Slash wishes Axl felt the same way about him...
Slash gripped the razor in his right hand, leaned over, and pressed his ear against the bathroom door. Once he was sure that no one was on the other side, he sat himself onto the edge of the bathtub and began sawing rhythmically at the sensitive skin on his inner wrists. The skin was already rubbed raw from previous cuttings; after a while the old wounds re-opened and blood began spilling out, contrasting sharply with his caramel-colored arm. There was a strange beauty to it; the feeling of the almost burning pain was even more addicting than heroin, even though it didn’t last as long and didn’t block out all his pain forever.
The guitarist slit his wrists five more times: three deeper cuts on his left wrist, two shallow ones on his right. Then he rinsed them under a slight stream of warm water, wrapped them with bandages, covered them with his shirtsleeves, and walked downstairs. Duff and Steven were playing cards at the kitchen table and Izzy and Axl were lying on the couch together, watching a movie, wrapped up underneath one of Vicky Hamilton’s blankets. Axl was behind Izzy, one arm draped across his waist, but he lifted his head as Slash entered and smiled that lazy, dazzlingly beautiful smile of his; the one that softened his emerald eyes and made him look slightly vulnerable.
“Hey, Saul,” he said softly, because he was the only person in Slash’s inner circle who could get away with calling him that. His voice was husky with sleep, but…was there something else? For a moment Slash was convinced he saw his own desire reflected in the singer’s eyes, but then he realized that it was just wishful thinking, just his fantasy that would never happen. Axl and Izzy had been dating since they were thirteen in Indiana; they weren’t going to break it off just so that Axl could be with some stupid scrawny half-black guitarist he hadn’t even known for a whole year yet.
“Hey, Axe,” mumbled Slash, avoiding looking at the couple as he entered Vicky’s kitchen and opened her refrigerator. He pulled out a can of beer and popped it open. For a moment he met Duff’s gaze and the bassist raised one thin, light brown eyebrow. Slash felt his cheeks heat up; he’d forgotten how perceptive Duff could be. With seven brothers and sisters at home, he supposed he’d have to be. He finished off his can of beer, then went to sit with Duff and Steven.
“Do we have a gig tonight?” asked Izzy.
“Always,” said Axl. “We’re playing Madame Wong’s East.”
“Fucksake,” grumbled Duff, tossing a handful of cards on the table. “When are we gonna start playing the Troubadour? It’s almost 1986. We need to start getting places.”
“Be patient, young grasshopper,” said Steven, and they all laughed. Izzy rolled over in Axl’s arms and kissed him, and Slash felt a pang of jealousy slice through his heart.
“Axe, have you seen Slash?”
Axl looked over his shoulder at his boyfriend, Izzy, and shook his head. They were backstage at Madame Wong’s and it was almost time to go on. Axl knew he shouldn’t be too worried, but he was; Slash was, though he hated to admit it, closer to him than anyone else, and he knew the guitarist inside and out.
Izzy walked up and started nuzzling Axl’s neck, but it seemed forced, and after a few seconds Axl pushed him away. They’d been together since they’d first met, way back in seventh grade, but lately Axl was feeling more and more like things weren’t the same between them. They hadn’t had sex since October, which was two months ago, and even when they were alone and kissing neither of them was really able to get into it. Axl knew Izzy perceived the changes as well as he did, but he wasn’t going to say anything. He convinced himself that it was just the stress of getting famous and put it aside to think about later. The problem was, later never came.
“You okay, hon?” Izzy asked, his hazel eyes flashing with worry.
Axl nodded in affirmation. “Just…worried about Slash, I guess.”
Izzy nodded too. “I’ll tell you if he shows up,” he said, before turning and walking out of the dressing room.
As it turned out, Slash didn’t show up for another hour. He was wearing long sleeves and avoided everyone’s gaze as he set up and tuned his guitar. Axl approached him, reached out, tried to touch his arm. Slash jerked away and mumbled, “I’m fine, okay?”
Instantly Axl grew irritated. “Where have you been, Slash?” He practically spat the guitarist’s nickname, watching in satisfaction as he winced slightly.
“Does it even matter?” he asked, shifting the guitar into a more comfortable position and keeping his chocolate brown eyes well-hidden behind his veil of jet black hair. “I’m here now. Let’s just play the show.”
Axl opened his mouth, hesitated, then shut it again. Slash was never late, and whatever had made him late this time was clearly bothering him. They walked out on stage, and for a time Axl forgot to be worried as they roared, crashed, and burned their way through Shadow of Your Love, Mama Kin, Paradise City, and their new one, Sweet Child O’ Mine. It was in the middle of Nightrain that Axl discovered Slash’s secret, however.
