Cold Coffee and Old Memories

Author: Bastard Snow <swtrilman[at]>

Rating: PG

Summary: Third in the Coffee series. The Scoobies head to Washington, D.C.…

Author's Notes: This might be the last in the Coffee series. I'm not sure, but I don't have anymore lined up right now. If something else occurs to me, I'll probably write it, but for now I'm going to focus on my other works.

Feedback: Yes, please!

Chapter 1

Xander, Willow and Buffy stepped onto the escalator and looked up.

"Whoa," Xander said.

"That's a big escalator," said Willow.

"I'm noticing that," Xander said. "Did we even have escalators in Sunnydale? Other than the mall, I mean?"

"I don't think so," said Buffy. "Or if we did, they were hidden from me."

The trio was carried up more than 20 feet, into the almost blindingly harsh Washington, D.C. sunlight. As instructed, they had checked into the Watergate Hotel under the false name Alexander Dumas. Seeing nothing else to do, they decided to go sightseeing, and the Smithsonian Museums was their first pick, because Willow was the only one who really had an opinion.

Having then retrieved their car, Xander proceeded to buy a map and begin driving towards the National Mall. He headed straight up Virginia Avenue, towards the Washington Monument that was visible straight ahead. Following the map, they took a left on 18th Street and headed for I Street But because the map was more than a year old, I Street now ran one way in the opposite direction they needed to go. Heading past I and on to K, they tried to find a way over to Pennsylvania Avenue. They passed 17th street twice, much to their dismay, without making any turns. Hooking a right on 14th, Xander drove down to Pennsylvania.

The map struck again, and they couldn't turn left. Slowly making their way to 15th, they found they couldn't turn right because Pennsylvania between 14th and 15th was closed (though they got to drive by the White House). Xander quickly found that 15th didn't stay 15th, but instead changed to Vermont. So he turned right (back on K street, again) and passed… 15th street. Confusion quickly set in. After a few more wrong turns, Xander returned to the Watergate (saying "If we make enough turns, we're bound to get there at some point"), charged valet parking to their room, and they just took the damn Metro, already. Because, Xander reasoned, who the hell cares how you get to Independence Avenue, anyway?

"Look at all these places," said Willow as they stepped off of the escalator and looked down the Mall at the Capitol Building. "There's so much knowledge, so much information, so many priceless artifacts collected on this one stretch of land… it's mindboggling. Just think. That building right in front of us is the seat of American democracy. It's the place where laws are made, where futures are decided. Some of the greatest political minds in American history worked in that very building."

"What do you want to do first?" Xander asked.

"Well, what do we have?" Buffy asked, shielding her eyes from the abnormally bright Washington, D.C. afternoon sun.

"Well," Xander said, looking up and down the row. "Looks like we've got the Smithsonian, the actual building not just the museum group, and then there's Air and Space, and -"

"Natural History!" Willow said. She was almost jumping with excitement. "We have to see the Natural History museum!"

"Uh, okay," Xander said. He consulted the map he had picked up in the lobby of the hotel. "And we are…"

"At the Smithsonian Metro Station, Orange Line," Willow said, referencing the free-standing eight-foot column they stood next to.

Xander held the map up, using the Capitol building as a reference point, along with the metro station. "Okay," he said. "In that case, Natural History is going to be…" he pointed almost directly to the left. "That way."

The trio turned, and began crossing the Mall.

"Natural History," Buffy muttered. "That sounds like a lot of fun. Nothing like a bunch of bones and rocks to keep *me* interested."

"They've got the Hope Diamond," Xander said.

"The Hope Diamond, like the actual one? The big one?"

"No, a baseball field named after Bob Hope. Yes, the Hope Diamond."

Buffy's eyes were fairly glowing. "Natural History," she said after a moment. "Sounds good."

As they walked into the American Museum of Natural History, the three friends looked up into the face of a large elephant, mounted on a pedestal that made its huge frame even more imposing.

"Huh," Xander said. "You know, if we had split up like we were originally going to, I probably would have seen a lot of these guys in Africa."

"Yup," Buffy said. "But instead you got stuck with us girls."

