Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them for, um, er, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. I will return them to their original owners relatively unharmed, or at least suitably bandaged. This is an amateur effort; no profit has been made from the writing beyond improving my typing speed, nor from the reading beyond - I hope - the reader's pleasure. This ficlet is debuting as 'netfic and has not previously been published in any fanzine or APA. Mild spoilers for the season finale of Leverage.

Miniature Golf

The Avengers/Leverage

by Susan M. M.

Two middle-aged men met at a miniature golf course in the middle of nowhere.

"Nate."

"Nick."

Neither said anything as they collected their clubs, balls, scorecard, and a ridiculously short pencil. Nate wore khaki slacks and a blue polo shirt. Nick wore blue jeans and a red T-shirt. It was a sunny day in the middle of nowhere, but a breeze swept through the pine trees, keeping them cool.

Nick placed a red ball on the astroturf, aimed, and hit it through the plastic windmill. He smiled as it stopped a mere two inches from the hole. He walked over to tap it in. The ball went over the hole without going in. Nick lost his smile. He tapped the ball again. It swerved around the hole. He took off his glasses, wiped them on his shirt, and replaced them on his face. Concentrating, he putted again. The ball went into the hole. "Four."

"Four," Nate repeated, writing the score down on the card. He tucked the card into his pocket and placed a blue ball on the astroturf. He swung. The ball hit the blade of the windmill and rolled back four inches. He took a deep breath. He waited until the windmill blades had rotated two full turns, then hit the ball again. It rolled straight into the hole. "Two."

Nick said nothing, just went on to the next hole. He hit the ball over the bridge, over the moat, and into the plastic castle. It disappeared into the castle, then dropped out of a plastic tube onto the next level. He aimed, putted, and knocked the ball into the hole. "Two."

Nate missed the bridge. His ball went into the water of the moat. He fished it out, placing it four inches away from the moat. He aimed around the castle. It took five strokes in all, but the ball eventually went around the castle, down to the lower level, and into the hole. He marked the score on the card.

As Nick hit the ball for the third hole, he asked, "How's your Spencer doing?"

"Healing. Slowly," Nate replied. "And Barton, how's his leg doing?"

"Healing." He frowned as the ball went up the hill, then rolled back down again. Right back to his shoe. "If he followed doctor's orders, it would heal faster."

"Typical of Barton." Nate watched as Nick hit the ball again. This time it went over the hill ... and past the hole.

Nick took off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt again. The right lens was clear glass; the left lens was darkened. "How long do you think it will take your man to recover?"

Nate pursed his lips as he thought. "Three to five months. Could be good-to-go by fall if he doesn't push himself. If he's stupid ... by Thanksgiving."

Nick nodded, as if that was roughly what he had expected. "Once he's ready to return to field operations, I want you to bring them in. They're ready."

Nate thought a moment before replying. "Yes, I think they are."

Nick reached into the hole and removed his ball. "If they're not ready by now, they never will be. When I assigned you to recruiting, I didn't expect you to take five years to groom your candidates."

"It takes time to grow a conscience," Nate reminded him. They'd had this conversation before, many times. "Before they were individuals with highly developed skill sets. Now they're a team. And now, they're the guys in the white hats."

Nick chuckled. He normally wore all black, and half of his staff wouldn't recognize him dressed like this.

"And their skills are even better than when I first suggested them for recruitment," Nate added. "They've been doing some cross-training, learning each other's skills."

"After five years of training, they'd better be good. Damned good."

"They are," Nate assured his friend and boss.

"Once they're in officially, I have a new assignment for you," Nick announced.

"New candidates to groom?"

Nick shook his head. "I want you to take over Phil's job. Special Liaisons."

"Those are some pretty big shoes to fill."

"You can handle it." Nick watched as Nate's ball rolled past the hole ... again. "Whether you can handle that ball is another matter."