A/N: In the Sly Cooper game timeline, this story takes place in the midst of Sly 2: Band of Thieves, 'He Who Tames the Iron Horse'. In my timeline, this is after the events of Thief for a Day, but that becomes pretty obvious in the story.

This is actually the very first Cooper fic. I ever wrote, during a slow day at work. Since then it has been extended and polished, and even sent into the Sucker Punch homepage, (as noted by Odairu and Orion).

To anyone who liked the non-mushiness of Thief f.a.D., this one is somewhat mushy. Sorry, this was before I had my personal take on their relationship nailed down. Anyway, hope y'all like it, don't forget to leave comments! The more I get, the more likely it is that story number 3 will pop up. ;-)

Enjoy!

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My Criminal Confidante

Raven Ehtar

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"Freeze, Cooper!"

Sly threw himself into the snow for cover, but it was too late, Carmelita had already spotted him. It was his own fault, really, he had left the safe house when there was still a tiny bit of light left. He should have waited until complete darkness before venturing out, but he had been impatient to get to work, and now he was paying for it. His dark clothing had stood out against the stark white snow like a stain, and Carmelita had detected him immediately. If it had been dark, he would have blended in perfectly.

Sly sighed, and stood to face the music. As he turned he beheld Inspector Carmelita Fox, knee deep in snow, fur flecked with ice flakes, flashing eyes narrowed, and shock pistol leveled at Sly's heart. Lovely, he thought, but dangerous.

"I have you now, Cooper," she said excitedly, "even if you run, all I have to do is follow your tracks back to your hideout and arrest you at leisure." She blew out a puff of steam, as though her insides had heated like a furnace.

Sly smiled wryly at her fire, it had kept her chasing him around the world for years. "Are you sure you can keep up with me, Inspector Fox?" He quirked an eyebrow at her, "Across rooftops, up and down dell, through the snow? 'Cause you look like you're ready to drop where you stand." As soon as he said it, Sly realized how true it was. Despite her warm clothing and the running she had done to catch up with him, she was shivering from head to toe. It was obvious that she was doing all she could to keep her teeth from chattering and her legs from trembling. Her normally steady hand was shaking so violently that the shock pistol was waving unsteadily from its target, which only made Sly more nervous, rather than reassuring him.

"Shut up, thief!" Gusto was abruptly replaced by defensiveness, "When I throw you in jail, Interpol will see that I'm an honest cop. Then I'm going after Neyla."

Ah, Neyla. The lithe, beautiful, and charming little backstabber. Honor was not one her strongest traits, even when considered from Sly's admittedly skewed perspective. Revenge was a strong, driving motive, and Carmelita wasn't alone in it when Neyla was involved. The little turncoat had betrayed everyone it seemed; Interpol and Carmelita, Sly and his gang, and even the Contessa. She had even toyed with Sly's feelings to achieve her ends, both as a co-conspirator for his heists and as a possible companion. Utterly callous, she did anything and everything necessary to get what she wanted.

Sly's attention was brought back to the estranged Inspector. She was shaking worse than ever, he saw, but more disturbing were tears Sly saw shining in her eyes. In all the years he had known her, he had never seen her cry, or even on the verge of tears as she was now. She began speaking very rapidly, as though trying to distract him from the wetness in her eyes, "When you're in jail, it will prove that Neyla is the traitor and I'm innocent. Neyla will be exposed for what she is, and put behind bars where she belongs!"

"We could work together—" Sly began.

"I am not in league with you!" Carmelita yelled furiously. Her voice echoed alarmingly off the high peaks surrounding them.

"No," Sly agreed, "but if we cooperate, we might be able to get Neyla back… without me ending up in another cell."

"Humph," Carmelita snorted, a little calmer, "as if I would team up with you, ringtail."

"Oh, come on, Inspector," Sly coaxed, "there have been times when teaming up with me turned out for the better."

Carmelita's shock pistol had dipped slowly through their conversation until it was pointing into the snow at Sly's feet, rather than at Sly, and when she spoke her eyes also turned downward, "Incidents are few and far between."

