Author's Note: Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, the events concerned, and the characters are all copyright of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., Sucker Punch Productions 2005-2006, and any other groups/people who deserve the credit. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction.

This story details my own take on the game's ending—while I've made some changes to what happens, those who haven't beaten Sly 3 might want to steer clear if they don't want a spoiler.

For those of you who've beaten the game, and would have liked things to turn out just a little differently, enjoy!

Sly Cooper: On Equal Ground

A SlyxCarmelita fanfic by LonePhantom

Chapter One: The Moment of Truth

"Not her!"

With those words, Sly Cooper was moving, racing across the expanse of floor that separated him from Carmelita Fox. He knew what it was probably going to cost him to do this, but he didn't care. All that mattered was preventing Dr. M, the insane baboon genius who had once been his father's partner, from taking out his frustration at losing the battle with him on Carmelita. Already, the simian madman was working the controls for the freakishly large spider-esque device plugged into his head with astonishing speed for one who had taken so many blows by this point, aiming the triple muzzles of its gun barrels at the lovely Spanish vixen with the light of fanatical revenge blazing in his eyes. Sly saw that Carmelita was already bringing her Shock Pistol to bear, but a sickening suspicion in the pit of the master thief's gut told him that she wouldn't be able to dodge in time. In that single instant, he knew instinctively what he had to do.

It would probably mean his life. But he didn't care. There was simply too much that he had realized about Carmelita only a few hours beforehand—and too much had happened between them over the years—for him to do anything less. Sly didn't even bother to look at Dr. M as the baboon's fingers tightened around the firing mechanism of his multi-legged war machine—all of his focus was on Carmelita as he ran towards her, ignoring the inner voice in the back of his head that screamed that this was a bad idea.

Despite her focus on their mutual enemy, Carmelita's was able to spare a glance towards him as he closed the distance between them, those lovely amber-brown eyes widening with surprise. "What the—!"

Sly didn't give her time to finish, only dimly aware of the distinctive crack of an energy weapon being fired as he all but collided with the hot-blooded Interpol detective, shoving her out of harm's way. Even as momentum carried him forward into the space that Carmelita had occupied, Sly felt a wild surge of adrenaline-fueled satisfaction.

I did it—!

In the next instant, a brilliant red flash exploded in the corner of his eyes, and a powerful force slammed into his side. It was like getting hit with an electrified wrecking ball—agonizing fire shot through the master thief's nerve endings, and the impact carried enough force to blast him clear off his feet, his cane flying from his suddenly-nerveless fingers. Through the white-hot agony of his pain, Sly was vaguely aware of the air whipping through his fur as he sailed through the air, vaguely aware that the wordless cry of pain that reached his hears was coming from his own mouth, and vaguely aware of the hard metal grating of one of the perimeter walkways near the ceiling of the Cooper Vault's Inner Sanctum as it rushed up to meet him. Geez, had he really been thrown that high—?

Then came a sickening crash that knocked the wind right out of Sly, his cry of pain ending in an agonized whoosh as he hit the metal walkway with enough force to have the air forced out of his lungs/make it vibrate from the impact. For a few moments, the raccoon lay sprawled out in an ungainly heap on the walkway, trying to make sense of the world as something else other than pain. His torso felt bruised and battered in a variety of places, the pungent odor of burnt cloth and fur assaulted his nostrils from where the energy bolt had struck him, accompanied by a searing pain that made Sly wince in agony, his lungs felt as though they had been hit with a sledgehammer, and he could feel the coppery taste of blood in his mouth.

Wounded and gasping for breath, Sly tried to push himself into a sitting position, but it was all he could manage just to incline his head forward. The rest of his body simply refused to obey—his limbs felt as if they were filled with molasses, and the world lurched violently before his eyes, slowly disappearing as a dark haze began to fill his vision.

As his remaining hold on consciousness began to slip away, and he found himself begin to lose touch with his environment, Sly found himself recalling a certain Latin vixen detective for the second time that evening—not just things like her hot-blooded personality and how cute she looked when she was angry, but all the times he had flirted with her, the times when they'd found themselves working together against a common threat, and how many chances he'd had to leave a lasting impression with her and take their relationship to a new level, only to mess with her emotions somehow—the incident at the Krak-Karov Volcano and their little tango in India came to mind here—and thus keep a notable rift between them in spite of everything else that took place.

For the second time that night, Sly felt a powerful surge of regret. If only I'd realized just much she meant to me sooner…

Then his grasp on consciousness failed completely, and he fell into darkness.

