They’re waiting for Cora to give them the go-ahead for Senior Staff when Derek mentions that he’s thinking of asking out Rita-from-the-Times.
“I’m 97% sure I already told you that was a terrible idea,” Stiles says, flipping through his briefing book for the figures from the Department of Education.
“And I’m 97% sure you did not,” Derek snaps, reaching across Stiles and opening the book to the correct page. “Third paragraph down.”
“There’s no way these numbers are right.” Stiles adjusts his reading glasses, frowning at the page. “Are these numbers right?” He shoves the pages at Isaac, who’s been watching their back-and-forth with a bemused smirk. “Stop smirking. There is nothing smirk-worthy about errors in the briefing. There’s no way we’re increasing the turn-around grants by more than 82%. I’m all for teaching the children, okay? Children are great. Okay, children aren’t great. They’re creepily tiny humanoids. But I can almost tolerate children, which is more than I can say for a lot of humanoids. Like Republicans. So, yes, the children, they’re precious, they’re our future yada-yada, but that’s wrong, tell me why that’s wrong.”
With his now-free hands he shoves his glasses back atop his head and pokes Derek in the chest, wrinkling the Chief of Staff’s green tie. “And I did so say it was a terrible idea.”
“Laura gave me this tie,” Derek says, trying to smooth the wrinkles from the silk. “Respect the tie, minion. And you didn’t. You said dating Alex-from-the-Gazette was a terrible idea.”
“You did,” Cora agrees, glancing up from her laptop. “She’ll be ready for you in two minutes, she’s wrapping up her bi-weekly with the director of the FBI.”
“Asshole,” the assembled staff mutter in concert.
“Agreed. Derek,” Cora’s rebraiding her hair as she speaks, using the camera on her MacBook as a mirror, “Stiles said that dating anyone from the press pool is a shit show waiting to happen and he’s right. And even if he wasn’t, you shouldn’t ask out Rita.”
“Because Rita’s dating Stacy-from-the-Post,” Erica says, striding into the outer office in a cloud of freesia perfume and bouncy curls. “Isaac, before I pass them to the pool, have you seen those numbers on the turn-around grants?”
“Somebody typed the percentage up backwards,” Isaac passes the briefing book back to Stiles. “It’s 23.428%, not 82.432%.”
“Thank you! This is why we pay you the big bucks, Lahey.” Isaac snorts, but he’s definitely blushing faintly. “I knew that looked wrong,” Stiles flips the book shut. “You wouldn’t want to break up a happy couple like Rita and Casey, right Derek?”
“Rita and Stacy, Stilinski,” Cora says. “You guys can head in,” she adds, unnecessarily, as the door swings open and Director Whittemore exits.
Jackson purposefully bumps into Derek on his way out of the Oval Office, exchanging scowls with a gruff, “Hale.”
“Whittemore,” Derek mumbles back.
“Someday you’re going to tell me what their deal is,” Stiles stage-whispers to Cora, trailing behind the others.
“I will as soon as you admit that you don’t care about happy couples, you just want my brother to ask you out.”
“Lies and slander, fair maiden!” Stiles tosses over his shoulder.
President Martin raises one perfectly arched eyebrow as Stiles shuts the door.
“I don’t want to know,” Lydia decides, tucking a red curl behind one ear as she turns to Isaac. “Would my Deputy Chief of Staff like to explain what the hell is going on with the numbers in the DoE report?”
“Typo,” Isaac shrugs.
“Of course. I’m sure the American people will be pleased to know that the misallocation of funds set aside for the future of our nation isn’t willfully done, but is, in fact, a typographical error. Stilinski?”
“Yes, Madam President?”
“Already getting McCall on it,” Stiles replies, typing up an e-mail to the Deputy Communications Director, his best friend Scott.
“Alright. I’ve got a meeting with Vice President Boyd and Secretary Deaton in twenty minutes, so we need to make this quick. Derek?”
“We’ve got the thing with the science nerds this afternoon.”
“And by that, our eloquent Mr. Hale means that at three o’clock in the Roosevelt Room we will be meeting with the heads of NASA, the NSF, the NIH, the Department of Energy, and the AASCU to discuss funding priorities for the fiscal year,” Stiles says, tucking his phone into his breast pocket.
“That’s what I said,” Derek smirks, “just with fewer words.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, maintaining just enough decorum not to flip the bird in the Oval Office. It’ll keep until later.
“Matthew Daehler with the San Francisco Chronicle wants a sit-down and photo spread,” Erica says, toeing out of her Jimmy Choos before resettling on the couch with her legs tucked beneath her. “The guy’s a creep, but he’d make you look like a dream.”
“Absolutely not,” Stiles says.
“It could be very good exposure,” Erica says.
“Daehler’s a first-class creep and we all know it. I’m not sure how he even has clearance after that stunt he pulled stalking General Argent’s daughter like a two-bit pap,” Stiles argues.
“I agree that the sort of exposure we’d get in the cycle from an in depth sit-down and shoot could be positive,” Derek says, holding up a hand to stop Stiles’ protests. “However, I would suggest Kali Heller from the Los Angeles Times. New to the press pool, recently returned from a stint embedded with a unit of Recon Marines in Iraq—”
“One of the only women of color in the building,” Erica offers. “Plus she’d owe us; a one-on-one with a sitting president would put anyone on the short-list for a Pulitzer.”
“She’s not Daehler, but I’ve read some of her pieces from the Sun-Times. She’s ruthless,” Stiles says.
