It only took a little over a week before Leandra agreed that hiring Bodahn had been a good decision. Both she and Minda were surprised with the effort he went to around the house. Neither of them ever had to ask him to do anything; he always just seemed to know what needed to be done. He even found the old Amell family crest buried in a pile of junk in the cellar. Leandra had very nearly cried when she came home that evening to find it polished and hanging from the wall.
One evening, a couple weeks after Bodahn and Sandal had moved in, Minda was sitting in the library reading a book. It was finally warm enough outside to have the windows opened, and the fireplace had just been cleaned for the summer. Minda missed the sound of the crackling fire, but the birds' songs coming through the window helped make up for it. She was on the upper level of the library, sprawled out on the floor with a book open in front of her, when she heard Bodahn's voice from below.
"You have a visitor to see you, Messere," he called, and she looked up as footsteps sounded, coming up the stairs.
She had barely gotten herself into an upright position when Fenris appeared. A sudden case of nervousness overtook her, and Minda reached up to smooth her hair without even thinking. It bothered her that she did it, but it bothered her even more that Fenris seemed amused by her gesture. He had no right to laugh at her! Especially since he hadn't apologized to her for what had happened that night... not that she'd even seen him since then. Minda set her book aside and stood up.
"Hello, Fenris," she said. "To what do I owe the... honor of this visit?"
"I was instructed to escort you to the Hanged Man this evening," was his clipped reply.
"Pardon?" Minda said. "Instructed by whom?"
"By Varric," Fenris said. "He told me to tell you there was something he needed to discuss with you. He also wanted me to point out that you haven't been to the Hanged Man in weeks."
"He couldn't tell me that himself?" Minda asked.
"Not when he can send someone else," Fenris scowled. "And since I once was a slave, apparently I was the obvious choice."
His statement made Minda's eyes widen. "You don't really think Varric meant it like that."
Fenris let out a harsh sigh. "No, I do not. I apologize. My foul mood has nothing to do with you."
"You apologize?" Minda asked, a little shocked. "I wasn't sure you knew how to do that." He narrowed his eyes at her. "Or maybe you're just the type who never feels like he needs to apologize for anything, since you're rarely ever in the wrong."
"You... feel I have wronged you," Fenris stated.
Minda suddenly felt a little childish. She had allowed her anger with Fenris to grow, and while she still wished to discuss what had happened between them, that was not the way to go about it. Minda shook her head. "Forget it. I assume you're wanting to leave for Lowtown right away. Just... let me go change."
She hurried out of the library and up the stairs to her room. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed her fears; her hair was askew, and she even had some sort of smudge on her cheek. Wonderful, she thought. Dipping a hand into the basin of water near her bed, she scrubbed the mark off her cheek. Minda ran a comb through her hair, then changed into something more suitable for wearing outside the house. When she got back downstairs, Fenris was still in the library, staring up at the figure above her fireplace.
"It's quite hideous, don't you think?" Minda said, coming to stand next to him. "I wanted to get rid of it, but Mother insisted we keep it. She said it's been there since she was a little girl. For as long as she can remember, really. It was one of the only things left in the house when we got it back." She smiled. "Can't imagine why they didn't want to take it with them..."
"It reminds me of the Old God relics you see in Tevinter," Fenris said. "I never liked them, either."
Minda's eyes widened in mock disbelief. "Wait, did we just agree on something?"
"Don't let it go to your head," Fenris said dryly. "It was bound to happen eventually."
"So... what has you in such a bad mood?" Minda asked as they left the house. It was not the question she wanted to ask, but maybe it would help lead up to it.
Fenris waved a hand. "Nothing that concerns you. Tax collectors have been causing me troubles."
"Maybe you..." Minda began.
"I said it doesn't concern you," Fenris cut her off. They walked in silence for a while, but Fenris paused briefly when they passed the alley where they had hidden from the bandits. "You are upset about what happened that night," he said.
