"You have to go now."

"It's time."

"... It's all backwards now."

Richie had just taken his first head and his first Quickening. As the raw, violent energy poured into him, be only vaguely remembered his friend and mentor walking away from his plea fro help. Walking away and leaving him to the inevitable fate which Richie wasn't sure he was ready for. Surely, it was meant to be different than this. He still had so much to learn from his teacher.

He was just a kid.

Just a kid. Yeah, sure. Maybe in human terms, but in the ways of this Immortal Game he was now a part of, he was ready. Like Mac said - it was time.

Richie didn't feel ready, though, not really. Almost two years with Duncan and he suddenly felt like that scared teenager again, breaking into the antique shop looking for something he could fence, the rush of adrenaline coursing through him. Thrumming in his ears then like the energy pulsed through him mere hours ago when he'd taken his first head. Filling him with urgency and a heady sense of power. And like the adrenaline rush, that powerful feeling was quickly spent and Richie was filled with questions and doubts.

Had he done the right thing, taken the right head? Was there a right and wrong in this Game of theirs? And it was his Game now, if Duncan's reaction was any indication. Did always have to be this way? Couldn't two Immortals face each other and talk it out instead of using their swords?

"Mac... will I ever have to face you?"

That was the one question he was afraid of the most. Facing someone he thought of as a friend. Killing a friend. How many times had Duncan been put in that same situation just since Richie had known him? How many times had Duncan mourned the loss of a dear and centuries-old friend, gone by the stroke of his own sword? Did Duncan really get over it? Or did he still carry that pain and sorrow with him, wrapped around his soul for the rest of his life?

Richie couldn't bring himself to think about the side of that coin: what if Duncan killed him?

He probably ought to consider it a possibility, but thinking about death - his own death - was counter productive to surviving. If he dwelt on it, he would never move forward. He would never move on. If he dwelt on it, he would never survive.

And he, Richie Ryan, was a survivor. A child of the streets, seasoned beyond his years. Duncan had taught him to fight and how to respect himself, but his instincts would keep him alive now that he was on his own. They'd never let him down before. All he had to do was believe.