This was written as an entry for a Valentine's day challenge fic at SD-1. You Still Have Me Staring at the blue waves crashing against rocks in the distance, she digs her bare feet into the warm sand. She glances up at the orange-red horizon as a sudden gust of wind blows against her body making her shiver slightly. Before she could turn around in search for something to cover herself up, she feels the presence of a warm body shielding her from the wind. “ How did you find me?” she asks. She feels him lean in closer and hears the answer, “ I thought it was too nice of a day to be sitting alone at a train station.” She smiles inwardly to herself as his arms come together to encircle her and pull her back. She sighs contentedly and feels as if she is beginning to float off the ground. “ I knew you would come.” She leans back putting all her weight into him. She tilts her head sideways trying to get a look at his face, but he playfully moves only to tease her. She wants to see his face but settles for reaching back to just feel his skin instead. “ Sorry I made you wait. It’s been a long time…hasn’t it?” he whispers in her ear. He takes her hand that is brushing against his jawline and lightly brings each finger to greet his mouth. She closes her eyes and nods in agreement. She can’t take it anymore and spins around to face him. With one look, she feels her heart jump up into her throat. “ Too long…” she says as she cups his face with both her hands and brings his head down to meet hers. His lips lightly brush against hers. Tentative but firm. Another gust of wind blows against her body and she holds on tighter. As she feels herself letting go of what little control she has left, she hears a chiming noise mixing with the crashing waves. “ Do you hear that?” he asks slowly during the breaks to get more air. She squeezes her eyes tighter wishing the sound to go away. “ Don’t listen to it,” she answers pushing the sound into the back of her mind. Her hand runs through his hair pulling him closer. Gradually, the chiming only gets louder and longer. From a tinkling in the distance, it grows increasingly stronger into a sharp trill. “ I think it’s time…” he whispers trying to pull back. Her breathing grows heavier as the noise begins to be unbearable. “ No, not yet…” her voice is pleading. Please not yet, she thinks. She grabs his hands and squeezes so hard hoping to keep him here. Not yet. She shakes her head, “ I’m not going to let you go,” “ You know I have to…” his voice is soft and slowly being overpowered by the sound. “ Then take me with you…” she sighs and opens her eyes in search of assurance in his eyes. “ You don’t really want that…” he says, but she can’t hear anything now. She only sees the outline of his moving mouth. Feeling a knot in her stomach and a pounding in her chest, she fights the urge to give into the sound. He slowly takes a step back. No! She reaches out, but misses his hand. She feels like screaming as his figure starts to fade. Running after his retreating shadow, she yells but nothing comes out. Only the sharp noise remains as everything else turns to blackness. The ringing is so insistent that to fight it anymore would be useless, and she slowly opens her eyes. She lets out a defeated sigh as she runs her hand over the soft fabric of the bed covers. Of course it was too good to be true. As she starts to close her eyes again, the ringing starts again. She lets out an annoyed groan, reluctantly rolls over to the other side of the bed, and reaches to pick up the phone. “ Hello?” she clears her dry throat and answers. “ Good morning Sydney,” She had a feeling he might call. Any other day, she would have been ecstatic, but she is not sure today. “ Morning . . . I don’t know if I can call it good,” she says sadly. He doesn’t know how to respond to that. “ How are you doing today?” he carefully asks. She almost smiles at his concern. She brings her fingers to massage the bridge of her nose while she seriously contemplates his question. She wonders if she should tell him the truth. “ I’m not sure,” she finally says after a long silence. “ I see . . . uh, does it have anything to do with what day today is?” She sinks down into her big soft pillow remembering that today is Valentine’s day. She wishes that today would just disappear. It shouldn’t mean so much to her. One trivial day out of the year. But it does. From her silence, he understands her state of mind. Even though he doesn’t want to intrude on her life, he secretly hopes that she could open up to him. “ Sydney . . . I know how you might be feeling but . . . ” he stops suddenly. “ But what?” she quietly asks, blinking a few times and sitting up straight while hugging her other pillow close to her chest. “ Nothing. Can you meet with me today?” She doesn’t know what to say. Why does he want to meet? He doesn’t have good timing. Today isn’t the best day. It may in fact be the worst day of the year. “ I kind of wanted to stay in today…” she answers timidly almost cringing at the way her words came out. She is immediately guilty. But she can’t see herself in anyone’s company today. She just wants to remain how she feels. So utterly alone and blank. “ I don’t think that’s the best idea,” he tries to reason with her. “ I know . . . but I . . . I need to be alone,” she answers truthfully. Her voice wavers at the mention of the last word and it scares her a little. “ Do you understand?” she asks shakily and holds her breath waiting for his answer. With a sigh, his defeated voice comes on again, “ Okay.” She relaxes a little. “ Just . . . take care of yourself okay?” he adds on. Sydney squeezes her eyes and feels the moisture under her lids as she hears the click on the other end. She covers her face with her hands wanting to sob but unable to let any real tears fall. ********************************************************** He looks up at the hilltop and sees her outline. He closes his eyes and nods his head. How did he know she would be here? He didn’t believe her this morning when she said she didn’t want to go outside. It is a beautiful day. Though painful, she wouldn’t be able to resist not coming here. Especially on this particular day. His right hand reaches in his coat pocket and feels the piece of paper between his fingers. Taking big strides up the hill, he wonders if he should just turn around. No, she needs to hear this. Winding his way through the path, he slows his steps as he comes closer. Studying her posture, he sees that she is so deep in her own world that she doesn’t notice him behind her. Not wanting to disturb