Author's Notes: Loosely set in movie!verse, but has a reference or two to some of the comics.
THOR GETS A COMPUTER
In hindsight Natasha is almost impressed by how long Stark holds out before snapping. People who constantly make pop culture references usually aren't that happy when other people don't get them. It sort of belies the entire point of making pop culture references.
When Natasha tries to pinpoint the exact moment when Stark cracked she thinks it probably comes somewhere around the time when Thor had cheerfully asked Stark what an ewok was and where he could purchase one and Stark's face had taken on the expression of someone who had just had a beloved pet fart in their face. All Natasha really knows for certain is that one day when she, Clint, and Thor are watching reruns of Friends in the main living room Stark marches in dressed in ratty jeans and a greasy tank top, hair askew, looking like a man thoroughly at the end of his rope, with a recognisable slim shape tucked under one arm.
Natasha is the first to spot him coming and raises an eyebrow at him, silently but distinctly threatening to do terrible unenjoyable things to his man-parts if he dares interrupt Ross and Rachel's wedding. Stark notices, and though his expression barely changes he very suddenly swerves and changes direction, making a detour to the expresso machine in the corner, (all of the main living areas in the tower seem to have at least one, set up at a little station with mugs and spoons and milk, like miniature life support systems in every room – the analogy amuses Natasha greatly). When the end credits are running he reappears behind the couch where Thor and Natasha are sitting. Before either of them can turn to look at him he leans over the back of the couch, and while still balancing his new coffee in the other hand he pulls the lightweight silver slip of metal out from under his arm and very decisively deposits it on the couch in the space between Thor and Natasha, (Natasha is always careful to leave a good amount of space between her and Thor when television was involved – he tends to use his arms to express his emotions).
"What is this?" Thor says with regal curiosity, (and only Thor, with a voice that sounded like he had eaten Alan Rickman plus three voice distorters, could make curiosity sound regal).
Natasha just snorts at the obviously Stark tech, obviously brand new, obviously top of the range and cutting edge and intended-for-Thor laptop sitting smugly on the couch cushions. Clint makes a noise of interest as he sees it and flicks the remote to mute the television, hopping off his perch on the armrest of a nearby armchair and stepping over the coffee table to make a grab for the computer.
"Off the table, Barton, do I have to housetrain you for everything? It's Midgardian magic, Thor," Stark adds the last for Thor's benefit as he swipes the laptop out of Clint's reach and hands it to the Asgardian.
"It's Stark's patience finally breaking," Natasha quips with another raised eyebrow.
"You're both wrong," Clint says grumpily from where he sits half-crouched on the coffee table. "It's a laptop. A shiny laptop and admittedly really fucking cool laptop that doesn't have SHIELD network blocks on all the best sites. How come Thor gets a laptop and no one else does? Since when did you become a stingy asshole as well as an asshole?"
"Well I did have one for you, Barton, but you're not getting it now."
"Hey, Cap got one too," says Tony, and Natasha immediately thinks 'peace offering'. "These aren't for looking up lowgrade porn, Barton, these are –"
"Actually I was talking about being blocked but I get that lowgrade porn occupies your every waking thought, Stark –"
"Are for looking up questions which they keep asking and which I can no longer be fucked answering," Stark finishes, ignoring Clint's interjection, and grins at Thor, who is trying to peer into the USB drive of his new present. Stark claps him on the shoulder cheerfully. "Now you're Google's problem, buddy, not mine."
"Who is Google?"
"Your new best friend."
Natasha wants to ask if Stark remembers that email Miss Foster sent warning them about Thor's … unusual way of expressing appreciation for things. She sighs inwardly as she watches Thor delightedly open and close the laptop, miming a large silver butterfly, while Stark yelps and almost splashes coffee everywhere in his haste to stop him. Apparently not.
She catches Clint's eye, and he looks like he's trying not to piss himself with laughter.
This is going to end in tears.
Three days later Tony is still struggling to teach Thor how to use his laptop without destroying it. Natasha watches over her bowl of fruit and cereal one morning as the huge form of Thor Odinson God of Thunder hunches over the dainty silver laptop – (which has by now been repaired by Stark five times) – on the opposite side of the table, hands hovering over the keypad and looking at Stark expectantly. Tony has his own chair pulled up next to Thor's, and is beginning to look like his sanity is slowly unravelling. Natasha can almost hear his prayers for sudden legions of invading Doombots from here, although despite what any of the men in the Avengers Tower think, she hasn't actually mastered telepathy. Yet.
