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“The evening passed quietly, unmarked by anything extraordinary. The acknowledged lovers talked and laughed, the unacknowledged were silent.” - Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

 

Adan had walked into the tavern with a plan. It was a simple plan: He would invite the researcher out for a drink and speak to her in person about her supplies. He had assumed it would be a step up from trying to communicate through that damn Tranquil she always sent him. Tranquil were hard enough to talk to in the first place. To make one of them the middle man in a debate about matters of life and death… well, that had to have been a mistake on the researcher’s part, he’d thought. She must have not realized what his role in the Inquisition was when he had made his request.

But it was not a mistake.

“Honestly,” the researcher said, shrugging her thin shoulders underneath the Circle robes she wore, “I prefer dealing with them. They’re much less complicated than most people, you know?”

Adan grimaced. “Yeah, that’s one way of putting it,” he allowed in a mutter before leaning forward, placing his arm on the table stiffly. “Look, Mineeve--”

“Minaeve,” she corrected.

“Fine,” he said. “Whatever. The point is, I need demon parts for a couple of the more complex potions I’ve been tasked with making, and you have somehow formed a quid pro quo relationship with the Herald over demon parts. So. It would be really very helpful if you would consider lending some to me.”

“A qui-what?” she asked.

Quid pro quo ,” Adan said. She looked at him blankly. “It’s Tevene. Means tit for tat.” Her lips twitched into a frown, and he glanced at her ears, thinking, Oh, you fucking idiot . “Oh. No. I don’t speak-- Look, it was a common expression at my school, alright? It’s not like I go around speaking Tevene on a regular basis.”

“You went to school to become an apothecary?” she asked. There was more than a hint of a Dalish lilt in her voice, despite the lack of tattoos on her face. “You weren’t just an apprentice?”

“No,” Adan said. “I’m an alchemist by trade. I’m….” He exhaled harshly. “The apothecaries died. Up there at the temple. But the Inquisition needed healing potions, and those are some of the first things you learn about. As an alchemist, I mean.”

Minaeve studied his face, interested. “Really?” she said. “So you volunteered? That was good of you.” Adan shrugged, his eyes sliding away. He’d only done what anyone else would do in his position. “Helisma didn’t mention that.”

“Who?” Adan asked her, looking back up.

“The woman I sent to speak with you,” Minaeve explained.

“Oh,” he said, nodding. “The Tranquil.”

Minaeve smiled, but it was cold. “The woman, she corrected.

Adan paused. “The Tranquil woman,” he offered tersely. Her smile became a little warmer and she let out a giggle. He realized she was still staring at him intently. “What?”

She took a long swig of her ale. “You know,” she said leaning forward, “looking at you, I can’t help but realize that I’ve never kissed a man with a beard before.” Adan gawked at her. She looked amused. “I keep wondering--would it tickle? Is it scratchy?” She tilted her head and he realized that she was staring at his lips. His pulse quickened. “Do you think I would sneeze?” She looked up slowly. “Have any of the people you’ve kissed told you what it’s like?”

“No,” he said, relieved to hear his voice was at a normal pitch. “Not exactly the largest sample size.”

Minaeve brought her mug to her lips again, and Adan’s eyes followed involuntarily. He couldn’t help but notice now that they were thick with a pronounced pout to them, the kind one might even call kissable, and he shifted in his seat. He hesitated a moment before speaking, not sure if she had been purposely escalating things. He wouldn’t lie to himself. He hoped she was, against all odds. Adan was not the sort of man that people went around propositioning. The three times he'd laid with someone had been mostly fueled by alcohol. More than once, he’d observed a little bitterly that the Breach in the sky had a lot of folks warming each others’ beds, but his was still cold.

He studied Minaeve. He barely knew the researcher, but he did know she had a reputation around Haven for being a little bit of an odd one.

Then again, he was pretty sure he did, too.

“You could find out,” he said, his voice not quite hitting the note he meant. It sounded more like a sincere suggestion than anything coy. He’d never been good at flirting.

Minaeve looked at him through her eyelashes anyway. “I understand you have a hut all to yourself,” she said in a murmur.

And that he did.

