"You're awfully quiet, Robert," Anna said, her arm absentmindedly looped through his as they walked along the pier. "Anything you want to tell me?"
Robert said nothing, but his lips curled up in wistful half smile.
"Hmm? What?" he said, finally looking at her.
"What's going on with you?"
"Ha. No sense trying to keep secrets, Scorpio."
"Who says I'm keeping secrets?"
"Come on, now. You forget, I know you just as well as you know me."
"Do you really?"
"I think I do," she smiled.
God, how he loved that smile, he thought. He subconsciously patted the ring box in his pocket and cleared his throat. "I'm sorry Finn had to go back to the hospital."
"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you seem to enjoy giving him a hard time."
"I do not. Come on. We were having such a lovely time there, the three of us."
They stood quietly for a few minutes listening to the harbor bells before Anna spoke again. "Where are you tonight, Robert?"
"What do you mean? I'm standing here with you."
"You know what I mean. You're lost tonight. Lost in thought or… I don't know."
He thought again of the box in his pocket. The tiny black box that seemed to weigh on him like a thousand-pound weight. "Maybe I'm just lost on memory lane," he said hesitantly.
"Yeah, maybe. You're not the only one who gets sentimental about our daughter, our…" The last word drifted away with the breeze over the harbor.
"You're going soft in your old age, Robert," Anna laughed.
He chuckled too, thankful she didn't press him to complete the previous thought.
"It feels nice to laugh again," Anna said, smiling at him again.
It was a real smile. Unlike the put-on smiles of the past year, this one reached her eyes. Those deep, brown pools of emotion sparkled at him now as he stared into them and it filled his heart with a complicated mix of joy and pain. He forced himself to speak, so as not to get lost again. "Finn must make you laugh," he said.
Anna heard the question in his tone and answered with an energetic affirmation. "Yes, he does. Of course!" Then, she paused. "Being with Finn is lovely. I'm very thankful to have him in my life."
"But after everything we've been through in the past year with Peter and Alex and… Well, it feels good to know that you and I can still laugh together, Robert." She reached out to touch his cheek. "I'm thankful to have you in my life, too."
He took her hand from his cheek and held it in his, but his cheek still tingled with the memory. "Anna…" He took a breath. "Look, I can't lie. You threw me for a loop with the Faison nonsense. And it's no secret that I'm no fan of Heinrich—"
"Peter," she corrected him.
"Him either. I'm no fan of either of them. But I will always… always be in your corner, Anna."
She squeezed his hand as she watched him swallow hard. "I know you will. Thank you," she said, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him to her.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and settled into the familiar embrace. He could stand there for an hour, he thought. But a moment later another evening breeze swept in and he felt Anna shiver against him. He pulled away. "It's gettin' a bit nippy out here," he said. "I should get you home."
"I guess so," she said. She reached for his hand and let him lead her back to his car.
"Thank you for the walk. And the ride home," Anna said as she fished her house key out of her handbag. "Do you want to come in for a nightcap?"
"I don't know. The good doctor will home from his day of helping people any minute. This gun-toting spy might just be in the way," Robert said, gesturing toward himself with a snicker.
"Is that what's bothering you?"
She rolled her eyes playfully at him. "Robert, come in with me a have a drink, will you?"
"If you insist," he said.
He followed her inside and waited as she fixed them each a scotch on the rocks.
She delivered his glass to him, noting the way he hovered on the edge of his chair wringing his hands. He took the glass but did not attempt to make eye contact. She sat on the edge of the chair opposite him and leaned in to get his attention. "Robert," she whispered. "Look at me."
He reluctantly looked up and took a cautious sip of his drink.
"What I said earlier, about Finn being a good man who's dedicated his life to helping people—"
"And me being the guy that shoots them all up?"
"Yes… No! Robert, you said that. I didn't."
"Anna, we don't have to do this."
"Yes. I think maybe we do. Could you just… just let me talk for a minute, please?"
"Thank you." She took a drink, then continued. "Finn is a good man. He's a brilliant doctor. He can be awkward and sarcastic, but it's all funny and endearing in its own way. A bit like you actually."
Robert perked up at that, but he didn't interrupt.
Anna went on. "Our relationship was unplanned and unexpected, but he makes me happy. Happier than I've been since… Well, happier than I've been in a long time."
"What's your point, Anna?"
"I'm getting there."
"Well get on with it. We're not gettin' any younger here.
"Oh, Robert!" She swatted him on the arm. "My point is… Finn is a good man—"
"You said that already."
"Then stop interrupting me!" She tilted her head at him and waited until he appeared to be listening again. "Just because he's a good man, it doesn't that you're not."
He smiled as her eyes began to glisten.
"You are a good man, Robert Scorpio. You have dedicated your life to protecting me and Robin. To protecting the world from the bad guys. To making it a better, safer place. You've made your mistakes. We both have. But you were always fighting to for what was right. And some days, knowing you were out there fighting the same as I was… it was the only thing that got me by all those years we were apart."
Her tears were actually falling, now and he had to look down to keep from tearing up himself.
"I meant what I said earlier. I cherish what we had together. You and I have shared more excitement and adventure than most people have in a lifetime. We've both been hurt, but we've laughed harder and loved deeper than most people can even imagine."
He stood and took a few steps away from her. "There were times when I thought it was all gonna last forever," he said without turning to face her.
"Me, too," she whispered. She abandoned her drink and walked toward him. "We will always share a past, Robert. And I wouldn't trade a minute of it—not one minute—for anything in the world."
Instinctively, he turned and pulled her into his arms and held her again, wishing he could ignore the inaudible but that lingered in the air.
As they stood there, once again enjoying a tender moment, the front door opened and in walked Finn. Unlike this afternoon, Anna did not smile and wave. She didn't look up. Didn't open her eyes. Finn said nothing. He only stood silently with his hands in his pockets wondering how long it would take for either of them to notice him.
It was Robert who moved first. "Oh, hey, Doc," he said. The look on his face didn't exactly say guilty, but it didn't scream innocence either.
Anna put on a quick grin, but Finn couldn't help but notice that she was once again dabbing tears from her eyes. "How was your shift?" she asked.
"Fine. How are you? Is everything okay here?" he asked as he joined her.
"Yeah. Of course," she said, putting her arms around him. "Just finishing up our stroll down memory lane."
"I guess it was a longer trip than you thought, huh?"
"Well, you know," Anna said, "there is a lot of history between Robert and me."
"Mmm. I thought you ah… I thought you were gonna to start looking toward the future," Finn said.
"Yes!" she said.
When she moved to plaster a kiss on Finn's lips, Robert decided that was his cue to exit. He cleared his throat. "Well, on that note, I'll see you kids later," he said. Without another word or look back, he was out the door, leaving Anna and Finn to exchange a dumbfounded glance.
As Robert climbed into his car, he felt the corner of the ring box dig into his thigh. "Aw, hell!" he said. He pulled it out and stared at it again. There was no way he could go back in there now. He checked his phone for messages and found one new text from Finn. A repeat of the last.
You still have something that belongs to me.
Robert eyed the words and exhaled forcefully, then grumbled, "So do you!"