came by to give her an update.

“Last night was uneventful,” he reported dutifully. “And looks like clear skies today. Not even a cloud.”

Studying the waves, Moana tried to let herself be reassured. She looked up at the sails, which were flat. “Too clear,” she murmured.

“Well, after last night--” Manu began.

Moana shook her head. “Have you tried adjusting the sails a little?”

Manu nodded thoughtfully. “We checked a few different angles,” he said.

“But there’s no wind,” Moana said with a sigh.

“Still, progress is good,” Manu said, trying to sound upbeat.

“But we’re still a week away,” Moana said. “Maybe more.”

Manu chuckled. “We can’t control the wind.”

She gave a glance back toward Pua. “Don’t I know it,” she muttered.

As it turned out, Moana wasn’t sure she could control anything.

And the gods may test her for thinking she could.

-o-

“Moana, honestly,” Kalama said. “We’re doing all we can.”

“We’re doing nothing,” Moana argued. She wasn’t angry at Kalama, but her frustration was harder to contain than before.

Kalama flattened her lips for a moment. “We’re letting him rest, giving him fluids,” she said. “That’s as much as we can do.”

“But you’ve listened to him,” she protested. “His lungs are getting worse.”

Moana knew this, because she could hear him breath. She could feel the congestion when she pressed him against her. She knew.

“Moana, please--”

“Back at home,” Moana said, ignoring the attempts to placate her again. “There are herbs, aren’t there? A tincture?”

“Well, yes,” Kalama said. “But we brought limited supplies, and we used most of it in trade at the last island.”

“But if we got back home,” Moana said. “Then, you could do more.”

Kalama sighed. “Moana, we all have our limitations. We have to accept them.”

That was the same thing she’d been told all her life.

That was the same thing she’d defied when she left in the middle of the night.

That was the same thing she’d proven wrong when she restored the heart of Te Fiti and saved the world.

Moana didn’t think herself cocky.

She just thought herself confident.

Until now.

Shaking her head, she swallowed hard over the lump in her throat. “And if those limitations carry too high a cost?”

“We’re just humans -- and pigs,” Kalama said. “You can’t ask for more than any of us are capable of giving.”

Moana was a girl of action. That was why she’d taken to the sea in the first place.

But now, standing in the middle of the vast sea, the ocean taken that from her.

Her eyes rested on Pua.

She didn’t want to think about how much more it might take.

-o-

As much as she wanted to sit and coddle Pua all day, it wasn’t realistic. She was still in charge of the fleet, and the people still looked to her. Manu had proven himself to be reliable in a crisis, but she would not abdicate her responsibility. She couldn’t.

More than that, sitting idle was going to drive her crazy. If she sat there, measuring Pua’s every breath, she would be the one who died first from the unending anxiety.

It was all well and good, then, when she made the rounds to the other boats, talking to the people on each of them. It took longer than usual; after last night’s storms, anxieties were running high for everyone.

Moana took the time that was necessary, assuring them each that all was well, that they’d weathered the worst of it.

“All we have to do is get home now,” she reminded the people with a smile.

The platitudes felt forced in her throat, threatening to choke her. The hardest part wasn’t that, though.

No, the hardest part, she knew, was that that sort of thing was apparently easier said than done.

-o-

“I think it’s actually died down,” Manu observed with a shake of his head. He scratched at the scruff on his chin. “We’ve tried in all directions, just to see.”

Moana looked grimly at the sails of the fleet.

“Should we try rowing?” Manu asked.

She shook her head. “It wouldn’t do much good,” she noted. “This much ocean; this little wind.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” Manu asked, almost as if he were afraid to hear her answer.

“The wind will come back,” she said, matter of fact. It had to be true, because she knew who harnessed the wind -- and why. Still, the words tasted flat on her tongue. “Sooner or later.”

She was grateful, at the very least, that Manu didn’t ask what would happen if later became too late.

Turning back to her duties, Moana was starting to understand why her father had balked in the face of her questions. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the questions.

Sometimes, the answers were just terrifying.

-o-

She was napping next to Pua in the late afternoon when she felt it.

The faintest of stirring.

At first, she thought it was Pua.

But when she startled to awareness, she felt more. She felt the gentle shifting of the boat as the waves lapped against it. She heard the rustling in the sails.

Scrambling to her feet, she crossed to where Manu was directing the sail.

“The wind?” she asked, hopeful.

“It’s not much,” Manu said, frowning in concentration. It took a moment, but the sail caught the breeze, filling it just slightly. She felt the boat lurch again. “But it’s something.”

Moana beamed at him. “It’s more than something,” she said, feeling hope buoy upward in her chest. “It might be a sign that our luck is about to change.”

“Hey, from your mouth to Maui’s ears,” Manu chuckled.

“Maui’d like that,” she said with a snort.

“If it got us moving?” Manu asked. “I think we’d all like that.”

“That’s for sure,” she said, patting Manu on the arm. “Keep up the good work.”

“Just following directions,” he said with a tip of his head. “Chief.”

If this trip turned out okay after all this, that was a title she might just be ready to take.

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