The Devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal. The Satanic PR department kept insisting it was more of a "contract-acquisitions-based hostile merger," but "steal" felt more old-fashioned and honest. Hell had a reputation to uphold, which rarely included traits like “honest,” but there were standards, damn it. Uninhibited hedonism had gotten boring millennia ago. The humans still never came out ahead, of course, but at least this way they believed they had a chance.
The Devil turned around to find a youngish human leaning against a fence post and chewing on a piece of straw. He couldn't have been more than about twenty in people years, with floppy blond hair falling over one eye and a red plaid shirt that might have come straight from a satirical play about American rednecks. Maybe not red, specifically - the young man himself was more of a uniform golden hickory color. He regarded the Devil with an absent curiosity and a hint of interest. Probably don't get a lot of out-of-towners here, then. The Devil felt an absurd desire to double-check that his horns and tail weren’t currently corporeal.
"Morning," the Devil replied. This particular morning was typical for earth, presumably. It certainly seemed a promising one. Young men were usually a reliable source of souls, having rarely lost them yet by other means but still foolhardy enough to trade them away, so this human seemed as good a place to start the soul-gathering as any. The Devil put on his best innocently-friendly expression. "Out enjoying the weather?"
The young man tilted his head upward to gaze at the sky, then back at the Devil with a little shrug. "Mostly just come out here so my ma don't complain as much about the noise."
There was a farmhouse quite a ways back from the road, the Devil realized. It would be a long walk to make on a regular basis if the young man often stood down here leaning on the fence. Although - "you seem pretty quiet right now," he said.
The young man’s eyes sparkled and he twisted around to retrieve something from the ground behind him. A violin? No, more likely a fiddle. Violin would be out of character for someone who chewed straw and wore plaid. The young man grinned at the Devil's surprise and pulled out a bow as well.
"You wanna hear me play, mister? No one else does, but I'm real good. I promise."
Couldn't ask for a better opening than that! The Devil smiled back and nodded encouragingly. The humans in Hell often told him his smile was terrifying, but this particular human just tucked the fiddle under his chin and went at it.
And damn, "real good" was an understatement. Hubris would still be this young man’s downfall, of course, as it almost always was with the Devil's other victims, but the boy had the talent to back up his boast. The Devil debated internally for a moment. On the one hand, he had no actual personal experience with the fiddle . . . but on the other, Hell’s soul reserves were getting dangerously low. A subjective wager like “who’s a better player?” carried a risk, of course, but so did possibly causing a Hell-wide blackout by letting the soul stores run dry. As did the possibility of passing this human by and assuming he'd find another mark. Victims were getting savvier by the day, and jilted lovers now had the internet which rendered the whole "trade your soul in exchange for everyone knowing they did you wrong" thing a bit moot.
The Devil clapped politely when the young man capped off the final note with a flourish. "Impressive," he said, entirely sincere. "And actually . . . I guess you didn't know it, but I'm a fiddle-player too."
"Oh?" The young man's gaze sharpened. "Interesting. Handsome stranger comes along and just happens to share one of my favorite hobbies . . . not that I’m not gonna complain. You want a go?" He held out the fiddle in offer. "How long you been playin'? No offense, mister, but you look a bit older 'n me, so I'm guessing it's been a while."
Only by a few thousand years. The blatant once-over was flattering, honestly, if a bit unexpected, but the Devil had a job to do and there was no sense delaying. He waved the young man's fiddle away. "Not so long, actually." This will be my first attempt, but what are demonic powers for if not to impress backwoods Georgia boys? "If you care to take a dare," he offered, "I'll make a bet with you."
"I like bets." The young man grinned at him again and waggled the straw in his mouth so the dry end jolted back and forth. The Devil immediately started imagining what other uses that agile tongue could be put to . . . was he flirting? Or was it just the Devil’s imagination? Doesn’t matter - work comes first. Or at least, it ought to. Plenty of time to imagine later.
