The reconstruction of the Pelekai house went a lot faster than people expected. Mahina wrote that off as aliens helping it along. She herself had done what she could, which mostly ended up with her painting a lot of the finished up parts of the house.
It had been a week after the Grand Councilwoman. No time had been wasted, as far as reconstructing. Bubbles had received permission from HQ to provide aid, especially when he brought up the whole thing with aliens.
Mahina was surprised they didn't have Men In Black dropping down to clean up. Then again, she was overly paranoid sometimes. Maybe she shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth!
At one point in all of this, Mahina realized she needed a change of clothes. She'd been borrowing Lilo's old ones, which thankfully few among them had noticed. She'd left her clothes at her Box so she needed to leave the construction site.
Nani had brought Lilo and Mahina to hula practice. Though Mahina didn't take the classes, it was still a kind of supervision while they rebuilt. It had caused somewhat of a stir when Mahina began walking away from the building.
Nani only noticed because she was headed back to her rented car (after Stitch crashed the last one into Jumba's face). "Hey! Where are you going?" Nani asked.
Mahina blinked, tilting her head in confusion. "To get new clothes?"
"What? We can get you some at the store." Nani dismissed. "Go back inside."
"But...I already have clothes?" Mahina explained, only more confused. "Why would we need more when I have plenty?"
Nani huffed. She had spent the past week around Mahina, so she knew how Mahina was in a lot of ways just a kindred spirit to Lilo. "Alright. Let's get you those clothes." She tucked her rented keys into her pocket, following Mahina.
Mahina gawked. She hadn't wanted an adult to see her house. House was a generous term, yes. Mahina was embarrassed by it- despite her refusal to acknowledge the emotion. She knew if she saw any kid living like she was, she'd sweep them away without a thought. It was harder on this side. Harder to keep adults from taking away the one safe space Mahina had crafted for herself.
She still wasn't unconvinced that once the damage was fixed, Bubbles would take her away. She knew she could escape him, find a way to hide long enough for him to have to give up.
Mahina only wanted to help.
She wouldn't be able to in whatever new home Bubbles sent her.
She smiled as an idea came to her. "Okay. Sure." Mahina continued on her walk, pausing long enough for Nani to catch up. "But you have to catch me."
Then, like a horse at the Kentucky Derby, Mahina ran.
"Hey!" Nani called out. She gave chase after the small girl.
Nani caught up with her. Eventually. She chalked it up to nothing short of a stroke of luck.
Mahina was indeed quite good at evading adults. Her short size, partnered with the fact that there was an adult mind in her head, made her a fearsome opponent.
Still. It was a tiny island.
And the alleyways made a small sort of echo when someone spoke into them.
That's how Nani found Mahina, talking to herself as she grabbed items for a lone box propped up against a wall in an alleyway.
"-except I don't know exactly how they're washing machine works yet. Those buttons keep changing- I swear. I thought I set it to wash for 20 minutes. Turns out I just set it to spin at 20x speed. How messed up is that?" Mahina groaned to herself- or the box, it was hard to tell.
Nani gawked, keeping herself hidden from Mahina's sight. She was reminded of the last time she hid like this for a child's sake. Oddly enough it had been that action that brought Stitch into their lives.
"But I know the stuff needs an upgrade." Mahina rambled on. "The alien tech I saw had some good ideas. Maybe a different form of power? I don't think they use rechargeable batteries on that ship. Some kind of plasma, then...or cold fusion! Oh that's gonna keep me busy for a month. At least."
Mahina went on about the science behind cold fusion for a long while after that. To be honest, it was all going over Nani's head. She knew she'd heard a lot of similar jargon from Jumba. It suddenly made sense why Mahina never wandered far from the giant purple alien.
A lot of things came together in Nani's head. On that beach, everything had happened so fast she could hardly keep track of it all. Nani did remember clearly that Mahina had given them the help in letting Lilo keep Stitch. Looking back, she could vaguely remember Mahina standing with Jumba and Pleakley. They had...stood guard over her.
"We have a contract. They pretend to be my parents, and I introduce them into Earth culture. They can't leave as they have yet to obligate their half of the bargain."
