Chapter 1: Family Addition

Summary: Annie and Jeff decide to make room for a bundle of joy

It was the beginning of summer term and, with determination, Annie made her way toward the administration building, her sensible yet slightly wobbling heels click clacking against the pavement. She glanced with a small frown at her skirt suit ensemble, hoping it would do. She reasoned to herself she needed to appear sharp today, as she and the Dean were meeting with Vice Dean Laybourne, the Dean of Admissions - Patrick Isakson, and two members of the school board - Richie Countee and Carl Bladt to discuss the Air Conditioning Repair School needs and the Dean's recent insistence that they not badger other Greendale students. Annie was all too eager to join the Dean in the meeting to make sure he stayed on task and that someone kept an accurate recording of events. But of course Annie and the Dean both knew she'd probably end up doing most of the talking anyway.

She paused for a moment to smile and adjust her hair behind her ear, perhaps puffing out her chest just a little as she began to relish the idea of presenting their case.

"Oi! Annie!"

She looked up to see Ian Duncan approaching her, looking very put together himself in a button down dress shirt and a tie as he carried a small briefcase under his arm.

"Good morning. Are you teaching a summer class?"

Ian nodded with a soft sigh. He then took a double take at her outfit and remarked, "Where are you off to looking so polished?"

"Oh, this old thing?" She may have blushed just a bit, turning slightly so she could almost model the ensemble. "I have a meeting with the Dean and some administration officials. I wanted to look professional."

He raised his eyebrows and gave a nod. "I think you look mighty damn professional."

She grinned. "Jeff helped me pick it out. I asked him what an assertive female lawyer would wear. I used it for the yam trial too, and while we didn't actually win that case, we almost did, so I'm hoping it brings me good luck."

"Makes sense." Nodding absentmindedly, Ian began to scan the quad. "Is Winger around? I wanted to pick his brain about something."

She shook her head. "He's at home with Sophie today, but you could probably call him. I think they were meeting up with Troy, Abed, and Britta." She added apologetically with a waive of her hand, "Something about basketball, but honestly I was too preoccupied this morning I can't really remember what he told me they were up to."

Ian groaned as he smacked his head, "Well, I can't talk to him about my love life in front of Britta, now can I? Bloody hell."

"Oh." Her face fell slightly, her eyes widening at the melodramatic nature of it all.

Appearing to quickly recover, Ian said, "Nevermind. I'll pin him down later. Can I have him sometime later in the week?"

"Um, I guess."

"Excellent. I'll send you a calendar invitation and you can send him to me."

Before she could react, Ian's eyes caught something in the far bushes. He furrowed his brow and mumbled, "Now that's odd."

As Annie turned to see what he was looking at, she heard the whine.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Abed slammed the basketball through the hoop.

"Boo-yah, Jeff! I'm channeling my inner evil SantaWizard so that you are intimidated."

Jeff pursed his lips as he caught the rebounding ball. "Since when did you get so good at this game?"

Abed tilted his head and shrugged. "Troy's been helping me with my moves. I thought I needed to hone my athleticism so you and I could have more male bonding scenes this season. But frankly, and I don't say this lightly, you're terrible at this game."

Jeff began to dribble the ball. "You already know that. We've played before."

"But I would have assumed you'd have gotten better at it by now, or otherwise why continue to play with us? You're a perfectionist Jeff, and you hate losing. It's a bit out of character for you. I hate lazy characterization."

Jeff stopped his dribble and held the ball once again, this time even more tightly. He took a deep breath before saying, "I'm playing with you guys because we're friends, and I'm trying to learn how to be more loose."

"Ah, so Annie suggested it."

Squeezing the ball, he explained, "She didn't, actually. Troy and I were talking, and he invited me. I decided Sophie and I needed to get out of the apartment anyway."

"Oh, so free childcare?" Abed cast a glance over to where Britta and Troy were busy chasing a giggling Sophie around on the grass near the bleachers.

Jeff followed his gaze with a frown of annoyance. "No. I don't need help taking care of Sophie. But she likes you guys, so you know."

"Ah. You're trying to make sure Sophie's happy. That's good."

"Don't sound so surprised. You know I've always tried to make sure Sophie was happy."

