Lorne

When the topic came up later in life, about what it was like to be raised in such an unconventional family, Jenny would simply point to her horns, and then say that she loved her new family instantly.

And it was mostly true. Spike, Gunn, Kate, Connor, Faith and Angel, Jenny took to them like a fish to water. For a time she was afraid they didn't love her as much as she loved them, that she really didn't deserve them, but she still loved them all the same.

The only exception was, for a time, Lorne.

True, Jenny came to love Lorne as much as the rest of her family. After all, lounge owner was the first to find her, to shelter her. Lorne was the man who took the first steps in freeing her from a lifetime of slavery, he embraced her without hesitation, he taught her how to dance (or as he would joke, deprogrammed her), could get her into the coolest clubs and parties with a single phone call and considered it his calling to spoil her rotten, when the opportunity arose.

But that didn't matter, not at first.

Because when Jenny first met Lorne in hell, he was green, large and in charge.

And to Jenny, that meant only one thing.

oooOOooo

Late one night

"Heeeeeeeey, Lorne!" Faith stumbled to the bar, drink in hand.

"Hey, Faithy, what's up? Besides your blood alcohol?" Lorne waved a hand in front of his face, "honey, I think I'm getting a buzz just standing here. And given how I start my day, that's saying something."

"Gun, gun, Gunn," Faith squeezed her eyes shut, as the wheels in her head began to churn, "he…has Jen watch…Jenny for a few days. Gotta…gotta… get my booze and good time on."

"Ah, ever the responsible parent," Lorne winked, and then ducked as Faith tried miserably to slap him upside the head, "what do you need, cupcake?"

"That guy over there…" Faith pointed to a handsome gentleman surrounded by more than a few lovely women, "he…think he'd mind kids…Jenny?"

"His aura is pretty open minded, peach tree," Lorne replied.

"Score one!" Faith said, "he…free? Good? Sexable?"

"Sorry, cupcake, he's married."

"What?" Faith slurred, "where's his…his…round thingy?"

"His ring?" Lorne said, "it'll be around in three weeks, and she'll be the one who proposes. Heck, he won't see it coming!"

"Maaaan," Faith whined, "so close!"

"Of course you were," Lorne cleaned out a glass, "another shot for your sorrows?"

"Naw," Faith dropped her head on the bar, "Gimmie an IV…"

oooOOooo

Faith woke up to a splitting headache, in a large queen sized bed. It was hardly the first time she woke up hung over in a strange bed, but at least it was more comfortable than most.

"Man," Faith lifted up the sheets, and saw she was missing her pants, but only her pants, "hope it was fun, at least."

"'fraid not, baby cakes," Lorne strolled in, a cup of coffee in each hand, "thought it best if you spent the night here, instead of trying to make it home sloshed. Give the monsters of the night a break, ya know?"

"Thanks," Faith took the mug of coffee, and began gulping it down.

"Whoa there, little lady," Lorne said, "you're supposed to drink that, not swallow it."

"We slayers do it different," Faith handed the cup back to Lorne, and then plucked the second one from his hand, "thanks for the starter, green genes, and the bed. No fun waking up in a strange bed if ya can't remember it."

"I'll take your word on it. You got a call from Gunn, by the way," Lorne said, "something's come up with his crew, and he had to drop Jenny off a little early. I've got her waiting out front for you."

"Damn," Faith muttered, "don' want her to see me like this. Could you get her breakfast, let me freshen up first?"

"I'd…rather not," Lorne replied.

Faith rubbed her throbbing temple, "Nuts, okay. Let me get my pants on. Guess I gotta feed her then, huh?"

"It's generally what you do with kids," Lorne observed. He handed Faith a roll of bills, "here, on the house. Or, ya know, me."

"Damn," Faith examined the roll of bills in one hand, "this could be her freakin' college fund!"

"Actually, that's not even half of last night's take. After Hell A, you'd be amazed what people would pay for a taste of the wild side," Lorne said, "I'm making money hand over fist over horn!"

"Well, thanks," Faith said, "might be enough to cover her breakfast and lunch. Sure you can't join us?"

Faith almost missed the wistful sigh, but it was impossible to miss the regret when he said, "Some other time, princess."

"Come on," Faith couldn't help the feeling that something was off, "you got guys to manage the place, right?"

"Yeah, but you know how business is," Lorne shrugged unconvincingly.

"How about dinner then? Come on, Kermit, we never have dinner together!"

"I'm pretty busy," said Lorne, "come on, little green's waiting for ya."

