TITLE: Southern Accents
AUTHOR: Monica M.
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra and Josiah
DISCLAIMERS: The M7 characters in this story belong to MGM.
CHALLENGE: The August 2004 Challenge offered by Jen Brooks: Write us a story inspired by a song.
UNIVERSE: Hmm, well let’s see…this is a new AU, well I certainly hope it’s a new AU and that I am not stepping on anyone’s toes. You could say that it is based rather loosely on a “blink and you missed it” TV series from the very late 80’s – early 90’s called Nasty Boys. What was this series famous for, you ask? Well most notably for introducing me to Benjamin Bratt, Jeff Kaake, Don Franklin and a couple of other rather handsome men whose names I forget. Oh wait there was another dude that y’all might be even more familiar with, though I personally don’t consider him handsome, Dennis Franz before he hit it big in NYPD Blue. The Internet Movie Database has this as a summary for the show but I don’t think it captures what appealed to me back then <G>. The Nasty Boys are a special unit of the Las Vegas Police Department. The unit consists of undercover cops and their identities are withheld, even from the department. They only answer to their boss, Lt. Krieger, who in turn only answers to the Chief. And if there is ever an instance that they have to bust the people they are working on, they wear ninja type outfits to conceal their identities. Ah, good times back in the days when cops in ninja outfits seemed like perfect fodder for a television show. I think the scary thing is that if I recall correctly this was all loosely based on an actual unit. So I guess you can say that I’ve removed the reality factor from it two times over. I just wanted to have the six as law enforcement officers with a bit more freedom to work outside of regular channels and every time I thought about that, this old show kept popping into my head so I felt I had to give it some recognition. And I purposely wanted to have Ezra working both sides of the fence, a little bit criminal, a little bit do-gooder. That just happens to be the way I like him. <g> I do hope to one day write a full-fledged story in this universe. I hope to write a lot of things, so there you go. <g>
The real inspiration to this story is the song “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty
and the Heartbreakers. This is an older song, mid 80’s at least as is from their
CD of the same name (yes I know CD’s weren’t around back then but I just can’t
call them albums anymore). If
any of y’all are familiar with Tom Petty this song is a little different than
his usual stuff. It’s a ballad, and it always had a haunting quality to it that
appealed to me when I first heard it, even way back then. As my friend Debbie
will attest to, I have long wanted to write an Ezra story with this song at its
heart. In fact it was just under 4 years ago that on an international phone call
that she was paying for that Debbie had to listen to this song in its entirety
as I enthused that it was SOOOO Ezra’s song! LOL Yes, you’re a true pard, my
friend, and I thank you so very much for all your encouragement.
DATE: August 23, 2004
Josiah Sanchez stifled a yawn as he shifted his cup of coffee into the same hand that held a couple of Egg McMuffins in a bag so that his now free hand could swipe his identification badge through the keycard entry lock. Pushing open the now unlocked door, he stepped into the darkened warehouse that was the home away from home for him and the five other men he worked with. Flipping on the light switch, he took a sip of coffee as he balanced out the items he was carrying once again. He froze in mid sip as he noticed a form rolling over on the couch, hiding from the intrusive light. Josiah chuckled to himself as he recognized the form.
Out of consideration for Ezra, Josiah turned on the light by his desk before turning off the main lights. Placing his breakfast on his desk he then walked quietly over to the couch to check on the unofficial seventh member of their team. Vin, J.D. and Buck all enjoyed calling him their snitch simply because of the offended response it always drew from the other man. Of course Ezra would even bristle at being labeled an informant. Josiah could not remember what label he had given himself, something to do with being a free lance broker or something or other. The truth was that Ezra was their informant whether he liked the title or not. He was the one with the connections on the street that they needed to take the bad guys down. What amazed Josiah was that the Southerner continued to help them, even seemed to enjoy it. None of them doubted that if Ezra wanted to disappear that they would never see him again no matter what resources they poured into the effort of finding him.
Sitting back at his desk, Josiah dialed his cell phone and responded to the grunt that passed for a greeting from an early morning Chris with his news. “Ezra’s here.”
“I don’t know how he got in. Everything was still locked up when I got here this morning.”
“No, he’s sleeping on the couch. That’s the way I found him. He doesn’t look hurt, just like he’s in need of a good night’s, or in his case, day’s sleep and some food. Haven’t talked to him yet. I was just going to let him sleep until the rest of you get in. In fact, why don’t you meet up with the rest of the boys and have breakfast somewhere else. I brought my own. Give the boy some time to sleep.”
“I’m sure he’ll still be here when you get here. This is Ezra we’re talking about. He had to come for a reason.”
“Yes, I’ll call you if I learn anything. But again I say, this is Ezra we’re talking about, he could sleep the day away.” Josiah chuckled at the response he received. “Yeah, I know he won’t once you get here. That’s why I want you to at least give him a little time.” With that Josiah ended his call.
Opening his bag he began to unwrap one of the McMuffins and took a large bite. Chewing thoughtfully he powered on his computer with the intentions of starting the work that had brought him in earlier than the others. But his gaze drifted back over to where Ezra lay curled on his side, facing into the couch. He looked rather small on the sectional sofa that had been picked out so that Buck or Nathan would be comfortable if they chose to stretch out on it.
