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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Moana fic: Changing Tides (2/2)

December 6th, 2017 (08:54 pm)
anxious

feeling: anxious

Continued from Part One.



-o-

Her confidence last all of thirty seconds.

When she turned back around, she saw Kalama on her knees. At the sight of Moana, she straightened with her face drawn. Beneath her, Pua’s chest was visibly rising and falling, and the sound of each breath was not drowned out by the fresh wind.

This time, there were no platitudes.

In the back of her heard, her mother’s words came to her.

Sometimes who we are -- what we wish we could do -- it’s just not meant to be.

Moana had proved her wrong once.

She wasn’t sure she could do it again.

-o-

Kalama spoke gently with measured words.

“I think it’s an infection,” she explained with a small gesture toward Pua. “You can feel him -- he’s starting to get hot.”

Moana’s fingers lingered on his skin. If this was starting, Moana would hate to see what it was like when he really was hot.

“Add the fever to the sound of his breathing, and I think it’s safe to say the illness is in his lungs.”

Moana tightened her jaw, doing her best to keep her tears at bay.

“This happens, as you know,” she continued diplomatically. “Sometimes, when too much water is swallowed, it settles in the lungs -- makes it hard to breathe.”

Finally, Moana looked at her. “And there’s nothing you can do?”

Kalama dipped her head apologetically. “If we were back on the island…”

She didn’t finish the statement.

She didn’t have to.

Moana turned her gaze to the ocean, now vast and desolate around her. “But we’re not on the island,” she said, feeling hollow. “We’re on the ocean.”

Kalama offered a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Moana.”

Her eyes fell to Pua, shoulders falling low. “Apparently, there’s nothing else I can do.”

-o-

Moana could determined where they were. She could read the sun and the stars. She could prepare them for a voyage and steer them through rough seas. She could catch the wind and change direction. She could find new islands and take her people farther than they ever dreamed.

But she was still Moana.

Human.

She could bend a demigod to her will. She could survive the realm of monsters. She could face off with a fire demon, and she could even save the world.

But she couldn’t put wind in the sails.

She couldn’t move the currents.

All she had learned, all she had accomplished, and she was still impotent in these things, still at the mercy of a force much larger than herself.

Sighing, she’d given up on pretense. There was no reason to pretend her mind was on anything other than Pua. Manu had stepped up even more, and he did what he could to give them more wind to work with, but no one could make something out of nothing.

Not even the great Moana.

She’d bragged once that the ocean was a friend of hers.

She looked out at it now, the languid waves against the canoe.

“Some friend,” she muttered.

Next to her, Pua stirred. Moana watched, but she knew he wouldn’t wake. Since his fever had risen, he’d moved often in his sleep, restless and mewling. Even when his brown eyes blinked open, they were too bleary to make sense of the world.

That was for the best, Moana tried to tell herself. There was no reason for Pua to know just what was going on.

Not that a lie like that was easy to believe. Pua had followed her everywhere, willing and enthusiastic. Being on the ocean had been his dream as much as it had been hers.

Now look at him.

She stroked him sadly. “I’m sorry,” she said. Kalama was nearby, but she’d given Moana her space. She wasn’t sure if Manu had told the others to leave her be or if they just knew by looking at her. All the same. She collected a breath. “I didn’t think it would be like this.”

Wistfully, she looked out at the water.

All she’d given to the ocean, and where was it now? All she’d risked, and now she was alone?

She’d done the ocean’s bidding, but it didn’t have time for her now? Not for a strong wave or a steady wind?

Nothing?

That was foolish, she knew. She could almost hear Gramma Tala scolding her for assuming the ocean was her toy or somehow beholden to her. The ocean had given as much as it had asked from her, and who was she to assume that it didn’t have other things to do?

Still, she’d called out to the ocean, and it had answered.

It had taken 16 years, maybe, but it had answered.

Around her, the blue stretched for miles. Silent and still.

There was no answer now.

She set her jaw, drawing her brows together as she looked at Pua.

There was nothing.

-o-

By the evening, nothing had changed. Moana could still feel the wind, barely ruffling her hair as the ocean stilled almost into clear glass.

“We’ve done everything we can think of,” Manu said, checking in with her.

People across the boats were settling down for dinner. She could see them, sharing fruit and bread. They were laughing as they sat, watching the sun start to sink on the horizon line.

“I know,” Moana said, feeling vacant.

This was a conversation she’d had a lot today. With Manu. With Kalama. It was a very human thing, she had to think, to justify your own uselessness.

Manu sighed, almost dejected. “Moana, we really are trying,” he said, more fervently this time. He lowered his voice and inched closer to her.

“I know,” Moana replied again.

He gestured in futility. “There’s just no wind--”

This time, Moana wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh or cry. She shook her head. “I know.”

There was no wind; there was no medicine. There was nothing they could do.

“Moana--”

She sighed herself this time, raising her head to meet Manu’s. She’d stayed close to Pua all day, and she could still hear the strained sound of his breathing at her feet behind her.

“I don’t blame you,” she said, making sure to meet his gaze this time. She shrugged, holding a hand out to her people. “Or anyone. We all know this was an accident, probably unavoidable.”

She was giving him absolution; she was giving all of them absolution.

Manu seemed to wanted it almost as little as she did. “I know,” he said. “But--”

“No matter how good we are at wayfinding, we don’t command the ocean,” she said, and the words taste bitter in her mouth. “These things -- they’re going to happen.”

It was a stark, hard truth. One she’d thought she might be exempt to.

