"What are we going to do?"
Tony turns to see just how worried Bruce is. As far as Tony's concerned, everything's fine. The Chitauri are down; Loki's not about to try anything with Thor's hammer on his chest as an interim measure; Thor's watching Loki just in case; and he's stuffed full of shawarma and some kind of milk-based drink he can't even pronounce. If he were the sort of person to use such words as hunky-dory, he'd say everything was hunky-dory.
Apparently Bruce disagrees, because his hands are fiddling with his glasses and he's not even looking at Tony while talking to him. "About Loki. Tell me you don't believe that he's not still dangerous."
Tony shrugs. "He's lost his army. He's lost his scepter. He can't move. Thor's not going to let him go anywhere. He may not be completely out of it, but he's not our problem."
Bruce shakes his head, still without looking up. "Movement isn't the issue. It's this." He swipes his hand across his screen, sending several files over to Tony's.
They're all different versions of Norse myths, and they all refer to Loki's talents at lying, at persuasion, at talking anyone into doing anything he wants. At talking his way out of even the tightest corners.
Tony gets what Bruce is saying, but shrugs it off again. "If he were this good, he wouldn't have needed the scepter to take over Barton. He could have just batted his eyelashes and said come join my army, pretty please? Besides, it's Thor down there with him. He's lived with the guy for a thousand years or something. He'll know not to trust him."
"And there's nobody watching the security feeds? He played us through them once before."
"And Natasha played him like a harp. Whatever else he is, he's not in Natasha's league. I am so glad I got that on tape. I wonder if there's a screen in Loki's cell? What do you think he'd do if I played it on endless repeat?"
Bruce doesn't even smile. Tony's floored, because that's actually a pretty damn good idea. He makes a mental note to check into doing that.
"He doesn't have to be in Natasha's league. One agent, that's all it would take."
"So you want to shut him up. Great idea. And how do you propose shutting up the god of lies?"
Bruce shifts in his chair as if marshalling the strength to stand before rising and going over to a cluttered workbench. "I did some thinking before I asked you." He turns back to face Tony, and holds up a thick, curved band of something silvery.
Tony stares, because this is the best damn idea anyone, including him, has ever had. Never mind what it's actually intended for, he just wants to see Loki's face when they put it on. "That just might work."
"Hey, Thor! It's Stark and Banner, open up!"
The heavy door swings open slowly, and Thor pokes his head out at them. "My friends, you should not be down here."
"I'm still waiting for that drink," calls Loki from inside the cell. Cocky bastard. Bruce's idea is looking better all the time.
Since it's Bruce's idea anyway, and Tony lacks a death wish, he nominates the other man to explain what they're doing.
"Um," (good beginning, Tony thinks) "we were thinking-"
"You were thinking," says Tony quickly, just in case this all goes horribly wrong somehow. He's starting to think he should have worn the suit for this.
Bruce glares at him. "I was thinking. That we need a way to stop Loki from talking. Because he's still dangerous."
Loki laughs before Thor can say anything. "And good luck with that. You think anything you mortals can conjure up is enough to silence me?"
Bruce holds up what he's carrying, and looks Thor in the eyes. "This? This will work. Take care of everything."
Thor peers at it. "What is it?"
"Ooh, don't tell me," Loki cackles. "You're going to cut my tongue out. Hate to disappoint, but that's never worked before."
"For once, he speaks the truth," Thor says. "But if you think this will do any better, come and try it." He pushes the door wider, and Tony and Bruce go inside.
Loki himself is lying on the floor, giant hammer resting on his chest. His arms are crossed behind his head as if he's relaxing on a beach somewhere. Smug asshole. No helmet, which is a relief, because that thing's just too stupid for words and for Tony Stark, that's saying something.
"And what have you brought me? Knives? Pliers? Oh, did Thor tell you to sew my lips shut? That one's always a laugh."
"Yeah, well, laugh this off," Bruce says, and if it's not the most original comeback in history, Loki's face when he sees what Bruce is holding almost makes up for it. His smirk is wiped away, replaced by – yes, definitely wariness.
