First

They deserved this one last bash. The APA, now defunct due to a Brand Split, was going out in style, with one last night of drinking, gambling, and more than likely, one last bar fight. Ron smiled at his friend from across the table, that a rare occurance in itself from the stoic man who's most prominant utterance was the expletive damn.

His counterpart, however had no difficulty expressing himself. John Bradshaw Layfield, simply Bradshaw to his friends, was perpetually emotive, laughing, scowling, and boisterous, an everpresant baseball cap, always worn backwards, perched percariously on his long, ebony hair. He was amazingly drunk, more so than even his longtime friend had ever seen him, but Ron, was in fairness, in no position to judge, he too was grandly impaired, though more by intent than accident. Even before the party had begun, the older man had made a conscious decision to overindulge, both in alcohol and in the other things he usually did in moderation.

It was their last night together after all.

They had kept going until the wee wee hours, finally leaving together, staggered, bloodied but unbowed and before the arrival of the police. Ron walked John to his door when they arrived back at the hotel, with only a scant few hours remaining to sleep. It was still their last night, even if it was nearly morning.

For the first, the last, the only time, Ron embraced his friend in the doorway. The moment lingered, another of Ron's induglances. He had always been fond of John, fonder than he expressed and far fonder he knew than John could possibly allow him to be. Even drunk to the moon, John was John, and Ron knew him well enough to know he harbored no intimate feelings.

He drew away at last, not in the mind to test his friend's own indulgance. It was then that the night had it's second first, last and only occurance. In all of the years that Ron had known John he had never seen the proud, rugged Texan shed a tear.
In the morning, both of them would be starting a new, seperate life. In the morning, this night would be blamed on a stunning excess of beer. In the morning, neither man might even remember what was said, what was done in his empty hotel hallway. In that last coherant thought, Ron found a measure of hope and courage. Now, or never again.

A man standing in that hallway would have seen another first, last and only. He would have seen Ron Simmons give John Bradshaw their first kiss. It was one last gesture of hope against hopelessness. When the moment ended, John was the first to pull away.

"I..." Ron didn't let him finish the sentance. He already knew. Simmons turned his back without a word and walked away.

The End.