Dusk was rapidly approaching as Xander stood on the hotel balcony outside of his suite, it had taken him a while to find it, but with the help of a nameless secret service agent, and plenty of time wandering the hotel corridors, he had finally found where they had placed him. The hotel suite must have easily been as large as the one Zoey had shown him before, with separate rooms for a bedroom, bathroom and relaxing area.
The suite was actually bigger than his old basement bedroom at his parents, bigger even than his apartment in Sunnydale, leaving him in a sort of bemused state trying to figure out what people actually did with all the room. The closets were empty, literally the only clothes he had with him were the ones he'd changed out of, so he assumed they had been put in Zoey's room as he'd left them at her old room when they'd got changed.
Today had been the most manic and confusing day he'd ever lived through, with The President and all the White House people running around, the secret service agents on every corner, following him around whatever he did. Trying to answer questions from everyone that came to him, while trying to keep hold of his own sanity as he tried to keep the stories he was telling people together so he remembered them all.
He'd only come up to his hotel room really for a five minute break, getting away from everything after The President had told him about his parents. That, on top of everything else that had happened today, had left him feeling numb inside. After they'd ran from Sunnydale, literally with the town collapsing behind them, and then giving Anya a farewell, along with Robin and the other Slayers that had died in the final battle, he just hadn't had the chance to actually think about his parents and what had happened to them. Now, being told that they had died in Sunnydale, the guilt over the fact they hadn't got out in time had hit him tenfold.
In the time before the final battle, he should have made time to see them, to warn them, to tell them to get out of Sunnydale, something, anything. He'd made the time to try and get Dawn out, even though she'd tasered him and driven back to Sunnydale herself. He'd done that, stood by his friends, watched as Sunnydale destroyed itself behind him, but he hadn't taken ten minutes out to warn his parents about what was going on or try to convince them to leave.
Now he wasn't sure what to think, the fact he was numb inside just thinking about it didn't bode well for his mental state. Now he was torn between berating himself for not warning his parents, and berating himself more for not really feeling anything about their death. He knew how he felt about death, when Joyce had died he'd been broken up, arguing with Anya about why she didn't understand death, trying to keep it together for Dawn and Buffy, talking with Giles about it and generally feeling the loss just as equally as everyone else had. Then with Buffy's death and funeral, it had hit him even harder, even knowing how she'd died, with Glory and Dawn, she'd given her own life to save her sister, it didn't make it easier, dealing with the death of one of his best friends, but even then he'd felt something, loss, mourning, anger and helplessness. Now, he didn't feel anything.
When The President had told him about his parents it had been a shock, they'd shared a drink and then sat in silence for a moment while he tried to process it. He couldn't say that he'd actually been close to his parents, all in all, he'd say he actually avoided thinking about them most of the time, once he'd moved out and got his own place, he'd put all the memories of his parents shouting and arguing behind him, forcing a fresh start on himself.
But now he was convinced that the fact he didn't feel anything aside from numb and empty, made him out to be some sort of monster. He couldn't even cry, shed a tear for the fact that his parents had died, express any shame or guilt over the fact that it had been him, along with Willow, Buffy and the rest, that had destroyed Sunnydale and killed them.
He just wished he could feel something, anything at the moment. After the shock and manic nature of today, his brain was racing at a hundred miles an hour, berating himself, trying to figure out what was going on with everything, watching his words, trying to keep all his stories together, for one day, it was just a little too much.
He was torn out of his musings by a loud knock at the door, a brief reminder of how today had actually started, though thankfully he was dressed and it was extremely unlikely that anyone on the other side of the door had a camera with them.
Opening the door quickly he stood there, not exactly sure what to say when faced with Zoey's mother, The President's wife, stood on the other side of the open doorway.
"Hello," Abigail Bartlet said simply after a moment's silence.
"Hello," Xander parroted back before shaking his head. "Sorry, um, Mrs Bartlet. I was just, uh…"
"I understand," Abby nodded at him softly, knowing today must have been quite a hectic and crazy one for the young man. "I came to see if you would accompany me for dinner Alexander."
"Dinner?" Xander swallowed audibly, not knowing exactly what the protocol here was. "I, uh…"
"My husband and Zoey will be joining us as well," Abby explained with a small smile, noting the young man's discomfort. "I thought it would be a good idea for us all to sit down and get to know each other."
"Uh, sorry, yes ma'am." Xander said quickly with a nod. Hunger hadn't actually registered to him yet, when they'd arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, both him and Faith had eaten quite heartily at the buffet that had been laid out for them, so he hadn't really felt the need to organise anything to eat yet.
"Good," Abby smiled at him. "Shall we?" She asked, gesturing to the doorway.
"Now?" Xander asked a bit in shock. "Uh, can I just, um, splash some water on?" He asked, gesturing to the bathroom door.
"Be my guest," Abby nodded with a small smile, with Jed and Zoey waiting in the restaurant already, she knew she had plenty of time before Jed actually started ordering food without her, and it gave him some quiet time to speak to Zoey alone.
"Thanks, uh, Ma'am," Xander said quickly before practically running into the bathroom.
"Call me Abby," Abby called after him, smiling at the way he'd almost slammed the door shut in a hurry behind himself. "You don't have to be nervous Alexander."
"I'll keep telling myself that," Xander muttered from the bathroom where the tap was running loudly.
"I mean it," Abby rolled her eyes at the doorway. "Jed's a good judge of character, if he trusts you with our daughter, which means a lot."
"He's only known me a few hours ma'am," Xander explained as he walked out of the bathroom, using a small hand towel to dry off his face and eye patch before he paused as he caught the soft glare coming from Abby. "Abby."