“I know,” Manu said. “But you’re the girl who restored the heart of Te Fiti. I keep thinking that if you can do that, surely we can get a little wind our sails. You didn’t let us down, and we’re letting you down, and I’m sorry, Moana.”

Somehow, the apology just made it hurt worse. She tried to steel herself against it, but it was hard.

Too hard.

Manu immediately realized his choice of words. “I mean, you’re so good at this. You’re good leading the people, you’re good as teaching us. You’re good on the ocean,” he explained. “It’s impressive.”

“Kind of a let down, huh?” she asked.

It was his turn to pat her arm sympathetically. “Honestly? Not really,” he said. “Seeing that you’re human just like the rest of us and are still willing to face everything out there -- it makes me even prouder to be one of your people.”

She had to close her eyes, turning away. She wasn’t looking for compliments. She wasn’t looking for absolution.

She just wanted a strong breeze and the island.

She wanted Pua.

“We’ll keep working,” Manu said.

She opened her eyes, looking at him surprised.

He smiled at her. “For you,” he said. “And for Pua.”

As her throat tightened, she swallowed hard and blinked back tears. “Thanks,” Manu.

“Anytime,” he said. “And if you need anything.”

With a grateful nod back, she tried to smile. “I’ll let you know.”

-o-

If she needed anything.

The sentiment was sincere, she knew that. And she was grateful for it. Still.

If she needed anything?

What didn’t Moana need right now? The audacity of her need in face of the ocean’s indifference was almost comical.

She settled herself back down next to Pua. She wasn’t sure she’d like the punchline to that joke.

From nearby, Kalama approached, handing her a small basin of coconut water. “For Pua,” she said. “Remember to hold him up.”

This wasn’t a new task to her -- not today, and not with Pua.

Then, Kalama placed a small basket of food next to her.

“But Pua can’t eat this,” she said. “Can he?”

“No, not yet,” Kalama said. “But you can.”

“But--”

“But you can’t help Pua unless you help yourself,” Kalama said. “Eat. For both your sakes.”

Moana didn’t feel hungry, but she unpeeled a banana anyone, shoving half of it into her mouth as she balanced the coconut either. There was a difference, after all, between what you needed and what you wanted.

It was a fine distinction that Moana couldn’t afford to overlook.

“Come on, Pua,” she cajoled, picking him up. She smashed the rest of the banana in her mouth so she could cradle the pig to make it easier to feed him. “We’ll do this together.”

-o-

Together, of course, wasn’t the most accurate word. She managed to get him to drink most of the water, and she scarfed down the rest of the makeshift meal Kalama had provided her. She was grateful when the sun went down; the cool hair had to feel good against Pua’s fever-ridden fur.

Besides, she reminded herself bitterly, this was it was easier to overlook the fact that they’d made very little progress today.

The boats settled into sleep, the night crew taking over to track the stars in the inky darkness. She could see them, lone figures aboard lonely canoes. They checked the sails, trimmed their course, and held their hands up to the sky as if it might show them something different this time.

Moana knew that because that was what she taught them to do.

Staring at the sky, tonight she didn’t have the heart.

She didn’t need to check their location. All that mattered was that they weren’t home.

Sighing, she tucked Pua in again, nuzzling him gently. He stirred, turning toward her, but the fever kept him asleep as he snuffled noisily through the congestion in his chest. It had gotten worse as the day wore on, and although Kalama said that his ability to drink was a good sign, Moana had trouble rallying her optimism.

He was dying, after all.

She hadn’t let herself say that, and she hadn’t let herself think it. No one had quite said it to her, probably because no one wanted to be the one who made that truth real for her.

But it was real.

Here, on the ocean, it was as real as it had ever been.

The utter helplessness of it was almost paralyzing.

To think, when she first set out to find Maui, she hadn’t known a thing about sailing. She’d been at the whim of the ocean, and she’d been too prideful to be adequately afraid. The ocean had helped her then.

She looked at the stillness of the waves, so peaceful that they reflected the sky to near perfection.

“Why would you do that?” she asked with a frown. “Why did you bring me this far just to leave me on my own?”

Dejected, she cast her eyes on Pua again. Even through the white of his hair, she could tell he was pale. His fever had not abated; his breathing was worse.

She couldn’t do this.

Not anymore.

Not ever.

Raising her gaze, she looked out at the ocean once more.

“I’m tired of waiting for answer,” she said. “I trusted you for years; I trusted you with everything. If you can’t answer me now, when I need you most…”

She trailed off, not sure how to finish the threat.

Drawing a breath, she found her resolve. “Then, fine,” she said, getting to her feet defiantly. “I guess I’ll just have to make my own answer this time.”

-o-

The thing was, Moana wasn’t the same girl who set out to sea six months ago. She knew how to sail now. She knew how to navigate. She knew how to weather storms.

And she knew how to drive hard in still waters.

She wanted the ocean’s help -- she really did -- but if it wasn’t going to help her…

She would help herself.

“Okay,” she said, shaking Manu awake from his spot on the deck.

He startled, blinking in confusion. “What?”

“You said if I needed anything, I just had to let you know.”

He rubbed his eyes sleepily. “What?”

“I need something,” she reiterated, a bit more strongly now. “And with your offer…”

He sat up, more aware than before. “Yeah,” he said. “Anything.”

“Good,” she said. “Because I want a canoe.”

“Um,” Manu said. He looked around them, trying to find a nice way to speak the obvious. “We have a canoe.”

“No,” Moana replied emphatically. “I want a canoe for myself.”

