Absolute Convergence: Housekeeping
By John Yager
This is the fifth and last chapter of a new story about Robert Ballinger and William Amsted and their life together.
While this story is being added to the existing Absolute Convergence file, it constitutes an independent, self contained narrative about one weekend. I've subtitle, Housekeeping, to distinguish it from the original series and from the first of these stories, which was subtitled Transformations. While it will be helpful for readers to know the earlier stories, 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 continuing for so long and I am still amazed by the incredible loyalty of readers who 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 for which I am sincerely grateful.
I also want to express special thanks to Budd, who gave me invaluable assistance with the Hollywood scene and the changes which were occurring during the periods described in Transformations and Housekeeping. Without his help this story would not have the degree of authenticity I was able to convey.
Copyright © by the author, 2004. This work 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.
"I learned that night that the place
was called the Meat House, for good reason," William said.
It was a Saturday morning in May, 1983, and we were at our house in Pacific Palisades. He was telling me more of the history of his relationship with his father, Peter Amsted.
I suppose I should say William was
almost desperate to tell me the rest of the story. I was leaving the next
evening for an extended stay in London and we both assumed that I'd be
seeing more of Peter than usual. William seemed to feel that is was important
for me to know the whole truth of his experiences with his father before
I left. I understood his concern and sat patiently at our breakfast room
table as he continued.
"The huge room was dark and filled with smoke and loud, pulsing music, as I told you before. Peter led me to the nearest bar, where we were greeted by still more of his friends.
"This was a side of my father's life I'd never seen before, and while I had come to assume that he was engaged from time to time in some rather bizarre sexual activity, I'd never suspected or envisaged anything like this.
"I was surprised that the men who greeted us seemed to know without being told who I was. I was also interested in the age range and physical disparity they represented.
"Some were only a little older than me, clearly in their twenties, if not quite in their late teens, as I was at that time. Others were much older than my father, who was then forty-one.
"Physically, all of the younger men and some of the older ones were in amazing physical shape. It was clear that they spent many hours a week in the gym, honing their hard, sculpted physiques. Others, mostly the older ones, were clearly past their prime, but even they seemed to have made an effort to stay in shape.
"The range of apparel was also interesting.
"One young man who was a part of
the group which surrounded us at the bar wore only a leather thong and
his chiseled body was completely hairless. The hair on his body, his head,
even his eyebrows had been completely removed, either by careful shaving,
or some other method I couldn't even imagine.
"In each of his nipples he wore a heavy ring and a slender chain hung in a slight arch between them.
When my father greeted him, they kissed, and Peter then said, almost as an afterthought, 'Will, this is Dolly; Dolly, Will.
The young man leaned forward and
gave me a slight hug, pressing his lips to my cheek, as he whispered in
my ear, 'I've wanted to meet you, Will. I hope we get a chance to play
"Peter must have overheard his whispered remark because he immediately grasped my arm in a possessive way and gave a little chuckle. 'Not tonight, Doll.'
"Someone had thrust a drink into my hand and I took a cautious sip. As I suspected, it was strong and sweet, some concoction of rum and fruit, designed to propel the unwary toward swift intoxication.
"Peter, I noticed, had been handed
a whisky, which he drank quickly and reached for another. It struck me
as odd. I'd never seen him drink to get drunk. He always demanded the best
liquor, the best wines, and he always consumed them slowly with obvious
"'Come on, Kiddo,' Peter said, still holding my arm, 'let's take the tour.'
"We left the bar and walked through
the crowd toward a tight circle of men who seemed to be watching some action
or other on the mat they surrounded. Peter thrust his and my way through
the throng until we were looking down at two muscular blond guys who looked
to be three or four years older than me. One of them was fucking the other,
who was on all fours and squealing like a pig.
"It was a lewd scene, and for me, not at all appealing."
"Live porn?" I suggested.
"Yes, perhaps, but also exhibitionism of a high order.
"We stood there for a few minutes
until the top guy seemed to become rigid and I assumed he was approaching
climax. To my surprise, he quickly pulled his amazingly large cock out
of the other man's ass and shot a huge load over the bottom guy's back.
