In which our heroes lose more than just their minds...
He got to the iron gates at the bottom of his driveway, punched a few numbers into a keypad at the side and pushed past the gate. He walked up the winding driveway to his front door and just as he was about to fumble about for his keys he noticed a note pinned to the door.
I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry for all the shit I put you through all those years ago and I'm sorry for being such a bad friend. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to finally own up to my mistakes and apologize to you. I was a jerk and you didn't deserve what I did to you. I'm glad you've been having so much success after Guns. Your talent far exceeds any I ever thought I had. I wish you all the luck in the world in finding a new singer. Hopefully the next guy won't be an asshole like me! I hope you find someone who's nothing like me at all...
Thank you for being such a great friend to me. I hope my decision will make you happy. I know it's what everyone else wants...
My decision? Slash's heart was beating so fast he was sure it would burst. His mouth was bone dry and his head spun as he shakily turned the key and pushed the door open.
Axl was standing with his back to Slash and his head hung forward like someone who had surrendered. Like someone who had given up and had nothing more to live for.
The singer slowly turned around to face Slash and the guitarist could see the tear stains beneath those greens eyes that he hadn't stared into for so long.
Slash's heart was in his throat and he could barely register Axl's tiny whisper reaching his ears.
"I'm sorry Slash..."
Then Axl raised the gun up to his head and pulled the trigger.
Slash woke up with a scream, his body covered in sweat. He was breathing hard and his heart was pounding like crazy in his chest.
He looked around him in a panic. In the dim glow of the streetlights outside he could just about make out his bedroom, the TV, his guitar... What happened? Was it a dream? Did Axl really...
"Babe what's wrong?"
Perla looked up at the panic stricken guitarist worriedly. She sat up and placed a hand on his shoulder and found that he was shaking.
"Slash, were you having a nightmare?"
He didn't answer. The shit had just been scared out of him and his voice had yet to return. He looked over at his clock. 3:24. He jumped out of bed and threw on some clothes. He practically sprinted down the stairs and grabbed his keys before running out to the car and getting in.
His heart was still racing as he drove through the night. It seemed so real! He felt the note in his hand. He saw Axl standing in front of him. He heard the bang of the gun. He saw Axl's brains fly across the room and splatter onto the wall.
There were no other cars on the road and Slash was suddenly aware of the fact that he was way over the speed limit. He'd be there pretty soon now. Axl's house was only about forty minutes from his own. But how long had he been driving for now? Was he even going the right way? More panic overwhelmed Slash and he quickly pulled over at the side of the road. He rested his head on the steering wheel and tried to calm himself down.
What was he doing? It was all just a horrible dream! Axl hadn't killed himself! He was probably fast asleep and safe in his bed. Did he really think Axl was in danger?
Slash suddenly felt stupid and embarrassed with himself and laughed nervously as he sat alone in his car. But there was still a pang of worry in him. Without even thinking he turned the car back on and continued driving. It was as if his sub conscience had taken over his being. He had to know if Axl was alright. He had to save Axl before he did something stupid.
Half an hour later he stopped the car and looked over to his right. There it was. The huge white mansion that Axl lived in on top of the Malibu hills.
He got out of the car and walked up to the tall white gates. Last time he had been here he was quickly escorted off the premises by an army of bodyguards and personal assistants. And Slash had only got to the gates. But this time the gates were open.
He silently pushed past and walked along the path that led to Axl's front door, confused as to why Axl didn't have the gates locked. He also noticed that there was no one around. No bodyguards, no personal assistants, no members of the CIA, nobody at all.
He was just about to ring the doorbell when he realised what he was doing. He couldn't just show up at Axl's house in the middle of the night and wake the guy up! What was he supposed to say when Axl opened the door? "Hi Axl, please don't kill yourself?"
Slash sighed and turned his back to the door. He felt like an idiot. He was embarrassed that a mere dream had scared him so much that he had actually driven all the way to Axl's house with no plan of action whatsoever.
He slowly took a few steps forward to get back to his car when he heard the click of a door unlocking. He turned back around to face the door and time suddenly held its breath and everything went into slow motion.
The door slowly eased open and out from the darkness within the ghostly pale face of Axl peered out at Slash, wide eyed and confused. The door was opened a little more until Axl's full form could be seen.
Slash couldn't breath and he gaped at the man standing in the doorway. Axl was as white as a phantom, skin bathed in silver moonlight, wearing just a t-shirt and jeans. His bare toes curled up and twitched as the cool air of the night washed over him. He looked just as scared as the frozen guitarist.
"Slash... what are you doing here?" His voice was barely a whisper.
