the meeting.

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- charlie's pov -

following kara's admission of ending our engagement, the senate leaders were intent on getting me back on track for the crown as soon as possible.  after i left nora at the breakfast table, i was stuck behind a two-way mirror watching girls interview with the senate leaders as potential new fiancees.

shawn sat beside me the entire time, both of us taking turns going for coffee and yawning every few minutes.

"dude," shawn said as he sat our third cups of coffee on the table in front of us, "i hate this for you.  why don't you just pop the q to nora and get this over with?"

"pop the q?" i asked as i sprinkled sugar into my styrofoam cup.

shawn rolled his eyes.  "you know what i mean, man.  it's too damn early."

i shrugged.  "nora, man, i mean, she's just for fun, i guess.  we're not like that.  she's d.j.'s best friend.  besides, you should be the one popping the q to my sister."

he laughed.  "yeaaah, we haven't even told your parents about us, and i'm not exactly sure i'm ready to go through all this," he said, gesturing to the window.

that's when a tall, slinky blonde sauntered into the room.  she had on a black blazer and pencil skirt, with a bland baby blue blouse on underneath.  her face was pretty, but everything else about her was average.

"oh my god," i whispered.

"what?" shawn asked.

i pointed to the blonde.  "that's nora's sister."

"gonna pick her to compensate?"

i rolled my eyes.  "please.  if i wanted to make things work with nora, i would."

shawn shook his head.  "your high-"

"chuck," i grumbled.

"chuck, look, i saw her the night you got engaged, and i saw you the night she went out with ambrose.  whether she's d.j.'s best friend or not.  there's something there, and you can't even begin to deny it."

"if it risks her friendship with d.j., i will," i stated, sipping my coffee.

shawn picked up a stack of file folders from the cabinet behind him and sat them on the table in front of me.  "well then, you better get ta' flippin'."

i scoffed.  "obviously, i'm gonna go for lucinda hopp," i said sarcastically.

"lucinda hopp?" shawn snorted.  "the supermodel?"

"duh," i joked.

shawn smirked.  "hey, i'd make it happen if she were in your district."

we sat through all of the interviews.  all thirty-six girls tried their hardest to impress the senate leaders, but none of them impressed me.  if this was going to be a legitimate search for my future wife, i needed it to be a relaxing night in a bar, not in a sterile office environment.

at the end, i turned to shawn.  "let's go out tonight."

* * *

after the interviews were over, i debriefed with the senate.  they were livid when i told them that there was no one that caught my eye, that i needed a break from all of it.

when i got back to the palace, nora was in d.j.'s room, laying flat out across his bed watching t.v.

"hey," i said as i hung in the doorframe, "uh, goin' out for a guys night.  you gonna be fine here by yourself?" i asked quickly.

she looked confused, but nodded.  as soon as i saw her reaction, i darted for my room, tossing off my suit as i entered.  i slid on jeans, beat up sneakers, and a tight t-shirt, and bounded back outside to meet shawn.

we went to tipper's.  it was part dive bar-part night club, which was perfect for meeting women.  i had a designated table in the v.i.p. area, where my friends were already waiting.

"guys," i said as i slid into the round, vinyl-padded booth, "this is shawn from legal."  friends from around the table waved and lifted their drinks as i introduced them.  "shawn, this is jack, blair, shane, robbie, and stu."

shawn greeted each of them and then headed off to the bar to get both of us drinks.

"sooo," shane said cheerfully as she leaned over her sister to me, "see anybody interesting at your meeting today?"

shane was blair's sister.  awkwardly enough, she was the first girl i ever had to sleep with for a loyalty weekend, but no one ever talked about that.  she had a chubby face and soft features with crazy fire red hair.  she was the mom friend out of the group, but man could that girl throw back tequila.

i shrugged and waved off her comment while shaking my head.  "i don't think any of those girls the senate has picked out for me are it.  they're too... perfect."

"ahh, come on, man," robbie said as he wrapped one arm around shane and laid the other across the back of the booth, "join the marriage club.  it ain't so bad."

i chuckled and lit a cigarette.  "i will when jack does."

jack nearly spit out his drink.  shawn returned and sat down in the chair across from me, sliding my drink to me.

"yeah, me too," blair said, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrows.

"it's only been, what? seven years?" stu said pulling my lighter from my hands.

jack groaned, throwing back his head.  "eleven," blair stated.

jack pushed back his hair and leaned forward in his seat.  "chuck, follow me to the bar."

i smirked.  "already got a drink, buddy."

"charles." he snapped.

i chuckled and rolled my eyes.  "i'll be back," i said, patting shawn on the back.  then i turned to shane and blair.  "ladies, he's with my sister.  no trying to set this guy up with laura."

jack leaned his body into the bar.  "you just had to bring up the marriage thing, huh?" he asked, seeming a little pissed off.

i sighed.  "jack, i didn't mean anything by it-"

"i'm proposing, dude."

"when?" i asked, completely surprised.  jack and blair had been together since we were fourteen.  the day we graduated high school, he told blair he never wanted to get married.

jack shrugged.  "well, i was planning on tomorrow night, but now i feel like it's going to seem forced.  like, i'm only doing it because you were teasing me."

the bartender slid a beer bottle over to jack.  he took a sip as i slid up onto the backless barstool. "jack, how long have we been friends?" i asked as i looked around the room.  there was a group of girls huddled about twenty feet away giggling, staring, and pointing at me.

my best friend shrugged.  "nineteen... twenty years."

i continued to search the room before saying, "so i can tell you anything, right?"

"yeaaah," jack said slowly and confused.

i huffed.  "the reason i can't pick a girl to marry is because-"

"uh, dude," jack interrupted, pointing behind me.

i turned to the side.  a short, brunette in a red dress stood there smiling with a pink drink in her hand.  "hi," she grinned, trying to be seductive, "i'm annie."

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