Carmelita could only watch in shock as Dr. M's blast hurled Sly skyward to smash into the catwalk. One minute, that crazy baboon had been wheeling around in her direction, spouting something about making Sly suffer as he started to aim the weapons of that bizarre contraption on his head at her. In the next moment, Sly was there, shoving her out of the way and taking a blast that had been meant for her—and paying the price for it. Was he alive? Dead? Carmelita couldn't tell from this distance. The only thing she knew for certain was that Sly had known what it was probably going to cost him when he acted. He had to have known.

But he had gone through with it anyway.

Unbidden, all the memories of her past interactions with the most elusive criminal that she'd ever chased raced through her mind. However, the times that he had managed to give her the slip, numerous as they were, weren't the focus of these memories. Instead, Carmelita found herself recalling all the times that Sly had done something or shown a side of himself to her that had made him seem more than just another thief. There was that time in Russia, three years ago, when he had risked his life to rescue her from Clockwerk's gas chamber—and the little scene that had played out after they had defeated the mechanical bird. While Carmelita was still holding a bit of a grudge for the way Sly had tricked her, she still had to admit—if only to herself—that the kiss hadn't been entirely un-enjoyable.

And then, two years later, when she had been investigating the Klaaw gang, Sly had done several things that contrasted sharply with his criminal status—he had rescued her from the Contessa's sinister clutches (something that Carmelita hadn't learned until later). He had helped her avoid the police after she had been framed by Neyla. He had teamed up with her to stop the treacherous tigress after she merged with the Clockwerk Frame to become Clock-La. Afterwards, he surrendered himself into her custody—not just for the sake of his badly-injured friends, but so that there would be no question about her loyalty to Interpol. And that conversation that they had had during the helicopter flight—in that relatively short time, in which the two of them had shared words freely, Carmelita had found herself smiling—even laughing—along with him as they reflected on the past, and shared personal details about themselves…something that she couldn't have imagined herself doing with him a year before. Even when he managed to escape her yet again, she hadn't been completely angry.

And then there were the events that had occurred only recently. While, for the most part, it had been the usual game of Cops n' Robbers, there had been the way Sly had probably saved her life back in Australia—while she only remembered the incident if it were a dream, according to what her hired mercenaries had told her afterwards, she had been possessed by some kind of evil voodoo mask, and it had been Sly who had broken the thing's hold on her…and, as annoying as the photos he had left for her on her own camera were, they were proof that he had kept watch over her while she was unconscious.

He could have done anything during that time—she had been completely helpless, at his mercy. And yet, his only desire had been to keep her safe. As much as Carmelita tried to focus on the fact that he had eluded her again, she couldn't help but admit that there was something…touching…about Sly's kindness to her. It was one more addition to the list of things that Sly had done that set him apart from all the other criminals that Carmelita had pursued during her career.

And, of course, there was the confrontation with Dr. M's pet monstrosity—when Carmelita had seen the most elusive criminal she had ever chased being crushed in the claws of that 50-something-foot-tall genetic nightmare, she had feared for his life—although she hadn't given it much thought at the time, her concern had been far too great to be caused just by her desire to capture Sly. There had been something else there—something far more potent. Something that had made her risk her life, and the lives of her hired mercenaries, to save his. Something that Carmelita hadn't been able to identify in the heat of the moment.

Hadn't been able to…or had been reluctant to.

It all lead up to the present, and what had just happened to Sly. The way she saw it, justice was black and white—right and wrong, with no middle ground. However, no matter how much she tried, deep down, Carmelita knew that she just couldn't fit Sly into that mold. He'd done too many things, now and over the years, for that to be the case.

And now this thief, who had done all of these things for her despite her attempts to bring him in, was sprawled out on a catwalk, grievously injured—if he was lucky—because he had wanted to keep her safe. His words as he had jumped to push her away made that much all too/crystal clear.

Because he had been sincerely worried about her.

All of this went through Carmelita's mind in a matter of seconds. In the next instant, the Inspector was brought back to reality by the sight of Dr. M as he cackled maniacally, exulting in what he probably saw as a victory over Sly Cooper. Turning her full attention back on that crazed scientist who had sicced his pet monster on her only an hour or so ago, the Inspector leveled her Shock Pistol at him, her grip on the Shock Pistol tightening until her knuckles turned white beneath her gloves. The large handgun's red-and-yellow chrome finish gleamed dangerously in what little light there was in the cavernous vault as Carmelita fixed a bead on Dr. M's forehead.

"No one hurts my criminal ! "

To Be Continued…