A/N: Happy New Year, Kally. :) Please read and review!

Disclaimer: Not mine.


He spent all his time in the stables these days, everyone knew. He'd taken on that impossible pony of hers, Marlinspike, since the other had died on the battlefield and she was in no fit state to take care of her mount.

Miri Fisher, commander of Group Askew, was desperately ill, half-dead even. Lianne knew this, possibly better than most people in the palace where gossip flew like starlings and everyone knew everything. She had sat beside Miri for hours, trying to abate the fever and comfort the maybe-dying Rider. No-one, not even Duke Baird, had any idea how long the woman could last out the fever driven by the poison in the wound. She was not going to lose the leg, that much had been established, but now her life was on the line. She whispered and cried and screamed in her delirium and fever, sleeping restlessly, Lianne or another healer sitting beside her all the hours of the day and night.

Evin Larse had visited her once. All the colour had drained from the tanned face, all the hope left the bright blue eyes, all the laughter drained out of his smile, and he had looked so frightened to see his best friend so ill that the healers had forbidden him to visit again, thinking the fear might have an adverse effect on Miri.

But now it looked as if Miri would either die or the fever would top out and diminish, leaving a wreck of the laughing green-eyed woman Lianne remembered, and she was calling for Evin. Lianne was the only one who could be spared now, so the princess was sent running through the palace for the Rider commander.

She had found him. Opening the stable door, she saw the messy blond hair gleaming in the light that made its way into the stable. He was feeding Marlinspike and Ariel apples. Quietly, walking slowly like she might if he was an easily spooked horse, she approached him. "Evin?" she said softly.

The tall man whirled, eyes startled, and half-breathed a name she didn't quite catch but wasn't hers and then suddenly she was in his arms and being kissed to within an inch of her life- and then it stopped. He had backed off, consternation in his eyes, and she stepped back too, lips tingling fiercely. Lianne brushed them with her fingertips. "I-" the commander began. "Princess-"

"You know, and so does half the palace, that Lianne is enough," Lianne said, clutching at normality and her stock response to usage of her title.

"-Lianne... I'm sorry. You looked like Miri for a moment there... in this- half-light. Same height, dark hair tied the same way... And you sounded like her... she says my name like that when she knows I've had a bad day, and she always moves quietly around me then, too." His voice was hesitant, and it sounded like he hadn't been talking much.

"Mistaken identity brought on by severe stress," Lianne informed him, the healer part of her glad to put a label to the incident. "It could happen to anyone, I'm sure. Um. Miri Fisher..."

Fear slid into the blue eyes like ice, overtaking the consternation. "She's-"

"-not dead," Lianne interrupted. "She's asking for you." Evin Larse nodded hasty thanks, and left quickly.

When he was gone, Lianne collapsed against a stall, sliding down to sit on the floor with her knees under her chin. One hand crept up to touch her lips again, and slowly, in the stable half-light, Lianne of Conté began to blush.

Later, when she had summoned up the courage to flit back to the sickroom again, she found Miri sleeping peacefully for the first time in days, one hand tightly clutching Evin's. Another healer slipped out to join her in the corridor, and whispered excitedly: "The fever's broken! She'll live!"

The princess looked back at the pair, Miri frail but alive and at peace and Evin so obviously so deeply in love with her- and found herself jealous.