The Donor

      Chapter 19

      Terry reeled, spun away from Eurick by some force. There was wild motion in front of him confusing his vision, and he could hear shouting but he couldn't understand it. That was Jack, who must have pushed him back, and what was he doing with Eurick? What was he trying to do? He couldn't do anything to Eurick. Terry knew that. Eurick was too strong. Jack was hitting Eurick, landing blows that would have been effective against another person. But Eurick was just stepping backward, leading Jack away, as Jack followed swinging, hitting at him.
      Terry weaved. Blood spurted briefly from the wound inside his elbow. The flow reverted to a seep even before Terry folded his arm to put pressure on the wound. The room swayed sickeningly. He stayed upright by orienting to Eurick's bright eyes. In the light of those eyes he could make out Jack and what he was doing. What was the blood on Eurick's face? Jack couldn't have hurt him.
      "Stop it," he said with effort. "Leave him alone."
      It seemed like Jack couldn't hear Terry. He pulled back to hit Eurick again. This time Eurick caught his wrist and held it. "Stop it. You'll hurt yourself. You don't have to," he added. "It's over."
      He released Jack's wrist and Jack retreated only a step, just in arm's reach of Terry. Terry turned his head slowly between Jack and Eurick and the couch, where he could sit and the room would stay still. It was not far. He could get there.
      "You bet it's over," Jack said, reaching out an arm to steady Terry.
      Eurick said, "I didn't intend to take so much. I'm sorry."
      "I thought you were such the nice guy," Jack said bitterly, moving Terry backwards to the couch. Terry pressed on his bent arm. The joint was sticky. The blood trickling down tickled his elbow.
      Eurick followed, saying, "I got carried away. I saw you watching and I expected you to interrupt sooner. I forgot to pay attention to the flow, because I was watching you."
      Jack shook his head impatiently. "Why do you do it?" The box of bandages was just beyond Terry's reach.
      "Terry offered. It was better than the rabbits' blood," Eurick said simply, as if Jack knew all the other stuff.
      "What the hell is wrong with a rare beefsteak?" Jack asked. "You're the last person I would expect. Mr. Unassuming upstairs, wouldn't hurt a fly!"
      It was true that Eurick wouldn't hurt a fly. Terry said, "He has to. He needs it."
      Eurick winced. "It was imposed on me. I would have liked to have died instead, but that opportunity was missed. So now I live like this. I don't prey. I've never had blood that wasn't freely offered."
      "I can't believe Terry is in any shape to freely do anything tonight."
      "I worried about that too. I did check with him."
      "Yeah, I saw that. I heard. That was a real convincing show of will. 'I want to give it to you' -- give me a break."
      "You saw everything?" Terry asked, staring at the box of bandages as if he could shorten the distance by looking at it. In another minute he'd have recovered enough to stand up and get the bandages.
      At least he wasn't passed out. And he seemed to be able to speak for himself.
      Jack went on as if he hadn't heard Terry speak. "I heard you ask Terry if he wanted to do it. Yeah. I never heard Terry say no to anything yet. Except for talking about this."
      "People say no too much," terry said.
      Eurick was looking at Jack. "Do you know what I'm talking about? This affliction of mine can take away a person's ability to even see people as people. It could have made me into a mindless predator. That hasn't happened to me. I refuse to let it. I'll only accept what's given to me. I won't hurt anybody. I refuse to."
      "If that's what your intention is, you're blowing it," Jack said. "You're hurting Terry."
      Terry said, "I'm all right."
      Eurick pulled a bandage from the box. He started to bring it to Terry but he handed it to Jack instead. "I think you underestimate Terry," he said to Jack. "He's not weak, just generous."
      And he was gone.
      Terry took the bandage from Jack and started trying to tear open the paper wrapper. It was hard. His elbow joint opened a little and trapped blood was released, smearing over the skin.
      "Jesus, you're a mess," Jack said. "How can you let him do this to you?"
      "You said you saw," Terry said. "He didn't do anything. I did it myself."
      "You let him put his mouth on an open wound," Jack said, wiping away the wet smears, scrubbing at the dry ones. "I would have thought you'd have kept it clean at least."
      "He's sterile," Terry said. "Too cold for germs to grow."
