Absolute Convergence
Chapter Forty
By John Yager

This is the fortieth chapter of an ongoing series. Thanks again for all your comments on this series.

I always appreciate hearing from you and try to answer all messages promptly. If I am slow at times it is only because of the pressure of work or my somewhat demanding travel schedule.

Andrew has continued to give much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I've been doing without his invaluable assistance.

This work is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.

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There are many reasons I remember March 18, 1969. Not least among them is that it was on that day that I met Dorothy Bridges for the first time. Now, nearly thirty-five years later, I still count her among my closest friends.

It was also on that memorable Tuesday that some very significant changes occurred in my relationships with Steve and Sammy and Daniel. And even more important is the fact that it was on that day that I made some important discoveries about myself. All that will become clear as this story unfolds.

We'd gotten a late start but by about one o'clock in the afternoon we'd all four been on the beach long enough to have gotten more sun than we needed for one day. We were also ready for a late lunch.

Daniel and I were a little hungry but could only think in terms of something light. Steve and Sammy, who'd not gorged themselves on pancakes, as Daniel and I had done, were ready for a heavier meal. The solution was to head for one of the fish places which dotted Old Pass Road.

Dorothy suggested a place called Starkey's and the four of us headed off in search of it. The fish stand, which really was all the place was. There were rough wooden tables under a sort of arbor adjacent to a sheet metal shack which housed the primitive kitchen.

The meal of choice was boiled shrimp, but I have to admit that after our huge breakfast, Daniel and I didn't manage to consume even half the number Steve and Sammy went through. I'd expected crab, but on that day, at lest, it was shrimp which Starkey had to offer.

Starkey turned out to be a huge black man who must have been about sixty-five. To our eyes he was ancient. He was happy to find that at least two of us had respectable appetites and kept the shrimp coming until Steve and Sammy finally had to give up and tell him to stop.

We sat on plank benches, still in our damp swimming suites and drank sweet tea as the afternoon drifted on.

Starkey, who seemed to have taken a liking to us, came over when other customers had gone, and sat for a while as we talked about the changes he'd seen in his years there. He told us how he'd started the place the summer after he came home from World War II, and had run it ever since, opening every day, rain or shine, winter and summer, for a faithful clientele of local people, both black and white, for the fishermen who provisioned his kitchen, and through the spring and summer, for a steady stream of tourists and students like ourselves.

"So you boys is from up Oxford way,"  he said as we sat sipping the sweet iced tea and dozing in the shade of his arbor.

"We're in school there but none of us are from Oxford, Starkey,"  I said, not exactly sure how I should address him.

"Well, welcome to Gulfport,"  he responded in his deep, rich voice.  "We see you kids coming every spring, more each year than the year before, and I for one, always look forward to it."  He grinned, his teeth brilliantly white against his ebony skin, "you is like a flock of birds flying in for a few days and then gone again, a sure sign of spring."

Back at the cottage, the four of us lounged around in the cool living room. We were still wearing damp bathing suits and T-shirts and feeling very gritty with sand from the beach. We agreed we all needed to shower, but no one was moving all that fast. Instead, we wrapped ourselves in dry towels to protect the furniture and let the afternoon slide by.

I thought of what Starkey had said. We were like migratory birds, swooping in to feed and frolic, and then fly on. What we hadn't known was how we'd also be changed by those few days in Gulfport. For us, at least, they were a true rite of passage. But for a while we were content to doze on the two sofas and on the floor, talking now and then about our plans for the evening and for the next day.

Sammy and Daniel were eventually the first to go off to the showers, returning in a little while, clean and fresh and radiant. Sammy remained naked, unperturbed by his seeming immodesty, and stretched out on the sofa next to Steve. We'd all agreed that it was fine to remain unclothed in the house or backyard and, to my surprise, Sammy had been quite comfortable with it, rarely putting on anything, even shorts, unless he was going out in public.

Daniel had told me that morning he wasn't going to go naked around the rest of us any more, but I'd really thought he was kidding. When he came back from showering, however, was wearing a pair of loose white shorts, which showed off his body and his glowing tan. When they returned, Steve and I got up and went off in opposite directions to also shower, he to the bath off the south bedroom, I to the bathroom on the north side of the cottage.

When I came back Sammy and Daniel were setting at opposite ends of the south sofa, their backs against its big arms. They were facing each other and their legs were woven together were they crossed. They'd been talking quietly. I couldn't hear what they'd been saying and when I came back into the living room their conversation stopped.