her just yet, he stands a few feet away simply looking at her back. After a few minutes, and she still has not even twitched a single muscle, it is time to make his presence known. “ Sydney . . . ” he quietly says and she gasps with a quick intake of air. After a long silence, she remains unmoving with her back to him. “ How did you find me?” she finally asks. “You might not believe this, but I know you better than you think.” He sees her shoulders slouch in despair and her arm drop while still clutching the white flowers in her hand. “ I thought I said I wanted to be alone,” she firmly states. “ I know you said that, but Sydney . . .” She holds up her hand to cut him off. But he ignores her, “ I was worried about you.” Sydney closes her eyes and takes a deep breath and doesn’t know what to say except, “ Dad . . . you don’t have to worry about me . . .” She takes the flowers in her hand and places them gently on the cool stone. He sees her hands shaking as she lets go of the flowers, and it breaks his heart to see his little girl so broken. “ Sydney, you don’t always have to pretend to be so strong.” He never thought he would be the one to utter those words. Jack Bristow is a strong man who is always in control. All these years, there was only one thing that was his weakness and his downfall. When she disappeared from his life more than twenty years ago, he thought his life ended as well. “ Dad . . . I’m fine . . . I’m in control,” her voice cracks and she is quick to cover her mouth so he can’t hear. “ Really? Then why are you shaking?” he challenges her. She stares at her shaking hand and tries to stop. She grabs the edge of her shirt so her hand has something to hold onto. “ I . . .” she can’t continue. He’s right. She isn’t in control and she isn’t fine. Her shoulders begin to heave up and down as tears fight to be released. He takes a few large steps and brings his arms around her hunched form. She turns her head around and lets him hold her like he did when she was young. Sydney has grown into such an independent woman that he often forgets that she’s still his little girl. It’s been so long since he played the role of protective father, but it’s never too late. He was hesitant this morning when he called because he thought he was out of practice. Now that she is crying in his arms, all the things he has to do are coming naturally. “ I know sweetheart . . .” he brings her closer. “ You can let it out,” he says reassuringly. Like a broken dam, Sydney lets go of all she tried so desperately to hold onto. The stored tears stream down her face as she tells her dad everything. “ I just miss him so much Dad. So much that I can’t feel anything these days. I am numb. It scares me that I don’t live in the present reality…” she grabs onto his coat tugging hard. “ I don’t. I live in the past and I live in dreams. Every day I go through the routines like an empty shell when all I want to do is go to bed at night so I can see him. Every morning I hate the sun for waking me and taking him away from my embrace. I knew I shouldn’t have come here, but I just couldn’t control my body.” He hugs her tighter and rubs her back soothingly while looking around the place. The sun’s glare reflects off the edge of the gravestone. A light wind blows and a white flower falls to the ground. “ I am so alone Dad. There is nothing. Especially today. The day when other people get to spend time with the one they love, I…I have to come here and stare at a piece of stone in the ground. I don’t know if I can take this loneliness.” She breathing is uneven and she whimpers into his chest. “ Shhhhh,” he tries to give her some comfort. “ I know. I understand.” She shakes her head. No one understand the hopelessness inside her. He sees that she doesn’t believe him and he takes a step back. He lifts her face and looks right at her. “ Listen Sydney. I do understand. I wanted to meet with you today for a reason.” She quickly wipes away the tears and listens intently. “ More than twenty years ago, I was you. I was the way you are right now. When your mother died, I thought I had gone along with her. She was everything. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t stay home because everything reminded me of the way it used to be. All I felt was darkness and coldness.” Sydney’s eyes soften as her heart twists while listening to her father’s pain. “ Do you know when I had a turning point?” She slowly moves her head from side to side. “ It was the first Valentine’s day since she left me all alone. I returned home at the lowest I have ever felt in my entire life. All I wanted to do was block out everything as I sat staring at the wall. My mind was somewhere far away. Do you know what brought me back to reality?” Again, from left to right, she shakes her head no. He swallows and continues, “ I felt the touch of two small warm hands on my arm.” He looks right into his daughter’s eyes. “ You tapped my arm lightly and handed me a gift.” He reaches into his pocket and brings out the red paper cut in the shape of a heart. Sydney gently takes the card and traces the white lacing around it while reading the scribbles of a little girl. I love you daddy. You still have me. Sydney’s mouth gapes open as she remembers that little girl who had lost her mother and saw how far away her father was. She remembers that Valentine’s day. In school, the teacher made them make cards for someone. She remembers the teacher saying they should give it to someone who needs to be reminded that someone loves them. Even at that age, there was no doubt in her mind that her father needed her. “ It was you Sydney who turned my loneliness around. You made me see that there was someone else who loved me and needed my love just as much. So now I’m reminding you. He may be gone, but there is someone else who can take your loneliness away.” With those words, he brings her back into his arms. She rests her head against his shoulder. They stay with each other for a long time without a word. “ Have you come up with a name for her yet?” her father asks quietly. While clutching the card in one hand, Sydney moves her other hand down to her stomach. “ Michelle . . . Michelle Vaughn,” she answers with a bittersweet smile. She gently glides her hand across rubbing back and forth and calming herself down. The whole time, her eyes are fixed on the card and her father’s voice echo in her head. “ There is someone else who can take your loneliness away.” This is the last Valentine’s day that she will be alone. All the ones after for the rest of her life, she will have someone.