"You play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due," the Devil said. "I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul, 'cause I think I'm better than you."
The young man raised one eyebrow. "Fiddle of gold? You keep one in your back pocket or somethin’?"
Oh, now comes the best part. This was the moment that made it all worth it. The moment when some poor human realized that betting their soul was actually a thing. Usually the Devil didn't like to reveal his true self until after he'd already won - or stolen - the soul fair and square (so to speak), but he had a feeling that in this case he had to appeal to the young man's pride. What better way to boost an ego than the chance, however fleeting, to best the one-and-only Prince of Darkness in a fiddle-off?
The Devil closed his eyes and reached deep into his cursed domain, telepathically barking orders at his subordinates. That was one nice thing about Hell - anything was achievable, when you were the one calling the shots. A beautiful golden fiddle appeared in his waiting hand a moment later. The Devil opened his eyes and hoisted it up higher for the young man could see. With a second little burst of power, he made his horns and tail appear and his skin resume its normal shade of scarlet. Might as well go for the full effect.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," he answered. "Custom-made in Hell just for me. Or for you, if you think you can beat me. You game?"
He fully expected the young man to gape, to try to run away, to give some sort of sign he was unnerved by what, to him, probably looked like magic. The familiar human panic would have been reassuring. Instead the young man just twirled his bow in his hand and looked thoughtful.
"Who's judging?" he asked.
Like it matters. "It'll be obvious, I promise you."
"And I get to keep the bow too?"
"Bow, fiddle, the whole thing."
"In that case..." The young man carefully set his own fiddle down on the ground behind him, then stepped forward and surprised the Devil with a pleasantly firm handshake. "My name's Johnny."
The Devil nodded politely. "I’ve been called too many names to recall, but 'The Devil' is fine."
"You put that right out there, then. I like it." Johnny gestured toward the Devil's gold fiddle. "Go on, Devil. It might be a sin, but I'll take your bet. You're gonna regret it, 'cause I'm the best that's ever been."
"We'll see, I suppose," the Devil said. This human wasn’t the first to act cocky in the face of a wager, but he was definitely the first to look so laid back while doing it. "Me first?"
Johnny nodded and leaned one broad shoulder against the fence, the piece of straw back to its previous place between his lips. "Go on; impress me."
Oh, I can do that. Impressing was easy. The Devil tuned his fiddle as ostentatiously as possible - flames dancing in the air around his hands, thunder crashing, occasional flashes of light from the strings of the bow as he applied the rosin. The fiddle and bow were both heavier than he'd expected them to be, but superhuman strength was a handy thing to have sometimes. He pulled the bow experimentally across the strings and it made an evil hiss. Damn it. Or re-damn it, more like. There was a reason nobody sane made fiddles out of gold. Eighty pounds of bad acoustics waiting to happen, that’s what this fiddle was. Hell.
Luckily the wager had a lot of wiggle room. The Devil was a bit surprised, actually - usually humans tried to narrow the scope of the contract, dithering until they thought they'd closed any potential loopholes, but Johnny didn't seem to be bothered by any of that. Too cocky, or too ignorant?
Either way, the Devil was technically in the clear to summon a back-up band. They hadn’t set any rules against it. One more round of mental shouting later, there were four disgruntled demons squatting on the shoulder of the road and shooting the Devil peeved looks.
Tough. This time the fiddle produced a more tonal noise. The Devil manifested instruments for the four demons and arranged them into a semicircle around him, using a low hickory stump next to the fence as his makeshift stage. None of them were any better than he was at producing actual music, but over the course of their impromptu song they actually managed to work out a halfway decent rhythm. Next time he did this, the Devil told himself, he’d use actual damned musicians instead of demons as accompaniment.
Johnny clapped politely when they finished, but there wasn’t any awestruck despair in his expression. He looked downright smug, actually. “That’s pretty good,” he said. “But you better call yourself up a chair right there ‘cause I’m gonna show you how it’s done.”
