The day that she’s captured, she’s presenting as omega. She will always wonder if it saves her life.
Natalia Romanova is a child when they take her from her guardian and into the Red Room's bosom.
First she must survive orientation. That is not as easily done as said. She is older afterward, though more in mind than in body.
Then she must survive her classmates. She is not the youngest of them, nor the oldest, but she is the fastest and the quietest. The reward for her skill is the poisoning of the other girls against her; the better she survives, the harder they try to kill her. She spends most of a year in hiding, living on stolen scraps, watching lessons through grates and practicing in solitude.
When she is nine, and her class has been harrowed down to only four, she must survive the procedure. They do not anesthetize her; they tell her it is part of her lessons on pain tolerance. When she blacks out, they wait until she comes around to continue.
She will not understand what they did to her until years later, when she sees her own stolen file marked “suspected beta - neutered, age nine.”
She is trained extensively in deception. One day she is led to a room where there is a countertop full of vials. At her instructor’s behest, she unstoppers one and sniffs; instantly she is full of fear. Another is handed to her and she feels a thrill of power at the scent.
These are your weapons, Natashenka, her instructor says.
Like any weapon they give her, she soon becomes proficient.
The day that an alpha with a bow trains an arrow at her throat, she is wearing an omega scent peppered lightly with distress pheromones. It is her own blend, a personal favorite. When she walks down the street, people assume she is running late for an important meeting or having private troubles. When she is one-on-one, it gives off just the right impression of submission and fear to make her target dismiss her as weak.
The archer hesitates for a long, critical moment. He’s too close for her to dodge, but too far for her to grapple his weapon away. Any false move will end with a carbon shaft through something vital. Slowly, with utmost care, she tips her head back, shows him the white column of her throat, loosens her control just enough to let her limbs shake. It works--the sight makes her seem more pitiful and supplicating than the scent should really tell him she is.
If he had been an omega, perhaps she would be dead. But he’s not, and as she watches, he calls for an extraction team. She wins.
She will never have a cycle; her body is not her own--it’s a tool. She explains this to the SHIELD medical team as part of her extensive evaluation, but it’s not until she lays out her vast collection of pheromones that they understand.
Barton comes to see her for the first time a month into her reconditioning. She’s wearing no scent, per SHIELD regulations she suspects were written into being specifically due to her, and as a consequence she smells like little more than soap and fabric softener, a nonentity in the swirling scents of everyone else.
“What are you?” he asks, leaning closer than is polite. She is not offended--this is a common reaction.
She just smiles, a small quirk of her lips.
Steve prefers her when she is an alpha, though he is an alpha himself; going through his files and finding out that his beloved Agent Carter was an alpha sheds a little light.
Tony and Bruce like her best as a beta; alphas are too aggressive for them--alpha Tony feels challenged; omega Bruce threatened--and Tony seems to think she wants something of him when she wears omega scent. Natalie Rushman, of course, was an omega.
Thor has no opinion; Asgard splits only into male and female.
Clint wants nothing from her. Even in his ruts, he doesn’t want her to put on a heat-simulating perfume that could ease him through. He just wants to breathe in the faint and ambiguous scent of her skin, curl with his head in her lap and let her stroke his hair. She loves him, in her own way, but he’s fooling himself if he thinks he is getting the real her. She’s not “real” like this--she’s only a handle without a blade.
She is still only surviving.