Character: Danny Concannon
Pairings (if any): no pairing
A/N: Thanks to delle, nestra, and sternel for beta.
CJ: Four other press secretaries and you never took a free lead?
DANNY: No, I always took a free lead.
DANNY: Not from you.
DANNY: Cause twenty minutes from now you're gonna remember you're a professional and you're not
gonna like me anymore.
1. Senior Counsellor to President Newman Resigns
"Hey, Concannon, we're heading over to Iota, wanna come?"
Danny raised his head, blinking in the dim light towards the source of the voice. Katie's chair spun towards him through the aisles of cubicles, her hair loose around her shoulders, and her blouse unbuttoned down to her breastbone. She chuckled when she caught him looking, tossing a wadded up piece of paper at him. "Eyes up, Concannon," she said, twirling to a stop. "Iota, or no?"
"Naa, I've got to get this done." Leaning over to pick up the paper on the floor, he held it out to her, but pulled his hand back when she reached for it. "Anything I need to know on here?" he teased, starting to unfold it. "Sources… quotes?"
Katie snorted, making a grab, and catching it before he completely unfolded it. "You think I'd be tossing it around the press room if it had anything like that?" She holds the open paper out in front of him. Doodles, and a phone number scrawled in the corner. "I'm going home with that one tonight," she said, referring to the number with a wink. "And you're going home alone again."
Nudging his chair with her foot, she rose. "You can't work all the time, Daniel. Loosen up! Come with us."
He shook his head again, glancing back towards his screen. "Not tonight," he says, waving her off. "Maybe next week."
She rolled her eyes, crumpling the paper again, and tossing it next to his laptop. "You say that every week," she said, and actually reached out to rumple his hair, like he was a child, or a small dog. "One day we're going to get you out with us!"
Pulled back, mentally, by his work, he didn't hear her go, or even notice when she flipped off the last of the remaining overhead lights. "Unable to confirm or deny…" he murmured to himself, fingers finding the keys, even in the darkness. "No, unwilling to confirm or deny…"
"Don't you ever go home?"
This time, the voice startled him, and Danny jumped, accidentally skewing his final thought into random letters. Even with his heart pounding, instinct had him hitting Ctrl-S before spinning his chair. "What are you still doing here?"
The older man shrugged, spinning Katie's chair, and straddling it, sliding towards Danny. "The President's working late in the Oval. I thought he might need me."
"He didn't." Another shrug, and the man ran a hand through his hair, closing his eyes.
He radiated tension. Danny didn't have to be a reporter, or even very smart, to figure that one out. His shoulders were hunched in exhaustion, the lines on his face deep and dark, even in the dim light. "Hey, Brian, everything okay?"
Brian chuckled darkly, and that startled Danny almost as much as his initial appearance in the press room. For as long as he'd known him – which admittedly, wasn't all that long – the Deputy Communications Director had been anything but dark. Optimistic. Excitable. Hell, even perky. But never, ever dark.
Turning his chair a little, Danny tried to look casual, but his instincts were kicking in. How to get him to talk, to really talk. To reveal. To – No. This wasn't a story. Pull back, Concannon. This isn't for you. But some instincts just can't be quelled.
"Is this about …" Danny bit his lip, nervously. "There's a rumour making it's way around the room, that – It's none of my business." He started to turn back towards his laptop, but Brian chuckled darkly again.
"It's true. It's always been true," he said, shaking his head in almost-amusement. "That's what I don't quite understand. It's not like I hid it during the campaign, or after. For God's sake, I brought Peter to the Inauguration Balls!"
Danny blinked, still watching Brian. "You stayed because you thought the President might need you," he said carefully, and when Brian nodded, he moved on. "But he didn't, and –" He paused, glancing out through the Press Room, and into the hallway that led to the offices. All the lights were still on out there. "And Calvin is still here too. And Jack." Two more nods. "And they're in with the President. He needed them."
"It's not rocket science, I realise," Brian replied, his voice soft. "It's been going on for weeks, but I figured – They knew. They had to have known. So why now? On the eve of a family values initiative."
Something in his voice made Danny's internal radar scream, and he pushed his chair away a bit, not so much for physical distance, as professional. "You knew I was here," he said quietly, pressing. "You waited until everyone else left. You came out here to see me."
For a moment, Brian's eyes seemed to glaze over in anger, but then he calmed. "My resignation letter is on my desk, already printed and signed. I've seen the way you work – the questions you ask." His eyes hardened again, but the fierceness wasn't towards Danny, but the situation. "This isn't a casual conversation, Danny. We're on the record."
Danny stared at him for long moment, then nodded. "You're sure about this?" he asked, shifting his chair again, this time back towards his cubicle. Brian's nod was firm, but silent, and Danny returned it, grabbing his notebook. "All right then. Let's talk."
