Playing with Fire

Viverescribere

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Swallowing thickly, Carina's hands moved to gently rest over his wrists, taking a moment to calm herself down and compose herself once more. Her thumbs stroked against the backs of his hands and her eyes closed as she steadied her breathing. She then took a small step forward to bow her head forward so her forehead rested against his chest.

It was a relief to get the truth off her chest. It had been weighing there for weeks, growing heavier and heavier with each day that passed. Each time he turned his smile her way or she caught him looking at her with that love in his eyes, Carina just had an extra brick added to the load that bore down on her shoulders.

Yet it was an even bigger relief for him to know what she had planned, but for her to get his forgiveness.

In a way, Carina was glad he now knew not just for the sake of having everything open between them, but so he knew that she also wasn't perfect. Up until now, he had been countlessly apologising for all the wrongs he had committed. Now it was her turn. She hadn't been perfect in their past, that was a fact. Of course she had less opportunity and resources to be as cruel and manipulative as he had been. But she hadn't been perfect. She had manipulated him, spoke cut-throat in her words, and displayed just what she wanted to do to him through the five men she had executed.

They were both all kinds of fucked up. But they were moving past that, and they were moving forward together.

Reluctantly she pulled back, sniffing a final time and taking her hands from his wrists to wipe at her nose. A small smile grew in response to his light joke, gaze lingering on his face. She leaned up to press her lips to his, drawing the kiss out for as long as she dared before finally pulling back a second time.

"Just-- just so long as you know. I really-- I really don't want that anymore." Carina couldn't help but reiterate her words as she moved back to her side of the bed, clambering under the covers. A hand reached out to softly lay over their son's bundled-up form, just over his stomach, where he rested in the crib beside the bed. "I don't-- I'm going to keep saying that and apologising... until... until I don't even know when."

All thoughts of food were forgotten, as exhausted as she was Carina just longed for sleep now. Her son had been fed, that was the most important thing. Not to mention Sven would still be in the bed beside her that night. They were still okay, despite her revelation.

She moved the pillow down from where it rested against the bed's headboard, soon laying down with it. Her head and eyes remained focused on Sven, however, with her hand now on the edge of the crib. "I love you. I love you both. So much."
 

potassiumboron

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"You have to stop that; apologising, I mean. You tell me off constantly for it and I have more to apologise for than you do, so there should be no more apologies passing your lips in regards to this... plot, Carina. You didn't see it through, didn't attempt acting on it, so there's... nothing to keep apologising for. You told me to keep things in the past and to avoid bringing them up because they had no place in our future; take your own advice," he recommended with a quiet smile, the relief she evidently felt at confessing to him not exactly erasing the need to continue to apologise.

But he understood that more than anyone else could. Given the extent of his own atrocities and the fact he had actually put such dark thoughts into practise, he felt that constant need to apologise and ensure that she forgave him for his past, one he wanted to forget but continued to let live the longer he apologised for it and subsequently gave it life.

He had come to the realisation that he didn't need to persist with them now she had forgiven him. Moving on in the way they had meant there was no need to constantly refer to a past that didn't cover either of them in glory, so the last thing he wanted was for her to go through the months he had gone through, feeling anxious in the need to continue to make up for behaviour that no longer represented who he was.

"I promise you, I love you and nothing would ever change that, certainly not a silly plot that was probably justified in its existence anyway. We're okay, Carina," he continued under his breath in gentle tones as he leaned across a little to gain a view of their son slumbering away in the bedside crib, his smile rising at the sight of the little baby they had created together looking so content and peaceful.

That was their future and that was what he wanted to focus on; not the dark memories of a past that she had spent plotting to kill him. There was no need to bring it up and apologise for it now he had given her his forgiveness.

"...Just try and get some rest while you can; I'll be right here. I don't think I could sleep now even if I wanted to."
 

Viverescribere

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Her lips pulled upwards on his continued reassurance, unable to take her eyes from him as she listened to the gentle and soothing tone of his voice. It shouldn't be about her, this moment. She had just given birth to a healthy baby boy, and undoubtedly word would be spreading throughout the castle and the Ignisian villages by now. They ought to be gushing and bathing in their happiness of being parents.

That was why she fell silent after his reassurances, not reiterating her apologies or attempt to explain herself. He had forgiven her, she could repeat her apologies and declarations of love in the morning. For now she was content with where they were and would allow the moment to go back to their son.

"Alright... so long as the reason why you can't sleep is because you can't stop looking at our son." She smiled faintly, free hand reaching up to cup his cheek as he leaned over her slightly to get a glimpse of their child.

However Sven was right, she did need to get some rest. Despite wanting to do nothing more than cuddle with baby and husband, Carina was drained in every possible way. Her eyelids were drooping, and the last dregs of adrenaline that had got her through the birth were finally wearing off. She was beginning to ache, everywhere.

