Author's Note/Dislaimer: Here's another Happy Feet short that I took some time with, but now I have a better excuse. I was working on the illustration, which you can see in much better detail in my deviantart gallery. The concept here is nothing really new for me, since I've played out this scenario in other fandoms before, but I am a bit surprised no one's tried it yet here. There's a bit of an Easter Egg here for people who know about what Mumble was originally supposed to look like and also a heartsong for him that, I think, makes sense.
I do not own Happy Feet, which is under Warner Brother Entertainment and Village Roadshow in association with Animal Logic. I also don't own Mumble, Gloria or anything else about the films. Finally, I do not own the songs Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind, and Fire or I Wish by Stevie Wonder. I own basically nothing.
A Sweet Serenade
The sunset reflecting off the pack ice in Emperorland was bright orange. Romance was in the air. Among all the eligible bachelor and bachelorette penguins desperately practicing and singing out their heartsongs that evening, one penguin was particularly nervous. His mature, black feathers bristled in the breeze, and he balanced on one foot, then the other, breathing and concentrating on what he heard deep inside, just as he had been taught all his life. Today, however, he was listening even harder for her song.
Her song was the biggest reason for his nervousness. Even with his years of practice, his tiny struggles with pitch, and the many praises he had earned from peers and his ma and pa, her voice was just perfect. He could remember how in Penguin Elementary, when she had started to sing, he was hypnotized. Every penguin surely felt the same way he did when she sang, but to him–even at times when she didn't sing at all–she was…well, she was so much more.
A funny fact about her was that she could pick up seemingly any tune, but somehow she had never found her full heartsong. The first verses would come out fine, even with flare, but the chorus just wouldn't come. Something was missing. For someone with her unquestionable talent, it was unusual. It meant that some lucky penguin would be the one to unlock her song or give her an even better song to sing.
Needless to say, he was glad that he knew his song by heart. But was it enough? They had always been close friends, but she probably thought of him only in that way–as a friend. They had known each other as the youngest of children. He couldn't remember that far back of course, but she might well have been the first thing he saw after hatching. His father told him once that she had even given him his name.
"Hey, Blue Eyes," cooed a soft voice from behind him. A female penguin–pretty, but not as much as her–winked at him.
He chuckled softly. She was not the first female to try to get his attention today. He hated to sound cocky, but he had more than a few admirers. He could choose from a large group of fine girls, nothing wrong with them, and be happy. Perhaps this was a pointless shot.
Still, his heart turned him back to his main focus. She had a whole penguin population to choose from, but he still had a chance too, didn't he?
"Midnight creeps so slowly
"Into hearts of those
"Who need more than they get…"
He had heard her song many times before, but it had never sent his heart into a hammering frenzy like it was now. He turned to the direction the fantastic voice was coming from, searching for her through the many black and white forms.
"Daylight deals a bad hand
"To a penguin
"Who has laid too many bets…"
Promptly, there she was. From out her blue and pink beak came the beautiful notes and words he loved so much. He heard songs from the other males trying to get her attention for sure, but he only watched her. She shook her head at each bachelor as she walked by.
"The mirror stares you in the face,
"And says, 'Baby, uh-uh, it don't work.'"
His feet shuffled. No dancing. Not here. This was all about singing, and her continual rebuttal of equally-talented bachelors made his confidence shrink.
"You say your prayers,
"Though you don't care…"
This was it. Make or break. She had never finished her song past this, and no other male had helped her finish it yet. She might hate him, or at least tell him that they were just friends, but he had to try for that slim chance. Pushing through the crowd and landing on two light feet, he finally caught her attention.
She stared at him. He was afraid of what she would say next, so he decided it was better to just start singing. He closed his eyes before practically belting out,
"Looking back on when I
"Was a little nappy-headed boy.
"Back then my only worry
"Was for Christmas. What would be my toy?
"Even though we sometimes
"Would not get a thing,
"We were happy with
"The joy the day would bring…"
He decided to open his eyes at the end of his performance, braving her reaction.
She stood very still, not reacting. For a moment, he was sure she would turn to the other males again. Then, slowly, the corners of her beak began to curve into a smile. And that smile only grew wider and wider from there. As if things could get any better, she then proceeded to take a deep breath and sing back to him.
"I wish those days would
"Come back once more.
"Oh-oh-oh," she sang beautifully.
He almost forgot to breath, let alone sing, but he managed to choke back,
"Why did those days
"Oh-oh have to go…"
As he sang, his feet brought him closer to her. He was amazed–elated even–that this was happening. She was singing to him! It wasn't her song she found, but she had fallen in love with his! A part of him told him that this was some kind of delusion, but another part of him could only focus on her.
They circled closer and closer until their beaks were nearly touching. In the sunset, her fiery eyes seemed to burn through him, but in a warm and good way. He wondered if his strangely-colored eyes could do the same to her. Then, almost magically, they crooned together,
"Why did those days ever have to go?
"Oh-oh-I love, I love them so.
"I love you so."
And as the fine-singing Emperor male finally touched his beak to hers', the sun vanished behind them. All the penguins around them seemed to sigh in approval. Finally, it seemed, everything was perfect in his life.
Then, suddenly, something stirred inside him. One of his feet tapped the ground, then the other, and soon he was tapping all around her. He had just let the impulse take over. He could feel the stares of disapproval shooting through his feathers from all around him, but it was her shock that tore him apart.
"Oh Mumble–I thought…" she started.
"Gloria!" he croaked, losing his confidence.
She grimaced and began to back away. "Baby, it don't work…"
She had spoken part of her glorious song, and it just killed him. But he couldn't help his happy feet. He never could…
The young penguin awoke with a gasp. His parents were nearby, sleeping close together in the cold air. No sunset, no flash mob, no mating season. It was just another lonely night with his folks. His feathers were still gray and downy and he was still shorter than his dream self. Nevertheless, he wanted to believe it had happened.
Only one test would truly assure him that he was the same fuzzball of a penguin. He tried ever so quietly to sing the song that he heard in his mind. All that came of it was a hideous cracking sound that would disturb any neighbors who heard it.
He sighed. It had all been a dream of how things might have been…again. He was still a half-penguin and Gloria was still the star of the colony. With graduation on the horizon, his insecurities dragged him down and his already terrible chances with her dwindled. All he had was a dream that never would be and happy feet that did him no good.