People are Strange

….My friends & I come from
Far Arden w/ dances, &
new music
Everywhere followers accrue
to our procession.
Tales of Kings, gods, warriors
and lovers dangled like
jewels for your careless pleasure
—-excerpt from Jim Morrison's The Opening of the Trunk

It was a concert where Mirelle first spotted him - no great surprise, really, given he was the one on stage. She kind of liked his looks, and she quite liked his music and his style. So she wormed her way backstage the way she always did - a few well-applied looks and a few even more well-applied kisses - and managed to chase off a couple of the other girls well before the show ended.

He was a pretty nice armful, too, that night in the hotel. And the next night, because he persuaded her to stay. And the nights after that, where he persuaded her to follow him along to another town. He even talked her into sharing; she didn't mind three, or four, or five, but she usually preferred a much higher ratio of men to women. Only - it wasn't a big deal, and she had had more than a few things to alter her mental state by then, and she finally shrugged and agreed.

She was somewhat surprised to note, by the time they got back to his home turf, that she'd quite worked her way into his affections. He was a nice boy, but she wasn't really looking for a relationship. It had just kind of… happened. So she shrugged to herself again and followed him home.


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He lived on Love Street. Flora had always found that rather fitting. Laurel Canyon in the Sixties was a self contained community of artists, musicians and movie stars. One couldn't walk down the street without tripping over one. Not that she ever tripped.

She had, however, literally fallen into his lap one summer night on Venice Beach. His soulful eyes and the timber of his voice mesmerized her. He was a singer, a poet, a musician, and she had always had a soft spot for poets with soulful eyes. She was pleased for him when his star began to rise, but she was not interested in life on the road, and she did have other things to be getting on with. So she saw him when she saw him and rather enjoyed it that way. She had indulged him when he brought another woman to their bed, but she was never really interested in sharing them with him, but had no problem sharing him.

This was why she was there, in that quaint little house on Love Street. He was due home today. She had taken care of all the little things, had the place cleaned (musicians could be so absent minded about things like clean sheets and enough towels, though she noted that the liquor cabinet was never lacking.) Laying the backyard working on her tan, she could hear that Brown fellow down the street playing his guitar in the backyard. She had never honestly been one for false modesty, and she loathed tan lines. So working on her tan didn't involve the bikini still sitting in her suitcase upstairs.
--

Mirelle was still dressed, and it was kind of irritating - but then, they had just arrived at the house, dropped off by one of the other band members. She hadn't quite caught names on all the guys in the band yet; she wasn't terribly interested in them, although she was certain she'd slept with at least one of them. There had been a bit of making out in the back of the car on the way over - okay, a lot - and she was more than happy to drop bags inside the front door and pick things back up again.

He wanted to go outside; she wanted something else entirely first, then the yard. Slow, clothes-removing progress through the house towards the back door was the compromise they reached, and by the time they got there, he was down to skin and she was down to the last piece of clothing, which she shimmied out of as he opened the door and called a greeting to the - she glanced around the doorframe - blonde stretched out in the back.

The sunglass wearing blonde was one of those women who oozed sensuality just by being. The kind of woman who would make a bishop kick out a stained glass window. Her curves full firm breasts, flat stomach, a narrow waist that flared into rounded hips. The only thing average was her height. She smiled beautifully when he called to her (Eve, he called her), her eyes hidden behind dark glasses.

But as he told her about the tour, Mirelle could feel the weight of the other woman's gaze upon her, assessing her. Not in the way other woman might size up a potential rival or a threat. More it was an assessment of potential. As Jim nattered on about London, the other woman looked over the top of her glasses at the younger blonde, and it was then Mirelle saw the stormy blue eyes that tugged at her memory.

Then the other one flowed to her feet and plucked a royal blue sarong from the lounger. She wrapped it around her hips and shooed him inside to fixed drinks while she "got to know his new friend". It was only when he was gone that she pushed her glass up on top of her head. Her expression was expectant, amused, and resigned all at the same time. Flora didn’t say it. But she thought it. Merde.

Mirelle, on the other hand, was petite and much less curvy. And short. She never had liked being short; it was her mother's fault, she knew. She blamed the smaller amount of curves on her father; she had to blame him for something, it was only fair. She was also, it might be noted, probably high on something at the moment.

