Chidi knocked on the door of Eleanor’s new house for the week’s first ethics class. They had taken the weekend off, which Eleanor used for some advanced flying lessons. She thought it had been an excellent way to spend a few days off.
Eleanor opened the door, motioning for him to come inside to her open living area, where she’d already set up Chidi’s blackboard. “How was your weekend?” she asked. She was surprised she actually wanted to know, and she had kind of missed him, not seeing him for a full day and a half.
“Well, I had a great breakfast at the Good Plates yesterday. Eggs Benedict...”
Actually, she didn’t want to know in that much detail. She zoned out a little bit, only starting to listen again when she heard,
“...and then Real Eleanor and I were out antique furniture shopping yesterday afternoon, and she gave me this.” Chidi smiled and showed Eleanor a picture of a small lamp that, frankly, Eleanor thought was incredibly ugly. But well, if Chidi liked it and Real Eleanor tried to be nice, well… no, actually, this was really annoying. Eleanor should have thought of buying Chidi stupid furniture if it made him this happy.
“Why is Real Eleanor so GOOD all the time? It’s so boring,” Eleanor said, looking around her new house for someone to back her up. Sadly, the two of them were the only ones there, so no one would. She figured no one would anyway because everyone loved Real Eleanor. Even she liked Real Eleanor, if she was being honest with herself.
“Being good does not equal being boring,” Chidi said. “What makes you think that?”
She didn’t actually know why. Something about Real Eleanor just rubbed her the wrong way, and because Real Eleanor was so great, she couldn’t tell what it was. Then it occurred to her. Real Eleanor was yet another person who was better than her. Hadn’t she done the same thing to Tahani at the start? Well, too late to change course now.
She also did not feel like being psychoanalyzed by Chidi in that moment, so she deflected.
“I just don’t understand what everyone sees in her. Sure, she’s cute and nice and smart and gets people nice gifts....” Eleanor said. Really, none of that actually sounded like a bad thing. She wasn’t even sure why she was picking a fight about this, she didn’t actually have a problem with Real Eleanor. It wasn't like Real Eleanor was forbidden from being nice to Chidi and giving him gifts. They were soulmates, after all.
Ugh, soulmates. Why were they the worst?
Chidi was just about to respond when Eleanor shivered.
“Do you feel like it’s suddenly getting really cold in here?” Eleanor asked.
“Now that you mention it, yeah. That’s odd,” Chidi said just as Janet appeared next to them.
“Hello,” Janet said. “Every resident of the Good Place is under strict orders to stay indoors until further notice.”
“What? Why?” Chidi asked.
“Look outside,” Eleanor told him, a little surly. She could imagine more fun things than being stuck in four feet of snow while she was ranting about Other Eleanor. How was it even possible for this much snow to accumulate? They’d been having this argument for maybe two minutes, and there was no snow to be seen when Chidi first arrived. Something occurred to her as she shivered.
“Is a snowstorm common in the Good Place?” Eleanor asked, gathering all the blankets in her new house. “It doesn’t seem like it would be.”
The house was cooling down rapidly, faster than it should be humanly possible. Well, nothing here was human. That was probably the point.
“My records indicate that it is indeed not,” Janet said. “We have not had a snowstorm here in 1,320 years. Everyone has been ordered not to go outside.”
“Great,” Chidi piped up from the background. Eleanor saw him shivering and generously offered him a blanket from her stash of four, even though she didn’t think he deserved it. She couldn’t quite remember why, but he didn’t.
“Could we maybe get a space heater or something?” Eleanor asked Janet.
“No can do,” Janet said, perky as ever. “When the snow started, all of our heaters seem to have magically disappeared. We seem to not be able to produce any heat at all.” At that, she also disappeared.
“Fantastic,” Eleanor said and sighed.
Eleanor and Chidi sat down on the couch and Eleanor wrapped herself in layers of blankets. Chidi threw his one on top of himself.
“Well, I guess we’re stuck here. Want to teach me about Kierkegaard?” Eleanor asked.
“You know, I never thought you’d ask me that, so it pains me to say no, but it’s just too cold. I also think we should finish our talk from before,” Chidi said.
“What talk?” Eleanor asked. She knew what talk Chidi meant, of course. She just wasn’t sure she wanted to continue it because she was starting to be scared of what it might reveal.
“That talk about you being angry at Eleanor for being a good person,” Chidi said.
