Absolute Convergence: Transformations
By John Yager
This is the second chapter of a new story about Robert Ballinger and William Amsted and their life together.
This story spans five chapters and, while it is being added to the existing Absolute Convergence file, it constitutes an independent, self-contained narrative. I've therefore taken the liberty of giving it the subtitle, Transformations, to distinguish it from the original series. While it will be helpful for readers to know the original Absolute Convergence series, in which all the principal characters were introduced, this story should stand on its own merits.
Absolute Convergence made its first appearance in January, 2001, as a series which eventually ran to a total of eighty chapters, the last of which was posted in January, 2004. I never anticipated the series going on for so long and I continue to be amazed by the incredible loyalty of readers who have stayed with me from the beginning. I am also sincerely appreciative for those newer readers who have contacted me from time to time to say that they've discovered the series and ventured through the collected chapters.
I'm always glad to receive comments, questions, criticism and encouragement and hope to continue hearing from you. I try to answer all messages promptly. If I'm slow at times it's only because of the pressures of work.
Andrew has agreed to continue giving me much needed proofing and editorial help. I am sincerely grateful for his help.
This work is copyright © 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.
All the stories I've posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent postings, previews of upcoming stories, and other bits and pieces, please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
"He was on his way back to Burbank from San Francisco," William told me. "Dad didn't have all the details but the plane crashed about thirty miles north of Bakersfield and every one on board was killed."
"So there were other people beside the crew?" I asked.
"Yes," William said, still clearly
shaken by the news. The pilot and co-pilot and two other NSB executives.
They were Sid Townsend and Clyde Mason. I don't think you knew either of
I didn't, but William had worked with both men.
"Dad wants me back there as soon as possible."
"We were going to fly back tomorrow morning any way," I said. "I doubt if we could get any earlier flight."
"That's what I told him," William said. "He expects to arrive in LA late tomorrow afternoon so we should get home before he gets there."
"Why is he flying in?" I asked. "I guess he wants to be there for the funeral." I added, thinking as I said it that he'd probably not come for that reason alone.
"That, but he expects there will be a shake-up at NSB and he wants to be there for the board meeting, which is already being planned for next week."
"Peter is on the NSB board?"
"Yes, as a result of the Albion deal,
but I don't think he's ever actually attended an NSB board meeting before."
Saying good-bye to my mother was difficult but we'd already discussed the idea of her visiting us in LA in the fall, which helped. We had told her and Ted that we were giving up the leased house in Pasadena and intended to buy a place of our own. The idea of visiting us in our new home seemed to please her a lot.
I had a brief conversation with Ted in the kitchen early Monday before William and I left.
"I guess you and William are - well, you know," he stammered, not knowing how to address the issue.
"A couple," I said, "yes."
He was silent for a moment, then said, "well, he's sure a nice guy. Nobody would ever guess you guys were . . ."
"Gay," I said, speaking the word he was obviously having trouble saying.
"Yeah," he finally responded. Then after another pause, he went on, "look, Rob, I don't understand it, but I have to admit you two seem to have done a better job of creating a life together than Betty and I did. I guess that's something."
"Well, Ted," I said, giving him a brief hug, "we all have to play the cards we're dealt." It was as trite response, but I figured he'd understand it.
"Yeah," he said again and then added, "don't worry about mom."
"I won't. She's a strong lady."
"Yeah," he grinned. "And don't worry about the financial issues or the lumber yard. It's doing well and I'll be sure it continues to support her."
Over the intervening years he has
been true to his word. Despite the ups and downs in his personal life,
Ted has done a good job of running the family business and my mother has
always had a more than adequate income from it.
Since we had a rental car, William and I drove ourselves to the Memphis airport on Monday morning. We were back in LA by noon, local time, given the two hour change.
Peter arrived later that afternoon and went directly to the Beverly Hills Hotel, asking that we come to his suite for dinner at eight o'clock.
