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A Hero for the Lost Cause

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Tony knows he’s an asshole, but he tries not to repeat past mistakes. After completely screwing the pooch by showing up at Blythe’s door drunk, he swears to himself that he’s not going to do that again.


He’s not going to hurt her, he’s not going to offer another unpleasant surprise, and he’s going to treat her with kid gloves in the future.


Because triggering Blythe’s transformation makes him feel like shit in a way that even the breakup with Pepper hadn’t. He and Pepper’s split had been relatively amicable, all things considered. Painful, but they both agreed it was for the best.


Hurting Blythe had never been a part of the plan—and he had hurt her. Clint’s visit the following day made that abundantly clear, even if Banner hadn’t.


And now, Tony has Blythe in his bed, and she’s sprawled out, relaxed in sleep in a way she rarely is awake. She’d hesitated at his door the night before, but the massage helped her relax. Still, he knows it’s been a while for her, and he’s going to go slow.


He’s going to make sure he has 100% enthusiastic consent, and he’s not going to push, or even gently nudge. Tony is going to be careful, and he’s going to learn from his mistakes.


And he’s definitely not going to fuck this up.


Blythe stirs, and he can tell when she realizes that she’s in an unfamiliar place, because she stiffens.


“Hey there,” he says, keeping his hands to himself for now. “How’d you sleep?”


Blythe relaxes a bit and opens her eyes. “Hey. Pretty great, actually.”


“Good,” Tony says with a smile designed to set her at ease. “I’m just glad you trust me enough to sleep with me. In the sense that you actually slept, I mean.”


“I trust you,” Blythe says simply. “It’s just been a while.”


“Hey, no pressure,” he says immediately. “We’ll go slow.”


Blythe hesitates. “I could—”


“No,” Tony says. “We’ll go at our own pace. We’ve got all the time in the world.”


He remembers her expression when he’d triggered her, and when she’d listed all of the terrible things that had happened to her. He remembers she’d mentioned an attempted sexual assault.


Tony doesn’t want to add to the list of the terrible things more than he already has, and he’s never left a partner unsatisfied, which means that he’s never asked someone to do anything they weren’t comfortable doing.


“Thanks,” Blythe says with a smile.


“Can I kiss you?” Tony asks.


Her smile brightens. “Yes.”


He leans in, unmindful of morning breath, kissing her deeply, putting all of his skill into it. He keeps his hands on her light and above the waist and over her shirt, and she moans, arching into his touch.


Touch-starved, he thinks, and resolves to fix that.


But slowly.


Tony breaks off the kiss a little regretfully, wanting nothing more than to spend the morning in bed, and asks, “Do you want dibs on the bathroom?”


Her return smile holds enough relief for Tony to know he’s made the right call, and she says, “I think I’ll head back to my place, but thanks.”


“See you later?” he asks.


“You’d better,” Blythe says, and rolls out of bed and pulls on last night’s pants, then starts to pull Tony’s shirt over her head.


“No,” Tony says. “You keep it.”


She fingers the hem. “I’ll get it back to you.”


“No hurry,” Tony replies with a smile. “I know where you live.”


She smiles, grabs her sweater, and ducks out.


Tony thinks about how he wants to approach things while getting cleaned up. He and Pepper had jumped into bed almost right away, but they’d known each other for years, and Pepper was just as into it as Tony. Hell, looking back, Tony can’t say for sure which of them instigated it.


Things are a little different with Blythe, and not just because of her past or her cautious nature. They live in the same building and work in the same place, and it would be all too easy to just assume they’ll fall into bed together, too, or that they’ll essentially spend every night together.


He has a couple of ideas to get over that hurdle, but he thinks it might be prudent to ask for advice. He certainly can’t ask Pepper, he knows that, and Clint probably knows Blythe best, but that seems like a losing proposition.


Natasha pointed them both in the right direction, though, so that seems like the safest bet.


He calls her as soon as he’s cleaned up and says, “Any advice?”


“You’re going to have to woo her,” Natasha replies, sounding amused as hell. “Also, I’m only telling you this because I like her.”


“She’s easy to like,” Tony replies. “Also, woo?”


Woo,” Natasha says firmly. “I know you have no idea how to do that—”




“—but I’d start with dinner,” Natasha continues. “And then let her set the pace. You’re going to have to date, Tony, not go straight to sex.”


