Rubber Bonds pt. 1

When jockboy Todd is assigned to be partners with golden boy Chance, it’s as if he’s woken up to a nightmare. Fortunately for him, he’s got the power to make things easier for the both of them.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written as a paid commission. If you are interested in commissioning your own story from me, please see the [Commissions] page for more information!

"Oh, give it a fucking rest, Chance."

Todd bristled as the guy in question hovered over his shoulder and, for what felt like the tenth time in as many seconds, fussed over what he was doing. He knew he’d regret not fighting his professor harder over getting assigned to partner up with Chance of all people.

"It’s against the rules, Todd!" Chance protested in a hushed voice.

Todd rolled his eyes. "For fuck’s sake, man. It’s just one question." Honestly, he didn’t even know what the big deal was.

The assignment wasn’t even that important. It was at most 1% of their project. And yet, here Chance was, acting like it was the end of the world that he was looking up the answers to the questions.

He wasn’t even looking up the answers to all the questions. Just the ones they were having trouble with. Because he didn’t want Chance to think he was any dumber than Chance probably already thought he was.

Chance grabbed the back of Todd’s chair and leaned in. He looked both ways down the row of computers at the back of the lab, as if he were about to engage in some sort of grand conspiracy, and whisper-shouted in Todd’s ear, "Academic integrity, man!"

Todd rolled his eyes. "Who cares?" he said, scrolling down the page of search results until he found one that was close enough to the question they were struggling on.

It wasn’t the exact same question—the numbers were different—but it was close enough he could get a pretty good idea of how to solve the question on the assignment just by peeking at the solution. As far as he was concerned, it didn’t count as cheating at all—just getting a little bit of help from strangers on the internet.

"So what?" said Chance in utter disbelief. "So what?!"

Todd rolled his eyes as Chance suddenly shot up and looked around to see if anyone had noticed his outburst. It was pathetic, really. The guy had a major stick up his ass and it was getting old much faster than he anticipated.

"Don’t you know what the punishment for academic dishonesty is, Todd?" Chance hissed in his ear.

Todd sighed. He was tired already and it was only the first day of working with Chance. He had no idea how he was going to survive the rest of the term. Because the professor—the fucking professor—thought it’d be a great idea to do the term project in pairs.

"A zero for the assignment. A fail in the class. Suspension. Potential expulsion subject to investigation." Todd wasn’t stupid. He knew the rules. Because that made it easier to work around them.

"Expulsion, Todd!" Chance insisted. "Expulsion!"

Jesus Christ, Todd muttered under his breath. "It’s just a fucking assignment, Chance. I’m not cheating on a final. No one cares as much as you do!"

The frame of the chair creaked as Chance’s grip on the backrest tightened. "But what if you get caught? What if we get caught?"

Todd looked over his shoulder at Chance with a flat expression. "If I get caught, it’s because you’re making such a big fucking fuss over it."

Chance had the gall to look offended and Todd had to fight the urge to wring the guy by the neck. Because he could, if he wanted. He really could.

"Risk your own hide if you want, man! But I don’t want anything to do with it!" Chance hissed.

Todd had just about had enough. He slammed his pen down on his notebook. He said, in a slow and deliberate manner, "I swear to God, Chance. If you don’t sit the fuck down and help me with this assignment instead of losing your fucking mind over looking up solutions, I will tell the professor I was the only one that did any work on this assignment."

Chance grumbled under his breath but he obediently took a seat at the computer next to Todd. "Alright, fine," he said, swinging the sheet of paper Todd had been working on toward him. "What’s the next problem?"

Maybe there was hope for the kid, yet.

"No. No, no, no." Chance groaned. He set his pencil down and leaned against his chair. He tilted his head back and rubbed his face in a show of exasperation. "That’s not how you do it! That’s why you’re not getting the right answer."

"But your way makes no sense!" said Todd, furiously rubbing at the past ten minutes’ worth of work with an eraser. He just didn’t get it.

Chance sat forward and snatched the pencil off the table. "The heck it doesn’t! It’s so straightforward!"

Todd pinched the bridge of his nose. "It’s not," he said.

