A/N: Holy moley, it's been forever since the last chapter. I have to apologize for how long the final chapter has taken to come along, but if you guys were frustrated, I was going insane. Apparently endings are what give me the most trouble. But, now that it's here, you have to tell me what you thought, even the ones who have been holding out since the beginning. (To the lurkers, I'll accept things as simple as a :-) or a :-(. )

To anyone not completely frustrated with me and might still have hope for future Cooper stories, I have one done and ready to post that acts as a pseudo sequel. Further in the future, I have an outline for a story in this same line. Yes, it can become a series, but it all depends on what everyone thinks of this one. We'll see.

As always, the geniuses at Sucker Punch own the original characters of the Sly Cooper games, while I own the few OC's appearing here.

---------

Thief for a Day

Raven Ehtar

Chapter Seven, 'Only a Day'

---------

Sly bolted down the hallway like a man possessed. It didn't occur to him that there might be any remaining guards down this hall, he gave up all attempts to be quiet or stealthy. His feet slammed the floor with loud, hollow thumps and his breath came in harsh gasps, but no guards presented themselves. It might have been because there were no guards to step between him and his goal, or it might have been that there were, but they saw the wild look in his eye and decided to let the raccoon pass unhindered. Whatever the reason, Sly met no more resistance until he came to the door. It was locked with a large padlock, but the door was so old and thin that Sly just kicked right through it. Hardly subtle, but he wasn't interested in being subtle anymore.

The room was small and dank, the tiny ceiling light only accentuating the darkness rather than chasing it away. A few pieces of moldy furniture were scattered around the room, ancient cardboard boxes huddling close to them like puppies seeking warmth. It took a second for Sly to see that one of those dark clusters of shapes wasn't decaying furnishings, but his friends... And their guards, each holding a gun cocked and ready by their heads.

Sly froze on the threshold. Both Murray and Bentley were awake, Bentley struggled in his guard's grip at the sight of Sly, but he was jerked back roughly, the pistol's barrel jammed harder into his temple. Murray just sat quietly, and watched his holder out of the corner of his eyes, waiting for him to become distracted; but while still in his chains, there was little the hippo was likely to do to cause the gun wielder any trouble. The one holding Bentley grinned nastily as Sly drank in the hopeless scene before him, "One wrong move, raccoon," he growled, "and your friends' brains are hitting the wall."

Sly twitched at the threat, but made no move into the room. Even if he could wrestle a gun away from one of the guards, then the friend being held by the other guard would die. Alone, he couldn't do anything to help them.

-----

Carmelita laughed in PT's face as he flailed to catch her lightning quick form. He was large and powerful, it was true, but he was so muscular it slowed down his reflexes, making it easy for Carmelita to dart around him without fear of being caught. She feinted to his left, and while he moved to block a blow that wasn't coming, she ducked between his legs and came up behind him, using the tip of her cane to give him a good slashing blow across the backs of his knees. He cried out as his knees buckled, and Carmelita used his lower position to leap straight up and whirl out another blow with the cane against his left ear. He yelped and crashed to the floor.

Carmelita's grin stretched from one ear to the other through her whiskers. Gods this felt good! A small part of her was slightly nauseated that she could take so much pleasure from a brutal beating, but like the voice that continued to whisper to her about procedure and guidelines, it was easily shunted aside. Who cared about rules when she had this scumbag at her feet?

Taking a couple of steps towards the still prone figure of PT, Carmelita aimed her shock pistol and fired. The safety chip was out, but to build up a truly monstrous charge she would have to keep the trigger down and then release. She gave PT a reasonably small jolt. Despite that, he writhed and screamed on the floor as the electricity worked through him. He flopped on the floor again, limp as a boneless fish, but still groaning. His large body meant he would need more than one shot to put him out. Carmelita held the trigger down for three seconds and released. The larger dose had him convulsing rather than twisting, and his screams were choked back as his jaws clenched together and his esophagus closed up. He was still conscious when the spasms passed.

