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Title: Dependency Exemption
Author: Scrunchy
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These folks ain't mine. I just can't seem to stop fiddlin' with 'em.
Notes: For celli's Taxfic Challenge 2004. Thanks to Caro for beta and general adorability.

Danny was on a mission. A sheaf of papers in his left hand and a freshly sharpened pencil tucked behind his ear, he leaned into a brisk walk through the newsroom. Jeremy was nowhere to be found.

"Natalie!" she'd just walked out of Dana's office. Dan jogged to catch up with her and rested his free hand on her elbow. "Have you seen Jeremy?"

"Not for a while. If I do, I'll tell him you were looking." She was making notes on a legal pad as she blew past him.

"A nerd, a nerd, my kingdom for a nerd." He stopped in his tracks and walked back a few feet, to where a thin line of yellow light bled out from under an unmarked door in the middle of the hallway.

He leaned up against it, pressing his ear to the door and inadvertently scratching a long graphite line on the surface. It was silent for a moment, and then he heard it: the low, faint clicking of a computer keyboard.

There was no knob on the door, making the room from the outside all the more obscured. Dan laid a hand on it and leaned forward, hoping that he'd find Jeremy, hoping that he hadn't just discovered a painted-over back door to his own office.

"A HA!" Dan peered around the door to where Jeremy sat on a chair in the far corner of the room, his legs up on a stack of copy paper. He was surrounded on two sides by office supplies in the quiet room, a dusty fort courtesy of Staples.

"Damn. You caught me." Jeremy monotoned. "What can I do for you, Dan?"

"This is a supply closet. I had no idea this was a supply closet." He looked around, twisting his papers in his hands.

"Yeah. Lots of that going around." Jeremy went back to writing, typing slowly on the laptop balanced on his legs.

"Do you ... hide here often?" Dan pulled another chair down from the stack of them near the door and sat facing Jeremy.

"I used to, yes." He smirked up at Dan.

"Gotcha."

"So, Dan. You've found me. What can I do for you?"

"I'm a smart guy."

Jeremy stopped typing and took off his glasses. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he wondered how long this was going to take.

"Yes, I find myself stunned by your intelligence daily."

Dan looked momentarily proud until the sarcasm in Jeremy's voice registered.

"Funny. You know, you're funnier than most people give you credit for, Jeremy."

"Can we go back to talking about how smart you are?"

"Of course. So ... yeah. I'm really smart."

Jeremy nodded and gestured for him to continue.

"Maybe I don't speak as many languages as Casey, and maybe I can't name all the capitals in alphabetical order like Natalie, but--"

"Natalie can name all the state capitals in alphabetical order?"

"Forwards and backwards."

"Interesting."

"So, this Thursday." Dan leaned forward and lowered his voice.

"Yeah." In the time honored tradition of Men Sharing Secrets, Jeremy found himself mimicking Dan's posture and volume.

"You know what it is."

"The ... ninety sixth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic? The date of both President Lincoln and Pol Pot's deaths? Mind you, those occurred in separate years."

"You're messing with me now, right? Doing a little ... a little thing where you mess with me?"

"Indeed I am. Thursday's tax day."

"Tax day. Yes."

"And you haven't done yours yet."

"I haven't. Not for lack of trying, though, Jeremy, and this is where you come in."

"A nerd, a nerd, your kingdom for a nerd?" he glanced at Dan over the top of his glasses.

"You heard that?" Dan cringed.

"You were right outside."

"Right."

"So."

"So, I can't figure out my taxes."

"Okay, well - why didn't you have someone else do them for you? I know you have at least some disposable income, and then this way you wouldn't have to worry about it."

"Right, and that's what I usually do, but - I just wanted to do them myself this year. I figured it couldn't be that hard."

"Even though there's a huge industry that supports the fact that much of America cannot, in fact, do their own taxes?"

"Yeah, but I figured ... watching other people do my taxes all these years, I'd have accrued some idea of how to go about it."

"I like what you did there, 'accrued.' Cute."

"I'm a smart guy, Jeremy." He curled a little self satisfied smile.

"As we've established at least once today."

"Can you help me?" Dan reached out and laid his hand on Jeremy's forearm. His eyes were earnest, and full of mathematical fear.

"Yeah," Jeremy patted Dan's hand, "let me finish up here, and I'll be right out."

Dan smiled and stood, clapping his hands with each step he took backwards towards the door.

"I'll be in my office. I'll order some food, what do you want? Anything you want."

"Let's get sandwiches."

"You still binging on bread?"

"Post Passover carbo-loading. You know how it goes." Jeremy shrugged.

"I do, I do indeed my Hebraic brother." Danny rested his hand on the knob and turned to walk away.

"What you think it was?"

"Hmm?" He looked back over his shoulder.

"This room. When you didn't think it was a supply closet?"

"I never put much thought into it." Danny shook his head and looked around the room a last time. "Damn good hiding place."

"It was."


scrunchy 2004