Every time, without fail, when Regina and I go separate ways, whether it’s for a few minutes or a fews days, I tell her, “Be careful.” It’s not a request; it’s a demand, as much as I dare to order her around. And it’s become a compulsion. I can’t stand to let her leave my sight without hearing those words. As if she doesn’t remember the last hundred times I've said them. But if I’m letting her leave me, I tell her, “Be careful.”
And when she asks me about it one day, I tell her it’s because I want her to be safe. I want her to be mindful of her surroundings when I can’t be there to protect her — she scoffs at that, rolls her eyes with an easy smile, insists that she has much better instincts and reflexes than me, and I can’t really argue with that because I’ve seen her do that Xena arrow-grab move, but that’s so not the point, and she knows it because her smile turns smug — or lend another set of eyes. Or a set of badass magic hands as the case is lately. She tells me I look like I’m training to be a torero when I throw magic, and I know my cheeks are red even as I grin and roll my eyes now because whatever, okay. It works for me. The Savior is allowed a few quirks.
But as much as I want to, I can’t always be there, and this town is a dangerous place. There’s fucking wraiths, and wicked witches, and Sleepy behind the wheel - oh, that smoke demon thing a while ago. You never know what’s next. A piano could fall from the sky, and oh my god—
“Be careful, okay?”
And I wait for her response because she’s not leaving without telling me she hears me.
She nods, tells me to do the same.
So, yeah, one reason I tell her to be careful is because I want her to be safe, and I worry about her.
It’s not a lie.
But the bigger reason, the real reason I say it, the reason I can’t admit to her, is because I’m selfish.
It’s horrible, and I realize that. Hey, at least I know what I am.
I say it, and it’s selfish, because I’ve never loved anyone like I’ve love her. My love for that woman, it’s raw. Desperate. I can feel my lips scorch it into her neck, my palms scald it into her hips when she’s under me, over me, next to me, over me again. And she accepts it, returns it, inflames it with every shaky breath, every score of her passion down my back, over my ribs, behind my thighs. As I cling to her, I lose track of how many times I’ve let her name sink into that smooth, olive skin, even as pearlescent teeth sink into mine.
I give her my fire, and she accepts it, returns it, makes it burn brighter with every brush of her lips against my collarbone, down my chest, over my stomach. And there. "Yes, right there." Until finally, right before we might immolate and set the town ablaze, our touches gentle. Smolder into something slow and tender, and all I can do is bask in her lambency. Try to catch my breath as I roll onto my back and set glazed eyes on the ceiling. It's when I hear her breathing begin to slow that I turn towards her and find her watching me with that easy smile again. It plucks at my heartstrings, and I’m a half-charred puppet made to dance just for her. I find myself smiling back before I'm even aware of the urge.
When she gets dressed and ready to leave, after she’s walked through the living room of my apartment to the front door, just before her fingers graze the doorknob is when I say, “Be careful,” because I’ve never fully trusted my heart to anyone before. But there she came, perfectly broken and so beautiful, so breathtaking that the only tribute I could think to give, the only thing I could think to do, was to carve out my heart and place it in her hands. And to trust someone like that, it doesn’t come second nature to me. I’m stubborn and irreverent and sealed-off, and haha, you can’t hurt me. There’s a fortress around this heart. I’m too smart for your trickery.
But she didn’t need to. And if I think about, she never did.
Because somehow I forgot that my fortress has windows, and I looked out one day. I can’t remember if it was my choice, or if she called out to me, but I do know I looked out. Saw her hurling a fucking fireball. Perfectly aimed to shatter those panes, and all I could do was duck and hope the cuts wouldn’t burn too much where the glass clung to my skin. And she says I’m the hooligan.
She bobs her head once with a smirk and leaves my sight.
God, it’s almost embarrassing, really. I mean to tell her so many things. All the time. Like now, when she's leaning into me, and I see her eyes darken as she says my name. When she grips my collar, slides her fingers through the hair at the base of my neck. I can’t help but shiver.
I’m getting better at it, you know, at using my words to tell her how I feel. Though there are still times when they get caught on the pride in my throat, crammed in a lump so tight it’s almost too hard to breathe around them. But then, I see her with searching eyes, and I shove my humbled hands down my throat to pry them out.
But sometimes it’s her hands, her fingers that curl and twist and flutter to coax them out of me as she whispers in my ear that, “Shhh. It’s okay. Let go.” And they come out a bit mangled and jumbled then. Broken up by shuddering breaths and not quite what I wanted to say when the words shot from my heart to my brain, routed down to my mouth, but they're my words to her, and they make her happy. She lets her lips curve up a little into that carefree smile that I love so much. It's not a big, toothy grin like mine. But her eyes are soft as down, and that tells me so much more. Those other words might be hard to get out, but there’s one thing I can always tell her.
When we walk out of the diner and see the sky turning black, the wind whipping through the streets, the unearthly glow of magic in the distance, I turn to her, and I say, “Be careful," because I have no idea what the hell is going on. There’s something bad coming, and we might get separated in whatever mayhem has perched on the town.
So I say the words because I’ve changed since finding her. Because I trusted myself to her. Not that she gave me much choice, but how dare she, how dare she go and do something stupid now, something inane like getting hurt when I trust her.
How dare she risk leaving me broken and drowning in a way that I never would’ve been, should’ve been until she sauntered her way into my heart like she had every right to be there.
Like she owned the place.
Like some arrogant fairytale queen.
How dare she because she makes me happy, and I’m not ready to give that up. I will never be ready to give that up.
So I say the words, and I mean it for me. It’s selfish, and I can’t help it. I don’t care. I don’t.
It’s not I love you. It’s dear God, woman, I need you, and please, please remember that.
I say the words and scream the rest with my eyes, feel my hands flex anxiously.
“Be careful, Regina.”
She nods, and she smiles like she always does, but it’s doleful and knowing now. She steps into me, presses a kiss to my lips, and takes my hand.
So I take a deep breath, nod back. And we walk into the chaos together.