I was surprised that he included me in the invitation, assuming he wanted to talk with William about plans for the NSB reorganization and I saw no reason why he'd want me to be in on such discussions.
We'd gotten to dessert and the server had excused himself before the subject of expected changes at NSB came up. Peter had expressed his shock at Cohen's death and reminisced about their friendship. I'd not realized how long they'd known one another and it was clear that Peter was taking the shocking suddenness of Cohen's death very hard. It was a side of Peter's nature I'd not seen before and, despite the sad reason which prompted his comments, it did give me a sense of his humanity, which was usually hidden behind his dominant personality.
"Well, we must look to the future," he said, as he sipped his coffee. "Ever since I met you, Robert, and realized you and William were in love, I've had a sort of plan in the back of my mind."
"Really, Peter?" I said, surprised that he'd seen me in any such light.
"Absolutely, you two are beautifully matched, in ways you may not have even realized. I don't doubt that you are deeply in love and completely compatible on a personal level, but you also complement each other in professional ways as well." He paused, fiddling with his cup a moment. Then, still looking down at the black coffee, went on. "I'm going to say something I should have said years ago, but there was never an appropriate opportunity until now."
"Yes?" William and I said together, one more example of the ways our responses seemed so aligned.
"Yes," Peter said, his voice very quiet. "I suppose this is by way of an apology. I had no way of knowing when I first met you, Robert, that you and my son would fall in love. I think in retrospect I should have guessed that when you met there would be such natural chemistry between you. My hindsight is always much better than my prophetic abilities," he added with a slight smile.
"Where is this leading, dad?" William said. His tone seemed a little confrontational, but Peter took his son's question in his stride.
"It's leading to this." He paused again for a few seconds, and then went on. "If I had realized the potential for a relationship between the two of you I would never have drawn you, Robert, into the little games Roger Bardwell and I were playing that night we first met. I've been sorry ever since for what transpired and hope it hasn't been any sort of obstacle in your relationship."
Amazing, I thought. It was quite an admission and while I had no idea if it was really sincere, I was amazed that Peter Amsted had offered it.
"Robert and I have put all that behind us," William said. There was still an edge in his voice.
"Good," Peter responded.
There was an awkwardness while we each fiddled with our desserts. It was William who ended the silence by saying to Peter, "you said you had some sort of plan?"
"Yes," Peter said. "Nothing fully formed, mind you, but a sort of vision that one day the two of you might take positions of leadership at NSB, or whatever emerges from any eventual reorganization of the studios."
"Leadership roles?" William asked.
"Well, you have to understand, I never anticipated something like Dex's death at such an young age. I think in my mind, to whatever degree I'd considered such an idea, that it was something which might occur ten or more years from now. By then both of you would have been more established and it would have been straightforward, elevating the two of you into key roles in the ongoing corporation.
"As things have worked out, this opportunity has occurred much sooner than I ever expected, and you are both younger than I'd anticipated your being when this opportunity arrived, too young, I suspect, to make a convincing case for appointing the two of you to the sorts of positions I envisaged. It never occurred to me that all this would happen because of Dex's death at such an early age. In fact, he and I had talked about some of these ideas as part of our strategy for his retirement, but we both thought of that as being many years down the line."
"Are you saying you're in a position now to control a major reorganization at NSB?" William asked.
"Alone, I can't control it, but certainly to influence it."
"Perhaps it would be easier if you'd just explain what you have in mind," William said. I sensed a tension in him that had not been there five minutes before.
"Good enough," Peter said, moving his chair back a bit from the table. "Here's my analysis of the situation. NSB, Nathan, Silvers and Beck, began like many of the big studios, as a fairly simple business; simple, at least, compared with what it has become. It started making films when a complete production could be finished in two or three weeks, at the most.
"Did you two ever run across this interesting fact in any of your film history classes? The first film NSB produced was shot entirely in a converted warehouse, their first so-called studio. The entire shoot took eight working days and the total cost of the film was $22,000."
"Yes," I said, "I had read that."
