Always

Chapter 1

Robin gave her mother a cautious smile.

“Go on,” Anna said. “I’m fine.”

Robin saw the emotional glint in Anna’s eyes and she knew better, but she pretended not to notice. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll be back. I’m just going to get a cup of coffee.”

Anna nodded.

As Robin stood, her phone rang. She took a breath before answering. “Hi Dad,” she said, trying to sound upbeat.

“Hey Sweetheart!”

Anna could hear Robert’s voice booming over the line from where she lay.

“What’s up?” Robin asked.

“I’m headed to California for a conference tomorrow and I was hoping to stop by and see you and Patty Cake and that gorgeous granddaughter of mine.”

Robin moved toward the door. “Well, you’re welcome to stop by the house. Patrick and Emma will be there. But actually… I’m in Port Charles right now,” she said. She paused in the doorway and looked at her mother.

Anna could no longer make out Robert’s words, but she knew he would ask why Robin was there. She frowned and shook her head at her daughter.

“No. Just a quick visit with Mom,” Robin said, stepping out of the room.

“Is your mother with you now?” Robert asked. “I need to talk to her.”

Robin was silent for moment.

“Robin?”

“Uh, no,” Robin said as she closed the door to Anna’s room gently behind her. “I’m out right now. I’ll tell her you’re looking for her when I see her.”

“Okay, good. I have some new intel I think she’s going to be very interested in. Listen, I’ve gotta go, Sweetheart. I’m sorry I won’t get to see you.”

“Me too, Dad. We’ll figure out something soon, okay?”

“Okay. Bye, Baby.”

“Bye,” Robin said. She ended the connection and sighed heavily. She hated not being totally honest with her father about her reasons for being in Port Charles. She wondered if he’d bought her answer. Trying to hide anything from either of her parents was usually futile. She slipped her phone in her pocket and headed for a vending machine.

A minute later, Anna’s phone buzzed with a text. She picked it up off the bedside table and read.

  • Call me when you get a second. I have something I think you’ll want to know.

Anna knew she had to answer. Ignoring Robert for too long would only make him more persistent, or worse, suspicious. She texted back.

  • Can’t talk just now. Can you send it?

He answered.

  • We found another alias for Valentine Cassadine. I’m sending the file to you now.

Anna wiped her eyes. Two days ago, discovering Valentine’s history was the only thing she’d cared about. Now, suddenly it seemed almost insignificant.

She sent back a simple answer.

  • Thank you.
  • See, you should be nicer to me. Even if I am your ex-husband.

He ended the text with a winking face, but it still made her regret her comment. He was so much more than just her ex-husband. They both knew it. But to think that was the last thing she’d said to him… She felt obligated to respond.

  • I’m sorry about that.

 

* * *

In his office at WSB headquarters Robert looked at the text. He shook his head and smiled as he read it. “Of course, you’re sorry now,” he said aloud. He leaned back in his chair and watched the status bar as the file on his laptop sent. When it was finished, he went back to the other messages in his inbox. A few minutes later, he got another text from Anna.

  • You know I love you, right?
  • Of course, you do.

Robert chuckled as he hit send.

  • I mean it, Robert.
  • Always

Robert stared at the last two messaged on his screen. He couldn’t explain it, but they made him slightly uneasy.  He had to ask.

  • Is everything ok, love?

He waited, but got no answer. He dialed her number, but his call went straight to voicemail. He reminded himself that she’d already said she couldn’t talk. It was probably nothing to worry about. But his gut told him differently.

He picked up the receiver of the office phone and keyed in an extension. “Yeah, McNevin, do me a favor. Run a detailed location report on Agent Devane’s cell, will you? I want to know her exact whereabouts over the last forty-eight hours. Right away. Thank you.” He hung up and sat back in his chair again, pensive this time.

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. The door opened slowly and Frisco Jones poked his head in. “I hope I’m not interrupting,” Frisco said.

“Not at all,” Robert said. “Come on in.”

Frisco took a seat in the leather chair that faced Robert’s desk. He slapped a paper file down on the desk.

“What’s this,” Robert asked as he picked it up.

“It’s the stuff you asked for from archive.”

“I didn’t expect you to dig it up yourself.”

“But you might be glad I did. Wait until you see what’s in there. It should be highly classified.

Robert raised an eyebrow. He’d just opened the folder when the notification from McNevin popped up on his laptop.  Without a word, he closed the folder and set it aside.

“Robert,” Frisco protested, “Aren’t you even gonna look at it?”

“In a minute,” Robert said. “I just need to verify something.” He clicked on McNevin’s report.

Frisco watched Robert’s face take on a concerned expression. “What is it?” he asked.

Robert studied the data on his screen. Anna’s phone hadn’t moved from General Hospital in almost two days. “Frisco,” he said, “How do you feel about taking my place at the meeting in L.A.?”

“What? Why?”

“Something’s come up.”

“Robert, I thought you said it was imperative for you to be there to show the other agencies who was in charge.”

“I did say that.”

“Right. So, what else could possibly be so important?”

“Anna.”

Frisco opened his mouth to speak again, but Robert was already on the phone with his secretary.

“Louise, there’s been a change of plans. We’re sending Jones to Los Angeles. I need the first available flight to Port Charles.”

Chapter 2

Eighteen hours later Robert landed in Port Charles. The cab ride from the airport to General Hospital seemed to last forever as his mind raced, inventing scenarios. He had considered asking Anna or Robin outright, but he knew if he stood a chance of getting the whole truth out of either one of them he’d have to do it face to face.

He stepped off the elevator and spotted Robin at the nurse’s station with a young dark-haired doctor.

“Dad?”

“Hi, Baby!” Robert said. He dropped his duffel bag at his feet and held his arms open wide.

Robin rushed into them. “Daddy, I’m so glad you’re here,” she gushed.

Robert felt the tension in her grip and instinctively began to sway her gently to calm her. “Me too, sweetheart,” he whispered.

After a moment, Robing pulled away and wiped her eyes. “How did you know?”

Robert just smiled at her and she realized the ridiculousness of her question. She turned to the doctor standing next to her. “Griffin, meet my father the spy.”

Robert reached out his hand. “Robert Scorpio,” he said.

“Doctor Griffin Munro,” Griffin said, following suit.

Robin jumped in. “Griffin is—”

“Lavery’s son. I know,” Robert said, trying to disguise his unwarranted skepticism. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Griffin said. “I’ve certainly heard a lot about you.”

“So,” Robert said, getting back to the matter at hand, “what’s going on with your mum?”

At that, Robin seemed to snap out of concerned daughter mode and into doctor mode. She went on to explain Anna’s condition, a rare type of blood cancer, with a lot of fancy terms, letters, and percentages. Dr. Munro threw in information on symptoms and treatment. Robert listened carefully, waiting for the two doctors to finish, then excused himself, picked up his bag, and headed for Anna’s room.

* * *

Anna turned over in bed at the sound of the door opening, expecting to see Robin or another doctor coming to poke and prod her again. Instead, there he was. He looked a bit older and a bit grayer than the last time she’d seen him. But his smile was as broad and bright as ever.

“Robert? What the hell are you doing here?” she said.

“Nice to see you too, sweetheart,” Robert said with his usual brand of charm and sarcasm. He dropped his bag next to the door and approached. He expected a sharp retort, but got nothing. She only stared at him, obviously suppressing emotion. He sat on the edge of the bed and reached for her hand. “How are you?” he asked.

She forced a smile and pulled her hand away, for fear that even the slightest touch would break her down. “I’m fine, really. How did you know I was here?”

“I have my ways,” he said.

“Of course you do.” She rolled her eyes.

“You can’t keep a secret from me. You never could,” he said.

She rolled her eyes again, this time with exaggerated agitation.

He reached for her hand again.

This time she didn’t pull her hand away, but turned her head, aware that if she looked directly at him for any length of time her eyes would give her away.

“You didn’t need to come all the way here, Robert,” she said. “I’m going to be fine.”

Robert rubbed the back of her hand gently with his thumb “I spoke with Robin and Griffin,” he said.

She nodded, and looked down, picking at a loose thread on her blanket. “So, you’re aware of my… diagnosis,” she said. She swallowed hard as she said the last word.

“Anna,” he whispered.

She peaked up at him and the softness in his face tugged at her heart. If anyone knew what she was going through right now, it was him. She pressed her lips together, her moistened eyes doing all the talking.

Robert waited only long enough for the first tear to fall before he pulled her to him.

Anna was startled by speed and force with which he enveloped her in his arms, but she soon settled into the embrace and allowed Robert’s presence to comfort her. He felt strong, safe, familiar. He felt like home. For the first time since being admitted, she allowed the walls she’d erected to crumble. In the security of his arms, she allowed herself an ugly, tearful, gut-wrenching release.

When it was over, Anna sat back and looked at Robert.

“How do you feel now,” he asked. as he  wiped a lingering tear from her cheek.

She gave a small nod before falling against the pillow with a cleansing sigh. “Better, actually.”

“Good,” he smiled.

“I still can’t believe you’re here.”

“Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know. Geneva. Los Angeles. Burma!”

He stood and went for the nearby chair. He pulled it over to the head of the bed and sat. “Hey, when I was the one in that bed, you flew half way around the world to be with me. Why would this be any different?”