“Dinner I can do,” Tony says, thinking that sounds easy.


“Not the usual fancy place,” Natasha cautions. “Think about how she usually dresses, and match that.”


Tony blinks. “But she always looks good.”


She snorts. “I suggest employing that line at some point.”


“It’s not a line!” Tony protests. Granted, he’s seen her slightly more dressed up on occasion, but she does look good, even when she’d been wearing borrowed coveralls and covered in dust.


Natasha sighs. “I’m so glad I finally put you two out of all our misery. My advice is that she likes to try new things. And that’s it. You’ll have to figure out the rest on your own. My work here is done.”


And then she hangs up on him.


Tony thinks about it for a moment and says, “Hey, J, is there a place near here you’d recommend?”


“There’s a Moroccan place near here that Dr. Banner expressed interest in,” Jarvis replies. “I don’t believe she’s had an opportunity to try it yet, however. Agent Barton was not interested when she suggested it.”


Tony smirks. “Great. Is it casual?”


“I’d believe you’d call it a ‘hole-in-the-wall,’ sir.”


“Even better,” Tony replies. “Make reservations for two for eight, J.”


“Of course.”


Tony rubs his hands together. “I love it when a plan comes together.”


He does send a message suggesting they eat dinner together, operating under the assumption that surprises are bad for Blythe’s complexion. She agrees, and he figures the first step is a success.


Operation: Woo Blythe Banner is a go.




Tony gives her space that day, since they’re going to be eating dinner together and he doesn’t want to crowd her. Plus, he’s working on something for SI, and he knows Blythe has her own thing, so he waits until about 7:30 to go to her lab.


“You ready to go?” he asks as he enters.


“Go?” Blythe asks blankly. “I thought we were staying in.”


Tony hesitates, wanting to accommodate her. “Well, we can, but I thought you might want to get out of the Tower for a bit.”


“Do I need to change?” she asks.


Tony gives her a once-over. She’s wearing jeans, a button-down shirt, and her hair is pulled back in a thick ponytail. The fact that she’s wearing glasses has Tony biting back a request for her to take them off so she can fulfill his librarian fantasies.


But that might be weird, and he’d have to admit he’d watched The Music Man, so he keeps his mouth shut. “You look great. The place is casual.” He gestures to his own outfit, cargo pants and a faded Black Sabbath t-shirt, and says, “As you can see.”


She smiles. “Sounds good then.”


Blythe seems pleasantly surprised when Tony tells her the restaurant is within walking distance, and even more pleased when he takes her hand and intertwines their fingers.


The restaurant is tiny, maybe a dozen tables at the most, and the person who greets them doesn’t call Tony by name. She just shows them to an out of the way table, produces a couple of menus, and assures them their waiter will be right with them.


“How did you know I wanted to try this place?” Blythe asks, and then holds up a hand. “Jarvis told you.”


“A virtual butler has to be good for something,” Tony protests. “I just wanted you to be comfortable.”


She smiles. “I am, thanks. I thought—well, I kind of thought you liked fancier places.”


Tony hitches a shoulder. “Sometimes I want to be seen, but there are plenty of times I just want a quiet night out. New York’s a lot better than LA for that. There are still paparazzi, but most people are willing to let you slide by unnoticed if you don’t make a big deal out of it.”


“It’s nice,” Blythe admits. “To get out.”


He thinks she probably means to get out without being recognized, particularly when going out with him, and he suspects that she’s grateful to know that not everything is nonstop fame.


The food is great, the service is spectacular, and Tony makes sure to leave a very generous tip on the table.


“Not that I’m surprised, but you passed the first date test,” Blythe says as they walk out of the restaurant hand-in-hand.


He glances over at her. “Oh?”


“If a first date stiffs the server on a tip, it probably means they’re an asshole,” Blythe says.


“Good test,” Tony says. “For all the bad things I can say about my old man, that’s one of the things he always made sure to do. He was always a generous tipper.”


Blythe glances at him. “I think that might be the nicest thing you’ve said about your dad.”


“He was a generous guy,” Tony says. “At least when it wasn’t me.”


“That’s more than I can say about my dad,” Blythe murmurs.


Tony squeezes her hand, but doesn’t say anything else. He knows about Brian Banner, of course. It had been part of the dossier SHIELD provided.


There are degrees of asshole, Tony knows. His dad had been one degree, but Brian Banner had been something else altogether.


