Things get heated between Slash and Axl, and poor Riley is stuck right in the middle...
“Well it’s about fucking time!” Izzy cried. “Where the hell have you been?”
Axl and I looked at each other and smiled. “We slept in,” Axl told Izzy.
Slash took his cigarette out from his mouth and flicked it on the ground, crushing it with the toe of his boot. “Well let’s go,” he mumbled, heading into the studio.
I frowned and let go of Axl to catch up to Slash. “What’s wrong, Slashy?” I inquired as I looped my arm through his.
I pushed his hair out of his face and behind his ear with my free hand. “Slash, you know you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I have to ask. What’s going on?”
“I said nothing!” Slash bellowed, pulling his arm out of mine. “Jesus Christ, don’t you listen?!” He stormed ahead and into the mixing room as fast as he could.
I was stunned in my tracks. Slash had never yelled at me before. Never. I was concerned. I was usually his living diary, the person he always vented to, and now he wouldn’t tell me anything.
Steven trudged by and patted my back but didn’t look at me. Izzy didn’t even acknowledge me as he passed.
Duff stopped next to me and squeezed my shoulder as Axl wrapped his arm around my waist. “Don’t take it personally,” Duff advised. “They’re just upset that Axl cancelled the last show.”
Axl pulled me in tighter, his arm tensing up. “I did it for her birthday,” Axl growled angrily. “They should’ve been happy for her.”
Duff nodded. “Oh, I know. I ain’t complaining. But they really wanted to play the show, especially Slash. They’re just kind of sour about cancelling.” Duff looked down at me and smiled. “Like I said. Don’t take it personally.”
Slash was hunched over the mixing board when Axl, Duff, and I came in. Izzy was standing next to him, and Steven was leaning against the wall. “Nightrain” was spilling out of the speakers.
I’m on the Nightrain
Love that stuff
I’m on the Nightrain
And I can never get enough
Ridin’ the Nightrain
I guess I- I guess, I guess, I guess I never learn!
“How does that sound to you guys?” Tom Zutaut asked over Axl’s screams and Slash’s guitar wails.
Slash nodded, Izzy said it sounded great, and Steven gave a thumbs-up. Duff went to the other side of Tom and shouted his agreement, Axl came up behind Tom but didn’t say a word, and I collapsed on the forest green couch that smelled like cigarettes, alcohol, and pizza.
When the song ended, Axl looked over Tom’s head at the board. “The guitar sound a little off,” he mumbled thoughtfully. “Think you could re-record it, Slash?”
The room suddenly felt very tense after Axl’s insult. Slash’s head of curly, black locks shifted as he looked at Axl. “Hell no.”
Axl shrugged. “Alright, if you’re okay with mediocre.”
Slash inhaled sharply but didn’t say anything else.
“So,” Tom called in an attempt to change subject, “’Sweet Child’ next?”
“Actually I wanted to hear ‘Rocket Queen’,” Slash hissed bitterly.
My mouth popped open and my brow furrowed. “Slash,” I whispered.
“What?” he asked innocently, turning to me. “We have to listen to it eventually.”
“That’s a low fucking blow,” Axl growled, gripping Tom’s seat so hard his hands were turning ghost white.
“And making a petty insult about my playing wasn’t?”
“It might’ve been, but don’t take it out on her!”
“She’s got to quit being a fucking pussy about it someday!”
“Slash!” I cried in shock as I stood up.
“Fuck you!” Axl shouted, his face as red as his hair as he let go of Tom’s chair. “She hasn’t done shit to you!”
“She hasn’t, but you’ve done plenty of shit to her!”
Slash started to count on his fingers. “You fucked her on the Whiskey, you cheated on her twice, you got back with Erin just to hurt her, you hit her, you tried to commit suicide just because she wasn’t with you and scared the shit out of her, and no you’ve been spoiling her at our expense!”
“Then take it out on me, not her!”
“She deserves it, too!”
