Sequel to Far From Home. A phone call from Axl to Slash results in a lot more than either man bargained for.
Sometimes that was a good thing—like when he, Duff, and Izzy went out together and reminisced about the good times—but mostly it was not. Memories made Slash unhappy, and unhappiness led to stress, which led to drinking, which led to depression. He’d told everyone—his wife, his kids, the fans—that he was sober, but nothing could be further from the truth. He no longer used drugs; having the heart attack and getting the pacemaker in 2003 had been enough of a wake-up call against ever even touching Oxycontin or heroin or cocaine again. But Slash still drank; he could go through an entire six pack in one day, and on weekends nothing was more satisfying to him than going to the Strip and getting completely shitfaced at the Troubadour or the Rainbow.
The worst thing was remembering that night. Well, technically it had been three in the morning, but still. That night had occurred about two months after Slash had left Axl; over the course of those eight weeks, he’d been forced to endure a string of phone calls that had started out tearful and pleading (“where are you, Saul? You promised you’d come back…”), gone to threatening, (“fuckin’ pick up the phone… I don’t know why you abandoned me but you better pick up this goddamn phone”), and finally ended with such intense anger that it actually hurt to listen to him (“I’m sorry I ever gave my heart to you… I hope you fuckin’ die alone and no one goes to your funeral…”). Listening to those messages had been agonizing, but Slash had forced himself to stay away from the phone. And after one last call—during which Axl had called Slash every horrible name under the sun and then, through his tears, vowed never to speak to him again—the messages stopped coming. Slash had tried to write an apology note—he’d tried several times, but it always came out shitty. Finally, at three a.m. in the heat of mid-July, after a long night with his friend Jack Daniel’s, he’d made a trek to Axl’s place. He’d knocked at the door, and after a while the singer had answered. He’d stared at Slash for a long time, then he’d snapped:
“You’re drunk. Get the fuck away.”
“Lemme in… I gotta talk t’ ya…” Slash had kind of lurched forward, and Axl shoved him backwards.
“Fuckin’ get out of here, Hudson,” he snarled, and then he slammed the door shut. Slash had drunkenly tried to get in several more times, but Axl ignored him, and finally he’d gone away. He went back home, locked himself in his bathroom, and tried to commit suicide… but it didn’t work. Eventually he’d stumbled to his bedroom, crashed on his mattress, and spent the next two weeks in a deep depression. When at last he was able to function again, he went out and forced himself to meet—and start dating—a woman, Perla Ferrar, who was seventeen and completely naïve to his true sexuality. He’d been married to her now for fifteen years, and every morning, waking up to her was punishment. But it was adequate; Slash knew he deserved it.
And other things were difficult to remember too; in some cases, almost painful. Slash missed waking up and finding his singer curled up in his arms, missed inhaling his unique scent and feeling the warmth of his body, even after he’d gotten up. He missed touring; missed the thrill of almost getting caught backstage, missed the way Axl would nuzzle at his neck through his thick hair while he soloed during Paradise City or Sweet Child. Once, on an off day during the Appetite for Destruction tour, they’d gone to an antiques store and purchased matching gold rings; an emerald in one, onyx in the other. Slash had wanted to get married; so had Axl. But by the time they had time, their problems had started, and it had been too late.
Suddenly Slash’s cell phone rang, startling him out of his reverie. He put the whiskey bottle aside—when did that get there?—and reached into his back pocket. It was a number he didn’t recognize, and for a moment he felt that old, fluttering hope in his chest—but it was fleeting. Probably just Duff or Izzy with a new phone... With a soft sigh, he hit the talk button:
There was a brief pause, then Slash heard it, that voice, for the first time in fifteen years, speaking to him, only to him, caressing his memories:
“Slash…? It’s Axl…”
I am dreaming, thought Slash, and at any moment now I will wake up.
Out loud he said, “How did you get this number?” Immediately he mentally kicked himself; of all the things he could have said, he had to say that?