“I came because Robin asked me too,” she reminded him.

She said it to negate his importance to her, but he knew better.

“You’re the head of a major organization, Robert. I have a hard enough time getting five minutes with you on the phone.”

“Anna…” he leaned in and took hold of both of her hands again. He folded his around them and held them as if in prayer. “You’re the mother of my only child—”

“That you know of,” she interjected.

“Ha! Okay, yes. But apart from that… with everything that we’ve been through, you’re the one person in the world who really understands what I do and why I do it.” He saw her eyes starting to tear up again, so he threw on a wicked grin and added, “And, you’re my absolute favorite partner in crime.”

She couldn’t help but laugh. She could tell by his tone he was eluding to more than just their professional relationship.

“We’re kindred spirits, you and I,” he went on. “I know what you’re going through, and I want to be here to help you through it.”

“Until something more important takes you away,” she said.

He said nothing at first, but reached up and placed a hand lovingly on her cheek. Then he stood and placed a single kiss on her forehead. “There is nothing more important than you, Anna Devane.”

Chapter 3

Anna watched Robert pace around the room. His face crinkled as he read the messages on his phone.  “What is it?” she asked.

Robert finished typing a response and slipped the phone into his pocket. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Robert…” she moaned.

“Anna…” he said, mimicking her tone.

“Is it the bureau?”

“You don’t need to be worrying about work right now.”

“What else have I got to do?”

“Focus on your recovery?”

Anna rolled her eyes.

“You need to rest if you’re gonna get your strength back,” Robert cautioned.

“I’m not asking you to take me on a mission, Robert. I’m just asking you what the email was about.”

“It was Frisco, all right?”

“Is he upset with you for sending him to the conference?”

Robert didn’t answer.

“You should have gone, Robert. You shouldn’t have come here.”

“Anna, enough. It’s not about the conference. He wanted to know if I’d had time to go through the file he gave me.”

“Did you?”

“I took a look at it on the plane.”

“What was it about?”

He sat next to her. “I don’t want you worrying your pretty little head about it.”

She swatted him and scowled. “Don’t do that, Robert!”

“Don’t do what?”

“Talk to me like I’m some helpless woman who needs to be protected.”

Robert saw the fire burning in her eyes and he knew he’d struck a nerve. But there was bigger reason for her upset. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Was the file about Valentin?”

“I mean do you want to talk about what’s really bothering you?”

“Arrgghh. Robert!”

“Anna, we both know that I would never describe you as helpless. That’s not what you’re upset about. You’re upset because you feel helpless. I know. I remember that feeling.”

She rolled her eyes again and looked away.

“Anna, talk to me.”

She ran her hands through her hair and sighed. “You’re right.”

“Could you say that again,” he teased.

She swatted him again.

“Sorry,” he laughed. “Go on.”

She pulled her knees up and folded her arms around them. “It’s just frustrating, that’s all. I’m lucky, really. I know I am. I can live with it. It won’t kill me.”

“But?”

“Look at me, Robert. I’m supposed to be a special agent for the WSB.” She stopped to wipe a tear away.

“And an agent’s idea of a full life isn’t the same as most people’s, is it?”

She shook her head. “Robin is so brave and strong, living with her limitations. She is. And I feel so self-absorbed and selfish talking to her, but…” The tears were flowing in full force again. “A few days ago I was fine and now… Now the doctors are telling me I need to stop working because it’s too dangerous. They want me to give up everything I’ve ever known and I don’t know how to do that. I mean, what am I supposed to do, Robert? Take a desk job? That’s not me. I don’t know who I am without a badge and a gun, you know?”

“I do,” Robert whispered. He resituated himself so he was lying next to her and took her into his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder. After a few minutes, he spoke again. “Take away the title and you’re still the strongest, most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen with one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever known.”

“It’ll do you no good to butter me up now, Robert.”

Robert laughed. “I’m not. I mean it, Anna. That’s why I love having you on my team. And just because you might not be able to go into the field again—because you can’t risk getting shot at—it doesn’t mean you’re not an asset to the me or the bureau. I mean, I not runnin’ around chasin’ bad guys with a gun in my hand every day anymore either, am I?”

“But you can pull your weapon if you need to.”

“Yeah, but I’m not gettin’ any younger or faster, am I? I don’t go lookin’ for trouble these days.”

“It’s different.”

“How?”

“It just is.”

“Anna, look, you can still work a case. You’re an expert investigator, a brilliant researcher, a great strategist. You can still be in on the action, sweetheart. You just have to stay out of the line of fire. We can find a way to make it work.”

“You really think so?”

“Of course I do. Come on, if there’s one thing you and I know, it’s how to handle unexpected situations. We’ve faced a million challenges and we’ve managed to come out on top. We can deal with this.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and a reassuring smile. “Together,” he added.

She scooted down and slid her arms around him to hug him, her head on his chest. “Thank you,” she whispered, as she listened to his heart.

“Anytime,” he said, smoothing her hair away from her face.

“I do love you, Robert Scorpio.”

“And I love you, Anna Devane.”

Sorry I was gone so long,” Robin said, peaking into Anna’s room. She’d expected to find her parents bickering at each other as usual. What she found was quite the opposite.

Robert was in bed with Anna, holding her as she slept. Robin watched him stroke her hair and kiss her on the top of the head. Anna’s lips curled up in gentle smile, even in her sleep. Robin hadn’t seen her look so peaceful since she’d been diagnosed. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen her look so peaceful in years. She had a momentary flashback to sneaking into her parents’ bedroom to wake them one morning when they were all living in the old Weber house, before her mother had been kidnapped. Before her teenage life fell apart. Robin smiled at the memory and closed the door without a word. She wiped a tear from her cheek.

“Hey, Robin,” Griffin said, coming up behind her.

Robin jumped, startled.

“Is everything okay?”

Robin took a cleansing breath.“Actually, everything is fine,” she said.

“You look tired.”

“What I am is hungry. I think I’ll go down to the cafeteria and get something to eat. Would you care to join me?”

Griffin looked at his watch. “I can do that. Just let me check on Anna first.”

Robin took Griffin by the arm and led him away. “I don’t think we need to worry about my mom. I think she has everything she needs right now.”

Chapter 4

Anna stuffed her cosmetic case into her overnight bag and zipped the top. She set the bag at the foot of the bed and moved on to the nightstand. She picked up her glasses and phone and tucked them into her purse, then opened the drawer and took out her badge and opened it. She stood staring at it for a moment, still wondering exactly how she was going to find her new normal.

“Anna?” Robert said. He put his arms around her from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder.

She jumped. “Oh, Robert! You startled me,” she said, leaning into him.

“Sorry. You were ah… deep in thought,” he said. He didn’t need to ask why.

“Yeah,” she said, breaking free of his hold and tossing the I.D. onto the bed. She sat on the edge of the bed as she gathered a few more items and stowed them in the purse.

“Are you ready?” Robert asked when she was finished.

She rubbed her hands on her thighs and sighed. “I guess so.”

He took her by the hands and pulled her to her feet and into his arms. “It’s gonna be okay, love,” he whispered as he hugged her.

She returned the hug, exhaling slowly as she clung to him. “Tell me that again,” she said with a slight chuckle.

The hint of fear in her voice would not have been evident to anyone else, but he heard it. He could feel it in her touch. Dealing with a diagnosis in the hospital was one thing, but living with cancer in the real world was a completely different story. He leaned away to look at her and took her face in his hands. He looked deep into her eyes. “Listen to me, Anna. It’s gonna be okay.”

She nodded, but kept her lips pressed tightly.

“We’ll figure it out,” he reassured her. “Together. Remember?”

She nodded again. “Okay.”

“That’s my girl,” he said with a grin so wide it made her smile. He kissed her on the cheek and picked up her bag. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

* * *

Later that evening, Anna sat in on the Skype session while Frisco filled Robert in on his trip to Los Angeles.  She and Robert theorized for quite some time about the situation with Valentin and the new evidence regarding the resurrection of Olivia Jerome. They made no plan of attack just yet, but the bureau banter was encouraging, none the less. Afterward, Anna made a pot of tea which she and Robert shared in front of the fire. And as they chatted about Robin and Patrick and Emma and the new baby, Anna found herself feeling almost normal. She realized she hadn’t thought about cancer in several hours. A new record.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Robert said.

Anna looked up and smiled at him. She put her tea cup down, then leaned back on the sofa next to him.  She snuggled up next to him and reached for his hand. “I was just thinking… how good it feels to be home. And… how nice it is to have you here.”

“Aw golly, Anna,” Robert said in his goofiest voice.

“I mean it, Robert. You and Robin really have been the best medicine.”

“I’m glad it helps,” he said, squeezing her hand.

“It does help,” she said. “And I want to thank you, too. For volunteering to stay here with me so that Robin could go back and present her research. You really didn’t have to do that.”

“I took one for the team,” he said with a laugh.

“Watch it,” Anna teased, giving him the eye.

“But I was happy to do it,” Robert added. “For Robin. For you.”

She smiled again. “Do you know what you are, Robert?”

“No, but I bet you’re gonna tell me.”

