Why Georgia?

disclaimer: M7characters belong to MGM, Trilogy and Mirisch. Lyrics belong to John Mayer. No copyright infringement is attended with either's use.

Ezra sighed wearily and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to ward off the growing headache. The sounds of revving engines, brakes squealing and horns blaring, mixed with the scent of exhaust fumes and hot rubber to create a nausea that he barely managed to keep at bay. Glancing at the dash, he noticed the Jag's temperature had gone up another line. Regretfully, he reached over and adjusted the air conditioning down a notch. Despite the cool comfort it provided from the oppressive morning heat, he knew that if he continued to allow the air to blast on full, the car would rebel and he'd end up in the emergency lane watching traffic crawl by him instead of crawling with it.

Shifting in the driver's seat, Ezra looked around, observing the drivers on either side of him. To his left, a young man beat the steering wheel of a mid-nineties Chevy in an erratic rhythm, a cigarette hanging from his lips as he ranted into the cell phone pressed against his ear. To his right, a flash of color caught his eye. In the mini-van beside him, a mother was trying to calm two squabbling toddlers. One was kicking and screaming, his arms flailing against the sides of his car seat, while the other had climbed out of his seat and decided he'd be more comfortable without clothing. Ezra smiled in spite of himself and turned away quickly before the lady caught sight of his grin and killed him in a fit of road rage.

He turned back to his own view of bumpers and taillights, and then adjusted the knob on the radio again, searching for a station that might be explaining the tie up. He'd seen the news copters flying overhead and guessed that somewhere ahead of him there was an accident, a broken gas or water main, or simply a distraction that elicited the need for drivers to gawk at and in turn bring the city to a standstill. A friendly sounding radio announcer proclaimed that a traffic report was coming up on "the eights," and with a check of the clock, Ezra left the radio alone. Three minutes and he'd hopefully know what the problem was.

God, if only things were that easy, he thought miserably. What he wouldn't give for someone to come along on a regular basis and announce just what the problem was with his life. On second thought, his mother was pretty good at pointing out everything she had a problem with already and he never appreciated her for it. It seemed like, in her eyes anyway, his life was nothing more than a series of events gone wrong. Oh, he thought, he was living right, but inevitably there was some glaring failure to be pointed out.

He'd thought he had come to terms with the reality that he would never be able to please Maude. She was constantly going to look for ways to 'sharpen' him, and improve his instincts and if he did anything that didn't mesh with her ideals…the result was usually explosive. He could still hear the angry barbs she'd slung at him three years earlier when he announced he was going into the FBI. She'd told him how it would be. She'd told him he'd never fit in, that he was destined for more than civil service and he'd be a target from the beginning. She'd told him that he'd never be able to trust anyone and he'd never be able to do anything right. He'd argued and told her she was wrong, that he'd show her. He'd told her that at least the FBI wanted him, which was more than he could ever say for her.

She'd slapped him.

Leaning his head back against the headrest, Ezra could feel the burn of the slap again. His eyes flicked up to the rearview mirror where he could see the dark bruise forming along his jaw line. Not a slap this time, and not from her. He didn't know what hurt more, the bruise or the fact that she'd been right.

The announcers was back and with the promised traffic reports informed Ezra that a five-car pile up at Spaghetti Junction was tying up traffic in both north and south bound lanes all the way back to the connector.

"Damn." Ezra muttered, flipping the radio off and pushing a CD of light Jazz into the player. There were only four more exits until his and he knew it'd be at least another hour to get home. If traffic hadn't been so bad…he'd have been more than tempted to just keep right on driving. Problem was- he was going in the wrong direction to get to Denver.

Inching forward, the car moved along with the mass, while the air conditioning sputtered and then continued its weak breath of cool air.

Ezra tried not to think about his failing career or the case that IAD had presented against him or the fact that his supervisor had decked him and sent him home. Not that he shouldn't have been home anyway. He'd been out all night on an assignment that wasn't even real. Just an assignment given to him that didn't require a partner or back up. No one would work with him now. They thought he was dirty. They, his coworkers and teammates, they thought he's gotten too deep and turned on them all. No one was willing to believe otherwise, even without solid proof of the charges. So they turned on him, emotionally, verbally and physically. He'd never seen it coming either. He'd just been doing his job, the best he knew how, and suddenly everything was falling apart. Evidently, Maude knew him better than he thought. Maybe he couldn't do anything right…so much for not thinking about it.

