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From Degas to Vegas

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Gru packs his plans away, after the moon is returned.

Not that he's been reformed by the power of love or any such sappy thing – far from it. He's still as much the evil genius as he ever was. But now he's not the only one to be considered. He'd risked his own life countless times since his first childhood efforts at rocketry. Dr. Nefario had been doing so since before Gru had been born, and knew well what he was getting into when he signed on. And the minions were durable enough to withstand any attack.

But he had the girls to consider, and had no desire to risk them being captured by someone out to stop him.

He wouldn't put the minions out on the street – no matter what, they'd have a place in his home – and he kept the rocket in good condition, in hopes of a family vacation to the moon sometime. But he was determined to put his dangerous missions behind him, for the sake of his girls.

Or so he thought.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It started one day at school, when an older girl told Agnes that unicorns weren't real. It might have ended there, in a haze of denials and tears, had the girl not added that the minions Agnes had described were even less likely.

The cruel girl wasn't sure what to make of the determined smile that lit up Agnes' face at that. But Agnes had her goal, as strong as Gru's desire for the moon: If unicorns didn't exist, she would make them exist.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It started one afternoon, when Edith had snuck into the lab and was considering which of Gru's weapons to borrow for school the next day to use on the boys who made fun of her hat. But she remembered the previous occasions when she'd hit things she hadn't intended to, like Agnes' old toy unicorn.

A chat with Dave earned her a tour of the reinforced shooting range, where the next hour was spent happily freezing or dissolving the targets, with increasing accuracy. By the time the dust had cleared, Edith couldn't recall why she had wanted the weapon in the first place.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It started one night when Margo was flipping through a ballet book she'd picked up at the library and saw a Degas painting for the first time. Her immediate thought was, “I want that.” The book had a decent reproduction, but Margo desired the original – to be able to lean close and see the brush strokes, see the magic that let simple pigments bring a ballet practice to life.

It was just so – simple. She wanted this painting, and she would have it. The legality of attaining it didn't count as an issue, beyond the security systems and guards that would inevitably stand between her and the painting. It would be hers. It was as simple as breathing.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Miss Hattie had never been strong on teaching morals(on reflection, a sign that the cookie sales weren't entirely above board); all that mattered was that they didn't try to pull anything over on her or draw negative attention to the Home. Beyond that, she considered any violence or theft among some of the girls to be a form of healthy competition. Margo, Edith, and Agnes had protected each other, then and now. Strength in numbers ensured that no one would take the few possessions that they legitimately called their own, though they never tried to take from those who had less.

But there were many in the world who had more than they needed, more than they deserved. And if they took a bit of that excess . . . so be it.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*
They broached the subject after Gru had asked them to write up their Christmas lists – so he would know what to give them, rather than to be sent to Santa. That belief hadn't survived in the Home past the first December that each girl had spent there.

“All right, let's see . . . a pony embryo and narwhal DNA, fine . . . a Nerf sniper rifle? Edith, we have plenty of perfectly good guns already, and I know you ignore me when I tell you to stay away from them anyway.”

She shrugged. “I want something I can practice with and not get in major trouble at school for having.”

Gru sighed. “Fine. And Margo wants . . . a break in at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?” Gru stared at his daughter in disbelief.

“I want a Degas painting, but I want to be there to help take it myself. Please, please, please can we go? We'll never ask for anything ever again!” All three girls joined in with their cutest faces.

Gru glared at them. He stopped believing that assurance after the second time they'd said it. But his expression softened; there was a reason it always worked, even though he knew better. “Fine. But we will need to work hard and focus and plan ahead. No running about being foolish once we get there.”

All three nodded. “It's like ballet,” Margo said. “We need to rehearse over and over before we're ready to go on stage.”

Gru couldn't help but smile at them. He didn't want to put his girls in danger, but if he trained them properly and ensured the minions kept the guards away, this wouldn't be too dangerous.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*
The next month was spent in intense training. Every moment of spare time was spent reviewing floor plans for the MOMA, scaling the practice wall, learning various ways of detecting and beating standard security measures, and running drills with the minions. There were no arguments over bedtime; everyone needed all the rest they could get with the work they were putting in. They kept going to school each morning, to keep from arousing suspicion, but their focus was generally elsewhere.