She regarded the other blonde with raised eyebrows when he'd left; she would have preferred he stay, but she was pretty good at going with the flow. Still… Stormy blue eyes, blonde, built like a goddess - she really ought to know… Oh. Right. "Aw, hell," she said then. "Flora?"

"I really do not know if I should be surprised or not," she responded, then laughed. "When they said 'infinite possibilities, I do not think this situation is what they meant."

"And it's Eve, dear." she added lowly. Not that he could hear them, having turned the stereo on while he rattled around in the kitchen ”How have you been Mirelle?"

Mirielle grinned. "Probably not. I've been all right. Been wandering around - learning things, exploring, you know? I just kind of ended up here," she gestured loosely around, "a few months back. I didn't realize anyone else was in the area. Much less this close." She smirked. "How have you been?"

"Oh, just drifting along really," Flora replied with an airy wave. "I have been here on this Shadow for quite awhile. I have a bit of a soft spot for it. Europe mostly. I do believe the first time I was in California was two years ago, when I fell over a certain upcoming new poet." She gave the kitchen a sidelong glance, then sighed.

"He is experimenting again. We may as well get comfortable by the pool."

"Is he?" Mirelle asked, glancing that direction too. "That should be interesting." Her hand moved to where her pocket should be, encountered skin, and she frowned slightly and muttered, "Right. Smokes are in the pants." She gestured instead for Flora to lead the way and followed. "We could get comfortable in the pool," she suggested. "Sit on the steps, maybe? I hate pool chairs."

"As you wish," Flora replied easily, as was her way. "There are cigarettes over on that table if you would care to indulge."

Aware of her host's proclivities, there wasn't just tobacco in the cloisonné case. Whether Flora herself indulged was still up for debate. She tossed her sarong in the general vicinity of a chair, and a handy breeze made sure it landed as she intended.

"Thanks," Mirelle answered. She cheerfully lit up, and it wasn't tobacco she chose. "How are things," she said as she knotted up her hair to keep it out of the water, "in - er, at home?"

Flora pinned her hair up with hairpins sitting by the edge of the pool. She looked back to see him on the phone. Probably with his agent. If he didn't check in, then the man would just drop by, and she imagined that none of them wanted that at the moment. "I am not sure how long it has been since you were there, so I will start at the top. Father is off who knows where, Benedict has been gone for over a decade, Eric is Regent, Corwin is missing from Amber still, Deirdre is still playing the one off the other - even with one of them gone. Fiona and Brand are in residence, though Bleys is in and out. Julian will have to be forcibly removed from Arden (as will the stick up his ass), Caine and Gerard are still at sea, Llewella is ever in Rebma, and I have not seen your brother in ages." She smiled. "It is actually fairly quiet and peaceful. The people seem to quite like Eric. But he was always among the most charming of us when he wished to be."

"Huh." Mirelle settled into the water, choosing a spot where she could lean back comfortably. "I make it in now and then, but it's not usually for more than a day or so. Just enough to make sure nobody's taken over my rooms." She smirked. "I saw Random a year or so back. He's found some little hole in the wall Shadow to wallow in. Nice place - decent scenery, if you catch my drift." She arched an eyebrow.

He came back out then, still magnificently nude and bearing a tray with three drinks whose color was not found in Nature and a trinket he had picked up for Eve while on tour. Sliding her sunglasses back down, Flora smiled over at Mirelle. "Yes, I believe I do."

Flora skillfully and easily made him believe that string of blue-green cloisonné beads could have been the Crown Jewels of the Russian Imperial Court and she couldn't have loved them more. Never once did it come across as anything but sincere. When he put it on her, she obligingly moved over by Mirelle so she could see it.

It was with a gleam in his eye that he remarked that they almost looked like sisters.

Mirelle watched Flora accept the gift with private amusement. She herself was not that subtle - not even passingly. It was just the way she was. She vaguely remembered when the beads had been purchased, in that she remembered a shopping trip to a bazaar somewhere. It hadn't been important at the time, she remembered that, and she supposed it really wasn't now. Still, she smiled and complimented them; it would make him happy.

She laughed gaily at his remark. "That would be an amazing coincidence," she offered, smiling at Flora. "You did meet us halfway around the world from each other."

He pouted at her. "You're a terrible muse; killing a man's dreams like that."

The other pushed away from Mirelle to make a space. "We can pretend if you like," an amused Flora cooed. He grinned as he maneuvered himself between them.