"Yes," he replied. "Blast my luck for having to spend time with my friends instead of being shipped off to some hot, dry continent with a low-likelihood of air conditioning. Besides, how much would that suck? Having to adapt to the one-eyedness with nobody around to make fun of me when I bump into things? I mean, that's no way to live."

Buffy laughed, and Willow wrapped her arm around his waist, while resting her head on his shoulder. "You know we'll always be here to mock you for your disabilities," she said, sincerely.

"And this is the source of my love," Xander said. He wrapped his arms around both girls and gave them each kisses on the tops of their heads. "Now. What first?"


After a long day of touristy things, Xander flopped down onto his bed. In his own room. A queen-sized bed all to himself was a luxury he had not had since… well, since ever. Even when he lived with Anya, they had shared a full-sized bed. Xander splayed out on his back on top of the covers, with seemingly acres of room to move. He rolled around a little, getting the feel of the bed. Xander sat up and looked around the room. There was a small couch, a table, a real mahogany television cabinet. The room was, strictly speaking, huge, and impressively furnished. Xander was impressed that the government had sprung for such a luxurious hotel room.

He sighed. The room was too big, and he was lonely. Xander stood to go find one or other of the girls, when someone knocked at his door. He opened the door to find a blonde and a redhead standing outside with sheepish smiles on their faces.

"Our rooms were too big," they said. Xander smiled and waved them inside. Buffy and Willow appropriated his bed, while Xander moved the table and lay out on the couch.

"So when do you think they'll show and tell us what they want?" Xander asked.

"I don't know," Willow said. "Hey, maybe they could forget about us and we could just do whatever we want. They might never come for us!"

They all turned to look at the door, waiting for a knock. After a moment, they gave up.

"Did my best," Willow said.

"That's okay," said Buffy. "I imagine they'll get around to us when they want to. Until then, we should just enjoy this little bit of vacation in between the driving around the country with no supervision."

Xander nodded. "I'm still curious though."

"About?" Willow asked.

"Alexander Dumas. Why an assumed name? And why *that* assumed name?"

"Well, there's the obvious," Willow said.

Xander and Buffy looked at her.

"Well, first, you're Alexander," she said, pointing to Xander. "So that's kind of a 'duh' to remember. And Dumas wrote the Three Musketeers. Buncha guys who fought for what they believed in, right?"

"So who do you think it is?" Xander asked.

"Who do I think what is who…what?" replied Buffy, having managed to confuse even herself.

"The Slayer," Xander said after a moment, having muddled through her phrasing. "I mean, there's got to be a reason the president sent for us. I assume it was the president, what with it being the Secret Service who came to Giles. Right? And doesn't he have a few daughters?"

"Three," Willow said. "Zoey, Eleanor and Elizabeth, whose married name is Weston. Zoey was involved in a shooting a couple of years ago in a Virginia suburb called Rosslyn… the target was her boyfriend, Charles Young, who works for the president. He's black, and they were white supremacists, who didn't want him dating a white girl. But instead, they shot Josh Lyman, the deputy Chief of Staff."

Buffy and Xander blinked at each other, then looked at Willow.

"Uh. Okay. Thanks for the family history, Will," Buffy said. "How did you know that exactly?"

"I looked them up," she said, a little defensively. "There's tons of websites about the first family, and their history, and Bartlet's administration. It's all readily available if you just look for it."

"Hey, no criticism," Xander said, smiling. "You just always know more than us."

"Unless it's Spider-Man or melee weapons," Buffy said.

"Yeah," Xander said. "Unless it's those."

"Well, I just take the time to know about a situation before I go into it. It's been my experience, well proven, I feel, that in our line of work, surprises tend to be bad things."

"Can't argue with you there," Buffy said. "I really-"

Someone knocked at the door.

"Did you order room service?" Willow asked.

Xander shook his head. Buffy stood up and moved to the door cautiously, indicating that Willow and Xander should stay behind her. They complied by being too lazy to move. Buffy leaned up on her tip-toes to look through the peep-hole, eliciting a muted snort from Xander. She glared at him.

"Buffy," Willow said, "I really don't think anybody's going to attack us in the hotel room."

