Author's Note/Disclaimer: I really have no excuse for taking this long to re-post this story, everyone. The reason I took it down was because of a stat glitch in the system that was screwing up my traffic. Then, after reading through it a couple of times, I realized I had a few problems with it. There were some dialog tweaks I had to make to better suit the universe of Happy Feet. Then I got artist's block and was basically in a bubble of low self-esteem while finishing up my last semester at my junior college. Now I'm off to a new mess at university. Let's hope I can keep my bad-idea bubble popped for a while and post some more stuff!
I wrote this short originally three years ago, when I was still in high school and before Happy Feet Two ever existed. Brittany Murphy hadn't been gone for more than a year and I felt I should write a tribute to her as I came up with the concept for this. As such, bear in mind that there's a non-canon original character in here that's basically a replacement of Erik. I don't hate the canon kid, but this is a re-post, and it was an idea then. So there.
I do not own Happy Feet, Gloria, Mumble, or any other references to things I didn't create. So no, I don't own Antarctica either, obviously. I just write fanfiction. Thanks for reading!
Following and Following
The ocean was like a giant magnet to Emperorland. Fishing and swimming were part of the penguins' daily lives–both functions that required the ocean. Though it took a long time for a penguin to graduate and be able to go out for his or her first swim, every single penguin's heart yearned for the water, and the little penguins were no exception.
Penguin Elementary classes would go out for a field trip to the ice's edge, and it was time for Ms. Sack's class to go. Little Chloe Happyfeet was one of many penguin chicks that went to this class to learn the basics of penguin life and work on her heartsong. While Chloe found penguin basics often boring, they were coming along a lot better than her heartsong was. She still hadn't found that right tune or tapping beat yet, even though she knew how to sing and dance well enough.
She skated along the ice in the back of the line of young penguins, all thrilled to finally see the ocean beyond the nesting grounds.
Todd, Chloe's good friend, waddled up next to her. "Are you excited?" he asked.
"Am I?" she yelped back, "It's gonna' be so fun! Maybe Miss Sacks'll let us dip our feet in the water."
"Yo, I doubt it," said a bigger penguin chick. "We're too small to swim."
"But we won't be swimmin.' Just putting our feet in the water," Chloe argued.
"I still doubt it," the big chick said and waddled with the rest of the group, leaving Todd and Chloe alone in the back.
"Don't listen to anything Lil' S says," Todd told her. "Ya' never know."
Chloe smiled at her friend who always provided consolation when she felt insecure. Suddenly, the line stopped moving and the teacher cleared her throat. Chloe twirled around on the ice in anticipation before trying to peek around the crowd of classmates who were all making "oohs" and "ahhs". It took a shove or two until she finally saw it.
The blue waves were lapping up to the ice ledge like butterfly kisses on soft skin while the sunlight made a golden crest on the distant water's surface. It was the most beautiful thing Chloe had ever seen.
Ms. Sacks smiled. "Now, listen up. The ocean water is different from the kind that falls from the sky. It's salty. No one knows why the Great Guin put salt in the water, but here it is."
The baby penguins looked at the water for a while longer. Then one little penguin shouted, "I see something moving under the ice!"
The teacher paused as the little penguins huddled around her in case it was a predator. She chuckled and said, "Don't worry, my dears. Below our feet, the mom and dad penguins are all fishing."
"Brr! Won't they get cold?" asked one penguin.
"Oh no. The water is actually warmer than the air. If you could only feel it, you'd see what I mean." Chloe raised a flipper and the teacher paused. "Yes, Chloe?"
"Can we dip a foot in, Miss Sacks?" Chloe asked. "We won't be swimming."
"Oh, no, no, no," replied the teacher, shaking her head. "If you made one slip, you'd sink right to the bottom, and your feathers aren't ready for swimming just yet."
Chloe grew a disappointed smirk and looked down at her tiny feet. She wanted so badly to prove that she wouldn't make that mistake, but the teacher wouldn't let her. Todd patted her back with a flipper.
"Now kids, I'll take you to a nice ledge where we can all look out over the ocean in safety. Don't doddle please, and follow me," Ms. Sacks concluded and the line began to follow her.
Chloe stayed put, still looking sadly at her toes.
"Come on, Chloe," pleaded Todd, "I don't wanna' go alone."
"I'm comin'," she replied sadly, still not moving a muscle as the class went on without her. She looked longingly at the water.
Just one step closer couldn't hurt, she thought.
One step led to two steps and so on until she was right at the ice's edge. She stared into the deep blue that continued on endlessly below, smiling.
It couldn't hurt to dip just one foot in, she supposed, checking over her shoulder to see if anyone was looking. There was nothing to worry about. The class was pretty far away now. Feeling downright daring, she touched a toe to the water's surface. Ms. Sacks had been right. The water was warmer than the ice! With a giggle, she leaned over and reached her foot just a bit further over the edge until it was fully submerged…
It was only when the water splashed in her eyes and her vision blurred in the salt water that she recognized her mistake.
Chloe's tiny flippers flapped in the water. Her head broke the water's surface as she gasped for breath once, twice, then sunk back down. Struggling with all her might, the great water still drew her downward. Her feathers felt as heavy as lead.
With great struggle, she managed to surface once again and cried, "Help! Help!"
Through her blurry, stinging eyes, Chloe couldn't see any possible rescuer. The class couldn't hear her by now. Distant shadows of penguins swam underneath the water's surface, but Chloe could hardly find the voice to speak to them.
"Help me…" she croaked. She struggled once more to resurface, but failed…
Some of the swimming penguins noticed the unusual movement underneath the ice and wondered what was going on.
"Look over there," said one female. "What is it?"
"I dunno," replied a male, "But something's sinking fast."
