Chapter 8: Intermediate Family Trees

Summary: Sophie exerts her influence

"God, yes….there….keep doing that...yeees."

A "yes, milady" came in response, but it was muffled so it sounded more like, "ysmilldee."

Annie leaned back and finally let go, wondering how she had been able to restrain herself after Jeff's almost heroic feats of tantalizing, pulling back, and then going for it. Again and again. She muffled her cry per usual, with Jeff then joining her and shuddering as he came down.

They remained in position for a little while, at first merely silent and panting and eventually they began peppering each other with soft kisses. Finally, Jeff pulled out and rolled off and then held her, stroking her hair as she ran her fingernails lightly across his chest.

She felt satisfied, and not just from the sex. It was their first night in their new home, and although they had been a bit overwhelmed with all the unpacked boxes and getting Sophie and Ruffles situated, they made sure to take the time to be physical with each other to celebrate as well as release some stress. As she lay in the soft lamp-lit room, she considered that all seemed well and right. Sebastian was sleeping peacefully in his crib near the far wall, and they were together, nestled in their bed and looking forward to creating more memories in a place they had chosen together.

"Awww."

Jeff chuckled and placed a kiss on her head. "I know that awww. You're getting sentimental already."

"I love our new home, and I love you."

"Ditto."

Her smile was so intense it almost hurt, and she began a little more aggressive play for his nipples when he paused her in the most loving Jeff way, with slight reproach combined with bemusement. As much as he usually enjoyed that part of their lovemaking, he was likely hypersensitive at the moment and needed some time. When she was in this mode, however, she found it extremely difficult to wait. She lifted her head and met his kind eyes and tried her best bat of the lashes.

He smirked.

"Annie."

"Oh, fine." She scooted up a bit and gave him a quick but full lipped kiss and then propped her head on her hand as she turned on her side to completely face him. "I'm just really excited."

Her eyes glimmered in the half-lit room, and he was instantly mesmerized. They had an exhausting day full of hauling, some unpacking, rearranging, and social time with their friends. They had made extra efforts to familiarize Sophie with her new room and make sure Ruffles was comfortable, and there had been an extravagant wind-down and bedtime routine for the both of them. Sebastian had required his usual care, and finally they had surprisingly energetic sex.

Yet, Annie was still on.

He turned on his side as well and regarded her with amazement, letting his finger trace her clavicle in just the way that got her to giggle, which he both instantly kind of regretted and kind of didn't. He wasn't ready to go for round two and might not be at all given the day they had, yet it always gave him a sense of purpose when he was able to please her. Once again he silenced Britta's comments about that and decided for the zillionth time he was okay with it. Utterly and completely okay.

"Jeeef."

"Let's just slow it down there."

"Of course."

She inched a little closer and then tapped his nose with her finger.

"I think we should talk about our wonderful new home. I have some ideas for the play area off the living room. But I'm not sure if we can keep Mister Flufferstein in there because her table's taking up a lot of space."

He nodded as if this conversation at this time and with their most recent sexual energy even made sense because he knew better by now and said, "Mister Flufferstein is staying put. There's nowhere else downstairs where we can put that table since Ruffles will go ballistic if we put the cage on the floor. I'm not eating at our soon to be larger dining table with a guinea pig."

"We could maybe put her upstairs?"

He took a long moment to reply, with a wave of munchkin-pleads still echoing in his ears. The exponential growth of his wife's eyes would not sway him. He gave her a pointed look and then said definitively, "It isn't even relevant because I know for a fact that the hobgoblins, of which only one is currently fully mobile but the other in close pursuit, will not limit themselves to your mythical play area and will fully take over our living room, dining room, and kitchen on their way to colonizing the backyard, leaving a trail of stickiness and slime in their wake. Nothing will be sacred, this will not be a Rachel Edlestein Edison household. We might as well accept this right now before we give ourselves ulcers."

She chuckled and then suddenly furrowed her brow with concern, her hand going to his stomach.

"How is your ulcer?"

