Required Reading

I don't own anything Star Wars, Star Trek, The Dark Knight Rises, The Fantastic Four, or Ninja Assassin. Characters you don't recognize belong exclusively to me. I tend to pair male protagonists with women of color, specifically black women. If this poses a problem with your ability to suspend disbelief, then this fanfic blog isn't for you. Otherwise, do enjoy.


Lovesick (5/?)

5: Secret Heart

Victor followed them to Hainan.  They had a suite at the Renaissance Sanya Resort, and so did he.  But he would try to keep his distance; he didn’t want to Nedra to be creeped out by his actions.  Just the opposite.  So he did his best to be inconspicuous but also keep an eye on the loving couple.  Watching them was a very enlightening experience and it drew him into introspection.  Nedra was a devoted researcher, but she had a full life outside of that lab. 

The realization gave Victor pause and made him think about himself, Reed and Sue.  Johnny had a life as far as Victor knew; he was an adrenaline junkie who was being forced by his father to participate in the project.  But him and the others…they lived, breathed, and ate their work, and while that was necessary in order to achieve needed breakthroughs, it wasn’t a full life.  Victor was no longer sure it was even a happy one.  It was just what he did—what they did.  The work was what mattered; the questions that drove them.  It was true of Nedra as a research chemist, but somewhere along the line, she found a way to balance her work and personal life.  She knew how to enjoy herself and not be wholly consumed by her research.

This was something Victor had to seriously consider if he really wanted Nedra.  If his goal was for her to choose him, he had to learn how to achieve a similar balance.  He supposed he could; he had certainly taken time away from the transporter work to follow her halfway around the world…but could he have fun with her?  What kind of fun could they have?  He couldn’t let her get bored; not when she had a mate who was as adventurous and spontaneous as she clearly was.

Nedra and Jon knew how to enjoy themselves.  They snorkeled, swam in the ocean, parasailed, took boat rides, explored caves and traveled zip lines.  They did whatever activity took their fancy.  They engaged.  Sometimes they ate at the nice resort restaurants; other times they found cheap bars and slummed a little.  Victor realized that there wasn’t anything they as a couple wouldn’t try.  It was disheartening as he recalled Nedra saying that Jon was her perfect match.  How could he compete with that?

He’d figure it out, that was for sure.

One particular night, they were at a beachside cantina with live musicians.  Nedra looked very pretty; she wore a flowy, sleeveless green dress and her braids were styled becomingly and she wore a huge flower tucked behind one ear.  They were sitting near the makeshift stage, closer than close, enjoying the live music.  The band was a simple duo: a guitar player and drummer.  The music wasn’t amazing; they were doing covers, but the booze was flowing, the food was good, and it was a beautiful night.

To hype the crowd, one of the musicians invited a guest to come to the stage and do a little improv.  Victor was sitting as far back as he could, actually enjoying the atmosphere.  Then he noticed Nedra stand up and grab Jon’s hand and pull him toward the stage.  “He can play,” she said, grinning.  Jon turned and kissed her on the lips before walking up.

“You got a song in mind, patna?” the guitarist asked.  “You play?”

Jon looked at Nedra and she beamed, mouthing the words.  Then he looked at the guitarist.  “Yep.”

The musician nodded and removed his guitar from his shoulder and presented it to Jon.  “Have at it, then.”  He adjusted the mic to Jon’s height as Jon put the guitar on and adjusted the strap.

Nedra was still standing and clapped.  “Go for it, baby!”  She loved it when he got all musical, for it was rare.

Jon tuned the guitar and when he was satisfied, nodded to the drummer.  Then he began with a wicked riff.  The drummer recognized the riff immediately and dropped the beat.  Nedra jumped up and down and began to sing along with Jon.

“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you
“When you’re dead and in your grave/no more women will you crave
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you

The audience clapped along and Victor had to admit the man had a decent voice and could play very well.  Nedra let out a yelp of joy and began moving her hips to the beat.  Jon looked at her and smiled as she continued to mouth the words to his sing-along.

“Trust you in my home/you rascal you
“Trust you in my home/you rascal you
“You know I trust you in my home/you wouldn’t leave my poor wife alone
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you

Jon went into the guitar solo and played it like a boss.  Nedra moved back and forth, shaking her hips, clapping and whistling.  Some of the patrons were paying more attention to her than Jon’s performance; clapping and wolf-whistling at the braided beauty.  Jon’s playing started drawing a crowd.

“You asked my wife to wash your clothes/you rascal you
“You asked my wife to wash your clothes/you rascal you
“You asked my wife to wash your clothes/and something else I suppose
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you

"WHOOOOOO!" Nedra yelled.