"That's true. Okay, your characterization is consistent. And I suppose trying to spend more time with your friends, meaning us, is also consistent with how far you've evolved since our pilot. I'll allow it."

"Thank you, Abed."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"I…can't….reach…. it."

Annie leaned down and swatted at Ian's arm near the bushes. "Don't touch it! You don't know what it is!"

Ian looked up at her from his crouched position on the grass and scoffed. "I can handle this! It just needs help."

"It could bite you!"

"But it might be hurt."

"We'll call animal control. I'm sure they'll help it."

With a look of horror on his face, Ian jumped to his feet and grabbed the phone out of her hand.

"You'll do no such thing."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Jeff sat down on the bench and began to chug his water bottle while wiping the sweat from his neck.

Britta rolled her eyes and plopped down next to him.

She remarked sardonically, "It's been really fun to watch you out there. Your moves, they are stellar."

"Bite me."

She smiled smugly as she continued, "I'm glad you guys joined us."

"Were you seriously going to come if the munchkin wasn't here?" He watched with amusement as Sophie squirted Troy with a small purple water gun.

Wait, where did she get that?

Britta's loud sigh pulled him back to their conversation. "Maybe. I wasn't working today. It's nice out, Abed and Troy are kind of fun to hang out with sometimes."

"Do you play basketball?"

"Of course I don't. I mean I could of course. But I just don't."

"Ah."

Britta began to contemplate her combat boots, pushing on the lower bleacher bench. "Hey, what's Annie up to later this week? I need to talk to her about something."

Jeff groaned. "Since when am I her social coordinator? Text her." He took out the water bottle and took a big gulp.

"She told me she had a big day today, so I didn't want to bother her. I thought I'd ask you. Is there a time when she's free and you could be with Sophie?"

Jeff eyed her skeptically. "I suppose we could figure something out. Maybe Thursday night?"

She nodded while continuing to study her boots. "Yeah, that might work."

"I'll convey the message."

"Thanks."

As Jeff regarded the antics of the trio on the lawn, he asked nonchalantly, "Hey, what's Shirley up to these days?"

"I think she's pretty busy with the sandwich shop. Summer session started."

He nodded. "So Andre's home with the boys this summer or…?"

Frowning and sneaking a peak at him out of the corner of her eye, observing his overly affected detached demeanor, she responded, "He's working part-time, has the kids sometimes, sometimes they're with her mom."

"Cool."

There were some moments of silence.

Finally, Britta almost tentatively said, "Hey, you should invite Andre to your daddy outings."

He squinted. "Daddy outings?"

"You know, those times you hang with Thanos and his kid at the playground."

"How the hell?"

"Annie."

"Right."

She smiled and they both watched as Abed and Troy fell to the ground while Sophie continued to squirt them. Britta laughed.

"She really loves them."

"Yeah, she does. She loves you too, you know."

Britta turned to him with an expression he wasn't sure if he had seen before.

She almost seemed, what was the work Ian tended to use? Chuffed?

She said her face now in a grin, "She's my favorite niece."

He chuckled as he tossed his towel over his neck and leaned back on his elbows.

They continued to watch the kids play, allowing the silence to be comfortable this time. Jeff found himself actually beginning to relax. While he knew he sucked at basketball, he had to admit it had been a pretty good workout. And right now he didn't even need to concern himself with entertaining the munchkin. He was free to feel the sun on his face. He was finding himself oddly comforted by Britta's laidback presence on this fine day.

"She needs a playmate."

His eyes went wide. "Jesus, Britta."

"What?"

"We are not ready for that. And frankly, it's none of your business."

Britta turned to him with a snort. "I meant a dog. You guys said you were getting her one, right?"

"Oh, um right."

She rolled her eyes.

He added in a mumble, "Forget I said that."

She smacked him on his leg. "Hey, when are we going to my shelter, anyway? It's summer! Let's do it."

In the background Sophie yelled, "Daddy, Troy sitted on me!"

"Soon. Very soon."

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Annie sat in the meeting with the Dean, fidgeting with her blazer as she attempted to remain focused on the inane content. She tried not to think of the furry creature in the bushes outside. Ian had insisted he could take care of the situation and pushed her off to her meeting so that she wouldn't be late.