I stretched out on the opposite sofa. Like Sammy and Daniel, I had my shoulders against the arm at one end with my legs stretched out in front of me, more or less monopolizing the sofa. I'd not dressed, but did have a towel around my waist. It wasn't a question of modesty, just comfort.

Steve was the last to return from showering. When he joined us he looked over at me, but when I made no effort to move or make room for him, he spread a big towel on top of a soft area rug in the center of the living room between the two sofas and stretched out on it. He lay on his back, almost as if he was still on the beach, or perhaps, since he was naked, in the privacy of the backyard. I guess with the thickness of the towel and rug combined he was comfortable. At least, he stayed there for quite a while without complaining.

There'd been no discussion of the previous night, no attempt to analyze what had gone on or what it might mean. There'd been no who was going to sleep in which bed that night. The evening, it seemed, was still some time off and it would take care of itself when it did arrive. We were just happy to be together through the quite, lazy afternoon.

Our conversation was sporadic and light. If there were issues between us, they seemed to be on hold by some sort of unspoken mutual consent.

We talked about what we'd do for dinner that night and decided we still had enough in the refrigerator for at least one more meal.

We talked about a couple of short trips we might try on Wednesday or Thursday, tourist stuff which sounded like fun, but not anything any of us felt strongly about. We were happy to just let the days drift by, enjoying the beach and the sun and see, and each other's company.

At some point Daniel had gotten up and come across to join me on the north sofa. I looked across to see that Sammy was leaning back with his eyes closed and his mouth slightly open. He seemed to be soundly asleep. I looked over at Steve and saw that he also seemed to be dozing.

I moved my legs so Daniel could set on the other end of the sofa, but he came over behind me instead and pushed me forward so he could set with his back to the back of the sofa and my back resting against him. Once we'd both gotten comfortable, he moved his arm so it draped over my right shoulder and his hand rested on my stomach. He began to slowly stroke me there, causing my cock to quickly harden and form a tint of the towel. He was touching me in a caring, sensual way and I soon became erect. My cock had thrust through the opening in the towel and pulsed slowly had Daniel caressed my stomach and lower chest. But he made no attempt to touch my cock and after a while I was able to relax, at least a little, and accept Daniel's touch as a caring and loving gesture, not as an explicitly erotic one. I couldn't help wondering if Daniel was caressing me for Steve's sake, making the point that he had some claim on me, or at least that I would accept what he was doing, even in front of Steve and Sammy.

By about four o'clock I think all of us were dozing, or at least I know I had been. So it was a bit of a surprise when I heard Steve say,  "guys, I think we need to talk."  For several seconds the only sound was the repetitive whir of the overhead fan .

Sammy threw one of the small sofa cushions at him, saying at the same time,  "I'm not in the mood for another one of your pronouncements, Mr. Chapman."

We all chuckled, both because Sammy expressed what Daniel and I were also feeling, and because it had been Sammy who'd taken the lead.

"Well," Steve said after he'd tossed the cushion back to Sammy,  "would you mind if I just said something? I feel like I need to get it off my chest. If you guys don't want to respond, could you at least just listen."

"Oh, go ahead," Sammy moaned.  "We know when you have to say something we'd just as well let you say it. We'll certainly not have any peace until you've spilled your guts."

"Thanks,"  Steve said. His voice was low, almost a whisper, and it really sounded as if he meant it, as if he was grateful that we'd allow him to say whatever it was he had to say.  "I guess for starters, I owe all three of you an apology."

"Now that's a first,"  I said, trying to make it sound teasing, hoping to lighten the mood a little.

"I mean it. Saturday night you said I'd been a real shit,"  he went on, looking pointedly at me.  "I realize you were right."

"Well, things have worked out in ways I never expected," I said, not really as an apology, but as at least a partial admission that he'd been right, at least about his last pronouncement opening the way to new aspects of our collective relationship.

"Yeah, maybe," Steve went on, "but at a higher cost than I'd intended."  He paused and looked around at the three of us, Sammy, stretched out alone on one sofa, Daniel and I curled up together on the other. From his position on the floor, Steve really did look like a supplicant.

"I wanted to open up the sexual possibilities between the four of us, but my motives weren't as pure as I was trying to make them sound,"  he went on.

"Okay," Daniel said,  "if you want to be completely honest with us, let's have the whole truth, what were your motives?"

"Well, for one thing, I wanted to get Sammy into bed."

