Slash returns from a Snakepit tour and realizes that it's time to let Axl go.
The doorbell rang, and Axl felt a slight jolt of excitement in his chest as he got up to answer it. He hadn’t seen his boyfriend since last year, sometime in November of 1995; their communications for the past six months had all been via telephone, even on Christmas and New Year’s. Okay, admittedly, it had hurt a little that he couldn’t even take time off from touring for Christmas, but Axl had forced himself to forget about it. Slash was a busy guy; he had about twice the stamina Axl did and it was only natural he wouldn’t want to be stuck in a mansion while his lover of nearly eleven years struggled through his worst bout of depression since 1990. The redhead listened to It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere once or twice and found it to be okay; however, like everything else Slash recorded with another artist, Axl thought the Snakepit did not live up to Slash’s full potential.
He lifted the little curtain on top of the window on the door, and, as he’d hoped, there stood Slash, a faint smile on his face; an uncharacteristically shy look in his eyes. Axl unlocked the door and opened it, and for a few seconds both men were silent as they gazed at each other, sharp green on soft brown.
“Hey,” said Slash finally. “It’s been a while.”
Axl swallowed. “Yeah,” he murmured. “Six months.”
And then he was grabbing Slash around the waist and pulling him inside, fusing their mouths together as he shut the door behind his guitarist. Slash dropped the duffel bag he’d been carrying and shifted himself so that he was settled more firmly in Axl’s arms. Their tongues danced, and Slash moaned quietly, reaching between them to cup Axl’s hardening cock beneath his leather pants. Axl made a tiny noise of arousal at the back of his throat and pushed Slash backwards until he was pressed, trapped, against the kitchen counter. He chewed gently on Slash’s lower lip, and the younger man whimpered softly in pain-tinged pleasure.
“Damn, fucker,” hissed Axl when they drew away from each other. “I missed you so goddamn much, babe, did you know that?”
Slash nodded, reaching up to brush a few loose strands of his singer’s soft red hair out of his sex-darkened green eyes. “I missed you too, love…” He kissed him again, slowly, allowing the soft, cool pressure of Axl’s lips to assuage the sore, reddened state of his own. Axl slid one hand down Slash’s back and squeezed his ass, making Slash laugh quietly into the kiss. He could feel Axl’s own smile forming against his, and that was nice—having Axl in a good mood was always pleasant.
After a while, they moved from the kitchen to the couch—a couch which had been through more ordeals than any piece of furniture should ever have to endure. Slash could still remember Christmas Eve, 1985—he and Axl had been having some pretty rough sex on that couch when Duff, Izzy, and Steven had walked in on them. He chuckled softly, remembering the look of shock on Steven’s face as he realized that yes, two men could fuck just as hard as he and his girlfriend could; he passed his thumb over the fading stains on the cushions, wondering if any of them were still from that night.
Axl curled up in Slash’s arms, resting his head on his chest and letting out a soft, content sigh. It was one of the many things Slash loved about him: when they were alone—which wasn’t often anymore—Axl felt comfortable enough to fully let his guard down and show his sweeter side; around Slash, and Slash alone, Axl could become Bill Bailey again.
“So,” murmured Axl, “how was the tour?”
Slash hesitated. He couldn’t bear to break the peaceful atmosphere by saying, it was a hell of a lot less stressful than the Use Your Illusion tour was; he wasn’t quite ready to go that far. But he knew Axl would be expecting more than just fine, so finally he said quietly:
“Relaxing. A lot of fun. But I’m glad to be back home, hon. It’ll be nice, being here.”
“Glad you’re here too… oh hey, Slash?”
“While you were gone, I started writing a new song; wanna hear it?”
“Later, Axe… I’m tired.”
Axl moved up, shifting out of Slash’s arms just enough to where the guitarist was looking into his eyes. “Babe… c’mon, please?” he whined. “It’s nothing huge; just piano, and—”
“Later”, repeated Slash, starting to feel irritated. He knew how Axl could get, especially when he was composing; he had a habit of making anyone near him—which was usually Slash—just sit with him for hours while he played, and Slash wasn’t up for that, not today, not after he’d just returned from touring.
Axl blew out a sigh; shut his eyes. When he opened them again, he immediately cut his gaze to a point on the wall behind Slash’s head. Not fair, the voices in his head chorused quietly. He’s not being reasonable…
“That’s not fair,” said Axl. “I’m not asking you to pull out your guitar and start shredding chords next to me… I just want you to hear what I’ve been working on.”
