In which our heroes were inseparable…until they went dancing…
The two young teenagers ran as fast as their skinny legs could let them, hearts beating thunder in their ears. They turned a corner and jumped over a fence and kept running. They ran until they could run no more and finally they collapsed in a parking lot, struggling to breathe as they rolled on the ground laughing.
"You stupid idiot!" Said Slash, clutching his sides in hysterics.
"Did you see her face Slash? Did you see it?" Cried Steven, grinning from ear to ear.
It was getting late and their parents were going to start worrying if they didn't start off for home soon. The sky was already a dark blue and only a few cars were scattered about the parking lot. The few people making their way to their cars looked on at the boys with curious expressions, wondering where their parents were and what on earth could have happened to make them laugh that hard.
After a while their raucous laughter had subsided to giggles. They sat in an empty parking space, bathed in the orange glow of a streetlight, revelling in the satisfaction of having pissed off the lady at the make up counter in the mall once again. It happened on a regular basis and it never got old. It was the usual kind of antics the two best friends got up to.
"Come on man, it's getting late." Said Slash, getting to his feet and offering a hand out to Steven.
The skinny boy looked up at his friend, blue eyes twinkling like stars in the evening. His blonde hair bounced, even when he sat still, the golden wisps just about brushing his shoulders. He was almost the opposite of his friend. Slash was taller, darker and had a small afro of dark curls. They looked like every other teenage kid in Hollywood; ripped jeans, old band t-shirts and rebellious attitudes. Even at the age of thirteen.
Steven beamed and took Slash's hand, pulling himself up with a jump. The two started their journey home, occasionally being stopped by the usual drug dealer or junkie. But they were good kids. Beer and pot was as far as they would go. None of this business of whiskey or heroin. Not yet anyway. They politely turned them all down and kept walking.
After a while they stopped and looked either side of them. Down the Valley on the left was where Steven stayed with his grandmother and to the right in the hills was Slash's house where his mother and brother were probably wondering where he was.
"See you tomorrow dude!" Said Slash, waving to his friend as he started off for his house.
The curly haired boy paused and looked enquiringly at Steven.
"Man, we have the best times together. Don't we?"
He seemed almost lost in thought, in some far away wonderland. Slash knew exactly what he meant and agreed, mirroring the smile on Steven's lips.
"And we'll be best friends forever right?" Asked Steven, with the tiniest whisper of apprehension in his voice.
Slash looked deep into the blue eyes and saw it. He gave Steven a quick but affectionate hug.
"Best friends." Repeated Slash, "Forever."
"That wasn't there last time I was here." Slash poked at the out of place snare drum on Steven's kit.
"I know. I stole it from Danny's garage! What a find huh?"
With a stolen case of beer and pack of cigarettes, the two seventeen year olds were jamming in Steven's basement. Music was now their biggest passion. They still raised hell around Hollywood but not as much as they practised playing their instruments. Now older and supposedly wiser, the boys grew their hair and idolised hedonistic rockstars, either's bedroom covered from wall to wall with posters and flags. With Steven's grandmother out playing bingo, now was the opportune time to be rocking out at full volume.
Steven's kit was a mix and match of stolen, borrowed and second hand drums and cymbals. At least to him it was a step up from banging on pots and pans. Slash was steadily gaining his confidence on the guitar, another well worth hand-me-down. They tried to play along to their favourite songs on the radio, Steven beating wildly out of sync and Slash barely keeping up to the fast paced tempo of his favourite guitar players, let alone hitting the right notes.
"We sound awesome! I can't wait to actually start booking gigs and playing in front of huge crowds!" Cried the hopeful drummer excitedly.
"We'll blow them all away!" Added the guitarist, "Hey you remember that guy I told you about? Izzy something or other? He told me to come see his band sometime, Hollywood Rose I think they're called. He plays guitar and his friend sings and they're playing tonight!"
"We should go see them!" Cried the drummer, ecstatic and wide eyed.
"I wonder what they're like." Said Slash, lighting up a cigarette.
"Hey Slash! Maybe if they're really awesome, we could steal them and start a band of our own!" Chirped Steven.
Slash laughed and blew out a big cloud of smoke.
"Yeah man, you're good at stealing aren't you!" He said, grinning, "But you know, as long as it's me and you together, we'll have a kick ass band!"
The two boys continued laughing and jamming and smoking and drinking, unknowing of the what the small gig that night was going to mean to them in the long run.
The venue had sold out in a matter of hours. 45,000 seats filled with screaming, adoring fans. The lights went down and the stage lit up and the cheering got even louder. The first notes of It's So Easy filled the arena and the crowd went crazy.
Guns N' Roses were the biggest band on the planet and Appetite For Destruction was the greatest album to come out in almost a decade of generic Hair bands, shoving their music down the throats of young people who wanted rock n' roll to come back. And it came back with a bang.
If the incredible music that came from these five guys didn't make Guns N' Roses a household name then their hedonistic lifestyle offstage did. Stories of drug abuse, fistfights and internal squabbling fuelled the interest the public had in them.
Tonight they were on fire. Axl was running wildly about the stage, hypnotizing the audience, Izzy and Slash battled off eachother with hard riffing, Duff kept the bass funky and punk and Steven channelled all of his energy into his intense drumming. The hard work and passion paid off big time as the crowd cheered and screamed and demanded more.