“I’ll be oh so glad when you’re dead/you rascal you
“I’ll be so glad when you’re dead/you rascal you
“I’ll be standing on a corner full of gin/when they bring your dead body in
“I’ll be glad when you’re dead/you rascal you

Jon ended the song much as he began it and Nedra led the rest of the audience in a round of applause.  Jon removed the guitar and handed it back to the musician, who gave him a hearty handshake.

“That wasn’t bad, guy.  You play for real?”

“Naah,” Jon said, bringing Nedra in for a hug.  “Just for kicks.  My girl loves that song.”

“Well that’s disappointing.  We could have turned this into a trio tonight.”

Jon shrugged, grinning.  “Maybe with someone else.  Thanks for letting me play. Don’t do it much.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jon.  Jon Holland.  And this is my lady, Nedra.”

“Jon, Nedra.  I’m Artis and that’s Mike.” He nodded towards the drummer.  “The rest of your drinks for the night are on us.  Thanks for being a great sport.”

“For free drinks?  Bet your ass,” Jon said.  The audience clapped for him once more as he and Nedra took their seats.

When they sat back down, Nedra planted a juicy kiss on his lips.  “I was hoping we’d run up on something like this.  I love hearing you play.  And I love that damn song.”

“I’m sorry I don’t get to do it enough for you, Roxy.  It seems like there’s just not enough time to do everything we want to do.”

“Aw, it’s no big deal,” she said.  “But I love that you did it for me tonight.”

The waitress brought them their drinks: pretty, frothy colorful combinations sure to knock a lightweight on their ass…which neither Jon nor Nedra were.  Then Nedra excused herself and Jon perused the menu, thinking about what they wanted to eat.  He was hungry.  After this, they were going to take a nighttime stroll and get up to whatever shenanigans they could for two more days before heading back to New York.  Jon had to be in Kosovo in ten days and he wasn’t thrilled to be leaving Nedra again.  But it was the way their lives had been for four years, and she never complained.

They spoke of marriage earlier in their relationship.  Jonathan would have been fine—proud—to put papers on Nedra, but Nedra was against it.  She believed that marriage ruined relationships due to the weight of unmet expectations.  Their relationship as it is was uncomplicated.  He worked crazy jobs for long periods of time and she’d go weeks without seeing him.  She could get caught up in her research and work crazy hours and there would be days when they barely communicated via text.  She said that they were both free to do exactly as they pleased, but once they got married, circumstances dictated differently.  Jon knew her parents divorced when she was in high school and she felt a kind of way about it all. 

Nedra asked him if he wanted to get married; if he would be happier if they were man and wife, and he told her he didn’t want anything she didn’t want.  She promptly said that she was perfectly happy being his longtime love and life partner.  And that was that.

“I need to go to the ladies’ room,” she said in his ear.  “Order for me.  Something seafoody and fried.”

“All right,” he said.

Nedra kissed his cheek, grabbed her bag and went hunting for the cantina restroom.

Victor watched her go, rubbing his lips with his fingers.  He waited a moment, then he got up and walked towards their table.  Jon was perusing the menu carefully as he sipped on a beer.

“Excuse me.”

Jon looked up.  “Yes?”  Then he gave Victor a once-over.  “I know you from somewhere?”

“Actually you do,” Victor said, extending his hand.  “We met in Shanghai, in an elevator.  The name is Victor.”

Jon shook his hand.  “Jon Holland.  What are you doing here?”

“Tour of China.  Been to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and this is my last stop before I head back west.”

Jon nodded.  “I remember you.”

“If you’ll forgive me,” Victor said, “I have to admit that our origins go back farther than that elevator.  I know your girlfriend.”

Jon put the menu down, curious. “You know Roxy?”

“I know her as Nedra.  Dr. Nedra Nix.  She’s a research chemist at the Baxter Building.  And a ex-Marine.”

“Former Marine.  Who are you?”

“Victor von Doom.”

Jon leaned back and folded his arms.  “Keep talking.”

“I’m the one Franklin Storm sent Nedra to recruit that night.”

“Oh. You’re the asshole that took her phone and hung up on me?”

Victor shrugged, palms out.   “Guilty.  She was in the process of convincing me to go back to work.  I didn’t want to, but her arguments were compelling before you called.”

“Apparently it took a long time.  We had a date that night.”

“I was rude to her,” Victor said.  “I’m an asshole; I’ll own that, and I was giving her a lot of grief and hostility because I didn’t want to go back.  My last stint there didn’t end well and…”

“Roxy explained that you’d been a shut-in by choice.  And that you were nuttier than a pack of Snickers.”

