This is my first attempt at writing fan fiction and I hope you enjoy it! I did hours of research to try and make it as culturally accurate as possible, but I apologize if anything is incorrect. I did take a bit of "creative license" and made Moana 14 years old, instead of 16, during the Te Fiti incident that was highlighted in the movie. This allowed her to be 18 years old in my story; still young, but a consenting adult. The main characters are inspired by the Disney movie, but all events and supporting characters in the story were created by myself. Please do not publish or redistribute any content from the story without first contacting the author. Thank you!

The Wayfinder's Champion


The water was colder here, but the ocean settled contently into a tide pool, enjoying the refreshing change from the tepid waters where it usually rested. As it rested, the ocean watched the small family play on the rocks. The father, with arms folded and a small smile lifting the corners of his mouth, stood back as he watched his daughter and wife climb the rocks surrounding the tide pools. It lifted up slightly as it saw the little girl make her way over to a shallow pool. Her curly hair blew in the strong winds and she jumped over a large puddle in the way of her destination, her jacket billowing behind her; her mother followed more carefully. The ocean shimmered with pride, sparkling icy blue with laughter. It settled back down into the water and floated with the ebb and fro of the tide, aware that the father was now staring at the spot where it had shimmered.

Every few decades the ocean would rise up from its deep sleep and would follow the draw of energy that led it to its destination. Over the years the energy became weaker, but the ocean always managed to find its source. It had been observing this small family for several years now and could only now begin to feel the adventurous spirit waking within the young girl's heart. The strong pulse of energy that originally drew the ocean from its slumber was coming from within the father. The father was a tall man, taller than most humans, and he still bore the dark brown skin and curly hair of his ancestors. The daughter had a fairer complexion in both skin and hair, no doubt inherited from her golden haired mother.

The father collected his family and the trio walked farther inland, out of the view of the ocean. The ocean moved out of the tide pools and travelled farther up the coast, knowing the exact beach the family would visit next on their vacation. It waited near the shore, playing with the sea lions in the kelp bed and moving onto the beach to study the dark, rocky sand.

Finally, the ocean spotted the family walking over the sand dunes toward the water. It sparkled with delight as it saw the digging tools being held by the girl and the picnic supplies that the parents carried. It knew that the family would be staying for quite some time and that the father would begin to tell the ocean's favorite story to his daughter. The father removed his shirt, exposing the hawk tattoo on his back, before helping his daughter begin her digging project. The ocean could hear the girl's excited chatter as she asked for the story that had inspired her father to choose the hawk image for his back. The mother laughed and settled on a blanket with her book; the story her daughter had requested was a common one in their home.

The ocean shimmered as the father began to tell the legend of his people to his daughter. The story was long, and although many of the details were changed, the ocean still splashed merrily as it listened to the familiar tale. The sun began to move closer to the horizon and the ocean relaxed in the waves, listening to the story and remembering the events that took place so long ago. For the ocean was there; it saw the beginning of the legend. The ocean began to dream, remembering the time when a demi-god fell in love with a mortal girl and risked everything to be with her.

Her birthday is tomorrow.

Maui sat under the shade of a coconut tree watching the villagers who, under Moana's direction, prepared for tomorrow's festivities. He had returned that morning from a long voyage and couldn't help but smile as he gazed across the village he now called home. After he and Moana journeyed across the horizon to deliver the heart back to Te Fiti, the island of Motunui had prospered. With new, inhabited islands being discovered every fewlunar cycles, trade had begun and the village had thrived.

And it's all because of her.

The fact that a mere slip of a girl had become the hero of the village ceased to bother Maui over the course of the years. He and Moana had built a fierce bond through countless hours of sailing and navigating, several near-death adventures, and working together in the village. The girl had the makings of a fine chief. Maui quirked one side of his mouth as he folded his arms across his wide chest. Well, not really a girl anymore, but that label kept his mind on the right track.

On the eve of her 18th birthday Moana was the epitome of womanhood: curly hair hanging to her waist, shells adorning her clothes, and that sparkle in her eyes that he loved, especially when it was focused at him. Much like it was currently. Maui ducked his head, cheeks flaming as he realized he'd been caught staring. Him, blushing? Maui snorted and lifted his head again. Shapeshifter, demi-god, hero-to-all does not blush. Especially not because a beautiful woman – girl – turned her big brown eyes at him. Eyes that were the color of warm… Maui startled again.

Get it together man!

Before his thoughts could drive him crazy he jumped up, grabbed his hook and marched over to where the villagers were decorating the big tent.

"Finished with your nap, sleepy head?" Moana teased as she tossed him a piece of vine that they were trying to hang.

Maui scowled, even though he knew it would not intimidate his best friend.

"Just taking a short break, Princess. Remember, I've been awake for days now, trying to get back in time for your party."

The nickname got a reaction from her; she hated being called a princess. With a roll of her eyes she flicked her end of the vine at him.

"Hmmm, and whose fault is that? If you had a partner, then maybe you could have gotten some sleep." She smirked and pointed to the top of a nearby tree. "Since you're awake now, why don't you get up there and help us, hero-to-all?"

Maui saw Moana smile and quirk her eyebrow, obviously still peeved at him for ditching her when he made his journey. She knew that climbing was not his strong suit, but he couldn't refuse, not with many of the villagers now looking to him for his help. He sighed and started climbing, realizing that he should start learning how to choose his battles.

That night Maui sat quietly on the beach next to his hook listening to the sound of the surf. A gentle breeze floated in the air, the perfect accompaniment to his pensive mood. Maui felt a tug on his chest and knew that his Mini-Maui and Moana tattoos had woken up. Maui saw Mini-Maui move from his perch onto Maui's bicep. He looked imploringly at his larger counterpart.

"I'm just thinking," Maui said with a yawn and leaned back on his arms.

Mini Maui looked horrified, biting his nails and running in circles. Chuckling softly Maui playfully flicked his tiny friend onto a perch on his back. He lay back in the sand and rested his arms behind his head. He stared at the stars, seeing the hook constellation starting to rise over the horizon. Tomorrow was going to be an important day; Moana's coming of age ceremony. She would start even more intense training to become the next chief, taking over most of her father's responsibilities. She also would be old enough for her father to choose her husband. With a groan that was part growl Maui rose up with a grimace and grabbed his hook. He paced down the beach swinging it idly.

"Why should it bother me?" he mused aloud swinging at a nearby fern. "She's my best friend, of course I want her happy!" he argued with himself and the sand mounds near his feet became victims to his kicks. "She can marry whomever she wants and I will be fine with that. It's not like I have any claim on her."

The waves pushed against his feet and he sighed, not convincing himself in the slightest. He took out a leather flask from his waistband and twirled it with his fingers, staring at it intently as he continued down the beach. He knew the answer as to why his gut churned every time he thought of Moana in another man's arms, spending her life with him. The flask in his hands was evidence as to how much his feelings had grown. He knew that he could make the final step, but being back on the island and seeing Moana again filled him with doubt.

No longer able to feel the ocean beneath his feet, Maui glanced up and saw a figure silently walking toward him. From the way the ocean receded from him and rushed toward her he knew that it was Moana. With the full moon reflecting off the sea and bathing her in white light, she looked like a vision from a dream. Maui felt his heartbeat quicken as he drank in her beauty. He blushed –again!—as she lifted her face and waved in recognition. Grinning, she hurried along to meet him. She'd been giving him that same smile since that morning, but then again he had been gone for almost a year.

One year before…

It had been several years since he and Moana embarked on their world saving mission across the sea. Moana had returned to her island a hero, and after explaining his identity, Maui became a living legend. Giving all the credit to Moana wasn't as hard as he thought it would be, but then again she did save his life many times during the voyage; she deserved all the admiration of her tribe. Soon after their return Maui began to integrate himself to the island life. It took a while for the people to relax around him, but soon enough he started to build relationships with many of the villagers. He gave sailing lessons to anyone who asked, helped the women harvest the fibers for their baskets, and regaled stories to the children at night in the light of the campfires. And, must to his delight, he continued to embark on voyages with Moana, discovering new islands and taking adventures with the other wayfinding villagers.

Several times Maui would head to his boat to attend an important demi-god mission, only to find Moana holding his boat hostage and demanding to be taken with him. They would voyage and return to the scolding lectures of her parents. Moana had quickly become his best friend, the only one who truly understood him, challenged him; the only one brave enough to stand firm in the face of a demi-god's ego.

As she grew older her father began to train her for chief. Often times she was too busy to embark on their secret missions and he would be forced to go alone. He started thinking about her constantly, missing her companionship and insightful conversations. He would worry about her safety, wondering what she was doing and if her father was pushing her too hard. At first he simply argued that his feelings of protectiveness and longing for her company were simply the sentiments of a very dear friend, a brother. But he began to realize that brotherly feelings could not explain the flicker of jealousy that sparked inside whenever he returned to the island and saw her walking with the young men of the village. A friend's heart would not feel light when she laughed at one of his jokes, yet clench in pain when her smile was directed at someone else. And only a cad would be tempted to see if her lips really were as soft as they looked.

With these unfamiliar emotions raising inside him he decided to run; to go on a solitary voyage to clear his head without the distraction of the island. Of her. When Moana questioned where he was going he simply told her that he did not want to endanger her on this mission, which was true enough since he didn't know where he was going nor how long he would be gone. So he travelled east, discovering a few uninhabited islands and resuming a friendship with Tamatoa. Not long into his journey he came to a devastating conclusion: he was in love with his best friend, and he would eventually watch her die while he continued to live on forever.

A thousand years ago he thought his immortality was the greatest gift that he had ever received. But now, as he was building roots in a village that accepted him as he was, he began to understand the importance of community. Life-long friends. The joys that come with raising a family and growing old next to the woman you love.

He set his course for Te Fiti's island and when he arrived he begged her to help him. She refused his request and he stayed on her island for days, trying to make her understand his plight. Te Fiti saw his determination and decided to test him, wanting to determine if his feelings were true or simply the whimsical fantasies of a bored demi-god. Maui was sent on the most difficult voyage he had ever faced. He battled monsters and traversed the harsh elements of the lands to collect rare items that Te Fiti had requested he find. After months of sailing the world he succeeded in delivering the objects back to her island. Moved by his resolve, Te Fiti created for him what he most desperately wanted: a life. She placed it in his hands with a smile, but warned him to think wisely before accepting his new destiny. He gave his promise and journeyed back to his island and his people; and back to Moana.

Maui quickly hid the flask in his waistband and barely had time to drop his hook before Moana launched herself into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he swung her around, her feet kicking the air high above the ground. Maui realized that his time away only made his feelings for her grow.

"I've missed you," he said, giving her a tight hug.

She gave him a tight squeeze of her own, "I've missed you too!"

She jumped down, gave him a look, and punched him in the arm.

"Hey, what's that for?" He made a show of rubbing his arm.

"You stole my canoe!" Hands on her hips she delivered a scathing glare.

Maui only chuckled, "Well, technically I only borrowed…" she swung to whack him again but Maui dodged in time.

"You knew that was my favorite canoe, and you took it anyway! For months I could only sail on my father's canoe. Do you know how slow he sails?" He was too far away for her to try and hit him again, so she kicked sand in his general direction. She huffed and crossed her arms, giving him a hard, unyielding look.

With the boat in question docked nearby, Maui grinned and ran to the canoe, rummaging about until he found his souvenir for Moana. He bounded back to her and held the peace offering behind his back.

"But I brought you something," he said, rocking back and forth on his feet.

She continued to stare at him.

"From Te Fiti's island," he raised his voice higher, trying to tempt a reaction from her. He only received a quirk from her eyebrow.

He stepped closer to her.

"For you," he said, holding out a beautiful conch shell. Moana gasped.

"You're forgiven!" she said quickly as she carefully grasped the large shell and held it close to admire its beauty. Her thumb traced along outer rim of the shell where her name had been carefully carved.

She looked back up at Maui and gave him his favorite smile, the one that always sent his heart racing. She reached up and he drew her into another hug.

"Thank you," she whispered and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"You're welcome" he said and set her down quickly, afraid that she would be able to feel his heart pounding under his tattooed skin. He scratched above his heart nervously, flinching slightly as his Mini-Moa tattoo smacked his fingers with her oar.

"So, ah, what brings you out here?" He winced slightly at his awkward conversation starter.

Moana, surely not looking disappointed about their short hug, sighed and started walking back toward the village. Maui lifted his hook from the ground and followed after her. She played with her shell for several moments before she answered his question.

"Mother is beyond excited about tomorrow. She keeps asking our opinions about the decorations, the food, my hair, my clothes…"

"It must be so hard being the Princess," Maui teased, bumping her shoulder with his elbow.

"Ohhh!" she growled and punched him in the bicep. She'd grown several inches since they first met, but her head still barely came up to his shoulder. Chuckling Maui halted suddenly and flopped down into the sand.

"So, are you going to tell me what's really bothering you?"

She landed with a poof next to him. The soothing sound of the ocean did nothing to erase the frown that had formed on her face. She looked so despondent that, on a whim, Maui reached for her hand and gently held it. She countered his question with one of her own.

"Are you ready to tell me where you went for almost a year?" She leveled him with a look, but laced her fingers through his larger ones.

"Fair enough" he sighed, gazing back at the ocean. She dropped his hand and scooted over until she was resting right next to him. He put his arm around her shoulders and cupped her arm with his hand. As she snuggled into his side she draped an arm around his back and rested her head on near his collar bone.

Don't smell her hair!

He struggled to keep his breathing normal. He couldn't remember the last time they sat this close together, but he was sure it had been before he realized he had fallen for her.

Moana's shoulders rose and fell with a deep sigh and Maui caught the scent of coconut oil in her hair. She whispered, "I'm afraid about being betrothed."

Her statement cooled all romantic thoughts from Maui's mind. He struggled to keep his tone void of jealousy as he asked "What do you mean?"

Moana sat forward with a huff and crossed her arms. "According to tradition, my father has the right and privilege," she said with a mocking tone, "to choose my husband for me. But I guess he thinks it would be fun to have the men compete for my hand, so asked me to help him plan the special events right before the spring festival."

"And that's bad?" Maui ventured cautiously.

"Of course it is!" Moana practically shouted, swiveling to face him. "I'm old enough to know who I want to spend the rest of my life with, and I want to choose him all on my own, not because he won some silly competition!" She watched the ocean with a frown on her face.

"Well, maybe he doesn't know how else to declare is intentions to you." Maui said softly to the back of her head.

"He could just tell me himself, instead of trying to show off for my father."

"Maybe he's too nervous, and a competition is the only way he knows how to win your heart." He swallowed, realizing too late that his voice was thick with emotion.

She swiveled her head to look at him and Maui tried not to blush. She had a gleam in her eye that he had never seen before and she scooted back into her original position next to his side. Maui cleared his throat, wondering if she possibly felt the same was about him as he did her.

"Um, ah, couldn't you ask your father to compromise? Something that settles tradition but also makes you happy? He respects your opinion remember." He rubbed his hand along her arm. "He would listen if you just asked."

She beamed a smile at him. "That's a good idea." She said softly

"I do have those from time to time," he replied as he tried not to stare. He must have failed because he even in the moonlight he saw her cheeks darken. It felt good to have her sitting so close and he stole a quick glance at her mouth. Her blush deepened and she licked her lips nervously. Maui started to duck his head toward her.

Just a little farther and…

"MOANA!" they both jumped apart as her mother came walking from the trees behind them. Moana jumped to her feet first, blushing furiously. Maui quickly followed, his own face on fire.

"Um, well…" Moana fiddled with her new shell before settling her hand on her grandmother's necklace. "I better be going, thanks for the advice!"

"Oh, uhh yeah, no problem." He reached down to grab his hook and noticed the Mini's leaning forward as if watching a show. He rolled his shoulders to dislodge them.