He sighed. "That was never confirmed. But the burning sensation seems to have gone away, most notably after we finished hauling all the crap in this afternoon. Despite my bravado, I'm pretty sure I only half-believed that we'd be able to live here until it actually happened."

"Awww."

There was a soft tap at the door, and they both knew what that meant.

"Mommy, Daddy? Let me in...please?"

The almost pitiful words were followed by one sharp bark. Jeff's eyes widened and he hopped out of bed, quickly pulling on his pajama bottoms while Annie grabbed her long nightshirt. Jeff whispered something about hoping the dog wouldn't wake up the baby before he shuffled over to the door and opened it, revealing a frowning Sophie, clad in her new footed Olaf pajamas. She rubbed her left eye and held her bear in the other. The furry white blob was by her side, tail now wagging profusely.

He hunched down and regarded her with understanding and then ran his hand over her curls and said, "Hey munchkin." His eyes darted to the side as Ruffles scampered past him and jumped onto the bed.

He had a hunch it wouldn't be easy to get Sophie back into her new bedroom, and as much as he was hoping she'd adjust sooner rather than later, he found himself not really minding if she spent the night with them. Between him and Annie, he was probably the one who usually didn't mind the least. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he never had the opportunity to spend the night with his parents, not that he had felt comforted by the presence of William Winger, but it at times would have been nice if he would have had the option of cuddling with his mom.

He had a moment of insight as to why he hadn't been a cuddler and now was very much into it. With a surge of emotion, he wrapped his arms around Sophie, her little hands readily grabbing onto him as he lifted her up. He involuntarily sniffed her hair and smiled into it.

"Jeff."

Annie was arching her brow at him as she was attempting to shoo Ruffles off the bed. He walked over and placed Sophie between them, ignoring Annie's implied huff as he focused completely on Sophie.

"What is it, munchkin?"

Sophie frowned and looked the saddest he had ever seen, and it tugged at his gut. This wasn't an ulcer sensation but a bona fide ache. He exchanged concerned looks with Annie, who was scooting closer to Sophie and ignoring Ruffles' decision to remain where she was.

"I'm sad, Daddy. So sad. I can't be this sad, Daddy."

"Oh, sweetie."

Annie's arm went around Sophie and pulled her closer, but Sophie's eyes remained fixed on Jeff, and he couldn't fathom why. He then considered maybe he was pretty good at this emotional attunement stuff with kids and that perhaps he was better at it than Annie. That thought amused and elated him, for he had for years coveted the way Annie seemed to understand Sophie's quirks long before he did. It frustrated him, making him wonder if he was missing a chip. Sure, once he caught on he ran with it and the munchkin loved him to pieces but it still felt like a deficiency of somesort.

Now, tables turned.

He hid his smirk and addressed Sophie, "We've had a really busy day. A lot has happened."

"Yeah, I want things in different places."

He nodded and attempted to reflect that he understood as he said, "I know, everything's in a different place. We're in a new house, and we're going to be here for a very long time, but it'll take a little bit to get used to things being in different places." He leaned toward her and winked as he said, "But you know what? I bet by the end of this week, you'll love your room and like where everything is in their new places."

Take that, Annie. He internally squealed.

Sophie seemed to consider this for a longer moment than he had anticipated, her eyes going down to her bear and then re-meeting his.

"I want things in different places."

For some reason she seemed to be glaring at him rather than seeming sad, and although it undermined his previous hunch that he was being intuitive he looked to Annie, who was watching Sophie carefully, her lips pursed in thought.

"Sweetie, I think you should tell us why you're upset. You want something in a different place from where it is?"

Well, that was a slightly different take on his interpretation, but it made more sense.

Sophie nodded and began sucking her thumb, which although regressive for an almost five year old seemed pretty adorable. Jeff inched closer to her and ventured, "Are you mad at me for putting something in the wrong place?"