His face screwed up in confusion. “Well, I guess you can go to any canoe you like--”

She rolled her eyes. “No,” she said. “I want to strip a canoe down, relocate all the people and take it myself. Just me and Pua and the bare minimum supplies.”

His confusion deepened. “But what difference would that make?”

This time, she sighed patiently. “With less weight, the canoe will be faster on the water. Any wind that I can catch will make more of an impact.”

“Wait,” Manu said. “You want to go by yourself?”

She nodded.

“But what about the rest of us?” he asked, almost incredulous now.

“You said it yourself,” she said. “We’re less than a week away and we’re already approaching familiar waters. You can handle this.”

“What -- me?” he asked, pointing to himself. “But you’re the expert wayfinder.”

“Which is why I need to use my skills to get Pua home faster,” she said. “I’ll have a better chance of navigating the waves without anything weighing me down.”

“But--”

“Manu, I know you’re scared,” she said. “But I’ve watched you. You can do this. You’ve been able to do this the whole time. There’s nothing I need to teach you, and I know for a fact that you can get the people back to the island in one piece.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But what about you?”

“I told you,” she said. “I’m better off doing it on my own.”

“You can’t really want to do that,” he protested.

“Maybe not,” she said. “But it’s what I need. It’s what Pua needs.”

Her shoulders fell, confidence faltering.

“Please, Manu,” she said. “I can’t sit here and wait for the wind and the waves to help. I need to do this for myself. For Pua. Please.”

He looked at her, and he looked at the sea. He looked at Pua and nodded.

“Fine,” he said, meeting her eyes again. “But I still don’t think I like the idea.”

Getting hastily to her feet, Moana drew a grim breath. “For what it’s worth,” she said. “I’m not sure I like it either.”

“You’re still going to do it, though,” Manu said, regarding her carefully.

“I have to,” she said. “I’d do it for any of you.”

He followed her to his feet with a nod. “I know,” he said. “I guess that’s why you’re the chief.”

“Because you have to follow me orders?” she asked, skeptical.

“No,” he said. “Because you’ll always make me want to.”

She was almost overwhelmed by her gratitude. The ocean had left her hanging, but she’d found new friends. They might not be as powerful, but the were more loyal than she could have hoped.

“Now come on,” Manu said, moving to start collecting supplies. “We have a lot of work to do.”

-o-

Anxious and under pressure, Moana would never pretend to be perfect. She had her doubts; she gave into her weakness from time to time. But when push came to shove, she knew who she was.

More importantly, she knew what she was capable of.

Manu tried to direct her to one of the mid-sized canoes, but Moana refused. Instead, she selected the smallest one, and she went over herself to have its two occupants relocated. She was polite about it, of course, but she still handed them all the supplies off the boat with a perfunctory smile.

They didn’t object, but when she refused the extra rations, Manu certainly did.

“You need enough for the trip,” he said.

“I need less to make the trip faster,” she said.

“And what about Pua?” Manu asked. He wasn’t balking now; he’d come a long way on this trip. And that wasn’t just in terms of his wayfinding.

Moana set her jaw. Proud and stubborn as she was, she didn’t like to take advice all the time.

But her father had taught her another thing, too. How to hold your head high and accept when you’re not entirely right.

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll take the bananas and the water, but nothing else,” she said.

He looked sufficiently mollified. “That’s all I can ask,” he said. Then, he hesitated. “Unless, of course, you’ll let me go instead.”

“Manu--”

“I know how important Pua is to you,” he said. “I’d take the best care of him, I swear.”

“I don’t doubt it--”

“The people need you--”

“You overestimate--”

“No,” he said, almost laughing. “I think you underestimate it. What you do for them, for all of us. They need you.”

“And they’ll have me,” she said. “We’ll all meet back on Motunui in a week. Right?”

“Yeah,” he said, clearly not convinced.

As he moved back toward the other canoe, Kalama appeared, Pua wrapped in a blanket. Moana helped shore up the two vessels, allowing her to crossover on steady ground. She padded gingerly, checking Pua when she got her footing again and handing him to Moana with care.

“You know to keep him hydrated,” Kalama said. “And you can use a cool cloth if it seems to make him feel better.”

“I thought I could try smashing up the bananas a little, too,” Moana said, pulling back the blanket for a better look at her pig’s pallid face.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Kalama said. “And I know you’re going to be working hard to catch the wind, but remember to stop long enough for him.”

“I would never neglect--”

Kalama shook her head. “I mean, take time to comfort him. For both your sakes.”

Moana swallowed hard, feeling the heat of Pua’s fever against her skin. “But if I go fast enough--”

“Moana,” she replied. “Sometimes what the body needs to heal is more than physical. When I say that you are the only one who can save Pua now, I’m not talking about your ability to wayfind.”

The lump rose higher in Moana’s throat, and she could feel the pressure in her chest expand.

“Do what needs to be done,” Kalama said, moving back over to the other boat where Manu was waiting.

“We’ll be right behind you,” Manu said. “I mean, I’d wish you luck, but I don’t think you need it.”

She smiled gratefully. “Honestly,” she said. “I’d take a little luck right now.”

“Then, it’s yours,” he said, reaching down to undo the rigging between the two canoes. “Have that, and our well wishes.”

Moana watched as the rope fell loose into the water, and the current start to push them apart.

“One week,” she said with a firm nod. “I expect you on Motunui in one week.”

He nodded back. “And I expected to see both of you there, waiting for us.”