"It is!" Chance insisted.

Todd rolled his eyes. As if acting like a belligerent child would help him understand the problem better. "If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you show me how it’s done?"

"But I’ve done the last half dozen problems already!" said Chance. "Do you even have any plans to contribute at this point?"

Todd exhaled out of his nose. "Trust me, bro. I want nothing more than to finish this thing already but I just don’t get what it wants me to do."

Chance grabbed the paper and started writing. "These are the givens, yeah?" he said testily.

Todd nodded. "Yeah. I got at least that far, man. I’m not stupid."

"Well, you wanted a walkthrough, didn’t you?"

Todd was losing his mind. He’d tried begging his professor to swap partners with literally anyone else but the old geezer had staunchly refused. "I didn’t ask to be treated like a five-year-old."

"Well, maybe if you paid more attention in class instead of acting all buddy-buddy with the rest of your meathead thugs in the back of the room, I wouldn’t have to treat you like a toddler."

Todd could tolerate a lot of things. Insults to his pride and person practically just rolled off him as he had a fairly thick hide. But the one thing he couldn’t abide was anyone badmouthing his friends.

They were family to him.

He appreciated it even less when someone implied they were stupid or lazy. He didn’t know many people even half as hardworking.

Todd pursed his lips and said, "At least I have friends."

Chance stiffened. "I-I have friends," he said.

Todd snorted. It might have been a juvenile thing to feel but the fact he’d struck a nerve was oddly satisfying. "Really?" he said, playing up the skepticism in his voice. "I was under the impression the stick you had up your ass made you pretty unlikeable."

Chance didn’t reply for a good minute. The hand holding the pencil trembled, the knuckles white from the severity of the grip. It was a wonder the thing didn’t snap in half.

It was only after the prolonged silence that Chance spoke again. It seemed he’d regained his composure but there was a particular icy cruelty in his voice when he said, "Just because I follow the rules and choose to act like a civilized member of society doesn’t mean I have a stick up my ass."

Todd opened his mouth to retort but Chance didn’t even give him the opportunity to start.

Chance seethed as he continued his diatribe. "Just because I don’t ascribe to your group of immature imbeciles’ notion of ‘fun’ doesn’t mean I’m a wet blanket. I have plenty of fun, thank you. I just don’t have to act like Neanderthal pig to enjoy myself."

The pencil slipped off the edge of the table and clattered to the ground as Chance turned in his seat to face Todd. "You think being on a sports team makes you likable? Please. The only people who care are vapid troglodytes who live for cheap thrills and the new hotness."

Chance jabbed a bony finger into the middle of Todd’s chest. "You think you’re so special just because the university fawns over the sports program but guess what? No one actually cares."

There was such force and resentment in Chance’s outraged rant that Todd could scarcely get a word in edgewise. He tried. He really did. But Chance just steamrolled over him at every opportunity.

"Did you think you’d have an adoring legion of fans when you finished university? Let me tell you what’s likely to happen. All those medals and shiny trophies? They’re worth nothing."

That finger hurt. Especially as it jabbed into his chest over and over again.

"You’ll graduate and you’ll end up asking yourself ‘what have I done with my life?’ Because what have you managed to accomplish? Other than throwing other braindead meatheads across a rubber mat in the name of sports?"

Todd would have interrupted Chance but the words just died in his throat. Anger burned red-hot in his stomach. Who the hell does he think he is? What right does he have to lecture me like this? he thought to himself.

"Have you actually even done anything meaningful with your life? Have you contributed at all to society or have you just been happy to coast along on your high school popularity like a self-centered brat?"

"Are you done?" said Todd. He was trying very hard to resist the urge to punch Chance in the face.

"No. I’m not done. Because I’ve had enough of your crap. I’ve had enough of watching teachers give you a free pass because everyone thinks you jocks are something special when I know the truth."

Todd got up from his chair and started angrily packing up. "Fuck you, Chance," he said, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "I don’t need to fucking listen to this shit. You don’t even know me."

"Oh yeah? Did I hurt your fee-fees?" Chance sneered. "Well, boo-hoo! I know who you are! You’re just like the rest of them! You think you’re so special but you’re not!"