Instantly, Sophie's expression changed to one of vindication, and his chest swelled with pride although he had a feeling he was going to be chastised. She took her thumb out of her mouth and jabbed her index finger into his chest as she barked, "I'm mad, Daddy! You put Mister Flufferstein downstairs all by herself. She's very lonely, and she's sad. I'm sad. Ruffles is sad. Ruffles wants to eat her but I don't. I want her in my room, but you said NO. Why are you so mean?"

He stifled his laughter and tried to demonstrate he was taking this very seriously indeed as he avoided Annie's gaze and replied, "I know you want Mister Flufferstein in your room, but you know what you said about Ruffles wanting to eat her? That's why she's downstairs. Because she's safe down there and Ruffles can't eat her. And she likes it down there. She doesn't have to worry that Ruffles will eat her. So I'm sure she's sleeping right now."

"She's not, Daddy. She's crying."

"Now, you can't hear her from here, she's…."

"Jeff."

"Annie, let me…"

"I checked on her, and she's crying, Daddy. Ruffles came too and Ruffles sad."

"You went downstairs by yourself?"

"No, Daddy. You don't listen. Ruffles came too."

He closed his eyes and emitted a long sigh. Annie's hand on his shoulder helped, but he felt torn. Although it didn't feel great to be half-yelled at by their kid, part of him admired her gumption, and then instantly part of him worried that she'd gone down all those stairs in the dark by herself. He could have sworn he had put up the baby gate to block her passage, but he must have forgotten in all the chaos. He had images of her tumbling down, and he tensed.

"Jeff?"

"I'm sorry, munchkin. You know what? Maybe I was wrong. We can probably find a space for Mister Flufferstein's table, but we'll have to move some stuff in your room."

"Really, Daddy? Yay!"

"But I need you to help me. You might have to make some hard choices. Like if you want your bookcase near the window or near the door."

"Jeff, are you serious? You know she didn't really..."

"Thank you, Daddy. Now I'm not sad anymore. And I'm not mad. I love you."

"Love you too, munchkin. Thanks for telling me you were mad at me."

Sophie smiled, her tearstained eyes looking damn adorable, and she tugged on his hand.

"Let's go, Daddy. We have to change my room and get Mister Flufferstein."

"How about we do this tomorrow?"

The eyes ballooned, and he was a goner. Ignoring Annie's gasps which were a combination of incredulity as well as awwws at the sweetness, he picked Sophie up, and they went to do the door where he placed her on the ground and took her hand and sighed.

"Okay, munchkin. Let's do this, but if you get tired let me know and you can just sleep with us and we'll finish it tomorrow."

"No, I like my new room. I love my Olaf pajamas and my Olaf sheets and my Olaf from Grandma."

"So I guess we didn't screw everything up then. Huzzah."

Sophie prattled on, "I want to be Olaf because he can take off his arms."

"Very nice, that could be useful, I suppose? But didn't you want to be Anna or Elsa?"

"Mommy's Anna, Bubbe is Elsa, silly Daddy."

"What about me?"

"You're Sven."

"Ahh, so I'm a moose. That's fine."

"Hi Sebastian!"

Jeff followed Sophie's delighted gaze past him and turned to the crib. A seated and drooly smiled Sebastian was staring at his sister through the bars. Now having completely lost interest in Jeff, Sophie walked past him and began talking to her brother, holding up her bear as a point of interest. Jeff groaned and was aware of Annie approaching and of Ruffles now seating herself inconveniently on top of his feet.

As Annie leaned over the crib and picked up the baby, she cooed, "Sweetie, you're up. I didn't hear you."

"He missed me."

Annie motioned Sophie over to the bed with her head, and Sophie followed.

"Sweetie, I think you and Ruffles should sleep with us tonight. Daddy will check on Mister Flufferstein and tell her a bedtime story, and then she'll stop crying and go to sleep."

God, Annie was a genius. Although a minute ago he had been perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to Sophie's whims, he had to admit he didn't relish the idea of hauling the lettuce muncher upstairs at this hour. He smiled gratefully over at Annie, who tilted her head in sympathy before readdressing their children.

"Now, why don't we read a story?"

