- - - - - grey

a ficlet of not-quite-epic proportions.

Sly lowered himself onto a platform, feeling a trickle of sweat catch in his mask. This laser field had been particularly difficult— as anyone could tell, giving that the tip of the thief's tail was singed worse than the toast Murray left in the toaster for ten minutes. The jewel had better catch a fortune on TheifNet.

Sly took a glimpse through his Binocucom. Sure enough, the jewel was attached to its pedestal by a hair-thin filament attached to… Sly dipped his head to see, then chuckled softly. Someone had a sense of humor. The wire connected to a Klaxon. The loud blaring and harsh red lights were humiliating wake-up calls to any decent thief. He removed a battery from his pocket and jimmied a circuit breaker, carefully lifting the wire until it was attached to a AA instead of a priceless ruby. Sly allowed himself a small grin as he tucked the ruby into his red pouch. Now, to get out. The guard rotation had been tricky, so going out a window would probably be easier—

"Freeze, Cooper!"

Sly turned slowly, hands in the air. "Inspector Fox. As radiant as always."

Carmelita raised a brow. "Hands up generally means that you drop your weapon, Cooper."

He feigned surprise. "My cane? That's a family heirloom! Can't be careless with that, can we now?" Sly flashed her a grin. Carmelita scowled.

"Drop it, Cooper, or I'll give you a thousand-volt initiative."

"That's not--" Sly stopped abruptly, his ears pricking up. Carmelita primed the trigger, starting to speak. He waved her off. "Quiet!" Sly scanned the room in a millisecond. The guard's steps were close enough now that even Carmelita's less sensitive ears could hear them. She swung her shock pistol around—giving Sly the window of opportunity he needed.

"Ringtail-- mmph!" He clapped a hand over her mouth, hooking her around the waist and pulling her into a floor duct. Sly bit back a curse as she bit down on his hand, hard.

"Ssssh!" The guard's boots stopped in front of the vent, his flashlight swinging around. The duct bars striped the two faces in crazy shadows. Then the light stopped, coming to rest onto one particular vent…

Carmelita instantly stilled, feeling Sly's muscles tight and tense against her jacket. For the first time, she got to see the more instinctual, thieving side of Sly, that magic that made the Coopers one of the most successful line of thieves in history. He was coiled to strike, without being coiled. His breathing was so silent and minimal that it didn't even ruffle her fur. And as the flashlight settled, Sly seemed to be pulled to the shadows like a magnet, sinking into the darkness as if someone had dipped him in black paint. Secretly, Carmelita marveled that she'd caught him as often as she had.

Mimicking him best she could, Carmelita tried to imagine melting into the floor. A few agonizing moments passed, then the light reluctantly receded and a chair creaked under the guard's weight. The fox relaxed, and instantly tensed again as she realized her proximity with the thief next to her.

Due to the haste at which they'd entered the vent, Carmelita found herself in a rather… compromising position. She was curled onto her side, her back pressed against Sly's chest with her head quite comfortably nestled under the curve of his chin. She flushed red.

Sly shifted slightly, peering out of the vent. He blew a tuft of fur out of his eyes irritably. "Figures," he said quietly.


"He's just sitting in the chair. Reading a book."

Carmelita groaned. "Are you serious?"

"Dead serious, sweetheart."

"Don't call me sweetheart, thief." The vixen scowled, now in a thoroughly foul mood. Although anyone who knew her would attest that she was rarely a ray of sunshine. "You're a master thief, aren't you? Can't you get us out of here?"

Sly chuckled, sending shakes down to her toes. "Myself? Sure. But with you…" He trailed off and somehow Carmelita could see the smug smile on his muzzle as clearly as if she was facing him. "Unless you've learned how to balance on top of a lamppost and run along power lines, you're sunk."

"He's security. He won't shoot at a cop."

Cooper shook his head, brushing her hair with his nose (intentionally?) "Please. You really believe this whole operation is legitimate? They sell paint to forgers. Add minerals and metals to match different eras to fool forensics." Sly paused. "Besides," he murmured huskily, pressing his face into her hair, "you know me better than that."

