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Chapter 2 - Adjusting

It seemed just as he had managed to drift off, the bright strobe lighting was being switched on and someone was yelling at them to get up.

Ezra groaned, rolling over and burying his face into the pillow to block out the light and folding the pillow at the side to try and drown out the noise.

His body was not ready for this.

It appeared he had little choice in the matter. The next moment he was falling and then landing hard on the floor. Having been upturned out of his bed by someone lifting up his bed and mattress and flinging him out.

Rubbing his lower back as pain shot through him, "What the fuck!" He cried out in annoyance.

Suddenly Captain Anderson was looming over him, which was only possible because Ezra was still sat on the concrete floor.

"Get your lazy ass off the floor, Jackhurst." He requested powerfully.

Ezra used his bed to pull himself up, the frame still on its side and the mattress almost falling on top of him.

He stood and faced his infuriated captain, Ezra could not tell from his face expression - no, it was all in his eyes.

"For talking out of turn yet again, and for keeping your lazy ass in bed when ordered to get up, you shall be peeling potatoes for the second day in a row." He informed Ezra his voice venomous.

Ezra heard Justin snicker. He was in the bed directly opposite to Ezra. Now Ezra was standing he could look over Captain Anderson's head and send him a look to kill.

"Oooo scared, Jackhurst." He taunted.

Captian Anderson spun on his heel, "Kirschtein, you are in charge of cleaning out the communal toilet today. If I catch you trying to provoke Jackhurst again, you will find yourself permanently in charge of cleaning the toilet." He calmly delivered his punishment, adding in a serious tone, "Do I make myself clear?"

Justin frowned, but reluctantly said, "Yes Sir."

Captain Anderson returned to the front standing between the two rows of beds, "You have fifteen minutes to brush your teeth, dress and meet me outside. Anyone who is late shall face the consequences."

He glanced over at Ezra, "And Jackhurst, sort your fucking bed out."

Ezra sighed. He righted his bed frame, threw the mattress back on, then haphazardly made the bed. He knew it would not pass Captian Anderson's standards but he still had to brush his teeth and get dressed.

Curtis sent him an apologetic smile, "Peeling potatoes again, man that sucks."

Ezra shrugged, he actually liked Mark, maybe Mark would let him scrounge some food. Besides it was better than cleaning out a toilet that ten men used.

Thankfully he made it outside in time. He along with a few others received an ear full for their state of dress. T-shirts not tucked in and boots not polished.

"How the hell are we supposed to have time to polish our boots in the space of fifteen minutes?" Ezra demanded and the other members of the group groaned. They were all thinking it, but they had learned to keep their thoughts to themselves.

"Jackhurst, are you seriously speaking out of turn, again?" The captain asked even though he knew the answer.

Ezra pulled a face - wincing, yes he spoke out of turn but really - what the fuck.

"You were back in your quarters by 8:30pm last night. Giving you plenty of time to organise your living space, make sure that your uniform meets protocol and that your boots are sufficiently cleaned and polished." He explained.

Ezra grumbled, why did he not tell them this last night. He could assume that this was a lesson and that tomorrow would be the true test - to see if anyone listened and actually polished their boots tonight.

"Not only will you be peeling potatoes you will be helping peel vegetables." He informed Ezra.

Ezra shot daggers at him, but Captain Anderson was not even affected in the slightest, having dealt with many unruly and cocky teens since working here.

Once everyone had settled down they were informed that they would be taking part in an assault course.

"Here is the catch, whichever group performs the best will receive a reward." He encouraged hoping that would motivate them.

Ezra perked up at that, it was stupid to think they'd get their phones back, but he could live in hope.

There were four other groups of men - fifty of them in total at this camp.

Ezra eyed up his group, deciding based on the bleep test they stood a good chance of doing well, hopefully, the best.

They watched as two groups took their turn.

"Captain Anderson's squad if you please," Commander Sayers called.