Finally, the day came when Gru felt they were ready. He approached them in the lab, as they finished their synchronized rappelling.

“Girls, come here. You have been working very hard and have earned this treat. We are going to New York City for Christmas vacation, and as the museum is closed on Christmas Day it will be the perfect time for you to retrieve your present.”

He was barely able to finish his sentence before being drowned out by their cheers.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
New York was everything the girls had read about and more. The bright lights, the buildings, the crazy people on the streets that their dad tried to shield their eyes from. Gru worried that the girls might encounter a lesser class of criminal with fewer objections to hurting little girls, and ensured that several minions stayed with them at all times.

But his fears were unfounded; they only encountered one attempted mugger, and he froze the slow-witted ruffian before anything happened.

They spent Christmas Eve as a happy tourist family at the museum, doing their best to not look like they were casing the joint. They paid for their tickets, declined a guided tour, and spent a relaxed afternoon walking around and taking in the various pieces.

When they reached the Degas exhibit, Agnes and Edith realized just why Margo had wanted the painting. It wasn't about the glamour of ballet – Degas had captured the long rehearsals and endless stretches over the final performance. It was ballet captured for someone who'd been there and saw it as more than pretty girls in floofy dresses.

It was inspiring, and the trio began to pay tribute with their own selection from Swan Lake . . . until a guard came over and told them it wasn't appropriate behaviour for a museum. They stuck their tongues out at him when his back was turned, then went back to admiring the paintings. It was only Gru's insistence that they not be seen standing there for too long and the knowledge that it would soon be theirs (well, Margo's, but they shared a room so that was the same thing) that made them move on.

The evening brought a sense of anticipation unrivalled by anything the girls had felt before, so it was decided that the other gifts would be exchanged then, followed by a nap to ensure they were rested for their daring robbery.

Agnes found herself the proud new owner of a DVD of The Last Unicorn, a Li'l Genius Genetic Manipulation Kit, and . . . a folder?

Gru explained, “It is a receipt for the pony embryo and narwhal DNA that you requested. They would not travel well, so they have been delivered to the lab. I will help you create your unicorn, but you must promise that you will feed it and brush its fur and clean up after it. A unicorn is not just a toy you can play with when you feel like it.”

Grinning wide, Agnes hugged her father. “I will! I will! I promise, I'll look after it and it'll be perfect!”

Edith got a new hat – a black peaked cap that seemed just perfect for tonight's mission, the requested Nerf rifle, and a case of extra ammo.
Margo was given a new pair of ballet slippers, a green scarf, and an umbrella from the museum gift shop with a different Degas on it. “Thanks, Dad. You didn't have to!”

Gru smiled. “A memento of your first heist that you can show off, with none the wiser.”

The girls rushed to bring Gru their gifts. A mug from Edith, hand-painted with a minion on it. Agnes gave him a clay impression of her hand, pictures of the family drawn around it. And Margo gave him a handmade photo album, filled with pictures of the family the minions had taken.

Gru smiled. “Girls, these are wonderful. A father couldn't ask for nicer presents.”

Margo shook her head. “No, this isn't all. This is just some stuff we made in class. Our real gift, we decided, was that we'd help you get a real heist of your own. We know you haven't done anything since taking the moon, and we wanted to show you that there's no reason to hold back because of us.”

Gru grinned at this, but hesitated. “You are still young, girls, there is no need to rush these things. . .”

They shook their heads, determined. He thought quickly, deciding on a relatively simple target. “Well. Perhaps there is another Vegas landmark that I have had my eye on . . . we will discuss this later. For now, sleep. We must be rested and alert to get by the security.”

The girls doubted they would be able to get to sleep, but the next thing they knew they were being woken by one of the minions. Quietly they dressed in the black stealth outfits they'd packed, assembled their gear, and checked to ensure their communicators were working.

“This is Pink Kitten to Daddy Unicorn, Operation It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a go.”

Gru beamed. “Let's move.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The following month, Gru walked around his lab with pride. The newly-spliced unicorn was gestating on schedule, Edith's aim was improving, and the minions had finally completed the last connection to run his artificial volcano.

He had the best daughters a villain could ever ask for.