1. On New Year's morning, David Archuleta woke up with one thought on his mind: taxes. Oh my god, he thought, I meant to meet with my accountant before the end of the year, but I never made it...oh no, it's tax season! Sheila's going to kill me! I better call her NOW. He lay on his back, eyes wide, staring at the ceiling, and was moving to jump out of bed in a panic when an arm snaked out and grabbed him around the waist, pulling him back against a warm body.
"It's only January 1st. You don't have to panic yet."
Suddenly, the warm body was on top of him rather than behind him, and clearly David Cook did NOT wake up worrying about his taxes. "Do I have to remind you when the filing deadline is?"
"No, I know, April 15th."
"Right, so do we really have to worry about this at," he paused to peer at the clock on the bedside table, "7:30 am on the first day of January? Which I might also point out is a Saturday?"
Archie just looked at Cook for a second, but then relaxed. Cook started to lean toward him, but Archie interrupted to ask, "How did you know?"
Cook chuckled. "David, you do this EVERY year. Can we change the subject now, please? I can think of a much better way to spend the first morning of 2011 than worrying about taxes."
Archie tried valiantly not to look embarrassed. He was old enough that he should be able to pull that off, right? Then he gave up and decided to just DO--he could worry later. He reached up and wrapped a hand around the back of Cook's neck, drawing him down for a kiss.
Just before their lips touched, he heard Cook's quiet mumble. "Mmm. Much better. Sheila can wait." Archie smiled and then concentrated on nothing but David for quite a while.
2. Castle breezed into the precinct and found Ryan and Esposito huddled at Esposito's desk, looking very serious. He paused, frowning a little. "New case?"
Kevin leaned back in his chair, sighing. "No." He waved at the piles of papers littered around Javier's desk. "Taxes."
Castle's eyes widened. "Oh. Uh...Can I help?"
Javier looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. "Help? Why do I feel like your kind of, er, creative help would land one or both of us in jail for tax evasion?"
"That's not the kind of help I meant.” He whipped out his cellphone and hit the speed-dial. “I meant THIS kind." In mere moments, he was hustling Kevin and Javier out the door with their stacks of papers.
"She's waiting for you at her office right now. Go, she'll have you sorted out in no time." He took one last look at the boys and decided to do them one more favor. "When you're done, there'll be a reservation waiting for you at that little restaurant--that one I know you guys love, it's just around the corner from Sheila's office."
Kevin and Javier exchanged one of their we-don't-need-to-talk-to-communicate looks and ducked through the door grinning.
Castle smiled and turned back toward the squad room to go find Beckett.
3. Dan stopped in the doorway of his and Casey's office and peered inside. He hadn't been sure their office could actually contain so many people, but there they were.
Dana, Natalie and Jeremy were gathered behind Casey's chair and the four of them were talking animatedly. Okay, really they were arguing. Dan could hear Natalie's voice rising as the conversation heated up, and--ouch. Jeremy must have said something unfortunate because Natalie suddenly had that look, and Jeremy was cringing. Everyone, but especially Jeremy, was afraid of that look.
As if those four weren't making enough noise, Dan also noted the presence of Kim and Chris--who appeared to be having a separate argument of their own--and, oh, pretty much everyone else who worked on Sports Night. Good God, there was Sally. Okay then, everyone who worked for the network. Ever.
The only person Dan did not see was Isaac. Which made sense once he thought about it, because Isaac would not put up with this mayhem.
He made one attempt to be heard over the chaos, the only result nearly being decked by Kim when she suddenly whirled toward him, startled.
"Don't sneak up on people like that, Dan!" she hurled at him before returning to her argument with Chris. Dan backed away slowly and went in search of Isaac.
Luckily, Isaac was in his office--his blessedly quiet office--and Dan entered, closing the door gently behind him. He sagged against the door in relief, blew out a breath, and then looked up at Isaac.
"You look like someone--you look shell-shocked, Dan. What's going on?" He looked at Dan expectantly.
"Um, I don't really know how to ask this, but..." Dan paused to work out his phrasing.
"Yes? Come on, out with it. What’s wrong?"
