AN: I would like to thank both Enola Jones and Ranger for very graciously looking this ficlet over for me before I even dared to post it. I want to thank them also for the much needed encouragement they gave me to post at all for the first time in a new fandom. Thanks Ladies! PS I am not really sure about the Characters part, if it should be Seven, OMC or how I have it – ah well someone will tell me .
Secrets from Graves
By Marnie Rowe AKA Bumpkin
Characters: Ezra, OMC, seven
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Description: Another AU of a Modern Team 7 getting to know their Ezra, this time it's via an old co-worker of Ezra's.
Ezra Standish was an enigma.
Or maybe he was just a secretive stuck-up pain-in-the-ass who never learned how to play well with others.
Whatever the cause may be, Team 7 had been working with the man for about 8 months now and although he had effortlessly fit in with the team while on duty, he really had yet to mesh with them while not in the midst of any kind of life and death situation. Despite any and all of their efforts to include him, Ezra held himself apart, aloof from any remotely social activity with his teammates. So, other than the things that they could glean from the man's curiously sparse and formal personal file, they knew nothing about their newest teammate – except, of course, that he could be arrogant as hell along with being a really secretive and standoffish bastard. It was driving them nuts. They prided themselves on being like family to each other as much as they were a crack law enforcement team and Ezra was really upsetting their equilibrium.
Then one day a crack in Ezra's impenetrable veneer opened.
It happened on a rather low-key day for the team, when they were all comparing notes on the aftermath of a recently closed case. They were relaxed, exchanging information and observations, making sure they had the whole picture of what had transpired before shelving the case. Not the most earth shattering part of their jobs, but not the most boring part either. The best part was that Ezra had let go enough of his iron self control and was actually beginning to join in with some of the teasing and verbal horseplay. It was a start. He was warming to them, beginning to trust. The team was overjoyed.
Of course, they should have known better than to get their hopes up. Nothing was ever that simple with them.
Vin, Ezra and JD were comparing notes from their differing vantage points on placement during the bust when a sleazy looking man poked his head around the doorframe. He scanned the room quickly and seeing Ezra called out loudly,
Ezra quickly spun to face the intruder, as did the rest of the team. The amused expression that had been glimmering over his features again locked away behind the blank poker face with which he normally greeted the world. The other team members weren't pleased to see it return and glared at the interloper.
The cold reception didn't seem to faze the sleaze-ball in the least though as he kept talking. "You better keep your head down and your nose clean for the next couple weeks 'cause Fraud and Bunko ain't gonna let you have anythin' resembling privacy for a while thanks to your Mamma. Gotta say though, the woman has style – slippery as hell, but defiantly has style. Pissed off Fraud and Bunko somethin' serious with the way she slipped through their dragnet." He withdrew his head from the office still chortling and moved off.
Ezra just stood still for a moment, his teammates looking on in concern. Then, when they were beginning to wonder if he had gone into shock or something he burst into motion, viciously punching one of the walls with a virulent curse and then he all but ran after the sleazy agent that had taken such joy in taunting him.
The crack Ezra had opened so cautiously had just been dynamited into a chasm.
"Think one of us should follow him?" Buck asked the room as they all found something to lean against in the adrenaline letdown.
"Nah, if Ez catches up to that guy he deserves what he's gonna get for lippin' off like that. You jus' don' talk 'bout a man's mamma that way, no matter what she's done," Vin said bluntly. Murmurs of agreement ran throughout the room, no one could believe the nastiness that had spewed from the FBI agent's mouth.
"No wonder he didn't want to trust us if that is what he is used to for a co-worker." JD piped up.
"Or why he was willing to transfer all the way up here even with the climate being so adverse to what he is used to," added Nathan.
Silence filled the office as they all just sat around and tried to make heads and tails of what the smarmy agent had been talking about.
Another FBI agent, this one an old grey-haired man, in a rumpled three-piece-suit walked in the door about fifteen minutes after Ezra had chased after the mouthpiece. He looked around for a bit and not seeing whom he was obviously hoping to asked, "Would this be Ezra Standish's new office?"
Vin's laconic answer seemed to irritate the old man, but he gamely tried again. This time a being bit more precise in what information he was looking for, "So, if this is his new office, where would I find the gentleman in question?"
