Axl makes the ultimate decision, and Slash will have to learn to live with it.
When he’d slashed his wrists raw and deep, almost to the bone, he tossed the knife aside. Now that his body knew he meant what he’d been planning for so long, his trembling stopped. A sense of almost eerie calm descended over him, and with blood running between his fingers, he reached for the paper and pen he’d left at the top of the piano. He tapped the ballpoint against his teeth for a moment, then started to write, red dripping onto the paper, smearing his words. It wasn’t until he signed his name across the bottom that he realized the red was actually pink—the color of death blurred by his tears. He was crying.
Blood still pouring out of his wrists, he tossed the note and pen aside, and swept his fingers up and down the keys for a moment, playing a familiar, haunting tune—There Was a Time. Then, taking in a deep breath, he reached under the piano bench and took out the final instrument of purpose: a Smith and Wesson, .357 Magnum. He settled the butt of the gun between his legs, staring down the barrel. He ran his thumb over the back, cocking it, and settled his fingers over the trigger. At the last second, he shut his eyes, so that when he blasted the bullets into his skull, he would not have to see anything but the quiet, eternal darkness of death.
They said his brains were splashed over the Steinway, blood decorating the white ceiling. They said they could barely lift the suicide note off the soaked carpet. They said the tears had not quite finished drying on his cheeks.
Slash wouldn’t know, of course, because he refused to look at Axl’s body, refused to see that beautiful man destroyed by his own madness. He’d been invited to the funeral by Beta; Sasha—his apparent “latest girlfriend”—did not want him there and made sure he knew it, glaring at him from the moment he entered through the back door until the moment he left, as they began to carry the closed casket out. He followed the funeral procession up a hill, through a valley, to a quiet, undisturbed part of the outskirts of Los Angeles, part of the country, on a cliff overlooking the sea. They buried him out there in a mahogany coffin, and the priest said a few words which hardly did Axl justice, as far as Slash was concerned—Axl hadn’t been “a good singer” or “a modest piano-player”, not in the slightest. If the guitarist had known they needed a eulogy, he could have provided one—though he wouldn’t have been sure how to appropriately describe the way he and Axl had once felt for each other.
After everyone else had left, Slash walked over to the new grave and stood at the head, hands folded, head bowed. Dammit, Axl, why? He swallowed back the tears that were threatening to spill over and looked up.
At the foot of the grave stood Axl.
He was not solidly there, more translucent; Slash could easily see the Pacific Ocean through him. He had his hands in his pockets and a faint smile on his lips. He looked young again; like he was twenty-five, maybe, or twenty-three. A wind which Slash could not feel blew through his copper hair, and the guitarist felt an ache to run his fingers through its softness.
“Saul…” he said quietly, and that was all the younger man needed to hear. He started forward, arms outstretched, but Axl’s hand came up automatically, and his smile grew sad.
“No…” he murmured. “Wouldn’t work…” He took in a deep breath. “Listen, I came… I needed to tell you I’m sorry… have you read my note?”
Slash shook his head, the tears welling up again. His throat grew thick and he said hoarsely, “No one gave it to me; they said the blood had congealed on it, that it was unreadable.”
Axl bit his lower lip. “Well… here…” Sighing, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled, well worn version of the same note; a few faint, rusty stains the only remnants left of the blood which had poured from his cuts onto the paper. “I ain’t technically supposed to give you that… but hell… it was intended for you anyway…” As Slash took it, he felt Axl’s skin brush his, and the chilliness of it made him shiver and step back instinctively. Axl’s throat worked, and he turned away.
“It’s a beautiful spot, where they picked, isn’t it?” he asked. “Funny thing, how you showed up… but Daren didn’t.”
Slash knew enough to realize that Daren was DJ Ashba.
“Well, Sasha came…” he said. Axl laughed shortly.
“Volkova? She didn’t mean shit to me… hadn’t talked to her in months. I think she came for the publicity…” He sighed again, then looked up, towards the steadily graying sky. “Slash, I gotta go… you keep that note away from everyone, okay? Read it…” He took a step towards the guitarist, but did not make any moves to touch him, just stared at him, those emerald eyes which had haunted Slash’s dreams for sixteen years locked onto his chocolate brown ones for the last time. After a few seconds, his body started to fade away, and the last thing Slash heard before Axl was gone completely was don’t you cry tonight… I still love you baby.
The guitarist forced himself to wait until he was back in his car, with the heater on, to block out a cold December wind which had risen up, before he read the note. As his eyes swept the words in their familiar penmanship, he thought he could hear the ghost of notes crashing outside—but it might have just been the waves.
I never thought it would come down to this. I never thought I’d have to say goodbye. But you said I was dead to you, and after all… this is what the world wanted.
In the end, this is what I wanted.
I hope Myles lives up to your expectations as a new singer. I hope you get everything you ever wanted, because I sure as hell never did.
I’m glad you liked Chinese Democracy.
I really am sorry, Slash… and I never stopped loving you.
As the tears fell, Slash thought he felt a ghost of heat that was not coming from the ventilation system embrace him for a moment; thought he could smell that familiar scent of strawberries and coconut and that exotic cologne he always wore. For a second, he thought he could still hear Axl’s voice, deep and hypnotic and beautifully enchanting… but that, too, was probably only the waves.
I will never have what I wanted now, he thought sadly to himself, before tossing the note onto the passenger’s seat and driving off.