2020-06-23 - Normalcy over Food with Friends


Ambrose rings for Pepper's assistance in the aftermath of the collapse of Pangaea. Food and tea mend all wounds.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Jun 23 04:18:05 2020
Location: Talbot Manor - Grounds

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Theme Song



So, they survived the apocalyptic collapse of the pocket dimension of Pangaea, Ambrose and Kent. The Jackal had taken some physical damage in the process, but the Bane's insistence that its host remain as healthy as possible meant the blood was dried and the skin closed by the time they'd both arrived home. There had been some feeding of the curse one way or another and now, with Kent rested like the dead in the downstairs master bedroom, Ambrose in his long blue-plaid bathrobe overtop sweatpants has his cellphone in his hand. The offspring, Mira and Sterling, are out on a grocery run for everyone's sanity.

He thumbs into the contacts list with a shadow of weariness about himself and then selects the number, pressing it twice to dial. The phone is lifted to his ear.

"Miss Potts? Lieutenant Atherton," comes the crisp British baritone over the line.

Still finishing up a few last tasks for her workday, Pepper answers the call with her usually reserved for business brusqueness proving that she didn't look at caller ID before picking up. The instant she hears Ambrose's voice, though, she stops her rapidfire typing and turns her full attention to the call.

"Ambrose, hello! How have you b—" Her brain catches up finally, having heard … weariness in the man's voice? Something. She can't really place what, but something's off. "What's wrong?" Her concern is instantly clear in her voice.

Back at the Manor, the Jackal rubs a hand down his face. He can be heard to clear his throat quietly over the line, as if annoyed at himself for being caught out at feeling still drained despite the trickling return of the lost volume of his curse.

"We are all fine," he immediately reassures the woman. Maybe it's not as reassuring as he means it, this particular choice of words. "I was…wondering if I could ask a favor of you." Reaching for the mug of tea on the side table tucked to the couch, Ambrose sips at it — mmm, blackcurrant with a swirl of cream, his personal variant on a dessert-tea.

His words are less reassuring than she was hoping for, but better than she was expecting. "Of course," Pepper replies without hesitation. "Anything that is legal and won't empty my bank account." Which, really, leaves a LOT of possibilities.

She gestures vaguely in the air, a signal that JARVIS already knows only too well. She won't even have to repeat the request, the AI pulling it directly from the phone conversation and likely placing orders or arranging purchases faster than Pepper can put her shoes back on.

Her words in return bring the man to laugh, almost airily.

"You remain wise as always, Miss Pepper." Ambrose ditches her last name at this point though remains formal nonetheless. "Thankfully, nothing will be illegal or threaten your savings. We are admittedly under the weather, Kent and I, and I will not sit here and pretend to have any real ability to cook. Could I impose upon you the idea of an ordered dinner or two? Possibly three. My other half means to sleep and I do not mean to disturb him unless absolutely necessary," the master-thief explains quietly.

"The offspring are out shopping for groceries, but they will be an hour or two yet. I would prefer to be able to reheat items as Kent requires."

"Enough for three, reheatable." Pepper glances up at the display that JARVIS helpfully offers, then nods at his highlighted recommendation. "This is too easy, you realize, Ambrose. I was expecting an actual challenge, like freshly baked kolaches from that place in Texas, or a deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati's." The place she just named is in Chicago.

Glancing up at the display from JARVIS again, she wrinkles her nose. "Looks like peak delivery hour, they're saying they can't get an order to you for at least an hour and a half." Did she even already have Ambrose's home address? "I think it would be far faster if I brought it to you myself." She turns to put her shoes back on, and before she's straightened up again, JARVIS has sure enough confirm that the order is placed for pickup.

"I would not subject you to such travels, Miss Potts. I am a gentleman," the Jackal reminds her with another soft laugh. He stretches his other hand upwards along with both legs out until he's a bathrobe-wearing slouch on the couch. It rumples up his sweatpants to about his knees or so; bare feet wiggle toes.

"You are welcome to do so," he then replies to her suggestion. "It would be faster for you to pick it up. You will be far speedier than the delivery people, I assume. Please let me know what the total is that I might pay you back?"

Pepper chuckles softly as she lets JARVIS save off her work and lock her computer, scooping up her bag and phone as the call seamlessly (maybe with the faintest change in sound quality) switches off of speaker. "Oh, you don't think I actually go to get those items myself? Please." She stops abruptly and hurries back to her credenza to look at the ranks of tea tins before plucking two of them from their places and dropping them into her bag and then pulling a wooden box big enough to hold a pair of shoes. And then she's walking briskly out of her office and toward the elevator.

"It'll be a solid hour faster if I bring you the food myself, and the total for reimbursement is that you enjoy the food and don't argue."