With a yawn, the young queen rolled over onto her side to face the crib that was beside the bed. Her hands moved so one could still remain on the crib, as if fearing it would be dragged away from her at some point. As she nestled down, burying her face into the silk purple pillows, she hummed softly in contemplation before asking: "Could I trouble you for some of that fiery warmth?" There was another small smile, though this time slightly cheeky, "Just... could you rub my back? Like-- like you've done before? I've never ached like this before."

Carina chuckled a little, other hand tucking the pillow just a little more under her head, "I promise I won't ask this of you every night from here on out... just for tonight. I don't want to ask for a warm water bottle and have anyone disturb us. I just-- I want it to be us. Our little family. Just for a little longer."
 

potassiumboron

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Having finally succeeded in ceasing the other's apologies (all he wanted to do was move on from their fraught past now it had been acknowledged and forgiven), the young King moved to sit up comfortably with a faint smile resting naturally on his lips. The moment of apologising had somewhat dimmed the joyous atmosphere a little - the last thing he really wanted to hear shortly after the birth of his son was the fact his wife, someone he had come to love dearly, had once planned to kill him and kept those plans for the best part of a few months.

But now it had been forgiven and her actions of the past understood, there was no need to focus so intensely on the apologies that continued to dim their current reality. Of course it hurt to hear the actions she had once been intent on seeing materialise, but that was the past; he wanted to focus instead on the future they had together not just as a couple, but a family.

"I really am just your own personal radiator, aren't I? Is that all my powers are good for; to warm you up and ease your aches?" He snorted beneath his breath, the playful grumbles and slight roll of his eyes more for dramatic effect than harbouring any semblance of truth - as evidenced by him adjusting his position in bed and reaching out to gently massage her back the moment she had required his assistance.

It was a small thing, but using his abilities in a way that wasn't violent was... nice; certainly something he could never have anticipated growing up. He had always been taught that his gifts were for war; to be used in battle, not to aid in easing the aches of the person he loved - especially when he had never actually anticipated caring about someone as much as he did Carina. Not wanting to get overly emotional yet again (he might have an excuse for the tears when this was an emotional day for the both of them, but he didn't want to make a habit of it), he forced back the lump in his throat and leaned forward to offer a gentle kiss to the back of his wife's neck, unable to help himself.

"Tell me if it's too hot; I can control it but-- still. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
 

Viverescribere

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"Just as I'm your personal ice box. Only two days ago you requested ice for your whiskey, don't be forgetting that. Selective memory, I'll put a stop to that." Carina teased back, only to sigh as the warmth from his hand rested against her back.

She needed no further encouragement to slide down even more under the silk sheets, even a soft mewl of contentment escaping her as the heat rolled over her sore, tight muscles. An involuntary shiver raced down her spine at the kiss to the back of her neck, eyes fluttering closed and remaining so as she enjoyed the sensations for a few minutes more.

"It's perfect. Just go-- a little lower... and... and an inch to the lef-- right there." She reached a hand up to cup the back of his neck, encouraging him to stay close to her.

Carina had mentioned his constant high body warmth before, including that night together where he laughed at her for her referring to him as a piece of toast. However, she wasn't sure she would ever get used to her husbands unnatural heat. It just seemed to work perfectly as she was always a fraction lower on the temperature scale due to the ice running within her veins.

If it weren't so laughable to think about considering the history of war between their kingdoms and the bleak start to their relationship, one could have once argued that they were seemingly perfect for each other in that sense. One to warm the other as that other cooled them.

"It's all... perfect." She sighed, hand remaining looped to rest on the back of his neck, with no intention to release him at least for a short while.

It wasn't long until the young Queen, and the new mother, drifted off to sleep, comforted by the soothing warmth from her husband and the closeness in which he was. Not to mention the soft breathing and noises from her son just inches away from her.
 

potassiumboron

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There was no doubt in Sven's mind that not every day of their future together would be like this. There would be arguments and fights; they would be stressed out and exhausted as their child grew and demanded more attention from them (which he was happy to give but that didn't mean it wouldn't have an effect on him). Yet, that just meant learning to appreciate the moments where they were like this: content, comforted and at peace in each other's company, free of concern and worry.

It was a moment he could never have envisioned him ever having with anyone when his entire life, the tough philosophies bestowed on Ignisian royals had been drilled into him. But again, that just meant having to learn to appreciate just how far he had come and, importantly, just how happy he was to have deviated away from the path he had once been expected to follow.

Learning to think for himself had easily been the best thing he had ever done because it afforded him a wife he adored and a family unit he would protect with his entire life.

Having inevitably had a bit of a disturbed sleep when the reality of life with a newborn baby fully kicked in during the early morning, Sven awoke early in the morning groggy and exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to curl back under the covers and catch up on the sleep he had lost but he couldn't; not when he had responsibilities and duties to fulfil. First on the agenda was personally collecting breakfast for Carina, deciding that he didn't really want maids and servants bustling into the room and disturbing his son, or the peaceful atmosphere that had been created since he last fell asleep.