The Devil vanished his entourage with a wave of his wrist and traded places with Johnny instead, so he could lean against the fencepost and twine his tail absently over the split wood slats as he listened. Johnny stepped up on the hickory stump, put the fiddle up to his chin, winked at him, and started to play.
Hell. Had the Devil thought Johnny’s song was good before? Because that was nothing compared to the sheer brilliance the human was wringing out of his instrument now. The tunes came tumbling out of the fiddle, one hard on the heels of another - Johnny announced their titles as he played, ridiculous names like “Fire on the Mountain” and “Chicken’s in the Breadpan Pickin’ Out Dough,” but the Devil was captivated instead by the way Johnny’s nimble fingers raced over the fretboard and how his entire body seemed to be involved in the process. Hips, shoulders, eyebrows, elbows . . . all of him leaned and tapped and practically gyrated in time with the utterly amazing music. The Devil’s mouth went dry.
Because okay, yes, this young man’s soul would be useful, but perhaps there was something more he’d be willing to deal for. By the time the last notes finished drifting from Johnny’s fiddle, the Devil had made a decision. Johnny let his arms drop to his sides and raised a silent eyebrow.
There was no use pretending. Hell, he’d said the winner would be obvious, hadn’t he? The Devil bowed his head and waved a hand at the golden fiddle and bow, which immediately whisked through the air and came to a rest on the ground at Johnny’s feet. Not close enough to injure him - eighty pounds of twenty-four-carat gold was enough to cause most humans pain if it were supernaturally dropped on their toes - but a clear concession nonetheless.
“Told ya,” Johnny said. “Come on back if you ever want to try again, though. Or, you know.” He gave the Devil a very blatant once-over. “If I’m gonna go to hell anyway, like so many nice Christian people keep telling me I will, I might as well earn it. Never hurts to get in good with the boss. You want another shot?”
The Devil blinked. “What would you do with two golden fiddles?”
“Ha!” Johnny leaned down and picked up the golden bow. The weight as he hefted it made the muscles in his arms flex in a way the Devil was going to be thinking about for decades. “Same as I’d do with one, I suppose - no damn idea. Sell ‘em, I guess. Worst damn acoustics I’ve ever heard.”
The Devil didn’t dispute it.
“No,” Johnny continued, “I meant something else entirely. Playing to one of my other talents.” He twirled the bow between his fingers in a gesture that may not have been intended to look pornographic but was certainly having that effect on the Devil’s physical anatomy. “You do have a functioning dick under those not-at-all-suspiciously-pristine jeans, right?”
“. . . You want to make a second bet? One that involves my cock?”
Johnny smirked. “We can say that, sure. Whatever it takes to get you naked. How ‘bout this: I bet I can make you come faster than you can make me. No tricks, no backup demons.” He jerked his head toward where the Devil’s minions had been. “Just you, me, fewer clothes, and some privacy. Winner gets bragging rights and some excellent jerk-off material for future use.”
Privacy. Privacy would be good. The Devil had to swallow twice before his voice worked properly. “Don’t suppose you want to come back to my place for a bit, then? I can be a bit more . . . creative . . . there.”
“Oh?” Johnny raised one eyebrow. “I can still come back here after, right? I mean, I’m not damning myself by saying yes? Dunno how you structure these bets of yours, but I don’t want to get caught in some technicality.” He winked. “Don’t really care if you cheat on the sex part. Although if you do, I’m just gonna demand another shot once I get my breath back.”
“I give you my word I’m not going to keep you in Hell as a result of this bet.” It was a big concession, but Johnny had already won the first wager and the rules got a bit murkier when it came to rematches. Not that he couldn’t still probably find some way to trick this particular human into losing his soul, but the Devil found that for once he didn’t really want to. The first bout was for work; this one was all personal. “Shall we?”