"There was some amused applause for the circle of men, who then moved back and began to wander off in various directions.
"'Come on,' Peter said, leading me away toward the back of the large room. As we passed another bar Peter exchanged his empty glass for a full one and I put my still unconsumed concoction on the bar, happy to be rid of it.
"We approached a door I'd not noticed
before and went through it into a smaller, equally dark room where several
naked or nearly naked men circled a guy lying on his back in a leather
sling, suspended by chains three or four feet above the concrete floor.
"One especially muscular guy was standing with his back toward us, between the suspended man's spread legs.
"Peter led me around to the side
and I saw at once that the muscular guy had his fist and a good bit of
his forearm embedded in the suspended man's ass. He was fist fucking him
slowly, almost gently, and from time to time, would use his free hand to
stroke the bottom guy's thighs and lovingly fondle his flaccid cock, all
the while talking to him in a soft, gentle, almost doting manner.
"I assumed the two were not just playmates, but lovers.
"Fisting, as I'd experienced it with my father, had always been caring enough, even though at times he was intentionally rough. It was interesting for me, I guess I could say it was even a revelation, to see these two men, for whom this seemingly brutal act was clearly a part of their way of making love.
"'Jerry and Sty,' my father said, gesturing toward the two men, the one is the sling, the other fisting him. 'They'll be at it for hours and when Sty has had enough, they'll probably change places.'
"'Do they always do that at these gatherings?' I asked.
"Yes,' Peter responded, 'in fact, I hear they have a sling in their flat. I gather it's a usual thing for them.'
"'More common than for us?' I asked.
"'I suspect so,' he laughed.
"'A sling like that would be handy,' I chuckled, giving his muscular arm a squeeze.
"'Would you like to try it?' he asked, immediately jumping on my remark.
"'Not in public,' I laughed.
"'This isn't public, Will,' he said, his voice suddenly serious. 'This is a very private party.'
"I knew that tone. There was purpose in his voice and I realized that he'd brought me there with every expectation that he and I would have sex of some sort in front of those other men. I wondered if he'd expected it to happen on that first visit or if, in his usual subtle manner, he was just introducing me to all of it, conditioning me to accept it all as normal, with the thought of drawing me back to some future event.
"As we left the back room I took
his arm and guided him toward the alcove where our clothes were hung. When
we reached it, I said, 'Peter - Dad, I don't know what you have in mind,
but I don' t think I like this.'
"He grasped my bare shoulder and squeezed it hard, hard enough to leave a mark.
"'Don't you get it, boy?' he almost snarled. 'This is what it's all been about. This is where it's all been heading.'
"'You mean this is where you've been leading me? This is what the last few years have been preparing me for?' I said, suddenly repulsed. I was more then repulsed. I was devastated.
"Through everything my father and
I had done together, through everything he'd done to me, I had always felt
the motivating factor was love. It might have been a strange kind of love,
perhaps even perverted, but I never doubted that on some very deep level
my father loved me and I loved him. At that moment it seemed as if all
that we'd built together had collapsed like a sand castle slammed by an
"Had my father's intention all along been to prepare me for some sort of spectacle, some sort of sexual show in which he would demonstrate to all who cared to watch, his mastery and control over me?
"He just stood there, still squeezing my shoulder, making no response.
"'I need to think, Peter,' I said.
'I want to go.'
"'Suit yourself,' he almost snarled at me. 'I'm staying but you can walk over to Ewell Bypass and find a cab.'
"Without another word he turned and left me standing there.
"I pulled on my socks and shoes, my shirt and the jacket I'd worn. In a sort of daze, I headed across the dark, smoky room toward the door we'd entered just an hour or so before.
"'Leaving so soon, Willy Boy?' I
heard a guy say as I approached the door.
"When I turned I was Dolly standing there, his smooth, hairless body covered with a thin film of sweat. He held a half smoked cigarette in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. As I looked back at him, he swayed a little and I wondered if he'd had a bit too much to drink or if, perhaps, what he was smoking wasn't tobacco.
