TITLE: The morning after
AN: This is a response to the 'Woke Up in Vegas' challenge on TTH. Challenge is as follows "The challenge is this: A BtVS or AtS character and a character from another genre meet up in Vegas and get really, really smashed. They end up in bed and MARRIED. Your story should pick up the next morning, when one or the other (or both) wakes up completely confused. What comes next for the (un)happy pair? Do they stay together? Is there a reason why they can't separate? Are there long term consequences or just short term? And what do their friends think of what's happened?"
Xander groaned as he fought his way to consciousness, the pounding that he'd first assumed was just in his head was now echoing loudly around the hotel room.
As he stood up from the bed he groaned again, louder this time as the sunlight that was streaming through the window assaulted his eyes. Grabbing the thin duvet from the bed he held it loosely over his stomach as he stumbled across the hotel room, rubbing his face with his other hand as he reached the door.
"Wha…" He trailed off as he pulled the door open, intending to ask 'what do you want?' to whoever it was that had woken him up at whatever hour of the morning it was. However this course of action was quickly derailed as the blinding flash of several cameras went off at once, sending bright shooting pains through his eyes and up into his still alcohol riddled brain.
"Gah!" Xander shouted, bringing both hands up to cover his eyes, dropping the duvet in the process and leaving him stood there in the doorway naked, covering just his face with his hands.
For a moment silence fell around the doorway, a few occasional flashes of cameras punctuated the time that was passing before Xander's brain caught up with exactly what was happening here.
"You know, I've had this nightmare before," He muttered before pinching himself and realising he was actually awake. "Aaahhh!" He shouted as realisation kicked in, stumbling backwards and nearly tripping over the duvet that he was pulling back with his heel before slamming the door shut on the various flashes as garbled questions that were barely coherent to him. "What the…" He asked rhetorically as he rubbed his face again, the bright flashes from the camera bulbs had left strange purpley green dancing after images on his vision, shaking his head slightly and blinking rapidly to clear his eyesight he turned back to the room and frowned again.
There, on his bed, wearing only what looked to be a lacy green pair of French panties, and covering her chest with her hands, was one of the cutest women Xander had ever actually seen. It didn't help that she was blushing furiously; something Xander thought made her seem even cuter.
"Uh, hi?" He muttered questioningly, peeking out between his fingers as he continued to rub his eyes to try and rid himself of the dancing lights.
"Right," Xander nodded, pretty much frozen to the spot as the implications of what she'd just said filtered into his brain. Grabbing the duvet from the floor he quickly pulled it up to cover the tattered rags of his dignity before turning his gaze back to her. "Sorry about… well, the nakedness and all…" He trailed off as he tied the duvet loosely around his waist so he could still use his hands. "Did we… ah… you know?"
"Have sex?" She asked as she pulled and mattress sheet off the bed and used it to cover herself up. "I'm… pretty sure, I think so anyway."
"Just checking," Xander muttered as he rubbed his head. "Sorry, fighting a bit of a hangover here so bear with me."
"Same here," She nodded back as she leaned over the side of the bed to pull up a stylish leather handbag, knocking several papers and a strange flower type thing off of the bedside table as she moved.
"Drinking bad, alcohol bad," Xander muttered to himself as he shuffled his way into the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water. "What was that about anyway?" He shouted out of the bathroom as he used his hands to cup water from the tap into his mouth.
"One second," She shouted back.
"Sure," Xander said quietly as he half listened to her talking on what he guessed was a cell phone, he couldn't really make out the words but shrugged it off anyway as he splashed some cold water on his face to help himself wake up, using the hand towel to dry off the eye patch so it didn't soak up the water and cling to his cheek.
"What… what is it?" Xander asked as he jogged out of the room, the woman on the bed looked white as a sheet and was holding a piece of paper in her hand like it was a note from Satan himself.
"Alexander Lavelle Harris?" She asked questioningly.
"Full name, ouch, am I in trouble or… wait, how'd you know my name?" He asked, still pulling a blank on her name or any of the events that obviously had led them to sharing a bad last night.
"It's on here…" She trailed off as she passed the bit of paper over.
"Alexander Lavelle Harris and… Zoey Harris?" He read questioningly. "Zoey?"
"Zoey Bartlet." She confirmed. "And you're about to tell me this is some sort of joke right?" She asked hopefully, holding up her left hand where a simple gold band decorated her ring finger.
"Oh man, oh please god…" Xander said fervently as he brought up his own left hand and looked at the ring finger there, half in surprise that he hadn't actually registered the simple ring before. He didn't really wear jewellery that much, aside from the simple silver cross that Willow had given him for his birthday a few years back, so he really should have registered a ring that was nestled on his finger before now. "Damnit."
"You look good in a tux," Zoey said half hysterically as she looked at what was obviously a photo from last night.
"We got married, in Vegas?" Xander asked in disbelief, he couldn't have been that stupid surely; they were only passing through Vegas after leaving Sunnydale. Buffy had taken Giles seriously when he'd mentioned a Hellmouth in Cleveland, so that was supposed to be their destination, Las Vegas had just been one of the stops along the way for them to relax for a bit before heading back on the road. "Oh man, this isn't good."
"Bit of an understatement." Zoey shot back at him. "I can't believe you opened the door, the reporters, oh god, my dad is going to kill me for this." She complained to herself, hiding her face in her hands.
"Your dad, my friends, whichever finds us first." Xander muttered as he sat down on the bed and ran his hand through his hair. "Don't they have precautions against this sort of thing, you know, no getting married while drunk sort of thing?"
"It's Vegas," Zoey said simply as if it explained everything. "And I think we should worry more about my dad than your friends."
"Oh god, he's not a mob boss or anything is he?" Xander asked in shock.
"Not really," Zoey answered, trying to break this as gently as she could.
"Army?" Xander asked again, his imagination dredging up thoughts of a pissed off army general kicking down the door any second.
"He has friends there," Zoey winced. "Josiah Bartlet?" She asked hopefully.
"Not ringing any bells," Xander answered honestly as he thumbed the photo that Zoey had given them, the picture showed them both smiling happily, obviously drunk, at what strangely appeared to be a Star Trek themed chapel. "Did I have a Klingon as my best man?" He asked, still in a bit of shock at what the photo was showing him.
"The President?" She asked again, ignoring his question about the Klingon.
"Of what?" Xander asked, putting the photo down on the bed as he looked at her for clarification.
"The United States." Zoey answered simply, causing Xander to fall off the side of the bed and land in a crumpled and shocked heap on the floor.
Toby Ziegler was not having the best morning so far, for starters it was only five twenty in the morning and he hadn't had a coffee yet, second and more importantly he'd been woken up by an urgent call from CJ telling him that the youngest daughter of the President had been photographed getting married in Las Vegas last night and the story was already running nationally through the papers.
None of the senior staff from the west wing had actually done much sleeping tonight, he was pretty sure on that, they'd all been watching the news regularly as aid relief and disaster efforts continued in south California, that was the main item on the President's agenda at the moment. How a small town in California had literally wiped itself off the map three days ago.
So far the President had had meetings with everyone from the security council, who assured him this wasn't the result of an attack on US soil, through to agricultural and seismologists, who assured him the sinking of Sunnydale, into what was being named by the press 'Sunnydale Crater', was not a natural phenomenon. They had readings from both Los Angeles Institute of Seismology and Santa Barbara University, which both backed up the claims that aside from the actual destruction of Sunnydale, there were no movements in the earth's crust at all that day, no aftershocks, no precursor tremors, it was as if the entire world had actually paused for the day while Sunnydale obliterated itself.
However the Sunnydale incident was likely to be on the backburner today, at least as far as the President was concerned. His youngest daughter, a girl the entire west wing staff had known for over four years now, had managed to slip away from Georgetown University where she was supposed to be, effectively slipping past her secret service guards, and managed to not only get across the entire country undetected by either them or the media, but had actually got married in what he was guessing was an impromptu ceremony, which again he was guessing from the looks on both Zoey's and the unknown man's face, involved copious amounts of alcohol.
This wasn't what they needed during their re-election campaign, the devastation of Sunnydale had thankfully grabbed all the newspapers and shows, forcing the public to forget about the MS scandal for a while, which should have given them some breathing room, but only made their life harder as they tried to plan a full re-election campaign while working through the Sunnydale catastrophe at the same time.
Several questions were running through his mind as he stormed through the lobby of his building, namely why was the President's daughter in Las Vegas getting married when she should have been at Georgetown University, second of all who was the guy she was marrying, third of all was where in god's name were the Secret Service agents that were supposed to be guarding her, and most importantly was did The President know about this, and if he didn't, how in god's name was he going to be the one to tell him.
Pushing the door to the building open violently he stormed out onto the street, the sun was only just glimpsing over the horizon but people were already moving about in the dim light of the streets, glancing down, then up the street quickly he found what he was looking for, a small newspaper vendor a few dozen yards away that was already open for business.
Jogging over he took a quick glance at the newspaper headlines, grimacing as they all read pretty much the same, every single newspaper had the same photo of Zoey with a taller man, standing at what looked to be some sort of science fiction themed chapel, he made a note to ask Josh about the chapel, figuring either Josh or Donna would recognise the trappings from somewhere.
Grabbing one of each of the papers he didn't bother counting them up before dropping a ten dollar bill on the stack of magazines in front of the vendor owner before tucking them under his arm and walking off, he was way too busy this morning to be worrying about change for the papers, now he had to figure out what they were going to do about this and how CJ was actively going to spin this to the press in this morning's inevitable media frenzy.
Waving down a cab quickly he hopped inside as one pulled up, praising his good luck on this one occasion when he needed a cab quickly he closed the door and turned to the driver. "Executive Avenue, west." He stated his destination quickly as the driver started driving down the road, already facing the way they needed to go.
Picking one of the papers off of his lap he flicked through the headline again, grimacing at the photo once more and memorising the face of the groom on the photo, half pitying the man in the photo and half-wondering if the eye patch that covered his left eye was real or part of some costume.
He doubted he had been the first call on CJ's admittedly short list of people to call during a situation like this, more than likely the entire senior staff were being called in and were, like him, hurrying to the White House to see what each of them could do.
To be honest though, he didn't actually see what could be done about this, Zoey had been married in a public ceremony, to a man none of them actually knew, and the reporters already had the story and photographs to back it up. He winced as he pictured how President Bartlet was going to take the news and tried to picture how bad life was going to be around the White House for the foreseeable future.
"You're the President's daughter?" Xander asked in shock, pushing himself back along the floor until he was against the wall, literally as far away from the cute redhead as he could be at the moment.
"Zoey," She said her name again. "I take it you don't remember last night either then?"
"I'm going to have to go with 'hell no' on that one." Xander said, dragging his hands down his face as he tried to figure out exactly how monumentally screwed he was right now. He'd only gone to the bar to have a few drinks in quiet, the trip up to Vegas had been long and annoying, the past few weeks they'd all been in cramped conditions at Buffy's house while working on battling the First Evil, and the bus ride up to Vegas hadn't been that much better to be honest.
They'd only stopped once on the way up, at a motel just off the main interstate through Angeles National Park, using the solitude of the location to redress wounds, deal with the stress of what they'd all been through, and bury their dead.
Robin had died in the bus ride, he'd lasted a few hours out of Sunnydale with Faith fussing over him and doing everything she could, but in the ends his wounds had been too much for their limited medical knowledge. He was now buried in Angeles National Park, along with three other Slayers who had been wounded in the final battle and had only made it to the bus with the skin of their teeth.
All in all there were five graves they'd left behind, four bodies and one empty grave that he'd dug himself, a grave marked simply Anya.
So that was why he was drinking.
Buffy and the rest of the new Slayers were arguing constantly and trying to formulate a plan for what they should do next, Willow had pretty much collapsed on the hotel room bed as soon as they'd got to their rooms, she'd slept pretty much the entire journey through. He didn't pretend to understand magic or what Willow had actually done that night, but he did know it was big and had taken a lot out of her.
Giles had assured him that she was going to be fine, that she just needed to rest after channelling such potent magics through herself.
Faith had been quiet for most of the journey, sitting at the back of the bus, alone quiet, simply staring out of the window and smoking, ignoring anything that anyone said to her and simply ignoring anyone that came to sit by her. She'd left the hotel first, not even bothering to check into her room, simply grabbing one of the swords they'd brought with them and walking off into the night without another word.
He'd actually considered following her, he knew how she felt, angry, hurt, and alone. In retrospect he wished he had followed her now, facing down vampires, demons or whatever other supernatural menace Las Vegas had to throw at them would have been preferable to dealing with the fallout of whatever stupidity he had gone through with last night.
"Aren't you supposed to be guarded?" Xander asked after several moments' silence. "You know, big men in black style guys, intercoms and guns and all that?"
"The secret service," Zoey understood what he meant and gave him the correct name for them. "I wanted some time alone."
"Vegas isn't exactly big on solitude." Xander offered with a half-smile.
"Yeah well it was as far as I could get away from that lying sleaze ball as I could." Zoey shot back with venom in her voice. "All my friends are too busy talking about me behind my back, so can't exactly talk to them."