      "You have an answer for everything, don't you?" Jack took the bandage from Terry's hand and opened it with one tear and smoothed it on Terry's arm."
      "I'm calling the cops," Jack said.
      "I won't press charges.,"
      "I'll take you to the hospital, anyway. Remember what Loria said last time."
      "I'm not in shock. I'm going to be all right."
      "You've lost too much blood. Let me take you in."
      "No. I won't. I've got all weekend to rest and make new blood cells."
      "If you don't get better I'll take you in whether you like it or not."
      "I'll get better. I always do."
      "Okay." Jack sat back on his heels, still pressing on Terry's wound. "I'm kind of in a bind here. On the one hand, I can't force you to stop. I can't seem to talk you out of it. But I'm not willing to sit around and watch you be somebody's dinner. And I'm not willing to walk away and leave you to your fate either. You might be dying now if I hadn't stopped him. Something has to give."
      "It's an ultimatum, right?"
      "No. Not an ultimatum. Just a statement of fact."
      "Don't ask me to choose."
      "I wouldn't dream of it. You've already chosen. I'm only pointing out that the way things are at this moment can't last."
      "I always knew that."
      "I don't think we're talking about the same thing," Jack said.
      "Could I have a glass of water?"
      Jack sighed and stood up. When he brought the glass back to Terry, he sat down next to him on the couch. "Your skin's cold," Jack said.
      Terry drained the glass. "You're hot," he said. "That's why you think I'm cold."
      "You have a thermometer? where do you keep it?"
      "Medicine cabinet. What are you going to do?"
      Jack was gone and back again with the thermometer. "You won't believe anything I tell you," he said. "Open your mouth."
      "I just drank a glass of water. That will bring my temperature down."
      "We'll leave it in longer. Unless you want it rectally."
      "No glass in my ass, thank you," Terry said, but Jack didn't smile. Terry opened his mouth and accepted the thermometer. He sat with it while Jack stood, paced, stood, his hands in his black pockets, the crystals in his ear dark spots until he walked across the pool of light and they flashed. Finally Jack came and took the thermometer.
      "It must be broken," Jack said. He wiped it off and stuck it under his own tongue. Terry closed his eyes but he didn't think he slept.
      "Nope, it works," Jack said. "My temperature's ninety-nine."
      "I told you were hot."
      Jack shook the thermometer down and wiped it off. "ninety-nine's not a fever, idiot. Again." Terry gaped obediently, waited again.
      "How low can a person's temperature get?" Jack asked.
      How low is it?"
      "As low as it gets. It's not possible. Open up, let's do it again."
      It was ninety-four again. Now Terry felt it. "I'm going to bed," he said. "I'm going to put extra blankets on the bed."
      "I don't know. I think I really should take you in. Or call Dr. Something."
      "I'm always better in the morning. Anyway, I think all you're supposed to do when someone's cold is wrap them up in blankets." Terry thought about rising for a moment before he did it and so was able to put on a credible show of walking to the bedroom. Jack followed.
      "Let me take you to my place at least."
      "I don't want to go outside. I'll be all right, really," watching Jack fuss, yanking open drawers, pulling out blankets.
      "I'll bring you some teas before you go to sleep."
      "I'll be asleep before you get water in the pot."
      In the morning there was a thermos and a cup by the bed. Terry had no idea where Jack had slept. Now Terry could hear him in the kitchen, tapping on keys. He'd gone home at some time and brought over his computer. Nothing else made a noise quite like Jack's disk drive. It honked and jeered softly. Terry sat up tentatively, but he was not too badly off, just thirsty, with a mild headache. He poured himself some acrid tea from the thermos and drank it. He drank two cups before he went out to stand unsteadily before Jack.
      Jack stared up from the keyboard. Terry said, "Don't say anything to me. I'm thinking about what you said. I'll talk to you tomorrow. But don't say anything to me about it until then."
      Jack stuck out his lower lip reflectively. "That won't do," he said. "I'm not going to let you twist away from me this time."
      "Just a day. I'm too tired to talk anyway. I just want to think."
      "I want to stop Eurick."
      "Eurick will stop. He has stopped. I've stopped. But let me think before we talk."