Carmelita frowned and took a step forward, holding down the trigger for a full six seconds. Before she could release, PT's fist shot out and swung around, catching the Inspector in a vicious backhand. Carmelita and the shot went flying, the vixen collapsing to the floor, the stray shot going through a window and taking part of the surrounding wall with it. Carmelita rolled to hands and knees, spitting out a mouthful of blood on the dusty floor. Several of her teeth felt loose, but she hadn't actually lost any, and her jaw still felt intact, so PT was probably weaker after that second pistol blast. But now her pistol was gone, flung to the shadowy corners of the room, and the cane she had dropped near PT when he hit her. Weaponless, PT could make quick work of her.

Still dazed from the blow, Carmelita lifted her head so see the gargantuan pit bull striding towards her. Carmelita backpedaled, but PT was too quick, and caught a handful of her shirtfront before she could get away. Using the muscles that had disadvantaged him before, he lifted Carmelita off the ground, arm fully extended. Still somewhat dazed, Carmelita marveled as the corded muscles on his arm stood out like rods. Her eyes traveled up the arm to the face, twisted into an expression of pure hate. Suddenly at this monster's mercy, Carmelita felt the first twinge of fear.

-----

As Sly watched, horrified, the men holding his friends dug the barrels of their pistols into the temples of the turtle and hippo. They were making no demands that Sly drop his weapon, or back out of the room, or talking at all. They just seemed to enjoy the fact that he could see Bentley and Murray suffering, and could do nothing to stop it. Slowly, the one holding Bentley reached down and grabbed one of the turtle's hands. Bentley tried to pull it away, but the guard held on too tightly. He worked his grip around until he had the pinky finger pinned between his thumb and forefinger. Still keeping the gun in his other hand trained on the turtle's head, and watching Sly's every reaction, the guard squeezed the digit until there was a small crunch.

Bentley screamed in pain, and Sly trembled – on the verge of rushing the room, but the sadistic guard kept him at bay with the threat of the gun. It was like there was an invisible barrier he couldn't cross, dare not cross for the lives of his friends. His grin twisting even further, the guard released the broken pinky and went to the ring finger.

In a flash, Sly realized that there was one option – slow down time. It was risky, it had been a long time since he had practiced the advanced technique, not since the Clockwerk incident, and he hadn't been the best at it when he had been at his peak. 'Slow down time' was actually a misnomer. Time didn't slow down – he sped up. It was a state of mind and body that was almost trance-like, and it sped up his actions and reflexes to four, maybe five times that of an ordinary Cooper. It was very risky – dangerous – but what else could he do? The guard had already begun applying pressure to the second captured finger.

With a final grit of his teeth, Sly committed himself to the half-formed idea. He took three sharp breaths and let his awareness fold inward. He didn't have to close his eyes, which would have alerted the guards holding his friends at gunpoint, but the scene became fuzzy as his eyes unfocused. At first he became sharply aware of everything in the room, but it quickly faded away. The sounds of five bodies breathing in one room, the feel of a slight breeze playing his fur, the smell of dust and mold, they all fell away until all Sly knew was his own body. Gradually even that began to leave him, to recede until all that was left was a tiny, sharp pinprick of his mind. He coiled and folded that in on itself, tighter and tighter, smaller and smaller.

The process felt slow to Sly, but actually all of this was happening within a few seconds. That was the secret of the technique: a highly concentrated meditation in an amazingly short period. The speed and level of focus achieved were what created a 'rubber-band effect' when Sly's mind was turned outward again. Only instead of stretching out and snapping back, he was coiling up and snapping out. The after effects always left him tired and with a very localized migraine right between his brows, but Bentley said that that was because he had so little practice – and because he always pushed it too far for an amateur. Well, if ever he needed to push himself, it was now.

-----

The expression of hate suddenly melted into something more frightening: a leer. PT's gaze dropped from Carmelita's face to her body, admiring the curves now that she was helpless to stop him. Carmelita's gut twisted as his eyes sparkled with glee; she felt dirty just being looked at by him. She writhed and kicked, aiming for vulnerable spots on PT's body, but her limbs were too short to reach, and the bulldog only laughed at her. Carmelita clawed at the arm holding her, digging her fingers in, but her gloves prevented her from really getting him with her nails.

PT chuckled some more, then jabbed her in the gut, knocking the wind out of her. She struggled to draw in breath, coughing, eyes watering. Gasping, she realized that PT was reaching for her now, with fingers extended. He's going to fondle me, she realized. Refusing to bear the humiliation, she resorted to the one weapon left to her, and bit into the hand holding her aloft with a mouth full of sharp fox teeth.

