Johnny may have thought that was the end of it, but the devil didn't give up easily.
He could be patient when he needed to, and he never gave up what was his.
And so the devil watched.
And the devil tempted.
He found the boy in a bar, a watering hole for the down-and-out and up-and-coming, playing for anyone who’d listen.
The devil stepped up and tossed a coin in his jar, where it glittered among the plain and muddy human money.
“Hello, Johnny. How’s the fiddle playing these days?”
Johnny smirked at him. “Come back for another? I’ll beat you again. I’m still the best there is.”
The devil tsked. “I don’t need your soul now, boy, but I’m always good for another wager. There’s plenty of gold in Hell.” He circled to stand behind him, standing close enough for his breath to brush Johnny’s ear. “The usual stakes?”
Johnny shivered and looked back at him, thinking. “What did you have in mind?”
The devil smiled. “Well now, I know you don’t need the money, but I’ll bet a fiddle-weight in gold you’ll never get all these people clapping.”
Johnny won the gold.
And again the next night.
The devil smiled.
He stole Johnny from the seedy hole, cleaned him up and dressed him proper. Took him to the city. To another bar, sleek and gleaming, just the same underneath as the last one. Bought him a drink. Showed him the big-time star, lounging in a corner, people fawning over him.
“He made a bet with me once.”
“You lose a lot for a gambling man,” Johnny scoffed.
“What makes you think he won?” The devil grinned, fingers brushing Johnny’s shoulder. “I gave him everything he has. I could give it to you, too.”
Johnny’s skin jumped under his touch. “What makes you think I want it?”
It was the devil’s turn to sneer. “You saying you don’t? I’ll give you everything he has, if you can best him.” He shrugged. “Or you don’t want it bad enough, I’ll put you right back where I got you from.”
The devil waited.
Johnny won again.
The devil walked away humming.
It was a simple matter, really. Humans were fickle and fragile, and one man’s loss was nobody else’s nevermind, not with a golden fiddler in the wings.
And Johnny, Johnny never could say no to a bit of fame and fortune.
Not in public, anyway.
“You killed him.”
“Not me, Johnny boy. Just a car in the street.” The devil shrugged, sidling up to Johnny. “You wanted what he had, didn’t you?” Johnny stepped back and ran into the wall, and the devil moved forward again. “Now it’s all yours.”
“I wanted those things; I didn’t want him dead! I never agreed to any deal.”
The devil set his hand lightly at Johnny’s neck. “Call it a gift. A taste of things to come. You do still want it, don’t you? After all, he’s already dead.”
Johnny punched the devil.
The devil laughed.
Of course, Johnny sulked after that. Not that the boy would call it as much. Sitting alone in the dark, brooding.
“Leave me alone.”
“What, no snappy conversation for me, Johnny?” The devil knelt by Johnny’s chair, his arms along the back, almost an embrace. “You just gonna sit here all day? You’ve got obligations now.”
“Get out.” Johnny barely looked at him. “You can’t make me do anything. I’m not taking any bets.”
The devil shrugged and left, a smile on his face.
He came around. They always came around, even the best. Humans were so much fun.
And there was still fame to be had, and riches. Rich clothes, rich food, rich cars and girls and boys - so much more than a fiddler from the back of Georgia had ever had.
“Might as well make the best of it, right, Johnny?”
“This is all ill-gotten gains,” Johnny said, scowling. “Blood money.”
The devil smirked. “I tell you what. I’ll give it to you all from my very own smoky pockets. None of his, all of mine. Take me for all you can. Think of it as a challenge. I’ll bet you you can’t bankrupt Hell.”
Johnny narrowed his eyes, calculating. “I get it all, not even a cent left, then you get my soul. Otherwise, I keep it.”
“Yeah, Johnny, but you have to use it.”
Johnny smiled. It wasn’t nice. “I bet I can show even you some new ways.”
The devil clapped Johnny on the shoulder, wrapped an arm around him. “Looking forward to it.”
When they finished, the devil let some days go by. He still had one thing left, after all, and Johnny would need some faculties for this one.
“Nicely done, boy.” He waved his hands and the phantoms of women sidled up to Johnny. “You ready to take some time to yourself?” Johnny smirked at the women but otherwise ignored them. His eyes kept drifting back to the devil as he wandered the room.
Ah, so it’s like that, is it?
The devil slithered over and obliged. The phantom women disappeared.
“I love a boy who keeps me on my toes, Johnny.” The devil slid his hands down Johnny’s chest. “You’re a hard man, ain’t you?” He pressed closer. “In more ways than one.”
Johnny’s breath caught, and his hands clutched at the devil’s sides. “This’d be a sin.”
The devil chuckled low and Johnny groaned. “Bit late to be worrying now, Johnny boy. Not after all those bets.”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “I won those bets.”
The devil clucked his tongue. “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. You took those bets. Money you didn’t need, someone else’s things you wanted, letting your anger and gloom get the best of you, taking everything you could.” Johnny blinked at him, anger and horror and denial fighting on his face. “‘Course, that’s all just the icing, really. You still think you’re better than the devil, don’t you? Proud of it, too.”
Johnny pushed him away, and the devil fell to the bed, still smirking. “Think you can beat me at this game, boy?” He stretched luxuriously, watching the way Johnny’s eyes watched him. “Your soul’s been mine since you won that fiddle. You do good, maybe I’ll give it back.”
“You’re a liar and a thief,” Johnny accused.
“I’m the devil, boy. What did you expect? But now haven’t I given as good as I’ve got?” He crooked a finger, beckoning, and Johnny stepped closer, eyes locked on him. “Haven’t missed your soul yet, have you?”
“I’m still alive.”
The devil grinned. “Try living, Johnny.” He crooked a long-nailed finger under Johnny’s chin and brought him close, flicking his forked tongue out to taste Johnny’s lips. Johnny gasped and his hands clutched the devil’s sides, tightening like he couldn’t decide to pull him close or push him off. “Or you afraid, boy?”
Johnny scowled and pushed, pinning the devil to the bed. “I ain’t afraid of nothing, you son of a bitch.”
“Yeah?” The devil grinned. “Prove it.” He slid a leg up, pushing up into Johnny’s hold. “You gonna show me how it’s done again? Have to be damn good to win your soul back this time.”
Johnny smirked. “I’m still the best.”
He is, the devil has to concede, pretty damned good.
Johnny stretches and preens, and the devil chuckles low and bites his stomach. “Long as you think you’re the best, you’re still mine, you know.”
Johnny glares at him, a bit less angry than he’d probably like, given the situation. “You said you’d give my soul back.”
“Can’t give you back what you keep throwing away, boy.” The devil smiles and runs his hot hands over Johnny’s hips. “You keep doing this, though, I’ll keep giving it back. Maybe eventually it’ll stick.” It won’t; not with Johnny’s pride.
Johnny smirks, though. “Can’t get enough of me?”
The devil laughs. “Let’s find out.”