"As his body swayed the chain suspended
between his pierced nipples swung back and forth obscenely.
"Yes,' I said, wanting to get away.
"'Sorry to hear it,' he leered at
me. 'From what Peter said I expected you and he would be giving us a bit
of a show.'
"His remark brought me up short. It confirmed what I'd suspected, but I was shocked that my father would have made any sort of comment about him and me, let alone any suggestion that he'd convince me to engage in any sexual activity with him in this strange place, in front of all those other men.
"'What exactly did he say?' I managed
"Dolly moved closer, too close, and put one limp arm over my shoulder, the beer bottle hanging limply behind me.
"'Well, if I remember correctly,'
he said with a slight grin, 'he had every expectation of getting you naked
and in a sling and giving your lovely ass a real workout.'
"'What?' I demanded, shocked by Dolly's graphic language and by the thought that my father had said such a thing to men who hadn't even met me.
"'Don't go all innocent on me, Willy,' Dolly smirked. 'The way Peter tells it, you have an ass that can open up like a Royal Air Force wind tunnel.'
"I shook his arm off my shoulder and turned and left. A guy I'd not seen before was lolling outside the outer door. I asked him the way to Ewell Bypass and he pointed vaguely off to the left.
"The evening was still rather warm but I was glad I had my jacket. I realized I was shaking a bit as I walked past several dark streets, toward the lights of a major thoroughfare some distance ahead.
"Peter was right. I spotted a cab almost at once, heading back north, and was able to flag it down. I slumped in the rear of the cab, trying to make some sense of the evening.
"When I arrived, Onslow Square was quiet and the house was dark. I let myself in and went to bed, locking my bedroom door for the first time in years.
"I didn't hear Peter come in and I didn't see him the next morning. I knew he intended to drive down to Sussex on the following Wednesday and I had expected to stay in London with him until then. Instead, I left after breakfast the next day, on Sunday morning, driving down alone.
"Those three days gave me a lot of
time to think. By Wednesday, when Peter arrived, I'd made up my mind. I
knew that strange relationship between him and me had to end. I knew it
should have never started in the first place and I also realized that if
it were going to end, it had to be me who ended it. Peter certainly never
would, and until I got out of his grasp there was no way I could ever form
a real life for myself.
"I realized then that what I wanted, really wanted at the depths of my being, was a real, healthy, loving relationship with someone my own age, not a man almost twenty-five years older, even if that older man was my own father, especially if that older man was my father.
"I also realized that it would take every ounce of strength I had to get me out of the relationship with Peter."
"Was it as difficult as you expected?" I asked.
"Harder," William said. There was a catch in his voice as if even now, more than ten years after that decision was made, it still haunted him in some way.
I longed to help him, to heal the hurt, but I knew that at that moment, back in the summer of 1971, William had been alone, desperately alone, and it was only because of his own internal strength of character that he'd been able to stand by his resolve. I couldn't reach back over time and help him. I could only love him there in the present of that May morning in 1982. I hoped that he knew the strength of my love, that nothing, past, present or future, could come between us. I hoped he knew, really knew, that my love was unconditional.
I reached out and stroked his arm. It was a simple gesture but it was a token of all I felt for him.
"I knew Peter would fight me," William
continued, "but as well as I knew him, I didn't realize how he'd fight
to keep me, or with what tenacity. Peter isn't someone you want to cross,
"I know," I said.
"When Peter got down to Sussex on
Wednesday night it was already late, almost midnight. I'd locked my bedroom
door and gone to bed, and as I anticipated, he came to my room. When he
discovered it was locked, he knocked, softly at first, and then louder,
so loud I thought he might waken Charlotte or their children.
"I got out of bed and went to the door, not to open it, but so I could communicate with him through it in a soft voice.
"'It's late, Peter,' I said, almost in a whisper. 'I want to talk, but let's wait till morning.'
"'Is something wrong?' he responded, his own voice softer then.