The Devil stomped twice and exerted a rather larger amount of power than he usually bothered with for a human’s sake. The hickory stump and the fence both rolled back, exposing a marble-lined stairway heading downward. It was ostentatious and more than a bit silly but seemed to be in line with what humans usually expected for the ruler of Hell. Johnny nodded and started downward, pausing and waiting for the Devil to catch up. He’d left the fiddles behind, the Devil noted.
The staircase wasn’t long. It didn’t have to be, as Hell didn’t really have a specific physical location. The Devil sealed up the entrance behind them - no sense allowing another human to stumble upon it, however deserted the country lane may have seemed - and narrowed the stairs into a short corridor which ended at the doorway to his bedroom. Johnny opened the door and stood in the entryway, staring.
“Not really what I expected,” Johnny finally said. “I assumed more fire and brimstone, honestly.”
“Plenty of that to go around, but it’s not really helpful for private quarters. Brimstone reeks.” The Devil wandered in past him and sat on the edge of the bed. It took him a moment to realize he was actually feeling nervous. How about that?
His room really wasn’t all that ridiculous, by supernatural standards - the space adapted to his current requirements, of course, but at the moment it consisted of a simple four-poster, a soft area rug in a gentle shade of gray, and a large window overlooking the rest of Hell. Johnny’s limited human vision probably meant he couldn’t make out all the individual damned souls like the Devil could, but he surely got the general idea.
“You actually live here?” Johnny asked.
“As much as I live anywhere.”
“Fair enough.” Johnny drew the curtains closed - not an exhibitionist, then - and rounded on the Devil with a confident smirk. “I seem to recall we said something about being naked, though?”
Oh. Definitely. As quickly as possible. “May I?” The Devil snapped his fingers and Johnny’s shirt disappeared. When Johnny didn’t object, the Devil snapped again and suddenly both of them were totally nude and their clothes were in a messy pile on the floor.
“Hell yes,” Johnny breathed, eyes locked on the Devil’s groin. “Can’t wait to get my hands on you, Devil. Or my mouth. Or any other part of me that can reach.” He stalked toward the bed, predatory presence not at all diminished by his own lack of clothing. The Devil’s cock was starting to take notice. Johnny’s was, too. “I figure anything we do should be reciprocal, no?”
“That . . . sounds fair.”
Johnny grinned. “Somethin’ tells me you don’t often play fair, Devil. And yet I find myself not giving a damn.”
“You’re that confident?”
“Nah.” Johnny laughed. “I just really, really like gettin’ off. Win either way. Scoot back a bit.” He straddled the Devil’s legs and knee-walked forward, until the Devil was nearly prone below him and their bodies were only a breath away from each other. “Figured you’d be an expert at this, you know. Since everyone keeps blaming you for making people gay.”
“News to me.”
“Mmm.” Johnny propped himself up on one arm and trailed the other hand teasingly down the Devil’s chest and stomach. “I think I’d have remembered you, if it were true. It’s not every day you get to fuck with the Devil.”
“Oh, is that the plan?” The Devil tried to keep his voice even, but Johnny’s confidence was sexy as hell and his fingertips were seriously distracting. The Devil reciprocated instead, sliding his palms along Johnny’s sides and around to explore his back. Nice, broad shoulders, muscles very much in evidence. The Devil could have assumed any shape he wanted to, of course, but he’d never been able to pull off the square-jawed manly-man thing with any real confidence. In his natural form as he was now, he was slender, wiry, and quick. Johnny didn’t seem to mind.
“Probably not fucking on the first date,” Johnny said. His gentle fingers danced over the Devil’s abs and down, to card through what little thatch of pubic hair the Devil had. “God, you feel amazing. Your skin is so soft, almost silky, and even this is whisper-fine. Can’t wait to see what your cock feels like.”
That sounded like an exceptional idea. The Devil nudged his hips upward a bit, just enough to graze his erection against Johnny’s. They both groaned.
