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In Your Eyes - Chapter 5

Written by Felicia Rondo, Edited by Cluster, Published: 10/5/2023

Summary: Later that night, after all the trouble she went to for a disappointing movie night, Rouge is treating herself to something nice. When she finds her mind too preoccupied to get the job done, things go south.

Contains: Flashbacks, Spy Gadgets, and a bat that needs to be free.

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“What are you going to do when there’s nowhere left for you to run?”

She looked back at her mother, who was folding her arms and giving the younger bat a stern look. It was the sort of look she reserved only for her, because she only expected better from her. Maybe another girl would’ve taken that as a compliment, but the aspiring thief wasn’t so naive.

Rouge stood up and met her mother’s gaze with her own, knowing just the words she didn’t want to hear,

“I’ll fly.

The moon shone brightly down on her, caressing the edges of her wings as they spread in preparation for the flight she was about to take. There she hung, on the branch of an ancient but sturdy tree that stood next to the museum that held her latest target in captivity - a dreamy orange topaz gemstone with the most exquisite of cuts.

Slipping it out from her right pocket, Rouge’s gaze fell on her phone as it displayed a photo of the beauty herself.

“It won’t be much longer, my love,” she whispered to herself as her thumb rested gently on the pixels that sharply displayed the photo of the topaz.

Tracking down official information on it was tricky, as the museum seemed to regard it as more of an afterthought in its collection than anything else - a little ironic, as it meant quite a lot to the original owners it had been stolen from years ago.

Part of the reason it had ended up on her radar to begin with was an online post from said owners, a humble little family that might’ve enjoyed the hundreds of likes and shares they received… if it ever translated into the power and reach they would need to finally have the gem returned to them.

Perhaps a more-altruistic person, like Sonic, might have looked at the situation and seen an opportunity to do good. Rouge, meanwhile, saw something nice to give herself - something to make up for, even if only a little, every problem and headache that life had thrown at her over the years. It wouldn’t be in the hands of the original thieves, she reasoned, and those it originally-belonged to could take comfort in that. She certainly would.

Without further ado, she placed her phone back in her pocket and flew to the tall window that looked out at the tree she hung from. There, she pulled out a special tool that made her thieving escapades go so much more smoothly ever since she received it from her… benefactor.

Yes, her handy Surveillance Dampener was quite the gadget. What she’d do without it she didn’t want to think about, as she tuned it to the frequency of the radio-sensors in the building. Shutting off the cameras would raise more suspicion than it was worth, especially when she could simply stay out of sight while she reaped the benefits of a subtler subversion of the establishment’s security.

Once she zeroed in on the frequency, she set off the dampener - causing it to send out a false-positive to the radio-sensors… for as long as it took before whoever was on security didn’t notice the conspicuous signal being sent. If you could have it all, if the perfect tool existed, the thrill of the game would be lost.

Carefully, she carved a little entrance for herself at the top glass pane with her nails. When it came loose, she grabbed hold of it and leapt off the window to lay it somewhere inconspicuous. With that out of the way, she flew effortlessly through her hole in the window and got right down to business.

… Or, she would have, if a security camera hadn’t set its sights on her right as she got in. It was one of those high-end new ones, too, so if she didn’t act quickly it would give any security guard a nice high-resolution peek at what her Stealth Suit looked like.

“And when you’ve run out of places to fly?” a distant voice from her past asked, in that moment, echoing persistently in her ears.

“Then I’ll start kicking. I’ll kick, crawl, roll, and slide my way out of any situation that tries to keep me anywhere I don’t want to be. Whatever it takes to fly free,” was her response, back then.

Swiftly, she flew towards the camera, swaying from side to side to obscure her figure in the feed before kicking the expensive tech into an early date with obsolescence.

Just a little more force and the camera would have snapped right off its hinge and fallen ungracefully onto the floor, setting off god knows how many more automated security measures. They had a half-decent look at her they could look over in their tapes, but the coverall nature of her outfit would compensate for that.

Before any more cameras could get to know her, she flew through each of their dead angles, mentally going over the floor plan she studied beforehand to figure out where she would find her gemstone. Each camera had their own rhythm they would scan in, all she needed to do was make sure her timing was just right - child’s play for a woman of her talents.

She gracefully flew through the air, taking care not to brush against a single surface or object with even the tip of her wings. No one was noticing her presence there for now, but she couldn’t go leaving any trace of her ‘visit’ for them to stumble on later. Before long, her beloved topaz was at last in sight.

The security on its display was more lax than the others around it, which was the greatest insult of all. That this thing of beauty was considered less deserving of protection than its peers… it just could not stand. She would give it a home that gave it the respect it was owed.

And that home was with her. Not with some dusty wishy-washy old family who wanted it back but didn’t have the guts to take it back themselves, with her. She fought for what she wanted, she earned everything she swiped, and that’s what made her home the rightful resting place of all the world’s jewels.

Still, she would need to get it to that home first, and… she wasn’t one hundred percent confident she could pull it off. It couldn’t have been that it was above her skill level, no, it had to be her nerves getting the better of her. That damn security camera catching her as soon as she broke in was throwing her off.

“You can’t keep doing this, Rouge,” the voice returned, just in time to stir doubt in her, as always, “one of these days it’s going to catch up to you.”

