Ocean's Eleven AU: After being released from prison, Dick Grayson meets up with his former partner in crime and close friend Wally West to propose a take down of some of the most notorious, corrupt individuals in the country. But to do what they have to do, it'll take more than just the two of them: Barbara Gordon, a hacker and electronics expert; Artemis Crock, a young and talented thief; Kaldur, a reformed con man; Conner, an intimidating boxer; Raquel Ervin, an explosives expert; Zatanna, a professional Magician; M'gann, a gifted identity forger, and a few more. Traveling from Gotham to Metropolis, and breaking more than a few rules along the way, they'll assemble a group the likes of which have never come together before. Vigilante justice just got a new brand of con artists and criminals.
Visiting hours start at 8 AM, and, like clockwork, Wally has always been there every Saturday for the last four years. The guards recognize him because of the inexcusable routine, but this time it's different. This time, Dick doesn't wait behind the yellow strip of line; he doesn't hold for inspections or searches; he doesn't have to see his visitors behind a plate glass window meant to withstand gunshots. Instead, it's a quick stop to the front desk to collect some personal belongings – his classic watch, a wallet with a buck-fifty in change, useless credit cards and his driver's license two years expired – and then he's being escorted towards the exit by his favorite guard.
"Try not to end up back here," Eddy tells him.
"You won't miss me?" Dick says, grinning.
Eddy rolls his eyes. "Kid, I've seen a lot of people come through these halls. A lot of assholes, and a lot of dumb idiots. You're neither, but I swear to god, if you end up back here for another stupid crime—"
"Eddy," Dick cuts in. "That's never gonna happen."
Eddy shakes his head. "They all say that."
The rest of the journey is done quietly. The moment his sentence was handed down – six years, with possible parole – Dick had imagined this moment a million and one times over. His release. His freedom. A man with skills and brains like him, someone who grew up as the ward to the richest conman alive, it wouldn't have been impossible for him to break out. Dick had figured out six different ways to do it every year, all different methods, new approaches. Take out a guard there, disrupt the prison's militaristic schedule mid-day, hitch a ride to the restricted areas through bribery and some acrobatic moves – it was all fairly straightforward, if you knew what you were looking for. Dick did. He always knew. But he bid his time anyway, waited patiently for the years to pass.
He wanted the Grayson name, and to do that, he had to pay for his crimes.
Despite a few rough fights and one altercation that ended up with him in the infirmary with three broken ribs, he'd gotten parole two years early. It's the price of the game, especially when you go after the richest and most powerful men in the country. Most conmen, most thieves and artists – they all had an expiration date. For some, it meant death, and for others, it was prison. Some lucky bastards actually make it out of the life, clean.
Dick still isn't sure which one will end him, but it isn't going to prison. Not again. Not ever.
Outside, it's a piercing hot sun that blazes over Gotham Federal Correctional Complex. He squints at it, feeling like he's never seen something so violently beautiful in his life. Wally is perched against his yellow '69 Camaro, wearing a bright red shirt and a pleased grin. They stop before each other, standing feet apart, each assessing the other as if they hadn't just seen each other the prior week. Dick feels weird in his old clothes, used to prison uniforms. It feels weird, but in a good way.
"So," Wally says. "What's first?"
Dick smiles, not even thinking about it. "Food."
The diner is old, and the waitress is rude, but they have the best burgers in the state and Dick feels like he's been starved for more than a few decades. For once in eating, he manages to put Wally to shame, a feat that's extraordinary since the guy's dietary habits are practically legendary. Wally's always been like that, ever since they were in high school together and he'd been track champion for three years in a row, breaking records and getting medals. Back then, in high school, things had seemed so simple. So straightforward.
Times had changed.
"How's Artemis?" Dick asks.
Wally beams. "At her sister's right now. She's sorry she couldn't be here for today, but her sister's pregnant again and needs some help with Lian. She said to tell you, 'way to get traught.'"
Dick snorts. "Roy still on narcotics?"
"Naw, he moved up to Homicide last fall. Didn't I tell you that?"
Dick shrugs and looks away. Having a cop for one of his oldest friends is an experience, but there tends to be a permanent damper on any friendships when you end up going to prison for robbery and assault. He doesn't look forward to any reunion with Roy.
"What about M'gann and Conner? Kaldur?"
Wally stares at him, eyebrow lifted. "They're all fine. Are we really going to do this whole song and dance, or are you just going to spit it out?"
"Spit what out?"
"Asking about the one person you really want to ask about."
