Chapter 1 - Arrival
He had little choice in the matter. He did not actually volunteer to spend his summer at this ridiculous camp, his parents had told him in no uncertain terms that he would be attending this camp, or he faced having his allowance/inheritance stopped.
They were overacting of course. Yes, he had a temper. Yes, he may have gotten let off with a warning by the police on the last occasion he was arrested. To be fair that man was not taking a no for an answer and he was not going to sit there and let some jerk force himself onto his sister. So, he did lose his temper and he did get into another fight, resulting in his arrest.
His parents were worried that next time the police would not be so lenient and he would get a criminal record, making it harder for him when applying for university.
He had yet to apply to any, having put it off for far too long. He told his parents he needed a gap year before making any decisions about his future – surprisingly they had agreed, with one condition he sorted his temper out before it messed up his future.
They had heard about this camp from a family friend and so Ezra was now looking at spending God knows how many weeks at this awful place. Apparently, you cannot leave until you have been discharged – sounded like a prison to Ezra, but he knew that was not the case. He could quit whenever he wanted. It just meant he would let his parents down, his sister and his friends.
He wished he had someone with him. But even if Mia was considered bad enough for one of these camps, she'd be sent to a different one as Ezra was enrolled at an all-boys boot camp. His other friend Aiden was not the type to need time in a place like this.
According to the leaflet his mother had shown him (the one he barely glanced at), the camp prided itself on showing men the error of their ways, helping them, guide them and teach them how to become better men. Promising that when they left they would have a new attitude and more respect.
Ezra respected his parents. Yeah, he had an attitude and was short-tempered and had a real issue with always having to have the last say. Maybe getting smart-mouthed when most people would know to shut the fuck up. Hmmm, maybe he needed this place more than he realised.
He waited next to the bus, as all the other men were getting off. He kicked the dirt at his feet – scowling down at his shoes. He hoped it was not the kind of place that was stupidly strict. He prayed that they at least had decent food.
Someone called to the group in a firm authoritative voice. Ezra glanced up and saw a tall man – he must be about 6ft 2; taller than himself, blond hair and strong features.
"Welcome new recruits…."
Ezra scoffed but did not say anything. Recruits – none of these people signed up for this place willingly. The other man was making it sound like they were joining the army or something. Ezra zoned back in, listening to what the man had to say. Not wanting to get into trouble on his first day.
"… I am Peter Sayers. I am the commander of this facility and you will be under my charge. Follow me." He instructed.
Ezra waited until most of the others had started to move forward, opting to join them near the back of the line.
He groaned when he realised this place probably did not have an X-box and he would most likely not be allowed to keep his phone.
"You at the back, stop dawdling and get a move on." Commander Sayers demanded.
Ezra glared at him but picked up the pace a little.
They were taken to a large warehouse of sorts, the warehouse had various tables all lined up in rows.
"Make your way around. Starting here." Commander Sayers ordered, pointing to the start of the row.
Ezra reached the first table and was told to remove all personal belongings from his pockets, including his phone and any jewellery he was wearing. He huffed in annoyance but complied, removing a thick solid silver link chain from around his neck. Placing it into a plastic tub much like the ones at airport security. He added his phone, his very expensive watch and his wallet.
Once he had removed everything he was told to move to the next table. He gave one last longing look at his phone and moved on. If he did well in this programme he could hopefully be discharged within weeks – he could survive a few weeks without his phone, maybe.
At the next table, he was asked what size shoe he was and what size clothes he wore. Once he had informed the person behind the table he was handed a uniform.
Fuck – this place really did think they were the army!
He had black boots. A pair of green army trousers and a plain lighter shade of green t-shirt. He was instructed to go behind a screen and change into his uniform, placing the clothes he was wearing into the bag provided.
Ezra supposed making all the recruits wear the same uniform was a valid point, still, he felt like a fucking tool in his uniform – like he was playing dress-up and he was acting as a soldier today.
Thankfully they did not expect Ezra to shave his hair – he would have flipped out if that was the case.
At the next station he had to give his name, he was then told to go stand under the sign that said, 'Captain Anderson.'
He strolled over joining a handful of other guys waiting. He did a quick count, there were now ten of them in this group.
The other men had been allocated to different groups, standing under different names.
It was obvious that this would be the group that Ezra would be assigned to for the remainder of his stay, and that this Anderson was in charge of them.
Too deep in his thoughts about his family he had not noticed the arrival of other uniformed staff.
It was not until he had someone's fingers clicking repeatedly in front of his face did he realise he must have zoned out.