"Lorne, wait!" Faith grabbed Lorne by the shoulder, "what's going on? You haven't joined us for a night out once! What's up with that?"

Lorne gently pulled himself free from Faith's grip, "I can read auras, kiddo. And I can see what mine does to Jenny."

"Wait, does to Jenny?" Faith wanted to laugh, "I've seen you with kids, Lorne. You can't really think that Jenny's scared of you? I mean, I can't think of anything less scary."

"Thanks, doll face."

"I mean, a one legged puppy is scarier!"

"No, really, don't spare my ego."

"A sick, diseased kitten…"

"Come on, Faith, really?"

"That section of Hell you took over must have been the wimpiest Hell anywhere, because…"

"Okay, okay!" Lorne sighed, "I get it! But look at it from Jenny's perspective. Who do you think that I remind her of?"

"Remind her of…?" Faith wanted to smack herself upside the head, "oh. Oh."

"Yeah, oh," Lorne said, "look, don't worry about it, she'll come around. Just don't push it, okay? She's had a hard enough time as is."

"Man," Faith looked at the roll of bills Lorne had given her, "I feel kinda guilty about this now."

"Don't," Lorne said, "whether she's comfortable with me or not doesn't make her any less family. Go have breakfast, and don't worry about it, okay?"

oooOOooo

"Keep the coffee flowing," Faith said to the waitress.

"Will do, hun," replied the Waitress, "more pancakes for you, sweetie?"

Jenny looked at the two empty plates, and then to Faith.

"If there's more room in there, sure," Faith said to the unanswered question.

"Yes, please," Jenny said.

"Be right with you, honey," replied the Waitress.

"That waitress keeps looking at me funny," Jenny said, "and it's not because of my skin tone."

"You probably remind her of someone," said Faith, "so you have any plans after your tutoring session? Wanna hang out? Maybe I could braid your hair?"

Jenny sighed, and slumped in her chair, "What'd I do now?"

"What makes you think you did anything?"

Jenny huffed, "Because whenever you want to talk about something serious, you offer to braid my hair. You wait until you have my hair in your hand, and when I can't get away, then you interrogate me!"

"I only did it once," Faith muttered.

"Three times!" Jenny snapped, "three! It stops being clever after one! And Dad does it better anyways!"

"Sorry," Faith said, "there was just something I wanted to talk about."

"Obviously," Jenny picked at her bacon. Something about these big 'talks' put a dampener on her appetite, "so…what'd I do now?"

"Just wanted to talk about a friend," Faith said.

"Lorne," Jenny said softly.

"I just want to know why you're uncomfortable with him," Faith said, "because I have to tell you kid, me and Angel? We trust him with our lives."

"It's just…"

"And don't say it's because he's green," Faith replied, "because so are you, last time I checked."

"Not green enough," Jenny said under her breath, "look, you don't understand! It's not just that he's green, it's that he's always making threats, too!"

Faith looked at Jenny as if she'd grown another head, "Lorne? Threats? What Lorne have you been talking to, sprout?"

"He calls Dad Angel hair! He calls Kate cupcake! Those are food!" Jenny said, "he's always threatening to eat someone!"

A pause.

"Don't laugh!" Jenny hissed in anger and banged her small fist on the table, as Faith had her hand over her mouth, trying (and failing) desperately to control herself, "it's not funny!"

"Sorry, sorry," Faith cleared her throat, "sprout, those are just nicknames, like sprout! Spike calls you sweet pea and pet all the time, doesn't mean he's gonna eat you."

"Of course not, he drinks blood," Jenny replied.

"Look, do you really think we'd let him near you if we thought for a second that he'd hurt you?" asked Faith.

"Then why isn't he part of the rotation?" Jenny said, "you guys never let him watch me!"

"Well," Faith smiled good naturely, "in all honesty, he is kind of a wimp. And he's got a business to run. Hell, come to think of it, he's the only one of us who has an actual job. So is that all?"

"No, but…he's…," Jenny struggled to find the words, before she said what she really meant, "…he's green."

Faith placed a hand over Jenny's, "Look, I know what it's like to be scared. But…"

"No you don't."

"Don't what?"

"Know what it's like to be scared," Jenny said.

"You'd be surprised, kiddo," Faith said, "anyways, why don't you give me and Lorne a chance to prove that he's on the up and up? Prove he's not like those assholes in Pylea, okay?"

"I don't…"

"It would mean a lot to me if you just gave him a chance," Faith said, gave Jenny's hand a gentle squeeze, "would you do that? For me?"

