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A Little Hope for Their Future

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When a case came up involving a biotech lab suspected of falsifying grant applications and bilking the government out of millions, Neal pushed Peter hard to investigate. It was a welcome change from all of the financial and mortgage frauds that had crossed their desks lately.

The team of Caffrey and Burke spent the afternoon speaking with the staff and gathering evidence. They'd gotten separated briefly when Neal had seen an interesting design on a computer screen, which had turned out to be a retrovirus at a very microscopic level. There was a natural beauty to it that made him want to paint it, and he snapped a quick cell phone picture before he was caught by one of the scientists, who introduced herself as Shelly Bonham.

Shelly enthusiastically showed him her research and the area where she was housing the retrovirus, which was being engineered to reverse aging. She and her assistant Steve had just finished injecting it into several of her lab rats and was excited to see what the results would be. When they parted company so that Neal could catch back up to Peter, she'd sneezed on him, but neither thought much of it.

That night, Neal stayed with the Burkes, and the three of them spent hours pleasuring each other, bringing each other to the brink only to tease him or her with release. They were sated but exhausted by the time they fell asleep in a tangle of limbs.

When Neal woke in the early hours of the morning, sandwiched between Peter and Elizabeth, he shifted uncomfortably and wondered why his body ached and his head felt fuzzy, like it did when he had a fever. As soon as that thought occurred him, he shivered and groaned. He was getting sick. Great, just great.

Without bothering to open his eyes much, he wiggled out of bed, pulled on the first pair of pajama pants he found, and padded into the bathroom to empty his bladder and then get the thermometer so he'd know how bad it was before he had to come clean to Peter and Elizabeth.

He reached into his pajama pants and grasped nothing but pubic hair and air. His eyes shot open and he jerked his pants down to find that his penis was actually missing, as in not there, as in totally gone. He couldn't help it; he screamed.

Peter and Elizabeth suddenly appeared at the bathroom door, and Peter slapped the switch on the wall until the lights came on. "What's it? What's going--"

"Something's… I'm… I don't…" Neal stuttered until he caught sight of himself in the mirror. He was more than half naked, so it was easy to see his generous, shapely breasts and curvaceous hips. His wavy brunette hair now framed a round face with softer features. When he met his own large blue eyes in the mirror, he promptly fainted dead away.

When Neal came to, he was lying on Peter and Elizabeth's bed, tucked under the covers. He hoped that his last memories had actually been a dream but a quick peek under the sheets denied him the hope. He still had boobs, and, to make matters worse, they were tender to the touch. He wondered if that was common. Elizabeth didn't seem to always have sore breasts, but sometimes it was clear that she didn't want anyone to touch them.

"Hey there." Elizabeth's voice came from his right, and he looked over to see that she'd pulled a chair up to that side of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

Neal didn't have an answer for that. Instead, he shivered and tried to pull the sheet up over his head.

"C'mon, honey," Elizabeth said as she reached out to prevent him from hiding. "Talk to me."

"I feel…" he trailed off when he heard his voice, which was a higher pitch than normal. He frowned and rubbed his hands over his face. "This is a dream, right? It has to be a dream."

"Actually, Peter's talking to that biotech company that you guys investigated yesterday, and a couple of their research scientists were admitted to the hospital early this morning. One turned from a man to a woman and one from a woman to a man. They were both rushed to the emergency room for high fevers in addition to the other… thing."

"Were they Shelly and Steve?" When Elizabeth nodded, Neal sighed. "She sneezed on me yesterday after she'd been working with a retrovirus. She told me that it was supposed to reverse aging, not do this."

"Looks like someone got their calculations wrong." Elizabeth smoothed his hair out of his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. "Just rest. Peter's trying to figure out what we can do to fix this, but for now, you have a fever that we need to keep an eye on."

Neal tried to relax, but it was very difficult when he felt like he was in someone else's body. The weight of the breasts felt weird, almost suffocating, and everything ached in a way that he'd never experienced before. Maybe it was the transformation or whatever had happened, or maybe this was just how women felt. It would certainly explain some of their behavior at times, especially Diana's.

After much discussion with the biotech company and four doctors, no one knew quite how Neal or Shelly or Steve had sex-swapped, and no one knew how to fix it. There were several scientists and doctors working on the problem, but for the moment, Neal had to adapt to being a woman, which included a very awkward shopping spree for new suits and, to his horror, underwear.

It took him a few days to work up the nerve to tell Mozzie, but the older man's contacts in the less legal parts of the science industry could be handy. In the end, it was a conversation that led to a face-to-face meeting that led to Mozzie cursing Peter and promising to find a cure for Neal before he disappeared into the night. Neal hoped he could make good on that promise.

The first month wasn't too bad. He got an even crazier amount of attention than he had as a man, and Neal wasn't too humble to say that he was a good-looking man. Apparently, he was an even better looking woman. The first week at the office had been awkward, but Peter wouldn't tolerate any derogatory or other comments about Neal, and everyone eventually grew used to the change.

Around week six, Neal started to feel sick in the evenings, but not at any other time. After a few days of this, Elizabeth took his hand and led him into the bathroom while Peter was out walking Satchmo one night.

"How are you feeling?" Elizabeth asked as she scrutinized Neal's face.

He was tired, and he was sure that he looked it. "Couldn't you have asked me this in the living room?"

"It's just that I've noticed a few things over the last week, and I think that maybe…" Elizabeth blushed and Neal had a bad feeling about whatever it was she was trying to say.

"What is it?"

"Well, honey," she said as she handed over a box, "I think you should take a pregnancy test."

"What? No, no, no." Neal shook his head and tried to hand the box back to her. "That's not necessary. There's no way that I’m pregnant. None of us have had sex since this happened." It was a sore point between them, but it had been meant to keep something like that from happening.

"Have you had a period? It's been six weeks, Neal."