      Jack sighed. "I give you until tomorrow night. That's all. Then I have to do something."
      Terry sat on his bed. All he could do was think in circles. Jack tapped away at the keyboard in the kitchen, occasionally bringing Terry something warm and wet: soup, porridge, tea. He took Terry's request literally and didn't talk to him at all, though Terry heard him talk on the phone a couple of times.
      To Terry it seemed as if he had lost something more than too much blood. He reviewed the whole night, starting with the meeting on the stairs. The remembered the preparations he had made for Eurick, and the call he had made to Jack -- obviously he'd known it was wrong and he hadn't been able to stop it despite the strange conversation with Eurick -- and did Eurick stage that for Jack's benefit? He'd said he'd known he was there.
      Eurick wasn't getting ready to stop when Jack stepped in. What Eurick had said to Jack -- he was expecting Jack to interrupt before it was dangerous. Terry had been trusting Eurick to stop, and Eurick had been depending on outside signals. But Terry couldn't have given them. For the first time Terry consciously admitted that Eurick could possibly be capable of hurting him, and that was the greater loss.
      And Terry had to admit that he had noticed frightening changes in himself. Too many things. The irritation around his neck where the silver chain and its talismans touched his skin. That dog that used to love him and hated him now. The helplessness he felt in the face of Eurick's hunger. The way he felt -- both the longing and the dread. It wasn't supposed to take over his life. That delicious odor he kept smelling, coming from people -- it was disturbing in the same way as the hot, greasy and pungent air that flows over the sidewalk from a restaurant's fan vents.
      "Jack said something has to give, but something already has," he thought.
      He had never pretended that his motives had been entirely pure. But he had thought he could help Eurick and Mary, and all he had done was to hurt them, and himself. He'd called it a gift. Some gift.
      Finally Terry came up behind Jack tapping away at the kitchen table. He slipped his arms around Jack's shoulders and leaned his head down to Jack's ear. "The thing I wanted most in the world was to help Eurick and Mary," Terry said. "Now I'm afraid I have to lose them to help them."
      Jack turned in his chair and put his arms around Terry. "You have me," he said. "I know it's still a loss, but you do have me."
      Terry planned to go to work on Monday but Jack turned the alarm off. When Terry woke it was already past nine o'clock, so he called in sick. He had to admit he really couldn't have put in a full day's work.
      Jack started in on him first thing. "You have to see a doctor," he said. "Dr. Loria wanted to test you after the last time and you're worse this time."
      "I need spinach and chicken soup," Terry said. "Collard greens, and like that. I'll be okay soon. I'll be back at work tomorrow. Thursday at the latest."
      "Look, I know Dr. Loria will work you in today," Jack said. "I could get you in with another doctor, but you'd have to come up with a whole new story."
      Terry shivered. "I don't want to talk to him."
      "Be cause he was right?"
      "He wasn't right. You still don't get it. You still think Eurick made this happen. He didn't. He accepted my offer, that's all."
      "You really offered to die for him? You really said, 'here's my blood -- drain it all?' And he accepted?"
      "No, that wasn't the plan."
      "I should hope not."
      Terry closed his eyes, ready to doze off again, but Jack wasn't done.
      "So which is it, Terry -- Loria or a new doctor?"
      "Loria," Terry whispered. "But tell him I won't talk to him. Just the medical exam, that's all."
      There was another room at Dr. Loria's office, somewhat more like a regular doctor's examination room. It had the sterile examination table, anyway, and a sterile tray of equipment. Otherwise, the wallpaper was just liked the wallpaper in the other room, with the repeating pattern of birches and willows in soft earth tones.
      The first part of the appointment was almost entirely without speech. Terry didn't talk at all, and Jack and the doctor only exchanged a few words, inhibited by Terry's stoniness. As Dr. Loria drew blood for the test Terry looked over at Jack who was biting his lip. "It's only a little blood," he said, almost his first words, but Jack wasn't ready to joke about it.
      "I'll have the results of the hematocrit this afternoon, and the HIV you asked for in a few days," Dr. Loria said. "But from looking at you, and knowing what I do, I think I can prescribe now. Come on in the other room and I'll write the scrip there."