"Yes,' I said, determined not to say more until we could talk in some more neutral environment than my bedroom.
"'Open the door, Will,' he demanded.
"'In the morning, Dad,' I whispered back.
"To my surprise he didn't press it.
Peter doesn't fight battles, Robert, he plans campaigns, entire wars."
"So that wasn't the end of it," I said.
"Oh no, not by a long shot.
"The next morning I was having coffee
on the terrace about ten o'clock and Peter came out to join me. He sat
across the table from me, silent for a few minutes while I studied a newspaper.
"Finally, when I made no comment, he said 'what was all that about last night?'
"'I have to end it, Dad,' I said. I didn't explain, but he knew what I meant.
"'Are you in love with someone else?' he asked, which was an interesting question. I wasn't of course, not then, but it gave me the opening I needed.
"'Not yet,' I said, laying aside the newspaper, 'but I hope that happens. I want to find someone with whom I can build a real life.'
"'You're young, Will,' he smiled, 'young and romantic. I hope you do find someone, but until that happens, what's wrong with us having a little fun?'
"'I don't think it can happen,' I
replied, 'as long as you and I continue to do what we've been doing.'
"'Bull shit," he said, a slight hint of a snarl in his voice.
"His crudeness caught me off guard. Peter used profanity frequently, but he was rarely crude.
"'I have Charlotte and our fun and
games haven't interfered with my relationship with her,' he said, his voice
a little more modulated.
"'Perhaps,' I said, 'you may be able to handle it, but I don't think I work that way.'
"'Is this all about me taking you
to the Meat House last Saturday," he said.
"'Probably,' I said, looking squarely into his eyes for the first time. 'Yes, I guess it is. It made me think all this through and see it for what it is.'
"'Is this about that boy you know at university. Do you think you're in love?' Peter said. It was the second time he'd asked if there was someone else, as if that might be a more acceptable reason for ending things with him.
"'No, Peter,' I said again. 'There's no one else.'
"'Well, I really don't understand
it then,' he sighed.
"'I'm not asking you to understand it, Dad,' I said. 'I'm just asking that you accept it as my decision.'
"'It's not just your decision, Will,' he fired back. 'It affects me, too.'
"I didn't respond and a few minutes
later he got up and went back into the house.
"I held my ground all the rest of that summer but Peter continued to persist. Several weeks later he told me he was going into London for the weekend and wanted me to come along.
"'Are you going back to the Meat House?' I asked.
"Yes, Saturday night,' he admitted.
"'And you want me to come with you,' I said flatly.
"'I think we just got off to a bad
start,' he smiled. 'You'd enjoy it this time.'
"'No thanks, Dad,' I said. 'I need to get some reading done. I'll just stay here.'
"'Suit yourself,' he said, 'but you'll be missing a lot of fun.'
"I think after that a sort of truce
was agreed, although we never talked about it. The summer holidays slipped
by and I went back to Durham for my second year.
"After that I spent a lot of my free time with friends, at their homes or traveling on the continent, just to avoid too much time with Peter in London or at the house in Sussex. In fact, I was rarely with Peter unless I had a friend along, not anyone I really cared about, other than as a friend, but I learned that Peter was less inclined to pressure me if I had someone my own age around.
"It was an amazing piece of luck
that I came down to Sussex when you were there with Roger Bardwell. If
I hadn't happened to visit then we'd not have met."
"Thank God we did," I said.
"Yes, thank God," William replied,
stroking my hand. "You know, Robert, when I got there that evening
and met you for the first time, I sensed that both Roger and Peter were
playing some sort of game and you were the prize. I think I instinctively
wanted to protect you from that, or at least from Peter. I didn't
know Roger well enough to really know what he was up to.
"On another level I think your being there sparked the old sense of competition between Peter and me. I wanted to protect you from him, but I also wanted to take you away from him, if in fact he had any interest in you. Those were my first feelings, but they quickly turned to love for you, the deepest, richest love I've ever felt for anyone."
"Yes," I said, too moved to say more.
"And with you coming into my life, the last bridge was burned between Peter and me."
