AN: Alright everyone. This is a three chapter cute story i wrote. All three chapters are writen and only await a certain amount of reviews before being posted. I wrote it rushed with little editing because this was a quick side story that i just had to get out of my system so i could work on one of my other pieces. I hope you enjoy it. Though i warn you that it is mostly fluff. Thats what i'm good at.

i do not own ff8 or the chars.

"Alright class, time for cleanup. Remember, whoever cleans up best will get to be my special little helper next week." With a wink and a smile, Rinoa Heartily had quickly captured the hearts of the children attending her after school program. She was casually dressed in casual black clothing and outlined by a baby blue duster. Children quickly bustled around her as they all rushed to be next week's helper.

To say the young caretaker was adored would be a sore understatement. The room was quickly cleaned as the children sought to please their favorite and keep her glowing smile in place. All but one child that is.

Off in the corner, one little girl sat solemnly at the long abandoned table. Her usual cheery smile was overshadowed by a dark cloud of gloom as she continued to half-heartedly sketch a picture of nothing in particular.

Feeling for the child's pain, Rinoa gently bit the bottom of her lip as she approached her favorite student. Rinoa pulled up her own pad of paper and a pen and took the seat across from the young girl. She crunched her brow as she gave the blank sheet a frustrated look. She began scribbling a mess in silence, awaiting the young girl to speak when she deemed fit.

"It's easier if something inspires you." Spoke Storm.

"What inspires you?" Rinoa tried creating a frame with her fingers in order to give the document new perspective.

"My daddy. He loves me very much." Her voice was dripping with pride as the floodgates of love opened to accompany the slightest of smiles upon her shining face.

"So are you making a picture for your daddy?" Rinoa had finally begun to give shape to the mess on her paper. The hardest part was now over.


"Your mommy?"

"Don't have one, yet" She did seem slightly upset about that.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know. So then who is the picture for?"

"My Auntie. She is going to pick me up today. My daddy hasn't come back from work yet." Now her voice truly did sound upset.

"Oh, what does your daddy do?"

"He kills people." She stated simply

Rinoa never dropped her rhythm as the child provided that comment. "You mean he is in law enforcement?"

Storm slowly nodded her head as she finished up her drawing. "Kinda. He does it for money though." That had given Rinoa pause for a moment before she asked her next question.

"Does he work at the Garden near town?" That answer was crucial.

"Yep. He's the best SeeD they have. "She loved her Daddy quite a bit.

"Oh. So he is on a mission right now?" Thank god. A SeeD. Child services were almost on the phone.

They were interrupted as a meek young woman who carried herself with grace and elegance approached. "Excuse me. I'm Storm's Aunt Ellone. I am here to take her home. Are you her caretaker?"

Rinoa quickly stood up and greeted the young lady with a shining smile and a flick of her hair. "Oh hello. I'm Ms. Heartily. Yes I am. I must tell you, your niece is a pleasure to watch. You must be very proud."

Happy glances were exchanged. "I am. She is the pride and joy of her father." She took a moment to bend down and look Storm straight into her soft brown eyes. "I have a surprise for you. Your dad will be back in time for dinner. I just got the notice. That's why I was late today. Sorry."

But apologies were not needed for the girl who had just received such pleasant news. "Daddy is coming back so quickly!" Her loud squeal was quickly silenced. "Is…is he ok?" The speed at which fear overtook her was record-breaking.

Ellone never lost her luster as she nodded to the child.

"Yay! Let's have something special for dinner. Actually let's have someone special to dinner too. Auntie Ellone, can Ms. Heartily join us for dinner?" She didn't need to do the puppy dog routine. Her Aunt just loved to spoil her rotten without need for a good reason.

With a suspicious grin on her face, Ellone quickly answered. "Of course she can come. Here, let me write down the address."

Having been caught off guard by the quite capable student, Rinoa hesitated in her response "Uh…Thank you for the invitation but-"

Not allowing the young raven-haired beauty to speak further, Ellone elaborated further. "Dinner is at 7. Storm's father doesn't like tardiness. Well, Storm and I best be off. We really should clean up before you and her father return. Bye and thanks for taking good care of my niece." And as quickly as Ellone had appeared, she had left.

Rinoa, still dazed by the spitfire conversation, and thus only managed to utter her unheard protest after the two were gone and the room was empty. "But I had a blind date tonight." Looking around she noticed no one could hear her. "Oh well. Who would want to spend an evening with a sharpshooter who had a cowboy fetish anyway? I'm sure I could get Selph to stand in for me."

Several hours later, Rinoa stood outside an apartment door wearing tight hip-hugger jeans, a snow-white T-shirt, and a styling black leather jacket. She knocked on the door several times, only to be greeted by a quick yet gruff response. The door opened revealing a tall man with chocolate brown ragged hair. Rinoa couldn't help but stare at his face, captured not by the scar slashing the bridge of his nose, but rather she was caught with the depths of his piercing blue eyes. "I'm sorry. We don't want any. Good evening." His voice was deep and powerful, the mark of a truly great man.