The younger blonde settled against his shoulder once he was comfortable. "Of course we can pretend. It is a bit striking, isn't it?" She smiled across at Flora. "You'd think we had the same father or something."

"Father always was a bit of a ladies man," Flora mused thoughtfully. She then gave him a sultry smile with a bit of pout while trailing a fingernail over his bare chest in an intricate pattern.

"But I don't know now. You haven't even kissed me yet."

He was a bit like a puppy; eager and easily distracted. With an arm around the both of them, he pulled the woman he knew as Eve closer and kissed her thoroughly.

And kissing led to other things…


Time passed, as it generally did. Mirelle didn't last more than a day or two before she got restless and headed back out on the road. ("I can settle sometimes," she confessed to Flora when he was out of the room at one point, "but this is positively domestic. I'm bored.") She promised him she'd be back next time he hit the road, and caught a ride somewhere else. And she was; most of the times he hit the road for a concert or a tour, she would catch the show or pick up the tour after a few stops - and she'd stick around for a while. She went home with him a few other times, but her stays were brief, and somehow they were always when Flora couldn't be there. Sometimes she sent little trinkets home with him for 'Eve' - most of them were quite nice, but then there was the unicorn that was quite visibly male that she sent along for a laugh. And so, it was a few years before the two blondes met again.


Mirelle had been late to catch up with him this last time; she'd been out of the Shadow and only belatedly realized that he was probably on tour again. So when he asked if she'd come along home, she shrugged and agreed.

Flora had stayed another week after her half-sister took her leave. She understood Mirelle's wanderlust; she had it too for awhile in her early years. Flora continued to see him off and on, and he told her with that boyish grin that he had seen "you sister" when he was on the road. She would just smile and ask how she was doing as she opened one of the little gifts. But by 1968 he was showing the first signs of becoming a Rock Star instead of a poet who happened to be a talented musician, and Flora was not in the least bit interested in being arm candy for a Rock Star. She hadn't minded the drinking, and pot was no more an issue then cigarettes. By the time he called her from a hotel in Paris, he had only experimented. But she knew; she heard things, and made him promise that he would not indulge while she was around.

With that, she had promised to meet him at his hotel after his show that night because she still had a soft spot for the young man. She had sailed by the front desk in all her elegant and haughty glory, and let herself into his room. She knew the moment she walked in that Mirelle was with him on this tour; she could feel the lingering sign of Reality in the room. Smiling, Flora had changed into the handpainted silk robe hanging in the closet and waited out on the balcony under the shadow of Eiffel's Tower.

Mirelle knew all about the drug use; in a way, she thought - when she bothered to think about it - it might have been partially her fault. Of course, it could just as easily have been Pamela's fault, too, or any one of a dozen other people; she knew she didn't encourage him, but she certainly didn't stop him either, and she indulged a bit herself. But he said Eve had made him promise, so she shrugged and agreed she'd refrain as well.

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The full moon hung poised beside the steel spire of the Eiffel Tower when they arrived at the hotel; it was kind of a nice image, Mirelle thought, if a bit cliché. She told him as much, and he chuckled and bantered with her about it as they entered the hotel and headed for his room. " - If I thought you'd take it," he was saying as the door opened.

She laughed. "Where would I keep it? It's much too big for a pocket."

"I thought so," he said, looking around. "She must be out on the balcony; you go ahead, and I'll bring drinks."

"All right." She kissed him briefly and sauntered out into the moonlight.

Her hair wasn’t quite as blonde; a sign she hadn’t been spending near as much time sunbathing of late. It was more red then blonde and the moonlight painted it the color of freshly polished rose-gold. The ember of her cigarette glowed like a firefly hovering at the balcony rail. Flora didn’t turn around when Mirelle came out. She gazed up at the moon that seemed to hang from the top of the Tower.

“I was here when that was built. I think it may look better now than it did for the Exposition Universelle. Pity not everything holds up the ravages of time so well.” She shook her head, turning then, and leaned her back to the stone rail.

She smiled. “Hello again. How is the road treating you?”

Mirelle seemed entirely unchanged: her hair a little shorter, perhaps, but that was about it. She lit her own cigarette in the silence, with a pack from one pocket and a box of matches from another, and returned her half-sister's smile. "Oh, the usual," she answered. "Some days are good, some days… not so much. How is the settled life?"