"So you see, Greendale Community College prides itself on the five As: Accessibility, Affordability, Air Conditioning, Awesome New Friends, and A lot of Classes."

Vice Dean Laybourne stopped in his pacing and smiled for dramatic effect as he pointed to the PowerPoint slide.

"Well now, I suppose we must keep Air Conditioning then. It seems pretty important."

Annie cast the Dean a glare, clearing her throat as she stood. Addressing the administrators, she asked, "May I say something?"

"Of course, Miss Edison."

"Thank you. I speak on behalf of Dean Pelton, when I say that we are aware that the Air Conditioning Repair School is a vital part of Greendale Community College. We make no motions to change this."

"Oh, that's right, silly me."

She smiled tightly at the Dean and then continued, "We merely wish to have it understood that the Air Conditioning Repair School cannot engage in forceful recruitment strategies with Greendale students."

"Forceful? Why that's an exaggeration. Now, Miss Edison…"

-"You use blindfolds. Exhibit A. A photo."

With a gleam in her eye, she watched as Vice Dean Laybourne began to sweat.

Good thing he knows about Air Conditioning.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Jeff, since you're not very good at this game, perhaps we could just call it a day."

"Knock it off, Abed. I'm only four points behind."

"We've been taking it easy on you, haven't we Troy?"

Troy smiled sheepishly. With a tremble in his voice he said, "Oh come on, Abed. We are not."

"But you said…"

-"Hey Jeff, let's just play. Ignore him. I'm sure you'll catch up."

Jeff stopped his dribble and squinted his eyes. "You guys suck, you know." He turned and threw the basketball at Troy, stomping back to the bench, where Britta sat with Sophie, who was busying herself eating a bag of Ruffles Potato Chips.

"You didded good, Daddy," came the comment between chomps, adding as almost an afterthought but what Jeff suspected was her main concern at the moment, "I like Wuffles."

He couldn't help but smile. "Thanks, munchkin. Tell Mommy I did well, too, okay?"

Sophie nodded as she handed Britta the now empty bag and yawned.

He sat on the other side of her as she placed her head in Britta's lap and kicked her legs up onto his.

He smirked as he looked down. "You have stylish shoes."

"Come on, clearly you got those for her. They're so gaudy."

He grinned as he smacked the bottom of Sophie's left shoe, appreciating the way they lit up pink as she kicked.

"Courtesy of my mom, actually."

"Oh, how is she?"

He frowned. "My mom? She's fine."

Britta smiled softly. "She's cool."

"Well, obviously. She's my mom."

Troy came ambling up to them, Abed on his heels. "Jeff, look, I'm really sorry. We just wanted to have a good game, and we know you probably don't practice as much as we do since you must spend a lot of time in the gym working on sculpting your abs…"

-"Oh these?" The lift of a shirt with a smirk followed.

"Douche."

-"And you have to take care of Sophie and everything, so no one could blame you if you didn't have time to be good at basketball."

"Thank you, Troy," Jeff said dryly.

Abed peeked past Troy. "We should do something else. Something less athletic. How about coming over to Neil's place with us tonight to play D&D?"

Britta continued to pet Sophie's sleepy head and chuckled.

Jeff affected a nonchalant pose. "You guys know I don't play that really. It was just that one time."

"We know you're a huge nerd."

Jeff squinted at Abed. "I'll pass."

Troy frowned, "But you played with Neil, Vicky, Garrett, and slim Neil two weeks ago. Our Neil told me."

Jeff's eyes widened for a quick moment before he sat up straighter and reached for Sophie, pulling her carefully onto his lap. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Abed said, "Bring chips. Oh, and Pierce is coming too, so we might need some extra soda. Bring soda too."

Jeff glanced over at Britta, who was doing her best to stifle her laughter, her face turning a bright pink.

"Shut up."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Annie passed by Ian's psychology classroom, her face flush with victory. Noticing the door was ajar, she took the opportunity to listen in.

"So that's pretty much it, really. Skinner boxes. Chapter one. See you all Wednesday. Don't bother me in the meantime."

"Ruff! Ruff!"

"Can I pet him?"

"No, Kevin. And it's a she."

