Ezra Standish wandered the unfamiliar streets of Malibu Beach, California. His first impulse had been to find the super-musicians and get their aid in his predicament.
Common sense had prevailed, however, and he had squashed the blind panic that had been his first reaction. Now he was just wandering aimlessly, letting this unfamiliar body’s feet carry him where they would while his mind tried to sort this out.
His mind tortured him with graphic images of what that madman was up to in his own time. He was positive the evil Mister Nesmith was going to… to….
Ezra sighed. There was nothing he could do. They were almost a century in the past and an entire dimension away!
The thought kept coming up – he would have to inform them… He let out a harsh, bitter laugh. As if they would believe him.
He walked into a restaurant and locked himself in the bathroom. He went to the sink and washed his face, raising his eyes to his reflection and sighing.
Glossy black hair spilled over his shoulders. A rather messy ebony goatee framed a mouth now twisted into a sneer of disgust. The dark brown eyes held fury, helplessness, fear and concern.
“So much for the poker face,” Ezra sighed, cringing slightly at the deeper voice he now spoke with. He was pleased to find he still spoke with his own Deep South accent.
He tore his eyes away from the mirror and looked at the long-fingered, fine-boned hands at the end of the faded and torn denim sleeves. Licking his lips, he raised one of the hands and threw a mental switch.
The hand caught fire. Ezra turned the burning hand over and over; impressed that there was no pain. “So this is his power,” he murmured. “This is what it’s like…”
He gave a great shudder as the hand returned to normal. He would much rather be back with his family – unpowered – and in his own body!
How had this been accomplished?
Ezra shook his head. The how’s no longer mattered. It had been accomplished – this exchange of bodies and times. All that mattered now was survival until the whys and how’s could be straightened out.
He raised his eyes to the mirror again, when a pounding sounded on the door. “It’s occupied, wait a second!” he called and the noise stopped.
Ezra sighed and looked at his new refection again. I could be residing in this shell for quite some time, he thought. If that is the case, then I shall HAVE to do something. Honestly, Mister Nesmith, have you NO pride in your appearance?
He smoothed his hands down the worn clothing. This will have to wait, but I CAN take care of other….
Ezra made his hand flame again, then controlled the burn down to one finger. He very carefully moved the finger over his chin, turning on the water to wash the small hairs down the sink. After calling “Almost finished!” to the door pounder and silencing him again, he repeated the process on his upper lip.
He turned off the flame and got a double handful of water. He washed his face, then looked back in the mirror and smiled.
A small mouth with a full lower lip and a set of slightly crooked teeth smiled back at him. It and the small cleft in the chin were no longer hidden behind the goatee. Ezra ran a hand over the clean-shaven face. He bent down and pulled an already-fraying strip from the cuff of the blue jeans. Gathering the long ebony hair, he tied it back into a neat ponytail and allowed it to fall in front into a natural part.
Ezra then opened the door and smiled at the line of men. “Thank you for your patience,” he told them and exited the restaurant.
He’d only walked a block when he found he had to brush the hair from his left eye, where it had apparently taken up residence. He also noticed he was garnering some very strange looks.
All Ezra knew of the Monkees was an address and the fact they had powers. He had no idea what they looked like, or even three of their names.
So he had no idea that without the goatee and with the long hair pulled back, Jason Nesmith was an exact double of his cousin Mike.
And he could not hear one of the Monkees’ neighbours, who was in town on errands and knew their secret, go to a pay phone and dial a swift series of numbers.
“Hello, Peter? It’s Alice… look, I just saw something disturbing…. Jason is back in town.”
“Hey,” Davy called over as Peter hung up the phone. “Who was that?”
Peter walked over to the iron tornado staircase and leaned on it. “Alice,” he replied. Seeing Davy start to smile, he amended, “Alice Babbitt.”
“Oh!” The stars in his eyes went out – Alice was a good friend and while Davy had a Casanova reputation, he did not knowingly go for married women! “What’s the matter, then? You look a bit upset…”
“I am,” Peter replied as Micky came down the stairs and Mike folded the paper and looked at him. “She said she just saw Jason.”
Micky breathed a curse and Mike stood up. “Where?” he demanded softly.
“Wandering aimlessly through downtown, gawking like he’d never seen it before.”
Mike blinked, completely thrown. “He’s wha--? That don’t make sense!”
Davy frowned. “No?”
“No.” Mike walked over to the staircase and sat down on it. “Jason has got an ego the size of Texas. Bein’ low-key, just wanderin’ around? Either Alice was mistaken or somethin’ has gone very wrong with my cousin.”