“Duff gave it to me,” said Axl quietly. That was startling; the Axl Slash had known would have said why the fuck does that even matter? The guitarist was silent for a moment, then:
“Well, it’s great to hear your voice. How have you been?”
There was a tiny sound over the phone after Slash asked this question, a sound which could have been a laugh or a sob. “Axl?” Now he was concerned. “Hey… you okay?”
“Oh… yeah, I’m fine, I just—nevermind. Look, I don’t have that much time to talk, but…” His voice trailed off, and it suddenly occurred to Slash that this conversation was probably very difficult for Axl: Axl, who had publicly stated he would never speak to Slash again; Axl, whose sense of personal pride was probably far too high for this phone call; Axl, whose heart had been torn to pieces by the very man he was now speaking to.
“But what, Axl?” asked Slash, after nearly a minute of silence.
He cleared his throat. “Um…y’know how Duff is friends with Nikki Sixx, and Duff went on SixxSense a few weeks ago?”
“Well, Duff told me that after the show, Nikki told him that his charity is losing money—”
“What charity?” Slash interrupted, confused.
“Running Wild in the Night, you fuckhead,” snapped Axl, sounding for a moment like his former self. “Now quit interrupting me. Anyway, Sixx’s charity is losing money and in order to get a raise on it, he wants us…wants the original five members of Guns N’ Roses to play a… reunion concert which will be broadcast live internationally. It’ll be next Monday at the same place we did November Rain for the 1992 MTV Awards. Are you… y’know… I mean… you wanna do it?”
Slash sucked in a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m up for that,” he said, and suddenly he realized this was what he’d been waiting for ever since 2000, when he’d been denied access to a New Guns’ concert; this phone call, this reunion talk, this return to normalcy. A surge of excitement rushed through him and he asked:
“What time is it at?”
“One p.m.,” Axl mumbled, voice strangely husky. “Can you… um… call Steven and ask him to come? Izzy said he’d contact Matt too, just in case.”
“Sure, I’ll call Steven. But Axl?”
“Do you want to do this?”
He paused again. “Y-yeah…” His voice had gotten small. “Look, S-Slash, I gotta… I gotta run, Ashba’s meeting me at the st-studio to run over some tracks…”
“All right. ‘Bye, Axl.” Slash waited to see if Axl would say ‘good-bye’ too, but the singer just hung up. Slash sighed—typical Axl—but he couldn’t keep the grin off his face. Even if it was just one concert, it would be the highlight of his life—not to mention it would finally get the fans to shut up. Slash went to his contacts list and tapped at Steven’s number, and as he waited for the drummer to pick up, he tried to slow the hard pounding of his heart so that the pacemaker wouldn’t go off.
After Axl hung up with Slash, he just sat in the plush armchair in his living room, staring at his phone. He felt sort of bad about lying to his former guitarist, but he didn’t think he could have gone any longer talking to him without completely breaking down. When Duff had told him to call Slash, he hadn’t realized that hearing that voice would evoke such strong emotions inside of him. Axl leaned back against the chair, shut his eyes, and let the tears flow as memories rushed him in waves.