"Elizabeth!" He blushed and looked away.

"Honey, you were examined by four doctors, and they all said that you were, for all intents and purposes, a woman right now."

"This is ridiculous." Neal sighed.

"For each of our peace of minds, would you please take it?"

He tried to stare her down but she wasn't backing away, so he shooed her out of the room so that he could pee in peace. He still wasn't used to having to sit down to do it, but it was what it was.

When he was done, he set the test on the bathroom vanity and went out into the bedroom with El. They lay on the bed together and watched a cooking program until El's phone alarm dinged. Then, they held hands as they made their way into the bathroom to see what the test said.

"I can't look." Neal stepped back to the doorway. "What's it say?"

Elizabeth took a deep breath and checked the strip of plastic. "Oh, honey. It's positive."

Neal paled and he pushed past her so that he could drop to his knees in front of the toilet and throw up his dinner. He felt Elizabeth pull his hair back away from his face and then rub his back until he quieted.

"This cannot be happening," Neal whispered.

Elizabeth held him until Peter found them in the bathroom and asked, "What's going on?"

Neal immediately burst into tears and buried his face in Elizabeth's shoulder. He sobbed against her for what felt like hours until Peter gently pried him away and helped him into the bedroom where the three of them lay on the bed together until he calmed down.

"Will one of you please tell me what's going on?" Peter asked gently.

Elizabeth looked at Neal, and he took a deep breath before responding, "I took a test."

"What kind of test?" Peter prompted when he stopped there.

"A pregnancy test."

He felt Peter's body tense behind him and squeezed his eyes shut against more tears.

"But we haven't…"

"It must have been the night that Neal transformed," Elizabeth said. "That's the only explanation that I can think of. We were kind of crazy that night."

Peter's body started to relax against Neal's back, and he squeezed his arms more firmly around Neal's body. "We'll get you in to see one of the doctors tomorrow and see what's going on. It could be a false positive. El and I had those before."

Neal sniffed back his silent tears and looked over to meet Elizabeth's eyes. "You have?"

She nodded and held him close. "You need to see a doctor before any of us can freak out. It could be nothing."

"Okay, sure," Neal said, but he was already worried.

After a pretty sleepless night, Peter drove the three of them to see one of the doctors that had initially examined Neal. Dr. Babcock had agreed to see them on short notice and her nurse immediately ushered them back to an exam room.

The nurse gave Neal a gown, and they all gave him privacy to change into it. Then, she took a vial of blood and asked Neal to provide a urine sample as well before the doctor met with them.

"Hello everyone," Dr. Babcock greeted when she finally entered the room. "Neal, how are you doing?"

"Honestly, I'd just really like to know that I'm not pregnant, Doctor." Neal fidgeted nervously on the exam table while the doctor flipped through her chart.

"Well, your urine test came back positive, and I've put a rush on the blood test, so the lab should have those back to us within the next four hours or so."

"Four hours?" Neal's eyes almost popped out of his head. "Please tell me you're joking."

"I'm sorry, but a blood test takes time. There's a couple more things that I can do."

"Please. Anything." Neal wasn't above begging at this point. He really, really needed to know as soon as possible what was going on inside his body, if anything.

"Will you lay back on the table for me?" Dr. Babcock asked as she donned a pair of latex gloves and adjusted the stirrups that were attached to the exam table.

"You're not going to—" He gulped and squeezed his legs together.

Dr. Babcock patted his knee and smiled at him. "I'll be gentle, I promise. Now lay back and put your feet in the stirrups."

"I'm just going to-" Peter was out the door before he even finished the sentence.

Elizabeth chuckled at her husband's reaction, but quickly turned her attention back to Neal. He gulped and she reached over to take his hand. "Try to relax, Neal. It'll be more comfortable if you relax."

"How am I supposed to relax?"

"Think about the Met. Didn't you say there was a Monet there that you liked?"

"A Matisse," Neal corrected as he cautiously lay back and lifted his feet into the stirrups. He tensed when the doctor touched his inner thigh, but Elizabeth was quick to distract him.

"Near the fire exit, right? Tell me about it."

Neal described the painting in great detail while the doctor performed her exam. When she was done, she disposed of the gloves, draped a sheet over Neal's legs, and pulled a machine from the corner of the room to beside the bed.

"Lift your gown up for me, please, Neal."

He did as she asked while the monitor attached the machine came to life with a black and white image that he vaguely recognized. "An ultrasound?"

"Let's just see what we can see, okay?" She spread a liberal amount of cold gel across his belly and then moved the wand across it. Both Elizabeth and Neal held their breath until she tapped on the screen at a slightly darker section. "Here it is."

"What? What is it?" Neal squinted at the screen but couldn't discern one gray blob from any other slightly lighter or darker gray blob.

"This is your baby." She pressed a button and a fast ba-bump-ba-bump sound filled the room. "And that's the heartbeat."

"Oh, my God," Neal murmured, eyes fixed on the screen. He felt Elizabeth squeeze his hand, but he was lost in his head. This was way too surreal to actually be happening. First, he'd been turned into a woman without a way to be turned back into a man, and now he was pregnant. It was too much. His breathing sped up, and he pushed them away as he scrambled to get off the table and pull his gown back down. He wasn't wearing pants or underwear, which was the only reason that he wasn't out the door and halfway down the street.

"Neal, calm down," Elizabeth said, reaching for him when he got closer during his pacing.

"No, this is ridiculous, El. Ridiculous. This doesn't even make sense. How is this even happening? It's crazy, that's what it is. Crazy." Neal continued to ramble, paying no attention to their attempts at placating him, until Dr. Babcock stepped into his path, and quickly injected him with a sedative. She and Elizabeth lowered him to the floor as it took effect, and the last thing he saw was Elizabeth's concerned blue eyes watching him.