"We can easily spend more than that on one microphone these days," William added.
"NSB certainly wasn't unique," Peter went on. "Most of the studios had such modest beginnings. But by the sixties all the studios were growing or dying. It was only the three or four which really succeeded in broadening their base which survived. We can thank Dexter Cohen for that, so far as NSB was concerned."
"By broadening its base," William said, "you mean diversifying."
"Exactly," Peter went on. "If it weren't for the TV production units, NSB would be dead in the water. It's the TV side of the operation which has kept the three or four major studios afloat.
"But beside the TV units, did you know NSB owns all or part of seven film production companies, a book publishing house, two or three construction companies, three record labels and a bunch of TV and radio stations strung across the States from LA to New York?"
"Yes, I knew that," William said.
"NSB still owns about two dozen cinemas. At one point they owned three or four times that number. It also owns a catering business, a charter air and limousine service and a security company," William continued. He'd obviously been reading the annual reports.
"RDF Security?" I asked.
"Yes," William said.
"I remember Sam and Nat saying Robert Friend, its founder, was still running it."
"He runs it, but it's owned by NSB." William reiterated.
Sam Turner and Nat Barlow had not become close friends, but we saw them from time to time and always asked for them when we needed someone from RDF.
"Well, you see the point," Peter said. "NSB has become a huge conglomerate, mostly in the entertainment field, but with a few other related businesses. They even have a property management company to look after all their real estate holdings." He paused and then asked, "by the way, what do you know about cable TV?"
"Not much," William said. "They're offering it in Pasadena but we have so little time to watch anything on TV that we've not signed up."
"Well," Peter said, "in a few more years you will. I think it has huge potential in the US, as well as in Europe, and in case you didn't know NSB has its finger in that pot as well ."
"So what do you see happening now that Dex is gone?" William asked.
"Well, you know I have a seat on the NSB board."
"Yes," William said, "as a result of the Albion deal."
"Exactly. When Albion was created, half of the stock was assigned to NSB and half to us."
"Us?" William said.
"Well, the Amsted Group."
"That really means you, doesn't it, dad?"
"More or less, but there are some other share holders in AG and thousands of stock holders in NSB. You know NSB isn't a publicly traded company, but there have been a lot of people involved over the years, and, some stock distributions. There are even blocks of shares still being held by the heirs of the original founders."
"So you have a seat on the NSB board," William said. "Does that mean NSB also has a representative on your board?"
"Yes, I was on the NSB board as a representative of AG and Dex was on our board as a representative of NSB. In reality, Dex had never made it to one of our meetings and I've not been to any of the NSB board meetings, although that's about to change."
"Well," William said, "maybe you should just spell out what you're thinking."
"Okay, here's the short version," Peter said.
For starters, I want to move the two of you into somewhat more responsible positions in the areas where you are already working.
"For you, Robert," Peter said, "that will mean heading one of the writing units."
"William, we have you slated to take charge of Sax Productions. It's a modest step in and of itself, but it means you'll be sitting on the committee which makes a lot of the decisions about allocations of budget, and that committee has a major influence over the direction of the entire corporation. It also gives you a bird's eye view of the entire operation.
"But before we can make those changes, we have to gain control of the board. There are nine current members of the NSB board with the three vacancies caused by the deaths of Cohen, Townsend and Mason."
"Sid Townsend and Clyde Mason were on the NSB board as well?"
"Yes, although from what I've heard they were Dex's men, voting the way he told them to vote, not saying much at all in the board meetings. The point is that there are three vacancies and it's up to the remaining directors to name new members to fill those seats on an emergency basis. It's very unlikely that the appointments they make will be changed at the next stockholder's meeting which, by the way, doesn't take place for nine months. By then we'll have gotten a lot done.
"There are four of the nine who don't really know production at all. They're the attorneys and accountants and they want to just sell off NSB assets and declare some huge dividends."
"Break up NSB," William said.
