The Donor

Chapter 21
      Marcia gave Terry a note printed with "While you were out." He raised his eyebrows: he hadn't moved from his station all day, not even for a cup of coffee. Marcia's look told him he was getting too many calls at work. He glanced at it and crumpled it in his fist, but thought better of it. There had been that word "urgent" in the message. Maybe something had happened to Jack while he was meeting with Dr. Loria.
      He used the pay phone on the street. The receptionist put him through so quickly that his heart raced. But Dr. Loria started the conversation in a leisurely way, drawing out his greetings, inquiring about Terry's health. Terry chafed, answering shortly: "I'm fine. What's the matter?"
      Dr. Loria continued in his leisurely fashion, telling Terry that Jack had been saying worrisome things about Terry. But he wouldn't say what things, citing confidentiality: but he was sure that Terry would never be well and safe until he confronted his problems.
      "You sound like you think you're talking to an alcoholic," Terry said.
      "There are similarities, aren't there?" asked Dr. Loria.
      "You don't remember all the time how it felt to be giving blood to him? You don't feel all the time there's something missing, something that could be fixed if you could only be alone with him for a few minutes?"
      "You wish," Terry said through gritted teeth. "You'd have me to treat, then, wouldn't you?"
      "Tell me about your dreams, Terry."
      He didn't really know. He couldn't. Terry never said anything to Jack or anybody about them. The red saline longing dreams he still had.
      "Just -- I only called you because the message said there was something urgent. What was it?"
      "Don't you think your own welfare is urgent?"
      "I'm doing all right." Terry hung up. He'd used up all his time. He was going back without lunch.
      Jack went to one of his intellectual concerts with his friend Mike and Terry stayed home with one of Mary's castoff historical romances. The author of this one really loved to describe luxury fabrics, to the detriment of plot and character, but Terry was having a good time with it anyway. It was actually convenient to know that Jack wouldn't be home till the next day. He could stay up as long as he wanted to and finish the book in one go.
      The phone rang. Terry almost let the machine get it, but he thought it might be Jack, so he got it.
      It was Dr. Loria.
      "You want Jack," Terry said. "He's not here tonight."
      "I'd just as soon speak to you," Dr. Loria said. "It concerns Jack."
      "Sorry, if it's between you and him it doesn't concern me."
      "Don't hang up," Dr. Loria said. "It's important. There's something bothering him, and I think you know what it is."
      "I don't know what you're talking about."
      "I think you do. He's stopped talking about you and your friend. But I can see the strain on him. He wants to protect you. He's willing to take risks to protect you. But you can't be protected, can you? You need to defend yourself."
      "There's nothing to protect me against," Terry said. "If Jack's worrying about me, it could be that he likes to worry about me."
      "Or maybe it's because there is something to worry about. Maybe there's more to worry about than you."
      You don't know, Terry thought. And you won't know from me.
      "If your friend really thinks he needs it, where do you think he might try to get it, if you're not giving it to him anymore?"
      Terry didn't answer.
      "You do understand that lives are at stake, don't you? You need to take action. You need to oppose this man. Nothing will change unless you do. If he can be healed -- or if he can't, his behavior is criminal and must be contained. I could be of help there. If you would confide in me."
      Terry shook his head. "You're asking me to tell you his name? What would you do with it?"
      "It's not too late to file charges. Or if he insists on thinking of himself as a vampire, he could be treated as one."
      "You believe in that yourself. Don't you? You want to be Van Helsing and go after him with a stake for his heart or some damn thing."
      "You're upset."
      "Damn right. You're talking about my friend. It's my friend you 're calling a monster."
      "I know it seems unlikely, but think back. Even before you lost so much blood, you had psychological effects you couldn't explain. And the way you first described the assault, as a hallucination --"
      "It was something to tell Jack. And it was never an assault."
      "You went into a hypnotic state every time you began to describe the events."
      "What does that prove?"
      "It doesn't prove anything. But with the other details it adds up to a compelling picture."
      "You're obsessed or something. I can't believe Jack still comes to you."
      "I suppose he finds me of use."
      "I don't."
      "Have you told Jack how you still long to open your veins for your friend? How his hunger is always there, waking and sleeping? Is there anybody to whom you can speak frankly about your unending desire to give your blood to him?"
      Terry's mouth filled with bile. "You don't know what you're talking about," he said, weakly.
      "But I do," Dr. Loria said, and he hung up, leaving Terry staring at the receiver.
      "Dr. Loria called," Terry said to Jack, days later.
      Jack gazed at Terry as if the name meant nothing to him.
      "He called while you were out. He said he was worried about you because you don 't talk about me and Eurick any more."
