"This is your last chance, or your last words, you puny god." Bruce snarled as Loki twisted like a trapped animal in his grip.

Bruce made sure to keep his glare vicious and his voice low with the futile threat. The god flinched at the last words as if Bruce had branded him. From the way those huge, panicked eyes rolled up to peer at Bruce, it was clear that Loki was reliving the nightmare of their last encounter. That fear was the only advantage that Bruce had at the moment. Bruce squinted against the throbbing in his head, and made sure to don the mask of animalistic rage, even if he couldn't summon the Hulk any more. From behind, he heard Tony's bewildered swearing.

Loki writhed against his fingers, apparently expecting to be driven into the concrete again, or killed.

God help me, Bruce thought numbly, we're in the most isolated part of the building, with the guy who just tried to blow up the world. The only defense that we have now is his believing that I'll change into the Hulk and kill him.

Great. Tony's life now depended on Bruce's acting ability. Bruce's scowl deepened as he dug his fingers in deeper. He was still pissed off at Loki enough to keep the pretense of rage going.

Bruce stared at the withering man in his grip, completely flummoxed as Loki weakly tried to free himself. His pale fingers coiled over Bruce's wrists like writhing snakes, and Bruce felt sick from the icy, sweated flesh brushing his own.

From behind, Bruce heard Tony whisper, "We're screwed."

Loki was still tugging at his wrist, his eyes huge with terror as he shook his head, frantically.

One hand flew to his throat, and tapped it, desperately, before he tapped his lips with another shake of his head.

"I cannot harm you!" Loki mouthed the words, anguished at the silence except for his hitching breath, and the frantic clawing of his fingers against the hands crushing his windpipe.

Was the Beast going to strangle him? Would his last moments be spent choking to death literally trapped in the hands of a human?

Loki stared up at the man who held his throat between his large hands, and winced when he felt the human thumbs clamping down on his heaving neck. His pulse raced, his heart beat a dull thunder that was pounding in his head.

He cracked open his sea-gray eyes and squinted up at his would be killer, wondering why the Beast that had once pounded him into a floor of concrete had not yet snapped his neck.

It would have been just, Loki mused, indifferently. It would have been a far more merciful death than a beating.

Loki was astonished when the Beast suddenly released his death grip on his throat, and almost gently lowered him against the wall. The Beast lay one hand across his chest, keeping him safely restrained, but he stared down at Loki with troubled eyes.

Tony squawked, "Bruce, what in the hell are you doing? That nutbag can kill us!"

Bruce narrowed his eyes, as he tilted his head, the realization making his features twist in astonishment. Bruce vividly remembered his one and only confrontation with Loki. Had Loki been human, there would have been nothing left but a pile of broken bones and a pool of crushed flesh and organs. Yet Loki had survived being slung into a concrete floor several times with little more than bruises and ruffled hair.

Now, Loki was nearly crushed against the wall by Bruce' fragile human strength, hoisted a few inches off the ground and defenseless. If Loki was playing a trick, Bruce couldn't figure out what it might be. By now, both Bruce and Tony should be smoking little piles of ash, and Loki should have been strutting, not plastered to the wall and weeping.

Now, Loki was cringing under Bruce's human hand, those strangled whimpers burbling up from behind his clenched teeth, looking as if he were going to collapse. Experimentally, Bruce drove his thumb deeper against Loki's pulse point. The heartbeat was far too frail, far too fast, far too human to be Asgardian.

"Tony, I don't think Loki is a threat." Bruce said, quietly.

Loki tensed, and drew in a sharp breath. He narrowed his eyes and reminded Bruce of a very pissed off cat.

"That whackbag tried to kill us all, Bruce. Do you not remember that?" Tony snapped.

From Loki's sudden flinch, it was clear that he remembered.

Bruce ignored Tony's indignant squawk, as he tilted his head, warily.

"Loki." Bruce took great care to keep the snarl in his voice as he addressed the cringing god.

"What happened to you?"

Loki jerked his chin up sharply, his eyes glimmering with a sudden flair of rage. He started panting again, as one hand flew to his throat with a sharp slap. He shook his head, grit his teeth in frustration.

Tony sighed, and rolled his eyes. "What the hell is wrong with you, Reindeer Games? You don't have anything to say?"

Loki narrowed his eyes, and drew his lips into a thin line. He hissed out a breath and shook his head.

"Can you speak?" Bruce asked, quietly.

Loki raised a hand, scrubbed his dark hair away from his forehead, and shut his eyes to hide the sudden, unwanted flood of tears as he shook his head.

Bruce let him go, and watched as Loki slithered downward, coming to rest at his feet. Dejectedly, Loki pulled his legs to his chest and folded his arms across his knees. He buried his face in his hands, and exhaled a long, shaking breath.

"Why can't you talk?" Tony snapped, as Loki shot him a look of pure venom. How on earth was he supposed to answer that when he had no voice?

Loki was startled when Tony reached into his jean pockets and dug out a pen and a scrap of paper.

"You know how to write?" Tony asked as he dropped the pen and paper nearly on Loki's knees.

Loki gave a curt nod, and picked up the pen in disgust.