And so, Sven only settled back into bed once the breakfast had been placed on the bedside table for Carina to grave upon when she woke. The King, meanwhile, settled on his usual favourites of a strong coffee (inevitably stronger than ever to stir some life back into him) and a few sugary pastries, nursing the mug tightly as he forced his eyes to stay open. The fact this was the first night with a newborn and he was already this exhausted would have been humorous to him if he wasn't so tired and understandably feeling weary about the long months ahead where disturbed nights would become his new reality.
 

Viverescribere

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While she had fallen asleep rather easily thanks to Sven's warmth, Carina had been woken throughout the night by their son's demands for food. Even at one point for a nappy change which had taken longer than it should have done in the bathroom because she simply had to learn had to do it. With her exhaustion, and her incapability to put the nappy on first time around, Carina found herself almost reduced to tears. It felt like an age before she was settling the babe back in his cot, and slipping back under the covers herself.

So when Sven stirred and left the bed, there was a brief shiver on Carina's part before she pulled the blankets back around herself hastily, desperate to keep his depleted warmth within the cocoon she had created for herself. Their son snoozed on soundly, the air of peace and perfection, while Carina knew differently already.

She had gagged countlessly when wiping the baby's bum...

Carina mumbled softly in discontent as the covers were lifted once more, the slight draft drawing her out of her dozing. However, at the scent of coffee and breakfast, the new mother blinked her eyes open blearily. She rolled onto her back, arms stretching up and then to the side, all the while careful not to knock Sven's coffee or jostle him too much.

Reluctantly she sat up, running fingers through her hair to try and comb the unruly mess back, head turning as she did so to check on their son.

"Thank you, for bringing breakfast." She said, keeping her voice at a whisper to avoid setting off the siren voice they had learned their son had. She glanced back to her husband, reaching up to press her lips to his cheek. Carina then pulled back, studying him carefully, "Perhaps I can take him somewhere else today... you look exhausted, perhaps a nap? Before you have to resume your duties." She offered, hand moving to entwine fingers with his.

She knew they had both said they would both contribute to looking after their child and waking up with him, but she was too aware of the fact that Sven was the King, and a King the people now loved for reasons that totally differed to his father. She didn't want the exhaustion their newborn caused to influence his public appearance, or his work for the kingdom, in anyway.

"I could take him to the nursery and you can stay here and sleep for an extra hour or so. I can ask them to pushback your meetings-"
 

potassiumboron

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"Hm? Oh, no-- no, I can't do that. I have work to get to and a few items to discuss with the guards; I want security amped up around the castle now our son's here--" He paused to take a quiet glance over at the crib beside the bed, smiling fondly at the sight of the small baby within it continuing to sleep peacefully in sharp contrast to the high-pitched wails that had broken his parents from their own content slumbering during the night. Despite that, it was all but impossible not to look upon the boy with anything other than an immense sense of love and adoration, Sven smiling to himself as he sipped as quietly as he could on the coffee he was reliant on to perk him up.

"And then there's the fact that the kingdom needs a proper statement from one of us on our son's birth, which I'll have to get around to doing this afternoon. I can't spend another hour in bed when I need to prepare for that, Carina-- besides, it wouldn't be fair on you, would it? If you're going to be forced to get by on a few hours sleep, I think it's only fair that I share in that and remain awake myself."

With a playful smile, one he hoped would be enough to convince her that her concern was ill-founded, he returned the show of affection before moving to collect a pastry, picking apart in his usual fashion. For a moment, the peace that followed his words was to be enjoyed, with the young King now determined to enjoy every moment of peace he and Carina could get, but the silence was also a result of his deep contemplation, the man stuck pondering a matter he wasn't sure whether to reveal or not.

But when he was so focused on honesty in their marriage, declining to mention important matters to his wife wasn't a path he wanted to venture down.

"...Natalia's in my office, sorting out some files for me. I'll have her to help me get things together, the lack of sleep won't affect me too much. She arrived this morning, I... thought that I could offer her that second chance we discussed last night. I'm not going to welcome her back in with open arms, she has to earn my trust, but... I at least thought she could make herself useful organising all of my papers for me. I'm not so great at doing that myself-- she won't see you, I made sure she understood to keep her distance until you're more, ah... willing to see her around the place again."
 

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"But... but you're the face of the kingdom, I am not." Carina pressed gently, carefully, since she was aware of the lack of sleep both of them had had. She didn't want to inadvertently start an argument just because they were both exhausted and misunderstood each other's tone. "I can afford to be forced to get around on a few mere hours of sleep. You, my darling king, cannot. You need your rest." Her hand pulled from his so her fingers could brush back some unruly strands of fiery hair from his face.

She only wished for the best for him, and if placating their son alone for an hour or so was the way to get him the time he needed to refresh himself, then so be it. Carina knew she could work behind the scenes with Sven on matters of state and help discuss ways forward with treaties and deals, but she was also well aware that she probably would never be able to put her name or her face to something other than the children she bore the kingdom. She still feared the hatred that may still run within the veins of the Ignisian people toward Eira and her kind. The event with the carriage was enough to keep her from wanting to go out into the villages ever again, let alone making such a trip by herself, unaccompanied to make announcements or meet the people.

