He sits beside her bed on a too-small chair, hoping simultaneously that she'll stay asleep, getting the rest that she needs to recover, and that she'll wake up so that he can reassure himself that she really will recover. In order to truly believe that she'll be ok, he needs for those blue eyes to open, for the fire to kindle in them when he tells her that, no, she can't get up and that, yes, she has to rest. He'd never believed that blue could be such a warm color, having for so long associated it with the icy glow of his lantern. But after having met the L.T.- Alice, he allows himself- it came as no real surprise when Lieutenant Webner explained to him one day that it's the blue flame that burns the hottest. Watching the fire leap in those eyes is just as inevitable as the slap waiting for him when she discovers that he's rarely left her side in the room of the inn where they brought her back, bleeding, to recover from the sniper's bullet. Her hand may be small but, as he's had the opportunity to note on several occasions, it packs a hell of a punch.

And that's another thing: he always forgets how small she is, or at least how small she seems to him. Between her loud voice and determined stride it's so easy to forget that the top of her head barely reaches his chest. Mostly though, he thinks as a fond smile curves his lips, it's the massive size of her will that makes it so easy to disregard her physical size- it's the will of an Amazon, a Valkyrie, perhaps Artemis herself. No, not Artemis, he thinks: Artemis often went to war for selfish purposes... The Furies, he thinks, yes, that's it. Randel doesn't know much about the ancient religions, but every soldier has heard about the Furies. It's fitting for Alice, who fights the evils of war itself, avenging wrongs on behalf of those who cannot avenge themselves.

She stirs fitfully in her sleep and he gently smoothes the damp hair from her too-warm forehead, thinking that the events of the night of the ball were a perfect example. She meant every word that she said: she really can't stand inequality and, were it necessary, Randel realized that night, she really would draw her dagger, blue eyes blazing, and challenge the Emperor himself with the same righteous fervor that she showed towards Marquis Paolo, towards the Rodelian mercenaries and, yes, towards the commoners, as well.

He thinks back to the other realization that the ordeal of that night won him: beyond the complete acceptance that he'll use everything he has to protect her, he realized that his fiery-blue-eyed Alice needs him, too. She didn't feel that Lady Alice Lee Malvin, third daughter of one of the thirteen Grand Houses, and next Contessa, could ask anyone for protection. But Lieutenant Malvin, platoon leader of the Pumpkin Scissors, gave him the order that night to guard her back. And while she meant only for the duration of the duel, Randel knew even then that he was pledging to do so for the rest of his life.

Oh, yes, Randel knows that he's traded one blue light for another, and he couldn't be happier about it: in doing so, he's traded ice for fire, and destruction for the power to rebuild- not just the country but himself, as well. And, he admits, as he gently traces his thumb over Alice's cheekbone, he's not really sure where that will take him, but it's enough to know that he'll be by her side. At the heart of it, that's all that matters.