“Here, hold me like - that’s it.” Johnny arranged them so they were nearly pressed together and each had the other’s cock in hand. Johnny’s was delightfully thick and filled the Devil’s palm perfectly. Judging from the approving noises Johnny was making, they were both enjoying themselves. “Don’t s’pose you keep lube around here?” Johnny asked. “Or can magic it from the aether or something?”
It wasn’t exactly magic, but conjuring a lubricant was as simple as forming the thought. The Devil blinked once and then both their erections were coated in a continuously refreshing coat of slick. No matter how thoroughly they ground and rubbed against each other, it wouldn’t come off until the Devil damn well wanted it to. He curled his fingers and tried an experimental stroke along Johnny’s cock.
"Fuck!” Johnny panted. He moaned, low and dirty and so sexy it practically hurt to hear, then settled in to show the Devil exactly how wicked humans could be.
The answer, apparently, was very. Within an incredibly short amount of time the Devil and Johnny were pressed chest-to-chest and frotting frantically against each other. Johnny’s body would have been hot enough on its own, but somehow his aura of cocky “I’m gonna make you lose your fucking mind” was doing things to the Devil’s libido that he’d never really even considered before. In addition to the glorious slide-and-grind, Johnny was keeping up a constant low-grade stream of filthy monologue.
“Gonna make you come just like this,” he murmured. “Gonna milk you dry and leave you a boneless husk on your own messy bedsheets. You’re gonna beg me to let you come, Devil. You like it like this, huh? Me bossy as hell and you just lyin’ there and takin’ it?”
He did, very much, but the Devil was somehow not quite up to forming the words. “Ngh.”
“Hell yes.” Johnny folded himself lower, keeping up their dick-to-dick contact even as he sucked what would probably be an impressive bruise on the right side of the Devil’s neck. “Just give in,” he breathed, hot and most in the Devil’s ear. “You want me to make you come, don’t ya?”
The Devil sped up the undulation of his hips in response. He was almost there, almost-
“You’re gonna lose the bet,” Johnny murmured.
“Don’t . . . care . . .” Hell, the peak was right there in reach, if only-
“Ask me, then.” Johnny punctuated the command with a particularly delightful twist of his wrist. “Tell me you wanna come.”
“I do. Please.”
“Then do it.” Johnny bit down, hard, on the Devil’s earlobe, and at the same time he shifted his grip just the right amount for the Devil to suddenly be seeing stars. The Devil came with a near-silent shudder. Johnny gentled his touch and stroked him through it.
“Damn.” The Devil let his head fall back heavily against the mattress and waited for the world to stop spinning. “I can’t remember the last time I lost two bets in one day,” he admitted.
“Mmm.” Johnny rolled off and lay next to the Devil, letting him get his breath back. “You picked two of my more interesting skillsets, I’ll tell ya that. Although when you’re ready . . .”
The Devil glanced down at Johnny’s still-rock-hard erection. His dick was gorgeous. The Devil still wasn’t up to actually sitting up yet, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still lend a hand. So to speak.
His tail had been neglected until this point, trailing down uselessly over the edge of the bed. The Devil shifted a bit so he could reach it up and curl it in two fat loops around Johnny’s cock. Johnny sucked in a breath and practically vibrated with anticipation.
“You like that,” the Devil observed. Like it hadn’t been obvious. “It’s my favorite way to get myself off, actually - the nerves along my tail are extremely sensitive when I let them be. If you hadn’t gotten me so distracted I could have showed you earlier.”
“Show me now.”
“You’ve definitely earned it.” It felt odd, doing this to someone else and only experiencing half the sensations in the equation, but this particular human was worth trying something new for. Now that Johnny had won both bragging rights and an entirely useless fiddle, he seemed to have relaxed a bit and was allowing the Devil to experiment. The Devil started up a rolling, pulsing motion - the one that always made him come the fastest, when he bothered masturbating in the first place. Even though he’d just come, the barely-there friction on his tail felt fantastic.