"He'll be wanting to be fed more often than not when he wakes, so he would be needing to be with me when that happens anyway. Just... consider my offer, even if it's later in the day after you've written the statement. You've important matters to attend to, and I don't fancy having to try and clean ink from your face when you eventually fall asleep face down in a half-written order." Carina added a light tease towards the end of her response, once more eager to tread carefully around their lack of sleep and not make it sound like she was nagging.

However, her smile faded at the mention of Natalia. Her confession yesterday had led her to forget Sven had brought the former-advisor back on board, however his re-mentioning of his former lover caused a slight coldness to fill her bones.

Carina's hand, which had tangled itself into the back of his hair after brushing away that stray lock, slowly lowered back onto her lap as anxiety bunched at her stomach. Her head turned, eyes finding their way onto their slumbering son, soon nibbling on her bottom lip as he explained the situation.

There were multiple concerns and issues that Carina had with Natalia being offered this second chance by Sven. She never trusted the woman in the first place, which was natural, considering she was Ignisian and fucking Sven and willing to do anything for him. Natalia had proven just that, since she lied about a pregnancy just to remain in contention for his affection. Clearly the woman was ready to do everything and anything to be with Sven, and now Carina held her own love for her husband, that was a threat to her. Not to mention, there was a motherly instinct to be fearful of what the woman would do if she ever took the chance to be alone with their newborn son.

Carina had a lot more to lose now, should Natalia worm her way into Sven's affection and good graces again. He wasn't the same man as before, where he would manipulate the woman for his own measures. She would like to think her husband would never fall back into sleeping with other women now too, given their declaration of love for one another, however that didn't mean Natalia wouldn't try to turn his head if he ever extended that trust to her again.

"No. I want to meet her." Carina finally responded, hand reaching out to slip a finger into the palm of their son's hand, which instantly curled around it into a tight fist. "Alone."

To the young queen, it was important that the newly re-appointed advisor was well-aware of the power that Carina now held. She would make her stance, and point, well known. If the other woman laid a finger on her son, or attempted anything like she had done previously with Sven, there would be no third chance.
 
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potassiumboron

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Though he knew he had to inform her of Natalia's return to working for him given it meant her presence would be constant within the castle, Sven regretted mentioning it almost immediately when the effect it had on his wife was far from subtle. The last thing he wanted to do was put her through any stress or emotional discomfort when she had just given birth and then dealt with the realities of living with a newborn - she needed as much relaxation as she could get and the morning before their son stirred was a perfect opportunity for that.

Disrupting that by bringing Natalia up made him feel overwhelmingly guilty, even if he ultimately knew that he was doing the right thing. Holding back on the information and letting the two women bump into one another in a corridor would be disastrous for his marriage given the emphasis he placed on honesty - he wasn't about to make himself look like a hypocrite, however difficult it was seeing Carina react to the news.

Yet, what was more difficult was hearing she wanted to meet the woman, with Sven unable to see the conclusion of that meeting ending in positively.

"You-- want to meet her? I don't-- I don't think that's such a good idea, Carina. You dislike her, with every good reason to, but that might leave you arguing with her and I don't... want you putting yourself through that; you don't need the emotional toll," he murmured as carefully as he could as he set down his coffee, his hands resting on the pillow beside his lap as his fingers gripped at the cover. He wasn't sure how to really approach the subject in the first place so having it take the turn it had, so unexpected as it was, unnerved him a great deal.

"I don't know what you think you need to talk to her about, she... she's not been re-established as my advisor just yet. She's just sorting out a few things, getting matters organised for me and-- she has to work her way back. I just can't see you going easy on her, I suppose - not that she deserves it but I want to spare you reliving everything Natalia did-- everything I did with and because of her."
 

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"I want. To meet her." Carina responded firmly, looking away from her son and now to her husband as she reiterated her desire to see the woman face-to-face. "I don't intend to argue with her. She won't be doing any of the talking, I can assure you."

There was a slight icy edge to the young queen's words, a tone to them that hadn't been used in months now. It wasn't at all directed to Sven, not at all, and she didn't want him to think it was. However, this was something that Carina wasn't going to back down from and it was definitely something she would see out.

"She doesn't deserve to have things easy, Sven. I'm sorry, but she doesn't. Second chances aren't supposed to be easy." Carina pulled back the bed covers, ice beginning to crackle within her veins and that energy causing her to satisfy a need to stand and move around. She couldn't stay laying in that bed while she spoke. Of course her words were slightly hypocritical, since it had only taken a handful of months for Sven to worm his way into her heart and her trust.