"Whoa, chill, sorry, didn't mean to press." Xander smiled back disarmingly, holding his hands up in a universal sign of surrender.
"I came home early from class to find him in bed with another woman!" Zoey shouted at Xander. "Cheating on me, on me!"
"Ohhh kay," Xander drawled out as he tried to figure out if he was going to become a punching bag her or a shoulder to cry on.
"That asshole cheated on me with my own roommate; do you know how that makes me feel?" Zoey continued her rant as Xander stood up and moved to sit back on the bed.
"I'm going with angry here?" He half asked with a small shrug and a smile. It almost brought a smile to Zoey's cheeks; a ghost of a smile flittered there for a moment before she burst into tears.
"Oh… uh, there…" Xander said awkwardly as he slowly shuffled up the bed and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight and letting the tears run down her face and onto his shoulder. "Look, uh, whoever this guy was, he obviously didn't deserve you if he was sleeping with your roommate right, I mean that's the lowest of the low right?"
"He's scum," Zoey hiccupped between tears.
"And we can all agree on that," Xander nodded as he shuffled around to face her and lifted her face up with one hand. "He's not worth getting upset over, seriously." Xander smiled as he used his thumb to wipe away one of the tears that was running down her cheek. "Couldn't you have just got one of your guardy type blokes the beat him up or something?" Xander asked with a grin.
"You like making people laugh?" Zoey asked, wiping her tears away herself this time.
"Kinda my thing," Xander answered honestly.
"You're a soldier?" Zoey asked after a moment.
"Soldier?" Xander laughed. "God no, six am wake up calls and running with heavy backpacks just for fun, not my idea of a good time thank you very much." He shook his head in amusement. "What gave you that idea?"
"Your scars," Zoey said simply, reminding Xander that he was all but naked still with just a thin duvet wrapped around his waist. "Your eye." She said after a moment, reaching up to touch the eye patch.
"You know they say don't run with scissors right?" Xander said, standing up from the bed before she could touch the eye patch that covered his left eye. "Good advice it turns out." He paused for a moment, standing awkwardly in the silence. "I'm gonna… you know…"
"Get dressed?" Zoey smiled as she watched him grab some dirty jeans from the floor along with a grey t-shirt and a flannel shirt.
"Yeah, do you need to… uh…" Xander motioned to the bathroom where he was planning on getting dressed.
"I'm good," Zoey nodded, thinking that once he was in the bathroom she could get out of bed and get dressed with the minimum of embarrassment.
"Right… then I'll just…" Xander smiled at her for a moment before stepping inside the bathroom and closing the door behind him.
"Leo," Toby said simply as he walked into the main office where Leo was already sat with one of the newspapers on his desk.
"How did this happen?" Leo barked out, staring at Toby and the stack of newspapers he was carrying. "I've got Ron on line one hunting down Agent Toscano to find out how the hell Zoey managed to get across the country without being noticed."
"Anything?" Toby asked as he looked at the telephone in Leo's hand.
"I'm on hold while he figures this mess out." Leo frowned over. "This isn't good, not by a long shot."
"Damage control?" Toby asked simply.
"CJ and Sam and looking over the papers, trying to get the full story before they head in, The President is in the residence with the First Lady now." Leo answered with a wince.
"I take it that conversation isn't going well." Toby muttered rhetorically.
"What do you think?" Leo glared over.
"How in god's name could she do something like this?" President Bartlet shouted over, not intending either the shout or the question to be aimed at his wife as he stormed to the balcony doors and pushed them open violently. "And why wasn't her protective detail there to stop this from happening?" He shouted again as he pulled a cigarette from his jacket pocket and quickly lit it in the morning air.
"I don't know," Abbey replied, still sat down on the bed in shock over what they had been told by CJ and Leo. The double shock of their youngest daughter getting married, and married while obviously drunk in Las Vegas had hit them both hard. The fact that they weren't there for the ceremony, nor did they even know Zoey had been dating this man, was ringing through both of their minds, the fact that the press had known Zoey was married before they did was just adding a bitter taste to the event already.
"She knows better than this, we brought her up better than this damnit!" President Bartlet shouted into the night.
"Zoey's always been her own person, you can't say otherwise." Abbey said, managing to sound a lot calmer than she actually felt under the situation.
"Married, I at least thought she'd have introduced us to him before they got married." President Bartlet said after a moment of taking deep breaths. "Who is this guy, has she mentioned anyone to you?"
"I'm as much in the dark as you are." Abbey replied.
"I want her here right now." President Bartlet stated firmly.
"You said that to Leo remember?" Abbey half smiled at him. "Remember what he said?"
"Yeah yeah, wait until I've calmed down to talk to her." President Bartlet muttered. "I don't want to be calm; I want to find out what the hell she was thinking."
"Then you'll shout at her, and she'll shout back, and you'll both walk away having ruined Zoey's wedding." Abbey explained calmly. "You need to calm down or she's not going to come here, let alone introduce her husband to you."
"You honestly think I want to meet this guy?" President Bartlet asked as he snatched up one of the morning papers that was on the desk and glared at the photo that was prominently displayed on the front page. "Look at him, scruffy hair, half ironed tux, I'd bet that's even a rental, and what in god's name is he wearing an eye patch for and getting married to my daughter in a Star Trek themed chapel?" By the end of his rant he was practically screaming so loud they would have heard him down at Quantico. "My god, he looks like some tacky James Bond villain for crying out loud."
"And he's married to our daughter." Abbey emphasised the word 'our' as she stood up from the bed. "Do you want to tell our youngest daughter than you don't want to meet her new husband?"
"Do I have to like him?" President Bartlet asked, softly glaring at his wife across the room. "Because I am the President you know, and the forty second airborne is sounding like a pretty good idea from where I'm stood."
"Calm down, then call her," Abbey explained softly. "I'm just as shocked as you are, but Zoey wouldn't have married this man if she didn't love him, you know that just as well as I do."
"They got married in Vegas for Christ's sake." President Bartlet snapped as he threw the newspaper across the room. "Did you know Zoey was into this, this Trek stuff?"
"She took Latin at high school Jed," Abbey smiled at him. "She speaks it almost as fluently as her Italian."
"What does that have to do with anything?" President Bartlet asked, turning to face his wife fully.
"Our daughter is a geek Mr President," Abbey laughed at the shocked look on his face. "Are you telling me you didn't notice that she grew up watching Buck Rogers, Star Trek and every other piece of science fiction she could get her hands on?"
"I… I… I didn't realise…" President Bartlet answered as he tried to dredge up memories of Zoey in her teenage years, it wasn't that long ago but the more he thought about it, the more he realised that during her high school years, he was either campaigning as Governor or was working on his presidential election campaign. "Zoey's a geek?" He asked again in a small voice.
"You didn't hear some of the discussions she and Charlie had." Abbey stifled a small laugh as she remembered hearing Zoey talk about them.
"Charlie's a geek too?" President Bartlet asked in disbelief.
"Not as much as our little girl," Abbey smiled at him. "Maybe you should make some time to talk to her, not argue, but talk to her, get to know her."
"I know my little girl." President Bartlet defended himself.
"What's her favourite type of music?" Abbey argued back playfully with a small smile.
"Classical, like her old man." President Bartlet answered without hesitation.
"A nineteen year old girl listening to classical music, are you sure about that?" Abbey asked with a wry smile as a knock resounded on the door.
"Come in." President Bartlet answered the knock gruffly.
"Mr President," Leo nodded as he opened the doors and walked in before closing the behind him.
"Leo, did you know Zoey was a geek?" President Bartlet asked seriously as he watched Leo enter the room fully.
"No sir, I did not," Leo answered simply.
"Fine," President Bartlet waved the comment away. "What have you found out?"
"We found out the name of your daughters new husband," Leo said simply, opening up the manila folder he was carrying. "Alexander Lavelle Harris, born December twenty ninth, nineteen eighty one."
"Lavelle?" President Bartlet asked in amusement.
"Sir," Leo frowned. "There's a complication."
"Tell me he's not a republican." President Bartlet glared over.
"We have no records of him voting." Leo answered with disdain. "I can tell you where he was born and went to school though."
"Why's that important?" Abbey asked, curious about the man Zoey had married but unsure as to why Leo was bringing this information to them personally.
"Alexander was born in Sunnydale," Leo said simply.
"Oh god," President Bartlet muttered as he sat down at the desk beside him. "Do the press know?"
"If I do, you can bet they'll find out sooner or later." Leo nodded calmly. "They'll be linking the stories of the Sunnydale Catastrophe and the marriage soon."
"Get Zoey on the phone now, I need to speak to her." President Bartlet frowned. "Screw that, I want to be there, get her on the phone then arrange transport to Las Vegas."
"Yes Mr President." Leo nodded simply before moving to the phone stationed by the main doors to the residence and entering the code to have him patched through to Charlie.
"I'll start packing," Abbey said simply as she moved off to get all the things that they would need for some time in Las Vegas ready.
"This… uh… this isn't exactly what I had planned for a trip to Vegas." Xander started to explain as he came out of the bathroom, the jeans and shirt he was wearing were pretty much everything that he had now, literally, after Sunnydale sunk into the Hellmouth, taking his house and all his belongings with it, he could really appreciate the irony of the words 'escaped with only the shirt on your back', well, with pants as well of course. "Wow…" He breathed out as he looked at the woman that was sat on the bed smiling at him. "I'm sorry, I mean… wow…"
"Why thank you," Zoey smiled up at him. Truth be told she was wearing only a simple pair of jeans and red cotton top, but the top was one of her favourites and she knew she looked good in it, if she did say so herself.
"So… uh… I guess we should talk right?" Xander smiled softly as he moved to the spare chair in the room and swung it around to sit on it backwards, so he could lean on the back of the chair and face Zoey at the same time.
"One question first," Zoey said simply, then continued when Xander nodded. "Did you open the door to the reporters naked or did I imagine that part?"
"Oh god," Xander muttered as he dropped his head to head butt the back of the chair. "Can this get any worse?"
"You mean the fact that we got married drunk, the reporters obviously know about it, so you can bet my dad does now as well, and now the reporters have a photo of you answering the door naked, with me in just my panties on the bed behind you?" Zoey grimaced, summing up the night and morning's events so far and flushing red as she thought about them again.
"Oh god," Xander muttered again, hanging his head as low as it could go. "How bad have I screwed up, you know, on a scale of one to ten?"
"I think we both rate about a…" Zoey trailed off as the cell phone started ringing on the bed. "I should…" She explained as she picked up the cell and saw the caller ID displayed prominently on the screen. "It's my dad."
"I'm dead…" Xander muttered. "I'll, uh, give you some privacy." Xander said as he motioned to the door.
"Don't go out there!" Zoey shouted as she flipped open the phone.
"Zoey Patricia Bartlet!"
Zoey instantly pulled the phone away from her ear as the volume of her father's voice rang through the room. "I'd say he's angry." Zoey winced as she slowly brought the phone back to her ear.
"Oh great, the most powerful man in the world is angry, and I just married his daughter, drunk…" Xander muttered to himself as he leaned on the room door and started head-butting it.
"Dad… listen… I can explain…" Zoey started slowly, listening to the phone and staring down at the photo of her at the wedding chapel with Alexander.
"Mr President, they're ready for you." Leo announced from the doorway once the President had put down the phone, he'd done his best not to listen to any of the actual call, but could tell from the face of the President that the call with Zoey hadn't exactly gone well.
"Good," President Bartlet sighed as he grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair where he'd thrown it during the phone call. "She was drunk, can you believe that?" He glared at Leo when no response came.
"She said it was a mistake Jed, she apologised." Abbey explained, having been in on the conversation as well.
"I could kill her," President Bartlet muttered before sighing again. "She'll be waiting for us in Las Vegas, I expect with a better explanation than 'I drank too much', or god I hope so anyway."
"We have a press conference scheduled for zero nine hundred; CJ's going to do her best to put a positive spin on this." Leo explained the plan so far. "How long has Zoey known Alexander?"
"She met him last night." President Bartlet snapped as he led the way out of the residence and along the corridor to the main stairs leading down. "She didn't even know him before that."
"And what are their plans now?" Leo asked frankly, not wanting to bring the President's wrath upon himself but needing the answers to the questions the press would undoubtedly ask.
"That's what we're going to find out." President Bartlet frowned back. "This isn't good is it Leo?" He asked quietly after checking that his wife wasn't in ear shot.
"I only see two options here Mr President." Leo answered honestly. "They stay married, or get divorced."
"She's nineteen, nearly twenty; divorce shouldn't be a word in her vocabulary yet." President Bartlet glared over. "She hasn't even graduated university yet."
"I agree," Leo replied calmly. "Divorce would be a scandal, Alexander is a Sunnydale refugee and with the public polls already swinging against us…" Leo trailed off not wanting to finish the sentence.
"She's my daughter Leo, not a political bargaining chip." President Bartlet snapped.
"I understand that sir, but the public opinion won't." Leo explained softly. "We already have problems with the family values polling after the MS story was released, having a divorced daughter might push even the hardest democrat votes away."