"Better," Abby nodded at him. "And Jed's used to making decisions about people; he deals with them every day. If he thinks you're a good person, that's good enough for me."
"That and the guards everywhere," Xander said without thinking about it.
"Those too," Abby smirked softly at him. "Ready?" She asked, moving towards the hotel suite door.
"Not really," Xander answered rhetorically but followed her out of the suite anyway; closing the door after making sure the key card for the lock was in his pants pocket.
"So, tell me about yourself Alexander," Abby said as she walked along the hotel corridor beside him, doing her best to ease his nerves. "Not your past or what you plans are for you and Zoey," Abby smiled at him gently. "We can talk about those later on."
"Yes ma… Abby," Xander caught himself just in time. "I, uh, what would you like to know?" He asked, readying himself for another long stream of questions through the evening that he would have to answer as carefully as possible.
"Ahh good, so good of you to meet me on such short notice," Lord John Marbury smiled easily as he walked into the Vice President's office.
"Not at all," Vice President Hoynes nodded over to the visitor as he stood up from his desk. "Though I must say, you've chosen quite an inopportune time to visit the White House Ambassador."
"Couldn't be helped I'm afraid," Lord Marbury explained gingerly as he shook the offered hand. "I can understand what a hectic day this must be for you all, so I'll be brief."
"I'd appreciate that," The Vice President said with a nod.
"You are of course aware that The Queen is due for her annual visit here, and while it's something we normally try and organise with the minimum of fuss, I rather feel that this royal visit may be something of an exception." Lord Marbury explained.
"I wasn't, but go on," The Vice President explained, knowing that royal visits were normally organised between the ambassadors and The President himself. They would just appear on his calendar, much like any other state visit, and he would addend as usual.
"Yes, anyway," Lord Marbury shook the thought away. "As I was saying, The Queen's annual visit is coming up, within two weeks actually, and it happens that we have some business that we would like to conduct here during the time she is here." Lord Marbury explained before sitting down in the chair opposite the Vice President's desk. "May I?" He asked, nodding towards the decanter of expensive rum on the side table with two glasses.
"Of course," The Vice President nodded as he poured a glass for the ambassador. "And what business needs to be taken care of then?" He asked, wondering what would cause the British Ambassador to come and see him like this.
"A knighthood," Lord Marbury said simply as he accepted the glass of rum. "Thank you," He nodded as he took a sip. "Not something we normally do on visits like this, though there had been precedent for the ceremony to take place on foreign grounds while a royal visit takes place."
"I see," The Vice President nodded, unsure exactly what a knighting ceremony entailed, but knowing he would have an assistant look into it later on for him.
"Now, obviously Her Royal Highness would like to offer her congratulations to young Ms Bartlet and her new husband," Lord Marbury continued. "So, if we could organise a full gathering of sorts, separate occasions for The Queen to meet the happy couple, and the knighting ceremony of course."
"Of course," The Vice President frowned, trying to keep this all straight. "So, let me go back a second. The Queen of England will be here in less than two weeks for her royal visit?"
"Correct," Lord Marbury nodded, humouring The Vice President.
"During her time here, she wishes to organise a ceremony to have someone knighted?" The Vice President asked.
"Correct again, you're keeping up better than I'd hoped," Lord Marbury said, rolling his eyes at the glare the Vice President sent his way.
"And a separate ceremony for her to meet The President's family and offer her congratulations on his youngest daughter's wedding?" The Vice President clarified again, not personally knowing what would be happening with the wedding or Ms Bartlet's future, aside from the news room and what he'd heard from CJ, he was as much in the dark about the wedding as everyone else was.
"Correct, you're three for three there old chap," Lord Marbury smirked over.
"And there is a particular reason you are coming to me personally with this? Rather than organising it through the White House state officials?" The Vice President asked, knowing there had to be more to it than what was being said here.
"Well, yes, there are a few snags that I suppose you should be made aware of," Lord Marbury smiled softly as he took another drink of the rum. "The fellow to be knighted, quite an important chap really, Rupert Giles."
"An American?" The Vice President asked carefully.
"Good god no," Lord Marbury shook his head quickly. "Dreadful thought, old friend of mine actually, been staying here for several years now. Thankfully uncorrupted by your ways and influence, no offence intended obviously."
"Obviously," The Vice President rolled his eyes as he jotted down the name on a bit of paper.
"Well, it seems old Rupert is chummy with that Alexander fellow," Lord Marbury explained. "The President's new son-in-law that is."
"The man you wish to knight, is friends with Ms Bartlet's new husband?" The Vice President asked after a moment, wondering if he'd heard him correctly.
"Yes yes, wonderful coincidence don't you think?" Lord Marbury grinned at him. "Well, old Rupert has quite a bit of influence it seems, least of all this knighting palaver," He explained. "So, when it was brought to Royal attention that he knew The President's new son-in-law, well, it all came together quite beautifully."
"That's not what I'd call it," The Vice President frowned, rubbing his forehead with his hands. "Is this, Rupert Giles," He continued after checking the name he'd jotted down. "Family of the young man that married The President's daughter?"
"Hmm?" Lord Marbury raised his eyebrow questioningly. "Oh no, god no, just friends as far as I'm aware. But, seeing as the marriage of your President's daughter seems to be quite a delicate matter to be discussed, I rather thought I'd come to you to organise this, rather than let it slip through the cracks with some young assistant or such."
"Of course," The Vice President frowned, wondering what else could possibly go wrong today for them. "I'm assuming The Queen's visit and the Knighting ceremony will be closed events?"