Well, if that wasn't an opening to start the conversation, Minda didn't know what was. "I don't appreciate being treated in such a manner," she began. "I was simply trying to see if you were hurt. You had no call to... attack me as you did." Maybe that was exaggerating just a bit, but she didn't care. "Perhaps violence is your natural reaction to things, but I suggest you learn a better way, if you ever intend on keeping any friends around."
Fenris looked genuinely confused. "Wait, so you're upset about..." He shook his head. "I see. Well, as I said, I don't like people touching me. My markings are... sensitive."
"Fine," Minda said. "I can understand that. In fact, I could have understood that sooner had you just said that. Couldn't you have just said, 'Hey, I find it bothersome when you touch me, so please don't'? Or what about, 'My markings hurt when someone touches them, so please steer clear'? Either of those options would have been better than leaving bruises that have only just started to fade."
Now he just looked amused. "I will keep your suggestions in mind. For next time."
"Don't worry," she assured him. "There won't be a next time." Fenris said something under his breath at that, but when she asked him to repeat it, he just shook his head.
They were almost to Lowtown when they heard a commotion behind them. Minda turned to see a large group of templars advancing towards them. She felt her heart drop to the pit of her stomach, and her breath caught in her throat. Minda's natural inclination was to flee when faced with such a sight, but Fenris' voice stopped her.
"Do not run," he cautioned in a whisper. "They are looking for a rabbit to chase. Do not let it be you."
With a gentle nudge, he urged her to keep moving as they had been, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Minda began to relax as the group of heavily-armored men passed by, but when she caught a fragment of talk from one of the men in the back, her panic returned.
"...healer in Darktown..." The man said to another next to him.
"Hawke," Fenris said, voice full of warning.
"They're going for Anders," she hissed back. "I have to warn him. I can't just let them..."
"You cannot help him," Fenris replied. "He is beyond saving. Maybe it's for the best if they just..."
"For the best..." She shook her head. "Well, I'll remember that you said that, should your old master ever send people after you." Minda didn't wait for a response. She just hiked up her skirts and ran.
The group of templars was large enough that they had to stick to the main roadways leading through the city. They were also marching at a normal pace. If she ran and took the smaller alleyways, she knew she should be able to beat them. Strange looks were thrown her way as she dodged and ducked around people and vendors' booths, but no one tried to stop her. When she finally made it to Anders' clinic, she was out of breath. He was alone, sitting at a desk with papers spread out before him. He stood when she crashed through the doorway.
"Minda? What is it? What's wrong?"
"Templars..." She gasped. "Coming... we have to... get out of here..." Anders did not react as she would have expected, however. He did not run for the door, as she would have. Instead, he began throwing his papers together. "What... are you doing..." She panted. "We have to..."
"I can't let them find these," he said, pulling out a drawer. "If they do, I'm dead for sure." With a press of a button, a false bottom opened up, and he began shoving the papers inside. She rushed to help him, but it was taking much too long. Why couldn't he hurry? When the last paper was hidden away, she pulled him to the door, but then it was too late. A peek outside showed the templars just rounding a corner, coming their way. They were trapped! Minda froze in place, but Anders grabbed her arm, dragging her to the far wall. His fingers ran up the side of the planks and caught some invisible switch. A panel popped open to reveal a hidden room about the size of a small closet. He pushed her in and pulled the panel closed behind them just as the door to the clinic burst open.
A small sliver of light fell through the cracks in the paneling, and Anders pressed his face to it, but Minda backed herself into a darkened corner. It was too dark, too hot, and too small. She could feel the walls closing in on her, could feel the air turning stale as she breathed. She had to get out! Out meant capture by the templars, but wasn't that better than suffocating? Or being crushed by the walls? A cold sweat broke out on her brow.
"Anders," she croaked.
"Shh..." he whispered.
"I can't... I can't breathe."
And then he was there, his hands on her face, loosening the collar at her neck. Minda knew he had spells that could have helped calm her, but it was much too dangerous with the templars so close. She closed her eyes, but that didn't help. All Minda could think was that they were trapped, as they had been in the Deep Roads. Her whole body began to tremble, and it was all she could do to keep from clawing her way to the opening of the tomb she had found herself in.
