Ben Haggerty is devastated when he returns home from work to discover his lover of eight years has gone off to complete his master's degree at another college -- and left no forwarding address. Not only has Ben chosen Rick over his beloved family, but he's supported his boyfriend both financially and emotionally the entire time. Unable to remain in their shared apartment, Ben moves and spends a miserable holiday season alone. With the New Year, however, he's determined to make a fresh start, so he manages to obtain Rick's address and sends him a card asking if Rick ever plans to return. Somehow, the card winds up in the wrong mailbox.
Jason Prescott is a genius, having obtained his first master's degree at twenty-one and now working on his second. When he receives a card in error, he returns both the card and a card of his own to be courteous, expressing his hopes Ben can get in touch with his boyfriend. This begins a correspondence that leads to friendship, and ... the start of something more? Jason introduces Ben to his family and reunites him with his own.
But will Jason, who's even smarter than Rick, be satisfied with someone as ordinary as blue-collar Ben feels himself to be? Or will Rick, realizing what he's let slip through his fingers, manage to persuade Ben to take him back?
The kitchen was dark, and so was the bedroom, but the light in the living room/dining room was set to dim. He'd wired the dimmer switch when they'd first moved in, unable to resist showing off his ability, especially since that wasn't the type of wiring he usually did.
Ben had always thought Rick was proud of what he did, just as he was proud of Rick, but a few months ago, out of a clear blue sky, Rick had said, "Blue-collar workers are so low-class."
The words whispered in Ben's brain. No matter how hard he tried to dismiss them, they kept coming back, even though he knew Rick had just been overtired and stressed from the students he had to teach and the research he had to do. He hadn't meant them. So Ben intended to make Rick see that maybe he worked a blue-collar job, maybe he came from a middle-class union family, but his talents were just as valuable as his boyfriend's.
He unbuckled his tool belt and left it where it fell. Rick would be unhappy about that, but Ben would face his irritation later.
He flipped on the light switch in the bedroom. The bed was neatly made. Rick never made the bed. Not that Ben minded. A genius of his lover's magnitude didn't have time for mundane things like tidying their apartment.
So why had he done it today?
Ben left their bedroom. The bathroom door was closed, and he knocked and waited a few seconds because Rick didn't like it if anyone came into the bathroom while he was using it. When there was no answer, Ben peeked in.
Rick wasn't there. His toothbrush and all the products he used had been put away.
This wasn't like Rick at all. The only time he would do that was when they were expecting company. Had Rick ...? Ben couldn't remember him saying anything about needing to be home early because they were entertaining.
Ben opened the vanity under the sink. "Oh." The hair products hadn't been put away; they were gone. The shelf was bare.
He rushed back into the bedroom and flung open the closet door. The side of the closet where Rick kept his suits and shirts was empty. Opening the dresser drawers revealed more of the same.
There's no need to panic, he told himself. So what if Rick's clothing isn't where it usually is? He probably just had a last minute seminar or something he needed to attend. That had happened frequently in the past year. Ben was willing to bet Rick had left a note.
And of course Ben would find it. He just had to keep looking.
The kitchen was spic and span. The Crock-Pot was in the appliance garage; obviously Rick hadn't planned to make him dinner.
Okay, so no note on the counter or the table in the breakfast nook. That left the second bedroom, which they used as a computer room. Although lately, whenever Rick had friends over, he'd pat the Murphy bed in the wall and tell them this was Ben's room.
More than once, they'd quarreled over Rick making it sound like they were nothing more than roommates. "What do you care what those cocksuckers think of our living arrangements?" Ben had demanded the last time it came up.
"I really hate when you use language like that. Look, Haggerty. I could lose everything if our 'living arrangements' came out. My scholarship, my position as Dr. Putnam's teaching assistant ... everything."
Ben knew Rick was pissed when he used Ben's last name, and he'd do whatever needed to be done to keep his lover from being unhappy.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I just don't like them looking down on me."
"They don't, Benjie."
Ben loved Rick, so he didn't mutter, "You could have fooled me."
Rick threaded his fingers through Ben's hair, something else he loved. "Keep in mind you're a pretty talented cocksucker yourself." And Rick had dragged him off to their bedroom to let him prove it.