Somehow, Flora snorted delicately. “Some days are more settled then others. I find myself going through a period of ennui. It would be quite annoying if I could work up the emotion to care.” She smiled over at Mirelle. “Ironic, oui?”

Mirelle smirked. "A bit. I know the feeling; that's usually when I get up and go somewhere else again." She glanced back over her shoulder towards the room, and then moved to lean against the rail beside Flora. "I'm headed out-Shadow again," she said, keeping her voice low, "when this tour is done for sure, maybe sooner. I've got that feeling like I've been here too long."

Flora peered around to see if she could see him before she too spoke low. “I think this may be it for me as well. For different reasons.” She gave Mirielle a melancholy smile. “This life is becoming something I can no longer involve myself in.”

"I heard about your request," Mirelle offered. "Time to go back to being respectable, sister dear?"

“It has nothing to do with my perceived respectability. This whole Rock Star life will kill him, Mirelle,” Flora replied flatly. “Just as it has killed so many before him. I will not interfere with his free will, but I do not have to watch while he freely kills himself.”

"Probably," Mirelle answered. "On the other hand, how many has it not killed? The tipping point doesn't happen until he stops breathing, you know. You have the ability to be a good influence on him."

“Only if I removed everyone around him and took their place.” Flora took a drag off her cigarette and exhaled smoke at the moon. “Poets and musicians; they will break your heart every time.”

"I suppose so," Mirelle answered after a moment. "I don't encourage it, you know, but I'm hardly the one to be forbidding anyone from anything."

Flora gestured dismissively. “I know. I simply find it a waste of talent and beauty. Alas, just because we can play God, does not mean we should.”

He came out then, all exuberance and energy, bearing champagne someone had told him was “quality” but Flora wouldn’t have used it to clean her coffee pot. Nonetheless, she kissed him hello. When she pulled back, it was to look at him intently until he squirmed. But then she smiled and he was suddenly all eagerness and youth and sharing with them his recently settled thoughts on the nature of the universe with great enthusiasm. When he wasn’t looking in her direction, Flora just looked sad.

Never once did she let him see it, and she seemed intent on making sure he remembered her long and fondly.

If she hadn't said she was leaving soon, Mirelle would have seemed normal - or at least what seemed to be normal for her, although that was based on those few days before and not much else. She was flirty and playful, but there was an edge of restless energy that colored everything she did now; it was subtle, but it was there. (It was perhaps one of the very few subtle things about her.) Even standing still and watching when his attention was on Flora instead of her seemed imbued with a certain energy, as if she'd be pacing if she was alone - or maybe just already gone. She never did seem sad, because she wasn't; she'd drifted in, had a good time with a nice guy, and now she was going to drift out again.

They headed inside when the champagne was gone, glasses - and Mirelle's shirt - left forgotten on the balcony as they closed the doors on Paris and her moon.

That time it was Flora that was still there the next evening. But she didn’t tarry over what only she knew was a goodbye. She left him sleeping with a smile on his face the following morning before any of his suite mates were even stirring.


Flora always noticed when he was in the news, and she always managed to be on a completely different continent whenever he called. From afar she watched as the drugs and alcohol took their toll, when he put on weight and grew a beard, could barely sing, had runs ins with the police; until he bore little to no resemblance to that poet she met on the beach. Only to herself did she ever wonder if it was the sudden loss of Eve and Mirelle that made him throw himself into the arms of the White Lady at the bottom of the bottle. He moved to Paris while she spent more time than it was worth watching Corwin and making sure he didn’t do anything foolish – like remembering he was Corwin. Then she got the phone call from her house in Paris.

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The manager of the hotel in Paris was frantic and sure Jim was dead. In the same room of the same hotel she had last seen Mirelle. She heard herself saying she would be right there. She would deal with the fallout later. Using the Powers at her disposal, Flora arrived in the room where she found him very near death. It took her several hours of manipulations, memory wipes and travel in the back of a limo before she finally had a moment to breathe.

She dithered over it awhile. It could be her secret, and she had no idea if her sister would even want to know. But in the end, Flora decided she wanted her to know. To the beep and whirl of medical monitors, she focused on the card of the youngest of them.

There was a pause. And then, almost before the image resolved, a beat - loud, relentless, steady… a dance beat. And then music behind it, and Mirelle in front - in a very, very short skirt and a corset top and a pair of boots with a lot of buckles. There was a lot of skin showing. She said, "Flora," in greeting as she crossed the room, "let me get somewhere quiet, yeah?"