Todd turned his back on Chance and left but Chance had a parting shot to give. "You know this is all you’re good for, right? You’re in sports because you’re too dumb to be anything else! When we get out there, in the real world, it’s going to chew you up and spit you out."

Todd couldn’t sleep very well. He’d been up all night thinking about what Chance had said. Chance’s words had struck a nerve and the kernel of truth they bore had stung.

The questions Chance had asked were the same ones that had been haunting Todd for a while. The context was just different. Beyond Chance’s imagination, even, if he had to guess.

He wasn’t just a jock—far from it. Even so, he couldn’t very well have exposed his secret just to defend himself.

Not that it would have made for much of a defense, anyway. He didn’t really care about school beyond it being something he had to do—Chance had been right about that—but truth was, he’d been slacking in other more important parts of his life.

In a word, he was stuck. His growth as a warlock had stalled. And even though he’d pretty much breezed through all the milestones until now, he felt like he hadn’t really accomplished much in the past few years.

And since everything had been so easy so far, he didn’t know what to do. Academics just compounded his frustrations. He wasn’t used to sitting down and studying. Everything had come so naturally to him until now that he was accustomed to just doing whatever the hell he wanted.

Athletics had been more of a coping mechanism than anything else. The harsh training and the sheer physicality of it had helped take his mind off things, which was good, but in the back of his mind, he knew he’d have to face his troubles head-on sooner or later.

Todd shook his head. Later. He’d have to face his troubles later.

He sat up and sighed. The moon was shining through his window, casting its pale light on his body. He moved his hand into the light and cradled the milky radiance in his palm.

He wasn’t just feeling introspective tonight. There was anger brimming just under his skin. He was fed up. Furious.

He’d been working with Chance for a week and he’d just about had enough of the meticulous rule-following and condescension. The tension between them had been palpable the whole time and they’d butted heads more times in that week than he cared to count.

The little spat from earlier in the day had been his breaking point. He couldn’t stand it anymore. He had to do something. He just didn’t know what.

As he watched little glowing motes of moon magic dance between his fingers, an idea began to form in the back of his mind. It wasn’t a good idea but it was an idea.

His professor had made it abundantly clear he wouldn’t listen to reason. It seemed the old man was keen on forcing him and Chance to work together as some sort of personal development exercise but he wasn’t about to play into that game for much longer.

What he had in mind was risky. Very risky. Using magic on a mortal was the kind of thing that would get a guy expelled from the coven—at best. If he managed to really fuck it up… Well, the potential consequences were terrifying enough they didn’t bear thinking about.

But at this point, even the mere thought of Chance was grating on his nerves so much he was willing to do anything to be rid of him. And it wasn’t like he’d ever followed the coven rules, anyway.

He had one problem and a pretty big one at that. The professor was too visible. There were other members of the coven in the school. Some were students. Others were members of staff. Magic of the kind he had in mind would set off alarm bells the moment he even tried to use it.

No matter how he tried to think through it, he couldn’t find a way to literally change his professor’s mind without being caught. The target was simply too big. There was no getting around it.

His shoulders slumped. It had been a dangerous idea, anyway. But just as he was about to give up, he realized that there might be another way.

He cast his mind back to the other day when Coach had asked him why he was late to practice.

"Any particular reason you were feeling up to a hundred and fifty push-ups today, son?" said Coach.

"No, Coach," Todd puffed in between push-ups. He swore he’d get Chance back for this as his arms burned from the strain. "My partner kept me after class to work on our project."

"Oh. Is that the one you have to do with that really well-dressed kid? What was it? Chance?"

Todd found it a bit odd Coach knew he was doing his project with Chance but he figured his teammates in the class had told Coach about it. "Yeah, Coach," he said.

Coach chuckled. "Alright," he said. "Get up."

Todd hesitated.

"C’mon, son," said Coach, helping Todd back up to his feet. "What’s it like working with that guy? The boys seem to think it’s miserable."

Todd scratched the back of his head. "You want the truth, Coach?" he said.

Coach nodded.