He dreamed of babies and bottles, cribs and diapers, of cradling his own swollen stomach, of watching a baby with brown hair and brown eyes grow into a young woman. Peter and Elizabeth were there with him through all of it, and he was grateful to not be alone. Eventually, the dreams faded into darkness.

When Neal woke, he was laying on the exam table. There was a warm blanket over him, and Elizabeth and Peter were each holding one of his hands.

None of them said anything as they gently helped him off the table, into his clothes, and out to the car. They were almost home when Neal broke the silence. "If someone finds a cure, I can't be turned back yet."

"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it," Peter replied from the driver's seat. He glanced at Neal in the rearview mirror and Neal held his gaze.

"Let's just get home and all try to relax," Elizabeth said, twisting in her seat to look at Neal. "Okay?"

He nodded and looked away to watch the city sights go by outside the window. There were people out there doing their everyday things – taking dogs for walks, running errands, working – while his life felt like it was coming apart at the seams. Neal had never been more envious of an old man sweeping his front stoop.

At home, they all went their separate ways. Elizabeth headed into the kitchen to make something for lunch while Peter sat down in the living room with some case files and ESPN Classic on the TV.

Neal went upstairs to the bedroom and lay down on the bed. He curled onto his side and pressed his hand to his stomach. There was a baby growing inside of him, and he felt terrible because he was torn between wanting the three of them to have this unconventional family and wanting it out of him so that he could be turned back into himself when the time came.

His cell phone buzzed in his back pocket, and he pulled it out to place it to his ear without checking the screen. "Hello?"

"Neal?"

"Hey, Moz."

"You don't sound so good. Everything okay?"

Neal didn't want to lie to Mozzie and he didn't want to tell him what was going on, so he ignored the question and asked a couple of his own. "What's going on? Did you find something?"

It took Mozzie a beat to respond, so he clearly noticed Neal's avoidance tactic. "Yes. I think we've figured out how to turn you back into Neal, but I can't get a hold of Steve and Shelly's refusing to be our test subject. Truthfully, I think she likes being a man, and I don't know that I blame her."

"You might have to put that project on hold, actually."

"What? Why?"

"I don't want to say over the phone."

"I'll come to you."

"No, please. Not tonight."

"What's going on, Neal?"

"I'm... pregnant."

There was silence on the other end for long enough that Neal wondered if Mozzie had dropped the phone and walked away. Finally, he said, "Is it the Suit's?"

"It's complicated."

"How on earth could it be complicated? You've been told about the birds and the bees, right?"

"It was the night I changed. Peter, Elizabeth and I-"

"Enough said. I can't believe this, Neal. Sex with the Suit? Are you kidding me? And now you don't want to be changed back? This is… You know what? Call me when you come to your senses."

"Mozzie!"

The only answer was the dead air of a disconnected call. Neal's emotions were all over the place, and he wanted to cry, wanted to curl up in a hole and die. Instead, he put a hand over his stomach and thought long and hard about what to do.

He was still lying there, awake, when Elizabeth crawled onto the bed and laid down on her side facing him a while later. "Are you hungry? I made soup."

"Maybe in a little while."

Her forehead creased with worry. "Are you feeling sick?"

"Just not hungry."

She pursed her lips and pressed her hand to his cheek. "Are you thinking about terminating the pregnancy?"

His eyes shifted away. The pros and cons of that decision had been weighed and measured, but he still didn't have an answer.

"If you want to do that, then it's okay, Neal. This is your body, and you're under enough stress right now. I can't say that I won't be disappointed, but I can't say that I was expecting anything like this to happen either."

"I don't want to take this away from you and Peter," he said, "but it's still so…"

"There's not a word for what this is."

"I don't know what to do," he whispered.

"You don't have to decide tonight," she said. "We can take it one day at a time."

He nodded and relaxed a fraction when she kissed his forehead. "Thank you."

They lay quietly for a few minutes before Elizabeth sat up and prodded him to do the same. "You should try to eat something. Come on. There may or may not be chocolate chip cookies in the oven."

His stomach rumbled, and they shared quiet chuckles as they made their way downstairs.

~~!!~~

Days flowed into weeks and Neal's belly slowly started to round out. He had asked to keep the news quiet, and so far, Peter and Elizabeth were abiding by his wishes.

"We're going to have to go shopping soon," Elizabeth commented when she caught Neal standing in front of the full length mirror in the bedroom with his hand over the bump. He'd just gotten out of the shower after taking Satchmo for a walk around the block. It was getting into the summer months and the humidity was out of control, so he'd rinsed off the sweat and gross feeling that came with the light exercise.

"Give me your hand," he said, taking it as soon as she held it out to him and placing it over a spot on his lower abdomen. "Do you feel it?"

Elizabeth's eyes went wide, and she grinned. "I do. What does it feel like to you?"

"Kind of like a strong fluttering. It's hard to explain. I've been able to feel it for about a week, but it's stronger today." It was nice to share this with Elizabeth, and he was actually looking forward to sharing it with Peter too.

"El, the timer's going off in the kitchen." Peter walked through the door and smiled when he saw them standing together, touching Neal's stomach.

"Shoot!" Elizabeth scurried out of the room.

Peter was still as cautious about how and when he touched Neal as he had been when Neal was first transformed. He walked closer now but kept his hands at his sides. "What's going on?"

"Come here." Neal took his hand and pressed it to the same place that he'd put Elizabeth's hand. Then he looked up and bit his lip while he waited for Peter to feel it.

Peter's whole face lit up with happiness. "Is that…?"

Neal nodded. "What do you think?"

"Feels like a soccer player." Peter harrumphed at the thought, but smiled again when the baby kicked more.

Neal was quiet for a moment and then he looked up into Peter's eyes. "Are we really going to do this?"

