"I've been wondering why you and Emily never had any children," Sydney says to him, and inevitably, he rises from his chair and puts his hands on her shoulders while telling her he always regarded her as a daughter. It is true, and like his best truths, it's a lie at the same time.
Later, after figuring out she needed his fingerprints and knew exactly how to get them, he feels a fierce paternal pride nonetheless.
Judy Barnett, who never stops analyzing him through their short affair, possibly because she needs to for her own self justification, once observes: "Did you ever wonder why you use the term "family" to describe your relationship with the Bristows?"
"Whyever not?" he asks back, amused, expecting her to point out both Jack and Sydney claim to hate him and probably do, in varying degrees, or, if she feels provocative enough, to mention they had been ready to let him die at least once. But Judy surprises him. She does, now and then, which is why he has more than one reason to continue this liason.
"Because," she says, "you call them the most important people in your life. And you never attached any similar importance to your blood relations. I'd have thought you consider family as something you can discard."
His smile falters, for just a second. Then he remembers she has not the slightest idea about his search, let alone that painful secret Emily made him promise never to talk about. She has to mean his parents, whom he has described to her as perfectly lovely people he did not have much in common with and indeed rarely thought of in the decades since they were gone.
"Let us just say I consider family a matter of choice," he says quietly, and very aware that it never is.
Family makes the best leverage. He is quite glad so many people feel the need to procreate; it simplifies his life a good deal. One man has a daughter whose indiscretions, caught on film, allow Arvin Sloane to access the Echelon system. Another has a wife and child and hence can be persuaded to provide the crucial intel to build Il Dire. And then, of course, there is Jack, who tells Ariana Kane that he believes the reason why Sloane recruited Sydney for SD-6 behind his back was to ensure Jack would never leave. Sloane can never make up his mind as to whether or not Jack was lying for Kane's benefit or using a truth. He doesn't think about it very often. It would lead to a question he would rather not face. The knowledge of family as the most powerful weapon anyone could wish for never leaves him, though.
When a pack of upstarts uses his daughter's comatose state to make him do their bidding, he cannot but admire the elegance of fate.
"I am a monster," he tells his daughter, feeling the safety of memories threatening to leave him again. "And monsters should not allowed to exist in this world. Let me go."
On one level, he knows what he's doing, and that it is not real. But it might as well be; and in any case, who can argue that this is better? Living inside his head with his memories of Emily and the child that never was, instead of living with his very real daughter from another woman whom he has hurt in the past and undoubtedly will hurt again. It will be a living death, with his body continuing for however long the state will bother. There is a justice here, surely.
"You were a good man," Nadia says, raw grief in her voice. "And you can be again. I believe in you. Dad."
She called him a man of faith once. Faith means belief in the impossible. There is nothing he can do but to open his eyes, for never before has she been more his daughter.
"Jacquelyn," he says finally, ending the teasing, and Emily, glowing, happier than even when they were first falling in love, laughs and agrees. They'll call their baby Jacquelyn. He puts his hand on Emily's belly, feels the movement and imagines telling Jack. He hasn't so far; Jack is in prison following the revelation of the late Laura Bristow's identity as Irina Derevko, KGB agent, but that ridiculous and cruel interlude will be over soon. Then Arvin will tell him, and they'll celebrate together, just as they did Sydney's birth. They'll ask Jack to come and live with them here, in Italy. Sydney and Jacquelyn will grow up as sisters. This is a miracle child, coming to them after all the doctors declared Emily could never carry a pregnancy to full term, and it means everything will get better now.
A month later, Emily lies in agony in a hospital bed. He has just seen the dead body of his child and thought that was the worst, but it turns out he was wrong again. The worst is Emily going through hell, and for the first time in their marriage shutting him out. The worst isn't him losing Jacquelyn, the worst is Emily losing her and losing her alone. He holds Emily, desperately, but she turns away from him, sobbing, and then she says:
"Never say that name again. Promise me, Arvin. Never say her name again."
The worst is something only family can do to you.