"…okay," Jenny said, "what did you have in mind?"

"Oh, that'll be a surprise," Faith winked, "but don't worry, I got somethin'."

oooOOooo

"…I got nothin'," Lorne paced back and forth behind his bar, "no, no, that's not true. I got performance anxiety! Plenty of that!"

"Calm down," Faith sipped a beer, "wasn't like I gave her an exact date. We got a little time to brainstorm yet."

"I know, I know," Lorne rubbed his forehead, "…did she really think I was threatening to eat people?"

"'Fraid so, 'cupcake'," Faith smirked.

"Man, I shoulda know," Lorne sighed, "they did that back home, ya know. Because life as a slave wasn't hard enough."

"Your family didn't, did they?" Faith couldn't keep from asking.

"No, never," Lorne took a sip of his Sea Breeze, and then coughed under his breath, "we were too poor."

"Well, don't worry about it," Faith said, "lets focus on this problem, okay?"

"Okay, okay…I still got nothin'. Maybe we could call this off?"

"Not gonna happen," Faith said, "just chill already."

"Easy for you to say, you're her freakin' hero, cup…"

"Careful," Faith said quickly, "lets cut back on the nick names for a little, okay Kermit?"

"Reflex, sorry," Lorne sighed, "maybe we should call this off, let her ease into liking me over a period of months? I'd be fine with that, princess."

"Okay, better and I ain't satisfied with that," Faith said.

"Hey, I'm the one being all discriminated against!" Lorne said, "if…discrimination was based on up until now a lifetime of disgusting, inhuman abuse."

"Well, you didn't go through this with Fred?" Faith asked, "thought you might have some idea what to do!"

"No!" Lorne said, "though we did have other issues. Much, much deeper than we realized at the time, obviously…"

"Guess it helped that Fred knew about the concept of racism, huh?"

"Something like that," Lorne muttered, "Faith, honey, sweetie, don't take this the wrong way, but why are you so gung-ho about Jenny being cool with me? If it's about the money, don't worry. We're a family, even if not everyone wants to visit."

Faith stood up and flick Lorne's horn.

"Hey, watch the accessories!" Lorne rubbed his horn gingerly, "has anyone told you how annoying that is?"

"A few," Faith said, with a wicked smile, "look, you wanna know why I want you around Jenny more? Well, what exactly did Angel ever told you about my time in Sunnydale?"

"Not much, were evil, did some minion-y stuff for a bad guy," Lorne shrugged, "he gave us the broad points, not the dirty details, if that's what you're asking."

"Then he didn't tell you about me and the Mayor," Faith said. She set her beer down, and leaned against the bar, "the guy was a monster in a lot of ways, but he became a father to me almost overnight. And you know why? Because he never put me down, or made me feel like I had to fight to prove I was worth somethin'."

"I don't see what this…"

"When you have to fight for self respect, for self worth, for basic dignity, unconditional love and support is like water on a fire. It's better than the sweetest drug," Faith explained, "it doesn't matter who it's coming from. It gives you strength, purpose and comfort. You give that out better than anyone I've ever met, Lorne. Truth? I think you can be better for that girl than me."

"I doubt that, honey…"

Faith gave Lorne a look.

"…kiddo, but lets say you're right? How do I get her to like me? The only thing that sets me apart from the people who hurt her is a nice suit!"

"You and Angel really over-think this stuff sometimes," Faith replied, "she's a kid. Just bribe her."

"That's…" Lorne rubbed his chin, "brilliant! I've got just the thing!"

Lorne looked at the calendar, and deflated a little bit.

"…gotta work on that timing thing, though."

oooOOooo

"Birthday party?" Angel said.

"Yeah, it's just the thing!" Lorne said, "come on, Angel hai…I mean, just Angel! I've got everything ready to go! But we've gotta move fast! And I mean light speed, bucko!"

"Lorne, slow down."

"Did I not just say 'we gotta move fast'?" Lorne replied, "slowing down is the opposite of that!"

"Just…what's the rush?" Angel said.

Lorne turned to Faith, "You wanna explain it to him?"

"Eh, he'll figure it out," Faith said, "why don't you split? Just give us the time and place, and we'll show up with the VIP, okay?"

"Will do!"

Faith waited until Lorne rushed out of the Hyperion before she slapped Angel upside the head.

"Hey! What was that for?"

"Why didn't you tell me Jenny didn't get along with Lorne?" Faith demanded.