"It’s a fucking pain, man," Todd groaned. "That guy has such a stick shoved so far up his ass it pokes me in the eye whenever he talks."

Coach laughed. "That’s certainly an image," he said, clapping Todd on the shoulder. "Maybe all you gotta do is teach him to loosen up a bit."

Todd scoffed. "I’m not a miracle worker, Coach."

Except Todd was a miracle worker. After a fashion, anyway. Doing magic was pretty close to making miracles happen.

And sure, he’d laughed, but he knew Coach had a point. Chance wasn’t a bad guy, at least as far as he could tell. Chance was just hung up on following rules and keeping up appearances.

If he could just teach Chance how to let his hair down, Todd knew the experience of working with him would be much more pleasant. And no one ever said he couldn’t have a little fun with it, either.

It would take some planning but if he played his cards right, he was pretty sure he could pull it off without being detected. Unlike with his professor, he had an excuse to spend a lot of time with Chance. It meant he could use weaker, stealthier magic.

"I didn’t think you’d show up," said Chance.

Todd slung his gym bag off his shoulders and pulled up a seat across the table from Chance. "Well, it’s my neck on the chopping block too if we don’t do this right," he said as he sat down.

It didn’t take a genius to know Chance was still ticked off. "I’m surprised you care," he said coldly.

"Yeah, well, I want to graduate as much as the next guy."

Chance turned his attention back to the book he’d been reading and flipped the page. "Could have fooled me," he said.

Todd took a breath. Calm, he told himself. Don’t let him get under your skin.

He had a plan. The last thing he needed was to lose his temper and ruin things. "So… What are we doing?"

Chance didn’t even bother looking up from his book to respond. "I managed to submit the last assignment already, no thanks to you. Now grab a book and try to come up with an idea for our paper."

"Right," said Todd. Topic proposals were due in a week. He grabbed a book and paused, setting it down on the desk in front of him.

"Hang on a minute," he said, his fingers lingering on the cover. "Couldn’t we just do this at home? There’s this thing nowadays. It’s called the internet?"

Chance gave Todd a deadpan look. "So?" he said.

Todd’s struggle to keep his temper was becoming more difficult with every passing moment. The stupid look on Chance’s stupid face was making his fingers itch.

Every fiber of his being wanted him to punch the fucker right in the face but he kept his cool. "So," he said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice as much as possible, "I could have saved a thirty-minute drive!"

Chance sighed. "The instructions the professor gave said to go to the library and conduct some research on potential topics for the project. We’re just doing what he told us to do."

Todd couldn’t believe this. Everyone knew that shit was just a suggestion. "Yeah, and we’ll be the only poor schmucks actually doing it the hard way."

Chance turned his attention back to the book. "The right way, you mean," he said.

Todd bristled. "But this is all so unnecessary," he said. "Technology exists for a reason, man! We don’t have to do all of this crap!" For fuck’s sake, even the coven had modernized.

Chance picked up a book and slid it over to Todd’s side of the table. "It’s just a book, Todd," he said. "It’s not going to bite you. And this is the way the professor wants us to do it. Why would he put ‘go to the library’ in the instructions if he didn’t want us to go to the library?"

"Because he’s a senile old man!" Todd wanted to yell. He chose to bite his tongue, instead. He didn’t want to say anything he regretted and besides, their argument had already attracted a couple of glares from the nearby library staff.

"Alright, fine," said Todd as he picked up the book. "What are we even supposed to be looking for?"

Chance sighed.

The gall of this guy, Todd thought to himself. As if he was the exhausting one.

"Anything interesting worth writing a term paper about," said Chance. "Something we can test and conduct further research on."

"Right. Thanks. Some help you are," said Todd as he flicked through the pages of the chemistry book he’d been handed.

"Don’t thank me yet," said Chance. He sifted through the pile of books on the table and handed one, in particular, to Todd. "Here. In case you have any trouble understanding the words."

Todd looked at what he was being proffered. It was a dictionary. Not even a chemistry dictionary. Just a basic English dictionary.

He knew an insult when he saw one. "You little sh—!" He stopped himself just short of reaching across the table and wringing Chance by the neck.

