Natasha always smells complicated and expensive. Even when she’s wearing sweatpants and shouting insults at the Rangers on TV, the hints of fragrance waft gently around her, perceptible only to someone sitting very close. Clint could give two shits about the hockey—although the fights are sometimes entertaining—but he likes being near her like this. The scent is like a walled garden, he thinks, the kind that would be planted for a queen and that no one else would be allowed to enter.
He would be her gardener. He would keep her garden beautiful, lush, serene, everything she deserves.
Tony smells like burnt metal and engine oil, except when he doesn’t, and then he also smells complicated and expensive, though it’s a different flavor of complicated and expensive. He comes down mostly dressed—shirt, trousers, and shoes on; jacket missing; tie undone—and complains vehemently about having to attend the benefit for the Central Park Conservancy by himself.
“You’re not going by yourself,” Clint says. “Pepper’s going with you.”
“She’ll spent the entire time talking to rich assholes—I mean, rich assholes who aren’t me—and I might as well be by myself and I’ll be bored.”
Steve rolls his eyes. “Where’s your jacket? And you can’t go with your tie like that.” Without pausing, he deftly knots up the bowtie, then sniffs curiously. “Are you wearing cologne? It smells nice.”
“Of course I’m wearing cologne; Pepper wouldn’t let me outside if I didn’t. And it’s Clive Christian Number One for Men,” Tony says with pride, though it could be Joe Blow Number Three Hundred and Fifty-Seven for Men, and Clint wouldn’t know the difference.
Bruce snorts and keeps chopping vegetables. “Let me guess: it’s the most expensive one on the market.”
“Got it in one,” Tony says, again with pride.
“Go get your jacket,” says Pepper, appearing out of nowhere on four-inch heels and kissing Tony’s cheek. “We’ll be late.” She’s wearing a dress that’s long in the back and short in the front and probably should look like a mullet in clothing form but instead just looks flowing and elegant around her endless legs. Its blue precisely matches her eyes, and even Tony shuts up for a moment at the sight.
“Are you ready?” Pepper asks like she didn’t just make a room of four loud men go silent.
Tony clears his throat. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready.”
Tonight Pepper smells almost as complicated as Natasha, but, again, it’s a different type of complicated. Clint thinks of Pepper as sunny and friendly, which she is, but she right now smells like something mysterious and hidden, like a flower that blooms only at midnight.
When Clint sees her on weekdays, her appearance and her scent match: pleasant and businesslike. He imagines that she does it on purpose, as a way of saying to everyone she deals with, I am your equal, and if I fuck you, it will be in only the most metaphorical financial sense.
Day and night.
Steve wears Old Spice and does not understand why this is hilarious.
“He actually is the man your man could smell like!” Tony crows.
Steve frowns. “It’s a nice scent.”
“It’s classic,” Natasha agrees. “Tony’s just being a douche.”
Steve barely blinks, which says a lot for his acclimation to the 21st century.
Bruce finds the commercial on YouTube. “If you wanted to do an endorsement, I’m sure they’d be thrilled.”
Steve looks vaguely alarmed. “It just smells good. I’m not trying to sell anything.”
Tony throws an arm around him. “And that’s why you’re Captain America and I’m not.”
Clint’s sure that Jane would enjoy her Norse god redolent of anything, everything, or nothing—in fact, it’s not clear that Dr. Foster would even notice a scent change—but Thor decides that he likes the idea of libations with pleasant odors, and goes out to procure one for himself. He returns with Drakkar Noir.
“Oh hell no,” says Clint before he realizes he has an opinion on the matter—and indeed everyone looks at him in surprise. “That’s what all the preppy jerkoffs in junior high wore. Take that shit back.”
The Line of Confusion appears between Thor’s brows. “But it is a pleasing fragrance.”
“It’ll make you smell like an eighth-grader trying to be Tom Cruise in Risky Business,” Clint informs him. “I will take you to the store myself.”
“This I want to see,” Tony says. Natasha and Pepper agree, and Steve and Bruce are laughing at all of them, and it somehow becomes an Avengers field trip to Bloomingdale’s, which leads to the media fiesta you’d expect. But Thor ends up with Versace something-or-other, and Clint doesn’t have to walk around the mansion having flashbacks to eighth grade, so it all turns out for the best.
Clint gets out of the shower, dries off, and climbs into bed. Natasha doesn’t wake up completely, just turns over and settles an arm across him. He laces their fingers together and waits to fall asleep. It always takes a long time, but it’s not so bad, lying like this.
In the morning, as they’re dressing, he watches her dab on the perfume she always wears. “Let me guess,” he teases, “the most expensive there is.”
“No, that’s Clive Christian Number One, the women’s version. Made for people who want to brag about wearing the most expensive perfume in the world. This is expensive but not in the same way.”
Clint takes the gently curved crystal bottle and sniffs the aperture. It smells good, but on Natasha it’s even better: fuller, richer.
“Should I wear something?” he asks. He never really thought about it before, but he also never lived with people who did.
She shakes her head decisively. “No. You smell good. Clean. Like you’ve just gotten out of the shower.” She re-caps the bottle and sets it on the dresser. “You smell like you.” She leans back against him and takes both his hands. “I’d know you anywhere.”