They lined up in sets of two, a row of five on the left and a row of five on the right, in pairs behind one another.

Ezra was paired with Curtis and he suspected it was done in order of the sleeping plan, as Curtis was next to him then.

They all had to get reasonable times on this obstacle course otherwise one bad time could ruin it for the whole team.

A claxon sounded to indicate that the first pair should start, moments later another claxon and Ezra and Curtis set off.

The course had many obstacles that they had to climb over, crawl under, balance on, hang, jump. Some had puddles of muddy water - which Ezra, of course, fell into, ropes/nets to climb, and one obstacle had a 'no touch' restriction making it more difficult.

They were doing well, he stopped to help Curtis a few times - the guy really was short and therefore struggled on some of the larger obstacles. At least Captain Anderson had body strength, he seemed very toned and muscular - so that compensated for his height, Curtis, he was short and not very strong, but the fucker was fast.

"Come on, Curtis you can do this, we're near the finish line now." He encouraged, picking up his pace as he scrabbled up a wall with a large rope netting slung over.

Ezra heard Captain Anderson call out, "If you ran like you run your mouth, Jackhurst, you'd be in good shape. Get a fucking move on."

Ezra ignored him and continued to pull himself up using the net.

The assault course was brutal. Why did they feel the need to put teenagers through such a rigorous test? Ezra was sure most the teens here were out of shape or just too lazy to exercise.

He had worked out he had been put in with the older group, his group consisted of 18-19-year-olds only. Some of the other groups had younger teens and they were not taking to being bossed around and forced to do exercise. Not just any exercise, but an assault course that was designed to put soldiers in the army to the test.

Ezra saw it as a challenge. Besides, he wanted that reward badly.

He had shouted at horse face for carrying on and leaving the person he'd been partnered with behind. Screaming at him as he army crawled through a low net on the floor, that this was a team effort and that no one should be left behind. That he should have stopped to help him.

Ezra could see that Curtis was starting to struggle. He squatted and told him to climb on his back. They only had to make it across the finish line now. Curtis climbed on and Ezra jogged to the finish line giving Curtis a piggyback all the way.

A few other teams complained that they should be disqualified as Ezra had helped Curtis finish. But Captain Anderson soon silenced them with one look, informing them that there were no rules. Just to finish the fastest with all team members finishing. Ezra was within his rights to carry Curtis, as the rules did not stipulate that he could not.

Ezra suspected that the captain was quite impressed with him, the fact that he had not given up. That he carried on, his passion for continuing when hope was lost. The fact that he had not abandoned his teammate.

Ezra was knackered but he allowed himself a small smile thinking about their chances of winning.

"I wouldn't get too cocky, Jackhurst, you've not won yet." Captain Anderson said in a lowered voice.

"Even if we don't win, we did well - I'm proud of us." Ezra announced, adding, "Sir." His breath coming out in heavy pants between his words, doing his best to regulate his breathing.

Captain Anderson did not respond to that, just made a low grunting sound as he watched Ezra – his eyes boring into him as if trying to read him.

Aiden had once told him about a famous phrase, a phrase that believes that the eyes were the windows to someone's soul or something like that. If that were true – Ezra was a bit terrified at what he saw when he gazed into Captain Anderson's eyes and into his soul. Also, slightly turned on, if he were being honest.

They stared at one another for what felt like minutes but in actuality was only seconds. Captain Anderson may be able to remain expressionless, stifle any emotion or reaction, to project an outwardly intimidating and calm demeanour – but his eyes were a giveaway. Ezra suspected that Captain Anderson did not make it a habit to keep eye contact with someone for too long, ensuring his reputation was not questioned.

Yes, Ezra had still been intimidated by the look in the man's eyes, fuck he was one scary bastard. But, looking beyond that he saw a lot more – felt as if he connected with him.

Captain Anderson broke eye contact to turn and face Commander Sayers, who had just called his name.

