Kind and Generous
(A response to the prompt "money." Post-war story.)
B.J. knew the drill by now. He didn't ring the doorbell because the man wouldn't be able to get to the door and answer it anyway. He simply gave a single, loud knock before entering, to announce his visit, and then walked right in.
"Mr. DeCrane?" he called out. "It's just me, B.J."
James DeCrane lived three houses down the street from the Hunnicutt-Pierces, and he was dying. Once B.J. had found that out, he had started to visit the man three or four times a week, just to check in on him and see if he needed anything. DeCrane had almost-round-the-clock nursing, but that was just medical attention and not much else. B.J. wanted to offer conversation and consolation… whatever he could do to help ease the man's final days.
"Come on in, B.J.," a weakened voice beckoned from the bedroom. B.J. headed in that direction.
The man was very wealthy, B.J. had recently learned, though he lived modestly. His house was an ordinary split-level, not a whole lot bigger than B.J. and Hawkeye's rancher. He didn't flaunt his wealth; B.J. hadn't even been aware of it until it came up in conversation a few days before. DeCrane had said he was going to have his will altered to include Erin, leaving her enough money to cover her college education in full. B.J. had objected strongly, saying he could provide for his own daughter, but DeCrane had insisted. He didn't have any close family, just nieces and nephews who lived far away and didn't really stay in touch, and he wanted Erin to have the money.
"You've been a good neighbor," he'd said at the time. "No, more than that. You've become a good friend in just a short time, and I want to do this."
B.J. had finally relented, but he didn't pay these visits with any kind of compensation in mind. He just couldn't imagine dying alone and friendless, and he didn't want anyone else to have to do it.
"How are you doing today, sir?" he asked now as he approached James DeCrane's bed.
"Not bad. And yourself?"
B.J. smiled. "Fine. I'm fine, thanks." He had his stethoscope along and used it to take a quick listen of the man's heart. The nurses were good and attentive, but that didn't stop B.J. from doing his own checks from time to time.
Satisfied that DeCrane was no better or worse than the last time he'd seen him, B.J. took a seat in the chair by the bed.
"Tell me, what is it like outside today?" the ailing man asked.
"Cool, but nice and sunny. Very pretty. Would you like to sit on the porch? I think we could probably manage that…"
DeCrane seemed to get winded just at the thought of it. "Thanks, but no. No energy for that. But we can sit here and talk."
"Sure," B.J. said, making himself comfortable. "Sure we can."
"What's Erin been up to?"
And so B.J. launched into tales of Erin's latest adventures, her upcoming school play, the fact that she had gotten a yo-yo and was learning some tricks from Hawkeye.
"I've often wondered… that Hawkeye. Is he your brother? You don't look like brothers."
B.J. was surprised to realize that DeCrane didn't know the nature of his relationship with Hawk. He hadn't kept it a secret on purpose, and it gave him a start to think he'd never even implied to the man that they were a couple.
"No sir. We're… he's my boyfriend. I'm sorry, I thought you knew."
DeCrane's eyes went wide. "Really?" When B.J. nodded, he asked, "You're homosexual?"
After just a millisecond of hesitation: "Yes."
Even after all this time, B.J. wasn't sure he considered himself homosexual, but when you're a man who sleeps with another man every night—and loves it—then the evidence is pretty much pointing to yes. But his marriage to Peg had not been a lie. He had loved her at the time, and he had loved the sex… it's just that eventually he discovered he loved Hawkeye more. What did that make him? Bisexual?
In his private thoughts, he liked to call himself Hawkeye-sexual. But that wasn't something he shared with other people.
"Funny," DeCrane was saying. "I had no idea."
"Is it a problem?"
The man shook his head no. "Nah. 'Course not. You're a good man, I couldn't care less who you boink."
That made B.J. laugh, long and hard.
"You two been together a long time?"
"We met in Korea. Served in the same outfit. We've been together—as in, a couple—for nearly five years." When he said it like that, it was amazing to him. It felt like a lot less than five years. Time flew when you were living your life with the wild, funny, unpredictable Hawkeye Pierce.
"But Erin… she's yours, right?"
"Yes, sir. Erin is my daughter from my first marriage." He felt himself blush. "My only marriage, except that I feel like Hawkeye and I are married, which is why I said it like that."
DeCrane held up a hand. "I know what you meant." All of a sudden he reached for the basin that was always within reach, and B.J. sprang into action to help. But DeCrane shook his head, saying, "Never mind. False alarm," and put the basin down again. When he resumed their conversation, he was still on the same train of thought. "So you haven't always been homosexual. That's interesting. I didn't know that people switched teams."
B.J. chuckled. "I don't think there are any rules to falling in love. Things happen, you learn about yourself and what you want out of life, and sometimes that leads to some significant changes. At least, it did for me. I fell in love with a man who started out being my best friend, and I needed to follow my heart, or I was going to regret it for the rest of my life."
"Good for you. Being that honest with yourself. That must have been hard."
B.J. shrugged, but of course it had been hard—the hardest time of his life.
"We don't live in a world that treats homosexuals particularly well," DeCrane observed.
B.J. had to agree with that. "Most people don't know about us, especially for the sake of our daughter. But we're in the right part of the country… much more liberal here than back East, which is where Hawk is from."
They heard the front door open then, and B.J. knew it was the night nurse coming on duty. DeCrane was getting visibly tired, his breathing more labored from all the talking. "Your nurse is here, and you're getting tired. I'll go." B.J. stood up, moved the chair out of the way so the nurse would be able to tend to her patient. "But I'll come again in a couple days. Do you need anything? I mean, from the grocery store, or anything like that?"
"No, B.J., but thanks. I appreciate it." The man's eyes closed and B.J. thought he'd dropped off to sleep awfully quickly, but then his lids lifted and he added softly, "He's lucky, that Hawkeye. To have such a caring man for a boyfriend."
"I tell him that all the time," B.J. joked. For some reason he felt compelled to add, his voice catching as he said it, "But I'm luckier."
B.J. said goodnight and left the man to his rest. He greeted the night nurse, giving her a brief update, before making his way home.
It ended up being the last conversation he had with James DeCrane. The old man died the next day.
He'd had his will altered to include not only Erin, but B.J. as well. For taking a few weeks out of his life to get to know an ill neighbor and keep him company, he received a quarter of a million dollars.
As if he wasn't blessed enough.