“Or very right,” Peter put in with a gentle smile.
Mike looked up at him incredulously, then chuckled softly and returned the smile. “Or very right,” he conceded.
Davy looked from one to the other. “So---“ he asked softly, “what do we do?”
“Go find Jason?” Micky guessed. “Find out exactly what’s goin’ on?”
“Works for me,” Mike said, climbing to his feet.
Peter nodded. “Let’s go, Monkees!”
Ezra stopped at an open-air café. He looked up and smiled at the sign that read “Jacques’ Café”.
“If it’s French, it can’t be all bad,” he muttered as he sat down at one of the tables. Patting his pockets, he prayed that Jason Nesmith had left him a wallet.
Finding one, he compared the amount inside with the prices on the menu. He had enough for three meals, if he played his cards right.
And if there was one thing a gambler learned, it was how to play his cards right.
He was perusing the menu, trying to find fare that made economic sense as well as culinary sense – when four shadows fell over his table. Hesitantly, Ezra looked up and blinked at the four men who stood in a loose semicircle around his table.
“Uh…may I help you gentlemen?”
One of them sat down and smiled at him, though it didn’t reach his eyes. Ezra wondered for a moment where he had seen that face before, then it hit him and he felt his own dark eyes widen.
This man looked exactly like his own reflection! The only difference between them was this man had shorter hair.
“Like your new look, Jason,” he said conversationally.
Ezra’s head tilted. “Are you Michael?”
The smile faded and the double blinked hard in surprised shock even as he nodded.
“Then you three must be the rest of the Monkees,” Ezra said. “Interesting – I have spent the day debating whether or not to seek you out – and here you are!”
“C’mon,” Michael said as he climbed to his feet. “Let’s walk.”
“I haven’t eaten—“ Ezra began.
Michael took Ezra by the elbow and lifted him out of the chair. “We’ll take care of that later. Right now, we gotta talk.”
“And it won’t keep,” the blond of the group put in.
Ezra let out a long-suffering sigh. “Oh, very well. Let’s talk. Lead the way.”
Ezra found himself falling back on old habits as they walked. When in his own body, if he got nervous, he’d put a hand in his waistcoat pocket to be certain his extra bullets or cash was still there.
Now, as he walked with the Monkees, he found his hands nervously jamming into the pockets of the ratty denim jacket.
The five of them walked in silence for a while, then the blond man asked, “So what do you want, Jason?”
Before Ezra could reply, the smallest one spoke. It jarred Ezra to hear an English accent of indeterminate origin ripple from him. “Yeah, I mean it’s not like you to be this low-key.”
“Or to search us out,” the one with the curls put in. “When you’re not tryin’ to kill us, that is.”
Ezra took a deep breath. “Gentlemen – I am not who I appear to be.”
Michael studied him carefully. “You appear to be my cousin Jason.”
“And you know us,” the curly-haired one interjected.
“Ah, but I only knew Michael’s name,” Ezra pointed out. “I only know your address and that you have powers. The only power I truly know that belongs to whom –“ he sighed, “is the flame power I find myself saddled with.”
His traitorous stomach chose that moment to emit a loud growl.
The blond smiled gently. “Let’s get some food into you, and you tell us the rest of the story.”
“Agreed,” Ezra nodded. “But I warn you – it is an insane tale.”
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!”
During the course of the meal, Ezra had learned their names. He knew it was Micky who’d voiced that protest.
Ezra couldn’t stifle the smile at that. Peter chuckled. “Well, he did warn us it would sound insane!”
“Actually,” Michael – Mike, Ezra corrected himself – pointed out, “it makes a perverse kind of sense. Jason’s always wanted power – and if it’s to be found in the past…”
Micky spread his hands. “But nothing’s changed!”
“That’s because I’m not from your past,” Ezra said after he’d swallowed. “I’m from another – dimension, is that the right word? – all together.”
Davy frowned. “Then how do you know of us? Of this dimension and this time?”
“I didn’t,” he answered truthfully. “Not until I was jerked from my dimension into the limbo between worlds. Then I knew who he was, and everything else I’ve told you.”
“But how did you get there?” Micky asked.
A beat later, four pairs of eyes locked and four voices growled one word in perfect unison.
Ezra frowned, not liking the sudden chill in the air. “Who is Mara?” he asked, utterly confused.
Peter leaned forward. “Mara is the only logical explanation for how you could have gotten in between dimensions –“ Brown flecks suddenly danced in his blue eyes, and he sighed as his shoulders sagged. “Okay, well, not the only logical explanation – but the most likely.”