She clattered up a staircase - even as a child, Mirelle had never walked quietly - passing a very large man in a very expensive suit at the top. She seemed to be somewhere higher tech than Earth; the big man had a very svelte little headset on, which he tapped with one finger and was speaking into as she moved past. It wasn't quite so loud here, but she clearly had a destination in mind. The door at the end of the hall opened with the push of a button, and when it sealed behind her, the beat and the music cut off abruptly. "That's better," Mirelle said then. "What can I do for you, sister?"

Looking as if she had stepped lightly from the pages of Vogue, Flora smiled thinly and made a note to get something for the headache she now had. Not that it was entirely the fault of Mirelle's choice of music. "I told you he was killing himself. He almost managed it. But I decided to create legend instead."

She swiveled around so her back was to the room, and more importantly, the hospital bed on which lay a clean-shaven man. Pale and bit heavier then when last Mirelle saw him, but those dark curls were unmistakable. "I wasn't sure if you were really interested in knowing what happened to him, but I thought perhaps the mystery that will grow from this would amuse you."

Mirelle's eyebrows rose slightly in surprise. "You saved his life?"

"Yes, and no," Flora shrugged. "He can not return to the world he knew. But this one is very close, and he is alive. Hopefully he will be wiser for the experience."

Mirelle crossed to a dressing table in the room and picked up a pack of cigarettes, shaking one out and lighting it from a nearby box of matches. "What happened," she asked, with a trace of amusement, "to you not getting involved?"

She huffed. “I have no idea. For some reason, the hotel manager in Paris remembered me and called my house there. He was hysterical, my housekeeper was hysterical…” Flora sighed. “And I heard myself saying I would take care of it before I even realized it.” She looked over her shoulder at the bed and shook her head. “He deserved better then to die alone in a bathtub that wasn’t even his. He really went downhill after we were both gone.” She paused and tapped her heel against the linoleum floor. “Perhaps I felt a bit responsible

"I felt a bit guilty about the drugs for a few days," Mirelle offered. "But I was hardly the only one, as I seem to recall you pointed out. I'm hardly going to claim our leaving was responsible for whatever he did to himself." She leaned back against the table, smoking. "Was he still hanging out with Pamela?"

Flora look disgusted at the mention of her. “Waste of space, that one. I convinced her he died and presented her with a sealed coffin to have cremated. I blame her for most of his problems. But he did consider her his common law wife, so I didn’t take everything. Still, she won’t last too much longer, I expect.”

"No, I don't imagine; she always was a bit wilder than he was." Mirelle shook her head. "Really seemed to love him, though, at least the two or three times I spoke with her." She eyed the man in the bed for a moment. "Poor kid. What're you going to do with him now?"

“Release him into the wild,” Flora smirked. “Once upon a time, he wanted to write. I may set him up on a beach somewhere, or in the mountains. Wherever he ends up, it will be his second chance.”

Mirelle laughed. "'Release him into the wild'? Oh, Flora." She took another drag on her cigarette, thinking, and then shrugged. "Tell him I said hello, if you're sticking around until he wakes up."

"I will," she nodded. "I should probably stay long enough to explain what is going on, or he will think he has gone mad - and so will everyone else."

The blonde grinned at her. "Oh, that's bound to be interesting. I almost want to come hear that." She blew smoke. "Almost. Good luck, sister. Even if you tinkered with his brain to get the addiction out, that's not going to be a fun detox."

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"Actually, the doctors say he may remain unconscious through the whole ordeal," Flora said with a remarkable lack of concern. "And if not…" she shrugged and smiled. "It will be another object lesson in why one should listen to Eve when she says not to do something."

Mirelle smirked. "And if you're lucky or good at tinkering, maybe he'll listen this time. Like I said, good luck. This time, he's all yours; I'm not headed that way any time soon." She glanced at something outside the frame of the call. "Anything else before I go?"

Flora waved a hand. “No. Go and enjoy your little party. I just thought you might care to know what happened to him. Especially if you happen to drop by this part of Creation again and hear the rumors.” She smiled. “Take care of yourself, sister.”

Mirelle laughed and answered lazily, "I'm working on it. Until later, Flora." She lifted a hand in a wave, and the contact closed.

Flora turned and gave the man on the bed a frank study. “Well, James Douglas Morrison, you best earn this second chance."


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