"The latest polls say most of them think divorce is morally acceptable anyway," President Bartlet explained himself as they continued walking towards the main doors where the presidential limousine was waiting for them.
"Morally acceptable and morally right are two different things Mr President." Leo explained as the secret service agent waiting at the limousine opened the back door for the President and the First Lady to climb in.
"We'll finish this later." President Bartlet said as Leo nodded. "I'll see you aboard?"
"Sam, Charlie, Toby and Josh are already on route, I'll be right behind you." Leo said, nodding to the car parked behind the secret service agents on motorbikes that separated the presidential limousine from the rest of the motorcade.
"Alright, let's go." President Bartlet nodded as the agent closed the limousine door and the large limousine stared to drive away from the White House.
"He's coming here." Zoey said softly, looking over to where Xander was sitting. Half way through the conversation he's slumped down the door and was now sat leaning against it. "He wants to meet you."
"He wants to kill me," Xander muttered with his head in his hands.
"I'm sure it won't be that bad," Zoey tried to reassure him. "You voted for him right?"
Xander looked up at her as if she was mad for a second before laughing to himself. "Didn't really vote, at all."
"Well at least you're not a republican," Zoey laughed back at him, trying to find a light side to this mess. "Then he would have been mad."
"So I'm a step up from a republican, is that good or bad?" Xander asked, honestly never have really given politics much notice before.
"Depends who you ask." Zoey answered honestly. "Do you have any other clothes?" She asked after a moment, looking down at his scruffy jeans and worn shirt.
"Uh, no?" Xander answered honestly, he hadn't really thought about it before, figuring he'd get something sorted by the time they hit Cleveland.
"You're going to need them." Zoey frowned. "Unless you want to meet the President in jeans and shirt."
"Bad first impression?" Xander asked softly.
"He's my dad." Zoey said simply. "He's the President; he prides appearance as impeccable in public."
"Oh god," Xander dropped his head again. "Getting a divorce then? There must be somewhere around here that would do it for us, an annulment or whatever they call it?"
"We should talk to my dad first." Zoey sighed. "It's complicated; you don't follow politics at all right?"
"Not even the funny cartoons in papers," Xander sighed as he banged his head backwards against the door. "Oh god, the President, he's coming here!"
"That's what I said," Zoey nodded, thinking the shock of meeting the President of the United States was finally sinking in to Alexander.
"No, no, no, bad, very bad, seriously bad." Xander was almost shouting as he stood up and started pacing the room. "I've got to tell my friends." He explained as he started towards the door.
"You can't," Zoey said with a long suffering sigh. "The reporters remember, they'll be camped out there just waiting for a photo of us."
"I've got to tell my friends," Xander said agitatedly as he moved over to the bed and picked up the phone from the bedside table. "Room three oh one please." He said as the hotel operator picked up the phone on the other end of the line. "Please be up, please be up." He chanted to himself as he looked at the clock reading eight forty two in the morning. "Pick up Buffy, pick up…" He continued to mutter as the phone continued to ring.
"Yes!" Xander shouted as Buffy's voice came over the phone. "Buffy, badness, big badness."
"Xander?" Buffy's voice came back. "Do you know what time is it?" Buffy asked groggily.
"Buffy, get everyone, you all need to get out of here now!" Xander said urgently, pressing the matter as much as he could.
"What's wrong?" Buffy's voice came a bit clearer now as the urgency in Xander's voice woke her up.
"I've done something stupid, like monumentally stupid." Xander explained quickly before turning to Zoey. "How long until he gets here?"
"He said he was leaving as soon as he got off the phone," Zoey explained, trying to figure out what the problem with Alexander's friends was. "Maybe four hours, if that."
"You need to get everyone out Buffy, call Giles, get everyone back to the bus." Xander explained.
"What's going on Xander?" Buffy's voice came across tinged with worry. "What's happened?"
"I… uh… I kinda got married last night," Xander winced as the scream of 'what' echoed down the phone. "Yeah, I know, Willow can hit me later alright, but you all have to get out of town now."
"Xander, we only just got here, the hotel is booked for three more days." Buffy explained. "Now, back to the wedding thing, you got married and didn't tell us, who to, it wasn't Faith was it?"
"Buffy, you don't have time." Xander said firmly, putting the protection of his friends above anything else at the moment. "You remember the Initiative?"
"You married Riley!" Buffy's voice screeched across the line. "Is that even legal?"
"Not Riley, his boss's daughter." Xander sighed as he sat on the bed and waited for the demand for an explanation.
"Professor Walsh had a daughter?" Buffy asked, a bit confused.
"Higher up." Xander muttered as he looked at the photo of him and Zoey getting married, despite the fact that they were most obviously drunk, he had to admit they actually looked happy together.
"Higher?" Buffy asked. "General Whatshisface that Riley was always talking about?"
"Higher, much higher," Xander winced. "Last night I got married to the President's daughter." He waited for a moment as there was a soft thud that came through the line. "Buffy, buffy are you there?" He waited for a few more moments until a sound of fabric scraping along the phone came back. "Buffy?"
"Xander?" Willow's voice came over the phone this time.
"Willow, where's Buffy?" Xander asked quickly.
"I think she just fell off the bed, what did you tell her?" Willow asked calmly.
"Willow, we don't have time. Get everyone and get out of town, now." Xander said firmly.
"But… but… the pool, and food… and shopping for clothes…" Willow's voice came over the line pleadingly.
"Let me," Zoey said softly as she reached out for the phone Xander was holding. "Hello?"
"Hello?" Willow's voice came back. "Who's this and what are you doing in Xander's room?"
"Xander?" Zoey asked, looking over at Alexander. "Right, Xander, short for Alexander."
"Only his mom calls him that, he's Xander." Willow explained. "And who are you?"
"According to the papers we have here, I'm his wife." Zoey winced as she said the 'wife' word, the reality of it really starting to sink in now.
"You got married to Xander?" Willow's voice screeched down the line.
"Apparently so, from the photo I've got it looks like Captain Kirk married us sometime last night," Zoey winced again as she realised how bad this was actually going to look to her dad.
"You got married to Xander by Captain Kirk?" Willow's voice came back, dripping of disbelief.
"Alexan… Xander seems to think you should all get out of Las Vegas for some reason. I take it you're his friends right?" Zoey asked softly.
"I've known him all my life," Willow said firmly.
"My dad's coming here now, he wants to meet Xander and get me to explain what happened." Zoey explained the situation.
"Your dad?" Willow asked, confused at the change in conversation.
"I'm Zoey Bartlet," Zoey said softly.
"Bartlet…" Willow's voice whispered over the phone. "Zoey Bartlet? As in the youngest daughter of…"
"The President of the United States," Zoey finished off with a small sigh. She was used to people reacting in a variety of different ways to the knowledge of who she was, everything from hatred through envy to adoration, and every single one of them annoyed her. She just wanted to be treated like everyone else, not have people buttering her up because of who her dad was.
"Holy Hannah," Willow whispered. "You married Xander?"
"I did," Zoey blushed as she answered softly.
"How do you even know Xander, you're like rich, your dad's the President, how have you even met Xander before?" Willow asked, still in shock at the revelation.
"Hold on…" Zoey said softly as Xander held out his hand to take the phone back.
"Willow?" Xander asked once Zoey had given him the phone. "Willow, listen to me, you have to get everyone out, now."
"But… the President?" Willow's voice came back softly.
"Is on his way now, probably with guards and agents and god knows what…" Xander trailed off.
"Oh god, the…" Willow started but was cut off by Xander when he realised what she was going to say.
"Yeah, do you want the President and whoever else to be introduced to our youngest members?" Xander said, knowing Willow would put together the connection between him saying 'youngest members' and the new Slayers that were now all over this floor of the hotel.
"Oh god, we have to get out of here." Willow practically yelled down the phone.
"That's what I've been saying." Xander reiterated his point. "Get Giles on the phone, explain everything, just get everyone out."
"But what about you?" Willow asked over the phone, worry tinting her voice now as she realised how deep this was likely to get if they were all still here when the President got to Las Vegas.
"I'll catch up with you when I can, I'll find you Willow." Xander said firmly. "Just get everyone out and I'll do what I can here."
"Mr President," Sam Seaborne stood up, along with Charlie and Josh as President Bartlet strode through the main area of Air Force one with Leo behind him.
"What have we got?" President Bartlet asked as calmly as he could as he took a seat opposite where his three senior staff were still stood.
"Zoey Bartlet and Alexander Lavelle Harris were married last night and twenty three fourteen Pacific standard by, and I can't believe I'm saying this out loud, Reverend James Tiberius Kirk of the Hilton Hotel Wedding Chapel." Sam explained almost in disbelief.
"I had a hard time swallowing that one myself," President Bartlet explained with a grimace. "Tell me what we know about Mr Harris."
"Not much sir," Charlie explained as he opened a separate file. "Born December twenty ninth to Anthony and Jessica Harris, one older brother who was taken by social services before Alexander was born, Anthony and Jessica were investigated for abuse and found to be unfit parents, resident of Sunnydale California, no police record though he was investigated once for breaking into a weapons depot in Sunnydale."
"Breaking in to a weapons depot?" President Bartlet asked as his eyebrows nearly collided with his hairline.
"Yes sir," Charlie explained. "I've having people look into it now sir, but it looks to me like…"
"Give that here," President Bartlet said as he reached over and took the file from Charlie's hands. "This is all the information we have on this man?"
"It looks that way Mr President." Sam explained with a nod.
"This has been cleaned," President Bartlet said simply. "I know cleaning work when I see it, and this stinks of it. Leo, find out who did this and why, I want to know the real story on Alexander Harris."
"I'll have some guys dig around." Leo said with a nod.
"Cleaned sir?" Sam asked, looking at the copy of the file he had in front of him, it looked pretty ordinary to him, driver's license, school information, workplace, residence, all the usual information he would expect to see in a file like this.
"Cleaned, sterilised, blacked out." President Bartlet explained. "Is someone was investigated for breaking into a military depot, there would be more information than this, photos, records of conversations, reasons why the investigation started or stopped." President Bartlet slammed the folder shut in his hands. "Whoever cleaned this didn't do a very good job of it, and I want to know why."
"Yes sir," Sam nodded in agreement.
"Military record?" President Bartlet asked, turning to Josh this time.
"Not that we can find, no record of Alex Harris, Alexander Harris or any other abbreviation I could think of. As far as we can see he's had no contact with any branch of the military." Josh explained simply.
"Yet he was investigated for breaking into a military depot just outside of Sunnydale." President Bartlet said softly. "What was the investigation for exactly?"
"Um…" Josh frowned as he found the correct paragraph in the folder. "Theft of a M twenty A one slash A one B one." Josh read off the list with a confused look on his face. "Complete with two M two eight A two pieces."
"That's some heavy hardware." President Bartlet frowned in thought.
"Do any of you have any idea what that alphabet soup actually means?" Josh asked quietly, looking at Charlie and Sam for an explanation.
"It's a shoulder mounted rocket launcher," Leo said calmly. "A bazooka to use a colloquial term, three point five inch rocket propelled grenades, weighing in at about fourteen to fifteen pounds."
"He stole a bazooka?" Josh asked in shock.
"We don't know," Leo said simply. "The investigation isn't in his file; no mention of his name came up on any other database search."
"Like I said, he's been cleaned." President Bartlet explained with a frown. "Find out who cleaned him and why, I want to know everything, I want to know why he was investigated for this and who called it off, if it was called off. Find out any agency ties he has and what he does for them, hell, find out what this guy had for breakfast and what size pants he wears."
"I'll get some guys on it now." Leo said with a nod as he stood up and moved to the rear of the plane where the communications suite was kept.
"Sam, I'm going to need an explanation to give to the press about this, I want you and Toby to come up with something that'll settle them down and give me the room I need." President Bartlet explained, looking at Sam and Toby in turn. "Sickly sweet, proud father blah blah blah, just get them off my case while I figure out what the hell my daughter was thinking of."
"We're on it." Sam nodded as he stood up and led the way to a quiet area of the plane with Toby following him.
"And Charlie," President Bartlet turned to the one member of his senior staff that was left in the area with him. "I know this must be hard for you son, you going to be alright?"
"Me and Zoey broke up over six months ago sir, I can handle this." Charlie answered with a nod.
"Good, because I'm going to need you to stop me from wringing this guy's neck if it turns out he took advantage of my little girl." President Bartlet all but snarled over.
"Yes sir," Charlie nodded quickly.
"Good," President Bartlet sighed as he poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the desk next to him. "Charlie, what sort of music does Zoey like?"
"Sorry sir?" Charlie asked, a bit thrown by the question.
"What music does she like, you know, classical, opera, that sort of thing." President Bartlet clarified his question.
"She likes country sir." Charlie answered after a moment's thought.
"Country?" President Bartlet asked in a bit of shock.
"Yes sir." Charlie nodded back.
"As in cowboys and line dancing?" President Bartlet asked, trying to figure out if he'd ever seen any indication of Zoey every enjoying country and western music before.
"Yes sir," Charlie nodded again. "Last Christmas I got her an autographed album from Terri Clarke, the Pain to Kill album is one of her favourite's sir."