 

~~~

 

She was on him before he even closed the door, pressing him against it with a long kiss. It was restrained, her lips gently mapping his. They were as full as they looked, fuller than they had any right to be with her small, delicate frame, and he found himself testing them gently. She had to stand on her toes to reach him, and he placed his hands around her tiny waist to help her stay balanced. He leaned down into her, feeling like he could engulf her whole body with his mouth if he wanted.

“It does tickle,” she decided quietly when they broke apart.

“You’re the shortest person I’ve ever kissed,” he replied, a little breathless.

Minaeve laughed. “Yes, I hear that a lot,” she said, the Dalish lilt reemerging as she raised her voice. He blinked, and she smirked. “There weren’t many elves at Markham Circle,” she explained.

  “Right,” he said, bringing his eyebrows down. “Just a bunch of tall, beardless people who wanted to kiss you, apparently.”

Minaeve threw back her head and laughed. “You’re funny,” she said when she’d quieted back down to her smirk. “Helisma didn’t tell me that either.”

“Well, I doubt Helisma has much of a sense of humor,” he replied. The smile died on Minaeve’s face. He wasn’t sure what he’d said wrong, so he went with his instinct and flipped them around, pinning her to the door this time. His kiss was deeper, his tongue delving into her mouth and his teeth scraping her lips. She paused, surprised, before her hands slid up his back, her palms stroking over his muscles. She touched her fingers to the nape of his neck, just scraping his hairline, and he shivered. He realized for the first time that things could actually progress beyond kissing. He forced himself still. Minaeve had not yet indicated how far she wanted to go.

This time when they broke apart, her eyes were wider and a little unfocused. He ducked his head to her neck and began kissing it hungrily.

“I should make some ground rules,” Minaeve whispered. “Since you’re not from a Circle.” Her chest lifted toward him as he pressed his lips above her collarbone. She made a noise and shuddered when he licked her there, and pride at that made his blood grow even warmer.

“Ground rules,” he repeated into her skin.

“Right,” she said. “Sorry.” He chuckled and worked his way up her neck to get back to her lips, but she grabbed his chin and held him an inch from her face. “One. We don’t tell anyone.”

Adan cocked an eyebrow at the thought. “And here I was, planning to tell the Herald of Andraste about all this after.”

She ignored him and continued. “Two, we don’t interact or socialize,” she said.

He frowned. “What exactly do you call this?” he said.

“This is simply tension sex,” she explained, and his pulse jumped at the last word. He pushed forward to kiss her, but she kept her hand firm. “Happened all the time in the Circle. I’ve kind of missed it, and then when I saw you tonight, I thought…” She giggled. “I thought, that’s the tensest man I’ve ever seen.”

He relaxed back a little with a snort. “Oh, so it wasn’t my fine eyes?” he asked.

She giggled again before turning serious. “Third and finally,” she said. “We don’t get attached.”

“I didn’t even know your name an hour ago,” Adan reminded her.

She raised an eyebrow. “Do you know it now?”

“Minaeve,” he said. She tilted her head, and he doubted himself. “Mineeve? Min-something.” He pressed forward a little on her hand. “I can just call you Min.”

“You were right the first time,” she admitted. “Minaeve. And don’t call me Min, that’s too familiar. See, that’s why we need this conversation in the first place. When the Circle comes back--” She broke off, shaking her head. “Never mind. Follow those three rules, and we can continue this as long as we’re at Haven. Break them, and we never speak again.”

“Understood,” he said, his voice sounding low to his own ear. She looked relieved. He grabbed her arms and walked backwards, bringing her to the bed.

“Then I look forward to a very active and fruitful partnership,” she murmured, playfully pushing him when he reached his mattress. As he tumbled onto it, he drew her toward him. She smiled as she followed, her lips finding his for another kiss.

 

~~~

 

He found her the next day, near the chantry. When he pulled her aside, she looked surprised.

“I, uh,” Adan began, uncertain. He swallowed. “Look, I just wanted to thank you.”

She looked amused. “To thank me?”

“Yes,” he said. “I-- that is-- .” He blew a breath out between his lips. “Well, what happened was wonderful, and--”

“Adan,” Minaeve said, a hint of a laugh in her voice. His name in that Dalish lilt was shockingly attractive. “You’re new at this.”