"Uh, would you like me to walk you home?" he asked, glancing over her shoulder at Sina. Moana turned her head to look behind her.

"No, no thanks, I can just go with my mother." She made to leave but stopped to ask,
"I'll see you tomorrow?"

Maui swallowed, uncomfortable in the gaze of Sina's twinkling, knowing gaze.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world."

He gave her a small side smile which she returned as her mother took her arm and all but dragged Moana back toward the village. He waved as she glanced back one more time before disappearing into the trees. Heaving a sigh and scuffing a hand down his face, Maui faced the ocean, swung his hook and felt the magic transform him into a giant hawk. He took off of over the water, needing to feel the cold wind on his face.

"Hmmm," Sina mumbled as she watched her distracted daughter ready herself for bed and stomped to her pallet behind the screen. Moana and her father had a long discussion outside of the hut; a very heated discussion based on how easily Sina had heard them from inside. The volume of their voices made it easy for her to hear what they were discussing, and she couldn't help but think that Tui was being stubborn. The image of Moana and Maui snuggling on the beach flickered through her mind.

Having been a younger woman once, she knew exactly what she had interrupted when she walked through the trees. She saw the way the two had jumped away from each other, blushing like they had been in the sun for hours. The thought brought a smile to her face. She had watched for several years as her daughter and the resident demi-god had grown closer and had wondered if something else would grow between them. She loved Maui like a son, having heard enough rants about him from Moana and being hostess to enough gatherings to get to know him quite well. While still occasionally arrogant and attention hungry, she couldn't deny the way he selflessly offered his help to the villagers and protected her daughter with a fierce determination. She had noticed, as did some of the older and more observant village wives, that Maui had developed a warmer look whenever he gazed at Moana. And since Moana did not seem upset in the least about what had transpired on the beach, Sina had a feeling that Moana might return Maui's feelings.

"Hmmm," Sina murmured again as she heard her husband enter the tent at the same time Moana's torch went dark; time to talk to Tui about a change in rules.

The morning of Moana's birthday dawned bright and clear. Moana was closeted away with the women preparing for her grand entry into society as an official member of the tribe.

I hope she's not too overwhelmed

Maui chuckled as he helped two other men lower the pig into the pit to be roasted. Moana hated being pampered and he knew what a grueling process it must be for her. After he dropped the large boar he straightened and glanced around while he stretched. A tightening on his arm drew his attention. Mini Maui was busy hefting coconuts and flexing his muscles, while Mini-Moa clapped and cheered him on.

Well, at least he's getting some female attention.

He glanced around to see who else needed help and made his way to where a group of men were building the dance floor. He couldn't wait till sundown. But first, he had an errand to run.

An hour before sundown the entire village gathered on the sides of the pathway leading to the large meeting house. Everything was perfect; the pork was roasted and glistening, the fruit cut and arranged artfully in serving bowls and decorations beautifully adorned the meeting house, pathway and dance platform. Maui watched from his spot near the middle of the path as two villagers lit the torches in anticipation of Moana's entrance. He twisted the stem of a red hibiscus flower in his hands, glancing anxiously toward the direction that Moana would appear.

Each villager carried a handful of flowers to throw onto the pathway as Moana would walk past. Moana would then honor her people's gift by choosing several of the fallen flowers to embellish her hair. Maui had spent over an hour hunting for a blooming, red hibiscus tree. It was early in the season for the flowers and the red varieties were rare, but Maui was determined to honor Moana by finding her favorite flower. A horn sounded and all the people of the village dew themselves up as they waited for their future chieftess to appear.

The first ones to arrive were the chief and his wife. Dressed in their best clothes and headpieces they passed by the villagers, stopping several times to shake a hand or to accept congratulations. As they passed his spot in the gathering, Maui bowed at the waist in greeting to Tui. With a nod of his own, the chief continued forward. Moana's mother gave him a smile as she passed, which grew larger as she noticed the red flower he clenched tightly.

I wonder what that was all about.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he shuffled to the back of the group to allow a family to see around him. He gazed over the heads of the crowd as Moana's parents reached the stop of the stairs and with a flourish Tui pivoted and addressed the crowd.

"My noble friends!" he said as he raised his arms. "I thank you for your show of support, for as of today my daughter has become of age!"

He paused as the villagers raised their voices with excited cheers. Tui waited for them to quiet before continuing his speech.

"To my great delight, I present to you the light of my life! My daughter: wayfinder, healer of hearts, hero to the mighty Te Fiti, and future chieftess, Moana of Motunui!"

As the village responded with a roar that could be heard across the island and as the sun began to set over the ocean Moana appeared over the crest of the hill. Maui's breath caught and his cheer ended abruptly.

How will I ever deserve her?

He knew his girl had become a beautiful young woman, but tonight she outshone the stars. Her dark hair was coiled about her head in braids, her bronzed skin shimmering in the light of the sinking sun. Her skirt was made from the finest rushes and whispered while she walked and her bodice was adorned with shells designed in intricate patterns. She wore no jewelry, save her grandmother's necklace and leaves around her ankles and wrists. Maui clutched the flower stem in now clammy and the rest of her people threw their flowers into her path as she made her walk down the aisle. Head up and shoulders back, she walked straight ahead except for occasionally bending down to collect a few of the hundreds of flowers littering the path. She stopped suddenly and bent over. Maui stood on his tiptoes to try and see what she was doing. He landed back on his feet as Moana straightened, now with the hibiscus flower tucked into a braid over her ear. With a quick scan across the crowd she made her way to her parents on the stairs.

As her father turned her about the shoulders to face the crowd he called out "Good people of Motunui! I present to you, your chieftess!" More cheers erupted from the people and Moana blushed from the village's praise.

"And now, let the feast begin!"

Food and drink flowed in abundance. People milled about the cooking house or lounged in the grass outside to better hear the music. Maui resolved to enjoy himself and not become distracted by his beautiful friend. He retrieved his bowl of food and made his way outside the cookhouse, purposefully not looking in Moana's direction. He sat near a small cluster of trees and soon had a small group of families join him. The conversation was lively and the children clamored for his attention. Maui laughed, finally distracted, and enjoyed wrestling, chasing, and otherwise tiring out the little ones. When they finally collapsed in exhausted heaps near their parents, Maui lifted a few of the younger children into his lap and regaled them with a story of his great heroics. He was fully animated in his story telling and the children watched at him in adoration.

I wonder what it would be like to be a father.

The thought came suddenly into his mind and he faltered in his story. Thankfully his blunder went unnoticed as the music changed.

"It's time to dance!" the children cried as they raced to the dancing platform, their exhaustion suddenly forgotten.

Maui rose slowly and trailed after the families toward the dancing platform. Maui had a clear view of the dancers, easily gazing over the heads of the other spectators from his position in the back. He recognized the dance they were performing, but still had a hard time remembering the steps. A thousand years of solitary exile on a deserted island caused him to forget many of the dances he had learned when he was young, but he had learned most of the new dances during his few years on his new current group of dancers, both men and women, finished and rushed to the sidelines to make way for the next group. Consisting of only women, the new group took up position inside the ring of torches. Moana and Sina stood side by side among the group of dancers, sharing a hug before they started dancing. When they music started, they all swayed slowly to the rhythm.

Now this I could watch for a long time.

Although she was much younger than most of her fellow dancers, Moana still moved with a grace that held testament to years of practice. Hips swaying, arms waving, feet stamping to the beat of the drums, Moana danced joyfully next to her mother. Maui smiled when they finished their dance with a light stepped hop as the music faded. His delighted applause joined the villagers.

"You make your island proud, Moana." he whispered as he started to leave.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going, Big Guy?"

With a confused "huh" Maui turned as he was wrenched by the arm and dragged through the crowd by one of his closest friends. Taianui had befriended Maui soon after the Te'fiti incident, his outgoing and boisterous personality perfect for making Maui feel welcome on the island. Maui's other friend, Ahohako, had a more serious demeanor, being married and a baby on the way. He helped restrain Maui and Taianui during their more daring antics.

Taianui dragged Maui to the edge of the group.

"The girls had their fun, but now it's our turn to show off!"

He let go of Maui's arm with a sly wink and made his way into the dancing circle. With mischievous smile of his own, Maui followed.

As Maui took the beginning stance, he noticed that a group of young women had gathered around Moana. When they giggled and pointed to the men, Moana turned and looked surprised to see Maui among the other dancers. He flexed slightly and set the group a bold wink. They tittered into their hands and Maui caught Moana's gaze move over his muscled torso. He stood up straighter, his masculine pride basking in her attention, and began to dance when the music played.

While the women had danced lithely and gracefully to swaying, soothing music, the men danced with strength and power to the beat of drums. Chants accompanied their movements and more than once Maui caught Moana's eyes watching him. He noticed a few other young women had their eyes on him, but none of the other girls in the village had managed to hook his heart. The dance wore on, testing the men's stamina as well as strength. Sweat dripped down Maui's back by the time the last drum sounded. Cheers rose and people entered the circle to praise the dancers. While Taianui became distracted by a group of admiring girls Maui made his way over to Moana and her friends. Pleasantly tired and feeling emboldened by the dance, Maui rested his forearm on a nearby tree and addressed the group with a flirtatious smile.

"So how are you liking the party?"

The girls surrounded him and Moana rolled her eyes.

"It's so amazing!"

"The dancing was my favorite part, especially when all the men joined in."

"You were so amazing, Maui!"

"I think you're footwork could use a little more practice!" Moana called over the heads of her simpering friends. The girls gasped and swung their shocked faces back to Moana.

Maui relaxed his stance and, putting his hands over his heart, declared "You wound me, fair one!"

Moana just laughed, "Oh spare me from the demi-god's ego! You weren't the only handsome man dancing out there tonight."

Maui leaded forward, enjoying their teasing banter. "Oh? So you do think I'm handsome?" he waggled his eyebrows.

Moana blushed and stammered, but was saved from answering the question as more women came rushing up to join the group.

"Did you see them dance? I couldn't take my eyes off of them!"

"Oh they looked so handsome!"

"Which one do you hope will win your father's competition, Moana?"

With that simple statement all the mirth inside him gave way to disappointment.

How could I have forgotten?

He wasn't free to flirt with her, not yet. He needed to find the opportunity to speak with her father before Tui gave her away to another man.

"I'll uh," he stammered uncomfortably and the whole group looked at him. "I'll let you get back to your friends." With a small wave he strode to the opposite side of the torches where an arm wrestling match was being formed.

So I guess this really is what jealousy feels like.

Maui stood alone in the shadows. The arm wrestling match had held little interest for him. Finally being defeated, after three men pulled down on his arm at the same time, he had quietly left the group of men and took up his current position. The dancing had resumed, this time with couples pairing off to participate in the lively music. So far Moana had danced with five men, not that Maui had been keeping track. Her current dance partner was Kele, whose distain for Maui was no secret. She laughed as he twirled her around the circle.

I bet I could make her laugh harder.

He knew he was wallowing in self-pity, but his sour mood prevented him from caring. Since he returned she seemed to act differently when they were together, but he still wondered if she cared about him more than just a friend.

She laughs and smiles at everyone, not just me, so that won't help. And one almost kiss on the beach isn't enough to know for sure. Is it?

He crossed his arms as his scowl deepened when he watched two men ask Moana to dance at the same time. A small scuffle began between the two as they head locked each other, trying to wrestle the other to the ground. The taller of the two swept a leg around and tried to knock the other to the ground. Jumping and delivering his own well timed kick, the would-be victim was able to unbalance his opponent, sending him collapsing into the dirt. With a shout of victory he made his way over to Moana and claimed his victory dance. Maui rolled his eyes and continued his silent brooding.

I can't ask her directly, I could lose her completely.

He shook his head, trying to think wisely as Te Fiti had advised. He had no experience with romantic relationships, but he did know that he needed to find a way to declare his intentions while minimizing the risk to their friendship.

I'm going to find Tui and talk to him.

His thoughts became more urgent while he continued to watch her dance. Moana's partner ducked her under his arm, eliciting a cheer from the crowd and a laugh from partners switched and the tall one from the wrestling match paired up with Moana. With a resigned sigh the scowl left Maui's face and he started to walk back through the village in search of the chief. A pinch on his chest stopped him. Mini-Maui looked at him questioningly.

"What?" Maui asked, irritated.

Mini –Maui pointed to the dancers and started swinging Mini-Moa in their own dance. Maui barked a mirthless laugh.

"Me, dance with her? Holding her hand, twirling her close enough to smell the flowers on her hair?" He glanced up again at the bowing dancers, but this time with longing on his face.

"Yeah, no thanks." He said softly, "I'd rather keep my sanity." He once again tried to leave.

"Friends!" Tui called out and the crowd gradually grew quiet. With a frustrated sigh at his lost opportunity to talk to Tui in private, Maui settled back into his secluded spot next to the hut. He was curious to see who her father had chosen to participate in the contest for Moana's hand. Maui knew that it would take a great amount of persuasion to convince Tui to even consider him as a future son-in-law; Tui had never quite forgiven Maui for abandoning Moana in the ocean and leaving her to battle the lava monster Te Kā on her own. Tui only recently began to make Maui feel welcome, but he still knew that he had a long journey ahead to wining the chief's trust. Once the crowd was completely silent, Tui began his announcement.

"My friends, I thank you for helping us celebrate this the birthday of this precious gift that is my daughter." Beaming happily, Moana walked up to her father and he grasped her hand in his.

"It is a rare moment indeed when a chief can celebrate his daughter's coming of age and as such, the village will celebrate a special holiday. Tomorrow morning, for the enjoyment of the people and for the hope of creating a new tradition, a contest will be held that will test the strength, stamina, and hearts of the young men here in our village." A deep roar of approval swept through the men as they nodded and pounded each other on the back.

"Although tradition states," he continued once the men had become silent once more. "That I have the right as chief and father to choose the man that will become her husband, I have decided to instead let the men compete for my daughter's hand in marriage." A slight frown lighted on Moana's features before she looked down at the ground.

"However," he paused, looking at his downcast daughter. "Moana has proven herself wise beyond her years and as stubborn as her father."

Maui smiled ruefully while the rest of the village chuckled and Moana raised her head to look into her father's loving gaze. He continued, seeming to speak only to her.

"And because of those reasons," he said softly, "I have decided to change tradition. You, Moana, will have the final authority to choose who you want to wed and become your partner in life." Moana's smile widened with every word her father spoke.

"Therefore!" He shouted, holding up his hand and facing the crowed once more, "whoever is deemed the victor, he shall have only three days to convince Moana to accept his suit. If she refuses, she may choose whomever she deems worthy."

With Chief Tui's final statement Moana jumped into her father's arms and gave him a tight hug. Maui smiled and relaxed his stance, relieved that she was no longer bound by tradition. He took a sharp intake in breath as he realized what the change in the rules meant for him.

This means that I still have a chance! If she decides against the victor.

He knew it was a slim chance at best, since the victor would be spending as much time as possible with Moana during the three days, but he still couldn't help the small bloom of hope that rose in his chest. He stepped out of the shadows to get a better view of the chief.

"I'm not finished yet, my lovely wayfinder," Tui said tenderly, dislodging Moana's arms from around his neck. "If I'm not mistaken, you will definitely want to hear this next part."

Everyone, including Maui, seemed to hold his breath to hear who the chief decided would compete. With a final, secretive look to his wife, Tui faced the crowd. Maui's heart quickened as the chief seemed to be staring right at him.

"The participants for this challenge shall be," Chief Tui gazed directly into Maui's eyes, "any unmarried man in the village."