"Ah, but unforgettable," Sly grinned as Carmelita shook her head at the memories. "Like the last time we were dealing with Clockwerk," he pressed, "A quick rescue, some cover fire, the lending of a jetpack… a countdown…"

Carmelita's head came up with a jerk and she glared at him. The countdown Sly meant had actually been a ten second head start for Sly to take off before Ms. Fox took to his heels. Instead, Sly had stood his ground until the last second, when he had stolen the most personal item to date off of Inspector Fox of Interpol: a kiss. Sly grinned wider. While Carmelita had been distracted, shocked by the contact, he had cuffed her to a railing with her own gear. Then he decided to bolt, and with the keys. Carmelita had stayed there, raging after Cooper and his gang until she calmed down and remembered that she had a radio to call for backup.

"That had some good results, didn't it?"

Carmelita continued to glare, but Sly thought he could see a corner of her mouth twitch into a smile.

"And I seem to recall a certain time in India, and a certain tango…"

The pseudo smile vanished entirely, and although the shock pistol remained pointed downward, Sly became very wary of it again. "That dance just seemed to prove that I was in league with you and your gang! If you hadn't tricked me…"

Sly put his hands up, "Hey, hey, if I had known that a tango would be used against you, and not by me, I would have found another way. I'm not out to get you, Detective. Neyla is."

Rather than stoking Carmelita's ire further, the mention of the double agent's name seemed to sap whatever strength she had left. She sank down to her knees in the snow, head bowed and fingers slack around her trusty pistol.

Sly was baffled, even more so than her unshed tears, this was a position of such defeat and weakness in someone who was normally so strong, that Sly was at a loss as how to respond. In truth, he was a little frightened of this sudden change. If Carmelita broke down, then where would he be? And what was he supposed to do about it?

"I don't--" Carmelita whispered, so Sly had to lean close to hear her, "I don't know what to do, Cooper. Even if I bring you in, they may not believe that I'm honest. They may think that I'm betraying you and your gang, the way Neyla did. How can I prove to them that I'm honest, and Neyla is the traitor?" Carmelita began shaking uncontrollably, arms wrapped around her chest and tail around her belly. She let out a shuddery breath and pulled her ears back against her scalp; this bout of shivers was mostly due to cold, if not entirely.

Without thinking, Sly came up beside her, and setting down his cane, sat down with her in the snow and wrapped her arms around her. Carmelita froze, then began pulling away, but when Sly's grip didn't loosen she settled down. Sly marveled at his own daring, but even more at Carmelita when she began to lean into him. They sat there for awhile in silence, sharing warmth, comfort, and… well, Sly wasn't sure what else, but he had an inkling.

Sly was never sure how long they stayed like that, crouched in the icy snow as the last light finally failed, revealing crystal bright stars in a coal sky. Breaths came painfully, the chilled air attempting to freeze their insides, but neither seemed to mind as they watched Jean Bison's guards patrolling far below them. Finally, Sly softly broke the silence with the recollection of another memory. "This reminds me of New Mexico, do you remember?"

Carmelita tilted her head back onto his shoulder to stare up into the sky, "Hmmm…"

It was seven years ago, before Sly's thief skills had been up to snuff. He had risked a lot for a chance to steal some alien artifacts in Area 53, against Bentley's advice and warnings. It had been all the buzz in the underworld, and Sly's pride and fervor refused to let him pass such an opportunity by. Bentley had found the secret base without too much trouble, and Sly had navigated the huge complex to lift the most amazing plunder he had ever laid his hands on. It wasn't that it was worth a lot of coins, and it was, it was the honor and huge kick he got out of having stolen an alien artifact. He wasn't the only one excited by the prospect, either, he could fairly hear Bentley drooling over the radio, eager to study the strange piece of technology. Murray, on the other hand, had been happy to just stare out of the van window at all of the base's jets and artillery.

While Sly was making his getaway, however, he was interrupted by none other than Ms. Fox. He lost the artifact while escaping, and since Carmelita's backup had blocked his path to the van, he had been forced to make a run for it through the desert. Inspector Fox had dogged him into the flats, chasing him past sundown in her determination to catch him. Which was when they both realized a mistake: it gets very cold in the desert at night.

Exhausted, dehydrated, and freezing, they had called a truce in interest of making it through the night. They found an abandoned coyote den, and with a little digging, they climbed inside and huddled together for warmth. Through the den's entrance they were able to see a sliver of a crescent moon and a spattering of stars. Slowly, their shivers subsided as they watched the moon rise beyond the view of the tiny door. With respective weapons set aside, they fell asleep cuddled together like lovers, noses buried in each others' fur.

