Chapter 5 - Same shit different day
Today was no diffEzrat, but for the first time since the wake-up call routine; all ten men were out of bed when the lights came on and after Captain Anderson had finished yelling.
"Wipe that shit eating grinning off your face, Jackhurst." Captain Luca instructed.
Ezra stopped smiling, but was still insanely happy - he had managed to get up without being unceremoniously thrown on the floor, out of his bed. He saw that as a mini victory.
After breakfast they spent the morning doing physical training, later after lunch, they were shown some basic life skills. It had been quite an uneventful day so far, yes Captain Luca still insulted them, still pushed them to their limits in training - but regards to drama and anyone fighting against authority it was going reasonably well.
They were currently tidying their quarters - including the communal showers and toilet ready for an evening inspection.
Ezra was sweeping the floor, bored out of his brain, he turned to Justin and Curtis who were cleaning the windows, "Why are you guys here?" hoping they were on good enough terms to share their stories, "I'm here because my parents gave me an ultimatum." He explained.
Curtis shrugged but said, "No one is making me attend." He looked flustered, "I want to join the army, but I was not sure if I was cut out for the lifestyle. I thought I'd use a military boot camp to test the waters. If I couldn't handle someone yelling at me, early starts and physical training here, then, I as sure as hell wouldn't cope in the real army."
Ezra let his words sink in, "Huh, that's pretty smart."
Curtis smiled, "Thanks."
Justin agreed, patting Curtis's shoulder, "I like your thinking. I, on the other hand, was ordered here as part of my sentence. Nothing serious, it was this, or, community service and a short sentence."
Ezra was surprised, he knew Justin had a temper, "What happened?"
"I..uh...started one too many fights, got into a lot of trouble. Got caught mid fight, was hauled up for ABH - Actual Bodily Harm." He seemed ashamed, hesitating as he spoke, you could tell he regretted his actions.
Ezra was once again struck with how lucky he was, he had a similar story, but at least the police let him off with a warning and the guy did not press charges. If he was taken to court, he may not have had a lenient judge.
Out of the ten occupants of this room, not including himself, Ezra only knew three of them, Reiner, Curtis and Justin. That left six others. Six others that he had no clue what their names were, or what kind of people they were. He was glad he had, Justin and Curtis to pass the time with and even Mark.
Ezra finished sweeping and began to mop. His thoughts switching to Luca. He wondered why he was not in the army - the real army and not just a military boot camp.
He had heard numerous muttered insults sent Captain Luca's way from the group. Quite colourful terms which most were too afraid to utter because he always seems to be around at the edge of earshot.
It would not surprise Ezra if Luca could hear their thoughts, of course, this was impossible - but he possessed the uncanny ability to know when people were talking shit about him.
Luca seemed to embrace the philosophy that, without discipline, they will be unprepared to defend themselves. He also seemed to delight in providing that discipline in the belief that he, in his own marginal contribution, is ensuring their survival on down the road. Or maybe, he is just sick and twisted and loves to see grown young men on the verge of tears.
He certainly played the role of drill instructor expertly. Ezra dreaded the up-in-coming inspection. Captain Luca had already warned them he had a high standard of cleanliness.
Time was up, nothing more could be done, the cleaning products were put away, and all men were stood to attention at the foot of their beds, as they waited for Captain Luca to finish inspecting the communal showers.
When Captain Luca re-emerged for the other room, his face expression was unreadable. They had no clue what he thought of their efforts. He began to inspect the room in general, before making his way to each individual space.
He had chewed out a few of them for untidy lockers, not up to standard uniform. Justin had received a dressing-down for his inability to fold his clothes correctly.
Ezra sucked in a breath when Luca reached his side of the room, inspecting the first two beds. The random guy in the first bed was rebuked for having dirty fingernails, next Curtis, who was informed that his was best so far - but that did not mean much, as Captain Luca declared their efforts appalling.
He stopped in front of Ezra, and Ezra continued to look straight ahead, over his shoulder - he would not make eye contact unless spoken to. Being this close to Luca alway had an effect on him, his heart felt like it jumped in his throat. He became nervous and hyper aware of every movement. The mere act of being closer to him was enough to send his thoughts into overdrive.