“Ha! I am. You’re obnoxious. You’re full of yourself. You’re a know-it-all.”

He frowned. “Anna, if you’re trying to flatter me…”

“You didn’t let me finish,” she said. “You make me crazy, you know that?” She paused, expecting him to interrupt again. “But you were… you are… just the what I needed to get through this.”

He turned sideways so that he was facing her. “I’ve always got your back, kid,” he said.

“I know you do,” she said. “And I love you for it. I love you so much.”

He lovingly caressed her cheek.

The touch of his hand on her skin was warm and familiar. It was safe and comforting as always, but this time, to her surprise, it sent the slightest tingle through her body. His lips brushed her forehead in what she knew was meant to be a platonic gesture, but it too stirred things within her.  She sat up abruptly and cleared her throat. She grabbed for her tea cup and took a sip.

“You all right?” Robert asked.

“Fine. I’m fine,” she said. “It is getting late, though. I should get this stuff cleaned up.” She stood and bent to pick up the tea tray.

“You’ve done enough for one day. Let me take care of it.”

“I’m not frail, Robert. I have to start doing things for myself. Robin is gone and sooner or later you’ll be gone too.”

“You keep saying that.”

“Because it’s true.”

“What if it’s not?”

“Robert…” she rolled her eyes at him.

“I’m serious. What if I don’t leave?”

Anna looked confused.

Robert took the tray out of her hands. “Sit down,” he said.

Anna’s stomach did a strange flip, but she sat back down and forced a calm visage.

“We’ve been through a lot together, haven’t we?”

“Yes, we have.”

“We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve had our share of problems. We’ve had more than our fair share of arguments.”

“Ha! Because you’re pig-headed,” Anna said, regaining her wits.

“Me? You’re the most stubborn person I know,” Robert said.

“I prefer to think of it as strong-willed,” she said.

“You always have to have the last word, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Would you let me…”

“Go on.”

“Thank you,” he said.

“You’re welcome.”

He shook his head and laughed. “See! You just proved my point.”

“Are you sure you have one?”

“Have what?”

“A point?”

“That you always have the last word.”

“I mean other than that.”

“Oh. Right. My point is… We’ve been through a lot. We’ve spent more years apart than we have together. We’ve had other spouses, other lovers. But when the chips are down, it always comes back to you and me.”

“Robert…”

“Anna… I’ve been thinking a lot. About us. About the beach and the mai tais.”

“Oh, my God. Robert…” Anna covered her face with her hands.

“Anna, I can’t help but wonder how many more chances we’re gonna get to make this work. You told me before I left for Bern that you weren’t willing to wait anymore. You were ready to try again. And like an idiot, I walked away.”

“You were an idiot.”

“Yeah. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for that.”

“Robert what are you saying?”

“I’m saying… I’m saying…”

“Spit it out, Robert.”

“I’m saying that I love you, Anna. I can’t make any promises and I know you can’t either. All I know is that I don’t want to walk away this time. So, what do you say?”

She shook her head at him, her lower lip caught in her teeth.

“Look, I know we’ll have to go slow. We’ll have to take things one day at a time, but—”

“Robert, I—”

“I know this is sudden. I know it’s a little scary. But just think about it, will you?”

“No.” She shook her head again. “I don’t want to think about it,” she said.

“You don’t?” he said. His heart sank.

“No. You wanna know what I think?” She stood slowly and began to pace. “I think you’re crazy for wanting to go down that road again.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said, following her.

“I think we’d both be insane!” She stopped moving and turned to gaze into his crystal blue eyes. “And you know what else I think?”

“I’m afraid to ask.”

“I think I want you to kiss me.”

“Really?” he said, his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas.

“Really,” she said.

Without another word, he swept her into his arms and kissed her long and hard. Her muscles tensed, her knees went weak, and Robert had to tighten his grip to keep her on her feet.

“Are you okay?” he asked, all at once nervous, given her circumstances.

“Yes!” Anna laughed, thankful that, for the moment, her dizziness and shortness of breath had absolutely nothing to do with Polycythemia Vera.

Chapter 5

The doorbell rang twice before Anna was able to get to the door.  “Robin!”

“Surprise! I’m back!” Robin said.

“Oh, sweetheart.” Anna pulled her into her arms and hugged her. “It’s good to see you. I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.”

“It’s good to see you too. How are you?” Robin said, stepping back to look at her.

“I’m ah… I’m fine,” Anna said. She averted her eyes as she stuffed her hands into the pockets of her robe.

“Are you sure? You look a little flushed.”

Anna patted her cheeks. “I’m sure it’s just because I was rushing down the stairs.”

Robin consulted her watch. It read five p.m. “It’s early. Were you sleeping?”

“Ah, I was in bed. Yes.”

“Where’s dad? You could have let him answer the door.”

“Oh. I would have, but he was… busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Working,” Anna said, lacking conviction.

Robin sighed. “I should have known! Mom, he promised he was going to take care of you.”

“Robin, he was. He is. No. Your father is taking very good care of me. Trust me.”

“Fine. If you say so. Have you had your second phlebotomy?”

“Yesterday,” Anna said, guiding Robin into the living room with an arm around her shoulder. “You should sit. You must be tired after your long trip. Just look at you!” Anna cooed, touching Robin’s belly.

“I’m okay.”

“Why don’t you put your feet up. Can I get you a glass of water or a cup of tea? Something to eat?”

“Water would be great.”

“Okay. I’ll get your water and then I’ll run up and get dressed.”

“You don’t have to run,” Robin laughed. “I’ve seen you in your robe before.”

“Yeah, well, still…” Anna said. She backed out of the room as Robin settled onto the sofa and closed the doors to the parlor behind her.

“Anna,” Robert’s voice came booming down the stairs.

Anna waved her hands around and shushed him, gesturing for him to follow her into the kitchen.

“I thought you were going to get rid of whoever was at the door,” Robert said, his hands greedily reaching for Anna.

“I couldn’t. It was Robin.”

“Oh, that’s nice! I’ll go and say hello, in a minute,” he said, his hands on Anna’s hips.

“Not like that, I hope.” Anna eyed his attire. “Robert, seriously?” She pushed him away and went to fill a glass with water.

“She’s a big girl, Anna. She’ll understand,” he said, approaching again.

“How could she, Robert? I’m not even sure I understand what’s going on here.”

“Maybe I should show you again, then,” Robert said, his body pressing hers up against the counter.

“Robert…” she breathed.

“Anna,” he whispered lustfully before his mouth took hers in fervent kiss.

The sound of her father’s voice had not escaped Robin, of course. Curious as to what was keeping her parents in the kitchen, she was already debating going to find them. A moment later she heard a loud bang followed by a low whimper and her mother calling  her father’s name. “Oh, no.” Robin pulled herself off the sofa and hurried down the hall. “Mom? What’s wrong? Dad, where are you?”

The moment she rounded the corner into the kitchen she realized that the cry she’d heard was not one of distress. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “Oh, my God!” Robin said, flabbergasted.

“Robin!” Anna screamed, swatting Robert away and sliding off the counter.

“Oh, hey sweetheart,” Robert said, grinning. He stepped in front of Anna to give her cover as she retied her robe.

“What the hell is going on?” Robin asked.

“Look ah… your mum and I were… ah…”

“Never mind, Dad. I can see what you were doing. I guess Mom wasn’t kidding when she said you were taking good care of her.”

“Robin!” Anna said with a frown.

“Mom, what does this mean? Are you two…  sleeping together?”

Robert looked at Anna. “Well, technically I still have my own room,” he chuckled.

“Dad, you know what I mean.” She looked to her mother. “Mom, are you together again?”

Anna shrugged. “It’s complicated.”

“How complicated?”

“I don’t know, Robin. We’re just taking things one day a time. That’s all.”

“And having a little fun along the way,” Robert added.

“Dad!”

“What? There’s nothing wrong with that sweetheart. Your mum and I are both adults.”

“Yes, we are,” Anna said, now ushering the two of them toward the door. “But maybe we could continue this conversation after we’ve had the chance to change into something a little more suitable.”

“Yeah. Sounds good. My retinas have sustained enough damage for one day,” Robin said. She shook her head. “I’ll meet you back in the living room.

Anna gave Robert the side eye and shoved him as Robin walked out of the room.

Robert acted wounded and feigned innocence as usual.

Robert and Anna were under fire for a good forty minutes before Robin finally moved on to another topic of conversation. She then proceeded to enlighten them about her plans to throw a party for Griffin. She said she really wanted to make him feel welcome in Port Charles, like he was one of the family. And she couldn’t think of a better way to do it than to host a huge surprise party for his birthday that summer. She gave Emma most of the credit for the idea, but said she and Patrick had discussed it and were now enlisting her mother’s help to pull it off. “Dad, you can help too, assuming you’re still in town,” Robin said as she headed out the door to visit Jason, Sam, and the baby.

Anna closed the door behind Robin and gave Robert a forced smile.

“What’s wrong, love?” Robert asked.

“Nothing,” Anna said. “Why would anything be wrong?”

“Come on, Anna. I know that look. Robin struck a nerve just now. What was it?”

“Nothing,” Anna said again, brushing past him.

He followed her into the living room. “Anna?”