"Naturally," Lord Marbury nodded. "The Royal Visit is somewhat of a redressed affair, there isn't much official business for her to take care of here, so the ceremony and meeting with your President's family can be arranged at your discretion. Of course, we would like the Knighting ceremony to be broadcast live, it has been quite a while since an official ceremony like this was performed on foreign soil, so it's something we would like the folks at home to enjoy live if at all possible."
"I'm sure we can organise something for you there," The Vice President nodded, knowing that CJ would have a list of all the reporters and news networks that could be vetted and trusted for an official Royal ceremony. "Is that all?"
"Hmmm? Yes, I do believe so," Lord Marbury nodded as he finished off his rum. "Wonderful drink by the way."
"I'm glad you approve," The Vice President said as he stood up. "I will have the state branch contact you once arrangements have been made for the Royal visit."
"Of course, of course, take your time," Lord Marbury nodded as he stood up as well. "Delightful to have this meeting anyway, seems I don't spend nearly enough time here."
"Well I'm sure you're a very busy man Ambassador," The Vice President smiled softly, offering his hand.
"Too busy by far these days," Lord Marbury chuckled as he shook the offered hand. "Plenty to get on with however, so I'll leave you be."
"That would be appreciated," The Vice President said as Lord Marbury moved to leave the office.
"Do pass on my congratulations to your President and his daughter won't you?" Lord Marbury smiled as he paused by the door. "I suppose I'll meet them both in time, but all the same."
"I'll pass the word on Ambassador," The Vice President nodded with a small smile.
"Good good, now, where's the way out, ahh…"
The Vice President rolled his eyes at the Ambassador's antics as his voice trailed off as the door closed, leaving him alone in his office to think about what had just been discussed here. A few moments in silence passed before he picked up the phone and patched himself through to his assistant. "Sarah, get me information on British Knighting Ceremonies, and run down a name for me, Rupert Giles. Yes, I'll be working late." He frowned as he sat down the phone again, knowing how efficient his assistant was that he'd have the information within the hour.
Standing up he grabbed his jacket, knowing that there were other people around the White House that would want a heads-up on this as soon as possible, and in turn, they would be able to inform The President about all of this, leaving him to carry on with his day and try to keep things here running smoothly while The President finished off his personal business in Las Vegas.
"CJ, one second," He announced quickly as he walked out of his office, rushing quickly as CJ simply walked past his door at that moment.
"Zoey, good, I was looking for you," President Bartlet said with a nod as he walked into the private restaurant area, automatically taking his glasses off and sliding them into his pocket. "Your mother said you'd be here."
"Just waiting for her and you dad," Zoey smiled as she stood up from the table that Abby had organised for them, moving over to give her father a hug. "Are you ok?" She asked as she moved back to her seat once he'd made the motion to sit down with her.
"I'm fine," President Bartlet said with a nod as he poured a glass of water from the jug on the table. "I'm more worried about you."
"Dad," Zoey sighed. "I'm fine, really, I want to do this."
"But you shouldn't have to, not for me, not for those reasons." President Bartlet explained. "Marriage is sacred Zoey, not something you can jump in and out of because it pleases you." He paused, holding his hand up when he saw Zoey was about to argue with him. "I know, you didn't mean to get married, believe me, I know."
"It's the right thing to do dad," Zoey said after taking a sharp breath. "If we filed for divorce or got an annulment, the press would just use it as a smear campaign against you. I already saw what they said about you and the MS; I don't want them to go through it all again just because I messed up."
"Oh hush," President Bartlet shook his head. "You didn't mess up. A small mistake, the foibles of youth, nothing more."
"Dad. I was married by Captain Kirk," Zoey reminded him, blushing a bit in embarrassment as she remembered the photo, the only real memory she had of her wedding night.
"I'll admit, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind for your wedding," President Bartlet smirked good naturedly. "Of course, I hadn't actually thought about you getting married for a good few years yet little lady."
"I know," Zoey sighed, hating the fact that she'd actually let her father down like this. "Dad, really, I didn't…" She trailed off as he stood up, his eyes fixing on something behind her.
"I take it you're responsible for planning this," President Bartlet said with a small smile as he watched Abby walk in followed by Alexander.
"I am," Abby confirmed with a nod. "You've been in and out of meetings all day, trying to organise or counter whatever the press are going to be saying." Abby explained. "Now I understand there are complications here, but this is our daughter Jed, and I thought it was about time we actually sat down as a family and talked about this."
"And I take it you didn't have any say in this either?" President Bartlet asked, turning to Alexander.
"No, no sir," Xander shook his head quickly. "I just follow the women and do what I'm told, uh, sir."
"A wise choice," President Bartlet smiled wryly at him and nodded.
"Shall we?" Abby said with a smile, gesturing to the table where Zoey was stood watching them.
"By all means," President Bartlet said with a nod, moving back to the table and holding one chair out for his wife, before moving back opposite her to sit on the other side of Zoey, leaving Xander to sit opposite her.
"Jed," Abby said, putting her thoughts on his seating arrangements into the single name as she glared lightly at him.
"I'm not that accepting of them," President Bartlet said as he gestured for Xander to take the empty seat. "At least not yet."
"So there's some hope," Abby smiled, shuffling her chair slightly to give Xander some more room to sit down. "Now, I think a nice family meal will be just what the doctor ordered."
"Any you're the doctor prescribing it of course," President Bartlet said with a small smile.
"Exactly, so be nice and relax for a change," Abby nodded at him. "The boys upstairs can take care of everything for a while, and Leo knows where we are in case he needs you for anything."
"Fine," President Bartlet nodded in agreement, knowing better than to argue with Abby when she had her mind set on something. "I was going to find something to eat myself soon anyway."
"Good," Abby nodded, tapping on the menu that was on the table. "So, Alexander, I'm assuming you're not a vegetarian or anything?"