“Oh, that talk. Well, I just don’t understand why she has to be this nice to you. Or to anyone,” Eleanor quickly amended. Crisis averted – for now.
“We’re friends. That’s what friends do,” Chidi said.
“Friends, huh. Nothing more?” Eleanor asked. She wasn’t too sure she actually wanted to hear the answer to that, but they were stuck in here, so what good would it do to prolong the inevitable. He might as well have said that he was getting married and raising a dozen Good Place puppies with Real Eleanor.
“Nothing more,” Chidi said. Eleanor thought she may have heard a ‘for now’ in there, but she couldn’t be sure. But at least he seemed to not be planning his impending nuptials yet.
“Fair enough. Want to play a game?” Eleanor asked. She needed a distraction, and fast.
“As long as it involves no movement and not much brain power, I’m in,” Chidi said, smiling.
“Something without brain power for the nerd. Okay. Twenty Questions it is! I’ll start… I got someone!” Eleanor said. She hoped her joy at having successfully changed the subject wasn’t too clearly audible.
After five rounds of Twenty Questions and Eleanor’s outrage at Chidi’s lack of knowledge of the Real Housewives of New York, it impossibly felt like it had gotten even colder. While they were playing the game, Eleanor was too distracted with trying to win against Chidi (“It’s not a real game unless I win all the time,” she had said, to which he only responded, “Of course.”) to notice how seriously cold it was, but it was freezing and the blankets had stopped helping.
“Janet?” Eleanor asked.
Janet appeared. “What’s the matter?”
“Could we get some hot water bottles?” she asked.
“You’re a genius,” Chidi said, shivering.
Eleanor smiled, despite herself, and handed him one of her three blankets as a reward.
“A genius she may be,” Janet started, “but not a fast one. Unfortunately, we’re all out of hot water bottles.”
“How can you be out of anything? I thought your supplies were endless.” Eleanor said. This wasn’t good. She knew she didn’t fully deserve to be in the Good Place in the first place, but she was trying! She shouldn’t have to freeze to death when she’d already died once. That was so not cool!
“Unfortunately, our supplies of dealing with snow are not endless because we don’t usually deal with snow,” Janet said.
“Ugh, what good are you,” Eleanor said, rolling her eyes. A window blew open.
Chidi looked at her with exasperation written all over his face.
“I mean, thank you Janet? At least you tried?” Eleanor said with an uptick in her voice. The window closed again by itself.
“Much better, thank you,” Chidi said, seemingly willing to let this one go.
Janet disappeared as quickly as she had arrived.
“I’m so forking cold,” Eleanor said after sitting in silence for what felt like forever, but her wall clock told her it had only been two minutes.
“Maybe we should sit closer together. You know, penguins huddle together to keep warm. It helps, apparently,” Chidi said.
“That’s not the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Eleanor said.
Actually, Chidi had never had a truly bad idea ever since she’d known him. She’d think that maybe the Good Place didn’t allow bad ideas, but she’d had enough to power a small nation, if bad ideas could somehow be turned into energy, so she knew it was really just Chidi who was that moral and good. He truly belonged here. Like Real Eleanor did. Eleanor tried her hardest not to frown.
“Thank you?” Chidi said with a quizzical expression on his face.
“You’re welcome,” Eleanor said. She had meant it, too. Any excuse to get closer to Chidi. Wait… what?
Eleanor had to pause for a second at that last revelation. What was happening?
She then gathered her bearings and remembered how cold she was and scooted down on the couch until she was sitting right next to Chidi, their sides touching. She took his blankets from him, lay her legs over his, snuggled into his side, and tried to get as close to him as she possibly could. When she was done, she put all four blankets on top of them in a pile. They were sitting a little bit awkwardly now, but it did feel better. So much better.
Her chances of freezing to death had gone down to a solid 70-30. Her chances of other things going massively wrong? They were up to 110-being alive again.
“Tell me more about your nerd life on earth,” Eleanor said suddenly. It occurred to her that in a complete 180 from when she first arrived here, she actually wanted to know about Chidi now. She also really needed a distraction from her thoughts.
“It wasn’t a nerd life,” Chidi said.
“Well, I’ll be the judge of that. Tell me anyway.”
“Are you sure you want to know?”
“Somehow, I really, actually do. What is this place doing to me?” Eleanor wondered aloud.