She sat on the sofa, her hands resting on her thighs and looked up at him. “If you’re still in town,” she said, repeating Robin’s words.

“Oh,” Robert said. He sat down next to her. “Look, Anna, we both know I’m going to have to leave town at some point. That’s business. You know that. But that doesn’t mean that I’m leaving you.”

“Do you promise?”

“I thought we said we weren’t making any promises.”

“I know we did, but… I’m asking for one now.”

Robert looked concerned.

“A lot has happened in the last few of weeks, Robert. And I’ve finally come to realize something. Or maybe I’m just finally ready to admit it. Anyway…” She licked her lips before continuing. “I need you in my life, Robert. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“My Anna,” he said shaking his head. “I don’t want to lose you either.” He kissed her again, this time a series of slow, gentle kisses, broken up by his quiet proclamations: “I need you. I want you. I love you, Anna Devane.” When he felt the smile return to her lips, he sat back to look at her. “Better?” he said.

“Better,” she said.

“Good,” he said. He sat back against the sofa and opened his arms, inviting her to snuggle into them.

She laid her head on his chest. “It’s a nice idea, though—giving Griffin a party, isn’t it?”

Robert sighed. “I guess so.”

“What?” she said, raising her head to look at him.

“What? It’s nice,” he said.

“But?” she said.

He hesitated.

“Robert?”

“But what do we really know about his guy? I mean, how do we know he’s really Lavery’s?”

“We have the results of a DNA test, Robert. What more proof do you need?”

“I don’t know,” Robert said. “Something about the whole situation just doesn’t sit well with me.”

“You know what your problem is, Robert? You’re too cynical.”

“I’m cautious, Anna. There’s a difference.”

“You’re exasperating.”

“But you love me!” he said with a grin.

“I do,” she laughed. She kissed him and settled on his chest again until his cell phone rang and he had to sit up to answer.

“I have to go to New York tomorrow,” he said when he’d hung up. “Just for the day.”

“Okay,” she said.

She was trying not to sound disappointed, but he saw through her act. He thought for a moment, then said, “Come with me.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Why not? We can spend the day at the New York office, then have dinner in the city.”

She smiled widely. “That sounds perfect.”

“Then it’s settled. We’ll leave on the seven a.m. flight,” he said as he stood.

“Where are you going now?”

“To the drugstore. I’m going to need to shave in the morning,” he said, “and I’m all out of razor blades.

“No wonder you’re so scruffy,” she chuckled.

“Yeah,” he said rubbing his chin. “Must be something about this place,” he said. “It happened the last time I was here too.”

She followed him to the door and helped him on with his jacket. “What did?”

“When I was here during the whole Hornsby debacle, I ran out of razor blades that time too. I had to use the razor I found in your bathroom.”

“You did?”

“Mmm hmm. It was a fancy one.”

“The one I bought for Duke?” she said, her face suddenly taking on a very serious expression.

“I’m sorry,” Robert said. “I should have thought about that.”

Anna made herself smile again. “No, it’s all right. Duke thought it was a silly gift anyway,” she said, dismissing it.

Robert regarded her for a moment. Her lips curled up, the smile didn’t reach her eyes. Her eyes were dark and thoughtful. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Of course, I am. Go,” she said. She shooed him toward the door.

“Do you need anything while I’m out?”

“You know what? There is something you can get for me.”

“Yeah? What?”

“Stop at Kelly’s and pick up some cheese fries, will you?”

“Anything for you, my darling,” he said. He gave her one more quick kiss before leaving.

She closed the door behind him and fell against it, her mouth agape, her eyes searching for a focal point. She slowly made her way into the living room and sat behind her desk. When the room finally stopped spinning and she’d had a chance to regroup, she took a deep breath and picked up her phone. “Griffin,” she said, “Hi. It’s Anna. Yes, I’m doing just fine. No. I’m fine, really. But there is something you could help me with. I wonder if I could have another look at the letter you showed me—the one from your mother?”

Chapter 6

One day at the New York office turned into a four-day trip out of the country for Robert. For Anna, the days passed quickly, filled with research and visits with Robin. The nights, on the other hand, were long and marked with fitful sleep. Her mind raced with too many questions she didn’t have answers to. She was still at her desk, avoiding going to bed when Robert finally got home.

Anna looked up from her laptop the moment she heard his key in the lock.

A moment later, Robert peaked his head around the corner. “Miss me?” he said with a grin.

“Hi,” she said, taking off her glasses. “How was Dubai?”

“Fine. But I’m exhausted. I think I’m gettin’ too old for this spy stuff.”

“Ha! Getting?

“Not funny, Devane.” He took her hands and pulled her out of the chair, giving her a once over in her silk pajamas. “I missed you,” he said. I’m amazed at how quickly I got used to having you next to me at night. Speaking of which… why don’t we go on upstairs?” He leaned in for a kiss, but found her lips were nowhere near as eager as his.  She seemed distracted.

Despite his best efforts to interest her, she pulled away. “I thought you were exhausted?” she said.

“What can I say? You energize me, my dear.”

“Hmm. I’m gonna make some tea. Would you like some?”

“If that’s the best I’m gonna get,” he said. He followed her into the kitchen and stood while she put on the kettle. “So, what did I miss?”

Anna sighed. “Oh, well, let’s see. Valentin Cassadine was here.”

“What the hell for?”

“He said he wanted to call a truce.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him to give me the answers I was looking for and I would be more than happy to oblige.”

“And?”

“And he said that if I didn’t drop the issue, he would remove me from the situation.”

“That bastard. I’ll kill him myself.”

“Relax. You won’t have to.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Yes. He’s not gonna do anything to hurt me, is he? If he wanted me dead, he could have left me lying on the floor when he found me. Instead he took me to the hospital.”

Robert grunted. “I still don’t like it.”

“I don’t either. I just wish I could remember something, you know? Did you ever have any luck with the alias that you found?”

“No. We did follow up, but it was a dead end. Sorry.”

She shrugged and busied herself with finishing the tea. “At least I managed to convince our daughter that I would be able to survive on my own until you got home so that she could go back to her family.”

“Did she?”

Anna nodded. “This morning.”

“So, you’re saying we’re alone again?” he said slyly.

“Robert, you really do have a one-track mind, don’t you?”

“Well, you have that effect on me.” He patted her behind as she passed him with the tea tray.

Not long after they’d settled down on the sofa with their cups, Anna’s computer dinged with an incoming message. She was up and moving immediately.

Robert watched her cross the room, admiring the view, delighting in the fact that there was nothing under that thin layer of silk.

Anna sat down at the desk and put her glasses on. After a few clicks, her face grew serious. She caught her lip in her teeth as she stared at the screen.

“What is it?” he asked.

She didn’t acknowledge him.

“Anna?”

Still no response. She sat back in her chair, her eyes still fixed on whatever she’d been reading.

“Anna?” he said again. “What is it, love?”

She slowly looked up and took her glasses off again. She rose from her chair and approached him with a small envelope in her hand. As she sat next to him again, he noticed the emotional shimmer in her eyes. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the situation with Griffin.”

“What about it?”

“About what you said, that something just didn’t seem right. I didn’t agree with you at first. I didn’t want to. But…” She swallowed hard and handed him the envelope.

“What’s this?”

“It’s the letter. From Griffin’s mother. The one he said he received after she died.”

Robert opened the letter and read it.

“The first time I read it, I think I just wanted to believe so badly that I didn’t realize, there isn’t a single piece of proof, not one actual fact in the whole thing. It’s all circumstantial.”

“Are you saying you don’t think it’s legitimate?”

“I don’t know, Robert. She talks about Duke’s life before he met me, but there are no places, no dates, nothing to pin anything down or link anything together except for the one mention of Port Charles.”

Her voice was laced with doubt and confusion. But Robert sensed the underlying frustration, too. “Anna, don’t be too hard on yourself,” he said, reaching for her hand.

“There’s more,” she said. She jerked her hand away and ran it through her hair. “I ran a check on Margaret Munro. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. I guess I was just foolishly hopeful. Anyway, there is no record of any Margaret Munro ever having traveled to New York any time during the time Duke and I were together. In fact, the Margaret Munro who best fits Griffin’s description of his mother didn’t surface in the town where they lived until much later. Neither did Griffin.”

“What?”

“There’s no record of either of them until after you and I were presumed dead. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but he wasn’t born until after Duke was gone. Until after he would have been in that Turkish prison.”

Robert opened his mouth to say something, but she pushed on.

“I never even asked him his exact age, Robert. I don’t know how I could have been so blind. Then again, I don’t know what anyone would stand to gain by tricking me into believing that he was Duke’s son.”

“Tricking you? But you did a DNA test.”

“Yeah. I did. But it was wrong.”

“How?”

She pressed her lips together and looked in his eyes. “The sample I used for the test was from Duke’s razor.”

His eyes narrowed.

She nodded. “The razor that you were the last person to use. I didn’t know that until the other night.”

“Hold on, Anna. You don’t know for a fact that the results were inaccurate. It might have been—”

“No. You see, I do know. Because today… today I took a sample of your DNA. I took your toothbrush. And I asked Dante to run that sample and compare it with the results of the first test just to be sure.”

“And what was the verdict?” Robert asked, though he was suddenly fearful of the response.