What was he doing here? Slash tried to think but his mind had stopped functioning and he could think of nothing but the man standing before him. Axl...There he was, mere feet away from Slash. The man who was once his best friend and then his arch nemesis and then just a distant memory that Slash rarely thought about. Sudden flashes of locked away memories swam through Slash's head. Laughing with Axl, partying with Axl, yelling at Axl, fighting with Axl, crying with Axl...
What was he supposed to be feeling now? Was he supposed to be angry? Happy? Something in between? He was definitely confused. But then something overcame everything he was thinking and he couldn't stop himself. He ran towards Axl and threw his arms around him, knocking both of them to the floor. He squeezed as hard as he could and swore to himself that he'd never let go. Not again.
Axl didn't know what to do. As if it wasn't enough to see Slash again after all these years, now he was on top of Axl hugging him to death?
"Slash... I can't breathe!" He finally choked out.
Slash released Axl from his love-lock and helped him back up to his feet.
His cheeks turned ever so slightly pink.
"Why are you here?" Asked Axl.
His tone was pure astonishment and curiosity.
"I...um...I had a dream about you." Slash explained.
Now Slash's face was fully red.
"I dreamt that you shot yourself in the head." He added, forcing a nervous laugh.
Terror, sorrow, pity and shock flashed through Axl's face until it finally settled on 'what the fuck'.
"Do you... want to come in for a drink or something?" The singer asked, rather hesitantly.
Slash nodded and Axl stepped aside to let the guitarist in. The house was eerily dark as Slash followed Axl through the enormous front hall. Slash peered into the doors either side of him. In the moonlight filtering in through the windows, he could just about make out the rooms and the furniture within. The house was different from what he remembered. It was very modern and simple.
They walked into the kitchen and Axl switched on the lights making Slash squint at the sudden brightness.
It took Slash a few moments to realise the voice belonged to Axl and that he was talking to Slash.
"Oh, um..." He thought for a minute as a warm fuzziness took over his brain, "Grandma Bailey's hot chocolate? With the special ingredients?"
Axl couldn't help laugh.
"Yeah! I'm surprised you remembered that." He said.
Axl went about his preparation of the hot chocolate as Slash sat down at the kitchen table. There was something about Axl's voice after all these years, hearing him laughing again, seeing him smile that made Slash relax and turn into a little kid again.
He was excited about his hot chocolate. Axl made the best hot chocolate in the world. His grandmother taught him how to make it and told him about all the special ingredients she would add to make it so magical. It was heavenly. Heavenly chocolate and Axl was the angel who made it.
Slash turned his head to steal a glimpse at Axl. More like a stare really. He couldn't help but stare at him. He really did look like an angel. Even now in the proper lights the singer's skin was still porcelain white. He glided about the kitchen so gracefully. Almost floating, like a spectre.
After a few minutes Axl sat down opposite Slash and handed him a mug of hot chocolate. Slash took a slow sip of the drink and closed his eyes, savouring the magic as the otherworldly taste slithered down through his body. After a few moments he opened his eyes and locked his gaze with Axl's sparkling green eyes, watching Slash from over his own mug.
And then reality smacked Slash in the face.
"I'm so sorry I bothered you! I don't know why I came to your house anyway! I just woke up from this dream and thought I had to come see you, see if you were OK, like it was instinct or something and I...I just..."
He couldn't think of anything else to say. He felt stupid once again and looked at Axl with eyes full of apology hoping the singer would accept the insanity and forgive Slash for the unnecessary disturbance.
"It's fine Slash. You got freaked out that's all. I couldn't sleep anyway so you didn't disturb me at all. And...it's kind of nice to see you again."
He smiled that angelic smile and Slash fought the urge to squeeze Axl again.
"It's good to see you too." Slash added timidly.
The hot chocolate was doing wonders for Slash. He felt all dreamy and the world had become hazy, he almost felt dizzy. It was as if a big fuzzy teddy bear had climbed out of the mug and wrapped its huge arms around Slash and was now rocking him gently. It was a great feeling.
"So you had a dream about me?" Axl asked, cocking an eyebrow ever so slightly.
"Uh...yeah," Slash had almost forgotten about the nightmare he'd woken up from a mere hour ago, "You killed yourself. Shot yourself in the head."
He started laughing nervously like before but then that laughter turned into real laughter. He clutched his sides as he laughed even harder at the stupidity of it all and a few tears escaped from his eyes. It was all just too funny all of a sudden. The guitarist looked at Axl and his laughter immediately started to fade.
The singer's face had become even more pale than usual, in an eerie way. If he were any paler he’d be translucent. The way ghosts are.
"Slash, I am dead."
Suddenly the warmth and bliss he had been cocooned with left Slash and he felt cold. A different kind of dizziness found its way into his head now and his heart started to race again. He didn't even realise he was shivering.