"Well…” he took a deep breath and said in a rush, “the whole studio is in our office having a shouting match.” At a more normal pace, he added, “And I can't get a word in to shut them up or clear them out." He paused and looked at Isaac pleadingly. "Help?"
"A shouting match? About what?"
"I don't even know--they were at it when I got back from my interview with Derek Jeter for tomorrow's show." He frowned. "Wait. It has something to do with taxes," he suddenly realized, as snippets of the argument came to him. "Tax codes, regulations, I have no idea."
Isaac closed his eyes for a moment, shook his head, and opened his eyes again. "Taxes? Really?"
Dan could only nod in response, at a loss for words.
"Well then," Isaac said as he got up from his desk chair. "Let's go see about this."
"Umm. I'll follow you."
Isaac paused in the doorway to Dan and Casey's office, surveying the scene, then took a step inside.
Dan reached out and touched his arm, "Don't get too close to Kim!"
Isaac shook Dan off and cleared his throat, his most formidable expression appearing on his face.
That got one or two people's attention.
"What on God's green earth is going on in here?" Isaac demanded in that voice that could carry over or through any sort of din.
Suddenly, everyone quieted and stared at Isaac for a second, then opened their mouths nearly simultaneously to speak.
"OH NO YOU DON'T. Just get out of here, all of you." He glared at everyone in turn. When his glare landed on Casey, et al, he continued. "Except you four. Stay right where you are."
Once everyone had cleared out, Dan went to sit on the edge of his own desk. Blessed, blessed silence had fallen in the office.
"Casey," Isaac said, deadly quiet as he faced the now-subdued group. "Maybe you can explain to me why my entire staff was in here acting like teenage hooligans on a playground?"
Casey opened and closed his mouth a few times, then looked down at his desk. "I'm just trying to do my taxes," he mumbled, toying with the cup of paperclips in front of him nervously.
"I thought Sheila does your taxes?"
"She does-- She has, but I thought-- Look. I'm a grown man, an intelligent man. Shouldn't I be capable of doing my own taxes?"
Isaac expressively raised an eyebrow. "By all current appearances, NO."
Casey looked like he wanted to argue, but he looked Isaac in the face and his shoulders slumped. "Okay."
"Good. I'll be in my office." Isaac strode out of the room. Dana, Jeremy, and Natalie looked like they wanted to say something, but then they all exchanged a quick glance and meekly followed him out.
Dan watched Casey deflate, elbows on his desk, face in his hands. Then he looked up at Dan.
"Did you have to go and get dad, Danny?" Casey pouted at him.
Dan rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, shut up, Casey." He lobbed the crumpled up piece of paper he'd been messing with at Casey's head--narrowly missing--and added, "And CALL SHEILA."
Casey, still looking petulant but also resigned, picked up the phone and dialed.
4. Peter was sitting at his desk, poring over the paperwork in front of him when the front door opened. He looked over his shoulder and smiled as his wife came into view. Followed by Neal, gallantly carrying a couple of bags of groceries.
Neal sailed right past him, headed for the kitchen, as if he owned the place. Elizabeth paused, leaning to kiss Peter on the top of his head and to ask how his day was.
"Oh, fine. Just trying to make some sense of our taxes. It seems like we should be able to do a little better than this."
At that moment, Neal came back into the room. "What's that? Let me help!"
Elizabeth just raised an eyebrow, smiled, and headed to the kitchen. "I'll just go put the groceries away. And start dinner." She glanced at Neal on the way by. "Staying for dinner?"
"Oh! Yeah, great!" He turned his attention to Peter and pulled up a chair. He reached out and dragged the papers over to him and scanned the form briefly.
Peter watched him do a double take when he saw the income line, and immediately start digging for the W-2's to verify the total. He sighed and said, "Yes, that's really how much we make."
For a second, Neal looked completely appalled. But he quickly rallied, saying, "Okay, we have got to find you some deductions."
He flipped quickly through the receipts and tax statements on the desk. "Nope, that's not enough. How about your car? Oh, and I can give you some of my receipts--I have a lot of expenses, but obviously can't itemize right now."
"What sort of expenses do you have?" Peter asked with interest. It was always fun to see what he could get Neal to admit to.