“Thought that was obvious,” he replied gruffly, looking away.

“Well, if you want to do it again, name a time,” she said. He jerked his gaze back down to hers, but she looked completely sincere now, her eyes serious and her thick lips parted slightly.

“Tonight?” he tried.

Her lips curved into a smile. “I’ll be there after dinner,” she said. She began to walk away, then turned. “By the way, pulling me behind the chantry to chat?” She shook her head. “Socializing.”

He frowned. “Oh, this counts,” he said. “But the sex doesn’t. That makes sense.”

“It makes sense in a Circle,” she told him with a wave of her hand.

“We’re not in a Circle!” he replied, but she was already walking away, her robes swaying invitingly.

 

~~~

 

It was easy to follow the first rule. In Adan’s previous life, he’d had few friends, and at Haven, he had even fewer. The ones he spoke to regularly were not the type he’d share this sort of thing with anyway. Minaeve asked if he was tempted to tell anyone. Harritt was the only one who came to mind, but even if Adan had truly wanted to, he knew better than to tell the smith that he was sleeping with a mage.

“An apprentice,” Minaeve corrected him firmly.

“Right,” Adan said. “Apprentice. Sorry.”

He wasn’t familiar with Circles and still didn’t understand the difference fully, but asking would involve talking. Minaeve was very clear on the fact that talking too much was socializing. So he didn’t ask.

 

~~~

 

A month after they began, he walked into his hut after dinner to find Minaeve sitting on his bed, her eyes red and wide and her thin shoulders drawn together to make her even smaller. He closed the door, then stood, unsure of what to do.

“I just need--,” she began, and when he sat next to her to listen, she pressed her lips against his, more desperately than she’d ever done before. He didn’t understand why, but he understood what she needed, so he tried to keep up.

It wasn’t easy. She was frantic. Rough kisses on his neck and nails scratching his back, a trail of marks that he wouldn’t be able to explain, but Maker help him, he would give her what she needed.

When they finished, he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her toward him to hold her. He’d never held her after, but she relaxed naturally against him, so he adjusted until they were comfortable. After a long silence, one he wasn’t sure she’d break, she began to speak.

“Do you know about the shards?” she asked.

He paused. “The shards,” he said. “No.” She sighed, her head shifting closer to his chest. He instinctively moved his arm to make the rest of her body closer as well, and she let him do so.

“The Herald found these shards,” she said slowly. “In the Hinterlands. You could only see them through skulls they found, placed on posts.”

He felt he should say something. “That’s morbid,” he offered.

“Yes,” she agreed. “They-- they found out where they come from.” Her thin body shivered in his arms, and his muscles tensed around her, reminding her he was there. When she next spoke, her voice was tragic, as if dipped in water. “They’re Tranquil. The Venatori use Tranquil skulls.”

At first he didn’t understand. “They dig up dead Tranquil?” he asked.

“No,” she said thickly. “They--”

She stopped, and then he understood.

“Oh,” he said, and she let out a sob. He pulled her tightly against him, pressing his lips onto the back of her head. “Min, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t,” she began, her breath jagged from her crying, “don’t call me that.”

He didn’t speak, holding her. Eventually she calmed, and then she rose to collect her clothing.

“Sorry,” she said briskly, her eyes not meeting his. “I shouldn’t have--” She shook her head, finding her robe. “Well, so much for rule number two, right?” She gave him a quick, tight smile before looking away again. “It’s fine. The third rule is the important one.”

As he watched her dress, he realized with a deep twinge in his chest that he was starting to break that one, too.

