Robert Scorpio stood in the main lobby of General Hospital, trying to direct traffic in a scene of utter chaos. A bomb threat had been called into the police station ten minutes ago, and two minutes ago a device had been found – in a basement supply room, ticking ominously.
He spied the tall, lithe figure of Tom Hardy heading his way. "Get everybody out of here now!" Robert commanded. He quickly outlined the situation and was relieved that the young doctor grasped its seriousness at once.
"I'll have the staff begin evacuation procedures immediately," Tom said, his blue eyes turning dark with intensity.
Robert nodded curtly. "We'll have police cars stationed at the entrances to pick up everyone who can walk."
The elevator door opened and Chief Lewis spilled out along with Frisco and several uniformed officers.
"Where the hell is the bomb squad?" Robert shouted at them in frustration, though he already knew.
"They're all at the mall," Lewis reminded him unnecessarily. "I've called the Pleasanton squad and they're already on their way, but it'll be at least an hour before they get here."
Robert scowled. "We may not have that much time."
Frisco looked at Robert and frowned. He felt like a fink for even thinking of bringing this up. "There is one person…" he began hesitantly.
The Commissioner speared him with a glance. "I know," Robert said tightly. He turned to Lewis, his hands clenching into his jacket. "Get Anna over here."
Anna Scorpio stood in the GH elevator, fidgeting. She'd been at the office when the call from Chief Lewis came through – a bomb at the hospital, could she come immediately Robert needed her help. She'd broken every speed limit in the city to arrive at the hospital in less than ten minutes, but now it seemed like this decrepit basement service elevator was taking longer than that just to move two floors.
At long last the basement level indicator lit and the elevator ground to a halt. Her heart pounding, Anna squeezed out as soon as the doors began to open. Spying Robert and a small knot of police officers standing just outside a dingy supply room, she raced up the corridor at a run.
Robert reached out and caught her arms as she drew to a halt in front of him. "Thanks for coming, love."
"What kind of bomb?" she asked, her mind already scrambling for memories from the distant WSB days when this sort of thing was her speciality.
"We don't know," Robert replied. "It's a new type to me. But it's vibration sensitive – no way it can be moved."
Anna's gaze swept across the assembled police officers. There was something missing. "Where's the squad?" she asked.
"They're all down at Bloomingfields," Lewis said. "A security officer found a bomb in a trash can there about forty minutes ago."
"It's the same group, it has to be," Robert gritted. "Bloody bastards want to do some serious damage, so they planted two bombs knowing we couldn't cover them both."
Anna grimaced and turned toward the surplus room. "Well, let's see what we have."
She pushed open the door with Robert and Lewis behind her and surveyed the scene. Someone - Robert – had pushed the boxes and bags to the edges of the room and removed the bed clothing from the bed. Kneeling, she could see a black metal device, about the size of a breadbox, attached to the bottom of the bed. A red light blinked ominously from a second, smaller box fused to the end of the larger device. The larger box contained the explosives, the smaller one the fuse. And it was armed, all right.
Anna leaned in for a closer look. Robert was right, it wasn't a standard make. There was no obvious way to get at the fuse. She scoured the smaller box with her eyes for bolts or welds, but saw none. Reaching out though the tangle of braces holding together the bottom of the bed, she gently felt along the edges of the fuse box. She felt ridges, almost too tiny to see. Dozens, maybe hundreds of tiny screws. It was absurdly simple, but would take forever to unscrew them all. And there was no timer. No way to determine how much time was left… This was a dare, she decided, the thought making her burn with anger.
She leaned back with a sigh and let Robert pull her to her feet.
"Well?" Lewis demanded.
Anna bit her lip. "Two boxes - one explosives, one the fuse. No timer," she reported. "Before I can get to the wires in the fuse box I have to open it." Her eyes flicked to Robert's. "There are hundreds of tiny little screws, like it's some game, a test of wills or something."
"Unscrew everything without knowing how much time you've got left. The bastards!" Robert spat. His eyes were murderous.
Anna looked at Lewis. "I'll need some jeweler's screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and wire cutters. Now."
Lewis nodded sharply and left the room.
"Where's he going?" Anna asked.
"Up one floor," Robert told her. "We can't get radio reception down here. There's too much –" he waved his hand at the walls – "electronics stuff. So," he said, abruptly changing the subject, "how much explosive you think we've got here?"
Anna chewed her lip, calculating. "That depends on what's been packed inside. It's not dynamite, that would take a smaller fuse. My guess is it's something more concentrated, and powerful." She looked over at her husband. "You'll have to get everybody out of the building, Robert. If this thing goes it could take the whole block with it."
"Already in progress," Robert assured her, jerking his thumb at the door. His eyes avoided hers, uncharacteristically for him.
"What?" Anna demanded. She could tell this wasn't going to be good.
Robert sighed. "Look, love, I don't want to make this any harder than it is, but – there's a lot of bedridden people here. Steve and Monica think it'll take a half hour or more to get everyone evacuated."