Curly hair falling gently over his shoulder; the musky scent of sex in the sheets; a warm, brown look across the stage. The tastes of alcohol and nicotine; sharing cigarettes, clad in leather; waking up to a soft kiss, quiet voice always there, always whispering, “I love you”. Flannel-covered shoulder to cry on; crystallized breaths mingling on a winter morning. That first kiss, overstepping conventional boundaries, tentative touching of lips; later, more touches, hesitant, ghost-like, traveling downward, fingers swirling in the soft, dark pubes springing from the lacings of his leather pants. The gentle curve of his shoulder; the smooth, caramel skin at the hollow of his sternum. Looking up during concerts and seeing him, knowing they had created these masterpieces together: Breakdown, November Rain, Estranged, Coma. The rush of adrenaline in the heat of sex; the feeling of their fingers tangled together as they walked along the streets during off days. Exchanging secret, shy glances; soft smiles beneath hooded lids; feeling the thrill of knowing that this dark-skinned anomaly was his own, his love, his man, his Saul. The promise of marriage, the promise of forever; snatched away in one night, a tiny hope of forgiveness lost to a lawsuit stemming from one drunken incident in July…
Hearing Slash’s voice had brought an array of phrases to his lips; a thousand things to say, full of a strange mix of love, hate, depression, anger, confusion. Axl didn’t think he’d ever forget the fear he’d felt initially, that first day when Slash hadn’t shown up like he’d promised. Then one day became two, and two became a week, and Axl slowly realized that Slash wasn’t coming back, not ever. He’d tried calling the guitarist at the number Duff had given him, but he’d always only get the answering machine. Finally he’d given up, sunk into a deep depression. When he came out of it—if he’d ever really come out of it—he formed an entirely new band; he would not let Slash see he’d gotten under his skin.
Axl wasn’t sure why he was the only one who didn’t want this reunion, but he was pretty sure that his history with Slash, and the way he cried so damn easily at the sound of his voice, had something to do with it.
Axl’s cell phone rang; Duff.
“Hey, Rose, did you do it?”
“Uh-huh… it’s all set.”
Duff laughed softly and called, “Hey, Izz, Axe made the call. We’re doing this.”
Izzy made an indistinguishable response from in the back of their house. Duff laughed again; then, to Axl:
“Are you excited about seeing him?”
The tears welled up once more. “K-kind of…” he murmured, and then he hung up. He shut his eyes and groaned softly. He needed to get his life in order before he saw Slash again. He needed to call Ashba and Stinson and Pitman and explain where he’d be next Monday. He needed… he needed…
He needed a stiff drink.
One week later, four of the five original members stood backstage at the arena, which was an offshoot of a UCLA auditorium. It was nice, being together again, but it was strange too; everything had changed, even between Slash and Duff, despite their years together in Velvet Revolver. Steven was beaming around his stroke-twisted mouth, tattooed hands moving rapidly in the air as he described his doings with Adler’s Appetite and Carolina. Izzy leaned into Duff, playing with the younger man’s shortened blond hair while Duff rubbed Izzy’s shoulders and listened to ancient copies of Gn’R on his iPhone. Slash texted Perla, asking her to tell Cash and London where he was. Every so often, he glanced at his watch—if Axl didn’t show up soon, they’d be late.
“Slash, bro, are you sure Axl called you?” Izzy asked at one-thirty.
Characteristically late. Years ago, they laughed about Axl’s timing; made bets on when he’d show up. When Axl would finally arrive, he’d jump onto Slash’s back and the guitarist would spend another ten minutes laughing hysterically and running around backstage until both of them fell on top of each other, dizzy and breathless. Then Slash would roll over and he and Axl would kiss until Duff or Izzy came over and said, “Save it for the hotel.” He wished—god, how he wished—that it would happen that way today.
“Yeah,” he said to the rhythm guitarist. “I’m positive.”
Izzy and Duff exchanged glances and shrugged. “If he’s not here in another hour, I’m going,” said Duff. “It’s my weekend with the girls.”
Just then the door leading outside burst open, and Axl entered. Slash’s heart nearly stopped; in the pictures, he’d looked fat, almost ugly. Here, in person, with the braids finally gone and the muscles more obviously standing out against his pale skin, Slash realized that Axl, even at forty-nine, was still beautiful. He wore iron-pressed jeans and a button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled up to reveal an age-darkened version of his Appetite for Destruction tattoo. The power that he exuded was still remarkably tangible.
Axl reached up and removed his sunglasses, and the moment he made eye contact with Slash, the younger man knew he would never go anywhere again.
“Hey,” said Axl quietly. His eyes dropped up and down Slash’s body in an involuntary once-over, and he said, “Nice to see you haven’t changed much.”
