- Generalizing our recent work on relativistic generalizations of the quantum theory of atoms in molecules, we present the general setting under which the principle of stationary action for a region leads to open quantum subsystems. The approach presented here is general and works for any Hamiltonian, and when a reasonable Lagrangian is selected, it often leads to the integral of the Laplacian of the electron density on the region vanishing as a necessary condition for the zero-flux surface. Alternatively, with this method, one can design a Lagrangian that leads to a surface of interest (though this Lagrangian may not be, and indeed probably will not be, "reasonable"). For any reasonable Lagrangian for the electronic wave function and any two-component method (related by integration by parts to the Hamiltonian) considered, the Bader definition of an atom is recaptured. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.