As he continued to eat, Josiah forgot completely about the reports he was supposed to be working on. He wondered what had brought the young conman into the warehouse. He must have been worn out judging by the fact that aside from rolling over when the lights had turned on, he had not stirred. And that just did not seem like typical behavior for a man who had so far shown remarkable survival instincts. However there was still so much they did not know about Ezra Standish. And yet they all trusted him and his information since he had proven himself time and time again, but there was also that slippery side of the young man that made them wonder what his true motives were.
Josiah would never forget the first time they met Ezra. The team had a couple of dealers under surveillance and had all been surprised when Ezra wandered into the middle of things. Vin and Josiah had been the ones to turn their attention towards him only to learn that he had no bearing on the case they were following. Chris, acting on one of the hunches that made him a great cop, had decided to approach him to see if he could be persuaded into helping them. He had refused at first saying that he saw no reason to get involved. But then had changed his mind and came to them with an idea about how he could be useful to them. They all had the distinct impression that somehow Ezra managed to work the takedowns he assisted them with to his advantage. Chris warned him repeatedly that if they caught him in anything illegal that they would not hesitate in arresting him as well. He only flashed his dimples and promised that they would never catch him in anything illegal. None of them were particularly reassured by that.
It had been a surprise to Josiah the first time he heard Ezra speak. He was not sure why but he had not expected the southern accent. Perhaps it was because he had seen the young man in action on the surveillance tapes without hearing him and had expected something a bit more cultured, or a bit more nondescript. Maybe it was the fault of modern pop culture that seemed to present a Southern man as an uneducated hick, a punchline at the end of a joke starting with, ‘you know you’re a redneck if.” And Ezra certainly was not one of those. If anything he reminded Josiah of a southerner from years past, of a Cool Hand Luke, or more properly a Doc Holiday. A man who was slow on the drawl but fast on the draw. A man who could talk his way in or out of trouble depending on his whim, but who had the ability to fight his way out if necessary.
And then there was Nathan, the other member of their team who had also been born in the South. He had been uncertain at first about their need for an informant like Ezra. And he had been very vocal about it even within Ezra’s hearing. Nathan had never really told Josiah what had changed his mind about the informant, but the older man knew that it had something to do with a time when the two Southerners were left on their own and had apparently had a long conversation about their shared heritage. Apparently the black, Southern, ex FBI agent had found some common ground with the white, Southern conman.
Josiah had asked Ezra about it once and had received an enigmatic grin at first. He seemed to be in a mood to talk as he sighed and came to a decision. “The truth is that the South will never rise again, nor should it. But I am proud to be from the South, it is my heritage as much as is it Nathan’s, it is part of who we are. Ask Nathan one day and he will speak with as much passion about his hometown as I might. We have both seen some ugly, terrible things in our lives, things that we would very much like to change. But while it may be more prevalent in the South it is certainly not just limited to the South. I may be ashamed of what my ancestors may or may not have been in centuries past, Mr. Sanchez, but I will never be ashamed to call myself a Southerner. And I believe that Mr. Jackson will say the same.”
Josiah had nodded unsure how to respond to the other man’s words. He himself had lived a nomad’s existence, following his father’s missionary work wherever it took him. He had no connection to the city of his birth, nor anywhere else that he had lived. He had simply never stayed in one place long enough to feel part of the community. “So then why did you leave?” he challenged.
Ezra had grinned again. “Well as my mother would certainly
say, I do indeed have a bit of the Rebel spirit in my blood, Mr. Sanchez.
Besides how else am I going to repair the tarnished image of the Southern man
unless I make my way amongst those unfortunate souls who do not live in the
Seeing an opportunity to learn more about the personal life of the conman, Josiah had asked, “So where does your mother live?”
“At present, I can not say for certain. She and I have not been on speaking terms since her latest marriage.” Ezra had stopped suddenly as if realizing that he was giving away too much information. His pale green eyes that normally revealed so very little had given Josiah a brief glimpse of sadness and perhaps even regret. There was certainly a story there about mother and son and their relationship.
Finishing off the second of his Egg McMuffins, Josiah realized that in the months since that conversation he was still no closer to knowing what really made Ezra Standish tick. Neither had any of the others. Josiah had found it quite appropriate that when Chris, Buck, or even J.D. did not appreciate the methods to Ezra’s madness the first curse to spring from their lips generally had the term Southerner attached to it. Vin, who was a Texan and so not quite a Southerner as defined by Ezra, seemed to share a connection with the other man and was the one out of all of them that understood Ezra best and worked well with him.
“You could have at least offered me one of your Egg McMuffins,” a muffled drawl stated from the couch startling Josiah.
“Didn’t want to wake you up,” he responded once he recovered from his surprise.
“Like a body can sleep when someone so rudely turns on the lights, then talks on the telephone, and proceeds to eat a rather smelly breakfast in close proximity.”
“See? If I had offered it, you just would have refused it,” the older man pointed out.