"I didn't know that," President Bartlet said in amusement as he tried to picture Zoey line dancing.
"Her favourite song is Emotional Girl sir," Charlie explained with a small smile.
"And she's a Trekkie?" President Bartlet asked, trying to figure out if he ever actually knew Zoey at all with all this new information that he was finding out.
"I think she prefers Babylon five sir," Charlie laughed quietly.
"We're going to have a long talk soon Charlie," President Bartlet said as he took a sip of water. "And you're going to tell me everything you know about Zoey, everything that it seems I don't know."
"Yes sir," Charlie nodded quickly.
"Country," President Bartlet muttered to himself as he stood up and started walking back to the area of the plane where Abbey would have gone to sit in peace and quiet.
"We can't stay in here forever." Zoey said quietly as she looked at Xander where he was still sat against the door.
"Room service, cable, what's not to love?" Xander quipped back with a small smile.
"Aside from the fact you need some clothes before my dad gets here?" Zoey asked in amusement. "And I need to get changed, unless you want to explain to him why I'm wearing the same clothes from yesterday?"
"Ok, new clothes important, gotcha." Xander quickly nodded in agreement.
"Your friends don't like the President?" Zoey asked after a moment, thinking back on the phone call she'd had with him and his friends.
"They're not exactly fans of the company that he comes with," Xander answered as honestly as he could, the idea of Buffy or any other Slayers coming to the President's attention wasn't something he relished thinking about. He wasn't even sure if the President even knew about Slayers or anything else, while he knew The Initiative knew now, that didn't mean the President knew, he'd watched enough X-files to know that the President didn't always know what the various agencies were doing under his nose.
"Any particular reason?" Zoey asked, fishing for a bit more information about Xander and his friends.
"Bad history," Xander said simply.
"With politicians?" Zoey asked in amusement.
"Politicians, lawyers, military, principals… do you want the full list?" Xander smirked over to her.
"I get the picture," Zoey smiled back. "You think you can brave the cameras yet?"
"Oh yeah, that'll be fun," Xander muttered sarcastically. "Let's see, the first photo they have of me is naked with you in the background, and we have to face them again?"
"Unless you want my dad to come here and get an explanation in private?" Zoey asked with a grimace.
"Is the boarder still open?" Xander grimaced back. "Because I hear Mexico's great this time of year."
"Come on, they're not that scary," Zoey smiled at him as she stood up from the bed and moved to offer him a hand standing up. "Just keep saying 'no comment' and don't give them anything more to write about."
"No comment, no comment," Xander repeated to himself as he took Zoey's hand and stood up. "Ok, no comment, I can do that."
"You're sure?" Zoey asked as she grabbed her handbag and tucked it under her arm.
"Is no a valid answer?" Xander asked with a wince as Zoey moved to open the door.
"Not really," Zoey half smiled at him as she took his head and lead him out into the corridor where camera flashes and microphones immediately bombarded both of them.
"So, what have you got?" President Bartlet asked Leo as he watched the older man walk towards him, they've been in the air for about two hours now and with everyone rushing around with the tasks he'd assigned to them he was spending the time wisely talking with his wife and trying to keep calm over the situation with Zoey.
"I think we should talk in private Mr President." Leo said quietly, acknowledging Abbey's presence on the plain.
"Military record?" President Bartlet asked as he stood up.
"Not as such sir," Leo explained as he followed the President down the corridor of Air Force One to one of the secure rooms available.
"Well, what is it?" President Bartlet asked as he entered the room and Leo closed the door tightly behind him.
"I think this is one of those times when it sounds worse than it really is Mr President," Leo started as the President sat down at one of the desks. "Now, I don't have the full story yet, I have people working on declassifying the project as we speak."
"A classified military project?" President Bartlet asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Highly classified, I can only think of three other projects that even come close to this amount of secrecy sir." Leo explained with a frown. "From what I can gather so far, an operation in Sunnydale between the United States Army and the NSA."
"The National Security Agency had an operation in Sunnydale?" President Bartlet asked. "And we're only just finding out about this?"
"The operation was mothballed sir," Leo explained. "Covered up so dark I doubt the paperwork still exists on this thing."
"That bad huh?" President Bartlet asked with a wince.
"Yes sir," Leo nodded as he sat down opposite the President. "The NSA have covered this so completely I don't even have a name for the project, other than its military designation of Lilac."
"What was its purpose?" President Bartlet asked.
"We don't know," Leo answered simply. "Most of what we want to know, the NSA won't tell us, and the army doesn't know."
"Then what can you tell me?" President Bartlet asked with a frown.
"That Project Lilac was based in Sunnydale California, operating from June ninety nine until mid-two thousand when it was shut down, classified above presidential level and disbanded." Leo explained sharply.
"You're telling me the NSA had a project going for less than a year?" President Bartlet asked in disbelief.
"Oh it gets better sir," Leo said wryly. "Early reports indicate that Project Lilac had a minimum of eight hundred and fifty military personnel serving under its command, that's military sir, not including scientists or civilian consultants."
"So find one of them and find out what the hell the NSA was doing there." President Bartlet ordered. "This wasn't anything to do with the Sunnydale catastrophe was it? Because I don't want to go on the news saying the NSA destroyed an entire town in southern California."
"As far as we know the NSA and military were nowhere near Sunnydale during the catastrophe," Leo nodded firmly. "And we can't find anyone who served under Project Lilac Mr President."
"What do you mean you can't find anyone, you just said over eight hundred soldiers were stationed there, we must have records of where soldiers served and where they are now." President Bartlet barked out.
"We do, but the soldiers who served under Project Lilac won't be able to tell us anything," Leo answered softly. "Of the eight hundred and fifty men stationed at Project Lilac, we have records of twelve surviving."
"I'm sorry, can you repeat that for me." President Bartlet said in shock.
"From the reports I've been given, eight hundred and fifty men were stationed in Sunnydale California under Project Lilac. Twelve of those men survived and were transferred to NSA direct control Mr President." Leo repeated himself and expanded a bit.
"You're telling me a classified operation in Sunnydale California, the small town that no one had heard about until three days ago, had a mortality rate of nearly one hundred percent?" President Bartlet was nearly shouting by the time he'd finished speaking.
"That's military casualties sir, if these reports are accurate, then all of the NSA agents and civilian consultants who worked on Project Lilac were killed before the project was mothballed Mr President." Leo explained with a wince as President Bartlet went another shade paler. "I'm only finding out about this now sir, but these figures seem to indicate a mortality rate higher than any other secret project, including Project Regattas' ten year run."
"Project what?" President Bartlet asked, knowing full well that Leo's knowledge of military programs far exceeded his own.
"Another time sir," Leo said with a nod.
"And what does this all have to do with Mr Harris?" President Bartlet asked with a frown.
"We don't know," Leo said simply. "The agents who cleaned Mr Harris' file were the ones working to sanitise any mention of Project Lilac, its possible Mr Harris worked for the NSA on Project Lilac or was a consultant of some description in the early stages."
"But he has links with this Project Lilac?" President Bartlet asked firmly.
"We believe so," Leo nodded. "Sir, one more thing, the only reason we have the project name was because it needed presidential sanction to begin with, we tracked the project name down through various files and agendas that were filed during the ninety nine and two thousand campaign years."
"I didn't sign any paperwork to do with Sunnydale, I'd have remembered that." President Bartlet said firmly.
"I know, I'd have recognised it too." Leo nodded firmly.
"Then how did they get presidential sanction?" President Bartlet asked.
"We're working on it." Leo nodded. "But I'm not liking where this is leading us sir."
"Neither am I." President Bartlet frowned. "Keep at it."
"Yes sir," Leo said as he stood up to leave the room. "We'll be landing in just over an hour sir, perhaps you should have the mess find you something to eat."
"I'm fine Leo," President Bartlet smiled over. "Just keep me informed alright?"
"Will do Mr President." Leo nodded before opening the counsel room doors and closing them as he left, leaving President Bartlet alone to think about what they'd just spoken about.
"You've got to be kidding me!" CJ Shouted through the corridors of the west wing, causing everyone around her to stop what they were doing immediately and look at her to see who she was targeting now. "Inside, now!"
"I came to you first as a courtesy CJ," Greg said quietly as CJ closed the door to her office behind them.
"Where did you get this?" CJ demanded, holding the picture of Mr Harris standing in the doorway of a hotel room naked, the look of shock and horror on his face told her everything they needed to know about the circumstances the picture was taken under, what was more distressing was the sight of Zoey Bartlet on the bed behind Mr Harris, in what looked to be a similar state of undress with the same look of horror on her face.
"It was sent down to the press room about fifteen minutes ago, I came over here as soon as I got it." Greg said firmly. "You know we're not the only ones who are going to have that picture, I'm just the first to come and talk to you about it before it goes to print."
"You can't print this." CJ said firmly.
"It's the editor's decision, not mine," Greg said apologetically. "The photo was taken from outside of the hotel room, no privacy laws were breached and no one spoke to Ms Bartlet in person."
"He'll crucify you for this," CJ said firmly, thinking that President Bartlet might actually declare war on the entire Press industry if this photo went to print.
"It's already leaked to the internet; you can bet it will be on shows by now as well." Greg explained softly. "The first photo of Mr and Mrs Harris, it'll be on front pages everywhere by this afternoon, cropped of course."
"Of course," CJ glared back, hating the fact that she already knew that what Greg was telling her was the truth, if this photo had already been leaked to the internet, then it would be everywhere by the end of the day.
"Do you have an official comment?" Greg asked quietly, not wanting to bring the wrath of the whole White House down on him this early in the morning.
"The White House doesn't comment on the personal lives or relationships of its staff or families." CJ spieled out the rehearsed line like she had done many times before, her eyes never leaving the photo she had in her hands.
"I figured as much," Greg nodded at her.
"If you knew what I was going to say then why did you bring this to me?" CJ asked in annoyance, glaring across the room at Greg.
"To give you a heads up," Greg said with a shrug. "We got news the President is aboard Air Force One heading to Las Vegas right now."
"So?" CJ asked, not following where this was going.
"I think it'd be best if he got the news from one of you, before he sees the photo from some freelancer in Vegas when they land, don't you?" Greg asked, pausing for a moment to let CJ think about it. "You've always done right by me CJ; I'm just returning the favour."
CJ couldn't say anything for the moment, instead just nodded at Greg softly in thanks for what he had done. "Can I keep this?" She asked, motioning to the photo she was still holding.
"It's a copy anyway; use it for whatever you need." Greg nodded at her before he turned to leave the office.
"Thank you," CJ smiled over, causing Greg to pause at the door.
"Remember you owe me one," Greg smiled back before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.
CJ just frowned, thinking about how much of a mess this was turning out to be, she had to get in touch with Leo ASAP to warn him about this. Folding the photo in half she tucked it under her arm before leaving the room to head to the communications room, getting a line to Air Force One was going to be tricky at best, and getting sensitive information like this across without the wrong people hearing about it was going to be a nightmare.
"Why are there so many of them?" Xander asked, his head hanging in defeat as he took several deep breaths, they'd been practically chased out of the hotel by the photographers and journalists, all of them with more embarrassing questions than the one before.
"Paparazzi," Zoey said, breathing as deeply as Xander was. "They're just in it for the money; they take the photos then sell them on to the highest bidder."
"So not journalists?" Xander asked in confusion.
"Freelance journalists," Zoey clarified with a shrug. "Dad calls them bottom feeders; I think he'd just shoot them if he could."
"Thanks for the heads up," Xander nodded as he looked around. "We got away?"
"For the moment," Zoey nodded as she looked around herself. "They would have gone out the front, probably expecting us to get in a car or something, not go through the pool area and out the side."
"Ok, so home free right?" Xander asked hopefully. "They'll just give up and go home right?"
"Not likely," Zoey sighed. "Dad threatened to string up the last paparazzi that followed me around, but I don't think he can go after all of these guys."
"Is it wrong that I'm starting to like your dad?" Xander grinned at her. "The President I mean, you know what I mean right?"
"I know," Zoey laughed for a moment. "We should probably head for the crowds, see if we can get lost in them while heading to clothes stores, it'll give them a harder time following us."
"See, I like this plan," Xander nodded. "Ok, clothes stores, some clean jeans and shirt, gotcha."
"Suit and tie," Zoey said insistently. "He's the President of the country Xander."
"Right, yeah, ok, suit… where do you buy a suit from in Las Vegas?" He asked in amusement.
"Main stores," Zoey said simply. "They sell suits for people attending galas or shows here, we can probably get a nice one, don't have time to get you fitted for one though."
"Fitted?" Xander asked with a raised eyebrow. "Suit store will be fine I think."
"Ok, this way," Zoey nodded as she led Xander down the back street towards where she could see crowds of people moving through the main streets of Las Vegas. "So, tell me about yourself then." She laughed at his fish out of water expression as she let him out into the crowd and towards the main shopping district.
"Thanks CJ, I'll tell him." Leo said as he hung up the phone in the communications room and stood up from the chair. "Why'd it have to be me?" He muttered to himself rhetorically as he moved out of the communications suite and started back towards the lounge area of Air Force One, for once, and quite happily so, passing through the press section of the plane when it was completely empty.