He looked into the face of a man shorter than him – which was saying something as Ezra was not exactly tall. He had a severe buzz cut to the sides of his hair, the top remaining long and flopping over the sides. His hair was jet black. He had a look to kill on his face and his eyes looked like he was seriously pissed off.
"What is your name?" He demanded.
Ezra frowned at him. This place was meant to help teach respect yet he had not heard any of the staff actually say please.
"My name is Ezra Jackhurst." He replied flatly.
"You will refer to me as sir, Jackhurst. You got that?" He spat out in annoyance, a hint of anger in his tone.
He stepped closer, "Want to try that again?"
"Not really. I understood." Ezra replied lazily.
"You do not want to start off on the wrong foot, brat?"
Ezra did not think that needed a response so remained silent, looking into the rage-filled face of Captain Anderson.
"You will spend your first night, peeling potatoes for dinner. For all fifty recruits." He stated as Ezra's punishment, "Now think carefully, brat….you will call me sir, do you understand?"
Ezra held back the eye roll he wanted to give, "Yes….Sir." He drawled bored.
Captain Anderson eyed him for a few more seconds before moving on to start on the next recruit that pissed him off.
Jeez, he was such an angry man – maybe it was because he was so short. Ezra grinned at his own joke.
"Wipe that look off your face, Jackhurst and move." Captain Anderson barked at him making him Jump.
They were shown to their quarters. Ezra moaned out loud when he saw that he would be sharing one room with nine other men. Seriously. This place was like an army camp.
There were five beds lined up down each side of the large room. No partitions separating the different areas. All was open and exposed. Beside each bed was a tall metal locker on one side and a nightstand on the other side. The bed looked to be the most uncomfortable thing in existence. It was a metal frame, with a thin mattress and what looked to be a thin scratchy green blanket.
"When I call your name you shall step forward and I will assign you a bed."
Ezra watched as the left-hand row of five beds were filled. He glanced to the right side and noted the far end bed was by the wall of the room and had a window. He hoped he was assigned that one –but he very much doubted that after his attitude with his Captain.
"Jackhurst. Ezra Jackhurst." The firm low voice called.
Ezra stepped forward, "Bed three in this row." He was informed.
He cursed under his breath – he did not have the window and his bed was between two others, meaning he would have someone on either side of him. He was the middle bed, in fact out of the whole row he had number three; meaning he had two beds on either side of him.
He moved to stand at the foot of the bed as everyone else had before him.
Once all the beds had been assigned they were told that these will be their beds for the duration of their time here. That they must keep it tidy and random inspections were carried out on the quarters, if one area/bed did not pass the inspection then the whole group faced punishment and the individual would be also punished.
Ezra had never made a bed in his life. Tell a lie he had – sort of. If just haphazardly pulling his quilt up was making it – then he had. He just took it for granted that his mum would come in later and make it properly and change the bedding when needed.
His friends would joke that he was a mummy's boy but he never thought he was. Looking at it now, having his mum make his bed at age eighteen was a bit of a dick move.
They stood at the foot of their beds for a long time listening to Captain Anderson inform them of their routines, schedule, and what was expected of them.
Ezra was getting restless he hated standing still in one spot for too long.
"I shall leave you now to get aquatinted. Look around you, these men are your teammates- you will suffer together and celebrate together." He looked around at the ten men, his eyes landing on Ezra, "Jackhurst, come with me."
Ezra sighed and followed the shorter man out of the room.
"Am I really going to peel potatoes?" Ezra asked.
"Were you given permission to speak?" Captain Anderson asked, not waiting for an answer he continued, "You do not speak unless spoken to. You got that, Brat."
"Yes." He sighed.
"Yes, sir." He added.
After a few moments of silence Captain Anderson spoke once more, "Yes, you will be peeling potatoes. I am a man of my word." He stopped outside of a door, "Go find cook Burch. He will set you up with the potatoes."
With that, he strutted off. Ezra pulled a face behind his back and entered the kitchen.
Cook Burch turned out to be alright, he said Ezra could call him Mark but only when none of the officers was around.
Ezra set about peeling a huge sack of potatoes. Thankfully Mark was also prepping for dinner, so they made small talk. Ezra found Mark quite easy to talk with.
"I assume you were assigned Captain Anderson as your leader." He asked clearly amused.
Ezra screwed up his face, "Yeah….how did you guess?"
Mark shrugged, "Same every year, Captain Anderson always sends someone to me to peel potatoes as punishment." He sighed, "Although this isn't a punishment- not for me. It is my job. It is hard work feeding a small army."
Ezra could maybe make a meal for four at a push, and it was not really a meal as such, as nice as macaroni cheese is – Ezra was aware that it was not a proper meal for a hard-working army.