"Now, we're going to try some typing again. So," Stark gestures at Thor in a way which is probably supposed to be encouraging but the strain is beginning to test the boundaries of Stark's already limited patience. "Like I showed you."
"The pressing of the runemarked buttons?"
"Thor, we've – we've been over this, haven't we? They're not called runes here. Those are letters and numbers."
Thor points at what Natasha assumes to be the volume key.
"But this is not a letter or number. This is a picture. It is of a tiny axe head."
"Thor, no …"
Steve enters at that point and Natasha is actually surprised that he hadn't arrived before; usually he arrives at the breakfast table at the same time as her. Sometimes she would even find him there already with a tall glass of ridiculously fresh orange juice and a large plate of a ridiculous amount of eggs and toast, looking ridiculously and almost indecently chipper for so early in the morning. Stark looks up from smushing his hands down his face in despair as Thor tries to discuss the complexities of runemarks with him.
"Hey, Rip van Winkle," Tony greets him tiredly. Lately Tony has taken to making pop culture references he knows Steve will get. Natasha has caught him on more than one occasion actually doing research to make this possible. There are things no decent human being should ever Google, and one of them is the phrase "1940's equivalent of Twilight".
Steve seems to flush slightly at the nickname, and Natasha wonders if perhaps she should tell Stark that it isn't considered manners to greet someone with a nickname that basically translates to "hey remember that time you fell asleep and when you woke up everyone you knew was either dead or in a retirement home" but then decides that Steve is going to have to get used to crass behaviour one way or another and being exposed full time to Tony Stark isn't the worst way to go about it. Natasha knows it could be interpreted as Tony's own weird way of trying to make the modern world more accessible for Steve, even if she also knows it could be interpreted as Tony just being an asshole.
"Morning," says Steve, and he doesn't seem to be having any kind of emotional meltdown at the reminder of the loss of his entire life so Natasha nods at him and goes back to her cereal. He's getting used to it. Good.
"My friend, I do not believe you are listening to me. These runes –"
"Okay, Thor, okay – you can call them runes if that's what floats your boat just type for chrissakes!" Stark finally snaps.
Thor suddenly looks like a very large golden retriever who has just been admonished for chewing up someone's shoe and doesn't understand why, and Natasha raises a silent eyebrow from over the table. Even Steve turns around from pulling juice out of the fridge to frown at Stark in team leader disapproval. He shrinks a little at Steve's look.
"Uh … yeah, okay Thor let's just take things slowly then. So you press the … runemarked keys …"
"I heard you got blessed with the gift of a laptop too, Cap," Natasha says to Steve as he gathers eggs from the fridge. "How's it going?"
Steve glances at Tony, who is obviously clamping his fingers onto the edges of his seat to stop himself from strangling Thor as the Asgardian tries to open a word document , hitting the mouse-pad as if trying to kill an actual mouse, and looks strangely uncomfortable. He mumbles something indistinct and then is suddenly incredibly busy with making eggs and toast.
"NO, THOR, NOT LIKE THAT YOU'RE DENTING THE FUCKING – keyboard, uh, just – just do it gently. Gently. Like it's a lover."
Steve makes a sound suspiciously like he just choked on a piece of toast. Natasha snorts.
"Just help me out here, just this once, just a little bit …"
"This is your pet project, not mine, Stark."
"Nat, Natty –"
"Do you want your balls skewered or deep fried?"
"I'll talk to Bruce about it."
It comes as no surprise to anyone that Bruce is far more patient with Thor than Tony was. By the end of the week Thor has mastered typing, documents and powerpoints, and has developed a worrying obsession with minesweeper – although he still doesn't seem to fully understand the aim of the game; he just likes setting off the bombs.
Every second Friday night has been declared Team Bonding Night. Well, more like there's an unspoken agreement for everyone to sit in the same room together for the evening, because anyone who skips out gets a look from Steve that makes them feel guilty for things they did when they were children. No one has really said out loud that it's Team Bonding Night, but Stark has sarcastically referred to it as "Circle Time" on nights when he's particularly miffed to be dragged bodily from his workshop.
And so because it's Team Bonding Night, everyone is gathered in the living room. Natasha is curled up in her favourite, jealously-guarded-with-the-threat-of-grievous-bodily harm armchair, half reading a magazine about knives and half watching Bruce carefully explain to Thor why he shouldn't search himself on Google. The two are occupying the couch, while Clint is slumped upside down in another armchair; his back is against the seat cushion and his legs are hooked over the back of the chair. He seems to be immersed in an intense game of Angry Birds on his phone. Stark, meanwhile, is sulking half-sunken into a bean bag on the floor – Natasha guesses correctly that he doesn't realise how undignified and unimpressive he looks, like a half-melted puddle of adolescent angst and scraggly beard. Steve is sat on the floor with his back against the end of the couch, sketching, and Natasha finds the sight oddly calming – the stub of pencil in Steve's big hand, darting over the page with surprising agility.
