2019-10-02 - Secrets on the Green


Ambrose finds Pepper eating a late lunch and reveals a couple of his secrets to her over tea and snacks.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Oct 2 08:10:34 2019
Location: Central Park

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It's been a week or two since Pepper rescused a Rosie the Jackal-kit and returned him to Talbot. She's been wondering how Rosebud has been doing since then, but with a combination of her own life becoming increasingly busy and the desire to not pester the two men about their exotic pet, she's hesitated to call and check up on them.

Now, having finally found an afternoon where she can sit quietly in the corner of the patio dining area of the Tavern on the Green, Pepper nurses a pot of tea and a light lunch of grilled rainbow trout. She actually requested the afternoon off, citing a lingering headache from the recent … altercation in Stark Tower's parking garage that led to her being subjected to a vehicle's airbag deployment.

She hopes she applied her makeup well enough to hide the lingering bruise on one cheek.

"I did wonder if it was trout."

The refined and rounded British accent floats over her shoulder as Ambrose announces himself. In a reflection of the cooler evening air, he's got a burgundy-red scarf wrapped about his neck. Its tassled ends hang down over the black leather motorcycle jacket. In equally dark jeans and boots, it's his smile that gleams in the throw of the restaurant's lights. His eyes are kept heavily shaded by the laze of his lids, all the better to keep his pupils from flashing nightshine red.


"May I join you?" he asks of Pepper, coming around now to remain at a polite distance from her.

Pepper startles ever so slightly at a voice addressing her, then looks up and smiles as she sees Ambrose. "Hello… yes, of course, please." She gestures to the empty chair across from her.

"I can ask Lorenzo for a second cup and a menu if you want?" she offers as she shifts to sit a bit straighter in her own chair. "It's been a little while, Lieutenant Atherton. How have you and Mr. Talbot been?"

Ambrose takes the seat gestured at with a grace not seen in several hundred years. He doesn't slouch, at least not yet. Fingers work to loosen the wrapping of the scarf and he gives Pepper a smile across the table.

"Thank you, but I have recently eaten. I am content." He can be seen to fold his hands across his lap after bringing up an ankle to rest upon the opposing knee. "Mr. Talbot and I have been quite well, thank you again. We find the spates of peace between excitement very worth our while. And yourself? I suspect you are well?"

Not one to reveal that she's had a trying time recently, she replies perhaps not entirely honestly. "I am well enough, yes. Work has been hectic of late, but I am trying to make a point of taking time for myself." She takes a sip of her tea, an aromatic black tea with the clear scent of black currants sweetening it.

Then, she gets to a question that's been plaguing her for the past couple of weeks. "How is Rosebud doing? He seemed very happy to see Mr. Talbot when I called to say I'd found him, considering the upset he'd apparently been dealt." She's careful to not say plainly that the cheeky little exotic jackal had been somehow turned back into a kit, but she suspects that Lt. Atherton will understand regardless.

The Jackal nods his agreement with hedonistic pursuits. "There is little time in life to truly appreciate it. I am glad to see someone has the mind to indulge themselves instead of running willy-nilly over hill and dale after one thing or another," he murmurs in reply, the smile lingering on his lips. Her question has him tilting his head.

Those brilliant cerulean-blue eyes narrow and his smile lifts higher to one side, dimpling. "Young…Rosebud," the master-thief delicately enunciates, " — was very happy to see Mr. Talbot indeed. One can only wonder what possessed the scamp to get into the trouble that he did. If only he could speak." There's an enigmatic, almost teasing manner to Ambrose's words now.

"It's taken me several years to come to that conclusion, but yes. A bit more simply put: Life is short, have fun while you can." Pepper takes another sip of her tea, then sets the cup down.

The way that Ambrose phrases his words about Rosebud elicit a raised eyebrow. "Yes. If only. Though, he did do something interesting a while back."

His slouch deepens a touch. The Jackal appears extremely comfortable now, even sans water glass and setting devoid of plate and cutlery.

"Something interesting? The small creature does seem to have…an intelligence about him, doesn't he? I find him charming myself, but I have known him to test Mr. Talbot's patience now and then. But do tell, I am rambling in my affections for him," Ambrose concedes with a lift of one hand briefly.

"Well," Pepper starts a bit hesitantly, "I was sharing a bit of my lunch with him, and he was being a bit… himself about doing what I asked in exchange for another morsel of bacon. When I finally put the rest of the food away, he started digging at the ground nearby and," she hesitates again. "the scratches he dug into the soil looked like the word 'hi'."

