Tough Love, Part 1
A Shared Night at Moperville
"C'mon, let's not panic now, we can sort this out somehow."
"Tedd, I know you have no idea what happened here."
"Well, duh. I know that you know, Elliot. You now know everything I know, right?"
"Yes, and that raises the word disturbing to a whole new level."
"You think it's better on my end, dude? I also happen to remember everything about where you and Sarah were during lunch period today..."
"L-let's not go there, Tedd."
The lone figure stopped its pacing for a second.
"But again... please try to calm down, Elliot. You can't panic now without me freaking out too, and I can't think like that!" Frustration caused Tedd to raise his voice more than he had intended to.
"Sorry! Sorry, mate, it's just..."
"Yeah, I know..."
The young man called Tedd resumed his pacing up and down through the limited space his lab in the basement provided. His monologue might seem somewhat strange to an observer, considering he did not talk into a cell or microphone, but just to himself.
Tedd didn't care though. He had other problems and was sure that no observer would be in the house anyway, since school wasn't officially out yet. He had just arrived home himself and not even changed his clothes yet. There were more important things that occupied his mind now, including his best friend Elliot – no pun intended.
But bearing in mind his rather unusual and unprecedented situation, it does not come as a surprise at all that one fact – one he would consider important – slipped his mind: his girlfriend would be home any minute now.
"All right, where to start?" Tedd murmured, trying to clear his head and concentrate on what was important now. But this simple task proved more of a handicap than usual.
"Elliot, please shut up!"
"What? I didn't say anything!"
"No, you're thinking too loud! Stop it!"
"Well, how am I supposed to do that, Tedd?"
"I don't know! Blasted, you just do!"
"Well, sorry I'm not adept enough at being Zen! That's..."
"...more Justin's department," Tedd finished with a sudden smirk, the image of Justin being cut short from trying to achieve inner peace coming to his mind through Elliot's memories.
"Sorry, mate..." he started to apologize for his outburst.
"It's just: I really can't imagine many things that are more annoying than not being able to think straight."
"Yeah, I guess. Maybe we do need outside help after all." But Elliot knew Tedd's refusal before he even finished that thought.
"No! Not yet. We need more information on what happened first. You don't think this was mere coincidence, right? And we don't even know where your body is!"
"Yeah, and that's kinda disturbing for me, too."
"Oh, I've seen worse today," Tedd countered. "Not that I had never fantasized about Sarah before I met Grace, but..."
"I said let's not go there! Or did you forget I know everything about you and..."
That train of thought instantly conjured the image of Tedd and Grace in a rather intimate embrace on the very couch behind him from Tedd's memory.
"Well, I had repressed that recollection, but thanks for bringing it up again, dude. I don't really mind, y'know."
"I can't help it!" Elliot exclaimed through Tedd. "It's just so much to repress!"
They were both on edge here, confronted with a situation that was disturbing for both of them: sharing one body. And even if you're stuck in this situation with your best friends, there are probably a lot of things you really don't want him to know.
"Gah! Stop making me blush, Elliot!"
Caught up in what could also be described as a mental duel, neither of them was aware of the door to the basement opening. And even if they had been more alert, the silent footsteps on the stairs were too inaudible for human hearing anyway. So it happened as it had to.
"Gah! Gr-" Tedd instantly realized what happened, as a big, fluffy tail wrapped around him and he was tackled to the ground. Elliot, however, didn't realize it, and since he was not really accustomed to listening to Tedd's thoughts yet, his initial reaction turned out somewhat more defensive.
However, neither of these two minds inhabiting Tedd's body achieved anything, since the mixed signals more or less cancelled each other out.
In the split second it took Tedd to regain control, Grace had already turned him around and greeted him with a warm welcoming kiss.
Tedd had never felt so conflicted in his life, between himself embracing the girl he loved and Elliot who was close to panic over the out of the blue intimacy he not only had to remember but also experience now.
All these mixed feelings were easily readable on Tedd's face, causing the squirrel girl to be taken slightly aback.