Most of the plane was empty for this trip thankfully, the press had all been left behind, there were the usual Secret Service agents at their usual stations and patrolling the plane, but aside from the flight crew and the White House senior staff on board, the plane was unusually quiet.
"Sam," Leo nodded in greeting as he walked into the quiet area of the plane where Sam and Toby had been working. "Where's Toby?"
"Gone to get a sandwich or something," Sam answered simply. "What do you think of this," Sam paused as he lifted up the paper he was working on and turned to face Leo completely. "Zoey is my youngest daughter, the daughter I still have hopes and dreams for; she will always be her own woman just as she will always be my youngest child. I wish Zoey all the best in her new life and look forward to spending time with her and her new family in the days to come."
"Kind of pretentious don't you think?" Leo asked after a moment's consideration.
"Tone it down a bit?" Sam asked patiently.
"Just a few notches," Leo nodded. "While this is about Zoey, we can't have the President showing favouritism over his other daughters. Remember to emphasise family values and how strongly the President feels about bringing families together."
"They were married in a drunken ceremony Leo," Toby said from the back as he walked towards where they were talking, a sandwich and mug of coffee in hand. "I don't think we're going to be able to spin this one to the family values crowd."
"We need their vote," Leo said simply. "Just emphasise the fact that it doesn't matter how relationships start, it's the emotions and feelings that hold them together."
"You're going to be the one to tell the President that," Toby frowned over.
"Don't I know it," Leo sighed. "And tie in with Sunnydale while you're at it, the press are going to make the connection sooner or later anyway, just say that like Mr Harris many Americans lost their lives and livelihoods in the Sunnydale Catastrophe, work in how he's moving on and making a better life for himself, the usual stuff."
"Gotcha," Sam nodded as he scribbled some notes down about what Leo was talking about. "We got any more to go on on this guy yet?"
"Nothing that I can tell either of you," Leo said with a shrug. "I'm having trouble declassifying anything at the moment, and now I've got CJ telling me there's a leaked picture of the happy couple naked in their hotel room."
"He's going to hit the roof," Toby said simply, thinking about President Barlet's reaction to the press when Ellie spoke to the press without his consent during the Surgeon General problems.
"The press invaded their hotel room?" Sam asked in shock.
"Photo was taken from outside the room," Leo explained. "Story is Mr Harris here opened the door naked, paparazzi got photos of him naked and Zoey on the bed behind him."
"He's going to kill the photographers," Toby commented idly.
"You think I don't know that?" Leo shot back with a glare. "I just hope he doesn't decide to shoot the messenger."
"Good luck," Sam smiled at him as he jotted down a few more things he'd just thought of.
"Thanks, think I'm going to need it." Leo sighed as he continued walking to the front of the plane where President Bartlet was sat talking with Charlie.
"I'm telling you, Zoey used to love classical music when she was younger, she used to sit on my knee listening to Bach when I got home from a long day." President Bartlet smiled at the memory as he told Charlie the story.
"I don't dispute that sir, she might still enjoy Bach, but her dancing preferences lean more towards Terri Clarke and Shania Twain now, not excluding Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson of course." Charlie explained.
"Excuse me Charlie," Leo said as he approached the discussion. "Mr President, might I have a word with you for a minute."
"Sure," President Bartlett said with a nod, dismissing Charlie for the moment.
"I'll be in the back forward," Charlie said as he stood up and left Leo and President Bartlet alone.
"Make sure no one disturbs us," Leo said firmly as Charlie moved away from them.
"Yes sir," Charlie nodded as he came to an intersection in the corridor and pulled a curtain across before taking a seat by the side of it.
"What's going on?" President Bartlet asked as Leo moved to the bar at the far end of the plane where a stewardess was cleaning up.
"We're going to need some privacy here," Leo said, catching the stewardess' attention and dismissing her from the area.
"Have you found something new out?" President Bartlet asked as he stood up and moved to where Leo was stood at the bar area.
"Nothing new on Project Lilac Mr President, I have people digging into the hole as we speak though." Leo explained as he moved behind the bar and fished out a decanter that held a soft amber liquid.
"A little early for drinking Leo," President Bartlet frowned, knowing Leo was a recovering alcoholic and his reaching for a bottle was never a good sign.
"It's not for me," Leo said calmly as he poured out a generous measure of the whiskey in the decanter.
"You're worrying me Leo," President Bartlet said as he sat on one of the stools that were placed against the serving station.
"Me both," Leo said as he placed the glass of whiskey in front of the President. "I just had a call from CJ; we got a heads up from a reporter at the Informer." Leo took a deep breath before continuing and wished he could take the glass of whiskey for himself at this point. "Mr President, a photo has come to their attention with Mr Harris and your daughter in a compromising position."
"What!" President Bartlet screamed out, slamming his hands down on the bar.
"The photo was taken from outside of the hotel room when Mr Harris unwittingly opened the door to the paparazzi." Leo explained before his courage deserted him.
"Mr Harris opened the door to paparazzi, is he a complete idiot?" President Bartlet shouted.
"That's what we're trying to figure out sir," Leo said with a nod. "It seems Mr Harris wasn't aware of the paparazzi's presence and opened the door wearing less than favourable clothing."
"Less than favourable?" President Bartlet asked slowly.
"He opened the hotel room door naked Mr President," Leo said simply, thinking that it was best not to sugar coat this any more than absolutely necessary.
"I'm going to need a drink," President Bartlet said with a suffering sigh.
"I thought you might sir," Leo said as he motioned to the glass of whiskey.
"The press have a photo of my daughter's new husband answering the door naked?" President Bartlet asked after taking a mouthful of the whiskey.
"Yes sir," Leo nodded.
"We can safely assume that the man is either an idiot or an exhibitionist then." President Bartlet said as he took another mouthful before looking at Leo. "There's more?"
"Yes sir," Leo said, bracing himself. "The photo we're talking about also shows your daughter on the bed behind him."
"Tell me she wasn't naked Leo." President Bartlet all but begged Leo for the news he wanted to hear.
"She wasn't," Leo said reassuringly. "CJ informs me that while the picture is out of focus for her, the primary focus seems to have been on Mr Harris answering the door, it's clear she is wearing underwear and is covering herself from being photographed."
"The paparazzi have a photo of my youngest daughter in her underwear?" President Bartlet all but screamed.
"An out of focus one, yes Mr President." Leo said with a nod. "Would you like another drink sir?"
"Keep them coming." President Bartlet said as he downed the rest of the whiskey in the glass in one go before turning back to Leo. "Can we contain the photo?"
"That's what I asked Mr President, CJ doesn't seem to think so, she believes the photo has already been leaked to the media and is online already."
"Jesus Christ," President Bartlet sighed as Leo poured some more whiskey into the glass. "Does Abbey know?"
"No sir, I only just got off the phone with CJ myself." Leo answered simply.
"How bad is it?" President Bartlet asked as he took another sip of the whiskey.
"Well CJ says Mr Harris is a very handsome man, and the eye patch appears to be real." Leo answered half seriously. "He also appears to be religious."
"Leo," President Bartlet warned him with his name.
"This is the first photo after the wedding the press have of them together Mr President, containment options are practically zero at this point." Leo answered honestly. "The only bright side we actually have is that the respectable papers will only be able to print certain sections of the image without breaching decency regulations, it may be that your daughter's image is cropped out altogether."
"She wouldn't be on display like that?" President Bartlet asked hopefully.
"I haven't seen the image myself sir, so I can't comment on that, but depending on how the image is cropped and what level of decency the paper strives for, it's a possibility." Leo answered diplomatically.
"And the papers that aren't so reputable?" President Bartlet asked after a deep breath.
"Will display the full image, probably censored somewhat but most of the image will appear." Leo said with a grimace.
"I should tell Abbey," President Bartlet said as he stood up from his seat.
"Sir," Leo stopped him as he handed over a pack of mints from his pocket.
"Thank you," President Bartlet said as he tapped a few of the mints out. "This is going to be a political nightmare isn't it?"
"If it's any consolation sir, your votes in the teenage and twenties categories might have gone up, if they feel they can identify with Mr Harris and your daughter getting married." Leo said simply. "Also you may swing a few more liberal votes your way after this; it may even cover the loss of the family values crowd."
"Are you trying to cheer me up Leo?" President Bartlet said with a glare.
"No sir, I wouldn't dream of it." Leo said with a small smile.
"Good, I hate being cheered up." President Bartlet said as he handed the mints back. "Tell the Secret Service to expect a disturbance from wherever Abbey is, but no one is to disturb us until we're done, got that?"
"Yes sir," Leo nodded as he watched President Bartlet move off towards the back section of the plane like a man going to meet his doom.
"I hate this," Xander muttered to himself as Zoey let him through aisle after aisle of suits, shirts and ties.
"The shopping or getting chased by the paparazzi?" Zoey asked as she held up another soft blue shirt over Xander's chest to see how it would look on him.
"Both?" Xander said with a shrug.
"You want to look good for meeting him right?" Zoey asked softly.
"I don't want him to have the secret service kill me on sight," Xander answered honestly.
"Then the first step is getting you dressed properly for it," Zoey answered as she put the shirt back and pulled out a soft green one instead. "Yes, green is definitely your colour."
"Anya used to say that," Xander said softly as he held the shirt Zoey had handed to him.
"Anya?" Zoey asked quietly.
"My ex… she… she died, a few days ago." Xander said softly, remembering setting a memorial marker aside for her in Angeles National Park.
"I'm sorry," Zoey said with honest compassion in her voice. "Was… was it sudden?"
"She died trying to get out of Sunnydale." Xander said simply, not wanting to elaborate on the fact that she'd died saving the world from the First Evil.
"You're from Sunnydale?" Zoey asked in shock.
"Last train out," Xander nodded. "Or bus actually I guess."
"My god… then that… you lost everything there…" Zoey said, covering her mouth with her hand to hide the shock that was covering her face.
"Hence the dirty clothes," Xander shrugged with a half-smile as he tugged at the shirt he was wearing. "Not exactly meeting the leader of the free world kind of clothing right?"
"I don't think he goes for flannel much," Zoey countered with a small smile.
"I kinda like the lumberjack pirate look," Xander grinned back at her.
"We should go," Zoey said after checking her watch. "He'll probably be landing in less than an hour."
"Oh god," Xander muttered to himself as he moved towards the checkout with the plain black suit Zoey had picked out for him along with the green shirt she'd just handed him.
"You'll be fine," Zoey said with a smile, trying to comfort him as she followed him towards the counter.
"Easy for you to say," Xander grimaced as he watched the woman at the counter smile emptily at him as she started to ring up the items he'd given her.
"We'll make a quick stop at my hotel, if you grab some shaving stuff you can have a wash and shave there before we go and meet him." Zoey explained as she tossed a plain black tie on top of the shirt ready for the woman to add to the pile of clothing.
"Furry?" Xander asked as he rubbed at his face, truth was he hadn't actually had a shave since Caleb had gouged his eye out, which had been nearly three weeks ago so he could guess he was more than a little rugged by now.
"I've seen worse," Zoey smiled as she rubbed the side of his face with her hand. "Here, I'll get these." She said as the woman finished totalling up the clothes and started bagging them up.
"You don't have to…" Xander started as he moved to get his wallet from his back pocket.
"I want to," Zoey smiled at him as she handed over her credit card to the sales assistant. "You're not used to women paying for things for you right?"
"Actually Anya always took care of the money as well," Xander said with a smile, remembering the good times he had with Anya. It was because of her that he had such a good stock portfolio at his age, to say nothing of the savings bonds she'd invested in for him.
"So don't worry about it," Zoey smiled at him as he picked up the bags from the counter. "Come on, we should get your shaving stuff from the hotel lobby, that way we don't risk running in to any more cameras."
Xander just nodded simply as she led him out of the store and back along the street where they'd come from. They were nearly ten yards or so away from the store when a shout from behind them caused Xander to spin around in shock.
"Faith?" Xander asked in shock, turning around to see the sultry brunette running down the sidewalk towards them. "Oh god," He muttered as he sunk his face into his hands.
"Yo Xand, what's the what?" Faith grinned as she slowed down to a jog as she approached the two of them.
"You weren't in your room this morning were you?" Xander asked with a sigh, dragging his hand down his face.
"Nah, ain't been back there yet," Faith said with a shrug. "Who's the new girl?"
"Zoey," Zoey said with a smile as she introduced herself. "You know Xander?"
"Shit yeah, what, 'bout five years or sommet'." Faith shrugged as she fished a packet of cigarettes out of her pocket and lit one up. "What's going on, tried to call B and hotel says they all checked out aside from you."
"One second Zoey," Xander smiled over at the woman he was now married to before leading Faith away from her for a moment. "Faith, you should get out of town, now." He whispered urgently.
"What's going on, some new big bad or something?" Faith whispered back.
"I screwed up," Xander said after taking a deep breath. "Last night, we must have got drunk or something, because when I woke up this morning… look, me and Zoey got married last night." He said simply, forgoing any large explanation for his actions.
