After The Blood
by Hecate

Some hours after Marrow's death and Push is scratching at the fresh tattoo on his neck. He wants it off and it feels like he's successful; peeled-off skin, fresh ink and blood under his fingernails. But a look in the mirror tells him the truth, it's still there, and he knows he can't scratch it off. It's a tattoo after all, the signature under his contract with Marrow, and it will stay until he has the money to do something about it. He doesn't expect this to happen soon; he doesn't expect it to happen at all.

Some hours and he already feels used and abused when the reality of it all hits him. But the feeling isn't new to him, he knows it well from the time before Marrow, before he gave them strength and power and his blood. Push is back where he started, another loser, another freak.

A day later and he starts shaking, he starts to feel the absence of Marrow's blood in his body and he wants it back, wants Marrow back. Rain is talking to him all the time, she talks to all of them and eventually it ends, one by one they stop shaking. One by one they get up and leave because there is no reason to stay now. There is no one to come back to anymore, just people who could walk back with him. But they won't and Push feels it before he knows it and loneliness is pressing down on him before he even reaches the door.

When Push leaves the building after the others he blinks into the new dawn and he stumbles outside, his back to the house he called his home for some weeks. The others are walking away as well, unsteady and slow. Rain leaves with one of the other girls but most of them walk alone. He wonders if they feel as empty as he does.

Some weeks after Marrow's death and Rain is the first of them to die. The transgenic panic has started and she had a fucking barcode on her neck. He finds out by accident when he runs into the girl Rain left with. She tells him in short, fast words; always looking over her shoulder. Some men had cornered them and she did escape, and she ran, and the fear was like having Marrow's blood in her all over again. But Rain didn't make it. When she came back at night she found Rain's body, broken and cold and she left it there because there was nothing she could do. They part then, like they did after Marrow's death, and he watches her wrapping the jacket tighter around herself to hide the barcode.

Push hates the others now. Rain, because she failed Marrow first, because she stopped believing him. The others because they failed him after her, because they believed her instead of Marrow. They were a family and they were strong and now they would be hunted down and killed because of something they already lost: their strength, their speed. The tattoo is a reminder of what they could have been: an army.

Rain had believed that Marrow caged them, that they could be without him. That they could be free. But they had never been free before, they had always been losers. Push hates himself for believing Rain for some days, hates himself for hoping. Because some weeks after Marrow's death he feels like he did weeks before Marrow, but in- between he had been strong. He had been special. He had belonged.

He had been Marrow's.

Some weeks and his family is dying one by one. Life is getting to them again because they're human now; they are what they have been before Marrow. Drug addicts, gang members, homeless freaks. And they're weak, too weak . They lost the will to fight because there is nothing in their blood now but themselves and they weren't enough before and they won't be now.

Some weeks and Push is on drugs again and it feels a little like Marrow and a lot like failure. It isn't enough to make him strong. Just enough to make him think so. And his punches are phantoms of what he could do weeks before, and when he runs it seems like his movements are frozen. But his blood is real and the drugs are real and he loses those fights on the streets and those in dirty, empty rooms with a syringe in his arm.

Some weeks after Marrow's death and Push is the last of them to die.


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