Chidi chuckled. Eleanor really enjoyed making him smile. She’d also file that strange observation away for a later time.
“What do you want to know? I assume you don’t want me to start with my toddler years?”
"Ew, gross, no,” Eleanor said. “Tell me about you as a teenager. What was Teen Nerd Chidi like?”
“Well, I was accepted to the Sorbonne when I was 16,” Chidi started.
“Nerd!” Eleanor interjected.
“Very mature. Anyway, I ended up going into moral philosophy in second year, mostly because I had the pleasure of having roommates.”
“I was in my second year of studying economics, at my parents’ wishes. My roommate James had a girlfriend back home, she came to visit every weekend.”
“Guess they kept you up at night?” Eleanor said, grinning. “What does this have to do with moral philosophy though?”
“That too, but mostly, he was cheating on her. With a different girl almost every weeknight,” Chidi said.
“Huh,” Eleanor said. She wasn’t sure where this story was going.
“Well, I never told his girlfriend. I rationalized it by saying we weren’t that close and it was none of my business, but I really should have. When she found out, it was really ugly. Anyway, the guilt kept me up at night. Also, I didn’t enjoy economics anyway. I wanted to know how to use moral philosophy to solve real-life dilemmas, so I changed my major. And that was that.” Chidi still looked embarrassed about this. Eleanor thought it may have been the worst thing Chidi had ever done while alive. Which was ridiculous because it wasn’t even a bad thing. It wasn’t like he had been the one who cheated.
“Wow. I would never have guessed. I thought you were born breathing philosophy,” Eleanor quipped.
“Nah, economics came first. It was a dark time in my life. Tell me about you. What were you like in high school? Little Miss Popular?” Chidi asked, smiling.
“Hardly,” Eleanor said. “I got through my last two years of high school not talking to anybody, and snarling at everyone who would try to talk to me.”
“Why?” Chidi asked. Of course someone as pure and good as Chidi would not understand.
“Honestly?” Eleanor said.
“I would prefer that, yes,” Chidi said.
“I don’t even remember. I just thought I was too cool for high school and that fitting in was just trying too hard in a kind of society I didn’t want to be a part of.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Chidi said. He still didn’t look convinced.
They ended up talking a lot more, about Chidi’s upbringing in Senegal and Eleanor’s cousin that she would take to the mall. Eleanor actually listened to Chidi’s stories in full for once. She was starting to think that he was actually a pretty fascinating person, you know, beyond all the nerdery.
She felt particularly nice that day, so she was even going to tell him that.
Any moment now.
“You’re actually a really interesting person,” Eleanor said quickly. She still had a hard time with real feelings.
Chidi smiled his widest smile, as if no one had ever told him that. It was really attractive. God, if only Real Eleanor weren’t his actual soulmate. Eleanor really wished she could kiss him right now, even if it would almost certainly end badly.
She just hadn’t been good enough in life to warrant a soulmate, she thought, and would have to live with that. Her brief moment of self-pity was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Tahani,” Eleanor said, surprised, when she opened the door. “What are you doing out there?”
“Coming to tell you that the snowpocalypse is almost over. It’s safe to go outside now.” Tahani smiled her million dollar smile.
Eleanor could feel warm air filling her house. It seemed like the temperature had risen a solid 50 degrees outside. She smiled briefly, remembering what it felt like to not be freezing.
Then she remembered she now wouldn’t have an excuse to go back to cuddling with Chidi on the sofa and she frowned.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
Of course Tahani immediately picked up on that. God, did she have a secret sense for teenaged lovesick moping? Wait. Was Eleanor actually lovesick? Over Chidi?
“Nothing,” Eleanor said.
“That is clearly untrue. I have a sixth sense for this and something is bothering you.” Tahani glanced from her back to the sofa.
“Ohhh, did something happen with Chidi?” Tahani asked much too loudly for Eleanor’s liking.
Eleanor quickly turned around, but it looked like Chidi hadn’t heard Tahani.
“Not here,” Eleanor whispered and pulled on Tahani’s sleeve to drag her outside.
“Ohhhh, Tahani whispered back. On their way out the door, Tahani yelled back in Chidi’s direction, “Chidi, the coast is clear and Eleanor and I are going out for a much-needed hot chocolate. Would you like to join us?”
Tahani smiled at Eleanor. Everyone knew Chidi was more of a tea guy.