"No, no ma'am," Xander said, shaking his head at the idea.
"What did I tell you Alexander?" Abby scolded him lightly, a half smile on her face to show she was only kidding.
"Sorry… Abby," Xander said finally, pausing in-between the words as he wasn't sure if he would be offending The President by being on first name terms with his wife, even though she had been the one that asked him to call her by it.
"Good," Abby smiled at him. "Now, I'm in the mood for steak, I don't know about you three…" She trailed off with a smile as The President picked up the menu and looked for himself.
"Leo," Leo answered the phone simply as he picked it up, knowing whoever was on the other end of the line had come through to his number directly, so it was a good bet it was either a member of the White House staff or security.
"Leo, CJ," CJ's voice came over the line clearly, reminding Leo that there was still people back at the White House taking care of the day to day things there.
"What's wrong now?" Leo asked pessimistically, sitting down in the chair by the phone and waiting for more bad news to come their way, with the way today had been going so far, there was only so much bad news that could fall on them at one time, at least, that was his theory anyway.
"Nothing," CJ said simply. "Well, not really wrong, more unusual shall we say."
"CJ," Leo put his warning into her name, waiting for her to spit it out.
"Hoynes had a meeting with Lord John Marbury earlier this evening," CJ explained after a pause.
"That lunatic?" Leo frowned at the phone. "What did he want?"
"To pass on his blessings to The President's daughter," CJ answered quickly.
"That's it?" Leo asked carefully.
"There's more," CJ's voice continued. "I'm emailing over the details now, it gets a bit complicated so…"
"Simplify it for me," Leo said sharply.
"Fine," CJ breathed out while gathering her thoughts. "Lord Marbury came in because the Royal visit is less than two weeks away, and he wants to organise it as a special occasion for The Queen to give her blessing to the happy couple."
"He wants what?" Leo all but shouted down the phone.
"There's more," CJ paused for a second before continuing. "Also, the visit will include a full Knighting ceremony, don't ask what that entails because I haven't the foggiest." She explained over the phone. "The person due to be knighted, and you'll love this, is a friend of Alexander Harris'."
"You're kidding me," Leo said in disbelief.
"I don't have that much of a death wish," CJ shot back. "It seems Mr Harris has friends in quite high places, one of them is about to be knighted in less than two weeks."
"They can do that?" Leo frowned at the phone.
"They did it eighteen years ago in New York, that was the last Knighting Ceremony on American soil," CJ explained what her research had turned up. "Of course, Sir Richard whatever his name was, was an American, this will be the first British person to be knighted on American soil in over eighty years."
"They're going to want to make a big deal of this," Leo muttered to himself.
"Of course," CJ agreed with him over the phone. "And naturally, this comes with a full Royal visit from The Royal family, who will be giving their blessings on Alexander and Zoey's wedding."
"Oh he's going to love that," Leo sighed. "Royal blessings, is that going to be a thing?"
"It doesn't appear so," CJ reassured him. "I had someone look it up; it's more a custom than anything official, normally reserved for Royal weddings though it has been bestowed on the families of Heads of State before. When President Johnson's daughter was married at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Royal family gave their blessing over the ceremony."
"So it's performed at the ceremony?" Leo asked with raised eyebrows.
"Apparently, though seeing as Alexander and Zoey are already married…" CJ trailed off. "I'll research into what exactly the blessing will entail."
"Thanks," Leo nodded at the phone. "I've been meaning to call you actually. We're going to be giving the press something for the Thursday edition; I'll have the details faxed over to you."
"Giving them something?" CJ parroted. "What exactly are we giving them?"
"Wedding photos," Leo said simply. "We'll be redressing the wedding; I've got Sam and Josh looking into it now. Full dress, professionally shot, the works."
"So they're staying together?" CJ asked over the phone, a bit in disbelief at what she was being told.
"For the moment," Leo frowned. "I can't go into it here, but I'll walk you through everything that's happened when I get a chance."
"I'd appreciate that," CJ said quickly. "I'll let the press know to expect something."
"And look up that Royal blessing thing," Leo reminded her. "Royal blessing and a knighthood, we haven't had that many official requests from England since… before I can remember."
"You don't need to tell me Leo," CJ said, agreeing with his sentiment. "Of course, this means that Lord Marbury will be around a lot more than we're used to."
"God help us," Leo muttered wryly. "Thanks CJ."
"I'll keep you informed." CJ said before hanging up the line, leaving Leo sat in his chair to ponder what he'd just been told.
"My wife hates it when I order it like this," President Bartlet smiled as the waiter brought over their meals, the restaurant had been basically cordoned off for them, leaving a nice quiet room for them to eat together and talk, with only the secret service agents in the background to overhear what was said.
"I used to deal with blood every day, I don't need to see it on my plate when I'm eating," Abby justified her thoughts, staring at the rare stake President Bartlet had just ordered and the equally rare stake that had been put down in front of Xander.
"The best way to eat it," President Bartlet said with a small smile before looking at Xander. "Don't you agree?"
"Yes, yes sir," Xander answered hesitantly, not really wanting to side on either side of the food argument but deciding finally that honesty would always work best here.
"See? Finally, someone to back me up here. No point in eating a steak if it's been burnt to death." President Bartlet smiled as he cut into his steak, anticipating the taste of the bright pink meat that his knife revealed.
"It's not burnt dad, it's cooked." Zoey argued, nodding at the well done steak that she'd ordered along with her mother.
"Cooked, well done, burnt, it all means the same thing." President Bartlet answered her back good naturedly. "Can we have some mustard over here, grainy?" He asked, nodding at the waiter who was stood by the bar waiting for any further orders. "Yes?" He asked, looking over at Xander.
