Daryl Grady slumped down in the uncomfortable seat of the auditorium. Why was he even -here- in this so-called 'theater' for amateur actors? He was a professional critic... He reviewed shows bound for Broadway! Not...Boston Novice Playhouse's production of The Music Man! But his sister had railroaded him into attending. "My son's in it, Daryl" she had told him. "Your -nephew- He's -family-" So he had agreed to come

But that -didn't- mean he had to enjoy it. They were all talentless wanna-bes in these sort of theatres anyway. That's why they didn't have real acting jobs... His sister gave him a scolding sort of nudged as he grumbled as the lights went down to start the show. "I said I'd behave, didn't I?" he muttered. She gave him a Look and Daryl fell into a quiet protest.

The overture started up.

Things went about how Grady expected them to. Harold Hill wasn't too bad, but he was still just a wanna-be. The kids were, well...kids. His sister nudged him when her son came on. His nephew just happened to be what Daryl would call 'Random-Guy-in-the-Crowd-(add number here)'. It was moment after torturous moment...

Then, -she- came on the stage...

He braced himself for Marion. At least she was easy on the eyes. However, being a critic, Daryl knew all to well that just because they were pretty -didn't- mean they could carry a tune or act. He had destroyed a few careers like that.

Then the actress began to sing Goodnight My Someone. That voice... That... was not an amateur. -That- voice belonged to someone on a -professional- stage! The critic sat up. Now he was actually watching. His sister noticed his change in mood and shook her head. Daryl Grady took no notice of his sister. Who -was- the woman with the voice? Why had she -not- taken it professional? His attention was on her the rest of the act.

During intermission, Daryl looked at the program. "Nikki Harris..." he murmured to himself. He read her little bio. She had been born and raised in Boston. A day job as a waitress in nearby coffee shop. But her dream, it stated, was to make enough to head up to New York. She certainly had the voice for it. His sister looked over to him as they sat out in the lobby. "You seem thoughtful, Daryl."


'You seemed to actually -enjoy- this one" she teased.

"What's wrong with that?" he returned.

"Are you feeling okay?" Her hand went to his forehead.

"Bah," he pushed her hand away good naturedly.

"So, what is it Daryl Grady?" Her hands went to her hips.

"They're doing well. That's all."

"What are you reading?" his sister asked.

"The playbill"

She smiled, shaking her head. "You were reading about the woman playing Marian." Daryl glanced down at the paper, "So I was"

"Did you know she's a usual? Matthew has been in shows with her before. I've met her"

"Oh?" the critic tried not to sound too interested. "She has talent" The lights blinked then. "It's time to head back for act two" he quickly changed the subject. "Let's go?" They made their way back to their seats and act two began.

It seemed all too soon and the bows had come

Daryl clapped loudly, although he refrained from cheering out loud. Nikki took her bow alongside the Harold Hill. Hill gave Nikki a friendly kiss on the hand and she giggled as the entire cast gave one final bow before hurrying off. The critic's mind was already working, having to stay until Matthew was ready... He turned to his sister, "So what do we do now?"

"I'm going to wait for Matthew. And actually, they come out here" she replied.

"Alright. I'll come with you. I am your ride after all" he joked.

"True" his sister commented with a smile. "Let's go." She led Grady out to the hallway. It was already full with both audience and cast members. Daryl worked his way through them, looking for 'Marion'. Looking up, he heard laughter. Nikki came out of the back with the young man who had played Hill. The young man said his good-bye , leaving her free. Daryl took that opportunity. "Excuse me, miss?" The young lady looked around, finding the one who spoke. "Oh, you mean me?" she blinked. Daryl nodded, "Miss Marion?" he smiled. "Nikki Harris, right?'

She giggled. "That would be me, sir"

"Daryl Grady," he offered holding out his hand. Nikki took it. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Grady" She was certainly -nothing- like those types who knew they had talent. There wasn't a hint of Diva in her that he could see. "My nephew Matthew was in the show," he explained.

"Oh, Matthew's your nephew?" That made a smile cross her face. "He's very sweet. He came in Opening Night with a carnation for 'Miss Marian the Librarian'" she continued with a giggle. Grady chuckled as well, causing a light pink to spread across Nikki's cheeks.

"I thought you were wonderful" he told her.

That caused the blush to darken slightly. "Oh I don't know about -that-.." she tried.

"It's true. I thought you were the most talented one on that stage"

"Oh, there were more so than me on stage, Mr. Grady."

He shook his head. "Don't sell yourself short."

"That means a lot, Mr. Grady."

He gave her a warm smile. "And I know quite a bit about theatre."

"Oh?" She turned back to him. "A big patron then?"

"You could say that" he mused. "You're better than some of the professionals I've seen." Nikki looked down at her hands then. "That's my dream, you know," she said softly.

"... would you like to continue this conversation over coffee?" the critic offered.

"Sure, if you'd like to. The cast hasn't any plans after all"

He nodded, "I'll let you get changed then"

Nikki smiled once more, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. "I won't be long." Grady nodded, going to find his sister. Matthew had exited by this point. He handed his keys to his sister. "I'm going to be going out" he informed her. "To the coffee shop around the corner. I'll grab a cab." His sister gave gave a knowing smile. "Oh really? Certainly not alone?"

"No, not alone"

"Do I know them?"

"You said you did" he nodded.

"A certain...female?" she mused.

"Maybe." he shrugged.

His sister gave a small laugh. "See? it really was a good decision. Wasn't it?"

"Yes... you're right"

"Uncle Daryl. Didja see me?" Matthew asked.

"I did kiddo," he said, "And it was a great show." The 9-year-old beamed tilting his head then. "Ya never come to my shows Uncle Daryl" he realized

"Yes... sorry about that..."

The boy was clearly forgiving though. "Does this mean you'll come to more?"

Daryl nodded, "I might" That caused Matthew to grin. "We'll see" the critic added ruffling the boy's hair. The boy laughed slightly. Daryl the heard a giggle behind him. Nikki had returned. "Nikki!" Matthew greeted. "You did great today!" Nikki gave a soft laugh. "Thank you Matthew"

"That she did," Daryl agreed. His sister gave a nod. "You always do, Nikki"

"If I would have known there was this level of talent here, I would have come to see more shows," Grady commented. Matthew gave a nod in agreement. "Well, enjoy yourself Daryl," his sister replied.

"I'll see you later then," he said to them. His family gave a nod and made their way out. Daryl turned back to Nikki. "I know a good place" he told her, offering his arm. Nikki nodded taking it. "Alright."