“Nah, you two go ahead. I’ll see you later,” he shouted in their direction.
Tahani and Eleanor walked to Celestial Perk, arms linked. Eleanor would have hated that while she was still alive. Then again, she also would have hated Tahani and against all odds, she didn’t. Eleanor had actually found a friend in her, which she still didn’t quite understand.
“So, tell me, what’s going on?” Tahani asked. She definitely didn’t beat around the bush.
“Nothing is going on, I’m just being an idiot,” Eleanor said. “What else is new?”
“Surely you are not being an idiot. Be kind to yourself. Tell me what’s on your mind,” Tahani said, her voice sounding eerily calming. It made Eleanor want to share. It was confusing.
“I don’t know, I suddenly... like Chidi? It’s a strange feeling,” Eleanor said and winced. This was not something she ever thought possible. She didn’t have feelings for people. Especially not cute philosophy nerds.
“I knew it!” Tahani shouted. “Ohhh, this is SO exciting.”
Tahani was now grinning from ear to ear.
Eleanor frowned. It really wasn’t. She shook her head.
“Why not? You like Chidi, Chidi likes you… You were probably just making out on that couch,” Tahani trailed off.
“That definitely didn’t happen,” Eleanor said. “Chidi doesn’t like me. Chidi likes Real Eleanor.”
“Bah humbug,” Tahani said. “Sure, Chidi and Real Eleanor have plenty in common. A freakish amount, actually…”
“Making me feel much better, thanks,” Eleanor said, interrupting Tahani’s speech. She knew how good they were together, thank you. She didn’t have to hear it over and over again.
“But. You didn’t hear my 'but.' Having everything in common gets boring. Sure, you may need some common interests, but you don’t want to date another version of yourself, do you?”
“I guess not.”
“Plus, the whole student-teacher thing you’ve got going on is pretty hot,” Tahani added.
Eleanor smiled at that.
“I can’t break up the whole soulmate situation he and Real Eleanor have going on, though. That would get me a ticket to the Bad Place immediately, and I’ve worked so hard to become a better person,” Eleanor said. Her experience with Trevor had been less than pleasant. She shuddered remembering how terrible he was.
“But it’s not stealing. They’re not officially together. I don’t even think he likes her like that,” Tahani said.
“I don’t know. He seems to like her a lot... She bought him a lamp,“ Eleanor hated being so unsure about all of this. She wasn’t one to get like this over a guy.
“Oooh, a lamp. What a mighty declaration of love. So you’re really not going to do anything about this?” Tahani asked.
“I don’t think so,” Eleanor said.
“Well, if you’re not going to do anything about it yourself, I’ll call for some reinforcements,” Tahani said.
Before Eleanor could ask what Tahani meant by that, Tahani had summoned Janet.
“Janet, is there anything you can do to make Eleanor more open to love. More like me, I mean?” Tahani smiled her brightest smile.
Ugh. Sometimes Eleanor forgot why she liked Tahani so much. This was one of those moments.
“Of course I can,” Janet said and snapped her fingers.
“What are you doing?” Eleanor asked and it was the last thing she could say before everything went dark for a second or two. Then she was suddenly staring at… herself?
“What the fork did you just do?” Eleanor said and was surprised she suddenly sounded English. “Oh my God, Janet, did you just switch Tahani’s body with mine?”
“I did,” Janet said, looking proud.
“This is not what I meant at all,” Tahani said, scowling, as she looked up and down herself.
“Maybe a little warning next time, Janet?” Eleanor said. “But actually, this is pretty sweet. I’ve always wondered what it was like to be as hot as you,” she added, nodding at Tahani, now in Eleanor’s body.
“Aw, you’re such a flirt, Eleanor. I like when you compliment me in my voice.”
“Of course you do,” Eleanor said.
“Okay, Janet, this was a good joke. You can swap us back now,” Eleanor said
“Swap what who now?” Janet asked.
“Swap Tahani and I back to our own bodies?” Eleanor said, smiling her, or Tahani’s, sweetest smile, and trying not to sound too annoyed.
“Oh, yeah. Let me try this.” Janet squeezed her eyes shut. She jumped up in terror and yelled out, “ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!”
“Janet?” Tahani yelped. “Are you okay?”
Janet steadied herself. Clearly she still wasn’t fully back yet after the whole murder disaster.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you. It does however seem like my programming doesn’t know how to swap you back.”