Peter pulled him into a hug and held him tight. They hadn't talked about it since the night Neal had told him about the pregnancy, but Peter and Elizabeth had already had many discussions about the situation. "Elizabeth and I would really like it if we did. Are you okay with that?"

Neal pulled away and took a step back. "You and Elizabeth talked about this? About me?"

Sighing, Peter moved to sit on the bed. This was going to be a long conversation. "The truth is that Elizabeth and I tried for a long time to have a baby, but it wasn't meant to be. This… this is… Neal, this is a miracle."

Anger rose in Neal’s chest and nearly choked him. He couldn't believe they'd talked about it behind his back and that Peter was now on board with it like he hadn't been afraid to touch Neal these past few months. "No, it's not. It's some cruel joke the fates are playing on us."

"You don't really believe that."

"I think I do. Why else would I have turned into a woman and gotten pregnant in the same night? It's crazy. That's what it is."

Peter pressed his lips together as he tried to think of what to say. He hadn't been the best partner recently, but he'd been concerned about the shifting dynamics of their relationships and what they would do if Neal couldn't be turned back. The baby had been a concept that he hadn't really been able to grasp until he felt it moving.

Neal stared back at him, clearly daring him to say something else. Peter noticed that Neal's hand had unconsciously moved to stroke his belly and worried about the stress this conversation was causing.

"Neal," Peter said in a gentle and patient tone of voice, "what do you want to do? Do you want to keep the baby?"

That question stopped Neal in his tracks and caused his emotions to swing abruptly. He silently cursed his hormones while he pulled on a robe and moved to stand by the window to look out at suburbia. There were people on the sidewalks, with their dogs or pushing baby strollers. There were kids playing on nearby stoops and skateboarding in the street.

"Neal?" Peter prompted after several long minutes of silence.

"Yes," Neal whispered as he turned to look at Peter, who smiled at that single word.

~~!!~~

Neal had been a very fit man, so he was able to conceal his pregnancy until the sixth month, when he woke up one morning and nothing fit. It was like he'd swallowed a balloon, the way his belly popped out.

They were still keeping it a secret from the office because that explanation would go way above and beyond any topic of conversation that Peter was willing to have with the rest of his team or even Hughes himself.

"I'm officially calling in sick," Neal told Peter as he threw his last pair of tailored women's suit pants across the room. "Nothing fits, and I look like a whale."

Elizabeth stuck her head out of the closet, where she'd been digging around for her stash of 'fatter than fat' clothes to see if anything in there might fit Neal. "Don't say that! You look great! Tell him how great he looks, Peter."

"You look great," Peter dutifully replied as he tied his tie.

"I don't feel great," Neal grumbled as he pulled on his bathrobe and sat on his favorite chair by the window.

"Okay, here's what we're going to do." Elizabeth always had a plan. "I'm canceling my afternoon meeting so that we can go shopping." She handed Neal a sundress and a pair of sandals. "Peter's going to tell the office that you're out with food poisoning, and then tonight at dinner, we'll figure out what to tell the office about what's going on. Agreed?"

Peter nodded and grabbed his briefcase as he headed out the door, but Neal was still holding the sundress out like he didn't know what to do with it. "I'm not wearing this, El."

"It'll look so cute on you, and it's loose enough to be comfortable."

"It's a dress."

"You're a girl. Suck it up. It's either that or sweatpants."

Neal looked at the dresser that housed Peter's sweatpants collection like he was genuinely considering it.

"Hey, it'll be fun," Elizabeth said. "Meet me at that cute little maternity boutique on Bleecker at one, okay?"

Neal sighed and nodded. "All right."

El grinned, kissed him on the cheek and then headed out to her morning meeting.

That afternoon, Neal discovered that no one made decent maternity suit pants. It was a market that he thought was sorely lacking, and he considered launching his own clothing design company to fill the void, but it would take too long. Instead, he bought all the dressy black maternity pants he could find and a variety of tops in muted tones. For the first time in his life, Neal wanted to not be seen or noticed. It was novel in a way that made him very uncomfortable in his skin.

It was only a matter of time until it came out at the office. Neal had tried to convince Peter to let him work from home once he started showing, but Peter hadn't been able to talk Hughes into it without telling him what was going on, and Neal was adamant that he didn't want anyone to know until the absolute last second.

A couple of weeks after the maternity clothes shopping, Neal was sitting in the conference room meeting with Peter, Jones, Diana, and the Harvard crew about an art forger that they'd been chasing for the last several days. Peter hadn't let Neal take part in any undercover assignments since the transformation, but Diana and Jones were being persistent in trying to get Peter to put Neal in undercover to catch the forger.

"This is not the type of body that warrants the attention of an international art thief," Neal said before pointing at Diana. "You should do it."

"Oh, please." Diana rolled her eyes. "That's ridiculous. Boss, it should be Caffrey."

"I agree. Caffrey's the best bet." Jones agreed with Diana.

"Let's take five, everybody." Peter rubbed his hand over his mouth and sighed. He motioned for Neal to stay back while the others filed out to refresh their coffee mugs.

Neal yawned and unconsciously put a hand over his stomach. They'd been working this case almost non-stop for the last few days, and he was tired. His stomach felt weird too. Maybe he shouldn't have had that Thai food at lunch. "What's up, Peter?"

"They're right. You're the best person to put undercover, but I'm not letting you go out into the field."

"I don’t want to go out into the field. Not like this." He worried his thumbnail and squirmed in his chair.

"You okay?"

"I think so. It's just…" he trailed off and then leaned forward, pressing both hands to his stomach as he felt a weird tension there.

"What's wrong? Neal?"

The strange pressure eased, and he sat back in his chair and waved Peter off. "I don't know. Maybe something I ate. Anyway, just tell them that you're the boss and you're sending Diana in. She has a good knowledge of Renaissance art."

"She does. You're right."

Neal grinned. It grew a little wider when the baby kicked him. He had to force himself to move his hands away from his abdomen, instead of rubbing it like he wanted to do.

