Fran's Pen Pal

Author's Note: I borrowed a couple lines from the actual episode. No copyright infringement intended! Many thanks to Allison and Katie for their help w/ this fic, and for helping me through a major case of writer's block!

"I was just thinking how nice it is to get out, you know, without the kids," Fran Fine said. "Maybe it's time we thought about hiring someone to take care of – Oh!"

Maxwell smiled. "Yes, Miss Fine, I've often thought of hiring a nanny myself." Fran laughed her trademark nasal laugh.

Just then, a young man approached wearing a red rose in the lapel of his jacket. "You must be Fran Fine."

Fran was startled. "Huh? Who are you?"

"I'm Lenny," he said, pointing to the rose. "Lenny Goldstein, your pen pal."

"Oh, right," Fran said, embarrassed. "How could I have forgotten?"

The two hugged. "It's so great to finally meet you!" Lenny said. "You're even prettier than I imagined you'd be."

Again, Fran blushed. "Thanks. You're not so bad yourself." She looked Lenny over, and was very pleased with what she saw.

The smile on the nanny's face did not go unnoticed, especially not by Maxwell. "Miss Fine –"

"If you'd like to go, Mr. Sheffield, Lenny and I would certainly understand," Fran said, nodding towards the door.

"No, that's quite all right. I don't mind staying, just in case you two need any help breaking the ice," Max replied.

"Fran, what's going on?" Lenny asked, clearly confused.

"Sorry. Lenny, this is my boss, Maxwell Sheffield. Mr. Sheffield, this is Lenny Goldstein, my first-grade pen pal," Fran said.

"You're awfully tall for being only six years old," Max joked as the two men shook hands.

"Yeah, I hit my growth spurt early," Lenny replied.

"Well, now that we're all acquainted, why don't we find ourselves a table?" Max suggested.

Fran looked daggers at him. "Mr. Sheffield, shouldn't you be getting home? Niles and Miss Babcock are home alone together. Who knows what those two could be up to by now?"

"Those two? What could they possibly be up to?" Max asked.

"Knowing those two, you're likely to come home to find dead body!" Fran joked.

"Miss Fine, please! Niles would never kill anyone, not even Miss Babcock. Besides, even if he did, he'd clean up after himself," Maxwell replied.

"But still, do you really want a murderer around your children? And what if the press found out?" Fran asked.

"Oh, all right. I'll go," Max said reluctantly.

"Good," said Fran. "Then you take the limo, go home and check on Niles. I'll see you back at the house."

"Wait, you two live together?" Lenny asked. "I'm sorry, Fran, if I'd known you were involved, I never would've suggested we meet."

Fran laughed. "Oh, no, we're not 'living together,' living together. I'm just the nanny. I'm definitely available."

"I'm very glad to hear that," Lenny said as he kissed Fran's hand. The nanny blushed a bright pink.

Max rolled his eyes. Oh, please, could he be any cockier? This is bloody nauseating.

When her face returned to its normal color, Fran said, "Mr. Sheffield, I really think you should go check on Niles and Miss Babcock. Leaving those two together is worse than leaving Brighton alone with Gracie!"

"You're right," Maxwell said, chuckling at the thought of Brighton's constant attempts to terrorize his younger sister. "Well, it was nice meeting you," he said to Lenny. The two men shook hands, and Max turned to leave.

A moment later, Maxwell came back. "Miss Fine, are you sure you don't want me to stick around, just in case you can't get a cab later? You know how dangerous it is for a woman to be alone in this city at night."

"This is not the middle of Central Park," Fran replied, now slightly annoyed. "Besides, I'm not alone." She gestured toward Lenny. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think that you were stalling because you don't want to leave Lenny and me alone. I might even think that you were jealous."

Max scoffed. "Me, jealous? Miss Fine, that's ridiculous!"

"Yeah, sure," Fran replied, clearly not buying it for a minute. "Look, if you don't leave Lenny and me alone, I'll invite my mother's canasta team over to lunch all week."

"Miss Fine, I have a backers' meeting on Thursday! I can't have 12 elderly Jewish women kibitzing in my kitchen. You could feed a third-world country on the amount that they eat!"

"I know. So are you going to scram, or what?" Fran replied, not missing a beat.

Max sighed. "All right. You win. I'll leave. I can't believe I've been blackmailed by my own nanny!"

Reluctantly, Maxwell left the Russian Tea Room. As he walked toward the limo, he thought about what he would find at home. He knew Niles would be anxious to hear how the evening had gone. Max didn't think he could bear that right now. So he walked right past his limousine, apparently lost in thought. He spent the next several hours wandering around New York City, imaging the various romantic scenarios which might be happening at the Russian Tea Room between his nanny and her pen pal.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, Fran and Lenny found themselves a table and sat down to talk. "Who's this Miss Babcock you and Mr. Sheffield were talking about? His maid or something?" Lenny asked.

Fran nearly choked on her drink. "His maid! Please, her blood is bluer than Princess Di's!"

"Who is she, then?" Lenny asked. "I figured Niles was his butler, so I assumed Miss Babcock was the maid."

"Well, you're right about Niles. He and Mr. Sheffield have known each other since they were kids. But Miss Babcock is Mr. Sheffield's business partner. If she had her way, she'd be his life partner, but that ain't happening anytime soon!" Fran said with her usual nasal laugh.

"So you're a nanny, huh?" Lenny asked. "I never thought that the woman I was writing to all these years was a nanny!"

Fran blushed a little. "I might have exaggerated a teensy bit in my letters."

"Oh, you mean you never went on tour with Barbra Striesand?" Lenny joked.

"Only in my dreams," Fran sighed.

"Darn," Lenny said in mock disappointment. "I just can't believe you're a nanny. You're pretty enough to be a model, yet here you are taking care of somebody else's kids. How did that ever happen?"

"Well, you see, I was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens, till my boyfriend kicked me out in one of those crushing scenes."

"Hey, you're a poet, and you don't know it," Lenny said with a laugh.

Fran smiled. Even though she had only met him a few minutes ago, she liked him already. But she wasn't feeling quite the same excitement she usually felt with a new guy. There were no goosebumps on her arm, no shy blushing, nothing. In fact, it was almost as if she were talking to her friend Val. Fran had had male friends before, so that wasn't what surprised her most. Lenny was different from any of Fran's male friends. On paper, he was perfect for her. He was funny, smart, charming, cute, and, to top it all off, Jewish! If Fran's mother were here, she'd be calling him "son" already and asking when they were going to tie the knot already. No matter how hard she tried, Fran couldn't see Lenny that way. What could he possibly be missing?