"What's wrong, Teddy?" she asked, sitting on top of him.
"I... you..." Tedd felt a severe blush spreading across his face. "No, stop it, Elliot!"
"Elliot?" Grace asked, tilting her head sideways at him.
The resident mad scientist had a hard time arranging his thoughts and trying to ignore Elliot. He struggled with the words for several seconds until he gave up and just shook his head.
Then, starting from scratch, he abandoned his plans of not telling anybody and explained to her what had transpired that day.
It looks like our friends from Moperville are in quite the predicament here. But instead of listening to their recap of what happened in school today, we bring you a scene from the Lucky Bunny Bounty Show!
Okay, no, not really. But let us instead go one step further back and look into the reason of how this could happen in the first place.
The motivation behind it all is one that every human is familiar with: boredom. Which makes it somewhat ironic that the entity triggering this whole mess was not a human in the first place.
No, it is an immortal, and quite a wicked one. As with most denizens of the higher planes, it spends its time observing the world of the mortals. But unlike most such entities, this one is often not content with just observing. Watching gets boring after a while, since the problems of humans are rather finite and tend to repeat if you watch for a few millennia.
Recently, our immortal found something that delighted it greatly. A temporary denizen of the spirit plane, called Magus, that it was able to torment for its own pleasure.
But it sensed that even this entertainment would be over soon. Too soon for its liking. There had to be a way to get more fun out of this situation. And there was! Fate played its hand and revealed something to our mischievous entity: a spiritual link. Normally these things were quite impossible to detect for those not connected by it, but this one was rather strong; even transcending dimensions! And it connected two mortals, those whom we know as Tedd and Elliot.
The inquisitive reader will now ask what such a spirit link is, and what does it do. Well, these bonds actually exist between any two people who know each other. However, most of them are very faint and their influence negligible. But the stronger the relationship, the more stable such a link becomes. And as it strengthens so to do some aspects of relationships that humans never fully understood, like the wordless accordance between good friends that can even border on what seems like telepathy.
As such, it can be said that a spirit link is both a representation of as well as an influence on any relationship between two creatures.
But all this was of little importance for the mischievous immortal, compared to the fact that Magus had an intense interest in one of the humans bonded by this link.
But what would Magus do, the entity thought, if that boy would virtually vanish from the plane of mortals.
It was so simple! Those other immortals following him were easily distracted. They were gullible tools for the mischievous immortal and it only needed a second – a pull on the proverbial string – and the mortal named Elliot suddenly found himself a lot closer to the other end of this spiritual link than he wished.
Oh, that was nearly as much fun to watch as seeing Magus squirm, the entity smirked.
And so it happened that Elliot's body was thrown across the planes, tied to his location by the link, while his mind fled into the only other host available who was sitting on the other end of the spiritual 'string': Tedd's body.
And how our friends now set out to part bodies again – since neither of them was thrilled by the idea of sharing a single corpus – is the story to be told.
"So I went straight home," Tedd closed the recap of his day in school. "I think nobody saw me, but I can't really be sure."
"And you're sure you don't want to tell anybody?" Grace asked.
"Not if we can avoid it. This mess is... embarrassing enough as it is."
"Why is that?" the squirrel girl chirped. "I wouldn't mind sharing a body with you."
By now they were sitting on the couch, since Elliot was rather unnerved by Grace sitting on top of their body on the floor.
"Yeah, well, neither would I, but..." Not for the first time today, Tedd struggled with the words. "It's hard to explain, Grace."
His girlfriend raised an eyebrow. "If you say so, Teddy. But I heard you talking when I came down here. Why do you even have to talk, when you know what you're thinking?"
"Heh, smart girl," Tedd complimented her. "Yes, we could in fact just 'think'..."
"... were it not for the fact, that I still have problems following Tedd's trains of thought," Elliot finished.
"Gosh! That's so weird, hearing both of you with one voice from one mouth."
"Not as weird as being in here, I assure you," Elliot claimed, a bit morose.