Buffy looked through the peep-hole again and saw a young, professional looking black man standing outside patiently. Deciding he looked safe, Buffy ignored the quiet comments about paranoia and 'missing the rush' that were coming from behind her, and opened the door.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"I hope so," the young man said. "My name is Charlie Young. I was looking for a Mr. Alexander Harris. Is this his room?"

"That depends," Buffy said, leaning against the door while taking in the attractive form of the man in front of her. "What do you want with him?"

"Well, if this is his room like the front desk led me to believe, then I have a matter of some urgency to discuss with him, and his traveling companions. From the file, I'd assume you to be Buffy Summers. Is that right?"

"Mmm… uh huh," she said.

"Did ya hear that, Will?" Xander said from behind her. "You guys are my traveling companions. Who's the big shot now?"

Buffy couldn't tell, but she assumed Willow was sticking her tongue out at him.

"Buffy, let him in for god's sake, he's not going to kill you," Xander called. "Or any of us."

"Is that true?" Buffy asked him.

"Uh, yes, ma'am. I'm not planning on killing anyone anytime soon."

"Oh," she said. "Well, okay then." Buffy stepped back from the door and let the young man walk inside.

Xander rolled his eye. "It's a hotel room, Buff," he said as he rose to greet their guest. "They can come in anyway. What can we do for you?"

"As I said, my name is Charlie Young. I work for President Bartlet. The president is hoping to meet with the three of you, and discuss some issues of national security. Specifically vampires."

Buffy was surprised. "You have high enough security clearance to know about vampires?" she asked. Her impression from Riley had been that it was fairly hush-hush.

"Well, not exactly, ma'am," Charlie said. "But the president often tells me things he probably shouldn't."

"Could you do me a favor?" Buffy asked, glancing at Willow. The redhead had remained silent the entire time. "Don't call me ma'am. It makes me feel old."

"Of course," Charlie said. "Anyway, as I said, the president would like to meet with you. I have a car waiting downstairs. So, if the three of you could get dressed…"

Xander looked down at the jeans and sweatshirt he was wearing, and realized there was no way he could meet the president wearing that.

"It'll just be a few minutes," Xander said.

"Of course," Charlie said. "I'll be in the lobby."

Xander saw Charlie to the door, and when it was closed, he turned to Willow.

"You okay?"

Willow dragged her gaze up from the floor to meet Xander's eye. She smiled. "Yeah," she said. "Went into a bit of a shock there. Meeting the president. Wow. That's big."

"Willow," Buffy said. "We beat the crap out of a hell-goddess. We went up against the First-frikking-Evil, and we came out of it alive. On the scale of powerful people? President doesn't seem quite as high as it used to."

"No, I know," Willow said. "But, it's not just… I mean, he- he's the president. Hell-Goddesses and First Evil's, yeah, but that's the world we live in all the time. President is much more… he's a bigger deal to most people. Just seems important."

"No, I know what you mean," Xander said. "It's a different kind of powerful. More of a social one, and it makes a completely different kind of impression."

Willow nodded.

"Come on," Buffy said, patting Willow on the shoulder. "We should get changed."

Willow nodded again, and the two girls left Xander in his room.

Chapter 2

Ten minutes later, Xander met Charlie downstairs in the lobby. The two of them chatted idly about politics (Xander quickly found himself out of his depth), baseball (Charlie was an Orioles fan, Xander a Dodgers fan… neither was particularly happy), and segued smoothly into a discussion the effectiveness of baseball bats when fighting for your life against a mob of undead bloodsuckers (Xander was in favor of sharper weapons, Charlie didn't really have an opinion but was willing to take Xander's word for it).

"I mean it's got good heft," Xander said. "And you can get up some good momentum, but a cracked skull isn't really going to stop those guys. What with their being dead and all."

"So they don't feel pain?" Charlie asked.

"Oh, no, they definitely feel pain. They just don't let it get to them like humans do."

Charlie nodded, and Xander checked his watch. "They're sure taking a long time," he said.

"Well," Charlie said, "I find that women often take longer to get ready than men do, unless it's something a man doesn't want to do. You have no idea how often I have to urge the President to get ready if it's a function he doesn't want to attend."

"You know," Xander said, "I can't really imagine urging the president to do anything. I don't think I have that kind of willpower."

"It takes some getting used to," Charlie said.

