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Authors: Casey McQuiston

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“Ewoks are
iconic.

“Ewoks are
stupid.

“But
Endor.

“But
Hoth.
There’s a reason people always call the best, grittiest installment of a trilogy the
Empire
of the series.”

“And I can appreciate that. But isn’t there something to be valued in a happy ending as well?”

“Spoken like a true Prince Charming.”

“I’m only saying, I like the resolution of
Jedi.
It ties everything up nicely. And the overall theme you’re intended to take away from the films is hope and love and … er, you know, all that. Which is what
Jedi
leaves you with a sense of most of all.”

Henry coughs, and Alex is turning to look at him again when the door opens and Cash’s giant silhouette reappears.

“False alarm,” he says, breathing heavily. “Some dumbass kids brought fireworks for their friend.” He looks down at them, flat on their backs and blinking up in the sudden, harsh light of the hallway. “This looks cozy.”

“Yep, we’re really bonding,” Alex says. He reaches a hand out and lets Cash haul him to his feet.

Outside Kensington Palace, Alex takes Henry’s phone out of his hand and swiftly opens a blank contact page before he can protest or sic a PPO on him for violating royal property. The car is waiting to take him back to the royals’ private airstrip.

“Here,” Alex says. “That’s my number. If we’re gonna keep this up, it’s going to get annoying to keep going through handlers. Just text me. We’ll figure it out.”

Henry stares at him, expression blankly bewildered, and Alex wonders how this guy has any friends.

“Right,” Henry says finally. “Thank you.”

“No booty calls,” Alex tells him, and Henry chokes on a laugh.

 

THREE

FROM AMERICA, WITH LOVE: Henry and Alex Flaunt Friendship

NEW BROMANCE ALERT? Pics of FSOTUS and Prince Henry

PHOTOS: Alex’s Weekend in London

For the first time in a week, Alex isn’t pissed off scrolling through his Google alerts. It helps they’ve given
People
an exclusive—a few generic quotes about how much Alex “cherishes” his friendship with Henry and their “shared life experience” as sons of world leaders. Alex thinks their main shared life experience is probably wishing they could set that quote adrift on the ocean between them and watch it drown.

His mother doesn’t want him fake-dead anymore, though, and he’s stopped getting a thousand vitriolic tweets an hour, so he counts it as a win.

He dodges a starstruck freshman gawking at him and exits the hall onto the east side of campus, draining the last cold sip of his coffee. First class today was an elective he’s taking out of a combination of morbid fascination and academic curiosity: The Press and the Presidency. He’s currently jet-lagged to all hell from trying to keep the press from
ruining
the presidency, and the irony isn’t lost on him.

Today’s lecture was on presidential sex scandals through history, and he texts Nora:
numbers on one of us getting involved in a sex scandal before the end of second term?

Her response comes within seconds:
94% probability of your dick becoming a recurring personality on face the nation. btw, have you seen this?

There’s a link attached: a blog post full of images, animated GIFs of himself and Henry on
This Morning.
The fist bump. Shared smiles that pass for genuine. Conspiratorial glances. Underneath are hundreds of comments about how handsome they are, how nice they look together.

omfg,
one commenter writes,
make out already.

Alex laughs so hard he almost falls in a fountain.

As usual, the day guard at the Dirksen Building glares at him as he slides through security. She’s certain he was the one who vandalized the sign outside one particular senator’s office to read
BITCH MCCONNELL
, but she’ll never prove it.

Cash tags along for some of Alex’s Senate recon missions so nobody panics when he disappears for a few hours. Today,
Cash hangs back on a bench, catching up on his podcasts. He’s always been the most indulgent of Alex’s antics.

Alex has had the layout of the building memorized since his dad first got elected to the Senate. It’s where he’s picked up his encyclopedic knowledge of policy and procedure, and where he spends more afternoons than he’s supposed to, charming aides and trawling for gossip. His mom pretends to be annoyed but slyly asks for intel later.

Since Senator Oscar Diaz is in California speaking at a rally for gun control today, Alex punches the button for the fifth floor instead.