"Because we thought you wouldn't be able to resist meddling!" Angel said.

"Oh," Faith said, then and punched the Souled Vampire in the shoulder.

"Let me guess, that was for being right?"

"Sure, why not?" Faith shrugged, "do you really not understand why Lorne wanted to get this done ASAP?"

"…tax reasons?"

Faith just shook her head, "Vampires…"

"…cake about to expire?"

"Unbelievable."

oooOOooo

"A Birthday party?" Jenny looked at Faith skeptically.

She, Angel and Faith were in the elevator of the Ritz Carlton. Jenny had made the expedition with the promise of going to a new restaurant. To the young Hybrid, every restaurant was like discovering a new flavor, and she loved each and every one.

"Yup," Faith said, "was supposed to be a secret, but I still remember our trip to the dentist."

"Faith, let it go," Angel slapped the Slayer on the shoulder, as they entered the elevator.

"A birthday party," Jenny let the words roll off her tongue, studying them carefully. She'd seen enough television to know what the words meant, but she hadn't really applied the concept to herself, "for me?"

"Yup."

"That would mean…"

Faith gently scratched Jenny's head, "Yup. Just try to act surprised, okay?"

"Okay, but how'd you know what day I was born? The calendars of earth and Pylea are dramatically different, and…"

"Magic."

"Faith…," Angel drawled, "we picked a date that symbolizes how we feel. You'll see."

The door opened on cue to reveal Gunn, Willow, Connor, Kate, Anne, some of the kids from the shelter and more than a few people Jenny didn't recognize, and at the center of it all, Lorne.

"Happy Birthday!"

Jenny had promised to act surprised, but in all honesty that was a little redundant because she was genuinely startled at how many people had shown up for this symbolic event. How many people who'd shown up to celebrate, well, her.

"…thank you?" Jenny squeaked, and then felt very self conscious as she held the attention of the entire room.

"Happy birthday, girl!" Gunn swept Jenny up in a hug that lifted her up off her feet before setting her back down again, "we shoulda done this way before now, good thing Lorne clued us in!"

"Don't worry, sis, you don't have to give a speech," Connor said as he swooped in, "they got a fifty inch television and an X-box. Wanna play some before we get to the presents?"

"Umm, okay?" Jenny was more than a little overwhelmed by all the attention, and was easily let away by her brother. Her eyes lingered on the pile of presents, more because her mind was slow in coming around to the concept that they were meant for her than any actual greed, "presents?"

"I think we broke her brain," Faith whispered to Angel.

"Hey Faith, hey Angel," Willow handed the two a cup of punch, "so uhh, how goes parenthood?"

Faith took the punch with trepidation, "Remind me again, how drunk was I when I agreed to this?"

"Perfectly stone sober," replied Willow.

"That doesn't sound like me at all," Faith threw back the juice like it was a shot.

"It's been…eventful," Angel said, "thanks for coming, Willow. Jenny really enjoys…umm, e-talking? E-chatting?"

"It's just talking," Willow said, "Jenny's a smart kid, and it's nice to have someone to compare notes with. And I kinda like being a being a fairy God mother."

Faith opened her mouth.

"Only if I'm a boy, and remember that I can steal your voice forever," Willow took a sip of her punch, and gave Faith a 'try me' look.

Faith closed her mouth.

"All the same, thanks for coming all the same," Angel said, "the wider Jenny's circle of adults is, the better."

"Hey, Angel?"

"Nina!" Angel gave his ex-girlfriend a chaste hug, "thanks so much for coming."

"Glad to come," Nina said, "I'd like you to meet my sister, Jill."

"So you're the man who used to chain my sister up," Jill said with a coy smile.

"Yes! Wait… Err, I mean…"

"Damn Angel, I thought what we had was special," Faith smirked.

"Faith," Angel glared at the slayer, "the adults are talking."

"Yeah, yeah," Faith rolled her eyes and wondered away.

Angel turned his attention back to Jill, "So I guess you're aware of your sister's… condition?"

"I am," Jill said, "and I'm aware of the fact that the vacation you sent me and my daughter on may have saved our lives. Thank you."

"I'm glad to have helped," Angel said, "I have to admit, I'm a little surprised how casually you're accepting…"

"Demons, vampires and werewolves?" Jill said, "I've had to help secure my sister, and refusing to believe it won't change anything. And Amanda spends too much time inside playing video games."

"Which why she's over there," Nina nodded towards her niece, "playing video games."

oooOOooo

"You're green," Amanda Ash observed.