      Terry slid off the table, Jack's hand under his elbow.
      Terry scooted his chair closer to Jack, and Jack did the same, but it still felt like the chairs were too far apart. Jack twined his fingers around Terry's hand as Dr. Loria wrote.
      "So Jack tells me you decided to stop," he said conversationally, not looking up.
      Terry didn't answer.
      Dr. Loria looked up. "Some people find it easier for them to stop if they confront the person, or even press charges."
      Terry stiffened, ready to bolt, but Jack gripped him, pushing down.
      "Terry doesn't think his friend meant to harm him," Jack said. "He thinks it was a matter of losing control."
      Terry studied the birches and willows on the wall. Let them talk.
      "I imagine he's right," Dr. Loria said. "I'm only telling you the experience of others. It can be a hard cycle to break. Even after what he's been through. Maybe especially after. It can be very compelling."
      You don't know what compelling is, Terry thought.
      "Terry thinks he can maintain his friendship," Jack said.
      Terry wondered if he could maintain his friendship with Jack after this.
      "I'm not surprised," Dr. Loria said. "It takes time to come to terms with something like this." He tore the pages off the pad, but Terry only knew because of the sound: all he saw were the birches and willows. Other than that: his own clenched teeth, Jack's fingers digging into his hand, the slight persistent ache of his wound. Jack took the prescriptions.
      "I don't understand all these," Jack said. Terry looked down from the birches and willows. The papers were very white and black after the low-contrast of the tracery on the wall.
      The first page was for the pharmacist, Terry could tell that. Something about iron, written "Fe," and vitamins. But there was a word before the word vitamins: "Prenatal?" guessed Jack.
      "Yes. Prenatal vitamins without iron, and iron pills. He's going to need about what a pregnant woman needs, so he might as well take what she takes."
      "Is this standard?"
      "No, but neither is Terry."
      The next page was recommendations for rest and fluids, and the last was a list of books to read about his behavior. He handed the stack back to Jack and let his vision float back to the birches and willows.
      Mary looked as if she didn't want to let Terry in.
      "I need to talk to him," Terry said. "It's not going to happen like that any more."
      She stepped aside for him, her lips pinched out of all welcome.
      There was no answer when he knocked on the door, but it was unlocked, and Terry oozed in.
      Eurick didn't look up. But Terry could see he was rosy and full, but not settled. That was the disturbing, demanding, hungry glow. And he could see that Eurick's face was set in misery, that he hated being like this. Eurick was frightened.
      He didn't look up.
      "Eurick. I'm not going to take the chain off again. Not around you."
      Eurick looked up at last. His lips were bleeding: his own blood. He'd been chewing on them.
      "I always said you didn't have to."
      "I know. You didn't do anything wrong, Eurick. You need to know that. I was just wrong about it being so safe, is all. Look." He pulled at his shirt to expose his collarbone, where the chain had begun to erode the skin. "I was starting the change. My temperature went really low. Jack started to smell like food to me. It's scary."
      Eurick picked at the tag of flesh on his lip. "I'm sorry."
      "It's not your fault. I talked you into it. I thought your goodwill was enough. I should have listened to you."
      Eurick nodded regretfully. "I knew. I let myself forget.,"
      "I talked you into it," Terry repeated.
      "I was willing to be talked into it."
      Neither said anything for a minute.
      "Mary doesn't really know," Eurick said. "She thinks she knows. She thinks it was just that one night. It wasn't. There were months before. I thought at first if I did it Craig would leave Mary alone, and our friends. But I was almost over the edge anyway, and he started in on someone else. Not Mary. He needed her. Like I do." He made a face. He left unsaid what Terry knew to be true, that Eurick actually loved Mary. He paused.
      "I was almost over the edge, right? I knew it. I also knew something had to be done about Craig. I let him think I wanted to be like him. Not being like him was the only thing I cared about. I still care about it."
      Eurick looked up again. "Mary thinks I don't remember the details of that last night. I remember. I don't talk about it."
      Another pause. "I was very lucky. Not about living through it. About Craig not living through it. I really expected both of us to really die. That was the plan. I thought the sunrise would do the last bit. But sunrise doesn't do much at all."