“What do you mean, your programming doesn’t know?” Eleanor said, more than a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“It means I can’t swap you back right now. I’ll be back,” Janet said and disappeared.
Eleanor and Tahani sighed in unison.
“Now what?” Eleanor asked.
Tahani seemed to ponder this for a second, then looked like she had the idea of a lifetime.
“Now that we’re stuck in this predicament, I’ll go and kiss Chidi as you so I can prove my point,” Tahani said.
“What exactly IS your point? Also, you can’t just go and kiss Chidi. That’s a bad idea on so many levels,” said Eleanor, her voice rising in something resembling panic.
“Sure I can. It’s all to prove that he wants to kiss you, too, because he likes you. I just have to pretend to be you for a few moments and it will be easy because I’m already in your body,” Tahani said, beaming. It was weird for Eleanor to see her own face do that. She didn’t beam. Ever.
“That seems a little bit… wrong,” Eleanor said, but Tahani was barely listening. She had already skipped down the path when Eleanor said, “Please don’t.”
Eleanor sunk her face in her hands. Would even Tahani get to kiss Chidi before she would?
Tahani came back ten minutes later. Eleanor was grateful when she spotted her because that at least meant she probably didn’t do more than kiss Chidi. Although knowing Tahani, anything was possible. She could probably orgasm in thirty seconds flat.
“How did it go?” Eleanor asked, hoping her fear of what might have happened and disapproval of what did weren’t too clearly noticeable.
“I didn’t go through with it,” Tahani said.
At that, Eleanor felt relief wash over her and she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She didn’t let herself think about just how much she didn’t want Tahani kissing Chidi in Eleanor’s body. It was just… strange.
“I thought about it and I figured that if you two actually like each other, which you do, you should get to have your first kiss as… you.”
“That is… wow, Tahani. That is really mature of you,” Eleanor said.
“I know,” Tahani said. “I am very mature. Full disclosure, I did tell Chidi I wanted to kiss him before I decided not to. Or well, I guess you told him and decided not to. This is so complicated,” she quipped.
“You what now?” Eleanor wasn’t proud, but she almost squeaked.
“He looked a little bit befuddled, and then I turned around and walked away,” Tahani said.
“Oh my god,” Eleanor said and covered her face with her hands. “Why do bad things always happen to medium people?”
She didn’t wait for Tahani to answer.
“Eleanor,” Chidi called from down the street.
“What do we do now?” Eleanor asked. “Do we just tell him what’s going on?”
“No, we can’t. It’s too weird,” Tahani said. “I’ve got this.”
Eleanor sincerely doubted that, but she walked around the corner anyway, staying within earshot to be safe.
“Eleanor,” Chidi called again.
Tahani seemed like she was full-on ignoring him.
“Eleanor,” he said again when he’d finally caught up to her.
“Oh, hi, Chidi, didn’t see you there. Yes, what’s up?” Tahani asked, sounding not at all like Eleanor, or like herself, for that matter. If Eleanor didn’t know any better, she’d think Tahani was flustered. Well, she made this happen.
“Can we talk about what just happened a few minutes ago?” Chidi said. He looked serious.
“Whatever do you mean?” Tahani said.
“You said you wanted to kiss me, Eleanor, and then you ran away?”
“I didn’t run,” Tahani protested.
“Ah, so you do remember,” Chidi said. He was clearly starting to lose his patience now.
“Remember what?” Tahani asked again.
“Eleanor,” Chidi warned.
Eleanor couldn’t let this go on. She rounded the corner.
“Tahani and I swapped bodies. I’m actually Eleanor, and Tahani is in my body,” Eleanor said.
“Do you think this is funny, Tahani?” Chidi asked Eleanor. “Also, what do you have to do with any of this?” He looked annoyed now.
“She’s telling the truth,” Tahani said. “I’m her and she’s me, well, kind of.”
“I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing here,” Chidi said, shaking his head.
Eleanor walked up to him and whispered in his ear. “You killed Janet trying to keep Jianyu from pushing that button.”
“How would you know that, Tahani?” Chidi asked.
“Know what?” Tahani asked.
“She wouldn’t, but I, Eleanor, would. That’s the point,” Eleanor said, ignoring Tahani.
“Oh god. So, it was Tahani who came up to me just now? Does Tahani want to kiss me? Why did she have to be you for that? Care to explain yourself?” Chidi asked.