The rest of the team was filing back into the room when Neal gasped and curled around his stomach again.

Everyone looked at him as Peter kneeled down beside his chair.

"Something's wrong," he whispered to Peter.

"What's going on?" Diana asked, hovering with her phone in one hand. "Do I need to call for an ambulance?"

"No, that won't be necessary." Peter forced himself to stay calm as he put a hand on Neal's shoulder. "He thinks it might be food poisoning."

"Came on awfully fast for food poisoning." Diana looked skeptical.

Neal slowly sat back up once the wave of pain ebbed. "Peter?"

"I think maybe I should take you home," Peter said. He already had a hand on Neal's elbow and was pulling him to his feet.

Neal was starting to freak out, and he wanted to get away from the prying eyes of his colleagues, so he let Peter help him up. "I think that's a good idea," he murmured.

Peter waved away offers of help from the others and told them to get back to work and have a status update for him by the time he got back to the office from dropping Neal off. Then, he helped Neal down the stairs and into his jacket.

They were only a few steps from the door when the sudden return of the pain and pressure drove Neal to his knees. Diana and Jones saw from the conference room and ran down the stairs to Neal's and Peter's sides.

"The baby, the baby," Neal was whispering, over and over, as he leaned against Peter, who had his arms wrapped around Neal.

"Go and get someone from Medical," Peter ordered Jones, who jumped to his feet and ran out the doors, bypassing the elevators for the stairs that led down to the fourteenth floor.

"Baby?" Diana mouthed at Peter. He frowned and nodded.

"C'mon, Neal, let's get you somewhere more comfortable." Peter gently moved him and slipped his arms behind Neal's knees and under his shoulders. Diana helped keep Peter steady as he stood and carried Neal up to his office and laid him down on the couch there.

Neal whimpered and kept his eyes squeezed shut throughout the movement. But by the time Peter was pulling a blanket over him, the pain was receding and he was feeling better physically.

"Diana, would you go send the Harvard crew home? Tell them that we'll pick this up in the morning."

She nodded and did as she was told. She even followed them downstairs to the bullpen and practically shooed them out the door.

By the time all of that was done, Jones was back with a medic carrying a large bag of supplies.

"What seems to be the problem?" the medic asked as she kneeled down beside Neal and started talking his pulse and measuring his respirations.

Peter glanced at Diana and Jones who were standing in the doorway before responding, "He's pregnant and he's having pain in his stomach."

The medic didn't even bat an eyelash at the use of the male pronoun, so clearly word had gotten around the FBI about Neal's gender swapping predicament. Instead, she asked Neal if she could examine his stomach. When he agreed but turned his face away so he wouldn't have to see Diana's and Jones' faces, she unbuttoned his shirt and rolled down the black maternity pants.

"Looks like you're about five months," the medic guessed.

"Six and a half," Neal replied softly.

Peter saw Diana and Jones sharing a look, mentally calculating the time frame. He was going to have to sit them down after this and explain everything. He sighed and sat down in the small space by Neal's head to put a hand on his lover's shoulder.

The medic quizzed Neal on his pain and other symptoms before she frowned and looked over at Peter. "He needs to go to the hospital. We could call an ambulance, but I think it would be okay for you to drive him."

Peter's heart dropped. "What? Why?"

"He's having contractions. At six months, that's not ideal."

"Contractions?" Neal's eyes were wide and frantic. "I'm in labor? No, it's too early."

"Calm down," the medic said. "It's important that you stay calm."

"How can I stay calm?!"

Peter squeezed his shoulder. "Neal, it's going to be okay. Just take a deep breath."

Neal did as Peter asked, but he still felt anxious. The pain started to build in his stomach again and he moaned.

The medic was waiting when the contraction eased. She coaxed Neal to his feet, and Peter immediately moved in to pull one of his arms over his shoulders. Jones moved to Neal's other side, and they got him down to the car as quickly as possible. Diana and the medic followed, and they all piled into the Taurus.

Jones drove with Diana in the passenger seat and Peter and the medic in the back with Neal. The contractions didn't seem to be getting closer together, but they were painful and scary, and Neal was more than ready for them to stop.

He was rushed back to an exam cubicle in the ER, where he was given a shot of terbutaline to stop his contractions and promptly moved to the OB/GYN floor. While they were waiting for the treatment to take effect – Neal was getting a shot every half hour or so – Peter called Elizabeth and then went out to speak with Jones and Diana.

They were sitting in the waiting room flipping through old magazines when he found them. The medic was gone, but Peter assumed she'd had work to do back at the Bureau.

Diana was the first to see him. "Boss, how's Caffrey?"

"He's doing a little better. They're giving him something to stop the contractions."

"So, he's pregnant." It wasn't a question; Jones definitely knew how to get to straight to the heart of the matter.

"He is." Peter wouldn't lie, but it was important that the nature of his and Elizabeth's relationship with Neal not become public knowledge.

"Does he know who the father is?"

"Neal has more important problems than any of us interrogating him about the father. Right now, he and the baby are healthy. That's what matters."

Diana and Jones shared a look and then nodded. "Is there anything that we can do for him?" Jones asked.

"No. Why don't you two head on home? I'll update you if his status changes."

"Thanks, Boss. Tell Neal that we hope he feels better soon."

Peter nodded and saw them to the elevators.

It wasn't long before Elizabeth arrived, and the two of them kept Neal company. They played gin rummy and five-card draw to distract him while they waited on news from the doctors. His contractions definitely seemed to be easing, and they all started to breathe a little easier.

Dr. Babcock was satisfied with Neal's condition the next morning and released him with strict instructions for bed rest for the remainder of his pregnancy. Neal was understandably upset about the restrictions, but Peter and Elizabeth got him settled into their bed with a TV and a Roku box, and he lost himself in episodes of Downton Abbey.

