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Silence Game

By missmary

Romance / Action

Chapter 1

Carmelita speaks

I saw Sly today, looking in at him through the window. It was open to give him light. He was looking at what was on the bed, and I could tell he was thinking hard, and terribly worried. There is a street light by his room, and there was enough light for both of us to see the bed clearly. It was his old thief's outfit, made to blend into the night, as Sly's ringtail coloring was. With the clothes lay the Cooper staff, the hooked one that has been in his family for generations. He had to have been in contact with his old gang to get it. I didn't know he knew where they were, or how to contact them now. I know now that something is going on, something that is eating at him. It's coming at a terrible time.

Someone is trying to blackmail him, and because of me, he is in a very shaky position. I don't know what to do.

He's been with me three years now, since he had that moment of amnesia in the Cooper Vault, and I told him he was my partner, Constable Cooper. My new captain had already hinted that given Cooper's sense of fair play and his skill, he would be willing to work with him if I could manage to sound out his willingness. To tell the truth, I didn't know how to manage it. God knew I'd been chasing the ringtail for ages, and my old captain had watched as I went from thinking of him as an unnaturally skilled criminal, to a criminal with some decent qualities, to being reluctantly fond of the damn fool. It was when I saw him struggling, and losing, to the monster Dr M had made, that I knew he was important to me. I'd known he cared for me since he almost got killed by Clockwerk- I hear that mechanical, hate filled voice in my dreams, saying that empathy would always be the Coopers' downfall- and he's pulled my tail out of the fire at least three more times, maybe more. When Dr. M said something about neither of them getting what was important to him in life, and shot at me, there was no way I could have avoided it- and Sly jumped in front of that shot for me. Without even thinking I shot down Dr. M, screaming that no one messed with MY criminal. So I took the risk of telling him he was my partner. Where I got the idea I will never really know.

So he left not only the staff that kept up that part of the wall, but the calling card, and the loot bag behind. That was when the silence game started; that's Sly's name for it. The Captain worked something out-don't ask me what, even Sly is better with bureaucratic nonsense than I am, it's all I can do to make out my reports- and Sylvester Cooper joined Interpol as a specially assigned constable. It took a while, but Sly had been considerably banged around during his raid on the Cooper vault against Dr M. We discovered that he was covered in bruises, that he actually did have a small blood clot in his brain that resolved itself under medication, that when he was hurt he slept like a solid rock for days at a time. I was scared to death. The hospital staff was worried for a day, noticed that he was healing remarkably fast, and relaxed. We discovered when he woke up that he hated hospitals. When he started to complain, we worked out a deal with the doctor in charge and I took him home with me so there would be someone to watch him.

He hasn't left yet. I don't think I intended for him to.

We discovered that there was actually a Sylvester Cooper, a Swiss citizen, who was a well-off gentleman who traveled a great deal buying and selling rare artifacts. Sly- who became Syl so that we wouldn't bring his memory back too fast- had maintained a cover persona, a businessman who paid taxes and regularly paid two helpers generous shares in ventures. He had a stock portfolio. He had retirement accounts. He had normal bank accounts. Sly was not rich but he was not going to be living off his Interpol salary either. The cover persona was the person that Interpol hired; this was the person that had the papers, the birth certificate (his father's occupation was listed as import- export consultant) and as far as the Swiss government was concerned, real. Sly Cooper the thief had no identity, and in fact the police files listed him as missing.

The Captain worked the amnesia line hard. He put Sly through refresher training, only to discover that the only part that gave Sly a problem was swimming. In water Sly sank like a stone, and the instructor said he had never seen anything like it. That old otter saw Sly as a challenge; the academy, bewildered, let Sly breeze through the obstacle course, the marksmanship courses, the international law courses, and then handed him over to the otter for three weeks to learn how to stay alive in water long enough to get help. They did it, too. By the end of those three weeks, Sly could pass the swimming requirements and swore if he never set foot in water again it would be far too soon. He couldn't understand why I was bent over in laughter; how many times did I glimpse him come out of water like a scalded cat? The Captain paired me with Sly, and right away, we worked as if we had been partners for years. Sly's perspective was priceless. The captain sent us after the toughest, and we brought them back, alive. Sly still preferred a variety of his staff- we made him up one- but he learned how to use my shock pistol in about two hours, and when he had to he used it. We were usually sent after the kind of criminals Sly despised, the ones who could care less who they hurt. I was constantly amazed by his bag of tricks. We acquired two more regular helpers, one a constable named Shelly, a squirrel, who had met and been helped by Sly before, and a hunk of amiable muscled bull nicknamed Hunk who drove and was the brawn when we needed it. Shelly was not as brilliant as Bentley, and Hunk was somewhat brighter than Murray, but they did provide decent backup when we needed a team. Sly treats them about the same way he had treated his gang.

