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Sympathy for the Devil

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Hrothbert of Bainbridge sauntered into Harry Dresden's – no, their – front room, only to find Harry curled into the sofa, a… was that a COMIC BOOK?… in his hands, the subject of rapt perusal by said occasionally ridiculous lover.

Said lover was so deeply intrigued by said… yes, that was a comic book… that Bob took the opportunity to sneak up on Harry and seize it from his hands. "My God, Harry, you're reading some drivel of a comic? I thought you were older than that."

Harry sat up, clearly irked. "It is not a comic book," he defended, "it's a graphic novel. There's a difference."

Bob rifled through the paperback quickly. "Yes, I see. There's nobody flying around in spandex underwear and a cape. I gather that the distinction between comics and graphic novels is the haberdashery?"

His lover pulled it away and placed it on the arm of the sofa. "Stars and stones, Bob, ever since Ancient Mai let you have your physical body back, you've been a royal pain in the ass.

Bob bit his lip, trying to restrain a laugh, as he crossed his arms. "Really, Harry, if you'd rather be on top…"

Harry patted the sofa. "Come on, sit down. I should show you this graphic novel. It really is drivel, but it's interesting. Aleister Crowley's supposedly in it. But it's not really him – it's a fictional version. I think you said you knew him?"

The silver-haired wizard eased himself into the sofa, shedding his jacket and tossing it onto its other arm. "A friend of his in the Golden Dawn had my skull back then. Arthur Machen. He was a journalist but he occasionally wrote horror stories and supernatural fiction. Not that I had anything to do with those, you understand," he chuckled. Then Bob digressed, as he usually did. "Arthur Conan Doyle – he wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories – was going to join the group, but when he found out that Machen wouldn't share me with him to help him with his occult fiction, he walked off in a snit."

There was no reason to dispute Bob's new claim of meddling in historical events, especially as this was yet another story that Harry couldn't disprove. Annoyingly, you usually couldn't disprove Bob's claims. If he were to be believed, even as a ghost for several centuries, Hrothbert of Bainbridge had been the major occult figure of the English-speaking world. Given his history up to Mai's releasing him from his curse, it really was entirely possible. Which, if you knew Bob, was a horrifying thought.

In order to block further musing over Bob's detrimental impact on history – the blackest claim Bob had ever made for himself, of course, was that he'd been asked to create the spell that had caused America to elect Richard Nixon as President – Harry handed him the graphic novel.

Bob looked over the book more thoroughly. "Neil Gaiman? Oh, yes; isn't he the gentleman who did that comic book biography of John Constantine? It wasn't very accurate – you've met John, haven't you?"

Harry nodded. "When I was traveling and getting away from Justin. I bumped into ConJob on the road outside of London. We had a few pints in a really seedy pub full of demons. He griped about the way Gaiman had put things together and then he made a pass at me. His trench coat was a lot cleaner than it looked in those comics."

His lover began skimming the tale in depth. "Crowley a demon? He could only wish. Did you know… and this is true… one day he claimed he'd managed to become invisble? His proof was that he walked through a crowded restaurant in full magical ritual garb and no one said a word about it, so they obviously couldn't see him."

Harry laughed. "I'd be speechless, too. Unless it was a High Council dinner party. You never know what a few of the old-timers there will wear."

"We won't discuss Mai's wardrobe. I owe her." And Bob did. He had managed to rescue her from what he and Mai would only describe as "an incident" a few months before while Harry had been off "gallivanting with Lieutenant Murphy", and Mai's payment to Bob had been to lift the curse he'd had upon him since his early days of necromantic glory. Even causing Nixon's election by telling others how to do it hadn't been considered irredeemably black by Mai after her rescue.

All Harry could do, thinking about Bob and Crowley – "together again" as it somehow struck him, was to remember one of the lines in the book he'd been reading. "He did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards." Crowley – the real one – and Bob certainly had that in common, at least while Bob had been incorporeal; Bob's immense cheer, his obvious satisfaction in constructing such things as doom boxes, Nixon-electing spells, and the like hardly fit the typical vision of "I'm an evil bastard and I'm going to destroy everything in my path and take over the world" usually attributed to mad scientists and sorcerers alike. Neither did Crowley's energetic and enthusiastic lifestyle of squandering inherited money on the Edwardian equivalents of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Well, at least on the sex and drugs, which hadn't really changed since Edwardian times anyway.

Bob sighed, passing the… graphic novel; so that was what they called them these days… back to Harry. "Ah, to go down in history, even if inaccurately."

"You have, too, Bob. Everyone in the magical world knows you, and mostly fears you."

"Yes, darling, but Crowley's made it into popular culture under his own name. He's even on the cover of a Beatles album. I've never made it to the cover of a Beatles album. Although there's no chance with them now… I wonder if I could get a deal with the Rolling Stones. I mean, Mick Jagger did write a song about me."

"Oh, no. Not –"

"Of course. 'Sympathy for the Devil.' Who did you think it was about, my love? My skull was in London in the Sixties – Alex Sanders, the so-called Witch King, owned it back then. I knew Mick and Keith fairly well at the time. Keith wanted me to raise Robert Johnson from the grave to give him guitar lessons, but I'd already shown Sanders how to do it for Eric Clapton, and I didn't want to wear Johnson out." He sighed. "Mick looked adorable when he and Bianca used to do the clone look in those suits and mink coats. But Marianne Faithful was really much nicer than Bianca was."

Harry looked over at Bob thoughtfully. "Bob, if you're such a wild, social party animal – even when you were a ghost – why the hell do you stay with me? I'm not exactly going to parties with David Bowie or Ivana Trump, you know."

Bob slid an arm around Harry. "I've only gotten back on my feet – literally – for a few months. Once I'm up to generating myself a small fortune and a good tailor… I think you'd enjoy going on vacation with Elton and David. I really do. And you really must have dinner with Paul at least once – he can tell you stories about John and Yoko that will make your hair curl. Stars and stones, I haven't seen Paul since… I think since Alex Sanders' wife left. Anyway…"

Harry groaned to himself. Bob might have been safer for humanity – or at least for Harry -- back when he was incorporeal and writing other people's black spells. Maybe making Nixon President wasn't the worst thing Bob could ever do…