Aha, it's been so long since I've written Sly fanfic... even longer since I've played the games, I think, so there are probably plenty of lil errors XP (don't read my old Sly stuff btw, it's terrible XDD)

Takes place sometime between Sly 2 and 3 - after Murray leaves, but before Bentley tricks-out his wheelchair.

Somehow inspired by Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal".


Sly Cooper was, indeed, one smooth criminal.

Except for, it seemed, this sole heist.

Everything about it - from the point of entry, to the incapacitated guards, to the calling card - simply screamed that it was Cooper himself, not some wannabe. Which there were plenty of. But this heist... something was very, very off about it.

Inspector Carmelita Fox had first realized this when she'd arrived. A few of the guards were sporting more than bumps and bruises - one even had a broken arm. Sly never, ever harmed guards more than he had to - that was Murray's forte. But Murray hadn't appeared, either, because no guard was injured badly enough for it to be his work.

And there were footprints in the mud. Sly's. Sly... rarely traveled on the ground. And when he did, there were never any footprints, regardless of the terrain. Not even in snow.

The more she saw of the crime scene, the more Carmelita became convinced that something was very wrong with the Cooper Gang. They were not as coordinated as they had been before, lacked the finesse that they normally possessed. There was no flashy getaway, no fancy hacking. Yes, it had only been a scant month since the entire Clock-la incident, but they had recovered within days after they'd fought the Fiendish Five. This... should'nt've been any different.

Or should it?

Carmelita had a feeling that she was missing some very important information. Something that would make all this make sense. It certainly wasn't making any right now.

She went through the motions anyways, collecting evidence and interviewing guards. Officially, she was determining whether or not it had been Cooper himself. But, since she'd known the answer to that from the very beginning, she was investigating something... different. There were the usual motions of digging for any less-than-scrupulous activities - the Cooper gang was perfect for 'telling' Interpol who was covering their criminal tracks - but now, she was also trying to discern just what was wrong with Cooper and the other two.

In the end, though, her search proved fruitless. They had become more sloppy, less stylish, yes. But they still guarded their secrets carefully. Only one of the Coopers could really tell her what was going on. And the likelihood of that was... somewhere beneath 'never'.

Carmelita sighed, sliding into her car, intent on taking her collected evidence back to the precinct. It seemed this was yet another mystery about the elusive group she'd never unravel.

Fingers tapping a slow rhythm on the steering wheel, she pulled out of the docks' parking lot, still musing on this latest heist. Perhaps it wasn't really the Cooper Gang after all. It was unlikely that it was someone else, but... well, she'd found blood drops in a trail to and from whatever Cooper had stolen. That... was exceedingly odd. Never, in her decade of chasing him, had she ever seen him bleed - save for the fight with Clockwerk at Krack-Karov... it still gave her nightmares, sometimes... the cold fury that the mechanical owl seemed to emanate in waves... Sly's bravery despite his terror and the gashes covering his body...

Carmelita shook her head, trying to clear it of such images. She didn't need to be thinking about Clockwerk. Not now. Preferably, not ever. Neyla, no matter what body she was in, could never have hoped to rise to the same terrible heights as that owl...

No. No. Think about something - anything - else.

The heist. Right. The thing Cooper had stolen. She still hadn't figured out what it had been. It had been well-guarded, of course. But she hadn't been able to weasel any info out of the owner of the warehouse nor the guards, so... it was a mystery object. At least until it turned up a week later in an online auction whose lot belonged to an impossible-to-trace person...

The fact that Sly hadn't 'warned' her that he was stealing something of value beforehand had been odd, too. Because he always did, without fail. Somehow. Even if he was in the middle of the Indian or Haitian jungle... he would always get a message out. No matter how many times she switched email addresses, changed phone numbers... hell, she'd even moved a few times... he would always, always find her. She'd long since given up on changing any of her contact information.

It felt... kind of nice, really, having someone who cared enough to search for you from the other side of the world...

