Jack smiled, looking at the baby's face as he sat in a chair by the bed, "She's beautiful, Arica."
Arica beamed. "Would you like to hold her?"
"It's been a long time since I have held a baby," he admitted.
"I'm told it's something you don't forget," Arica said softly, sitting up and carefully transferring Ashley to his arms. "Just support her head." She could tell he remembered, almost instinctively.
She was right, it wasn't something you forgot, and Jack's smile widen further as he looked at the newborn. "She really is beautiful, Arica."
Her smile hadn't faded. "She's special. I love the twins, don't get me wrong... but she's Eric's and my first child. And that's special." She looked up at him. "Does that sound crazy?"
"No, of course not," he said, "I know you love all of your children but Ashley is the result of your love with Eric."
She looked at him carefully, knowing this probably brought back more than a few memories for him. "See you don't forget how to hold a baby," she said. "I can barely believe she's here. We almost lost her once..."
"Where does the time go?" Jack said, his eyes again on the baby, as memories began to resurface.
"I don't know," Arica whispered softly.
Jack nodded, "They seem to get here before you know it, though during the time you’re waiting for their arrival seems endless. I remember thinking such when my wife was expecting our daughter."
Arica nodded. "And then they grow up so fast," she said softly. "It seems like just yesterday that I was having the twins."
"It doesn't seem all too long ago I held Sydney like this for the first time in my arms," he said, getting lost further into his memories.
Arica smiled softly. "Jack, normally we don't do the whole godfather thing, but I was wondering if you'd like to be Ashley's?" she asked. "I... you've done so much for us... for me."
Jack looked at her, and nodded, "I would be honored, but are you certain it is all right with Eric?" He knew he hadn't exactly been the warmest person to Eric or anyone else in the office. As far as the other agents were concerned, Jack Bristow was cold and did not have a heart.
"I asked him earlier," she said softly. "He didn't really understand my choice, but he's okay with it."
"All right then," he said, "As I said, I would be honored." The baby started to fuss in his arms, and without thinking Jack carefully shifted her position, and she fell asleep again.
Arica smiled, laying back in the bed and relaxing. The whole process was stressful, but not nearly as bad as having twins. "You've been there for me," she said softly.
"You've been through so much," Jack said, watching her relax, "But I will admit, at times, my motives for being your friend haven't always been completely altruistic."
"How so?" she asked softly.
"Since Sydney died," Jack paused, finding it hard to say those words, "I have had a hard time dealing with the pain of losing her. When my wife died, I thought nothing, no pain in the world could be worse than losing her, but I was wrong. The loss of my child was. by far, the worst worse pain I have ever felt when I've lost someone before." He paused again. "Building a friendship with you has helped me in ways I never thought possible. It's helped to ease the grief of losing my daughter enough to where it's just bearable."
Arica appreciated the admission, understanding just how significant it was. "My parents haven't been supportive of my marriage to Eric," she said softly. "That's no secret. And they haven't been around to see our children or even to see me. You've been here when they haven't. And you've given me more to hang onto when I needed it." She smiled at him. "You're here now, acting like a father to me, when my own parents don't even know I had another baby."
"I am not certain I can understand how they wouldn't want to see you or your children," he said, "But I cannot speak against them either."
She nodded. "They blame Eric for everything that's happened to me." She looks up at him. "Sometimes I'm surprised he stayed with me... given everything."
"What happened wasn't your fault."
"Sometimes I wonder if I couldn't have done more to protect myself..."
"You'be got to stop blaming yourself," Jack said, "How could you have known what Sark was going to do when not even the best specialists the CIA has can predict what people like him will do next?"
"I'm glad he's dead," she said softly. "He can't hurt me anymore."
"Or anyone else."
"I hope not..." she said. "I couldn't go through this again."
"As soon as you feel up to it, we can resume your self defense lessons," Jack said.
"Good. I've learned a lot from you." She smirked. "And I think I couldn't do better for a teacher."
"You should give yourself some of the credit, Arica."
"I do what I can," she said. "At least I know some self defense now. I probably need to practice using a gun some more." She looked at him. "This isn't the life I imagined having honestly, but I wouldn't trade it for anything because otherwise I wouldn't have Eric or the kids."
"You have no regrets then?"
She looked at him. "There's no such thing as no regrets," she said softly. "And I'm not saying I wanted to be raped..." She shook her head. "I'm just glad to have Eric, the twins and Ashley."
"Still this isn't a life I would wish on anyone, but you have had some very good things to come out of it. Hang onto your family, Arica," Jack said, "And I hope you'll never have any regrets when you look back on things years from now."
"You have regrets," she said softly, surmising that he was speaking out of experience.
"A few," he answered.
"About Sydney?" she asked softly. She knew no one else would dare bring her up anymore.
"Yes," Jack said, "For most of her life, I was never really the kind of father she deserved."
"She knew you loved her, if that worries you."
"Did she?" Jack said, "From the time her mother died up until a few years ago, I was emotionally distant from her. We rarely spoke to each other, and even when we did, I usually said something to make her angry with me. I pushed her away from me on purpose."
"And my parents have pushed me away. I know they still love me." She had to believe that. Anger crept into Jack's voice as he said, "Aside from the emotional distance I kept with Sydney was my inability to keep her from being recruited into this life. It was something that should have never have happened."
Of course he could never tell Arica about Project Christmas, about how he trained his own daughter to be a spy when she was only six years old. That was one regret he could not share with anyone.
"Somehow I think she would've found her way into your line of work regardless. If not for SD-6, then probably the CIA," Arica said. "She was good at what she did."
"I didn't want her in this life but the CIA was the lesser of two evils, and I had requested that she be approached by them after she graduated from college."
"But SD-6 didn't wait," Arica said softly. "I'm sorry."
"Recruiting Sydney into SD-6 was a way for them to control me."
Arica nods. "Just like what they did to me was designed to try and control Eric."
"Which brings me to another regret of not killing the head of SD-6 when I had the chance."
"Why didn't you?" she asked curiously.
"Because at the time killing the man would have caused more harm than good," Jack answered.
"My cover would have been blown," he said, "The CIA would have lost any opportunity it had to take down SD-6, and more importantly the power behind it."
Arica nods, understanding. "It must have been hard."
"It was," Jack said before he looked at Ashley, who was beginning to stir again.
Ashley let out a sigh in her sleep and cooed softly.
Jack smiled sadly, "I suppose the one of the things I regret most now is that I will never have any grandchildren."
Arica nodded. "I know it's not the same thing, but you're welcome to come see Ashley anytime. I mean if you've been like a father to me..." she trailed off letting him complete the thought.
"Thank you," was all Jack could say.
"I just wish I could do more to give you peace Jack."