"No shit!" Faith grinned at him. "Yo girl, he treatin' you right right?"
"Faith," Xander grimaced as he pulled her attention back to him before Zoey could reply. "It's not exactly that simple."
"What, think you're the only guy that came to Vegas and got married half cut?" Faith grinned at him. "Sorry man, happens weekly or some shit around here."
"Do they all marry the daughter of the President of the country?" Xander bit out in a whisper, glaring at Faith to tell her he was serious.
"You're fuckin' kidding me!" Faith shouted. "The President, the big guy, the commander in chief or whatever those shitty shows you watch call him."
"Yes," Xander nodded firmly. "And now he's on his way here."
"You're going to meet the fuckin' President?" Faith laughed at him. "Oh man, you married his fuckin' daughter Xan, oh shit; they should make a show out of this or something."
"Can we move away from my discomfort for one second," Xander glared over. "Think about this, who else goes wherever the President goes?" He watched as Faith thought about it for a minute before the penny dropped. "There you go."
"Fuck," Faith whispered as she took another pull of her cigarette. "How long?"
"We're heading back to Zoey's hotel then to the airport to meet him," Xander explained.
"Damnit," Faith grimaced. "Shit Xan, you can't meet the President alone."
"I'll be fine," Xander reassured her. "Or dead more than likely considering I married his daughter while drunk, but whatever, you need to get out of town."
"Bite me," Faith grinned at him. "You think I'm running 'cause some hopped up security guards are coming along with the President, no sweat."
"Faith, these are secret service, at best the guys Riley's guys look up to, any number of them could know about Slayers and the other stuff." Xander explained.
"That's why I'm sticking with you," Faith shrugged. "These guys want a way to the Slayers, who you think they're going to go after, one of us or someone like you or Giles?"
"Faith you can't…" Xander trailed off as he noticed the way Faith was smirking at him. "I'm not going to talk you out of this right?"
"No hope in hell," Faith grinned at him before pushing past him and walking towards Zoey. "Hey, Faith."
"Zoey Bartlet, or Harris I guess now." Zoey smiled over at the brash brunette that had come over. "So you're friends?"
"Yes," Xander sighed as he came upto the two women. "Faith missed her ride out of town; she's going to stick with me until I can sort something out alright?"
"If she's a friend," Zoey nodded at him as they started walking again. "So how did you two meet?"
"At school," Xander answered quickly, trying to think up a semi believable story for Faith as they walked, all the while Faith was glaring at him behind Zoey's head.
"How's it going in here?" Leo asked as he walked back into the area where Sam and Toby were working.
"Pretty good," Sam nodded as he continued writing something down. "How'd he take it?"
"He's gone to tell the First Lady in person, we're to stay away regardless of shouting." Leo explained as he took a seat.
"I wouldn't interrupt that argument if you paid me," Toby winced from where he was sat, thinking about the conversation President Bartlet was about to have with his wife.
"You and me both," Leo agreed with a nod. "We'll be landing in about forty minutes or so, have you got it finished up?"
"Polishing now," Sam nodded.
"And you like this?" Leo asked Toby as Sam handed over the paper they'd been working on.
"It's as clean as we're going to get it," Toby shrugged. "Not much damage control but more spin."
"Looks good," Leo nodded, flicking through the statement quickly, there were no buzz words that immediately grabbed his attention and it seemed to flow pretty easily to his eyes. "Ok, Zoey will be meeting us at the airport, so expect paparazzi and journalists on route, we don't know how long we'll be there so I've checked us all in for a week, we can extend that if necessary and work from there."
"Las Vegas for a week?" Toby asked in shock.
"You want to tell the President he has to hurry this up so we can get back to Washington?" Leo asked, glaring over at Toby. "I thought not." He said when Toby shrank back. "If we can put it on the cards, we might head back with a stop off at LA first." Leo explained. "Do a drive up to the Sunnydale Catastrophe zone, have a few photographs of the President with one of the Sunnydale survivors, usual publicity, you know the drill. That's only if we can arrange it around whatever else this week is going to throw at us, so no word of it leaves this room."
"Got it," Sam said while Toby simply nodded.
"You should both grab something to eat and freshen up before we land; the press are going to be all over this, so try not to look like you've just rolled out of bed." Leo said as he stood up and straightened his tie again. "Anyone seen Charlie?"
"Heading down to the mess," Toby said simply. "He was looking for some coffee and somewhere to read while the President was in with you."
"Got it," Leo nodded. "Freshen up then fax a copy of this over to CJ so she's prepared for questions, then get ready for the heat."
"This is your room?" Xander whispered in awe as Zoey led the way into the hotel suite she'd got for a few days in Las Vegas.
"Girls got it good," Faith grinned as she wandered in to the lavish room at the Hilton Hotel.
They'd managed to get in the back way to the hotel; a willing bus boy opened the door for them when he recognised who Zoey was, that way they'd managed to take the back stairs through the hotel, effectively avoiding any more press or paparazzi that would have been waiting for them.
Faith had been the one that had left the group for a bit to go and buy Xander some shaving foam and razors, seeing as she could walk through the paparazzi without them knowing who she was or if she was friends with them, so she'd done that and met them back on the second floor where it was quieter.
"My dad stays in this hotel a lot," Zoey said by way of explanation. "It was the one I knew when I came here, so they gave me this room instead of a normal one."
"Wouldn't complain," Faith grinned at the large bed in a room off to one side. "This place is bigger than my apartment, hell, bigger than most places I've stayed at."
"They like to keep on good terms with my dad," Zoey explained as if she was used to it but fed up of it at the same time. "The bathroom's through there, you can get cleaned up and changed in there, there's plenty of room."
"Uh, thanks…" Xander nodded as he moved in the direction Zoey had indicated, knowing that he was actually in a rush but nervous about both meeting the President, and leaving Zoey and Faith alone in the room together.
"Go on, we've only got about half an hour before we have to be at the airport," Zoey rushed him on before leading Faith through into the bedroom. "So, you're a friend of Xander's right?"
"Yeah," Faith nodded as she looked around the lavish bedroom.
"He said you do some security work," Zoey said as she walked to one of the closets and started pulling out various dresses and suits.
"Bit of this, bit of that," Faith shrugged, trying to remember what Xander had actually said about her while they were making their way back to the hotel.
"So when were you guys dating?" Zoey asked, smiling at the surprised look Faith gave her. "Kinda obvious, the way he looked like a dear in headlights when he had to leave us alone, dead giveaway."
Faith laughed at her as she made her way over to the window and stared out at the view, noting the long way down specifically. "Few years back, back when I first came to Sunnydale, Xan was good to me, wasn't exactly dating or anything, just a hot night and…"
"I know what you mean," Zoey laughed. "One night stand?"
"Needed a workout," Faith shrugged. "Shit, you're like the President's daughter; I shouldn't be talking to you about shit like this."
"Its fine," Zoey laughed as she pulled off her top quickly now that she'd found an acceptably cool summer dress to wear for the day. "I like it actually, think you're the first person not to watch their mouth or hide what they think around me."
"But you're… shit girl, your clothes are probably worth more money than I've ever seen," Faith muttered as she looked at the clothes Zoey had been throwing on the bed.
"The black summer dress," Zoey nodded to the one on the far side of the bed. "It's too big for me around the chest, hangs off the shoulders and makes me look flat chested."
"Sell it then," Faith shrugged as she looked at the offending dress, it was nice, a deep black, thin enough to be worn in hot summers but thick enough to hide everything that needed to be kept out of view. "Girls gotta work the clothes, if it don't work then get rid."
"Try it on," Zoey smiled at her as she pulled off the jeans she had been wearing and started pulling on the soft green summer dress she'd picked out.
"You're kidding," Faith said, looking at the black dress. "Versace, damn, this dress probably costs more than a car or something."
"Wear it then," Zoey said with a grin as she zipped herself up. "Unless you want to meet the President in jeans and strappy top."
"Oh shit," Faith muttered as she quickly unbuckled her boots and jeans. To be honest she hadn't actually thought about it, Xander had said he had got a suit to wear for meeting the President, to make a good first impression and all that, but she hadn't thought about herself in that equation at all.
"I'll find you some pumps to go with it," Zoey said as she moved to the mirror on the side of the room and started touching up her makeup.
"Pumps?" Faith almost shouted as she pulled her top and bra off and started pulling the dress over her body, taking care not to rip it as she pulled it slowly past her chest.
"Plain black, dress shoes," Zoey said, nodding to the bottom of the closet. "No heels or anything, just comfy dress shoes."
"Doc Martins don't go with the dress?" Faith grinned as she reached around to her back and zipped herself up.
"Biker boots and Versace, my sister would kill me for even considering it," Zoey laughed as she quickly did her eyeliner before grabbing a bottle of perfume from the dresser.
"So… how'd I look?" Xander asked from the doorway, interrupting them both.
"Shit, got James Bond over here or something," Faith grinned at him.
"Harris, Xander Harris," Xander grinned as he walked into the room. The suit and shirt had fitted him almost perfectly, he was glad Zoey had talked him in to adding the plain black belt as the pants were a little loose around the waist, but otherwise the suit hung on him perfectly.
"Aren't we the hidden prince," Zoey smiled as she walked over and straightened his tie. "You clean up very nicely Mr Harris." Zoey smiled before realising she was stood very close to him and staring into his eyes.
"And you look… wow…" Xander said as he stepped back to appreciate the soft green dress Zoey was wearing that almost matched the shirt she had picked out for him. "And… Faith…" Xander smiled, turning to look at Faith who was trying to figure out where she could stash her smokes and zippo in the dress she was wearing.
"Hell, I know I look good," Faith said, smiling knowingly at Xander and Zoey as she rubbed the dress on her body.
"It looks good on you," Zoey smiled at her as she moved back to the closet. "Here," She shouted over, fishing out a pair of simple black pumps and a small handbag.
"Not a word Harris," Faith glared over as she took the offered pumps and handbag, slipping her smokes and lighter into the bag before setting it on the bed to put the pumps on.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Xander grinned at her.
"You cut yourself," Zoey said carefully as she moved over to Xander and rubbed her thumb along a nick in the skin along his jaw line.
"Depth perceptions a bit off," Xander said softly, he'd actually cut himself more than once, but had been using the razor quite gingerly, so most of the cuts had healed up pretty quickly.
"You should have said," Zoey said softly as she got a bit of tissue from the table and used it to wipe away the blood.
"I can still shave," Xander defended himself but was touched by the concern Zoey was showing him, he looked over at Faith and caught her giving them both the same knowing smile.
"I'll just be a minute, you guys grab what you need then we'll get a cab to the airport." Zoey said as she headed towards the bathroom.
"Uh, sure," Xander nodded as he looked around the room in amazement.
"You like her," Faith grinned at him as she stood up and wriggled a bit to get the dress flowing properly again.
"I barely know her," Xander said softly. "I woke up in bed with her this morning, that the first thing I remember."
"You got hitched right?" Faith said simply as she moved back to the window to look out at the view that covered a lot of casinos and desert in the distance. "Must have been something there if you two tied the knot that quick."
"We were drunk Faith," Xander said simply, tucking his hands into his pants pockets to see how the suit jacket would bunch up around them.
"Drunk, sober, doesn't matter," Faith shrugged. "Ain't a girl around that'd go down the aisle drunk or sober if they didn't want to."
"It was a mistake," Xander sighed as he walked over to Faith. "Look at her, she's the President's daughter, she's beautiful," Xander added the last softly before continuing. "I'm just a screw up, once the President's here, he'll see that, we'll get a divorce or whatever then go our separate ways."
"And you couldn't have done that without meeting her dad?" Faith asked pointedly. "Girl likes you too; if she didn't then she wouldn't be bothering to dress you up for him."
"So she doesn't want him to kill me for marrying his daughter drunk?" Xander asked with a small nervous laugh.
"Forget the President shit, the guys her dad, if she didn't want you to meet him, then she could have cut you loose anytime she wanted." Faith explained. "She stuck around, you stuck around, and I can see the way she looks at you."
"Faith, are you giving me romantic advice?" Xander grinned at her.
"I can still throw you out of this window Harris," Faith glared back at him. "Don't forget that bit."
"Never left my mind," Xander grinned back.
"Girls into you, I can see it," Faith smiled, slapping him lightly on the chest. "Who cares how you met, if there's a spark, go for it." Faith shrugged before nodding to the doors behind Xander.
"You two ready?" Zoey asked from the doorway.
"Sure," Xander nodded with a small smile. "Meeting the President, um, no?" He backtracked quickly.
"Get going boytoy," Faith grinned as she pushed him towards Zoey before following them both. "And no sexy shit in the cab." She laughed as two blushing faces turned back to glare at her.
President Bartlet took a deep breath before walking down the steps off of Air Force One with his wife behind him; the secret service agents were already on guard and ready to lead them into the main airport at Las Vegas. There was already a limousine ready for them, standing by once they'd picked up Zoey to take them to the hotel.
Thankfully there were no press around, obviously they'd managed to slip beneath the radar on this journey, the short notice of the trip had obviously done them at least one favour on this matter.
"Zoey's not here?" Abbey asked quietly as she followed her husband down the steps and onto the tarmac.
