Imminent Danger

I shot him.

Catherine had never felt so exhausted in her life. Between arranging, adapting, and conducting the sting operation against Reynolds (she could not bring herself to think of him as her father at the moment), the arrest, the physical strain of enduring a car crash, everything that went so wrong when Vincent appeared, and then the horrible process of booking Agent Reynolds, confronting him, having to get her story straight with Gabe, and then, to top it all off, paperwork…Catherine felt like she hadn't slept in a full week.

This was only partly true. She had slept, but nothing more than stolen power naps since Thanksgiving.

No. I am not thinking about Thanksgiving. I'm not thinking about anything. I am going to sleep.

How many hours did she spend slaving over that damned report? Four? Six? Enough that she hadn't made it back to her apartment until just before dawn, at any rate. Gabe tried to send her home after her brief, tearful meltdown outside of lock-up, but their work, she reminded him, was not done. There had been the audio recording to go over, the preliminary report from the bomb squad, and their own version of events to concoct, memorize, and type up. It helped, she thought, that throughout most of her written report, she referred to Reynolds as "the actor" or "the suspect." More distance between her and that whole father thing.

There was nothing she could do about matching her story with whatever statement Reynolds would give in the morning unless he gave it directly to her, which would not happen. Catherine was not only the arresting officer, but the driver in a vehicular accident; she'd also discharged her weapon. Standard procedure dictated that someone else take the arrestee's statement. Catherine herself should have already given a statement to Internal Affairs about the crash and the shooting; thankfully, Gabe arranged for that to be delayed.

The report, once written, had to be checked and rechecked for every possible inconsistency, any hole in the story that would expose the true extent of Catherine's, Gabe's, or their other friends' involvement in the situation. The official narrative had to hold up to intense scrutiny; the mayor, who'd taken a recent interest in Beast-related cases and the detectives who worked them, would set her dogs on the faintest possibility of a trail. Catherine did her best to protect herself, her friends…and Vincent.

No matter what was going on, who got hurt, or whose lives or careers were in danger, it always came back to protecting Vincent.

I shot him.

She remembered a conversation they'd had so many months ago—had it been a year already?—when Vincent told her that the day he finally met her, the day she'd stormed into his warehouse, pointing a gun at him and demanding that he show himself, was the best day of his life.

The night she fired it had to be the worst. For both of them.

So much. They'd been through so much, especially here lately. All the heartache, the months of searching, the amnesia, the lies and secrets, the Beast murders. The fear that Vincent had died every single time another arsonist blew up some building. Months of trying to rebuild trust in each other and fall in love all over again. Catherine had made several mistakes in the process, but the relationship was progressing. Now it was all gone.

As six AM turned to seven and then eight, Catherine mentally approached the shooting from every angle she could think of. How she had reasoned with Vincent beforehand about the merits of her side of the moral dilemma. How she believed in the law, in the system, to exact justice for everyone Muirfield had victimized. How she'd given Vincent an ultimatum: me or your revenge. Those weren't the words she'd used, but when you got right down to it, wasn't that the choice she wanted him to make?

Somehow Catherine's overwhelmed mind finally stopped thinking in terms of Vincent not choosing her over his desires and started looking at the situation as a police academy training scenario. What makes a clean shoot "clean." Draw your weapon—but keep it lowered—when you have a reasonable suspicion of potential danger. Never point your weapon at a crowd or fire into one. Never fire a warning shot; all bullets go somewhere, so you're more likely to hurt an innocent bystander than anything else. Point your weapon at the suspect when someone, including yourself, is in clear and present danger. Fire at the suspect when the danger is imminent. Don't aim for limbs, because that won't stop the suspect from defending himself or harming his victim. Don't shoot to kill, but do aim to stop the suspect.

That last part was a philosophical distinction, not a physical one. The academy trained everyone to aim for the chest. Marksmanship qualification scores were determined by grouping and center mass—how many bullets penetrated the target in the heart.

Desperation and training made Catherine fire. Her badge gave her permission to do it. But love made her aim for Vincent's stomach instead of his heart and lungs. She even avoided his liver.