Slash swallowed. “Nice to see you have.” He hadn’t meant it as an insult, but the note of bitterness crept into his voice before he could stop it. Axl’s irises darkened subtly and, turning away from Slash, he muttered, “Fuckin’ critical asshole… let’s just get this over with.” He turned away; started for the stage. The guitarist looked over at Duff and Izzy, but they avoided his gaze and followed Axl. Steven was gazing after the singer with obvious admiration in his baby blue eyes, oblivious to his best friend’s hurt expression. He twirled his drumsticks and walked out to the drum risers, and after a few seconds Slash slung his Gibson over his shoulders and went out too.
The concert was wonderful. It lasted an hour and a half and contained all their best crowd-pleasers: Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, November Rain. They even did 14 Years, because Izzy was there, and So Fine for Duff. Halfway through the first song—Nightrain—Slash felt an intense surge of pure adrenaline rush through his veins. He looked over at Axl; judging from the way the singer was tilting his head back and howling, fingers splayed over his groin as he thrust his hips towards the crowd, he’d felt it too. During November Rain, when the song climaxed and Axl’s final bridge began, Slash got on the piano—like he hadn’t done in eighteen years—and played even more beautifully and emotionally than he had the night of that final concert in Argentina. When it was over, he’d looked over at Axl and saw tears glistening in his ex-lover’s intense green eyes. For what felt like eternity, the two men stared at each other, then Axl looked away, towards the crowd. Afterwards, Slash was not at all surprised to find he’d grown hard, his leather pants becoming restricting and uncomfortable. Performing with Axl was different, because of his voice change and the fact that he walked instead of ran, but it was still excellent, better than Slash had remembered.
Later on, backstage, once the fans were gone and Duff, Izzy, and Steven had gone to their respective homes, Slash was wiping his face down with a towel and getting ready to call Perla to tell her that the concert was over, when suddenly Axl appeared, looking strangely shy and uncertain.
“Hey, Slash…?” He drew in a deep breath. “Do you… um… do you wanna go get some coffee? I heard…I heard you drink that now.”
Slash was surprised: first, because Axl was speaking to him in a non-hostile tone; second, because Axl actually knew something current about him. He hesitated, glancing at the time, then shrugged.
“Yeah, okay. Why not?”
They walked out to Axl’s car together, close enough so that their knuckles gently brushed. Slash slid into the passenger’s seat and ran his fingers over the smooth, leather upholstery.
“Only the best for you, huh?”
Axl smiled sadly, sliding into the driver’s seat and turning the ignition on. “Not always,” he murmured, and after that Slash couldn’t think of anything to say without bringing out the uncomfortable memories of their past. They drove to Starbucks in silence; ordered lattes and mochas in the drive-thru. Then Axl parked his car in the adjoining lot and rolled the windows down slightly for circulation. For a while, the silence from earlier continued, then Axl said:
“How’s that Myles Kennedy album coming?”
Slash looked at Axl over the top of his cup, surprised yet again. “Good, actually. We’re doing covers and writing originals. And you? How’s… the Chinese Democracy sequel going?”
Axl chuckled. “It’s funny you should ask. I’ve actually been under really bad writer’s block for that lately. Ashba keeps telling me it has to be out before the century’s up, but you know how I am.”
“I do.” Slash took a sip of his latte and gazed out at the graying sky through Axl’s windshield. Silence settled over them again, but it was not entirely uncomfortable.
Suddenly Slash said, “Why’d you ask me to come drink with you?”
“Did I need a reason?”
Slash rolled his eyes. “Jesus, Axl, why do you always get so edgy and defensive about shit? It was just a question.”
“I wasn’t getting defensive, Slash.” The name came out oddly bitter and twisted. “I was just answering your question with another question.”
“Fucksake, Axe, you’re doing it right now.”
Axl sighed tiredly, but not before anger flashed across his eyes. “Goddamn, Slash, I was right; you haven’t changed. You’re still the same stuck-up, selfish prick I knew fifteen years ago.”