"So from what you've told me, your
relationship with Peter, your sexual relationship, ended more with a whimper
than with a bang," I said after some moments had gone by.
"Yes, but a seething whimper, I suppose," William said. "I may have made it sound easier than it was. In a thousand ways, a word or two, or even just a look, he continued to let me know that he was unhappy with my rejection, but in some ways the undercurrent of anger just gave me more strength. I've wondered if I'd have stayed out of his bed if he'd tried to gain my sympathy, claiming some sort of enormous hurt."
"But he didn't do that," I said.
"No, his pride probably wouldn't have let him and besides, it just isn't Peter's way. He demands, he never begs."
"Well," I said, "is that the end of the story? Can we finally close the book?"
"Yes, so long as you understand that I will always have some shadows there. At times I feel a lot like a reformed alcoholic who never dares to have another drink."
"But as you told me once years ago," I responded, "there's still love there, between you and him."
"Of course, but it will always be a strange sort of love. I feel as if I can never let my guard down."
"I wonder, William?" I said. "Peter has been so good to us in so many ways. I think he really does honor our relationship and our commitment to one another. Now that we've been together so long, he may have become almost protective of the two of us."
"I hope you're right, Robert," he whispered, "but I'd not want to test it."
The following evening William drove
me to LAX, where I boarded a direct flight to Heathrow. When I arrived,
surprisingly rested after the long trip, I was met by a car and driver
sent by Albion, and whisked away to the flat on Leonard's Terrace.
To my surprise and amazement, I not only found it completely finished and awaiting my arrival, but Thad St. Clair, the decorator we'd hired, was there to meet me. The place had been beautifully redecorated and, apart from a few accent pieces he'd waited to buy until William and I could choose them, the work was completely done. It's amazing what can be done in a short time if you're willing and able to throw enough money at the project.
"I put a few pieces from my own shop
in to fill the spaces," Thad explained. "If you and Mr. Amsted like them,
they're for sale, otherwise, I'll point you to some excellent antique dealers
where you'll have a wider choice.
William and I did buy one of Thad's pieces, a beautiful late 18th century chest which is in the entry area. With the other needed pieces, we took our time, gradually filling in the gaps with a small collection of little jewels which have taken us years to acquire.
Later on that first day in London
I made my first visit to the Albion offices where I'd be working over the
next few months and, as it turned out, a great deal over the following
years. I was shown my office, which was very much to my liking. I was pleased
to find that an almost identical connecting office had been reserved for
William to use when he also was in London.
The secretary and personal assistant who'd been assigned to me was a young man named Stewart Best, whom I liked at once. He was in his mid- twenties and new to the film industry; new but very anxious to learn.
"I've been assigned to you, Mr. Ballinger," Stewart said when he introduced himself, "but if for any reason you'd prefer to interview other candidates for the position, I can arrange that at once."
"Let's give it a try, Stewart, and see how you and I work together. There will always be time for a change if either of us is unhappy."
As it turned out, Stewart and I have worked together for years and he now heads my London staff.
My life in London quickly fell into a pattern of long hours of work and quiet evenings at the flat. I was lonely when William wasn't with me, but we talked almost daily by phone and I always had his next visit to look forward to.
I did see a good bit of Peter over
the next few months, more often when William was also in London.
A few times Peter and I had dinner together at his club or at some restaurant he enjoyed. Each time I made a point of having to go back to the flat in Leonard's Terrace at a reasonable hour and Peter never suggested anything more.
William made a point of being in
London for my thirty-second birthday and Peter made a point of having a
big party to mark the occasion.
Later that evening, back at the flat in Leonard's Terrace, William and I made love. It was the best birthday present I could ever want. We made love slowly in our big new bed, happy in each other's arms.
Our lives had settled into patterns of our own making, patterns that revolved around our work, around the house in Pacific Palisades, and now around the projects in London and the flat in Leonard's Terrace. We were suddenly a transatlantic couple keeping house in both London and LA. But most of all, the fixed center of our life together was our unwavering love for each other.