Garret screeched, "She's so cute! Is she going to be here every class period?"

"Well now, I haven't yet thought it through… But why am I answering your questions? Shuffle off now, the lot of you!"

"Hey, since I live with you I should probably know more about where the dog came from."

"Class dismissed."

Annie's eyes widened as she stepped back from the door and opened it to allow the summer school students to filter out. When she thought the coast was clear, she stepped in to find Ian sitting behind the lecturer desk, a small dirty white terrier mix on his lap. She watched as he pet it tenderly on the head, the dog licking his hand in response.

Kevin Chang sat in the front row desk, a developmental psychology textbook in front of him. He was staring at the dog with suspicion as Ian avoided his gaze and looked down at his lecture notes.

Annie smiled as she walked over to them. "You brought it in here?"

Ian looked up and tilted his head, his brown eyes opening wide. "I didn't know what else to do on the spur of the moment. She was tangled in the shrubbery, but I managed to free her. So yes, I suppose she's now attended her first Greendale class."

Annie smiled tightly. "She could have rabies."

He scoffed. "She doesn't have rabies. She'd be acting all strange."

Annie's eyes went to the creature, noticing its snarled coat. She ventured, "She could have fleas."

"That's a risk I'm willing to take." He popped open a soda can, eyed it with some disgust, and then took a big gulp.

"You could spread fleas throughout the school."

"Hey, he lives with me. I could have had fleas. But I didn't. He's a nice guy."

"Thank you, Kevin."

"You're welcome. Can she sleep in my room? You have Britta. I get lonely."

"No. I'm taking her to a vet to get checked over just as soon as I put my things in my office."

Kevin whined, "But we're keeping her, right?"

Ian looked over at him with a sigh. "Honestly, I haven't had a chance to think it through. I don't know if she's chipped with identification."

"But if she isn't…"

-"We should see if someone claims her. I'll put up an advertisement."

"But if no one comes…"

-"I don't know if she'll get along with the crabs. Or the cats."

"We don't have cats."

"Britta has cats."

"But Britta doesn't live with us."

"I know, but…" Ian let out a sharp breath before he continued, "I'm taking her to the vet and we can sort this all out later."

Annie stepped over to regard the dog, noticing she couldn't even see its eyes under all the matted fir. In fact, with the exception of the tongue, which kept slurping Ian's hand, it was difficult to tell if it was the head.

She murmured, a tenderness in her tone, "Her fur is so dirty. I wonder how long she was out there?"

Ian sighed again. "I don't know. But poor thing was glad to get some help."

Annie continued to eye the dog with concern. "I'm sure the Dean wouldn't mind if I took a long lunch break. Can I come with you?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Jeff sat in the visiting room of Britta's no-kill shelter, staring at the dirty white terrier, who he was assuming was cocking its head at him. He honestly couldn't tell where it was looking, as the eyes were not visible.

"Annie, you can't be serious. It's filthy."

At the sound of his voice, the stubby tail began to wag.

Annie smiled as she crouched down on the floor and motioned for the dog to come over to her, which it promptly did with a little trot.

"They're going to clean her up," she said gently as she scratched behind the dog's ears. "And it's a she."

Jeff found himself smiling slightly as he watched Annie almost melt, leaning her face in to see the terrier up close.

She said softly, "She's not even afraid of me. And she doesn't have fleas or anything else seemingly wrong with her, but they think she had puppies at some point, but not recently. She needs to be spayed of course. And they're guessing she's around two-to-three years old. So she's the same age as Sophie."

"Not in dog years."

"Well, duh."

Jeff leaned back slightly in his chair and began to slowly nod his head. "Any theories on where she came from?"

Annie continued to pet the dog behind her ears, an action that was followed by a nuzzling into her chest. "She either got out or someone let her loose. Britta says people do that a lot, unfortunately, especially if they don't want to breed a dog anymore. It's very sad."

She added as she watched him out of the corner of her eye, "She's just really dirty and needs to be groomed."

With a sigh of resignation, Jeff got up and walked over to join them. He also crouched down as he observed, "You have fir on your suit."

"I don't care. She's perfect."

He put his hand out for the dog to sniff. "Annie."

There was a lick.

