Title: "You're Welcome"
Author: Veritas Found
Rating: K+ / PG / All Ages
Characters/Pairings: Moana Waialiki, Maui; Maui x Moana (Friendship/Unrequited)
Summary: Ever since they first met, Moana refused to let him say "You're welcome".
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes/Warnings: Post-film; character death (sorta). What the actual hell did I write, guys. xD I was posting a headcanon on Tumblr about how Moana never lets Maui tell her "You're welcome", and this was supposed to be a silly romp, I swear. I promise, it was supposed to be silly. Then it just ran away from me, and…ah, shoot. Tissues are in the corner if you need 'em.
The first time it happens comes as a bit of a surprise. After all. Maui's been around longer than most can remember, and in all that time he's never known mortals to be great with the gratitude. So when it happens, as they're sailing back to Motunui, it's enough to make him pause.
It's late, and the excitement of their adventures have finally caught up with her. He had told her to get some rest – he'd make sure she got home. But she's been lying on the deck, staring up at the dark skies, and sometimes sneaking a glance at him.
"Thought I told you to rest, kid?" he asks, keeping his head pointed to the stars but still sneaking a quick glance at her.
"Am," she murmurs, and he can hear the sleep in her voice. Maybe she's not as awake as he thought, but… "But just wanted to say…for everything…thank you."
And it's strange, because in all his years of trying and trying and trying, the one thing he knows as true is that people don't thank him. They ask, and they expect, but they never thank. But Moana has, and he doesn't know what to do with it. So he does what he does best, what he knows is safest: he avoids, and he runs. Slipping back into his lackadaisical mask is all too easy after thousands of years.
"Hey, I told you, kid! You're wel-"
Or maybe she's more awake than he thought, because the words aren't even out of his mouth when a coconut is lobbed at his head. It bounces with a resounding thwack before it falls to roll off the canoe and into the ocean, and he swears the stupid spirit is laughing at him as it rolls the coconut back onto the canoe and to Moana's waiting – deadly – hands.
"I said thank you," she grumbles, rolling onto her side so her back faces him and she's looking out to the ocean, "but I think you've said that enough for one lifetime."
And so it kind of becomes their thing, much to his chagrin.
– V –
He doesn't really stick around, at least not at first. He's already told her this, anyway: he's been away from the world too long, and he's got a lot to catch up on. He'll be around, though, and he knows this won't be the last time he sees her. He won't let it be.
But time gets funny when you're immortal, and while he always means to go check on the progress in Motunui the next time he sees her is on the bow of a great ship in the middle of the sea. He lets out a piercing cry, and the shouts of "Aue, aue!" draw her attention to the skies. He doesn't think he's ever seen a smile more radiant as he swoops down. The lookouts are still shouting, but she runs towards him as he shifts back into a human, landing to catch her in a hug. He asks her what she's doing back on the sea so soon, and her smile only falters a moment as she informs him it's been two years since he last saw her. He tries to act like the news doesn't surprise or cut him as deeply as it does, and she's kind enough to let it slide with only mild ribbing.
The curse had overtaken a good deal of her island by the time they had restored Te Fiti's heart, and it had taken time to rebuild. As she had seen about restoring order to her island, they had also restored the old ships of their people, and it wasn't long before she had begun taking them beyond the reef. Motunui still stood, and they would eventually return – but they were looking for new islands.
"Well, it's a good thing I took the time to pull a few up for you!" he crows, folding his arms haughtily over his chest. He leans forward to grin at her, one eyebrow raised. "You're wel-"
But she slaps a hand over his mouth, and both eyebrows soar at the stern look on her face.
"Maui," she chides, donning the air of the Chief she's becoming, "What did I say?"
"Right. Sorry," he says, speech muffled, and her glare relaxes into a smile as she removes her hand.
"Thank you," she says, and it's almost habit, really.
"You're welcome," he says, and he yelps as she reaches behind him and smacks his head.
– V –
He decides to stick around, at least for a time. He remembers the days he used to sail with her ancestors, and if he's honest with himself it's been too long. Solitude has its perks, but he won't deny a part of him has missed the companionship of the mortals. They are still so very young in comparison, and after so many generations away from the sea every new experience is a wonder to them. Moana is still an excellent wayfinder, and she's growing into a marvelous chief. It's been a long time since he's felt this proud of a mortal.