 

~~~

 

After that, Minaeve became inconsistent about rule number two.

She began dropping by his hut during the day, bringing him news or supplies from the chantry herself instead of sending Helisma. Sometimes the visits turned into more, but other times she simply told him about her times in a Circle. Once she learned that he was well-read in several areas, she asked him what seemed like a hundred questions about whatever she could think of. She was genuinely curious about everything from his years working for King Maric to the most reliable way to pickle elfroot to the politics of Orzammar, and he tried his best to answer her.

He began to visit her in the chantry, in turn, and he’d listen to her talk about her research while sipping the herbal tea she’d give him. He introduced her to Harritt, who was polite enough and asked her if she knew of any schematics for staffs. She introduced Adan to the Tranquil mages she’d saved, approving when he spent over half an hour teaching Helisma about the differences between three kinds of lotus.

They became-- friends, of a sort. If Adan’s gaze lingered on her a little longer than it used to, or if he began to feel the urge to hold her even when they were not in bed, he tried to make sure she did not notice. The last thing he wanted to do was jeopardize this, whatever it was. Minaeve had become a bright spot in his life, a flower growing on the side of a frozen mountain, and not just when they were tangled up in his sheets. He began to treasure the other moments too--when they quietly made fun of the people the Herald brought back by Minaeve’s desk, or when she perched on his table, swinging her legs, while he tried to explain the process behind distilling lyrium. When she laughed at one of his jokes, making the corner of his own mouth twitch up. When she smiled into the sun.

If he were honest with himself, it was less than what he wanted, but he still counted himself lucky. Adan knew that he was a strange, crotchety man who was more comfortable with books and plants than people. Minaeve, on the other hand, was beautiful and kind, living with a natural grace that soothed him whenever she was around. Were it not for her previous life in the Circle, he would never have even come this close to her, and he was damn fortunate for what he had.

 

~~~

 

The weeks passed. One day, she came in with some supplies for him, and he shut the door and pulled her to him. He kissed her deeply, and then trailed a series of small kisses along her sharp cheekbone. She giggled and leaned her head away from him, still in his arms.

“Adan,” she said, and Maker, that lilt killed him. “It’s the middle of the day. Anyone could come in here, you know.”

“I’ll put a chair against the door,” he offered.

She raised her eyebrows. “Would that keep it shut?”

“The whole cupboard, then,” he growled, trying to dip her head back for another kiss.

She laughed, dodging him. “You know, in the Circle we used red scarves. If you had one on your door, it meant you had a special friend visiting.”

“I only have brown scarves,” Adan replied. “What did those mean?”

“Blood magic,” she said, her face becoming grave. He gawked, and she burst out laughing. “Joking! I don’t know. I never saw a brown scarf at Markham. The ones the Chantry gave us were red and blue. I always chose red.”

He looked deep into her eyes. “That’s a shame,” he said, fondly. “You look good in blue.” Minaeve’s face changed at a note in his voice, a flicker of surprise crossing it before it become firm. She pulled herself away and he felt a sudden chill settle around the room.

“You haven’t forgotten about rule number three, have you?” she asked.

“Of course not,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “I--” He stopped, unsure of what to say.

“Oh, Adan,” she said sadly, taking two steps back.

Suddenly he felt angry. “What does it matter? Void take the rules. We’re adults. We’re not in a Circle. It’s not like some templar’s going to burst in here and strike you down just because I--” He stumbled over his words, stopping himself.

Minaeve placed two fingers on the point between her eyes. “It’s not just that,” she said, softly. “It’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to me . When the Circle comes back--”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Adan said, his voice a little desperate. “I'll survive.” He stepped toward her, and she recoiled, so he stopped. “I can’t be--” He took a deep breath. “I can’t be the only man who's ever fallen in love with a mage, Min.”

Minaeve stilled entirely. “Apprentice,” she said in a tight voice. She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. “You don’t. You’re confused. Adan, you hardly even know me. It must be the-- the stress from the Breach. From your duties.”

“I know you’re dedicated,” he insisted. “I know you’re curious. I know you love your work. One time I was walking through the chantry, near midnight, and you were at your desk, three books on Fade creatures open and some sort of claw thing in front of you. You were writing madly, and you weren’t just focused, you were… glowing.” She covered her eyes with her hand. “I know you’re kind. I know you care deeply about others. About the Tranquil.” Her face twitched, but she did not respond. “I… I know you’re funny. You like to laugh, and when you do, it’s beautiful.”

“Adan,” she said in a hollow voice, her fingers dropping from her face.

“So are you,” he said. He took another step toward her, and this time she didn’t move. He reached out a hand to touch her cheek. Her eyes went wide, and she ducked, slipping away.

“No,” she said. “Maker.” She shook her head, staring down at the ground. “I am such an idiot. I never should have--We have to end this.”