"Awww. She likes you."

"Is she house trained?"

"We don't know yet. Ian says he's willing to foster her until someone adopts her, so I suppose he'll find out very soon."

Jeff chuckled at that image for a moment before he asked, "Does she bark?"

"Maybe. We've only heard her say a few ruff ruffs, but they weren't even that loud. She's some sort of border terrier mix. She might even be part Westie. She might not be that big of a barker unless she's chasing something."

"Like toddling hobbits?" He carefully reached over to pet the dog's head.

She smiled up at him. "We'd have to make sure they were a good match, of course, and keep them separated if no one's watching for awhile. But we could introduce them and see."

He regarded the creature with a frown, which quickly began to turn upwards. "But are we sure it's a dog? It's small. I kind of wanted a larger one."

She stared at him intently. "One word for you, Jeff. Lexus."

He arched a brow. "Oh, I should be clear we're only hauling her around in your car anyway, which, um, is pretty small. Which is also, um, another reason why your little panic plan made no sense since I don't think for a moment we could fit two car seats and a dog in there."

She eyed him suspiciously and decided to gloss over his little jab. "Would you be okay with a dog of this size? She's eleven pounds, but pretty underweight. They said she should be no more than fourteen though."

He shrugged. "Baby hobbits are small too."

x

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"How come you've never gotten a dog?"

He shifted in his spot on the couch where they lay after putting Sophie to bed, Annie curling up into his side.

"They're a lot of work. I was always putting in long hours at the firm or going out with people afterward, it didn't make a lot of sense."

"But you've always wanted one."

"I go and walk Hank. That gave me a little fix." After a moment he added, "Don't tell my Mom I enjoy it."

She rolled her eyes and sat up on her arm to regard his bemused expression. "I think she suspects you do. But I still don't understand why you never got one of your own, even with all the work. The Jeff Winger I know would have been so enthralled with his dog he probably would have cut back on the socializing and spent his time with his best friend."

"You're my best friend."

"Ditto, but you know what I mean."

"Honestly?"

She nodded.

"I never got a dog because as an adult I've never had a home. Now with you and the munchkin, I do."

His eyes lingered on hers.

"Awww." She smiled as she moved one leg over his and pushed herself so that she was on top of him, leaning down for a long kiss.

x

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They awaited news from the shelter to know if the dog was claimed. In the meantime, Ian fostered her, making sure the hermit crabs remained in their terrarium and that Kevin kept the front door closed at all times. It turned out she was housetrained, which again pointed to her having previously been well cared for. Yet no one was coming forward.

Ian decided to call her "Madeline," and made a point of instructing Annie to tell Jeff this was the name. He didn't elaborate on his reasoning, but merely chuckled to himself as Annie eyed him in confusion.

According to Ian, the dog seemed perfectly content to hang out with him at Greendale, now sitting happily while leashed at the side of the room while he taught his summer class. Not surprisingly, the Dean agreed to look the other way and was all too eager to give her a good pet now that she had been cleaned and groomed. Annie stopped by the classroom to see her and observe the way she behaved with the other students and the chaos of Greendale, coming away impressed with the dog's temperament.

Jeff made excuses why he couldn't come by campus to meet her again now that she was all cleaned up. He told Annie to tell Ian that perhaps he should have named her, "Elaine," but similarly did not elaborate, leaving Annie to roll her eyes.

"You know, you two don't need to refer to ex-girlfriends through me, right? It's more than a little awkward."

"Elaine was his ex-wife, not his girlfriend."

"And Madeline?"

"Former, err, yeah, okay."

"Tell me more."

"Ancient history. I was stupid. The end. I'm sure you're really surprised."

x

x

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After a week with no news, Annie flashed him a grin and threw her hands around his neck.

With an exasperated sigh, he said, "Fine. We'll go see her again. But we have to make sure we're serious about this before she meets Sophie."

She batted her lashes. "I know. And of course we'll have to make sure Sophie is appropriate with her and that the dog isn't aggressive with kids."

"Right. So we're not adopting her today, okay?"

"Okay. But if it doesn't work out for us, I hope they find her a home."

"Oh please. You and I both know Ian will cave."

"He's worried about Britt's cats and the crabs. And Kevin."

