"Hey, can I come in?"
Penny Ngwenya surveyed him skeptically from the other side of her flat window. "Depends. This isn't a thing where you're, like, a vampire now, or some sort of magical baddie, and I've got to do the whole invite-you-in thing so your whole smelly self can come inside?"
"Just me," said Matthew. And: "Just us," said the Angels. But she was joking, and had already slid open the window. Her flat was on the second floor. She didn't ask Matthew how he had gotten onto the second floor, they were both sorcerers after all, and she'd seen their wings. Matthew ducked his head under the frame and stepped inside.
Penny's flat was small, and low-ceilinged, the room centred around a large fold-out settee of worn blue fabric squashed against a decade-old television set. A thin wooden coffee table acted as the no-man's land between the two. Signs of two lives were spread over the table: study notes and markers, tools of the trade, that likely belonged to Penny, and a hat and keys and magazines from another person. Two piles that had diffused into one another. Matthew liked that, it felt cozy and lived-in.
Matthew took off his coat (stained to a colour between grey, brown, and green) to prevent the spread of city grime. He didn't care about such things, and in fact felt out of his element without his protective patina of oil and chip grease and asphalt dust. But Penny's boyfriend did care, and Penny's boyfriend had been more than accomadating of the friendly vagrant who his girlfriend had adopted. So. Coatless it was. He rolled it up and placed it on the radiator.
Penny had gone into the kitchen http://archiveofourown.org/works/newto put on the kettle. "Are vampires real, by the way?" Her voice echoed back. "Is that an occupational hazard?"
Matthew settled back on the settee, prepping on his best teacher voice. "Depends what you mean by 'real'. They're mostly just everyday people. The checkout lady at Tesco's. Ian from accounts. That sort of thing. Just a little pointier, and with an iron deficiency. So real, yes, occupational hazard, not so much."
"And on a scale of one to ten, how likely am I to have my neck punctured by a Tesco's lady? Like, do they drink blood?"
"Well, the vampire I know doesn't. He's OCD, doesn't like the mess."
The noises of tea preparation stopped. "You know a vampire? An obsessive-compulsive one? That's bonkers. Do they work at Tesco's?"
"He's a dentist, actually." Matthew enjoyed busting out stories like that a little too much.
"You know an obsessive-compulsive vampire dentist. Does he sparkle, too?"
"I mean, sometimes his eyeliner? Not, ah, dermally."
"Gawd. Just, totally fucking bonkers. D'you want sugar?"
The Angels perked up at this. "Three."
"I thought you would."
Penny returned from the kitchen with two steaming mugs, and Matthew took the one proferred. It said #1 MUM in scuffed red letters. Matthew closed his eyes and felt the warmth of the mug and the steam radiate through his hands and face. It was autumn, and after midnight, and the city nights had gotten chilly.
Considering that Penny was his apprentince and probably his closest friend, Matthew crashed at her place with surprising infrequency. Generally he spent his nights sleeping in the Mayor's office, or at Dudley's, or just walking the streets of the city with the smell of takeout and rain and the sound of the lone car in the distance, alone with his thoughts--which, granted, he was never alone with their thoughts. The thing was that Penny was a sorcerer (like him) and had baggage (like him) and had once almost razed London to the ground (like them), but Penny had a flat and a boyfriend and a day job (not like him), and spending too much time in her home led to uncomfortable introspection and maybe-it's-just-yous and can-dead-people-get-jobs-anyways that he preferred to avoid.
"So how do you know a vampire dentist, anyway?" She plopped down next to him on the settee. "Midnight-fucking-Mayor stuff?"
"From Sharon's group, actually." He let that one hang.
Penny was looking at her tea casually, turning the spoon in slow loops, but her head was cocked in a gesture of encouragement. You-can-tell-me-about-it-if-you-want-to. "How's that going?"
"It's, well, you know. It is what it is. I talked about how I became we. How I, ah, died. So that's a thing." He paused to sip the tea, still almost boiling, scalded his tongue. Tasted quite a lot of sugar.
"Was that... helpful?"
Matthew shrugged, nodded from behind his mug, trying to look nonchalant. "Yeah, it was."
Penny looked sidelong at him. "It helped me a lot, yeah? After Nabeela died. Going to talk to someone. And I'm not even like a mega-mystic mobile god--"
His mouth quirked into a smile at that.
Penny grinned back. "So what I'm trying to say, right, is that I think it's great that you're doing that."
Matthew nodded. "Thanks." They sat in silence for a minute or two.
"So listen," said Penny cheerfully, "I was gonna put on a movie, yeah? It's Ocean's Eleven but with magicians. Sans George Clooney. You know that one?"
"I haven't seen it, but we'd like to."
"Great! Just gimme a moment." She stood up and went into a room down the hall, re-emerging with a DVD. "Actually, it's the sequel. That okay?"
"Sure, sequel away."
People would often opine about how the Angels made him more than human, or less than human. Sometimes Matthew was one of those people. Would that they could see them thoroughly invested in Now You See Me 2. That was human, wasn't it? Human, more or less. Matthew had to admit that it was nice to sit like this sometimes. No existential wandering of back alleys, no saving the city from death and destruction, just watching a film with a friend, pissing off the downstairs neighbours with the sounds of American stage magic at an ungodly hour. Sometimes that was okay.