“Min,” he said, but she’d already gone through the door, leaving him standing in the middle of his hut alone.

 

~~~

 

Then she was avoiding him. He saw her daily from across the village, but he didn’t try to approach her. He knew it was his own fault, and he took her absence as a punishment for his foolishness.

She didn't send Tranquil anymore, either. Instead, some poor girl named Dara became their messanger, and every request became a fight. He withheld her death root, and she withheld his demon essence, and he lay awake at night wondering if love had really made him so childish. 

He still heard her name, though. The Herald’s sister came by with a staff she’d made and mentioned Minaeve had been the one to find the schematic. His new assistant Elan met her a few times while she worked with Mother Giselle, helping the refugees. When she mentioned Minaeve’s name once, he couldn’t help but ask whether she was the one in charge of creature research, as if he didn’t know.

“Yes, that’s her,” Elan said. “She’s a strange one, that Minaeve.”

He felt his jaw clench, a thousand responses running through his mind, none of them appropriate. “But not in a bad way,” he settled on, picking up an empty vial to fill.

“Oh, no,” Elan agreed. “I actually like her. She seems… sweet.”

For a moment, he could almost taste her mouth on his, salt and a hint of herbal tea, and he gripped the vial tightly.

“She does,” he replied lightly, turning back to his work.

 

~~~

 

Weeks passed, and Adan grew to accept the fact that he’d lost her. And to be fair, she'd warned him. He still thought of her often. During his research, he’d stumble on a piece of knowledge and wish he could tell her about it. Sometimes he imagined what he’d say about the newest Inquisition member, trying to make the version of her in his head laugh. At night, his mind would drift back to the weight of her body above his, to the feel of her lips. But he knew in his heart that it was over.

Then the Herald of Andraste came back from Redcliffe.

Jane Trevelyan ran into him by Segritt’s the day after she returned. “Adan!” she said. She looked tired, but pleased to see him. “Good. I was going to look for you. Come with me.”

He obeyed, following her through the town, toward the chantry. When she made for Lady Montilyet’s office, he began to feel a stone form in the pit of his stomach, but he couldn’t very well stop following her. Even in a bizarre alternate world where he’d be able to explain to the Herald what the problem was, this was a woman who had walked through the Fade itself, who had survived an unspeakable disaster. Somehow, I’m too much of a coward to talk to my ex-lover , seemed petty by comparison.

They entered, and Minaeve’s eyes widened. She wiped the shocked expression of her face and met the Herald’s smile with a fake one of her own.

“Good afternoon, Herald,” she said pleasantly, and he clenched his jaw, looking away. That lilt drove a knife right through his heart. “How can I help you?”

“I have a project for you two,” the Herald said, rocking back on her heels, and of course she did. Adan wondered what exactly he’d done to offend the Maker so strongly. “The mage I returned with, Dorian, said there’s some sort of fire bomb they use in Tevinter. It’s from Antiva. The only thing he remembers is that the main ingredient is blood lotus, and it involves boiling it at a high temperature.” She glanced at Minaeve. “I know you told me you did a research project on the plant itself back in the Circle.”

“I--,” Minaeve began reluctantly. “Yes. I was just the assistant, though.”

“Still,” the Herald said, “that’s helpful. I want you both to try and see if you can figure out a way to replicate the recipe.”

They were both silent for a few seconds, and the Herald looked a little worried as she glanced between them. “Of course,” Adan said finally. “It’s not a lot to go on, but I’m sure we can figure it out.”

“Good,” the Herald said, relieved. “Excellent. Thank you in advance.” She nodded and strode out the room, toward the war room. For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Minaeve sighed without looking up.

“I suppose we’ll need your supplies,” she said.

He hesitated. “Yes,” he said. Wordlessly, they left the room and made for his hut.