They were all running around—except Steve, of course—because it was a song that got them all hyped-up. Slash had shed his shirt and was soloing in a spotlight, his dark torso glistening with sweat. Axl glanced over, wondering if he could go put his arm around his shoulders, as he did sometimes, and it was then that he saw it: crisscrossed up and down Slash’s bare arms, deep and red and scary, were cuts, lacerations that intertwined with his track marks in an almost pattern-like way. It was beautiful and it was ugly all at once; Axl knew no one else had noticed, but he didn’t care: they were there, and they weren’t going away. He made a mental note to talk to Slash later and continued with the song.
After the show, they congregated backstage. Slash was tugging on his shirt as he entered; he met Axl’s eyes for a moment, then quickly turned away.
“I’m thinking I’m just going to go back to the apartment,” he mumbled.
“Mind if I join you?” asked Axl. Slash hesitated, wanting to say ‘no’, but then he shrugged. Axl’s company was pleasant—as long as Izzy wasn’t around.
“Er, Axe?” The rhythm guitarist spoke up softly, shyly. “Duff, Steven, and I…we wanna go hang out at the bar. Would you mind…y’know…?”
The singer shrugged noncommittally. “Sure, man, go have fun.” His eyes drifted for a moment to Slash’s hands, which were rubbing feverishly at his wrists, then back up to Izzy’s hazel eyes. “I’ll catch you later, yeah?”
Izzy nodded, then turned and walked out with Duff and Steven. Axl looked at Slash, but the guitarist was already walking out the other way, in the direction of the darker back alleyways and the longer walk back home. Hurriedly, Axl followed him, coming up alongside him in the silver glow of the moonlight. They were both quiet for a while, each one secretly enjoying the other’s company more than he’d like to admit; then Axl said:
“When I was still in Indiana, on clear nights like this, I used to sneak out my window once Stephen was asleep and go down to the Wabash. Sometimes Izzy would join me and we’d walk and skip stones and talk about shit. We both first realized we were bisexual out there, y’know…”
“Axl,” interrupted Slash, because he hated imagining where this conversation might end up. “Don’t talk about Izzy…please.”
“Just…don’t.” Panic seized up in the guitarist’s chest and he started walking quicker, rubbing instinctively at his sensitive skin. Axl sped up too and said, “Hey. That’s not a reason.” He’d run cross-country in high school and he was still in shape from that; he grabbed at Slash’s arm and yanked him around so they were facing each other.
“I saw those cuts, Slash,” he said. “What the fuck is going on, huh?”
Slash wrenched his arm away, glowering. Axl might’ve been faster, but Slash was stronger and taller.
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Don’t you fucking lie to me!” Axl’s anger boiled over, and he reached down and wrenched up Slash’s shirtsleeve. The scars stood out, red and swollen, against the moonlight. “This, Slash! What is this? People don’t do this to themselves unless they’re really fucking upset over something. What the fuck is going on?”
Slash cut his eyes away from Axl’s intense gaze. “I—I can’t tell you.”
Something like a cross between confusion and hurt and anger flashed over Axl’s face. “Don’t hide shit from me, Slash. I tell you everything. You’re the only one that really gets me. You know sometimes I feel like we can read each other’s minds. You can keep your emotions hidden from everyone else behind that fucking curtain of yours but don’t you ever try to keep me out of your life because you can’t.” His chest was heaving; he tightened his grip on Slash’s wrist and snarled:
“You’re my best friend, you asshole. You’re hurting, so I’m in pain too. Punk-ass motherfucker, I need you to trust me. Why the fuck can’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
Slash shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand,” he mumbled, fully aware that he was completely ruining their friendship. He looked down at his hands, noting how tightly Axl’s pale, beautiful fingers were wrapped around his wrists, then back up at the singer’s face. And suddenly he was aware of how close they were, how he could see the shine of tears in his green eyes and the intense, red flush of anger on his cheeks. Axl opened his mouth to speak but shut it again and swallowed hard. The entire atmosphere had changed. Axl’s eyes cut to Slash’s mouth and he ran his tongue, perhaps subconsciously, over his lips. Slash leaned in slowly, his eyes shutting by degrees, feeling the cold December air getting cut off by the warm heat coming off Axl’s body.
Suddenly there was a burst of raw, cold air on his face. He opened his eyes and saw that Axl had let go of his wrists—which were now tingling pleasantly—and backed up several feet. He looked angry, but more at himself than at Slash.
“No…” he said hoarsely, and then he turned and ran off in the direction of Vicky’s apartment.
Slash hesitated. He wanted to run after Axl; he was aware that Axl probably wanted the same thing; but he couldn’t do it. Embarrassed and confused, he turned and walked off in the opposite direction, and with each step he hated Izzy Stradlin a little bit more.