His favorite senator is Rafael Luna, an Independent from Colorado and the newest kid on the block at only thirty-nine. Alex’s dad took him under his wing back when he was merely a promising attorney, and now he’s the darling of national politics for (A) winning a special election and a general in consecutive upsets for his Senate seat, and (B) dominating
The Hill
’s 50 Most Beautiful.

Alex spent summer 2018 in Denver on Luna’s campaign, so they have their own dysfunctional relationship built on tropical-flavored Skittles from gas stations and all-nighters drafting press releases. He sometimes feels the ghost of carpal tunnel creeping back, a fond ache.

He finds Luna in his office, horn-rimmed reading glasses doing nothing to detract from his usual appearance of a movie star who tripped and fell sideways into politics. Alex has always suspected the soulful brown eyes and perfectly groomed stubble and dramatic cheekbones won back any votes Luna lost by being both Latino and openly gay.

The album playing low in the room is an old favorite Alex remembers from Denver: Muddy Waters. When Luna looks
up and sees Alex in his doorway, he drops his pen on a haphazard pile of papers and leans back in his chair.

“Fuck you doing here, kid?” he says, watching him like a cat.

Alex reaches into his pocket and pulls out a packet of Skittles, and Luna’s face immediately softens into a smile.

“Atta boy,” he says, scooping the bag up as soon as Alex drops it on his blotter. He kicks the chair in front of the desk out for him.

Alex sits, watching Luna rip open the packet with his teeth. “Whatcha working on today?”

“You already know more than you’re supposed to about everything on this desk.” Alex does know—the same health care reform as last year, the one stalled out since they lost the Senate in midterms. “Why are you really here?”

“Hmm.” Alex hooks a leg over one armrest of the chair. “I resent the idea I can’t come visit a dear family friend without ulterior motives.”

“Bullshit.”

He clutches his chest. “You
wound
me.”

“You exhaust me.”

“I enchant you.”

“I’ll call security.”

“Fair enough.”

“Instead, let’s talk about your little European vacation,” Luna says. He fixes Alex with shrewd eyes. “Can I expect a joint Christmas present from you and the prince this year?”

“Actually,” Alex swerves, “since I’m here, I do have a question for you.”

Luna laughs, leaning back and lacing his hands together behind his head. Alex feels his face flash hot for half a second,
a zip of good-banter adrenaline that means he’s getting somewhere. “Of course you do.”

“I wondered if you had heard anything about Connor,” Alex asks. “We could really use an endorsement from another Independent senator. Do you think he’s close to making one?”

He kicks his foot innocently where it’s dangling over the armrest, like he’s asking something as innocuous as the weather. Stanley Connor, Delaware’s kooky and beloved old Independent with a social media team stacked with millennials, would be a big get down the line in a race projected to be this close, and they both know it.

Luna sucks on a Skittle. “Are you asking if he’s close to endorsing, or if I know what strings need to be pulled to get him to endorse?”

“Raf. Pal. Buddy. You know I’d never ask you anything so unseemly.”

Luna sighs, swivels in his chair. “He’s a free agent. Social issues would push him your way usually, but you know how he feels about your mom’s economic platform. You probably know his voting record better than I do, kid. He doesn’t fall on one side of the aisle. He might go for something radically different on taxes.”

“And as for something you know that I don’t?”

He smirks. “I know Richards is promising Independents a centrist platform with big shake-ups on non-social issues. And I know part of that platform might not line up with Connor’s position on healthcare. Somewhere to start, perhaps. Hypothetically, if I were going to engage with your scheming.”

“And you don’t think there’s any point in chasing down leads on Republican candidates who aren’t Richards?”

“Shit,” Luna says, the set of his mouth turning grim. “Chances
of your mother facing off against a candidate who’s not the fucking anointed messiah of right-wing populism and heir to the Richards family legacy? Highly fucking unlikely.”

Alex smiles. “You complete me, Raf.”

Luna rolls his eyes again. “Let’s circle back to you,” he says. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you changing the subject. For the record, I won the office pool on how long it’d take you to cause an international incident.”


Wow,
I thought I could
trust
you.” Alex gasps, mock-betrayed.

“What’s the deal there?”