 

~~~

 

Once they both got over the shock of having to actually exist in the same space again, their research progressed quite well. Minaeve knew more about the blood lotus than she’d let on, and he’d been working with it frequently since he’d taken over apothecary duties. They boiled it first to kill the plant’s hallucinogenic property as quickly as possible. Adan couldn’t really tell if that worked or not, as the symptoms of a light dose included shortness of breath, a tingling of the skin, and some sweating.

They liquified the soft leaves and poured a little of the substance into ten jars, taking five each. At one point, he dropped in a touch of ground drakestone into one, and the moment the stuff hit the substance, it erupted. Adan dropped the jar in surprise. It shattered on his desk, spraying him with black and purple liquid. Minaeve’s hands went to her mouth and they both froze.

“Are you alright?” she squeaked.

“Fine,” he replied gruffly. She stared at him a beat, and then, to his surprise, she began to giggle. He glared at her, which seemed to just make her laugh harder. “What?”

“Oh, you always look so serious,” she said, between laughs, “And you have--” She broke off, her laughter making her thin shoulders shake, and he was hit with a sudden urge to kiss her.

He grit his teeth, looking away. Her laughter faded. After a moment, she stepped forward, coming less than a foot away from him, and he felt her presence with every nerve in his body. As her hand came up toward his face, he closed his eyes painfully. She wiped the liquid from his nose with her fingers before moving to his cheek to clear another smudge.

Her hand stilled on his cheek. He opened his eyes to look down at her.

“Min,” he said, his voice rough. “Minaeve,” he corrected before she could say anything, and she swallowed.

He dragged her toward him, leaning forward to press his lips against hers, his arms surrounding her tiny frame. At first, she kissed him back, her grip on his cheek becoming firm, but then she placed both palms on his chest and pushed. He let her go.

“No,” she said. “We can’t.”

“Minaeve,” Adan repeated, pleading. “Look. I’ve been thinking. Nothing changed for you. I-- I wouldn’t mind if we continued.” She started to speak, but he rushed over her. “I won’t say anything, I’ll pretend the whole thing never happened. I promise.”

“Adan,” she said, her voice cracking, and he realized how much he’d missed his name on her lips. “It isn’t fair. When the Circle comes back--”

“Seems to me I get to decide what’s fair to me,” he said, cupping her cheek. He leaned down, pressing his forehead to hers. “I know you think you’ll hurt me when you go back to the Circle, but please. Nothing could hurt more than these past few weeks.” Minaeve’s eyes darted away. “And it’s not unfair to you, because you never got attached.” Something broke across Minaeve’s face, and she shuddered against him.

He froze.

“You never--” he began. His voice failed him, and he pulled his head away from hers to study her face. Her eyes came up to his slowly. They were soft and wide, a flicker of guilt behind them. “You--” The thought of it crashed down on him like a wave, and he sucked in a breath to keep from drowning. “Did you?” he asked softly.

Adan ,” she whispered, and then she was kissing him again, tugging him down toward her by his shirt. His heart leapt into his throat as he followed. He’d never even considered her having feelings for him. If she felt even a fraction of what he did, it was a miracle. That a bright little thing like her--a flicker of light in all this darkness--could look at him and see anything worthwhile seemed impossible. He poured his hope into his kiss, and she drank it from him eagerly.

A minute later, she pulled away, her chest heaving. “It complicates things,” she said in a breath. “I know we shouldn’t, but I--”

“I love you,” he told her. Her eyes got big, and he worried she’d turn away again, but then a small grin appeared on her face.

“I love you, too,” she said, and he blinked before his eyes could grow wet at the words. He cupped her chin, and leaned down to kiss her.

“Say my name,” she begged against his lips.

“Minaeve,” he whispered and she shook her head. “Min.” She met his lips with a smile.

 

~~~

 

They both knew she would stay that night for the first time. After they’d broken apart, warm and laughing, they’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms, but then Adan woke in the early morning. He found her awake next to him, chewing on her lip. He smoothed her hair from her forehead and pressed a kiss against it.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I have to tell you something,” she said. He waited patiently. “When the Circle comes back--” She paused, swallowing, and he continued to run his fingers through her red hair. “When the Circle comes back, I’m going to request the Rite of Tranquility.”

Adan’s hand stopped. “What ?” he asked. He pulled her around to gaze down at her, horrified. She looked at him apologetically. “Why?”