"Be calm." Anders' voice was so quiet, and she could only hear him because his lips were pressed to her ear. "Minda, you have to calm yourself."
His cheek felt cool as he pressed it against her forehead. One arm went around her waist, but the other remained on her face as he pulled her into a loose embrace. Minda began to calm as she rested her head on his chest, trying to ignore the press of her surroundings to concentrate instead on the feel of his fingers as they moved along the line of her jaw. She rested her hands on his chest, sliding one up so that she could touch the hollow of his neck with one finger.
"Everything's going to be fine," he whispered again.
Anders' lips brushed against the lobe of her ear, and she could feel his breath against the side of her neck. Fingers moved from jaw to nape, then up into her hair to massage her scalp. Fear subsided, but only to be replaced by desire. Minda longed for Anders to press his body fully against hers, to have him tilt her chin up and press his lips to hers. But he did neither. Instead he held her as the templars tore through the room on the other side of the wall.
"...sure this is the place?" A voice called out. Minda jerked in Anders' arms. It seemed the voice was right next to them.
"Shh..." Anders whispered again. "They'll leave soon."
Something broke with a crash somewhere in the clinic, and Minda jumped, letting out a quiet yelp. Anders pulled her a little closer and clapped his hand over her mouth. She almost forgot how to breathe, waiting for someone to announce that they'd heard something, waiting for their hiding place to be discovered, but nothing happened. Minda reached up to move his hand from her mouth. Fingers tangled, and their hands came to rest together on his chest. They were standing so close that she could feel his breath on her lips. Why wouldn't he just kiss her? She could tell, by the small hitch in his breathing, that he wanted it as much as she did.
They stood like that for a long while, in an embrace that flamed her desires. She wished she could see better, to see the look on his face, to see how he was looking at her. Finally he pulled away and turned towards the crack in the wall. Minda realized it had been quiet outside for a while, but she hadn't really registered the fact until Anders' hands were gone.
"I think they're gone now," he said, opening the panels that let them out. Did his voice sound a little strained, or was that her imagination? He shook his head as they made their way out, taking in the mess the templars had left behind. "Are you well?" He asked, turning to her once again. His fingers brushed her cheek. "You're looking a little flushed." She could feel the heat rise even more in her face, and Minda looked away. "Oh," Anders said. "I mean... What had you so frightened?"
"I felt trapped," Minda explained, crossing her arms over her stomach, relieved that she didn't have to explain the color in her cheeks. "Like I had no air, like the walls were falling in on me." She shook her head. "It reminded me too much of the Deep Roads. I don't know why."
"Ah." Anders gave her a sheepish smile. "I apologize, then. I didn't know what else to do. I've actually had to hide back there before. I guess I didn't think anything of it."
"No, you... you probably saved our lives," Minda said.
"Only because you came to warn me," Anders replied. "If you hadn't..."
The conversation faltered, and they both looked away from each other. After a moment Minda moved to begin straightening the things that had been knocked over in the templars' search. Anders' quickly followed suit, pausing when he got to the drawer where his papers had been hidden.
"Did they find them?" Minda asked.
A quick check ensured that the false bottom had not been discovered. They worked to clean everything up in silence, which was a blessing, really. If they had talked, Minda knew Anders wouldn't have been saying the things she wanted to hear. The idea of him telling her once again why they couldn't be together was too much for her to bear just then.
When everything was back in its proper place, Anders turned to her. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think I could really use a drink right now. Would you care to accompany me to the Hanged Man."
A smile tugged the corner of her mouth. "That's actually where we were headed when I saw the templars."
"We?" Anders asked.
Minda cringed. "Fenris and I," she admitted.
"I see," Anders said, suddenly becoming very interested in something on the desk in front of him. "I guess I'm lucky, then, that you were there with him. I doubt he would have rushed to warn me, had it just been him." Minda didn't know what to say to that, but Anders didn't seem to need a response. He moved to stand in front of her and leaned down, pressing a chaste kiss to her brow. "Thank you," he said.
So it was not exactly the type of kiss she had been hoping for, but it would do. For the time being, anyway. She could be patient.