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Steve slipped into the lounge, and slumped on a chair, barely able to keep his eyes open. He leant down, and picked up the TV remote, wondering if he'd actually be able to stay awake for the duration of a film on his list. A whimpering from the sofa caught his attention. Barton lay there, looking pleadingly from behind a duct tape gag.
"Natasha?" Steve guessed, wondering how Barton had incurred her wrath this time.
"Hey, Steve." She walked through from the kitchen, and sat down next to him.
"Did you do this to Barton?"
"It's for his own good," she confided. "He was saying things that he would regret when the meds wear off. Stark would never let him live it down. He'd do the same for me."
"Stark isn't even in this room." Steve got that the two assassins had only survived by being careful, but this was paranoia.
"JARVIS. I don't trust him." Natasha glared at the ceiling. Steve thought he heard a huff from the AI, but then again, it could well have been Natasha.
"Why hasn't Barton taken the gag off? Is he that scared of you?"
"Temporary paralysis in his limbs. He wasn't happy about that side effect." She looked genuinely sympathetic. Steve sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Barton whimpered again, and looked like he was trying to struggle, without actually being able to move.
"Can we take it off? If he starts to say stupid things, we can put it back on," he bargained. Barton moaned eagerly, and blinked several times at Steve. Natasha shrugged, and gently removed the gag.
"Are you a frog?" Barton asked immediately, looking excited. Steve was taken aback at the change in Barton. He looked at Natasha, who seemed almost as startled as him. "Are you a frog?" Barton insisted.
"No?" Steve really wished there was a protocol for dealing with drugged assassins.
"How did you survive the ice then? Your cells should've broken." Barton looked downcast at this. "Your cells should've broken," he repeated sadly.
"Do frogs live if they're frozen in ice?" Steve asked, trying to distract Barton. His biology really wasn't good enough for this conversation.
"There's this wood frog, which gets frozen every winter and it antifreezes its body, so it doesn't get too damaged. I thought maybe they frogified you." He looked up hopefully. Steve wasn't sure if Barton was serious or not.
"I put National Geographic on earlier," Natasha explained. "That was before the paralysis, and I needed to distract him. Believe me, I regret it now."
"How did this happen anyway?"
"Fell down the stairs on the way to debrief-"
"Didn't fall," Barton muttered mutinously. Steve was struggling to keep up with Barton's mood swings.
"He might've jumped, anything to get him out of debrief. Anyway, he didn't want to stay in medical, the doctors didn't want him in medical, but he also didn't want to debrief. This was effectively a plea bargain."
"Have you ever eaten frog's legs?" Barton asked randomly. Natasha nodded, but Steve shook his head. "Legs. That's such a weird word. Legs. Legs. Legs." Steve looked at him weirdly. There were much stranger words than legs. Legs was a fairly mundane word. He'd never really thought much about the word legs before. Maybe it should be spelt with a double g, to rhyme with egg. Barton might be right, he realised. Legs. He really needed more sleep.
"Barton, stop saying legs," Natasha sighed. "Sorry, Steve. I hope you didn't want a peaceful evening."
"Legs." Barton giggled, which turned into a frightened yelp as Natasha picked up the duct tape again.
"It's okay. These things happen," he said, trying to distract her from the trembling Barton. "I might go to bed though."
"Good idea." They both looked at Barton.
"Is there any chance of getting him to sleep? Do you need any help?" Steve hoped she said no, but figured it would be rude not to ask. He crossed his fingers behind his back.
"Worst comes to the worst, I'll just gag him again. Thanks for the offer though." Steve was about to defend Barton, but on seeing the terror on his face, realised that the threat might actually be enough to get him to behave. For all that he could behave in this state. He wondered if that was how Natasha usually kept him in line.
"Sounds good to me." He winked at her as Barton whimpered, and she immediately caught on, with a wicked grin.
Barton swore he didn't remember anything about last night over a large pot of coffee. Steve would've believed him, if it hadn't been for the fact that he'd seen the man staring at a piece of paper with the word 'legs' scrawled all over it only ten minutes before. He patted the archer's shoulder, trying hard not to laugh. Barton gave him a murderous look, and ribbited. Steve picked up the deserted roll of duct tape, and Barton legged it.