Tony lets out an exaggerated sigh, like a man deeply wronged. Everyone ignores him. It's obvious to all that he's just trying to deal with the newly learned fact that he will never be an IT teacher.
By the end of next week Thor is declared to have earned his "Computer License" – a small piece of gold embossed paper which Bruce asked JARVIS to print out and which Stark consented to sign after a staring contest with Bruce which involved Tony looking at Bruce with a face that dripped with "you can't be fucking serious" and Bruce looking back at Tony with calm, innocent, but very stubborn eyes. Luckily for Thor, Tony has an obvious soft spot for his friend, (although he will protest even under extreme torture that all squishy feelings originate from a basic need to have someone around who doesn't think endoplasmic reticulum is a small pliable tool used to do unspeakable medical things to people's backsides), and on Saturday Tony hands over the paper license only a little resentfully to an extremely over-excited Thor.
"Just warning you now, Thor, I hold the rights to revoke that license the next time I catch you eating anything with jam over the keyboard. That's a certified Stark prototype, do you even know the percentage of America that would commit first degree murder to be touching that keyboard, the people who lie awake at night crying while you splatter red cordial on the screen with reckless abandon –"
"Friend Tony, your grip is creasing my scroll."
"Alright, Tony, it's time to let go of the paper now."
As Bruce and Clint forcibly unhook Stark's fingers from the license, Natasha notices Steve hovering off to the side eyeing the certificate with an odd expression she has never seen on his face before. It takes her a moment to recognise it as envy. She catches his eye, and he straightens, offering her a much more characteristic bashful smile. Before she can say anything however, Tony – now detached from the license, which Thor is proudly nursing with both hands – somehow manages to sling an arm around Steve's shoulders.
"So how about you, apple pie?" he says with an attempt at a grin, and Natasha recognises it as another stab at playing tutor and smoothing out the bump on his ego. "Need a guide round the world wide web?"
Steve immediately looks panicked and flounders, and Natasha suddenly understands.
"Well, if he was he wouldn't go hiring someone who gets anal about safely removing thumb drives now would he?" she quips with a small, sharp grin, and as Tony turns on her with greatly exaggerated mock-hurt Natasha sees Steve shoot her a grateful look for the save.
"Romanoff, sometimes I almost think you don't like me," Tony says, shaking his head sorrowfully.
"Now where would you get that impression?" smirks Natasha, letting a bit of humour warm her voice.
Every day she seems to let a bit more in. Or perhaps it's just that there seems to be more to go in lately, she thinks as she watches Thor beam at his certificate unperturbed by Tony's rambling lecturing, while Bruce promises to help Thor frame the paper and Clint promises to frame a copy of the rules Tony is spouting without stopping for breath, and Steve just smiles and laughs and instead of watching politely at the edges, stands right in the middle of the group with Tony's arm still flung over his shoulders. Natasha even pretends not to notice that the smaller man is standing on his toes to manage it.
Three days later Natasha catches Tony in the kitchen passing Thor what looks horribly like a credit card. It seems that Tony has come to terms with not being the helpful mother of the team, and has decided to at least be the cool dad instead.
"So you take this plastic card of credits, and enter the numbers of its secrets onto the computer, and purchase items?" Thor's brow furrowed. "But how does one purchase items without being present? Is a mirage copy of oneself dispatched to stand in place? I understand that Midgard does not always use haggling to barter over the price of items, but I do not see how such a purchase can be possible. Will this card give me the powers of my brother Loki?"
Tony opens his mouth, then shuts it.
"No. I'm not even going to go there. Bruce can show you how to use it."
"Hey!" Bruce calls from the table in affront.
"So how's the web surfing going, buddy?" Clint says over his copy of The Hunger Games on Team Bonding Night. Thor is typing almost normally on his computer. The sight is a little surreal.
"Merrily, friend Clint!" Thor replies jovially, and finishes the sentence he is typing with a loud stab of the 'enter' key. Tony makes a small strangled noise from his bean bag. Steve nudges him with one foot without looking up from his sketch. Tony shuts up and rolls over with a quiet grumble.
"I have been participating in online worlds which depict the craft of war, and I have acquired a pet of Neo. I have also been participating in online "threads" about the noble consumption of poptarts, although I still do not understand the connection between the art of tapestry and feasting. And I have defeated the game you sent me through the electronic mail system."
