There had been one too many this time. One too many absences of apologies, one too many warnings that went ignored, one too many evenings spent at home with a bleak view out of the window and a whiskey in his hand that he wasn’t sure he could even taste anymore. Those who knew him would have been surprised it hadn’t yet reached the One Too Many Stage where he handed in his badge quite dramatically, quit on the spot, and questioned instantly why he hadn’t done that a long time ago. As it was, this was the One Too Many Stage where he just began to question, where he felt a penny drop somewhere in the background and was gifted with the realisation that he was dangerously close to being one of the bad guys.
Was it too late already? Had he become the villain without even noticing, surely that would make it - make him - much worse. To follow like a sheep until he turned into a villain is something he would despise, but to not even notice? To commit atrocities, to do wrong, and to not question that, to have morals so far from the front of his mind that alarm bells failed to ring. He couldn’t accept that that could be him. It was simply not something he would do, forget to concern himself with those around him. He had never shied away from conflict when it came to defending those he felt needed defending, and that included saying no to people, saying no to orders, arguing back to the people with the power. He couldn’t accept he could have failed to do that, that he had taken in his stride orders he had cause to question. Perhaps he was not a villain yet, perhaps it was not too late.
What did a villain entail? There were some people he could smile upon and know they were good, just as there were some people he wouldn’t lose any sleep over getting off the streets permanently. But just as there were obvious ends to the scale, there were people who were not so obvious. People who paid for the shopping of the person in front of them and then drove home from the shops drunk. Nobody was perfect, he knew that, but some people didn’t seem to want to settle nicely on to either side of his scale and that unsettled him. What if he made the wrong decision one day, sends an ambiguous but mainly good one on their way to hell and helps out an ambiguous but mainly bad one? Does that give him minus points, send him further down the scale for acting as an accessory or harming good people. People were full of grey areas, and these grey areas were causing him problems.
Who gave him the right to be the judge of right and wrong? Nobody had, that was the answer. He was working blind, making assumptions and working off of his gut feeling as to whether that should be a thing someone should be allowed to do. Did he make his judgements based off of the actions alone, or was he to take into account the reasons given as well? Polly battering a passerby to death was well and truly on the villain side of things, but Polly battering her daughter's killer to death, now where did that stand. He wasn’t sure, wasn’t sure he ever would be, was briefly irritated that he had been sent in without a better guidebook on morals and then realised that nobody had put him in charge of judging everyone around him and perhaps he should therefore not do so. But those who were in charge, at least to some degree, didn’t seem to be up to the job. They had other concerns, money and politics and The Way Things Have Always Been Done, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to work with them any longer, wasn’t sure he wanted to be one of them.
Did the people around him think he was a villain? Did he help a little old lady cross the road and did she then talk to her friends the next day about him and his fellow thugs, always getting in people’s business and thinking themselves above the law. Was she surprised when he came along to help her, did she see him approaching and steel herself and grip tighter to her purse, or try to disappear and blend in with the scenery? He supposed his reputation did not matter too much, it was the deeds that were important, but he wasn’t making little old ladies' days any better was he, if his very existence scared them. He was causing them harm and he was reinforcing their feeling of being under threat from the wider world. His existence was keeping little old ladies inside their houses, not the worst anyone could do but nevertheless, he would rather walk down the street and make them feel safe, make them know he was there to protect them should any real thug take a liking for their purse.
Weighing things up, he simply could not leave his job. He had power here, he had opportunity and resources and protection from people he would not question were on the negative side of the hero/villain scale. Wasn’t it a necessary evil to stay here, a hero undercover in a group of middling people, people who jumped the fence from side to side whenever it pleased them. He could do more good here than he could if he were out on his own in the world. So he had to stay. He just had to make sure that, whilst he stayed here and with these people, he kept himself in check, evaluated orders, evaluated his own decisions. Had to keep the people who deserved to be there at the forefront of his mind. They were who he was here for, they were who he was here to protect, and all he had to do was remember that and stick to his word.