Unseen back at the Manor, Ambrose lifts up a hand as if a gun were held to his chest. "And who am I to argue with such kindness. Thank you, Miss Pepper. When you arrive, knock at the door thrice. I will need to disable the alarms as it stands." Because, of course, the wardings and the Phurba itself are on high alert for the time being — just in case. "I will see you anon."

The rest of his blackcurrent tea is then drained with an expert and long-practiced tip-back of his head, jaw and throat working to take it all down despite the steam. A soft hiss through his teeth and then he's on his feet, set to shamble to the kitchen to drop off the mug. A quick jaunt downstairs and he's slipped into a soft long-sleeved tee shirt despite the June weather, as if he were cold still somehow. Sleeves are rolled up to his elbows in the end and he awaits seated on the back of the couch, feet now in moccasin slippers to boot.

About forty five minutes after hanging up the phone, the burgundy sedan that is Pepper's usual car of choice pulls to a gentle stop in front of the manor, and Pepper and Dmitri each carry brown paper sacks of food to the door — Pepper's balanced atop that wooden box.

After a moment of shuffling and Dmitri reaching over to keep her from dropping anything, she knocks on the door three times precisely as she was instructed. Then she offers her companion a smile of thanks and waits for Ambrose to answer. She's totally okay with being patient, he did say something about a security system after all.

Three knocks and with a soft sniff, as if he'd been half-asleep in his cross-ankle'd lean on the couch, Ambrose looks over at the door. There's a telling hang of two seconds where it's very clear the chary master-thief is fighting an instinctive reaction to want to basically shout "WHO IS BLOODY THERE" — but then, with a murmured command to the Phurba in Tibetan ("«She is guest.»"), the front door opens to reveal Ambrose himself.

"Ah, Miss Pepper, my gratitude." Dmitri's presence makes the Jackal go still and give the driver nee security guard a lingering, measuring, wondering look. The other half of Talbot Manor has ditched his bathrobe, only in the long-sleeved shirt and sweatpants, slippered feet. "Pardon, but the security system will only allow her to pass at the moment," he says to Dmitri with an even tone, not a lick of apology present for any issue this may cause. Hands are then offered out as if he might be handed off the food being carried by Dmitri instead.

Pepper might well note how rather than looking aged, the Jackal's hair seems to have been partially darkened since she last saw him; silver temples remain and the eerie ember-glow within his pupils? Gone.

Dmitri doesn't seem at all offended when Ambrose doesn't invite him in along with Pepper. "That's fine." He hands off the bag of food he's carrying, then takes the top container out of the bag that Pepper has and returns to the car. He's probably more than used to it.

Pepper blinks in momentary surprise at seeing that Ambrose is no longer completely silver-haired, and then is offended for a second on the driver's behalf, but seeing as he bowed out gracefully, she can't exactly protest.

Stepping inside, the aromas coming from the bags clearly give away what she's brought, though it seems like a lot more than three people's worth of food.

"Thank you." Crisp gratitude from the leeriest member of the Talbot-Atherton family as he takes the food parcels from Dmitri. He lingers to be certain the driver makes it safely out beyond the wrought-iron fencing surrounding the property before he gestures for Pepper to step inside. Toeing the front door shut, he then leads the way to the kitchen proper. It's a space balanced in the old and new, with Victorian accents in design as well as the latest chrome implements and machines, mixers and microwave. There's even a Quick-Pot tucked next to the toaster.

"Bloody hell…" breathes Ambrose, looking at the sheer volume of food present: bunny dumplings tuck against buns, containers of egg-drop soup and sweet-and-sour soup nestle alongside steamed fish and crispy beef. There's a box of steamed snow peas tossed with water chestnuts next to cashew chicken. He recognizes braised pork — fried tofu and tomato — curried chicken — all these things in quantities to feet the four members of the household for at least three days.

Pepper gets a look effusive of gratitude. "Miss Pepper…thank you, from the bottom of my black little heart," the Brit says, able to smile enough that it reaches his eyes.

Pepper returns the smile as she lets Ambrose go through the bags of food, having set the wooden box down gently to one side. "You are most welcome, Ambrose. It sounded like you needed it." She then pulls the two tins she'd tossed into her bag and sets them on top of the box. Both have chinese characters on them as well as Pinyin. "I also brought some tea, in case you wanted a bit of a change."

She hasn't really explained the box, though.

The tea tins are looked over and Ambrose reaches for the tin with the blue label, turning it around in his deft fingers to read the information on it. His eyes flick to Pepper and, again, he gives her a small smile.

"Kent has not had this in some number of decades, I hazard. He will be pleased to see it," the master-thief explains, then placing the tin back next to its brethren. He has noted the box — did when he first opened the door — and now drums his fingertips across the flat top near to one edge, giving Pepper a quietly curious look.

At the curious look, Pepper just pushes the box toward Ambrose, lifting off the tea tins so he can open it. Inside is a very proper chinese tea set, cups and all. "I don't get to use this nearly often enough. If you and Kent will use it more than I will, it deserves to stay here with you."