"Could… uh, could I have some peri sauce?" Xander asked hesitantly.
"Peri sauce? On a steak?" Abby asked him with raised eyebrows.
"A… uh, a friend got me into it." Xander explained, not wanting to say it had been Anya that had always enjoyed the hot peri sauce on her steaks, it was normally reserved for marinating chicken, but Anya had always loved the extra spicy sauce over her steak.
"Some Peri Peri as well if you would." President Bartlet called over. "Well, aside from Alexander's strange eating habits, I'm sure we can find something else to discuss."
"Coming from the man who dips celery in chocolate spread when he's snacking," Abby smiled good naturedly at The President while winking discretely at Zoey.
"Elizabeth likes chocolate buttons on her pizza," Zoey interrupted.
"Don't get me started with that monstrosity," President Bartlet groused. "I tasted that once, horrible. Worse than anchovies. You don't eat anchovies on pizza do you?" He asked, turning to Xander.
"Uh, no sir," Xander shook his head quickly. "Pepperoni, ham, those sorts of things."
"Good," President Bartlet nodded. "If there's one thing I can't stand its bad breath, especially fish breath."
"I'll remember that next time you're craving a tuna sandwich," Abby smiled at him, causing him to roll his eyes at her.
"I don't…" President Bartlet trailed off as he saw the restaurant door open, the secret service agent automatically turning to check the door before holding it open for Leo fully. "Excuse me." He said quietly, standing up from the table and walking over to see Leo.
"So, Alexander," Abby smiled at him. "Zoey tells me you were working your way towards management at the construction firm in Sunnydale."
"It… it wasn't quite like that," Xander almost coughed out, pausing to pour himself a glass of water.
"He's just being modest mom," Zoey interrupted with a small smile over at him. "He was working as the project engineer, answering to the management and overseeing the rebuilding of the High School in Sunnydale."
"That's quite a big job for someone so young," Abby smiled at him. "The management there must have thought very highly of you."
"I, I just enjoy my work," Xander answered honestly. "Meeting with people, being on site, making sure everything's up to code and planning everything out. It was just something I sort of fell into and found I was actually good at."
"Well, that's good. It's rare for people to find their calling so early in life these days. If it's something you enjoy, and it's something you're obviously good at, then you should stick with it." Abby said with a nod towards him. "There's nothing wrong with good hard work, someone that's overlooked a lot these days sadly."
"No ma'am… I mean Abby," Xander corrected himself quickly. "I, I guess I just like working with my hands, getting things done, seeing the finished product and…" He trailed off as he noticed President Bartlet coming back over.
"It's alright," President Bartlet nodded to him, gesturing for him to remain seated when he saw that Xander was about to stand up for him. "Leo just came to inform me of some developments back in Washington that I should be aware of."
"Is everything alright?" Abby asked, curious as to what Leo would have interrupted their meal for.
"Fine, fine," President Bartlet said with a nod as he sat back down. "Though it does seem that Alexander here hasn't told us the whole story about his friends."
Xander froze at those words, his glass of water half way to his mouth as Abby and Zoey turned to look at him in curiosity over what The President was saying.
"One of Mr Harris' friends, a Rupert Giles I believe, is due to be knighted soon." President Bartlet explained with a frown. "The British Royal Family will be conducting a ceremony in Washington in a few weeks."
"Gi… Rupert is getting knighted?" Xander all but coughed, forcing himself to take a mouthful of his water to get over the shock. "I… I take it that's a big deal then?"
"You tell me," President Bartlet said, cutting into his steak again and motioning for everyone else to continue with their meals. "I've just been informed that The Queen will also wish to pass her blessings over your marriage in a private ceremony at the White House."
That news did make Xander choke, forcing him to refill his water quickly as everyone looked on, even Abby and Zoey looked shocked at this revelation as Abby lent over and patted Xander on the back sharply to help him get over coughing.
"The Queen wants to bless our marriage?" Zoey asked in shock, the colour leaving her face as the implications of what was being discussed hit her.
"That's what I asked," President Bartlet nodded at her. "It seems it's not without precedent, it just hasn't happened in such a long time as a daughter of The President hasn't been married while in office."
"So, it's a normal thing for the Royal family to do?" Abby asked in shock.
"Leo's looking into it now," President Bartlet explained. "But he assures me that it's par for the course for a Presidential wedding." He paused, taking a mouthful of his water. "But that does mean that your wedding, as misconceived as it was, has made international news."
"Jed," Abby warned him gently, reminding him that he was supposed to be being nice to Zoey and Alexander.
"It's ok mom," Zoey said softly, looking at her father. "Dad, I know, I said I'm sorry, I'm just…"
"I'm not judging you, either of you," President Bartlet said with a frown, looking at both Zoey and Alexander now. "If it was just you two, I'd agree with your plan to stay married for the course, and then we could discuss things further down the line." He explained. "But it's not; this has become a lot bigger than just a drunken wedding now."
"Does… does it change anything sir?" Xander asked in a quiet voice. "I mean, the royal blessing thing?"
"I don't know," President Bartlet shook his head, acknowledging that it was a valid question to ask. "At the very least it means that any divorce between you, either now or further on, will be a scandal that will be internationally picked up. With a royal blessing, the papers in Britain will be following your wedding as closely as the papers here will be. I'm having Leo look into any further complications now."
"Are you sure you both still want to do this?" Abby asked, looking at them both in turn. "This isn't going to be simple, not with foreign dignitaries wanting to bless your union."
"It's the right thing to do mom," Zoey answered first. "If we got a divorce, then the scandal would ruin the re-election campaign."