Elizabeth and Peter took turns working from home when they could, but some days, Neal was left to his own devices. There was only so much daytime television that anyone could watch before their brain began to melt, so he started calling in reinforcements like June or sometimes stealing Yvonne away from Elizabeth for an afternoon game of chess.

They also started working on remodeling the guest bedroom to make it the baby's nursery. Neal had to concede that he didn't have a space in his apartment to make into a nursery, and Peter and Elizabeth would be as much a part of the baby's life as he would, so it made sense to set up the baby's primary home in Brooklyn.

During Neal's eighth month, June arrived for dinner one evening with Mozzie in tow. Neal insisted on being able to eat dinner at the table every night, so he was sitting at his place next to Peter, describing the mural he was going to paint in the baby's room when he caught sight of them.

Neither Elizabeth nor Peter looked surprised, so Neal glared at them.

"Good evening, everyone," June greeted cheerfully. "Neal, how are you feeling today?"

"I'm fine." He couldn't bring himself to look at Mozzie, and his tone indicated his annoyance at being ambushed.

"Please have a seat." Elizabeth held out a bottle of wine to Mozzie, who was being uncharacteristically silent. He nodded his approval, and she poured his glass while he took a seat.

Everyone was quiet for several minutes. Peter started handing food around, and Neal felt everyone's eyes on him, so he stuffed his mouth with steamed broccoli to keep from saying something he'd regret.

June was, of course, the one to break the silence. "Neal, how was your check-up today?"

He nodded but his mouth was still full.

"The doctor said he's doing very well. The baby's right on target for size and everything. I have a new ultrasound picture." Elizabeth hopped up and grabbed the black and white photo from a side pocket of her purse. "There she is."

"She?" Mozzie asked in a quiet but interested tone.

"It's a girl," Elizabeth responded while Neal finally got up the nerve to look at his oldest friend.

Mozzie was looking back at him, or more specifically at his rotund stomach. He was now, undeniably, the size of a whale and waddled on the rare occasion that he was allowed on his feet.

"So, have you decided on a name yet?" June asked in a way that sounded as if she'd been dying to ask for a while.

Neal and Peter both snorted. It was Elizabeth who actually answered. "We can't agree on any name at all."

"Ariadne is a perfectly good name," Neal replied.

"So is Susan," Peter couldn't help but say.

"And what is so wrong with Desiree?" Elizabeth added to the mix.

June and Mozzie exchanged glances. Neal kind of expected June to side with Peter, and Mozzie to side with Elizabeth, so it was a surprise when Mozzie cleared his throat and asked, "What about Nadia?"

Neal's head snapped up, and he gave Moz a tentative smile. "It means hope, right? I like it."

"Me too," Elizabeth said, reaching across the table to squeeze Neal's hand.

Peter grudgingly agreed, "Me three."

"That's settled then." June winked at Mozzie and clapped her hands together. "Now, I know you said no baby shower and no gifts, but there will be a package delivered here tomorrow, and you will accept it. I won't take no for an answer."

"June, you didn't need to do that." Neal had been telling her for weeks that they didn't need anything for the baby. He, Peter and Elizabeth had put together the nursery with some gorgeous, coordinating oak furniture, and the blankets and mobile were done in shades of pink and green with monkeys on everything. Neal was going to paint a mural of jungle animals on one wall after the baby was born.

"I wanted to." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Neal smiled and took her hand, placing it on his belly where the baby was kicking up a storm.

"Oh, my. She's a strong one."

Elizabeth and Peter grinned at that while they were gathering up plates to take to the sink. "I'll bring dessert out in a few minutes. We can move this party into the living room where it's more comfortable."

Neal was very happy to move to the armchair where he could adjust the throw pillows just right against his aching back. Everything hurt now – his feet, his back, his hair. He stroked his hands over his stomach, trying to calm the baby's activity a bit so he could concentrate on the conversation going on around him.

"I made tiramisu," Elizabeth was saying, "and there's coffee and tea. Or more wine, of course." She handed Neal a plate of the dessert and a mug of tea without even asking.

He sniffed at the drink and smiled when he smelled orange, ginger and mint. One of his favorites of the moment.

Neal looked up and found Mozzie's eyes squarely on him. He shifted uncomfortably but met the stare and refused to back down.

"Are you drinking tea with red raspberry leaf? I read that it was good for someone in your… situation. You know what, I'll bring you some tomorrow."

Neal raised an eyebrow just as Elizabeth jumped in. "That's his favorite tea. It's an herbal blend that's a little spicy but not too much. The doctor recommended it."

Mozzie looked offended that she was taking the advice of a doctor and shook his head. "I'll bring a few things by tomorrow. The right combination of herbs could be very beneficial to the growing fet- baby."

"What exactly are you going to give him?"

Neal almost laughed when Peter physically stepped between them. He'd grown more protective of Neal the further along the pregnancy got. While it was an interesting development, Neal sometimes felt smothered by it as well.

"Don't worry, Suit. I've done the proper research. Everything will be 100% organic and healthy for both Neal and Nadia."

Everyone's lips quirked into smiles at the use of the name. It really was going to be perfect for their little girl.

June and Mozzie stayed until Neal started to visibly wilt. They took their leave quickly, and Neal let Peter and El help him up to bed.

The next couple of weeks went by as slowly as ever, though Mozzie started stopping by to bring him new and interesting foods and play chess with him. Their conversations were still tense at times, but they were both making an effort.

It was a Thursday afternoon, and rain was coming down in buckets outside when Neal woke from his nap. It took him five minutes to get to his feet so that he could waddle to the bathroom; the baby was surely using his bladder as a squeeze toy. The ache that suddenly flared up in his back was hardly new, and he rubbed at the muscles there absently as he took care of his bodily needs.