Moana hugged Pua closer still. “That sounds like a plan.”

-o-

The plan was to get Pua back to Motunui.

Easy, in theory.

Application, as Moana was bound to discover time and again where the ocean was involved, was much, much harder.

That was okay.

Moana would just have to work harder still.

She started by rowing. Stowing Pua safely in an open compartment, she made sure he was comfortable and safe before getting out the paddle. The canoes weren’t not intended to be rowed for any significant length of time, but even when she was a novice sailor, she’d understood the value of an oar.

It wasn’t easy, using her own strength to propel the boat through tepid waters. Still, she rowed as hard as she could for nearly an hour, until she had finally left the fleet behind her.

When Manu’s flagship was nothing but a speck on the horizon line, she allowed herself a moment to breathe. This far out from the others, she had better access to the wind. After checking on Pua, she set to adjusting the sail, using all her tricks to find the best angle.

Small as her boat was, her sail was also limited. That gave her less surface area to work with, making it harder to find the breeze.

But once she caught it.

She felt the tug, and turned into it. Gritting her teeth, she tied off the rigging, picking up the oar again to give the canoe an extra push into the wind.

The work was more tiring than she would let on, and when she finally let herself stand back and examine her handiwork, she had to admit, she was disappointed.

She was moving now -- and she was going faster than she had been before. But the progress was still slow.

Chewing her lip, she glanced nervously at Pua.

Only time would tell if it was too slow or not.

-o-

Maui had told her once that wayfinders never slept.

Moana had never taken that more seriously than she did now.

It wasn’t just that she was the only person capable of navigating her canoe.

It was that Pua was depending on her to get the job done.

When she wasn’t actively navigating, she was tending to her pig. She gave him food and water by the movements of the sun, and when the wind was too slow, she supplemented their forward progress with rowing.

After two days, she was exhausted and bleary-eyed. She had to hold her hand up three times before she got a clear view of the horizon. Her hands were torn and raw with broken blisters, and she felt as though she might be the one in need of help when they got back to Motunui.

She might feel sorry for herself, but there was no time for that. And she didn’t have the energy for it.

Not as Pua got worse.

His breathing got louder; his fever got hotter. He no longer roused for her, and she could feel his life, ebbing away.

For all the progress she made, she had to contend with the fact that it might be enough.

That she might not be enough.

Pressing a kiss to Pua’s head, she got to her feet again.

She couldn’t give up; she shouldn’t.

For Pua, she wouldn’t.

-o-

It was the third night when she finally broke.

Actually, it was her paddle that broke first, cracking against the bow of the canoe as she turned it hard for another angle at the wind. She’d been pushing herself hard -- and she knew and accepted that -- but it hadn’t occurred to her just how hard she was pushing everything else in her path.

While the ocean was unyielding, it turned out oars were only made of wood.

Only.

She stared at it blankly for a long moment, trying to comprehend what had just happened.

More than that, she tried to grasp the seriousness of its implications.

The broken oar wasn’t a death sentence -- not for her. She could navigate without one. It would be slow going, sure. But she could still use the sails well enough to keep herself in the right direction, and Manu would be by in a day or two with the rest of the fleet.

But, the broken oar could be a death sentence for Pua.

Desolate, she looked over to the place where Pua was stowed. She’d kept his blankets fluffed, and she’d done everything she could to keep him hydrated, but without the oar--

She looked up at the sea, the short end of the oar still in her hand. The other piece was drifting farther away on the waves.

Without the oar, she’d never make it back to Motunui in time.

Not for Pua.

The weight of impending failure was what broke her, cracked her resolve in half until she was splintered like wood on the bow of the boat. The revelation stole her breath, and for a moment, she hovered between sadness and…

Rage.

Her fingers clenched to fists, and she shook the broken oar at the sea. “How could you do this?” she screamed, her voice stretching across the expanse. She stomped her foot. “I did everything for you, and this is what you give me in return?”

She lashed out, kicking her bare foot against the wood.

“You turn your back on me now?” she screamed again, so loud that it felt raw in her throat.

Angry, she flung the worthless piece of the paddle at the ocean.

“I hate you!” she bellowed, the words wrenched from her with a sob. “I hate you!”

In her anger, she almost missed it. The faintest sound of a reply.

But it wasn’t the ocean. It wasn’t the wind.

She turned.

“Pua?” she asked, her heart fluttering in her chest.

There was another small mewl, even fainter than the last.

Her anger forgotten, fear swelled in its place. She raced across the deck, falling to her knees.

“Pua,” she said, scooping the listless pig up into her arms. She pulled back the blankets to look in his face.

His pallid face was almost colorless, but he blinked tired, dull eyes up at her. The vibrancy, the curiosity -- it was all gone. Spent by the fever and drowned out by the ocean.

“Oh, Pua,” she said, cradling him close like a mother would a child. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t understand her -- that much was certain -- but he seemed to recognize her. He tucked himself against her, nuzzling closer as if seeking some kind of refuge from the fever and congestion.

She couldn’t sail. She couldn’t get him home.

But this much, she could do.

Even if it wasn’t enough.

She’d give it anyway.

“Hush,” she said, gently now as she started to rock him. “Just rest, okay? We’ll do this together, like we always do.”

He let out a small sigh, as close to contentment as she’d seen from him since he first fell into the waves.

She hummed a little, pressing a kiss to his forehead.

“You and me,” she said, casting a disdainful eye out over of the waves. “Until the very end.”