“There’s no
deal,
” Alex says. “Henry is … a person I know. And we did something stupid. I had to fix it. It’s fine.”

“Okay, okay,” Luna says, holding up both hands. “He’s a looker, huh?”

Alex pulls a face. “Yeah, I mean, if you’re into, like, fairy-tale princes.”

“Is anyone not?”


I’m
not,” Alex says.

Luna arches an eyebrow. “Right.”

“What?”

“Just thinking about last summer,” he says. “I have this really vivid memory of you basically making a Prince Henry voodoo doll on your desk.”

“I did not.”

“Or was it a dartboard with a photo of his face on it?”

Alex swings his foot back over the armrest so he can plant both feet on the floor and fold his arms indignantly. “I had a magazine with his face on it at my desk, once, because I was in it and he happened to be on the cover.”

“You stared at it for an hour.”

“Lies,” Alex says. “Slander.”

“It was like you were trying to set him on fire with your mind.”

“What is your point?”

“I think it’s interesting,” he says. “How fast the times they are a-changin’.”

“Come on,” Alex says. “It’s … politics.”

“Uh-huh.”

Alex shakes his head, doglike, as if it’s going to disperse the topic from the room. “Besides, I came here to talk about endorsements, not my embarrassing public relations nightmares.”

“Ah,” Luna says slyly, “but I thought you were here to pay a family friend a visit?”

“Of course. That’s what I meant.”

“Alex, don’t you have something else to do on a Friday afternoon? You’re twenty-one. You should be playing beer pong or getting ready for a party or something.”

“I do all of those things,” he lies. “I just also do this.”

“Come on. I’m trying to give you some advice, from one old man to a much younger version of himself.”

“You’re thirty-nine.”

“My liver is ninety-three.”

“That’s not my fault.”

“Some late nights in Denver would beg to differ.”

Alex laughs. “See, this is why we’re friends.”

“Alex, you need other friends,” Luna tells him. “Friends who
aren’t in Congress.

“I have friends! I have June and Nora.”

“Yes, your sister and a girl who is also a supercomputer,” Luna deadpans. “You need to take some time for yourself before you burn out, kid. You need a bigger support system.”

“Stop calling me ‘kid,’” Alex says.

“Ay.” Luna sighs. “Are you done? I do have some actual work to do.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Alex says, gathering himself up from his chair. “Hey, is Maxine in town?”

“Waters?” Luna asks, crooking his head. “Shit, you really have a death wish, huh?”

As political legacies go, the Richards family is one of the most complex bits of history Alex has tried to unravel.

On one of the Post-it notes stuck to his laptop he’s written:
KENNEDYS
+
BUSHES
+
BIZARRO MAFIA OLD MONEY SITH POWERS
=
RICHARDSES?
It’s pretty much the thesis of what he’s dug up so far. Jeffrey Richards, the current and supposedly only frontrunner to be his mother’s opponent in the general, has been a senator for Utah nearly twenty years, which means plenty of voting history and legislation that his mother’s team has already gone over. Alex is more interested in the things harder to sniff out. There are so many generations of Attorney General Richards and Federal Judge Richards, they’d be able to bury anything.

His phone buzzes under a stack of files on his desk. A text from June:
Dinner? I miss your face.
He loves June—truly, more than anything in the world—but he’s kind of in the zone. He’ll respond when he hits a stopping point in like thirty minutes.

He glances at the video of a Richards interview pulled up in a tab, checking the man’s face for nonverbal cues. Gray hair—natural, not a piece. Shiny white teeth, like a shark’s. Heavy Uncle Sam jaw. Great salesman, considering he’s blatantly lying about a bill in the clip. Alex takes a note.

It’s an hour and a half later before another buzz pulls him out of a deep dive into Richards’s uncle’s suspicious 1986 taxes. A text from his mother in the family group chat, a pizza emoji. He bookmarks his page and heads upstairs.

Family dinners are rare but less over-the-top than everything else that happens in the White House. His mother sends someone to pick up pizzas, and they take over the game room on the third floor with paper plates and bottles of Shiner shipped in from Texas. It’s always amusing to catch one of the burly suits speaking in code over their earpieces: “Black Bear has requested extra banana peppers.”

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