She had her back to her mother, when the warning was issued. She turned back to see something resembling concern, to the untrained eye, in the gaze of the older woman. For all she knew it could have been genuine, but not for her own sake—perhaps for the bat her mother had made up in her head, that she had so unsuccessfully attempted to raise her into being.

“It’s preordained, isn’t it?” Rouge replied, sarcastically, “Any time a woman goes out on a limb and does what isn’t expected of her, it’s destined to end miserably in your world,” looking out of the window she stood beside, she remarked, “that’s why I’m leaving it.”

“Big talk, as always,” her mother replied, unimpressed as ever, “but that’s all it is - big talk from a little girl who needs to quit getting herself into trouble for no reason and listen to her mother for once in her life.”

Much as she hated to, Rouge turned back toward the woman that nature claimed was her mother and walked back over to her. It earned her a very self-satisfied look in the older bat’s eyes, which she was determined to steal.

“So that’s my problem? I just haven’t been listening to you?” Rouge half-laughed, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed when your voice bounces off these suffocating walls, but you’re practically all I can hear around here!

“I’ve done nothing but hear you for as long as I can remember, every word you’ve inflicted on me, and I think I’ve earned the right to be sick of it!” she retorted, getting up in her face, “I’m not sticking around for more, so you’d better make whatever you have to say next count.

At last, silence. Not one word left the woman’s lips - as she only gave a stern look back at her in return for the ultimatum she’d been given. It was probably meant to guilt her, to make her question herself once again. Instead, she turned and went back up to the window.

“Rouge,” that voice finally spoke once again, seemingly once it sank in for her that quiet guilting didn’t work anymore, “that’s enough. You’ve had your little outburst, you’ve disrespected your mother for the umpteenth time, but you are not going out that window.”

Bitterly, with her back to her mother, Rouge replied,

“Watch me.”

Just as luck would have it, it was at that moment that her dampener’s false-positive got noticed. That, or the dead feed from the one camera she had to bust. A shrill alarm rang out through the museum as the lights flicked back on, to give the guards ample ability to spot her from any corner she could try to hide in once they arrived. And they say luck is a lady.

If she acted quickly, she could smash the case and swipe her topaz with enough time to make a hasty exit… but not only would it be the messiest steal she’d pulled in her thieving career, if she was wrong and she couldn’t make it out with the topaz? After making her target abundantly clear to Museum security? Not only would it be ten times as difficult to swipe it in a second attempt, but they’d likely have doubled or even tripled the insurance they had on it.

Plenty of benefits for them, and none for her. No, she couldn’t afford to leave any sign of her true goal. Let them believe she was after one of the more glamorous exhibits they so tightly guarded - her topaz was too important to tarnish with a botched job.

And that, truly, was the biggest shame of it all. Though she went in wanting to give this gem the theft it deserved, if she took it now she wouldn’t have earned it. Not after every mistake she’d made, that night.

So off she went, flying through those dead angles once again and back to where she let herself in to begin with. Without her topaz, or her pride, in hand.

“Ugh!” she yelled, returning to the night sky in disappointment, “What is wrong with me? It’s like I haven’t been doing this for years!” Rouge berated herself, every little way she could’ve done it differently flooding her mind all at once seemingly just to spite her. Maybe she was just too cocky, maybe it wasn’t as easy a job as she let herself think it was.

“If big blue were here, he’d probably be too busy laughing at my ineptitude to remember to be disappointed in me for breaking the law,” she sighed… before another thought occurred to her, “… if big blue were here, maybe that would’ve gone differently.”

Fun as it was to imagine, what she could pull off if she had him on her side, she knew he’d never go for anything like that. He could do the wannabe ‘punk’ act all he wanted, but she knew as well as anyone that he didn’t like running afoul of the law without some sort of ‘greater good’ excuse to justify it.

“… That’s it,” Rouge realized, “that little old family! They were stolen from first! That topaz doesn’t belong to the museum at all, it belongs with them!… Well, it belongs with me, but that’s not what he’ll think!”

A plan was rapidly forming in her mind. Sure, she already told Sonic she would leave him in charge of what they would do on their next date, but all it would take was one little sob story and he’d practically be dragging her back to the museum to finish the heist. It was perfect.

Tonight was a bust, there was no getting around that. But tomorrow? Tomorrow was shaping up to be something very special…

To Be Continued

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Author’s Notes: I don’t know if the contents of this chapter are gonna seem like they’re coming out of left field, but most of it was actually part of the original document I wrote back in 2020 when chapter 4 was brand new! I’ve fleshed some things out since, but it’s been important for me to stay true to the original plan for this story now that I’m finally returning to it.

Thank you to everyone who read the story, and to everyone who’s continued to leave kudos in the years since I last updated it. I’ve had a vague idea of what happens in the story for years, but there’s finally an actual outline written out for this story as of now. There’s going to be seven more chapters after this one, putting us just before the halfway point, and I look forward to sharing what I have in store for y’all hopefully soon enough.

Also, yes, the gem Rouge has her sights on being a topaz is not a coincidence. :) It was in the original 2020 draft, it makes me smile, so it stayed. Hopefully I’ll have a story with the actual Topaz in it, at some point.

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