"I can imagine." He answered sincerely.
Mark had to show him how to use the peeler and he felt particularly stupid for not knowing. Yes, he was a mummy's boy, but he was starting to realise that maybe his parents babied him too much. Because they never let him help in the kitchen for example – his mother never showing him how to use basic utensils beyond a knife and fork.
Captain Anderson reappeared, looked at the small pile of potatoes that Ezra had done; obviously unimpressed.
"You have not even done half. I suggest you leave, Corporal Burch, to his preparations otherwise no one will be eating tonight." He sneered.
Ezra was beginning to really dislike this guy, he clearly took his job far too seriously.
Ezra stood, placing the peeler in the sink. He turned to walk away when Captain Anderson snarled at him, "Wash your hands, Jackhurst, you imbecile."
Ezra's hands did smell of potatoes. He returned to the sink, giving his hands a clean.
That seemed to be enough to satisfy his captain. They walked back to the quarters in silence. Ezra took the opportunity to give Captain Anderson a once over, taking advantage of the fact he could not see Ezra checking him out.
Ezra could admit he was rather attractive. Angry – yes. Rude – definitely. Attractive- unfortunately true.
That was the last thing Ezra needed. To develop an irrational crush on his psychotic Captain. Why did he look? He should not have even entertained the idea of looking. He couldn't help it, though, the man was wearing a uniform and it seemed Ezra had a thing for men in uniform. It was news to him - having only just discovered this kink.
He knew he was gay…that much he knew. Having figured that out when he was sixteen. His friends knew and Mia too – but not his parents. He doubted they would have sent him to an all-boys camp if they knew.
He summarised that Captain Anderson had a nice arse. He wondered how many potatoes he would have to peel if he gave in to the urge to reach out and pitch it. Too many – it was not worth the punishment.
Ezra was taken to another large hall. Once he saw what was inside he groaned, "Shit really…I've not stopped since getting here." He complained.
Captain Anderson's eyebrows rose momentarily, "Did I say you could talk?"
Ezra wanted to say, 'No.' But that constituted as talking and he really did not want to see another potato today.
"You missed your opportunity to rest because you were busy peeling potatoes for your insubordination." He informed Ezra.
"Wait in line." He ordered, before strolling over to a table with a clipboard and a stereo of sorts.
He viewed the group at large, "I will be conducting a bleep test on you. You will run from one line to the other, waiting until you hear a beep before you move. You will continue to run according to the bleeping. The time between beeps will decrease – meaning you will have to run faster to reach the other side. If you fail to reach the line twice you are out and I mark the level you reached on the chart." He surveyed the group, "Are we all clear about what is expected of you?" He asked coolly.
"Sir, yes Sir." Came the reply of the ten men.
"Good. I shall now press play, you will hear the first beep soon signalling the start of the test." He pressed a button on the stereo and moments later a beeping noise was heard in the silent hall.
Ten men began to jog to the other side. Ezra complained the whole time in his head, jogging at a constant pace as the bleeps were pretty steady at first and he wanted to pace himself. He just wanted to sit down and not fucking run, not peel potatoes and not stand to attention for some half-pint sized dictator who got off ordering people around.
The bleeps were starting to sound at a faster pace. Ezra was no longer jogging, he was running, just managing to keep up.
He was thankful that he was reasonably fit and did various sports and exercises. He had a balanced diet but was known to binge on junk food often. He was a non-smoker which probably helped.
About six of the men had already dropped out. Ezra had heard Captain Anderson lay into the first person to quit.
Ezra was determined to at least come in the top three. Just one more person had to drop out and he would be at least third.
Fuck this was hard.
He missed the line on his last go, "One miss, Jackhurst. You miss again and you're out." Captain Anderson called out over the sound of running feet hitting the floor.
Yes! Someone else had dropped out. He could do this. He could quit and be third and he would be satisfied with that. But he didn't quit, he carried on…he was a competitive bastard at heart. These men were his team, but he wanted to be number one.
"Starting to tire, why don't you just quit, Brat?" Captain Anderson taunted.
Ezra knew he was talking to him, as the captain seemed to give everyone rude nicknames and his was Brat.
"I'm not a quitter, sir." He gritted out, a new determination coursing through him. He had to get the number one spot just so he could prove the asshole wrong.
Another one down. Just him and one other person to go. Ezra had no idea what their names were and suspected that they had all introduced themselves to each other whilst he was busy with his punishment as some of the other men were calling out the other guys name in encouragement.
"Go, Richards!" Ezra heard one particularly loud cry.