But Natalia wasn't a woman Carina harboured a denial of love for. Natalia had been cruel and manipulative and sought the attention of a man that did not love her back. She had caused the terrifying and humiliating moment of Carina's life where she had to strip naked in front of man who wielded fire as if it were nothing. Natalia had lied about a momentous moment in a woman's life that so many were unfortunate to never experience or even survive.

Carina paused in her pacing, having picked a spot near the crib and her side of the bed, hand raised to her mouth as she thought. The Eirian turned to face her husband, a slight furrow to her brow, "I don't care if she's not been re-established yet. There is a still a yet on the end of your sentence, Sven, that means it is a possibility. I will be meeting her. Alone. Otherwise she gets this second chance without my blessing."
 

potassiumboron

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Sven knew better than to persist in the effort to alter Carina's mind when it was rather obvious it had been firmly set - as the firm tone served to prove. He understandably still had reservations but voicing them could misconstrue his actual feelings greatly: he didn't want Carina to start harbouring suspicions over his feelings toward Natalia if he continued to try and spare the former advisor the potentially disastrous meeting.

He had absolutely no romantic inclinations towards her whatsoever and never had, his entire feelings having only gone as far as spending a few nights a week with her in bed at his side to satisfy selfish desires. It was cruel to manipulate the advisor into thinking there was a possibility for me which was partly why he was so eager to extend the second chance in her direction - she might have been unspeakably cruel, but he felt responsible for it. He had pushed her into that desperation, been the catalyst for her seeking out such unthinkably heartless methods to keep his attention.

He didn't want that misconstrued as him caring for her in a romantic manner, nor even him continuing to see her as an avenue for fulfilment when Carina was the only woman he desired to be with nowadays. If continuing to try and argue against her brought up that potential suspicion, he much preferred to just nod and let Carina do as she wished.

Ultimately, he was on her side and he had to show her that, however much he wanted to protest that he was the bad guy in the situation; that all the blame couldn't be put on Natalia.

"She's in my office, you can see her whenever you wish - but have breakfast first, at least? Build your strength up," he caveated with a pat to his side, on the empty space in the bed she had left seconds prior. Despite the regret in ruining the peaceful morning atmosphere, he smiled quietly in the hope they could get things back on track. If things were destined to go awfully with Natalia, as he couldn't help but predict, then he at least wanted Carina to have a nice breakfast in bed before everything went downhill.

"Let's just stop discussing her for now. I'll let you speak with her, I don't mind if that's what you feel you have to do, but... just relax for a moment? You can't go into that situation without energy, Carina."
 

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Her hand had turned to offer the nail on her thumb, which Carina began to gnaw at incessantly, her brow furrowed in thought as she considered all future possibilities with the woman now back in the castle. Carina knew she was an utter imbecile for feeling threatened by the woman, but given the track record with the former adviser, could she really be blamed?

It was important to the young queen that the other woman knew just where she stood. She may be given the role and title as adviser, but to Carina she was on the bottom rung of the ladder. Below the lowest of the low.

With her new love and affection for Sven, just like the night before where she confessed all, she feared she would lose him. He may have manipulated Natalia, but she had manipulated him back. She knew Sven, or at least the old Sven, unlike anyone else to a certain degree. Carina was still learning about her husband. Natalia possibly knew everything. What he liked, what he didn't like, what pleased him, what he was potentially even allergic to - if Sven was allergic to anything. There was a history between the two that Carina would never be able to come between or help Sven forget.

Now that Sven made it so very clear how he felt towards Carina too, the young queen now had the worry that not only would Natalia attempt to seduce her husband once more, but that she would seek to destroy everything Carina knew. Including her son. There was no way that Carina would ever trust Natalia in the same room as the Ignisian heir, let alone ever be alone with him. She stood by what she said to Sven, that morning she had been locked up in the dungeon - she would never put it past Natalia to attempt to get rid of her, or any heirs she provided, if it meant being able to provide Sven with one of her own.

"It's not a case of feeling like I have to do this, Sven. It's a simple case of that I have to. You-- you don't understand. You-- you were fucking her, Sven. I may not have loved you then... but I do now, and the idea of her being back in our lives... the idea of you being in your office with her, like you had done before, knowing you probably-- you probably fucked her-- on that very same desk--" Carina cut off, approaching the bed but sitting on the edge of it with her back to him.

The ice queen took in a deep breath, fingers flexing in her lap as the material of her night dress was starting to freeze on her lap, "Now we also have our son to worry about. I don't trust her with him. I don't trust her with you. I just-- I don't-- I can't-- I need to tell her that this time I won't be taking any shit from her... she needs to know that."
 

potassiumboron

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"...If it's causing you so much anger, she doesn't have to come back. I made it clear that I wouldn't bring her back unless you were okay with it. You seemed to give me the go-ahead last night to offer her this second chance so I didn't see a reason not to let her in this morning and... maybe that was a mistake. Maybe this was all a mistake, Carina. Evidently she's always going to cause an issue, which I understand. I can tell her to leave; her second chance isn't worth all of this distress," the man replied as he watched in quiet dismay at the anger brewing not so subtly beneath his wife's expression - hell, her words did little to disguise just how disgusted she was with Natalia.