Annie placed Sebastian to her left before reaching over and assisting Sophie in climbing into the bed. Jeff nudged Ruffles out of the way and trotted off to Sophie's room and grabbed a Frozen book. On his way back, he went over to the top of the stairs and noticed that he was not losing his mind. The baby gate was firmly in place and locked.

He smirked at the realization that he had been played.

"You're a genius too, munchkin."

X

X

It was a sunny and humid morning when Jeff waltzed into the office. His real office at Riverside Family Law. Although he had been working hard under Annie's tutelage at leading his summer class at Greendale, he had also been devoting energy to his firm, mostly handling the Borchardt stuff which while unusual in its scope didn't demand him to attend to it at specific times.

He mostly had to make a bunch of calls, fill out various forms, and send some detailed emails in efforts to resurrect a man from the dead. They had a court hearing coming up which would likely only be a formality, as Borchardt had submitted the necessary DNA and fingerprints to prove his identity. He and Mark had gotten him set up in a former abandoned and foreclosed small house on 5th not too far from the school, with plans to purchase fully from the bank by the end of the month. Although he could have afforded more, Borchardt had been insistent that he felt more at home in cramped quarters than a sprawling mansion and even with Mark, Jeff, and Penelope's efforts at trying to help him furnish it, he had been mostly content with a mattress on the floor, his filing cabinets stuffed with notes, kitchen supplies, high speed internet, and of course Raquel.

"Hey Tango, long time no see."

He rolled his eyes as he grabbed his mug and began to pour from the decanter, silently marveling at Marks impeccable taste in coffee. "I'm here every day, Cash."

Mark fluttered about, his eyebrows wiggling and Jeff wondered what was up. "Yeah, um, but not usually in the mornings."

"I am, twice per week. And afternoons the other days."

"Right, hey, do you have a second?"

He took a moment to take a long sip, half delighted in watching Mark squirm. It wasn't because he disliked him of course, but more because when Mark was in this type of mood it was always amusing and not serious. If it had been an actual crisis Mark would be silent and intense.

"Join me in my chambers."

"Chambers? We're not judges."

Jeff grinned and motioned Mark down the hallway to his office and once inside closed the door.

"Thanks." Mark smiled apologetically as he slid into the Hawthorne throne and Jeff made himself comfortable behind his desk, taking the opportunity to remove his suit jacket since it was so damn hot and considered maybe they could use an air conditioning repairman, even if that repairman did tend to feel like a slut. He wondered where Penelope was but then remembered she was coming in late today due to a trip she and Troy (and he assumed Abed?) had taken over the weekend. She hadn't said much and he didn't want to pry since she was his employee. He had gotten more out of Troy on Friday, who had mentioned something about a film festival in Denver and needing to get out of the apartment since they were sad that Britta had moved out, before they were interrupted by a perplexed Frankie who was conducting a student census for some reason and asking everyone their nickname.

"What's up?"

Mark wiped his brow and let out a low whistle, so Jeff was pretty darn sure the matter was not serious. At all. He leaned back, lacing his fingers behind his head, and waited.

Casting a furtive gaze to the side, Mark explained, "I'm getting nervous, Tango. I could use a pep talk."

"Oh for crying out loud, is this about your upcoming nuptials? You've got this."

With the most pained expression Jeff had ever seen, Mark stared at him for a hot second before he gasped, "It's my big day! What I've been dreaming of since I was a little boy! What if it doesn't go according to plan?"

For the first time that morning, Jeff realized Mark was clutching his wedding binder along with a small white paper bag. Deciding that this was serious for Mark, Jeff cleared his throat.

"You're gonna be fine. You love Jenny, she's crazy about you. Take it from a man whose own wedding plans got derailed."

"But the plans, Jeff. There's a harpist, an overarching blue balloon filled with red roses, and a ten tier cake.."

"Wait, why ten tiers?"

"Because I love cake, and then there's the gourmet coffee bar, scone bar, and lush red velvet seats for guests, and a million other things that I'm too stressed to think about and it could all go wrong!"