As he made his way slowly back down the hallway, he realized how quiet it was in the house. "Peter? El?"

There were footsteps on the stairs, and he turned to find Mozzie standing awkwardly at the top of the stairwell. "Hey. They had work things." He flapped a hand to dismiss the notion of work. "I hope you don't mind that I’m here."

"No, not at all." Neal smiled and beckoned him to follow. Once he was back in the bedroom and seated on the bed, Neal gave his full attention to his friend. "Did you want to finish that conversation we started the other day?"

Mozzie gave him a look and then shrugged a shoulder.

"C'mon, Moz. We've been friends for a long time. This," Neal gestured to his stomach and then started rubbing both hands over his distended belly, "cannot be the thing that comes between us."

"I still can't believe you're having the Suit's baby."

Neal raised an eyebrow. "Out of all of this, that's what you're having the hardest time with?"

"You're living in this house, cozying up to him like he's not the man that sent you to prison for years, and now you're having his baby. It's crazy, Neal!"

Neal drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly through his nose. Mozzie was driving him utterly, seriously nuts. His back twinged again, and he shifted so that he could rub at the muscles there. "I don't expect you to understand-"

Mozzie snorted loudly. "You got that right."

"-but Peter and Elizabeth and I love each other. I wish you would see this baby as something other than a curse."

"Oh, I don't see it as a curse. More like a weight tying you to this place forever."

"Maybe I want that!"

Mozzie's eyes grew wide, and he took a couple of steps back. "You're not the same man anymore, Neal. You've changed."

"I'm not even a man right now!" Neal pushed himself forward, struggling to get off the bed, but the extra bulk was cumbersome. He gasped and moaned as a particularly strong pain radiated from his back to his stomach.

"Neal? What's wrong?" Mozzie went from judgmental to concerned in in the blink of an eye.

"Muscle spasm, I think." Neal held up a hand to keep Mozzie from getting into his personal space. "Maybe it's not the best idea for you to be here."

Mozzie hesitated, shifting from one foot to the other before nodding. "That's fine, but I'm not leaving you alone. I'll be downstairs until someone else can come."

"I'll be fine. Just go. Please." Neal was suddenly exhausted and wanted to be alone.

Without responding, Mozzie left the room and headed downstairs. Neal listened for the door to open and close but didn't hear anything. He sighed and lay back against his pillows. The baby had quieted during the argument, which was a new development. Usually she disliked raised voices.

Neal was dozing when the pain returned and his abdominal muscles all clenched painfully. He gasped, realizing what it meant. The storm was still raging outside, beating wind and water against the windows, and he flinched as thunder boomed in the distance.

"Peter?! Elizabeth?!" Neal didn't know if they'd returned but he really wanted them to be home just then.

When no one answered or came up the stairs, he took a deep breath and called out, "Mozzie?!"

This time there were tentative footsteps on the stairs. Neal pushed himself up and slid his legs out from under the blanket he'd pulled over himself. He rested there, waiting for Mozzie to come into the room.

Just as the older man appeared in the doorway, a strong contraction hit and Neal felt fluid leaking down his legs. "Oh, shit!"

"Neal? What's wrong? Are you-" Mozzie looked shell-shocked, and then he fumbled for his cell phone. "I'll call for an ambulance."

Neal pressed both of his hands against his stomach and tried to fight against the fear rising up to overwhelm him. "Mozzie, help me. Please."

Jamming the phone between his shoulder and his ear, Mozzie moved to Neal's side and tried to get him to lie back on the bed.

"No, no. Mozzie, please. The baby," Neal gasped, getting worked up on adrenaline and uncertainty.

"Just lay back and take a deep breath." Mozzie turned his attention to the phone when an operator answered the line. "I need an ambulance at 106 Warren Street. I have a," he hesitated, looking over at Neal, "woman in labor."

"Oh, god," Neal groaned. "I don't want to do this anymore!"

Mozzie pressed a hand to his shoulder to get his attention. "How far apart are the contractions?"

"I don't know! Too close! Too close!" Neal tried to curl around his stomach, but it was all but impossible.

"Calm down, Neal." Mozzie checked his watch and tried to time while Neal squirmed and moaned. He reported the time to the operator, and they had a brief conversation about Mozzie's midwife skills before Mozzie hung up and tossed his cell phone aside.

"What," Neal had to pause to take a breath, "did they say?"

"Well, there's a storm-of-the-century outside, and there's flooding blocking many the streets, but they'll get here as soon as they can. Which probably won't be soon enough."

"What?!"

"Try to relax. I'm a certified midwife."

"In Amsterdam!"

"Babies come out the same no matter where you are." Mozzie frowned and pushed Neal back against the pillows. "This next part is going to be uncomfortable. For both of us."

Neal squeaked and tried to squirm away as Mozzie checked his dilation, but another contraction hit and he was left suspended in a haze of pain.

"The good news is that this baby's coming really soon."

Neal panted through the tail end of the contraction and looked up at him with huge blue eyes. "There's bad news?"

"It's probably going to get messy. I'm going to get some towels out of Mrs. Suit's hall closet. Don't push yet, Neal. Breathe through the contractions."

Neal nodded and watched him go. He could already feel the pain and pressure building, and he did want to push now that Mozzie had mentioned it, but he forced himself to breathe, panting when he needed to, instead of tensing up.

Once Mozzie came back and got things situated, the labor progressed quickly. Neal felt like things were happening too fast, but Mozzie kept control of the situation. After a few pushes, there was a squirming, screaming baby girl on his chest.

"Hi, there," Neal said softly, brushing a finger down the baby's nose and across her cheekbone. She was perfect with tiny fingers and toes and even some dark hair on her head. He'd never seen anything so delicate and wondrous.

"She's a beauty," Mozzie said, draping a small towel over her back so that they could get her clean.

Neal smiled and looked over at his friend. "Nadia. She's definitely a Nadia."