“Axl…” Slash sighed. He hadn’t even been home for ten minutes and already they were getting heated up for an argument. Damn, he missed the old days… the days before Steven had started fucking too hard with drugs; before Axl’s dreams for Guns had become too huge; before Izzy had left, splitting with Duff and everyone else. Those days, when they were all young and fresh, had been so good; every gig had been a miracle to them, and Axl had been… well, not less temperamental, but… easier to handle? Most days Slash thought that, but sometimes he wondered who it was that had really changed.
“I promise I’ll listen to you play as much as you want after I sleep for a couple of hours,” Slash tried to compromise. Axl frowned, and Slash tugged on the inner crook of his elbow, struggling to get him back into the position he’d been in. “C’mon, you know we’ve got all the time in the world…”
Axl jerked his arm out of Slash’s calloused grip. “Don’t do that,” he muttered, scooting across the couch until he was at the opposite end. He flipped his hair out of his eyes and stared at Slash, and the guitarist didn’t fail to notice the annoyance growing in his emerald irises. “If you don’t wanna hear the song, just say so.”
“No,” he interrupted again, and this time he didn’t just look annoyed, he looked angry. “You’ve been out on the road with some long-haired freaks for the past six months, leaving me here to battle all my demons on my own, and now you’ve just come home and you can’t even bring yourself to give me five, maybe six minutes of your precious time?”
“You know it’s not like that.” Now Slash was angry too. “Why do you always make everything about you, Axl? Why does it all have to revolve around you, and your needs? If I’m tired, feeling ill, whatever, you don’t care; you just want me to hear the damn song you wrote. Well guess what, maybe I’m not up for hearing you play right now. Did it ever occur to you that I’m not just some machine you can order around to do whatever the hell you want?”
Axl ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Whatever, Slash,” he grumbled. “It’s fine. Go take a fucking nap, if that’s what you want.” He turned away from the guitarist; gazed out the large, paneled window. “…Thought you gave a fuck about me…” he muttered, and Slash dug his fingernails into the palm of his hand to keep from launching himself across the sofa and strangling him.
“Why do you do that, Axl? Every time we fight, you always say something like that, and it makes me feel guilty. You work on me, and I’m sick of it.”
“We’re not fighting. Why do you think we fight all the time? All I want is for you to hear my song; you just wanna go sleep. It’s not a fight.”
Slash sighed softly. “Fine, Axe, it’s not a fight.” He could hardly believe that this was the same man who, barely fifteen minutes ago, had appeared at the door, a soft smile on his face, cheeks flushed slightly pink, eyes glowing with such intense love it almost hurt to look at him. Then again, it was always hardly believable that Axl’s mood could actually swing as fast as it did. Slash thought about just giving Axl what he wanted, but he knew it was too late to fix the problem; even if he did agree to hear the song, Axl would know that he didn’t really want to, and he’d set things even further off.
Suddenly Axl swung around and set Slash with such a piercing gaze that he actually tensed up and moved back a few inches.
“Are you drunk?”
Slash’s mouth dropped open. “Am I—that’s—Axl, that’s ridiculous! Why would you even make that assumption? If I was drunk I think you’d know it. You’d have been able to smell the booze on me when I walked in the door!”
“Not necessarily. I remember once you got smashed and it was thirty minutes before I realized how wasted you were.”
“Well, I’m not drunk, Axe. Why would I come home in a condition I know you hate?”
“Why wouldn’t you? You like drinking, Slash, and you just spent six months on the road with a bunch of guys who like it just as much as you do.” He sucked in a breath. “Anyway, that’s the only logical explanation I can think of as to why the hell you’re trying to get rid of me.”
“Don’t fuckin’ deny it, okay? You’re saying you’re tired, but I know the truth. You don’t want to see me; you don’t even wanna be here right now. Well, that’s fine, just go back out on the road with your real friends; go make some more music videos with fucking Michael Jackson or something.”
“Axl, that’s not fair. You know I always have to be creating music; you’ve always known that.”
“You could stay home and do it with me…”
“But you aren’t writing anything—” Too late Slash realized what a mistake it would be to say this. Axl’s eyes narrowed and darkened. He leaned forward and grabbed at Slash’s wrist, gripping him so tightly that Slash winced a little.
“I’m not writing anything? Fuckin’ shows how well you’ve been paying attention. Didn’t I just offer for you to come hear something I wrote? Didn’t you just turn that offer down?”
Slash sighed. “Axl, forget it, okay? Forget I said anything. I’m sorry, okay? I’d love to write shit with you, you know that, but later. Not now. Not when I’m about to pass out from exhaustion.”