Victor smirked.  “Is that how she described me?”

“She said you were being extremely difficult, but she’s loyal to Dr. Storm and will do anything he asks.  Her success rate in accomplishing his tasks is 100%, but she did say you were her toughest assignment.”

“Guilty again.  I gotta tell you something, though.”

Jon picked up his beer and took a drink.  “What?”

“Truth is, I thought she was hot and used every trick I could think of to keep her around.  Before she walked into my house, I hadn’t had any contact with any real live people for three years.”

Jon’s expression had not changed.  “Is that right?”

“And in strolls this gorgeous woman, strapped with a gun and knife and threatened to use both on me if I didn’t go with her.  I had an instant response.”

Jon smiled.  “Sounds like my Roxy.”  She rarely went unarmed.

“I thought she was sexy as hell.  It was like a dream; I was playing Modern Warfare and listening to the Goldberg Variations while dicking around in an engineering chat room when she came calling, representing the USMC with layers of pride and I admit, I wanted her.”

“We’re both former Marines,” Jon said.  “And of course you did.  I know who and what Roxy is, and I’ve seen men lose their shit over her.  But as I told you in the elevator, I trust her so it doesn’t matter if you wanted her that night.  You still want her because you’re here now.  I’m no dummy, Victor.  You practically eye-fucked her in the elevator and that makes this impromptu meeting quite suspect.”

“It’s not.  I just thought we should meet.  I never expected to run into you guys again and when I saw your performance—which was solid, by the way, I was compelled to come up.  Where is she?”

“She made a ladies’ run.  She’ll be back soon.”  Jon paused for a long moment then extended his hand.  “Well, we’ve met, Victor.  Pleasure talking to you, but I gotta order a meal for Roxy and me.  Safe travels.”

Victor shook his hand, understanding that Jon had nothing more to say to him. “Same to you.  Good night.”

He got up and went back into his corner seat, settling down with tequila as the duo geared up for another set.


Nedra was on her way back to her seat when she saw Jon talking to Victor.  Anger twisted her features as she wondered two things: one—what in the fuck was he still doing in China when she told his crazy ass to go home, and two—what the fuck was he doing talking to Jon?

Part of her wanted to march over there and shut his bullshit down.  But another part, her deeper self, her secret heart, told her to wait.  Victor was up to something and whatever it was, Jon wasn’t especially pleased about it.   Nedra balled her fists and thought about going over to Victor and knocking him clean the fuck out.  She could do it with one punch.  Better her than Jon.  A punch from Jon would put him in the hospital.  But maybe the asshole deserved it.  How dare he ignore her wishes?!

Calm down, Nedra.  Don’t rush into this; think about it.  Don’t show your hand.  Don’t let him see you sweat.  Think of what he said and then think of logical countermoves.  Whatever they talked about, Jon will tell you if he deems it worthy for you to know.  But wait.  Wait.  You’ll deal with Victor in time and in your own way.

Soon, Victor left and she watched him go back to his seat in the rear of the cantina.  Nedra straightened her face and went back over to her seat.  Jon was studying the menu.  Nedra sat down and rubbed his arm.  “What are we eating, baby?”

“I was thinking about this fried seafood platter.  It’s got fish, clams, shrimp, hush puppies, and crab cakes.  Side of corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.”

Nedra grinned.  “Aw, that sounds great!”

He looked at her and kissed her lips.  “Done and done, my love.  One platter?  I can ask them to double the shrimp and fish.”

“Yes,” she said.  “And then what do you saw we walk back to our hotel?”

He took a long drink of beer.  “I’ll say yes.”

Nedra scratched the back of his head.  Yeah, whatever Victor’s insane ass said bothered him enough that the usual smile he had was absent.


Jon held Nedra’s sandals in one hand and her hand in the other as they walked back to their hotel.

“You remember that guy in Shanghai?  The one in the elevator?”

“Him?  Yeah.”

“Do you know him?”

“Yeah.  Do you remember that scientist I was sent to recruit?  The asshole who hung up on you?”

“Yeah.  He came over to me while you were gone.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah, he described the night you came over to recruit him.  Which makes it interesting that you didn’t have more to say to him in the elevator that night?”

“Babe, I had two things on my mind that night…and Victor wasn’t either of them.  It actually kind of surprised me that he was there and I didn’t have anything to say other than hello.  I was trying to get you back to the hotel and have my way with you."