As Mark reached into the bag and began shoving his morning donut in his mouth, it was not only confirmed that Penelope was not the one who supplied the office with donuts but also that Jeff was dealing with a nervous bride(groom).

He smiled in sympathy and said, "The only thing that matters is that you and Jenny are happy, and that probably just means you get hitched. I can have a lovable weirdo on standby who is an ordained internet minister should your officiant bail, so we've even got that covered."

Mark stilled and glanced up from his glazey mess, Jeff shuddering as the crumbs tumbled off his chest and onto the Hawthorne throne. He supposed Pierce wouldn't notice on his next visit, but he munchkin would, and then he'd have to deal with finding her donuts. By the time she was here this afternoon for their planned daddy-daughter date, he was pretty darn sure there would be no donuts left.

Mark mumbled, "You really think none of the rest matters?"

"I do." He paused as he added, "And it's really all about saying I do. I've been through this. My wedding with Annie, while not the one of her dreams, ended up being one of the happiest days of her life. She had a wedding binder and everything, and while we even originally planned throwing a party after the elopement, please notice we never ended up doing that either because by that time we were on to other things, like expecting another baby and just a million other life things. I hope your party goes off the way you want it Cash, but don't let the worries consume you. Jenny puts up with your lunacy, so she's a keeper. I'm sure you'll have many happy years of wedded gastronomical bliss."

At this, Mark nodded and his eyes welled with tears. Jeff instinctively backed up his chair but was too late as Mark rushed around the desk toward him and pulled him into a sticky hug.

"I'm so happy you're my best man! You give the best Winger speeches!"

"Now, now, I give the only Winger speeches."

It was then there was a soft tap on the door, and Jeff welcomed the interruption as his shirt was getting greasy. He shouted, "Come in!"

After a long creak, Wally's fuzzy mane filled the gap and he regarded them for a tedious and awkward moment before clearing this throat.

Jeff sighed and asked, "What is it?"

Casting an unreadable glance at a contented Mark, whose eyes were closed as he hummed softly while wrapping his slobbering fingers around Jeff's shoulders, Wally stated, "It is good I have located both of you. I would like a quick meeting."

Grateful for the reprieve, even if it were Wally, Jeff quickly disentangled himself from a mildly frustrated Mark and motioned Wally to take a seat, which he promptly did so in the regular client chair while Mark scooted over to the Hawthorne throne.

"What is it?"

Wally cast glances at them both and then stated in a measured tone, "I wanted to provide you both with news that I will be unavailable to work my full hours for the months of November and December. I understand this might put you in an inconvenient position, which is why I am informing you now so you have time to make the necessary arrangements. Of course I understand if you are cross with me, but I hope you will take it upon yourselves to consider how much I am of aid to this firm and do not partake of illegal substances unlike others from a past firm we shall not mention. I am loyal and discreet. You may count on Wallace Ellery Stone."

Jeff had been nodding away, doing his best to focus as it was always a little bit difficult to do in the presence of Wally's eerie and oddly formal demeanor. He took a moment for his mind to catch up to the words and then exchanged looks with Mark before remarking, "You need some time off near the end of the year?"

"Yes, that would be most suitable."

"How much time?"

"About half."

Mark shrugged as he finished his donut and then began licking his fingers. Through smacks he said, "I don't think that'll be a problem, will it Jeff? I mean he's giving us plenty of notice, so we can adjust the workflow. And you took off time several months back, and Wally was a real asset."

"Well, yeah but that's because I had a new baby to take care of."

"Ainsley and I are expecting an infant."

They both turned to stare, mouths open.

"No shit."

Wally bristled at Mark's profanity and Jeff could tell he made a calculated decision to not mention it. Instead, he nodded and confirmed, "Yes, starting a family has been very important to us. Although we had hoped to do so much sooner, alas it was not meant to be. This time we are more confident in extending the news. I hope you will consider my request for time, but I will leave it to you both to discuss in private." With that, he rose and exited. It was too swift for them to stop him.

As the door closed, they exchanged bemused looks.