-o-

She fell asleep like that, not long after Pua did. The comfort she could offer him was returned by the comfort he offered her with his presence. She wanted to stay away, measuring every one of his struggling breaths, but Moana was only human.

A fact she was figuring out the hard way.

There was no telling how long she might have slept, were it not for the unceremonious wakeup call of a bird.

The loud caw echoed over the waves, and it took Moana only a second to realize its implications. Birds were friends of the wayfinder, not because they helped on the journey.

But because they signified that the journey was almost done.

The possibility of land was probably premature, but Moana was the type to believe in the improbable.

Even the impossible.

Putting Pua down, she scrambled to her feet, scanning the horizon, searching in all directions for any sign of land.

There was nothing.

Just still water in all directions.

Distraught, she wondered if she’d imagined it.

Then, from above, she heard the caw again.

Confused, she looked up.

And then, she understood.

The ocean hadn’t answered.

But Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, hero of men and women, had.

-o-

As a hawk, Maui circled above her a few more times. For good measure, he changed shape -- a bird, a shark, a butterfly -- before landing squarely on Moana’s canoe with two large human feet.

“Hey,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her. “Fancy meeting you out this way.”

“Yeah,” she said, feeling more than a little letdown. She’d woke up looking for a miracle. It was nice to have a friend around, but it wasn’t land. “Crazy.”

She hadn’t meant to sound completely dejected, but it probably was inevitable. Maui took notice. “Huh,” he said. “I thought I’d get a better welcome than that. I mean, we did save the world together.”

“I know, it’s not that,” she said apologetically. She sighed, running a hand through her hair. “I just heard a bird. I thought I was home.”

He regarded her curiously. “I thought the ocean was your thing,” he said. “And here you are! Living the dream!”

“I still know my island,” she said, letting her shoulders slouch a little further. “Besides, this trip’s been kind of long.”

With a keen eye, he tilted his head. “That’s why you look terrible?”

“I’m fine,” she replied.

“So it’s the pig, then?”

She blinked in surprise. “But how did you--”

“You’re the only person I know who would keep a sick pig around,” he said with a knowing nod.

She glanced anxiously at Pua. He was still visibly shivering in the blanket.

“Besides,” he said, leaning in. “You have a thing for animal sidekicks.”

Her brow darkened.

He held up his hands to defuse her retort. “It’s okay!” he said quickly. “We all have a thing. Most people have things that are more normal, but hey--”

She didn’t have the time or energy to be annoyed. Not with Maui. “He’s sick,” she explained, feeling forlorn.

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “He looks like he’s two steps away from bacon, if you ask me.”

She ignored the jibe. She knew Maui didn’t mean it, not like that. She was mad -- she was furious -- but not at him. Looking up, she didn’t bother to hide her devastation. “He fell in -- into the ocean,” she explained with an air of futility. “I went as fast as I could, but I wasn’t there in time.”

Maui’s brow creased sympathetically. “Moana,” he said, a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head, vehement. “The ocean did this,” she said, pulling away sharply. “The ocean.”

“Moana--”

“No,” she said, even sharper now. “The ocean chose me, and I trusted it with everything. And then it does this to me?”

“Well,” Maui said diplomatically. “I’m pretty sure the ocean has a lot of other things on its mind. It is the ocean, after all. I told you: it’s cooky-dukes.”

The fact that he was being sensible wasn’t actually helping matters. Moana was no longer in a sensible mood. She’d given up on that about three days ago. Sensible meant facing things she didn’t want to fight.

As far as she was concerned, she could avoid that fight if she just picked another one.

Petulant, she crossed her arms over her chest. “But I did what it wanted,” she said. “I left my home, my people -- I didn’t even know how to sail!”

“Yeah, that’s what I said….”

Moana ignored him. “I went into the realm of monsters! I faced a fire demon! I restored the heart of Te Fiti! And now, after I’ve done all it’s bidding, the ocean is done with me?”

Her incredulity was impossible to mask

She wouldn’t even try if she had the energy.

Which, she didn’t.

At all.

Maui, though self absorbed and annoyed seemed to realize Moana was at the end of her rope. He ventured a careful look. “Or,” he suggested as casually as he could. “Maybe the ocean just thinks you can handle things on your own now.”

Moana threw her arms wide. “But Pua’s sick! He could die!” She felt her heart flutter in her chest, her voice threatening to break. “Out here, I can’t do anything about that.”

To that, even a demigod like Maui didn’t have an answer.

Dejected, Moana’s anger left her like a gust of wind. “I thought I knew who I was, what I was meant to do,” she said, shaking her head miserably. “But I don’t know anything.”

“You know, I was stranded on that island for a hundred years when you found me,” Maui said.

She gave him a quizzical look. “So?”

“So, that gave me a lot of time -- too much time,” he said. “It made me--”

“Annoying and egotistical?” Moana asked.

“It made me doubt my purpose,” Maui countered with a keen look at her. “The point is that sometimes we think our destiny has changed just because our circumstances have changed. But we don’t always see that our circumstances might just be part of our destiny. Maybe not a part we like, but a part that we need to deal with.”

She eyed him warily, not trusting herself to speak just yet.

He nodded in commiseration. “It’s those hard parts, the ones we want to run from, that make us strongest.”

Swallowing hard, she had to look down. Blinking rapidly, she did what she could to hold back her tears Her eyes were still burning -- but mercifully dry -- when she looked up at him again. “That’s pretty good advice,” she admitted finally. “I think I hate you for it.”

“Now you know the feeling,” Maui told her. “That’s how I felt when you gave it to me.”