"Enough of that," Tedd cut him short. "I gotta start thinking about a solution now!" He got up and walked over to his computer. "But where to start? We don't even know if this is magic- or tech-related, if it has to do with souls or not, or if we can even find Elliot's body!"
"You might even read up on out-of-body-experiences," Grace suggested, now standing behind his chair and resting her chin upon Tedd's head.
"Hey, good idea... but, uh, Grace, sweetie, you know I fully appreciate all affection, but Elliot here..."
"Oh, sorry, I forgot," she said with an impish smile.
"Mmmmaybe it would help if we zapped you with Sarah's clone form," Tedd suggested with a smirk to his girlfriend, ignoring Elliot's mental protests. "Oh, calm down, Elliot, you prude! I'm just messing with you, and you know it!" he added, feeling the strong refusal of his best buddy surging through his body.
"Anyway... as I was saying, good idea. We gotta look that up too. I just wonder if I should start trying to find his body or a method to get him out of me, first."
"Body, please," Elliot asked.
"I was thinking the opposite. While I understand your reasoning, we don't know where to start on the body, but the other end might bring us there anyway. Don't worry, I won't exorcise your 'spirit' without a host body nearby," Tedd grinned.
"I wonder if the Dewitchery Diamond would work again," Grace mused, now lounging on the couch again.
"I am rather conflicted on that topic," Tedd admitted.
"Well, the last time we used it... on the one hand, it was a big mess with the whole evil twin syndrome and there's no telling what could happen this time, but on the other hand we got Ellen now, which was quite worth the trouble I think, wasn't it? However, aside from that, I don't think Elliot would be as contempt with his mind in a copy of my body, so let's keep that as a last resort, okay?"
"Uh, Tedd? You know, if this takes much longer, my parents will start getting worried at home," Elliot reminded his friend.
"I know!" He sighed. "Yeah, I know, Elliot; I'll try to hurry. Otherwise we'll tell them you're going to spend the night here." He felt his friend's approval and continued his search.
An hour passed, and Tedd started to grow desperate. Personal notes, scientific articles and newsletters, random forum threads on tangential topics, and not even a slight hint at their current situation. But there was one source he had not consulted yet.
"Time to fire up our special router," he murmured, standing up and stepping around the desk.
"Huh?" said Elliot, who had done his best to be as invisible as possible over the last hour. Grace had gone upstairs to quickly finish her homework.
"I'll contact Beta. Remember him?"
'Beta' was one of Tedd's counterparts from another dimension. They had kept in touch for some years, mostly exchanging research.
"Sure, but how can he help?"
"He's got a lot more experience with dimensions and planes, and I got a feeling that's what we're dealing with here."
He connected the small box behind his computer that Beta had sent him on their first contact. He had called it a trans-dimensional modem, but Tedd knew it was more than that.
They were lucky; Beta was instantly accessible today and it took only a few minutes to describe their situation. When Tedd finished his recounting, Beta was looking very contemplative.
Finally he nodded. "Yes, I think I have some notes that might be of use to you. I can't go and help you myself just now, as things are pretty busy here."
Before he even finished his sentence, a little red lamp lit up outside his webcam's cone of view.
"Uhh, is this a bad time?" Tedd asked. It looked like things had changed since they had last spoken. Tedd just now realized that the rest of Beta's room wasn't evenly lit, as he remembered it.
"As good as any," Beta assured them quickly, but not very convincingly. "Look, I gotta take care of things now. You got the stack of notes in your inbox. Once you find a solution and may need my help to carry it out, I'll be in touch again. Later."
And without another word he went offline.
Tedd stared at the now black webcam window for a few more seconds and tried to make sense of his counterpart's demeanour. But he quickly snapped out of it. At the moment, they had their own problems.
"I don't like this," Elliot informed him, referring to Beta's sudden departure.
"Neither do I, but we can't do anything now." He felt the grouchy acceptance of his best friend and let it drop.
Time was running through his fingers, if they wanted to keep this situation a secret from their other friends and their parents. He opened the half a dozen documents Beta had sent him simultaneously and started reading.