      Jack frowned. "I don't talk about it because there's nothing new to say."
      "Is there." Terry paused. "You know he thinks Eurick is the real thing."
      "So do you."
      "He wants to do something to him."
      "I did too, for a while. But he can't. He doesn't know who he is."
      "Are you sure? Do you have to keep seeing him?"
      "I don't know."
      Terry felt like shaking Jack, but he felt that hysteria would not aid him. "Maybe you could tell him something to convince him that it's not true."
      "It might be better not to say anything," Jack said.
      "I want my cast-iron pan," Terry said a few days later. "I'll drop by there after soccer tomorrow and get it."
      "Let me get it for you," Jack said.
      "Nothing's going to happen, Jack. I just want my pan. Anyway I ought to poke my nose in every so often. I do pay rent over there."
      "Yes, and why do you? It's not like you're going back there."
      "A person usually does pay rent somewhere. And you don't know when you might want some space. You might get to feeling crowded here. It is small for two people."
      "You don't crowd me, Terry." Jack pushed away from his work table. "If you feel crowded we could look for a bigger place."
      "Not unless you let me pay rent. Not even then. I like this place, I don't feel crowded. It's you I worry about."
      "Why don't you just let the other place go and finish moving in with me? It's criminal to let a nice little place like that stay empty. There's probably a hundred people who would like to live there."
      "And you'd let them?"
      "I know one who's perfect. She's too busy to notice anything about Eurick and she wouldn't get drawn in if she did. She works twelve-hour night shifts and spends her days teaching jazzercize."
      "And you think she would like my place."
      Terry sold some furniture to the new neighbor and stored others. He wanted his couch but Jack vetoed it and looking at the bloodstains Terry understood why. They found other interesting things that Jack had missed when he had moved Terry out: the cookbooks, the hand-grinder for coffee, the ankh-buckle belt among them. Terry was telling Jack the whole story of the fateful Christmas party, including the hideous resin heart that Mary had made for Eurick, when there was a knock on the door.
      "Probably Dylan, wanting to help. We should let him," Terry said, striding to the door with a welcoming smile that froze when he pulled the door open to a much larger figure.
      Dr. Loria.
      "I thought I would find you here," he said, stepping in so confidently that Terry had stepped backwards before he could formulate the idea to block his entrance. "Jack told me it was final moving day for you. Good idea."
      "What are you doing here?" Terry asked, with more wonder even than resentment. Jack greeted Loria with civility, even a modicum of pleasure, but Terry knew even he felt ill at ease with this unorthodox appearance of the psychiatrist.
      Loria kept walking until he came to the living room, empty of furniture but still bedecked with Mary's protective devices. "I hadn't see you for a while," he said, looking around, pursing his lips thoughtfully. "You're looking much better," though the evaluative squint in his eyes indicated that he didn't trust appearances.
      "We're kind of busy here," Terry said. "Why don't you have Jack come in next week and talk about whatever it is?"
      "It's you whose case feels unfinished to me."
      "I'm finished with it. If you want to talk to Jack, I'll leave you to it." He tossed a glance at Jack: Jack shrugged.
      Before he could leave the room Dr. Loria said, "I know who it is."
      "Who what is?" Jack asked.
      "You don't. If you think you do, you don't have any proof. And I'm not giving it to you," Terry blurted.
      "I've known since the first time I was here. I can demonstrate it conclusively. You know I have documented every conversation we have had."
      "There's nothing you can do about it," terry said.
      "It doesn't matter anymore," Jack urged. "It's really over. There's nothing to stop or prevent." Terry breathed gratitude for Jack saying that.
      "You can't be sure of that," Dr. Loria said, moving his head significantly in Terry's direction.
      "I'll make sure," Jack said, as Terry glared at Dr. Loria in resentment.
      "How will you do that? You can't watch Terry every minute of every day." He turned to Terry. "He's not hard to get to, is he? Your friend? He's right upstairs." There was something sickening about the way he said the word friend. "And it wouldn't matter where he was. When the urge got strong enough, you'd be with him, wouldn't you?"
      "What the fuck do you know about it?" Terry exploded. "This moth and flame shit. I'm not stupid." While Terry spluttered, Dr. Loria was looking rational by comparison. Again. But this time, Jack seemed to be on Terry's side:
      "I think we have it under control," Jack said, hesitating a bit before we -- as if he had been about to say I. And he did say, "I'd act right away if either of them showed signs of slipping."
      "And if the first sign is that Terry comes back here to his friend and bleeds for him again, bleeds this time to death?"
      "I won't do that," Terry said.