She tilted her head in surprise.

“Yeah,” he said, matter of fact. “You’re the one who reminded me that I was more than my hook. You were the one who pointed out that I needed to accept the pain in my past before I could embrace any kind of future.” He paused with a large, one-shouldered shrug. “Maybe the ocean is trying to get you to do the same.”

He had a point -- why did he have to have a point? It wasn’t that Moana didn’t like admitting she was wrong necessarily.

She looked bleakly at Pua.

It was just that she didn’t want to be wrong about this.

“But if he dies…” she started, but she couldn’t bring herself to finish.

Maui threw one of his meaty arms around her, tugging her closer affectionately. “Then we’ll get through that,” he said. He stepped away, brandishing his hook with flair. “But first, let’s get you two home to see if we can prevent that from happening.”

Brow wrinkled, she shook her head. “But...how?”

“You remember the stories, right?” he asked. He tipped his hook at her as it glinted in the morning sun off the water. “I harnessed the wind, remember?”

Her eyes widened; her heart leapt.

He winked at her. “You’re welcome.”

-o-

Funny thing about being friends with a demigod.

Yes, it did make things more difficult. And her life had been more interesting since meeting Maui.

But it was also better.

She’d believed that before this incident.

But when he drew up a gust of wind so powerful that they skimmed across the water, all the way back home in less than a day?

She believed it as one of the core truths in her soul.

“Maui,” she said, Pua cradled in her arms as he drew the canoe up on the shore. “I don’t know what to say.”

“As I have suggested before,” he said. “Thank you is a good place to start.”

The turn of events had left her dumbfounded.

He rolled his eyes. “We can talk about that later,” he said. “First, the pig!”

Moana didn’t need to be told twice.

-o-

She ran, almost tripping on the branches and stubbing her toe on a rock. She ran past the dancers; she ran past the harvesters; she ran past the children running through the village. She ran past the well-wishes; she ran past the curious. She even ran past her father, who came to meet her with open arms.

She ran all the way to the healer’s hut, bursting inside.

“Please,” she called out, and this time she couldn’t keep her voice from breaking. In her arms, Pua was shivering and limp. “Please help him.”

They rushed toward her, and they didn’t ask questions. They didn’t ask why they needed to treat a pig; they didn’t even ask how it happened.

Her people would give to her, just like she had given to them.

That was all she could offer Pua.

As they took her pig from her arms, she had to hope against hope that it would be enough.

-o-

Her goal, ever since Pua had fallen in had been to get home.

It was a goal she had pursued relentlessly and heedless of peril or common sense.

Thanks to Maui, it was a goal she had accomplished.

Now, standing in the healer’s hut, it was like she was still on the ocean, adrift on a windless sea with a broken paddle.

The futility of it all was paralyzing, and she could scarcely respond to the healer’s questions as they warmed Pua by the fire. She watched, arms listless at her sides, while the healter listened to Pua’s breathing and felt the heat on his brow.

She had to move only briefly when the healer called for herbs. Even then, all Moana could do was step out of the way while the assistant retrieved them. A handful of herbs was rubbed on Pua’s tongue, and another batch was thrown into the fire.

Desperate, Moana rocked forward on anxious legs. “So?”

“So,” the healer said, settling Pua closer to the fire, letting the aromatic billows waft in his face. “Now we wait.”

That was a thing, wasn’t it?

When you finally get the answer.

It’s really not the one you want.

-o-

So Moana did what she did not want to do.

She waited.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have experience -- she’d waited 16 years before she’d got to go out on the ocean. It was that she wasn’t sure she’d like the outcome.

“Moana, pacing won’t help,” her father said gently.

Moana wrung her fingers together anxiously. “It doesn’t hurt, either,” she said, walking the length of the porch outside the healer’s hut again. In the village, Moana can watch as the lights go out, one by one. Her parents had joined her several hours ago, and Moana was fairly convinced the healers had asked them to deal with her.

The only reason Moana didn’t fight was so the healers could deal with Pua.

She knew what was important.

“You could try to sleep,” her mother said lightly. “We could stay here for you, if you want.”

Moana was already shaking her head. “I can’t,” she said. “I can’t leave him.”

Her father looked at her imploringly. “The healers said--”

“I know what the healers said,” she said. “That they’re doing what they can, that he’s where he needs to be to get better, that we’ll know more in the morning.”

“So, why can’t you relax?” her mother asked knowingly.

Moana turned her eyes guiltily to her mother. Her feet hesitated and she chewed her lip. “I have to stay.”

“Because he’s your friend?” her mother asked.

Her facade, the one she put up for the people, started to break. Master wayfinder or not, sometimes Moana still felt like a child. “Because it’s my fault.”

Her father’s face darkened with surprise. “Moana, no--”

“But I took him out there,” Moana protested.

“Honey,” her mother said. “That pig has been running to the water as long as you have. I don’t know what upset him more when you left to find Maui: that you left him behind or that he had missed his best chance to see the waves.”

Moana can not find it in herself to be placated. “But I was in charge--”

Stepping forward, her father’s expression turned sympathetic. “And that is the burden of your role,” he said. “As chief, you will make countless decisions, big and small. Even when you try to make the right choices -- for all the right reasons -- there can still be consequences you don’t expect. Part of being the chief is accepting those consequences, and to not let them stop you from making more decisions.”

“But this isn’t where to plant trees or what side of the island to fish on,” she said, feeling the emotions churn in her stomach. “This is Pua.”

Her father did not yield. “I know,” he said. “Why do you think I didn’t let you go on the ocean all those years?”

