"Come on Emma, let's go." Patrick stood in his tux next to Sam waiting for his daughter. "We are going to be late."
"Sorry Daddy." Emma came into the living room wearing a beautiful green dress – perfect for the night ahead. "I'm ready to go now."
"You look beautiful." Patrick smiled at his daughter, the spitting image of Robin. Sometimes she looked so much like his ex-wife it hurt. "Let's go."
Emma ran out to the car as Sam took his hand. "Hey, just a second – are you sure you're okay with going to this? My mom and Molly will be there and they said they could take Emma if you would rather stay home. I mean, this isn't exactly going to be easy for you."
Tonight was the Nurse's Ball and they were doing a tribute to Robin's first love, Stone Cates. "Emma has been practicing for weeks on her routine. I promised her I would be there this year to see her perform and I meant it." Patrick kissed Sam. "But I thank you for offering. So, ready to go?"
Sam smiled at him. "Let's go."
"I can't do this." She stared in the mirror backstage and took several deep breaths.
"You can and you will." He put his hand on her shoulder. "You know you have to do this. It really is for the best and you should be happy – you are home."
Robin bit her lip and looked at the man staring back at her in the mirror. "But to not at least tell Emma I'm home, it just seems cruel to spring it on her this way."
"It's not cruel, it's a surprise. Besides, did you really want to go to your old house and have Sam open the door?"
Robin shook her head. "No, I guess not but still…"
"There is no but – you will do this and then we will deal with your ex-husband and his new paramour." He squeezed her shoulder. "Just remember that you are doing this for Emma."
Robin nodded her head. He was right – she was doing this for Emma. Emma was all that mattered now.
Lucy stood on stage and smiled out at the audience. "I want to thank you again for your support. Tonight we honor a young man who lost his battle with this disease 20 years ago. Since then his name has lived on through the Stone Cates Memorial AIDS wing – a center that not only helps those with HIV and AIDS get affordable care but also prevention services. I was not fortunate enough to really know the young man in question but we have someone here tonight who not only knew him, she loved him dearly."
Patrick's heart dropped into his stomach. It couldn't be…
"Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Robin Scorpio." Lucy led the applause as Robin walked onto the stage.
Sam looked at Patrick and took his hand, squeezing it tight. Emma meanwhile jumped up in giddy excitement. "Mommy!"
Robin turned her head and found her little girl in the crowd, quickly waving her up to the stage. "Come here baby girl."
Patrick didn't even have time to react before Emma was out of her chair and onstage with Robin. Robin picked her up and held her tight, tears flowing down her cheeks. "God I have missed you. I love you more than anything – you know that, right?"
Emma nodded. "I love you too Mommy."
"Do you want to stand here with me while I talk for a couple of minutes?" Emma nodded. "Great."
Robin took a deep breath and began speaking. "Over 20 years ago, I met a young man who would change my life in so many ways. Stone and I only had a short time together but the love we felt for other was enough for a dozen lifetimes. He was my first love and I still miss him to this day."
"When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I believed that I would never get the chance to love again," she looked at Patrick, "or be a mother," she squeezed her daughter's hand, "but thanks to the donations of millions of people I did. These donations help fund the research that created the protocol I take to keep my viral load nearly undetectable and stable. These donations helped create the post-exposure prophylaxis protocol to minimize the risk of contracting the virus if you are accidentally exposed, like pricking yourself with an infected needle. These donations continue to fund the research that I hope one day will eradicate HIV and AIDS from the planet."
"I have been fortunate enough to live for the past 20 years with this virus in my body and live a full and happy life, thanks to this research. My life is proof that HIV does not have to be a death sentence but we need all the support we can get to make sure I am not the only one who gets to be that lucky. I thank you all for your support and encourage everyone to keep giving." Robin picked up Emma and held her close. "Right baby?"
Emma nodded and smiled at her mom. "Right Mommy."
Robin looked back at the crowd. "Thank you."
The crowd broke out in applause as Robin stepped off the stage, still holding Emma in her arms. She was instantly surrounded by people, including her mom, Uncle Mac and Felicia. Robin was still trying to catch her breath when she felt a pair of arms pull her close. A man with a thick southern accent began speaking. "Sorry, I think Robin is just a little overwhelmed at the moment, right darling?"
Robin closed her eyes and nodded. She kissed Emma and set her back down. "You better go back to your Dad's table – I'll be there in just a few minutes, okay?"
"You're home now Mommy, right?" Emma looked hopefully up at her mom as Patrick walked up to them.
Robin looked her ex-husband straight in the eyes. "Yes baby, I'm home."