El glanced up from her laptop at the sound of a key in the lock, and a few seconds later, Neal staggered in, kicked off his shoes and collapsed onto the couch with a dramatic groan.
El saved the proposal she was working on and went over to say hi.
"Remind me why I thought this was a good idea," said Neal. He reached for the tub of coconut butter on the coffee table, but couldn't quite get there.
El twisted the lid off and passed it to him. "You saw John Varvatos's new range of paternity shirts and went all clucky." She sat down beside him, dipped her fingers in the butter and waited while he unbuttoned his shirt so she could rub his full belly. "Not long now."
Neal closed his eyes. "I'm trying not to think about that."
"Sorry," said El, trying not to grin. She kissed him. "I'll put the tea on. I suppose Peter's working late again?"
"You suppose right," said Neal, without opening his eyes. "He has a stack of reports due on Friday, and when I left, he muttered something about having four mouths to feed."
Neal woke up on the floor in a cloud of smoke. It was thinning, which was just as well, because he felt really weird.
"What just happened?" said a voice.
"Moz?" It had to be Moz. He was the only one who'd been there before the—whatever it was—but it didn't sound like him.
"Who do you think?" A shape loomed in the smoke, and— "Oh."
Neal blinked up at himself, speechless.
"Oh," said the other Neal. "Oh my God, I read about this in Paranoia Magazine. The military has been developing this technology so they can infiltrate terrorist cells." He pulled a face and stuck his tongue out. "Your mouth tastes weird."
"It does not!" said Neal, and struggled to his two-sizes-smaller feet, where he swayed while he got his bearings. He was in Mozzie's body. It felt tight and congested. "Come on, Moz, focus. What just happened? How do we fix it?"
"I don't know," said Moz. "I bet your friend at the FBI could figure it out."
"The FBI," said Neal. "Peter. Oh God."
His cellphone rang, right on cue. Mozzie's eyes widened in panic, but Neal shoved it into his hand. "Pretend you're me."
Mozz answered the phone. "I'll be right down. I just have to, uh, change my tie." He frowned. "Okay, okay, I'll keep the puce. Fine. Jeez." He hung up. "The Suit's a little touchy this morning. Are you sure—?"
"Come on," said Neal, grabbing his arm.
"Wait, you're coming with me? What? No!" said Moz, struggling as Neal dragged him downstairs. "No, my body does not go to the FBI. My soul might be trapped in servitude and restraints, but you keep my body—and my fingerprints—well out of this!"
El smiled a welcome at Neal as he skirted the dance floor toward her. "Elizabeth, you look amazing," he said when he reached her side. "Really. Has your husband seen you in that dress? Why isn't he here? Doesn't he realize every red-blooded male from here to the Hudson will be lining up to dance with you?"
"My husband is a very busy man," said El, mock-sighing. Then she gave him a soft smile. "It was so kind of June to leave me all of her gorgeous vintage clothes in her Will."
"Well, it seems only fair that Bryon's and June's clothes get to dance together, at least one more time," said Neal, taking her hand. He led her out onto the dance floor, and she went willingly, glad to have a dance partner as accomplished as Neal. The music seemed to shimmer through them and the lights went dim.
El felt woozy and distant, and the next thing she knew, she was floating up and up, looking down from the ceiling, watching herself dancing with Neal Caffrey—and they were dancing wonderfully. El was sure she didn't know half of those steps. She watched in disbelief as they twirled around, their gazes locked, looking like entrants in a ballroom dancing competition.
She couldn't feel Neal's arms or even her own feet, just the music pulsing through her and the sweetness of incense—more a feel than a scent. The aerial view of her and Neal dancing was mesmerising, even more so when the music swirled to a close and their faces came together. Their mouths.
El gasped. What would Peter say? And found she was right back in her body, in Neal's arms, gasping against his mouth.
Peter dropped his gun and ran forward. He tore open Fowler's shirt, expecting to see blood everywhere, ready to do first aid, whatever it would take to keep the man alive, but instead he saw two bullets embedded in Kevlar. Fowler was purple in the face, struggling for air.
"How did you know he was wearing a vest?" asked Diana.
"I didn't," said Peter, shaky with relief. He grasped the back of Fowler's neck and pushed him forward so he could get some air. "Breathe, Fowler! Breath!"
Something muscular coiled around his wrist. He tugged, but couldn't get free.
"What is that?" said Diana, reaching for her gun.
Peter looked down, and there was a coil—a thick, vegetative tendril snaking out toward her, too. She shot at it, the bullet sparking off the concrete floor, but either she missed or it was incredibly tough. It twined around her ankle.
Fowler stood up, looking furious. More vines—no, not vines, tentacles—were squirming under his vest like a nest of boa constrictors. "Now look what you made me do!" he yelled, hoarsely.
Peter forgot about Neal entirely. "What are you?"
Peter landed on the roof of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral and beat his wings slowly to keep his balance. Neal dropped easily down next to him and grinned. "Pretty amazing, huh?"
Peter was breathing hard, his shirt dark with sweat. He wiped his face on his sleeve and glanced across at Neal. "It almost makes up for you infecting me," he said, "though God knows what El's going to say when she gets back from her sister's."
Neal looked away, out across the city to the sea, where you could fly for hours and hours with no land in sight. "You could pass it on to her." He shrugged, his wings creating a gust that nearly knocked Peter off his feet. Neal grabbed his arm to steady him. "We could be a flock."