"Not here right now." Vin snarked. A vein began to throb ominously in the older man's forehead and Buck took pity on the man.
"He had an unpleasant visit by one of your more sleazy co-workers. Ez took exception to a few things the feller said and went after him. That woulda been about fifteen minutes ago now, so your chances of catching up are pretty slim. Sorry."
The old man began to mutter angrily, "Hearst! That lousy, scum-sucking, degenerate, pathetic excuse for a living, breathing, carbon-based life form. Can't even quantify the prick as human because I think he was hatched if anything…" The mutters became too quiet to hear at that point except for the occasional word, half of which were curses.
JD cleared his throat to get the old man's attention, when he was sure he had he asked, "So, guessing by your reaction to what the other guy did I take it that, whoever you are, you are a friend of Ez's?"
"Oh sorry, Special Agent Wyatt Graves FBI, and as much as anyone can be I guess, that boy doesn't let anyone get close – ever. Not that I blame the guy, not with his mother."
Buck was the next one to take the bull by the horns and asked the older fellow, "Why would you say that 'bout Ez, and what does the FBI have to do with Ez's Ma?"
"You mean you guys never made the connection?" The older FBI agent looked around at the gathered ATF agents with a smirk, "Your undercover man is the son of the most notorious confidence-woman and scam artist of the world to date, Maude Standish herself. Hell, didn't you boys ever wonder why he was so good, let alone have the track record that he does, at his age? He was practically raised living and breathing the life of an undercover agent. Man alive, you shoulda seen the way they were scrambling when he was at Quantico – he really set the lot of them on their collective ear that was for sure." Graves was chuckling as he recounted the last bit.
"Wait, whaddya mean at his age?" Nathan questioned sharply. "His record is good yeah, but it's not that much better than other agents in their mid to late thirties."
The FBI agent looked askance at the team's medic, "Mid, late-thirties? Where'd you get that from? He's just barely twenty-eight man, and he's been active since he was eighteen."
"A full agent at eighteen? How in the hell does that work?" Chris demanded, glaring at Graves. "Hell, I know for a fact you can't even apply to Quantico 'till you're 23 and have at least four years of university under your belt with a degree."
Graves just coolly met Chris' challenging stare as he said, "In every case there are exceptions to any rule Agent Larabee, something I am sure you are both well aware of and have taken advantage of for your own gain in the past."
Chris had to concede the older man's point. He did, after all, head up a team that was made up entirely of misfits and mavericks. If that wasn't making exceptions to the rules for his own gain, he didn't know what was.
"Somehow I think that brother Ezra must have been the exception to the rule for his entire life. No matter what the circumstances or situation." Josiah rumbled wryly. The gathered men made various sounds of amusement at the grizzled profiler's comment as it thankfully eased the tension.
"That would be something of an understatement, Agent Sanchez." Graves said chuckling.
"Josiah, please. All that Agent this and Agent that gets tiresome real fast if you know what I mean." The others made noises of agreement and stated their names for the older man.
"All right, and I'm Wyatt," the older man stated, pleased with the easy-going reception.
JD's curiosity was burning; the tidbits Wyatt had dropped about his secretive friend had only managed to fuel the conflagration inside him. He had to ask all the questions percolating in his head before his head exploded. "How long have you known Ez? Do you know the reasons behind the exception to the rule in Ez's case? Does his Ma have anything to do with any of it? You said she was the most notorious confidence-woman and scam artist of our time, can you tell us about her or d'ya think Ez would get mad if'n you did? D'ya think that he would get mad if you told us 'bout any of it?"
Graves stared at JD for a moment, stunned and then looked at the others. "Damn! Did he really say all that without taking a breath?"
Buck laughing, burst out, "Aw heck, that was nothin'. You should hear the kid start to go on 'bout one of his precious gadgets. That's when we really start lookin' for the gills."
Graves just shook his head, but when he saw JD's mouth open like he was about to start talking again he quickly began to talk himself forestalling JD from saying another word. "Let's see, I've known of Ezra since he was born. His mother may have had him when she was seventeen, but she was previously on the FBI's radar due to whom she was associated with along with the fact that she was already well entrenched on her present days path as far back as the tender age of fifteen. A fact I was well aware of to my detriment," Wyatt sat back in the chair he had appropriated for his own use and chuckled ruefully. At the enquiring looks he was getting he started to dig in his wallet.