Feeling out of sorts Ezra knew it was not from pushing his body to the edge once more, but because of what had passed between them – was he reading too much into it? He was sure he'd been the only member of his group to ever have Captain Anderson look directly at them for that length of time. Captain Anderson usually had a bored expression and would watch people from the corner of his eye, or through narrowed eyes.

Richards and Curtis came to stand next to him, and Ezra praised them for their efforts.

Their talk was interrupted by their Captain, "Commander Sayers has just informed me that my squad, you lot, were indeed the fastest group to complete the assault course with all team members finishing." He announced calmly, adding a firm, "Congratulations,"

Their group had erupted in cheers and various guys were high-fiving. Curtis hugged Ezra and then pulled away quickly, "Thank you." He gushed, "If you hadn't carried me I was sure I would have dropped out and we would have lost the top spot."

Smiling down at him, Ezra returned the hug and patted him on the back, "You're welcome."

They were ordered to shower and change. The ten men trudged to the showers discussing what their reward might be.

The afternoon was spent training – what for who knew?! They were just forced to do exercises, cleaning and training. Anything that was structured and strict.

About ready to collapse on his bed, Ezra swore when he remembered he had been given the punishment of helping to peel God knows what in the kitchen. He apologised to Richards and Curtis reminding them of his duty. They wished him luck and headed off to the relaxation room. A room set aside for the several teens to meet up, do various activities for fun, just enjoy some down time. Ezra heard Curtis challenge Richards to a game of cards as he walked away and headed in the opposite direction.

Blessing whatever guardian angel was looking down on him – he did not dare imagine Captain Anderson's face expression and deadly stare if he had forgotten to complete his punishment.

Thankfully Mark was just pleased to have some help and went easy on him. It was nice talking whilst they worked.

Ezra had discovered that, Mark, had been working here for three years, that it paid well and kept him out of trouble. He said he had originally been a young teen at this camp, and then after he left he sought work. It was Captain Anderson that found the job for him.

"He is scary as hell. And you do not want to piss him off too much, but if you get on the right side of him he will help you." Mark told a surprised Ezra.

Thinking for a moment, unsure if he should ask, but deciding to just go for it as Mark seemed like a decent guy, "What's the Captain's first name?" He could not explain it, he just had a great urge to know.

Mark frowned at him, clearly weighing up whether he should cross the line and tell him.

"I promise I won't tell the others. I just want to know, I won't let anyone know that I know. If I slip up then I'll just claim I saw his name on a file when I was in his office – I won't drop you in it." He rushed to explain trying to appease Mark.

Mark shrugged, "Luca, Captain Luca Anderson."

Ezra's mouth turned up minutely at the corners, 'huh, Luca' – he liked that.

"When I first saw him – I mean just his height I underestimated him." Ezra confessed, "But then I saw his face, how serious he was and his eyes - I'm sure he could kill a man with one stare."

Mark chuckled, "I don't doubt it – after all these years he still intimidates the shit out of me." He admitted embarrassed.

After a few moments silence, Ezra blurted, "Fuck that voice, though! I'd do unspeakable things if it was that voice asking me."

Then he snapped his mouth shut. Worried he'd crossed the line. He should not have spoken about a Captain like that, not to mention Mark may not react favourably to the realisation that Ezra was gay.

Mark laughed, "I guess. To me, it just adds to his scary persona and makes me want to stay the fuck away before I get caught in the crossfire of his wrath."

An hour into helping Mark, the man himself appeared, he inspected Ezra's work, deeming it passable – but barely.

Mark hid a grin when Luca said, "Come, Brat, I have something to give you."

As both Ezra and Mark knew, not only did Ezra find Luca attractive, but being ordered around by him with his sexy voice was most likely driving Ezra crazy.

Mark gave him a thumbs up and Ezra tried his best to ignore him and concrete on not blushing. Captain Luca did say he had something to give him and Ezra's mind had gone straight to the gutter.

Following behind the Captain, Ezra watched his perfectly shaped ass walk down the corridor all the way to his office.
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