      "Mm," said Dr. Loria, gazing not at Terry but at Jack. Terry couldn't tell if Loria was succeeding in undermining his hard-won trust.
      "You can never be sure what's going to happen," Dr. Loria said thoughtfully. "So long as Terry's friend is around." Still saying that word friend as though it were an obscene word.
      "I think you misunderstand the situation." Eurick had entered the room the way he always did, silently and suddenly so that he seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Terry felt Eurick's presence like a blow. He was thinned and hungry, he was dazzling, he was beautiful. And everything Dr. Loria said about Terry's desire was true: he wanted so much to tear off the silver necklace right here in front of Jack and Dr. Loria and go to Eurick right now. But he matched Eurick's painful control with his own.
      "I'm so pleased to meet you at last," Dr. Loria said with incongruous civility. "I've heard so much about you. My name's Edmund Loria." He actually held out his hand.
      "John Eurick," Eurick said, actually taking the hand, smiling affably, betrayed only by a brief wince. He continued graciously, his hunger suppressed for an appearance of calm. "I gathered you felt the need to meet me."
      "In a way." Dr. Loria made something rather like a smile.
      "I've been curious about you, too," Eurick said. "You have to wonder about a man who can believe in vampires in the broad daylight."
      "You meet interesting people in my line of work. There were some patients of mine a few years ago whose stories resembled yours and Terry's remarkably."
      "Craig Jones," Eurick said eagerly.
      Dr. Loria's face flashed with recognition, but he said, "I couldn't say. But it's interesting you should mention him."
      "I can't tell you exactly. Confidentiality. But he's another person I would like to meet."
      "He's dead."
      "Really dead." Eurick grinned alarmingly. "Truly dead. You know what I mean. So what did you want to say to me?"
      "I think you know what my concerns are."
      "You think I'll endanger Terry. That I'll ask him for his blood," Eurick said, speaking of his secret in the most undramatic voice. But there was something about him -- Terry thought Eurick was up to something.
      "Yes, I am. I suppose you intend to reassure me that you have no such intention. That you are done with blood. You're going to live an ordinary life from here on out."
      "I wish I could say all of that. But I can say I won't ask Terry for his blood." Terry felt the pang of regret all over again. "I didn't ask for it in the first place."
      Dr. Loria smiled, skeptically, at all that wasn't said. But Jack supplied the rest. "And I can say Terry won't be making that offer again," he said, and Terry wondered if he said it because he believed it of Terry or because he meant to prevent it himself.
      But it was true, anyway: Terry wouldn't make the offer. Not that offer, anyway.
      "I would believe you both if I knew concrete steps were being taken to ensure your promises." Dr. Loria smiled again: it really looked for an instant as if he would like to believe Jack at least. But only for an instant.
      "What do you have in mind?" Eurick asked, his voice unusually gentle and soft. His expression as he gazed at Dr. Loria was almost tender in a way that Terry recognized. With a chill he realized that Eurick was deliberately working at inducing in Dr. Loria that calm and acquiescent state which had come so naturally to Terry. He remembered that state, how good it had felt, how frightening it was to realize he had no choice about it. Dr. Loria was going under. It was a lonesome thing, to watch it and not partake of it. Jack didn't seem to be aware of it.
      Dr. Loria wasn't enjoying it. He shook his head and glared at Eurick. "Wouldn't you like to rest?" he asked Eurick. "What I hear about you is that you hate being like this. You could really rest." Dr. Loria's voice was also sweet and persuasive, at odds with the fierce look in his eyes. He was bringing all the force of his personality to bear on Eurick. "You would never have to struggle with this again."
      "It has occurred to me, yes," said Eurick. "You know I have a son?"
      "Really. And what do you have in mind for him?" In spite of his innuendo, Dr. Loria was relaxing again. The quality of his stare kept changing, as he wavered and recovered in this strange, polite battle of wills.
      "A normal life. As far as possible." Eurick's posture changed subtly. Dr. Loria's attention focused on him all the more.
      "And how do you propose to do that if your life revolves around this?" Dr. Loria asked. His honeylike voice cracked on the word revolves. "An orphan would live a more normal life than he would as a child of yours."
      "Dylan's welfare matters to me," Eurick said, so reasonably and simply you'd think the conversation had been about the boy all along. "And his mother's. I do what I think is best for them, in general."
      "Best for them, in general," Dr. Loria repeated, squaring his shoulders against Eurick's gentle onslaught. "Was this winter's affair with Terry best for them?"