“That was the file that I just received. I didn’t tell Dante who the sample was from or why I wanted it. But according to his report, the second sample was a perfect match for the one they used the first time.”

“Anna…” Robert shifted in his seat and fixed his eyes on the floor, contemplating her words.

“I don’t know how, Robert. I can’t explain it. But you were right all along.” She paused, swallowed again, and wiped her eyes. Still, one tear clung to her cheek as she forced herself to say the words. “Duke is not Griffin’s father.”

He looked at her and shook his head. “Anna….”

Her eyes were filled with a thousand questions as she said the words again. “Duke is not Griffin’s father. But you are.”

Chapter 7

“It’s funny,” Anna said, “I kept thinking there was something so familiar about Griffin, you know? I thought it was because of Duke. As it turns out, I had the wrong husband in mind.”

Ordinarily, Robert would have made a snarky comment about the fact that she had too many husbands to keep track off. But given the circumstances, even he had enough sense to let that one go. “Anna… Are you absolutely sure about this?”

“See for yourself, Robert.” She handed him her laptop and he scrolled through the report. “Your name isn’t on the report because the lab thinks the sample belonged to Duke, but now you and I know differently, don’t we? You are Griffin’s father. Which just begs one more question. Who is his mother?”

Robert closed each tab one by one and watched the files disappear. Then he shut down the computer and set it aside.

“What are you doing?” Anna asked.

“No more research tonight, love.” He took both of her hands in his. “We need to talk.”

“There’s no need to look so grim, Robert. I’m not naïve. I always knew there was a chance that Robin wasn’t your only child. I mean, I’m a little surprised at how quickly you must have moved on after I was out of the picture, but…”

She’d been trying to maintain her tough exterior, but he could see it starting to crumble. “It’s not what you think, Anna.”

“Who was she, Robert? Hmm?  Was Margret Munro just an alias? Was she someone we knew?”

“Anna…”

“Did you know about him? That there was a child, I mean?”

“Anna, stop.”

“I know. It’s probably not fair of me to ask. We haven’t been together in decades. It’s hardly fair of me to demand an explanation, is it? I guess I just always thought that with Robin, you and I had something special, something that no one else shared.”

He took her face in his hands and wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. “Sweetheart, can you please stop talking long enough for me to answer you?”

She stopped as requested and bit her lip.

“First of all, Robin is something special. Even if there were another woman, she would still be something special. Don’t ever question that. And my love for you is just as special. My love for you runs deeper than anything I’ve ever felt for any other woman. None of them could hold a candle to you, Anna Devane.”

“What about Holly? Our marriage didn’t even count because of her.”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it?”

He shook his head. “I served her with divorce papers. Did you know that? I had them drawn up before I left to find you. I chose you, Anna. I wanted to be with you. I loved you. You said you read the letter that I wrote to Robin.”

She nodded. “That letter was what gave me back my memories of you.”

“I meant every word in that letter. I never intended for things to end the way they did. I wanted the happily-ever-after that we never got.”

“But it never happened.”

“No, it didn’t. But not for lack of trying. I would have come for you if I could have. Believe me, my forced arrangement with the WSB was no walk in the park.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t. But enough about that, Robert. Can you just answer my question?”

“I’m gettin’ to that, Anna. Would you just… listen to me for a minute?”

“Go on.”

He focused on her hands and took a breath. “How much do you remember?”

“About what?”

“About the boat and the explosion and what happened after.”

She fell back against the sofa. “Robert, do we have to do this?”

“I’m afraid so, love. It’s important.”

She looked skeptical.

“Hey,” he said. He put his arm around her. “Do you still trust me?”

“You know I do,” she said.

“Okay. So, tell me what you remember.”

She thought for a minute and then began. “Not much. Ah… I remember being in the corridor with you. You were holding my hand. We were running, trying to find a way out. You went ahead to see if it was clear and then… then there was an explosion.” She stopped and wiped her eyes.

“Go on.”

“Robert…”

“It’s okay. Look, I’m here now, right? I’m alive and well.”

She cleared her throat and continued, her voice was thick with emotion. “I remember the look on your face. You turned back to look at me and then… out of nowhere… The flames were everywhere. The heat. The smoke. I heard you call my name. I cried out for you. Then… nothing. I tried to go after you. I wanted to run into that fire. To find you or to… to go with you… I tried, Robert, but someone held me back. I struggled. I didn’t want to leave you, Robert, but they wouldn’t let me go. Then, everything went black.”

He pulled her into his arms and held her.

She clung to him until she stopped crying. She sat up again. “So, why does any of that matter?”

“I know it doesn’t make sense to you right now, but it will. It will. We’re gonna make sense out of all of this, together. You’ll see. Now, Are you sure there’s nothing else? Nothing from before I found you?”

She shook her head sadly. “No. I remember being dragged out of our house. I remember the explosion. But everything in between… Robert… what difference does all this make now?”

“Come here,” he said.

She settled into him again and felt him inhale deeply.

“This is gonna come as a bit of a shock.”

“A bigger shock than finding out Griffin is your son?”

Hearing the words your son made him smile slightly. “Yeah. A bigger shock than that.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “You’re not gonna believe this, but if I had a child who was born any time around the time that we… anytime that after that explosion, then there’s only one woman who could be his mother.”

“Who?”

“You, love.”

“Robert, don’t you think I would know that? Don’t you think I would remember if I’d had another child?”

“You don’t remember being picked up. You don’t remember getting medical attention, or how you got to that cabin in Canada either. You don’t remember months, maybe a year of your recuperation. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

She covered her face with her hands. “Ugh! This isn’t helping, Robert.”

He peeled her hands away from her face and held them again. “Anna, when I found you on that boat… you were pregnant.”

“Please! Isn’t it more likely that you met this Margaret Munro on one of your covert adventures? Maybe she was using an alias because she was in trouble or…in hiding… I don’t know.”

“No, Anna. There was no one but you.”

“Do you really expect me to believe that you traveled all over the world for the WSB and never wound up in another woman’s bed? Come on, Robert. Let’s not pretend that—”

“Anna,” he said sharply.

She stopped short.

“Cards on the table,” he said. His eyes became intense.

Her heart skipped a beat, wondering what he might be about to reveal.

He took a breath. “I was never out running covert ops.”

“But you told us—”

“I know what I told you. The arrangement was true. Me for you. But they didn’t send me out on assignment.”

“What then? Where were you all those years?”

He looked down. “I was in prison, Anna.”

Her face fell.  “You went to prison…to protect me?”

He said nothing.

“Robert?”

Still nothing.

“Answer me, Robert. You went to prison for me?”

“Yes.”

“What did they do to you? Did they torture you?”

He was quiet again.

“Robert? Did they?”

“It doesn’t matter, Anna. You were safe. That was all that mattered. If I couldn’t get you home to Robin, at least I could keep you alive. Especially considering…”

“Considering what?”

“The fact that you were pregnant.”

“Oh, no! I wasn’t,” she insisted. She shook her head vigorously. “I couldn’t have been. The doctor said I couldn’t carry another baby after what happened with Olivia. Leora was a miracle.

“She was,” Robert agreed, hoping to sooth her. “But she wasn’t the only one.”

“Robert…”

“Listen to me. You were pregnant.”

“How?”

“You know how it happens,” he smiled and caressed her cheek. “I don’t know all of the details. We didn’t exactly have time to talk.”

“Did I tell you I was pregnant?”

“You didn’t have to. It was fairly obvious.”

“I don’t believe you.”

He looked hurt.

“I mean… I don’t believe it.”

“Well, it’s true. I don’t know how far along, but you had to have been pregnant when you were taken, so it must have been to several months.”

“Robert, it can’t be.”

“What if it can? Sweetheart, look, I can’t explain it all either. But I know what I saw on that boat and I know if Griffin was born sometime after that explosion, if he really is mine, then you’re the only one who could be his mother.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean, why?”

“If you really believed I was pregnant, why didn’t we ever discuss this before? If you remembered it, why didn’t you look for the baby?”

“You mean after I got out?”

She choked back a sob. “Oh, God. I’m sorry.”

He let out a painful sigh. “I did. The report I received said it was a still birth. Considering what you must have gone through with the trauma of it all, it made sense. I never looked any further. I never brought it up for the same reason I didn’t tell you about my incarceration. I thought it would be too hard on you. I didn’t want you to feel guilty about a past that neither of us couldn’t change.”

“I’m so sorry, Robert,” she said.

“See, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. I don’t want you to do that. Everything I’ve done, I’d do it all over again tomorrow if it would keep you safe.”

“You can’t do that,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because you’re too old to go to prison fifteen more years,” she said with a weak laugh.

“Very funny!” he said as he touched his forehead to hers. He could have been offended, but he wasn’t. If anything, he was glad she was able to find any humor in the situation.

A moment later, Anna stood and began to pace, wheels turning. “Do you really think it’s possible that it wasn’t still born? That Griffin could be that baby?”

“I think there are still a lot of questions. I think we have a lot to figure out before we can say anything to Griffin, but yeah. I think it’s possible. We’ve seen stranger things in our line of work, haven’t we? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time we’ve discovered falsified information.”