Carmelita tried to find her voice. "Stealing from other thieves is still illegal," she managed. "The law doesn't compromise."

"Please," the raccoon said dismissively. "Ever heard of a plea bargains? Or reduced time if you testify against a fellow inmate?" Sly shook his head. "The law compromises all the time. Whenever it works for them."

Carmelita opened her mouth to reply, but found she had nothing to say.

The next few minutes passed in awkward silence. Sly seemed oddly contemplative, while Carmelita tried not to focus on the brush of their tails and Sly's fingers resting feather-light on her waist.

They both tensed as a chair scraped against the floor. Carmelita held her breath as the guard slowly shuffled out of the room, the door softly clicking shut behind him. The pair was out of the vent in a flash, self-consciously smoothing out jackets and smoothing tails. Sly looked over his shoulder, twirling his cane absently. "There should be another guard coming down in about two minutes, if they stick to the schedule." His mouth curled into a sly grin. "No time for arrests, Inspector Fox, unless you plan to magic us out of here."

Carmelita knew he was right. "Don't get cocky, Cooper. Wait until--"

"Next time, I know." He took a step toward her, still with the trademark Cooper smile on his muzzle. "It's always next time, isn't it?"

"Don't, Sly."

"Why not? Why not compromise?" Sly fixed her with a serious look. Something inside her froze. "I rob the thieves blind and you take them in. Everyone wins."

Carmelita squeezed her eyes shut, fingering the trigger on her shock pistol. "That's not how the law works, Sly."

"That's how it should work, Carmelita." He pronounced her first name beautifully, with a slight Spanish lilt that the fox never knew was possible in purebred French. "Someone's got to change things," he murmured. When had he gotten so close? She could smell him. It wasn't helping her focus. "And it can't always be me."

"Sly--" She fought. "We can't."

He sighed softly, and Carmelita could smell mint on his breath. Carefully he placed his gloved paws on her forearms, leaning in— and she should stop him, but as always she just couldn't, and her eyes were closing, her chin tilting up—

Sly's lips pressed gently against her forehead, lingering for several moments before he pulled back reluctantly. Carmelita realized that it was much too close to a goodbye kiss. And before she knew what happened, their lips had met and her hand was closed around his high collar, pulling his face downwards.

Sly responded with a thief's lighting fast reflexes, twining an arm around her waist and pulling her into a tight embrace, the other hand lightly carding through her cobalt hair. His mouth was soft and warm under hers, with just a tinge of awkwardness that made her smile against his lips. So the great Sly Cooper, the biggest flirt in the thieving world, was no Casanova. And she realized for the first time that to Cooper, this wasn't a game. She wasn't a game.

They pulled back as footsteps echoed in the hallway. "The guard," Carmelita breathed. Sly just nodded, looking slightly flushed.

He shook himself. "Go three doors down and turn left. The wall camera is broken. You should be able to get out."

"And you?"

Sly just flashed one of his grins. "You'll never know, Inspector." He paused. "Compromise. Just think about it." He darted out of the room, and she heard a familiar clink as the raccoon's cane spirited him away. Carmelita allowed herself one touch on her lips, and then was out the door.

She'd always seen the law as black and white, right and wrong. But, as usual, Sly Cooper walked the line displaying a most unusual shade of grey on his fur. And Carmelita had to admit…

Grey was looking good.

Unproofed, unedited, and fresh out of my mind. This is my breakout into the Sly Cooper fandom. So hello to all of you that I haven't met before, and hi again to my crossover readers from the KH fandom! I'd absolutely love some reviews, since this is the first time I've ever written Sly. He's just amazing, isn't he?

I do reply to all my reviews. However, I will be gone until the 11th on a trip (I leave early tomorrow!) so your replies will be slightly delayed. But PLEASE REVIEW! I love hearing from my readers, be it good or bad.

Thanks for reading!