Pulling out a photo folder he explained, "Man, when you see Maude you'll understand. I was a wet behind the ears rookie assigned to Fraud, the Standish et al case in particular. I was a naïve boy and Maude took me for one hell of a ride, keeping me occupied while her accomplices worked the scam. Here," he held out the folder open to show four pictures of a woman at four different stages in her life.
The first photo must have been from about the time that Ezra was born. The girl looking at the lens was obviously still a teenager, but she was stunning nonetheless with her long blonde hair streaming down her back past her waist and her voluptuous figure encased in a classically styled sundress.
The second and third photos showed the same woman, older but no less beautiful. She had shorter hair in both than in the first, but neither above her shoulder blades and she still seemed to favor the more classical styles of dress.
"The last picture is the most recent." The photo showed a petite, shapely blonde woman clad in designer jeans and a cashmere sweater who didn't look a day over thirty. In the picture her long blonde hair was caught into a thick loose braid that was draped carelessly over her shoulder as she stood looking intently into the distance.
Buck whistled, "Dang, that's Ez's Ma? I never woulda guessed. She's hot." JD hit him, and Buck glared, "What? She is." JD rolled his eyes.
"How 'bout sayin' she's pretty? Or beautiful? Either of those woulda been fine, better than 'She's hot'."
"A veritable goddess, a vision of un-surpassing loveliness." Josiah rumbled as he gazed raptly at the pictures Graves held.
Nathan just shrugged and said, "She's nice enough looking I guess."
Chris and Vin's eyebrows had flown upwards at the sight of the woman, and yeah they could agree that she was good-looking, but they could also agree on something else – even from just the pictures they could tell that she was trouble with a capital 'T'.
"There's a reason she's a legend in her own time gentlemen." Graves chuckled again. He pulled the folder back towards himself, briefly wrestling with Josiah who was smitten and didn't want the pictures to go away, glanced at the open page once more before closing it and tucking back into his pocket.
"Anyway, after she bamboozled me and messed up my first case I kept an informal eye on her file. So I was aware when Ezra was born. Now I'm not goin' to go into detail 'bout Ezra's past, that's up to him to share if he ever wants to, but I can tell you that the FBI had a file on Ezra as a child – thanks to Maude. When she started to use the boy in her cons and scams, we had to open a file on him. He never really seemed comfortable with what his mother asked him to do, but he was nothing if not capable even as a child." Wyatt held his hands out in a 'what can you do?' pose. "We would lose him whenever she shipped him off to stay with various relatives or sent him off to various boarding schools. Truthfully, we didn't really put much effort into tracking him down at those times – didn't see the point. We were pretty sure that when he was away from his mother he was keeping his nose clean. We hoped at any rate."
"Oddly enough it was during one of those interludes at a boarding school that indirectly led to my meeting him as well as his being dragooned into the FBI." The old FBI agent made a face, like something smelled bad.
"I take it that joining the nation's elite intelligence agency wasn't his lifelong dream then?" Chris asked sardonically.
"Ummm, no. He was given the bum's rush all the way around if you ask me." Eyebrows around the room raised and Graves chuckled. 'This really was some team,' he thought. 'Ez probably fit in here better than he had ever fit in anywhere before.'
"See, there was this white slavery ring we had been trying to bust for about two years and we had been making absolutely no headway on. Now enter Ezra, he'd run into some trouble at the boarding school he was attending – he and about twenty others had been kidnapped from the dorms by the – you guessed it – aforementioned slavery ring." Shaking heads and snorts resounded throughout the room, they could so see that happening to Ez, even as a kid.
"Yeah, he's always had that knack of landing in the right spot at the wrong time." Graves grinned wryly, and then continued. "Now you gotta know, Ezra being who he is, wasn't about to just let them do what they were doing. Not if he could stop them. So what does he do? I'll tell you what the ballsy little bastard did, he waited, biding his time like a stalking cat 'til the slavers were busy in another area, then he picked the locks on his chains slick as all get out, and then blithely slinks off to their main office to look for anything incriminating. Thanks to his mother's teachings he was able to crack both their computer and their safe in record time and got more than enough data to blow the case wide open."