With the celebration but a memory, the village was quiet and dark as the people went back to their homes to await the exiting promises of the next day. In the still of the night, on the far side of the lagoon, the only sounds on the shore was the gentle lapping of the sea. Bathed in the light of the gleaming moon, the demi-god Maui sat near the water, hook abandoned in the sand next to him. He gazed across the sea, his thoughts calm for the first time in days. An empty flask lay next to him, its contents churning in the giant's stomach. He rested his arms on his bent knees and closed his eyes, laying his forehead on his tattoo covered forearms. He was still, not moving for several moments. The ocean's waves began to quicken and he felt his emotions rise, the hope that awakened inside him a few short hours ago now burning within as it increased in intensity, transforming into something stronger, brighter.

With a battle cry he yanked his hook from the ground and surged to his feet. The ocean rose up to gaze at him, dancing happily as it saw the determination etched on its second-favorite human's face.

Hoisting his look high above his head, he shouted "I, Maui, shapeshifter, demi-god of the wind and sea, hero-to-all…" The wind rushed through the trees, waving his hair and causing the ocean to leap even more excitedly. Maui's voice softened with quiet intensity. "I will board my boat, I will sail into this challenge, and…" The ocean lifted up and Maui looked directly at its face.

"I will not fail."

He plunged his hook into the sand.

The next morning Maui wondered what affects the liquid he drank would have on his body. He had successfully tested his hook and still seemed to have all of his magical powers, so other than feeling determined and lightly nervous, he felt no different than before. He exited his hut, butleft his hook inside, knowing that he would need to prove himself with his skill alone. As he walked through the village, he studied the cloudy sky, trying to determine if a storm would come during the first round of the tournament.

Buoyed by the fresh breeze and from Mini-Moa and Maui cheering for him, Maui walked confidently along the path and greeted several villagers that joined him toward their common destination. His emotions still reeled from his revelation the previous night, but as he saw the meeting tent looming closer he faltered, doubt growing inside of him. He took a deep breath and continued, knowing that he could not hesitate in this mission. He smiled, knowing that it was the most important mission of his life.

He was among the last of the villagers to arrive. He lookedacross the sea of heads and saw the chief standing in position, with Moana and Sina standing next to him.

"Villagers!" Tui called, "Let me see now know who among you is brave enough to participate in my challenge!"

The crowd cheered and Maui's heart quickened with energy.

"If you believe yourselves worthy to marry the daughter of the chief, step forward."

More than a dozen men began to make their way to the base of the stairs. Maui took a deep fortifying breath and exhaled loudly before starting to move through the crowd. The villagers gasped in surprise and stepped aside to allow him to pass forward. He could hear the whispers behind his as they moved back to their spots, but he paid them no mind. His eyes were fixed on the on the one face he treasured most, although the very cunfused look on her face deflated some of his confidence. He took a spot beside Taianui and Afa, who was only a year older than Moana herself. Afa gaped at him with awe, but Taianui simply smirked. Spreading his legs and grasping his hands behind his back, Maui ignored his friend and stood still, daring anyone to deny him a place in the competition. He counted almost 20 more men filing up to the group as he waited for the chief to continue speaking. After several moments where no one else stepped to the front, Tui continued.

"I will not be making this road ahead of you an easy one. You here standing before me will face mychallenges in the hopes of winning my daughters hand in marriage, and I do not take this task lightly."

Maui glanced with a smile at Moana before turning his attention back to the chief.

"You will compete in feats of strength, stamina, and most importantly, wayfinding. For as my daughter is a friend of the sea, so too shall be her husband and life partner."

And no one will be her life partner but me.

Tui raised his hands "and now, let the competition…"

"Chief! Are you going to allow this unfairness to continue?" an angry voice interrupted.

Maui turned his head and looked through the group of men to see who had spoken.

"What is your grievance, Kele that is so important you interrupt this ceremony?" Tui asked, lowering his arms and crossing them in aggravation.

Kele stepped forward and with a glare to Maui addressed the chief.

"Sir, you cannot allow Maui to participate. He is a demi-god!" he exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at Maui, "and as such he should be disqualified from the tournament."

Maui's temper started to burn.

"What, Kele, are you afraid of being bested by me?"

Giving Kele a glower of his own, Maui stepped forward and met the young man near the stairs. To his credit, Kele didn't step back, but Maui noticed the man's small swallow of fear and he smirked. Kele, seeing the smirk, spun back to Tui.

"He cannot be allowed to participate. A demi-god, who has magical powers and supernatural strength would not be a fair match to us mere mortals." Kele sneered at these last words.

Maui spread his arms angrily "Do you see my fish hook with me?" he demanded.

"Peace!" the chief commanded.

Tui folded his arms as the two men turned to face him.

"Kele brings up an excellent point. Maui is not mortal like us, and therefore may have an unfair advantage against the other competitors."

"What! You cannot mean to let him…" Kele's rant was interrupted by a firm stare from Chief Tui.

"I said that ALL eligible men in the village may participate, and as Maui fulfills that qualification I cannot ban him from participating." He lowered his voice. "However, the issue of your non-human strength does need to be addressed. Daughter!"

Moana startled, having been intently watching the battle of wills between the two men.

"Yes father?" she asked warily.

"What advice do you have for this situation?"

Moana gave Maui and Kele a long look and crossed her arms, staring at the ground in concentration. Several moments passed and her father waited patiently. The crowd murmured and shifted on their feet as they awaited her decision. She looked back up and addressed the gathering.

"Maui does possess a strength that surpasses that of the rest of the competitors, and therefore does hold an unfair advantage."

Her eyes held an apology, and he could see the struggle in her face. With a small smile, he tried to encourage her. Taking a deep breath, Moana continued.

"However, his skills are the same as any other member of this community. Therefore," she looked to her father, "in any test of talent he should be treated as any other competitor. But in feats of strength and stamina, he must take double what the other men are required."

The chief smiled widely and turned back toward the crowd. "My daughter speaks with wisdom and justice, even when dealing with conflicts between her friends. Do you accept her compromise?" The crowd shouted a resounding "YES!"

"Then may it be so!" he answered. "The first competition will be a wayfinding race around the island. Men, to your boats!"

With a whoop and a shout the men raced down to the shore to prepare their canoes for the water, the villagers following quickly behind them. Kele shot one final glare at Maui before he too went down to check his canoe. Maui moved to follow, but paused. Walking back toward the stairs, he bowed in respect to the chief.

"Thank you, for allowing me to take part in this tournament."

Tui inclined his head in acknowledgment of Maui's thanks. He started stepping down but stopped as he saw Maui make is way toward Moana. Mounting the stairs, Maui climbed till his face was level with Moana's. Bending forward, he touched his forehead to hers. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, reveling in the feeling of being close to her. She rested her hand on his large shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, I had to be fair…" she started.

"Hey, its fine. I understand."

Opening his eyes he gazed into hers and saw the shimmer of tears beginning to form. Cupping the back of her head in his large hand, he placed a lingering kiss on her forehead. At her quick intake of breath, he leaned his forehead back to hers. He was not satisfied with just a small kiss on her forehead, so he gathered his courage and held her gaze, wiling her to see the sincerity in his eyes in his declaration.

"I will win this competition for you," he began.

Her eyes widened and she put her hand on his as a blush began to warm her cheeks. He rubbed his thumb along her blush and continued, his voice sounding hoarse even to his own ears.

"I will win this competition because you will not be marrying anyone, unless it's me."

He knew he sounded arrogant, but he was not giving her up to another man. He loved her too much for that.

Moana emitted a small gasp and her lips parted slightly in surprise. Maui needed no other motivation. He tilted his head and brought his mouth down gently onto hers. Her lips were warm and soft, exactly how he imagined they would be. He put his other hand on her waist and drew her close, deepening his kiss for just a moment when he realized that she was kissing him in return. A throat cleared nearby and Maui slowly loosened his hold. With a whispered "I love you" against her mouth, he let her go and leapt down the stairs toward the shoreline.

As Maui ran off Tui couldn't help the small chuckle that escaped when his daughter squealed and threw her arms around her mother. Sina laughed as Moana bounced, emitting muffled squeals into her shoulder. Tui tamped down his amusement and refused to smile as he started walking toward the beach, his family following slowly behind him. Although unconventional, and potentially insulting, Tui had to admit he was impressed that Maui finally declared his intentions. He looked back and noticed Moana's still daze face and radiant smile.

Tui had seen Maui's change in behavior around Moana as she grew older, and he had tried to keep some distance between the two friends. He knew they had still found ways to sneak off on sailing adventures and would promptly deliver a scolding to both of them upon their return. Tui had hoped that Maui's recent long journey would remove any infatuation Moana had developed toward Maui and he had even began to encourage her to become more social with some of the other younger men in the village. Judging by what just transpired by the meeting hut and the current look on his daughter's face, his plan obviously had failed. Tui huffed and scowled, having a difficult time being happy for his daughter.

I'm still not ready to have that demi-god as a son-in-law!

Farther down the path, Maui was ecstatic. He ran toward the beach, a huge grin splitting his face. Out of all the crazy schemes he had gotten himself into over the years, kissing Moana, and in front of her father no less, was the craziest thing he had ever done. Glancing down he gave an eager Mini-Maui a fist bump and laughed as he noticed that Mini-Moa had collapsed in a swooning heap and was fanning herself. Lips still tingling and heart light from their kiss, Maui rapidly approached the shoreline.

The exited banter, shouts and verbal challenges between the 30 or more contestants became louder as Maui stepped onto the beach. The clouds had darkened while Moana and Chief Tui had explained the tournament rules, and now wind had increased enough to cause the ocean to churn.

From his position at his canoe, Kele was the first to notice Maui's hasty approach. "Why so late, demi-god? Getting cold feet already?"

Not wanting to delve into his reasons for being the last one to the beach, Maui gave the man a flippant wave of his hand as he made his way toward his own canoe. He had thought about taking Moana's canoe again, just to spark her ire. But that boat was most likely not up to racing as it had just returned from a long voyage. So he chose one of the smaller, single-hulled canoe that the men often used for fishing. He checked the entire canoe to make sure there were no leaks in the hull or tears in the sails. He put the paddle at the bow of the canoe where it would be easily accessible to him when he was working the sails. Nodding with approval in his choice of water craft, he stood next to the canoe and waited for Chief Tui and his family to arrive. He saw Taianui making his way toward him, no doubt wanting to know why Maui was competing. The family chose that moment to step onto the beach and Taianui had to hustle to get into position next to his canoe. Maui tied up his hair into a bun and stood ready.

"I trust you all had sufficient time to check your canoes," the chief said without preamble as he left his family and walked up to the boats. He looked over the lagoon and into gazed into the sky that had darkened during gathering.

"A storm seems to be on its way, but such is the difficulties of life and the competition will go on. However," he looked down the line of men, "if you wish to bow out now, you may do so without fear of shaming your family. I give you my permission."

Maui's respect for the chief grew and he silently commended Tui on his insightful gesture. Several younger and less experienced boys stepped out of line and headed back to their families. Maui saw Afa take a few steps toward his parents, hesitate, then back up until he was next to his canoe again. Maui nodded in approval.

"The rest of you are willing to risk your lives for the sake of proving your worth to my daughter?"

The remaining men nodded and determination filled their faces as they prepared themselves to launch their boats into the choppy water."Then men, listen to your challenge."

Moana stepped forward and Maui strained to hear her over the raising wind.

"This is a test of skill, for any husband of mine should be able to weather a little storm on the sea. You must travel around the entire island of Motunui and must ground your boats safely back on shore. If you capsize within the lagoon you are disqualified. The first 20 racers to finish move on to the next challenge. GO!"

At her shout most of the men immediately launched their boats into the water. A strong gust of wind rushed by, causing one man to capsize immediately and several more to lose control of their vessels. Maui kept his sail shut and waited for a lull in the wind. A few seconds later the trees calmed and Maui heaved his boat into the water. Running until he was waist deep, he quickly shouted at the ocean "Don't you dare help me!" and hoisted himself into the canoe.

Grabbing his paddle he gave powerful strokes as he made his way toward the reef. Rain started to fall and he squinted to see where the other racers were. Some had already made it to the reef, their sails open to catch the rush of wind and push themselves over the obstacle. Seeing another canoe rapidly approaching, he waited for a small gust of wind and opened his sail. Quickly tying the rope to a post in the hull he grabbed another rope, jumped onto the ama and pulled hard. He narrowly missed crashing into a boat as another racer struggled to keep his canoe afloat. Maui's craft rose on a high wave causing him to almost lose his balance. Jumping back into the hull he dropped the rope, untied the one holding the sail and cranked the sail shut. The canoe pitched back toward the water and landed with a splash. Water splashed over the stern, covering Maui. Shaking water out of his eyes, he looked back and saw that he had passed the reef. Looking forward again, he gauged the direction the other racers had gone. With the rain now a small drizzle, he saw that most of the racers were veering left, turning starboard and heading toward what looked like clearer weather on that side of the island.

Maui reached his hand into the water to see where the current was strongest. As another gust of wind came by, he opened his sail, tied it off and grabbed his paddle. Jumping toward the stern of his boat he jabbed his paddle into the water, with the paddle's edge facing the left, and he posted his turn. The boat made a slow turn to the right where the weather still looked stormy. Maui hoped the wind would help his canoe instead of causing it to flip.

Once the canoe leveled out on a straight path around the island Maui took the paddle out of the water and returned to his spot near the bow. He tucked it under his seat while he worked to get the sail untied. He kept the sail loose, trying to capture as much wind as he could.

He was relieved that he made it through the reef safely. Even though he was an experienced sailor, on clear days it was difficult enough for him to get past the large waves that broke in the shallower water above the reef. During storms the waves became heavier and capsizing was a greater danger since the waves would trap a person onto the reef below. The wind became a soothing breeze and Maui lifted his head to let the warm rain wash over his face, a smile forming on his face as he replayed the kiss in his mind.

"Hey! No sleeping on the job!"

Maui jerked from his daydreaming as he recognized Taianui's voice. He looked back to see Taianui and a dozen more racers following in his direction, although none seemed to be closing the gap between them and Maui.

"Not sleeping, just enjoying the silence!" he hollered back to his friend.

"Silence? In this storm?" Taianui scoffed through the wind.

"Better than your incessant yammering, Taianui!" Another racer joined their conversation. Maui could hear the rest of the men's faint chuckles carry over the breeze. Taianui slicked his drenched hair out of his face.

"If I stop talking now, then how will you know if I've fallen off later?" He countered back.

Maui shook his head with amusement, trying to keep his focus in front of him where the waves seemed to keep changing size. He looped the sail's rope around his hand, just in case a rogue wave hit him.

"Why did you guys follow me? The weather is worse coming this direction!" he shouted back, turning his head just enough so the group would hear him. He saw from the corner of his eye that Afa was slowly gaining on him.

Huh, the boy's not half bad.

Struggling to keep his sail open in the wind, Afa told Maui, "You've got the most experience out of any of us here. If you thought this was the best route, then I trust you." He was panting heavily when he finally managed to tie off the sail rope and sit down, giving his arms a break.

Maui smiled as rain dripped down his face. It was nice to be valued for something other than mystical powers.

"Well, don't thank me yet boys; we've only just begun. Plenty of rough seas ahead." He raised up in a squat and shook the loop of rope off from around his hand. A large wave formed in his canoe's path.

The storm's strong winds allowed Maui's group to successfully navigate halfway around the island within the first hour of sailing. They had a few close encounters with waves that tested the bravery of the men, but no one had gone overboard. Near the far side they had encountered the other group of racers sailing in the opposite direction. They managed to avoid any collisions, though Maui had to shout instructions to Afa when the boy almost rammed into Kele's canoe. Afa managed to recover and had started asking questions whenever there was a break in the wind. Maui wondered how either of them could still speak after shouting through the air for so long.

When they had been sailing for another hour there was a noticeable change in the weather; it was becoming much brighter. Blue sky could be seen through the dark clouds, but the wind was still relentless. It would come and go in gusts that put an ache in Maui's ears and caused the mini's on his chest to duck their heads and take cover within the rock tattoo on his back.