The sound of his bed being flipped over made him flinch, "Who taught you how to make a bed, Jackhurst?" He spat, as he moved to stand in front of Ezra once again.
Ezra made direct eye contact, "No one." He winced and added, "Sir."
"It fucking shows."
He moved onto the final two. Finally moving to stand at the front facing them all, "You failed." He paused, "You failed as a group - the communal areas are unacceptable, and you failed individually." He spoke to them in a slow and condescending manner.
Ezra suspected that they would have failed no matter what; that Luca would fail the first inspection to make a point. To ensure they worked harder at cleaning, to learn from their mistakes no matter how small. Character building, right? It still sucked none the less.
Some guy stood next to Justin, complained under his breath - a not so courageous attempt at defiance. Luca sent him outside to run laps.
"Go to dinner now, when you return you will be cleaning it all again." He commanded forcefully.
Ezra went to take a step but was blocked by Captain Luca's arm shooting out in front of him, "Not you," he sneered, "You will be shown how to make a bed."
Curtis and Justin shot him pitying glances, before hurrying away - worried they would be made to run laps if they loitered.
Ezra's heart was beating fast, a mixture of being yelled at, fear of punishment and the thought of being alone with Captain Luca - around so many beds.
"Show me how you make a bed?" He requested voice clipped.
Ezra frowned, they had already established he could not make a bed. Actually, technically he could, just not to military standards.
"Make the damn bed," He repeated growling demonically, his voice almost a whisper.
Not knowing if the correct action was to make it how he had always been making it, or just attempt to make it another way. His head was spinning with a mild panic and confusion. Underneath all these emotions, there was frustration, anger and desire - fuck he was screwed, he truly found Luca arousing when he was being like this. Though, the other emotions were overriding his arousal right now.
He righted his bed, replacing the mattress, and then he made the bed. As soon as he was finished the mattress, sheets and pillow were thrown off again.
"Try again," Luca barked.
Ezra glared at him and repeated the process. Again it was thrown to the floor.
Ezra clenched his fists and clamped his jaw shut. Picking up his mattress for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Not acceptable," He was informed as he was straightening the blankets.
Ezra lost his cool, it was his turn to launch the mattress, "I clearly do not know how to make the fucking bed. So, instead of getting me to keep making it, why don't you damn well show me where I am going wrong?" He shouted. His breathing ragged and his face full of rage, his eyes flashing with fierceness.
Luca had not flinched in the slightest, even though Ezra had moved to stand in his personal space, bearing down on him, "I thought you'd never ask." He cooly stated, "If you simply asked me to show you, in the beginning, I would have helped you then." He pointed out.
"What!" Ezra exclaimed annoyed, "I've been told to do as I've been asked. You asked me to make the fucking bed." He fumed.
Luca arched an eyebrow at him, "Call it teaching you a lesson. From now on, if you are unable to do something, even if I have ordered you to do it, you ask for help."
Ezra closed his eyes briefly, taking calming breaths, opening them again and looking directly at Luca, "Please, can you show me how to make a bed properly. Sir." He gritted out.
Luca nodded. He put on the sheet, his hands working quickly on the first corner, "Hospital corners involve tucking sheets neatly underneath the mattress using overlapping folds." He explained as he worked.
Ezra watched him do another two corners, "Now you do the last one. I'll talk you through it."
Ezra crouched down, he was not as fast as Luca, and his corner was not as professional looking or as pulled tight - but he got the gist of it.
"Very good," Luca praised, "Now, do all the other beds."
Ezra gaped at him, "You what?" needing clarification.
"I said do all the beds in this room. You will learn through doing, and then you can teach the others." He announced in a calm and unhurried voice.
It did bother Ezra that no one had made their beds folding the corners like that, yet he was the only one to have his bed messed up and forced to learn the correct way.
"I suggest you get to work, Jackhurst, or you will not have time to eat dinner." Captain Luca pointed out coolly.
The fucking injustice of it all. He took a deep heavy sigh and moved to the start of his row of beds. Nine beds, all with four corners - thirty-six corners he folded. Luca always hovering nearby watching him intently.