Smiling softly, the vixen pulled into the precinct's parking lot, carefully lifting the evidence bags out of the backseat, along with her camera, before shutting the door with one foot and heading into the building. Just had to do some paperwork, wait for the blood samples to be identified... and then she could go home and maybe try to puzzle this out in relative comfort.

Carmelita didn't live in the best house in town. Far from it, really. But, she was away from her tiny little apartment more often than not, so... it was good enough. The money could be spent on more useful things, anyways.

She trudged up the stairs to the fourth floor in silence, careful to skip the one creaky step. The blood had indeed been Cooper's - they'd matched it to an old sample they had from the orphanage he used to live at. That created more questions than answers, however. Such as... why was he bleeding? And what exactly had he cut himself on? Cooper wasn't exactly what you'd call 'careless' so the chances of an accidental gash were virtually nil...

Apt. 112.

Home sweet home.

Carmelita stepped into her apartment, locked the door behind her, dropped her purse carelessly onto the couch, and was about to pull her boots off when she noticed something.

Namely, that her window was open. And that her nemesis was sitting quite calmly on the windowsill.

She simply gaped at him for several long moments, mouth working as she tried to figure out what to say. Eventually, she settled on, "How the hell do you know where I live?!" Even though she knew that he always did, somehow. Oh well. The thought that immediately entered her mind afterwards was that he was basically stalking her.

Sly simply shrugged. His normally cheerful expression was missing, to be replaced with a melancholy one that didn't fit his features at all. Carmelita had the distinct impression that he was this close to crying. "You don't cover your tracks very well at all, Miss Fox."

Carmelita was about to run into her bedroom, to grab her spare cuffs and pistol, but something in the raccoon's voice halted her movement. And besides, she reasoned, he'd be gone before she could even open her closet doors. Maybe if she stayed and talked to him she'd be able to get some information out of him. "Why are you here?"

He smiled - and yes, he was indeed dangerously close to crying. It was... a very, very odd sight, to say the least. Yes, Cooper was a master actor, but this... didn't seem faked. At all. "I was wondering if I could borrow some band-aids. Maybe some gauze and disinfectant, too."

That was more than enough to make Carmelita's mouth drop open again. He... what? What? That... didn't even make sense. "Why... why...?" she trailed off, unable to express her astonishment.

"I cut myself pretty badly back at the docks. Broken window." Sly replied nonchalantly. "Bentley'll have a fit if he sees... so... figured I'd patch myself up before I went back home."

"No... no, that's... that's not what I meant." the fox sat down on the arm of her couch, shaking her head in disbelief. What the hell was going on? "Why did you come to me, of all people? Why don't you just take the stuff you need? You aren't making any sense, Ringtail."

"Because... there are only two people that I trust more than you, Miss Fox. And I'm sure you know who they are," Sly replied seriously. "Can I come in?"

The irony of a thief asking if he could enter was not lost on Carmelita. Of course, most of her mind was trying to process the fact that Sly trusted her. Her. The one person he should loathe the most - perhaps excluding the Fiendish Five and Neyla. "I... yeah. Sure. Okay."

Oh, dear god. She was willingly allowing Sly Cooper into her apartment. Sly goddam Cooper.

"Don't touch anything," she added as an afterthought.

The raccoon slipped inside, smiling faintly. "I won't." That alone cued her into the fact that something was very, very wrong. Because Sly... never agreed to something just like that. He would always argue, cajole her into something else... "I won't just take things, Miss Fox. You should know that. I'll never steal anything that doesn't deserve to be stolen."

That was the truth, yes. It was a talent of his gang's that she'd exploited often, though she'd never tell him that. Still... "Why don't you just buy your supplies, then?" she demanded, sounding harsher than she'd intended. "The Cooper Gang has more than enough money."

Another one of those faint smiles. They were starting to... scare her. Sly was supposed to grin, not... not do that. "The Cooper Gang's dead, Miss Fox." he told her, "Murray's left. Bentley's... in no shape to be planning heists, nevermind pulling them. And then there's me, Mr. Depressed-and-Destitute Cooper, losing his touch." the raccoon's tone got more and more bitter towards the end. His eyes were moist, though no tears fell.

