A Tender Thing

"Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
Too rude, too boist'rous; and it pricks like thorn." ---Shakespeare

Slamming the door open Tessa looked up just in time to see the captain grimaced in pain as Dr. Helm stitched the last thread into his left shoulder.

She smiled brightly at the doctor and greeted the two men.

Glaring hatefully at the man who just finished stitching up his wounds, Captain Marcus Grisham of the distinguished Montoya's army nearly screamed when a small finger pushed slowly into a fresh purple bruise.

"Doctor, I think you missed a spot." Tessa wondered out loud.

Turning his attention from the doctor to the dark beauty in front of him. "It's fine! Nothing a salve won't do." Grabbing a random jar, he strained to apply the medicine on his back.

Dr. Helm and Tessa both watched in silent merriment as the poor captain swiveled around and around vainly reaching for the injury on his back.

"Will someone help me!" He glowered at his audience.

At that moment a small boy ran into the office and looked up to Robert Helm. "Doctor! Doctor Helm! Please! There's been an accident! My papa…he fell off the roof…You must to get to the farm right now!" Without blinking an eye, the doctor set in motion to grab his black satchel and hurried after the young child.

"Senorita Alvarado, I suggest you help the captain with his wounds! I have to leave right now!" He yelled at her without looking back, there were more important things he must attend to.

Staring wide-eyed after the doctor, Tessa felt the room shrank and the tension went up several levels. Turning around she caught the captain's rakish grin at her behind.

"I guess it's just you and me, huh." Grisham smiled wildly at Tessa, tossing the jar at her. "You heard what the doctor said, don't just stand there!"

Inside she was irritated that she's playing nurse to the insufferable git but she brightened as a plan formed in her mind. Smirking at his state of undress and his wounded body, she strolled up to him and leisurely rubbed the salve onto his back. Putting the jar on the table, she started to massage the rest of his pain filled contusions.

"Oh….that's nice." His entire body tingled at the soft pats and strong kneads.

"You like that?" She whispered seductively into his ear.

"Mmmmhmmm." He whimpered back.

"Too bad you're not gonna enjoy it." She suddenly stopped her ministrations and stepped back. "That's what you get for being rude."

"What!" Snapping out of his reverie, Grisham immediately cursed the gods for creating someone as exasperatingly beautiful as Tessa Alvarado. He couldn't figure out whether to snap back or shove her against the wall and ravage her senseless.

His body ached for her touch and his head was lightheaded from the morphine shots that the doctor gave him. He eventually did the unthinkable. Captain Grisham apologized.

"I'm sorry…" He grumbled into his hands.

"What? I didn't hear you. Did you say something?" She mocked his earlier wild grin.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" He gave up. Sometimes it was easier to give in to her demands. He rather win in the bedroom than arguing about petty nonsense in the day. Besides, he was curious why she came to the doctor's office, most of the time they tried to avoid each other as much as possible. However, one of them would end up in the other's bed chamber the same night. Needless to say, it added a sense of danger and excitement to their relationship (as if they needed more).

"That's better. Apology accepted. So what happened this time? I heard that you were nearly run over by Don Hidalgo's prize bull. I couldn't believe it so I had to come over to see for myself."

"Did Vera snitch on me again? Yeah, I was at his ranch. Some banditos were stealing his beloved longhorns and he feared that his bull might be the next target. None of my soldiers could get the bull into the new corral so I decided to lure the brute in. All I did was wave your red sash and he came charging at me!"

"Hahaha! You are something, Captain Grisham! I'm glad you are not seriously hurt. No bleeding internal organs? No fractured ribs this time? Somehow you're always getting injured one way or another. I can't stop you but you really have to be careful. But then again, it's through one ear and out the other." She sighed. Tessa knew Grisham's crazy adventures will never stop, but she secretly hoped that by being with her he would think with his head instead of his other more endowed feature.

"Hey what 'bout you? I constantly worry about that ass of yours. Fighting twenty armed men by yourself last week wasn't something a typical senorita do around here. Besides, I'm use to the rough and tumble, I don't know if you can take it if you broke a nail." He replied snidely.

"I don't break my nails! Let's see if you can cry 'mother' once I break yours." Tessa shot back.

In an instant, Grisham's tall frame intruded her personal space and his sparkling blue eyes taunted her in reply.

Tessa couldn't decide whether to hit him or kiss him. She figured he had enough injuries to last through the next year. She might as well do the latter.