I am ready to be off this ocean.

Maui looked around at the other members of his group, easily spotting all of them now that the rain had stopped. He was close to the middle of the pack, having eased up on the speed he was using at the beginning of the race. He could tell that the other racers had been listening to his and Afa's sailing lessons, for they seemed to be sailing more confidently and had been gaining on him even before he had slowed his own canoe. Maui found that he didn't mind. At first he had wanted to come in first place and prove to the island that he was the champion wayfinder on the island, but he decided sailing with the group of men was more entertaining.

The jokes, laughter and camaraderie within the group helped ease the discomforts the choppy waters created. And, if Maui was honest with himself, it felt good to be the one they looked to for advice during the race. As long as he made the top 20 he would be content.

And as long as I beat that big-headed, egotistic Kele.

Maui chuckled, shaking his head. The irony of his thoughts were not lost on him; he himself had been called the same thing on many occasions by Moana.

Looking ahead he could begin make out the sails of the other racers and the ocean current flowing perpendicular to their current path; they were close to the entrance of the lagoon and the reef.

"We're getting close to the lagoon channel!" he called out to the group.

Knowing that they would soon be facing the rough waters of the reef Maui grabbed the sail rope and focused on the sea in front of him. The wind began to blow strongly once more and he saw the other group of racers rushing about on their canoes and everyone prepared to turn into the straight.

"Every man for himself!" Taianui cried out as he started to surge forward, waving his arm wildly and giving out a wild yell. A dark cloud moved over the patch of blue overhead. Lightning flashed and rain began to fall.

The men whooped and hollered, trying to prevent Taianui from passing them. Maui untied the rope from the post, looped it around his hand and drew it taunt. He could feel his back and arm muscles straining as he turned the sail to move the canoe into the fast current he knew ran around the island. His sail loosened and he jerked forward slightly as the hull finally caught the current. Tightening his hold on the rope he settled into a crouch while his canoe cut through the waves.

Maui's boat began to outdistance the other canoes and he could hear their shouts of mock outrage. Maui laughed and tied off his sail rope before moving to the stern with his paddle to navigate over another large wave. He could see the edge of the lagoon coming closer to the port side of the canoe. He moved back to the bow and made sure his sail was secured tightly. Abandoning his paddle near his feet he grabbed the other loose sail rope and waited to take the turn. His group seemed to be in the lead, which was fortuitous since now they would have to navigate through less obstacles when they tried to pass over the reef.

The mouth of the lagoon came quickly on Maui's port side. He jumped onto the ama and twisted the sail, making a sharp turn and entering the lagoon near the side, where he hoped the water would be calmer. Successfully making the turn he hurried back to the hull and had to crouch to gain his balance. Looking back he realized that the others were just now coming to the entrance. With a smile of victory he realized that he might actually be the first man back to the shore. He settled back into his canoe and watched as the people on the shore came into focus.

I'm almost there!

Maui squinted through the rain and could see the villagers gathered near the extra boats, with Moana jumping excitedly next to her parents. Maui had just raised his hand to wave when he heard a loud crack behind him. Looking back he saw one of the canoes beginning to topple into the rough water; by the designs on the sail he knew it was Afa's boat.

"Oh no," Maui breathed as he realized Afa was right above the reef.

He raced to the front of his boat and with a loud "Chee-hoo!" jumped onto the stern, grabbing the rope connecting the sail to the hull. He twisted his body and the bow of the canoe skidded sharply across the water causing the outrigger to lift precariously. Maui let go and leaped onto the ama where he yanked the dangling rope taunt, tightening the sails and leveling out the canoe. His boat sped back toward the other racers and he could see their looks of panic as they maneuvered around him.

He reached the area where he saw Afa's boat turn, but only saw the hull upside down in the water. Quickly tying the sail and drawing it down, he scanned the surrounding sea.

"AFA!" he called out desperately looking for the young man.

More canoes raced passed and he hoped that Afa was not in their path. Finally, the wind started to lessen and Maui could see the ocean begin to calm. Maui broadened his search range and wiped water from his face until he finally saw a dark head bobbing above the water.

"Afa!" he called again and the man waved his arm before being pulled under. Maui jumped into the water and dove under, using swift strokes to swim down to the reef. He opened his eyes and saw the man struggling to free his foot from the coral. Maui grabbed a nearby rock and held onto the reef as he hammered at the coral trapping Afa. The coral bit into his palm but Maui continued to hold on tightly as he struggled against the waves. Afa tried to help by grabbing his leg and pulling, but the coral held fast and Maui could see blood starting to cloud around Afa's foot. Maui's lungs began to burn and he knew he needed to get both of them out from under the water. A wave from above pushed down on Maui, loosening his hair and momentarily blinding him, but the momentum on his back allowed him to finally break the coral. Gathering his feet under him, the spines of the coral breaking into his skin, Maui gripped Afa around the waist and launched upward.

They broke through the surface with a sputtering gasp but were quickly drawn under again as another wave crashed over top of them. His grip on Afa slipped and Maui blindly reached out to grab hold of him before he became trapped again. A wave washed over his head right as he felt Afa's arm. Afa held fast to Maui's shoulder as they struggled to stay afloat, Maui looking desperately for his canoe.

"Over there!" Afa coughed, pointing behind them with the arm not clinging to Maui. Praying for the strength to carry both of them through the water he kicked as hard toward the direction of his boat. Afa paddled with his free hand and tried to use his good foot to kick. They slowly made their way toward the boat, getting off track when another wave swept them on the side and made them go under again. Maui felt the ocean grab onto them, lifting them out of the water and positioned them next to the floundering canoe. Afa gripped the side of the hull and hoisted himself into the hollow. Bending, he helped a coughing Maui drag himself up.

"Grab the paddle and get to the middle of the boat!" Maui ordered between breaths, tying his hair back so he could see.

Panting, Afa rushed to obey as Maui began to untie the sail. He pulled down on the rope to open the sail, catching the wind that was steadily becoming a small breeze. Maui glared at the sky, silently cursing the storm for only clearing once they were safely back on the boat. He gave Afa directions on where to paddle and they swiftly made their way back toward the beach. Maui had the fleeting thought that they were the last ones to arrive from the race, but it was quickly lost as he and Afa continued to cough seawater from their lungs. He looked at Afa, who winced whenever he put weight on his injured foot.

Right now, let's just focus on getting him home.

With the storm over, it was easy sailing back to shore. They safely grounded the canoe and the villagers cheered. Afa's family swarmed them, his father carrying him out of the boat and his mother exclaiming over his injury. Afa's brothers and sisters peppered the two of them with questions and Maui slowly climbed out of his boat, his muscles protesting slightly after his battle with the waves. He bit back a sigh when the children immediately crowded him and bombarded him with questions, but he managed to hold on to his patience long enough to satisfy their curiosity.

Afa's father rounded up the children after several minutes, leaving Maui alone with his thoughts.

I wonder where I'm supposed to go now.

He knew he was disqualified from the competition, but he wasn't sure where he should go to watch the next set of challenges. He looked over the crowd of people on the beach to see if there was anyone who would need his help for the rest of the day. The beach was crowded with villagers; Afa's family still fussed over his injury and near drowning, the other qualifying competitors boasted about their sailing skills, and near the path leading to the village Moana seemed to be in a heated argument with her father. A small crowd had gathered around them and he could see several of the villagers arguing with the chief and his daughter.

I wonder what that is about.

He started to make his way toward the groupand could begin to hear the dispute.

"I don't care what the rules were at the beginning. He should still be able to compete!"

"Moana, we can't be changing the rules whenever we feel like it. I know he's your friend but…"

"This has nothing to do with him being my friend!"

Maui's ears quirked up and he hastened his pace, wondering why they were arguing about him. He walked to the back of the gathered crowd and could hear the people shouting their opinions over one another:

"Yeah, he should still compete!"

"He saved that boy's life! That's the only reason he lost."

"He wasn't in the top 20! Don't let him continue!"

"Another racer could have gotten Afa."

Moana stood toe to toe with her father, hands on hips and body rigid with righteous indignation. Chief Tui's arms were crossed and head held high as if he knew he was the authoritative figure. If the argument didn't have him as the main topic, Maui would have found the situation humorous. Both father and daughter had the same, stubborn glare on their faces. This was a battle of wills.

"He was in first place by many canoe lengths! We all saw it!" a young girl interjected.

"Thank you," Moana said pointedly and gave a nod to the child who had spoken. Looking up she saw Maui in the crowd and motioned for him to come over. He shook his head and started to back away.

Uh huh, no way am I going to get drug into this.

Moana motioned for him again, even going so far as to snap her fingers and point to the ground next to her. Her glare was now directed at him instead of

her father.

Oh she's mad!

He backed up again but was pushed from behind. His escape route blocked, Maui had no choice but to go next to Moana. Once he was close enough she grabbed his arm and yanked him around to face Tui. Maui struggled to keep his face blank as Tui stared at him coldly.

"Now, father," Moana said with feigned sweetness. "Look him in the eye and tell him why he can no longer compete, even though he just saved the life of a man who is my age. Saving the life of someone over personal gain might be a nice quality in a potential son-in-law." She had a bite to her voice and Maui was glad he wasn't the victim to her verbal lashing.

Tui sighed and rubbed his hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Moana, you know the rules that were decided just this morning. Only the first 20 racers…"

"I know I'm disqualified, so I'll bow out gracefully oomph"

Maui tried to pacify the two battling chiefs but Moana elbowed him in the ribs before he could finish speaking. Tui looked between the two of them: Maui trying to make himself smaller, for once, and Moana, whose grip on Maui's arm was so tight that he was starting to lose feeling in his fingers. Sina stepped between her husband and daughter and placed a hand on each of the chiefs' shoulders.

"Why don't we leave it up to a vote? The 20 competitors who did finish the race can decide if Maui should continue the competition or stay disqualified," she said softly, rubbing both of their arms until their bodies relaxed slightly.

Moana and Tui looked at each other.

"That does sound like a reasonable compromise," Tui told Moana softly. She breathed deeply, her face twisting as she thought over her mother's suggestion. Finally she nodded.

"It would be the fairest way to settle this." She turned to the crowd and addressed the racers. "Would all of the finishing racers please step forward?"

Moana continued to hold onto Maui's arm as the racers made their way through the crowd. The spectators moved back several paces to allow room for the men who would be voting. When everyone was settled, Chief Tui explained the situation.

"We have a dispute that can only be settled by a vote from those who are qualified to continue in the competition." He gestured to Maui. Maui tried not to fidget as all the men stared at him; it was uncomfortable being the center of attention during a dispute.

Tui continued, "There are some who believe Maui should be disqualified and not enter into the next stage of the competition. He was not among the top 20 and as the rules stated, he is not eligible to continue." Several of the men nodded in agreement.

"However," Moana explained the counter argument, "there are also some who believe that Maui should be allowed to continue. Given the nature of why he was delayed in returning and the fact that he was in the lead before Afa's unfortunate accident, Maui should be allowed to continue in the competition."

Both chiefs were silent as the men discussed the situation among themselves. After several moments they started to divide themselves into two groups. Maui tried to gauge what decisions the men had made, but the only ones who met his eyes were Taianui and Kele. Taianui smiled and Kele glared, and each man went into separate groups.

I guess I know which group wants me to stay.

When they finished grouping themselves, the two sides looked surprisingly even. Moana and Tui started to count. Maui noticed that Taianui's side consisted mostly of the men who sailed with him, while Kele's group had several men that he did not know very well. After they had compared numbers, Chief Tui declared the verdict.

"The racers have voted, and Maui will be continuing in the competition."

Maui breathed a sigh of relief and Moana gripped his arm tighter, smiling at him widely. She let go as Taianui and the other men in his group crowded around Maui to congratulate him. He watched at her as she made her way back to her mother. Seeing his friend start to smile next to him, Maui realized that he had been staring at Moana for too long. He glanced down with a questioning look to Taianui. Taianui wagged his eyebrows and gave a pointed jerk of his head towards Moana. He gave Maui a broad wink. Maui shrugged in feigned ignorance and prayed that his friend would keep his comments to himself.

Oh, great.

Maui chewed his pork slowly as he saw his friends Taianui and Ahohako approach him with smirks on their faces. They plopped onto the ground next to him and rested their bowls of food on their knees.

"Soo…" Ahohako drawled out as he sampled a bit of his fruit. "Anything you want to share with us?"

Maui poked at his food and ate slowly. He ignored his friends.

"Ah come on big guy," Taianui pounded him on the back and almost made him drop his bowl. "We've seen you making eyes at the chief's daughter before you're little solo adventure in which you didn't take me. And that stunt she pulled to keep you in the competition? Is there something between you two?"

Maui continued to eat.

"Nothing to talk about" he grumbled over a mouthful of food.

"Well, that's not what I heard." Ahohako leaned back and rested in a pose that clearly said he knew some interesting information.

Maui eyed him warily. Ahohakowas married to Fetia, one of Moana's closest friends, and since the two women had been huddled together for most of the canoe race, Maui was sure Ahohako knew why he was late getting to the beach.

"Ohhh do tell" Taianui exclaimed excitedly.

"Well, Fetia told me that after you all went to your boats, Moana came out of the trees with the biggest smile on her face that she had ever seen."

"Ohhh" Taianui repeated, giving Maui a look. "And what did Moana have to say about that?"

"You two sound like a bunch of gossiping old women," Maui groused. They ignored him.

"Now that's the funny thing," Ahohako continued. "Moana didn't say anything, but according to my wife, she turned bright red and looked over to where Maui" he punched the man in question on the arm, "was readying his boat." His bowl now in the dirt, Maui gave Ahohako an exasperated look.

"Now how can you know…?"

"Shh, don't interrupt, its rude."

Maui rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. Not deterred by Maui's surly attitude, Ahohakoresumed telling his story to his eager friend.

"So, seeing the blush, Fetia asked Moana if someone had declared his feelings toward her."

Maui fidgeted and Taianui started to chuckle.

"And what did she have to say about that?" he asked.

Ahohako grinned wickedly and leaned forward to whisper, "Moana said yes, and that he even kissed her!"

With a whoop and a laugh, Taianui punched the air with his fists. Embarrassed, Maui glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. Ahohako leaned back and resumed his normal voice.

"Now my wife never actually got a name, but, clever woman that she is, guessed his identity anyway."

By now both men stared at Maui. He had suddenly found the top of the coconut tree very interesting.

"And who did she deduce was the culprit" Taianui asked?

Laughing, Ahohako said "Well, he must have had fish for brains to kiss the daughter of the chief right in front of Tui himself!"

"Or he had taken in too much sun."

"Maybe he," Ahohakopitched his voice several octaves higher and held his cheeks in his hands, "just couldn't help himself."

Maui growled and shoved both men into the dirt. They fell in a fit of laughter and Maui raised his hands to try and quiet them.

"Ok ok, fine I'll tell you, just be quiet!" He glanced around and saw a few people glancing their direction.

His friends continued to laugh loudly on the ground.

"Oh wait, I think I hear might someone calling me. Bye!" Maui moved to get up, which finally jarred his friends.

"Oh no you don't!" Ahohako said as they jumped to their feet and pushed him back down.

Choking off the rest of their laughter they waited patiently for Maui's admission. Sighing in resignation he raised his legs and rested his arms on his knees.

"Yes, I did kiss her and," he couldn't hold back his grin, "she kissed me back. And it was in front of both her parents."

The friends gave a quieter whoop and thumped Maui on the back.

With a small sheepish grin Maui added, "And I told her that I loved her."

At this declaration the friends ceased their thumping and became serious. Maui noticed the change in his friends' demeanors and became cautious.

"What? Was that wrong of me to do?" Maui's eyes widened and he watched at his two friends nervously. Taianui and Ahohako exchanged a look and spoke hesitantly.

"Well, it was a bold thing to do I'll admit…" Taianui trailed off.

