Mr. 9 was still suffering the, ah, early retirement of the former Miss Wednesday ("Poor, sweet creature, wonderful girl, not that we ever got along at all because she kept hitting me with that damn cannon of hers but it is a shame about the warthog incident") when he received word of the his former partner's replacement.

"Well, here's hoping she doesn't use a cannon," he said to himself, tying on his scarf as he ascended the stairs into the lobby of the hotel in which he was assigned to meet the new Miss Wednesday. "Or at least one that doesn't shoot watermelons. The stains will never come out…"

He stood to one side in the lobby, waiting for his new partner to arrive, and idly twirled a leaf plucked from a nearby vase of roses between his fingers. He really did miss his old partner a little, when he thought about it, so he mostly tried not to. He thought about other things instead: what would his next mission be, did he remember to pack his toothbrush, what could he have for lunch…

"Excuse me," said a polite female voice from across the lobby. Mr. 9 looked up. There was a young, pale girl speaking to an attendant, hands behind her back, a flood of pale blue hair cascading down her back like a wave of silk. She was smiling kindly, her violet eyes sparkling. "I'm supposed to meet someone here," the girl continued. "He said he would be wearing a crown…"

Mr. 9 nearly choked. That was the new Miss Wednesday? He promptly stood bolt upright, flung a hand behind his back (nearly sweeping the decorations off the table he stood in front of) and snatched one of the roses from the vase there before striding purposefully toward the girl, who was looking around the lobby for her contact, having just been informed by the (rather unobservant) attendant that she had not seen anyone who fit the description.

"Ahem," he announced, holding out the flower to the girl, who turned to look at him, startled. "For you." He grinned hopefully.

A slow smile spread across the girl's face, like rising sunshine. "Are you…?"

"Mr. 9," he finished, and nodded slightly to the rose in his hand. The smile turned shy, and she took the flower from him, sniffing it with her eyes closed.

"Thank you," she said softly, and tucked the rose behind her ear. "I'm the new Miss Wednesday."

"Pleased to meet you," said Mr. 9, and mentally froze. What now, what now…

Miss Wednesday tilted her head and blinked, watching the cogs turn in her new partner's brain, and then giggled slightly. "Maybe we should sit down? We have nowhere to be for the rest of the day."

"Good idea!" he blurted, wide-eyed, and Miss Wednesday's giggle increased in volume and all Mr. 9 could manage to think was She wrinkles her nose when she laughs, I might die right now. "Uh, there's a, what do you call those things that you sit on, not chairs, with the–"

"Sofa?" Miss Wednesday offered.

"Yes! Sofa! There's one over there." He pointed, and Miss Wednesday nodded, walking toward it, and stopped once to look over her shoulder at him expectantly. "Ah, right. Coming. Sorry." Mr. 9 willed his legs to work and managed to make it to said sofa without tripping once. Once seated, he looked over at Miss Wednesday and grinned proudly. She giggled.

"Why don't we get to know each other better?" she suggested, hands folded in her lap. Everything about her was so delicate, so refined…he wondered how strong she could possibly be. "Ask me any question, and I'll answer it."

"Are you single? No! I meant…damn. I, sorry, um, give me a minute and I'll think of something!" Mr. 9 blurted, all at once, and attempted to hide his flaming face in his hands. Miss Wednesday, to her credit, did not laugh at him. "I, uh…what's your favorite color?" he said lamely, looking back at his partner with a sheepish expression.

"Yes," she said suddenly, and then faltered, catching herself and flushing what Mr. 9 considered the most charming shade of pink he had ever seen. "I mean, blue."

"Mine too," said Mr. 9, betraying himself with a glance at her hair and then snapping his head around to stare across the lobby.

"If it helps," Miss Wednesday said after a moment, very quietly, "I think you…look rather charming. When you blush like that." She cleared her throat. "The…the marks on your face kind of…highlight it…it's, um. Um. Cute." She cleared her throat again, and Mr. 9 could feel the heat from her cheeks from a foot and a half away. Or maybe that was his own face.

"T-Thanks," he stuttered, laughing with a sort of nervous cheerfulness. "So, uh…you can ask me a question too, if you like."

"Oh, right," said Miss Wednesday. She put one finger to her chin in thought and wrinkled her eyebrows and Mr. 9 had to fight down another urge to pass out because she was now officially the cutest thing he had ever seen. She smiled shyly at him and pointed to his head. "Why do you wear a crown?"

"Ah," said Mr. 9, slipping into familiar territory at last. "That's because I'm a king, of course."

"Are you really?" Miss Wednesday asked, smiling that sunshine smile again and leaning forward. Mr. 9 nodded proudly. "Of what?"

"A very small island," said Mr. 9, with utter seriousness. "But very powerful. Covert government assassins are trained there, so it's absolutely top secret. You've probably never even heard the name."

"What's the name?" she asked, clearly entertained.

"Well, if I told you, it wouldn't be top secret anymore, would it?" he said conspiratorially, and Miss Wednesday nodded solemnly along with him for a few seconds before bursting into giggles. He laughed as well, for a long time.

"I know a king, you know," Miss Wednesday said, still smiling, when the laughter had subsided. "Well, another one."

"Do you?" Mr. 9 asked. "What's he like?"

"He's my father," she said, leaning toward him and putting a finger over her lips as if asking him to keep this in confidence. He nodded and crossed his heart with one finger, a promise.

"Ah, that makes you a princess, then," Mr. 9 whispered. His partner nodded, smiling a tiny, secret smile. "I can believe that. What country are you princess of?"

Blushing at the compliment, she giggled, and whispered back "It's a secret."

"I see," said Mr. 9. "We'll keep it under wraps, then." He looked around the lobby suspiciously, and finding that no one had listened in, he mimed zipping his lips shut. Miss Wednesday did the same, and after a serious moment, they both started laughing again.

"Well, I'd say that this has been a successful meeting," said Miss Wednesday, in a mock-businesslike tone, and stood up. Mr. 9 stood up as well, and they shook hands officially and he tried not to notice how soft her hand was.

"As would I," he replied. "And now, would you like to go out for some lunch, perhaps?"

"I don't see why not," Miss Wednesday answered, and Mr. 9 offered his elbow to her. She took it and stood by his side, very ladylike, and it made his heart do an interesting little flip-flop.

"This way, your majesty," he announced, pointing toward the door with his free hand.

"Indeed, your highness," she replied, and they strode off toward the door, laughing.

I think I smell the beginning of a lovely partnership, Mr. 9 thought to himself, or maybe that was just the rose behind Miss Wednesday's ear.