Axl suspects Slash of cheating. The beginning of their eventual downfall.
Maybe I was a little smashed. But what does he expect, honestly? At least I know how to hold my liquor. It wasn't clouding my judgment. I knew what I was doing. I knew I could walk away any time I wanted to, if things got too much, too heavy. But he walked in at the wrong time. He's always done that—it's what happened in '86 at the Roxy, in '88 at the end of the Appetite tour. It wasn't my fault, though. She came on to me. She started making out with me, not the other way around. Never the other way around. I haven't wanted to fuck a woman since I first had him in 1984 at Steven's Christmas party, in his grandma's grungy basement, with the peppermint and the whiskey still wet on his lips and the cigarette dangling from between his fingers. It's always the groupies that start shit, but he always walks in and sees my hand on their waists, their breasts. It's not my fault. What am I supposed to do, sit there and not respond? Like I said, I have a reputation.
Anyway, he really has a lot of chutzpah, trying to get off telling me I'm cheating on him. God knows he did enough of that during Appetite, and before, even, when we were living at Vicky's and recording with Alan. He's had his share of women, and of guys, too; guys young enough to make me think of Ash, my little brother. And we all know it's not their fault; we all know he seduces them. I hate that about him, more than I hate this, this cold shoulder he gives me when he's upset. He used to cheat on me regularly, when we were living at my mom's. I'd come home from working at Tower Records and find him in bed with someone—once it was a girl I knew, Yvonne. A girl I'd dated, actually. He never tried to hide it, never denied anything. I asked Izzy about it, and he told me it was the same way back in Lafayette; and then later in Los Angeles, with Tracii, when they were still in L.A. Guns together. It wasn't until after '89, when we had a huge blowout because I caught him with three guys, two of whom I knew personally, that he finally cut back on it. Stopped altogether, after I left for six months. They were six of the worst months I've ever spent, but it had to be done. And when I came back, he had changed. I could see it in his eyes. He was different, colder, less emotional, but at least he wasn't cheating. Then he went through that depressive stage, and I took care of him, holding him so he wouldn't fall apart, staying up nights with him, keeping him medicated and away from the .357 Magnum I knew he had in his back closet.
Sure, I can understand why he might be upset, finding me with a girl. But honestly, after all that, after all I've done for him, why should he think I'm cheating?
"Axl," I say, "listen to me, please…" I start forward, and his shoulders tense more, and I stop instantly, because I know him—he'll scream, he'll call the police, he'll get Earl to drag me out to the station, if my skin hits his and he doesn't want to be touched. It's something else I hate about him, that 'life owes me' attitude he has, just because of his stepfather, his biological father. So life owes him a free ticket out of any situation just because he got pulled over one too many times in Indiana, but he can fuck with any man or woman he wants to and I'm expected to stay quiet?
"Was she good, Slash?" His voice, when it comes out, is tense and angry, and it takes almost seven years of knowing him to detect the quiver at the back of his throat. No wonder he won't face me—he's trying not to cry, and he doesn't want me to see. As I said, he's become cold, and anything like what I dealt with in 1990, anything before our six month split, I'm no longer allowed to see. It hurts, but whatever. At least I still have him. Maybe one day he'll open up again. Love me again.
"She wasn't anything," I reply. "She came on to me, okay? I never wanted her."
"You didn't stop her," he says, still without turning. "Isn't what we have enough for you, Slash? Aren't I enough?"
It's the worst, when he says that. Because I know I could bring up what he used to do, but I never will. And he knows I won't. He might as well just be standing over me, sneering, with a chain wrapped around my neck. Because no matter how miserable I get, I won't leave, either. And he knows that, too.
"Of course you're enough," I say. "I didn't want her—I don't want her."
He turns to face me, and I am, for a moment, shocked. His eyes are so red they make him look sick. There is so much raw pain and desperation and anguish and fear in his expression that I have to look away—it's like I've stepped into an overly intimate scene between two people I don't know. It's always like that, when Axl lets me know how he's really feeling underneath the façade, the act, the part he plays for everyone, night after night.
Then the mask comes down again, shuttering his beautiful emerald irises, clouding his angular, dangerously beautiful face. He doesn't step towards me, but when I move, he doesn't protest. Doesn't say anything. Anger, the only emotion he will openly display, is apparent on his face, in his still red eyes, but he doesn't speak.
"When you get tired of me, you'll want her then," he says, bitterly, laughing cynically, like he always does when he wants me to think he doesn't give a shit. "Not necessarily her, but any woman. You'll leave me for a woman, Slash. One day."
I wouldn't. He knows it, as well as I do, but he's so insecure—about us, about himself—that he constantly says it anyway. Talks about the future, how I'll have a family and leave him alone to wallow in his misery for twenty years. Like he can know that.
"I won't," I say, the obligatory truth that he needs to hear. "You know that, Ax. I will never leave you."
"A man, then," he says, still angry. His eyes are focused off in the distance, and I can see he's still thinking about her, still remembering how she was in my lap, like she owned me. I imagine it, imagine walking in on Axl twined around all those strange women he ran around with in the eighties, and I wince. He notices, but doesn't say anything.
"I won't leave you for anyone," I emphasize. I walk forward and take him in my arms, and he stiffens, but doesn't pull away or call out for Earl. I rub his arms, and he starts shaking.
"I fucking hate you," he whispers, his voice finally cracking against the weight of so many held-in emotions. The tears flow down his perfect cheeks, and I look away, trying to give him privacy.
"You don't," I say.
His teeth are gritted. He glares at me, his eyes shining, bloodshot. He makes a gesture at the bed and I walk him to it, laying down, letting him spread out beside me. I turn off the light and feel him in my arms, still tense, shaking with the sobs he's struggling to control. I bury my nose in the soft, copper hair that falls feather-like down the nape of his neck, inhaling his scent. I wasn't lying—I won't leave him. I may hate a lot of shit about him, more than I should, but I don't hate him. Not yet. Probably never. Because there are moments when he's nothing but fragile, lovely, the person I'm sure he was in Lafayette. And I remember why I fell in love with him in the first place, and I just want to hold on tighter, because he's Axl, and he needs to be protected. He's a collision of stars, a fire on an ocean, a swan song in the depths of a forest. He's so rare, and fuck, he's all mine.
I hold him tighter. He shifts. "Fine," he mumbles. "I don't."
I wish I could know what he's thinking. Wish I could understand him. But his enigmatic personality, well… that's half the fun.
"See? Told you." I can't resist teasing him, even though I know he hates that, and he stiffens for half a second before rolling over and staring at the ceiling, letting me look at his profile in the moonlight streaming in through the window.
"Go to hell," he mumbles, and I smile and kiss his cheek, and then his lips, leaving soft, little kisses on their corners, and he turns completely over and folds himself into my arms, and even though it's not an apology, or a sign of forgiveness, it's what he's giving me. He lifts his head and kisses me back, and our bodies twine, ink spilled on a white canvas.