PT grunted, the threatening hand stopped, but the other hand, the one being bitten, refused to let go of the fox. Carmelita bit down harder, tasting the blood that was rushing into her mouth. It was disgusting, but it was the only way to get away. She bit down even harder, grinding her teeth back and forth and jerking her head around.

PT finally let out a strangulated yell of pain, and flung the offending fox into the corner of the room. Carmelita managed to twist around in the air to land on her feet instead of her head, but the landing was still far from soft. Legs stinging and knees protesting, the vixen squatted in the corner, spitting out another mouthful of blood, this one PT's. She didn't take the time to wait for the fuzziness to leave her head, but looked back at PT immediately. He was still holding his injured hand, snarling in pain.

Carmelita took the opportunity, and dove for the faint shape she could make out through the shadows. When PT threw her, she had landed near her fallen shock pistol, which she intended to use.

PT saw her dive, and could make out what it was she was going for. He turned and snatched up the vixen's cane, and began sprinting towards her, bringing the cane up in a tremendous arc to bring down on her skull.

Carmelita was holding the trigger down, building up charge, and praying that her shot would make the giant veer in his course before the blow came.

-----

Bentley screamed as the second finger snapped. Little bright lights swam in his vision, and he thought he could hear something whistling. The pain was incredible, but it was nothing compared to the agony as the guard holding him began to grind his broken finger around, rubbing the broken bones together, pinching nerves and sending shots of pain all the way up his arm. The turtle moaned and fought to stay conscious. Blackness threatened around the edges of his vision, promising cool unawareness, but he had heard the quick breaths Sly had taken, knew what they meant. The technique would speed him up, but he would still need the help of his friends if they were all going to get out of here. He had to stay awake.

The guard holding him stopped grinding the broken bones together and moved onto the next one, trapping it in his grip and applying the terrible pressure a third time.

Bentley felt a breeze, and there came a grunt from behind him. The pressure that had only begun to be applied to his third finger vanished, as did the feeling of someone sitting behind him, pressing against his shell. Bentley blinked, then snapped his attention to the side, to Murray and his guard. The guard was staring at Bentley, mouth agape, as though the bound turtle had caused his partner's disappearance. He was just turning his head to check where Sly was when Murray heaved his entire bulk backwards.

The hippo's thick skull dealt the guard a hard blow to the nose, and the rest of Murray's bulk simply rolled over the unfortunate captor. The gun fell from the guard's slackened fingers and landed harmlessly on the ground. Muffled grunting came from beneath Murray, but despite his efforts to keep the guard pinned, there was only so much he could do while still chained up.

The guard rose from the ground just in time to meet the Cooper Clan cane, face to face.

Murray's lock was open and hit the floor before the last guard. Sly was just coming out of his speed jump when he turned his attention to the turtle.

Carefully, delicately, he lifted Bentley's arm and hand, examining his friend's twisted fingers. He knew very little about such things, but even he could tell that the breaks were bad, they would need to be set by a doctor. Sly looked at Bentley's face, covered with sweat, pale, and panting. They would need to get to a doctor soon.

Sly tried to smile lightheartedly, "You're looking greener than usual, Bentley."

Bentley, to his credit, managed to smile back, "As much as I hate the sensation, that's a good thing. I'm healthy enough to feel sick."

He forced a chuckle, "You can explain that one later." Sly stopped smiling, his ears came down to his scalp. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, "I'm sorry, Bentley. For everything."

"Forget it, Sly. This is just one of the risks of being thieves."

Sly turned back to Murray, who was shrugging out of his chains. The knife wound on his arm looked red and angry, on the verge of an infection. If it was tended to soon it wouldn't get any worse, and only Bentley would need a doctor. Murray caught Sly's look and shook his head. He wouldn't admit to feeling any pain – especially when Bentley was in such bad shape.

Bentley took a shuddery breath, holding tenaciously to the few threads of consciousness he had left. It would be so easy to just let himself slip into oblivion, to escape the pain, but then he would be dead weight for his friends. They weren't out of this yet. He had to concentrate on something to keep away the darkness. Finding one major obstacle to their escape, Bentley latched onto it. "What about PT? Where is he?"