The tea set appears to have been well kept, even if it is still has the cleanliness that indicates lack of consistent use.

Given permission to open aforementioned box, Ambrose does. Once he sees the contents, he lets out a quiet sound of recognition. Fingertips brush along the burnished outer surface of the tea set with a reverence; despite his upbringing, the Jackal has never truly left Shanghai behind in his life, from food tastes to understanding the importance of such a tea set. He glances up at Pepper again.

"We drink more tea than most Americans do in their life in a week here. It will be much beloved," he murmurs, eyes falling to the warmly-brown set nestled within its setting in golden wood.

Pepper nods. "Then consider this a gift. I'm a little too American in how I drink my hot teas. I was given to understand that using a set like this involves having time to sit and prepare, almost like a ritual or meditation." She most certainly doesn't have consistent time to sit and appreciate tea in that manner.

"Maybe we can enjoy some tea after we eat?" She doesn't want the food to get cold, after all. "Oh, the buns and dumplings are unsteamed, so that you can heat them up fresh for breakfast tomorrow." Probably a good thing she pointed that out now and now before someone took a bite of one.

A good thing to point out indeed, about the buns needing the extra step of preparation for deliciousness. Ambrose can be seen to glance at them, mark this in memory, before he nods. "Of course, Miss Pepper. Please, sit, I will get the plates and silverware." A gesture towards one of the kitchen chairs he pulls out and then, after a moment, a plain white plate handed towards the woman. "Ah, yes, serving utensils."

Soon enough, there's a spoon or fork for every container, a bowl or two as need be for soup, and the Jackal is dishing himself up a healthy serving of everything. It might not all fit into his stomach at once, but hey: that's what Sterling is for — kid's a bottomless pit. Of note, his choice for chopsticks to eat the more solid dishes.

Pepper gladly sits at the table and accepts the plate and silverware, though she also chooses chopsticks over the fork. She's not nearly as proficient as Ambrose, but she can at least get food from her plate to her mouth without dropping anything.

"So I take it whatever had had you looking less than your usual self is starting to get better finally?" she asks after a polite amount of time.

A goodly portion of Ambrose's plate has been cleared by the time Pepper speaks again. He's been eating with a neat and tidy speed, tasting while attempting to get as much of it into himself as he can — another hold-over from his tour so long ago in the vast sands of the Fertile Crescent.

A glance up at Pepper while he chews a piece of curried chicken. After he's swallowed: "I believe so. That which was lost has been found. It is…a profound relief," he says on a heavy sigh. "I was not myself for so long." A smirk. "And Kent could only say so many times that I looked the part of a silver fox. It is not the same." A gesture of chopsticks towards his darkening hair before he plucks another piece of chicken up. "It will not darken your door either, what threatened us." So solemnly, he informs Pepper of this, holding her eyes.

With a nod, Pepper offers Ambrose a smile. "That is a huge relief to hear. Just the thought of something able to seem so unlike yourself. Though, the silver hair wasn't a bad look, really. Just, well, not suited your personality."

She truly trusts his word when he says that whatever had been the cause is no longer a threat. It just might take her subconscious a little longer to get over that Pan's Labyrinthine THING to stop showing up randomly in her dreams. She's good enough to not let that very brief spike of uneasiness show, well, not to the average human eye, anyway.

Pepper gets a crooked half-smile. "You are too kind," he demurs of the compliment and observation bundled into one. "But the silver hair did not, I agree. I am not sage enough to have earned such coloration — Kent, perhaps, but he has many years yet before it shows." Centuries, possibly, if the world is kind to both demi-immortals.

Ambrose grabs for another water chestnut before looking up at her again. "Do let us know if anything concerns you. What we dealt with was unfortunately expansive in subtle ways. It had fingers in many pies, to use such a saying."

"You know I won't hesitate to do so." Heck, if Pepper for whatever reason is in enough distress that she can't call for help herself, JARVIS will contact assistance. Though, whether the AI will know when to call Ambrose as opposed to, say, Dmitri… That is more difficult to determine.

"SI has tightened security a LOT in the past several months, but you can bet I'll be getting a hold of you or some other people I know if the safeguards we've put into place prove ineffective." And she really really hopes that the warding sigils included in every SI component's tracking marks will actually do their jobs when needed. Sadly, there's no way to tell if they're going to work or not until they're needed.

Ambrose nods approval. "Please do," he reiterates as to ineffective security failing and the contacting of the household. "I have faith in what you have done to keep your business safe, but sometimes, additional wardings are merited. I am no caster, but Kent may be able to assist — and he knows many others who can if he cannot. But tell me of what else you have done while me and mine were busy with our personal troubles?"

This he asks with genuine interest, a rare thing in the chary Jackal and proof of where Pepper stands: a friend. After they're done eating and food is stashed away (leaving the fridge to brimming), the new tea set is christened. Such normalcy is indeed a treasure.

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