"-Ey, Gloria," said another female to her friend, "Look over there. Isn't that funny looking?"
Gloria gave up her pursuit of a fat silver fish and looked closely at the sinking shadow. "Yeah…" she muttered, swimming forward with a strange instinct, "Maybe it needs help."
"Or maybe it's a drowning skua," someone muttered.
"I'd leave it alone if I were you," added another penguin's voice.
But Gloria swam after the shadow anyway. She just knew that she had to in every fiber of her being. The two penguins that had been talking to her followed, pleading for her to wait up.
Before long, Gloria and the others were near the sinking shape. It was still difficult to see, but it almost looked like a penguin. The more the group neared it, the more they all were sure that it was a penguin–a young penguin.
"It's a kid!" squawked the male penguin, swimming down fast after the baby penguin. Gloria and the other female followed him. He was a few feet away from the baby when he recognized who the chick was and almost gasped. "Gloria…" he started.
"What?" Gloria asked before she caught a look at the chick. She was already panicking before she realized that the chick was her own, but when she did figure that out, her world stopped for a second.
"Oh, baby!" she yelped, and snatched up the limp chick in her beak while holding on with her flippers as best she could.
As Gloria swam upward, tiny bubbles came out of Chloe's beak. When they broke the surface, Gloria flopped her daughter onto the ice shelf before porpoising out of the water after her. She nudged her drenched baby with her beak, hoping to force the water out of her lungs.
"Baby, come on," Gloria barely breathed, "Your mama's here, baby. It's okay."
The two other penguins began to surface and joined her on the ice. They chattered with worry: "Is she okay?" "Gloria?"
But Gloria paid no attention to them. She was only listening for a sound from her child, who remained still.
Then, just when all seemed deathly silent, a gurgling sound came from Chloe's throat. With a small struggle, the young penguin coughed up some water and bile, then opened up her weary eyes. She attempted to speak, but her voice didn't come out because of the water still in her windpipe. After a few seconds of adjustment, she began to shiver in the cold air.
"She's okay!" declared the male penguin.
"Thank 'Guin!" shouted the other with a grin.
Gloria, however, was instantly sterner. "Get under here," she said, lifting her brood feathers and making a compartment of sorts for her daughter.
Chloe obeyed and crawled onto her mother's feet before a wall of damp, white feathers surrounded her. She shook all over and her beak chattered. Gloria was so upset that she didn't acknowledge her friends as she waddled back to the colony. Chloe knew that she was in big trouble.
Ms. Sacks was waiting with the rest of the class not far away, more than flustered. She apologized repeatedly for losing track of Chloe. Gloria listened carefully to the teacher's story. She was once a voice teacher as well, and upon hearing Ms. Sack's story, Gloria told her that she had no hard feelings about the incident. She also told Ms. Sacks that Chloe had to be taught a lesson, and Chloe was more than a little worried at that thought.
Just before Chloe's suppertime, Gloria walked out to an isolated snow bank with Chloe plodding along behind her. The young penguin was still pulling water out of her downy feathers more than three hours after the fact. Gloria had not spoken a word to her daughter since the rescue, and she still had a very stern expression on her face.
With a sigh, Gloria finally spoke. "Chloe, what were you doing out there today, baby?"
"I-I don't know…" the young penguin stuttered.
"You could have drowned out there, young penguin! Didn't you hear your teacher tell you that you weren't old enough to swim?"
Chloe choked up, feeling small. "I knew that, Mama, but I…I thought I could get a little closer to the water."
"A little can make a big difference, Chloe," Gloria said. "Curiosity sunk the skua."
"What does that mean?" Chloe asked.
"It means that sometimes curiosity can get you into trouble. If you had followed the group, you wouldn't have gotten into trouble."
"But you said I shouldn't follow, Mama."
Gloria opened her eyes wide before shutting them in understanding. She paused before saying, "Baby, sometimes I tell you things you always have to listen to, like… fish is food and no complainin'. Then there are things I tell you to think about for yourself. When I told you not to follow, I really meant that if you believe in something with all your heart, you've gotta' go through with it, and no one can tell you that you're wrong." She paused and added, "Think like your daddy. He never let anyone that said he was crazy get to him. It took a lot of work, but he's a hero because of what he believed in and did for all of us."
Chloe thought about that briefly. "You didn't follow either, did you, Mama?"
Gloria frowned. "Well, let's just say that I was never as strong a penguin as your daddy." She leaned over then and looked into her daughter's eyes. "But baby, not following doesn't mean that you should be a fool."
Chloe bowed her head and sighed. "I'm sorry, Mama."
"Have you learned your lesson?"
Chloe nodded and Gloria smiled back.
"As long as you know the difference between following and following, then you're fine," the mother penguin said.
Chloe smiled back at her mother. The two penguins nuzzled their beaks together before waddling back to the colony. Chloe ate her supper and quickly fell asleep, exhausted from the day.
Later on, Gloria explained the events of the day to Mumble, who had been working with his fledgling dance class all day. He was, needless to say, shocked that such a thing could have happened to their daughter.
"I'll talk to her in the morning when she wakes up," Mumble said, nervously shuffling his feet.
"No, Mumble," Gloria interjected. "I think that Chloe's learned her lesson. She won't want to listen to someone telling her what she did wrong again."
Mumble paused, trying to understand his mate. "So what should I do then?"
Gloria smiled at Mumble and nudged his beak. "Just know that she's a lot like you, in both the good and bad ways."
Mumble smirked, but afterward chuckled in defeat. He looked into his mate's beautiful brown-red eyes that lit a small fire in his dancing soul, and smiled. "Well, if she does take after me, at least we've both got you."
For Brittany Murphy