Moana’s brows knitted together. She turned a fretful eye back toward the healers, who were still tending her pig. “Maybe you were right.”

“Moana,” he said sharply.

She looked back in surprise.

“You will question many things in your time as chief,” he said. “Many things you must wrestled with. But not this.”

Moana wrinkled her nose in confusion. “Not what?”

“This,” he said, jabbing a finger at her. “Who you are, and who you are meant to be.”

Dumbstruck, Moana could say nothing as her mother came up beside her father. “You make decisions differently when you realize they affect other people,” she said. “But, sometimes, you still have to let people -- and pigs -- make their own decisions.”

Her mother wasn’t just talking about Pua.

Her mother was talking about the night her grandmother died. The night she set off to find Maui.

The night her mother didn’t stop her.

Clearing his throat, her father sighed heavily. “I know what the ocean can take,” he said. “When it took something from me, I didn’t know how to forgive. I shut down the ocean, and all it might offer me. I shut it down for the best reasons, maybe even the right reasons, but I had to shut down part of myself to do it.”

Moana felt her breath stutter in her chest.

Her father drew a long breath. “But my friend, the one I lost out there -- I know he wouldn’t have wanted that to happen,” he said. “And Moana, I know Pua wouldn’t want that for you, either. No matter how this turns out.”

It was too much.

All she’d dealt with over the last year, all the responsibilities she’d taken on.

But this, this moment, was too much.

It was impossible to say, really. If it was the fact that she’d messed everything up.

Or if it was the fact that she’d really done nothing wrong and ended up here anyway.

Did she want to live in a world where fate was so fickle? Or did she want to live in one where it turned a blind eye to everything.

“Moana, please,” her mother said. “Go lay down. We’ll stay.”

“And we’ll get you if anything changes,” her father added.

Moana looked back at Pua, feeling forlorn. She could still see his chest, rising and falling under the healer’s touch. “But if something happens…”

“Moana,” her mother said, emphatic enough to bring Moana’s attention back to her. “We learned to trust you. Now you need to learn to trust us.”

She did.

Moana really did.

Her parents, even in conflict, had been so important to her. Their wisdom, their support, their love.

She’d always felt called to the ocean, yes.

But she knew her island.

She knew her people.

She knew her family.

Finally, she nodded. “Okay,” she said, feeling hoarse. She tried to smile. “For a little bit.”

Her mother smiled in encouragement. Her father just looked relieved. “We’ll be here, waiting for you.”

Her mother added. “All of us.”

-o-

She had told her parents the truth. She did intend to go home and get some much needed rest. With every step, she could feel it now. As a wayfinder, she hadn’t slept in days. She needed the rest, for Pua’s sake and her own.

But, as it often was with her, the ocean called her.

As she tracked her path back to her family’s hut, she could hear the waves along the shore. Pausing, she could see the moon’s reflection stretch across the surface.

It called to her.

It always called to her.

This time, though, she felt the pull differently.

This time, she felt it with pain.

Pain or not, it was still irresistible.

On the familiar beach, she wandered out. The tide was low, leaving a wide expanse of pristine sand as the waves lapped gently against the shore. In the distance, the waves were dark with smudges of white where the tips rolls toward her.

“That’s all you’ve got?” she asked with something of an incredulous snort. “All that I’ve been through the last few days, and that’s all you have to say for yourself?”

Maybe the ocean had spoiled her, giving her visible reactions and acting like her friend. Because for all the water that stretched in front of her, there was no sign of a connection now.

“I did this without you,” she said, and she could feel the emotions rising in her throat, threatening to choke her. “And you did this to me. To Pua.”

Blinking rapidly, she barely kept the burning tears at bay.

“And you’re just going to keep on like this,” she said, voice cracking now. “You won’t even tell me why.”

Why it would lead her out to unsafe waters. Why it would tell her to lead her people and then let her lead them right into disaster. Why it would take something so important to her when she gave it so much.

“I trusted you!” she said, the sound of her voice rising now. “I trusted you.”

The calm, steady pull of the waves was almost too much.

The tears broke her now, and she inhaled sharply with a sob. “I deserve to know why!” she yelled, her fingers clenching into fists. “You have to tell me why!”

The demand overwhelmed her, and she felt her knees give out. She landed hard on the sand, the fine grains pressed into the exposed skin at her knees. There was no controlling the sobs now, and she cried in harsh, angry gasps that stole her breath almost entirely.

When she was finished, she turned her eyes up and out to the ocean once more.

It was unmoved; it was constant.

“I just want to have an answer,” she said, the sound of her own voice thin in her own ears. “Just this answer.”

As she watched the waves, she had to face one of two terrible truths.

That the ocean would never answer her.

Alternatively, the the ocean already had -- and she just didn’t like what it had to say.

The ocean chose her.

But, for all that entailed, the ocean never promised her anything.

In that way, she had needed the ocean as much as it needed her. It was silly to pretend like she hadn’t gotten anything out of this relationship or that the ocean owed her any kind of debt. This had been her journey from the start, and maybe she needed a boost to start it.

It was her responsibility to finish it.

Looking over her shoulder, she turned her head toward the village behind her. That was the problem with knowing who you are.

That’s the person you have to be when things are good.

And when things are bad.

The good did not come without the bad. The power did not come without responsibility. She had tried to hide from that most of her life, but not now.

She got to her feet, moving back toward the healing hut.

Not when Pua needed her most.