"Break it up and pocket the cash. But I've been working with the other five. I'm counting myself in that number. I think we can control the meeting and name our own people to fill those vacant board seats."
"And save NSB," I said naively.
"Well, in a sense. We'd sell off some of its less relevant holdings as well, but the difference is that we'd use the cash to strengthen the core production company, not just pay a big one-time dividend to the stockholders."
"Does that make you and your colleagues the good guys?" William said with a smile. It was clear that the tensions between him and his father had at least decreased, if not completely disappeared.
"I hope it makes the two of you good guys as well."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, William, I intend to nominate you to the NSB board and I want to nominate you, Robert, to take Dex's seat on the Albion board as the NSB representative."
"Peter," I almost gasped, "I wouldn't have any idea what I was doing."
"You'd learn quickly. I want someone
from the creative side of the shop, and who better than my own son-in-law?"
Later that evening, back at our house in Pasadena, William and I lay in bed for two hours, making love.
It was a slow, gentle time, one I still remember out of all the nights we've had together.
When I was young and first in love, Rick and I would go off to his uncle's cabin and have passionate sex for almost all the time we were together. The sexual contact was the reason for our making such an effort to get alone in a private location.
I suppose it's similar in every long-term
relationship, but at some point a shift of consciences occurs. William
and I, Like all couples, I assume, reach a state where the sex, as wonderful
as it continues to be, becomes part of the matrix of our life together,
not a separate, unique event.
I think it was that night after we'd returned from my father's funeral and after our meal with Peter Amsted, that I first understood the changes which had begun in our lives and in our relationship.
"Does Peter think I'll be his 'yes man?'" I asked as William's warm hand stroked the inside of my right thigh.
"No, he may have lots of faults but he's never surrounded himself with people who'd just echo his own ideas and preferences. I think he wants to be challenged. He wants people who think creatively and spark new ideas."
"What about his comment 'who better than my own son-in-law?'"
"You know, Robert," William said, rolling over so his head rested on my chest, "I really don't know what to think about that.
"Since I was a kid I knew my mother and Peter, and then he and Charlotte, had very open relationships. When I was twelve or thirteen, I somehow caught on to the fact that dad was having an affair and that Charlotte knew and didn't care."
"Had they been married long at that point?"
"A year or two, I guess." His hand had moved up over my stomach and he was softly pinching my left nipple. He knew that was one thing guaranteed to get my cock rock hard in seconds but, of course, William knew every spot that got me hard.
"I knew he was always messing around," William went on, "I even figured out some of his interests were other men, but I've never known him do anything which would evidence his same sex involvement publicly."
"Yet you're suggesting he seems to be willing to publicly acknowledge our relationship."
"I wonder," William said. "Maybe he's becoming more comfortable using such language with us, or within a small circle of his gay and bi-sexual friends, but I really doubt if he'd go public with it."
"Go public with his own activities or our relationship?" I asked.
"Either," William said, his hand now moving inexorably toward my cock. "Both."
He grasped my pulsing shaft and began slowly to stroke it. The head was wet with my own fluids, which he slowly spread with his thumb, sending little ripples and chills though my body.
"I did find his 'my own son-in-law,' somewhat arch."
With that our conversation ceased as William moved down to engulf my cock in his warm mouth. He rolled his tongue over its wet head and then slowly down the back of my shaft, causing the wet tip of his tongue to trace the path of the blood vessel which pulsed along its length.
He sucked my cock head deep into his throat and did that amazing swallowing thing of his. Without moving up and down on me at all, he brought me nearly to climax and then backed off.
"Oh," I growled, not wanting him to stop.
"Slowly, slowly . . ."
"Catchee monkey," I finished the silly quote for him.
"Yes," he grinned, plunging back down again to begin a fast and furious suck.
Within seconds I erupted, shooting my seed deep into his throat.
"Oh," I moaned again.
A few minutes later, when I'd begun to regain some semblance of calm, I rolled him off me onto his back and went down on him.
It's lovely, loving the man you love.
To be continued.