There's a part of Tony's mind that knows poking Bruce Banner with pointy objects is probably not a good idea.
Unfortunately, that's the same part of his mind that's usually too preoccupied with working to remember to eat. Science has a nasty habit of overwhelming his common sense.
It starts with his pen. Just a quick poke as he walks past.
Bruce jumps – as anyone would – but a quick glance at the other man's eyes tell him that there is no hulking potential. A little glaring, perhaps. And a possible swear word or two. But nothing green.
Tony mentally crosses the pen off his list and considers his next move.
An hour later and he's done everything short of stabbing Bruce with a sword, and while they're no longer on actual speaking terms (well, Tony keeps trying to start conversations, but Bruce pointedly turns his back and ignores him), there's still no sign of the "other guy".
If he looked too deeply inside himself, which is obviously not going to happen, Tony would probably realise that attempting to force an appearance of the Hulk while he himself has nothing more than his wits and good looks to protect him, is a really bad concept.
But then self-preservation has never been his strong suit.
Tony can't decide whether to be impressed at Bruce's willpower, or pissed off that he can't manage to fluster the man. After all, he's Tony Stark. Flustering people is one of his specialities.
Locking the door, Tony activates the control that darkens the windows of the lab for complete privacy. Bruce is watching his every step, his eyes following Tony around the room.
He's sitting on a stool in front of one of the dozen or so computers that are in the lab, his jacket long since removed, and his shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbow. His hair is mussed from the compulsive way he runs his fingers through it when he's working, and it's humid enough in the lab that it's starting to curl even more than usual.
"What exactly are you trying to do?" Bruce asks, as Tony tugs off his glasses. "Do you have some kind of death wish?"
Tony shrugged. That was always a possibility. "I'm just intrigued by the amount of self-control you have," he said, folding the glasses and placing them on the table. "Self-control is one of those things that Pepper says I need to learn about," he adds, proud of the fact that he remembered the details of her last rant. In his defence, he had totally needed that third Aston Martin. It was totally necessary.
When Bruce doesn't respond (and more importantly, doesn't back away or Hulk out), Tony takes a step closer, pushing to stand between Bruce's legs. They're about the same height when they're standing up and when Bruce is Bruce, rather than the other guy, but the stool is slightly lower than Tony expected and he's a few inches taller than Bruce now.
"I still don't understand how you can stay so..." he waves his hand in a vague fashion.
"Calm?" Bruce asks, and Tony nods. "I don't have any choice."
"Don't you sometimes just want to cut loose? Go a little crazy?" Tony has his hands on Bruce's thighs as he's speaking, not gripping or rubbing, just resting there. He can feel the muscles tightening and relaxing, and he wonders if that's how Bruce's mind works too.
Bruce closes his eyes and breathes deeply. "No choice," he repeats, and Tony smiles at the hitch in his voice.
"Open your eyes," Tony says as he places his right hand on Bruce's cheek, his thumb gently stroking.
Bruce does and there, beneath the warm brown is a tinge of green, just the barest hint, thrilling Tony. "There we go," he says, unable to tear his own eyes away, fascinated. He can feel Bruce's jaw clench beneath his hand.
"You really need to stop that now," Bruce says, but it's barely more than a whisper. "Really."
For a moment, Tony considers ignoring the suggestion, and imagines what it would be like to lean down and kiss the other man, forcing him to lose control.
Instead, he strokes Bruce's cheek once more and pulls his hand away, stepping back. He can see the relief in Bruce's eyes as the green fades away once more and his breathing steadies.
"That really is some impressive self-control there, Dr Banner," he says as he retrieves Bruce's glasses and hands them over. Bruce forces himself to look away, breaking the almost magnetic connection between the two of them.
Tony smiles before turning around to leave. "I have a feeling it may be beneficial to me to spend a lot more time studying you."