Mike slid Peter’s cup closer to him, and while Peter drank his tea, Mike smiled at Ezra. “And we didn’t answer your question. Mara is…well, I guess the easiest way to describe her would be to say she’s a lady demon.”
Ezra felt himself go ash-pale. “A… a demon? You….fight….demons?”
“Not demons,” Davy grinned. “Just the one.”
Seeing Ezra’s expression, Mike scowled at a chuckling Davy. “COOL IT.” He looked over at the man who wore his cousin’s form and smiled slightly. “He’s just givin’ you a rough time. Honestly, she’s got vulnerabilities and weaknesses, just like everyone else.”
Micky nodded. “She’s supernatural. She’s powerful. She’s evil. But!” He smiled. “She’s not all-powerful. She’s like us that way.”
It was Peter’s turn to nod. “I think it must have been Mara.”
“And if you’re wrong?” Mike asked calmly.
Peter shrugged. “Then I’m wrong.” He sipped his tea.
Micky had been watching Ezra. As the explanations and bantering had gone on, Ezra’s eyes had lowered to his plate. His left hand – Jason had been completely right-handed – pushed his food around the plate.
Reaching over, Micky lay his hand over Ezra’s, stilling the movements of the fork. When surprised brown eyes raised to meet his, Micky asked, “What’s the matter?” When Ezra started to shake his head, Micky shot back, “C’mon, I know there’s something. Man doesn’t massacre a good plate of food like that less something is on his mind.”
Ezra looked up at the four faces, and Davy smiled at Micky. “He should know – nobody knows food like Micky.”
That brought a smile to Ezra’s face. After a moment, he sighed. “It’s simply…disconcerting. I’m denied my time, my friends….even my own face!”
Peter sighed into the silence that followed. “We’re sorry, Ezra. We focused on the how you got here---“
“—we never gave any thought to how you were affected by this!” Mike finished, laying a hand on the denim-clad shoulder and squeezing gently.
“So—“ Peter drained his tea and set it into the saucer. “We do the practical thing. We take him home and go from there.”
“TAKE M--!” Ezra burst out. “Don’t I have a say in this?”
Mike fixed him with a tight smile. “Do you know anything of this century? Where to go, how to live?”
Ezra opened his mouth, and then closed it. He hung his head and softly swore.
Mike nodded. “Agreed. Jason really did it this time.”
Micky volunteered to move in with Peter and Davy temporarily, to let Ezra stay alone with Mike.
As they were making up Micky’s bed with fresh linens, Mike began to chuckle.
“Have I amused you in some way?” Ezra asked, raising an eyebrow.
Mike shook his head and sat down on his own bed. “When I was a kid, I’d often room with Jason when we would be visiting. It’s so odd, sharing a room with him again – even if it is just his body.”
Ezra sat in return. “There are no evil children, Mike. A child must learn to hate. What happened to Jason?”
“He was always a selfish kid. When we grew older, he’d do anything for attention – and usually, it was something that got meaner and meaner. Now –“ He held up a hand. “Me, I’m an attention junkie, too – ya can’t be in a band and not be – but I know right from wrong. Jason, it seems, never learned it.”
“That makes sense,” Ezra nodded slowly. “But when we spoke, it appeared his particular brand of hatred was directed toward you. Personally.”
Mike sighed. “It is. Jealousy and selfishness --- I, to him, appear to have the life that was denied him. So he tried to kill me. That trip ended up with all five of us empowered.” He leaned forward. “Speaking of which – you suggested you have his powers?”
For answer, Ezra raised his hand and made it burn.
“Interesting…” Mike mused. “So Jason is in the Old West, in a different dimension altogether – and he’s powerless?” At Ezra’s nod, he began to laugh. He laughed so hard he fell backwards onto the bed.
When he got himself somewhat under control, Ezra calmly asked, “And what is so funny now?”
“I know my cousin.” Mike sat up and wiped his eyes. “And he loves power. Are you a gambling man, Ezra?” he asked teasingly, though he knew the conman’s answer.
Ezra let the grin answer that for him. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I’m willing to bet that he did this gambling he’d come out of it with his powers intact.”
“And he lost!” they said together, and then they laughed together.
About an hour later, Ezra stared up at the ceiling, puzzling to himself. Fate had dealt him a confusing hand, but he had the distinct feeling it had dealt Jason Nesmith a frustrating one.
He knew he’d have to puzzle his way through this confusing new reality until he could find a way to return to his home. A smile touched Ezra’s lips as he closed his eyes and drifted to sleep, one last thought bringing him comfort.
Confusing, puzzling – all these this new reality might be – but he did not have to face it alone.
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