The elevator doors dinged, and Buffy and Willow emerged into the lobby.

"Are we ready?" Xander asked as the two ladies approached.

"I think so," Charlie said. "If you'll follow me?"

The three Scoobies followed Charlie out the door and looked around for the car. They were very pleased when Charlie led them to a black stretched limousine and opened the door.

"Interestingly," Xander said as they got into the limo, "the White House is the one landmark I managed to drive us to in this city. Not, you know, on purpose, but we got there all the same."

"Well, the driver knows his way around," Charlie said as he stepped into the limo behind them. He closed the door and knocked on the privacy glass separating their compartment from the front seat, and the limo got on its way.


Upon arriving at the White House, the Scoobies followed Charlie past the security desk, where they were searched and given badges, then back to the administrative office just outside of the Oval Office. Charlie smoothly slid behind a desk, flipped open a notebook and made a note, then turned back to them.

"The President will be with you in a minute," he said. "He should be finishing up any minute."

"Who's he talking to?" Buffy asked.

"The president of Russia," Charlie said as he sat in his chair and pulled up some work on his computer.

"The president of Russia is in the Oval Office?" Xander asked.

"No," Charlie said. "President Bartlet called him."

Willow frowned, checked Xander's watch, and did some quick mental calculation. "Isn't it, like, three a.m. over there?"

"You forgot to account for Daylight Savings Time," Charlie said, almost without thought. "It's only two."

"What?" asked Buffy.

"Daylight Savings Time," Charlie said, looking up. "See, clocks around the world are set by a standard, Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. Because of their locations, Moscow is GMT plus three, meaning three hours ahead, and D.C. is GMT minus five. But during the summer, most of the U.S. observes Daylight Savings Time, which puts D.C. at GMT minus four, and only seven hours behind Moscow instead of the normal eight."

Xander and Buffy looked to Willow. "I did my math wrong," she said, and understanding lit up their eyes.

"And actually," Charlie said, "he's currently in England at a summit, so we're only four hours behind. It's about ten p.m. where he is."

The Scoobies nodded and began looking around the office a little.

"Charlie," said a voice from the hallway. A tall-ish man with red hair stuck his head in the office. "Justice was supposed to send over a file, Leo wants me to have a look at it."

"What was it about?" Charlie asked, turning his chair towards a stack of files on his desk.

"I dunno," the man said. "Maybe… crime?"

"You're going to have to be a little more specific, Josh," Charlie said.

"No, no, I know this," the man, Josh, apparently, said. He raised a hand to his brow. "Um, I think it was a review of the current death row cases in the Fourth District."

"Yeah," Charlie said, pulling a file from the middle of the stack and handing it to Josh.

"Thanks," the other man said. His eyes scanned across the room to the Scoobies. "Who are you guys?" he asked.

"They're nobody," Charlie said.

"Yeah?" Josh asked, his head turning back to Charlie. "Nobodies don't usually have meetings."

"Yeah, well," Charlie said, by way of explanation.

"Got it," said Josh. "Thanks for the file."

"Was that…" Willow started.

"Josh Lyman," Charlie said. A flicker of light caught his attention, and he stood up and smoothed out his tie. "If you folks will follow me?"

Charlie stepped out from behind his desk and walked over to the door that lead to the Oval Office. He knocked twice and opened it.

"Mr. President?"

"Yeah," was the answer.

"They're here, sir."

"Great. Send 'em in."

Charlie opened the door completely and ushered Buffy, Xander and Willow inside the Oval Office.

They were met by President Bartlet. Xander was struck by the fact that, despite his admittedly small stature, the man simply commanded the room with his presence. He imagined that was a useful skill, when one was the leader of the free world.

"Mr. President, this is Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris," Charlie said, indicating each one in turn.

"Nice to meet you," Bartlet said, shaking each of their hands. "Please, come in, have a seat. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Water?"

"Umm," Buffy said, taking the initiative, "I'd love some coffee."

Willow and Xander nodded their assent.

"Charlie? Have some coffee sent up? And a drink for me."

"Yes, sir," Charlie said, before backing out of the room and closing the door.

"Please, sit down," Bartlet said, leading them to the couches in the middle of the room. "So," he said once they were all seated. "You've guessed, of course, why you're here."

