the long night.

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the next few hours went by in a blur.  king dominick was still unconscious as queen isabel and rhoda saperstein rushed around getting a press conference ready.  d.j. was nowhere to be seen as charlie and i were surrounded by mounds of paperwork that shawn had for us.

"one last thing," shawn said as charlie handed him the last form, "you guys have to notify the prime speaker," then he added, "within an hour of making instant princess official."

charlie and i looked at each other.  "it's kinda late, isn't it? don't you thin we should just call him in the morning?"

"oh, no," shawn chuckled, "you have to tell him in person."

charlie groaned.  speaker reynolds was an old, creepy man, think dr. brenner from stranger things, but fatter.  "well," charlie sighed, "let's go."

we walked down the hall to king dominick's room.  isabel was slumped, half-asleep, in a padded chair next to his bed.

"mom," charlie whispered, laying a hand on her shoulder.

her eyes flew open.  "hey, hey, you guys," she grinned, "is arabella still here?"

charlie shook his head.  "lynette took her back about an hour ago.  we just finished paperwork. now we have to drive up to speaker reynolds', we'll be back later."

isabel laid a hand on top of charlie's.  "okay, sweetie," she said groggily, "stay at the harper house if you get too tired.  it's about half a mile down the road from the prime speaker's house."

charlie kissed his mom on the cheek, telling her goodbye, and then turned to me.  "ready?" he asked.

i nodded and walked out the door of dominick's room.  charlie and i walked side-by-side through the hospital.  as we walked out into the hot night air, charlie took my hand.  i jumped at the touch.

"what?" he asked, almost pulling away from me.

my eyes widened.  "sorry, guess i'm just not used to it."

he chuckled.  "sorry."

my mustang was sitting right outside of the hospital.  charlie took the keys and off we went.  it was nearly an hour drive, and we were both exhausted.  i tried calling deej on the way, but he didn't pick up.

"we're here," charlie said as we pulled up to a giant white house with bright red shutters and a black front door.

there were no lights on, but as soon as charlie knocked, every light came flickering on.  after a few seconds, the front door flew open.  speaker reynolds stood there in a ratty, powder blue bathrobe.

"prince charles, noreen," he said nodding his head to both of us, "can i help you?"

charlie stuck out his hand and shook speaker reynolds'.  "sir," he said, "i'm here to tell you that i have officially enacted instant princess-"

"well, that's great," speaker reynolds' chuckled.  then he held up his arm, exposing a gold wristwatch,  "but it's after midnight on august sixteenth," he smiled, "i'm officially retired as of thirteen minutes ago."

charlie looked confused.  "well, then who's replacing you?"

former speaker reynolds' face dropped.  it took me a minute, but then i groaned.  "you've gotta be kidding me."

"what?" charlie asked as i turned and walked back to the car.  "who is it?" he cried, following after me.

"d.j.," i wailed, as i started up my car to drive back home.

* * *

d.j. had gotten the call about two days beforehand that he was chosen as prime speaker reynolds' replacement.  at first, we were ecstatic, but now, i was terrified.  he now held all the power over my impending engagement.

as we pulled into the palace, my stomach felt sick.  it was nearly one-thirty in the morning as we climbed the back staircase to the third floor.

"oh my god," i breathed as we reached the landing.  all of my things -- my clothes, makeup, books, shoes -- were scattered in the hall outside d.j.'s room, which was shut with the light off.

"he's pissed," arabella said, as stood in her doorway in pink pajamas.

i pushed my hair back with my fingers.  "what do i do?" i groaned, asking no one in particular.

arabella started to turn back into her room.  "for now, go to bed.  you guys have a busy day tomorrow."

charlie bent down and grabbed a pair of pajamas from my heap of belongings.  "come on, let's get some sleep," he said, wrapping an arm around my waist and guiding me to his room.

without even changing into the pajamas, i went to charlie's bed, and laid down.  i felt like i hadn't slept in days.  "so are we like officially engaged?" i asked.

charlie took off his t-shirt and lied down next to me.  he chuckled as he adjusted the pillow underneath his head.  "in the government's eyes, no.  tomorrow, we'll make an announcement that i've enacted instant princess, then, the senate leaders will call a special emergency session, where you'll be interviewed in front of the entire senate.  after that, they'll take a vote and if the majority votes yes, we're officially engaged."

we were silent for a minute as i thought it all through.  "do you think your dad is going to be okay?" i whispered nuzzling myself against his chest.

charlie sighed.  "god, i hope so.  i'm not ready to take over just yet."

i ran my fingers through his hair.  "well, hopefully, i'll be there to help you, if you have to."

he kissed the top of my head.  "i hope so."

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