“Hey, tell me about that first girlfriend of yours,” Tony says in a bid to change the subject.


“Who? Donna?” Blythe asks. “We were in Science Olympiad together.” She offers an impish smile. “The ironic part is that we had the iconic prom experience and no one had a clue.”


“Good times?”


“Very good times,” Blythe admits. “No offense, but probably a better time than if I’d wound up going home with Carter instead.”


Tony laughs. “Probably. I’m sure I fumbled pretty badly my first couple of times out of the gate.”


She frowns. “It’s easier if you care about each other. Then you can laugh it off.”


Tony glances over at her. “Well, if you both have a sense of humor, you can laugh off just about anything.”


Judging from her expression, she’d had partners without a sense of humor in the past, and maybe partners who didn’t care about her.


“A sense of humor is a requirement,” Blythe says.


“Caring, too,” Tony points out, squeezing her hand.


Blythe shrugs. “I learned both those lessons the hard way.”


“Don’t we all,” Tony replies, and then they walk back to the Tower and Tony sees her to her door like the gentleman he’s not. He kisses her deeply, making his interest clear, and then pulls back.


Blythe’s expression is a little stunned, and she smiles, but she doesn’t invite him inside. “Thanks for the great night.”


“Thank you,” Tony counters. “Your move, Banner,” he adds, kissing her again. “Let me know.”




A mission comes up in between, so it’s a few days before she says, “Hey, I’ll cook tonight at my place.”


They’ve had plenty of tandem time in the lab, so it’s not like they haven’t talked or seen each other, but they’ve kept things pretty low key.


“Sounds great,” Tony replies. They’re in her lab, working on one of Blythe’s projects. She’d come up with a way to provide clean water, but wanted Tony’s assistance with implementing the technology.


Not that she needs his help; the bones of the project are good, and he can maybe offer suggestions to improve the design, but those are small compared to what she’s created. Left to do her own thing, Blythe can revolutionize the world as much as Tony has. She has so much to offer, and he doesn’t want to get in the way.


“Do you need me to bring anything?” he asks a moment later, realizing that he should probably offer.


She laughs. “No, Tony, I’ve got it.”


Granted, he’s going to bring condoms, but that’s called being prepared. He’s not assuming anything, because he knows what happens when he assumes.


Also, he’s going slow. A dinner invitation does not necessarily mean she’s open to a seduction attempt at this juncture.


“What time?”


“Seven is good,” Blythe says absently. “Does this equation look right to you?”


“Your math is always right,” Tony objects, although he spins to look at the smart board. “Which equation?”


She catches his lips in a kiss that’s a little tentative, but sweet. “Thanks.”


“For what?”


Blythe smiles, her cheeks coloring. “Nothing important.”


“Well, then, you’re welcome for all things important and not,” Tony replies, stealing another kiss. “Where’s the equation?”


Blythe smirks. “That was a ruse to get you over here.”


“You don’t need a ruse for that,” Tony replies.


“I thought if the interruption was work related we wouldn’t get too distracted,” Blythe replies.


Someday, when they’re more comfortable with each other, Tony will make an innuendo and an offer, and they might stay in the lab with security protocols in place, or they might go to Blythe’s place or Tony’s.


Right now, though, they’re still feeling each other out, so Tony says, “Any time you want a distraction, you only have to ask.”


“Maybe later,” Blythe replies, and goes back to her problem.


Tony shrugs philosophically, because he has plenty of work to do, and they have a date lined up.


He shows up promptly at 7, freshly showered and casually dressed in the jeans that are both comfortable and make his ass look great.


Worth every penny, he thinks.


He considered bringing a bottle of wine, but that could be a bad idea. Granted, he’s seen Blythe drink, and he knows she likes wine, but would she think he’s trying to get her drunk? He doesn’t want to take the risk.


Blythe smiles when she opens the door. “Come on in. Are you okay with wine?”


“I’ve been known to drink it,” Tony admits, and when he steps in, he thinks he might get lucky after all.


The lights are slightly dimmed, whatever’s cooking smells really good, and the table is set for two, a lit candle in the middle. “This looks great,” Tony says.


Blythe looks embarrassed. “I hope you like it. It’s a recipe I learned from Lupe, a friend in the migrant worker camp.”


“What was that like?” Tony asks. “You haven’t said much about that period of your life.”