"I voted for you!" Willow blurted, her excitement barely contained. Xander lowered his head and covered his mouth in an effort to hide his chuckles.

"Well, thank you," Bartlet said, an amused smile gracing his features. "Every little bit helps."

"Now that that's out of the way," Buffy said, as Willow reddened and did her best to hide her face from view. "What can we help you with, Mr. President?"

"Well, I have some issues I need clearing up, and I'm hoping you can help me with that," he said. "Issues involving, for instance, super-powered young women, and men who aren't quite men, but often look like it."

A young woman knocked on the door, then brought in a tray of coffee. She poured some for each all three Scoobies, and handed the president a tumbler of scotch.

"Did you have specific questions?" Xander asked once the woman had left. "Or were you looking for a general overview?"

"A general overview I've got," he said. "I need specifics."

"For instance?" asked Buffy.

"For instance, how did vampires come into being?"

Buffy nodded, becoming relaxed with a familiar topic. "The last true demon to leave this world mixed his blood with a human, who mixed his with another, and another, and on until they progressed to what they are now."

"And they told two friends, and they told two friends…" Xander muttered.

"True demon?" Bartlet asked, sparing a small smile for Xander.

"Yes, sir," Buffy said.

"The demons we have here on Earth aren't pure demons," Xander intoned. "They're limited by living in this plane, for the most part. Even the demons that exist here look down on vampires as half-breeds. Sir."

"So," Bartlet asked, "pure demons. What's different about them?"

"Well for one thing," Xander said, "they're bigger." Xander paused and looked down at his hands for a moment, before smiling wistfully. Bartlet saw one hand from each of the young women quickly and easily find one of Xander's, retreating only after imparting a comforting squeeze.

"They're bigger," Willow continued, having recovered from her embarrassment, "and they're more powerful. They can deal more destruction, and they're much harder to kill."

Bartlet nodded. "Have you ever had to kill one of these things?"

"Once," Buffy said. "You're aware that our high school blew up at our graduation?"

"Right," Bartlet said. "The gas explosion that wasn't. I remember from my briefing. That was a pure demon?"

"Yes, sir," Buffy said.

"And what did it take to kill it?"

"Enough ammonium nitrate to fill a small mansion," Xander said.

"You built a bomb?" Bartlet asked.

"Not just a bomb," Buffy said. "A very big bomb."

"And where did you get the know-how for this? I swear if you tell me the Internet I'm having the thing shut down."

"No, sir," Xander said. "I was once possessed by the spirit of a soldier, and some of his training stuck."

"Possessed," Bartlet said, flatly.

"Yes, sir," Xander said.

"But you're better now?"

"Yes, sir," Xander said. "I don't remember much of anything anymore."

Chapter 3

President Bartlet continued questioning the Scoobies long into the night, the coffee sat cold on the table, forgotten. They told him, after assurances that nothing they said would leave the room, about everything from Buffy's deaths to ADAM to why, currently, it might be helpful if the federal government put off its investigation into ethics violations at the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart.

They spoke of the death of friends and relatives, fights with a goddess, and their hope for a full pardon for Faith. And after three hours, they finally got to why they thought they were actually there.

"So," Bartlet said, "how do you go about identifying a newly called Slayer?"

Buffy and Xander turned to Willow. "We work with a coven of witches," she said, "based out of England. Devon. Using certain techniques and spells, they're able to discern a name, and a general location. Giles then plots the location on a map, and off we go."

"So it's just the three of you doing this?" he asked.

"In this country, for the moment, yes," Xander said. "A colleague of ours was recently injured, but he was doing this as well. We're working on getting people in other areas, but for now it's pretty much here, and Europe."

"Because that's where the Council was," Bartlet surmised.

"Yes, sir," Xander said.

"Are there any common characteristics between these girls?" he asked. "Genetics, or…"

"We don't know," Buffy said. "There's never been more than one Slayer at a time before, so nobody's really looked into it. We suspect that all these girls, at some point way, way back on the timeline, come from a common ancestor. The First Slayer. But that's just a guess."

"As for characteristics," Willow said, "all of the girls we've talked to so far have been within a certain age range. They've all had their first period, and we think that's probably a biological fail-safe."