“Ruthless is doable,” Isaac says. “I agree with Derek. Two strong women sitting down for a one-on-one. No offense, Madam President, but you’re not particularly well-known for approachability.”
“I’m surrounded by highly-trained men armed to the teeth twenty-four-seven; if people think I look approachable they’re touched in the head,” Lydia replies. “I’ll think about it. Erica, give Daehler a definite no, but offer him some behind-the-scenes time with you to keep him happy. Derek, I want you feeling things out with Heller, see if it’s a good fit. Isaac, fix those numbers before the press gets their hands on that report. Stiles, you’re right about Daehler, but if we refuse to deal with anyone you deem ‘a first-class creep’ we wouldn’t be on speaking terms with anyone inside the Beltway. And for the love of Prada, burn that cardigan. You look like you mugged my nana for it. We done here?” She barely pauses for affirmative nods before shouting towards the outer office. “Cora! I want to see the numbers from the NIH on my desk in five minutes or you’re fired!”
The door flings open, revealing a scowling Cora. “You wouldn’t last a day and you have an intercom for a reason. What are you all still doing in there? Don’t you have jobs?”
“Out, out,” Lydia shoos everyone through the door. “I’ll see you all at two in the Rose Garden for the thing with the Wilderness Girls. Cora, what’s next?”
“Senators Mahealani and Greenberg in the Mural Room in five.”
“Say hi to Danny for me,” Stiles waves goodbye to Cora.
“Say hi yourself, Secret Service says he’s chatting with Director Asshat in the lobby.”
“Stiles, I could use you for a bit this afternoon to go over the policy agenda for State of the Union,” Derek says when they’re almost to the lobby.
“Have the twins coordinate; I think I have a half hour free somewhere between two and four, but Aiden knows my schedule way better than I do. You’re not too broken up about Rita and JC, are you?”
“Rita and Stacy,” Erica elbows Stiles in the side, flashing him a knowing grin. “I’ll see you guys after the morning briefing.”
“I’ve got to check in with Scott about the number thing,” Isaac adds, hurrying after Erica.
“Uhuh,” Stiles rolls his eyes.
“He thinks they’re very discreet, doesn’t he?” Derek grins.
“Senator Mahealani, old buddy, old pal, how are things in the Aloha state?” Stiles shakes Danny’s hand, nodding at Jackson’s retreating form. “And the Hoover building?”
“You know we went to Stanford together, jackass,” Danny says, but he’s smiling, the dimples that gave him a landslide victory in his last race betraying his good mood. “And home’s good, my stepmother wants to know if you and Scott are getting fat from living on takeout, but obviously she doesn’t need to worry. Mr. Hale, always a pleasure.”
“Senator,” Derek nods.
“You guys are always unduly formal, it wigs me,” Stiles wrinkles his nose in distaste. “And you can tell Melissa that she’s welcome to send a care package of her amazing churro-malasada hybrids to share with the West Wing any time.”
“I’ll pass that along,” Danny laughs. “Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go meet with the President and the esteemed junior Senator from Minnesota about Head Start and the Higher Education Act.”
“President Martin’s always so happy when Senator Greenberg can make his way from the Hill,” Derek says, drily.
“We’re always happy to see him leave,” Danny replies. “Gentlemen,” he flashes them another bright smile before heading to the Mural Room.
“No, but seriously, why don’t you like Danny?” Stiles asks, heading down the hall to the bullpen.
“Who says I don’t like Danny?”
“The horrible eyebrow-furrowing lemon-sucking expression you get every time he enters a room says you don’t like Danny,” Stiles drops the briefs on Aiden’s desk. “Find some time in my schedule this afternoon for me to meet with Derek on State of the Union stuff.”
“You don’t have time, today,” Aiden replies, not bothering to look up from the papers he’s highlighting.
“So make time,” Stiles says.
“If you make it a lunch meeting in your office, you have fifteen minutes between the thing with Harris from Foreign Affairs and the thing with Congresswoman Argent,” Aiden caps his highlighter and looks at Stiles with raised brows. “Unless you’d like me to reschedule both of them. Again. In which case, I’m pretty sure Victoria will have you assassinated. Actually, she’d probably just do it herself.”
“She is terrifying,” Derek agrees, straight-faced.
“You both suck, just so you know. Move Harris to Thursday. I really hate that guy and it’s just preplanning for the Japanese meeting in two weeks. We can push it.”
“Done. Derek, should Ethan have your lunch brought to Stiles’ office or should I have Stiles’ lunch brought to your office?”
“We’ll use Stiles’ office, I need to get in some face time with Scott later and this’ll kill two birds with one stone,” Derek says. “And I don’t hate Danny.”
“You totally do,” Scott says, poking his head out of his office. “I heard my name,” he offers when they turn to look at him.
“Shouldn’t you be fixing my DoE numbers?” Stiles snaps.
“Working on it,” Scott ducks back into his office.
“You do hate him, which I don’t understand,” Ethan says. “Everybody loves Danny.”
“Exactly!” Stiles points at Ethan. “What’s not to like?”
“Can we talk about the likeability of Senator Mahealani sometime when we both don’t have sixteen other things we should be doing?”
“I’ll schedule that for just after President Martin’s left office, for you,” Ethan offers, turning back to his computer.
“I hate everyone,” Derek says to the ceiling tile.
“It’s okay, Derek,” Stiles pats him on the shoulder. “You’re bad with people, but you’re very, very smart. And pretty.”