When she finally stopped, and turned to look at him again, her eyes shined with new hope. Tears of a new kind ran down her cheeks. “We have a son?” she whispered.

He crossed the room and wrapped her up in his arms. His blue eyes glistened too, but his smile grew wide. “We have a son.”

“And he’s a doctor. We have two doctors,” Anna said with a small smile.

“I don’t know about the priest part,” Robert chuckled.

“You need all the help you can get, Scorpio.” She gave him a playful shove.

He tightened his grip on her and shook his head. “I need you, Devane. More than anything else in this world.”

She ran her hands lovingly through his hair as she examined the creases on his face, the evidence of the passing of time in the face that she had loved for so long, evidence of experience and wisdom. “I love you, Robert,” she whispered.

“I love you, too,” he said. “God, how I love you!” And then he kissed her.

The warmth of his kiss spread over her entire body, forcing a soft moan.

He continued, his lips moved down her neck and across her collar bone.

“Robert…” she said.

“Hmm?”

“Let’s go to bed.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

“Assuming you’re not too exhausted,” she teased, making quick work of the buttons on his shirt.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said “Let’s skip the stairs. It’ll save time and energy.”

“Oh!” she cried as he slid his hands under her behind and lifted her up. “Oh!” she cried again as he laid her across the glass-topped desk. “It’s cold!” she laughed.

“Then we’ll just have to heat it up,” he purred.

She laughed again as she whipped off his belt, knocking over the Union Jack picture frame on the desk.

“Oops!” he said.

“Forget about it,” she said, reaching for his zipper.

“Already forgotten,” he said. “Who the hell is that dog, anyway?” He really couldn’t have cared less. At that moment, the only thing he cared about was the gorgeous woman, whose legs were wrapped around him.

“Ha! It came with the frame… it was a gift from…” She tried to say “Emma”, but let the thought go as his mouth found hers again. In fact, she let all thought go. There were plenty of questions to be answered, plenty of explanations to be sought. But they would wait until morning. For now, there were more pressing matters to attend to.

Chapter 8

Anna walked into the bedroom the next morning with a hot mug in one hand and her laptop in the other. She set them both down on the nightstand and perched on the edge of the bed. She leaned over and kissed Robert softly. His lips responded to hers before he’d even opened his eyes.

“Good morning,” she whispered. Her breath was warm on his face.

“Mmm. Good morning,” he said.

She tried to sit up again, but he quickly wrapped one hand around her neck and pulled her back down to kiss her again while the other hand worked its way up her thigh. His lips hit her teeth as she laughed.

“What?” he said.

“Don’t get carried away, Robert. We have work to do. We need to get busy.”

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

“Ha! Not that kind of busy.” She pulled away. “Coffee?” She offered him the mug.

“Do you know what you do to me, Devane?” he said. He accepted the cup and took a drink, but his eyes danced at her over the rim as the fingers of his free hand continued gently massaging her inner thy.

She flinched, unable ignore the pleasurable sensation, but she refused to give in to his advances. “Not now, Robert,” she said.”

“When?”

“Later,” she said with a wink.

“Promise?”

“Yes, dear,” she patted him on the cheek. “But first…” She snatched the cup out of his hand as he tried to bring it to his lips for a second time and thrust the laptop in his direction. “I need your security clearance.”

He sighed. “You’re using your influence with me to access highly classified files from the World Security Bureau?”

“A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

“And what if I refuse?”

She raised her eyebrows playfully. “Would you rather I hack in instead?”

“Fine!” he grumbled as he tapped in his password.

“Welcome, Director Scorpio,” the computerized voice said.

Anna’s face lit up. “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome. So, what are you looking for this morning?”

“I thought I’d start with the medical records,” she said “I tried to access them from my account and it said they didn’t exist. The only file I could find from before 2000 was one operative’s report about my arrival in Canada and periodic updates that reported no change in status.”

“Anna…”

She was too absorbed in her search to hear him. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she typed one thing after another into the system search box. After several attempts, she groaned. “Damn it!” she said.  “Robert, I just tried multiple points of access and it still claims the that the files don’t exist. How can that be?” She shifted to look at him. “Robert?” she said, concerned by the somber look on his face. “You said you saw my file yourself after you…”

“You can say it, sweetheart. After I was released from prison.”

“You said you saw it,” she repeated.

“I did.”

“So, where is it?”

“It was sealed by executive order at my request. Your file and mine.”

“Why?”

“Like I told you, I didn’t want you to get hurt by what was in those files.”

“Can you still get access to them?”

“If I wanted to. But… Anna…”

“Robert, we can’t confront Griffin about this without proof. If we’re gonna find out the truth about what happened, I think those files are the best place to start. Don’t you?”

He let out a breath and held out his hand.

She handed him the computer and waited as patiently as possible while drafted and sent a message.

When he was finished, passed it back. “You should have it within the hour.”

“Thank you!” she said again. She set the laptop on the bedside table and climbed onto his lap.  “You want to fool around while we wait?” she said teased.

He looked up at her and gave a weak smile. “No.”

“No?” her mouth fell open. “Tu ne me veux pas?”

He laughed, instantly reminded of the terrible hotel they’d landed in as the first stop on their second honeymoon. He reached out to stroke her hair. “Of course, I want you,” he said. “But… Are you sure you’re ready to look at those files?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It could get a little rough, that’s all.”

“I’m a big girl, Robert. I’ve  been diagnosed with cancer and I’m still standing. I can handle this. We can handle this. Together.”

“Together,” he repeated.

She bent to kiss him. A moment later she heard the incoming message alert and was off his lap a second later. “That was fast.” She grabbed the laptop and sat on the edge of the bed.

He watched in silence as she opened the file.

It wasn’t long before her eyes began to tear up. He moved over to make room for her and she scooted up next to him without a word. He leaned over and read too. Seared lungs, asphyxiation, thermal burns, severe head trauma. He’d spent time in a private WSB medical facility with similar, injuries before being transferred to holding. He was familiar with what she must have gone through. But the thought of the attached images still made his stomach churn. He could only imagine what they might do to her.

Her cursor hovered over the link. “The pictures. That’s how they knew I was alive,” she reminded herself. “This is the evidence they used to send you to prison.”

He put a hand on her wrist. “Anna…” he cautioned.

“I want to see it, Robert.”

Her tone was firm. He knew there would be no changing her mind. “Okay, he said, letting his hand slip off hers.

She took a deep breath and opened the link. She forced herself to keep breathing as she stared at each of the shots. One of the flames after blast. One of a figure in black carrying someone off the boat. The last, a zoom of the man in black carrying her limp, battered body. Sure enough, as Robert had said, the rounded bump in her middle made it obvious that she was with child. She quietly closed the picture window, wiped her eyes, and returned to the text file.

She scanned the laundry list of injuries again, then the treatments. She scrolled through the entire document before finding what she was really looking for. August, 1992—Still birth. She wiped her eyes again and re-read the second to last entry. “Patient remains comatose and unresponsive. That’s why I don’t remember it,” she whispered.

Robert put an arm around her and kissed her softly on the temple.

“I gave birth to our child and I didn’t even know it.”

“Don’t do that to yourself, Anna. It wasn’t your fault.”

With a lump in her throat, she clicked on the tab at the bottom of the page, launching separate file. Her voice trembled as she read it aloud.  “Baby boy Devane. Mother: Anna Devane. Father: Unknown.” She swallowed to hold back a sob, then continued. “Male. Six pounds, three ounces. Born at 2:32 am. Still birth. Estimated time of death less than eight hours prior to delivery. Robert… What if this report is accurate? What if our son died and we never got to see him, or hold him, or tell him we loved him?”

Robert fought to keep his voice calm and steady. “If that’s the case, we’ll deal with it. But if your test results were accurate, he didn’t. Right? And you have two sets of results that seem to say that.”

She nodded. “Right,” she said, trying to convince herself. “So, what do we do?”

“What we always do. We focus on what we know and look for evidence to support our claim.”

She nodded. “You’re right.” She turned back to the file. “Robert…” she said a moment later, “there’s another page here.” She clicked on a third tab.

Robert scanned the page. “It looks like a duplicate,” he said.

Anna quickly clicked back and forth between the two. “No, Robert.” she said. “It’s not a duplicate. Look.” She pointed at something on the screen, looking as if someone had just knocked the air out of her.

Robert’s eyes followed her finger. “Bloody hell,” he murmured as he read it. “It can’t be, can it?”

“2:41 am. Six pounds, eleven ounces,” Anna breathed, barely able to get the words out. “Robert… there had to be…”

Robert finished her thought. “Two babies.”

Chapter 9

Robin watched over FaceTime as her mother’s figure blew by the screen, stacking slacks and tops in her overnight bag. “Mom, I just don’t know if this is a good idea. You’re just getting adjusted to your treatments. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Anna paused only momentarily and looked directly at the iPad that was propped on her bedside table. “It’s fine, Robin,” Anna assured her. “It’s only for a few days.”

“I know. But what if something were to happen?”

“It’s Switzerland, Robin, not the Congo. They have very good doctors and very good hospitals.”

“Yes, they do.”

“But what?” Anna asked, knowing there was one.

“Mom…” Robin waited for her mother to stop and look at her again, but Anna only hurried about her packing. “Mom, you just got out of the hospital. And you want to run off on a mission already. I thought we talked about this.”

