Author's Note:Thanks to Allie (Allison Lindsay) for giving me the idea/"assignment" to write this. I haven't written a TN-only story in years, so I hope I've written Fran/Max in character. ;) Thanks to Leigh Ann (leighann415) for reading this and providing the title! Please R&R!
As Max walked Fran off the dance floor, he noticed that she wiped a tear from her cheek. "Oh, Miss Fine..." he whispered. "If Steve had been the man of your dreams, he would've been out here dancing with you tonight."
Fran sighed. "Why is it, every time I meet a guy I like, something goes wrong? I mean, I'm a nice person, right? All I want is to meet someone, fall head over heels, and get married. And it wouldn't hurt if he could talk Ma into retiring to Boca, too."
Max laughed. "You just have to keep looking. Your Mr. Right is out there somewhere. You'll find him. He might even be closer than you think."
Fran looked at him. "Mr. Sheffield, what are you talking about? The only guys I've seen on this whole cruise have been Steve, and Niles, and..." She gasped, suddenly realizing what he meant. "Oh, my God. Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
Max reached over, gently touching her cheek. "Watching you with Steve these past few days hasn't been easy. I tried to act like it didn't matter, but it was killing me. I know I've been trying to keep our relationship purely professional, but I'm starting to think that may not be the wisest decision. Fran, since you've come into our lives, nothing's been the same. My children have never been happier, and frankly, neither have I. You brought life back into our home. For that, I will love you as long as I live. So...what do you say?"
Fran stared at him in disbelief. He'd just admitted that he loved her. And not only that, he'd called her Fran. She sighed. She loved the way he spoke her name. He said it in a way no one ever had before. Most of the guys she'd dated back in Flushing treated her like any other girl. Sure, at one time, she thought Danny loved her, but now she realized he had never really cared about her dreams or desires. All he'd wanted was someone to cook and clean for him. But Maxwell was different from Danny in every possible way. He treated her as if she were a treasure, someone who could never be replaced.
She remembered what her psychic had told her on the phone. She would dance with the man of her dreams on water. But there had been no details about who that man would be, or what he might look like. So, when Steve first approached her, Fran had assumed he was the man she was supposed to be with. She'd never once questioned it. Until now.
Max watched her as she tried to make her decision. "Fran...I think this is the longest you've gone without speaking. Please, would you say something? I think I may have a heart attack if you don't."
Fran laughed. All this time, she'd wanted Maxwell to stop running and realize he wanted her. And just when she'd given up all hope, here he was, offering her his heart. It hadn't even taken one of her wild, I Love Lucy-inspired schemes to make it happen. He'd done it all on his own. That made this moment even more beautiful. She put her arms around him, resting her head on his chest. "Max, for so long, I've been doing everything I could to get you to notice me. And just when I gave up, and tried to move on, you do this. I can't believe that this is real."
Max held her tightly. He tipped her chin up so that he could see her face. "I know I hurt you by running from this. I did it because I was scared. When I lost my wife, I thought the pain would never end. I don't know what I would've done if it hadn't been for my children. And then you came along. Of course, you were – are – a very attractive woman. But I told myself not to get involved. I just couldn't risk that kind of heartache again. Now I see that the heartbreak I would feel if I lost you to someone else would be nearly as bad as what I felt when Sarah died. So there's only one thing left for me to do: make sure I never, ever lose you."
Fran had never heard anything so beautiful before in her life. She sniffled, once again wiping her tears. "Oh, Max...you could never lose me. I'm not going anywhere."
Max felt his heart soar at Fran's words. He knew he still had some details to work out, with the children, the Fines, and everyone else in their lives. But he was surprised to find that he wasn't scared of any of it. How could he be? As long as Fran was by his side, he knew his future would be wonderful. He could hardly wait for it to begin.