Bigger Than Death
Author: Mr. Denny Crane's Ghostwriter
Summary: You can be bigger than life, just not death. Or can you?
I won't lie to you. I'm in shock. Oh, I'm functioning normally, and nobody outside my head would probably even know there's nothing normal about me right now. But there isn't. Because my best friend…my best friend and so much more…is gone.
Damn you, Denny for making me love you and then leaving me to wallow in it without you. At least when you were here I had your companionship and, in your own way, your love…even if I never really had your heart.
But now it's like this empty hole that I know won't ever be filled again. I always thought it would take you longer to go. Thought I'd be relegated to sitting by the bedside of a man who no longer recognized me but could only remember two words: Denny Crane. Thought it'd be easy enough to get used to the idea that you were going to die because I'd be given enough time to know it was coming.
I was wrong. Always so worried about your mental health that concerns about the rest of you never crossed our minds, either one of us. I'll never forget it. It's burned into my memory, Denny. Burned forever. I'm officially a haunted man now. And I will remain haunted until I, too, finally die.
That trip was wonderful. We had some fun on it, got ourselves some good-looking women, wound up with the biggest client Crane, Poole and Schmidt had ever known. We were returning for what we knew was a big party kept not so hush-hush by Shirley when you called her to proclaim victory.
Stepping off the private jet after sharing Scotch and cigars in the cabin, I remember you were in front of me. Halfway down you seemed to falter, and I saw your hand grip the railing. But it was that moment, that moment when you stepped foot on the tarmac…time stopped. It's a rather funny thing to say, but those who have been there understand the phrase.
Slow motion, world melting away. Your foot touched the tarmac and you buckled. Where formerly my kindred soul had been standing and bantering with me, there was nothing more than the crumpled heap of a man. The great Denny Crane had fallen, and I? I was…I am…in disbelief.
We got you to the hospital. They ran every test known to man. You faded in and out of consciousness, never really coherent. I think that's the thing I hate most of all, Denny. You never really got coherent enough to say what I had always hoped you'd want to say to me before Death claimed you. What would that have been? I don't know. Perhaps something as familiar as, "I'm not having sex with you." Or perhaps something as unfamiliar as, "I love you." Whatever it could have been, I will never know. That hurts.
I told you how I felt. Did you hear me? Could you? I thought once, just once I saw comprehension in your eyes when I put my forehead on yours and told you how much I loved you, begged you not to leave me. I saw it then, for just one moment, and then you were gone away from me in sleep. Hours later, gone away from me forever.
Cancer. You were riddled with it from head to toe. Everywhere…everywhere, Denny, all the way into your bones. Every organ consumed, every muscle invaded. Running through your blood, taking it to every nook and cranny of your body. I hate fucking cancer. I hate it. There was no warning. You…well, you may have known something wasn't quite right, but your stubbornness would probably have convinced you it was just another phase of getting old. I wonder if you really and truly knew it was coming. I can't believe you did, because I know you would have told me something…anything…before you died. If you could.
Now as we sit here in Paul's office, I wonder what your will says. Shirley is here. They wouldn't release Edwin from the hospital, but Paul says he's not in the will anyway except as frame of reference. I can't help but wonder who will get that Denny Crane fortune, and as Donny walks into the office I think I may just have gotten my answer. He nods and says hello, then sits next to me. He tries to smile. I can't react. My face is blank, I can feel there's nothing there. Just like there's nothing in my heart.
"You can be bigger than life, just not death."
The words astonish me as I look up to find it's Paul who's said them. I stare at him. He's looking right at me. Everyone shifts a little in their seats, waiting to find out what that was about.
"I believe you know those words, Mr. Shore."
I swallow around the lump in my throat. My voice is unsteady, damn it. "I do," I respond.
"Denny had always wanted to leave a videotaped will, but he never got around to making it," Paul said. "I guess like most of us he just thought he had plenty of time left for it." Paul took a deep breath. "So he left me with this to read to all of you, and the first line is, You can be bigger than life, just not death."
I feel the shock give way ever-so-slightly, a tiny crevasse appearing in the solid rock I've tried to become since you died. A chink in my armor. I can't tear my eyes from Paul's face as he goes on.
"That's what I told Alan once. And it got me to thinking. I've always been bigger than life. Denny Crane, law firm partner, man about town, uber-lover." There are snickers from someone, but I ignore them. "Well, girls and boys, I decided that when Denny Crane dies, he will be bigger than death. And so with my share of Crane, Poole and Schmidt…and no, Shirley, you'd damn well better not take Crane off the door…and with my own personal wealth which has grown to be quite considerable, here is my final wish."
Paul looks up at me, then looks at Donny sitting next to me. I feel Donny's eyes on me, but I'm riveted to Paul's face.
"Everything I have, everything I own, the fruits of every investment I have ever made, are to be used to start a firm that does strictly pro-bono work for the poor people of Boston." My jaw drops. I think everyone's jaws drop. It wasn't like Denny to be philanthropic, and this…to use all his money and assets for it…it seemed impossible to fathom.
"But my wealth can only be used for the purpose I have stated if…and I repeat, only if…the law firm be set up and run by my son, Donny Crane…and the only person I have ever loved more than my mother…" Paul stops and looks right at me. "…Alan Shore."
That's it. It's all I can take. I feel Donny's hand on my arm, but I've gone numb. I can feel tears filling my eyes, feel them spilling over onto my cheeks. Right here in front of Paul and Shirley, in front of Denny's own son…or not…I'm crying. It's shameful to me, but I can't move to wipe the tears, I can't stop them from flowing. What he couldn't say in life, he'd written down. When, I wondered, and I tried to look through my tears at Paul. He somehow knew what I was asking.
"This last update to Denny's will was done exactly one year ago," Paul said quietly.
One year ago. He'd written down that he loved me one year ago. I took the handkerchief Shirley had come and offered. Once I was able to get myself back under some semblance of control, I turned to Donny, whose hand was still on my arm. He smiled, just a small smile. "What do you say?" he asked softly, squeezing my arm just a little.
To set up and run a law firm that helped people who couldn't afford Crane, Poole and Schmidt. To set it up knowing it was Denny Crane who'd made it possible. To set it up knowing this was what he wanted me…wanted us…to do after he was gone…how could I possibly say no? I didn't trust my voice, though, and so I just nodded my head. I would do it. We would do it.
"Shore and Crane," Donny said, settling back in his chair.
"Actually," I said, deciding not to give a shit about the tremor in my voice, "I like…Crane and Shore better."
"Then it's settled," Paul said as he and Shirley headed for the door. "I'll see you get all the details within the next week."
Shirley stopped. "I'll be sorry to see you go," she said, and somehow I thought she actually meant it.
"I'll miss this place," I replied as Donny and I also rose to our feet. "But most of all, I'll miss Denny."
Shirley nodded. "So will I, Alan. So will I." With that, she left.
I moved behind Paul's desk and picked up the letter, the precursor Denny had written to his will. I saw the line there, top and center of the page. I took a deep breath and read it aloud. "You can be bigger than life, just not death."
Donny stood at the other side of the desk. "I never thought he'd do something like this."
"Frankly, neither did I," I said, a secret smile on my face as my mind told me, of course you did. After all, he was Denny Crane.
Donny nodded slowly, looking around the office before his eyes returned to mine. "Bigger than life," he said softly. "And now…"
"Bigger than death." I faltered for a moment. I could almost see him in my mind, hear his voice as he said what he always said…and I found myself saying it along with him. "Denny Crane."
I saw tears in Donny's eyes as he repeated…