Yes, he was probably fretting more than the situation warranted – having all of your friends slaughtered in a single night had the tendency to make a person somewhat safety conscious. His fellow Warden had only been gone twenty minutes, but twenty minutes in the woods during a Blight and while there was an arrest warrant out for the Grey Wardens was more than enough time for something bad to happen. Alistair decided it was better to be safe than sorry.
He asked Leliana to stand watch at the camp site, before heading into the trees in the direction that his companion had gone. He muttered to himself as he traipsed through brush and branches, distracting himself from his fears. He didn't want to think about the possibility of losing Cousland. She was all he had left. And, while he was not about to admit such a thing to the insensitive ruffians in his party, Alexandra Cousland meant something special to him. He had never felt this way about anyone before. A few wet dreams about a busty Chantry sister, or using a particularly fetching Elven servant as fuel for his sinful indulgences, did not count. This was different. She was different.
Alistair's mind drifted to the precious item nestled in his pack at the foot of his bedding. How long did roses live for, anyway? The longer he kept it, the longer he waited, the more stupid the idea seemed to him. What was he supposed to say if he gave it to her? Cousland was a warrior and a woman of noble birth, not some vapid farmer's daughter whom suitors could woo with a fistful of daisies. She had owned gifts more lovely and trinkets more valuable than a single, crumpled flower. Alistair felt like a fool.
His path opened into a woodland clearing, where the sound of rushing water captured his attention. A crystal stream stretched before him, rippling with the constant flow of the small waterfall nestled within the rock face. Alistair slowed to admire the view, wondering if Cousland had seen this beautiful place. She had set off in this direction, after all. As he neared the water's edge, he felt his boot land on something soft. He looked down to find a pile of clothing strewn across the bank. He quirked an eyebrow, puzzled. The garments belonged to a female – Alistair blushed as he spotted a pair of lady's drawers. Were they hers? He glanced up across the clearing. And then he saw her.
Waist-deep in the clear waters, her skin gleaming in the rose light of dusk, Lady Cousland stood bathing. Alistair felt his heart almost leap into his throat. His entire body froze, helpless, as he stared. He didn't mean to – it was as if all rational thought had fled him and his muscles were no longer in his control. The Warden had her back to the shore, her dark hair draped over the water in front of her as she leaned forward. She washed her hair leisurely, oblivious to the gaping voyeur behind her, running her fingers through her tresses with almost tender strokes. Alistair could see only her naked back, flexing subtly and glistening with moisture. The curve of her spine continued beneath the surface, with her lower body barely concealed by the translucent water.
It was not clear to Alistair how long he stood there. He was mesmerized. He probably would have remained frozen in position, had Alexandra not turned around.
Her shriek shattered the tranquil quiet of the clearing, causing Alistair to practically leap out of his skin. In the instant before she spotted him, the young man caught a glimpse of her ivory breasts. He spun to face the other direction, clamping both hands over his eyes like a man blinded.
“Sorry!” he yelped. “Sorry, sorry! I wasn't looking- I didn't see anythi-”
“Yes, you did!” shouted Cousland.
“Yes, I did!” he wailed. “I'm sorry!”
There was a rush of water as he heard the lady wade hurriedly back to the shore. Her bare feet flapped wetly on the ground, not three feet from where Alistair stood cowering. He had his eyes squeezed shut and his palms covering them, praying that the ground might swallow him up and end his torment. He couldn't erase the image from behind his eyes; those glorious breasts... that perfectly sculpted abdomen... Heat rushed to the tips of his ears.
“Alistair?” came his companion's somewhat calmer voice, after several awkward moments of silence.
“You're, um...” She cleared her throat pointedly.
The Prince dropped one hand to the front of his trousers, suddenly aware of the increased pressure down there. His thighs and groin were filled with intense warmth. “Maker's breath, I didn't mean to-!” He panicked, trying desperately to conceal his arousal at the same time as hide his face.
Cousland's voice was rich with her smile. “I didn't realise you felt that way about me,” she teased.
“What? I don't- I mean, I- I what?”
Most humiliating moment of his life, meet your replacement. He blushed furiously as the girl laughed. She began to redress – he could hear the rustle of fabric over skin and her hurried breaths. Not knowing what to do, Alistair just stood there with his eyes still closed. Several seconds passed. Alexandra gathered the last of her belongings and moved past Alistair towards the camp.
As she passed him, she laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered: “I'll leave you two alone...”
Her muffled giggles disappeared into the trees. The red-faced Warden groaned, dropping his hands in defeat. He opened his eyes and glanced down at the painfully evident tent over his crotch. Inwardly, he cursed himself for being such an idiot. The nearby bird seemed to agree, giving a trill of what sounded like mocking laughter. Alistair glared at the animal.
“Not a word to Morrigan.”