"Well of course we're going to let him take time off, but damn I'd like to see that baby. I wonder if it'll have his hair?"

Jeff shrugged and said, "That would be very interesting to see, I'll admit. And yes, I think we should extend our parental leave policy to our associates. Speaking of…" Jeff wiggled his brows and Mark blushed.

"Not yet. We'll get around to it, but we kind of want it to be just for a little while."

"I'll never know what that is like, but you know what? I'm pretty okay with that."

"Your kids are adorable, Jeff."

"They are. And I have a feeling munchkin number one is off to a fine career in either law or drama. I'm not yet confident as to which and not sure that it matters, but her deception abilities grow stronger by the day. Either that or I may be, as my mother in law says on occasion, a schmuck, but I think that's highly unlikely."

"You wanna another donut? I'll go tell Wally we've agreed and it's all good." Mark rose and Jeff could tell by his expression there was one donut left and that it would be best to have mercy on him.

"No, thanks. You can have it."

"You sure, Tango?"

"Yes."

X

X

It was three o'clock when Penelope interrupted him as he was about to hang up on Pierce.

"Jeff, you have a special visitor."

"My name is Sophie Edison Winger ask a choir, Penny. Tell him!"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Jeff, this is Miss Sophie Edison Winger, Esquire here to see you. It's a very important meeting."

Jeff suppressed his smile and turned to see Penelope ushering in a very pleased munchkin, who to his incredulity was sporting a knee-length shiny purple Frozen Anna pajama dress, green and white striped leggings, and pink combat boots. To literally top it off, she had on a pink baseball cap that read Rodef Shalom Sliders.

"I'm very happy you could make our important meeting, Miss Winger."

Sophie blushed and then held her hand to her mouth as she slowly walked toward his desk, Penny giggling behind her. Troy, clad in his repairman overalls, poked his head in and gave Jeff a thumbs up. He supposed he knew who had coached her.

"I'm very….what do I say, Troy? Peas or Pleased?"

"Pleased."

"I'm very pleased to see you, Daddy, I mean Mister Daddy ask a choir."

"Did someone ask for her Grandpa Peas?"

"Not now, I have to go."

Jeff put down the office phone and turned his full attention to his visitor and waved his hand for her to sit. She looked up at the chair awkwardly before she burst into laughter and ran toward him so he could scoop her up onto his lap. A giggling Penelope and Troy took their leave.

"I missed you, Daddy."

"I missed you too, munchkin. Hey, where's Mommy?"

"She's at school. Frankie's mad and Mommy and Sebastian are trying to make her not mad."

He sighed and patted her on her baseball cap, remembering their fun tee ball times at her old preschool. He wondered if there was a team at her new elementary school and made a mental note about inquiring as well as looking into it for Sam.

"How did you get here?"

"Grandma."

"Wait, is she still here?"

"No. She said Frankie is mad and she has to help the Dean. And Ian because everyone's worried about Ruffles. But I'm not supposed to tell Frankie. No doggie. But I really want to tell Frankie about my doggie. I told her I had a doggie and she said she doesn't like doggies but I told her she should come meet her but she didn't listen to me."

While he was pretty sure Sophie prattling on about her dog was completely disinteresting to Frankie and that she likely hadn't registered that Ian was hiding a dog from her on campus, he wasn't completely sure and felt the itching return to the back of his neck. At the urge to pick up his phone, he looked into his daughter's eyes and felt guilt, so he refocused on the most important and present things.

"Let's get to planning your birthday party. First, I think we should consult with Mark, because he knows how to plan really fun parties, and then we're going to SuperPartyCity to pick out your balloons. Finally, we have the smoothie bar. Because maybe you'd like smoothies at your birthday or maybe it's just an excuse for us to get smoothies today."

"I love smoothies."

"I know."

He hoisted her to his shoulder and carried her off, calling out, "Hey Mark, we need your expertise!"

"Thank god, I was about to eat this whole thing from all the stress!"

"Is that a pie?"

"I'm weak, Jeff. So very weak."

"I love pie too."