Anna glanced nervously at the bomb. "Let's hope we've got that much time."
The pair spent the next several minutes on their backs under the hospital bed, staring up at the black metal bomb casing, making sure they hadn't missed anything. The room was warm and they sweated freely, the wetness mixing with the grime from the floor.
The sound of the door opening brought them to their feet. It was a firewoman, holding the tools that Anna had requested. Lewis entered the room on her heels.
Robert grabbed the tools from the firewoman's hands. "All right, I want everyone out of here. Set up a cordon around the whole building and don't let anybody past it. Out! Now!"
"Yes, sir!" The firewoman said crisply and disappeared through the door.
Robert stared at the two people who remained. "That's you two, too," he said severely.
Lewis let out a puff of breath. He glanced at Anna, who hadn't moved, then nodded at Robert. "Ok, but I hope you know what you're doing. Good luck." He clapped Robert on the shoulder and strode through out of the room.
The moment the door closed behind him, Robert rounded on his wife. "Anna – "
"Robert, you don't know what you're doing!" Anna cut him off ferociously. She closed the distance between them. "The screws, ok, but you have no idea what that fuse is going to be like! You can't do this – this is my job. Robert, please," she said, reaching swiftly for the tools in his hands. Expecting resistance, she was surprised when he allowed her to take them.
"I know how to use a screwdriver, I can help you!" he said, trying desperately to keep his growing fear in check.
"Robert, you can't!" Anna gestured, slipping under the bed and starting to assemble the jeweler's screwdriver. "Look at this, there's no way another person can get in under here without moving something and that could set it off."
"Anna – we face things together, remember?" Robert said stubbornly.
Anna stared up at him. For a moment her fingers stilled, the tiny screws retreating from her thoughts. She felt a sudden sense of déjà vu, and her thoughts jumped back seven years to a night when she and Robert had faced another deadly bomb. As clear as if it was yesterday she recalled having a similar argument…and finally managing to convince Robert to leave. He'd come back, though, and against her better judgment she had let him stay. She had loved him then. But that love, as strong and vital as it had been, was just the merest shadow of the way she felt for him now. Gambling with his life like that again was unthinkable.
Swiftly Anna rose to her knees. "Please, Robert," she said with passionate intensity, an avalanche of smoldering emotions in her eyes. "Please, go – don't make your life the price if I fail."
Robert's heart constricted. He had never seen his wife as beautiful as she was at this moment, her face smudged with dirt and sweat, dark hair cascading down over her shoulders. How could he leave her now, with her life hanging in the balance? If the worst happened, nothing else would matter. He knew he would never outlive her.
He stared, unable to tear his gaze away from Anna's, seeing the boundless love in her eyes that were like mirrors of his own soul. She had the heart of a lion and the courage of a queen. She knew what she was asking him to do. To leave her, and trust that she would come back to him. He was a bit weak in the trust department, he had to admit – the whole obscene episode with Faison's hypnosis had proven that – and lack of trust was the one thing in the world that could tear his marriage apart. Robert knew in that instant he must accede to her wishes, though his entire being cried out against it.
Anna was still kneeling beside the bomb with the screwdriver in her hands, her luminous eyes almost black with fear for him. He crouched beside her and saw her start to frown, but before she could speak he kissed his fingertips and pressed them with infinite gentleness against her smooth, warm cheek.
"You won't fail," he whispered hoarsely, then pulled himself to his feet and backed away to the door before his resolve failed. With one hand on the door handle he paused, unable to prevent himself from taking a last look back at his wife. As their eyes met Robert tried to wordlessly convey all the love and trust, all the passion and pride he felt for her. Then he closed his eyes against the sight of the love of his life holding a ticking bomb in her hands and fled.
From the cordoned area around the main entrance to GH, Sean Donely watched Robert with ill concealed concern. His friend stood at the very front of the police tape, as close as he could get to the building, his eyes fixed on the doors. He hadn't moved for an hour. Sean knew he was oblivious to the chaos just behind him. Reporters, sensing a human drama like sharks smelling blood in the water, had descended on the scene with the Police Commissioner their primary target. Frisco and the other police officers were making a concerted effort to prevent them from coming anywhere near him, and the lights of the cameras and the shouts of the reporters and crowd surging against the barricades had the pitch and fervor of a battlefield.
Sean thrust his hands in his pockets and went to stand beside his motionless friend, knowing just how helpless Robert must be feeling now. At any instant, an explosion could rock the entire hospital and Anna…he shoved the thought ruthlessly away.
"She's gonna be ok, buddy," he said quietly, "I know she is."
Robert said nothing, gave no indication that he even heard. His back was rigid and he stared at the building with total concentration, as though he could prevent anything from happening inside by sheer force of will.
Then suddenly he was moving, bursting through the police tape like it wasn't even there. The sliding door at the entrance had opened and a slight figure emerged, weaving with exhaustion. A pair of wire cutters dangled from her left hand.