He forced a smile and accepted the dictionary with one hand as he reached into a pouch at his waist with the other. "Thank you," he said sweetly. "And I have something for you, too."

"What is it?" said Chance without looking up from his book.

"Look up at me."

"Is it the finger? Because if it is, real creative, Todd," said Chance in the flattest, most disinterested tone of voice Todd had ever heard.

Todd smiled as their eyes met. "Nope," he said matter-of-factly as he opened his palm in front of his face and blew a cloud of glittering motes of moonlight into Chance’s face.

"Todd!" said Chance, batting at the dregs of the magic that lingered in the air. "What on earth was that?"

The corner of Todd’s mouth curled in a little smirk as Chance’s eyelids grew heavy and his expression grew slack. "You’ll see soon enough."

"Y-you better not have…" Chance’s head rolled forward as his eyes drifted shut and his breathing evened out. He jerked awake and blinked when he went past a certain point. "You better not have drugged me…" he mumbled as he yawned.

"Your eyes should be feeling heavy right about now…" Todd whispered as he scooted his chair over closer to the side Chance was sitting on.

"Real heavy…" Chance mumbled. "W-what did you do?"

"It doesn’t matter."

A small smile lazily spread across Chance’s lips. "It doesn’t matter…" he said, words slurring into one another.

"Your mind is getting sleepy… Your thoughts are slowing down… You’re feeling nice and relaxed… Just drifting in and out at the edge of sleep…"

Chance giggled. "Y-yeah… All those things…"

Todd smirked. Chance was more receptive than he could have ever imagined. "Just listening to the sound of my voice… Listening to the rise and fall of my tone… Drifting deeper and deeper with every breath…"

"Deeper…" Chance’s chest rose as he took a deep breath. "Deeper…"

"That’s right…" Todd reached over and placed a hand over Chance’s wrist. "How are you feeling?"

When Chance spoke again, he mumbled his words so softly Todd had to lean in to make them out. "Sleepy… Relaxed… Deep…"

"You wouldn’t feel relaxed around an enemy, would you?" said Todd.

Chance shook his head.

"Of course not. But you would feel relaxed around a friend, wouldn’t you?"

Chance nodded his head and made a small noise in agreement. If he’d actually said a word, it had been unintelligible.

"And you would feel relaxed and safe around someone you trust, wouldn’t you?"

Chance nodded again. He tilted his head toward the sound of Todd’s voice and he smiled a dopey little smile.

"And you feel safe and relaxed right now, don’t you?" said Todd.

"Relaxed… Safe…" Chance mumbled.

"Then that must mean you’re around someone you trust… Someone you consider a friend… Right?"

Chance hesitated. Clearly, his subconscious rebelled against the idea of characterizing Todd as a friend but that was only to be expected.

Todd pressed the issue. This was the riskiest part. If he managed to get the submission through, then the rest of his plan would be so much easier to carry out. "If you only feel safe and relaxed around someone you trust and whom you consider a friend… and you feel safe and relaxed right now… It only makes sense that you’re with someone whom you trust and consider a friend, right?"

Chance’s lower lip trembled. Sweat trickled down the side of his face. He opened his mouth but nothing came out until, after a few tense heartbeats, a hoarse, "Right…" escaped him.

Bingo. Todd had his foot in the door now. "So that must mean you trust me, right?"

Chance nodded, slowly, as if he wasn’t fully convinced. But that was fine. Todd would smooth over any harsh edges soon enough.

"And that must mean you see me as a friend, right?" said Todd.

Chance nodded again. Faster, this time.

Good. The suggestion was sinking in.

Todd touched the back of Chance’s hand. He brushed his fingers back and forth, tracing the bumps of the knuckles with a feather-light touch. "And you would trust your friend to tell you the truth, wouldn’t you?"

Chance shivered. His fingers twitched against the desk as a small smile tugged at his lips. "I-I would…" he whispered.

Todd smirked. "And since I’m your friend, you trust me to tell you the truth, don’t you?"

Chance nodded, a quiet groan spilling from his slightly parted lips.

"And since you trust me to tell you the truth… That must mean everything I tell you is true, right?"

