But that was long in the past, Paul told himself. This time, the need was different--or was it? He felt as if he were unraveling now; had he not felt the same then?
It is only seeing the state Piotr is in and being angry over it, Paul thought. I'll calm down by tomorrow, get to work researching that amulet, and I'll feel better then. For the moment, however, he stretched out on the den sofa and closed his eyes.
Sleep would not come. Or, when he did feel himself drifting into dreams, the images flitted by in a haze and made him want to weap for no reason that Paul could discern.
What is the matter with me? Paul wondered as he finally sat up on the couch and stared blankly at the wall opposite. Even the shadows seemed to move in disquieting ways, to the point that Paul wondered if he were awake, dreaming, or hallucinating. At last, he swore under his breath and stalked out of the room. He went downstairs.
The basement of Arbour Grove was divided into several rooms. One room contained the ritual space, where the Livre lay. Another couple of rooms held old furniture and antique knick-knacks his mother refused to part with. Yet another room was the salle.
The salle was a largish room with a hardwood floor and a mirror that stretched along one wall. It contained a couple of benches and several types of wooden practise swords in racks on the opposite wall from the mirror. Paul hung his street clothes on a hook by the door, took out an old, grey sweatshirt and pants from a cupboard, and pulled them on. Then he began a series of limbering exercises.
The warm-up exercises were in themselves almost a ritual--stretches, pulls, some yoga movements, deep breathing. Then he selected a bokken from the rack and began the first seitei gata, the most basic, solo katas of iaido.
The purpose of these exercises was as much to teach concentration as it was to teach control of the sword. Each exercise required the kenshi to imagine himself facing opponents in varying numbers, postures, and locations relative to him and to attack those imaginary foes at various points on their bodies, such as the eyes, the side, the abdomen, the neck. Basic as the seitei gata were, his extensive practise of them was what had sharpened his concentration enough to allow him to perform magic without a wand.
He flowed into and through them all, from Mae, to Ushiro, to Uke Nagashi, and then the others, letting his mind sink into a narrowed focus on his body, his balance, the inner sense of his footwork and the placement of his hands as he wielded the bokken. Soon, he shifted into the katas and koryu exercises. If he thought deeply enough, he could almost see an opponent in his mind's eye--
Someone knocked at the salle door. Paul barely heard it, having completely immersed his will into the exercise.
For a moment, Paul wondered who the tall young man in the indigo robes was. Then he recognized his son and blinked. "Seth--How long have you been here?"
"I apparated in about five minutes ago. I looked all over the house, and then it finally dawned on me to check down here." He looked his father over. "Damn, how long have you been practising? You're covered in sweat."
"Not long," Paul said. "What time is it?"
"It's 8:00pm," Seth replied.
Paul stared at him. "Stop pulling my leg, Seth. That would mean I've been in here for four hours."
"You look as if you've been down here for four hours," Seth said with a wry expression. "I'm not messing with you. It's that late. Why don't you grab a shower, and I'll make us some dinner?"
"I have one more kata to finish," Paul said in a distracted tone.
"In four hours, there can't be a kata or an exercise you haven't already done several times," Seth replied. "Enough's enough, Dad. Come on out of here. You haven't been like this since I was a kid."
Paul twitched at that comment, and it seemed to shake him out of the distraction. He glanced down at the bokken in his hands and shook his head, then set it on the rack he'd taken it from. "Good point," he said. "A shower sounds like an excellent idea. What sort of mystery meat do you propose turning into dinner?"
"Well, I could cook up some Mother and Child Reunion," Seth suggested.
"I have always thought that was a depraved name for that dish," Paul mumbled as he toweled some of the sweat off. "How about just omelettes? They're quicker. Besides, I don't think I have any chicken thawed."
"Depraved, but accurate," Seth said cheerfully. "Omelettes it is, then. I'll see you when you don't smell like a gym locker."
"Thanks a lot," Paul told him with a withering look and then went upstairs.
* * *
"Seth?" Paul's voice came out of the shadows as he entered the kitchen behind his son, who stood at the stove making omelettes. "Leave off with the cooking for a moment, will you? I have something here that I'd like you to give Piotr."
Seth looked a bit wildly from his father to the stove. "Ah, Dad. Omelettes--hard to stop in the middle of." Then he saw the crystal sphere that Paul held cradled in his hand and paused. "We can have rubbery omelettes, for once," he said and flicked his wand at the saucepan.
The sound of butter and egg yolks sizzling stopped. "What is that?"
"It's a hearall recording I made of some of the duets you and Piotr played when he was over here a couple of years ago," Paul said. "I'm rather loath to part with it, as the music is beautiful. But it occurred to me while I was in the shower that Piotr needs to be reminded of who he is and of what is dear to him.
"As I understand it, he has been fighting Sergei since the beginning of your seventh year at Hogwarts. That is a long time to fight an enemy, a long time to so narrowly focus one's concentration on mere survival. How can he fight for his life when the things he loves--his parents, his music, his friendships--must surely seem distant to him now, little more than vague memoriess? Having you there with him helps, but you cannot be with him all the time. Only if he immerses himself in who he is and what he loves will he find the strength to fend off Sergei. So give him this, please. Play it for him. Tell Darrow to allow his parents in to see him."
Gingerly, Seth took the hearall and slipped it into a pocket. "I'll give it to him," he promised. But he frowned. "Sergei is part of the reason why we've not told his parents, Dad. He's smart enough to know that what Piotr loves or cares about is Piotr's greatest defence against him and therefore something he must destroy. The possibility that he might try to kill Mr. and Mrs. Rachinov or even me is very real. Darrow is not happy, any time I go in that room to see Piotr. He says I'm taking my life in my hands, and he's right. But there's no way in hell I'll leave Piotr to just waste away in there "
"As long as you're aware of the danger, I'm satisfied," Paul said. "But I do think Piotr should be permitted to see his parents. The first step in taking his life back from Sergei is to accept the risks of loving and to not allow fear of Sergei's reprisals to stop him. Sergei will try, and he might succeed, in killing someone Piotr cares about. Piotr will need to come to terms with that, and it's best done before Sergei accomplishes it."