"It's a wonderful sentiment and she seems to return your affections…" Ahohako rushed.

"But Maui," Taianui leaned forward, "what are you going to do? I mean, you just declared your intentions to Moana."

"And are currently fighting for her hand in marriage" Ahohako reminded.

Taianui frowned slightly at the interruption. "However," his frown at Ahohako warned him not to interrupt again, "I think we're all forgetting the major problem here. You're a demi-god. Immortal. And as much as we like you, well, we're not."

Maui let out a deep sigh, touched by his friends' concern for him, but not sure how to explain.

Taianui, confused by Maui's silence, held up his hands. "I mean, it's not a big deal to us. We're simply friends and I don't think you'd be too heartbroken when we, well when we leave." Taianui grimaced and turned to Ahohako for help. Ahohako piped in.

"But trust me, with Moana, it's going to be different." Ahohako tried to explain with a shake of his head. "You don't want to stay young while she grows older and eventually…"

"Dies." Maui finished for him. He drew a deep breath, deciding to trust them with his secret.

"Well, um. So this past mission I went on…it wasn't to save anything; it was personal. And I wasn't planning on being gone for that long." He picked at his nails while he spoke.

Taianui snorted. "Yeah, Moana was as mad as a tiger shark when you left."

"We were all wondering when you'd when you'd come back," Ahohako added, "Fetia said that they couldn't even mention your name in front of Moana without her moping around the ocean for days afterwards."

Maui breathed a small laugh and continued. "During that voyage I went back to Te Fiti and asked her a favor. She didn't want to listen at first, and I spent days trying to convince her to help me. I'm glad I pestered her, because now I think Moana may feel something for me too. But I'm still confused as to how Te Fiti's gift is going to help me…"

"Enough with the riddles man, what did you find?" Taianui snapped with impatience.

Maui plunged ahead with a deep breath. "I think I found a way to become mortal."

His friends gasped in shock and immediately talked over one another.

"Maui, you didn't!"

"Please tell me you didn't bring it back with you!"

"What are you going to do with it?" Ahohako said questioningly.

Reaching into his waist band Maui withdrew the leather flask. He tossed it into Ahohako's lap. Ahohako shook it and opened it, turning it upside down as he did so. Only a few precious drops dripped out. They both looked at him dumfounded.

"It's empty." Taianui stated, his mouth open in shock. Maui simply nodded.

"Did you…" Ahohako swallowed but already knew the answer. He changed his question, "when did you drink it?"

"Last night" Maui said quietly, "around midnight, after Chief Tui announced that anyone could participate in the tournament."

He rubbed his hands on each other. "I had already realized that if Moana and I married I want to grow old with her and die knowing I led a full life. And if…" he paused, trying to clear the emotion from his voice, "and if she marries someone else, then I would rather spend what little time I have left seeing her happy instead of a lifetime dreaming about what could have been. Te Fiti said that this would 'give me a lifespan,' but I'm still not exactly sure what she meant by that. I don't know if or when I'll lose my strength, my powers to use my hook. I just know she said that it would solve my problem, so I drank it."

The men were quiet for several moments, coming to terms with Maui's new fate. They watched in silence as people milled about the clearing. When the start of the next round of the competition was announced the men gathered their bowls and made their way to the meeting house. They dropped their bowls into the growing pile and filed along with the rest of the villagers.

Taianui was the first one to break the gloomy silence.

"Well, I'm glad that we're going to be three old men together. Bouncing grandchildren on our knees and telling stories of our grand adventures!"

He smiled at his two friends. Ahohako, who was standing in the middle of the trio, grabbed his friends by the shoulders, with Maui more on his back since Ahohako was much shorter than is ex-demi-god friend, and put a light step into his walk.

"So Taianui, still going to compete? Even though Maui will absolutely pummel anyone who gets between him and his woman?" Maui laughed, glad the lighthearted banter was back within the group.

"Of course I'm still competing! I don't want to make it too easy for you, Big Guy"

"Ha!" Maui barked, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I plan to fight for the woman I love!"

Ahohako left the group and stood by his pregnant wife on the side of the dancing circle as the remaining participants formed a cluster near the chief. The villagers stood nearby to hear the rules of the next competition.

"Congratulations men." Tui began. "By completing the first challenge, all of you have shown my daughter your skills and competency to help her navigate the uncertain waters that life will bring."He motioned for Moana to join him. Settling his arm around her shoulders he continued, their fight from earlier completely forgotten.

"Now that you have impressed her with your wayfinding skills, it is now time for you to prove yourselves to me." He looked at each man individually, intimidating them with his stare. They all, including Maui, shifted nervously as they wondered what challenges the chief had in store for them.

"Whoever my daughter marries will need to have the strength and determination to protect her and provide for their future family. Moana," he smiled at her, "has chosen the perfect location for her hut to be built. Of course she had to choose a spot closest to the ocean as she possibly could." He chuckled softly and the rest of the people grinned with him as Moana ducked her head in embarrassment. "As such, I want to be sure that her home is protected from the harsh elements near the shore. Your job men, is to bring rocks to the location for the foundation and walls of the house." The men looked at one another.

Ok, that doesn't sound so difficult.

Maui rolled his shoulders to help loosen his muscles. His rest during the lunch break helped ease the tightness that formed from sailing in the storm and he was ready to begin the next challenge.

"You will travel to the old lava flats to retrieve the rocks, then deliver them to the hut location that is near the edge of the far coconut grove."

Maui calculated the distance in his head. From their current location at the dancing circle it was about a half mile to the hut site, and more than two miles to the lava flats that were farther in-land. Almost three miles one direction, six round trip, and during half of that they would be carrying heavy loads. Maui bit back a groan as he realized he had to carry twice as much as the other men.

"There will be helpers waiting at the hut site to relieve you of your burdens and begin construction on the hut. However," he paused, "there will be no one at the lava flow. You must retrieve the rocks on your own."

"How many will we need to bring?" Kele asked from his spot in the group. The chief looked to Moana and gestured for her to continue explaining the rules for the challenge.

"I want to have a large family, "she explained, "and as such I will need a large home. The house will consist of a stone floor and stone pillars for the corner supports. Each one of you standing here," her face was serious as she looked at each of them in turn, "will each need to deliver 15 round stones and 15 flat stones. 30 stones in all and they must be of medium to large length. I will not tolerate slackers who bring me small stones to build my house. My helpers at the hut site will judge each of your stones to make sure they are the appropriate size." Her voice rang with authority.

With a firm nod of approval, the chief added, "Only those who deliver all of their materials to the hut site by sundown will move on to the next challenge. And Maui, remember you must carry double. 30 stones of each. Same time limit."

Maui tilted his head in acknowledgement as the group looked at each other with awed expressions. He began to think of a strategy to help him carry the large number of rocks.

"Any questions?" Tui called out as he prepared to dismiss the men.

"Yes Chief, I have one," Maui called out. "How are we to haul the rocks to the hut site?" A rough idea had formed in his head, but he wanted to be sure that it would be permitted during the challenge. Tui gave a small sigh of impatience.

"There needs to be 30 stones from each competitor accounted for at the hut site. How you get them there is up to you."

A small smirk formed on Maui's face. "Thank you, that's all I needed to know."

With a confused look to Maui, Tui pointed toward the direction of the rocks.

"Men, I wish you the best of luck. You may begin. Villagers!" he called out as the men ran off toward the lava flows. Maui lingered behind, pretending to stretch as he finalized his plan.

"The rest of you," Tui addressed the gathered crowd, "seeing as the competitors will be quite some time in finishing, you may continue with your day." Small chuckles and calls of "farewell" moved through the crowd as they headed back to their homes, intent on completing their neglected chores. When the last villager left, Maui made his way toward the family trio gathered in the center of the dance circle. Seeing his approach, the chief frowned.

"Young man, you better not be coming over here to kiss my daughter again." Maui halted mid-step and blushed slightly, not surprised that Tui had guessed his intentions so quickly. Moana chuckled softly, her own embarrassed blush showing on her face.

Sina laughed and reminded her husband, "Technically dear, he is older than you. 'Young man' might not be the most appropriate term."

Tui snorted, "Still, he better be getting a move on if he wants to stand a chance in completing my challenge."

"And technically father, this one was my challenge. I do need a big house."

As he playfully scowled at his two favorite women, they laughed and drew away to join the villagers with their chores. They passed Maui and as Moana glanced up at his face he winked, purposefully looking toward her mouth. She shyly and quickly ducked her head. He heard the chief clear his throat and looked back behind him.

"Best be going on, lad." He said with a forced smile. With a nod of respect, Maui jogged in the direction of the rest of the group.

Even though Maui was jogging slowly, his long stride quickly caused him to catch up to the rest of the runners. Pulling alongside Taianui, he shortened his stride to match that of his friend.

"You're late again" Taianui said quietly so the other runners wouldn't hear. "Did you kiss her?" He looked over at Maui but looked forward quickly as he stumbled over a root in the path. Maui shook his head and heaved a dramatic sigh.

"No, her father caught me first."

Taianui gave a breathless laugh as he struggled to keep up his jogging rhythm. Maui grabbed his arm to slow Taianui and waited for the rest of the runners to move out of sight.

"I have an idea," he said mischievously and ducked into the trees. Taianui smiled and eagerly followed.

"Are you sure this isn't against the rules? I don't want to be disqualified like you were."

Maui elbowed Taianui but kept the rope between his teeth as he tied a knot to the pole. His plan had been simple: use the basket carrying technique the village women created and adjust it to carry loads of rocks. The original poles and baskets were designed to carry up to 100 pounds of fruit and with the adjustments he and Taianui made, the design could now easily hold 200 pounds. Perfect for making as few trips as possible to the hut site and back. The baskets were reinforced with leather and twine to carry the round rocks and they brought plenty of extra rope to tie stacks of the flat stones. Maui finished tying and dropped the end of his rope. He wiped the course fibers from his mouth.

"It should be fine. You heard the chief, as long as 30 stones are there for each person, it doesn't matter."

"Ahhh, so that's why you asked. I thought you were just playing dumb." Taianui yelped as Maui tackled him into a head lock. He pinned down the smaller man easily.

"What was that? I couldn't hear you over the sound of you crying." Maui flicked his head to brush off the hair that had fallen into his face. Taianui still struggled underneath him, and although Maui's grip was firm, he knew he wasn't hurting his friend. After a few more futile flops to try and dislodge the giant on him, Taianui finally admitted defeat.

"Oh great Maui, you have bested me, how will I ever hope to match your brilliance!"

"Thank you, although you could have left off the sarcasm. We both know you strive to be just like me," Maui laughed as he rolled off and helped Taianui get to his feet.

"Yeah yeah, whatever you say," he said as they brushed dirt from their bodies and collected their ropes. "You do know that I'm going to help you with your quota, right? Because I am your favorite friend, who was also excluded from your little time gallivanting over the ocean, and you are now stuck with me for the entire challenge." Taianui tossed Maui another piece of rope.

"Sounds good to me, but you better not help too much." He gave his friend a look.

"Don't worry, I still have all my rocks to deliver. Now, you ready to get going?"

With a final check to make sure their contraptions were complete, the men loped onto the path toward the lava flows. Maui knew they would be the last ones to collect their rocks for the first round, but with his idea of the poles and baskets he hoped that they would be able to carry enough to make up for lost time. He glanced at Taianui running beside him. Taianui was stronger and taller than most of the other competitors so Maui was confident he would be able to complete the task.

They made it to the empty rock site and realized that the other competitors must have already collected their rocks and were headed to the building area. Maui and Taianui dropped their poles and gazed across the landscape, trying to form a plan.

They were farther inland than where the village was located and the terrain held testament to the volcanic activity that had helped Maui pull the island from the ocean floor. The area was surrounded by large, grassy mountains and one rock wall showed signs of a recent landslide. The few flowering plants that were able to grow in the sparse landscape were crushed under the large piles of rocks that had settled near the base of the slide. There were few trees growing in the area and Maui could see the still moist dirt patches where the other competitors had collected their stones for the challenge.

"We need to come up with a plan and get started," Taianui said as he wiped sweat from his forehead, the bright afternoon sun shining through the limited shade.

"I know, let me think." Maui picked up his pole and made his way to the edge of the clearing where a large collection of rocks piled against the hillside.

"Which ones do you think are the heaviest?" he asked Taianui and lifted a flat rock to test its weight.

"The flat ones are heavier, but the round rocks are the hardest to carry. Let's do those first and get them out of the way."

Maui dropped the rock he was holding. "Sounds good to me."

After they tied their hair they both started to fill their baskets. Each rock was the size of an un-husked coconut but weighed twice as much. Each basket had the room to hold four rocks, but Maui didn't know if the leather could be able to hold that much weight. He loaded three rocks into each of his baskets, and then turned to help Taianui. When they were both finished they squatted low and settled the wood beam across their shoulders. They gave each other a nervous smile as they shifted into position.

"Just remember Maui, if this doesn't work I'm blaming you."

Maui shifted his shoulders to find a more comfortable position for the pole. "It'll work.

Hopefully. Ready?

Taianui shifted on his feet, preparing his legs to lift. "Yep. One, two, three…"

Both men straightened with a groan as they felt the entire weight of their baskets press on their shoulders. The baskets swung on their short ropes and the poles on the men's shoulders bent slightly, but everything held in place.

"Hey! Not too bad! Good idea Big Guy!" Taianui panted slightly as he moved his pole into a better position on his shoulders.

Maui shifted his pole off of his neck. "Let's just see if we can make it to the hut site." They walked away from the lava flats and made their way back down the path. They went slowly at first, testing the weight and craftsmanship of their poles.

Taianui said, "This actually isn't too heavy. I think this'll work!"

The weight of his load only allowed Maui to breathe a shallow laugh, "Say that at the end of almost three miles, my friend."

"Oh, right."

They made their way toward the hut site. They were able to travel quickly, given the heavy loads they were carrying. The path only allowed them to walk single file, with Maui behind so that Taianui could create his own pace. Maui could hear him breathing deeply in front of him but Taianui's pace never faltered. Several times the men had to shuffle sideways to pass through a narrow section of the path, but they were able to continue their brisk pace. Halfway through their first round they encountered the first group of men running back toward the rock site. They smirked and laughed when they saw the contraptions Maui and Taianui carried, but looked impressed once when they realized how many rocks the men had loaded.

They met several more men jogging the opposite direction before they finally reached the hut site. Maui realized just how fast they had travelled, for a few men had were just beginning to head back to the lava flows. Taianui and Maui went over to the helpers and set down their rock loads. Maui stretched when he was freed from the weight, and Taianui bent over, stretching out his back. The helpers looked impressed and Maui realized that he and Taianui had delivered twice as many rocks as the other men.

"How did you come up with this idea?" one of them asked.

"It was Maui's idea. Pretty impressive, but my back sure is tired," Taianui's voice carried from between his knees.

Maui accepted a drink of water that one of the men offered to him. "Now it's just an easy jog back to the lava flats. We'll be able to rest on the way back."

Taianui accepted his own drink of water and while the volunteers finished unloading the rocks, Maui scanned the area where Moana decided to build her hut. He could see why she had chosen it; the hut would be protected by a grove of trees on one side and a large mountain on another. Both the ocean and village were in opposite directions but each location was only a short walking distance from the hut. Maui agreed with Tui that reinforcing the hut with rocks would provide added protection from storms. Maui was glad he could help keep Moana and her future family safe. He smirked, looking at the ocean nearby.

Glad I like the view!

"Ready to head back?" Taianui asked, interrupting Maui's observations.

"Sure," he replied, tying his empty baskets to the pole and lifting it onto under his arm. "Want me to carry yours for you?"

Taianui huffed, hoisted his pole and started jogging down the path. Chuckling, Maui followed.