"You let me worry about that," President Bartlet said firmly. "I won't see you dragged through the mud just to save my presidential election."
"And I don't want to see the papers using me and Xander as a weapon against you," Zoey answered back quickly. "We're doing this dad, I know you don't like what happened, and I'm sorry, but this is the easiest thing to do for all of us."
"I wouldn't say that," Abby frowned at Zoey. "The easiest thing would be to get a divorce and not to worry about what the papers said about your father." Abby smiled at her, taking the sting out of her words. "But you're better than that, both of you." She said, turning to Xander with a smile.
"And you're sure about this?" President Bartlet asked, turning to Xander and fixing him with a stare.
"Yes sir," Xander answered firmly. "I don't want to see the newspapers, or, what were they called?" He asked, turning to Zoey for clarification.
"Paparazzi," Zoey smiled, knowing what he was asking.
"Right, paparazzi, saying anything about Zoey or you," He continued with a smile. "This was my mistake, and I want to fix it, however I can."
"You understand that there will be certain rules to this," President Bartlet said with a frown. "You may be married legally, but there are limits on what I will allow you to do with my daughter you understand."
"Yes, yes sir." Xander answered quietly with a nod.
"Dad," Zoey whined with a small smile.
"I'm just saying," President Bartlet continued. "You will behave respectfully towards my daughter, I'm not naïve enough to believe she hasn't had relationships before, Charlie notwithstanding, but there are limits on what I will allow if you both wish to continue this marriage for my benefit."
"I understand sir," Xander nodded before either Abby or Zoey could object.
"You will of course be expected to behave like a couple in the public view," President Bartlet continued. "A certain amount of closeness is to be expected I understand. But I do not want to hear that you have made any untoward advances towards my daughter, is that understood."
"Dad, I…" Zoey started to object but went quiet when President Bartlet cut her off.
"I know what happened last night, or I know as much as I'm comfortable knowing," President Bartlet explained. "But I will expect from this moment on, for you to behave as a perfect gentleman towards my daughter Alexander, is that understood?"
"Yes sir," Xander nodded quickly. "I would never do anything to hurt Zoey."
"See that you don't." President Bartlet said before slicing another piece of steak off.
"Dad, you can't control me like this," Zoey objected after making sure that her father had finished speaking. "I get that you're angry over what I did, but you can't just lock me away and control my life." She said, standing up and moving to stand beside Xander. "Xander is a good man dad, really, just because I was drunk, it doesn't mean he took advantage of me."
"I don't want to talk about this," President Bartlet said sharply.
"Well we've got to at some point," Zoey argued back. "Dad, I'm a grown woman, I can make my own choices."
"And we've seen how well that turns out haven't we?" President Bartlet argued back.
"Listen to me, if me and Xander are staying married, and we're doing it for you, I'm not going to let you control every aspect of our lives." Zoey explained in a pleading voice. "Whatever happens, it's my choice, and Xander's choice, it's not up to you anymore." She said with finality, leaning down and pulling Xander into a passionate kiss, leaving President Bartlet and Abby watching on in shock. "It's my life dad, not yours." She said as she broke the kiss, leaving Xander as startled as President Bartlet as she walked away from the table and out of the restaurant, with two of the secret service agents following her out.
"I… uh… I don't…" Xander started to speak, not really knowing what to say in a situation like this.
"Go after her," Abby smiled at him. "And you, stay," She said, turning to her husband as Xander gingerly slid his chair back and stood up.
"I… sir, I'd never take advantage of Zoey, not in any way."
"I know that," Abby smiled at him. "Now, go." She smiled, nodding at the door where Zoey had left. Waiting a few moments for Xander to leave and close the door behind him before she took her hand off of her husband's knee. "Well, that could have gone better." She said with a small smile, knowing full well that arguments between her husband and their daughters were par for the course of their relationship. "You know, Zoey could do a lot worse than young Alexander."
"They were married drunk Abby, what the hell kind of way is that to start a relationship?" President Bartlet demanded.
"It might not be ideal, but it's their lives. If it's something they want to do, then you can't stop that." Abby reminded him.
"I'm sure I can find a way," President Bartlet scowled back.
"Not without ruining any relationship you have with Zoey," Abby argued. "And me."
"You can't be taking their side on this," President Bartlet replied in disbelief. "They're too young, Zoey hasn't even finished university yet, it's no time for her to settle down and be in a relationship with a man she hardly knows."
"It's her choice Jed," Abby reminded him. "And arguing with her, or Alexander, is just going to push her further and further away."
"When did she get so passionate anyway?" President Bartlet frowned over at his wife. "She never kissed Charlie that way, I'd remember that."
"You never saw them behind closed doors," Abby laughed quietly. "But, you're right."
"I am?" President Bartlet asked, a bit in shock at being right about something in this argument. "What exactly am I right about?"
"She never did kiss Charlie like that," Abby smiled as she poured a fresh glass of water for herself. "And it's been a long time since I've seen Zoey that passionate about anything."
"You like him don't you," President Bartlet stated after a moment, pausing to think about what Abby was saying.
"He's honest, hardworking, and you said it yourself, he'd be willing to put himself on the line for Zoey," Abby smiled at him. "What else could we ask for for our youngest?"
"At least he's not a republican, I'll give him that," President Bartlet frowned as he cut off another bit of steak to enjoy.
"And I think our daughter is falling for him, wedding or no wedding," Abby explained. "If you try and push them apart, I don't see it going well."
"You know, I liked it more when you were telling me I was right," President Bartlet said with a frown as he ate the piece of steak he'd sliced off.
