Hurricane Temple

Chapter 4


"Oh, my goodness gracious," Elena mumbled as we pulled up to a pile of rubble that had once been a two-story tall Victorian styled house, complete with towers, turrets, and gingerbread trim on the gables.

"He wasn't lying about nothing left," I observed aloud. "He'll be devastated at losing everything he had in there."

"So, he's alive and not buried under all that, is he?"  I turned to see his next-door neighbor standing beside the car. He had a shotgun in his hands. "Neighborhood watch," the gruff old man said, patting the weapon. "Won't be any looters in this neighborhood as long as I've still got Old Faithful here."

"Forgive me, Mr. Steubens, but I thought you might appreciate it if Dermot was forced out of the neighborhood," I said a little snidely.

"What would make you think a dang fool thing like that?" he replied. "I may not understand you gays, but I couldn't ask for a better neighbor than that Irishman.  He's peaceful and quiet, plus he and his construction crew have renovated, remodeled, or outright rebuilt nearly every house in this neighborhood. The only thing better than having a contractor as your neighbor is having a police officer as your other neighbor. One raises your property value, and the other keeps you safe. Now where is Irish if he ain't under all of that?"

"He's at the hospital, recovering from crawling out of all that," Elena answered as she got out of the car, followed by the boys. "Boys, be careful and don't dig around too much. We don't want your step-grandda's house to fall in on you, too."

"Step-grandda?" Mr. Steubens asked with a confused blink.

"Jebadiah Randolph Steubens, are you waving that fool gun around scaring people?" I turned to see Mrs. Steubens coming over from their house which was damaged, but not completely destroyed as Dermot's was. "Oh, hello Tim," she called to me as she got closer. "Now, Tim, just because we haven't been able to hear him yet doesn't mean anything drastic," she began as she walked up and hugged me.

"Betsy, Irish is already out and at the hospital," her husband informed her.

"Oh, thank God," she blurted and squeezed me even tighter. "Now you two can get back to acting like you're not an old married couple like the rest of us," she told me.

"From the sound of things, they've cleared that out now, too," Mr. Steubens said with a snort.

"Well, if it ain't about time," Betsy snorted and slapped me on the arm. "I thought you two never would figure yourselves out. When and where's the wedding going to be? It's legal now, you know, even if some folks in this stupid state don't want it to be. You don't pay them any mind, you hear me, you just ignore those ignorant folks."

"Poppa, look I found a picture of you," little Christopher said as he ran up to me holding a silver framed photo of not just me, but Dermot as well, at a Christmas party. It was the Christmas party at which we had met. In fact, this picture was taken the very moment we first saw each other. I never knew he had that photo because I never knew the photo existed. "You're dressed so pretty, Poppa," my little one gushed.

"It was a themed party," I mumbled. "Everyone had to dress up like we were in Dickens' Christmas Carol."  I held the frame in my hand, running my fingers over the image of Dermot in his Empire suit with the tight pants and his festive red and green vest. He looked amazing in that outfit. "I never knew someone had taken this picture of us."

"We were at that fundraiser, too, you know," Betsy told me. "I told Jeb to take a picture of the daughter of the folks we were there with, and well his photographer skills being what they are, we wound up with a perfect picture of you two with the girl in question cut off on the left side," she laughed. "I found that picture last month and I showed it to Dermot. He begged me for a copy of it and had it framed somewhere downtown."

"We'll take it home with us," Elena whispered.

"Oh, Betsy, this is my daughter-in-law, Elena, and my two grandsons, Ronan and Christopher," I introduced.

"Daughter-in-law?" Jeb asked.

"Yes, I tried to hide who I was when I was younger," I admitted. "It didn't work out."

"Don't make it sound like you were the villain there, Poppa," Elena scolded. "You married the queen of all devils, and you know it. It would have ended badly even if you had been straight."

"Well, ok, true that," I confessed with a shrug. "After she threw me out, she refused to let me have any contact with my son, even going so far as to lie to us both when I would telephone. I could hear him asking if I were on the phone, but she would tell him I was a bill collector, and she would tell me that he was out playing or staying over with a friend.  There were only a few times in the early years that I was actually able to talk to him, and most of those, all he could talk about was the annoying girl next door named Elena, who got less annoying each time I called."

"Yeah, well, he got less annoying as we grew up, too, it just took him longer," Elena laughed. "Lucky for him, I liked annoying."

"That's so precious," Betsy gushed. "Jeb, put that fool gun away and let's help these young ones go through Dermot's place for salvageable stuff."