Jenny looked at the new girl with a curious eye. Up until now, Jenny realized, no one had really made any remarks about her skin tone. At least, not to her face. They'd alluded to it, carefully, but no one really just came out and said it like Amanda.

"Yes, I am. It's because of my…"

"That is so cool!"

"Really?"

"Yeah, I wish I was green," Amanda said, "come on, lets team up, girls vs. the boys!"

"You won't win," Connor smirked.

Jenny gave Amanda a serious look, "We're winning."

oooOOooo

Later

"Hey you go sweetie," Willow handed Jenny her gift, "saved the best for last."

Jenny tore apart the wrapping like a wolf tearing apart a piece of bloody meat, and then read the label on the box.

"Digital chess?" Jenny said.

"It connects to an online database, and can offer suggestions, store games and provide history of famous strategies," Willow explained, "I've got my own in Scotland. We can sync them!"

"So you got a game to make Chess…Chess-ier," Faith observed.

"Hey!" Lorne clapped his hands together, "it's almost time, gang. We need to get up to the roof if we're all going to make it in time!"

"Roof? For what?" Jenny set her latest present down in the pile.

"You'll see," Faith took Jenny's hand, and followed after Lorne.

Once looked around, and saw all the party guests looking towards the sky expectantly, but for the life of her couldn't figure why.

"This is the best holiday," Amanda said, "even if you don't get to miss school. You're so lucky today's your birthday! And mom says you get to miss work as an adult!"

"It's not…"

"It's your birthday," Faith cut in, "now be quite and enjoy the show."

"Show?"

Jenny's head snapped to the side when she saw the first firework explode. Her eyes went wide when the second and third made themselves known, and her jaw dropped soon afterwards.

It wasn't just the amazing display of pyrotechnics that overwhelmed Jenny, it was the thought behind it. This celebration, this holiday, was what her family thought of her. Despite her mixed heritage, despite how she'd come into the world, despite everything, this was her adopted truly thought of her.

Jenny found it all just a little overwhelming.

Faith smirked when she saw Jenny's reaction, and motioned for Lorne to join them. It took a series of head motions, dirty looks and silent implied threats before Lorne was standing nervously, opposite Jenny.

Lorne loosened his tie, and swallowed. Standing this close to Jenny, he didn't have to be an empathy to see how Jenny was bursting at the seams with positive energy, and the last thing he wanted was to be a rain on that parade.

But fear of that vanished when Jenny took his hand.

"You're home," Jenny said softly, "when…we first met, that's what you said to me. Thank you, Lorne, for bringing me home. Thank you."

And with that, the 4th of July's fireworks reflected Lorne's emotion as well.

Later

Lorne, Angel, Faith and Jenny were walking up the Hyperion, when Jenny mustered the courage

"So…can we do this again sometime?" Jenny said, "I mean, umm…without leaning heavily on Lorne for financial support?"

"Hey, kiddo, I just called in a few favors," Lorne smiled, "barely spent a penny, really!"

"Oscar's family is on Medicare, Anne donates all her salary beyond the cost of living to the shelter minus ten percent, and after costs the Angel Investigations only brings in about five hundred dollars divided between about a half dozen employees," Jenny explained, "and I would estimate the total costs of the gifts around twelve hundred dollars."

"Uhh…"

"Yeah, she does that a lot," Faith mussed Jenny's hair, "and yeah, we'll do it again in a year with a little less fanfare."

Jenny did a double take.

"A year. One earth year?"

"Uhh, yeah?" Faith gave Jenny a curious look.

"A year!" Jenny clapped her hands together, "oh, oh, oh! I could make and test my own!"

"Yeah, no," Faith picked Jenny up and threw her over her shoulder like a sack of flour, "time for bed, even if I have to chain you to it."

"Thank you, Lorne," Jenny called out over Faith's shoulder, "thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

Lorne and Angel watched them leave, before Lorne threw his hands up in celebration.

"For my next trick, walking on water!" Lorne said triumphantly.

"You uhh…did an excellent job," Angel said, "but I'm still going to hold you responsible."

"For what, the best day of her life thus far?" Lorne said, "I plead guilty, Angel cake!"

"Well, there's that sure, but you kind of missed something important."

"Oh?"

"You got a young super genius, with plenty of free time…interested in explosives."

Lorne thought about it for a moment, and then his eyes went wide.

"Oh…oh" said Lorne, as his face turned a little greener.

"Yeah," Angel said, "oh."