Blythe goes over to the stove and lifts the lid, letting out more of that delicious smell. “Oddly enough, it was probably one of the best times in my life. The people there—Lupe—welcomed me as one of their own. They helped shield me, protected me from discovery, and then helped me escape. They didn’t have to do that.”


“Have you been in touch?” Tony asks.


Blythe hitches a shoulder. “I don’t want to bring attention to them, or risk them getting into trouble. A lot of them were undocumented.”


“I can be discreet,” Tony offers. “I can probably find out where Lupe is at least. Maybe I can pull some strings.”


Blythe hesitates. “If you can do it without any risk to her, I would really appreciate it.” She pulls the pan off the stove. “I hope you like this. Lupe said I might need to pull out all the stops eventually.”


“Well, if it tastes half as good as it smells, I’ll have to send Lupe a thank you note specifically for giving you the recipe,” Tony replies.


“She taught me how to make it,” Blythe corrects.


It’s a chicken and rice dish of some sort, pure comfort food, but delicious. Tony probably would have eaten more but he’s still hoping to get lucky, and being overly full isn’t conducive to sex.


“This is amazing,” Tony says for the third time.


Blythe shakes her head. “You know, there are plenty of leftovers. Lupe’s recipe doesn’t feed less than six, and there’s enough for at least a couple of lunches.”


“Is that an invitation?” Tony asks.


“If that’s how you want to take it,” Blythe replies. She clears her throat. “The dishes can wait until later. Let’s move this to the couch.”


Tony has no problem with that plan.


They make out lazily, and Tony keeps his hands above the waist and on top of clothing. Blythe pulls back, putting her hand on his chest. “Shirts off?”


Tony grins. “Love to.”


He has a moment of self-consciousness when he realizes she hasn’t seen the scars on his chest, but she reaches out immediately. “Is this where—”


“Turns out that even the best plastic surgeons in the world can’t make a hole in your chest completely disappear,” Tony jokes, but it falls flat.


Blythe shakes her head. “Every scar is a burdensome gift. I heard that somewhere before. Funny thing is, I don’t have any. She takes care of that.”


“Not all scars are on the outside,” Tony replies and fingers top button of her blouse. It’s a deep purple that suits her, a little silkier material than he’s seen her wear before. “Can I?”


“Sure,” she says, and he unbuttons her shirt slowly, letting his fingers ghost over her skin.


She lets out a shaky breath as Tony pushes the shirt off her shoulders, moving oh, so carefully. He kisses her again, his hands on the bare skin of her back. “Can I?” he asks, touching the clasp on her bra.


“Yes,” she says.


He asks again before he palms her full breasts, before he puts his mouth on them, before he tongues her bellybutton, getting a breathless yes every time.


When he reaches the button of her trousers, Tony pauses again. “Can I go down on you?”


Blythe’s face and chest are flushed, her pupils blown wide, and whereas she’d immediately agreed to everything else he suggested, now she hesitates. “I…yeah, if you want.”


Tony stops what he’s doing immediately. “Is that yes, you enjoy getting oral, but think that I won’t enjoy giving it, or you just don’t like getting oral? Keep in mind, there is no wrong answer to that question.”


Blythe shifts uncomfortably, crossing her arms over her bare breasts. “I, no, I mean, yes. I enjoy it. It’s just that…”


Tony kisses her stomach again. “You’re not going to hurt my feelings.”


“I’ve never had decent oral from a man,” she says all in a rush.


Tony grins up at her. “Let me guess, they were all about getting you to a point they could stick their dick in while not feeling totally selfish about it.”


Her flush deepens. “Um…maybe.”


“You know what?” Tony says. “How about we treat this like an audition?”


She relaxes slightly. “An audition?”


“You can decide if I need remedial lessons in how to get one Blythe Banner off,” Tony suggests with a smirk. “If I pass, you get to decide what we do next. If I don’t, you still get to decide what we do next.”


She laughs. “That seems like a win for me.”


“For me too, considering that I am now even more motivated to prove that guys can give good head,” Tony counters. “Also, I like it, so it’s a win all the way around.”


Blythe gives him a look that suggests she doesn’t really believe him, and Tony figures she must have dated at least one bonafide douchewad in the past. “All right, you’re on.”


“Let’s get this party started,” Tony says, and pops the button on Blythe’s trousers.