"Won't find much left in that mess," Jeb grouched, but he did go back to his own house and return moments later without the gun. "All right, now you boys can help, but if Uncle Jeb tells you to get out of the way, I mean for you to scoot pronto, you understand me?" he asked as he addressed the children. "That goes for grownups, too. I might not be a contractor like Dermot, but I know more about building and safety than any of the rest of you."

"Jebadiah, you cranky old fart, you were a night watchman, not Bob the Builder, and besides that, you're retired," Betsy fussed at him.

"I was an overnight safety and maintenance engineer, woman," Jeb defended grumpily. "You'd think your own wife would know your job title after forty years," he grumbled as he started shifting through the rubble of Dermot's house.

"Here's another picture," Ronan called out. "The frame is busted and so is the glass. It still looks dry, though."

"Be careful of the broken glass," Elena called out.

I went over to see what Ronan had found and hugged him tightly. "Dermot will be mighty glad to see that picture survived, Ronan. That's a picture of his parents with their family in Ireland before they moved here.  That's his grandma and grandda," I pointed out.

"Now Miss Elena, that ain't safe for you," I heard Jeb call out. I looked over and saw Elena climbing up onto some of the piled debris to get to something that would have been on the second floor.

"Is this the blanket he was asking about?" she yelled back at me.

"I can't see it from here," I answered. "Let me come join you."

"Oh no you don't," Jeb ordered. "I won't be the one telling Dermot his Temple broke his stupid neck climbing up on stuff like a dang mountain goat."

"Sounds like we arrived just in time."  I turned to see several of the men that work for Dermot on his construction crew getting out of a company truck. "You folks stand back and let us get to work. Dermot called me from the hospital and asked us to come over and make sure none of you were doing anything unsafe."

"He is supposed to be resting and recuperating," I grumped.

"It didn't take that much effort to make a phone call, Tim," the man told me. "By the way, from how happy he sounded about the fact that he, in his words 'finally wore you down and got you where you want him', I gather congratulations are in order."

"Oh, that man," I growled and blushed at the same time. "Well, let's salvage what can be guys. Your homes are all safe and sound, I hope."

"Did you hear that, guys? The boss' boss wants to make sure our homes are all safe before we start work here," the foreman called out.  "I told you guys Dermot had good taste even if he was picking a guy."

"I'll try to take that as a compliment," I mumbled.

"You should," one of the other construction men told me. "None of us would be here if we had a problem with Dermot being who he is or being with you. Those of us that aren't gay ourselves have family that is, since you are apparently blond enough to have never caught onto that before."

"Now that was not a compliment," I grumped. "Let me show you how well I pay attention then, you ruffians."  I pointed to the supervisor and said, "You are Donald 'Donny' Kiedrowski.  You are straight and married and have three kids, the oldest of whom is a boy and is gay, just like your brother, Ronald, who happens to me my hair stylist."  I then pointed to each of them in turn, and named them, and told a little background about them all. "If I am the boss' boss, then that means I should know you all doesn't it?"

"A thousand pardons, Oh Perfect Queen of Our Wounded King," Ray, who had called me too blond apologized, bowing melodramatically before me. "I should never have doubted you. In my defense, I never thought you were as serious about Dermot as he is about you. I was clearly mistaken about that as well."

"Ray, I would run if I were you," Donny laughed as he looked at my face.

"If you hurt me, I'll tell my Sheridan to stop giving you a discount on those pastry snuggles you love so much," Ray threatened with a grin.

"You tell Sheridan to stop that anyway," I told him firmly. "I never asked for any discount, and he should be charging twice what he does for them anyway."

"Poppa, what's a pasty snuggle? Is that when you get glued together with somebody like in a cartoon?" Christopher asked innocently.

"I just happen to have two of those snuggles in my kitchen right now," Betsy smiled. "Why don't you little ones and your mom come inside with me, and we'll have those for a little snack while the men folk do this dangerous stuff?"

"Yippee snackage," Ronan squealed as he ran over and hugged the woman.

"Oh, you little sweetie you," Betsy sniffled, as she returned the embrace. "Aunt Betsy is going to spoil you two terrible."

"Well, some days they are already terrible, so you won't have to do much," Elena teased as the boys both pouted.

"Mooom," they whined.

I admit to being a bit jealous that they got to go in and eat the pastries which had me completely addicted. They were long thin layers of puff pastry with a cream cheese filling baked to golden, crumbly perfection. The baker has told me that each one should serve four people, but I always ate a whole one by myself… and then went for a long session at a local fitness center to work off the calories. I would be learning to share now that the little ones were around though. I did not want to set a bad example, nor did I want to sugar buzz the tykes while they lived with me. Once they and their parents had their own place it would be different, of course.