As she ought to be, of course. Sven had invited the former advisor back, but he didn't expect things to slip seamlessly back to how things had been before (minus the sex, naturally). He didn't anticipate forming that tight friendship with Natalia again for a long while, when she had proven herself to be trusted... but she was a friend. She was someone he had known since childhood who knew him to his core; who had always been on his side, through thick and thin.

If anyone deserved a second chance, he decided it ought to be someone who had that bond with him... though from the reaction Carina was having to the news of Natalia's return, Sven doubted that he had made the right decision. Even if he felt like it was, he wasn't willing to defend it when doing so would only worsen things for his wife and ultimately, she came first: she would always come first.

"There's-- jeez, Carina," he grimaced once the sexual relationship with Natalia had been brought up in pretty explicit fashion, his gaze averting not out of bashfulness over the memory but rather disgust with himself and how he had treated Natalia during that time; embarrassment, even, that he had been with her when he could have put aside his ego and recognised the fact he had been married to Carina and ought to have realised how special she was back then.

"Look, I'll tell her to leave, would that just-- make things better? If she didn't come back? Because I want you to be happy; I want you to feel safe in your own home, love. I-- care for Natalia, as a friend, as someone who was there for me when nobody else was, but you are my priority. If you aren't happy, she leaves; it's that simple."
 

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"It's not anger, Sven! It's-- it's--" Carina leaned forward to press her face briefly into her hands, the touch of which bitingly cold as she reined in her powers. Having had that bracelet on her wrist for the time that she had, she was finding she had to correct the control she had over the ice in her veins, since that mental barrier had weakened significantly since it hadn't been something she had to worry about maintaining.

Straightening back up with a deep breath being inhaled, her hands were lowered to once more fiddle with the material of her nightdress as she tried to find the words to explain herself. "--It's fear. And not the kind where I think she'll kill me - now that bracelet is off my wrist, unless she attempts to in the night, she won't get near me if she tries. No it's-- the fear of losing you to her." The confession felt stupid, and Carina could have groaned at herself for even uttering such words.

"You both... just have a history. A long, deep-seated history that I will never be able to-- argue against. I-- I don't want to deprive you of a friendship you clearly wish to give a second chance, my love. But I just-- worry."

Clearing her throat, once more the ice queen struggled to form her feelings into sentences, desperate to explain herself. "You clearly found her attractive before, plus trusted her, otherwise why else would you have kept her so close to your side as advisor and mistress? She will be willing to do everything and anything to get back into your good books. I just-- I fear what that might be. She faked a pregnancy to keep your approval and to keep your attention on her. What on earth might she do to win you back over?"

Her back was kept to him, but her shoulders hunched inwards as she raised fingers back to her lips in order to bite on nails once more. "I don't want to... be the reason you feel like you don't have friends in the castle, Sven. I'm not going to ask you to send her away... I just... I need to talk to her. I need to tell her that I will see through her bullshit if she tries anything."

It was the fear that Natalia would be the little devil on Sven's shoulder if she ever did win back his trust. The two would undoubtedly spend copious amounts of time together now the baby had been born and Carina would be spending more time with their son rather than helping Sven with matters of state. All she could imagine was that succubus whispering into his ear, pouring him more wine, and unbuckling his belt. Her mind cruelly suggesting that Natalia might unravel everything and take Sven back down the rabbit hole of being that manipulative, brutal and murderous king that she had first married.
 

potassiumboron

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"You think you're-- going to lose me to her? Is that why you're so-- oh, god. Carina. That's... I'm not telling you how to feel but I promise you, she-- she isn't going to be in my life like that, I won't be tempted into her arms. She just-- she isn't you," he emphasised with a sudden tone of desperation, unable to fathom how she could believe him if he didn't just put everything out in the open in regards to those emotions. He wasn't necessarily a fan of the heaviness of their conversation nor the emotional repercussions it was evidently having on them both, but clearly, it was a conversation they had to have if Natalia was to be a regular presence in the castle once again.

He wanted her to be, for professional and personal reasons - and those personal reasons were purely platonic on his end. He couldn't deny that there had once been that flicker of desire and an appreciation of beauty that he was undeniably attracted to, but that was nothing. There was no deeper romantic connection to be found there and while he could say Natalia was pretty (that fact wasn't going to change), he had also fallen in love since then; found the woman he wanted to be with for the entirety of his life.

And he wouldn't break that bond for any other woman, certainly not Natalia who he valued as a friend more than anything else. He was severely lacking in that department so having her around was something he felt he needed - but having that desire for a friend construed into something that could potentially form the re-emergence of their past sexual dynamic wasn't great to hear.

Not when he wanted the trust he felt for Carina to be reciprocated. He couldn't blame her for her reservations and concerns but he wanted her trust despite it all.