For a time, there was some tension in the office. Sly charmed the office secretaries in about a week, even the solidly grumpy old matrons who grunted more than they spoke. The younger men were the ones who gave us the hardest time. It was bad enough that they resented me; I showed them up regularly with my arrests, even if I never brought in my main quarry. However, I was a woman, and they admired me even if they would sooner date a swamp alligator that looked like Miz Ruby before they'd date me; to an extent, that diffused some of the resentment. Then Sly showed up. He teased and flirted with me, and they could tell I enjoyed it. He was gallant to the office secretaries and matrons, and they loved it, especially since it was very clear that he was off bounds to anyone but me. He was good-looking, he was in better physical shape than the other men were, and he didn't give a damn if they liked him or not, as long as he had his own loyal squad. Some of the older officers suspected who Sly was. Due to the silence game, they couldn't say anything, but the suspicion could be cut some days.

Now, at that time, it had become obvious that while we lived in the same apartment, things were not quite what everyone thought at first. Sly had run me ragged and played games with me for years, and while I accepted that part of that was thief escaping cop, some of it was plain games. I was determined to be sure that Sly was indeed going to stay clean before anything more developed, but I also wanted to get him back for the games, and I did, in spades. I made him wait months. The ladies watched; the younger men relaxed and eased up a little; and the older men were silently cheering me on. Sly teased, and he flirted. He made a good roommate, sharing the expenses and the chores without a problem. And there were times when he took a lot of cold showers, or some kind of equivalent. In the meantime, we got to know each other much better, with long walks and long talks, going out to dinner and dancing, and sometimes just companionable silences when he would play video games and I would read. The silence game, where he pretended not to remember and I wondered if he did, prevailed, although I did tell him about some of the times we worked together.

Sometime in the third month, we were walking when we got an urgent request for help. Children were trapped in a building about to fall, and a constable trying to help had shown the building was closer to collapsing than they thought. The problem? The children were on the roof, and the constable was on the wall where he had tried to climb to them. Our skills were needed. We headed over.

We had to go to other none-too-steady roofs to get to the children. Sly did his dance with the lines and spires, and got to the children. He got them to me one by one, by securing a line. I got them down to the street. On the second to last child, though, the building lurched. Sly calmly took the child on his back, tied him there, and climbed down the side of the nearby building, after sending everyone else out of range of possible falling splinters and other material. He then went back for the constable. By this time, some of the men from the office, which was close by, had gotten the word and come out to help keep back curious watchers. Just as Sly got the constable to the ground, there was a rumble, and he hit the ground behind the constable running.

He got to me and turned. As if on cue, the building collapsed in on itself. We stood and stared for a while, until I put my hand on Sly's shoulder and saw he was bleeding. When we turned, we realized half the office was looking at us. They escorted us through the crowd to the office, and while one of the matrons cleaned and bandaged his shoulder, the watchers told the story to everyone there. Sly was embarrassed. The thief who danced with me in the court of a criminal king, the one who bantered with crime lords and took on an enemy of his family line with grim determination, who cheekily left his calling cards in every safe and in every situation where he knew someone would find it, was terribly embarrassed at being seen rescuing children. He just about hid under a desk when he found out that some reporters had head about it and wanted the story. The captain sent me to deal with that for him; I was used to being photographed. I moved in and out of the room, and noticed that the older officers were talking to Sly, telling their own stories, and he was listening. I think he may have been enjoying himself. Finally it was all over and the only one left in the room was Sly. He was lying with his head over the desk, tired. I went over and stroked his neck.

"Don't tease me, gorgeous," he said, his eyes closed.

"Let's go home," I told him. When he lifted his head, I kissed him. It lasted a while.

It was a good thing I managed to get us both a day off the next day, because-in between other activities I won't go into- the silence game ended between us that night. For a time, I was afraid he would be angry with me, but he assured me that he had remembered that night. We talked for a long time. I knew by the next day just how much he loved me. I knew there would never be anyone else for me. After that, the older men accepted Sly. He had risked his life for children whose plight had no hold on him and he declined attention for it; what he was before no longer mattered. He had proven himself. The younger men were impressed despite themselves, and while the jealousy did not go away, the older men could keep them in line. Time went by, and I was as happy as I have ever been. I believed Sly was too, even though he missed his friends sometimes. Sometimes he asked me to "make it formal;" I didn't want anything to change.

But somehow, somewhere, someone had caught on to the silence game, and I was afraid. Until now, I did not think of how the silence game left Sly open to attack. The Captain used it to bring Sly in and keep him honest but now it was being used against him. What would Sly do? There was only one way for me to know. I had to follow him. I could not confront him, because right now I was playing my own silence game. I had been waking up sick for more than a week now. Sly worried about me, but after I got up I was usually better, and I pretended not to understand his hints. I did not want to know; I did not want to face the choices I was going to be forced to; and I did not want Sly knowing, because I knew I had to make this decision on my own.

So I waited, and when Sly finally got dressed and went out the window, I followed him.

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