The crew, having assured me that they were the guys that had solid, intact homes, wasted no time sifting through the rubble the best it could be without large machinery to help them. They retrieved a lot more from the house than I would ever have believed possible, and then they left to help out some of the other crew members whose homes had not fared as well as their own. When they left for the next site, Elena and the boys and I headed back to my home with quite a few pictures and mementos of Dermot's. We stashed his things in my office, where I remembered to grab copies of several of my novels and, after signing them all for Dustin and Jamie, the orderly from the hospital, I headed back to check on Dermot. This time I drove the little vanling and left the Caddy in the garage.

"My Temple, you're here," Dermot smiled from his bed. "Tell me you brought me a little whiskey, my love."

"I did not," I told him quickly as the nurse was in the room glaring at both of us. "I'm sure the hospital is supplying everything you need to stay healthy."

"Temple, my angel, I can't possibly survive the tender loving care of Helga the Horrendous here if I have to stay sober," he whined.

"Dermot!" I scolded. "I am so sorry, nurse. He must have hit his head or something," I apologized to the woman scowling at Dermot.

"I've been called worse, and I've heard worse," she told me. "Maybe you can make him behave a bit now you're here, though. Most men his age generally settle right down once their better half shows up."  She laughed at the expression on my face. "Don't have a coronary or anything. It's just that Jamie the orderly is my nephew. I raised him after my stupid as a box of rocks sister threw him out at 13 for being naked in his room with a boy. Now I get the thrills of planning a wedding with him and I'll be walking him down the aisle… once we find a place to have the service."

"Let me guess, none of the churches in town…." I began.

"Oh, it's not that," she quickly corrected. "Three churches in town were actually willing to have the ceremony, the Episcopal, the Lutheran, and the Metropolitan Community something or other. No, the problem is that Dustin always wanted to get married at his grandfather's farm, but it was left to an uncle who lost the place last year because of bad investments. The fool ordered a huge remodel of the house that he couldn't afford and when he went bankrupt, the farm got handed over to the contractor to pay the debt."

"Would the farm happen to be about five miles outside this very town, have about thirty acres of pasture, along with a good sized stable, a barn, and not quite twenty acres of prime timberland, as well as a fine Southern Colonial plantation house that the man wanted updated?" Dermot asked. "And this uncle, having lost the place to the contractor, took off out of state to avoid paying his other bills?"

"How would you know all that?" the nurse asked.

"You're looking at the contractor left stuck with a family farm and no family I could get in touch with about it," Dermot answered. "I'll be more than happy to let the family have the place back if someone wants to take it off my hands."

"Well, I've no doubt that Dustin's parents would love to get the place back in the family, but that wouldn't help the boys with their wedding. Poor Dustin's parents are as hateful as my sister. They did at least house their child until he turned eighteen, before kicking him out with nothing but the clothes on his back. He's been living with me and Jamie ever since."

"Well then, it's a wedding present I'll be giving them," Dermot declared with a big grin.

"What?? Oh, you couldn't, you just couldn't," the nurse started crying and hugging Dermot tightly.

"Leave off me, woman, you'll do me more injury than I did myself," Dermot fussed but he was laughing. "And I can and will do whatever I please with the place, thank you very much."

"Aunt Jenny? What's going on?" I looked over to see Jamie standing in the doorway of the room. Peeking over his shoulder was a dark-haired boy… young man that is.

"Jamie, me boyo, would you be able to get that hunk of yours to come visit me? He and I have a bit of business to discuss," Dermot told him.

"I'm right here, sir," the dark-haired jockish youngster said timidly as he stepped into the room.

"Would you like to have your grandda's farm back, my lad?"

"More than anything, sir, but there's no way I could ever afford to keep a place that big," Dustin stammered. "Jamie and I are still in college."

"I don't see why not," Dermot told him. "I've made back all the money I was owed for bringing the house up to the current electric and plumbing codes just by renting out the pastureland and stables to people who have horses but nowhere to keep them. Well, I also did make use of a bit of the timber. There's some fine cypress trees there. I had a few of them cut down and milled, then used the lumber in some of my new construction projects around town. Got paid top commercial dollar for lumber that had only cost me pennies in comparison. Boys, you'd be sitting on the wooden equivalent of a gold mine, and that on top of the rental fees from the horses. There's hired crew for the stables, but their payroll is covered by just two of the horses that are staying there."