Sly was removing Bentley's bonds, gingerly moving them around his injured hand. In answer to his question, he jerked his head towards the open door, "Carmelita is taking care of him – I should go and help her now that you guys are safe."

"Carmelita is here?!" Despite his pain, Bentley managed to sit up straight, "Do you have any idea what that might do to her state of mind?!"

"To tell the truth, pal, her state of mind ain't all that great anyway."

"What do you mean?"

"She saw the shock pistol," Sly explained quickly, "and now it seems like she's wavering between crook and cop."

Murray surprised them both by yelling, "And you left her alone with that steroids poster-boy?! Are you insane?"

Sly gaped at his rotund friend. He hadn't made much fuss when Carmelita had joined up, but since when had he become a Fox supporter?

Sly's amazement only soared even further when Murray actually grabbed a handful of his scruff and lifted him off of his feet. Murray had never used his bulk or physical force against him before – it was unnerving. The hippo only held Sly suspended, though, and spoke to Bentley, who was still sitting awkwardly on the ground, "You going to be okay for a minute, pal?"

Bentley nodded wearily. Unconsciousness was looking better and better, and he had no spare energy to argue or object.

Murray, still holding onto Sly by the back of the neck with one hand, lumbered off down the hallway to the main office where Sly had left Carmelita and PT to brawl. Despite Murray's obvious annoyance, he didn't swing Sly around as he made his way down the hall, but he didn't put the raccoon down, either.

At first, Sly couldn't even tell if they were in the right room. It was silent, there was no movement, and it somehow seemed darker than it had been five minutes ago. Murray, still running, almost tripped over PT's prone form sprawled on the ground. Around him were the shattered and scattered pieces of the imitation Cooper Clan cane. Splintered fragments of the wooden handle were strewn across the floor, and even the metal hook had been snapped in two. PT himself was covered with bruises and cuts, and his fur looked and smelt as though he had walked through a burning building.

"Whoa," Murray said, observing their fallen foe, "Carmelita really did a number on him. I guess we really didn't have to worry."

Sly stared down at the pit bull from where Murray still held him suspended and let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "I guess she did. He would look better if he had gone through a meat grinder." Realizing something, Sly looked around, "Where is Carmelita?"

Murray looked, "Maybe looking for you?"

"No, she knew where I went. We'd better find her."

"Right." The hippo carefully lowered Sly to his feet and the two began to search. Murray headed out to explore the building while Sly stayed in the office.

Silently, Sly was cursing himself. This was his fault. It had been his idea to rob PT when Bentley had said they weren't ready. It had been his idea to party on the town instead of laying low. And it had been his stupid idea to make Carmelita part of their team. Everything he had done in the past week had led the gang from bad to worse. His plans had nearly gotten his friends killed, and who knew what condition Carmelita was in? Her mind had been slowly cracking, fluxing between the policewoman and the thief when he had last seen her. What if the fight with PT had damaged her mind state somehow? What if now, instead of being able to revert completely to her Inspector ego, she would be stuck in this half-way point indefinitely? Or worse, what if…?

It didn't take long to find Carmelita, but it felt like an eternity to Sly. She was unconscious, but breathing, slumped behind a pile of boxes. From the way she lay, Sly could tell she had been thrown there, but the mass of empty boxes had cushioned her landing. She was breathing deeply, which meant no ribs were broken, at least, and her bruises were fairly minimal. Compared to the beating PT received, she was virtually unscathed.

Again, Sly sighed with relief. At least physically, Carmelita was alright. Gently, so as not to wake her, Sly rearranged her limbs so she didn't look quite so uncomfortable.

For a while, Sly just watched her, thinking. It was the first time in what seemed like days where it felt like Sly could just think, and not worry too much about anything else. He began to absorb everything that had happened over the past few days. More than Sly's own bad judgments leading to the near disaster they were in now, he found himself thinking of his time with Carmelita as a thief. She had been an invaluable partner to him – both as a second pair of thieving hands and as an emotional support for Sly. Having her with him made him realize how much he really wanted someone with him, out in the field.

