Imagine my face when I realized I'd forgotten to post the Epilogue. Just take a second and imagine it. If you're not laughing, you're imagining it wrong.
Good for you guys not sending me a billion messages asking where it was, though, four for you!
On with the Epilogue!
It took several trips to haul the Cooper fortune back home. It was really hard keeping it out from under Interpol's nose, but we managed
Murray went back to Australia with the Guru to finish his Dreamtime training. The Panda King went back to China to be with his daughter. Dimitri... did something.
Bentley and Penelope started construction on a new Cooper Vault. How they hollowed out the necessary underground was a mystery to me, but they recreated the gauntlet according to what Bentley and I could remember of it and set up displays for each ancestor with what we had been able to excavate.
I kept Sly's cane, leg pouch, and Connor Cooper's laptop, which had miraculously survived the cave-in. It had been a nightmare to find a charger for it (how had it stayed underground for thirteen years without a charger and still been on?), but it then sat in the corner of my room, fully charged but unopened. I just couldn't bring myself to explore it. Truthfully, I should have given it to Bentley, but I didn't want to and I was feeling selfish until the point where it would have made matters worse to turn it over.
I stayed at the Safehouse in Paris. I found it depressing that the once lively place was now empty and dead-silent, as Bentley spent most of his time with Penelope, so I spent most of my time travelling.
I didn't touch my cut from the Cooper Vault and I didn't have to- I had my share of the money from Tsao's treasury in a bank account that Bentley had set up for me while I'd been out of commission. I'd initially tried to refuse accepting anything from the Vault at all, but then I got a text from Bentley one day telling me he'd transferred my cut into my account (which he could apparently do without my consent because he set it up and knew its details). I shook my head, rolled my eyes, moved it to savings, and didn't look at it again.
I went to see my dad, my first time seeing him since his one awkward visit to the institution over New Year's. We were able to speak more amicably this time, since I caught him by surprise on his day off and could therefore be sure he wasn't wearing a wire.
We went to a diner, got dinner and talked, just talked. It was nice, seeing him again. I'd missed having him around, though I was pretty used to it by the time I joined the gang.
It was after nearly three hours of blissfully normal conversation that he asked me a question.
"Why did you stay with the Cooper gang?"
I took my time thinking that one over, stirring my milkshake with a french fry as I thought. He deserved a real answer, just saying that I was happy with them wasn't enough, he had to really know why I was so much happier there than at home, being legal.
"Imagine," I started, folding my hands and looking down at my intertwined fingers, "That every single day when you woke up, you could know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you could walk out your bedroom door and see someone who would smile and say 'good morning' and mean it. That every time you wanted to be around people, there was someone who wanted to be with you too and when you wanted to be alone, they'd be disappointed. Imagine just knowing- no, not knowing, feeling- imagine feeling every second of every day, feeling that you are wanted, that you are valued."
I didn't mention the appeal stealing from criminals held for two reasons; first, because he'd debate the ethics of that with me until the dead woke up for tea and biscuits, and second, I really did just stay because I was so honestly happy with the gang and I didn't feel like I needed another reason.
He nodded, seeming satisfied that it wasn't for the money or because my hormones were especially fond of a particular member, and asked if I was going to finish my fries.
I visited Roger, Millie, and Kurt. The latter two pestered me for stories until my ears nearly started bleeding and Roger asked quite seriously if there was anyone he needed to dispose of. It was a fun week.
I didn't want to go back to the empty Safehouse, so I went to Australia to visit Murray and the Guru. Murray was nearly finished with his training and shared his hopes to break into the racing circuit with the newly-restored team van. I even let the Guru teach me how to meditate.
I went to China to visit the Panda King, an idea that seemed good in theory, but very, very bad when I was confronted with the reality of actually standing on his front porch with a hand poised to knock and the barrel of a fireworks launcher in my face. Thankfully, Jing King and I got on like a house on fire, so it was a fun stay and I made plans to return in a few months.
I'd just barely dragged myself into The Safehouse, dropped my bags, and flopped onto my bed when a knock came at my door.
It was Bentley.
"I found him."
Bentley regretted telling Kaia, he really did, but he had to. If she found out he knew where Sly was and didn't tell her, she'd never have spoken to him again.
They were on the rooftop opposite the formal party, where Interpol officers had to go to rub elbows with foreign officials.