"It sounds like you should keep the place if you're making such a profit from the place," Dustin said.

"I'm a contractor, not a gentleman farmer," Dermot corrected. "The place is yours if you want it."

"Will you… I mean could we ask you to help us with running the place until we get the hang of it ourselves?" Jamie asked.

"Well, of course you'll be able to ask your Uncle Dermot for any help you want," he grinned and then suddenly had two young men squeezing him half to death.

"How many bedrooms does the house have?" Jamie asked when he and Dustin finally stood up again.

"I'm not entirely sure," Dustin answered. "I was only nine when my grandpa died and left the place to Uncle Dip… uhm Uncle David. The last time I was there, I remember maybe five or six bedrooms, plus a big dorm in the attic with a bunch of bunk beds," Dustin answered.

"Well, it's down to four bedrooms and the bunk room now," Dermot told them. "Two of the bedrooms got combined into a new Master Suite. Although there was enough space available that the second bedroom actually got divided into two bathrooms, one for the Master Suite and a smaller private bathroom for another bedroom."

"Aunt Jenny's room," both boys announced loudly with matching grins.

"What?" the nurse questioned them.

"You don't think we would ever live anywhere without you, do you, Aunt Jenny?" Jamie asked her. "We love you like the mom we both always wanted."

"Besides, you never taught him how to cook," Dustin added with a smirk. "We'd starve without you. You wouldn't want to live with our emaciated, lifeless bodies on your guilty conscience, would you?" he pleaded with his best puppy dog eyes.

"Oh, and you were fearing the poor woman would get the blarney from me," Dermot laughed at me.

"Well, it looks like we have a lot to do pretty soon, then," Nurse Jenny smiled. "Starting with teaching both of you horndogs how to do something in the kitchen besides have sex."

"Aunt Jenny!" both squealed and blushed.

"Well, that didn't happen in Beach Bandit," I teased them.

"No, but it did in…."

"Ok, point taken," I interrupted Dustin quickly. "I suppose you two really are fans. I guess it will disappoint you to know that none of that happened in my real life. I am a very independent person, and much more private than most of my characters."

"That just means that you use them to act out your innermost wishes," Jamie told me. "That's what my English professor, Dr. Dyers, says about you anyway. You're a whole chapter in her course on Alternative Fiction."

"Of course, I am," I growled. "I have the unique displeasure of knowing Dr. Diebit… Dyers," I corrected myself as I looked over at my grandchildren. "She has spent a great deal of time publicly discussing what I meant when I wrote that my main character was distracted by the giant banana in the speedo of his later love interest, in my first published novel. She insists that I was mocking his masculinity by referring to it as a banana. I was most definitely not mocking anything. I was describing his penis. It was big and curved. It's people like her that read hidden meanings into literary phrases such as 'The sky was blue.'  They just meant the sky was blue. What? Were they supposed to say it was green?"

"You've done it now, me boyo," Dermot whispered loudly to Jamie. "You've got him on his soapbox. Have a seat and get comfortable. This might take a while."

"Dermot, this is Florida, therefore you are on very thin ice," I told him coldly.

"Oh, but My Temple, your dulcet toned voice is such a comfort to me, you could lecture me, hell, you could read a phonebook to me, and I would love it all the same," Dermot said with his best puppy dog eyes.

"That's blarney and we both know it, but you're injured, so I'll let it slide, you silver tongued rogue," I replied, and I might have been blushing just a bit if the coos and aww's from Jamie and Dustin were any indication. It did manage to stop me from going on my rant about overeducated hacks who can't write fiction that anyone else would ever want to read, therefore they become writing teachers so they can tear apart all those writers who can do what they can't.  "When will I be able to take this old man home?" I asked Nurse Jenny.

"I've no home to go home to," Dermot sniffled.

"I told you earlier today, Dermot. You're coming to my home, you old fool," I told him. "Your mother's blanket and everything else that was salvageable from your place is already there."

"Temple, you've moved me in? Do you mean it, or is it just until I find another place?"

"You're there as long as you want to stay, and I also freely admit I should have let you move in a month after I met you. Lord knows I wanted you to back then, I was just stubborn and scared."

"Oh, 'tis a good thing I'm already in the hospital and laying down, for the shock of it is near more than I can stand," Dermot groaned melodramatically and clutched at his heart. "My beautiful Temple finally letting me in and admitting he was wrong all this time all at once. Quick, Miss Jenny, check me pulse to make sure I haven't died and gone to heaven."