It also made him realize just how inappropriate Carmelita was for that role. Any latent, adolescent fantasies he might have had on that score were now quashed. The two of them couldn't work together permanently on the same side of the law. Not the way he had tried it at any rate.

Sly didn't move again until Bentley managed to make his way to the office. The turtle looked Carmelita as well as he could with one hand, and reached the same vague conclusion as Sly: physically fine, (considering), but mentally, who knew?

Sly rubbed the place right between his eyes, where the migraine was already developing. It was hard to tell this early, but it felt as though this one would end up spreading to his ears. He would either have to use that technique a lot more to get used to it or not at all. He was leaning towards not at all.

"What do we do now?" he asked Bentley. Although barely started, the headache combined with his exhaustion was making it hard for him to think.

Bentley shrugged, then flinched at the pain brought on by such a simple movement, "I guess now we pick up the pieces." He glanced out the window, the one Sly had used as an entrance, "And quickly, before the police start arriving."

-----

The first thing was a wailing noise that jabbed at her brain relentlessly, pulling her out of darkness into a gray swirl of nothing. Gradually the gray evolved into shapes: the Interpol building in Paris, an office cluttered with evidence and files, even her childhood home. Eventually her name came floating to the surface: Carmelita Montoya Fox, Inspector for Interpol. Then another name came, close on the heels of her own.

Sly Cooper.

The grayness behind her eyelids shuddered for an instant as she recalled the name. Who was Sly Cooper, and what was he to her? Mentor? Partner? Friend? … No … it didn't feel quite right. There was something familiar there, but the relationship wasn't that… congenial. If not friend, than what was he? Enemy? Closer, very near, in fact, but something was still off. Not a friend, and not an enemy, what was Sly Cooper?

Before she could adequately define her relationship with this person called 'Sly Cooper', she remembered something else: he was a thief. A sneaky, internationally infamous raccoon whom she had chased around the globe for years. And she was a cop. That was it. Cops and robbers. Form defined relationship.

With those two major pieces of her life back in place – her identity and that of her arch… rival, other parts began falling into place. Her badge number, how much change she ever had on her at any given time, her home address, and the thousands of other tiny details that made up the background tapestry of her life.

Now if only that wailing would quit.

Slowly she forced her eyes open, resolving to make whatever was making that sound to stop, and then return to her, if not entirely restful, then comfortable, sleep.

For a second she couldn't tell the difference between the world behind her lids and the one outside, but eventually she could make out lighter blobs in the darkness. Another sound came to her, slightly deeper and not as constant as the wailing.

"…ector Fox? Ms. Fox? Are you alright?"

The blobs in front of her resolved themselves into a face. Male, young, prairie dog, and wearing a hat that declared him a Las Vegas policeman. Las Vegas?

"Inspector Fox? Are you with us?" The policeman's concern was obvious, but Carmelita, in her cynicism, had to wonder if it was for her personally, or because he didn't want to explain an injured Interpol operative on his beat.

She sat up slowly, but her head still felt like it was about to be split down the middle. She held it in both hands and groaned. "I think so, officer. Where are we?"

The officer's relief at her movement was dispelled by her question. That wasn't a good thing for anyone not to know. "An old apartment building on the eastern edge of Las Vegas," he said. Without taking his eyes off of the stirring Inspector, he motioned behind him, "What happened here?"

Carmelita looked. Before her lay the remains of either a small natural disaster or an intense battle. Broken furniture, debris, even part of the outside wall had been blasted away by something, revealing a sky spackled with stars. In the center of the floor was a dark shadow, whose shape she could not place.

The dazed Inspector tried to rise to her feet, but was so unsteady that she had to accept help from the waiting officer. When she came to the formless mass of shadow, she recognized it as an unconscious PT Bull. He looked almost as bad as she felt.

Carmelita fought down a rising feeling of pleasure at the sight of a beaten PT, and tried to think. What was PT Bull doing in Las Vegas? What was she doing in Las Vegas? Last thing she remembered, Cooper had ripped off PT, leaving the blues and Interpol the knot of which criminal to bust. Then… someone had found out that Cooper and his gang had run to…

Las Vegas. Huh.

The officer waiting nearby watched her face closely. Half because he wanted to be ready if the Interpol woman was overcome and needed further support, and half to look for any clues her expression might give away. "Inspector Fox?"