Bentley and Murray arrived at the den just before dawn broke the eastern horizon. With some difficulty, Sly untangled himself from Carmelita without waking her and snuck out of the den with his cane. He left Carmelita three things: a canister of water, a radio to call for help, and one of his own raccoon face calling cards.

"That's something I don't understand," Carmelita said softly, calling Sly back to the present, "why did leave me your calling card when you didn't steal anything? I looked, but I wasn't missing anything."

Sly hesitated, feeling his ears heat up slightly, "It was more to represent something you stole from me."

"Ridiculous," she said with conviction, "I'm a cop, I don't steal."

Again Sly paused. This was deeper than he had ever really intended to get with Carmelita, and it was uncomfortable. Finally, "Do you remember where I put the card?"

"Here," she said, touching her left lapel.

Sly nodded, but didn't speak again. Carmelita grew still as she realized that Cooper's card had been placed over her heart.

Silence reigned awhile longer, slightly strained now as both tried to sort through their thoughts and feelings. Unable to take the silence, Sly broke it, "And then there was that time in Vegas."

"When you robbed the Elephant Head Casino," the Inspector recalled quietly.

Sly nodded. In truth he had wondered if she had recovered her memory of Vegas. Once again interrupting his exit, Carmelita had chased him up and down the Strip. Finally, Sly had ducked into a casino to lose her in the crowd. She had somehow managed to keep track of him, even through the press of tourists, until he had snuck into the casino's live theater. It was right at a hypnotist's finale, and somehow Carmelita had ended up getting dragged up onto the stage and put into a trance. She had performed for the entertainer and his audience, and Sly cursed himself for not having a camera on hand as she hopped up and down the stage like a frog. The hypnotist was just getting ready to turn her back into her Detective self when, at a quick, whispered suggestion from Sly, he had turned Carmelita, for 48 hours, into a member of the Cooper Gang.

And what a member she had made! Within the first 24 hours she had learned the basics of Cooper Clan thievery, and one or two of the fancier moves as well. Chasing a Cooper for years had apparently left her very physically capable, and she was an amazingly quick study. Bentley had even conjured up an imitation of his own cane for her, enabling her to perform some of the best Cooper moves. She had been swinging with Sly through Las Vegas like she had been born a thief, and had even filched a few items off of the local crime lords. It had been a thrill just to watch her. Remembering how he taught her, and how well she had executed every action, he shivered, and not with cold.

But they had run into trouble from a London godfather, and Carmelita's time was reduced to 24. She became a cop again, and he ran from her.

"Well," he said, shifting away from her ever so slightly, "my point is that we can work together well, without being 'in league'."

Carmelita shifted as well, away from Sly. "Maybe, ringtail," she replied gently, "but until I'm forced to team with you again, I'll be coming after you."

They both stood, staring at each other for a minute, trying to decide what they should be doing. When Carmelita bent to pick up her pistol Sly got ready to run, but she holstered it rather than pointed it at Sly. She caught sight of his stance and smiled, "Next time, raccoon."

Cooper paused only for a second before he took off through the snow. He trusted Carmelita's word that she wouldn't follow him, but he left a confusing trail anyway. Even if Carmelita didn't follow him, there was still Jean Bison and his men to consider.

Inspector Fox watched him leave and chuckled as he turned sharply. No doubt he would also be using rooftops, trees, streams, and anything else he could find to his advantage. As the clever thief dropped out of her view into the shadows, she began making her way to a small abandoned cabin at the base of a mountain. She had outfitted it with what supplies she could find in the area: a few discarded blankets, a cooking pot with no stirring utensil, a radio that played nothing but amateur yak yodeling, and a book on beginners' ice fishing. Far from the comforts of home, but it was the best she could do in this corner of nowhere, still laying low from the police.

Carmelita fiddled with the radio a little, looking for something besides the straining vocal cords of under-talented locals, before finally giving up. Next she turned to the worn book of ice fishing, which claimed that within a month, on their program, you could be out fishing the pros. That, too, was abandoned within a few minutes. In the end, the Inspector just sat staring into the fire, thinking. She thought about Interpol, how they had been duped by Neyla, helped by the Contessa, into turning against her. She had been betrayed and disgraced, and there was little she could do to repair the damage.

Then, gradually, her thoughts turned to another cold night, far to the south, when she had stolen a certain something from a raccoon prince of thieves.

Fin

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Post Disclaimer: Sucker Punch owns all rights to the Sly Cooper characters. I'm merely using them for my own twisted amusement. ;-)