And here's the final chapter! Hope it's been a worthwhile read. The book mentioned in this chapter is real, it's by Joanne Herman. Research is good. I hope this story hasn't come across as too preachy, and that I've done sufficient research to make it work (obviously if there was something big I didn't know about, I wouldn't realise because I wouldn't know about that thing, aheh). Thanks to all my reviewers, and I hope I've managed to make you think a little as well as entertaining you. Go forth and be excellent to each other!
Naturally, the first thing Julien did upon being officially back was to declare the celebratory party started. Despite his injuries, he partied as hard as he ever had; at first out of determination to feel normal again, but when everyone greeted him and treated him as they had before the incident, that determination changed to sheer joy.
"Ah, the prodigal returns!" Mason and Phil took turns to shake Julien's paw. "Oh, when we heard you were back, Phil and I sneaked out briefly-"
"You left the zoo without permission?" Skipper snapped, popping up suddenly behind the chimps.
Mason jumped. "Goodness, where did you come from? Ahem. Anyway, Phil thought it would be a good idea to drop into a bookshop in hopes of picking up further information about your condition, and we found this, which seems to cover it pretty well." He held up a book. "Phil and I are willing to translate it for anyone who's interested, we thought it might help avoid further misunderstandings. What's the title again, Phil? ..." Mason watched as Phil signed. "It's called 'Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not'."
Julien peered at the book. "Uh ... I am, but can I still listen to it? There is still a lot I am not knowing about it."
"Good idea, but perhaps we should save it for later. No sense in bringing down the mood of this delightful party, eh?"
"Oh, indeed no!" Julien pranced off, seizing a paper flower garland from the wall as he did. The penguins, who were sitting in a row and drinking smoothies, were very surprised to find the garland dropping onto their heads. Julien danced past them, laughing.
Private waved to him as he disentangled himself. "Seems like he's happy again."
"So she is- I mean HE is!" Kowalski slapped his forehead. "I'm sorry, Maurice, I really am trying. I guess I'll forget about it eventually, I mean we have been calling him 'he' since we've known him so going back to that should be easy ..."
"It's okay, I know it'll still take a bit of getting used to. Will for us as well. Up till this whole business, being here was probably good for him. I know you couldn't tell the difference till he told you, but to other lemurs, he couldn't hope to pass. Sure, other lemurs don't actually care, since he's the king and all, but he liked being around people who didn't notice, y'know?" Maurice watched the dancing ringtail with a wistful look in his eyes. "You know the bit I struggled with most? By lemur standards, he'd have made a pretty fine-looking woman."
Private blinked, and said "That's surprisingly depressing."
"Eh, it's no big deal anymore. I'm used to him," Maurice said with a shrug. "And hey, at least now everyone knows, I don't have to come up with a cover story for his heat period."
"His wha- oh." Skipper stared. "Thank you, Maurice, I think I may need to scrub my brain now. Preferably with fire."
Maurice rolled his eyes and took the tray of smoothies to the tables. He narrowly avoided tripping over the ducklings; Julien had joined Eggy, and both of them were teaching the rest of the little flock to dance. Maurice noticed the pink flower lodged in the little duck's headfeathers. Momma Duck was perched upon a table alongside Marlene, engaged in lively conversation.
"-and he- oh, hello, Maurice! May I have a smoothie?"
"Sure, here you go. Geez, what are you feeding that kid? I'm exhausted just watching him," said Maurice, climbing up the chair and handing Momma Duck a smoothie.
"I know, I don't know how he does it," she chuckled. "Ooh, strawberry. Thank you."
"Momma, look!" Eggy called up, pointing to the pink flower on his head. "I'm Princess Eglantina!"
Maurice looked curiously at Momma Duck. "I thought you didn't want Julien confusing him."
"Well, it took a little getting used to," said Momma Duck with a shrug, "but I don't see how it's doing him any harm, so I think I was really making a fuss over nothing. He seems happy, and it's certainly much safer than commando operations."
"Okay, I'll leave you to it. Sorry for interrupting," said Maurice, hopping back off the chair.
"Oh, it's okay!" said Marlene, waving. "See you later." She turned back to Momma Duck and said "So, who's this Antonio guy you were talking about?"
Julien laughed and waved to Momma Duck and Marlene as he continued to dance. "Your momma is being cool again, yes?"
"Haha, yeah!" Eggy giggled, dropping into his imitation of Julien's accent. "It is very good to be the seeing of you again, sir!"
Julien scooped up and hugged the little duck. "Good to be seeing you again, too, JJ ... I mean, Eggy."
"Yes, your majesty?"
Julien peeled the sleeping Mort off his feet and squirmed into a more comfortable position on the bouncy. "What would my parents think of me?"
"You knew my parents a little longer than I did. What would they think of me?" Julien sighed. "Mommy would be angry about losing the female heir, Papa would miss his little princess ..."
"Now, Julien, I'm not gonna have you getting miserable about this again," Maurice warned him. "Yeah, I can't deny your parents would have been surprised, but they'd want you to be happy, yeah?"
Julien smiled. "Yeah." He huddled up to Maurice and started to purr quietly, proudly combing his tail with his new spurs.
Julien and Maurice jumped as Skipper popped up beside them. "Huh? Bossy penguin?"
"Are you still mad, Ringtail? I got worried when I realised you hadn't turned on the noisemaker."
"Ah, no, not mad. Just tired." Julien yawned. "Crying for three days really takes it out of me."
"Okay, just checking. So we're good? No hard feelings?"
"Yeah, we're good, pengui- Skipper." Julien lay back and smiled up at the clouds. "Maybe things aren't as good as they could be. But they're good enough."