Axl’s jaw clenched. “No, you forget it, Slash. I don’t want you to hear the song now. It’s not even important. It’s just a shit piano piece, like everything else I write. Just go take your nap and I’m gonna go down to the studio and get out of your hair, like you want me to.”
“Where are you even getting that notion? I want you here. If I didn’t want to be with you, I wouldn’t have come home.”
Axl stood up, pretending he hadn’t heard Slash, and walked to the other end of the room. He stood in front of one of the windows for a while, arms folded across his chest, staring out at the lush green landscape of their backyard. He remembered planting that garden with Slash, back in 1994, right after they’d bought the house. He remembered the sun shining on the backs of their necks; remembered leaning into Slash at some point, inhaling the grassy scent of his hair, and murmuring, “If we ever get married and adopt kids, they’re gonna eat straight out this garden, okay?” Slash had chuckled softly:
“What if they end up like you; what if they don’t like green stuff?”
“It’s not my sperm donations we’ll be using,” Axl replied, squeezing Slash’s hand and smiling when he saw the guitarist smile. They’d finished planting in silence: rows of cabbage, peas, and squash on one side; carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes on the other.
Axl sighed softly. He missed those days; missed having Slash around all the time, being able to hold his hand and nuzzle his neck and have quiet conversations with him about life… it had been that way in the beginning, but when the Use Your Illusion tour had ended, Slash had gone off and made a video with Michael Jackson, and recorded some songs for a Lenny Kravitz album, and he wasn’t around anymore.
And Axl hated it.
After a while, he turned around.
“Slash… we need to talk.”
Slash was still on the couch, one hand over his eyes. He shifted a little when he heard Axl’s voice and murmured, “Yeah, we do.”
Axl walked over and sat down next to the guitarist, flexing his long, pale fingers. He rested his chin on Slash’s knee and, reaching out, brushed the thick, dark curls from his eyes.
“I hate how you barely walked in the door and we started fighting. I didn’t—I didn’t plan it out that way, you know that, right?”
“I just—I don’t know. It’s hard to talk to you these days, Slash. You’re barely ever here, and when you’re here, you’re always distracted.”
Instead of replying, Slash reached over and took Axl’s head in his hands, drawing him closer. Their noses brushed; lips soon followed. For a while there was silence in the room, except for that of the gentle dancing of tongues; the quiet moans pulling from the backs of their throats. When Slash drew away from Axl, he touched their foreheads together, unwilling and unable to get too far apart. He studied Axl’s face for a long time, committing him to memory. He’d been thinking a lot over the tour with the Snakepit, and there was something he needed to say; things he needed to do, things that would crush them both and break them apart, probably forever. He took a deep breath:
“Axl, I need to tell you something, and you aren’t going to like it.”
“Ever since 1993, when the UYI tour ended and we came back to Los Angeles, I’ve been feeling like you and I have been drifting apart.”
“What’re you talking about; we haven’t—”
“Think about it, Axe. You and I barely see each other anymore. Buying this house and planting our garden, that was one of the last things we ever did together. I’m always out recording with other artists, and you—you’re here, writing shit on your own. I wish I could say we’re just as close as we used to be, but we’re not, and it’s not just my fault, it’s both of us that did it.”
Axl squeezed Slash’s hand between his own. “I can fix that.”
“How, Axl? How would you go about fixing broken ties? It’s not just on the surface, what’s going on. Don’t you notice it? We’re not—we’ve drifted apart. It’s a barrier; I’ve been feeling it growing for a long time now.”
A tiny frown creased the space between Axl’s eyebrows. “How long, Slash? How long have you felt like it wasn’t the same between us? Why didn’t you ever say anything before?”
Slash sighed. “I don’t know… it doesn’t even matter, okay? I just needed to tell you, because… I’m thinking… I’m going to leave Guns N’ Roses.” There. He’d said it. He hadn’t been planning on saying it today, not the first day he came back; he’d wanted to wait at least a week, but then they’d had their fight, and Slash had realized that waiting would just prolong the tensions further. Better to get it over with now, better to let Axl just scream at him and make him bleed inwardly. Because doing this in a week, letting Axl think that everything was fine with them when it wasn’t, would be even harder.
“You… what?” Axl’s eyes narrowed, and he drew away from Slash. Cold air hit the guitarist’s face full force and made him flinch.
“I’m leaving Guns,” he repeated, voice almost a whisper. “I didn’t wanna tell you today, but… it’s too late to take it back now.”
Axl shut his eyes. “Fucking hell,” he muttered. “First Izzy, now you? Why do you all want to leave the band? Was it something I did?”
