Over the next two days, North Ash saw a flurry of activity. The Weiss house was apparently sold or rented and two guys who appeared very fit and in their early thirties moved in with their belongings arriving in a big moving van with a whole house full of furniture and clothing and boxes upon boxes unloaded and carried into the house. The Warner house had workman who installed a new window in Dean's room as well as a new steel entry door. The polycarbonate panel had been delivered in the same crate as the door so as not to draw attention and was installed from inside Dean's room. It was undetectable from outside his window looking into his room. A cleaning service was also hired and came and cleaned and vacuumed, washed clothes and in general straightened up the house after the police had been there.
On Wednesday, Dean quit his job at Krogers. Debbie had gone to work Wednesday evening and she and Dean again spent the night at John's. She was up and they were on their way to the store by two in the afternoon on Thursday. John took Dean and Debbie grocery shopping at the IGA Foodliner and then took them home with a full load of groceries. They had finished and got to their repaired home at about half past four in the afternoon. After bringing in the groceries she told the two guys to go watch the television while she cooked them a home-cooked meal. The guys had no sooner sat down in front of the widescreen when the doorbell rang.
Dean flinched at the sound but then got up and looked out the peephole and saw it was Sean from across the street and opened the door. Sean swept into the room in full swish mode and in his most annoying falsetto exclaimed. “Well honey, I see you are home at last. Dean my boy, when you come out, it gets announced on television and makes all the news shows!”
Dean, noted for his blushing, was beet red from the roots of the hair on his head to his toenails. Sean looked at him and sighed, “ain't that cute!”
Dean looked up and said “knock it off, that's enough Sean! You of all people should know how I feel.”
Sean smiled and said “I do, and you are taking this way too seriously. You will survive and if you want, can thrive. I've done okay for myself and encountered little grief from our neighbors and I don't think the majority will treat you any differently, except that now you are a celebrity.”
Debbie heard Sean from the kitchen and she came out into the family room and greeted Sean and asked if he wanted to stay for dinner. He asked “what you got cooking?”
“Spaghetti with my special sauce along with salad and garlic bread” she replied.
“You got enough to feed four, with three being big strapping men” he inquired?
“I always make a double batch, just this time there won't be any leftovers” was the reply.
Sean accepted the invitation after looking to Dean and John and seeing them smile and nod at him. He then settled down on an easy chair to talk with the guys while Debbie went back to the kitchen to work her magic.
John stood up and walked to Sean and held out his hand and introduced himself as he shook Sean's hand. “I've heard quite a bit about you and over-sized personality” said John.
Sean gave Dean a hard look and John continued, “it was all good.” The men settled down and were talking like old friends. They talked about the excitement on Monday night. Sean said he was dying to come over, but the police kept all the neighbors at bay and they finally went to bed about four in the morning and then the house was empty save for the police when he got up and left the house at about 9:30 for a previously scheduled appointment fixing some ladies toilet that started leaking. He wondered where they had been.
Per the agreed upon story with the detective, Dean said he and his mom had gone to a friend's home until their house was put back in order. Sean looked at John and John just smiled and the matter was dropped.
They talked also about their new neighbors. Dean asked Sean if he had found out who they were and what the did for a living and Sean replied: “I went over to introduce myself on my way to work this morning, but they were in the middle of getting settled in and unpacking and didn't really have time to talk. I got the impression that they are almost as private about themselves as Mr. Weiss was. They were pleasant but gave me the impression they were not really interested in getting to know the neighbors. I asked them if they heard about the shooting and they said they had, but were not too worried as they thought it was a one time thing.”
“Wow” Dean said, “do you think they are gay too?”
Sean laughed and said, “I have good gaydar, but even mine couldn't detect anything on such a short visit.” They did mention that they worked from home on computers and were having a cable modem installed. Isn't that what you have Dean?”
“Yeah with a wireless router so both my mom's computer and mine can be connected to the internet.”
With that, Debbie announced supper was ready. The smells emanating from the kitchen over the past hour had them all hungry and primed, so they headed to the kitchen.
Debbie told Dean to get everyone something to drink and Dean went to the fridge and opened the door and said: “We have ice tea, milk, orange juice, Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Bud Select.” They all chose the beer and he pulled out four long neck bottles and got glasses from the cupboard. They settled down and ate, and ate and just as Debbie foresaw, there were no leftovers. They had bought a cake and some ice cream at the store, but no one had room for dessert. Dean and John volunteered to clean-up but Debbie was adamant and forced them out of her kitchen.