Carmelita shook her head, trying to dislodge the cobwebs, but for some reason, she couldn't remember anything after she chased Sly into the Atlantis on the strip. "I'm not sure myself, officer," she said slowly, "I think I may have been hit on the head. What's your take on the situation?"

The officer shrugged and motioned behind him, where Carmelita now saw several more officers sifting through the debris, taking pictures, and basically working the scene. "All we can come up with," he said, "is either you and this… gentleman were fighting together against a common enemy and lost, or you were fighting each other and you won. Barely," he added, taking her condition into account, but the Inspector hardly seemed to notice. "Do you know anything about this man, Inspector?"

Carmelita nodded and started to explain the situation as far as she could recall it to the officer, when another cop by a desk called out. "Hey, Baily! We got something over here!"

The officer Carmelita was talking to looked over, stopping Carmelita midstream. Apparently, he was Baily. "I'm sorry, Inspector," he apologized, "but it might be important. Please come with me, it might jog your memory."

Carmelita nodded her agreement and walked with him to the desk. On the desk was a high quality laptop computer, its screen very slightly raised so a thin sliver of light escaped.

"What do we have, Fog?" Baily asked.

Fog, another prairie dog, smirked, "Well, it hardly fits with the décor, B. I think this might help us unravel out little mystery tonight." Fog nodded to Carmelita almost as an afterthought, "Your hat is slipping, ma'am."

Carmelita's hand went to her head, "Hat?"

The two cops ignored the Inspector as she turned over what was undoubtedly Sly Cooper's blue felt in her hands. What was Cooper's hat doing on her head? Where was Cooper? What the hell had been going on that she could no longer remember?

Unnoticed, the two blues lifted the computer screen. Fog grunted, "A raccoon face? Does this mean anything to you, Inspector Fox?"

Carmelita drug her eyes away from the hat and looked at the screen. She snatched the blue calling card taped there almost before she realized what it was. Written on the card, in a familiar swirling hand, was:

Thanks for the

memories.

This is all you'll

ever need.

-Sly C.

A quick scan of the computer screen told what the card hinted at. Everything Interpol would ever need to hang PT. Whatever had happened that she couldn't remember, it must have been a good day.

-----

From his perch in the next building, wind playing the fur where his hat usually sat, Sly smiled. Carmelita was alright, and although she didn't know it, he had given her one of the biggest gifts he had ever given anyone before: a con. In truth it was a way of apologizing for taking advantage of the Inspector, but if he were truly honest with himself, then he knew it was just to make himself feel better, since she apparently remembered nothing.

Sly sighed with true relief. It had been a hurried job, but it had worked. With Bentley and Murray injured and Sly quickly succumbing to the pain of a time bending migraine, they had had to reset Carmelita's pistol to normal, replace her badge, plant the 'puter and the hat and clean up the remains of the shattered cane. Added to that the strict time limit of approaching sirens and their own escape, and Sly was fairly sure that it all equaled their most narrow escape to date.

On the way out, Sly had tried to implant a few whispered suggestions to Carmelita. Only time would tell if any of them had stuck. And there was the hat, which held a powerful little eavesdropping bug in the brim. Depending on its range and lifespan, it might end up being very useful in the future.

Turning away, Sly turned off the receiver for the bug as the police talk progressed to international booking procedures. It had been a fun, if sometimes terrifying little adventure, but time and nostalgia would take care of any rough spots. Now it was time to take care of his family.

Leaping from the shattered window, the solitary shadow that was the master thief melted back into the desert night.

-Fin

---------

Final A/N: Alrighty then, that's it folks. I hope y'all can forgive the very, very long wait for the final chapter, and I hope that it wasn't disappointing in any way.

A great big THANK YOU to those who have stuck with me, and to those who gave constant feedback. Heiduska and AntiGravity 5-1-0, you guys have been absolutely fantastic in helping me through this. Your comments helped steer me away from bad tendencies and kept my moral up to write. (While this may not have been apparent in the gap between chapters six and seven, it's still true.)

My love to everyone, lurkers and commentators alike. If you enjoyed the show, or even hated the show, please leave a comment in the box on your way out.

Sayonara!