“How the fuck am I being selfish, Axl? You’re the one who automatically started taking offense at what I was saying.”
“You’re the one who was all, ‘oh Axl, why are you always so goddamn defensive?’ You’re so paranoid. You think all I ever want is to start fights with you.”
“It does seem that way. After all, you’re the one who instigated our last fight.”
Axl’s fists clenched against the leather seat. “I’m not the one who fucking left without even saying good-bye first.”
“I came to your house, Axe!”
“You were fuckin’ shitfaced, Slash. You expected me to believe that you were really sorry when you were that wasted?” Although Axl’s voice was harsh, his eyes, the most expressive part of his body, said something else entirely. Slash could feel his resolve waning.
“Axl, I couldn’t—”
“You couldn’t what, Slash? You couldn’t face me sober? You were too afraid to admit that you still needed me?”
“No, Axe, that wasn’t it… look, I’m sorry I left, okay? I’m just—I couldn’t handle it anymore.”
Axl slammed his coffee down on the dashboard. He swung around to face Slash completely, and for a second the guitarist was afraid he would hit him.
“What, Slash? What about your life couldn’t you handle? You had everything: the band, the drinks, the drugs, the money… you had me. I was all you really needed. Our relationship meant the world to me, Slash. Exactly how fucking much did it mean to you?”
By this point they were close, so close that their noses were nearly touching. Slash drew in a sharp breath:
“You were, are, and always will be the most important person in my life. I never meant to hurt you; it just happened. God, Axe, I wanted to go back, but… it wasn’t working out anymore. All we were doing was fighting and avoiding each other.” He sighed quietly. “I’m really sorry…”
Axl subconsciously reached out and wiped the tears off Slash’s cheeks with his thumb. “I called you, Slash. I called you every day for two months. Did you ever even get those messages? Do you realize what your abandonment did to me? I couldn’t even get out of bed for a week. That was a real shitty thing to do.”
Slash put his coffee in one of the cup holders. “I said I was sorry!”
“Sorry doesn’t erase the fact that you promised to come back and then didn’t.”
“Would you fucking let that go?!”
“You expect me to let something like that go?”
“After fifteen years, yeah!”
“Fucking hell, Slash, you’re an even bigger asshole than I remembered.” Axl’s eyes narrowed; he leaned forward slightly. Slash opened his mouth to retort, but before he could, he found himself kissing Axl, hard, their teeth scraping together and bruising their lips. Axl gripped Slash’s collar and pulled him forward; he shifted his right hand to the back of Slash’s neck, twining his fingers in the guitarist’s thick, dark hair. Their tongues met and danced, and Axl moaned quietly. Slash reached up and traced his fingers slowly down the slope of Axl’s neck, leaving the singer’s pale skin feeling hot and sensitive.
When Slash pulled away from Axl, both men were startled to discover it was raining. Slash reached out and ran his fingers through Axl’s shortened hair.
“Why’d you cut it?” he whispered.
Axl’s focus shifted to the rain, running in rivulets down the windows. “Because,” he said quietly, “having it long reminded me of you too damn much.”
Slash shut his eyes. “If you knew how much I’ve missed you, Axl—”
“I know.” The redhead’s voice broke. “I know, Saul.”
Slash’s eyes flew open; filled with tears. “I’m so fuckin’ sorry, Axe,” he sobbed, voice hitching at the back of his throat, and then they were kissing again, teeth scraping, tongues running together. Their tears slid between their lips, giving the kiss a fluid, salty taste. Slash reached between them and slid his hand under Axl’s shirt, feeling his still-hard abs, the planes of his chest. He rubbed his calloused thumb against Axl’s nipple ring, surprised to find that it was still there. Axl reached under Slash’s shirt too, and felt the raised edges of the scar from his heart operation. The guitarist’s cock twitched in his jeans, and it occurred to him that if he wasn’t careful, he would take his singer right here, right now.