      "I made several mistakes," Eurick said softly. "It was very bad. But I won't make those mistakes again." Eurick went on, talking about his responsibility and his love for his family and friends, his gratitude for their support and affection. "Most of the time it's quite obvious what I should do," he said, but other than that Terry heard nothing because he was completely under.
      Dr. Loria too looked truly mesmerized now. He nodded, a slight smile on his face, his lips working to speak, without will to form the words. Jack was scowling, as if he had figured out what was really passing between Eurick and Dr. Loria and he didn't like it. But he wasn't interrupting. He must see it was the best thing to do. Or the least worst thing, anyway.
      "Do you understand me now?" Eurick said at last, a hint of forcefulness underlying his soft voice.
      How did Eurick know how to do this? Dr. Loria was not arguing at all. His face slack, his large body swaying slightly, he nodded slowly and slurred, "I think I do. Thank you."
      "I think you can leave here assured that we'll all do what we need to do," Eurick said. "Terry won't be around here anyway. Right, Terry?"
      Terry nodded, swaying a little himself.
      "Well, you know you can call me if you need anything," Dr. Loria said, stupidly, drawing a business card from an inner pocket, and gone, walking slowly, not shambling. Almost normal.
      "That'll hold for a little while," Eurick said when he was gone. "I may have to do it again."
      "Is that what you did to Terry before?" Jack said.
      "Not really," Eurick said.
      "Not really, which is why Terry's got that spaced out look again."
      "I'm all right," Terry said, with effort, rubbing his arms, stretching.
      "Creepy," Jack said.
      "I don't intend to do it again with you people around," Eurick said. "If I have to do it." He looked around. "You guys should finish up here." He glanced at Terry, and said to Jack, "Get him out of here as soon as you can."
      The main impact of Terry's official settling in to the house on Bernal Heights was in the yard, several large pots of multicolored annuals and culinary herbs, along with some mixed lettuces. Otherwise it was pretty much the same as it had always been, cool and urban like Jack himself.
      Terry wanted more than ever to establish his credentials as a normal person. It was a delicate thing. He wanted his life with Jack to be seamless and entirely to Jack's liking. The person Jack wanted him to be had integrity, a mind of his own, but carried certain thoughts in that mind and not others.
      Jack had complained more than once that Terry fawned on him. So Terry took care with himself, suppressing the urge to attend to attend to Jack's shirt collar or his hair, restraining himself from settling on the floor in front of Jack's chair when they were reading in the evening. When he made coffee in the morning, he called Jack downstairs instead of carrying it to him in bed. He made an effort to have opinions about which movies to see and what to have for dinner. He made a point of going out without Jack: to the movies with Mary, and sometimes to those bars and cafes Jack didn't think much of. He began cultivating native irises to stand out from and blend in with Jack's architectural yard plants.
      All of this was supposed to make Terry look well-rounded and stable. Like he'd put Eurick behind him.
      At work he was at full steam, though Marcia apparently did not know it. Terry decided she was constitutionally unable to respond favorably to him or his work, though she gave him more of it all the time. Overtime, even, making a lie of Jack's description of her back when he transferred Terry to her. When Terry called for the third time to tell Jack he was working late, Jack joked about him having a lover in the office. "I wish," Terry said. "Then I could live there. So convenient. I could sleep on Lana's loveseat."
      Jack and Terry invited some of Jack's friends, and Lana, to a dinner to celebrate Terry's official move. The dinner Terry cooked was as redolent of garlic and herbs as one of Mary's. Jack produced shiny black leaves for his work table and turned it into a dining table. He laid a white cloth and produced black napkins and then complained when Terry brought in a vase of blue Japanese irises and yellow freesias.
      "They're utterly modest and not sentimental at all," Terry said. "Nobody will think I've spoiled your sense of taste."
      Lana was the first to come, bearing several bottles of unfamiliar wine, and the last to leave. She admired the little house, both floors of which could easily fit into her flat with room for the tiny backyard. And at the end, lounging with a last glass of wine, she said, "You're looking a lot better these days. For a while there I was really worried about you."
      "Well, it was a hard time," Terry said. He leaned on the back of Jack's chair, running his fingers through Jack's sparse hair. "I was pretty sick," he added, sticking to his line about the crisis time. "And it took me a long time to get well. I don't really take to being an invalid very well."
      "I'll say he doesn't," Jack said, shaking Terry's hand from his head. "I've never met anyone so hard to do things for. When he could hardly move, it was 'no, thanks, I'll do it myself later.' I wanted to strangle him."
      "Meanwhile he wouldn't let me open a door, let alone a tunafish can. Man's a bully."
      "I warned you," Lana said.
      "I remember," Terry said. "But you were wrong" there's nothing about Jack that I can't handle."

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