Nani's brain blue screen as it all came together.
Mahina stood upright, holding her old outfit in her arms while wearing a new blue dress. She smoothed down her hair then went up the other end of the alleyway.
Once she was gone Nani went up to the box. What she found broke her heart.
Nani had taken pictures, of course. She'd taken Lilo's camera before hula practice (Lilo had said she wanted some pictures of the older hula dancers, to replace the ones hat had burnt up in the house explosion).
She showed the photos to the grown-ups that night, as the younger girls and Stitch slept.
"She lives in a box." Nani stated, in a disbelieving tone.
Bubbles stared at a picture with his usual detachment from emotions. He picked up one that showed off a rumbled blanket, with a stuffed doll to the side. "Her name is Mahina Alana. From what the agency told me, her father was listed as 'Unknown'."
"And her mom?" Nani asked, dreading an answer.
Bubbles looked over at Nani. "Last our records show, she took a plane to the states. Hasn't been seen since."
Nani let out a half-relieved sigh. She had worried that Mahina's mother had died. Then again, straight up abandoning her child hadn't been much better. Hence half-relieved.
Jumba stared at a picture. Pleakley over his shoulder did the same. It was inside, showing off Mahina's written sign of ownership. Jumba recalled all the little remarks Mahina had made over the days, of not having a home. He had paid them no mind at the time. He had just thought it was a human thing.
Looking at this picture, he questioned a lot more things.
"She...said you were going to take her away." Jumba recalled. He looked up at Bubbles. "Why?"
"If a child is shown to not be living in proper conditions, social services are called in to take the child away. Originally, I was here for just Lilo. When I saw Mahina, she was carrying a lot of food. Not a lot for a family, but enough for a little kid to live off for a week. She claimed it was because her parents were too busy to do it themselves." Bubbles looked to Nani. "She was lying. Even I didn't know she was living in a box."
"So...living in box is not good for the girl?" Jumba asked, clarifying.
"It's not good." Bubbles answered. "When all of this is officially settled, I'll still need to take Mahina with me. She needs a real home- not a box."
"But we have that contract! With bucks!" Pleakley argued. "Mahina said that-"
Bubbles gave Pleakley a look, lowering his sunglasses to get the message across. Pleakley shut up. "She lied about that too. Even if it was true, usually contracts aren't made with the kid doing the paying. The system is around so that kids don't have to pay for strangers to watch them."
"She knew we were aliens." Jumba added after a pause. "Said...knew from start."
"She's a smart kid." Nani could still recall a lot of the scientific jargon in that alley.
"Well...we weren't that good at it." Pleakley weakly defended. "She tried helping. A lot." He could still remember when Mahina had wrapped him in bandages after the Mosquito incident.
Pleakley turned to Jumba. The purple alien had a thoughtful look on his face. Jumba had it focused on Bubbles.
"Where will you take her?" Jumba inquired.
"Away." Bubbles explained plainly. He had an idea in his mind- one he imagined Mahina herself had been working towards since she stood up to the Grand Councilwoman. "Even if we could find her mother, that's not an option. Closest living relative that we could locate was a grandmother in Pennsylvania."
"That's so far away." Nani noted. Lilo had befriended the other girl. For Mahina was an oddball just like Lilo, though an oddness of a different brand. Mahina could still understand Lilo's quirks, from the few conversations Nani had heard.
Bubbles nodded. "We considered a foster home, only after observing her for a time I suggested it was better to place her with an actual relative." He side eyed Jumba again. "Unless there are any other ideas?"
They were having lunch, a mere two days later, when everything went down.
"You don't like hula?!" Lilo gawked. "How?!"
Mahina shrugged, taking another bite from her sandwich. "Just not a fan of dancing. It never...felt cool."
"But- but I saw you dancing!" Lilo objected. "You practiced with me and it was good!"
"It was just something to do." Mahina excused. "Pass the time you know?"
Stitch made a noise of agreement. But he'd actually liked the dance class, so he couldn't agree with Mahina on disliking it. He explained that to them.
Mahina- who had gained a basic understanding of the language over the week- scoffed. "Traitor."