-o-

When she came back, no one looked surprised and no one tried to stop her. With much assurances, she shuttled her parents off to bed and kindly told the healer that she could manage until morning.

“But if something should happen…,” the healer fretted.

Moana found the strength to smile. “Then I will be right here.”

-o-

Moana was a girl who loved her island.

She was a girl who loved the sea.

But Moana was also a girl who loved her family. From her stubborn father to her mischievous mother. From her oversized, demigod partner to her dumb-as-rocks rooster sidekick.

All the way to her best friend, the pig.

Carefully, she scooped Pua up, tucking his shivering frame against her own. Edging closer to the fire, she let the medicated fumes waft over her, and she tilted his little face toward it just to be safe. The strained sound of his breathing hitched for a moment, and she adjusted his neck until he settled back into sleep.

Sometimes she wondered why she’d been so insistent to save Pua. It was easy to pretend that it hadn’t been her act of defiance against her father that day. It was easier still to say that she hadn’t liked seeing him huff and bite his tongue every day she paraded him around after that.

There was more to it than that. She’d understood responsibility when she picked him up. She’d respected the fragility of life when she felt his little heart beneath her fingers. And she’d know what a best friend could be the moment he opened his eyes and smiled at her.

The call of the ocean had been inside of her.

The connection of her best friend had been, too.

Because, for all that Moana had accomplished, what did it matter if not for those she cared about?

Humming softly, she started to rock. Moana had dreamed of the ocean, but Pua had been the one to abscond onto boats and steal oars. She often found them, heaped in a pile behind her house, and she made Pua go with her as they returned each one to the fishermen.

Blame it on the pig, Gramma Tala had said.

“She wasn’t wrong,” Moana mused to Pua softly. She smiled fondly at the memory. “You wanted on that boat so badly. Everyone else kept trying to keep me grounded, but you always made sure I had an oar in hand, just in case.”

She sighed, watching as his dull pink snout twitched.

“When I got back, there was no one I wanted to share this with more than you,” she said, her smile turning sad. “When we set sail together, you right there with me -- I thought it was perfect.”

She could still feel it, the wind in her face, the smell of the surf. Pua’s happy grunts as the boat pushed off from the shore.

“It was perfect,” she said, the realization falling over her suddenly.

The good may come with the bad, but the bad didn’t negate the good. The best moments in her life couldn’t be defined by the worst ones. It was possible -- probable, even -- for something to cause her pain and joy all at once. That was the nature of the ocean.

That was the nature of family.

“That’s right, Pua,” she murmured, nuzzling him now. “Everything was absolutely perfect.”

Holding him close for the rest of the night, she had to hope it would all be perfect again someday.

-o-

She woke up to the sound of a dying fire. Someone was stirring the ashes, and when she realized what that meant, she jerked to awareness.

The healer gave her a bemused look, arching an eyebrow.

“What?” Moana said, voice sounding thick. She cleared her throat, trying to blink away the sleep. “I just closed my eyes.”

“The rest did you good,” the healer said. Then, he tipped his head. “Both of you.”

Moana looked at him dumbly for a long moment.

Then, she remember.

“Pua,” she said, more to herself than anyone else. She looked down at the bundle in her arms. It was still warm, but it didn’t seem as hot as it had been. And it wasn’t as languid.

And it wasn’t an it at all. It was Pua, and he was curled in her arms, blinked wide, tired eyes at her.

For a moment, all she could do was stare.

He yawned, little brow creasing. It ended with a coughing fit that made Moana sit him upright, easing him forward to lessen the stress.

“Easy, easy,” the healer coaxed, reaching over to press a hand to Pua’s head.

Moana looked at him, distress. “How is he?”

“I would tell you,” the healer declared. “But I think he wants to tell you himself.”

That was when Moana realized that Pua wasn’t coughing anymore. He was still moving, but it was wiggling now. His wide bottom squirmed, and he was trying to crane his neck back to look at her. Scrambling, she turned him around, holding him up until they were nose to nose.

That was when he smile, reaching forward to lick her on the tip of her nose.

“Pua,” she said, her smile started to widen. “You’re okay.”

He wiggled to get closer, and this time she readily obliged. Forehead to forehead, she almost felt like crying.

“Pua,” she said. “I was so worried.”

He squeaked, wriggling until she was hugging him, holding him close enough to feel the cadence of his heart, steady like the waves on the shore.

“He’ll still need to take it easy,” the healer advised. “I’ll want to check his lungs twice a day. I can give you some of the herbs to make the fires at your hut more soothing.”

Her eyes shone hopefully. “But he’ll be okay?”

“Well, I wouldn’t recommend any boat rides,” the healer said.

In dismay, Pua snorted. He looked up in utter distress.

The healer rolled his eyes. “At least not too soon.”

Pua seemed to accept that compromised contently, turning back to Moana.

Moana giggled, petting him again. “I think I can live with that.”

Pua looked up, just as eager as ever.

She beamed down. “I think we both can.”

Because she could hear it, the sound of the waves in the distance.

It still called her.

It still called Pua.

That was a call she’d always answer, and Pua, too. Even if sometimes it wasn’t the answer they wanted. It wasn’t the answers that mattered, though.

No, it was more about the questions you asked.

She snuggled Pua, breathing in his familiar scent and closing her eyes.

The ocean might have been a friend of her; that was still open to debate.

There was no debate, however, when it came to Pua.

He was her friend, no doubt about it.

Eyes open, she grinned at him again. His toothy smiled grinned back.

Yeah, she thought to herself. Life really was pretty much perfect.