It's clear by her expression that she's expecting Ambrose to laugh at her ridiculousness.

Rather than laugh, Ambrose's expression takes on a facet of forced innocence. If he looks like he's caught a canary, well…it's not too far off. This entire fiasco is charming, and how the red-head seated across from him is so concerned about the entire affair is endearing her to him in spades.

"How very uncanny," the master-thief replies mildly. "I suppose Mr. Talbot might have taught him the trick. He would be the type to do such a thing, train a creature to startle others in a harmless manner."

Which is so blatantly against Kent's shown characteristics to Pepper thus far that Ambrose can't help the tweaking up-turn of the corners of his lips.

Oh, THAT comment earns Ambrose a raised eyebrow. "Would he, now? I just might have to ask him, then." She even goes so far as to reach for her phone, turning a bit to dig it out of her bag.

"Though honestly, it seemed … not like a trained response from Rosebud to do all of that digging. It was just, different, I suppose." She doesn't sound like she thought the jackal was in any way less for doing something unusual, just as if she's struggling to make sense of it.

"Please do…" The amusement at the idea of Kent fielding a phone call or text about the antics of the Jackal twinkles in the thief's eyes where he sits, fingers still interlaced above his belt buckle.

"He has his moments of wisdom. In fact…would you like to see for yourself?" Ambrose unzips his motorcycle jacket enough to reach within, his eyes still upon Pepper. Out comes…oh gosh, that snottily-worded tag ought to look familiar: it's Rosebud's collar, leather and studded with diamonds. Lazily, he spins it around his pointer finger. Now Pepper is given a patient look. He's intrigued — is she going to take a wild guess at an illogical explanation?

Pepper taps out a quick text on her phone and sets it aside to wait for a reply, then looks at Ambrose. When she sees the collar, she does indeed recognize it immediately, and puts some clues together… likely the wrong ones.

"If you have that here, what is Rosie wearing? With as escape and trouble prone as that creature is, if he's not wearing tags he's doomed." Yes, she's bordering on angry. She knows that Talbot seems like a responsible pet caretaker, but Ambrose….

"Oh…pish-tush," the brunet says with a wave of his free hand, his smile appearing again. "No, Rosebud is fine. In fact, he's quite nearby. He shadows me from time to time. Would you like to meet him? No doubt he'd be quite pleased for a nibble of your trout…or even a crust of bread, the creature turns his nose up at very few things."

On the outer spin of the collar, Ambrose's fingers clasp around it and he rises to his feet. A gesture towards the path is followed by him pausing, hands returned to his coat pockets. "He's rather shy this evening. Other diners have thrown forks at him for skirting along the sitting area, you see. The clever creature knows better than to test the chances of being hit."

When Ambrose moves to stand, she hastily moves to follow, revealing that she's currently wearing flats instead of her usual heels. "If he's been scolded, then I should go with you." She scoops up her bag, phone, and plate and steps toward the man.

It might be neglectful of the waitstaff, or more likely a testament to Pepper's ability to command their loyalty that they don't so much as try to approach when she moves to leave the dining area with one of their plates.

"Where is he?"

Ambrose considers the plate in Pepper's hand with lifted brows, but doesn't seem inclined to tell her to put it back either. A free trout dinner? He certainly won't say no. Feeling only slightly badly about it, he then walks away across the lawn towards the trees on the other side of the walking path.

"I last saw him in the shadows here. If you feel comfortable, follow me within but not far. We do not wish to draw the attention of the other diners, yes?" Then he stoops to disappear into the treeline. He can be seen to travel not too far within and pause in the fall of a slanting beam of ambient glow from the nearby tall walkway light. Then, winking at Pepper, he then appears to slip the collar over his head.

The very second it passes his chin, a heat wave's miraging of magic rises up around him from the loamy forest floor. Leaves lift and scatter as the immediate area of magic shrinks down to reveal…

None other than the cream-colored jackal Pepper's come to know and love — maybe not love, maybe appreciate — or indulge, at the very least. Shaking himself out from brown nose to darkened tail tip, the small canid then pads towards her, his large ears lifted up.

Even trying to keep up with Ambrose, he gets ahead of her in the trees. She's about to call to him to wait when she sees the wink and him PUTTING THE COLLAR ON. "What—?"

She stares as the jackal is in place of the man just like that, and keeps on staring for a second or two after he pads towards her.

She recovers after a few seconds and kneels down to look at Rosie. "All this time? That's not very nice of you, Rosie." Yes, he's stuck with that nickname, because it still works. "And wouldn't you rather have a fresh plate of your own instead of settling for leftovers?"