His first girlfriend, a girl from boarding school, had been a demanding taskmaster. She’d been more experienced, although she never seemed to give any guy the time of day. Tony had been flattered by her attention, and she had a hard and fast rule about penetrative sex, which could result in pregnancy and derail her rather ambitious plans for the future.


She’d given him a blowjob that knocked his socks off, and then announced that he wouldn’t be getting another until he gave her at least three orgasms.


Necessity being the mother of invention, Tony quickly had learned how to do just that.


And in the meantime, Tony learned just how much of a rush it was to get someone else off.


Oh, he likes sex, and he likes orgasms, but he mostly just likes to have a good time—and it’s a good time for him if his partner’s happy.


Blythe’s tense at first, so he starts slowly, warming her up with gentle touches, the occasional swipe of his tongue, a careful press of his fingers. When she moans and begins to relax, he gets a little more ambitious, paying attention to the play of muscles under her skin, the sounds she makes, the way her breath hitches.


It’s good to have technique, but everyone is different, and Tony has to pay attention and learn Blythe’s tells.


The first time, she comes with a soft, wordless cry, her muscles tensing, and Tony backs off a bit. “Can I use my fingers?”


Blythe blinks at him. “What?” she asks muzzily.


“Fingers?” Tony prompts. “Can I put them in you?”


“Uh, yeah, yes,” Blythe says. “Go for it.”


Now that he has a little more familiarity with how she responds, he uses that knowledge to get her off that much faster, until she’s panting and muttering, “Oh, God, oh, fuck, how do you do that?”


It seems like a bad idea to bring up his years of experience at this juncture. “I’m a genius,” he says instead.


Blythe breathes deeply. “That wasn’t—you don’t think you have anything to prove to me, do you?”


Tony wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, pleased that she appears to be so relaxed. “What are you talking about?”


Blythe looks away. “Never mind.”


“Hey, you can ask me anything,” Tony insists. “I’m not going to get mad or get my feelings hurt.”


“You aren’t just doing this because you feel bad about triggering me,” Blythe states, although there’s the hint of a question, too.


Tony frowns. “What? No.” When she frowns at him, he adds, “It’s not just that. I also want you to enjoy yourself.”


“I don’t blame you for that,” Blythe says. “You don’t have anything to make up to me, so if it’s that—”


Tony presses a kiss to her bare shoulder. “I really like you. I like working with you, I like spending time with you, and you impress the hell out of me on a regular basis, which basically never happens. Maybe I just want to be sure you don’t look at me like a bad deal.”


She smiles. “Not possible.” She sits up and gestures to the front of Tony’s pants, where his erection is clear evidence of how much fun he’s been having. “I could—I could give you a blowjob?”


And that, right there, that faint flinch, tells Tony she’d had a bad experience in the past, probably with some douchebag who thought she owed him something.


But Tony isn’t interested in anything she’s not freely offering.


“You could,” Tony agrees, “but I’m getting the feeling that maybe sucking my dick, however awesome it may be, isn’t really your thing.”


Blythe hesitates. “Uh, not really, to be honest.” She smiles. “I give a really great handjob, though.”


“Have at it,” Tony invites, and lets her unbutton his jeans and pull them down. She’s hesitant at first, but she quickly gains confidence.


Tony’s been hard since they started making out, so it wouldn’t take much, but she draws it out. It’s not until she presses a finger to his asshole that Tony’s coming all over her hand.


“That was great,” Tony says.


Blythe smiles. “Well, I’ve always been pretty good with my hands.” She pauses. “It’s not about the other thing, is it?”


“What other thing?” Tony asks, having no idea what she’s talking about, still lost in a post-orgasmic haze.


“About what I said on the helicarrier,” Blythe supplies. “About what happened to me.”


Tony has no idea what to say, but he figures he owes her the truth. “I’ve already hurt you once,” he says. “And I never want to hurt you again.”


“It’s inevitable,” Blythe says. “We hurt the people we love.”


“Maybe,” Tony admits. “But I need to know I’ve done everything in my power to avoid it, and I wasn’t lying before. Sex is only fun if everybody involved is having a good time, and that requires enthusiastic consent.”


Blythe smiles. “Well, when you put it that way…” She stands up, naked and bold, her dark, wavy hair a little wild. “I’d really like it if you came to bed.”


“Sounds great to me,” Tony replies, and takes her hand.


They’re going to have so much fun.