“Because I don’t trust myself to pass my Harrowing,” Minaeve explained. She glanced away from him, and suddenly her smallness made her look vulnerable. “If you don’t pass your Harrowing, you become an abomination and the templars strike you down. And I…” She sighed. “I’ve never been good at magic. I try to avoid using it.” She looked back at his face. “I’ve known this choice would come for a very long time. If anything, at my age, I should be Tranquil already, but the Circle fell before they made me choose.”

He continued to stare at her. Suddenly, her affinity for her group of Tranquil mages made sense. The fact that she was already doing research, that she was learning what she’d need to know when--

The image of her, expressionless, with a sunburst brand on her forehead floated before him and his throat bobbed.

“Min,” he said. It came out broken and she shut her eyes, a pained expression flickering across her face.

“I told you,” she said. “I told you, it isn’t fair to you. It isn’t fair to me.”

Adan shook his head. “Can you practice?” he asked. “For the--the Harrowing thing?”

“No,” Minaeve said. “It doesn’t work like that.”

Adan thought harder. “We could run away,” he suggested. “Before the Circle returns, I mean.”

Minaeve gave him a smile. “You’d take on an apostate?”

“I’d take on you ,” he said back, bringing his head down to press his lips into her hair. “We could do it.”

She let out a sad laugh. “What exactly would we do on the run?”

He pulled her closer. “I don’t know. I could make potions and sell them. You could… you could write. Or teach. Maybe with the Mages Collective? I’ve heard they accept apostates.” Minaeve was looking away, her smile fading. “We could get married. Start a family.” He paused. “Build a home.” After another beat, he corrected himself. “Build a series of homes, I suppose.”

She sighed. “No,” she said darkly. “I’m sorry. I could be a danger outside the Circle. I could become possessed, corrupted.”

“You’ve made it to twenty-five,” he replied. “What are the chances of it happening now?”

Minaeve closed her eyes. “You don’t understand,” she said. “I’m weak, Adan.”

“No,” he said firmly. “ No .” He cupped her chin and she opened her eyes. “You’re not weak.” He pulled her closer to kiss her, but she ducked away.

“I am,” she replied. “When it comes to magic. It’s… different. I can’t explain it.”

“Then let me help you become strong,” he said earnestly.

She curled against him. “I wish I could,” she whispered. “I accepted this a long time ago. I’ve made my choice.” She exhaled, her warm breath brushing his chest. “I just hate that you’re going to get hurt by it. That’s why I tried to stop you from--” She huffed, shifting. “But I guess it’s too late for that now.”

They fell silent after that, and he held her closer to him, as if he could somehow stop her from disappearing. She drifted back to sleep, and he placed his chin on the top of her head, silently making her promises he couldn’t keep.

 

~~~

 

Minaeve began staying over most nights. The Tranquil topic seemed to be firmly off the table. Adan sometimes lay awake, staring at her sleeping form and wondering what he could do. He had moments where the panic would hit him and, if they were in private, he’d pull her over to him and kiss her deeply. She’d always break away first, giving him a lopsided smile.

“What was that for?” she asked one time.

“You’re just beautiful,” he lied.

Most of the time, though, he took comfort in her presence in the now , and in the fact that she was his for as long as they were at Haven. The thought of the Herald closing the Breach now inspired mixed emotions in him. He suspected that Minaeve had a better idea than he did on when the Circles would return, but surely they would not do it while the damned thing hung in the sky.

When an injured, but improving, Elizabeth Trevelyan returned from Therinfal Redoubt, his hut was mentioned as a possible location to keep her. He met the party at the stables, where Solas explained that he wanted Elizabeth near to him and to potions, and the Herald’s hut was clear across the village.

“Why not your hut?” Adan suggested, trying not look panicked at the prospect of a roommate. “You’re the one healing her.”

“Absolutely not,” Solas replied curtly. Elizabeth was laying in a makeshift cart, her back propped by a pile of cloaks, watching the proceedings. She met Adan’s gaze with a smirk and rolled her eyes.

“What about that one?” he said, indicating a previously empty one across the way.

“Dorian’s taking that one,” Elizabeth explained. “I could stay with him.”

“No,” Solas said, clasping his hands behind his back. “That is-- Dorian is not healing you, nor does he have any skill with potions. The apothecary’s hut is the most sensible choice.”

Adan blew out a breath of air, disappointed. “If you say so.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips. “Oh, do try to contain yourself,” she said.

 