It was more habit than anything that made her start to console him. "Sly, I..." But the words died on her lips. Was there really anything she could say to him? His partners were, by all accounts, his family. Never had she thought that they would be so... fractured. The Clock-la Incident had hurt them far worse than she'd realized.

An uncomfortable silence descended.

"I'm bleeding all over your carpet..." Sly said absently, staring at the floor.

Carmelita jerked in surprise, reflexively following his gaze downwards. Sure enough, there were several splotches of red on the cream-hued carpet.

"It's alright," she replied automatically, rising. "Here. Let me... um... please come with... me...?"

Sly smiled at her again, propping his cane against the back of the couch. Another sign that he trusted her as much as he said... that cane was very, very important to him, and if he was essentially leaving it in her care... "Thank you, Carmelita."

It was the most sincere thank-you that Carmelita had ever heard in her life.

She found herself smiling reassuringly at him before her brain caught up with what was going on. This was Sly Cooper. She... wasn't supposed to be comforting him or willingly giving him things. It just... wasn't supposed to happen...

The smile turned into a frown, but not at him. She actually... wasn't quite sure of what she was frowning at. This entire situation? Possibly, yes. Or the fact that someone as kindhearted as Sly had followed the path that he did, had gone through things no one should ever have to go through...? If only Sly wasn't a thief... maybe there could have been...

She very promptly squashed that thought before it could go any further.

There was no use, after all, in thinking about the could-have-beens. She glanced behind, and sure enough, Sly was following, arms obediently held close to his sides. His eyes were downcast, however... not taking in every ounce of their surroundings. Or, she had to admit to herself, her posterior. He seemed to have a bit of a preoccupation with that part of her anatomy. In normal situations, anyways. There were very obviously a great many other things on the raccoon's mind at the moment, too many crises vying for his immediate attention.

Carmelita opened the med cabinet, glancing over its contents for a few moments before turning. "...Where...?" it had seemed like the location of his injury was his arm, but the blood was next to impossible to see against his fur and clothes.

"My wrist. Guess I was pretty lucky the glass didn't go deeper, wasn't I?" he held out his left hand, palm up.

She stared for a few moments. Had he really accidentally cut himself? She'd seen what a suicide-by-cutting attempt looked like, felt like, and this... was almost dead-on...

Feeling the raccoon's penetrating gaze on her, she quickly turned back to the cabinet, trying to push the thought from her mind that maybe Sly was even less stable than he looked. Focus. Focus on the task at hand... the cut. Right. A gash like that would certainly require more than a few band-aids. Perhaps even a few stitches... but wait. He would have to do those himself, wouldn't he? Unless there was someone else in the criminal underworld he could turn to. For the first time, she sincerely hoped that there was.

"This is going to hurt."

"I know."

Carefully, she tipped the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, allowing several large drops of the liquid to fall on the wound. Sly, to her surprise, didn't even flinch. Didn't wince. Just... stared into her eyes, bared his soul through his own...

The chemical began to fizz angrily and she broke contact, hurriedly replacing the bottle and searching for gauze. He was so... there wasn't a word for it, she thought. So very... pure despite everything...

Gauze located and in hand, she turned back to Sly. She would have to touch him to get it on... and she didn't know what would happen if she did that. She didn't want to touch him, because she didn't know what he would do, and more importantly, didn't know what she would do...

Gingerly, Carmelita slid one hand under his. He was warm... from exertion, she supposed. Or perhaps he was always this warm... he certainly had been warm to the touch all those times they'd... 'encountered' each other in the field. Around and around the gauze went, as quickly as she could make it go without making a mistake. Because a mistake meant that she'd have to start again and she didn't want to touch him for any longer than was necessary because she was afraid that she'd start to enjoy the feeling of his smooth fur against her own...