Taianui and Mai continued to make good time. Within a few hours, and with the help of Maui's pole device, Taianui had delivered all of his rocks and had begun to help Maui haul the ones he needed. Maui protested at first, his pride smarting from the thought of needing his friend's help and wondering if they would be breaking the rules by helping one another. He finally agreed after Taianui promised to carry only one rock each trip.

They walked on their trip back to the lava flats, deciding to take a short break when they arrived. The other men had the same idea, for when Maui and Taianui returned to the lava flats almost all of the remaining competitors where gathered at the site, sitting on boulders and resting in the shade as the sun continued its descent behind the mountains. Several men had dropped out of the race before completing even half of their required loads, while a few were almost done with theirs. One of the older competitors pointed to a basket in the shade.

"Someone delivered food for us. We saved some for you guys." The man offered.

With words of thanks the two grabbed some fruit and headed to a spot in the shade. Maui leaned against a tree and closed his eyes, enjoying the sound of the birds in the trees above him. He could hear the men talking in their own groups, and he heard someone laugh loudly. He became aware of footsteps near him and opened his eyes to see Kele enter into the clearing. The same man from before gestured to the food basket and Kele grabbed his own snack. As he headed toward his group of friends Maui closed his eyes again, deciding to doze for a while.

He could hear Taianui fiddling with his pole beside him and cringed as the laughter from Kele's group became louder. Now that the men were away from the rest of the village, their language became coarse and lewdjokes were punctuated with laughter. He could hear some of the names of the village girls flow in the conversation and Maui tried to block his ears from their vulgar comments. His eyes shot open when he heard Kele mention Moana's name.

"Easy Big Guy," Taianui cautioned as he noticed Maui glaring toward the group. No longer able to relax, Maui clenched his teeth and sat up from the tree, deciding to adjust his pole and readying it for the next load of rocks. He tried not to stare at the group, but his ears began to burn as the comments continued to drift over to where they were sitting. Mini-Maui looked ready to fight the men who were encouraging Kele's offensive comments, and even Taianui, who was known for flirting with many of the village girls, started to look uncomfortable. Maui's hands began to shake and he let out a small growl when he had to untie the knot he attempted to make.

"So Kele, what made you want to marry Moana? Didn't you have your eye on that girl who weaves the baskets?" one of his friends asked. Maui's movements slowed as his body tensed. He waited for Kele to reply.

Kele gulped down a bite of mango, enjoying being the center of attention.

"Well yeah, but she got boring real fast. Besides, the prize for this competition is the chance to become chief, and I'm not going to pass that up!"

One of the other men scoffed, "Good luck convincing her to marry you; we all know who she wants to win." His eyes darted to Maui before looking back at Kele.

Kele had the audacity to look smug. "I don't have to convince her. After I win, all I need to do is get her alone and force her to marry me, if you know what I mean." He winked at his horrified fiends.

Maui saw red.

The rope quietly dropped from Maui's shaking hands and he stood slowly, barely hearing Taianui's groan over the sound of his blood rushing through his ears. A few men sitting near Kele looked over and noticed the rage on Maui's face. Their eyes widened as they realized he had been listening to their entire conversation and they scurried away to a safe distance.

Maui began to stalk over to Kele who, still oblivious to Maui coming behind him, continued to explain his plan to the group of distracted men around him. Everyone had dropped their food and was staring, watching Maui. Kele looked in the direction they were staring just as Maui came up and clapped him on the shoulder.

"You and I need to have a talk." Maui said, his voice deathly calm. He grabbed Kele by the arm and wrenched him to his feet, narrowly avoiding the men who had not escaped from Maui's path.

"Just don't kill him," Taianui called out from where he was standing with the other men. He watched the altercation with an amused look on his face.

Maui grit his teeth. "I'll try not to," he said, bending Kele's arm behind his back and ignoring his protests.

"You just managed to anger a demi-god, Kele. Not very smart," his voice rumbled softly into Kele's ear as he marched forward and twisted the man's arm higher. Kele's feet shuffled in the dirt as he tried to stay upright. Maui heard a loud pop and Kele cried out in pain, trying to dislodge Maui with his good arm. Maui jerked his head away from the flailing hand and grabbed Kele's hair. He jerked the man's head back and sneered into his face. Kele's eyes widened in terror.

"Moana is our future chief, and I will not allow her honor to be slandered." Maui threw Kele away from him and used his foot to shove him face first into the dirt. Kele tried to crawl away, his knees scraped and bleeding from landing on the rocks and his injured arm cradled against him. Maui continued talking as he slowly pursued Kele around the clearing.

"Now, I know that most of us are competing for a chance to win Moana's hand in marriage. I'd like to be the one marry her, if she'll have me." He shrugged nonchalantly and continued to follow Kele, who finally made it to his feet and was scuffling backwards to avoid Maui.

"Now I know I might not be the one Moana chooses, but hey, it's her choice and I want her to be happy." Maui struggled to control the urge to grab Kele and bloody his face.

"Moana might even choose you, and that'll be fine. But Kele, you're forgetting one thing…"

Kele had cornered himself against the mountain side, sweat dripping down his face. Maui punched both hands into the wall behind Kele, inches away from the man's face. The force of his blow echoed loudly in the clearing and causing Kele to startle violently. He grabbed Kele by the neck and pushed him against the rocks, scraping the man up until his feet were dangling above the ground. Maui let all the anger and loathing show through his gaze as he looked up at the terrified man.

"Moana is my best friend, and I will protect her, no matter the consequences."

Kele struggled to breath and grabbed onto Maui's hands. Maui continued to hold Kele until his lips were tinged blue. Maui lowered the pitiful excuse of a man until Kele was looking into Maui's burning gaze.

"If I even suspect that you have brought her harm, then I will deal with you the same way I dealt with the last eel that got in my way. But I don't think the island needs more coconut trees, do you?"

Kele barely managed a small shake of his head and Maui dropped him. Kele landed hard on the ground, coughing violently. Maui smirked at the wheezing man on the ground.

"I'm glad we had this little chat. Anyone else got something to say about the women in our village?" he glared at the rest of the men gathered around. They all shook their heads, some looking at him with respect and others staring at him in fear.

"Fine." Maui walked back over to his pole. "Then I'm getting back to work."

He began to grab the flat rocks to take to the hut site. His rage at Kele still simmered inside him and he heaved the rock in his hands onto the pile, causing the stone to break. He growled as he tossed away the broken pieces. Taianui came over with some rocks and began to chuckle as he worked on his own pole. Maui glared at him. Taianui raised his hands in surrender and shook his head, still smiling.

"You know, it's a good thing Kele already finished delivering his rocks. I think his arm is dislocated."

"Good," Maui grunted as he lifted his pole and began to walk down the path. He heard Taianui laughing behind him as they entered the forest.

Maui stomped through the forest, his emotions still rioting within him. The adrenaline caused him to hike faster than normal and he quickly outdistanced Taianui. He tried to relax, but every time he thought about Kele's comments about Moana he could feel his anger returning. Although he felt slightly guilty about injuring Kele's shoulder, he didn't regret his actions and knew that he would do the same thing if it ever happened again. Moana was the closest thing he had to a family and he would defend her against any threat, even if that threat was a potential suitor. Maui continued to storm through the forest hoping to calm down before reaching the hut, but before his anger had time to cool he heard singing drifting on the trees ahead of him.

He quickly tried to erase the hard look on his face before he caught up to whoever was singing. He continued through the forest and as the singing became louder he recognized Moana's voice. He sighed in relief and once he broke through the trees he was able to paste a small smile on his face.

"What are you doing way out here?" he called out once he spotted her.

Moana singing halted midsentence and she looked up from the flowers she was picking. A huge smile broke out on her face before it was replaced by a shy look and a blush. She began to make her way toward Maui, swinging her basket of flowers as she got closer.

"Oh you know, just walking. I wasn't needed in the village, so I decided to come see how everyone was doing…Maui what's wrong?"

She reached up and put her hand on his elbow. Realizing his fake smile would never fool her, Maui tried to shrug under his pole and looked behind him, trying to decide how much he should tell her. He could barely make out Taianui and another competitor on the path behind him, so he knew they had some time to talk. The last of his anger melted away at the thought of being with his friend and he crouched down to set his pole on the ground. Standing up, he reached out to Moana and drew her into a hug.

"Maui?" she asked, confused. She stretched her arms around his neck and Maui drew her in closer, lifting her from the ground and feeling her basket settle on his back. He rested his head against her hair and closed his eyes, needing the comfort of his friend and wanting to make sure she was safe.

"Is everything ok? You feel warm."

He set her down and she put her hand on his forehead.

"I'm fine, I've just been working hard today." His voice came out sharper than he wanted, so he tried to soften his comment with a smile. His smile turned into a wince as a sharp pain shoot in his temple.

"Are you sure? Have you been drinking enough water? You always forget and I'm not here to remind you this time." Her gaze darted around the field they were in, as if a basket of water would suddenly appear in the grass. Her fussing finally coaxed a real smile from him.

"I'm fine Moana," he said much softer this time, "I'm just getting tired, that's all."

Moana turned her attention back to him and stared at him hard, settling her hand on his arm and forcing him to look at her.

"Are you sure you're ok? You've carried loads heavier than this before, that's why I didn't think the extra amount would bother you much. Are you getting sick?" She looked shocked as she came to her conclusion and rubbed his arm sympathetically.

Maui shook his head and rubbed his neck, "I've never been sick before, Moana, and I'm not getting sick now. I'm fine, really."

She still looked unconvinced, but seemed to take him at his word. She wrapped her arms around his torso and laid her head on his chest. Maui settled his head on top of hers. They held each other for several moments until Maui looked up and saw the other men coming close to the tree line. They only had a few moments left of privacy.

Maui drew a deep breath. "This is going to sound silly, but can you promise me something?"

"I guess?" Her voice was muffled as he turned her head up to look at him.

He took her arms from around his body and held her hands in his larger ones.

"Just promise me that you won't go anywhere alone, especially with this festival going on. Make sure you're with your parents or me, ok?"

She backed up and looked at him with narrowed eyes.

"What's going on, Maui? Is there something I should be worried about?"

Before Maui had a chance to answer, the other men came through the forest. Taianui smirked as he passed by, whispering, "You owe me. Do you know how hard it was to distract him?"

Maui was startled to see Chief Tui, not a competitor, walking next to Taianui. Tui walked to Moana and put an arm around his daughter.

"Father, what's going on? Maui just said that..."

"Not to worry daughter, Maui is just being a good friend. He heard something that concerned him and needed to defend your honor." Tui winked at Maui.

He was there!

Maui backed up a few paces to give Moana and Tui some room, and tried to look relaxed as he wondered how long the chief had been watching his fight with Kele. Tui didn't seem upset, but Maui had never been able to gauge Tui's opinion of him.

"My honor? What is going on…?" Moana sputtered as her father directed her around Maui and back toward the village. Maui bent over to pick back up his pole.

"It was just a discussion between one

man and another, although I would advise you follow Maui's suggestion. Oh, and Maui?"

He looked up from his crouch as the chief paused to look at him.

Tui gave him a deep nod, "Thank you for defending my daughter."

Maui gave a relieved smile and bowed his head in respect to the chief. He picked up his rock load, his body protesting from carrying the heavy weight again. He continued toward the hut site and gave Moana a small smile when she looked back at him. His headache returned and body was becoming stiff, but his heart was light with the knowledge that he had finally earned the chief's respect.

Tui continued to lead his daughter back toward the village, ignoring her protests and questions until she finally gave up and quieted down. They walked in silence and Moana resumed picking flowers along their route.

That boy really does love her.

He had been the one to deliver the food to the contestants and although he normally did not partake in eavesdropping, he had hidden behind a grove of trees while everyone took their break. Since he would be giving Moana away in marriage to one of the competitors, he wanted to understand the feelings and motivations behind the men's actions. The character of a man could be more easily seen when they are among friends, and he was glad he had been listening, especially when he became aware of Kele's true intentions. His anger had been aroused when he heard Kele's flippant comments about the village women and Moana, and he himself had been about ready to intervene before he saw Maui march over.

Tui crossed his arms in thought as Moana paused to carefully collect some yellow hibiscus flowers. He gazed in the direction they had just come from, remembering the look on Maui's face as he confronted Kele. He had never seen Maui look so angry; he had felt the wrath emanating from his body and Tui had wondered if he would need to get involved in order to save Kele's life. Maui had impressed him with his self-control and protectiveness and Tui finally had to admit that Maui make a good husband for his daughter; he was loyal and strong, and put her safety above his own. Tui looked back at Moana who was finally finished collecting the flowers. He reached out to take her hand and they slowly ambled toward the village.

Ever since she returned safely from helping Te Fiti, they had become close confidants, sharing stories and bonding over their love of wayfinding. He could tell that Maui's return from his long absence had rattled his daughter, and since the start of the festival she had become more distracted and reserved. She was pondering something, most likely her friend's declaration, and he wondered how to draw out information from her. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"So ah," he cleared his throat, "you've been especially quiet today."

"Hmmm? Oh, yeah, I've just been thinking." She swung her basket of flowers slightly and her hand tightened on his.

"Oh? About what?" he grinned and bumped into her shoulder playfully, "Maybe a certain competitor that's in the festival?"

He smiled as Moana blushed bright red. She didn't answer his question, but he knew he had guessed right. He could see the edge of the village and saw Sina beginning to walk in their direction. He tugged Moana to a halt and turned to face her. She looked at him with worried eyes and he tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

"No need to be anxious, my beautiful one. Remember, you have the final choice on who becomes your husband."

She looked down and played with her basket handle.

"I know" she replied softly.

"And," Tui put his finger beneath Moana's chin and lifted her face to his once more, "if you decide on a certain overprotective, and slightly full of himself, best friend of yours" he rolled his eyes and sighed, smiling when Moana's eyes widened and turned bright, "then you have my blessing."

He gave her a kiss on the forehead and draped his arm around her shoulders. Sina approached them and stood quietly at her husband's side. Tui held her hand and the family headed toward the village, the sun only a few finger lengths away from the horizon.

What's wrong with me?

Maui trudged through the silent village toward his hut and stumbled on the smooth road, almost falling into the dirt. He stayed in a bent position with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath while his head spun. This deep feeling of fatigue was new and frightening to him and he wondered if it meant his magic had been lost, or if this was simply his body's new, mortal way of telling him he worked too hard.

Even with Taianui's help, Maui had barely managed to deliver all of his rocks before the deadline. The headache he had developed while talking with Moana never relented, despite his best efforts to stay in the shade and drink more water as Moana suggested. His pace had become slower and Taianui suggested that he take a break. Maui refused, knowing that he only had one more delivery to complete. He encouraged Taianui to head back to the village, thanking his friend for his support. Taianui reluctantly left, leaving Maui alone in his misery as he pushed through his final round of the challenge, knowing that if he failed he would have to watch as Moana started a family with someone else.

I'm so tired.

Maui stood up, groaning as blood rushed to his head, and tried to walk. He laced his fingers behind his neck and attempted to even out his breathing. He closed his eyes hoping to reduce his dizziness and started to walk down the path. After several paces he opened his eyes to see that he was heading in the opposite direction of his hut. With a groan that was part growl he pivoted, his head and stomach rebelling against the sudden movement, and started walking again. This time he made sure he was heading home. He swung his arms to let the cool night air rush by him and sooth the burning itch that crept along his skin. He could hear the ocean nearby and longed to go for a swim to ease the pain.

I'll go, as soon as I get my hook.

During the busyness of the afternoon he had forgotten about his hook and the fact that he would become mortal. He still seemed to possess his strength, as was proven throughout the day since he passed Chief Tui's tests of strength, but he was unsure if he still had the ability to wield his hook. If his magic was being drained, then all of his powers could completely vanish before he completed the last round of the competition.