      Terry expected to hear the whole story now, but Eurick shook his head at the past. "I guess you must have thought I was so strong because I'm here and Craig's not. But all I have is a little luck and good intentions."
      Terry said, "I don't think we'd be having this conversation if you didn't have something more than good intentions."
      Eurick barely acknowledge what Terry said.
      Terry took a deep breath. "The rabbits."
      Eurick waited.
      "You're wrong about the rabbits. If it's okay for a fox to eat a rabbit, it's okay for Mary and Dylan to eat a rabbit, it's okay for you to drink their blood."
      "Yeah. You were probably right about that in the first place."
      Terry couldn't remember what he had said in the first place. He recalled being willing, when Eurick said he wanted to wean himself off them.
      "They weren't as satisfying," Eurick went on, swallowing as if he had a mouth full of bile, "It was really different. Your blood. I can't remember anything that good. Like hot soup when you're hungry and cold. Better. The only time I ever really felt warm."
      For a terrifying instant Terry wasn't sure Eurick wasn't trying to talk him out of the decision. But he was just memorializing.
      "Oh, well. Can we stay friends?" Eurick asked.
      "If Mary can forgive me for wrecking things."
      "You didn't. Things aren't wrecked. We couldn't have this conversation if things were wrecked. You'd have to kill me, now."
      "I just wanted to give you and Mary something really big," Terry said. :I didn't want to cause any harm."
      "You didn't. You've done a world of good for Dylan." His voice rose a little with effort. "In a way it's good that these things have happened."
      "People always say that after a disaster. Nobody can ever say in what way it's good."
      Eurick shrugged.
      "Well, goodbye," Terry said, turning to the door.
      "Wait," Eurick said.
      Terry stopped. Eurick stood and pulled Terry into an embrace. Terry froze in fear. But this was just an embrace, and Eurick pulled him very close, giving him a long, dry, cold kiss on the mouth.
      "Thanks again," he said, releasing him.
      Jack had given up any pretense of being able to concentrate while Terry was upstairs. Terry found him lying on the couch with the television on. He shifted and patted the space he made on the couch. Terry sat down.
      "I told him it won't be like that any more," Terry said. "That's all."
      Jack, elated, grabbed Terry's hands in his. His smile faded as Terry sniffed. Terry was moist all over, with a cold sweat from the exertion of going up and down stairs, and now, this threat of tears.
      "You're really going to miss it," Jack said in wonderment.
      "Not how you think. I meant to help. It didn't help."
      Jack still held Terry's hands.
      "Everything I said before is true," Terry said. "If you could feel how it is when he's really hungry, you'd understand."
      "Maybe. I'm just glad you're not doing that any more," Jack said.
      "You don't have to worry about me any more," Terry said.
      "I thought I explained that," Jack said. "If I love you, I get to worry about you. It's part of the package."
      "I don't see how I could give you much to worry about now," Terry said.
      There was a knock at the door. Jack went to answer it. Terry stayed in a moist heap on the couch.
      "No, I'm not," he heard Jack say. "But he's here."
      Terry straightened himself on the way to the door. A policeman was there, compact, lean, brown and respectable. A defender of victims from perpetrators. But he would be here on some outreach mission.
      "You're Terry Revier?"
      Terry nodded, his heart racing. Why ask for him by name? He couldn't think of anything he could have done. Not even parking tickets -- no car.
      "We have a complaint on your behalf. Assault. We need your statement to fill in the details." The eyes bland, alert for signs. Terry must look suspicious, pale and shaky, his eyes red.
      "There must be a mistake. I haven't assaulted anyone."
      "Sorry, the complaint is that someone assaulted you."
      "That's a mistake too," Terry said. "Nobody's done anything to me."
      The policeman looked from Jack to Terry. He probably thinks it's Jack and I'm afraid to say so, he thought. "I can't imagine where this information comes from. It's false, though." To explain why he looked so bad, he said, "I'm sorry, I've just had some bad news and I don't really want to figure this out, okay?"
      The policeman was nonplused, and didn't press for details.
      "That's your clever Dr. Loria for you," Terry said to Jack. "I guess he thought he was doing me a favor."
      Jack took Terry in his arms, letting him stand there shaking for a long time.

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