“He likes you.  In fact, ‘like’ may be too light a term.  ‘Crush’ comes closer, but I think there’s a shady undercurrent to his.”

Nedra stared at him.  “Really?”

“Roxy, he followed you from New York.  It certainly wasn’t me he was chasing.  He’s like a kid in high school with a crush on the head cheerleader.  The kind that follows her around covertly, wondering what it would be like to kiss her and hold her hand, and maybe think less than savory thoughts about what it would be like to have her.  Yeah, he made no secret about his attraction to you.”

“Honestly Jon, once I got him back to work, I never gave him another thought.”  This was mostly true.

“I know.  But I got a question, Roxy.”

Nedra enjoyed the feel of the sand between her toes.  Their hotel was not far away.  “What is it, baby?”

“Do you find him attractive?”

“Keria calls him Count Cutie because he’s from Latveria.  Yeah, he’s attractive enough, I guess.  Why are you asking?  He’s not you, Jon, if you’re concerned.”

“Baby, in ten days I’ll be in Kosovo, and likely there for six or more weeks.  You have been unbelievable since I’ve been home and some times I feel like I can’t keep up.”

“But you have.  You do.  You satisfy the hell out of me.  You’ve never heard me complain.  What’s going on, baby?”

He stopped, squeezing her hand.  Nedra turned to face him.  “Baby…what’s going on?”  She was even more pissed with Victor now, seeing Jon’s expression.  What in the hell did he say to him?

“I love you, Roxy.  You were my friend through some rough times and somewhere between Iraq and Afghanistan, you became my heart…and after Afghanistan, you left the Corps and you left me.”

She caressed his face, remembering why she had to leave.  “Jonathan, what’s going on?  What’s this all about?”

“I don’t want to lose you.  But I’m not fair to you either.  How can I be when I’m overseas half the time? I know you, baby.  I know your heart is mine.  But I never had to confront the reality of another man wanting you even though I know they do.  Tonight was the first time that’s ever happened, and if he is persistent enough, thirsty enough, to follow you halfway around the world, he’s tenacious enough to try and seduce you.  He will come for you hard.”


“What do you want me to say, Roxy?  The look in his eyes when he talked about you…as a man, I know that look.  I’ve had it before.  I've seen it in others.  But you work together.”

“Not really.  Yes, we both work at the Baxter, but my lab is underground across the street…and he’s working on an enormous project on the upper floors of the building.  I never see him.  I never see anyone other than Franklin, some members of the board and my staff.  I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but what is it you’re trying to say?”

“What will you do if he comes at you?”

“What…do you mean if he hits on me?  If he asks me out?”


Nedra put her arms around her man and tiptoed to kiss his lips.  “Send him on his fucking way, what do you think?”

John put a hand on her ass and squeezed it.  “He doesn’t seem to be the kind to give up easily.  I mean, he's here.”

Nedra closed her eyes.  She hadn’t helped matters by sleeping with the man in the first place.  “Jon, we’ve been together officially as couple for how long?”

“Ten years.”  When she left the Corps and moved to California to finish her education, it did not take long for him to find her and tell her everything, including how he felt.

“Friends…for how much longer?”


“And have you ever had to worry about me?”

“Well I’ve never met a man bold enough to follow you halfway around the world; a man who clearly desires you.  His thirst is real.  He’s a man who gives me the impression that he’ll do just about anything if it gets him what he wants.  But as I told him, I trust you.”

“Jonathan, I want you to talk and let all this out.  You’re holding back and there’s something you need to say, but maybe it is uncomfortable for you to speak the words.  But if you can’t tell me what’s in your secret heart, who can you tell?”

“I don’t want to lose you.  I know you hold back while I’m gone, but I’m not stupid, Roxy.  We’ve been together far too long for me not to understand who you are.  I love that your love for me keeps your needs in check, but what will you do if a man like that…a man who desires you so much that he will chase you around the world…puts you in a situation where maybe you can’t…no matter how strong I know you are.”

She flashed back to that night in her office.  Her ability to fight Victor off had been about as strong as wet Kleenex, but Nedra stood and let Jon continue to talk.  It was obvious that Victor’s chat had an inward, ugly effect on Jon and it was having one on her…one of anger.  Fucking him was, in hindsight, not one of her best decisions…but what that decision was not going to do was upset the man in front of her.  Things clarified for her in an instant.

After Jon divested himself of his fears, worries, and concerns, Nedra put her arms around him and held him close.  “Jonathan Samuel Holland, there is nothing and no one that will ruin us, not after what happened in Afghanistan.  Things went to shit and we hated each other for a time, but we came out of it fine; stronger even.  You think there is anything worse than what happened to us over there?  No!  Hell no!”