He'd told her about the official report: Sly had amnesia and, due to Carmelita pulling all the right strings and using up all the favors she'd gathered in her Interpol career, had become her partner, Constable Cooper. Her face had remained carefully blank during the tale and for once he couldn't tell what was on her mind.
He had the best vantage point, so he was using his binocucom to spy on the two who stood on the balcony, talking about something (he hadn't had time to set up any audio surveillance), and Kaia was hiding behind a nearby chimney (her white fur was like a beacon in the moonlight) and watching from the link he'd made to her binocucom.
Sly looked good, a lot better than when the turtle had seen him last. He looked healthy, no lingering signs of his head injury, and was wearing a tuxedo, his hair tamed for once and slicked away from his face. Kaia noticed too, Bentley could tell by the way she shifted nervously.
Then the raccoon turned, looked right at the binocucom, and deliberately winked.
By the time Bentley looked up from his screen, Kaia was gone.
"Kaia, you have to come out sometime."
It had been two weeks. At first, Bentley had thought it best to leave the hybrid alone, but after a week he'd gotten worried and travelled back to Paris to see how she was doing. She'd locked herself in a room and refused to come out.
It was now a week later. "No, I'm watching Doctor Who and eating chocolate. Why would I ever want to leave?"
He'd come back that particular day with reinforcements. "If you don't open the door, you're going to have to pay for the damages."
"I don't know what you mean and I don't care."
"I'm taking it out of your account!" When no response was forthcoming besides the increase in volume of the television; Bentley sighed, rubbed his forehead, and turned to his companion. "Alright, I tried. It's up to you now, hopefully you'll have more luck."
Ahanu grinned and kicked the door in.
"You're going to love Sweden." The fox insisted, strolling out the front door and making for the car he'd spent the last half hour loading with Kaia's things.
"Put me down! Help! Kidnap!"
"You can take online classes or I can teach you Swedish and you can enroll in Stockholm University." Ahanu shifted his shoulder against the struggling hybrid, "Have you seen their campus? It's gorgeous!"
"I don't care!" Kaia's fists beat against the fox's back, "Put me down! Ritsuka is going to kill you!"
"Oh, Ritsuka knows you're coming. It took three days of groveling to get him to agree to it, but he knows. Watch your head," The translator literally tossed her in the back seat of his car and slammed the door.
"Thanks for this," Bentley said, hopping down the stairs in his chair, "I wasn't quite sure what to do about her."
Ahanu shrugged, "Don't worry about it, I would have come sooner if I'd known what was going on." There was a thud from behind him as the hybrid threw herself against the window. "Child safety locks engaged and bulletproof windows. She's not getting out of there any time soon."
"They really think you need bulletproof windows?"
The fox shrugged again, "Eh, they can be paranoid, but I won't say 'no' to extra security, especially if they're paying for it."
"Understandable. Let me know if you need anything and keep me updated."
Ahanu flashed him a grin and a thumbs-up, making for the driver's side door, "You got it. The trick will probably be to keep her busy. If you see Sly, smack him upside the head for me."
"Oh, I will."
Bentley watched as they drove away, Kaia hurling silent abuse and Ahanu laughing it off. It was for the best, he couldn't just leave her in The Safehouse and let her stagnate all alone. Ahanu and Ritsuka would keep her on her toes and hopefully make her laugh once in a while.
He turned and looked up at The Safehouse. There had been some really good times here. He wasn't naive enough to think that he'd never be visiting it again, but he was pretty sure it would take a while.
He gave it an optimistic year before either Sly couldn't stand having to abide by the rules or Carmelita couldn't stand that she'd let a criminal get off virtually scot-free.
It was only a matter of time before things would change again, and he was looking forward to it. He loved living with Penelope, he was over the moon for her; but he already missed the intellectual challenge of strategizing and he definitely missed being around all of his friends. He hoped he'd get to see them all together again soon, hopefully without a certain hybrid attempting to remove body parts from a certain raccoon.
Until then, he turned to the Safehouse door, pulled it shut, and locked it.
And that's all she wrote, folks! Well, for the time being. Before you ask, yes I'm going to write a story for Sly 4. I have, in fact, already started. I won't start putting it on here until I'm finished with it, though, so it might be a while.
Check out the blog for chapter commentaries and updates on where I am writing the next story. I hope you all enjoyed and I'll see you again soon!