"You're kidding." Daniel looked down the long hospital hallway, waiting for someone to jump out and say 'gotcha.' He really expected Joel to pop out, despite the cast encasing him from hips to toes -- and asleep when Daniel checked on him five minutes ago -- and laugh at his reaction.
"Please?" Max twisted her face into what Emily called the 'pitiful puppy-dog' expression.
It worked better with Jeremy and Joe. Max had too much mischief in her, under normal circumstances, for anyone to believe her innocent act. It was even less effective today. Her color was better and she looked like she had managed to get some sleep last night.
"Me? Play Petruchio?" Something deep inside him started cheering, jumping up and down excitedly. Like he had felt when he was still a student and got the plum part in a production.
"Dad agreed with me that you're the best bet."
"Yeah, but I'd really examine any decisions Joel is making lately. Especially since he was probably half-asleep and doped up when you asked him."
"Morgan... " She crossed her arms, took a step back and waited. Max knew him too well. She knew he was dying to get back on the stage, even if it meant less than a week to learn his part and fit into the pacing and by-play the rest of the ensemble had already established.
"You know I'll do it." Daniel squeezed her shoulder, giving her a little shake before he released her. "You can always depend on my ego."
"Ego schmeego. You're a sucker for people in a bind. Can you come by early tomorrow for rehearsal, so Della and Gretchen can get you fitted for the costume? Dad's built a little wider than you are, but the height is a good match, so there shouldn't be that much work to alter it."
"You were really sure I'd say yes, weren't you?"
"With suitable groveling and inducing guilt, yeah."
They laughed together as they walked down the hall to the elevator. Morning visiting hours were over. Daniel had tried to slip in between classes, hoping to catch Joel awake. Life was going to be hectic, his schedule tight, until Joel was out of the hospital and up to speed on life. It was already accepted that until Joel was allowed to drive, he wouldn't come back to teaching. Daniel and the General would have to cover all his classes and administer his final exams. Fortunately, Joel Randolph was so super-organized, he made his colleagues look bad. Thank goodness there were only three weeks left to school, and Taming of the Shrew would only last two weeks.
When Daniel got back to his office, he called Lynette to tell her he was taking over Joel's part in the play. She was delighted for him. For a short while.
"There's something in your voice," she said. "Like you're hiding bad news from me."
"Not exactly hiding. Just not too happy to tell you about it." He took a deep breath and let it out as a slow sigh. "That means my evenings are tied up until the run is over, and my weekends, studying the part, and probably my lunch hours. The ones I don't lose to Joel's classes, that is. Not much time for us."
"Oh." Silence for a few seconds. "Well, don't you need someone to prompt you and read the other parts? I played a mean Katarina when you took that directing class, if you can remember back that far."
"You'd do that?"
"For Joel and Emily? Of course." Lynette managed a chuckle. "Besides, I have this great fantasy of spending the afternoon in the park with a picnic lunch, performing Shakespeare for the birds and deer. Sounds kind of... romantic. Don't you think?"
"Lyn, you are the greatest. I owe you. Big time."
"Well then, you can make the picnic lunch, how about that?"
"It's a deal."