“I don’t want to kiss you,” Tahani said, drawing out the ‘I’ to impossible lengths.
Eleanor winced. What was she going to do? She couldn’t very well fess up about how much she liked Chidi when Chidi’s soulmate was Real Eleanor. She figured the punishment for breaking up soulmates in the Good Place was a serious one. She especially couldn’t confess her feelings while in Tahani’s body. It was just strange. So she did the only thing she thought she could in that moment.
“We were just messing with you,” she said, frowning as she said it. “Sorry,” she added quietly.
Chidi’s face fell and she regretted it immediately. Was there a possibility he had…. wanted her to kiss him? No. That was crazy. Surely he didn’t want that at all.
Eleanor frowned. She didn’t think she had a shot with Chidi, but she also didn’t want to hurt him or think his feelings didn’t matter to her. Wait. Chidi’s feelings mattered to her?
“Good to provide you with some amusement,” Chidi said sarcastically. He turned around and walked away.
Eleanor thought he had sounded a little bitter.
“Ouch, that was rough,” Tahani said, confirming it.
“Thanks, I know,” Eleanor said and walked off. She needed to be alone for a little while. She hadn’t signed up for any of this.
Tahani found Eleanor in the park an hour later.
“Listen, I’m sorry I told Chidi I… well, you... wanted to kiss him,” she said. “I shouldn’t have done that. But I just got so excited about the potential of you two being real soulmates when my soulmate… situation… was such a bust.”
Eleanor actually felt a little bad for Tahani and had ever since Tahani told her what she found out about Jianyu/Jason. To be fair, Eleanor wouldn’t have wanted to end up with him as her soulmate either, and she didn’t initially belong in the Good Place at all.
“It’s okay,” she said because it was easier than holding a grudge, and despite Tahani’s many irritating qualities, she just couldn’t stay mad at her. She thought Tahani might have witchy powers. “Just don’t do it again.”
“Of course not,” Tahani said. “Now, let’s get this mess fixed. Want to find Michael?”
“Sure,” Eleanor said with all the enthusiasm she could muster. She really hoped this madness would end soon.
“Michael, we have a problem,” Tahani said.
“Yes, Eleanor?” Michael said, looking up from the papers he was reading.
“Actually, that’s the problem. I’m not Eleanor.” It was a little cliché, but she had seen the Parent Trap at least 150 times while she was still alive.
“Oh, you’re not? Then who, dare I ask, are you?” Michael looked confused.
“I’m Tahani. Stuck in Eleanor’s body. She’s stuck in mine,” Tahani said.
Eleanor gave Michael a little wave.
“That’s… not good. How did that happen?” Michael asked.
“Janet,” Eleanor said by way of explanation.
“Can you help us?” Tahani asked.
Michael walked over to his bookshelf and took out a large, dusty copy of something called Good Place Swap Magic.
“Ah, let’s see. It looks like there are two possible solutions. One seems to be bear wrestling, the other is hypnosis.”
“Bear wrestling?” Tahani asked. “As in, wrestling an actual bear?”
“A black bear, yes,” Michael said like it was no big deal at all. Eleanor hadn’t been sure she wanted to know details.
“I guess hypnosis it is,” Eleanor said, even though it did not sound like something that could ever work.
“How is that ever going to work?” Tahani asked. Was she a mind-reader now, too?
“One of you has to arrive at an altered state of being and then just imagine taking over your own body again and it should work”, Michael explained like it was the most normal problem in the world to solve.
“Not it,” Tahani called.
“Well, I guess that’s that. Let’s get started,” Eleanor said.
Good thing Eleanor was already dead. This sounded like a million things could go wrong.
“Take a deep breath, fill your chest and lungs” Tahani read from the Good Place Guide to Hypnosis. “Close your eyes and feel how heavy they are.” She laid a finger aside Eleanor’s nose.
They were sitting on what used to be the pillows of Jianyu’s meditation den. Eleanor was leaning back on one, almost but not quite lying down. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and she was more than a little bit terrified of Tahani hypnotizing her. What if she switched bodies with a chicken next? What would laying an egg feel like? But she wanted to be back in her own body desperately enough to give hypnosis a try..
“This is stupid,” she said. “It’s never going to work.”