Dick stiffens. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Wally chuckles. "Sure you don't. Well, then, I'm just going to talk randomly about a certain redhead I know. Likes computers and hacking? Long legs? IQ that's higher than yours, and she's funnier too—"
"All right, all right," Dick cuts in. "I get it."
Wally pointedly lets silence fall for a long beat.
Dick stands it for as long as he can. "How is Barbara?" he finally grits out, annoyed.
Wally throws an arm back over his chair, smirking. "Barbara is… Babs. You know her. She's always doing a thousand and one things. She's good."
Dick doesn't comment, because he hadn't been expecting anything otherwise. Barbara Gordon was always the girl who never felt comfortable showing a weakness, not even if the world was ending around her. It wouldn't be accurate to say that Barbara is the oldest of the group, because she isn't, but Dick always used to tease her about her mothering. It was one of the things he missed most about Babs, that steadfast and no-nonsense attitude she had, but it certainly wasn't the thing he missed most.
"Did she say anything about me?" Dick asks, despite himself.
Wally looks away, and the silence speaks for itself. Of course, Barbara didn't say a word. She wouldn't, because she wasn't the type. It wasn't as if she didn't know today was the day he'd been released. Barbara knew everything. Dick lets the sting of that rejection settle in for a beat, because he can't blame her, not really, not after how things had gone down when he'd gotten arrested. Not after Jason. Not after what… happened with her legs.
Wally leans forward in his chair, setting elbows on the table in a way that would've driven Alfred apoplectic. "Look, I know you just got out, but I need to know what you have planned."
"I don't have anything planned."
"Bullshit," Wally calls, because he knows Dick too well. "You spent four years in there. Four years with nothing to do but think. I know you said to let it go, that'd you learned the lesson that Bruce never had – to walk away. But I know you, man. Jason's death isn't a thing you're going to forgive. Whatever you have planned, I want in."
Dick looks away. "You got out of the life, Wally. I'm not going to drag you back in."
"You're not dragging me anywhere," Wally insists. "I'm barging in. Besides, someone's gotta have your back, and Jason was my friend too. There's a lot of people back home that would be willing to go to the mat for you. All you gotta do is ask."
"I've got no right to ask anyone for anything."
Wally stares at him, incredulous. "You took the fall for all of us. You went to prison for four years, for all of us. Arty and me aren't the only ones that owe you our livelihood. And—"
"I'm not talking about your livelihood," Dick cuts in, heatedly. "I'm talking about your lives. The guys I'm after aren't going to call the police if I get busted. They'll handle it with crowbars and shotguns. I can't ask you to risk that."
"You're not asking. We're volunteering."
Dick sits back in his chair for a long beat, torn. His plan had been to go in alone, do the whole vigilante justice thing by himself, but admittedly it's a messy and dangerous plan. After a lifetime of playing on the wrong side of the law, it's ironic that he's going to use those same skills to take down some of the most corrupt people in the country, but even he can tell he's setting himself up for a suicide mission. Maybe, with others' help, it wouldn't be so bad.
It's still going to get dangerous. It could get bloody. Dick can afford that, but the others? The others have things to lose, people to lose.
"We can protect ourselves," Wally says.
"Not if they know who you are," Dick replies. "They get wind of what I have planned, they'll come after you. After your families, Wally."
Wally shrugs. "Then we won't use our names. We'll use… codenames, or something. Aliases."
"Codenames?" Dick repeats, incredulous. "What? Like calling each other Nightwing and Kid Flash? Those were high school nicknames, Wally. We were idiot freshman."
"I got news for you, bro. We might not be freshman anymore, but we're always going to be idiots." He grins. "Trust me, Artemis reminds of that everyday."
Dick's too serious to share his amusement, at first. There's a long stretch of silence where Wally just lifts his eyebrow and grins. Despite himself, Dick feels himself getting lighter. The idea of going through this with friends – it's dangerous, but also heartening. Wally and Artemis are both some of the best people he's ever worked with, and his network of friends and family includes a host of talented individuals from professional magicians to notorious hackers. He thinks about Barbara, sitting in her hub of computers, glasses perched delicately on her nose – but the image is ruined by the wheelchair. A wheelchair that he's responsible for, a wheelchair she uses now because one of his missions went horribly, horribly wrong and the cost had been his little brother's life and his girlfriend's ability to walk.
After that, did he have the right to lead another team? Did he have the gall?
"It looks like you've forgotten our old saying, Dick," Wally declares. "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. Now, what do you have planned, oh fearless leader?"