2. UN Commission on the Status of Women Rejects FLOTUS as Speaker
"Just a few quick things – " The press secretary, Jack Thompson, looked down at his notes, and Danny watched his face as he did so. No longer a freshman – in the press room, or with this particular press secretary – he knew what the signs were. And he'd seen none of them so far. "We'll be flying out to China for the summit in two weeks' time. Final schedules will be available next week. Then revised."
A soft chuckle followed that, and Jack looked up at the room, smiling almost shyly before turning back to his paper. "Current scheduling has the Prime Minister of Canada joining us for our flight over; and since one of our major topics while in China is the environment, it's probably a good thing that we're car-pooling."
Another chuckle, this one a little more forced. Come on, Jack, give up on the jokes, you know they never work. Danny shook his head, taking his eyes away from the press secretary a moment, to jot something in his notebook.
"Today the President received the latest report from the US Department of Education regarding standardized testing in our schools, specifically in DC and the surrounding areas." A breath, and Danny shook his head. He's not seeing the signs this week. Either he's gotten better, or it's all trash. "He'll be reviewing it with staff over the weekend, and in the coming weeks we'll be able to let you know our findings."
"And finally, it turns out the First Lady has a scheduling conflict that will prevent her from speaking at the UN Commission on the Status of Woman this year." Danny tilted his eyes up, narrowed, to watch Jack finish. "She's extremely disappointed, of course, that she won't be able to attend, but she hopes next year will work out better."
Danny frowned, scribbling that last bit into his notebook – he had to fill up his column inches somehow, and it didn't look like this week was going to give him anything juicy.
"And that's a full lid, folks. We're hoping for a quiet weekend, so you should all go out and enjoy yourselves." The room chuckled, genuine this time, but started to move. The last time the White House promised them a quiet weekend, there was a military coup in El Salvador. "In fact, get drunk. I'm sure we won't need you." More laughter, then Jack stepped down from behind the podium, leaning in to whisper to his assistant before vanishing back towards his office.
Danny sighed, tucking his notebook into the pocket of his jacket. His colleagues were chattering around him, getting up and moving towards the exits. They all had deadlines to make, but he was in no rush. It wasn't as though there was a story begging to be told in there. Some days it just wasn't worth getting out of bed.
Danny raised his eyes. "For God's sake, Stella. It's Danny. Mr. Concannon is my Dad." He smiled broadly at the petite woman before him, watching her blush. For some reason, he could never resist teasing her. It was something about how easily she turned pink under his gaze. "What's up?"
"Jack thought you may have had a follow-up," she said, voice nervous.
Frowning, Danny shook his head. "No. Everything was pretty clear today, Stella. Summit. DC Schools. Prime Minister of Canada. Scheduling conflict." He counted them off on his fingers as he spoke, and as he did so, she turned a brighter shade of pink, like he was embarrassing her still. Or maybe - "Did Jack want me to come back for something?" he asked, voice low.
She shook her head. "He just thought you might have had a follow-up," she said firmly, but her eyes were wide. "He said it looked as though you wanted to ask a question during those last few tidbits."
Oh, she is not cut out for this, Danny thought to himself. Glancing around the press room, he tried to see if they had an audience. Most of his colleagues were gone, filing in the back room, or hovering around the back doors for a smoke, but one person caught his attention – Jack was standing by the door to the hallway, sweat beading on his forehead, and a nervous expression on his face.
Huh. There were his signs – not usually so obvious, but it's easier to hide when you know you're being watched by TV cameras, and fifty reporters looking for a sign.
Turning his eyes back to Stella, he gave her a gentle smile. "You're doing a good job," he said softly, trying to calm the girl down a bit. "He really should have done this himself, rather than sending you." She shuffled her feet a bit, eyes down. "Look at me." His voice was a little sharper than he intended, but it served its purpose. "There are fifty other reporters around – flirt with me."
He tilted his head, giving her a flirtatious grin. "You really have a beautiful smile," he continued softly. "And that red is a good colour on you. It suits you." She looked confused, and embarrassed, but somehow calmer. "Talk to me. Like nothing strange is going on."
Stella took a breath, and Danny could see she was still struggling. "I like your suspenders," she said, and her blush deepened. "Not many men can pull them off, but you do. And the loud ties. They suit you."
Danny chuckled. "All right, then."
He watched her, and it was like he could see her mind turning. Her back even straightened a bit as she said her next words. "The First Lady likes them too," she said, firmly, meeting his eyes for the first time since their conversation started. "She's always complimenting them."
"Is she?" He raised an eyebrow, and she nodded. "That's interesting. I may have to look into that." Stella nodded, perhaps a little too eager. "Thank you, Stella. You know, it's a little known fact that men like to be complimented on their wardrobe too."
She laughed, and it was actually a very pretty sound. "I should go," she said after a moment, gesturing in the direction of the door. "Jack'll be wondering what happened to me."
Rising, Danny reached for her hand, squeezing it. "Well, thank you again for the compliment," he said, smiling at her kindly. "I'm really touched."