She's either taking this remarkably well, or she's long since taken Lewis Carroll's words to heart: I will believe in seven impossible things before breakfast.

If only Pepper could hear his thoughts. The pale Jackal sighs, his small ribcage deflating, before he sits down. Then, his blade-like shoulders rise and fall beneath his pelt in a very human expression of a shrug. Clearly, the small creature — and brunet — isn't opposed to eating what's been placed in front of him. One day, the red-head kneeling down to look upon him might learn what engendered the habit.

Still, his nose lifts and wriggles towards the plate in particular. The trout does smell so very good…

Pepper sighs. "All right. But then you owe it to me to share some tea and an explanation, understood?" She punctuates that with a forkful of trout aimed at Rosie's nose, which she fully expects will be promptly eaten.

The leftover trout on the plate is gone in just a few forkfuls, and then Pepper stands again. "Well, now you owe me tea. Go and find your thumbs, and meet me back at the table." With that said, she heads back to the dining area and settles again, speaking briefly with the waiter who appears mere moments later.

And aren't those forkfuls of trout absolutely delicious. The small canine makes happy murrs as he enjoys them and once the plate is clean, he runs his tongue along both sides of his narrow mouth to collect the remaining tastes. Butter and herbs, mmm. Those large ears lift again and he lifts his nose to track her face as Pepper stands. With her instructions given, he watches her leave with a wide-eyed stare.

And the large ears slowly fall to the sides. A slooooooow whine leaves him.

In his haste to pull a trick, Ambrose forgot to explain the nature of the collar. He has no thumbs to find!

As such, Pepper will see him trot out onto the lawn and then sit down. A soft yelp leaves him and once he has her attention, he rises to his paws again, lifting one up expectactly. Clearly, the imitation is Lassie — Come, Pepper, little Timmy's fallen down the well!

Or Ambrose can't take off the collar himself, one of two options.

With the waiter having moved away again, Pepper turns to look at hearing Rosie yip. Her eyebrows draw together as she tries to figure out what he's trying to convey, but knows she can't exactly talk at him as some other patrons were just seated nearby. Leaving her plate, phone, and bag this time — this is how much she trusts the Tavern's waitstaff — she steps out again to approach Rosie.

"Don't tell me there's some sort of restriction on this thing. Are you required to wait half an hour after eating before going swimming, or something similar?" She waits for the jackal to either give her some indication of what's keeping him from going back and undoing whatever the collar does, or … she isn't sure or what else.

The indication Ambrose gives is to skirt away across the path and into the shadows of the trees once more. Anyone paying half a lick of attention is probably wondering what on earth well little Timmy's fallen down now at this point. The jackal seats himself in a patch of orangeish light on the leaf-strewn ground again and then itches at the collar with his back leg. It rotates around his neck once before he stops and looks expectantly at Pepper.

If that isn't obvious enough, he then lifts up a front paw and attempts to tug at the collar. See, lady? No thumbs! It's a failed attempt to remove it. Only his nails touch at it, even with him torquing canine joints to uncomfortable limits.

With a faint frown, Pepper follows Rosie back into the trees and sees his attempts to get at the collar. Ohhhh. Duh.
"You know, this makes me wish I could talk to animals," she comments seemingly idly as she kneels down and reaches for the collar. "I remember a beagle that could get out of any collar we put on her if it wasn't tightened just so around her neck. If it could be pulled over her ears, she'd find a way to remove it."

Grasping the collar carefully with both hands, she can't help but ask mostly herself, "Do I need to close my eyes, or something?"

Ambrose gives her a very clear grin, tongue lolling briefly. A shake of his head sharply bounces those large ears off of her inner arms and then he backs out of the leather slip-collar.

Magic swirls in a perfect inversion of what Pepper saw earlier. The heat-like mirage swirls up to a certain height before melting away. The Jackal, in his leather motorcycle jacket and jeans, kneels before her now on one knee, almost knightly in a way. Lifting his face, he blinks a few times and shakes his head again as if to ward off a fly before looking to Pepper.

The sly grin spreads across his lips. "Did you think I might be naked when I regained this form? Why, Miss Potts…how scandalous." Quickly, carefully, he snatches the collar back from her and stuffs it away into his jacket.

Pepper can't help but smile back at that grin and the amusing sensation of Rosie's ears flapping against her arms briefly. The mirage swirls cause her to turn her head away and close her eyes regardless — perhaps she expected some sort of gust of air or similar along with it — so she only blinks her eyes open again when Ambrose speaks up.

