Gunn often worried that he didn't feel as guilty around Jenny as he really should.
A part of him would always hold himself responsible for Fred's death. It was a weight Gunn felt every day, one he was certain he'd carry with him to the grave and beyond. And Gunn felt a small amount of guilt that he wasn't able to help Fred deal her time in Pylea, and maybe they might have found Jenny, might have reunited mother and daughter.
But Jenny was just too sweet a child, in her own special way, and when she was engaged, so full of energy that it was hard not to get swept up in it as well.
And there was always Angel and his over-protectiveness to make up for any lack of angst.
"So you're teaching her to hustle pool now?"
Gunn smiled weakly, "Nah, it's nothing like that. It's just applied physics, it's good for her."
"She tell you to say that?"
"No," Gunn tried not to look too obvious, "come on, Angel, ain't like she's playing for money. Just a few candy bars, a gift certificate and some fun."
"A gift certificate can act as money!" whispered a young voice.
"Hey girl, I got this," Gunn said in a stage whisper.
"Do you?" Angel said.
"Fine, fine," Gunn put his hand up defensively, "you be the one to tell the legendary green machine she can't play in the finals."
"Make me the bad guy, classic," Angel sighed as he rubbed his temple.
"Well hey, you are the one with experience there, boss man."
"Fine, fine," Angel rubbed his forehead, "take her to the shelter. And take Faith, she needs the air."
Jenny stopped Gunn before they entered.
"What, need me to play human shield again?"
Jenny nodded, "Sorry, it's just that the acoustics are unique in how they're being reflected around the game room, and my hearing is at least two hundred percent better than humans so it gets really loud and hard to focus and…"
"Hey, no need to explain it to me again," Gunn replied. He ignored Faith's snort.
"Your big bald head absorbs radar," Faith said.
"Actually, it's his wider lower body and muscle mass," Jenny explained, "but it doesn't hurt."
The young hybrid spun around when she heard Anne's voice. She rushed up to the young woman and nearly tackled her in a hug. Gunn smiled as Anne returned the hug effortlessly.
Most people would look twice at a kid with green skin and horns, but not Anne. She never asked about it, not really. After dealing with vampires and zombies, all Anne saw in Jenny was a little girl that needed to play and interact with other kids.
And with Angel's reputation, which got a boost during Hell A that never stopped, the kids saw Jenny like the daughter of a rock star. Just being in her presence was enough for some.
"Anne!" Jenny stepped back, "is Oscar here yet? Can I go win yet?"
"He's been waiting for you," Anne replied, "go have some fun."
"Have fun, sprout, I'm gonna stretch my legs," Faith said.
"That's not code for something nasty nearby, is it?" Anne whispered.
"Nah, Faith just wants a smoke," Gunn replied.
"Hey, I can do both," said Faith, "sometimes, I can even walk and chew gum at the same time."
Jenny rushed inside, and grabbed her favorite pool stick, and the stool she needed to stand.
"Alright everybody, we have our returning champion ready to take on all comers!"
Jenny grabbed her pool cue, and let Oscar break.
"She's a sweet kid," Anne said.
"It runs in the family," replied Gunn.
"So hey, just curious, you and Faith, you seeing each other?"
Gunn chuckled despite himself, "Faith? Nah. I mean, don't get me wrong she's fun to hang around, but she's a little too intense to be around all the time, ya know?"
"Big bad man needs a teddy bear," Anne teased, as Jenny lined up a shot, "I think she'll miss."
"Jenny, nah she's a natural," Gunn replied.
Anne took three steps aside, and Gunn watched in confusion as Jenny missed what he judged to be a relatively easy shot.
"Gunn, it's too loud in here!" Jenny said, though to Gunn the place was actually pretty quiet. A few kids were watching Jenny and Oscar play, but by now everyone knew where this would end. Most were just hanging out or playing games on the TV, "move to your left two yards."
"On it," Gunn replied. He felt a little embarrassed, acting like a human shield and taking orders from a little girl, but he was more than willing to swallow a little pride for her.
"Funny meeting you here," Anne smirked.
"Huh?" Gunn shrugged, "sorry, Jenny's got sensitive ears and it helps when I stand in certain places."
"Oh, of course," Anne smirked. She then took another three steps aside, though Gunn didn't notice. All he saw was Jenny missing what should have been another easy shot.
"Come on, Jen!" Gunn said, "don't let this foo' win!"
"Oh, I'm the sucker here?" Oscar smirked, "dream on, baldy."
"Gunn, move to your left three feet!" Jenny snapped, and Gunn obeyed like a soldier responding to his drill sergeant.
"Hello again, Gunn," Anne said. She crooked her head and looked at him with a goofy smile, "you just can't leave me alone today, can you? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you were stalking me."
"Huh?" Gunn gave Anne a look of confusion, "hey, don't look at me. I'm just trying to make Jenny more comfortable."
"It's cute the way you're wrapped around her finger, but Gunn? Maybe you should just take the hint before she tries to get too clever."
"Clever about what?"
"Really? Gunn, you can not be that thick."
"Wait, I missed something here," Gunn said.
"No you didn't!" Jenny shouted, as she leaned over the pool table to make another shot.
Gunn looked at Jenny, then to Anne, and then remembered the last week.
"Girl's been playing you like a bad video game," Oscar said.
"I'm free this Thursday," Anne said.
"So is Gunn!" Jenny shouted, indifferent to how the kids around her were all snickering. To Gunn, it was like a series of dominos fell in his mind, how this was the only place Jenny ever needed him to act as a shield, and Anne always happened to be nearby.
"Hey, who am I to deny two pretty girls?" Gunn said with an embarrassed smile, "it's a date."
"Finally!" Jenny said with a loud, dramatic sigh, "now I can get my candy."
"Whup him good, Jenny!"
"Faith! I kicked butt!"
Jenny skipped down the stairs, a small bag of candy bars in one hand.
"Knew you would," Faith ruffled the young girl's hair, "how'd Project Cueball go?"
"What, you were in on it too?" Gunn shook his head.
"Faith offered to help," Jenny said, "she was the variable that delayed the project. Anne thought you were interested in her. But Faith offered to help when I told her about it."
"Offered to break your legs, let Anne play nursemaid," Faith said, completely nonchalant, "Jenny nixed it, though."
"Thanks for that, kiddo."
"It wouldn't have worked," Jenny said, while munching on a candy bar, "Anne's too busy with the shelter, she wouldn't have had any time to take care of you at all. And you wouldn't be able to pay her. Faith says you have to buy dinner to impress mates here."
"Is that the only reason why you wouldn't let Faith hurt me?" Gunn looked at Jenny with a raised eyebrow.
"Pretty much," Jenny said in all seriousness, "Connor said it the only way you'd take a vacation was if you broke a leg, and vacations are awesome! You aren't expected to work at all! What's better than that?"
"Not much," Gunn chuckled.
Yeah, Jenny was sweet, and definitely special.