He's been with them for maybe a week when her parents corner him.
"Moana told us of her journey with you," her mother says. He doesn't answer immediately, unsure where she's going with this. "Our people did not have the best opinion of you for many years, Maui."
"That's fair," he says. "I did kind of curse the world and everything."
Her parents share a look, and he thinks there's amusement there, before her father continues.
"She told us how you helped her," Tui says. "Maui, you may have been the one to cause the curse, but you also helped lift it. You saved the world, and you brought our daughter home."
"Moana saved the world, actually," he's quick to cut in. "I…did she tell you I left her?"
"But you came back," Sina is quick to point out. "You came back for her, and you both saved the world."
"And you brought her home," Tui reiterates. "And we have been remiss in saying…great Maui, we thank you. For everything you have done for Moana and for our people."
And there's that feeling again, that funny little nudging. Sina is smiling, all kindness and motherly affection, but Tui is watching him with an expression he hasn't seen in a lifetime. There's an intensity in his eyes, a depth of gratitude that hasn't been expressed to the demigod since…he can't really remember. He remembers the celebrations, the praise, the feasts…but it was never as raw as the look Tui is giving him. It makes him stand taller, prouder. A demigod to a chief. He bows his head, solemn. There's really only one appropriate response.
"You're welc-" he tries, but the words are barely out of his mouth when something hard and flat smacks into the back of his head, and he snaps his head around to see a cheeky little heart carving glinting at him. "Oh, come on!"
"No!" Moana insists, her grip tightening on the oar. "I told you! You can't say that again!"
"Mo, come on! Your parents just thanked me for saving your life – it'd be rude not to say it!" he protests. Her eyebrow cocks at the nickname, but she lets it slide.
"Nope," she says, standing tall with a hand on her hip and the other on her oar. She smirks at him. "I think I like this. If you ever say 'you're welcome', I hit you with this."
She twirls the oar effortlessly, like he would his hook, and he rolls his eye as he folds his arms over his chest in a pout. Mini Maui cackles as he tugs down his score board – and since when did Moana have twenty?! He flicks the little tattoo in annoyance, which only makes her grin grow.
"Someone has to keep your ego in check, o Great Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, Hero to All," she says with a mocking little bow, and he huffs out a breath in a pout as he feels Mini Maui moving again.
"He just gave you another point, didn't he?" he asks, and Moana actually giggles at him. "Right. Of course he did. That's great. Thank you."
Mini Maui starts cackling again as she turns back to the prow, singing out, "You're welcome!"
– V –
And of course she makes good on that promise.
She's told him before of her grandmother and the stories she had passed on. How Tala had told her of their history for almost longer than she could remember. How it was Tala who had told her of their wayfinding past, and how Tala had been the one to send her after him. How Tala had told her how to find him (her first lesson in wayfinding, actually, she had realized with a fond smile). Now that Tala has passed, the duty of passing on their legacy should have fallen to Tui or Sina, but Moana has assumed the mantle without a second thought.
"They are our stories, and Gramma Tala entrusted them to me," she tells him one night, as the fires are dying and the children have scampered away to their parents for sleep. "I have so much to teach my people, Maui."
She's thriving. She was born to lead them – it's not hard to see as he watches her with them. Tui is stepping back more and more each day, and he has no doubt that Moana will be a great chief when the time comes. Still, he knows it has to be exhausting, and his natural, boisterous personality is great for stories, so when the night comes that finds her too exhausted by their harrowing escape from a storm earlier in the day to tell the children their nightly story he is more than happy to take over. He even throws in a few good, well-timed shapeshifts to liven the tale up a bit, and the children are so delighted they ask him for more. So he finds a new role in their little community, and he finds he's actually really fond of the child mortals (maybe even more so than the adults).
"Thanks for the stories, Maui," one of the boys yawns as he follows his younger sister back to their parents. "You're really good at telling them."