Robert reached his wife at a dead run and swept her into his arms in a bone-crushing embrace. Behind them, a cheer went up from the assembled onlookers, crowd and policemen alike.
Anna buried her face in Robert's shoulder, hearing his heart pounding beneath hers. The wire cutters dropped forgotten from her hand as she closed her arms around him, clinging to him as though she was drowning.
Tom Hardy appeared with his father at his side, Monica and Alan Quartermaine close behind.
"Anna, is everything alright?" Tom was asking in an anxious voice. "Are you ok?"
"It's ok, it's ok," she heard Robert saying, though whether to Tom or to herself she wasn't sure.
Over Robert's shoulder Anna could see the look of distress on Tom's face. She lowered her arms, and Robert loosened his grip on her enough that she could turn towards the young doctor and take his arm. "It's alright, I managed to defuse it," she said, and then the world slid out of focus as a wave of exhaustion crashed over her.
Robert's arms around her waist kept her from falling, and she let go of Tom's arm and grabbed a handful of Robert's jacket tightly to stay upright.
"Anna?" Monica called from what seemed like a long distance.
Robert was still holding her so tightly that it hurt, but she would sooner have cut off her arm than ask him let go. She needed to feel him near her, solid and real, more than anything else in the world.
"Come on over here and let Tom take a look at you," Monica directed.
Anna allowed herself to be led to a nearby ambulance, waiting with its rear door ajar. Holding on to Robert's hand, she sat against the edge of the unit and let Tom shine his penlight in her eyes.
She heard footsteps and then Sean's voice. "Anna," he swept her up into a hug that left her breathless.
"You're amazing, you know that?" he said with a broad smile, then turned to Robert. "Frisco's got a lead on the bombers."
Robert's eyes hardened but didn't leave his wife. "Good. I want it on my desk first thing in the morning."
He looked at Tom, who was replacing his stethoscope around his neck. "Is she ok?"
Tom smiled down at Anna. "Her heartbeat and respiration are a both little fast, but it's nothing that a hot bath and a good night's sleep won't cure." To Robert, he continued, "But I want to see her here first thing in the morning for another check, just to be on the safe side."
Robert nodded. "I'll see to it."
"Ok, Anna, go and get some rest." Tom pressed her hands warmly. "We can't thank you enough."
Anna summoned up a weak smile and leaned her head against the ambulance door. All she wanted was to lie down and sleep for a week.
A tug from Robert pulled her upright. The fierce pride that shone in his eyes warmed her heart. "Come on, love," he said. "Let's go home."
"Really, sweetheart, I'm fine," Anna said into the phone for the third time. Robert, who was unashamedly eavesdropping from across the living room, gave a slight smile. Robin, on the line from her friend's house in New York City, apparently still wasn't convinced. They had called her as soon as they'd returned home, not wanting her to find out about the incident from the evening news.
It was taking all of Anna's considerable powers of persuasion to convince Robin not to take the first plane back to Port Charles. Robert knew exactly how his daughter felt – after today he never wanted to let Anna out of his sight again.
Anna hung up the phone and pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes, obviously spent. Robert immediately crossed the room and slid an arm around her shoulders, pressing a gentle kiss into her hair.
Sensing his concern, Anna dropped her hands and looked up at him with a tired smile. "I'm alright, Robert, honestly," she reassured him. Her loving gaze swelled his heart painfully.
He held onto her for a long moment, just needing her close to him. He'd come so near to losing her. If the worst had happened…
"What is it?" Anna asked. The dark look in his eyes troubled her.
"I was terrified for you today." He would tell her that much. But not the rest. The image he carried in his mind of standing over her grave holding his police revolver to his head was one he planned never to share with her.
"I know," she whispered, aching for him.
"You know the saying 'he died a thousand deaths'?" he asked softly, his voice hoarse.
Slowly, Anna nodded.
"Well, I know exactly what it means now."
Anna closed her eyes at the anguish in his voice. She had never, ever wanted to hurt him like this. But life had never been fair. Not to them, at least.
She felt Robert's fingers gently brush through the hair over her ear, and opened her eyes to find him regarding her with an expression of mingled tenderness and pain.
"Oh, Anna," he sighed, dropping his hand heavily.
Anna caught his hand as it fell and raised it to her cheek. She stared intently into his beloved face and ran her tongue across her lips.
Breathing in sharply, she said low and intense, "Robert, when I was in there – all I could think about was that I had to do it. I had to defuse the bomb. I couldn't let you down, I couldn't leave you."
She gripped his hand tightly in hers, willing him to believe her. "Oh, Robert - don't you understand, I could never leave you. You're everything I've ever wanted, everything I'll ever need."
After a long moment of aching silence, Robert's eyes crinkled and he breathed a ghost of a laugh. "I believe that's my line, love," he said with a smile, then stepped forward and folded her into a tight embrace.