Their kisses were always unique. Each one never felt the same. However, each can remember the other's familiar curves and tastes. The kisses were sensual and demanding and explosive. It is as if they were wrong for each other, as wrong as mixing gas and fire together. Altogether forbidden and alluring at the same time.

Grabbing a hold of her skirt, Grisham hiked up the hem until the exposed creamy leg was in his sight. Pushing her until her back bumped into the doctor's desk, he eagerly kissed the weak spot below her earlobe. Tessa's legs were ready to crumble beneath if Grisham wasn't there to support her. Steadily kissing his way down her neck, he deftly removed her white blouse.

"Marcus! Not here! Dr. Helm might be…" He kissed her.

"Even better here." He smiled at her shock.

She groaned as he continued to massage her thigh and lick her collarbone. Although she would never admit it to anyone, the captain has a special knack for making her weak in the knees. A tender kiss on her earlobe or a rough bite on her neck can make her starry eyed in mere seconds. He didn't know it, but a she felt a small piece of heaven every time he showered his loving attention on her. She couldn't figure out how easily he can just ignore her in public and yet, stubbornly kept her by his side during their many midnight rendezvous.

Staring down at her expressions, he grinned in his kisses. She made him feel loved. All his life he chased after this nebulous concept. This ephemeral emotion that he never got to experience himself. As a deprived orphan throughout his childhood, he never had parents or relatives to love him. He turned to crime to feed his needs. His countless lovers always left him empty and lonely inside. He bedded numerous women to find that spark. The light he desperately tried to find in the dark.

Marcus Grisham finally realized that he didn't need to sleep with someone to love her. The moment he saw Tessa at the beach during their first "date" he felt the spark. During their fights when Tessa was the Queen of Swords, he felt alive. Every time Tessa looked him in the eye, he felt his heart swell and strong protective instincts took over. He made a vow a long time ago that he would never let anyone hurt the woman now wrapped tightly in his arms.

Noticing his lack of movement, Tessa looked up. "Marcus?" Her velvet voice pulled him from his thoughts. "Did I hurt you?"

Smiling at her concern, he quickly undid her belt. "I know how you can apologize."

Tessa groaned as Grisham slowly eased his hand up to her stomach.

She rasped out. "You are evil incarnate. I swear if the doctor walks in on us…I…I…will throw you to the bull myself."

"So what? It's worth it. Besides, it won't take long. The doctor will never know what happened." His wolfish grin was enough to make her yell out in frustration. But she calmed herself down. Tessa decided that she might as well enjoy his company while they have some free time. Both of them had been really busy with their duties and today was a lucky coincidence that the captain and the senorita were finally in the same room together.

She cried out when Grisham accidentally rubbed against her dark bruise along her thigh.

"Hey watch it." She glared playfully as Grisham frowned at her thigh.

"When did you get this? You may hate me getting in trouble all the time, but you should look after yourself too!" He looked into her dark eyes. A silent message passed across the small space between them.

She huffed. Tessa finally relented. She usually doesn't want Grisham to worry about her. Before she could stop herself, she retorted, "I'm careful. What about those frequent times you tried putting that lovely sword of yours into me?"

Grisham's usually cerulean eyes turned shadowy. He slowly leaned down and kissed the purple stain on her otherwise perfect skin. He stroked her leg thoughtfully.

"I'm sorry." He murmured. If Tessa hadn't listened carefully she would've missed the apology.

"Marcus…don't…you didn't know…and you don't have to say sorry every time something happens." She held his face in her hands and stared into his dark pools revealing the past memories of their fatal encounters.

"Besides…when did you start apologize all the crazy stuff you did? Remember you stole the antidote during the fever epidemic from Dr. Helm? And you had the audacity to try to get me in bed with you!" She smirked at his smiling expression.

"By the way you missed the part when we made out. That was helluva kiss. You loved it…" In an instant Grisham's playboy persona came to the forefront.

"Helluva kiss, huh?" She imitated his drawl. "I bet it couldn't compete with this one."

Tessa proceeded to knock his brain cells senseless with a heat-searing kiss. As the kiss tapered off she languidly traced his lips with the tip of her tongue.

"You will be the end of me." He declared into her neck as he took a look at her heavy lid eyes.

"Hmmm…mmm…the kiss of death…how appropriate." Her toothy smile made him laugh.

A/N: I wrote this piece as a companion to Searching for a Meaning and Change…This story happens after SfaM or Change (depending on which one you read). My take on what their interactions would be like after the initial confessions and fights. Enjoy!

I also might continue with another short-story to this piece but I'm not sure. Depends if the fans like it! (hint: feedback!) Thanks!