"Hey, it's ok. You're wel-" he starts, but even though he thought Moana was asleep beside him he still feels the thwack! of her oar cutting off his words. The boy and his sister giggle and hurry off, and he grumbles as he rubs the back of his head. Moana is smiling, her eyes still closed.
"You know, they're going to start thinking I'm really rude if you never let me answer," he grouses. She sticks out her tongue in a playful gesture, and he nudges her head. "All right, all right. Go back to sleep."
"He's right, though, Maui," she says, nestling closer to him as she shivers against the breeze that's picked up. "I do appreciate you telling the stories. You're good at it, and it's nice having a first-hand account, but it's also nice having a break. I like hearing them again instead of telling. Thank you for that."
Maybe, just maybe, she might actually let him get away with it.
"It's nothing, Mo," he says, reaching out to give her a half-hug that he hopes gives her more warmth. "You're –"
Then again, he thinks as she smacks his knee, maybe not.
– V –
Eventually, though, he does have to leave. He stays long enough to find an island, and though he's known exactly where it was the whole time he never lets on. Part of the journey is finding it for yourself, that indescribable feeling of discovery, and who is he to take that from her? From them? He even stays through the initial construction of the village, and he's standing beside Sina as Tui and the Elders name Moana the new Chief. That's how it was always done, Tui explains: the old chief stayed on the island, and the new Chief found another. It's how their people have always worked, and while he will miss her greatly it's time he returned to Motunui.
He feels the call that same night, the tug pulling him to his next adventure – duty – away from his favorite mortals. He tells her after the celebration is dying down, when he's joined her for a late-night stroll along the beach. The ocean swirls along their feet, a gentle caress of familiarity for Moana but a more insistent tug for him. He's stayed with them too long, neglected his duties too long
But how can he be a hero to all if he doesn't, y'know, stay with the all?
"I have to leave," he tells her, and he appreciates how she doesn't really seem surprised.
"I knew it was coming," she says. "Gods, even demigods, can't stay among us mortals for too long, huh?"
"I'll be back," he's quick to say, and she smiles as she stretches up to give him a hug. "You know I can't stay away too long, Mo."
"You've helped so much," she says. "With your company and helping us build. Thank you, Maui."
Mini Maui has started a separate score board, this one counting how many times Moana's hit him for trying to say 'you're welcome'. He likes to think he's learning by now, so he gives her a final squeeze before pulling away.
"No problem, kid," he says instead, and she grins as he morphs into a hawk and flies off.
– V –
He's learning how to balance, though, and every few months find him back on Moana's new island. More often than not, though, he finds her on the sea. She is always Chief first, but the duties of her people have never been able to overpower the call of the sea – just as the duties of his godhood have never been able to overpower the mortals' call to him. She still seeks new lands, and she's delighted to learn her new home is actually part of an archipelago.
He had been annoyed by the task at the time, but that annoyance is forgotten when he sees the delight glowing on her face upon the discovery. She won't be kept from the sea, but the proximity of the other islands allows her to explore while staying close to home. They're sitting on a beach in the dying sunlight, her canoe nearby as he tells her how he had pulled each island from the sea.
"I thought Te Fiti was crazy at first, putting this many islands so close together, but –" he's saying, but she cuts him off.
"Wait, Te Fiti? I thought you pulled the islands up to encourage our ancestors to explore?" she asks, and he shrugs.
"Well, yeah, but it's also kind of a nudge from the gods? They give you your quests, and you do what they ask. It's a balance thing, I guess," he answers. She scrunches her face in confusion.
"Soooo…you didn't bring us fire just because we were cold?" she asks, and he laughs.
"Well, yeah, that one was me," he said. "I mean, some ideas are mine, but in the end it all helps the creation, right? Plus, remember I'm only a demigod. I had mortal parents. I guess I feel kind of responsible for you guys, since I started out as one of you."
She snorts out a laugh as she leans back in the sand, and with a glance he wonders when she started to grow up on him,
"Well, I guess whether it was your idea or not, thank you," she says. "Right now I'd never be able to leave to find a new island, but I don't think I'd be able to give up the sea. It's nice to know I can still sail and oversee settlements on the other islands without abandoning my people. So even if it wasn't your idea…thank you."