"I'm sure Zoey will come to us if she needs our help with anything," Abby smiled good naturedly at her husband turning into the overprotective father again. "She's got a good head on her shoulders, and she follows her heart, just like you taught her."
"I didn't teach her to follow her heart drunkenly to a Star Trek themed chapel," President Bartlet shot back with a small smile.
"I'll admit, that those aren't the sort of wedding photos I'd hoped to see from Zoey," Abby said honestly.
"That's right, I forgot to bring that up," President Bartlet said. "How about we redress the wedding. A proper gown for Zoey, a tuxedo for Alexander. Photographs, cake, the whole nine yards."
"You want them to get married again?" Abby asked, raising her eyebrow at this idea. "After the argument you just had with Zoey?"
"I never said I was consistent," President Bartlet argued back. "I was talking about it with Leo earlier, using the photos from the redress to give to the press; hopefully it will get them to stop printing that picture of Alexander and Zoey in their hotel room."
"You think it would work?" Abby asked hopefully, she'd only seen the picture once or twice; she hadn't been able to bring herself to actually search out newspapers with it on, not wanting to see any paper that would splash her youngest daughter half-dressed across their front page.
"Leo seems to think so," President Bartlet said thoughtfully. "But, if Zoey is actually wanting to pursue a relationship with Alexander…"
"Then you'll give them a proper wedding later on," Abby cut him off. "But I think a redress is a wonderful idea."
"If I can get them both to agree to it that is," President Bartlet sighed. "That is if Zoey will ever talk to me again."
"You let me worry about that," Abby smiled at him. "I'd rather have Zoey looking beautiful in a proper gown over a Star Trek themed wedding any day of the week, so leave that to me."
"I sent Josh and Sam out to look into it for me." President Bartlet explained. "I'll have them give you any pricing or locations they find."
"Good," Abby smiled at him. "Now, you finish your steak, and let me deal with Zoey." She said, standing up from the table and tapping her husband on the shoulder.
"Tell her," President Bartlet trailed off with a sigh. "Tell them both, I'm sorry."
"I'll tell them," Abby said with a smile, leaning down and kissing her husband on the cheek. "It's been a stressful day. I'm sure they'll understand."
"I meant what I said though, every word of it." President Bartlet defended himself. "If he hurts her, god help him."
"I'll be sure to mention that," Abby said with a roll of her eyes as she moved away from the table. "Enjoy your steak." She said as a parting shot before leaving the restaurant with the usual secret service agent following her. "Find out where my daughter is will you." She said to him, waiting for him to start speaking discreetly into his ear piece before she continued walking.
"Residential floor ma'am, with Mr Harris." The agent replied quickly.
"Thank you," Abby nodded at him as she strode towards the elevator.
Rupert Giles all but stalked around the outside of the cabin he'd rented for the night, he'd only gone outside to get some fresh air, several hours after the phone call from Lord Marbury and thoughts were still rushing round in his head, trying to understand what Lord Marbury was planning and how, if there was any way, he could actually excuse himself from being involved in any of the plans.
He knew Buffy, Willow and the other Slayers wouldn't be back before daybreak at least, possibly not until later on in the day tomorrow, which left him ample time on his own to actually sit down and think about things and try to work through his thoughts in quiet.
This was officially his first night of relaxing, after seven years on the Hellmouth, then running to Las Vegas, then running from Las Vegas because of the drunken marriage Xander got himself caught up in, well, he'd actually been looking forward to relaxing for once and spending an evening reading in quiet.
Though a simple phone call from Lord Marbury had ruined all of that in a single moment. The plan, as much of it had been thought out, had originally been to rest for a few days at Las Vegas, and then to move from there towards another hunting ground where the new Slayers could be trained and tutored, there were several noteworthy places he knew of where a large group of Slayers could actively patrol and hunt, while doing some good for the world in general.
Obviously, Hellmouths, places of mystical convergence, were top of his list. After closing the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, it was obvious to him that other Hellmouths around the world would start fluctuating in power as a result of their actions, whether this would be for good or ill, would be something they would have to research and explore further.
Though to his knowledge, there were now only three active Hellmouths in the United States, one in Cleveland, a guarded Hellmouth in Saratoga, Wyoming. Though the Wyoming Hellmouth had been under Council control since the early eighteen forties, the last Hellmouth that he knew of was in Schenectady, a place the native tribes had called The Place Beyond the Pine Plains. Which, not as threatening as Boca Del Infierno, he knew from Council records that the Hellmouth in Schenectady had been steadily luring people with promises of innocence and heaven for centuries, only to have people vanish from the world altogether.
Of course, all his plans now hinged on what would happen with Xander and his current predicament, and naturally working around the plans Lord Marbury had for him and rebuilding The Watchers Council. Leaving anything he could plan for the future rather up in the air at the moment until he knew more about what was going on.
"Uh, hey?" Xander asked hesitantly as he caught up with Zoey as she stormed into the elevator on the ground floor of the hotel they were staying at, ignoring the looks from tourists as the secret service agents followed them and called the elevator down automatically for them both. "Whoa, I come in peace." He said, holding up his hands when she turned to glare at him.
"Sorry," Zoey said after a moment, taking a second to breathe deeply. "It's just… ugh, I hate it when he tries to control everything, everything has to be done his way, on his schedule, by his rules. Not that I should have expected anything else, growing up it was always like it, even Liz got fed up of it from time to time."
"Liz?" Xander asked as the elevator doors opened for them to walk in, hoping to distract her from her frustration for the moment by talking about anything else.
"Keep forgetting you don't know any of this," Zoey said with a half-smile. "My sister, I'm the youngest, Liz and Eleanor are my older sisters."
"Gotcha," Xander nodded, committing the names to memory. "So, uh, they live at the White House too?" He asked, trying to keep the conversation going.