Rinoa hastily interrupted the man before he was able to completely shut the door. "Wait!" She recaptured the magic held within his unchanging expression. "You must be Storm's Father. My name is Rinoa. I look after Storm in the after school program. Your sister Ellone invited me to dinner." The scar upon his face was a dead giveaway that he was a warrior and thus the little girl's father.

"Whatever." The man walked further inside but left the door open so the woman could enter. Rinoa cautiously stepped in as if a minefield lay before her. Her thoughts were muddled as she tried to understand how someone so lively could be raised by such a jerk.

Her thoughts were swiftly dissipated as a young lioness pounced her while she was distracted. "Ms. Heartily! You came! You really really came!"

Yep. Storm's name was certainly fitting. A path of destruction followed her out of her room towards the guest as toys and clothing littered the floor directly behind her. "Of course I did. I wouldn't want to miss dinner with my favorite girl."

Storm's smile grew cheek to cheek at the compliment. "So did you meet my dad yet? He's cute, isn't he?"

Rinoa's soft brown eyes grew wide as her creamy white skin blushed a new shade of red. "I uhh…where is your Aunt by the way? " Time to change the subject. She did not want to have to answer that truthfully to Storm.

"Oh. She isn't coming over for dinner tonight. She has other plans I think, so it'll just be the three of us. "Something was insinuated in that overly sweet voice. Something evil yet pure. Something Rinoa could not identify.

She kept a pleased face while she screamed in her head. Just great. At least Ellone would have kept the night interesting. Mr. Personality didn't seem chatty tonight. "Oh that's nice. So where is your dad?"

"Want a second look huh?" Rinoa winced. She did. "He is probably in the kitchen finishing up dinner. He is a really good cook too you know."

Rinoa stood back up from her hunched position. "I'm sure he is. Why don't you go back to your room and play? I'll go say hi and then join you in a few moments." Rinoa had a feeling based on the odd look she received earlier that it would be a few short moments.

The young girl happily skipped away as Rinoa headed towards the kitchen. There she found Storm's father stirring some food while a towel was slapped across his left shoulder making it seem like he knew what he was doing. "I didn't get your name by the way."

He continued working the pots, barely acknowledging her presence, treating it as a bother. "Whatever." It sounded like a sick joke. Did this man really have the gall to say that to her twice?

"So you must be very proud of your daughter. She is one of the most energetic girls we have in the program." Maybe talking about his kid would open him up. No need for the whole evening to go to waste.

"I know. " Apparently indifference was the only tone he had.

"She is probably one of the brightest students that I have ever had."

"Students? I thought you were only a program coordinator." He almost smirked at that.

"Only?" Rinoa crossed her arms as her rage quickly stirred up. This man was rude, inconsiderate, and nothing short of a jerk!

"Couldn't cut it as a teacher?" While there was no malicious intent or tone behind him, it certainly could not be perceived that way.

The slightly shorter woman moved face to face with him, as she rapidly shared her thoughts. "I'll have you know I have all the qualifications to teach, and I'm damn good at it! Much better than a moody loner wannabe like yourself could be! I just enjoy doing fun activities with the kids instead of schoolwork. At least I'm not some insensitive jerk! AND WHAT IS YOUR NAME?"

"Squall. Nice to meet you Ms. Heartily." The warrior appeared unfazed by her outburst though inside he was thoroughly impressed.

Rinoa blinked dumbfoundedly several times before vocal communication returned to her. "That's it? You just told me just like that after all that?"

The man shrugged as he checked the oven and removed the dish within. "Guess so."

"What changed?" He started setting the table, leaving Rinoa nothing to do.

"Dunno. You seemed interesting." He was always a man of few words.

"So you take back what you said before?" Control in any relationship, no matter how trivial was crucial for Rinoa.

"Whatever." Rinoa quickly grabbed him by the collar of his shirt as the pupil's in her eyes were replaced by fires summoned form the depths of hell. "Wrong answer. Try again."

With a little fear in his voice, he responded again. "I take it back."

Her smile immediately returned to the gleam it was accustomed to having. Squall found himself studying the features upon her that he ignored before. She had a friendly face accentuated with pink lips and dark black hair that seemed to flap around in the windless room. She had a cute nose you almost expected to wiggle, that was set below curious hazelnut eyes. When she spoke, he only recognized her pleasant voice though it was laced with sarcasm. "Was that so hard?"

"Deathly so" That was acceptable for her. Looks like even the strong silent type could have a sense of humor.

"Why don't I go help Storm wash up while you finish setting the table?" The splitting of chores appeared fair, even if she was a guest.

"What-" Squall found his lips pinched together by her well manicured hands.

"Finish that sentence and Storm will find herself with a parent but not technically a father anymore if you catch my drift." A woman who spent so much time with children had to learn to threaten effectively.

"Just who do you think you are you pushy, arrogant..." Not too many people could rile up Squall as much as Rinoa just had.