“Oh come on, just give it a chance,” Tahani said. “I’ve hypnotized plenty of people. It’s great. Now, try again. Take a deep breath, close your eyes. Good. Open your eyes. Focus on this necklace.”
She held out a beautiful necklace with a golden locket in front of Eleanor’s face. When she was back in her own body, Eleanor was definitely going to borrow that sometime.
“Now start by relaxing your toes and feet. Feel your muscles getting light and loose. Relax your legs. Feel your entire body enter a state of calm relaxation. Feel yourself slide into a deep and peaceful trance,” Tahani said slowly and calmly, going on and on about relaxation and peace.
Eleanor actually did feel like she was about to fall asleep, only not really. It was a strange sensation.
“Imagine yourself at the top of a staircase. It’s very calm and pretty. There are ten steps. Take that first step towards even more calm. Take that second step and relax,” Tahani went through the rest of the steps. It felt incredibly weird being calmed by the sound of your own voice, but somehow, it worked.
“Good. Now, tell me. Can you see a solution to our little predicament,” Tahani said.
“Mm. It looks like there is something here,” Eleanor said hazily. “Yes. Let me try this.”
Just after she thought she’d unlocked something in her mind, she jerked awake and couldn’t immediately see Tahani.
“Did it work?” Eleanor asked.
Her own body came into focus and she realized she still sounded British.
“Oh fork, I guess it didn’t,” she added.
“Well, what do we do now?” Tahani asked.
“I guess we’ll wrestle that bear? Tomorrow though." It was late and this hypnosis thing had really tired her out.
The next morning, Chidi arrived at Eleanor’s apartment out of breath. He hovered in her doorway, though, not coming inside. So he was actually mad at her?
Chidi looked startled, until he seemed to remember Eleanor was still in Tahani’s body. He still looked worried, though.
“What are you doing here?” Eleanor asked.
“I just spoke to Michael. You can’t seriously think about wrestling a bear,” Chidi said. “That’s dangerous. You could get mauled.” He let out a small yelp on that last word.
“I’m already dead, aren’t I? What’s the worst that could happen?” Eleanor asked. She didn’t feel anywhere near as calm about this as she pretended to be, but she didn’t want Chidi worrying about this. He had no reason to. At least her death would mean he could be with Real Eleanor guilt-free. Not that he couldn’t do that now. Soulmate rules, she guessed.
“I’m not sure, but do you really want to find out?” Chidi said.
“I guess I’ll have to.”
“Well, good luck?” Chidi said, and closed the door on his way out. He still seemed off, and Eleanor wasn’t quite sure what was going on.
A few hours later, Michael showed up outside Tahani’s house, bear on a leash in tow. Why and how he could randomly get a bear in the Good Place remained a mystery. Did the Good Place have zoos? Was bear wrestling a regular occurrence? Could he manifest them into existence? If so, would they disappear again? Eleanor filed all of these questions away for a later time.
“Oh god, remind me why we’re doing this?” Eleanor asked.
“So we’re not doomed to an eternity of self-confusion?” Tahani asked by way of an answer.
“Hey, Michael, what happens if we lose?” Eleanor asked.
“You will doom the Good Place to a series of unfortunate events, even more so than the ones you have already caused. Most of them will be catastrophic for the two of you,” Michael said casually, like what he was saying wasn’t altogether horrifying.
“Okay then,” Eleanor quipped.
Then she started to look serious. If she was going to be mauled or doom herself to an eternity of terrible things, at least she should do one nice thing.
“Should we talk strategy?” Tahani asked.
“Well, regardless of what happens now, I love you, Tahani,” Eleanor said, surprising herself a little bit. Tahani had become a friend to her, but to go far enough to say she loved her was, well, a lot. Eleanor had never told anyone that on Earth and meant it. Here, she’d already told two people.
“Aw, I love you too,” Tahani said and before Eleanor had time to process that, everything went black.
When Eleanor came to, she was lying on the ground, looking up at Tahani.
“Oh my god, we’re back!” she said, her excitement palpable.
“But we didn’t even fight the bear,” Tahani said. Eleanor thought she sounded a little bit sad about it. How that was at all possible, she didn’t know.
In that moment, Janet appeared.
“Body swaps can also be reversed by mutual 'I love yous' between the involved parties. We are not allowed to share that information beforehand because it has to be sincere,” she said as if she was reading from a manual.
“Fantastic,” Eleanor said. Why was the Good Place actually the worst sometimes?