When he finally finished, he received no recognition, just a simple, "Go get your dinner."
Mark smiled at him, "Not much food left I'm afraid," his voice apologetic.
Ezra shrugged one shoulder, "Just give me what you can, thanks, Mark." He replied glum.
The others were just leaving as he sat down. He ignored their inquisitive gazes, not wanting to talk right now. He was comforted by the fact that the others would be cleaning when they got back, whilst he sat and ate.
Mark joined him at the almost empty table, "Your friend, Justin, is...er...intresting."
"That he is," he agreed around a mouthful of food.
He sat and made small talk with Mark, discussing Justin. Apparently, he had introduced himself earlier, rather flirtatiously.
Ezra chuckled in spite of himself, "He wants bigger portions."
Mark's eyebrows shot up, before his face turned devious, "I'll give him a big portion."
Ezra choked on his food, "Mark," he admonished.
The impression Mark gave off was that of someone who was selfless; concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with his own.
Mark laughed, "What? Like you're the only gay person here. Well technically I'm bisexual, but I must admit Justin is certainly my type."
Ezra shook his head, "Talk about oversharing," he said smiling.
The conversation had at least managed to cheer him up.
Ezra cleared away his dinner plate, deciding to suck it up and get on with it. Accepting that he was about to go do something unpleasant.
Returning to the quarters Ezra was surprised to see, Captain Luca among them. He was cleaning, helping, instructing them on what they needed to do in order to wield better results.
Luca had removed his jacket, his shirt sleeves rolled up - Ezra tried his best to get on with cleaning without glancing over to check what Luca was doing. He was not successful - but he was not sorry, he had managed to catch glimpses of Luca in all manner of positions. He spent far too long staring at his forearms and the nape of his neck.
His neck was just on display, open and vulnerable - the urge to kiss him there was strong.
Thankfully no one noticed his lack of cleaning and blatant ogling.
Captain Luca deemed their quarters acceptable, not exactly to his standards, but passable to any other staff member.
It was not far from lights out. The men showered, brushed teeth and dressed for bed.
Ezra opened his bedside draw and pulled out his two photos. Lying back on his bed, he looked at them - not for the first time wondering what his loved ones were doing. It amused him to picture his mother's face as he made his own bed, with professional hospital corners and all.
As much as Luca was a pain in the arse, he had already taught him so much. He pondered how old Luca was. He was obviously at least in his twenties - maybe late twenties, early thirties.
He fell asleep holding the photos, sleeping through, until morning wake-up call. He felt well rested but, was a little disheartened to realise he slept through the night, missing an opportunity to meet with Luca.
Captain Luca gave the usual instruction for them to get dressed, eat breakfast and line-up in the exercise yard. By some miracle, he avoided Ezra, for once bypassing him and not insulting him.
It soon became apparent that they would be taking part in some form excursion. Ezra groaned, being here had been nothing but physically and emotionally draining,
Ezra knew, however, that being here had already helped him grow mentally, and if they carried on with the physical training he would have grown physically too. Not to mention all the basic life lessons such as laundry, cleaning, how to make a bed and being respectful.
Ezra zoned back into what Captain Luca was saying, "Are you sure you can handle it?" He asked of Curtis.
"Certain, sir." He replied instantly.
Luca eyed him, "You want to join the military?" He asked.
"I do, sir." Curtis again replied instantly, shouting his answer.
Luca paused and then said, "In the military, there will ALWAYS be someone telling you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it - and you've got to do it."
"I understand, sir," Curtis confirmed.
"That is at least something. However, you're not physically ready. You need to train harder, prepare yourself - become stronger." He offered as advice.
Ezra could see that Luca was trying to help, Curtis, prepare him. While it may seem sadistic to those who are going through this camp, Luca really did want the best for them. Ezra decided that Luca did not derive any particular pleasure in their pain and discomfort. Maybe just Ezra's.
The training program was probably scientifically and psychologically designed to tear apart the participants - and build from scratch a proud, physically fit, and dedicated member of society.
Ezra found that boot camp was getting just a little bit easier each and every day.