"No," Zoey laughed at the idea. "Liz is married, god, almost eight years now. Ellie's training to be a Doctor, following in mom's footsteps."
"So it's just you and your parents there then?" Xander asked, curious now as to what her life was actually like.
"You know, I don't actually live at the White House Xander," Zoey laughed at him. "I'm at university in Georgetown, I live on campus with my roommate, or ex roommate now that is."
"Ah," Xander nodded, remembering what she had told him about her roommate sleeping with her boyfriend at the time.
"I can't go back there, not after seeing…" Zoey trailed off, closing her eyes and shaking her head to get rid of the memory of walking in on her boyfriend and roommate in bed together. "I'm not stepping one foot in that apartment again." She said firmly.
"Sure you can switch rooms or something, I mean, could always talk to the admin guys, sure they'd be happy to find a new place or something." Xander offered helpfully. "And you've got plenty of guys to help you move." He said with a grin, nodding towards the two secret service agents that were stood in the elevator with them.
Zoey just smiled, shaking her head at his comments. "I can't just ask secret service agents to carry my boxes everywhere, it doesn't work like that." She laughed at the thought. "Thanks though." She said with a final smile, reaching out and touching his arm lightly.
"For what?" Xander asked innocently, smiling at her and enjoying the way she touched his arm.
"For taking my mind off things," Zoey said simply. "I know what you're doing, and I know mom told you to follow me."
"Wasn't sure if you wanted company or not," Xander said honestly. "And I figured jumping up from the table to follow you after that kiss, would probably lead to The President having me shot before I got out of the restaurant."
"Oh god," Zoey laughed, cradling her face in her hands so Xander didn't see her blush. "I'm sorry, I didn't think, I just…"
"Hey, don't be sorry," Xander smiled at her. "Getting kissed by a beautiful woman, can't see a down side here." He laughed. "Though I kinda think you left The President wondering if he should lock us both up after that little display."
"Don't remind me," Zoey laughed. "He threatened to build a flat under the White House just for me when Charlie asked me out before. He wasn't keen on that either."
"Fathers rule," Xander said with a nod. "No man is ever good enough for their daughter."
"You have sisters then?" Zoey asked, knowing that that was exactly how her father felt about any man asking her out. It's why she'd been surprised that he'd actually accepted her dating Charlie, even though she knew that he was watching Charlie at work and making sure that he behaved appropriately at every moment.
"Nah," Xander shook his head. "Just plenty of girl friends, not girlfriends, but friends, who are girls, you know what I mean right?"
"Like Willow," Zoey said, giving him a break after smiling at the way he fell over his words trying to explain it to her.
"Yes, thank you, like Willow and Buffy." Xander said as the elevator doors opened. "Buffy's dad wasn't exactly around much, or at all really, but Willow's dad was pretty cool, when he was around anyway."
"Sounds like you all grew up without dads really." Zoey said as she led the way out into the corridor.
"Yeah, kinda," Xander nodded in agreement. "Guess Giles was the surrogate dad for the group really, only one that really stuck around for us all."
"He sounds like a good man," Zoey said with a smile. "He's the one that's going to be knighted right?"
"That's what The President said," Xander nodded. "I don't even know what knighted means, aside from some Brit thing that is."
"Leo will probably know," Zoey explained. "He knows all that sort of stuff, dad always goes to him with questions like that. Or you could just ask your friend, he obviously would know what it means."
"Yeah," Xander laughed. "So, uh, this is your room then?" He asked as Zoey paused in front of a door.
"Yeah," Zoey nodded. "I should…" She said softly, fishing her key card out of her purse.
"Yeah," Xander parroted back. "It's been a long day." He admitted to her, standing there awkwardly, unsure what to really say here.
"You could come in?" Zoey offered after a moment, have a drink or watch some TV or something.
"I think The President would have me shot if he found us together in your room," Xander laughed the idea off. "And I kinda like being in one piece."
"I'm sure he wouldn't do that," Zoey laughed. "But yeah, sleep would be good right now." She admitted, stifling a yawn. "We can talk tomorrow."
"I'd like that," Xander said with a smile, putting his hands in his pockets casually so they weren't just dangling at his sides while they talked. "I'll uh, see you then?"
"Good night," Zoey said with a smile, leaning in and giving him a small kiss on the cheek.
"Night," Xander said, flushing a bit at where she kissed him before turning to walk away, leaving Zoey stood by her open door watching him walk back to his hotel room.
Abby smiled from her view point by the elevator, by the looks of things, she'd only missed them talking on the ride up and walk along to Zoey's room. She hadn't been close enough to hear what they were talking about, but she knew her daughter well enough to see that Zoey was comfortable with Alexander and he made her smile.
She watched as Zoey lent in and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek, not the passionate showy kiss that she'd given him downstairs to make a point to her father, but a tender kiss with the promise of real emotion behind it, the sort of kiss that she gave to Jed when she walked past his desk and he was busy working.
It was just a small, simple gesture, but it was one that made her smile more than anything else had today. If they were both happy, and obviously falling for each other, then maybe her husband's plan of redressing the wedding would work for them both. She'd obviously have to find Zoey a dress, and get Alexander into a tuxedo, Sam could probably help there. And of course she'd want her other daughters to be there as well, while it wouldn't be an 'official' wedding, as Zoey and Alexander were already married, it would be the wedding she could give her, even if it was just for show really.
"They seem happy," She said to herself as she walked back inside the elevator, not really expecting any response from the secret service agent there waiting for her, so when silence responded she carried on. "Back to the restaurant please." She said with a smile, watching Zoey's door move out of view as the elevator doors closed on her.