“Good, I’m back! I’ve missed this body so much. No offense, Eleanor,” Tahani said, skipping on the grass like a child.
“None taken,” Eleanor said, and found that she meant it. She was also glad to be herself again.
“Are you really back?” Chidi asked a few minutes later. They were still outside Tahani’s house, but they were the only ones left. Everyone else had taken Tahani up on her offer of celebratory frozen yogurt martinis. It wasn’t like Tahani was paying, everything was free here after all, but no one seemed to remember that, or care much.
“Seems like I am,” Eleanor said.
“Take a walk with me?” Chidi asked.
Eleanor obliged, although she wasn’t sure that was a great idea.
“So,” Chidi said. He looked like he was gearing up to say something.
“So?” Eleanor asked.
“You really hurt my feelings,” Chidi started. Eleanor winced.
Earlier, Eleanor knew she’d hurt him – she knew he sounded bitter. She just wasn’t sure how. Usually, when Eleanor had upset someone, she knew it – because she’d probably done it on purpose. She’d never purposefully hurt Chidi, though, she liked him way too much for that. Wait, what?
“Getting right to the point, huh?” she asked to deflect and give herself a little bit of time to think. “How did I hurt your feelings?”
“You, or well, I guess Tahani said you wanted to kiss me, and then later you said it was all a joke,” Chidi said. He looked… dejected?
“Right. I remember that. Why did that hurt your feelings, though?” Eleanor asked. What was he saying?
“It hurt my feelings because…” Chidi paused, as if he was unsure if he should go on.
Eleanor had to clarify something first.
“Because you’re with Real Eleanor now and the temptation was too much for you?” Eleanor quipped.
“I’m not with Real Eleanor. We’re friends, that’s all. Friends who have a freakish lot in common.”
“But, you’re soulmates,” Eleanor said.
“That has not been conclusively proven,” Chidi said. “Also, I don’t think I believe in soulmates anymore. At least not for myself.”
Eleanor couldn’t help feeling disappointed. This had started to sound promising, now all of a sudden, it didn’t.
“No. But I had started to believe that maybe I could have a relationship with someone. Only that someone clearly does not feel the same way…” he said.
Eleanor glanced up at Chidi. She had to know.
“Does that someone happen to be a medium-good, annoying blonde with a questionable knowledge of ethics?” Eleanor asked.
“Maybe,” Chidi said and pulled a face as if to say, ‘I can’t believe I just said that.’
“And that’s why I hurt your feelings?” Eleanor asked.
Oh no, this was bad. She didn’t actually see this one coming at all, and she definitely never wanted to hurt Chidi like that. But then despite everything, she smiled, suddenly feeling hopeful.
“Yes. Why are you smiling?” Chidi asked.
“Because,” Eleanor said before she put her hands on Chidi’s face and pulled him towards her until her lips met his for a gentle, soft kiss.
She broke the kiss quickly, but still kept her hands on his cheeks, holding him close.
“I feel the same way,” she said, smiling a wide smile at him.
“Really?” Chidi said, raising an eyebrow, but also smiling like an idiot.
“Yes. I’m sorry I said it was a joke before. I’d made the mistake of telling Tahani about it all, which is why she came to you, and when you found me afterwards and found out about our little switcheroo, we were still switched. I also didn’t think I’d have a shot with you anyway and didn’t want to ruin our friendship,” Eleanor said.
“Okay…” Chidi said.
“But really. I think you’re pretty great,” Eleanor said.
“I think you’re pretty great–”
Eleanor closed the distance between them and really kissed Chidi this time. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. When her lips parted and Chidi slipped his tongue into her mouth, she may have let out an undignified moan. The man could kiss. Never underestimate a nerd, Eleanor guessed.
They stayed like this for a while, tangled up in each other. Eleanor could feel Chidi’s arousal and it made her whimper a little bit. She broke the kiss.
“We need to go, now. Your house or mine?” Eleanor said, speaking much faster than she normally would.
“Mine’s closer,” Chidi breathed.
“Done. Let’s go,” she said.
Eleanor couldn’t believe she was lying in Chidi’s bed, naked, and completely blissful after some truly incredible sex. Apparently, the Good Place heightened orgasms at least threefold. Either that or the fact that she had sex with Chidi played a part in that. She wasn’t entirely sure.
All she knew was that she could definitely get used to this.