“I never hated you, Roxy…but I understood your hate for me.  Even though that part of our lives is over, I need you to continue to be happy with me, with us.  I need to keep you satisfied by any means necessary.  I’ll do anything for you, Roxy.  I’ll give up anything for you.  You gave up everything for me.”

“I know.  Don’t you worry, baby.  Let’s go back to the hotel and take a shower.”

Nedra grabbed his hand and they continued their walk.  Once back in their suite, she opted to run a bath in the huge garden tub that sat underneath the window.  Jon was raw and a shower wasn’t going to come close to giving him the emotional care he required.  Sometimes the memories of Afghanistan crept back up at the weirdest times; more so for him than for her, even though the physical trauma was mostly hers.  Nedra knew that Jon continued to carry the guilt of what happened to her, even though she absolved him of it and loved him even more.  

Later, in bed, she held on to him, singing "Endless Love" while stroking his hair as he jackknifed around her body and slept in her arms.  In her arms, there were no worries, no nightmares, and no bad feelings.  There was nothing but her love.  It took a long time for Nedra to fall asleep and she allowed herself to shed a few tears for her man. 

This…this was what Victor would never be able to see, touch or even understand. 


Victor returned to New York the next day and went back to work.  He soon discovered that there was fuckery afoot.  There were significant changes made to the design of the transporter.  Victor had not been pleased to discover an alteration in its structure.  Reed claimed “they made it ugly” and he and Victor had hard words as to why Reed didn’t stand up and insist they maintain the original design.  It was sleeker, more aerodynamically sound…but the fucking government and their tendency to cut fucking corners made the transporter look like a Mars lander and Victor took one look at it and calculated the problems the new design would cause.  And counted the cost.

Victor rolled his eyes at frustration, wondering what possessed Franklin and Sue to go hunting for help at a fucking high school science fair.  Reed was brilliant, sure, but he was young and didn’t have a ball to his name.  So Victor went to Franklin to ask for the transporter to be returned to its original design…debates and push back from Dr. Allen ensued and that kept him busy for several weeks.  He was grateful for the continuous work the redesign engineering took because it kept his mind off Nedra and everything he learned while in China. 

He thought of her at night, alone in bed…and sometimes found himself looking for relief and release at a bar not far from Baxter…he remembered her name this time; a married redhead named Chloe, vivacious, curvy and up front.  Chloe had a hotel nearby; she was in New York on business and wanted to try on some new strange.  She was lovely and when she put her hand down inside Victor’s pants while at the bar, he discovered quickly that he was down for whatever she wanted to get up to.  Three good protected nights with Chloe and then she was gone and he was back to his usual, but with her business card in his wallet. 

Chloe satisfied the basest of needs and took the edge off so that he could work, but once she was gone, he was alone at night again with memories of Nedra…and not just memories.  One of the tasks he’d paid for was to have covert sound and video wired in Jon’s house while he and Nedra were in Shanghai. Unfortunately, Jon left for his next assignment in Kosovo a few days after they got back, and so he had only a little bit data to analyze. 

Victor watched the feeds at night; watched them interact in much the same way they had in Shanghai.  Whenever they were on the couch, enjoying TV time (they were fans of Netflix and Amazon Prime), Jon kept his head in her lap and she would gently scratch his head and play with his ears.  To Victor’s chagrin, there was a lot of time they spent where they didn’t talk much.  Thank God he had the video so he could see what they did instead. 

The love they had for each other was all over the place.  The ease and comfort at which they interacted could not be faked.  That Nedra adored Jon was as clear as the moon on a dark night.  That Jon loved her beyond reason was even clearer.  But it didn’t mean anything to Victor.  He could never be Jon, but he could compete.  He had his own ways of sweeping Nedra off her feet, especially after learning some of the secrets of her private life.

Her nurturing nature he’d already experienced to an extent; the night she gave him a bath and then trimmed his hair and beard, graced him with magnificent kisses, curled that soft warm body against his and made him long for things he didn’t even know he could want.  The sex—while unbelievable—was secondary to the intimacy and he craved it.  Watching her love her man made him want it and her even more.

He wanted that.

He needed that.

“You Rascal You” -Hanni El Khatib
“The Body That Loves You” –Janet Jackson
“You’re All I Need to Get By” –Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Forever In My Life” –Prince
“By Your Side” -Sade
“You Don’t Have to Cry” -Chante Moore & Kenny Lattimore
"Endless Love" -Diana Ross & Lionel Richie

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