He ran his tongue over his bottom lip and tried to stretch. He was tired, achy and thirsty and he wondered why on earth he'd ever wanted to live in Georgia or work for the dysfunctional FBI.

It took another hour and a half, but finally he was pulling into his usual parking space. He flipped the stereo off and climbed sluggishly out of the car. The heat hit him like he'd stepped into a sauna that'd been turned up too high, taking his breath away. Quickly, he jogged up the steps to his small, overpriced, one bedroom apartment and unlocked the door. Inside, it was dark and cool. He shuddered as a chill swept up his back from the abrupt temperature change. Internally, he thanked God for blessing someone with the idea to invent central air conditioning. Kicking off his shoes, he didn't bother with a light as he tossed his wallet and keys into a small ceramic bowl on the stand beside the door. He glanced around the living room and frowned. He'd put up a few pictures and invested in some mid-priced art work, trying to make the rented space feel more like a home, but in the end…it was just wood and plastic…its effect lost in the overwhelming loneliness that swamped him. There was nothing left for him here, not the way he'd originally dreamed anyway.

Walking down the short hall, he stepped into his bedroom. It was brighter in here, the sun shining directly on shades that didn't quite keep out all the light. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a pair of shorts and a comfortable t-shirt. He wasn't going anywhere else today…save to the fridge for beer. He shed his designer suit carefully and hung it up in the closet. His eyes scanned his reflection as he closed the mirrored closet door. The bruise on his jaw was dark purple already. Gingerly he touched it and thought about putting ice on it. His gaze flicked down to the fading marks on his chest and he abruptly turned away, but the memories from a week ago were there regardless of his effort to forget.

Plopping down on his bed, he reached for the framed picture on his bedside table. It was taken at last year's Christmas party. The small group of men stood smiling—mocking him—his friends who turned out to be less than that. The frame felt heavy in his hand as he scanned the faces of his accusers, his teammates…his attackers. He touched a still tender rib and remembered the words they'd hurled at him, the names they'd called him as they held him and beat him. Condemning him as a traitor, they'd been careful to keep the blows where the bruises wouldn't show …and careful not to send him to the hospital. They'd used just enough force to make their point. He was no longer a part of their team. They didn't want him. His supervisor had reemphasized the same point earlier this morning and he hadn't cared about leaving visible marks. The feelings overwhelmed him: anger, loneliness, self-doubt. Before he knew it, he'd hurled the picture across the room. It slammed into the far wall and fell with a dull thud to the floor, still intact.

Growling, he roughly jerked on his shorts and t-shirt and stalked out of the room. He left the lights out as he moved into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He briefly considered fixing an omelet or nuking a frozen dinner, but chose the six pack instead. His stomach protested, reminding him that he hadn't had breakfast or lunch, but he ignored it. He wanted to get drunk and food would only slow him down.

He found a comfortable spot on his couch, stretched out with his bare feet resting them on the coffee table and grabbed the TV remote. After surfing the channels, he finally settled on the Game Show Network and popped open his first beer. He drank it quickly, his anger growing as he guzzled the cold, smooth, imported brew. What right did his coworkers have to accuse him? What real proof did they have that he was dirty-- nothing but hearsay and innuendo. There was no proof because he wasn't dirty. Even his IAD appointed lawyer had told him to relax, but the damage to his reputation was already irreparable. He'd done his job right. All he wanted to do was help people, to fit in, to feel like he belonged somewhere. He had thought that he belonged here…in Georgia with his FBI team, but he knew now that he was wrong. They didn't hold him here, not anymore. Then why did it hurt so much to think about moving on?

The can was empty and he tossed it onto the table and reached for a second. His emotions were settling a bit as he sipped slower this time. He was tired. He ached. He felt like he had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn and he didn't know why. Stretching, he sank lower into the cushions and tried to ignore the quietly insistent voice in his head reminding him that there was an option…there was Denver.