I knew this was coming, Slash thought. He reached out and touched Axl’s cheek, and the singer flinched away from him.
“Axe, don’t be like that, babe. It’s not you, honestly. I just… I don’t feel… it’s complicated.”
“What the hell is so fucking complicated?” Axl snarled. “You’re with me right now; you just got finished telling me how badly you missed me, and now suddenly it’s all ‘oh, I have to leave you, I have to leave Guns’? Make up your mind, Slasher.”
The use of the old nickname tore at Slash’s heartstrings. “We aren’t going anywhere with the band, Axl. I have to move on. I can’t just stay in one place all the time. You don’t understand. I hate having to be with you and know that things aren’t the same between us. I wish we could fix ourselves, but we’ve let it go too long. And it’s not just that I feel like we’re drifting apart… the condition of our relationship isn’t the best, either. Look at us. We fight constantly, whether you want to admit it or not. I love you, Axl, but sometimes being with you—god, sometimes it just drags on me, and I can’t take it.”
There were tears in Axl’s eyes, but he seemed unaware of them. “What is it, what do I do that upsets you? I can stop. I’ll do anything for you, baby, you know that.”
“I’m not going to ask you to fix yourself for me. I would never ask someone to do that. Besides… what you do, what irritates me, is also what made me fall in love with you in the first place.” Slash reached up and wiped a few tears away that were pricking at his own eyes. “Look, Axl, I don’t want to leave you. But I can’t stay. Being with you is too difficult; being without you will be just as bad. I’m torn between staying and leaving; between making us happy and doing the best thing for our relationship.”
“Why would leaving be the best thing for us?” asked Axl, voice hitching at the back of his throat.
Slash swallowed hard. “You realize I’m not going to be gone forever, baby. It’s only until—I can figure out this shit that’s built up between us.”
“Whatever, Slash.” Axl got up then, crossing the room and going to stand beside the same window, the one that overlooked their garden. “If you’re going to go, you better go now.” His voice was hoarse, and Slash knew he was crying. He got up too, and walked over to stand behind his lover. He wrapped his arms around his waist from behind; nuzzled the back of his neck with his nose.
“Axl,” he whispered huskily, holding back the tears he knew were coming. The redheaded singer turned in his arms, and their lips met, tentatively, like the first time they’d ever kissed. Salty tears mixed and fell into their open mouths. Teeth scraped; tongues ran together. Axl slid his hand hesitantly down Slash’s pants, and Slash felt him shaking as he took him in his palm. He hooked his arm around Slash’s neck and kissed him with more force, bruising his dark lips as he stroked him harder. Slash groaned and thrust into Axl’s hand; come spilled out and ran, salty heat, between the vocalist’s pale fingers. They snarled softly, gripping each other, kissing and moving and creating friction and beauty even as Slash was backing towards his bags in the kitchen.
Cold linoleum beneath Axl’s feet told him that it was almost over, and he drew away from Slash, still crying. He lifted Slash’s bag from the floor and slid it onto his guitarist’s shoulder; gripped his hand, twining their fingers in a perfect contrast of light and dark, cream and coffee.
“Will you… will you come back?” Axl whispered huskily.
Slash hesitated. God, he wanted to say ‘yes’ so badly, wanted for Axl to know that things could get better again… but he knew, in his heart, that this was the last time they’d ever speak.
“Yeah,” he said finally, lying to Axl for the first time in his life. “I’ll come back, baby.”
“It’s just… you promised, Saul. You promised you wouldn’t leave.”
Slash looked away, towards the door. “I’ll come back,” he repeated quietly, his heart pounding. “I’ll come back in the morning, tomorrow, and we can talk then. I know this is all a little sudden so I’ll come back tomorrow.”
“Okay,” said Axl softly, never suspecting that his beloved Slash could be lying to him.
Then there was silence. Axl swallowed. There were a thousand things he could have said, but none of them seemed right for this situation. Finally, he just reached forward and touched Slash’s cheek with the backs of his fingers.
“Get out of here, fucker,” he said, “before I lose my control and make you stay by force.”
Slash swept his eyes over Axl’s face. He reached behind him and grabbed the doorknob, twisting it. He almost wished they’d fought harder; how much easier it would be for him to part with Axl on bad terms. But what could he do? He stepped out, balancing one foot on the threshold, the other foot on the concrete of the garage floor.
I love you, he mouthed, and Axl whispered, “Love you too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Slash could not bear to reply to that, so he just slipped out, avoiding Axl’s intense gaze. He took a few slow, hesitant steps, testing the weight of his new freedom, and then he broke into a run.