Mozzie had to grin at that. Neal was sticking with his suggestion, and that seemed to make him happy.

The paramedics arrived while Neal was still bonding with the baby and took over their care. Mozzie had swaddled her in a blanket before giving her back to Neal, who was exhausted but afraid to take his eyes off the little girl. The medics were careful not to separate the new parent and baby but wasted no time in assessing and caring for both Neal and Nadia.

Just as they were being carried out of the house on a stretcher, Peter and Elizabeth pulled up to the curb. "What's going?" Peter asked, running over with Elizabeth close at his heels.

She gasped when she saw the bundle in Neal's arms and reached for the edge of the blanket covering the baby's face.

Neal smiled drowsily at them. "She couldn't wait."

"Where are you taking them?" Peter asked the paramedic closest to him. It was a man, who gently shouldered his way past Peter so that he and his partner could get Neal and the baby into the ambulance.

"Bellevue."

"Neal, we'll be right behind you."

When Peter and Elizabeth turned to get in the car, they found Mozzie already sitting in the passenger seat. "Suit. Mrs. Suit," he greeted nervously. "Well, don't just stand there. Let's go!"

It didn't take long for Neal and the baby to both be examined and moved to a room on the OB/GYN floor. They were both dozing when Peter, Elizabeth, and Mozzie were finally allowed inside.

The Burkes immediately crowded around the bassinet by the bed to get a look at the little girl while Mozzie took a seat in the corner so that he could watch over everyone.

"I see how it is," Neal murmured, opening his eyes to half-mast. "Once you have the baby, no one cares about you anymore."

"Oh, hush." Elizabeth sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned over to give him a hug. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired, sore, a million emotions." He tilted his head so that he could see the bassinet. "Isn't she gorgeous?"

"She is," Elizabeth confirmed with tears in her eyes.

"Hon, don't start that." Peter leaned over and kissed her temple.

"Sorry, sorry." She wiped her tears away and turned back toward the baby. "Can I hold her, Neal?"

He nodded and bit his tongue while Elizabeth slipped her hands under the baby and lifted her into her arms. El was gentle with her and made sure to support her head, but Neal couldn't help the swell of instincts inside him that made him want to tell her exactly how she should hold the baby.

Neal tried his best to stay awake while she was being passed around, but he fell asleep while watching Peter carefully tuck her in against his chest and start to rock her in the chair that had been placed by Neal's bed.

Both Neal and Nadia were released the next day and were met at the house by June and Mozzie. Neal was still exhausted and in enough pain to be uncomfortable, so he chatted for a few minutes before promptly falling asleep on the couch with the baby on his chest.

They got into a routine over the next couple of weeks where Neal got up with Nadia in the night for feedings, changes, and general comfort snuggles. Peter then took over in the morning for a while to let Neal get a little rest, and then Elizabeth took a shift in the afternoon and evening when she got home from work. While not perfect, it worked for the time being.

Two weeks after the birth, Mozzie knocked on the door after they'd finished cleaning up the dinner dishes and Elizabeth was rocking Nadia to sleep. Peter let him in the house and asked Neal to join them in the kitchen.

"What's going on?" Neal's eyes darted from one to the other, and he was immediately suspicious that Peter looked incredibly uncomfortable and Mozzie looked apprehensive.

"Neal, it's time to start thinking about changing you back." Mozzie held up a vial of cloudy liquid and gave it a bit of a shake. "Shelly agreed to take it about a month ago, and she's back to normal. All her tests have been perfect. It's like it never happened."

Neal glanced toward the living room where he could just barely see the baby all wrapped up in a blanket in Elizabeth’s arms.

"How does it…" he waved a hand at the vial and then at himself.

"There's a sedative in it, so you won't feel all the… changes. Shelly said it felt like she'd come down with the flu, and she ran a fever for a couple of days, but after that, she was her old self again." Mozzie set the vial down in front of Neal.

"Is it safe to do it here?"

"Wait a minute." Peter reached for the vial before Neal could get it. "This should be taken at the hospital where doctors can observe and treat him if something happens."

Mozzie started to say something, thought better of it and snapped his mouth shut.

Neal looked back over at Elizabeth and Nadia one more time before nodding firmly. "Okay."

"Okay?" Peter was surprised.

"We'll do it at the hospital tonight," was all Neal said before he stood and walked into the living room. He smiled down at Elizabeth and reached out to take the baby from her.

Peter and Mozzie were sitting quietly drinking their beer or wine when Elizabeth joined them a minute later. "What's going on?" she asked.

"Neal's agreed to change back tonight," Peter said as he pulled her close and wrapped an arm around her waist. "We're going to take him to the hospital to make sure it all goes all right."

"I'll keep Nadia here. Promise to keep me updated?"

"Of course, Hon."

Ten minutes later, Neal, Peter and Mozzie were in the car. Four hours after that, Neal was a man again.

The transformation was painful in ways that Neal didn't think he would have to deal with after enduring childbirth. His entire body ached and throbbed until his fever broke, and then he was just sore and grumpy. He missed Nadia; he missed Peter and Elizabeth's bed; he missed the privacy and peace of their Brooklyn townhouse.

On the third day, he was finally released from the hospital and Peter drove him back to Brooklyn. Elizabeth met him at the door with baby Nadia, and Neal took her in his arms, afraid that she wouldn't recognize him now that he wasn't, well, a woman.

Nadia blinked at him, yawned and snuggled into his chest as she fell asleep, contently sucking on her pacifier.

Neal grinned as he looked up at Peter and Elizabeth, pleased that the baby didn't find any fault with him.

"Welcome home, Neal," Elizabeth said, giving him a smile and a kiss.

Peter put his arms around all of them and kissed them each in turn before bending to kiss Nadia's head. Their family was healthy and whole, despite the very strange ordeal.

~End

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