“Because she keeps taking you back when she deserves better, and she knows it! Have you completely missed the way she and Duff look at each other?!”
“Slash!” I cried again, taking steps toward him. “Cut it out!”
“You’re making that shit up!” Axl countered, taking more steps to Slash. “I trust her! She wouldn’t cheat on me!”
Slash matched Axl’s steps. “You’re right, she wouldn’t! But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t think about it. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to!”
Axl lunged at Slash and pinned him to the floor, letting a guttural roar rip through his lips. “You piece of shit!” he screamed.
“Stop!” I pleaded as I rushed forward to pull Axl away, but before I could get there Duff blocked me. “Move!” I demanded over Axl and Slash’s shouts of profanity.
“You’ll only get hurt,” Duff pointed out as he spoke in my ear. He turned me around and led me out the door. “Tom and Izzy will handle it.”
Even outside I could hear Axl and Slash yelling at each other. Duff held me as I shook, comforting me with careful words and calming touches.
When I finally relaxed, Duff and I sat on the curb and smoked. I didn’t hear anymore shouting, but I guessed either Tom or Izzy was talking some sense into them.
I took a long drag of the cigarette. I didn’t smoke often, but the comfort it gave me then was definitely needed. “You know Axl’s going to be pissed at us, right?”
Duff exhaled and nodded. “Yep.” He lay back on the sidewalk. “I really don’t care, though.”
I lay back, too. “Well I do. Axl’s suspicious now. He’s not going to let me anywhere near you.”
Duff blew more smoke into the air. “He doesn’t have much of a choice.”
I lifted my head and looked at him. “What do you mean?”
Duff ground the end of his cigarette into the concrete and flicked the butt into the street. “Mandy and I broke up.”
I tried to keep my happiness off my face, but it was hard to keep it out of my voice. “I’m sorry, Duffy.”
He shrugged. “No big deal. It was a mutual thing.”
“Well that’s good.” I copied Duff’s movement with the cigarette. “So does that mean you’re moving into the Hell House?”
Duff smirked. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well good luck. Axl and I have a room, Slash and Izzy are sharing, and Steven’s on the couch.”
“I’ll sleep on top of Steven. His hair is an awesome pillow.”
I giggled. “You’re such a dork,” I mumbled as I lolled my head to look at him.
He let his head fall to look back at me. “I know, but you love me anyway.”
Duff smiled, and his eyes shimmered in the mid-afternoon light, and I got another urge to kiss him, but I managed to take my gaze away and look back up at the sky.
“Riley,” Duff whispered.
I didn’t respond.
“What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid of anything. I’m afraid for you.”
“What Axl doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Duff insisted.
“But he will know about it.”
Duff scooted closer. “Who’s going to tell? It’s just you and me out here.”
I looked at him again. “I want to, but I can’t.”
Duff pressed his lips into a tight line and nodded. “Okay, Riles. It’s enough to know you want to.”
We were quiet for a little longer before we both decided it was time to go inside.
The music was playing again when Duff and I came back inside. “Sweet Child” was just ending. Slash was leaning over the tech board, favoring one leg. When he looked at me I saw a scratch across his forehead. He smiled kindly, and I had a feeling that when we had a chance to talk I’d be getting an apology.
Axl, on the other hand, glared at Duff. He sat on the couch, looking like he didn’t have a single scratch, but with such fire and hurt in his eyes that he looked like he was the one injured the most. I joined him on the couch and kissed him, but his lips were stone. When I pulled back he looked at me with the same amount of fire and hurt if not more.
I snuggled into his neck and tried my beck to act cute, but he barely received me. His frame was that of a statue, and his air was straight from Antarctica. I kissed his neck and tried to get him to warm up to me, but he was solid. “Axl,” I whispered into his ear, “I love you.”
I sighed but didn’t say anything again. We were silent for the rest of the time, speaking only when we were asked about a song.
I thought about going home with the guys like usual, but Axl was avoiding me so much that I decided it was best to just go to my house. Axl didn’t try to stop me.