Quickly, Carmelita tied the gauze's ends together, jumping back as though she'd been bitten. Or perhaps... 'electrified' would be a better word... because there was certainly some sort of spark there...

"I-I have to..." she began, tripping over her words, frantically trying to think of an excuse to get out of the room. "I have to get..." she gestured vaguely, helplessly. But Sly nodded, though he had to know full well that she was only trying to get away from him...

Fleeing her bathroom, she made a beeline towards her bedroom.

Then the closet.

Then her spare handcuffs hanging oh-so-innocently on a hook.

Carmelita stared at those cuffs for a long while.

Could she really arrest him, right here and now? There would be questions, questions pertaining to how he'd gotten in her home. And she'd feel like a monster if she brought him to court like this... a shadow of his former self... forced him to leave Bentley alone and crippled with no one to turn to...

She had the sudden, absurd thought that maybe he shouldn't go to jail.

She went back to the bathroom empty-handed. Sly was, surprisingly, still there, even though he normally would have bolted at the first opportunity. But this whole... situation was far from normal. She had a feeling that if she had brought the cuffs... he wouldn't have struggled at all. Just simply sat, calmly allowed himself to be led away...

The image frightened her more than she cared to admit.

"Thank you, Carmelita. I... can't really say how much this means to me."

The fox had a feeling that he wasn't really referring to the medical supplies. He was as perceptive as ever, it seemed. Even the hell he must've been going through hadn't dampened his senses...

"I... um. Take what you need, Ringtail. I can always get more from the precinct..." Well, that wasn't... entirely true. But... he would need these more than her. A lot more. And even if they were enemies, even if they were on opposite sides of the law, he still needed her help. She had to give it to him. There was just no way she could make him fend for himself the one and only time he needed someone outside of the Cooper Gang...

Sly nodded in reply, quietly picking up the bottle of peroxide and the gauze and slipping it into his leg pouch. Nothing more, nothing less. A gentleman even in his time of greatest need... the Coopers never, ever ceased to amaze her.

"I... should be going. I don't like leaving Bentley alone for longer than I have to. Sometimes, I think he'll... well." he looked away, silently shuffling out of the room. She was the one that followed him now, lost in thought. Should he really go to jail? Really? Maybe... the world wasn't as black and white as she'd thought. Maybe there was a grey area in between them, one with Sly Cooper right smack dab in the middle of it...

In one smooth movement, Sly snatched up his cane, spun, jumped, flipped, and landed neatly on the windowsill in his infamous half-crouch pose. His mouth twitched, a hint of the old grin returning. "Are you going to chase me, Miss Fox?"

Carmelita smiled back. Yes, she'd chase him. It was her duty, and... she enjoyed it. That was the truth. And besides... he needed the distraction. "I'll give you a ten-second head start, Ringtail."

Sly paused for a moment, head tilted, as though surprised that she would ever reference those short moments after Clockwerk's defeat. But she had long ago come to peace with the fact that yes... she had enjoyed the end of those ten seconds. Maybe it wasn't the right thing... but when she was lonely at night, wishing someone was with her, she would think of his soft lips on her own and then things would be okay for just a little while...

"Alright then, Inspector. Clock's a-ticking." the grin bloomed, bloomed into that Cooper grin that she'd missed so much. And then he bounded out the window and into the night, the soft billowing of the curtains the only indication that he'd ever been there.

...And, the blood drops on the carpet. Carmelita stared at one for a while. It was... almost surreal. The fact that she'd... held a civil conversation with her nemesis. Or were they even really enemies? Rivals, yes, but enemies...? Sly had saved her life more times than she cared to count. And he'd made it clear time and time again that he wasn't just flirting with her because it amused him to see her flustered reaction. And she... well, she'd flirted with him. Maybe. Once. Or twice. Although there was that time in Britain... and in Peru...

Shaking her head to get rid of such thoughts, Carmelita made her way into her bedroom and grabbed her shock pistol.

Time to catch herself a Cooper.