It's funny how one event can change everything. Set early 2010. Eventual Slash/Axl.
"Axl? What the fuck?" He began, before noticing the singer's more than bedraggled state, "Shit, you're soaking!" Then, "Ax? You okay man?" When he recieved no reply, just a frightened plea in Axl's eyes, he said, "C'mon." Taking Axl's limp, unresponsive arm, he led him into the house, leaving him standing in the hallway, lost, whilst he went to find a towel and some old clothes that were hopefully more Axl's size than his. The singer's appearence was startling in comparison to what it had been last time Slash had seen a picture of his old... friend? Aquaintance? Soulmate? He wasn't sure what to call Axl anymore. He wasn't even sure why the younger man was even there. All he knew was that if Axl was this badly in need, even Slash wouldn't, couldn't, deny it to him. Axl's hair was long again, the blonde dye having faded back to red sometime in the last few months and the corn-rows having mysteriously vanished, and he was thin. Thinner than ever. He looked like he had when they had first met, only even younger and more vulnerable, if that was even possible.
Grabbing the warmest, fluffiest towel he could find, Slash rumaged through the bottom drawer of the closet until he found a t-shirt that he was pretty sure actually had belonged to Axl, a long time ago, and a pair of tracksuit bottoms that were probably way too long for him but would at least keep him warm. He jogged back downstairs to find Axl slumped on the floor next to the door, knees brought up to his chest, his forehead resting upon them, his shoulders shaking as he cried. Slowly but not quietly, so as not to startle him, Slash sat down next to Axl and gently got him to lean forward so he could wrap the towel around the singer's shoulders, not yet attempting to convince Axl that a change of clothes would be a good idea.
"So," He began, after a second of trying to arrange his thoughts and failing rather dismally, "What the hell happened to you?"
Axl's body shuddered and he whispered, "'M sorry. Shouldn't even be here, you don't want me here, don't even like me..."
"Axl..." Slash sighed, "I don't... not like you."
Axl raised his head slightly, "Why not?" He asked, his tone curious rather than challenging.
"Because... I just don't. I don't know why. I probably should. Ax... Just tell me what happened." He paused, "Please?"
Axl stared at him for a second, his expression caught between shocked and confused, then said, "I... fight."
Biting back the scolding that threatened to roll off his tongue, aware that Axl really didn't need that right now if he was desperate enough to come to Slash, "With who?" The guitarist asked softly.
Axl didn't ask right away, staring down at the floor, biting his lip until he drew blood, then raising his head and whispering, "D... Dad..."
"What?!" Slash could hear the anger coursing through his voice even as he spoke and immediatly dialed it back, noticing Axl's flinch, "Why the fuck was he even near you?" He asked, his voice softer, expressing his anger through swearing rather than tone.
"He... I... I don't even know... He was just so angry... And... Fuck... Slash... I couldn't think... I was just so scared... D... didn't know where else to go..."
Slash ran a hand through his long curly black hair, seething with rage that Axl's step-father would dare to even touch the singer, "Hell. 'S okay Axl. I'd honestly rather than you were here and safe, than somewhere else and in danger."
Axl was still shaking badly but with Slash's acceptance his tears were beginning to dry and he managed to speak without stuttering, albeit it slowly, "Thank you." And with that he moved over and tentatively placed his head on Slash's chest. The guitarist froze for a second but before Axl could begin to pull away again, he drew the singer close in a tight, ferocious hug. After a few minutes, he gently sat Axl back up again, noting how weak and fragile he was, and held up the clothes he had brought down, "You'd better change into these, you're soaking."
Axl stared at the garments for a second then gave a small frown and said, "Hey! That's my shirt!" Then, "Thanks man."
"Yeah, yeah." Slash tossed the clothes at him, grinning softly, "Bathroom's upstairs, second door to the right."
Ideally, Slash would've used the time Axl spent changing to think things over and decide whether he was doing the right thing not ringing Baz and telling him to come over to get his friend. However, he still had unanswered questions and followed Axl upstairs, "So what's with the water?" He called through the bathroom door.
Axl's repy was still slow but less disjointed and he wasn't whispering as much as he had been, "There was a bucket of water and... um... yeah..." He trailed off, his voice shaking slightly.
"Yeah..." Axl sighed. A moment later a quiet voice asked, "Slash?"
"Yeah?" Slash, who had slumped against the wall whilst waiting, sat up straight at the sudden change in the other man's voice.
"I can't... I'm really cold."
"You want me to come in there?"
"Y..." A pause, "Yeah. Please."
Slash cautiously opened the door and moved to wear Axl was sat leaning against the wall between the bathroom and the toilet, "Wow. Deja vu." The guitarist said softly, noticing a wild, scared expression in Axl's eyes. He'd found Axl in this state once before. The memories were still raw in the minds of both men, scars that would never truly be gone, cuts that would never completely heal.
"Yeah." Axl whispered as Slash sat down next to him.
"So why are we on the floor this time?"
"Dizzy." Axl mumbled quietly. Everything he had done since stepping over the threshold had been quiet, small, unobtrusive, almost nervous, and it was worrying Slash.