"Wouldn't do to have a young girl kick her way out of her mother's stomach," Bartlet said, nodding.

"No, sir," Buffy said. "We've also met a few Slayers approaching the common age of menopause, but these seem to be extremes. For the most part, the girls are between about 15 and 30."

"So, you think that being the Slayer has something to do with a woman's menstrual cycle?" Bartlet asked, looking at the trio over the rim of his glasses.

"Well," Willow said, "we think it's either going to be something to do with a hormone that's released during that time, or it's just magic with some biological activators. We're not really sure."

"Interesting," the president said, tapping a pen on the paper he had been using to take notes. Bartlet sat back in his chair, and looked off into the distance as the pen slowly made its way to his mouth.

"Do you realize," Xander whispered to Willow, "that the pen he's chewing on probably cost more than my first car?"

"Okay," Bartlet said after a few more moments. "So what's next?"

"Well," Buffy said, leaning forward, "I suppose we should talk to your daughter, and probably your wife. Educate them about what's going on, what the options are, and how -"

"I'm sorry," Bartlet interrupted. "Why would we be talking to them?"

"Um," Xander said. "Because one of your daughters is showing signs of being a Slayer?"

Bartlet sat back in his chair. "You think one of my daughters is showing signs of being a Slayer, and it took me this long to contact you?"

The Scoobies looked at each other.

"We hadn't considered that," Xander said.

"So, what are we talking about?" Buffy asked.

"Well, as far as I can tell, we've pretty much covered all the basic. We -" Bartlet was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Yeah?"

Charlie opened the door. "He's here, sir," the young man said.

"Great," replied Bartlet. "Tell him it'll just be a few minutes."

Charlie nodded and retreated back into the administrative office.

"Where was I?"

"We've covered the basics, sir?" Xander supplied.

"Right, of course. So, now that we've talked about that… what's next?"

"We're not quite sure what you mean," Willow said.

"Well, you're doing the school thing, which I approve of, by the way, and you're finding these girls, which is nice. But what's next? You're going to have an army of super-powered women at your disposal. What do you do with them?"

They were taken aback a little at the question.

"We do the same thing we've been doing," Buffy said. "We combat evil where we find it."

"All evil?" Bartlet asked.

"All mystical evil," Buffy said. "The more common variety we tend to leave to the authorities."

"Let me pose a hypothetical," Bartlet said. "Suppose that you were walking past a bank, and a masked man ran out of it as the alarm went off, and he was holding some money bags. Is that the kind of thing you'd leave to the authorities?"

"No, sir," Buffy said. "I'd knock the man on his ass and hold him until the cops showed up."

"Basically," Xander said, "we're going to follow a code. Your average Joe doesn't get involved in murder investigations just because he feels bad about it, and neither do we, unless there's some mystical aspect to it. By the same token, though, that same Joe who doesn't go try to solve a murder might very well, to use your example, sir, do his best to trip up a bank robber."

"Our skills, our knowledge, are all focused towards one aspect of fighting evil," Willow added. "We do what we know, and what we're trained to do. We're not so stupid to think we can do everything the police can, nor so focused on the magical that we won't stop to help someone in more normal types of trouble. We do our best."

Bartlet nodded. "And you all feel this way?"

"We do, sir," Xander said.

"Good. Good. I'd like to, if I may, offer some assistance."

"Assistance, Mr. President?" Buffy asked.

"Well, money," Bartlet said.

The trio glanced at each other.

"We, um… we don't mean to sound rude, but we've had bad experiences with officially funded demon hunters before. How do we -"

"I apologize," President Bartlet said. "I was unclear. I meant that I, Jed Bartlet, would like to make a donation. The United States of America can officially have no contact with or knowledge of your group. You understand."

"Yes, sir," said Willow.

"Great. I'll have a check cut for you guys. I'd also like to assign a governmental liaison," he said.

The three friends fairly bristled.

"I thought that might be your reaction," Bartlet said. "Don't worry, you get the money anyway. I just thought you might like someone to contact if you ever needed something. Say, a head turned while you abscond with a rocket launcher?"

Xander lowered his head and coughed.

"Yeah," Bartlet said. "Well, why don't you meet the guy before you just blow him off. Charlie?"

