"Your knees." A simple enough clause. One subject, no verb. The way these two words alone were more than enough to convey the idea was puzzling, hauntingly so. (In fact, omitting the pronoun would have provided much the same effect as well.)

It wasn't just the knees that struck a chord. Regina's mind instantly searched for the last time she and Emma had made love. Surely she couldn't have missed this. Had it been that long? It didn't feel like it, not when neither of them had any illusions about their needs. But the cause of this bemusement quickly became apparent. The last time, blindfolds had been involved - Regina shivered in misplaced anticipation at the memory - and the time before that, they had been plunged into uncrossable darkness. The one before that, she had barely had an opportunity to mess with Emma's attire past leaving her hair tousled and her muscles weak. Details aside, that one might not have been completely decent. It occurred to Regina that despite these encounters, she hadn't had a chance to admire Emma's naked form for a long time. Now that she did, so many things had changed from how she remembered them. "Where did you get these?"

Emma shrugged. Her feet shuffled across the tiles as she walked over to the tub where Regina was waiting, now leaning on the side of it with one arm in order to get that tiny bit closer to the blonde as if that impacted the situation in any way. "I fall on my knees a lot. You of all people should know that," she explained with a raise of her eyebrow. She arched her back, letting the already unbuttoned plaid shirt, which had been just barely concealing her breasts and hips up to this point, fall to the floor with little grace. Then she dipped one leg in the water, cautiously at first, but upon coming to the conclusion that there was no immediate danger of burns, took her place next to Regina, both up to the second row of their ribs in water.

Regina thought for a moment and then motioned for Emma to move. She knelt behind the blonde with her knees on either side of her, to Emma's confusion. She brushed golden locks away, letting them cascade down the woman's chest. Another discovery made itself clear just then; Regina's brows curled into crooked lines at the sight of another sickly blue patch of skin at the base of Emma's neck, barely grazing her shoulder blade. How exactly had Emma gotten half of these bruises? Glancing down, she noticed more spots on Emma's leopard back. Had it been body paint or a tattoo (and had Regina been the least bit interested in that sort of thing), the pattern might have evoked mild fascination, the way purple and moss blended together in abstract swirls.

Disregarding this inconvenience, or at least not allowing it to interfere with her plans, Regina settled her hands on Emma's shoulders and got to work. "You should let me teach you some of the elegance of magic, dear. Messy fighting with brutes is a pastime below your level," she advised as she pressed the pads of her thumbs down at each side of Emma's spine, kneading the flesh. "You get hurt."

Emma's trapeze muscles tensed beneath her fingers. "There isn't much time, Regina. Let's not waste the little we have for no reason."

Regina remained silent after that, working a different kind of magic, sometimes via pressure, sometimes tracing little spirals on Emma's back with her nails. Let her think the discussion is over for a while. After all, the two lovers had no means of knowing how much longer this arrangement would last. Weeks? Days? Hours? There was something as frightening as it was exhilarating about the uncertainty of it all.

"All of our prisons indeed," she mumbled against Emma's skin, nudging the blonde's earlobe with her nose while pressing a soft kiss on her neck. She could already feel the soft hum of a moan that didn't quite reach past the blonde's vocal chords vibrate underneath her lips. She dragged her hand directly down Emma's spine, pushing each of the vertebrae into position. Regina actually did a little countdown inside her head every time she knew she was about to hit a sensitive spot, and smiled smugly when the sharper breath came - as unwilling as she was to admit it, they both knew Emma was exhausted. Three, two, one, she thought, digging her fingers into place where they embraced the joints. Bingo. As an added bonus, Emma's chin shot up, leaving a vast portion of her neck dangerously uncovered, playing right into the witch's cards.

As she latched onto that slender, creamy neck, it might have occurred to Regina how childish she was being. But she quickly pushed those thoughts away as another countdown, which had started somewhere around Emma's kidney, reached zero. This one, however, worked much better than the others, suspiciously so, and a yelp disturbed the until then monotone chorus of bubbles and foam. Thrown out of balance, Regina looked where she touched her and saw another field of damaged flesh where blood had once - not too long ago - seeped outside its natural barriers, hindered only by the very skin she had just harmed. Her hands automatically inched away from the blonde, sending ripples rolling and rolling across the surface, transforming the sea into a drunken pirate's worst nightmare.

"No," Emma exclaimed a tiny bit too quickly. She scooted backwards so that her body was rubbing against Regina's front, looking over her shoulder. "It's okay."

Interesting.

Very interesting.

"You like this."