Denver. He didn't really consider it an offer or option because in his heart he knew he had no choice. He could either stay in Georgia with no semblance of a career or move to Colorado and join some new ATF team. Supposedly…they actually wanted him.

The phone was ringing. Groggily, Ezra looked around his still dark living room. An old rerun of "The Match Game" was playing on the TV and he realized he'd fallen asleep. Looking at the coffee table, he saw five empty cans but didn't remember drinking more than three. Finally, he grabbed the phone.

"Yeah?" he answered sullenly.


"Who's this?" he asked, not recognizing the voice on the line.

"Chris Larabee, Denver ATF. Is this Ezra Standish?"

"Yeah." Ezra didn't care that Larabee sounded a bit short on patience.

"Your supervisor told me you'd be home. Said something about having a small accident."

"That's one way to put it." Ezra raised an eyebrow, absently wondering if he sounded like he was intoxicated.

"Everything okay?" Larabee sounded suspicious.

The inquiry surprised Ezra. "Quite," he managed.

"Did he tell you about my offer?"

"Of a sort," Ezra sighed heavily and sat up. What did this man really want with him? "Said you were interested in an agent capable with undercover work."

"I am. I want you."

"Why?" Ezra asked automatically.

"Because you're more than capable. You're the best I've found." Larabee didn't hesitate.

"I'm sure you've been enlightened about my," Ezra paused for a moment, "colorful work history."

It was Larabee's turn to pause. "I've read your file, yeah. All of it."

"And you still want me?"

"I do." Larabee sounded like someone who usually got what he wanted.

"I need to think about it," Ezra stalled.



"Why think about it? From what I've gathered, there's nothing for you there. I'm offering a chance to do the job you're trained for and good at, with a team to support you while you're doing it." Larabee got right to the point.

A team to support him? Ezra thought on that. It was what he wanted here in Atlanta and he'd been burned by the desire. He wasn't going to let that happen again, but Larabee did have a point, one that'd been rolling around in his head all day. Why Georgia? Things were over for him here…he might as well move on. This time though, he'd be careful. He'd do things his way and depend on no one else. He'd work with these new strangers and play the game, but he wouldn't let them in—not this time. He wasn't going to open himself up to the hurt and betrayal again. Instead, he'd greet them with a smile and he'd say all the right things. They'd believe him and he'd go on living the only way he knew how…on his own.

"You still there?" Larabee questioned.

"For the moment." Ezra put a smile behind the words, sounding light and accepting. He agreed to fly out and meet the team and begin arrangements for the transfer.

After he hung up, Ezra stood and walked over to the window. He turned the shade just enough to let a small amount of light seep into the room. It wasn't what he'd planned, but maybe there was something to salvage. He wasn't walking into this job disillusioned by his own dreams. He couldn't be any lonelier in Denver than he was in Atlanta. God only knew what the reasons were behind his fiasco of a career in Georgia, but he couldn't work here any more and there was really no point in staying. He knew what Maude would have to say…she'd fight him on the new job just as hard as she had with the FBI, but he still wanted something of his own. He still wanted to help people.

He'd go to Denver. He'd find a new place to live, but this time…this time he wasn't going to try so hard. He wasn't going to put up pictures or try to fit in. This time it was just a job and he wasn't going to forget that. This time he'd just live his life, do his job and not let anyone get too close. Maybe he'd be able to get it right this time.

Why, Georgia by John Mayer

I am driving up 85 in the
Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon
Just stuck inside the gloom
Four more exits to my apartment but
I am tempted to keep the car in drive
And leave it all behind

Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life

Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why Georgia, why?

I rent a room and I fill the spaces with
Wood in places to make it feel like home
But all I feel's alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
Or just the stirring in my soul

Either way I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a verdictless life

Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why Georgia, why?

So what, so I've got a smile on
But it's hiding the quiet superstitions in my head
Don't believe me
When I say I've got it down

Everybody is just a stranger but
That's the danger in going my own way
I guess it's just the price I have to pay
Still "everything happens for a reason"
Is no reason no to ask myself

If I am living it right
Am I living it right?
Am I living it right?
Why Georgia, why?