“Fuck.” Johnny closed his eyes and groaned. “Yeah, just like that. I’m close.”
“Should I make you beg?” the Devil teased.
Johnny cracked one eye open to glare at him. “Fuck. You.”
“Not on the first date, I thought you said.”
“Yeah, but I-ooooh.” Johnny tensed up for a long, glorious moment, then practically melted as he came. The Devil felt a strange sense of satisfaction in having done that so directly - not through some supernatural powers, but through old-fashioned manual (caudal?) stimulation. Johnny reached over and squeezed the Devil’s hand as he came back down from the high of his orgasm. Somehow that one gesture felt more intimate than the sex had been.
They lay in silence for several minutes.
“So this mean you’re really gonna let me keep that golden fiddle?” Johnny finally asked. He sat up and stretched - not self-conscious in the least about his nudity - and got off the bed to go retrieve his clothes. “Because as much as I don’t really have a use for one, I’m just as happy to not be giving up my soul. Seems like something I should probably hold onto.”
“Would you prefer to receive money instead?” Unlike Johnny, the Devil didn’t feel any particular need to re-clothe himself. “That would be easy enough.”
“What do you even need souls for, anyhow?” Johnny fastened up his jeans and shot the Devil a questioning look. “You eat ‘em or something?”
The Devil resisted the urge to shudder. “Now that’s a disgusting thought. No, I don’t eat souls.”
“Use ‘em for dark rituals?”
“Closer.” The Devil waved toward the window, wordlessly drawing aside the curtains so the full Hellscape was laid out before them. “Although more literally ‘dark’ than you probably meant. The energy from damned souls functions similar to your electricity on earth.”
“Huh.” Johnny wandered closer to the window and peered out. “I guess fire and brimstone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Although I guess you gotta have something to burn, right?”
“More brimstone than souls at the moment.” The Devil wrinkled his nose. “It smells terrible, but unfortunately we’re running low on souls.”
“Human souls are your clean energy solution?”
“Not a terrible analogy.”
“How’s your thermal efficiency?”
The Devil blinked. “Pardon?”
“The conversion,” Johnny explained. “Have you looked for places you can optimize the throughput? Chances are, if you set this system up more than about a decade ago and you’re not using some fancy Hell-magic technology, there are probably things you could improve. Assuming the whole electricity metaphor is based on your power source following actual rules of physics.”
It took a moment for the Devil to mentally catch up to his mental picture of this particular human as a backwards redneck suddenly being thrown for a loop. “You . . . have experience with this?”
Johnny grinned. “Admit it - you assumed I was a broke Georgia hick with no education. Grad student at Georgia Tech, thankyouverymuch, with an undergrad degree in mechanical engineering. Not sure it would help in your situation, of course, but I’ll admit I’m curious.”
The Devil blinked a few times, then caught himself. “You’re volunteering to take a look?”
“Might be.” Johnny cocked his head to one side and studied the Devil for a moment. “You only work in wagers, or would you be open to an arrangement? You let me come back here sometimes - including more of that freakly tail sex - and I’ll see what I can do to help you out. Reducing your dependence on souls would free up more of your time, I’m guessin’. Leaving more for getting off with me.”
“That’s . . . not what I expected this to come to when I first saw you,” the Devil admitted.
“Welcome to Georgia, then. Where our gay engineers with possibly idiotic risk-taking tendencies look just like everyone else.”
Every instinct the Devil had was screaming that he shouldn’t agree. Every deal had a catch, and if someone offered one that didn’t it just meant you hadn’t figured it out yet. Even so, the Devil was having a hard time seeing the catch in Johnny’s proposal. “One condition,” he finally said.
“You have to play more of that fiddle for me sometimes.”
Johnny’s grin returned. “Deal.”