She stood with her hands on her hips, one foot tapping rapidly against the floor while her face held an angry pout.

"Yes mam." Rinoa had tamed the shrew.

Twenty minutes later, Squall creeped up to his daughter's room and snuck a glance into the lively bedroom. He saw Rinoa attending a gathering of stuffed animals. The little party ended quickly as a merciless tickle fight broke out over who would victor the last piece of imaginary pie.

"Ahem! Table. Now." He was accustomed to giving orders and needed to make up from the debacle that took place earlier.

He was joined at the table minutes late by the two beautiful girls. He quietly nodded as he helped each into their seats before retaking their own. Silence ensued for a few moments before Rinoa decided to slay the awkwardness. "So Storm, you seem to have a lot of stuffed lions."

"Mm Hmm. My daddy says Lions stand for great strength and courage and have lots of pride, just like my daddy. He's pretty nice too. Not to mention young and handsome and-"

"Storm! That's enough." Squall was almost blushing. Almost

"Ok. Let's talk about Ms. Heartily then. She is also young. She's really cute, smart, funny, passionate, and has a wonderful personality. She is beautiful too. Don't you think so Daddy?" Such wicked intent could be masked by such youth and innocence.

"Yes. I mean! Uh…That is…" It wasn't unusual for Squall to be at a loss for words, but not like this. Rinoa however now saw fit to almost gag on her meal before casting a devilish glance upon Squall. This could play in her favor.

"Oh really?" She was met with additional stuttering from Squall till Storm spoke up. "Yep. He even told Aunt Ellone that he thought you were pretty one time when he picked me up." Actually Squall said she wasn't unpleasant to look at, but Storm could decipher Squall talk.

With a knowing look, she eyed Squall's frozen though well toned figure up and down as if she was appraising him. "Meh." Fortunately Storm could even decipher Rinoa Talk. She was unsure if such a translation was meant to be heard by her naïve mind.

Dinner continued without Storm causing more trouble as she realized she walked a thin line. Conversation passed between her and Rinoa with Squall offering only the occasional one word comments. However the opportunity did provide Rinoa to notice Squall's lack of wedding ring, though he did wear a rather unusual one on his other hand. Good. HE had moved on. He Grieved.

With their meal complete, Rinoa felt safe to speak to Squall yet again. "Here. Let me help you clean up and then I better be off."

Squall's reply was never heard as Storm spoke up first. "Aww, but you can't leave just yet. Stay and watch a movie with us! Can she daddy? Please?"

Damn. The puppy dog eyes had raised their ferociously cute presence. Storm had won the battle before it had even begun. With downcast eyes he responded. "She can stay if she likes."

Teasing Squall would be fun. Rinoa decided she would have to create more opportunities to do so as she turned to face him while she spoke. "Well since your father was so nice as to compliment my looks, I think I could do him a favor by sticking around longer. Just remember, focus on the movie and try not to keep your eyes on me the whole time." With a wink she stood up and gathered the dishes while the mercenary struggled to release a whatever.

When the dishes had been done, the three found themselves forcibly snuggled together upon the couch designed for two. Storm sat on in the middle, her eyelids slowly increasing in weight as the hours passed. The young girl began snuggling close to the comfort and familiarity of her father, though she held onto the exciting and new sensations given by holding Rinoa's hand. Only when the movie ended did the two notice Storm's slumbering state.

"Sorry. I'll put her to bed." He gently lifted the sleeping child and carried her to her room. He tucked her in and placed a soft kiss upon her cheek, momentarily unaware that Rinoa stood watching him in the doorway.

He met her at the arch with al look that warned her not to say anything just yet. They strolled towards the exit of the apartment where they lingered for a few minutes. "I'm sorry about this. Something tells me my sister and daughter had conned you into something neither of us were expecting." Now that his daughter was asleep, he felt comfortable opening up for some strange reason.

That was the most he had said all evening. It almost left her speechless. "No its ok. I had fun tonight. I just adore your daughter. You can be quite charming when you want to be."

"Wha…I mean thanks" Old habits were hard to break.

"You just mean to open up more."

"And you could mind your own business."

"Careful. Don't ruin a good thing here. I was just beginning to think well of you."

"So long as you think well of my daughter."

"You love her a lot, don't you?" No tough exterior could hide the love this father held for his child.

"She's all I have."

"Well just remember. You can cling tightly onto what you have left, or explore what else life has to offer while holing onto what is already good into your life." She leaned over and kissed him softly on the cheek, unable to hide her shyness while doing so. "Thanks again for a lovely evening. Good night."

With that Rinoa had left the apartment, leaving Squall standing at the doorway, a hand covering the moist part of his cheek. Behind him, two eyes burned with the eagerness and joy as one elated little girl's plan finally fell into place.

I am curious to hear your comments, questions and concerns, so please leave a review. I will respond as soon as possible. Do you guys like it? Hate it? I'd like to know. Untill the next chapter, (whose release you guys can influence) take care. :-)