This only served to propel Ezra forward even faster. No one was cheering him on.
He had a stitch in his side and he was struggling to catch his breath….he was so close but knew he would not reach the line in time. He was right. The bleep sounded just before he crossed the line.
"And Jackhurst is out, Richards takes the number one spot." Someone cried out ecstatically.
Ezra had stopped, bent over slightly placing both hands on his knees – trying to catch his breath and wait for the pain to subside. He pushed himself too far. He ignored his body when it was screaming at him to stop, and now he was paying the price.
He sensed a presence near him and glanced up to see Captain Anderson standing in front of him.
"Good job, brat." He congratulated Ezra. The others were far too busy celebrating with Richards to hear.
"Um….thank you." Ezra replied uncertainly, hastily adding, "Sir." Before he could be reprimanded again.
Captain Anderson handed him a bottle of water, "Next time try not to push yourself too much."
"Next time!" Ezra whined.
Thankfully he was not told off for speaking out of turn and if he was not mistaken be could have sworn that Captain Anderson had a faint smile flit across his face.
They were instructed to shower, and then head to the mess hall. Basically, a canteen where they would receive and eat all of their meals.
Ezra showered quickly, actually feeling ravenous all of a sudden. He did not even care if he'd be eating the damn potatoes he helped to peel earlier.
He made his way over to the mess hall, not walking with anyone in particular, but following behind some others from his group.
Joining the line to wait for food he spotted Mark, he smiled at him and greeted him as he neared the man, "Alright?" He asked.
Mark nodded, deciding on not saying any more for fear of holding up the queue. Mark handed Ezra a plate of sausages, mashed potatoes and peas. Ezra thanked him and joined his other group members at a long table. He noted that the only refreshment on offer were jugs of water, dotted along on the table for the diners to help themselves to.
He poured himself a glass and began to eat. He regretted getting into trouble now, it appeared that the other men had gotten to know each other or their names at least – and were sat in small groups or pairs talking. He had missed the bonding time as he was too busy with his punishment.
Ezra ignored them, concentrating on his food and wondering what his friends were eating right about now.
A little way down the table, he heard a few of the others boasting about how well Richards had done on the bleep test. One guy, in particular, was making snide comments about how Ezra did, laughing at his expense and trying to belittle him in front of the others.
Ezra ate a few more mouthfuls, before speaking up, "Hey, loudmouth – I'd like to know where you ranked on the bleep test. Because I know for a fact, that I at least performed better than you. I'd think before you run your mouth." He casually stated. Clearly showing them he would not tolerate being slagged off. Especially when he had actually come second out of everyone and the one man who beat him was not trying to put him down.
A few seconds passed, just as Ezra was taking a sip of water the mouthy bastard stood and approached him. He had light ash-brown hair, with the back and sides, trimmed shorter – not as short or severe as Captain Anderson's. Ezra summarised that he was of average height and build.
He stopped in front of where Ezra was sat, scowling down at him – however now that Ezra had seen Captain Anderson's scowl, and in fact his sisters, this guy had little effect on him.
Another guy with shaved hair and a slender frame spoke up sensing the tension in the air, "Come on guys, there is no need for this." Attempting to defuse the situation. They both ignored him.
"I'd watch your mouth, Jackhurst." He threatened.
Ezra reluctantly put his cutlery down, moving his leg and spinning around on the bench in order to face his new guest. Ezra held back the laughter, he had an urge to laugh, because for the first time he could see the guys face full-on and up close – he had a long face, much like a horse.
His light brown eyes were fixed on Ezra, and Ezra noted that at least his eyes were vicious – intense.
"Or what?" He challenged.
Ezra snorted, "That's what I thought, coward."
"What did you just call me?" He demanded, hand flying out and gripping the front of Ezra's t-shirt.
Not fazed by the turn of events, after all, he had been in many fights, "I called you a coward." He repeated slowly and clearly.
Ezra was lifted up from his seat slightly by the hand still clenching his top, "Call me a coward one more time," He snapped in a warning.
Ezra stood, but the action did not dislodge the hand still gripping onto him, he looked him directly in the eye and said, "Coward,"
The guy swung his other hand, landing a solid punch to Ezra's stomach. The breath knocked out of him and he bowed over slightly as an automatic reaction.
Just before any more punches could be thrown, the hand holding his t-shirt was pulled away. Ezra straightened back up and saw Captian Anderson holding the loudmouth's upper arm in a death grip. He'd obviously took hold of it and pulled him off of Ezra.
Captain Anderson stopped outside a door, pulling it open he motioned for Ezra to enter.