Jeff squinted down at her. "I see."

"So we should really take this seriously, Jeff. We want to make sure she has a good home."

x

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Annie grinned. "Oh my god, didn't I tell you she's adorable?"

Jeff smiled incredulously as Annie kept squeaking and clapping her hands. He stared down at the now ivory-colored and immaculately groomed terrier in front of them, eyes clearly visible.

Big, brown, soulful eyes.

He found his chest wrenching yet again. "Goddammit. Fine. Let's introduce the munchkin."

"Ruff!"

Annie plopped herself on the floor and picked up the wiggling dog, giving her a good pet. Her eyes still on the creature, she asked, "What do you think of the name Sadie?"

He laughed as he joined her on the floor. Reaching over to scratch the ears, he remarked, "Sure. Where did that come from?"

Annie turned toward him and placed a kiss on his cheek. "I've always liked the name. It was my runner-up for Sophie. But I'd still like to use it. Isn't she a cutie?"

"Yeah, she is."

"Sadie means princess."

"Perfect."

x

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"Sophie, sweetie, we have someone we'd like you to meet."

Annie motioned for Sophie to follow her from the shelter waiting area to the back greeting room. Sophie regarded her with curiosity from her spot on Britta's lap.

Britta placed her on the ground. "Go with mama."

"Okay."

Britta turned to Ian with a grin. Her face practically glowing, she mouthed, "This is so exciting!"

He chuckled and placed his arm around her.

x

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Jeff looked up from his spot on the floor with Sadie, nuzzling her fur. He found himself almost on the verge of tears, and while he was pondering if that was something to be concerned about, he heard the munchkin enter.

"Doggie!"

Her face lit up and she did a little bounce while squeezing Annie's hand.

Annie leaned down and said while still holding on, "That's right, sweetie. But we're going to be very careful, okay? Dogs are breakable."

"Oooooh." Sophie nodded her understanding.

"Ruff! Ruff!" Followed by tail wagging.

Annie and Jeff exchanged hopeful looks, and then Annie gingerly let go of Sophie's hand. They both approached Jeff and Sadie, Annie sliding into a seated position on the other side of Jeff as Sophie regarded the dog curiously.

"Hi doggie."

"Ruff!"

"I ped doggie?" She looked at her parents for confirmation.

Attempting to suppress the lump rising in his throat, Jeff leaned over and took Sophie's hand and held it out to Sadie. He said in his most authoritative sounding voice, "We hold our hands out like this, and we allow her to sniff you. Be very still."

"Okay, Daddy."

Letting out breaths of relief, Jeff and Annie watched as Sadie promptly took to Sophie and began to lick her hand, followed shortly by attempts to nuzzle into her, tail wagging the whole time.

Sophie could barely contain her excitement, but did her best to be a good girl and stay fairly still. At Jeff's urging, she began to gently pet the dog, as she had previously been instructed to pet Hank.

"Doggie nice."

"Ruff!" More licks.

"She is, isn't she, sweetie? Her name is Sadie."

"Ruff Ruff!" More tail wags.

Sophie giggled and then began almost sputtering with excitement. She looked up at her parents and said, "No say-dee. Wuffles."

Annie and Jeff exchanged confused looks. "Wuffles?"

"Yah. Doggie go wuff wuff!"

"Oh, I see. Ruffles."

"Yah, mama. Und I weally lub wuffles. Dey good."

"Sweetie, are you saying you want to name her Ruffles?"

"Ya! Wuff wuff, wuffles. Wuffles silly."

With shrugs and stifled laughter, Sadie became Ruffles.

x

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"I can't believe she named our dog after food. Scratch that, I can believe it."

Annie looked over at Jeff from her spot in the living room chair. She was crocheting a lavender colored blanket for Ruffles, having pulled out the materials she hadn't touched since before Sophie was born, when she did her best to remember her bubbe's teachings and made Sophie a light pink blanket. She had insisted to Jeff that their new addition receive the same treatment and was eager to present it to Ruffles once she was home from her surgery, which would be in two days.

Working with intent, as time was of the essence, Annie furrowed her brow and looked back down to inspect her work, she responded, "I think it's cute. And the dog doesn't care, so why not?"