Jamie and Dustin giggled as did Jenny while all three of them left the room. "We'll give you two some time to talk now," Jenny said with a smile. "No hanky-panky in the hospital though. He's still too weak from the loss of blood for you to be trying to fill anything up with blood."

"Miss Jenny!" Dermot and I both gasped while blushing.

"You should know ahead of time that the beach house is going to be pretty crowded for a while," I told Dermot. "My son will be joining Elena and the boys in a week or two, I think. Elena and Donovan will have the second bedroom and the boys are going to be sleeping on the sofas until I turn my writing studio into a bunk room. That means… well, it means you'll be staying in my room with me."

"All my teasing aside, darling, are you sure that's what you want and you're ready for?" he asked softly.

"Yes, Dermot, I really do want it and I'm ready for it," I told him as I sat on the edge of his hospital bed and took his hand into mine. "I always dreamed of having someone to grow old with and I can't and won't settle for anyone but you."

"I've wanted to hear those words from your beautiful lips since the night I met you at that Dickens' Christmas Ball. I heard something you said that night about yourself, you know, and it's what made me fall in love with you. Some hot little twink was putting the moves on you, or more to the point wanted to put the moves on your wallet. He thought he would make points with you by suggesting you color your hair darker."

"I told the little money grubber that I was born with curls of purest gold and that now I had lived through enough of life and it's storms to be gaining platinum in my gold, to make them even more valuable, but also more intelligent so that I could see what I wanted and what I didn't, and he was the latter, not the former," I remembered aloud.

"I'd already seen what that little trash had seen, and more," he told me as he stroked my hand with his. "What you said to that idiot struck me right in the heart and the brain as well. I knew you were no average eye candy like he was."

"Such blarney," I scolded him, but he knew I didn't mean it because I bent and kissed his forehead and whispered, "I love your blarney just as much as I love you, my Irish loon. I remember you from that night too, and not just because the picture you got from Jeb and Betsy is at my beach house now getting reframed by Elena."

"The years I've waited to hear those words from you, me dar…. Wait, our photo wasn't destroyed?" Dermot gasped.

"We got the picture of your folks in the old country, too," I assured him. "There were some other things, too. You'll see them once we get you home, where I can take care of you myself."

"I tell you true, I find I don't care near as much about the stuff as I thought I did. My home has been wherever you are for a long time, and now I get to have it for real not just in me dreams. Tell me more about what you saw that night, My Temple," he grinned. "Did you truly want me for your own that very night?"

"Oh, Dermot, who didn't want you that night? A successful entrepreneur, in construction no less, so there's all those muscles hiding under that period costume suit that has just enough red to make it Christmasy, but not enough to clash with your handsome ginger features. But the best part of the suit was the green velvet that matched your eyes."

"You talk about my hair and eyes," Dermot scoffed. "Those locks of yours caught my eye from across the room, and then I saw that perfectly bubbled butt of yours in those tight Empire style pants and I was drawn closer like a moth to a flame. Now don't go shushing me," he added quickly as he must have known I was about to do just that. "There's naught in the room but us, so I can be as crudely honest about your fine bottom as I want. I'll do me best to behave around the wee ones, I swear it, love. Anyway, then you turned to look at that stupid little trollop that night, and I beheld your eyes. Ah, they're not the blue of the sky on that perfect summer day, no. They're more the blue that is clouded and grayish from the strongest hurricane you've ever seen or known, but there's still that hint of blue, that vibrant crystal blue, that promises if you survive the storm, you'll discover what makes surviving worth it all in the end."

"Well, you did survive the storm," I smiled as I lay down beside him tucking myself tightly up against him in the narrow bed, still holding his hand. "You talk about the storm in my eyes, but there's no storm in yours. No, your eyes tell me a story of mischief and joyful playtimes, of rolling down hills covered in clover until you're so dizzy at the bottom of the hill that all you can do is thank the universe that you've been lucky enough to find your four-leaf Irish clover and you know to cherish every second of the time you get with it."

"I knew it then, and I'll know it to me dying day, if ever I live that long; you're a hurricane Templeton Harris, and you've blown me completely away, and I'd not have it any other way." He rubbed his hand up and down my arm as he smiled at me. "Not matter how much I wanted more, I've never been disappointed by the times we've spent together, whatever we were doing. Yes, even our bickering was worth it, because something told me deep down in me bones that it was a test I had to pass, a storm I had to prove myself in. I'm ever so glad I did, too. I love you, My Temple."