“But the polite thing to do would have been to offer a portion of your breakfast to your guest,” Ezra continued to argue for argument’s sake even as he kept himself curled in facing the couch.
“Not sure you’re a guest. More like an intruder, considering you broke in. Just how did you do that, anyway?” Josiah questioned as he stood up and walked over to the couch.
“I have a standing invitation to your fine facilities. I believe even Mr. Larabee will have to admit to that.” There was no mistaking the smugness in Ezra’s voice, almost as if he relished seeing Chris’ face when he reminded him of that fact. “And I see no reason to reveal my methods to you.”
“You just have to be ornery, don’t ya?”
Ezra finally sat up on the couch and faced Josiah with a grin. “I take offense at that slur against my character, sir.”
“Yeah? Well Chris is gonna take a lot more offense at the fact that you’re sneaking into the warehouse.”
For a brief moment Josiah received the impression that Ezra realized that he had revealed a hand that he would much rather have kept hidden a bit longer. The older man had to wonder just how long the Southerner may have been doing it and just what he might have been using their equipment for. He was sure that Chris and J.D. would step up security but he had his doubts that it would keep Ezra out.
“If he wants to make an issue out of that, then I suppose I will just have to not share the information that I have gathered. Information in which I am quite certain he will be very interested.”
Josiah chuckled and shook his head. “Just like a riverboat gambler. You always got to have an ace up your sleeve.”
Seemingly pleased with Josiah’s comparison, Ezra sketched a two-fingered salute against the brim of an imaginary hat. “I have found that does indeed often aid in my quest for survival,” he drawled.
Getting a closer look at Ezra, Josiah noticed a few fading bruises that marred his cheek and eye. “That southern, smart-assed sarcasm doesn’t seem to be in your best interests for survival,” he stated as he pointed to the other man’s face.
Gingerly Ezra touched his healing cheekbone, grinning at Josiah’s assumption, right as it was, that it had been his mouth that had gotten him into trouble. “Yes, well I can not help being who I am, sometimes even to my own dismay. And while the other ‘gentleman’ did not start off with my own good looks, I can say that he left the encounter in far worse condition.”
“Good to hear. So are you going to tell me about it?” Josiah asked as he sat on the couch.
Stifling a yawn, Ezra shook his head. “Much as I love to hear myself talk, I’d rather save my breath and tell everyone all at once.” Then in one of the odd quirks of his personality and another reminder of his polite southern upbringing, he turned to Josiah as if afraid he had insulted his host and added, “I hope you don’t mind, Mr. Sanchez?”
“Not at all, Ezra. That just means I get to talk to you about something else.”
Wariness crossed the mobile young face. “And what subject, pray tell, would you care to discuss?”
“Your name. I’m not one to talk, as Josiah is pretty unique itself. But you don’t strike me as an Ezra. If I hadn’t seen your birth certificate myself and knew that J.D. had authenticated it, I might think it was an alias. But it’s not. And I know you’ve had to have asked. So why were you named Ezra? Is it a family name?”
Again the strange kind of sadness that had marked him when discussing his mother briefly touched the conman’s pale green eyes as he considered Josiah’s question. He seemed hesitant, as if unsure how to answer. Coming to a decision he only stated, “It is indeed a family name. One that my mother saddled me with for reasons that make sense only to her.”
“Ever think about changing it?”
Again the flash of sadness broke through the impassive mask before he nodded. “I must admit that I have. But I could no more change my name than I could lose my accent. Ezra Patrick Standish is who I am, for better or worse. I have made my peace with that, Mr. Sanchez.”
Josiah nodded realizing that again Ezra had revealed a great deal about his character to him, entrusting him to understand what he was trying to tell him without voicing it outright. And on some levels Josiah did. Ezra Patrick Standish was a complex man. His Southern heritage had him tied to a time long past. At the same time he was a modern man struggling with what that same heritage had him perceived to be. That duality touched him in every aspect of his life. He was a conman, a criminal as it were, yet he had also proven himself to be their ally, a man wanting to do some good in his life. Josiah sincerely doubted that he would ever fully understand who Ezra truly was. But then he suspected that the Southerner struggled with that very question himself. And so Ezra fell back on the one thing about himself that he knew with certainty. He was a Southerner, for better or worse, that was the one thing he could carry with him for the rest of his life and he would do so with pride.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
From the CD Southern Accents 1985
There's a southern
accent, where I come from
The young 'uns call it country, the Yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talking, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from
Now that drunk tank in Atlanta, is just a motel room to me
Think I might go work Orlando, if them orange groves don't freeze
Got my own way of working, but everything is run
With a southern accent, where I come from
For just a minute there I was dreaming
For just a minute it was all so real
For just a minute she was standing there, with me
There's a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but every one's begun
With a southern accent, where I come from
Got my own way of living, but everything is done
With a southern accent, where I come from
If you are interested in hearing a snippet of the song for free go to http://www.amazon.com/ and do a Popular Music search for Southern Accents. Or follow this link http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002O1P/104-0960524-0401533 and scroll down to “Listen to Samples” and select the media player of your choice for #4. It’s only about 20 seconds of the song but it will at least give you a feel for it, I hope.