He smiles and nudges her shoulder. He's still not fully used to the easy way she acknowledges his accomplishments, but he's grateful she does. "Don't mention it, kid."
– V –
He's being called away longer. She's much older the next time he sees her. Much…rounder.
"Mo, come on! When did you get hitched?!" he cries, laughing as he picks her up and spins her. She's laughing, but the spinning is making her dizzy and she begs to be released before she loses the contents of her stomach on him.
"It was my duty, Sharkhead," she chides. He rolls his eyes at the name. He can't remember when exactly she had started using it, and he's never let on how much he secretly loves it. Can't have her ego getting as big as his own, after all. "I had to marry and produce an heir."
She looks down at her rounded stomach, smiling as she rests a hand on the bump. There's a bittersweet sort of twist as he takes her in. She looks good. Happy.
"Do you love him?" he asks. There's something in her look, a fleeting sort of expression that's gone before she looks back to him.
"He's good to me and our people, and yes, I love him," she says, and he sighs before pulling her in for another hug.
"Then that's all that matters, isn't it?" he asks her, not really expecting an answer. She hums before pulling away, and she's quick to grab his hand and begin tugging him towards the village.
"Come on," she says.
The gods are kind to him, and they allow him to stay through the final months of her pregnancy. He finds he actually likes her husband, and once the initial threats are out of the way (he's never seen a grown man grow quite so pale when presented with a giant, magical fishhook and promises of certain doom should he cause any harm to a certain chief) they make great friends. Keeping Moana land-bound is a joint effort, and he has to promise to take her on an adventure as soon as she's able.
Her husband is out with the fishermen when the baby comes, but he is there and refuses to leave her side as her screams tear through the village. He holds her hand, still so small in his own massive palm, as the pain increases and it's horrible, terrifying, and he's amazed at the resilience of mortal women and how they willingly choose to go through this so many times. Something goes wrong, and the midwife is barking out orders as Moana starts to lose consciousness, and he's never been more terrified until the tiny wails sound in the house and oh, she's had a little girl who is…absolutely disgusting, really, but still so beautiful.
"You're incredible, Mo," he whispers as the midwife cleans the baby off and brings her close. Moana is exhausted, her skin pale and sweaty, and she's still clinging to his hand. She smiles when she's handed the baby, and she coos as she cuddles the little one close.
"Thank you for being here," she says, voice quiet. She looks up at him, and he can tell all she wants to do is sleep. "Thank you for being my best friend, Maui."
"Yeah," he says, ignoring the twinge as he watches her there with her baby. "You know."
– V –
In the end, she has three. It seems like every time he comes back to the island she's pregnant again, and he doesn't know which one of them is annoyed by it more.
"The minute I get one stable enough to sail, I find I have another one on the way keeping me landlocked," she groused to him once, but he knows she doesn't fully mean it. He's seen how she is with the children, both her own and the village's, and as much as she loves the sea he knows she loves them more.
The children, the girl and two boys, grow to call him 'uncle', and he can't decide if he likes it or finds it degrading. He, the great Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod, Hero, etc., an uncle to mortal babies. It's endearing and humiliating all at once. But they're Moana's children, a part of her, and so he loves them as fiercely as he loves his little Wayfinder.
The next time he comes back, the youngest one is four. He knows as soon as he lands that something is wrong, but he treats it with his usual gusto and tries to shove it as far away as possible. He just wants to see his friend again, to go on another adventure, but she's standing on the beach before him holding a whimpering child, and he knows before she says anything what her answer will be.
"I can't," she says, and bingo. He knew it.
"Mo, come on!" he whines. "The kids are old enough now – they can get by without you for a few days. Don't you want to set sail? Head down to Lalotai, flip over ol' Glitterclaws for a few years? Or maybe ransack a few Kakamora ships?"
Her face is stern – heartbroken, even – and a rock sinks in his gut.
"Don't tell me you're pregnant again," he groans. She laughs at that, and though the sound is pained it's good to hear. She puts her son down, and though he whimpers again and reaches for her she presses her forehead to his own in a hongi and smiles.
"Go back to Gramma, little one," she says. "I'll be back soon."
The kid waddles away, back towards the village, and suddenly he's afraid.
