Alone in the hallway, Connor suddenly couldn't breathe. The sterile white walls seemed to be closing in on him and he wrapped his arms around his chest and sank to the floor, his heart beating wildly. He couldn't think straight. Images came at him in a crazy kaleidoscope that was out of his control: Charles lying injured on the ground, Aidan falling to his knees, the blonde vampire with the piece of glass looking at him and laughing, himself staking his own aunts, his father's face, Charles lying in the hospital, Cecily's bruised face, Charles . . .
"Are you all right?" the voice seemed to come from him from underwater. He looked up into the face of the candy striper. "You don't look so good," she said.
He took a deep breath, shook himself. "I'm fine."
"You were having a panic attack," she said, matter-of-factly.
"Is that what that was."
"Yeah-huh. My mom gets 'em all the time. You should have something calming to drink, you know, like tea or something, and sit for a while. Or exercise. That helps too."
"Thanks, uh, Penny." Her name was on a tag attached to her uniform.
"You're welcome," she said, beaming at him.
He started walking back to the elevators, and she followed.
"That was pretty amazing, before, you know, when you just picked your sister up like that," she said, trailing behind him like a puppy dog.
"Maybe I should sell tickets."
She giggled. "You're funny."
"Glad you think so." He pressed the button, hoping she'd take the hint and leave him alone, but no, she got onto the elevator with him.
"I've never seen anyone do anything like that before. You must work out a lot."
"Look, Penny, I hate to be rude but I'm not feeling all that talkative," he said.
"Oh, stupid me," she said, blushing. "Of course you aren't, what with your friend and--oh, I am sorry."
The doors opened and he stepped out, heading to the lobby.
"Can I get you that tea?" she asked. "Or maybe a caffeine-free soda?"
"Yeah, OK," he said, mostly to get rid of her. "Whichever."
Cecily was stirring. She rolled over and looked at him. "Charles!" she said, sitting up. "How is he?"
"Stable. The witches are with him right now."
"Oh, good, that's good." She looked down at her hands. "This is all my fault."
"Stop saying that," he said, flopping down in a chair nearby. "You know it's not."
"But if I hadn't dated Jack in the first place--"
"Cecily, if you had that kind of precognition we'd all be rich. It's not your fault."
She nodded, and looked at her feet.
"Say it with me. It's not my fault."
"It's not your fault," she said with the smallest of grins.
"I give up," he said, picking up a magazine for something to do with his hands. He set it down three minutes later. "This is hopeless."
Penny came in with a tray. "I got you both some tea, this is the best flavor we have, and here are some cookies."
"Thank you, Penny," he said, and smiled at her. She blushed. She was pretty when she blushed. "How old are you?" he asked.
"Ah, too bad. Well, thank you."
She nodded and hurried away.
"Pervert." Cecily grabbed a cookie.
"I saw you checking out the jail bait."
He rolled his eyes. "She looked older."
"Uh huh. Connor?"
He looked at her.
"I'm glad you're here." She put her cookie down. "Do you think he's going to be all right?"
"Lorelei is with him, so yeah, I think he's got a good chance. It may take him a while to heal, though, so we should be prepared for that."
She nodded. "You're going to kill Jack, aren't you," she said quietly.
"First chance I get," he said.Next Chapter