~~~

 

“Should I be jealous?” Minaeve teased when she heard, but there was no heat to her voice. She’d pulled him into a hidden corner behind the chantry, and was currently pressing herself against him in a way that made him wonder why they were even still speaking about another woman.

“Five people sleep in your room,” he retorted. “Which isn't right.” That reminded him of the second thing he’d wanted to say. “We’ll have to put things on hold until she’s a bit better.”

Minaeve hummed, kissing his neck. “Do we?” she asked. “You could always slip out at night.”

Adan huffed a laugh. “What kind of person do you think I am?” he asked. “I’m not going to abandon a girl recovering from a near-fatal stomach wound while she’s asleep.”

And to his credit, he kept his word for the first two nights.

 

~~~

 

When Minaeve came by the third night, he slipped outside to send her home.

“Come on,” she giggled, grabbing his hand. He shushed her, and she rolled her eyes at him. “I know a place.” He opened his mouth to protest, and she silenced him with a deep kiss, her hands stroking down his face to his beard.

Adan’s resistance melted. He followed her out of the village, into the woods, and up a winding path. There, he was surprised to see an old hut, half in disrepair.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Ellendra showed it to me,” Minaeve replied, pleased with herself. Adan didn't know the other mage well, but knew she was one of Minaeve's roommates. She pulled him in the door, planting another firm kiss on his lips. She broke away, looking up at him with shining eyes. “There’s a bed. I’ll light a fire.”

Adan wandered the hut as she dealt with the fireplace, looking at the furniture. He paused by the desk, his eyes widening. “Wait. This is Taigen’s handwriting,” he said, turning around. “I think these are his notes--”

He stopped. Minaeve was using her magic to light a fire. Adan realized suddenly that he’d never seen her use her magic before, not once. He looked at her curiously, and she gave him a smile in return. She bit her lip.

“What?” he asked, confused.

“I’ve been thinking,” she said, suddenly looking nervous, “about what you said.” She took a few small steps towards him.

“About the Merchant’s Guild needing to diversify their trade routes to remain stable?” he guessed with a twitch of his lips. “Good.”

She laughed, grabbing his wrists. She walked him toward the bed. “No,” she said, shaking her head, a smile lingering on her lips. He stepped forward with her, letting himself be pulled. “About… about running away.”

Adan felt his heart stop, and he paused. She tried to tug him again, but he pulled her back, circling his arms around her. He looked deep into her eyes. “And?”

“And… maybe,” she whispered. “My answer is maybe.”

“To me selling potions,” he said, and she nodded. “And you with the Mage Collective.” She nodded again. He licked his lips, tightening his grip on her frame. “And… to marriage?”

She smiled coyly. “Maybe.”

He raised one hand to cup her chin. “And to the family?”
She swallowed. “Maybe,” she said again, her smile fading. “You don’t mind that they’d have to grow up like that? That they wouldn’t have a home?”

“They’d have a series of homes,” he corrected her and she gave him a sad smile.

“Or that,” she said, dropping her gaze, “or that they could be like me?”

He shook his head, pressing a kiss to her forehead before pulling back to answer. “Min,” he said. “I would love them to have any part of you.” Her face twisted with emotion, and he kissed her forehead again before chuckling. “I mean, look at the alternative,” he said, glancing down at himself. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

She laughed and he leaned down, swallowing the noise with his lips. She broke away. “They'll be the smartest children in all of Thedas.”

Adan squeezed her. “What next?”

“We make a plan,” she replied. He nodded. “Once the Herald closes the Breach.”

“Good,” he replied. He dropped his arms and began to move to the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked, with a tug of the hand still tangled in his shirt.

“I'm going to go tell her to close the Breach right now,” he replied and Minaeve laughed again, dragging him back into her arms.

“Patience,” she told him in a mock stern voice as she looked up at him. “She's closing it tomorrow. We'll figure everything out then.” She tilted her head, watching him with hooded eyes. “And I didn't bring you out here for nothing. I did mention the bed, right?”

And that she had. This time she succeeded in pulling him across the room.