He'd never quite gotten the concept of a bullet with your name on it. He'd heard the phrase a lot - usually on a laugh, around the infirmary and after a mission. Whistling in the dark, he supposed. He'd just never bought into the idea of a shot that was waiting out there somewhere just for him.

The way he saw it, if you were good enough, you didn't have to worry about that sort of thing. You just had to be that little bit better - that little bit faster - and the other guy wouldn't get the chance to take you down no matter what name was on the weapon. Simple.

He was very, very good.

He prided himself on his speed; he was the fastest of any of them, quicker even sometimes than the gunslinger's draw, and that was plenty to be proud of even if it wasn't exactly the same kind of quick. With his own two hands he was a good bit more dangerous than many people could manage with a weapon - he could, occasionally, dodge bullets, and had. The only one of them who could regularly beat the pants off him without resorting to magic was their leader, but that was only to be expected, since as far as he was concerned the guy was unbeatable - knock him down and he'd just get back up again, and then he'd be pissed at you too. It was a constant in a life that had gotten pretty damn unpredictable.

Which was why it had been such a shock to see him go down.

He'd played it back over in his head a hundred times, looking for the slip, the critical mistake that had opened that nigh-unbreakable guard. He did his best to rationalize it away: fatigue, distraction. It was true, but not true enough to satisfy the uneasy feeling that had curled up in the pit of his stomach and refused to go away. There was no excuse for it, nothing he could pinpoint to explain it away; there'd just been the familiar rhythm of battle, the crackling of magic to one side of him and the dazzling sweep of a bright blade to the other and the wet crunch of bone breaking under his fists, that dark satisfaction that came with knowing they'd already as good as won. And then the crack of gunfire and that heavy blade had faltered, its wielder stumbling and falling with a look of numb surprise.

A half-dozen things had happened at once, then. The gun wavered in the grip of a white-faced soldier who must have been nearly as surprised as the rest of them, and then steadied again; there was magic roaring to life and weapons being brought to bear but not close enough, not fast enough, and all he'd had was his two hands and his speed and he'd leapt - faster than the crack of a whip, faster than the gunslinger's rifle, faster than the sorceress's magic - and a bullet meant for someone else had slammed into him in the split second before the one who'd fired it vanished in a spray of blood.

The subject of his protective impulse had been unusually snappish for a while after, and thinking the whole thing over he'd found himself no longer quite so sure of a lot of things.

If the best of them could be taken down, not in a blaze of glory but with the pop of a single gunshot and the unceremonious thud of a body hitting the ground, any of them could go down the same way. If being the best wasn't enough, maybe there was a bullet out there with his name on it after all, or a blade or a set of claws and teeth - maybe there was one for each of them. Where they were going, maybe there was more than one.

And that, he decided, was all right.

He'd just get faster, and he'd keep his eyes open. He was the quickest of any of them, and he could get faster still before they got where they were going. He'd keep pushing himself, and he'd learn to watch out for those shots, to see which one had a name written on it as it was coming in.

If he was fast enough, maybe he could catch them all.