There was a pause but that was to be expected. It was a strong suggestion and only tenuously logical. But Todd was confident it would get through.

Chance’s eyes darted about under his closed eyelids. His lips parted as a quiet breath escaped him. His mind was clearly trying to process Todd’s words, trying to determine their validity.

This was the most dangerous part of the induction. Todd had to consciously remind himself to maintain the steady rhythm of his breathing. Thankfully, before long, Chance nodded again.

"Good," said Todd, with a small smirk. "Good."

The foundations were in place. It was time to start building. "Even when what I tell you doesn’t sound true, it must be true. Because you trust me to tell you the truth. And because you know what I tell you is the truth…"

Todd continued, stroking his fingers up past Chance’s wrist and over his forearm. "Even if I tell you the sky is purple and the sun rises in the west, you will know it to be true because you trust me to tell you the truth and therefore you know what I tell you must be the truth."

Chance’s brows furrowed. His body tensed. That part of him resisted the suggestion was unfortunate but accounted for, at least, in Todd’s plans. It was a losing battle, anyway, now that the foundation had been laid.

It didn’t take long for Chance’s posture to relax once again. "Because I trust you to tell me the truth… And because I know you will tell me the truth…" he mumbled. "What you tell me must be the truth."

"Good boy," said Todd. "Now. Whenever I, and only I, say the words ‘go to sleep, golden boy,’ you will stop whatever you are doing and return to this deep, deep trance. Do you understand?"

Chance nodded. "I understand…"

Todd brushed his fingers down along the side of Chance’s upper arm. "After this, I will count to ten, slowly bringing you out of trance."

Chance nodded.

"When you awake, your conscious mind will forget everything we talked about during your trance. But your subconscious mind will remember perfectly. And it will understand that you trust me to tell you the truth and that what I tell you must be the truth. Do you understand?"

Chance nodded again.

Todd glanced up. The librarian was looking at him and Chance a bit weirdly but didn’t seem to have any intention of approaching them. "Good boy," he said, whispering the words in Chance’s ear.

"Now… I’ll begin counting. One… Two… Three…"

Todd was practically vibrating with excitement. Everything had gone well so far but the true test of his control was yet to come.

He finished counting but it was a struggle to keep the anticipation out of his voice. "Eight… Slowly waking. Becoming more and more alert… Nine… Forgetting to remember and remembering to forget… Ten… Alert, awake, and ready to listen."

Chance’s eyelids fluttered open. His pale green eyes seemed to shimmer in the light as he took stock of his surroundings.

He seemed tranquil and rested for all of a heartbeat before he realized Todd was right next to him. He jerked away, his chair creaking as he jumped back. "W-what do you think you’re doing?" he stammered.

Todd quirked an eyebrow. It was time to play the role of a concerned friend to see how well his suggestions had gone over. "I was just checking on you… It looked like you’d dozed off."

Chance squinted at Todd. There was clear suspicion in his eyes. "I-I didn’t…" he started, ostensibly in an attempt to deny that he’d dozed off. He stared at the book in front of him, which had flipped pages since he sank into trance, and slowly said, "Did I?"

Todd suppressed the urge to smirk. This was going better than he expected. "You did."


It was time to see how far Todd could push. "You must be tired," he said. "You didn’t get enough sleep last night… Did you?"

Chance flipped back to his place in the book as he stifled a yawn. "I could have sworn I did, but…" He shook his head and blinked rapidly. "I guess not…"

Perfect, Todd thought to himself. "We should go find a quiet corner of the library… So you can take a rest if you need it."

Chance stifled another yawn and started gathering books into his arms. "I-I guess you’re right…"

Todd got up from his seat, grabbed Chance by the wrist, and tugged at him. "Well, come on, then."

"Wait…" said Chance, looking over his shoulders at the armload of books Todd had just forced him to leave behind. "What about the books?"

Todd waved his hand. "Don’t worry about them. We’ll get more… Later."

Chance shrugged. "Alright," he said. "If you say so."

IMPORTANT NOTE: This story was written as a paid commission. If you are interested in commissioning your own story from me, please see the [Commissions] page for more information!

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