"Well, it appears that he really is a creature of habit, 'cause I don't think he's changed his MO in the last ten years all that much," Chris muttered disgustedly. "He still pulls that lone wolf crap too much for my liking."
"Now, now, brother Chris, I'm sure that he has used the intervening years to refine his technique," Josiah quipped. Chris rolled his eyes while the others chortled.
Nathan added in his two cents, "Ezra's gotta realize he's part of a team now, one that will back him up and that's all there is to it. He don't need to pull that loner crap anymore, not when he's got us."
Graves broke in before they could get too involved in what sounded like an oft-aired complaint, "Yeah, well, you gotta realize that all this had happened during one day's evening and night. Ezra was snatched, made a break for it and grabbed up the evidence in a matter of hours – even if he had called for backup, they would never have got there in time. It all happened too fast."
"So how did ya end up meetin' him? It doesn't sound like you were needed to rescue him or anything…" Buck asked.
"See here's the thing. Even with my having been working on the slavery case and knowing Ezra, the first thing that I knew about any of this having happened was when I was hauled out of a sound sleep at oh-ungodly in the morning and dragged down to the Twenty-First Precinct. The Captain of Vice for the precinct himself escorted me into an observation room. He motioned for me to look through the mirrored glass into the interrogation room beyond. I did, and saw to my amusement some wet-behind-the-ears FBI pup trying to pressure Ezra into talking, and damn if the kid didn't yawn in the pup's officious face, absolutely infuriating him. I turned back to my escort and said amused, 'He doesn't have a hope in hell of getting that kid to talk – doesn't he know who that kid is?' Turns out he didn't, and neither did anybody else for that matter. Ezra had walked into the station, bold as brass, and told them he had evidence that would break open the white slavery ring but then he had told them he would only talk to me. Never told them his name, what exactly it was that he had, nothing."
Vin snickered, he had seen some of the stuff that Ezra had pulled while undercover with him and could easily picture the scene Graves was describing. Chris looked at him and raised an eyebrow; Vin shook his head, 'It's nothing, I'll explain later if you need me to.' Out loud he said, "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt."
"That's okay, where was I? Oh yeah, the unveiling of the witness. You shoulda heard the squawks echoing through the building when I greeted Ezra by his full name. Half wanted autographs and the other half wanted to arrest the kid. Man, it was a zoo. Anyway, as soon as I made myself known to him he said that he would go and retrieve the evidence with my assistance alone. He didn't trust anyone, not even me really, but he'd contacted his mother after getting out with the stuff and asked her if there were any agents at all with the FBI she would trust. She named me. Guess I made more of an impression than I thought, huh? Anyway, after we had got all the stuff back to the station and into boxes for safekeeping, I had Ezra sit with me in the conference room I was using to look at the hardcopy files. Ezra was killing time by idly shuffling some cards and doing some low-key card tricks. I had promised him I would send him wherever he wanted to go when the slavers had been arrested.
"Then Agent Ansers, the 'pup' from the interrogation room, came back and looked at the evidence, both boxed and spread out on the tables and got a really strange expression on his face. He turned and asked Ezra, 'You brought us all this information, why?' I'm sure you are all familiar with that blank look Ezra is so good at." Nods all around confirmed the statement. "Well that look, combined with that icy way he has of speaking – even as a child he could numb a body with a simple speech. Brrr. He said… umm, lemme think here for a minute… I memorized it, it was that good… oh yeah, he said in that way of his, all cold-like,
'Why? What do you mean, why? I would think sirrah, that it would have been obvious even to one such as yourself, oblivious to anything remotely resembling civility as you may be. The sale of living, sentient beings should be abhorrent to anyone with any decency at all, especially when we are talking about the wholesaling of mostly innocent children and youths of both sexes for what I imagine would be rather nefarious purposes. From the little that I did read the least of which being the slavers vile intent to use the poor souls as mules to export an unspecified amount of narcotics and other sundry medicinals. So the answer to your stupid question of 'Why?' would be, they needed to be stopped. DUH! Dumbass.'
The 'dumbass' of course was muttered under his breath at the perfect volume to be heard by all present while at the same time truly sounding like it shouldn't have been heard. It really was quite masterful."