“We should go…” he said quietly, and Axl nodded, reluctantly drawing away from him. He turned the key in the ignition and drove off, so fast he nearly spilled their coffee.
The ride to his mansion was silent, except for the sound of modern rock streaming from the radio. Axl and Slash kept their hands tangled between them, gently rubbing their thumbs together. When they arrived at the gate, Axl buzzed himself in and they drove up to the spacious garage. They got out and ran in, laughing as the cool rain hit their hot skin. They had barely made it inside when Slash grabbed Axl around the waist and pulled him to him, snarling softly as they fused their mouths together. He backed Axl up against the wall, trapping him between his arms; ground their crotches together.
“Fuck…” hissed Axl, hooking one leg around Slash’s waist, shoving the other one between his legs. “Saul…”
Slash reached between them, gripping Axl’s zipper between his forefinger and thumb and pulling downward. Once his pants were off, Slash set to work on his own while Axl took care of their shirts. The guitarist sucked on the singer’s neck, making him squirm and moan.
God, Slash hadn’t expected this; had never anticipated he’d be holding a captive, turned-on Axl beneath his body. But here they were, tearstains still drying on their cheeks, eyes darkened; panting, flushed, and Slash could not have been happier.
The wall served as a balance for Axl to shift against as he hooked his other leg around Slash’s waist and brought his feet around so that they touched at the small of his back. He dug his fingers into Slash’s upper arms; buried his face in the hollow where his sternum met the slope of his neck. He kissed the skin there—god, he still tastes like chocolate and coconut—then lifted his head, silently giving Slash the “go-ahead”. Their eyes met, and Slash nodded, sliding his hands under Axl’s ass so he could be spread open.
Once he’d stretched him, Slash paused. Axl stared at him, eyes glazed over, pale cheeks flushed, and murmured:
“It’s just… it’s been forever. I don’t wanna hurt you…”
Axl smiled vaguely. “You won’t,” he said quietly, and that was all Slash needed. He thrust in slowly, letting Axl adjust, moving slightly closer. After a moment, Axl nodded, and the guitarist began thrusting harder, making the singer moan and cry out and tug at his hair. He reached between them to jerk himself off, but his hand was almost immediately batted away by Slash, who then took over, stroking Axl in perfect rhythm with his thrusts. Their bodies became one, pale and dark, yin and yang. Slick with sweat, chests heaving, it got easier and easier to move, both with and against each other.
Eventually Axl felt his legs stiffening; felt the heat begin to build up from deep within him. He started to say, “Saul, I—” but got no further as he lost all control, as he released himself against his guitarist. His toes curled and he shuddered as he came, so hard that he grew dizzy. The only thing he could see was stars, stars and darkness. He moaned, “Saul,” and that was all Slash needed; he came, filling Axl for the first time in forever, then sank to the ground, legs shaking, still buried deep within his lover. Axl tilted his head back against the wall, tears streaming down his cheeks. Slash was crying too, for reasons he did not fully understand. He pulled out of Axl; kissed his cheek.
“I love you,” whispered Axl hoarsely, touching the younger man’s jaw line.
“I love you too,” said Slash quietly, breathing hard. “I love you so fucking much and I swear I’m never leaving again.”
“Good,” said Axl, “because I wasn’t planning on letting you go anywhere anyway.”
Slash smiled. Axl was so beautiful, so charming; how could he have ever wanted to leave him? “I think everyone will be happy to see us back together… everyone except Perla, that is.”
Axl laughed softly through his tears. He reached down and tangled their fingers together. For a moment both men were silent, staring at their intertwined fingers, observing how it was like coffee spilling over a white table cloth. Axl gently stroked the back of Slash’s hand with his thumb; like their bodies, their hands fit together perfectly.
“Let’s go to bed, Saul,” he murmured, and Slash nodded, letting Axl lead him upstairs. He would deal with Perla later. For now, all he needed to know was that tomorrow, for the first time in fifteen years, he’d be waking up right where he belonged.