Lilo was internally beaming at having Stitch take her side. She'd also gained basic knowledge of the language, grateful for it. "How can anyone not like hula?"
Mahina wanted to explain it carefully. Back in her home world, her mom had been a ballet teacher. Mahina's ballet teacher. She hadn't liked any of it. Her mom was always tougher on her over the other kids. Even when Mahina eventually moved on from ballet, it was to a pep squad that her mother led.
She had lost interest in any sort of dance activity.
Hand-to-hand combat was much more her fancy.
"I just don't." Mahina replied. "It's fun though. Just not for all the time."
Lilo made a noise of disgust. Mahina laughed at the look on Lilo's face. Stitch gave Lilo a reassuring pat on the back.
Mahina went to take another bite, only to feel someone approach. She turned back in time to see Jumba walking up to the table. She gave him a wide smile, not even needing to fake it. "Hey Jumba!"
The alien gave a shaky sincere grin. As touched as Mahina was by the attempt, she knew that something was off. "Mahina." He greeted.
Now Mahina was definitely concerned. Dropping her smile for a more serious expression, she gave Jumba a look of disapproval. "What's wrong?"
"What? Nothing!" Jumba replied. His expression tight with the lie he was holding back.
"You never call me by my name. What's wrong?" Mahina pressed.
Jumba flinched. Dang, she was smart. Even for a six year old. "Nothing! Just- whatever. Come with me!" He insisted, marching back the way he came.
Mahina watched him do that with curiosity. Never let it be said that she made smart decisions when curious. She turned back to Lilo and Stitch.
"It's okay, Mahina." Lilo hopped down from the table. "I need to restart my collection!"
"You do that." Mahina nodded. "Just remember Nani has your camera."
"That's where it went?!" Lilo began storming off in the direction of Nani. "Come on Stitch!"
"Eh!" Stitch raced off with her.
Mahina followed Jumba.
They went inside the house. They had rebuilt the structure portions of the home, steadily adding the actual wall parts of the wall. Mahina was impressed. Alien technology rocked.
Jumba walked her further into the house. They were going down a hallway. She knew that down that hallway would be Jumba and Pleakley's room, meanwhile that tunnel would lead up to Lilo and Stitch's room. Mahina could remember that down the other way was the laundry room beside Nani's room.
But Jubma walked past Nani's room. Mahina was confused for a moment. While she knew that she knew a lot about the interior of their house, she hadn't seen all of it. There must be parts to the house she'd not seen. Maybe Jumba was leading her to a garage? Or...maybe it was an office? Maybe he was just taking her to the backyard, but didn't want to walk outside in the heat?
Her questions were answered when Jumba stopped in front of a door. The purple alien threw his arm out to it, stepping aside to give Mahina space.
Mahina glanced between the door and Jumba. She tilted her head at him. "What-"
"Go inside." Jumba instructed.
Mahina hesitated. "What's inside?"
"Go and find out." Jumba insisted.
"Why not just tell me?"
"I don't like surprises." Mahina told him. She took a small step back away from the door.
Jumba huffed. "Humans idea." He grabbed Mahina by the shoulder, using his other arm to push the door open.
Mahina yelped as she was thrown inside.
When she gained back her balance she found herself sitting inside a...bedroom. Not a big one, just modest. It had the makings of a window seat across from the door, a desk to her right, and a simple twin bed to her left. She stared at the room in shock, and slow dawning understanding.
Jumba walked into the room. "There is note on desk."
Numbly, Mahina walked over to it. She had a feeling she knew what was there already. She had seen a lot of familiar items stashed on the desk. Her items. From the Box.
There was a document left there that Mahina didn't recognize. Well that's a lie. She had seen documents like that before, whether in her work at the FBI or as a lawyer. You eventually see an adoption certificate.
"Ad...adop...adoption?" Mahina stuttered. She picked up the certificate, seeing her own name listed alongside Jumba's. "This is a serious thing." Mahina warned him. "Bigger than the- the contract."
"There was no contract." Jumba revealed to her. Mahina gave a sheepish smile at that. "You were bluffing."
