Natasha Romanoff was the scariest women Tony Stark had ever met. Including Pepper (it was close though). So when he had heard someone singing softly, he grinned and snuck into the kitchen. It was probably the middle of the night judging by the soft lighting, but Tony had been up for… a long time? Probably.
He been right around the corner when a hand grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back. It was Clint. Tony was about to push him off when he was the way Clint looked… actually scared? Clint put a finger to his lips and pulled Tony down the hall.
Clint close the door softly behind him.
“When you hear Russian lullabies, you run. And! Do not, under any condition, mention them.” Clint spoke with a seriousness that was rare. “I’m serious. The last guy to mention them… He disappeared. Like actually, never seen again disappeared.” Tony nodded. This was too good.
“Does she do this often?” Tony whispered, matching Clint’s tone. Clint shrugged.
“More than I know of I’m sure. She does it for fun sometimes, but also to celebrate anniversaries. I’ve never asked. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t either.” Then Clint left. Tony sat for a few moments. He was never very good at doing what was good for him.
Then Tony walked into the kitchen and saw Natasha cleaning her blades. And he left. And never thought about it again.
That’s a lie.
He never thought about talking to her about it again. Whenever he heard her singing, he continued what he was doing and pretended he was deaf like Clint.
Then Steve and Natasha went to DC for a bit. SHIELD fell. You know, the usual. James Buchanan Barnes came and lived in the tower. Clint and James got on well. Natasha and James got on. Bruce and James would sit quietly together for hours at time. The main problem was that after a story time in which Steve told James about Tony and Steve’s first meeting…. Well…
James Buchanan Barnes was not a fan of a certain Anthony Edward Stark.
This is where we come to the present. It is the middle of the night. Mid-winter. Everyone’s feeling a bit sad. Tony’s just realised that he is hungry like, eat a live bear, hungry. So, he’s in his kitchen.
Natasha comes in and sits at the table. She doesn’t look all that good, but Tony doesn’t say anything. She starts singing softly. Tony pretends he doesn’t hear it. He finishes his peanut butter and nutella sandwich and starts making himself another. Then Bucky comes it. Bucky pauses when he hears the singing. Then he sits down a couple seats away from Natasha. He listens.
Then James Buchanan Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier, starts to sing in Russian.
The two deadliest people Tony knows are singing Russian lullabies in his kitchen. He stands and walks out. Sort of the way a rabbit might pretend it’s not there if the wolves are ignoring it.
Tony sees Clint walking down the hallway. Clint makes the I’m not wearing my hearing aids sign. (It’s an cross and both hands pointing to his ears, not actual sign language.) Tony stops. How does he explain this without words.
Tony makes a loop with his finger by his head to say: crazy. Then he makes a shooting sniper and a stabby motion: assassins. Then he cradles a nonexistent baby and sings under his breath: singing.
Clint just looks at him. Tony points to his ears and Clint sighs and put in his hearing aids.
“James and Natasha are singing lullabies in the kitchen.”
Clint pales and they both turn walk away from the kitchen as fast as they can.
It is never mentioned again.
The Red Room was a special sort of hell, and it makes up all of Natasha's remembered childhood. Here's the thing about brainwashing. It's not very effective. It's surprising to most people, but it's true. Brainwashing requires constant reinforcement to be effective. After a period as short as a couple of weeks brainwashing can start to breakdown. That's why physical and mental torture was also used. It's much harder to recover when you can't remember who you are. If you aren't sure you want to be them again.
Joining SHIELD allowed most of the brainwashing used on her to breakdown over time. But. While the brainwashing wasn't effective it did have an effect. It was alienating and it made the world... confusing.
The rules of the Red Room were deadly, but simple. You did as you were told, and nothing else. If you weren't told to use the toilet, you didn't, if you wet yourself? Well that's what happens when you don't have enough control of your body. If you were told to sleep, you slept. Told to eat? You ate.
The world outside of the Red Room was confusing. Customs and cultures and subtext that sometimes felt impossible to follow.
In the Red Room, Disney movies were used as part of the brainwashing, as were oral stories and songs. If Clint knew he would probably be upset, but it was comforting to sing the songs she had learnt. To remember the feeling of unity and clarity, to remember the instructions hidden in the song. Hearing it put the world to rights, for just a little while, it allowed her head to clear.
Brainwashing wasn't effective, but it didn't just disappear either.
I am not continuing this fic, but I just wanted this little bit onto the end of it for some reason. *shrug*