The door opened and Charlie's head appeared.

"Send him in."

Charlie nodded.

"One question, sir," Xander said.

"What would that be, son?"

"Well, Alexander Dumas. We get the Three Musketeers reference. We're just wondering… was there anything else behind it?"

Bartlet smiled and his eyes lit up at the prospect of educating three young Americans. "Are you familiar with the Three Musketeers?" he asked. "Three valiant heroes who stood up for what they believed in, but above all the believed in and cared for each other. All for one, one for all. It was a group of noble warriors, but the similarities go deeper yet. One, Athos, was the leader, and the surest fighter," Bartlet said, indicating Buffy with a wave of his hand. "Another, Aramis, was a fighter of deep spirtuality." Bartlet indicated Willow. "And Porthos. Ah, dear, sweet Porthos. Much like yourself, Mr. Harris. Can anyone tell me why?"

The Scoobies shook their heads, entranced by the president's words, when from behind them, a voice spoke the answer. "Because he was always surrounded by beautiful women. Sir."

The Scoobies turned at the voice.

"Riley!" they said, rising almost as one.

"Mr. President," Riley said, saluting his commander-in-chief. "Hi, guys."

"Colonel Finn, so glad you could join us," Bartlet said, indicating a chair for Riley to sit in.

"Colonel?" Xander asked, as the three of them sat back down. "When did that happen?"

"Well, it's really only Lieutenant Colonel," Riley said as he limped over to the chair Bartlet had indicated. "But it was about a month ago."

"What happened to you?" Buffy asked.

"I'm not at liberty to say," Riley responded.

"His group was responding to a threat out near Belize," President Bartlet said. "When their commanding officer was killed, your boy here took charge of the unit, devised a scheme to get the entire group out, executed the plan and didn't lose one soldier. Something took a bite out of him in the process. He'd have gotten the Purple Heart for that, only we can't tell anybody what happened. So instead he got promoted to a higher pay scale, and more responsibility."

"Are we… allowed to know that?" Willow asked.

"No, and if you let anyone know I told you, I could go to jail, so do me a favor and keep your mouths shut."

"Yes, sir," the group said.

"So here's how I'd like this to work," Bartlet said. "Colonel Finn's group is buried under so much black budget work, the United States doesn't know about him. You guys are also technically a non-entity, that we have no contact with. My thought was that, what with Riley being virtually untraceable, and as of now, only answerable to about three people, one of whom doesn't even really know he exists, he might be an ideal contact."

"That sounds… promising," Buffy said, smiling at her former beau. "We'd have to work out some details…"

"Of course," said the president. "Be sure not to keep me informed of what they are. Also, I'm prepared to contact the British government, through various back-channels, and have them quietly release the funds of the Council of Watchers."

"You… can do that?" Willow asked. She turned and looked up at Riley. "He can do that?"

Riley nodded, an amused smile on his face.

"Oh man, guys, think about it!" Willow said. "We could get a new car to drive around in! One of those hybrid things!"

"Or," President Bartlet suggested, "you could simply fly to your destinations."

Willow crinkled her nose. "Planes are no fun," she said.

"Yeah," Xander added, "and the other passengers get weirded out when we start talking about dismemberment and viscera."

"Which probably happens more often than you might think, sir," Riley put in.

Bartlet shook his head. "All right, you people have taken up enough of my time. I have a country to run. Colonel Finn, can you see them out?"

"Yes, sir," Riley said, saluting the president.

As the Scoobies stood to file out, Bartlet walked behind his desk and read a note on a file that was laid out on his desk. "Oh, Mr. Harris," he said, causing the entire group to pause.

"I wonder if you might be interested in a program we've got going. It's secret in just about every way possible, but it turns out our scientists have been able to repair nerve damage in some eyes, and LuthorCorp has just produced a revolutionary new replacement eye that can actually send visual signals across nerves to the brain."

Xander cocked his head to one side. "Does it look at all real, sir?"

"Not even a little bit," Bartlet said, smiling.

"Then thank you, but no thanks, sir," Xander said. "Besides, the eye-patch plays well with the ladies."

"I thought that might be the case," he said, before waving the group out. "Charlie!" he yelled.