"She's probably waiting inside," President Bartlet explained as they started walking towards the main airport, once they were a respectable distance away Leo and the other senior staff came down the steps and followed them.
"Remember, no yelling or arguing," Abbey reminded her husband softly.
"She got married in a Star Trek chapel," President Bartlet muttered softly. "Without us, and drunk. Whatever makes you think I'm going to yell?"
"No yelling," Abbey said firmly. "And no frightening Mr Harris, from what you've told me he's as innocent in all this as Zoey is."
"They got married Abigail, it's not a drunken fling or a photo together, they got legally married." President Bartlet said quietly as the secret service agent walking ahead of them opened the door into the main airport.
"They're kids Jed, it was a mistake, we've all done stupid things when we were their age, and don't you try and deny it to me." Abbey said, glaring over at her husband as they walked into the main area of the airport.
"I don't call marriage a mistake," President Bartlet said as he looked around for any sign of Zoey or Mr Harris.
"You don't want me to answer that," Abbey said wryly back to him.
"Where are they?" President Bartlet said after a moment of glaring at his wife. "She knew I was coming, it was her idea for her to meet us here."
"They're probably running late," Abbey answered simply. "We can get a coffee and then we'll be able to see them when they come by."
"Airport coffee?" President Bartlet said in disgust.
"Fine, you do what you want, I want a coffee." Abbey said simply.
"Fine, take her to get a coffee," President Bartlet said, nodding to the two agents stood behind them. "Leo," He nodded as he saw the rest of the senior staff coming in behind him. "Go with Abbey to get a coffee, snack, whatever, I'll meet you there."
"Mr President?" Leo asked, wondering what President Bartlet was doing.
"I want a cigarette, and since I can't smoke in the airport, I'm heading outside." President Bartlet said as if it was the simplest thing in the world to understand before he walked off towards the main entrance to the airport with the other three secret service agents around him.
"Where are they?" Zoey asked out loud, not really expecting a response as she looked around the airport. She'd seen Air Force One land, they all had, pretty much everyone at the airport had been looking out of the giant windows at the large plane that had come in to land.
"They're probably getting through customs or something," Xander shrugged.
"He doesn't go through customs Xander, he's the President," Zoey rolled her eyes at him good naturedly.
"How'd I know?" Xander shrugged as he filed that bit of information away. "Probably just stuck in a meeting or something, he's a busy man right?"
"Maybe," Zoey said worriedly, picturing her father storming around Air Force One not wanting to get off the plane and face her.
"Hey, it'll be fine," Xander smiled at her as he caught the worried look on her face. "He's the President, got those secret agent guys and all that, he'll be here, probably just running late getting off the plane or something."
"Probably," Zoey nodded to him with a small smile. "You're probably right; he's probably just finishing up some paperwork on the plane before he comes in."
"See?" Xander smiled at her. "Nothing to worry about."
"Whatever," Faith shrugged from the side where she was trying to figure out how to lean or do anything she was used to doing while wearing this dress. "Chill guys, grab a soda or something, whatever, I'm heading for a smoke."
"Soda sounds good," Xander nodded. "Think there's a café over on the other side of the airport,"
"We can wait there I guess," Zoey said with a nod. "And I could go for a slushee."
"Girl after my own heart," Xander smiled at her. "We'll meet you in the café alright?" Xander shouted after Faith who was already making her way back to the main entrance.
"Five by five," Faith shouted back as she twirled around to nod at them before heading back on her original course for a nicotine fix.
"She's a bit of a handful," Zoey said as she watched Faith leave.
"You don't know the half of it," Xander laughed back as he followed Zoey through the airport towards the café they could see in the distance.
"She seems like a good friend though," Zoey smiled at him, linking her arm through his as they walked.
"Uh, yeah," Xander said, a bit surprised at the simple gesture but smiling at the feeling of their arms interlinking as they walked.
"Your other friend, the one I talked to on the phone, Willow was it?" Zoey asked as they crossed through the crowd.
"Yeah, Willow's my best friend," Xander smiled back at her. "She's always been there for me, whatever happened she was always there."
"Good friends are like that," Zoey smiled sadly at him. "You know what's sad; I never know if my friends are there for me, or for who I am, just wanting to say they're the friends of the daughter of the President, you know?"
"Must be lonely," Xander said softly as they walked.
"I'd only started seeing Nick a few months back, he was in my PolSci class, I thought he was a good guy," Zoey explained.
"Not so much it turns out," Xander said, remembering how Zoey had broken down crying while talking about why she'd come to Vegas in the first place.
"Not by a long shot," Zoey nodded in agreement.
"You know, you can still have him beaten up, or taken out, or whatever your agent people call it," Xander grinned at her. "Perk of the family I hear."
"Don't think I haven't thought about it," Zoey smiled back at him, thankful for what he was doing, it had been too long since anyone talked to her just to make her smile or laugh, she found she missed it more than she actually knew.
"You can wait there," President Bartlet said simply to the three secret service agents that were following him outside.
Reaching into his jacket he pulled a cigarette out and put it between his lips, perching it there as he patted his pockets down for a lighter. "You've got to be kidding me." He muttered to himself as he fished through his suit jacket pockets for his usual lighter that he always carried with him.
"I'm going to kill someone," He muttered to himself as he remembered leaving the lighter on the desk in the residence back in Washington, he paused for a moment, looking around the outside of the airport until he spotted a young woman lighting a cigarette herself.
"Won't be long," President Bartlet said, turning to the three agents before he started off towards the young woman, ignoring the fact the three agents were moving along the wall as well to keep within easy distance of him.
"Excuse me miss, would you mind?" He asked, motioning to her lighter.
"Knock yourself out," The woman said as she handed over the zippo lighter she'd just used to light her own cigarette.
"Thank you," President Bartlet said with a smile as he flipped open the zippo and lit the cigarette with ease from it. "Nice lighter," He said simply as he flipped the lid closed, admiring the simple chrome lighter with a word engraved on the front. "Faith?"
"Yup," The woman nodded.
"Faith, hope and glory? Or a religious meaning?" President Bartlet asked as he handed the zippo back to the young woman.
"It's my name," Faith smiled as she took back the lighter.
"Ahh," President Bartlet said with a nod, he'd heard stranger names of course but Faith seemed to fit the young woman pretty well.
"Stressed?" Faith asked, watching the way he smoked the cigarette.
"What gave it away?" President Bartlet asked wryly.
"Aside from the way you're fidgeting and got another cigarette in your hand ready?" Faith smirked at him.
President Bartlet looked down at his left hand, where sure enough he'd already fished out another cigarette from his pocket without realising it. "It's been a long day," He explained as he took another drag of the cigarette.
"Seems to be going around," Faith said with a shrug. "You been on TV or something, swear I know you from somewhere."
"Yes, I'm…" President Bartlet started before Faith cut him off.
"Shit, yeah, you're that actor guy, Charlie whatever, seen you in those Hotshots films," Faith grinned at him as she took another pull on her cigarette. "Come to see the showgirls or something?"
"I'm not…" President Bartlet sighed, it was obvious the young woman didn't recognise him for who he was, a sad fact of the younger generation he thought, but with today being as it was, he wasn't really in the mood to enlighten her or be barraged with questions about policy or government which she probably wouldn't understand anyway. "I'd here to see my daughter. My wife's waiting inside for her."
"Been a while then?" Faith shrugged, figuring that was what was causing the stress, reunited family times were always stressful, she knew that much from watching TV and reading magazines.
"A few months at least," President Bartlet answered simply as he tried to remember the last time he had actually seen Zoey at the White House.
"Shit, ain't long or 'owt," Faith shrugged. "Girl probably didn't even know you were gone." Faith smiled at him.
"She was supposed to be in university, not Las Vegas," President Bartlet explained sharply.
"Ahh, girls in trouble then," Faith nodded in understanding. "Still, could be worse than some unplanned holiday right, not as if she's knocked up or anything."
"I pray to god not," President Bartlet said with a nod. "She did something stupid, now she's going to try and explain it to me apparently."
"Can't be that bad," Faith shrugged as she finished off her cigarette and flicked the butt into an ash tray a few yards from where they were standing. "She's young right, kids do that sort of thing, spring break, or summer break, or whatever shit they're calling it. So she screwed up, ain't nothing that can't be fixed right?"
"I surely hope so," President Bartlet sighed as he finished off his own cigarette before walking over to the ash tray and grinding it out before dropping it inside.
"'Sides, she's your daughter right, whatever she does, you're still gonna be there for her right, not gonna kick her out or disown her over a mistake?" Faith asked as the man came back towards her.
"Of course not, I just wish she'd talked about it with me before heading off like that," President Bartlet explained, thinking about what Faith had just said, of course Zoey was still his daughter, just because she'd made a mistake didn't mean he loved her any less.
"So just talk with her right, let her tell her her side, you listen and do the parent shit, she'll say she's sorry and it'll all be done with," Faith shrugged, it was simple enough from where she was standing. "People screw up, shit happens, can't really fix it, just move on and say sorry to the people you fucked over."
"You've got a real mouth on you, you know that right?" President Bartlet sighed at her.
"Boston born and raised," Faith grinned over. "Mom was too busy with the marine boyfriends, guess I picked up too much of the language."
"A lady shouldn't swear like that," President Bartlet admonished her lightly.
"God," Faith laughed, remembering she was in a high class dress. "Ain't been called a lady in… fuck, ever, thanks for that man, needed the laugh."
"I should head back inside, meet my daughter if she ever turns up and her new husband," President Bartlet said as he turned to walk back to the entrance way where the three agents were watching him.
"Shit, your daughter got married too?" Faith frowned as she put it all together. "Oh shit, you're him, the President guy."
"Yes?" President Bartlet asked as he turned back to her.
"Jesus, sorry about the swearing, god, Zoey, that's your daughter right?" Faith asked, doing her best to watch her language now that she knew who she was speaking to.
"You know Zoey?" President Bartlet asked, trying to think of Zoey had ever mentioned a friend called Faith when they'd spoken.
"Only today," Faith nodded. "I'm one of Xander's friends."
"Xander… Alexander, Mr Harris?" President Bartlet asked, narrowing his eyes slightly.
"Friends call him Xander, can't remember anyone ever calling the guy Alexander." Faith explained. "He's inside with Zoey looking for you. They said they were heading to the café so they could see when you came in."
"Then that's where we're going," President Bartlet said simply as he moved to walk back inside the airport. "Faith, are you coming?" He asked, pausing when he realised she wasn't following him.
"Just trying to pick up the last of my dignity," Faith grinned at him, she was just quickly taking some deep breaths to get over the fact she'd been talking to the President of the country for the past five minutes without realising it.
"You did fine," President Bartlet told her. "Just watch your language in future alright?"
"Uh, yes sir?" Faith answered, trying to figure out if 'sir' was the correct term to address him by.
"Better," President Bartlet nodded at her. "Shall we?" He motioned to the doors where one of the secret service agents pushed them aside for him while Faith followed him inside.
"Mom!" Zoey shouted as she saw her mom inside the café, flanked with two secret service agents and most of the White House senior staff sat at a table across from her, Leo was the only one sat at the table with her.
"Zoey!" Abbey smiled as she stood up, moving to hug Zoey as she walked into the café.
"I thought you were still on-board the plane," Zoey smiled as she hugged her mom tightly.
"We thought you were running late young lady," Abbey smiled as she pulled back from the hug. "You look well Zoey, getting married obviously agrees with you." Abbey said wryly with a small smile.
"Mom," Zoey blushed as she rolled her eyes. "Mom, this is Xander, Alexander really but he goes by Xander."
"Alexander," Abbey smiled over, stepping forward and holding out her hand for him to shake.
"Mrs Bartlet," Xander said respectfully as he took the hand offered and shook it firmly.
"Where's dad?" Zoey asked, looking around the café for the President.
"He went outside for a cigarette," Abbey said, turning back to her daughter. "Been telling him for years to quit, he just won't give them up."
"Outside?" Zoey asked, turning to Xander quickly. "You don't think…"
"Faith wouldn't know what he looks like, or anything else for that matter," Xander said reassuringly, the idea of Faith being alone with the President for any amount of time worrying him more than anything now.
"Here he is now," Abbey smiled as she waved across the crowd to where they could all see the President walking over with his three secret service agents around him, and a brunette in a black dress walking slightly behind him,
"Someone hates me, they must," Xander muttered as he sank his head into his hands tried to figure out which god he must have offended for the actions of today to bite him like this.
"Faith's a friend of Xander's mom," Zoey explained quickly. "She's a bit rough around the edges."
"Rough?" Abbey asked as she looked at the young woman approaching them behind her husband.
"Think of Leo in a bad mood, then wrap it in a woman, and give her the mouth of a drunken sailor." Zoey explained quietly. "She's a good person, just a bit rough."
"If you say so," Abbey nodded understandingly as her husband made his way inside the café with the secret service agents moving to take their places. "Jed, I see you've met Faith."
"Indeed, quite an unusual conversation I must say," President Bartlet smiled over at her, showing he didn't mean any offense. "Zoey," He smiled, opening his arms to welcome his youngest daughter with a hug.