It is important to know for our little story why Tedd did not even want to tell his father about their situation, even though he was more likely to have a solution ready for him. The thing was that whenever trouble like this happened, it would in most cases turn out to be Tedd's fault for some reason, even if he hadn't really done something in his own eyes.
Oh what a different route our story would have taken, if Tedd had not had these problems. For Mr. Verres had indeed a solution ready for him – in form of a small device that allowed access to the spirit plane. He had brought it home for an inspection, but a little quirk – the orbicular apparatus tended to cause short term memory leaks – was the reason why he still had not returned it for several weeks now.
It was exactly what they had needed, but since Tedd didn't know about it and wouldn't ask for help, he was bound to remain completely oblivious about this solution.
But on the other hand Tedd was about to discover another apparent answer to their problem; unfortunately one that would make things worse.
"Hah, got something!"
"Oh you can't be serious..."
"Why not, it looks perfect? All we need is an Elliot form... hey, wait, we never actually tested if you could just transform by yourself, did we?"
"I'll give it a try..." Elliot tried to will himself to change. But: "ugh, nah, that won't work. It feels like trying to lift a mountain with a single finger!"
"So we don't have my form, and we can't scan my body since we don't have that either!" Elliot didn't understand how Tedd could even consider that a valid plan.
"Oh, I'll think of something," Tedd assured him. "But if we can make that work then that'd even solve the problem of fooling your parents if we take too long to get back to normal."
"Yes, but it all stands and falls with having a clone form of my body, and unless you have scanned me without my knowledge, I think it's too late for that now."
"Of course I haven't... but I'll put it on my to-do list to make a backup of everybody we know! Just in case, you know?"
Elliot still wasn't convinced.
"Okay, Elliot form: let's see what we can do. Programming it from scratch takes too long of course. But, hey, we could scan Ellen..."
"And then zap the form with the male setting?"
"Nah, that wouldn't work."
"Well, I'd like to be male again, just so you know..."
"What? You don't wanna be hot?"
Tedd didn't manage to suppress his big grin.
"Point taken, but nevertheless... hmmm, I could take the scanned data and modify it. That'd be quick since you're practically identical, except for a few parameters..."
"Only a few parameters?" Elliot wasn't sure he understood his friend correctly.
"Yeah, in the form of code, there isn't much difference. Thank the gods for object-oriented programming."
"Uh-kay, I'll just have to trust you on this one, won't I?"
"As always," Tedd smirked.
"You're enjoying this way too much for my liking."
"Eh, just trying to make the best of it, mate. And so should you..."
"I... will think about it."
"Suit yourself. Now where's my portable scanner..."
"How do you want to pull this off without her noticing?"
"Oh, right, that might be a problem... hmm, what about waiting for her to fall asleep?"
"We'd have to wait for everybody in my house to be asleep then."
"When will that be? Midnight, right?" Tedd asked, surveying Elliot's memories.
"Yes, but then we can't fool my parent with it and we'll get to sleep really, really late." Elliot didn't know yet just how true this would turn out to be.
"Got a better idea?" Tedd shot back.
"Good, then let's find a way to waste time till midnight without anybody we know seeing us. We can't stay here, so I'll tell Grace to tell dad we went to the mall or something and won't be here for dinner."
"Sounds like a plan," Elliot said reluctantly. He still wasn't convinced this was the best possible way, but since he had no better idea and didn't really want to explain their situation to anybody else, he had no choice but to go along with it.
"Good, I'll drop a note for Beta then. He can send it here, while we're out anyway. Sending items always takes some time and preparation anyway."
Tedd's plan included a wand that Beta possessed and which would allow them to split bodies again. But to make this work in the way they needed it, they also needed Elliot's form. Unfortunately, as was often the case, there was more to the magic of this wand than Beta knew and could have written in his notes. Such magic was often a bit frail, had limitations and couldn't cope with all eventualities... but our two friends would find that out soon enough!