"Oh, you know, clothes," he indicated the elegant--and no doubt very expensive--suit he was wearing. "Rent. Entertainment."
"You can't deduct entertainment expenses."
"You can if you're entertaining a client!" Neal insisted with a grin. "How about charitable donations? I bet you have a lot of those. I'm a charitable donation!"
Peter laughed. "How about if I just claim you as a dependent?"
Neal seriously considered the idea for a moment, making Peter laugh more and begin to protest. "You know that was a joke, right?"
Neal still had that thoughtful look on his face when Elizabeth came back into the room, car keys in hand. "Dinner's in the oven. If I'm not back in about 45 minutes take it out. And eat. I've already called Sheila, so I'll just take these." She gathered up all the papers and stashed them in her bag. "You boys have fun now, but do try to stay out of trouble until I get back."
And just like that she was out the door, with a little wave for Neal and blowing a kiss to Peter.
Peter thought Neal looked as stunned as he felt. He chuckled, "She's right, you know."
"If anyone can help us squeeze a little more out of our taxes, it'll be Sheila. They've been friends for years, and she's a smart one."
"Yep," Peter returned with a smile. "Now, what do we do until she gets back?"
Neal grinned, and Peter thought, "Uh oh..."
5. John arrived home at 221b and found Sherlock poring over a rather alarming stack of books and leaflets. Well, not alarming, perhaps, given the sorts of truly alarming things he often found in their flat.
And yet...he peered over Sherlock's shoulder and saw, well, a lot of tables full of numbers, and even more dense text.
"What's that, then?"
Sherlock heaved a disgusted sigh and tossed the tome he'd been leafing through onto the table. He threw himself back on the sofa and said dramatically, "American tax code. Utterly indecipherable."
"Indecipherable? By you? That must be some scary stuff."
"Well, I'm sure it's not that bad if you actually live in that world. But it bears no resemblance to anything I'm familiar with, so learning all of that, well. I can do it, but it will take a while."
"Why are you learning American tax code anyway? Not looking to leave me here alone, are you?" John asked with a quick smile.
Sherlock reached out and took John's hand, which he then examined closely as he spoke. "No, it's for a case. The victim did a lot of business in the US, and I'm trying to determine whether there could be a hidden financial advantage to their murder. Usually, this sort of thing is so obvious, but..."
"But it's nothing you've ever cared about before, so it claimed no space on your hard drive previously." He grinned mischievously. "Kind of like the solar system, yeah?"
"Will you never let that go?" Sherlock sighed and dragged John down by the hand he was still holding.
John laughed, landing sprawled across Sherlock's chest. "You know...No, I don't think I ever will."
"Oh, just shut up and kiss me, would you?"
"Certainly." John leaned toward him to comply, but then had a sudden thought. "Hey, I think I have a solution to your tax problem."
Sherlock sounded skeptical, and John had to roll his eyes. "Yes, I do. It just so happens that I know someone--an old friend of Harry's, in fact, haven't seen her in years--someone who is an American tax expert. You could give her a call, ask all the right questions, and probably have your motive in minutes. Without having to sift through all of this." He waved vaguely toward the stack of books.
Sherlock started to get up, nearly dumping John to the floor. "Excellent! Let's call her."
John laughed. "You can't call her now, though, can you?"
"Whyever not?" Sherlock gave him a mildly puzzled look.
"Is this another gap in your knowledge due to deleting all information about the solar system from your hard drive? It's something like," he glanced at a clock, "4 am in Chicago right now."
"Oh that. Why can't I just call people when I need them?" He sighed and dropped bonelessly back to the sofa again.
"Well, not everyone will come running at your every whim, you know." John's voice dropped a little lower and he watched Sherlock's eyes widen a bit in recognition. "However, I do have an idea or two about how to keep you occupied for the next several hours." He crawled up Sherlock's long frame and settled himself comfortably before leaning to kiss him and added, "And then, once it's a reasonable hour in America, I promise I'll let you call Sheila."
"That is...acceptable." John knew that put-upon look was just an act and resolved that over the next, oh, four or five hours, he'd make Sherlock regret that pout.