Emma's eyes widened, revealing emerald pools in all their sapphic beauty. The girl's hairs rose and she tensed up so guiltily, as if she had just been caught sneaking out the back door of one of her homes. "What?"

Regina sneaked her arms around Emma, wrapping her in a strangler's inescapable embrace. She should have seen. The witch's fingers slithered upward between Emma's breasts before biting into another bruise on Emma's shoulder, one she knew for sure was there as she had been avoiding it carefully. The blonde winced, but made no attempt to flee. "This. You like it," she whispered in her ear and Emma trembled. "You like it when I hurt you, don't you?" No response, save for the biting of a cheek. "But of course, we need proof. In my position, I wouldn't dare elude presumption of innocence."

There was no doubt in Regina's mind by now that Emma was guilty, but after all, toys are meant to be played with. While still holding the blonde close, her other hand moved slowly down between Emma's legs. There was just enough room for her to swipe a nail between Emma's folds.

"Regina," Emma breathed out, and though it was probably meant to threaten, that intention had zero chance of success when Regina brushed against her clit.

Of course the witch had few means of actually seeing the evidence, but the sticky, slimy coat on her finger left little to imagination before it dissolved in the water.

Though it had been obvious from the start, it was with Regina's trademark mocking laugh that the atmosphere shifted in the room. In that moment, even though the water was warm and the body pressed against her warmer, icy needles ran through Emma's body. In this arrangement, she could never be sure whether the person entering her was a mask. It scared and excited her.

"Now why is that, I wonder?" Regina mused. She pretended to ponder the subject deeply while she drew languid straight lines up and down Emma's cunt, sometimes tracing the tip of her clit on a whim, sometimes avoiding it altogether and observing with mild amusement Emma's supposedly subtle attempts to get her there. "You are very adaptable, Miss Swan. Almost like a parasite. Is that it? You've been through so much pain you've decided to turn it into pleasure?"

Emma said nothing, kept her eyes fixed on the pristine white paint of the edge of the tub. She was hell-bent on giving the woman nothing, but her breaking was only a matter of time. Truth be told, at the end of the day, hiding on the other side of the battlefield with the one she would fight at sunrise, Emma needed this.

She needed to be broken.

"Or is it the other way around?" Regina continued, relishing in the gasp she provoked by trapping the blonde's clit between the sides of her fingers and tugging at it lightly. "Poor lonely Emma is too naughty for pleasure? Poor lonely Emma deserves to be punished?"

"Please," Emma finally spoke.

"Please what? 'Please, let me come'?"

"Yes," Emma nodded.

Regina retreated, instead resting her hands on Emma's thighs, pushing them apart. Already she knew just the way to play this. That was her forte, after all; keeping them hanging off the edge until they're convinced she'll step on their fingers, and then keeping them waiting and begging that much longer. "You will not come until I allow you to. Is that clear?"

Emma nodded eagerly and blonde locks tickled the brunette's cheek.

Slowly, like she had all the time in the world, Regina started tracing circles around Emma's breast and then, when her miserably oblivious lover was least expecting it, caught her nipple between her thumb and index finger, twisting it to the point of pain. Her lips curled into a pleased smile when Emma cried. "I asked you a question."

"Yes!"

Regina let go, soothing the pain with gentle caresses. Fascinating, the power she had been bestowed all of a sudden, free of consequences. She wondered how many other things she could make Emma say yes to. Unspeakable things, certainly, but still things that the woman entangled in her arms deep down wanted to agree to, no doubt. How much would it take to convince her Regina would pull her underwater?

And a surprise or two always come in handy, she thought, molding the freezing substance in her grip.

"Where did you-" Emma began, but was quickly cut off by Regina trapping a cube of ice between her palm and Emma's nipple. The effects came instantly; Emma's toes curled and her whole body buzzed with this new sensation. First came a frigid impulse, spreading through her chest and running into her limbs. The shock wave forced Emma's fingers to dig into Regina's knee, upon which Regina noted to herself that neither of them would ever be unmarred again. Then, after the initial surge of coldness, it was quickly replaced by an all too familiar slice through flesh - pain. Emma whimpered.

Regina decided to grant the girl the benefit of distraction, licking behind Emma's earlobe the way she knew would make her writhe for different reasons. "Quiet, Emma."

And Emma was already so close to falling apart in her arms - her whole body shook with her need - but she couldn't. It was cruel. It was Regina. Suddenly, everything she perceived or felt was united by Regina.

"Shhh."

Emma bit down hard on her lip, determined to carry out this one order. And as much as her instinct willed her to fight and scream and run, Regina was stronger than that.

"Good girl," Regina praised, soothing the taut bud by pouring water over it and petting it with her thumb. The relief came like a long-sought oasis to a wandering nomad.