The singer had pulled on the t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms but was still shivering badly even though he had dried himself with the towel that Slash had lent him. Moving slowly and carefully so he wouldn't startle the other man, Slash lifted his own jumper over his head and said softly, "Put that on, man. I can find another one." He smiled softly and encouragingly as Axl looked up at him, his expression quizzical as if not entirely sure that Slash meant what he was saying. Seeing no challenge in the guitarist's eyes, he slid the jumper on and cautiously moved closer to Slash. Lifting his arm, Slash pulled him into another hug then said, "We've gotta talk ya know."
"I... I know." Axl still sounded nervous and uncertain, but his voice was stronger and he had stopped shaking as much, colour beginning to flood back into his still too pale cheeks.
Slash helped Axl to stand up, then quickly got him into the bedroom and sitting down again. Axl's legs were wobbly and he looked as though he was going to pass out at any moment, "Think you can get downstairs so I can make some food?" The guitarist asked Axl gently.
Axl nodded, "Yeah." He whispered, looking pale and tired. Slash knew he was in shock and wanted to get something hot into him as soon as possible.
"Lean on me." Slash suggested and Axl looked up at him, wide eyes filled with tears. Slash sat down next to the singer, "I mean it. I want to help you."
Axl was silent for a momen, then said quietly, "'M sorry. For all the shit I caused. 'M sorry. So fucking sorry." He looked into Slash's eyes, and slowly, carefully said, "Thank you."
Finally letting down all the walls he had erected around the part of his mind that still cared deeply for his old friend, the guitarist said, "You're welcome."
Sitting across from Slash at the kitchen table, minutes later, Axl said, "I was scared. He surprised me. It was all over in seconds but... I don't know, it just..."
"Tell me what happened?" Slash suggested quietly.
Axl tilted his head to one side, "You really wanna know? I... thought you didn't care?"
"We've been through this." Slash began, then saw the look of fear in Axl's eyes. The other man still didn't believe that Slash could have, and had, forgiven him, "Look," He said, his tone gentler, "I do care. I told you I do. Axl... If I didn't care, then we neve would've argued. I never would've left. It'd never have hurt me." The admission took a lot but the realisation in Axl's eyes was worth it.
"You left 'cos..?"
"You shut me out, okay? We were supposed to be friends, Ax! And then..." Slash fell silent, praying that he hadn't said too much.
Axl was quiet and still for a moment. When Slash looked at him, he could see Axl thinking, deeply. When the singer finally spoke, he said, "I was scared. Hell, I've spent my whole life being scared. Of Dad, of LA, of you, of what the drugs and the alcohol was doing to you. To us. I just didn't want to lose the band as well. I couldn't stop you taking drugs. I tried. No one listened. So I grabbed onto the one thing I could control. The band, the money. I know I hurt you... I didn't mean to and I know it's no excuse... I wasn't thinking..."
"No, you weren't." Slash told him, "But neither were we. At least you were sober. I guess... I just wanted... I wanted you to try to make me change. I wanted you to get angry, to shout, to yell. Not shove papers under my nose. I signed the fucking things just to make you all go away. I was lost. I needed someone to pull me back and you weren't there. But you know what? And it took me years to realise this... I wasn't the only one, was I? You had your own problems. Problems we all ignored. Too absorbed in our own."
"Some people would say I was attention seeking." Axl said, "That I was making a big deal out of nothing. That I should move on."
"Yeah, they would. They do. But we all know that's not the way things work."
"You mean that? You really believe that?"
"Yes." Slash said simply, "Tell me what happened, Axl. I want to help you."
Axl stared at him, then, staring over Slash's shoulder as if looking at something far away, said, "He was preaching all that same old shit about how God was going to strike me down, that I was evil... So I told him that he wasn't any better. He... he got real angry... Tried to grab me... I just... I freaked. I... I don't remember... kinda... but... I know I was screaming and yelling... He grabbed the bucket, threw the water over me... Fucking freezing... and... and... I couldn't move, it was so fucking cold and wet... I just froze. He kicked me, punched my stomach, like when I was a kid... And just left."
Whilst the singer had been speaking, Slash had moved closer and closer. When Axl was finished speaking, the guitarist was close enough to just take him into his arms, holding the lithe, shaking body in strong arms, "I'm sorry." He said quietly, "I wish I could protect you from it all, tell you it'd all be okay... It will be, I swear, but you need to tell the police."
"A restraining order won't do it. Anyway, my whole childhood's a matter of public record and no one's ever done anything. 'S all hearsay." Axl mumbled, burying his head in Slash's chest.
"I know. We'll get him though." Slash sounded determined and it brought a smile to Axl's face.
"Somehow." Slash told him, "Can't let him get away with this shit. He's not even your real father for fucksake. Who's he think he is, anyway? Fucking hypocrite."
"You sound like a fuckin' teenager."
"Says the four year old." Slash stuck his tongue out and Axl giggled softly.
Leaning back against Slash, the singer said weakly, "Thank you."