"Dad," Zoey smiled as she rushed forwards into the hug.
"Are you ok?" President Bartlet asked, whispering in her ear as he hugged her tightly.
"I'm fine dad, honestly," Zoey reassured him as she stepped out of the hug. "You didn't have to bring everyone down; I could have come back to Washington just as easily."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," President Bartlet smiled at her. "So, this is Alexander I take it?" He asked, turning to the young man that was standing awkwardly on his own for the moment.
"Dad, this is Xander, Xander, my father." Zoey introduced them then stepped aside so the two men could see each other properly.
"It's… uh… it's nice to meet you Mr President Sir," Xander babbled out nervously.
"Come with me," President Bartlet said, curling his finger at Xander. "We've got the car ready; we'll go back to the hotel now to talk."
"Dad," Zoey said softly.
"That was to all of you, not just Mr Harris," President Bartlet clarified himself. "Leo, we'll see you all back at the hotel, I'm sure you can understand this is a private matter. If you'd bring Miss Faith back with you that would be appreciated."
"Of course Mr President," Leo nodded from where he was stood; like pretty much everyone else in the café he had stood up when the President had entered.
"Good," President Bartlet nodded back. "Abbey, Zoey, Mr Harris." President Bartlet said with a nod before leading them out of the café and back towards the doors to the outside of the airport where the limousine was waiting for them.
"Just Faith," Faith shrugged as the eyes of the four men left in the café turned to her. "Leo right?" Faith said, turning to the man the President had been speaking to.
"Sam she's with you and Josh," Leo said firmly, turning to Sam with a nod. "Charlie, Toby, with me."
"I'm Sam," Sam said by way of clarification as he stepped forwards. "Josh, Charlie and Toby." Sam introduced the rest of them with a nod.
"We'll see you at the hotel, cars are pre booked on hire lease, pick up your keys at the desk," Leo said quickly. "I'm heading back now, so unless you two want to wait…"
"I'd good," Toby said quickly.
"Ready when you are." Charlie added almost at exactly the same time.
"Fine," Leo said before leading the two of them out of the café and towards the car hire area.
"Picking up some tension there," Faith said with a small smile.
"You wouldn't be wrong," Josh muttered from where he was stood. "So you know Mr Harris then?"
"Xander, shit yeah, Jesus, sorry about that, just kinda slipped out you know?" Faith said apologetically.
"Its fine," Sam smiled at her, making a mental note to not let her near the press, ever. "So, you met the President."
"I thought he was an actor," Faith explained with a small blush. "I think I left some of my dignity outside, mind if we swing by so I can see if I can salvage any of it?"
"We work at the White House," Josh shrugged as he finished off his coffee. "Dignity is overrated."
"So he goes by Xander then?" Sam asked, trying to steer the topic back to something they could actually use later on. "Not Alex or Lex or anything?"
"Just Xander," Faith nodded. "You mind?" She asked, nodding to the muffin in front of Sam.
"Go ahead," Sam nodded, pushing the muffin her way before sitting back down at the table and motioning for Faith to join them.
"It's like a miniature Donna," Josh muttered to himself as he watched Faith dig in to the muffin.
"Hey, not that I know who this Donna chick is," Faith waved the question away. "Anyway, I've barely eaten since getting out of Sunnyhell, cheap café muffin works like a banquet if you ain't eaten for a few days."
"Sunnyhell?" Josh asked in shock. "Sunnydale, you were one of the refugees?"
"Refugees?" Faith asked. "Dunno about that pops, but we escaped if that's what you mean, last out the door and all that." Faith frowned as some of the muffin crumbs fell down her dress so she tried to shake the dress out, oblivious to the amount of cleavage she was showing the two men as she did so.
"And you haven't eaten since you escaped?" Sam continued Josh's line of thought.
"We snacked, chips and shit, sorry, snack food from gas stations and whatever, figured we'd get something when we hit Vegas right, hit up those all you can eat buffet's or something," Faith shrugged at the looks she was getting from Josh and Sam.
"And Xander?" Sam asked, wondering if Zoey knew this.
"Probably ate this morning or something," Faith shrugged. "Dunno, I hit the bars last night, only caught up to him with Zoey earlier on."
"I'm on it," Josh said, flipping out his cell phone.
"Right, if that's the case, we should probably get you something to eat back at the hotel." Sam explained as he stood up. "Ladies first." He smiled at her as he motioned to the door out of the café.
"You're second person today to call me a lady," Faith laughed as she stood up. "Ain't never gonna happen."
"I'll wait for you outside," Josh said, grabbing his jacket in one hand as he held the ringing cell phone to his ear with the other while he walked out of the café towards the side exit to the airport.
"What's his beef?" Faith asked as she walked with Sam towards the rental car area.
"He's calling the President's limousine to let them know about Xander," Sam explained as they walked. "We didn't know neither of you had eaten since the Sunnydale Catastrophe, if we'd known we could have arranged this on a bit less of a pressing time frame."
"Xan'll cope," Faith shrugged. "Boy's been dealing with worse than the President for years now, take more than a few days without proper food to keep him down."
"Worse than the President?" Sam asked as they approached the rental car desk. "One reserved, White House staff." Sam announced, flashing his White House staff pass.
"Uh yeah," Faith nodded quickly. "Principal of the old school was a real troll, pain in the ass to boot." She laughed nervously as she tried to cover up what she'd just said.
"Xander doesn't get along with authority figures then?" Sam asked as the woman handed over some keys along with a form for him to sign.
"Nah, he's cool with it, just guys telling him what to do and what to think, rubs him the wrong way I guess." Faith shrugged as she watched Sam sign his name with a flourish and take the keys. "Guy's dad was a real asshole from what I hear, so he just grew up like it."
"I see," Sam nodded, filing this bit of information away for later use. "This way then." Sam smiled as he led Faith out towards the rental lot where their car, and hopefully Josh, would be waiting for them.
"So…" Abbey attempted to break the uncomfortable silence that had descended upon the limousine as it drove through Las Vegas towards the Hilton hotel. "I hear you lived in Sunnydale, I'm sorry to hear about the devastation there."
"Thank you ma'am," Xander smiled back at her. "We were on one of the last busses out, barely made it before the town collapsed."
"You saw it happen?" Abbey asked in shock.
"Right behind us ma'am, we even stopped at the edge to look down at the crater." Xander explained with a small smile, remembering the last sign at the outskirts of the town that had fallen in as they'd watched.
"That must have been terrifying," Abbey said softly.
"Yes ma'am," Xander nodded, remembering being more scared of the fight with the Turok-han army under Sunnydale than the actual town collapsing behind them as they drove out of the town.
"Hmm?" President Bartlet turned to his wife when she poked him in the ribs lightly to get him to contribute instead of just staring across the limousine at Xander. "So, Mr Harris, I think we can all agree to stop dancing around the elephant now right?"
"I think so Mr President Sir," Xander nodded quickly.
"One or the other, not both," President Bartlet sighed. "I want to know what your plans are in regards to my daughter." He said simply, fixing Xander with a look that dared him to lie here.
"I… I haven't thought much about it Mr President." Xander answered honestly.
"You haven't thought much about it?" President Bartlet repeated in disbelief.
"Dad, it's only been four hours, in that time we've woken up, figured this all out, talked to you and been chased by reporters," Zoey intervened.
"But you've thought about it." President Bartlet said calmly, turning to his youngest daughter.
"We made a mistake dad, I'm sorry," Zoey said softly.
"We both are Mr President," Xander nodded in agreement with Zoey. "I didn't mean for this to happen, I really didn't."
"I believe you Alexander," Abbey nodded across to him.
"Fine," President Bartlet nodded, accepting this for the minute. "The question still remains, what are your plans now?"
"I… I think I know dad," Zoey said softly. "I was going to talk with Xander about it, but then his friend Faith found us, and then we came to meet you, it's been a bit crazy so far." Zoey explained. "But, I think we can work this."
"Work this?" President Bartlet repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"If Xander agrees that is," Zoey said, turning to Xander. "Just hear me out alright?" She said to him before turning back to face her father. "I know how important the re-election is to you dad, I'd never want to hurt that, now when you and mom are going through the whole other thing as well." She explained, knowing they would both know she was talking about the MS scandal and the investigation being held at the moment.
"One second." President Bartlet said with a nod as he picked up the phone that was buzzing to the side of him. "Yes?" He said simply, waiting for the reply. "I see." He said after a moment before pausing again. "I'll take care of it." He said finally before clicking the phone down. "Ok." He said, turning back to Zoey.
Zoey nodded at him, being used to interruptions like this all the time, she took a deep breath before continuing. "Dad, if Xander agrees, I think we should stay married, at least until the election campaign is over."
President Bartlet didn't precisely know how to react to this, the thought filtered through his mind for a moment before he'd even registered that everyone was waiting for his thoughts of Zoey's idea. "You want to stay married, for the sake of my campaign?" He asked, looking at Zoey first and then at Alexander.
"Zoey, you know I'll stand behind you if this is what you want," Abbey smiled at her. "But if you choose to do this, it won't be easy."
"I know mom," Zoey nodded. "But we screwed up, I screwed up, I can at least try and fix it right?" She asked, smiling apologetically over to her father. "Dad?" She asked, trying to read what he was thinking by the look on his face.
"I don't know what to say," President Bartlet answered honestly before fixing his gaze on Xander.
"I need to fix this dad, it's my fault the newspapers are printing this, we're the ones they're talking about not you. If we get divorced it'll just be another scandal they can use against you." Zoey explained. "I want to do this, I want to help you."
"What about your classes?" President Bartlet asked simply.
"I can still go to class, or take a year out on a work program," Zoey explained. "I know it's not ideal, but I can do it."
"And what do you think of this?" President Bartlet asked, not taking his eyes off Xander for one moment.
"If… if Zoey thinks this is the best thing, then I say let's do it… uh, Mr President." Xander added the last quickly. "I really didn't mean for this, truly, if this helps fix it then I'm all for it."
"I can't ask you to do this for me," President Bartlet said softly, turning his attention back to Zoey this time. "If you want a divorce we'll work something out, you'll both have to live in the same state for two months before filing though, even I can't go above state law on that."
"I want to do this dad," Zoey said with a small smile. "We want to do this, to fix this." She said, reaching out and taking Xander's hand in her own.
"It's their choice Jed," Abbey said, looking over at her husband.
"You're sure you want to do this?" President Bartlet asked, looking at his daughter and the man sat next to her.
"Yes sir," Xander nodded firmly.
"If I didn't want to do it, you couldn't force me to." Zoey smiled over at him, her hand still holding Xander's.
"Alright then," President Bartlet nodded softly. "This is going to take a lot of work though; the press are going to be all over you from day one of this."
"I know," Zoey nodded slowly.
"And there is the matter of a photograph that has already found its way to Washington papers," President Bartlet said slowly. "I've been told it's of Mr Harris answering the door naked to a bunch of photographers."
"Oh god," Xander muttered, hanging his head low.
"Was it that bad?" Zoey asked, blushing and grimacing at the same time as her father turned to look at her.
"Worse," President Bartlet said with a soft glare. "I'm assuming you can teach Mr Harris how to act around the press and other situations he may encounter?"
"I can do that," Zoey nodded, remembering all of what she'd been through growing up and what she'd had to learn with her father being in the spotlight so often.
"Alright," President Bartlet nodded firmly. "I believe we have only one last thing to discuss then." President Bartlet paused as everyone looked at him. "I was just informed that Mr Harris hasn't actually eaten since the collapse of Sunnydale, is this true Mr Harris?" President Bartlet asked, turning his full attention to Xander.
"You haven't eaten in three days?" Zoey asked, using her free hand to slap him around the shoulder. "Why didn't you tell me!"
"Uh, yes sir, well, no sir," Xander answered confusingly.
"Well which is it, yes or no?" President Bartlet asked for clarification, inwardly smiling at the way he'd casually accepted Zoey cuffing his shoulder, the same way Abbey used to slap his arm whenever he said something stupid.
"We stopped at a few gas stations on the way to Las Vegas Mr President," Xander explained. "We didn't have much money though, so we got as much food and drink as we could and spread it around all of us."
"All of you?" President Bartlet asked.
"There were twenty six of us in the bus Mr President," Xander explained. "Mostly teenage girls or older like Faith, some of them injured, they needed the food more than me or Giles did."
"Giles?" President Bartlet asked, memorising the unfamiliar name for later research.
"One of the other people that escaped sir," Xander explained. "I suppose he was the oldest, me and him too turns driving the bus so the girls could rest and recover Mr President."
"That doesn't answer the question." President Bartlet said firmly. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Maybe two days ago," Xander answered honestly. "The girls needed it more than I did sir; I was going to get something today but…"
"Understandable," President Bartlet nodded in a show of respect. "We'll get both you and Faith something to eat at the hotel, a proper meal."
"I don't want to be any bother sir," Xander winced as the President glared at him.
"You've already been that," He said wryly, looking at both Xander and Zoey. "So, tell me about yourself." The President said before sitting back in the seats of the limousine and waiting for Xander to start talking.