They had been holding themselves back since the last two words of teen Ezra's speech; the rest had been good no doubt about that, but those last two words killed them. They just sounded so teenager-ish, mainly when compared to the rest of the speech. They lost it utterly though with the expression on Graves face as he recounted Ezra's consummate skill with his voice even then.
"Oh my God! No way!" JD exclaimed and then laughingly asked, "Did Ez really say 'duh' and call the guy a dumbass? How old was he when all this was going on anyway?"
Graves grinned and said, "Yep he certainly did, and he was sixteen turning seventeen or so. Might've been closer to just turned sixteen, I can never keep track of that stuff."
"So what happened that he got the bum's rush? And you haven't explained how he became an agent so young yet either." Chris decided to redirect the storytelling to get the answers he was after.
"Ah see, that's one and the same thing really, as far as I am concerned anyway. Seems that when he dissed the 'pup', or Agent Ansers, he'd hurt the little agent's feelings. That's when Ansers decided to go over my head and call in the Director himself. As Ezra's FBI file was pretty much up to date, we were well aware of his educational level and the skills he had due to his mother's tutelage. As soon as the slavery ring had been busted and the clean up began, the Director countermanded my promise to Ezra about sending him wherever he wanted to go. Said that he only had two choices, a state penitentiary or join the FBI, y'know like they offer some other kids jail or the army? Some choice, eh? That's why I say he got the bum's rush. Funny thing is, I think that he might've gone for a career in law enforcement if left to his own devices anyway. Well, either that or a teacher."
Nathan frowned over at the older FBI agent, "A teacher? Ezra? Somehow I can't see that."
Wyatt crookedly grinned, "I guess you haven't seen what happens when he gets around a large gathering of kids, they literally flock to the man. It's freaky. Funny as hell at times though. The sweet thing about it is you can tell he loves every minute of it when they ambush him."
"Hunh," was all Nathan said. JD just grinned and Vin smiled knowingly. Buck shrugged and Chris prompted again.
"So even then, being blackmailed into joining the FBI, it doesn't tell us how he got to be an agent when he was eighteen." The team leader was obviously getting a bit frustrated with all the vocal meandering the guy was doing.
"Ah that's the boring part, 'cept of course, for some of the stuff that he pulled at Quantico. He was already taking some university level classes at the boarding school that he had been abducted from, it didn't take him long to finish up the degree he had started on. Specially when he challenged and tested out of just under half of the required courses. He did the same thing for a lot of the classes at Quantico, really knotted their knickers when he did that let me tell you, but it was when they tried to instruct him in undercover work and techniques that they really clashed. As far as he was concerned, he had forgotten more than they had ever known and I for one think he was probably right. They weren't letting him test out of the class because he wouldn't follow their 'rules', and he wasn't about to risk his survival by messing with his training. It was all that had kept him alive in too many situations in the past, not discounting the white slavery ring episode. It held at that stalemate until two months or so after he turned eighteen… I think… might've been two months 'til he turned nineteen, can never remember – anyway, he was eighteen and they needed his particular skill set. Powers-that-be called down from on high and low and behold, the boy graduated. The diploma had barely hit his hand before he was being sent on assignment. He's pretty much been on the go ever since." The older man sighed as he finished his story and contemplated the men that Maude's son worked with now and liked what he saw. He would have a favorable report to send back to her, which was a good thing. He liked being able to make Maude happy.
"Graves," Ezra's southern accent caressed the name as he drew it out, "what sordid tales have you been telling mah associates?"
Wyatt Graves jumped up from the chair he had been sitting in and started walking as quickly as he could backwards towards the door, talking the entire way, "Wouldja just look at the time! I gotta go or I'm gonna miss a very important… umm… something or other. Yeah, it was great meeting you all and Ezra m'boy, so sorry to have missed chatting with ya. Catch ya later, or you have my number, don't be afraid to call – just not tonight seeing as I have that important something or other I just can't miss, okay then… Bye all!" Then at the very last minute he spun and began to run out the door towards the elevators and stairs.
Ezra looked suspiciously at the grins all his co-workers were sporting, and said, "Aw, hell!"
Then for the second time that day he started chasing after an FBI agent. The threats floating back towards the office this time were light-hearted and one in particular made the team fall down laughing as it drifted back to them.