"What is that?"
"Like it?" Bruce squats down beside Loki's head. Thor kneels by the other side, presumably to prevent Loki from trying anything with Bruce so close. After his pounding at the hands of the Hulk, Tony doubts Thor needs to bother. Bruce is the last person Loki is going to try anything on.
Bruce takes hold of the end, and pulls it out straight, slapping the middle section over Loki's mouth before wrapping it around to meet at the back. "Try that on for size." He stands up and steps back as if to admire his work.
"Very impressive," Tony compliments him. "Looks good."
Loki sneers, or tries to, and goes to spit some witty line back at them. His jaw twitches, but doesn't move. Muscles strain, but those lips aren't opening.
"Great job," Tony says, holding up a hand for a high-five.
Loki's shout is muffled and absolutely incoherent, and Tony can't resist. "What's that? I'm sorry, we can't hear you over the sound of how awesome Bruce is."
Thor points at the silver band over Loki's mouth. "What is this?"
"Bruce, the honor is yours."
Bruce gives the widest smile Tony has yet seen on his face. "Duct tape."
"Duct tape?" asks Thor, and Loki tries something angry that definitely contains only two syllables.
"Yep." Tony beams. It's one of the world's better inventions that he wasn't responsible for. "Forget you lot, this stuff is real magic. Sticks to everything. Absolutely unremovable. More or less. You're probably going to lose some hair, by the way, when we take that off. Most of it, actually."
Loki's eyes bulge and he strains upwards against Thor's hammer. Getting absolutely nowhere.
"You know what? I think he's still trying to say something. Better put some more of that stuff on, Bruce."
Bruce kneels down again and wraps several more layers around Loki's head. Tony pictures the god with a giant donut-like ring of duct tape sticking out from his head. It's beautiful. Almost as beautiful as the image of what he'll look like when removing the duct tape takes half his hair with it.
Bruce shifts back and Loki's hands fly up, tugging at the tape. "Uh-oh. Better do his hands, too. Just in case." Tony grins down at Loki, who returns the filthiest glare he's ever seen. Tony's going to practice that one to use on incompetent robots.
Thor takes Loki's wrists and holds them together while Bruce wraps more duct tape around them. They should sell the video of this to whoever owns duct tape. He can just imagine the advertising. Buy duct tape – strong enough to hold back a god!
Bruce and Thor step back and Tony surveys the work. Layers of tape wrapped around Loki's head, completely covering his mouth and a good proportion of the skin above and below it, and possibly more layers than that around his wrists. He snarls something smothered and kicks out at Tony. His boot just hits the floor next to his other foot, but all the same…
"Maybe do his ankles as well? Could save us a lot of legwork chasing him down, if Thor needs the hammer back."
Bruce hands the roll over. "Would you like a turn?"
"You bet your electron microscope I would." Grinning like a cat in the cream, with added canary, Tony tugs some tape loose and starts to bind Loki's ankles. Kind of a shame, because those look like damn nice boots. To be most effective, he should probably take the boots off, but the idea of Loki's bare feet is just weird. Besides, he's pretty sure that the clothes are magic somehow, if Thor's anything to go by. That cape of his just seemed to appear and disappear on command.
Suddenly worried, he looks down at Loki, and hopes to hell that he won't just magic all his clothes away to embarrass them. Frankly, Tony wouldn't be embarrassed at all, but he really doesn't need to see that.
"Forget getting something sent from Asgard," Tony says, finished. "I think we're set. Maybe you should keep this." He hands the remaining tape to Thor, who eyes it with deep suspicion.
Loki tries to say something again.
"No, sorry, still can't hear you."
"He says he will kill you in your sleep for this." Thor shrugs as Bruce and Tony stare disbelievingly. "He is my brother. Of course I know what he is saying."
Loki definitely laughs. Or tries to, anyway. It comes out as a sort of snort through his nose. Then his eyes sparkle, and he mumbles something else.
Thor shudders. "Never! I will never permit that to happen!"
"He wants to know where he can get a supply of his own."