Slash, absorbing the vibes off the crowd completely, ran over and jumped onto the drum riser to play beside his best friend. The blonde shot a big smile to Slash who returned it just as he broke into the guitar solo.
The two had finally reached their ultimate dream of becoming world famous rockstars. Nothing could bring them down off of this pedestal, for them this was almost the ultimate high.
The sound of the fans begging for more became more and more distant as the band made their way backstage after their set, adrenaline pumping and hearts beating hard and fast. Izzy tended to the dozen or so groupies, scantily dressed and waiting eagerly for the Guns backstage, Duff tended to the truck load of alcohol requested in the band rider and Axl disappeared completely. Slash and Steven grabbed their stash and rigs, previously hidden from the others and ran into a nearby equipment closet before shutting the door behind them.
Giggling with both nerves and excitement, Steven allowed Slash to tighten the tourniquet around his arm. The guitarist rubbed at the crook of Steven's elbow before finding a vein he was satisfied with. By now, the tiny closet was filled with the smell of the drug burning on the spoon and Slash carefully sucked some of the sticky brown substance up into the syringe.
"Ready?" Asked the guitarist, searching the drummer's crystal eyes for the tiniest hint of doubt.
Steven fidgeted for a moment, barely able to contain himself with the anticipation of the coming pleasure. He licked his lips, his face eager and hungry.
"Do it." He whispered hoarsely.
A sharp prick as the needle slipped under the drummer's skin. Slash slowly emptied the content of the syringe into Steven's waiting veins until there wasn't a drop left. He pulled the needle away and watched as the blue eyes glazed over and a wide smile spread across Steven's lips. The wave of heroin washed over him and he rode the wave happily and dreamily. Better than music and better than sex.
Slash soon joined Steven in the supreme bliss, sitting next to his friend numbly with the needle dangling from his arm.
The yelling was too much for him. He shut the door of the large bedroom and locked it. Axl and Izzy hadn't stopped screaming at eachother since morning and now that Duff had arrived it had just gotten worse. As big as their mansion was, there was no way Slash could get away from his bickering band mates.
Apart from heroin.
He pulled out the box from beneath the bed and starting his preparation ritual. His collection of syringes, needles and other such paraphernalia had grown through the only ways he had ever known. Stealing and trading. Some from dealers off the street, some from other junkies, a few things from behind Steven's back.
He didn't know where Steven was and the drummer probably didn't know where Slash was. But he didn't care right now. He needed his fix, immediately.
He stabbed the needle into his foot, the veins there not as shrivelled as the rest on his body, which by now was shaking and covered in cold sweat. That familiar wave washed over him but it wasn't good enough. He tried again, filling the syringe with the drug and emptying it into his vein again. He wanted to reach that initial high he had felt the first time he had done heroin. Ever since, he tried and tried but had only ever got close but not quite there.
He curled up into a ball and rocked himself gently, shaking and mumbling to himself. His face was gaunt and he was terribly underweight.
He wouldn't admit it, but Slash was addicted.
Somewhere in the house Steven sat on the floor in the dark, hugging his knees to his chest, breathing heavily, hair clinging to his face with sweat.
He stared at the dirty spoons and freshly used syringes at his feet, wondering when his dealer would next be over to the house to give him that little bit more.
"But you can't do that! We're a team! A Family! You can't just kick me out of this band!" Cried Steven frantically.
Axl, Duff and Izzy stood looking down at the drummer menacingly, making Steven feel two feet tall. Slash stood aside from the confrontation, leaning against a wall with his shaky breaths coming in rough bursts, body sweating and quivering.
"Steven you can't play." Said Duff darkly, "You're too far gone man. You can't play anymore."
Steven shook his head, his wide eyes beginning to well up with tears. He desperately looked from Axl to Izzy, hoping that maybe one of them would disagree with the bassist.
"Steven you have to go. You're fired man, you're out." Said Izzy with such finality it made Steven's tears burst through.
He shakily stepped up to Axl, arms out pathetically, pleading with the singer to have mercy and let him stay in the band that made his life.
"Ax, man you can't do this to me," Pled Steven through his burning tears, "We all started this thing together. We always have each others backs remember? I'll stop using, I promise! Please just let me stay!"
He grabbed Axl's shoulders, forcing the singer to look at him. For a brief second Axl's eyes turned sad and Steven thought maybe he'd let the drummer stay. Then the singer gently pulled away Steven's hands and stepped back, dropping his gaze to the floor.
"You gotta go man."
Steven whirled around on his heels and stalked up to Slash until he was right in the guitarist's face.
"Slash tell them! Tell them! Don't let me go Slash! It was always supposed to be you and me! Together! We would never leave eachother remember? Slash! Best friends until the end!"
The hysterical drummer wrapped his arms around Slash's shoulder and shook and cried into the guitarist's neck. Over Steven's shoulder Slash looked at his other band mates' faces and thought hard. But his mind seemed to be else where at that present moment. He gently pushed Steven away and shook his head. He didn't know what to say. He just wanted it all to stop. He wanted the yelling and the crying to go away. He wanted his heroin fix.
With Steven still crying wildly into his own trembling hands, Slash turned his back and left the room. As he slowly ascended the stairs he could hear the crying getting louder and more frantic and then the slamming of a door, muffling the crying and yelling.
Slash sighed with relief and went into his room and locked the door before pulling out a box from underneath the bed.