Squall looks up from his pile of paperwork. If you know him well, there's the hint of a smile on his face, a slight brightening of his eyes. He puts down his pen and reaches out for his daughter just as she crashes into his arms. She is so obviously his daughter in the set of her mouth, the stormy colour of her eyes, though her silky dark hair is Rinoa's and her face more suited to smiles. Rinoa follows the girl in, smiling at Squall and leaning down to kiss his cheek. You wouldn't know she was his ex-wife, looking at them like that: if you knew about them, which most people did, I suppose you would understand why. There was a bond between them that nothing, not even romantic incompatibility and two years of fights about the most inconsequential things, could break.
"You're early," Squall says, but he says it into his daughter's hair. Some people watching, some people who knew him well, might remember a boy in the rain, calling out for his sister -- a lifelong loneliness that made it difficult to reach out. Those people would smile, watching him hold her so easily; others might not, not understanding how long a road it has been for Squall to get here.
"Someone was impatient," Rinoa says, touching her daughter's hair with a smile. "It's good to see you, Squall."
The almost-smile again. "It's good to see you too."
"Can we play, Daddy?" the girl asks, her face still buried in Squall's shirt. Her fingers have curled around the pendant he still wears, the solid weight of it in her hand something that has always comforted her, even before her father learned how to.
"He's not very good at playing," Rinoa warns, but you don't need to know her to know that there's laughter in her voice.
"I'm getting better at it," Squall says, with dignity. "You're showing me how, aren't you, River?"
"He's a slow learner," River says. Her mother's humour lights up her face. "But he'll get there."