Clint sits up in indignation, "Already? I sent the link to you yesterday!"
"I admit I finished it last night. It was a most thrilling game, and although I did not wish to exterminate the humans, I found the little ones who ran at me with guns unprovoked a most persistent annoyance."
"But it took me at least three days to finish The Last Dalek," Clint protests. "You must have sat up all night!"
"On the contrary, friend Clint," Thor grins smugly, "I did not. You obviously took longer to master the complexities of knowing the correct moments to use the shield and when to switch with haste to the death laser."
"Don't think the rest of us don't know that you're talking about a kid's game on the Doctor Who website, because we do," says Bruce, face hidden behind a copy of The Selfish Gene.
"Hey, that game is the most damn tricksy webgame created for twelve year olds ever, okay?"
"I'm just going to ignore that you just used the word 'tricksy' and pretend I still take you seriously, Barton," Bruce shoots back.
Tony sits up at that with a grin and a loud, "Ay! Slap hi-fives, that is patented Stark Snark rubbing off on you, Banner!"
Bruce rolls his eyes but indulges Tony by holding a hand out over the couch to allow Tony to 'slap hi-fives'.
"Ah. This is truly unfortunate," rumbles Thor, frowning at his screen in distress.
"What is it? What's wrong?" says Natasha sharply, sitting up.
"Loki has refused to be listed as my brother on the book of faces," says Thor sadly.
Natasha relaxes, almost laughing.
"I'm surprised you even got him to add you in the first place."
"I am using the ingenious codename of Donald Blake," Thor grins. "I plan to rebuild our brotherhood by extending the hand of friendship anew and luring him in with hilarious videos of cats."
"Let me know how that goes for you," says Natasha with amusement and disappears behind Knife Women's Fortnightly.
Thor's web surfing and computer usage seems to be going quite well, which is exactly why Natasha thinks they should have realised something truly disastrous was going to happen soon, and it does. Admittedly not for five weeks, but this is only because it apparently takes "under five weeks for your delivery to arrive or your money back".
A firm argument can be made that it's Tony fault that one hundred boxes of Wild Berry poptarts arrive on their doorstep one morning, because he was the one who made the mistake of equipping Thor, Prince of Asgard and extra-terrestrial five year old with an almost unlimited credit card, because really, Tony, really how did you think that was going to end?
Luckily Avengers Tower is inhabited by the afore-mentioned basically-a-god, a super-soldier, and a part time green rage monster, all of whom have ridiculously fast metabolisms and eat enough to kill normal humans every day. However, after a month everyone except Thor twitches slightly at the smell of a cooked poptart. One Friday night a poptart ad comes on the tv and five out of six Avengers flinch in unison.
But after that Thor's credit card allowance is markedly diminished, and Tony stops grumbling whenever Thor pushes the off button without saving his documents. Bruce hangs Thor's computer license up in the living room, framed. With a surprisingly cheeky grin Natasha sees more and more often, Steve shows Natasha a sketched cartoon of Tony yelling at Thor and gesturing wildly at the laptop while Thor happily types away. Natasha puts it up on the fridge. Tony sees it, and the corner of his mouth twitches, and he doesn't take it down. Clint and Tony continue to battle for title of Snarkiest Team Member and every time Bruce gives both of them a run for their money Tony insists on slapping hi-fives with him.
When Natasha tries to pinpoint the exact moment when they started to fit together so well, when all the crooked pieces of them found the way to slot beside each other, she can't really say when it happened. But she lets herself smile more these days, so it can't be that bad. And she knows she really should probably give Steve a hand with his computer, but well … the sadistic side of her thinks it's kind of funny to watch him struggle with it.
Steve isn't sure how much longer he can dodge Tony's questions on how Steve's finding the internet, because the problem is he hasn't even found the internet yet. He's certain that he will; Steve knows he's nothing if not adaptable, and contrary to popular belief he's starting to adapt to this strange new world just fine. And even if he knows there's much less chance of Tony mocking him these days, he doesn't fancy the idea of being at the receiving end of Tony's tutoring. Steve has punched Adolf Hitler in the face two hundred times, he has survived seventy years of being frozen in ice, he has woken up in a world full of light and metal and things that go 'blipblipbeep' and has lost his home and found a new one amongst two trained assassins, an alien god, a scientist/Hulk, and a self-proclaimed but surprisingly charismatic genius; he can handle a little slip of metal wiring and electricity.
All he has to do now is remember how to turn the damn thing on.