He raked his hands through his hair, tugging on the ends in anguish. The Mini's looked at him with fear and concern, but he was too distraught to answer their silent questions. The stress from the competition and the lack of sleep during the last week began to wear on his emotions and he became filled with uncertainty. His emotions were raw and the pain coursing through his body caused his exhausted mind to remind him of everything that had gone wrong in his life: being found abandoned in the ocean, his hook cracking while fighting Te Kā, abandoning Moana. He rubbed his eyes vigorously to try and dispel the images. He veered off the path and collided heavily into a tree trunk, his head throbbing where it hit the tree. The air was knocked from his lungs as he landed hard on the ground. Coughing and arms stinging, he bent his knees and sat up, too miserable to move more than to rest his aching head on his arms.

"Ah, there you are. I've been wondering when you'd come."

Gasping, Maui raised his head to see Moana's mother reclining against the doorframe of the healing hut. He looked around and saw that he had somehow managed to walk to the edge of the village. He looked back at Sina and she gazed at him with concern. Maui swept a hand through his hair and forced his mind to focus.

"You've been waiting for me?" he asked quietly, standing slowly. He wobbled slightly and he used the tree that attacked him for support.

"Of course, now come inside before you fall down again," She reprimanded gently as she lifted the tent flap for him to enter. Too tired to argue, Maui walked across the pathway and stepped through the hut door into the dim interior. In the middle of the hut he saw torches lining the walls and a raised bed draped with a grass pallet. Bowls of scented MonoÏ oil were lined in a row next to the bed and a pitcher of water sat near the burning embers of the fire pit. Realizing the room was set up for a Lomi Lomi, the traditional restorative massage practiced by the people, Maui stopped in his tracks. Suddenly breathless, he tried to escape out of the hut but was stopped by Sina blocking the door. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he began to hyperventilate.

"Sina, I can't, I'm not allowed. I'm not family and I can't accept this honor…" his rushed voice trailed off as he struggled to quell the panic that was building inside him.

"Hush," Sina said softly as she guided Maui to the table. "You will soon be an official part of my family, if Moana would stop worrying and just listen to her heart. So it is fitting that I do this for you."

She continued to direct him to the table but he balked near the edge. Maui felt a burning sensation behind his eyes and he pinched the bridge of his nose to stop the tears from forming.

"But I..." he began hoarsely, ashamed at how weak his voice had become.

Sina lightly twisted him by his arms and brought his head down low to hers. She rested her forehead against his and was silent while Maui struggled to contain his emotions.

"Hear my words." She began several heartbeats later. "You have shown my daughter a loyalty that has surpassed all expectations, and even today you were fighting with tenacity to win her hand. Over the years I have watched you grow and mature, and I have come to love you as a son. Please let me perform this honor for you."

She lifted her head and cupped his cheek gently. She used her thumb to gently wipe away a tear on his cheek. With a small nod Maui turned and laid himself belly first on the table. After tying up Maui's hair, Sina bent to retrieve the bowls of oil and set them on next to the still figure on the table. Resting her hands softly on Maui's back, Sina closed her eyes and breathed deeply.

"I ask that you guide my hands and help me to become the vessel to calm this troubled spirit. Help him to know he is loved, and bless him in his noble pursuit."

At her blessing the violent images in his mind disappeared, leaving in their place an ache that once again brought tears to his eyes. He willed his body to relax and hoped that Sina would fail to notice the tears that he was helpless to stop from leaking out of his clenched eyes. His headache began to lessen as Sina's oil dipped fingers began rhythmic motions near the base of his skull. She continued the motion for several moments until he breathed deeply, his headache completely gone. She dipped her fingers in the oil again and moved one of her hands to his side while the other gently circled on the large tattoo between his upper back.

"This image still haunts you." It wasn't a question.

Maui cringed slightly and tensed once more, knowing to which mark she referenced. His burning skin bared a permanent scar, formed in black ink, of the abandonment of the one family he ever had.

"Breath," Sina whispered.

Maui drew in a shuttering breath and exhaled a simple, quiet "yes" to her statement.

"A few short years in a loving home are not enough to heal the thousands of years of loneliness." She leaned forward and pressed his back with the heels of her hands. "We have been good to you, yes?" she asked.

"Of course," he replied, voice still weak from the emotions roiling inside him. "You all have been more than welcoming."

Sina shifted around the table and pressed her elbows into his back.

"And yet you still doubt our love for you?" she prompted.

It was silent for a long moment. Sina hummed quietly and swayed into the rhythm of her hands moving along his shoulders, down his sides, up his back in a rhythmic healing cycle. She continued the cycle several times. As the music and rustle of Sina's skirts began to sooth the tremors inside, Maui finally whispered, "I don't deserve anyone's love."

"Ahhh," Sina crooned, continuing her song. Her warm hands left his shoulders as she covered them in more oil. She continued easing the knots and Maui slowly continued to relax.

"You still think of love as something that is to be earned." She leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "But it's not." She straightened. "It's given; a free gift that we have neither earned nor deserve. You have given my daughter your love, yes? Even though you think it will cost you your powers?"

Maui opened his eyes, the first movement he had made since laying down.

Sina chuckled, "Don't worry, I won't tell Moana. Now how did I know? Suffice it to say, you're friends are very worried for you. Maybe they have given you their brotherly love?"

The oil soothed his skin as he contemplated her words. The Lomi Lomi had eased the pain in his muscles and he could feel himself drifting. Sina grasped the pitcher of warm water and began to wipe away the oil from Maui's back. She hummed her song once more.

In a sleepy daze, Maui managed to ask, "Does Moana lo…"

Sina chuckled softly as she dried off the water. His body was healed; his thoughts no longer troubled.

"That, my dear, is something you must find out on your own."

He fell asleep to the music.

Light drifted through the window of the healing hut, bathing Maui in its warmth. Maui woke slowly, his first conscious thought that his body was no longer in agony. His head felt clear and his muscles only held a slight ache from the strain he put it though the day before. He shifted on the sleeping pallet; he vaguely remembered Sina helping him off the table and onto the sleeping pallet on the floor where he had fallen into a deep sleep.

He smelled coconut oil in the air and a cool sensation on his forehead. He shifted on the pallet again, the woven fibers scratching his face slightly when he turned his head. Pushing onto his arms he opened his eyes and blinked blearily, seeing Moana kneeling on the ground next to him. He rubbed his eyes and tried to fight the embarrassed warmth that was forming on his ears.

"Good morning," she said softly.

"Morning," he said, shaking his head and sitting up on the pallet.

"I brought you some breakfast." She seemed shy as she waited for Maui to finish waking up.

Maui glanced at the bowl of fruit Moana held in her hands. His stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since the lunch break the previous day. Maui flushed fully and ran a hand through his tangled hair. Moana gave a small chuckle.

"Here," she said, handing him the bowl.

He grabbed it and started peeling a banana. He ate slowly, still embarrassed from having her watch him sleep.

"Mother said you had a rough night." Moana picked up a comb lying next to her and moved behind Maui, starting to run the comb through his tangled hair. He glanced up and saw Sina sitting in the corner weaving a basket. She gave him a small wave before continuing her work, giving them privacy.

"Yeah, it was. Did she tell you about it?" He winced as the comb went through a rough snag in his hair. "You don't have to do that you know." He dropped his banana peel into the bowl.

"I know, but I want to. And no, she didn't share any details with me." She drifted back into silence. Maui finished the rest of his breakfast while Moana continued to comb out his hair.

"You need a haircut." She fingered the long curls.

Why is she acting so strangely this morning?

Confused, Maui tried to rotate and face her. The sudden movement made her drop the comb onto the pallet.

"Moana, what's…?"

She pushed his head back around and tilted it forward.

"Please, just sit still," she picked up the comb and started on another section hair.

What's wrong with her?

Moana was never quiet, always full of restless energy and constant chatter. When she was quiet it usually meant she was upset, or angry, or hurt. Maui's eyes widened.

Did someone hurt her?

His mind began to race with possibilities and he had almost convinced himself to confront Kele immediately.

"Maui, why are you competing?" she asked, not looking up from her hands.

He blew out a relieved breath, his battle fever cooling,but wondered at the sudden question.

"I thought I made it pretty obvious yesterday," he said with a teasing tone. He heard Sina chuckle softly in her corner.

"Well, yes. It was quite…nice."

Moana smoothed her hand over his scalp. Maui closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of her fingers in his hair.

"But," she sighed, pushing the finished section of hair over his shoulder. "Well, I don't know if you really meant it." She finished in a whisper.

"What!" he whipped his head around, but winced when she hit his skull with the comb. With a growl he turned his head back around and settled down onto the pallet once more.

"Moana, how can you think that? I told you that I…"

"I know what you said, Maui." She voice was thick with emotion. Maui longed to turn around, but knew that the next whack to his head would be harder. So he stayed still.

"But you're a demi-god! And I'm just a simple mortal." Finally finished with his hair she threw her comb into the ground. Now that she no longer had a weapon, Maui turned and cupped her shoulders in his hands. Tears pooled her eyes and she bit her lip, not allowing the tears to fall.

"You're my best friend! I don't…"

"That's the thing Maui!" she cried out, standing suddenly and raking her hands over her head. "I grew up listening to my grandmother telling stories about you, about the all-powerful Maui, the demi-god that would restore the heart of Te Fiti!"

She flung her arms into the air and paced around the hut, the rustle of her skirt reaching him where he sat. Her tears had dried when she swung to face Maui again.

"I'm not special, not like you," she flung out an accusing arm in his direction, "there's no reason that you would even want to be my friend, let alone fall in love with me. It doesn't matter how I feel about you, you shouldn't feel anything for me."

Maui stood, reaching out a hand, "Moana…"

She ignored him and began to count on her fingers while she continued to pace in front of him.

"You taught me to sail, you've saved my life countless times, you have a magical hook, you can shape shift, you're immortal…"

"But I'm not immortal anymore!" Maui shouted, startling Sina in her corner and affectively cutting off Moana's rant. She stared at him.

"What?" she whispered, her eyes wide.

Maui stammered at his outburst, "Well, at least I think I'm mortal now."

He sighed and walked to the edge of the hut. He ran a hand over his freshly combed hair as he leaned against the wall of the building, not wanting to explain his journey again, but knowing that Moana had the right to know what had happened. He looked back at Moana who was still staring at him in confusion.

"Remember how I wouldn't let you come on my last voyage?" he asked, crossing his arms. She nodded and he continued. "Well, around the same time as your last birthday I had some thinking to do; about you, about the fact that I was falling in love with my best friend."

Her eyes widened and Maui gave her a small grin.

"That's right Curly; I've loved you for that long. It's not as sudden as you think"

Her eyes sparkled when he used her old nickname and Maui moved off the wall to step close to where she stood rooted to the ground. He brushed a curl behind her ear and spoke softly.

"I needed to be alone. And while I was alone, I realized that I never wanted to leave you again. I wanted to have a family, to grow old with you." He kissed her forehead gently and backed away. Her eyes had filled with tears again.

"So," he shrugged, trying to make the situation lighter than it was, "and I'll save you from all the boring details, I found a way to become mortal."

"No. Maui, you didn't…" Moana covered her mouth with her hands, tears now overflowing onto her cheeks.

Maui nodded then shook his head, "I'm not sure if 'mortal' is the right term, but Te Fiti said that she would help me gain the life that I've been wanting. I don't know if or when ill lose my strength, or if I'll even be able to use my hook anymore. But it's worth it."

Moana began to sob into her hands. He drew her close and cradled her sob-wracked body against his. He tightened his arms around her and laid his head atop hers, feeling her hot tears run down his chest.

"Shhh, its fine," he said as he held her close.

"You gave up everything, just for me?" she asked through her tears.

He nodded against her head. "Now do you finally believe me?" he asked softly.

She lifted her head and nodded at him, an unfamiliar light shining in her eyes.

I want to kiss her again.

As if she read his mind, Moana started to stand on her tiptoes. Maui lowered his head, but saw Sina moving from the corner of his eye. Maui looked up and saw Sina approaching them slowly. Maui bit down a growl and let Moana go with a kiss on her hair. Sina placed her hand on her daughter's shoulder. She looked over at Maui while she addressed Moana.

"We need to begin helping your father get ready for the festival games today. And you," she said looking at Moana again, "need to get ready for the final competition. Did you do what your father requested?"

Moana nodded while she wiped the tears from her face, gazing at Maui for a long time, "But I think I'm going to change something now."

Maui started to back up toward the hut door but stopped before he was close enough to exit.

"You ok?" he asked his friend.

She nodded and gave him a watery half smile. He knew he needed to give Moana time to process the information he had shared with her, but he couldn't leave until he saw her real smile. He struck a pose, placing his hands on his hips and puffing out his chest, and changed his voice to the arrogant tone that always elicited a reaction from her.

"Well, that's good. Because I have to help everyone set up for the festival games, and you know how lost they are without me." He sighed dramatically and Moana laughed softly. She swung a soft punch in his direction. Maui smiled, relieved that Moana was acting like herself again. With a final wave goodbye he lifted the flap of the hut.


He turned to look at her, the door flap still raised in his hand.

Moana fiddled awkwardly and stuttered through her question, "In your whole life…how many women have you kissed?"

Maui fought a grin as he pretended to think hard about the question. "Including you? Just one." He lost the battle with his smile and ducked out of the hut.

Maui walked through the village with the intent to help the villagers set up the annual festival games. The games were a chance for all of the villagers, even the women and older children, to showcase their skills and bring honor to their families. It was the highlight of the spring season and the villagers looked to it in anticipation each year. The final stage of the chief's challenge would start in the late afternoon, so Maui planned to spend his morning participating in the festival games and giving Moana space and time to process the information dumped at her feet.

But I think she might love me too!

He smiled and roamed the village looking for a place to help. He saw his friends in the distance and started to make his way to the open field where Taianui and Ahohako were setting up a game of 'ulumaika. Ahohako looked up from the stakes he was pounding and waved to Maui.

"Hey Maui! You look lively this morning. How are you feeling from yesterday?" Ahohako called out.

Maui swaggered over to his friends and held down the stake while Ahohako pounded it into the ground. "I'm great, not sore at all!"

"Well I'm glad you're feeling fine," Ahohako walked several paces and placed another stake into the ground. Maui took the hammer and pounded it securely.

"Taianui over there has been less than helpful today." Ahohako jerked his thumb over his shoulder to where Taianui was setting up rolling disks into piles for the 'ulumaika game. Maui laughed as he watched Taianui bend over slowly to grab a stone disk.

"Hey Old Man, need some help?" Maui teased his friend while Ahohako laughed next to him. Taianui glared at the two but winced when he tried to move faster. Still chuckling, Maui went to him and grabbed him by the shoulders, pushing on them roughly in a mock imitation of a massage.

"Ouch! That is not helping!" Taianui shrugged Maui's hands off his shoulders and continued stacking the stones. "How are you not dying right now?" he asked Maui.

"Sina gave me a massage last night. Oh, speaking of which," he punched Taianui in the arm and the other man yelped, "Why'd you tell her about my voyage."

"I just figured she'd be able to help, since she's used to dealing with stubborn people."

"Ha! You're calling him stubborn? And what about you?" Ahohako walked over with his extra stakes. "Wait, Sina gave you a massage?" Ahohako halted with the stakes still in his arms. A slow grin spread on his face. "Are things getting serious with Moana?"

Maui flashed a grin of his own, bending down to help Taianui, "Let's just say that things are looking good."

Taianui grumbled at the help but didn't complain while they finished getting the rolling disks ready for the games. The men moved around the sporting grounds, assisting wherever they were needed and discussing which events held the most interest for them. Taianui's mood improved throughout the morning and he began to participate in Maui and Ahohako's banter. The two competitors had a continuous line of villagers come to talk about the competition and to wish Taianui and Maui good luck.