"Mo, what…" he starts, and she reaches out for his hand.
"Come," she says. "Walk with me."
And she tells him about the storm. The lightning that set one of the village homes on fire, and how her husband had rushed in without a thought for his own safety. How he had bravely saved the family trapped inside only to be trapped himself. How he had died. How this had all happened only two days ago.
"I'm so sorry," he finally says, but she's smiling as she looks out to the sea. The ocean reaches for her, swirling around her feet, and her eyes close in memory.
"I'm getting old, Maui," she finally says. "No, not…I'm growing up. I have a family now. And my people. They…they need me, now more than ever. I would love to go with you."
"But you can't," he says. He understands, he does. He knew this day would come. Doesn't mean he's happy about it, though.
She asks if he'll stay, through the passage ceremonies, and he tells her there's nowhere else he'd rather be. If the village has anything to say about the sudden presence of the demigod, they don't, and he's grateful they allow him to stay and support her. But mortals live so slow, and their grief is so heavy, and his feet are itching to get back out there, and she can tell. So when it's all said and done, they go for one last trip. Just around the islands, not for too long or too far.
"I've missed this," she confides in him, the breeze playing with her hair. Her face is upturned, the sun kissing her skin with its familiar glow. "Thank you for staying, Sharkhead. For everything the past few days."
He twirls his hook, studying the intricate carvings so he doesn't have to study her.
"Yeah, you know, kid," he says absently. There's a feeling of finality about the day, of goodbyes, and he was never really good with those. At least not with her. "You're welco-"
He actually falls into the water when her oar smacks into the back of his head, and despite the gravity of the day Mini Maui is cackling again as he adds another tick to his tally.
– V –
He's staying away more. After all, that was always the plan, wasn't it? You teach them to walk, then step back as they continue to run. It's just another cycle in a long list of them in his immortal life, and one spunky little chief never should have made such a difference.
Except she did.
Except she shouldn't've.
His visits are shorter, never more than a week or so and these days usually a few days, and longer in between. Moana is busy now, after all. She has a family, her village, and teaching those brats to lead, and she can't just pick up and leave with him whenever they want like she did when she was younger. She has responsibilities. She has…
…like she had said: she has to grow up.
That doesn't keep her from missing him, though, and she makes sure he knows it.
"I'm selfish, I think," she says. She's at the little inlet he's finding her at more and more when he stops in. It's her little reprieve, her quiet place away from the chaos of village life. She dances with the water – just like she used to dance with the waves and her grandmother, she had told him once. The time gives her solace in her age. (He doesn't want to admit he notices the streaks in her hair, the subtle shift of time from silky black to shining silver.)
"You are the least selfish mortal I know, Moana," he chides, and she laughs as she twirls in the water. He wonders if she's aware of the tendrils that have risen to dance around her. Once a friend of the ocean, always a friend of the ocean, he supposes.
"No, I'm selfish," she affirms. She gives him a pointed look with her next turn, but then her back is to him again so her words lose some of their bite. "I'm selfish for always wanting you to stay longer."
She stops her dancing, and the tendrils wrap around her like a hug.
"I miss you, Maui," she says.
Running always came easiest to him. Her back is to him, and the gentle breeze created by the beat of his wings is the only sign she has that he's shifted and flown away.
– V –
He stays away much longer this time.
He probably never would have gone back, actually, if it hadn't been for that overgrown puddle that always surrounded him.
He's grown too close, too attached, and it's not good. He can't depend on a mortal that much. Mortals are weak, fragile, and it doesn't matter how strong Moana is because in the end she is still mortal. And what is a mortal to a god, even a demi one?
But he knows something's wrong. He's felt it for a while, actually, and the ocean is insistent. He lands in the middle of the day, coming out of his shift with a flip to land in the center of the village. The reactions were not what he was expecting, however, and he's surprised by the woman who greets him.
She's older than Moana was the first time he met her, but he can see his friend in every line of the aged face.
"Great Maui," she says, her voice solemn, and wonders how long it must have been this time. He remembers her, remembers how scared she had made him when she first came into the world, remembers when she used to call him 'uncle'. There's not much of that fondness left to see, he's afraid. "Why have you returned?"