Ezra stepped inside, crossed his arms and watched as Captain Anderson moved to stand behind a desk.
The stare Captain Anderson was sending his way was intense and fierce.
Ezra uncrossed his arms, waiting for his punishment, it never came.
"Try not to get into any more fights, for today at least. It is only your first day after all." He instructed firmly, but not as angry.
Ezra exhaled in relief, "I'll do my best...sir." Ezra had trouble remembering to call him sir, always adding it on as an afterthought.
"You've probably missed the rest of your dinner, head straight back to your barracks. No dawdling and no taking a detour." He ordered, his face expressionless.
Ezra nodded to show he understood, he glanced around the room that was clearly Captain Anderson's office, then reached for the door handle, hesitating he added, "Thanks," he opened the door and added, "sir."
When he returned to his barracks he removed his heavy and hot boots with a moan of pure contentment. Shoving them into his locker and laying down on his bed.
The others were not back yet and Ezra relished the few moments of peace and quiet. Reflecting on his time here so far. It had been utter shit - but then again he was not expecting it to be like a holiday.
His mind wandered to his captain, how at first he thought his group had drawn a short straw by having Capitan Anderson as their leader. He had assumed because of his height he would be useless and not very effective at keeping them in check.
How wrong was he? Captain Anderson had an air about him, and anyone within a close radius to him knew not to mess with him. He scared Ezra and fascinated him at the same time. He was either frowning or expressionless, Ezra had concluded. He had an amazing ability to remain calm, not raising his voice but making it clear he was furious with you. Fuck he was hot.
Ezra groaned, telling himself to snap out of it. Flinging an arm over his face to shield his eyes, he took a moment to just relax. His body was aching from the running earlier and he was still a little hungry after being taken away from his dinner mid-meal.
The few guys that had ever caught his attention regarding their looks had always been either his height or taller. Captain Anderson was the first man who was actually shorter than him to catch his eye. It was hard to not be impressed by him really.
Ezra sat up once he heard the other occupants shuffle in talking amongst themselves. The guy who tried to diffuse the situation earlier moved to sit on the bed next to Ezra's.
"Hey, I'm Curtis." He informed Ezra.
Ezra smiled at him, thankful to have at least one person not hating him right now.
"Hi," he returned, "I'm Ezra."
They smiled at one another before they were joined by Captain Anderson, stopping between the two rows of beds. All the occupants had remained where they were but turned to face him.
Captain Anderson's face was expressionless, but his eyes were deadly, "When I enter a room, you shall stand to attention at the foot of your bed. Understood." He calmly but seriously announced. His voice a normal tone but firm.
They all moved to stand at the foot of their beds.
"Good." Captain Anderson praised, "You will find standard-issue toiletries and clothes for all your needs in your lockers. You are responsible for the cleaning of your area and your clothes. You are all jointly responsible for the cleanliness of any shared areas."
He paused letting that sink in before continuing, "I will do random inspections of your quarters, your individual spaces, and how you organise your lockers and kit. I will also inspect the shared areas. Know this, I do not pass quarters if it is reasonably clean. I have extremely high standards of cleanliness. This is your fair warning that I will not tolerate sloppiness or half-arsed cleaning." He warned.
Ezra groused, great just his luck that they not only have the Captian with a stick up his arse, and is lethal - but a clean freak too.
"Does anyone have any questions?" He asked his tone suggesting that he hoped no one had any questions.
Curtis raised his hand, "Erm...Sir...Captain Anderson...what if I've never done laundry before? Surely it is unfair to punish me for something I do not know how to do."
Everyone waited with bated breath to see what his reaction would be.
"You will receive basic training in skills that will help you in your everyday lives. Such as how to do laundry." He remarked sternly.
"Oh okay, thank you, sir," Curtis replied happy enough.
Ezra wondered what he was even doing here, he seemed like a nice guy. Not a trouble maker and eager to stay on the good side of his superiors. He did not seem the type to be sent here via the justice system. He was too much of a goodie-goodie to be sent here by his parents.
"I suggest you get some rest as I shall be here for an early morning wake up call, with an itinerary planned for you." He warned. Surveying them briefly, his eyes lingering on Ezra longer than they had on the others. "Goodnight." He said as a form of dismissal before striding out of the room.
Ezra struggled to sleep. Now he was alone and with no distractions, he could admit that he might be a tad homesick. It did not help that the mattress was dreadful, extremely uncomfortable to sleep on. Even if he could cope with the mattress he had to deal with nine other occupants snoring, fidgeting and just making too much noise. Ezra had never shared a room with anyone in his life.