“We did talk about it,” Anna nodded, still avoiding the screen. “We did.”

This time it was Robin’s turn to wait for the “But…”

“It’s a just a fact-finding mission, sweetheart. I’m not going into combat.”

“Then why do you need that?” Robin asked as Anna pulled her badge and gun from the drawer, checked the safety, and laid it on top of her clothes in the bag.

“Never leave home without it,” Anna said, this time smiling directly at Robin. She picked up the iPad. “Look, your father is going to be with me the entire time. He’s not going to let anything happen to me, all right?”

“Why doesn’t Dad just go on his own?”

“Because…” Anna paused, wishing she could tell Robin exactly what this mission was about, but knowing it had to be kept under wraps until they had some kind of proof. “This mission… it’s important. To your father and to me. It’s something we need to do together, okay? Can you just trust me about that?”

“I do trust you, Mom. That doesn’t mean I don’t worry about you.”

“I know you do,” Anna said. “And I love you for it. But I promise, you do not need to worry about this.”

“Okay,” Robin said reluctantly.

“I love you so much, you know that?” Anna said. “And I promise I will keep you posted and let you know as soon as we get home. Now, I have to go or we’re gonna miss our flight. I’m sure Daddy is already waiting downstairs and you know how impatient he is.”

“I do,” Robin laughed.

“Okay. Bye Sweetheart,” Anna said.

“Bye, Mom. Be careful.”

“We will,” Anna said. She blew a kiss at her daughter and hit end. She covered the iPad and stowed it in the bag, then threw the bag over her shoulder and rushed out of the room.

* * *

An hour later Robert and Anna were climbing aboard the WSB-issued jet bound for Switzerland. Robert tried to busy himself with work during the flight, but his mind was as restless as he knew Anna’s must be. He glanced over at her. Her eyes were closed, but he knew she wasn’t asleep. He watched her as she exhaled slowly and rolled her shoulders. Her grip on the armrests told him everything he needed to know about the anxiety she was feeling. He hoped they would find some answers at the clinic, but he wasn’t confident. They were following an ice-cold trail that had been long-hidden, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

* * *

“Are you ready for this?” Robert asked Anna as they paused at the front door of the clinic.

“As ready as I’m gonna get,” Anna said.

“Then let’s do this,” he said, opening the door and allowing her to pass.

They approached the reception desk.

“Robert Scorpio to see Dr. Von Valtier,” Robert said with a flash of his badge.

“Just a moment,” the woman answered in a thick French accent. She picked up the phone and dialed a number.

A few minutes later, a middle-aged man in a white coat emerged through a door at the back of the waiting area. “Director Scorpio,” he said, his hand outstretched.

“Thank you for meeting with us, doctor,” Robert said, returning the gesture.

“Of course,” Dr. Von Valtier said. He escorted Robert and Anna to his office and invited them to sit, then took his place behind the desk. “Now, what is it that you think I can help you with?”

Robert cleared his throat and shifted in his seat before answering. “I don’t know how much you’ll remember about this, doctor. But my…” he caught himself and stopped, his lips still curled in a “w” formation. He could feel Anna looking at him. “My… ah… partner was a patient of yours many years ago.”

“Yes. She was brought in after an explosion,” the doctor said. “She was with us for many months. A very memorable case,” he added, smiling at Anna with kind eyes. “I’m very pleased to see what a wonderful recovery you appear to have made.”

“Thank you,” Anna said softly.

“You have some questions for me about your time here?”

“That we do,” Robert said. “What can you tell us about—”

“There are still things about my treatment that I can’t remember,” Anna interrupted, her hand on Robert’s forearm.

“That is only natural,” the doctor said, “considering the severity of the trauma.”

“Yes, well… I was hoping that you would help us fill in some of the missing pieces.”

“If I can.”

“Good,” Anna said with a smile. “From what I understand, when I was brought in, I was pregnant.”

“That is correct.”

“What can you tell us about the pregnancy or the birth?”

“Not much, I’m afraid,” he said as he reached for the folder on the corner of his desk. He paged through the file. Except that you were able to carry to term despite all that your body had been through. Your obstetrician Dr. Freiberg said to me once that it was the miracle of a mother’s love. We were— all of us—saddened to learn that your babies did not survive.”

“Babies,” Anna whispered. “Twins?”

“Yes, two boys,” the doctor said.

She’d read it in the WSB files herself, but having confirmation was somehow more than she was prepared for. Anna put a hand to her mouth and gulped back a sob.

Forcing himself to stay strong, Robert stepped in and took control of the conversation again. “Was there any indication of a problem before the birth?”

Dr. Von Valtier glanced down at the file again and shook his head. Dr. Freiberg performed a complete examination just the day before. Both babies appeared to be healthy and growing as expected. There was no medical explanation. Dr. Freiberg was very distressed by this.”

Anna pressed her lips together, still struggling to suppress her emotions. She wiped a tear from her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor offered.

“We’d like to speak to Dr. Freiberg,” Robert said.

“I’m sorry,” Von Valtier said again. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

“Why not?” Anna said, regaining most of her composure.

“Dr. Freiberg is gone.”

“Surely you must have a forwarding address, a phone number… something.” Robert said.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Scorpio. Dr. Freiberg is dead.”

“How long?” Anna asked, though she didn’t know why is mattered.

“He was found just a few days after the delivery. Suicide.”

Anna exhaled and shook her head.

“That’s unfortunate,” Robert said. “What about another doctor or a nurse who might have been there?”

“There must have been a nurse,” Dr. Von Valtier said, “But for some reason I do not have that name here.”

“Is there some way that we could get a list of the nurses who might have been there?” Robert asked.

Von Valtier looked hesitant. “Forgive me, Mr. Scorpio, but is this a personal matter, or a professional one?”

Robert contemplated the question. Something about the whole conversation didn’t sit well with him. He had a sneaking suspicion there was more to the story than previously believed. He made eye contact with Anna again. She said nothing, but her gut was telling her the same thing. He could read it in her eyes. “Let’s just say it’s a professional investigation of a very personal nature.”

* * *

That evening Robert and Anna sat at the small table in their hotel room, laptops open, chopsticks in hand, pouring over the list of names that Dr. Von Valtier had shared.

“Where are those egg rolls?” Robert asked.

Anna handed him a small brown paper bag with one hand and picked up a mouth full of lo mein with the other without ever taking her eyes off her screen. A few minutes later she shoved the chopsticks into the open takeout container and ran her fingers through her hair and gave an aggravate sigh.

“Anything?” Robert said.

“Not yet,” Anna said. She took her glasses off and stood. “It would help if we had some idea what we were looking for!” she said as she crossed the room.

“That is the challenge,” Robert admitted.

“I’ve cross-checked every name on the list. Not one of them has a record. They all appear to be upstanding medical professionals.”

Robert nodded, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “Maybe so. Doesn’t mean they don’t know something. We may need to talk to them. See what they know.”

“Good luck with that.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re all dead.”

“Bloody hell. Foul play?”

“No. I don’t think so. Freiberg, yes. It’s too coincidental. But these women… One died from old age, three had cancer, two heart attacks and one went MIA during a tour in Afghanistan. The only one left is Elise ten Brink.”

“What’s her story?”

“She had a stroke last year and is now in a convalescent home in Amsterdam.”

“Does that mean we’re headed to Amsterdam?”

“I don’t know, Robert!” Anna said, pacing. “She may not even be able to speak to us.”

“So, what do you want to do?”

Anna flopped down on the bed and lay staring up at the ceiling with her feet still hanging over the edge. “I don’t know,” she said again. I don’t know anything. I don’t even know how much of this is real? Do we have two sons out there somewhere? And if Griffin really is one of them… Who the hell Margaret Munro and how did she end up with him? She’s wasn’t one of the nurses. Unless it’s a false ID. And what happened to the doctor? We traveled half way around the world and we’ve still got nothing. My God, Robert…”

Robert got up from the table and approached the bed. He took Anna’s hands and pulled her up again. “Listen,” he said, “I know it’s frustrating right now. But we’ve been in worse spots than this. We’re gonna find something.” He pulled her into an embrace, which she readily returned.

“I hope you’re right,” she said over his shoulder.

“Hey, I’m always right, remember?” he teased.

“Shut up, Scorpio,” she laughed.

“What? You don’t believe me?”

“Ha! That you’re always right? No, I don’t.”

“Come on!”

“I love you, but—”

“So, I’ve got that goin’ for me,” he said, sneaking a quick kiss.

“Yes. You do.” She gave up the fight sooner than usual and kissed him back, but the kiss was interrupted by an incoming message.

Robert reluctantly pulled away and returned to his computer. He perused the information, then said, “Devane… you owe me an apology.”

“What for?” she said.

“Because I was right again. Look at this!”

Anna grabbed her glasses and looked over his shoulder. “Maggie Hughes?”

“Otherwise known as Margaret or Maggie Fitzhugh and Margaret Munro.”

“I ran a check on her before, but this is new,” Anna said.

“Well, I had McNevin do a little more digging,” Robert said. “Just in case. As it turns out, Maggie Hughes—”

“Was a patient at the clinic?”