Emma knew what was expected of her when the same battalion of sensations assaulted her other nipple. She did splendidly the second time, and there, right there underneath the ice and the unheard pleas, there was a new kind of warmth still pooling between her legs.

Wrong, so wrong. But there was no time left for shame when Regina dragged what was left of the cube in the general direction of the warmth.

"Don't," Emma mumbled faintly, not even bothering to hide the fact that anything she could say in this situation was destined to lack any level of credibility.

Regina ignored her and pressed the melting ice to Emma's clit.

Emma had to bite down on the back of her hand to keep herself from making a sound. She ground into Regina, trying to avoid the searing cold on the most sensitive part of her to no avail. This test didn't last as long as the other two, yet it was by far the worst to take. When the pain subsided she finally stopped involuntarily attempting to break free, she couldn't go on for much longer. She wanted to turn around and kiss Regina, but was met with firm resistance.

"Are you still wet for me?"

"Yes."

Regina wasn't really expecting an answer, but when Emma said yes moments before her fingers confirmed it, she couldn't stop a smile from creeping up her face. Emma learned fast. Adaptable, like she'd said. "Move over," she commanded, gesturing towards the other end of the tub. Emma obeyed wordlessly, too eager or too ashamed to look Regina in the eye. Excellent. A new idea formed in Regina's head the second Emma sat down. She positioned her knees on either side of the inside of Emma's thighs, facing her. Then she held Emma's chin up and reached for the showerhead. "I want you to look at me when I fuck you. You will not look away, and you will not come until I say you may. Understood?"

She could see a spark of hesitation in those emerald eyes of hers. She snuffed it out. "Yes."

That was all the permission Regina needed. She didn't even give Emma space to breathe before she latched her lips onto the blonde's and aimed a violent stream on her clit, swallowing her moans as if her own life depended on it. Emma's eyelashes were fluttering, and Regina used her other hand to forcefully pull Emma's hair at the roots.

Look.

Emma hooked her arms around Regina's shoulders for the only support she was going to get. One of the bruises on her back was being shoved painfully onto the edge of the tub, but she couldn't care less when at the same time, two of Regina's fingers entered her roughly and started pumping inside her in sync with the pressure on her clit. Regina's back muscles were straining to hold her upright, but the sight of her lover flushed and trembling in ecstasy and the sound of her wanton moans filled her veins with adrenaline.

"Regina, I-"

Regina let go of the showerhead and slapped her across the cheek. "No." For a split second, there was a brief flash of anger, impatience and downright misery in Emma's expression when their eyes locked again - it shouldn't have felt as familiar as it did - before it receded in favor of lust in its purest form. Regina corkscrewed her fingers.

"Please!"

Emma was fighting a losing battle to not break the gaze again when every neuron she had that was still operational told her to let go, to pull herself closer to Regina and absorb all there was to give. She was losing it, trying desperately to delay her pleasure as her hips uncooperatively refused not to buck into Regina, meeting her knuckles with every thrust.

Frowning at her disobedience, Regina withdrew her fingers and instead locked them firmly around Emma's throat, sticky with a mixture of water and Emma herself. "I said no."

Emma needed to run.

"Stop!" Emma choked, letting go of her lover altogether and pushing the older woman away full force.

It was like that time, with the exception of Regina's grasp stifling several extra decibels. Her voice. She had heard it once before. It was like the last time Regina had crossed a line she never should have approached. It was like the last time Emma had been truly frightened because of her, the last time terror seeped through the marrow of her every bone. The last time Regina used magic on her, before the arrangement, before the secret meetings in the orchard, before when there was no one there to save her but Regina's so-called mercy.

They stared at each other, both breathing heavily, with drops of water dripping down their hair, one positively more disgruntled at the loss of contact than the other. The shower was still running. Finally Emma broke and sighed, shaking her head. She shied away when Regina reached out to touch her.

"You don't trust me." It came out as half a statement and half a question. Regina nodded to herself, her own confirmation of what she had known long ago touching something inside of her no one was ever meant to know existed, let alone see.

Emma's head shot up in an obvious prelude to 'Of course I do!' but no words came out. Her mouth was open, her eyes defiant, but there was no sound except for the background hiss of running water, and the longer she waited, the clearer the answer became. Gradually, what started out as a protest became 'How can I?' and then 'How could I when I know who you are?'

"It's late," Emma said. "I have to get going."

And Regina let her, despite not having to. "Yes, too late," she nodded, tears in her eyes, when the sounds of clothing being hastily buttoned ceased playing in her head.