She was in fact very glad to be home, in her own house, in her own kitchen, cooking and serving a regular dinner. Just doing the ordinary tasks of daily living including loading the dishwasher, gave her a sense of normalcy that she had been robbed of since early Tuesday morning. She was still worried about Dean and the gamble being taken, but was convinced they had to get on with their lives.
In the family room, she could hear the deep male voices and the occasional fake falsetto of Sean carrying on a conversation, frequently punctuated with laughter and was glad Sean had come over to distract them. She finished up and joined them as they were watching a Cubs game. The Cubs were winning and had been doing fairly well since the All-Star break so everyone was happy. They sat and watched the remainder of the game and then Sean stood and said “thanks for having me over, I enjoyed it, but I have to work tomorrow.” He said his good-byes and was soon out the door.
John turned to Dean and said “I really need to get into the office tomorrow as well so I need to be going too. Call me if anything happens!” With that he leaned in and kissed Dean right in front of his mom then turned to her and said, “night Debbie” and scooted out the door.
Dean was a little dumbstruck. While they had spent a couple nights at John's place and he had shared a bedroom with John, there had not been any such overt displays of affection shown by them in front of his mom. He looked at her and she smiled and said, “that looked only fair for a good-bye kiss, I certainly hope he is a better kisser than he showed me tonight.”
For the second time that day, Dean felt a blush from his head to toes. His mom just smiled and said she was off to bed to and told him to be sure to lock-up and headed to her room.
Dean went and secured the front door. Switched off the lights in the family room and kitchen and then almost fatefully headed to his room on the opposite side of the house from his mom's. He entered the room and left the light off. He looked out the window and could see it was fairly dark out but could still see the dark house next door and back a fair ways past the end of their property. He went into his bathroom and closed the door and turned on the light and undressed, used the toilet and then got into his shower. It was nice to be in your own house and own shower. He would miss sleeping with John, but realized he needed some time apart to process his own feelings and their changed relationship. He finished showering and toweled off then wrapped a towel around himself and opened the bathroom door and entered his bedroom apprehensive about hearing a gunshot. There was none, and he went to his dresser and got out a pair of old boxers and slipped them on. He was not going to be caught out naked with mom again. Then he hung the towel up in the bathroom to dry. He turned off the light and reentered his bedroom and settled into his own bed. He planned on reviewing the events of the past few days, but the full stomach and the comfort and familiarity of his own bed conspired against him and in few minutes he was asleep.
He stayed home pretty much and kept busy packing for his move to the university, usually just going out during the day if he thought of something else he would need. Whenever he was in his room at night, with the light on, he felt like he had a bullseye painted on him. He rarely saw his next door neighbors and they were polite when he did, but kept their distance. He saw John at least every other day, but he had a busy law practice to maintain and also belonged to a gymn, to which he was dedicated. He even asked Dean to accompany him there. Dean wanted no part of going to any gymn unless he had to. His memories of being taunted about his oversized “dino dick” had left a lasting mark which he was not yet over.
When he was out shopping or running errands, the chatter among the neighbors and people he saw was about the shooting and him having a boyfriend, but it started to die down in the course of the week following the shooting. He was surprised at how many people told him that they were sorry that some idiots were so bigotted and they wished him well.
Dean had been told by the police to keep his cell phone charged and with him at all times which he did as it had saved his life.
The Friday of the next week after they had come back home from staying at John's condo they went out on a date and ate at a nice place in Terre Haute. It was the Outback Steakhouse again and they both ordered the half rack of ribs with a baked potato and ordered the blue cheese pecan chopped salad. They drank iced tea and took their time. Since it was a Friday night, the place was crowded and they had a great time. Afterwards, they went to John's place and made out, first on his leather couch and later on his king size bed. A little before one in the morning they took a shower and this time John swallowed Dean's third load of the night and had to hold him to keep him on his feet. They finished and dried and dressed and John delivered Dean to his door before two in the morning. John again kissed Dean goodnight and told him to call him anytime, but especially if anything happened.
Dean unlocked his door and gave John another quick peck and then went in as John turned and went to his car. Dean watched John get in and drive away and then he closed and locked the door and went to his room. He flippid on his light switch and started to undress. As nothing had happened for over a week, he really wasn't expecting anything when suddenly his phone rang. He thought maybe John had forgotten to tell him anything and he just answered without looking at the caller ID. The voice on the phone said: “Get down on the floor NOW!”
Dean obeyed and then heard the sound of gunfire. At least two, maybe three shots, all in quick succesion. But he didn't hear a shot hit his window. He did see that it was really bright outside his window as he lay on the floor, when he heard another shot and was wondering what was next?