"...Just trust me, okay? Natalia is... nothing to me romantically. She never has been. I admit I was an asshole in that I used her for my own desires, but I have no need to find fulfilment in anyone other than you; the woman I love and am loyal to, Carina. Don't... mistake my desire for a friendship for anything more."

He sighed heavily to himself in the realisation that his words might do little to convince his wife. Actions often spoke louder than words, after all, but he felt a desire to convince her here and now, unable to fathom going about his day-to-day life knowing Carina could be racked with concern over his loyalty to her.

"...Speak to her. She'll tell you herself that she has no desires to be with me now you and I are dedicated to one another; she's... difficult to get along with, I see that, but she's not... evil, Carina. You forgave me for much worse than the actions she's committed. Just give her a chance-- for me?"
 

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A little pain in her thumb alerted her to the fact that she had now bitten too low on her nail, causing her to stop and squeeze her hands together in her lap as she listened to her husband's attempts - desperate attempts - to get her to believe him. But it was hard. Knowing how masterful at manipulation the both of them were. Not to mention, Natalia knew everything about Sven. Everything. Carina was still learning all of that, and they had yet to be intimate in a way that wasn't the cold, business-like conception of their son. She had used what he liked in bed to spite him, and she could only imagine that was a small slice into what pleased him.

Natalia had been his friend long before she had arrived, and probably had dreams of marrying him herself. Clearly she had thought they could be a happy family together, considering she faked the pregnancy. She had loved him, too. That much was obvious. It was what Carina taunted her with in the early days. She didn't believe for a second that Natalia had stopped loving Sven. Love wasn't something that could just be switched off.

The young woman reached up to rub the back of her neck, still listening, still weighing in on what her husband had to say. Trust. He wanted her to trust him. Something he had asked of her so often in the few weeks, the handful of months, they had been together as an actual team.

It still made her nervous to do so. Especially now with Natalia back as a variable she didn't see coming. She worried that all it may take would be one argument, one fight, one night where their son's relentless crying became too much and their patience had worn thin.

But trust. That's what he asked of her once more.

Eventually, Carina turned where she sat and slowly climbed back under the covers beside him. She curled up at his side, an arm hesitantly sliding across his stomach in order to pull herself as close to him as possible. "She was the evil behind some of your actions," she murmured back eventually, referring to the day in her bathroom and the bloodied bedsheets. "I'll-- I'll give her this chance... for you not. Not for her. For you. But I still want to speak to her. Not to hear that she apparently has no more feelings for you, because that would be a lie to my face. No, I will speak to her for my own reasons."
 

potassiumboron

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Even if Carina agreed to give the former advisor a chance purely based on the friendship that lingered between the two childhood friends, Sven couldn't claim to be confident that everything would work out for the better when the Queen clearly distrusted everything Natalia represented - even before meeting with her again. Natalia had been out in the cold for months and as far as Sven was concerned, the harsh reality of a life without her work and the friendship with him was enough to shock her into realising and accepting all the faults she had made.

As well as realising that Sven was happy and she had to respect that. Perhaps he was being manipulated again, he didn't know that for certain, but he knew how horrible it would be if Carina continued to doubt his good intentions in fear of being manipulated - and he wouldn't act that way to Natalia, not if there was an equal chance she was being genuine. He had to give her that honest chance because being offered one himself had been the beginning of a life he was now proud to live.

Oblivious to the discussions that had gone about her during that morning, Natalia proceeded to tidy up the office with purpose, drive and determination... and a great deal of gratitude to Sven for even giving her the opportunity. After being banished from the castle, any inner belief that she would be fine and find another job to distract her crashed into flames a mere week later. The tavern she had worked a few hours at was a far fall down from her once respected position as the King's own advisor and confidant - going from that to serving drinks to the citizens of Ignis was mortifying, especially when her face was a recognisable one and she had to endure everything from taunts and ridicule, to idiots thinking they could warm her up and get access to the castle somehow.

And yet, after struggling to find her way in the world for those long few weeks, she was finally back where she felt -and knew- she belonged. Even if she wasn't yet back where she used to be, just being brought into the fold again by Sven was enough to make her happy - and when she was organising the office and getting everything back in order, knowing how much it had fallen into disorganised disarray in her absence, she couldn't deny feeling smug in the knowledge that she was evidently needed around the place.

She was busy filing a few important papers with a faint tut under her breath at how casually they had been discarded when hearing the door to the grand office open, though with only Sven expected to enter it, she naturally assumed that that was who it was.

"You know, you really ought to learn some organisational skills, Sven; this mess is appalling. You can't stack important papers casually on the table, lying around - you never know who could walk past and decide to take a sneak peak at the kingdom's plans," she muttered, her tone however light given how little she expected the other to change. He had been like it his entire life and him being organised with these sorts of things wouldn't be him.

She only peered around when no retort she expected came from Sven - and the reason for that became clear when her eyes instead landed on his wife, a flash of mild panic and uncertainty crossing her countenance before calm (however forced it was) settled back in place. With resignation and a heavy sigh, she eased herself up from the chair and set the files down, adjusting her hair in the effort to appear as collected as she could... even if she was anything but that beneath the surface.