"Well...it worked, didn't it?" Mahina replied. She went back to staring at the document. She saw it was approved by the state of Hawaii, that it had been completed this morning, that her full name was Mahina Alana.
Or at least it had been, prior to the adoption.
Now it was Mahina Alana Jookiba.
Mahina refused to feel Emotion.
"Bubbles?" Mahina guessed.
"Nani." Jumba corrected.
Mahina gave a silent nod. She put the document back down on the table, with a reverence she'd only shown to her tech. Mahina turned back to Jumba. "Guess you needed me to pick the colors for the wall?"
Jumba scoffed. He had it pressed to him that this was all a big deal. That he had to be careful for whatever reaction Mahina gave, that he had to stay calm while he told it all to Mahina. Clearly, the human child was capable of understanding it.
Or- she hadn't wanted to deal with the complicated emotions that were being stirred up by the whole thing.
So he scoffed.
Cause he didn't want to deal with them either.
"Yes. Nani says you would want girly colors-" Jumba began.
"I want them blue. But a light blue like the sky. With stars on the ceiling. You don't need to put them up. Just give them to me, I know what stars I want up there." Mahina corrected. "Also the bed is nice, but I'd like a hammock."
"Hammock?" Jumba questioned.
"Nani will understand what I mean. I can make it myself. Just- take out the bed." Mahina explained. She wanted to get this all out before the shock got to her. "And- and I want- I want it- pillows. Lots of pillows for that seat- no carpet, it feels weird-"
"'Ey! 'Ey Mahina!" Jumba went up to her side, holding her shoulder. He gave her a light shake to get her out of the spiral she'd seemed to trap herself. "Stop it!"
"Why?" Mahina asked. She began wringing her hands together, squeezing the palms until her fingers started going white. "Why me? Why here? I don't understand. I don't understand this. It- it doesn't make sense."
Jumba inwardly sighed. Dang it- those dreaded Emotions had caught up to her. "You are smart. Smarter than other humans on Earth." He pointed to the side of the desk, where some of Mahina's bigger inventions had been placed. Including the computer she'd stolen from the trash. "Pleakley said you should go with other humans- like with Stitch. Bubbles said it would be better if it me- and I say yes. He put it together. Didn't ask questions, not necessary."
"Why." Mahina pressed. "I- I was okay. In the box. It was good. I had what I needed."
"Box was breaking." Jumba pointed out to her with a laugh of disbelief. "Would last week- maybe two. Surprise it lasted long as it did."
Mahina sniffled. She fell to her knees, the torrent of Emotions hitting her hard in all the places that it hurt the most. She became to hyperventilate.
"Oh-" Jumba cursed in his alien tongue. He knelt down by the girl, giving her careful pats on the head. "There. Now stop it. We don't need them."
Mahina's cries with tied in with chuckles now. "We don't?" She laughed, choking on a sob.
"No. There is work." Jumba motioned to the room.
This seemed to be the right thing to say. Mahina took in a few gasping breaths, wiping at her cheeks. "Work. We got work to do."
"Yes." Jumba nodded. He got back to his feet, walking towards the door. "Come. I forgot what you said you wanted for room."
Mahina took in one last shaking breath. She pushed herself to her knees. Her legs shook lightly, the way a baby deer's legs did after birth. She stumbled towards Jumba. He held out his arm in case she fell. "I can help with the work."
"Sure you can, little girl." Jumba let her believe that. He could understand that- needing to work with your hands on something to keep focused. He had been much the same when he was young. Help make him into evil scientist he was today. "Sure you can."
"Thanks P-Pops." Mahina swallowed, trying to keep the shaky tone out from her voice.
So daughter and father left the room. Both of them on shaking ground for the future ahead. Neither were sure if they'd make it, if this was the right way to go. But both of them were too stubborn to let a simple thing as fear keep them from giving it a try.
AN: And there it is...somehow I wrote this. Somehow I finished this story. Did it make you feel things? Leave a comment about it. Seriously, they are the best.
Thanks to everyone that's been reading along, whether the entire time or just started now! It's meant a lot that you guys have stuck around. See you next time in...Stitch Has a Glitch (Coming Oct 4th)
Thanks to NamThunder for favoriting!