She was supposed to aim for the chest or head. If it had been any other perp, she would be facing questions about why she hadn't followed procedure. Her arrestee's life was in immediate danger from an outside threat while in police custody, so the situation certainly called for the use of deadly force. A kill would have been justified according to regulations. Because philosophically and procedurally, in spite of the moral grey area and emotional turmoil you might or might not find yourself in afterward, if you're a cop, and if someone's life is in danger, you're allowed to kill the bad guy.

Vincent's life is always in danger. So is mine.

How many times had Vincent killed people in the course of saving Catherine's life? He'd been doing it for ten years. It wasn't a premeditated thing. Usually. Technically. There wasn't a killing agenda back before Vincent disappeared, no list of targets; he simply had a knack for showing up in the nick of time when Catherine was overwhelmed by too many assailants. He was defending her. He just happened to have too much strength and not quite enough restraint to prevent himself from killing the attackers. Catherine had never complained about it before. She'd definitely been freaked out by it, but she never ruled it a relationship deal-breaker or called his humanity into question back then. She had told him that she loved every part of him, and meant it. Was she excusing the violence and animalism away back then because she thought Vincent had poor control as the Beast?

No, not really.

Vincent's control was constantly improving long before he was captured, but his kills never stopped because the attempts on his and Catherine's lives never stopped. How many times had they both had to fight off Muirfield agents or other factions? The truth was, even though Vincent wasn't a cop, Cat had held him up to the same philosophical standard she and the state of New York held herself: sometimes, if someone's life is in danger, you're allowed to kill the bad guy.

And my…Reynolds was the bad guy. He just wasn't trying to kill me.

After all her recent haranguing of Vincent that killing people and seeking revenge robbed him of his humanity, Catherine took a moment now to wonder about Bob Reynolds's humanity. His logic almost made sense, if you didn't examine it too closely: by ordering the murder of all the Beasts, he was simply euthanizing rabid, dangerous animals. Catherine had done that once herself, back when she was a patrol cop and a stray dog suddenly attacked a kid right in front of her. Eliminating a public menace was the value rational action to take—the ethical thing to do. After all, Reynolds had a hand in creating the Beasts, so he ought to take some responsibility. But those beasts were victims, too, and people, even if they were bad people. By manipulating one of his victims into carrying out all these murders for him before arranging that assassin's murder as well, Reynolds had utilized an instrumentally rational action—a means-end logic—that was entirely devoid of moral value. Thirty years after the first time, he was still creating a monster to do terrible things, and then trying to justify destroying his creation by calling it monstrous. Reynolds sold his soul to play God, systematically stealing Vincent's humanity out from under him.

He just hid it really well with that bashful, protective birth-father routine.

And I've been playing right into it. Not entirely, but enough to alienate Vincent.

Catherine thought about what Vincent had said: that Reynolds would get out of jail and just keep doing this, keep trying to destroy him all over again. Hadn't the weasel of a man been on his way out of the country? A one-way ticket to some place that wouldn't extradite to the United States but would still allow him to maintain control of his off-shore financial assets? He was running for his life, yes, but he was also headed some place where he could continue to pull a variety of well-placed strings.

A place from which he could still have Vincent killed, or anyone he wanted, really.

Maybe imminent danger didn't necessarily have to refer to immediate danger to be critical to Vincent's circumstances. Wouldn't it still qualify as inevitable, though? If Reynolds could reach out to bomb makers and super-soldier contract killers while under the regulation and scrutiny he faced as a federal agent, was it out of the realm of possibility that he would be able to do the same while incarcerated? Organized crime syndicates nowadays were structured specifically to be run from inside a prison cell. That included assassination plots. It was the kind of thing that would take some serious planning and a highly intelligent scumbag attorney. Reynolds didn't exactly have the support of a gang or crime family behind him, but he had already proven himself to be well connected and a master of the long game. Not to mention, now that he knew there was still a Beast out there looking for blood, he was highly motivated to eliminate Vincent from the face of the earth.

Yes, Vincent may have been trying to exact revenge on some level, but as long as Robert Reynolds was still alive, Vincent Keller was certainly in imminent, unavoidable danger.

And I shot him.

Neither sleep nor tears would come. Nine o'clock became ten, and Catherine was due at the precinct in two hours to give her statement to Internal Affairs. Subdued, Cat rose from her rumpled bed to shower and prepare for the coming storm. She lifted the window sash from the sill, gazing across the street at the nearest rooftop without much hope.