"Well, I…" She can only huff at the man, then blink in surprise when he snatches the collar back from her to stick back in his jacket. "I wasn't sure what to expect, okay?"

Standing again, she dusts her hands off and heads back to her table without waiting to see if Ambrose follows.

"I do not blame you." Ambrose's voice follows melodiously behind her as proof of his presence, thick with repressed laughter at a trick successfully played and one less burden of secrecy to bear on his part. He saunters along in Pepper's wake and ends up arriving at the table again not a second or two after she's sat down again.

He too seats himself and interlaces his fingers yet again, giving the red-headed woman across the way a contented smile. "I'm certain you've questions," he comments nonchalantly.

Pepper takes a moment to refill her cup from the teapot sitting on the table with a tealight under it, then takes a sip before answering Ambrose. "Oh yes, I have questions." She doesn't ask them straight away, though, as the waiter arrives with a second cup, a fresh teapot, and and a plate of cheeses with honeycomb and ciabatta bread.

As the waiter leaves again, she take the fresh teapot and pours into the new cup, clearly for Ambrose. And still, no questions. Not until after she's claimed a bit of honeycomb and cheese for herself.

"So, this mean that the polite giant is Mr. Talbot?" It would fit, from the few times she's spoken with the man.

The master-thief silently snorts amusement at her agreement with his assessment. He glances at the waiter and the arrival of accompanying tea as well as food. Ciabatta bread — always a favorite, and especially with the cheese available. His estimation of Pepper rises, especially with the types of cheese on display and the intricate addition of literal honeycomb.

Pepper's first question has him glancing up from spreading a soft cheese over a section of ciabatta he's plucked from the plating. "That is a question for Mr. Talbot, not for myself," he replies, perfectly evenly, fain to beat even a lie detector because…it's not a lie. A bite of the bread is accompanied by a pleased sound. He salutes Pepper with a lift of the ciabatta and accompanying lift of his brows, given he prefers not to talk around his food.

"Fair enough," Pepper says, then takes a moment to enjoy her own portion of the cheese. But once that's done, she looks at Ambrose over her tea cup.

"Does that collar work on anyone, or just you?" Was this the sort of question that the man was expcecting? If not, too bad. Pepper HAS been around Tony for several years, after all.

Ambrose clears his mouth with a sip of the tea. He frowns briefly at it, sniffs above its surface, and then appears to accept that it's not half-bad. A deeper swig is followed by a short sigh.

"It works on myself alone. The magic is specifically keyed to turn me into the creature you've met before… Rosebud," he says, distaste for the name apparent. "Ruddy hell, Talbot," he adds sotto-voce, rolling his eyes. "He introduces me like that to every single person and it is in poor, poor form."

A scoff and then Ambrose continues. "It never leaves my person. When it is not on my person, it is elsewhere beyond reach of all but myself."

Though she might seem more focused on the cheese plate and her tea, Pepper is observing Ambrose's reactions and filing them away. Particularly his dislike of the name Rosebud that Talbot assigned to the little jackal. She mentally resolves to continue calling the cheeky little creature Rosie. After all, it still fits if it's short for Ambrose or Rosebud.

"How long have you had that collar, and why?"

"For far too long and because I simply cannot keep my hands to myself," the master-thief smoothly replies. He reaches out to gather more smearing of soft cheese to spread on another piece of ciabatta bread before sniffing at the morsel pinched between his fingers.

A soft sigh is pleased. "You do have excellent taste in platings and aperitifs, Miss Potts," he compliments her lightly before eating half of the appetizer in one fell bite.

Pepper can't help but smile at Ambrose's words about the food. But, she replies to his very meager explanation about the collar. "How long is 'far too long', and when you say you can't keep your hands to yourself, do you mean in a thievish way, or a philandering way?"

She finally snags a piece of ciabatta bread before Ambrose can eat it all, and claims some of the spreadable cheese to put on it. "Mm. I'll make sure to extend your compliments to chef Amad."

"Please do, in regards to my compliments." Cleaning his fingertips upon his crisp white napkin, the Jackal then levels an even look at Pepper.

"You would not believe me if I told you, Miss Potts, how long I have been in possession of the collar. As to my hands…" His lips begin to rise into a Cheshire Cat smile. It barely flashes the whites of his teeth instead of going fully toothy.

"I admit, they have a tendency to wander when the need becomes apparent." Whose need? His own? Others? Again, the master-thief is elusive about his answer.

Nodding and resolving to inform Chef Amad that his menu has been particularly inspired today, Pepper returns Ambrose's even look. "You do remember who I work for, yes? To quote Lewis Carroll, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Try me."