“Mmm hmm. The same time as you.”

“What do suppose this means, Robert?”

“I’m not sure, but I intend to find out.”

“But Margaret’s dead too.”

“So, we start with her next of kin. Other than Griffin, that is.” He picked up his phone and dialed. “Louise… Yeah… Agent Devane and I are going to need the jet again tomorrow morning. No, we’re not going home just yet. We’re going to Greenville.”

* * *

Robert sat hunched on the edge off the sofa, his hands clasped between his knees.

Anna ambled around the living room without saying a word. She stopped in front of the fireplace to examine the framed photos that lined the mantle. She picked one up for a closer look.

“Here we are,” Isobel Fitzhugh said as she entered with the tea tray.

“Thank you,” Robert said. “This is very kind of you.” He poured himself a cup.

“My pleasure,” Isobel said. “Now, what is it you think I can help you with?”

“Agent Devane and I were hoping you could help answer some questions about your daughter.”

“Maggie? Why?”

“Well…” Robert stalled, not certain he’d come up with a plausible reason for their visit. He’d considered the truth, but “Your daughter may have raised our son” didn’t seem like the easiest inroad.

He was rather thankful when Anna stepped in. “Is this your grandson?” she asked, approaching the framed photo in her hand. It was a picture of a woman she knew to be Margaret and what must have been a very young Griffin.

Isobel’s face took on a concerned expression.

Anna continued. “His name is Griffin, isn’t it? Griffin Munro?”

“Yes.”

“He’s the reason we’re here.” Anna said. She crossed the room and caught Robert’s eye for just a moment as she handed him the frame. Her eyes were soft with emotion, but her face was all business. She gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

“Is Griffin in some kind of trouble?” Isobel asked.

Robert studied the child in the photo and exhaled. “We hope not,” he said. He passed the photo to Isobel, then sat back on the sofa and nodded to Anna, knowing she had the situation under control.

Anna took a seat in the chair nearest Isobel. “Griffin is a friend of mine. We met in Port Charles, New York.”

“Oh, yes,” Isobel said. “He wrote to me a few months ago and told me he’d taken a position at a hospital there. Please tell me why you’re here.” Her voice shook slightly. “Is my grandson all right?”

Anna reached for the woman’s hand. “Yes, he’s fine. He’s absolutely fine.” she assured her. “But there are some questions about his past… questions that we’d like answers to in order to protect him from any future harm.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Ah,” Robert joined in, “what she means is… we have reason to believe there could be some dangerous people in his past and we’d like to be able to protect him from those people. That is… should it ever be necessary.”

“Why would it be necessary?” Isobel said.

Anna took a breath. “Because the man Griffin believes to be his father had known connections to the mob.”

“Brilliant,” Robert said under his breath.

“Oh, my Lord!”

“Listen to me, Isobel. It’s okay,” Anna said. “It is, all right? Griffin is not in any immediate danger, I promise. But if Duke is his father—”

“Who?”

“Duke Lavery,” Anna said. She pulled an envelope from her small over-the-shoulder bag. “Griffin received this letter after Margaret died.” She handed it to Isobel, then sat quietly while the woman read it.

When Isobel was finished, she carefully put the letter back in the envelope and returned it to Anna.

Anna gave her a quizzical, but expectant smile.

Isobel picked up her tea cup but didn’t drink it. She stared into the cup for a few moments, before meeting Anna’s gaze.

“What are you thinking?” Anna asked, her tone soft and friendly.

Isobel shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to make sense of it all.”

“Of what?” Robert said.

The Isobel looked at him and then turned back to Anna. “Maggie and her father never saw eye to eye. He was strait-laced and respectable with political aspirations. Uptight, as Maggie called him. She was a free spirit. He thought she was rebellious. He wanted her to go to college and study political science. She wanted to be a writer. She left home after high school graduation. She changed her name. We didn’t see her for almost six years after that.”  Isobel stopped talking and reached for the tissue box on the table near her chair.

Anna put a comforting hand on her knee.

Isobel patted Anna’s hand and forced a smile. “She wrote to me sometimes. Told me about her travels mostly. She said she’d met a writer.  That he took her on his yacht and showed her the world. I never shared the letters with her father.”

“Mrs. Fitzhugh…” Robert started to interrupt, but Anna gave him a gentle wave of her hand and a silent “shush” with her lips.

“Go on,” she whispered to Isobel.

“When she finally came home, she had the baby—Griffin—with her.”

“Did she tell you anything about the pregnancy? When it happened or…”

Isobel shook her head again. “Not much. She and her father fought about it. He wanted her to give him up, but she refused. She moved into her own place and started using my maiden name. Probably just to spite her father. Though he didn’t seem to care. He seemed more relieved.”

“What about you? Did you want her to give him up?”

“He was my grandson. My daughter’s only child. I would have done anything for either one of them. But her father… didn’t make things easy for any one. My relationship with both of them became… strained.”

“I’m sorry,” Anna said with a sympathetic turn of her lips.

Isobel sniffed. “Do you have children, Agent Devane?” she asked.

It was meant to be a simple question, but it brought a lump to Anna’s throat. She swallowed the lump and nodded. “I also have a beautiful granddaughter,” she said.

“Oh…no!” Isobel said.

“What?”

“You’re too young to be a grandmother.”

“Ha! No. I’m not. Her name is Emma. And she has a brother or sister on the way.”

“Then you can imagine how much I wanted to be close to them. To be a part of their lives.”

“Yes. We can,” Anna said, glancing at Robert as she wiped a tear from her cheek.

Isobel considered the two of them carefully, the way their eyes spoke to one another, and finally made the connection. “Grandpa?” she said.

“Yeah,” Robert admitted with a proud grin.

“That I believe,” Isobel said. She patted her own gray hair as if in solidarity and chuckled as she said it.

Anna and Robert both laughed before picking up their line of questioning again.

“Mrs. Fitzhugh,” Robert said, “did your daughter ever talk about Griffin’s father? About Duke?”

“I never heard the name before today. Or of any affair in Scotland. It’s possible, I suppose. But, I always assumed the writer was his father.”

“This writer… what was his name?” Anna asked.

“Maggie never said.”

“Really?” Anna said.

“I did ask once. But she said he was very private and would rather not be identified. He visited a few times when Griffin was very young. But I only met him briefly.”

“Can you tell us what he was like?”

“He kissed my hand and said he was delighted to meet me, but he avoided any real conversation. He was an odd man. Charming, but odd.”

“In what way?” Robert asked.

“I don’t know. He was polite, but… aloof. He seemed almost irritated. Like we were all beneath him.”

“Anything else?” Anna said.

“He dressed well and drove a fancy car. He smoked funny, European cigarettes.”

Robert suddenly felt his stomach tighten. He watched Anna’s body stiffen.

“He spoke with an accent, Isobel said. “But I didn’t recognize it. It wasn’t Scottish. I’d have known. My father spoke with a thick Scottish brogue—”

“Is this him?” Robert said, pulling up an image on his phone. He passed the device to Anna, who gave Isobel a closer look.

Isobel examined the picture. “He looks older, but… Yes. That’s him.”

Anna and Robert engaged in another silent exchange.

“What is it?” Isobel asked. “He’s not another mobster, is he?”

Not wanting to worry the poor woman any more than they already had, Robert shook his head and said as calmly as possible, “No, he’s not.” He stood, buttoned his jacket, and walked over to her chair. He took her hands and helped her up.

Anna rose too.

“Mrs. Fitzhugh, I want to thank you,” Robert said.

“Of course. But…”

“Thank you for your hospitality and for all of your help.”

“Yes,” Anna said. “Thank you so much. You’ve been more help than you know.”

“Should I be worried?” Isobel asked.

“No,” Anna said. “I don’t want you to worry, all right. Because we now know that Griffin is in no danger as far as Duke Lavery’s enemies are concerned. We know exactly who we’re dealing with. And I swear to you that we will never let anything happen to Griffin. Okay? No harm will come to him. Not on our watch.”

“But we do need to get going,” Robert said.

“Okay,” Isobel said as she escorted them to the front door. “Just do me one favor, will you? When you see my grandson, will you give him a hug from me?”

“I will,” Anna promised. She smiled until Isobel had closed the door behind them. She kept herself together as she and Robert rounded the corner to their parked car. But once they were safely inside the vehicle, she let her face fall. “How can this be happening?” she groaned.

“I don’t know.”

“I should have known!”

“You couldn’t have known, Anna.”

“Please! That man is responsible for everything that has ever happened to our family. He has torn us apart time and time again, Robert!” She dropped her face into her hands and let out an frustrated cry.

Robert leaned over the console that separated them and did his best to take Anna into his arms. He tried to think of the right words to comfort her, but he found none. She was right. The man had done his best to destroy them at every turn and he hated him for it. Damn you, he thought. Damn you to Hell, Cesar Faison!

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18 thoughts on “Always

  1. More, more, more please I am not known for my patience. Two thumbs up, great chapter and story. Not only is Anna getting some much needed love but TANKER BABY LIVES!

  2. Ok you did it again, I’ve read chapter 8 three times, let alone rereading entire story again, it’s that good. I have to complement you, you are excellent at cliff hangers. Great chapter now needing to read more!

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