The young man stepped into the office.

"What's next?" Bartlet asked.

"You've got a security briefing in ten minutes with Dr. MacNally. Other than that, Toby and CJ would like a couple of minutes."

"All right, send them in," he said. "Oh, and stop them and get the name of their school, and have Abby write out a check, would you?"

"Yes, sir," Charlie said. He waved CJ and Toby into the Oval Office.

"Who was that?" CJ asked.

"Nobody," Charlie said as he passed her.

"The same nobody Josh saw in here three hours ago?" Toby asked, looking from Charlie, to the president, and back again.

"Drop it, Toby," Bartlet said.

"Sir, you were out of contact with your staff for almost three full hours, during which time you were --"

"Toby," President Bartlet said, a note of warning in his voice.

"Yes, sir," Toby said.

"So, what can I do for you guys?"

"Mr. President, Reuters has a source that says a Senator from Florida is going to be crossing the aisle."

"Florida?" Bartlet asked. "Aren't they both ours?"

"Yes, sir," CJ said.

"Dammit!" yelled Bartlet.

Charlie closed the door.


"How's Sam?" Xander asked, once they had given Charlie the school's name and Riley had led them outside.

"She's good," Riley said. He was leading them towards his car. "We're technically on leave right now so, you know."

"Killing things in the good ol' U.S. of A?" Buffy asked.

"That's about it, yeah," Riley said. He turned to Willow, and took her hand. "I was sorry to hear about Tara," he said. Willow smiled at him and thanked him.

"And about Anya," he said, turning to Xander.

"Thanks," Xander said with a nod of his head.

Riley took a deep breath and turned to Buffy. "I -"

"You don't have to say it," Buffy said, smiling at him. "Because I know you're not. But thank you, anyway."

Riley nodded.

"So is your leg going to get better?" Xander asked.

"Yeah. I've got a little reconstructive surgery to get done, and then a serious physical therapy regimen. Six months, and they're saying I should be as good as new."

"That's great," Willow said.

"So, how do we work this thing?" Buffy asked.

"Well," Riley said. "For a group our size, we have a fairly hefty budget. So I was thinking, I'll give you my phone number, and when you need something, you call me."

"And then?" Xander asked.

"Uh," Riley said. "And then I get you what you need?"

They paused. "That's it?"

"Yeah," he said.

"So, if we need a block of C-4…" Buffy said.

"Call me."

"Or if we need a couple of illegal ingredients for a spell…" Willow said.

"Call me," said Riley.

"And if we need a fire truck filled with holy water…" Xander asked.

Riley laughed. "I'll get you the truck, you get the priest, and I'll join you for the fight, because if you need a fire truck filled with holy water, I want to see it."

"So how do we get in contact?" Buffy asked.

"I'm getting a satellite phone system, soon. I'll contact Giles with the details. Just make sure he knows why I'm calling."

Willow nodded. "That sounds easy."

"It's supposed to be easy," Riley said with a smile. "We're on the same team, you know."

Xander smiled.

"So where are you headed next?" Riley asked.

"We're not really sure," said Buffy. "Giles hasn't contacted us with the name or place of another girl yet, so I thought we might stick around here for a little bit. See a few sights. Guys?"

"Sounds good to me," Xander said, as Willow nodded her consent.

"All right," Riley said. "Well, I have to travel back to places I can't tell you about, but you guys should enjoy yourselves while you're in town. Take a vacation. You've earned it."

"It was good seeing you again," Buffy said, smiling at him.

"You guys, too," Riley responded. "Do you guys need a ride somewhere?"

Xander pointed to the limo. "We've got a ride, thanks."

Riley nodded, and opened his car door. "Well. You guys be sure to keep in touch."

"Riley, you too," Xander said, extending his hand, which Riley shook.

"Okay, well," Riley said. "So long."

Willow and Buffy stepped up to give Riley a hug, before he got in his car and drove away from the White House.

"So, what do you guys want to do now?" Willow asked, looping her arm through Xander's as the three of them walked back towards their limousine.

"Yeah," asked Buffy, following Willow's lead and hooking her arm with Xander's free one. "What should we do?"

Xander looked down at the two women and smiled. "Anything we want."

The End