She settles back with her tea, clearly leaving the rest of the cheese platter for Ambrose to finish and watches him, making it clear that she's waiting for his answer, and she's not going to let him duck out of it. She honestly already has a bit of a guess, simply based on the diamonds set into the leather collar — she's by no means an expert, but having had a chance to really look at them when Rosie-kit was asleep on her lap they appear to be hand cut. And that would make them at least seventy five years old themselves.

With the appetizer platter won by proxy of manners, Ambrose is certain to dispatch at least one piece of ciabatta and spread of soft cheese before he answers. A contented sigh leaves him. He speaks again once he's in the middle of delicately painting another layering of deliciousness onto a slice of bread, the ambient light winking off the round-ended knife.

"I am fully aware of whom you work for, Miss Potts, I spent an afternoon listening to my ears ring after his metallic armor monstrosity flew off with no warning." Smirk. "But…you asked and you shall receive." The knife is set aside with a soft clink-clink upon the small salad plate he's using to stash crumbs.

"I was born in 1880," he informs the red-head across the table before biting into his snacklet, his eyes resting upon her in obvious interest at her reaction.

Pepper accepts this news with the same sort of aplomb she does most things, though she does look amused by his mild complaint about Tony's armor. "If that bothered you, then never set foot into his workshop. He plays music at volumes that has got to cause hearing damage."

And then he tells her how long he's been alive. "That explains a lot of your more interesting turns of phrase. Are you planning to throw a particularly eventful 'dirty hundred and thirtieth' birthday party next year, perhaps just conveniently neglect to include the hundred part?" Yes, she just did the math in her head that quickly.

"I had not considered this," the Jackal admits even as he reaches for his water glass. Drinking deeply of it, he then retrieves the final slice of cheesed ciabatta. "Though now that you regale me with the idea, I find myself enamored. Of course I shall be ignoring the century tacked on to the number's fronting — I am very aware I do not look the part." Again, the infuriating little smile ghosts across his lips.

"But yes, 1880. It seems so long ago…and yet it is, to put gravity to my thought. How the times have changed. I am particularly fond of electrical laundry and drying machines. I no longer have to endure nearly-dried socks."

By his moue of distaste, damp socks are the pits.

Ambrose's expression of distaste at the thought of damp socks elicits an amused chuckle from Pepper. "I was on my high school's swim team. I know exactly how miserable damp /anything/ can be. So I agree about modern conveniences like laundry." And JARVIS, but she's not about to say that aloud.

She reaches to refill her tea cup and comments seemingly idly, "If you do decide to throw a party, I insist on helping with the arrangements. And I promise it will NOT be some noisy and ostentatious production… unless you want it to be."

Ambrose appears to dim somewhat at the idea of a party. Clearing his throat, he shifts in the chair and momentarily considers the empty salad plate. "I would not know who to invite to this party, should it come to fruition. I have few friends on this earth, Miss Potts," he murmurs, reaching to take up his water glass again.

"Do not mistake me for marking you off. You are, at the very least, an acquaintance if not perhaps more. Your efforts in keeping myself safe during my period of…youthfulness were valiant. I am humbled by them." She gets a lift of glass in salute.

At that, Pepper smiles, but there's a tinge of sadness to it. "You can't think of anyone that you could invite?" She immediately thinks of a couple of people who might get along well with Ambrose and Talbot, but she doesn't suggest them, as they'd be her invitees, not his.

"A party doesn't necessarily mean gobs of people everywhere, you know. It just means a planned event. It can be for thirty people or three. Honestly, in this day and age, you can't be the only person who's been around far longer than their appearance would indicate."

"I am aware I am not the only immortal and this comes with potential issues." Ambrose sets down his empty water glass and licks his lips idly, his gaze sliding off of Pepper and towards the pathway where a late-night jogger travels by. "One does not live this long without acquiring enemies. I do not idly invite others into my life."

He seems resentful for showing the extremely cautious portion of his nature, but it's not prickly towards Pepper — more resigned. "Never we mind about the party. Another year is proof of my continued existence and wisdom, nothing more. Besides…even if I invited acquaintances alone, I doubt they would exist well in a confined space."

With a nod, Pepper accepts Ambrose's words as easily as she did his actual age. "Fair enough. Longer life, longer time to earn enemies." Heaven knows, sometimes it feels like Tony is an overachiever even in THAT regard. "I'll talk with Mr. Talbot, see if he has any suggestions."

She sure as heck isn't about to BAKE anything.

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