"Yeah, we figured that," I interjected.

"Sammy," Steve said, looking down at the towel on which he now sat in a cross-legged position, "I knew Rob had made it with you in Athens last fall."

Sammy looked over at me and nodded.

"I guess I was jealous. I'd been trying to get a relationship started with Rob. I was going real slow because I realized whatever happened between us was important and I wanted it to be right. When he came back from the Athens trip and told me he and you had had what sounded like pretty casual sex, it just hurt like hell.

"I tried to ignore it but it was like an evil seed in my gut. It just kept growing. I more or less planned this whole spring break thing as a way of having sex with you, Sammy."

"Again, Steve, we more or less figured that out," I said.  "But that doesn't excuse the way you treated Sammy. It was as if you were trying to take out all your frustrations with me on him." I looked over at the smaller guy and added, "You should have just torn into me. At least you'd have been going after the right guy. And besides, I'm a more equal match."

"Hey," Sammy put in, "don't talk about me as if I'm not here. Besides, I knew what I was getting into with Steve." His outburst was clearly directed at me and I realized he was right. I had been trying to put myself between Steve and him, even though he might not have wanted that.

"Well, Rob's right, Sammy," Steve put in. "I was way out of line."

"So does all this make me the odd man out?" Daniel said, his arms still around me and his hands still gently stroking my chest.

"I guess at first that's just how I saw you, Daniel," Steve said, looking even more guilty. "After we had that three way thing in Memphis, I began to think having you along this week would at least make it two couples, no matter how we actually paired off. I owe you an apology, too, Daniel."

"So where does this all leave us?" I asked, clearly mystified by Steve's admissions, and more importantly, unable to understand his motives for doing this now. "I guess I don't get the reason for you telling us all this. We'd more or less figured what your intentions were and I guess the fact that we're all still here means we're still friends, even if we agree you're a shit." I gave him a little grin so he'd know I wasn't just coming down on him.  "I guess we are all willing players in your little game so we can't blame you entirely."

"Thanks, Rob," Steve said. "I appreciate you saying that."

"Well, that's true for me," Daniel said. "I have to admit I've really enjoyed being with you guys, even if it has been rather bizarre."

"Yeah, that goes for me, too, Steve," Sammy agreed.  "I've certainly been a willing player, as you put it, Rob."

"Well, that still leaves my original question," I said, jumping back into the conversation. "Why are you saying all this now, Steve?"

"Isn't it obvious?" he said, looking around at each of us. "My original objectives were based on all the wrong motivations, but they worked. Maybe they worked too well."

"Getting us to swap partners, jumping from one bed to the other," Sammy said.

"Yeah, getting to know each other intimately," Steve said.  "I'd wanted to have some hot sex with you guys, but it worked better than I'd ever dreamed."

"So are you saying we need to get back to more normal relationships?" I asked, clearly mystified by Steve's remarks.

"Maybe you can tell me, Rob," Steve said, his voice harsh for the first time, "what the fuck you think is normal?"

I was a little stunned by his outburst.  "Well, couples, I guess."

"And you really think that's possible, after what we've been doing?"

"I don't know," I admitted. I really didn't know if it was possible.
"We can never go back to the way things were,"  he said. Now his voice was no longer angry. If anything it seemed to convey a real sadness. "In my dumb desire for some sort of sexual fun and games, I really opened a Pandora's Box. I realize that now."

"So what do you suggest?" Daniel asked.

"Well, before I answer that question, I need to say something else."

"Okay," the three of us said, almost simultaneously.

"This is going to sound really weird, guys," Steve warned.

"Say it, Steve," I snapped.

"Well, first of all, Rob, you know I really love you, right?"

"Yeah, I do I know that," I admitted. I haven't heard you say it for a few days but you've certainly said it enough over the last few months."

"It's true, man. I love you so much it scares the hell out of me. What if this week resulted in me loosing you? I don't think I could stand it."

"Okay," I said, "I love you, too." I must admit it felt really odd saying that to Steve while Daniel's arms were wrapped around me and his hands were still moving slowly and lovingly over my chest.
"But what I didn't figure on is that now I feel the same way about you, Daniel, and you, Sammy," Steve said, his voice almost a whisper. He sat very still on his towel in the center of the room. I saw for the first time that his naked body was trembling, not the kind of reaction I'd ever seen in Steve before.

There was a long silence and then Daniel said, "I can see right now that this is going to get very complicated."

To be continued.