He doesn't know how to answer her. He really doesn't know why he's returned after so long, just that he knew he had to. It's how these things always go in the world of demigods.
The voice is old. Unfamiliar. Its owner even more so.
"Mo…?" he asks, taking a hesitant step towards her. Her oar – that same stupid one he signed all those years ago, the same one that's left a permanent dent in the back of his skull – is being used as a walking stick in one hand. The other is clinging to the arm of a man, one he doesn't recognize but bears a resemblance to the women before him.
"Come here, Sharkhead. Let him pass, dear one," she chides her daughter, and the woman – the new Chief, he knows – steps aside. He's quick to brush past her, but when he reaches Moana he hesitates. She's so frail, leaning on this man (a grandson?) for support, and he doesn't want to hurt her. She's as much of a spitfire as ever, though, and while he's floundering like a confused child she releases the man to embrace him. She's shrunk, he's sick to notice. She's frail.
The village holds a feast, upon her request, in his honor. He sits beside her through the night, laughing as the dancers spin tale after tale. The children are as delighted as ever when he acquiesces and tells a few of his own. He can't help but catch Moana's eyes as he shares the exploits of the past years, and his gut twists at the contented smile on her face. She's glad he still has adventures, even if she can't be there to share them.
And the evening's winding down, the fire dying, and though the village starts to sleep she refuses to. Too many years have passed with too much to catch up on, so she leans on her oar and follows him down to the coast. She's too tired to walk far, so they settle by the canoes and watch the stars come out. He's unsure how long they stay there, talking well into the night, but at some point they've lapsed into an easy silence And he's missed this, he'll admit. He's missed her. But mortals are such fragile little things, and though her spark has always been one of the brightest he can see it fading with every struggling breath.
"I can't believe you still have that stupid thing," he finally comments, breaking the quiet. He's looking at the oar she's laid on her lap, and he can feel the chuckle shake through her from where she's leaning against his arm. "You always were too sentimental."
"It's a good oar," she says. She gives him a conspiratorial look. "Besides, you used Hei Hei to sign it. How else am I to remember that suicidal chicken?"
He laughs, because really what else can he do? He hadn't thought of that crazy bird in years. And he's laughing so hard he's actually crying, and he heaves out a breath as he reaches up to wipe the tears from his eyes.
"It's been a good life," she says, and the shift is so sudden he feels it like a physical pain. Her eyes are half closed, looking out at the sea. "A very good life. And you were a very good friend. You know, I think the gods knew I needed that. I was called to save Te Fiti, but I like to think I was also called to save you."
"You're a crazy old lady, Mo," he scoffs. "I didn't need saving."
She hums, and he can hear the incredulity in her tone. Maybe he had needed saving, a little, but he is the Great Maui, and there's no way he's admitting that to her.
"It's been a good life," she says again. She sounds so far away now, and he doesn't like it. He can feel her leaving him, and it's not fair. That wasn't their arrangement, after all – she was supposed to stay on the island, or the sea, and he was the one who was supposed to leave. She wasn't keeping up her end of things. "I wish we could have had one more adventure, though. I wish I had taken you up on tipping old Glitterclaws."
He chuckles at that. He won't tell her that particular encounter, the gravity of the visit and the pent up frustration needing released, had resulted in Tamatoa screeching on his back for almost a decade.
"We had some good times, kid," he says, but the endearment feels wrong. She's not a kid, not anymore. Hasn't been for a long time, even if – comparatively speaking – she's still so very young. "Can't tell you how boring adventures are without you."
"Did I ever thank you, Maui?" she asks, and he tenses at the words. "We did have some good adventures. I don't think I ever thanked you, though. For letting me in. For sticking around."
She feels heavier on his arm.
"Thank you," she says, her voice a murmur. He bends his head, pressing his cheek to the top of her hair. He'd expected it to be wiry in her age, but it's still so soft.
"You're welcome, Moana," he says, and it's the first time since he's known her that she doesn't immediately reach for something to hit him with. He wonders if she can feel it, too. If she knows. He moves his arm, tucking her against his side and focusing on every shaky breath that rattles through her lungs. "You're welcome."