Jeff affected a serious expression, but it was taking more and more effort to do so. He picked up the remote and clicked on the television, making sure the volume was set low since Sophie had just been put down for bed fifteen minutes ago.

"You're right, but now you don't get to use Sadie."

She replied teasingly, "Well, you never know. Maybe I'll get a chance to use it someday."

With a smirk, he said, "Yeah, maybe. We'll see."

"We probably have our hands full for awhile, huh?"

He looked over to see her smiling shyly at him, her cheeks turning a slight pink. He replied, "Oh, I'd say so. See, this is why we don't panic. You love this dog. See what you'd have been missing out on?"

With more than a hint of sarcasm, she remarked, "We could have done both," and immediately snorted.

He found himself responding in kind. "We can barely fit the munchkin and a tiny dog in your car, Annie. And like I said, Ruffles is not entering the Lexus. No way."

"Maybe we could put down a seat covering?"

"Hmm. Maybe." He flipped through the channels, absentmindedly settling on Glee.

Annie regarded the television with amusement. "You hate this show."

His eyes widening, he responded, "Oh, um, whoops." He promptly flipped to the next channel. "Thanks for saving me there."

She let out a low laugh. He shrugged and leaned back to take in a documentary on the Great Lakes.

After about ten minutes of Annie working on her blanket and Jeff becoming educated about the effects of cryptosporidium on the inhabitants of Milwaukee in the 1990s, he muttered, "Your car is crap."

Annie's eyes shot up, and her hands stilled. "I know."

He nodded, his eyes remaining fixed on the screen. "We should get you a new car."

"I don't have money for a new car. You know that."

"I picked up a pretty lucrative new case at the firm. With my earnings and some of my savings, we can probably get a decent used car."

She stared at him for a few moments, wondering about his seemingly random and sudden fixation on her car. He had made many comments earlier on in their friendship about her car being crap, but he had wisely stepped away from that sensitive topic quite some time ago. She furrowed her brow in thought.

"Let's get something larger. And then you can haul the munchkin and Ruffles around."

"Ruffles will fit in my crappy car, Jeff."

"But your car's not going to last much longer anyway, and it's probably not the safest. So let's upgrade, something we can throw the munchkin's stuff into when we go to my mom's too, or go on a trip or whatever."

"A minivan?"

She watched with amusement as he pursed his lips in irritation.

"Actually, I was thinking of some sort of SUV. We could take it up into the mountains even. The Lexus doesn't do so well up there."

"You're keeping the Lexus?"

"Annie, Annie, Annie. I have an image to maintain."

"I know."

x

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They finally transported a newly spayed but recovered Ruffles home, Sophie in tow. They decided to use Annie's car for the transport, with the understanding they would go used SUV shopping the following weekend.

Upon returning to the apartment, they introduced Ruffles to her territory as well as her open crate, lined with the now finished lavender blanket and some chew toys. Jeff had insisted that although she appeared house trained and didn't probably need to be crated, they weren't yet sure if she'd be destructive in any way when they were out and would also probably need a place she could go to feel secure. They agreed they'd leave the crate open during the day and depending on how things went, at other times as well. And it was to stay in the corner of the living room.

"You know a lot about dogs."

"I told you, after my dad left, my mom got one for protection and also because my dad never let us have a pet."

"Oh."

"And I think my mom knew having a dog would make me feel more secure, too."

They both watched as Ruffles continued to inspect her new surroundings, sniffing and tail wagging throughout her exploration. Annie smiled as she saw Jeff scramble over to their bedroom and quickly shut the door. He cocked an eyebrow in her direction and she nodded before taking Sophie's hand and helping her follow Ruffles around.

"I wan wuffles in my woom."

"No, sweetie. Ruffles stays out here."

"Wuffles need Fee."

"Maybe in a little while, when she's settled in and if you two are getting along and you treat her very carefully, because Ruffles is breakable, we'll see…"

"Annie."

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That day, Ruffles Bananas Edison-Winger joined their family.

She appeared pleased with her sleeping area, and readily allowed Jeff to close her crate that evening as he and Annie went to bed. She really did seem like the perfect dog for them.

At around one in the morning, the whining began.

"Dammit."