By mid-morning all of the events had been organized and prepared and the villagers headed back to their homes for an early lunch before the games started. The excitement hung in the air and children raced through the village, laughing and too excited to heed their mothers' calls to eat. Ahohako invited his friends to take lunch at his house and they all walked to his hut where Fetia welcomed them with open arms. Ahohako greeted his wife with a kiss and settled a hand on her growing belly before moving to help serve the food.

They all ate quickly, eager to join the festival games. Maui and Taianui jostled each other and bragged about their prowess. They argued over who was the better competitor and small wagers were placed on who would win the most events. The men continued to bicker throughout the meal while Fetia watched with a bemused smile and Ahohako spurred them on. When lunch was over the men helped Fetia wash the dishes, curbing their excitement as they exited the hut and slowed down to Fetia's waddling pace.

The entire village seemed to be making its way toward the sporting grounds were the events would take place. Children darted between the legs of their parents and bustled among the crowded pathway, throwing sticks and rocks, creating their own festival games. Maui grabbed a boy as he scurried past and lifted him onto his shoulders. The boy cried out and clung to Maui's head, laughing at being so far off the ground. Other children clamored around for a turn and Maui gave rides to as many as he could carry. His pace slowed and by the time the group entered the open field he had a child under each arm, one clinging to each of his long legs, and the older boy still clung onto Maui's shoulders. Maui stopped near a pile of palm leaves.

"Oh no, I think I'm going to fall!"

The children screamed and dropped their holds, running back toward their parents. Maui helped the boy off his shoulders and with a quick "thank you," he darted off to join a game of catch with his friends. Maui chuckled and walked back over to Taianui.

"Ready, Old Man," Maui said, clapping Taianui on the shoulder.

Taianui barked a laugh and gripped Maui's shoulder in return, "Let's go show them who's the best team on the island."

They headed toward a game of stick ball while Mini Moa and Maui cheered.

The games were successful in distracting Maui from continually thinking of Moana, and soon he and Taianui were enjoying themselves immensely. After several games of 'ulumaika Maui tried to join the wrestling event, but was lightheartedly kicked out by the men who knew Maui would best them easily. He continued to argue, pretending to be outraged.

"Don't worry, Big Guy," Taianui said, slapping Maui on the back, "I'll win this game in your honor!"

Laughing, Maui playfully shoved his friend and walked away, searching for an event to join while Taianui defended Maui's pride. He scanned the area and saw Afa limping toward what looked like the beginnings of a tug-of-war challenge. Maui jogged to catch up to the young man and draped his arm around Afa's shoulders.

"So, you planning on joining a tug-of-war team?" Maui asked with a quick glance to Afa's injured foot.

Afa sighed, "No, my father wants me to rest my foot. But I still want to compete in the festival!"

Maui clapped Afa on the shoulder before settling his arms back at his side. "You honored your family during yesterday's race. I'm sure they are very proud of you."

Afa smiled at Maui and they joined the other dozen villagers that had gathered around the mud pit to watch the game. The crowd cheered and taunted the two competing teams and the stronger team successfully pulled their competitors into the mud. The winning team scanned the crowd and called out for more challengers.

"Let's see if you can beat Maui!" Afa called out from the side lines.

The villagers cheered their consent and Maui found himself pushed toward the rope. Facing his opponents, he gripped the rope between his two hands and widened his stance. At Afa's call of "Begin!" Maui braced his feet while the two other men pulled hard on the rope. Maui felt his feet shift slightly and he grinned, giving his end of the rope a hard yank and sending the men face first into the mud. The villagers cheered and more villagers began to gather around the crowd, drawn over by the loud shouts.

Afa recruited more men to challenge Maui, but he continued to be undefeated. After each round another competitor was added to the team challenging Maui, and as the team became larger Maui began to have a difficult time defeating his opponents. After a long struggle and to the delight of the crowd Maui successfully pulled the team of seven men into the mud. Panting slightly, Maui straightened and helped the mud-covered men to their feet. He grinned when he saw Taianui making his way over to the crowded area.

"Hey Old Man! You going to try, or are you still too sore," he teased.

With a look that promised retribution Taianui joined the other men at the rope and together they made an eight man team to fight Maui. Maui waved his arms and rolled his shoulders before grabbing his end of the rope. Afa called the beginning of the match and all the competitors started to pull. Immediately Maui felt his feet beginning to slide and he tried to pull harder. His leg muscles burned and his feet began to slip as he was drawn closer to the mud. The rope slipped through his sweaty grasp and Maui landed hard into the mud. The other team, not expecting the sudden lack of weight, sprawled onto the ground in a giant heap.

The crowd cheered and laughed as all the men tried to detangle themselves from the pile of bodies. Taianui, freeing himself easily, walked over to Maui and started helping him to his feet. Taianui laughed heartily.

"You look like a disaster!" he said, gripping Maui's hand.

With a smirk, Maui wrenched on Taianui's arm and pulled him face first into the mud beside him. Taianui pulled to his knees and, grabbing a handful of mud, tackled his large friend onto the ground, smashing his face with a mud clump. The other men joined in the brawl and soon the mud pit was full of men and children wrestling, pushing, and laughing as they played. Maui grabbed two laughing boysand launched backwards onto his back, landing with a loud smack and covering the children with the drying mud.

Maui helped the dirt covered boys to their feet and helped them return to their mothers. He turned, wiping the mud from his arms, and chuckled as he heard the mothers' loud fussing behind him. He shook his head and could feel the clumps of mud drying on his hair.

I'll have to ask Moana to comb my hair again.

Maui continued to wipe the mud from his face and he and Taianui hurried to the beach to wash off the filth. They washed quickly and the duo returned to the sporting area to search for other interesting games to join. The warm afternoon sun dried them quickly as they gathered with a group of villagers in a coconut grove.

Both men won several coconut tree races, although Taianui continued to pester Maui when he won more rounds than his stronger friend. Maui retaliated by beating Taianui on several rounds of konane. They avoided the foot races and the stone lifting competitions, both groaning at the thought of carrying more rocks, and as the afternoon wore on the men rested in the shade next to the main pathway with Ahohako and his wife. Taianui dozed and Maui reclined on his arms, watching the other villagers enjoy the festival.

He saw a group of children playing and noticed Kele standing near them, supervising their game. Maui's conscious pricked him when he noticed Kele's arm in a sling and the bruising around the man's neck. Kele winced slightly as one of the children jostled his injured arm. He looked up and his eyes widened with alarm as he noticed Maui staring at him. Maui tried to give the man a small smile of apology, but Kele had recovered from his initial fear and glare. He turned his attention back to the children's game and refused to look at Maui. Maui scoffed and crossed his arms.

That's the last time I feel sorry for him!

He glanced down and saw his tiny friends shaking their fists and glaring in Kele's direction. He chuckled loudly, startling Taianui awake and receiving a strange look from Fetia. An older boy ran across the path and stopped where the group was resting.

"All of the competitors for the chief's competition need to meet him at the meeting hut," he panted before darting off through the crowd to continue delivering his message.

"Good luck," Ahohako called as Maui and Taianui stood to obey the summons. Maui's heart began to beat with excitement and he darted through the crowd, eager to begin the final round of the competition. They were the first to arrive at the hut and Maui saw Tui already standing at the top of the stairs. Tui gave Maui a small grin before crossing his arms and settling his face into his customary stern look. The other men began to arrive and soon most of the finalists were gathered around Chief Tui. Maui looked around in confusion.

I guess some decided to continue playing in the festival.

"Well, I believe this is everybody." Tui nodded, addressing the group. "Congratulations men on making it to the last stage of my challenge." He spread his arms and his eyes twinkled as he looked around, "as you can see, Moana is not here to deliver the rules for this challenge. She is missing and must be found before she gets into mischief."

Maui smirked at the chief's attempt at humor and shook his head.

"I need you to find my daughter, for even I do not know where she had hidden herself." Tui looked at the men and continued, "She must be seeking a husband who can match her in a battle of wits, for the only clue she left was this riddle:

Follow the path

To places unknown,

And there you will find

An oasis shown.

The flowers still bloom

Where the hawk will fly high,

And here I am hiding

Where the sea meets the sky.

Tui finished the riddle once more and crossed his arms. "Remember men, the first one to find my daughter wins the competition and earns the privilege of having 3 days to convince Moana to marry him. But Moana will not be easily swayed; you must prove to her that you are worthy of becoming her husband." He glared at the group. "Treat her with respect, or you will face my wrath. You may proceed."

Tui repeated the riddle once more before allowing the group to disband and follow the directions. The men separated themselves and Maui began to pace, deep in thought. He sat at the edge of the stairs and drew his knees up. He rested his chin in his hands and repeated the riddle in his mind, glancing at the other men to watch as they formed a group to discuss the puzzle. Taianui joined himand they both sat in contemplative silence as the murmurs of the other men drifted towards them.

Out of the group, he knew Moana best, with the exception of her father. Tui seemed to still be at a loss as to where Moana was hiding, so Maui drew hope in the knowledge that even Tui had not yet interpreted the riddle. Maui began to think of all the places on Motunui where he and Moana had travelled. They had hiked nearly every inch of the nearside of the island and Moana had shown him all of her favorite places to relax: the geyser springs where he tried and failed to fish, the rocks near the sea where her grandmother taught her to dance, the cave where she discovered the ancient sailing canoes. Maui frowned when none of her favorite locations matched the description in the riddle and the ocean was too obvious of an answer.

The highest common landmark on the island was the Place of Chiefs, where the chief stones and Moana's shell stood, but Moana rarely visited that landmark. The only other location they had never explored together was the waterfall.

Maui jerked his head up suddenly and vaguely heard Taianui's startled yelp. Moana was at the waterfall. Maui had flown over it near the end of one of their hiking trips and had described the isolated pool he had spotted at the top, but they had never been able to return. Maui and Moana had promised to explore the pool together, but they never found an opportunity to visit.

Maui jumped up and dashed in the direction of his hut and his hook: he knew exactly where to find his wayfinder.

Maui raced all the way to the bottom of the mountain before realizing he had yet to test his hook and may be forced to walk the entire path to the top of the waterfall. He paused and took a deep breath before grabbing the hook with both hands. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the magical power within him and felt it swelling inside with growing strength. With a loud command of "Giant hawk" he swung the hook and felt his body change into his favorite transformation form. He laughed excitedly and with two powerful strokes of his wings he took flight.

Maybe I'll be able to keep all of my abilities!

Ecstatic with the knowledge that he still possessed his transformation powers, Maui flew over the waterfall in search of Moana. Not spotting her along the rim of the pool, he circled around, flying lower to help him see through the heavy vegetation that grew near the water. He glided, allowing the air currents to continue lowering himuntil he finally spotted Moana sitting on a large rock farther down the mountain side. He could see the impression in the grass showing where she had travelled and noticed that the new path stopped at the rock where she was sitting. His heart warmed as he realized she had been waiting for the winner, Maui prayed that she was hoping for him, before continuing to the peak of the waterfall. He checked the position of the sun and lowered himself more, making sure to keep his shadow from giving away his position.

Moana was sitting far enough away from the falls to be protected from the spray, but near enough that the quiet roar of the falling water masked the sound of him transforming into a lizard and dropping onto a tree near her resting place. He used the large leaves to mask the flash of magic as he transformed into a beetle and crawled along the rock to watch her weave a headdress from her basket of supplies near her feet. He crept forward till he could hear her singing softly to herself and he sat still for several moments to enjoy her song. Once her song was finished he scurried closer to where she sat. Moana's eyes darted over to him in his insect form and she shrieked, raising her hand to swat him away. He transformed back into his normal body right as her fisted hand smacked him in the middle of his chest.

He grabbed her hand, holding it close as she jumped again in fright, her unfinished headdress tumbling onto the ground. His gazed warmed as he smiled at her.

"Found you," he said softly.

"Maui!" she hollered, wrenching her hand from his grasp, "you scared me half to death!"

Maui chuckled, not remorseful in the slightest, "Sorry…"

His apology was cut off as Moana took his head in her hands and brought his mouth down onto hers. His heartbeat quickened as his sluggish mind finally realized that she was kissing him. Maui's eyes slid closed and he wrapped his arms around her waist. Moana slid her body closer on the rock and tangled her fingers into his hair, deepening their kiss and making his heart pound. He drew her close, kissing her with all the love and longing that he had held inside for more than a year. They slowly drew apart, both slightly breathless, and Moana shyly tucked her head into his neck.

"So does that mean you're happy I'm the one who found you?" he chucked and smoothed a hand down her hair. He squirmed as Moana tickled his side. He tickled her back and she squealed, jumping out from his embrace. She gave him a glare before giving him another quick kiss on the lips and settling into his lap. She idly traced her finger along his tattoos and gave Mini Moa a high five with her finger. Moana sighed deeply and nuzzled into his chest.

"I don't need three days to decide. I choose you, Maui."

She lifted her head and gazed up at him, her eyes bright. She rested her hand on his cheek and settled her forehead on his.

"I love you, Maui," she whispered.

"I love you too," he placed a soft, lingering kiss on her lips.

I could get used to this.

"Wait," he said, drawing back. "Are you sure about this? I mean, this morning you…"

She interrupted him with a finger on his lips before settling her head back down on his chest.

"I know what I said, but I think my mother was right: I was just worrying too much. I think I started loving you even before you felt anything for me," she gave him a shy smile and fiddled with her neckless, "and I guess just didn't think it would be possible for you to feel the same."

She reached up and wrapped her arms round his neck in a hug.

"I was shocked when you joined the competition, but at the same time I was so happy, especially when you said you loved me. I love you so much." She drifted into silence and Maui held her tight, the most content he had ever been in his life. Maui remembered that he had one more question to ask, so he stood and placed Moana's feet on the rock, allowing her to look down at his face.

"Marry me?" He smiled slowly , nervous yet excited to hear her answer, and held her hands against his heart.

She smiled down at him, her smile brilliant. "I'd love to," she answered and they sealed their promise to each other with another long kiss.

Moana straightened suddenly. "Oh! I completely forgot!"

She jumped off the rock and grabbed her basket, leaving Maui's heavy hook on the ground. Tucking her arm through his, she hurried up the path dragging Maui next to her. He scooped her up and held her in his arms, slowing their pace.

"Maui, go faster! I've been waiting for hours to finally explore this spot with you!" She kicked her feet to help hurry him along.

"Would you slow down, Curly? I finally get to hold you as much as I want, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it!" Moana stopped fidgeting and smiled while Maui held her close, strolling up the path to their new adventure.


The ocean danced merrily under the setting sun as it watched its favorite family stroll down the beach. The little boy toddled over to a flock of gulls, determined to finally catch them. The birds flew away in a loud, angry rush as the child approached. The little one failed to notice their flight, suddenly distracted by the ocean receding and showing its hidden shells. The parent's laughed, the mother putting a hand to her slightly swollen stomach and the heavily tattooed father keeping a protective arm around his wife. They kept a close eye on their little one and the father kept a tight hold on his hook, prepared to transform at the first sign of trouble.

The ocean knew they needn't worry; it could feel the same draw of energy from within the child as from the mother, and it knew that it and the boy would have many adventures together. It receded farther and revealed more shells to the small one, glowing brightly when it heard his small giggles. The ocean gently played around its new companion, sparkling with laughter and shimmering with colors of blues and greens. The air began to cool as the sun began its decent behind the horizon.

The parents stepped closer to the waterline and the ocean gently lifted its future wayfinder onto a piece of driftwood. Settling its waves, it smoothly delivered the child into the arms of the waiting father. The father lifted the boy high above his head and the child squealed, grabbing fistfuls of his father's hair, which was becoming lightly streaked with grey. As the family walked back to their hut the boy turned and waved at the ocean. The ocean settled back down into the water as it noticed something the parents had yet to discover: a small tattoo of ocean waves surrounding a loving family that had suddenly appeared on their son's back.