Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine. Too bad, eh?

And I've mastered

The art of dealing;

Slipping away

Without falling apart

(Raining in Athens by Azure Ray)

She had become masterfully adept at it—walking the fine line between breaking away and breaking apart.

"Nnhg. Oh… god… Ahh. Fu—ck!"

Of course, said skill tended to vanish (as though she had not spent the entirety of her adult years perfecting the practice) while under the talented hands of a certain Miss Emma Swan.

Regina could not have said what, exactly, about the woman pushed her, seemingly at once, towards both ends of the spectrum. She could only say that the blonde made her want to run away from Storybrooke (to cower in some new place, halfway across the world) and, at the same time, stay there for eternity, permitting her old self to be demolished (Emma Swan chipping away at her with the grace and subtlety of a sledgehammer).

"What's that, Madam Mayor? Are you hav—having trouble articulating yourself?"

She would have liked to respond to the taunt, but (as was frustratingly— and wonderfully— typical) Emma's fingers curl at just the right moment, cutting off any higher brain function that would have allowed for a witty retort. Instead, she is left with this:


Before Emma (before the introduction of beautiful chaos), she had held control; control over her schedule (no unexpected visits or fires or chainsaws), her son (no sneaking out or walkie-talkies), her town (no purple mists or returning memories) and (god, oh, god) most definitely her body (no coerced moans or involuntary shudders or groaned swears or breathed names). But control has been torn away, bit by bit, until she is nothing more than a shell of her former self, trembling and waiting for someone (or, rather, Emma, because who else? Who else?) to land the final blow that will shatter her into a million pieces too dull to be of any use (like bits of windshield glass).

"God. You're so fucking beautiful when you let go."

Typically, she abhors swearing—it's crass and overdramatic. And she hates when Emma does it (hates it more when Emma makes her do it). But as Emma watches her come down from her high (breathless and overwhelmed with the recent wash of sensation), Regina can't muster any annoyance (she never can; not just after Emma's made her like this). She can hardly do anything, really—only think that if she doesn't leave soon, she will surely be unmade, maybe within the week.

What has caught Regina off guard is how good the process feels, when the breaking is done like this (with clever hands and hazel eyes). It's nothing like the sort of breaking that is done with poisonous words and removed hearts. It's crossed Regina's mind a few times (and does again in that very moment of calm and nothingness and contentment that only Emma can give) that maybe then, this breaking that the blonde is so masterfully executing isn't much of a breaking at all.

But what else can it be, when Regina is so clearly being dismantled; screws removed and pieces separated like one of Henry's action figures?

"Mmm. You know, sometimes it even surprises me how good I am." Emma slides off of her, fingers trailing over sweaty skin, and ends up nestled into the brunette's side. "Good thing Henry's over at... his… uh… grandparents."

After letting hate build for so long, Regina had still been ill-equipped to steel her heart against that very first moment of pure, selfless love. It had been for Henry, of course, in that instant (a stretch of time that felt as frozen and cold as the twenty-eight years her curse had reigned without a single faltering) when he was taken, and then brought back by a simple gesture that she never could have foreseen. She had been aware of her genuine care and affection for Henry, of course, but the force of her feelings when he had been honest-to-god gone and the flood of relief (so strong it nearly blocked out the worry of the curse's breaking) suggested something a bit more than caring—something she had no longer thought herself capable of.

"I haven't made you to lose the ability to speak, have I?"

Regina can't help but respond to the words, delivered as they are with a teasing tone and mischievous smirk. Her hand slips around to brush over Emma's cheek, and then higher to sweep sweaty strands of blonde off of her forehead. That same forehead furrows at the gesture (always so suspicious when Regina acts too sweet).


The former Evil Queen (funny, to think of herself in such a way, now) swallows heavily, and pursed lips are added to Emma's creased brow.

"Regina what's wrong?"

And Regina knows immediately after the question is asked, what the answer is.

She's in love with Emma Swan.

Because that's it, isn't it? That's the explanation for it all. And she should have known, but how could she have, really? When love is the tool used to break a person, how can anyone possibly think that same tool will allow them to be remade? Odd that it almost feels the same this time around—as in how pleasure sometimes feels like pain or love like hate— because in both cases she is being turned into something new.

It's like this: love will now have shattered her twice— first, its loss lead to the breaking of a young girl into shards of herself. The years put them back together in a way that was fundamentally wrong— in a way that caused the shards to cut into her (into those who dared to get close) with every movement, every action. And now she is being fragmented again— but it's a relief because maybe this time, her rebuilding will bring about a woman with pieces that fit together a bit more carefully; a woman with cracks, to be sure, but without so many jagged edges.

The more she thinks about it, the more it makes sense, and in the moment, she decides maybe she should stop with her balancing act, and let herself fully fall (break apart) and let Emma put all those pieces back together in a way that will not corrupt or tear.

So she does what Emma has always said is so beautiful, and she lets go.

"I love you."

Of course, it's Emma that almost does the falling—literally. She nearly rolls off the bed in surprise. Her eyes widen comically and her mouth gapes open in a way that should be unattractive (but it's not, of course it's not). Regina has to hold back a laugh because it's all just too much, in the best way possible, but then she remembers she's not holding back anymore and she lets the laugh escape. It's a good start, she thinks.

"You— you what?"

"I—" It's harder the second time, now that Emma's gazing at her with eyes that are still wide, but now starting to water a bit, becoming glassy with unshed tears. And Regina doesn't know what to do with that. So she just forges ahead before her laughter dies down and the panic settles in. "I love you."

"You—"A few tears pool in the corners of Emma's eyes and then streak downwards, leaving gleaming trails on her cheeks. She wipes them away almost furiously. "Dammit! I—"

Regina isn't sure what she expected, but this, perhaps, isn't it. She should be nervous, maybe, or upset, but she's not; she's broken apart now—just waiting for Emma to start putting her back together in whatever why she feels fit.

"Regina—shit—I'm sorry—I'm just—" Emma apparently runs out of words then, because she stops trying to explain herself, and instead takes Regina's face and gently, gently cups it with both hands. It's so unusual for them, the tenderness, but then, so are the tears and the confessions and the feelings (Regina's not sure that she hates it, even a little). "I've never had—and I wasn't—I just didn't think you…"


"Would," Emma corrects. "But I—you know—I love you, too."

Regina feels the first piece click into place.

And knows the others will follow.