"And you can come talk to me anytime," he said, letting go of her hand as she turned. His eyes rose to the doorway – Jack was gone. "With or without the compliments."
She blushed, deeply, as she rushed off, and Danny smiled to himself, sitting back down in his seat. Pulling out his notebook, he flipped to the page he'd been using during the briefing. Pen in hand, he drew a thick circle around the words Scheduling Conflict, First Lady, and closed the book again.
Time to get to work.
3. Dark Horse Candidate to Enter Presidental Race
Danny paused dramatically before sinking the last ball, grinning rather wickedly at his opponent. Josh tried to remain nonchalant, but Danny could tell by the look on his face that he was anything but. Josh had been screwed, quite thoroughly, and he knew it.
"I demand a rematch!!" he said, loud enough for the observers around the table to hear him. They all laughed, shaking their heads. They already knew what Danny's response would be. "I was conned! He told me he couldn't play…"
"And you fell for that?" Katie called from her table in the corner. "It's that innocent look that makes him so dangerous – you deserve to lose!"
More laughter, and Josh tugged at his collar, sidling a little closer to Danny. "I might have to owe you," he murmured, obviously hoping no one around them would hear.
But there were snickers, and Danny slapped his back, grinning smugly. "How about you buy me a drink – or four, and we'll call it even?"
Josh nodded, and handed his cue off the Katie, who waved it menacingly. "Are you sure you don't want to go a round with me, Josh?" she quipped. "You know girls can't play pool!"
"Don't believe her, Josh," Danny called, passing his own cue off to another colleague. "She's a demon – I'm not entirely convinced she's human." He ducked the slap aimed at his head, and grinned in response. "Eat 'em up, Katie."
She winked at him, and turned to her game, letting Danny head towards the bar with Josh. "Hey, what are you doing in town, anyway?" he asked, as they settled onto stools. "I thought Hoynes was in …Oh, who the hell knows anymore?"
Josh chuckled, gesturing the bartender, and ordering them each a beer. "Actually, I'm not working for Hoynes anymore."
Danny blinked in shock, looking at Josh as though he'd grown two heads. "He was your ticket though. You were going to put him in the big chair." He picked up his beer when the bartender brought it, immediately downing a quarter of it. "You guys were practically a shoe-in."
"There's a new ticket in town, Daniel," Josh said dramatically, drinking deep of his own beer. "And this one is golden."
"Must be for you to dump Hoynes," Danny replied, eyebrow raised. "You've been talking about him to anyone who'd listen. Why are you keeping silent now? If this new guy's so hot, why aren't you screaming his name up and down the Mall."
Josh smiled, a big shit-eating grin. "Well, for one thing, after you beating my ass at pool, I think I owe you a bit of torment. And for another? You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Danny rolled his eyes, swigging his beer. "I've been working the DC beat for seven years, Josh. Nothing could possibly shock me. Who is it? Berger from Iowa?" Josh almost snorted beer out his nose, which was Danny's intention. "Well, you said it was far-fetched."
"Far-fetched, maybe, but not on another planet!" Josh said, indignant, then lowered his voice a bit. He leaned in close, making Danny do the same. "Josiah Bartlet. The governor of –"
"New Hampshire?!" Danny pulled away, and this time he was pretty sure Josh had grown two heads. "No fucking way."
Josh laughed, giving Danny an amused look over the top of his bottle. "I told you you wouldn't believe me." He gestured to the bartender for another round, and finished his beer. "I didn't believe it either, until Leo dragged me up there."
"You think Jed Bartlet from New Hampshire is going to be the next President?" Danny asked, incredulous, and when Josh nodded, he shook his head. "How many beers have you had?"
"This is two." He leaned in again, and there wasn't anything shit-eating about his smile this time, it was genuine. "You've got to hear this guy, Danny. You have to listen to him speak, you need to see him. You'll never believe me otherwise." He pulled away a bit, and Danny could see genuine excitement in his eyes. Even Hoynes had never managed excitement from Josh – at least not in Danny's memory. "He's passionate. He actually believes in something. And Danny – this is the best part. Listen to this – he's honest."
Danny eyes were wide. "You're serious. This isn't just revenge for the game? Because seriously, you don't need to pay –"
"I'm serious, Danny." Again with the excitement, and it was contagious, Danny was starting to feel it too. "Call your editor, tell him you've got a lead. Tell him you need to go to Nashua. You'll see it. He'll pull you in."
Now it was Danny's turn to laugh. "You sure it wasn't a cult you joined there, Josh? They didn't make you sacrifice a chicken, did they?"
Josh shook his head. "Nashua, Danny. Day after tomorrow."
"That's going to take some doing, you know." Josh nodded – agreement, and encouragement. Well, if it was a cult, Danny was jumping in too. Anything that had Josh this riled up was at least worth a look. Pulling out his cell phone, he look a gulp of his beer for courage. "Hey, Vince, it's Danny. I've got this lead…"