"No...It was a dream...You killed yourself in my dream...Just a dream..."
His own voice sounded distant to him. It sounded like some kind of mantra he was repeating over and over again, trying to convince himself rather than Axl.
He looked across the table at Axl and shook his head.
"No you're not dead. You're alive! You're sitting right there in front of me!" Even his yelling sounded far away and weak.
Axl's eyes were sad and teary and full of pity as he looked hopelessly at Slash.
"No...I'm really dead."
Slash just continued shaking his head. His heart was knocking against his ribs and he reached out a hand and grabbed Axl's. It felt cold and heavy. He looked down at the entwined fingers. His own fingers looked vivid and alive next to Axl's pale, almost skeletal ones. A droplet of warm red blood splashed onto Slash's skin and slowly trickled down the back of his hand, leaving a trail of dramatic colour. He stared at the blood for a few more minutes before looking up and choking on his own breath in shock.
Blood was slowing and steadily flowing down the side of Axl's face from a gunshot wound on the side of his head that had just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
Slash just kept on shaking his head. He got up and walked over to Axl, pulling him up too. He wrapped his arms around the singer's thin form and squeezed tight, shaking his head even more.
"You're not dead..." He whispered, tears forming in his eyes.
"Slash I killed myself."
Slash shut his eyes tight and refused to believe that Axl had actually shot himself.
“No! You're not dead! You didn't kill yourself Axl!"
Slash opened his eyes and looked up at Perla. He was lying on the floor of his front hall staring up at her.
"Slash you're in shock. You've been unconscious for the last few minutes. You must have passed out or something. Are you OK? Here, drink this."
She went to hand him a glass of water but he knocked it out of her hands and stood up in a flash, searching around the room and trying to figure out what was happening. His front hall, his front door, paramedics, policemen, blood...
"Axl! Where's Axl?!" He cried out frantically searching for the singer.
A policeman cautiously approached the guitarist, a pen in one hand and a notepad in the other.
"Sir I'd like to ask you a few questions if that's alright with you?"
Slash spun on his heels and bolted out the front door and into his driveway where he stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the gurney being wheeled into an ambulance. A white sheet had been placed over the body and a large bloodstain was at the head of the sheet.
Slash ran over to the gurney, knocking paramedics out of the way and he pulled the sheet down off the body completely.
He stood back in sheer horror at what he saw. This couldn't be real. He had only dreamt it! He was with Axl a minute ago!
The policeman gently wrapped a hand around Slash's arm and guided him away from Axl's body but the guitarist couldn't look away. Even as the sheet was pulled back over the body he couldn't even blink.
"Sir I understand Mr. Rose left a suicide note addressed to only you specifically? What was your association with..."
Slash wasn't listening to the slew of nonsensical questions thrown at him. His mind was numb and he couldn't move. He could barely breathe. Axl was dead. Not only that but Axl believed that this was the way Slash wanted him.
It was rare for Slash to cry but he couldn't hold the tears back anymore. A sudden wave of guilt washed over him. This was his fault. His fault that Axl had killed himself. How would he tell Duff? What would Izzy do without Axl? What about Steven?
Thinking about how heartbroken the vulnerable drummer would be without Axl made Slash cry even harder. Steven was still even hoping for a reunion!
Perla's voice came from a million miles away but Slash didn't want to talk to her. He didn't want to be near anyone at all. He pulled his car keys out of his pocket and took the note off the front door and then got into his car and started driving.
With Axl's note clutched tightly in his hand he drove aimlessly, not even thinking about the turns he was taking or the roads he was on. His heart felt like stone in his chest and the tears just kept on pouring. It was all too much. Seeing Axl die then seeing him alive then seeing him dead again was all too heavy for him.
Slash's eyes suddenly came into focus and he realised he was driving up the winding roads of the Malibu hills. Now with a purpose, he turned a couple more corners until he was back where he came to earlier. But he hadn't been here earlier.
He had only imagined it. His mind had played the worst possible trick on him. He didn't go to Axl's house, Axl didn't make him hot chocolate, he didn't hug Axl, Axl didn't smile at him and Slash didn't dream about Axl killing himself.
Slash went to wipe away the fresh tears and realised he was still holding Axl's note in his hand. He tried to calm down and pull himself together as he smoothed out the crumpled up piece of paper.
He carefully read through it again, as if to savour the last words Axl had for Slash, grim as they were.
I hope you find someone who's nothing like me at all...
Slash could almost hear his heart shatter like glass as he read that. At least, he thought, Axl's last wish would definitely be fulfilled. Whether it be searching for a new singer or simply meeting new people, Slash knew he would never find someone like Axl, ever again.