"I assume I'm being told to leave, aren't I? This second chance he dangled before me has come to its inevitable end? And you stopped by to tell me for-- what? Sadistic delight in my misfortune? I suppose that's understandable, I can't say I wouldn't do the same."
 

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"I think it's best, Natalia, that you stopped making assumptions during your time in this palace." Carina replied coolly, hands clasped together as she kept her eyes on the other woman.

After the conversation, and a brief moment of physical affection, with Sven, Carina had had her maid prepare another warm bath. Still slightly uncomfortable and sore from the aftermath of the birth, she hadn't gone for any gleaming jewels or fancy dresses when it came to finally picking clothes for the conversation she had to have with Natalia. To Carina, she didn't need to wear the Crown Jewels, or an array of beaded or diamond studded gowns to make a statement of who she was.

Instead she had opted for a silk and chiffon gown which drew her in at the bust with a simple golden ribbon, keeping the pressure and shape off the bump which she would soon have to begin to work off. Her feet, hidden by the hem of the garment, were clad only in slippers. Her neck remained bare of any jewellery, as did her ears, and her silver-white hair had been left to tumble down around her shoulders.

"Sadistic... well, I suppose if one manages to survive the Ignisian Court, they have to have be somewhat sadistic, wouldn't you say?" She then mused, moving further into the room, "I think everyone learned that Eira was the exact same way when it came to me having to punish those men the day after the carriage attack."

The new mother took her steps slowly, a leisurely pace allowing her to all but glide deeper into the office. She was in no rush, and held no desire to get to the point of her being there. The woman had had a part in torturing her for months back in those early months, Carina felt as though it was time for Natalia to pay her dues.

"He is awful, isn't he? With organising? I swear the only time I've seen him organised was when he had been ordering in items for the baby." She continued, finally arriving to Sven's desk. There was no hesitation in her step as she rounded it, only to pull out the chair and lower herself into it, eyes coming to rest on the former adviser as Carina sank back into the chair.

Carina remained silent, hands coming to clasp once more together and rest over her stomach. Then, rather abruptly, Carina smiled. Not cold. Not menacingly. But almost warm. And broadly. She motioned for Natalia to sit, leaning forward to bring clasped hands onto the desk as she waited for the woman to do so.

The smile continued, never wavering, and her head tilted slightly to the side, "Now, I think we can both agree that we're both two women that would clearly do anything that we believe that would make Sven happy." She started, no bothering to be too subtle in her hint toward the fake pregnancy, "So, as the loving wife that I am, I've agreed to allow you this second chance."
 

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Even if she was told not to assume things, Natalia wasn't prepared to be caught out if there was an ulterior motive at play. She would rather make wild assumptions in her head and prepare for them to become a reality than be dumbstruck by actions she hadn't anticipated. She had to learn to defend herself when it came to a kingdom like Ignis, especially with the reservations most had had about her being a woman in such a position of authority.

She might have witnessed the changes that Ignis had undergone the last few months, the more accepting nature that was trying to be implanted in place of its previous philosophies, it also wasn't easy to abandon the defence mechanism she felt she had to put into action with every conversation she held.

Particularly if that conversation was held with a woman she assumed absolutely despised her - with good reason, of course. Natalia had had plenty of time to contemplate her behaviour and to say she regretted it wasn't an understatement. She might be too proud to admit as such, but she had lost out on months doing the job she loved, beside the man she considered her closest friend whose trust in her had been damaged and that bond broken.

Of course she regretted her choices; she would have to be cold-hearted not to.

She withheld her breath as she observed the Queen make her way behind the desk, opting to respond to her remarks with non-verbal hums in agreement rather than embark on a proper conversation - she wasn't going to engage in a jovial chat and have that immediately undercut with some sharp interjection, as she assumed would arrive at some point soon. Again, it was just another assumption but she couldn't -and wouldn't- stop making them when Carina had every right to just freeze the blood within her veins if she chose to do so.

"...You can make digs at me all you wish, I'm not going to rise to anger in defence of myself. When I asked for a second chance, I did so in acknowledgment of my wrongdoings, Carina. In acceptance of the behaviours that were... borne from desperation, rather than... an indication of the person I am. But if this second chance is a genuine one and not some trick to lull me into false hope, then... I won't mess it up," came the former advisor's considered response as she settled herself in the chair, sitting with her back rigid and straight in the refusal to get comfortable.

She didn't feel comfortable, and she had absolutely no desire to even feign that; she wasn't certain she even could if she tried.

"Anyway, thank you-- for the chance. I'm not sure I could do the same in your position so... thank you. Is that all you came to ask me about? Because I'm willing to answer any questions you have for me, Carina; I want to clear the air if I'm going to work here again. I don't think a tense atmosphere is beneficial for either of us, is it?"