xv. recoveries and realities

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Sweat dripped down like rain from Ace's forehead as he pummeled the punching bag. His knuckles were bruised for all the anger he exerted relentlessly onto the equipment.

He was shirtless. I had to admit, the muscle ripping at his build made my face turn slightly red.

Jeez Octavia, you can literally think about this at any other time.

Ace's fist tightens. He suddenly slams into the punching bag so hard that sand starts to flow out.

The rattling of chains reverberates around the room, effectively silencing my other teammates' movements, and we all turn to stare at him. It's only now that I realize how much recent events had taken a toll on him.

The gold in his eyes seemed to dim, his dark brown hair became unkempt, and his stubble became more prominent. He was also training more than usual, as if he couldn't control the anger inside.

Ace was protectively hovering over me at all times like a parent. He blamed himself for everything despite how much I try to tell him otherwise.

It's only when he goes to grab a towel that he notices me, scrutinizing him.

"How are you doing?" He says while running over immediately.

I wrap my arms around myself. "I'm fine."

We both knew that was a lie, but Ace doesn't push it.

The truth was that for the last couple of days, I was seeing Thirteen's green eyes, over and over again, like a tortuous record on repeat playing melodies only to torment me.

He became the boulder to my Sisyphus.

Thirteen had made me fear the night. He made me dread the setting of the sun.

"Any update on the USB?" I ask.

I turned the USB into the CIA for them to investigate the contents. Eve died protecting it, and Thirteen was searching for it. It's safe to conclude that whatever is on the USB could link the pieces of this confusing puzzle together.

"Not yet. I'll let you know if anything happens, Cupcake."

Ace's voice is uncharacteristically strained. His chest was rising rapidly, which could have been due to the exercise, but the grit in his tone said otherwise.

"You look like shit, Banana Bread," I deadpan. "Now stop blaming yourself for what happened."

He chuckles humorlessly. "Do you have a tree shoved up your ass or do you just enjoy provoking me?"

My eyebrows shoot up. "It's fortunately the latter."

"And please, I never look like shit."

I scoff. "Your face is the reason why the gene pool needs a lifeguard."

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