A/N As always, I own nothing except the scenario and my undying Adrian/Natalie shipper heart!


Unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. Unsettled. The feelings he was having at this moment were making Adrian all three of those words. He'd finished vacuuming and dusting his apartment for the second time that day, but even his most ingrained rituals couldn't rid him of these new feelings that he had… Recognized? Uncovered? Acknowledged? Simply because Natalie had taken ill and he'd volunteered to take care of her. He thought back to the moment she'd walked into his apartment early that morning.

Dressed for work in black slacks, a purple cardigan embroidered with a riot of flowers, and flat black shoes, she hadn't looked like her usual self. Instead, she'd had his dry-cleaning in her hands and seemed to be slower and quieter than expected, not her cheery self. He hadn't realized how much he counted on her cheerful morning greeting, her pretty smile, and her ability to draw him out until those things weren't there that day. Yes, she had days off. Yes, she'd quit once for a day and a half. Still, in all of their years together, Monk knew he could depend on her sunshiny personality to balance his mournful gloominess until he felt he could manage through the days he spent without her, few as they were, and be balanced and maybe even…happy, on his own. At least for short periods.

So this morning, he took one look at her and said, "Natalie, swe- what's the matter, are you alright?" he tripped over the words as he took the dry cleaning from her hands. He'd nearly called her sweetheart. He'd done that a lot lately. Almost added that endearment to her name. What the hell was wrong with him? Where did that even come from? He'd never called Trudy or anyone else "sweetheart."

"Hi, I'm not sure. I felt fine when I woke up, but now I feel dizzy and feverish."

"Okay, why don't you sit? I'll make you some tea." She smiled a small, soft smile up at him as he practically pushed her onto the couch and went to put the dry-cleaning in his closet. A few minutes later, he returned with the tea, and Natalie took it from him appreciatively. A couple of years earlier, he would have made her drive herself home if there was a possibility she would make him sick. Now, he went to the bathroom and got his thermometer, swiped it clean with an alcohol swab, came to her, and pressed it to her forehead, and passed it back and forth to get a reading. The months that had passed since he'd gotten a resolution to Trudy's case and met Molly, Trudy's long-lost daughter, had definitely changed him in many ways. He was far more the man Natalie had glimpsed from time to time over their years together. The brave, kind, caring man. The man she'd always suspected had lain beneath the fractured exterior of the "defective detective."

His deep brown eyes looked at the thermometer and then carefully at her face. "Oh, Natalie! 101.2! You need to be in bed!" He pressed the back of his hand to her warm cheek.

"Okay, I'll go home. I don't want you to get sick, Mr. Monk. Maybe I should call a cab. I probably shouldn't drive like this."

"Don't be silly. You'll do no such thing. You'll stay right here. I will make sure you're okay."

"But…"

"No buts."

With that, he bent, put an arm around her shoulders, put the other under her knees, and carried her to his bedroom. In any other circumstance, Natalie would have been both thrilled and excited by Adrian Monk carrying her to his bedroom and placing her gently on his bed. But her long-held and deeply buried amorous feelings for him were the furthest things from her mind as her head lolled, and she felt tired and weak.

He removed her shoes, pulled back the comforter, and slid her between the cool sheets. He thought he should maybe undress her a little to make her comfortable, but that would be just too much for him to handle. Instead, he said, "Natalie, I'll be right back." She mumbled a response of some sort.

He hurried down to the corner market, the store where Samuel Waingaya's wife Ansara had done her last shopping. He never failed to think of that when he walked through the door. He bought a small bottle of Tylenol, which he never had in his house, and he purchased some canned soup, although he would have preferred to give Natalie scratch-made soup. He made all types of delicious soup from scratch, but there was no time right now to fuss with homemade soup. She needed to hydrate and nourish her body. He also bought some Gatorade, and some instant-activated cold packs, in case her fever wouldn't break.

He rushed back up to 2G to see that Natalie, it seemed, had pulled off her cardigan sweater in her sleep. It was twisted around her waist, and the comforter was thrown back as well. She must have been exceedingly warm. She was left wearing a thin, white, form-hugging camisole and her pants. He knew he shouldn't look at her like this, but he couldn't help himself for a moment, admiring her beauty, her body, even though she was flushed with fever. He thought about what it might look like if she were flushed with color for other reasons… and, astonished by his own libidinous thoughts, hightailed out of the bedroom to the kitchen.

He put the soup in a pot to heat on low and filled a glass with ice water. He brought the Tylenol and water to the nightstand next to Natalie, where he placed the glass on a coaster and the pills where she could reach them both. He didn't want to wake her, knowing sleep was good medicine. He listened to her breathe; she didn't sound congested. It was probably a 24-hour bug. It had come on suddenly and would likely leave just as fast. He also pretended to himself that he didn't sneak a couple more intense looks at her. As he turned away, he heard her teeth start chattering violently.

He pulled the comforter over her and went to his armoire, where there was another soft cotton blanket to add another layer to the bed. After he covered her, he went to the kitchen and turned off the heat under the soup—that could wait. Returning to the bedroom, he brought a book and a magazine so he could sit with her while she slept and be there if she needed something. He settled on his side of the bed and, for a few minutes, just watched her face. He saw several expressions pass over her features in just a few minutes of watching her. As he always was, he was intrigued by Natalie's mercurial and incredibly varied emotions, which she wore so outwardly, even in her sleep, like most women wore jewelry. She was still shivering. This worried him.

In a moment of unselfish concern, he did the most un-Monk-like thing he'd done in quite some time. He got under the covers with her and gathered her to himself, knowing his warmth would make her warm and help her feel better. Contagion be damned. While he held her, a million thoughts ran through his mind. How long it had been since he'd held someone. How it felt to hold someone so tiny and delicate. Trudy had been taller, somehow sturdier, thin, but not as breakable as Natalie felt. How she smelled. Like freesia and jasmine and the winter sunshine, which she'd brought inside with her. How they fit together like the pieces of a puzzle he didn't even know he'd needed to solve.

How he wanted her. That didn't shock him, not anymore. Those thoughts and feelings had been happening for quite a while now. He didn't remember ever feeling so desperate with want for Trudy. Maybe because theirs had been a mutual love almost from the moment they met. His feelings for Natalie snuck up on him as their relationship grew from wary and tentative, to friendly and comfortable, to closest friends through the years. The first "best friend" he'd ever had. As he continued to hold her and wrap his warmth around her, he stroked her hair. She sighed in her sleep. His heart sped up at the sound and then contracted painfully at the feelings of love and need that he'd tried so desperately to hide and push down and ignore and pretend didn't exist. If he did that, then everything could remain status quo. Nothing would break. Everything would go on as it was, which was nice. It was certainly safe and more than he believed he deserved.

By now, more than two hours had passed since she'd arrived. He'd been holding her for at least an hour, and she turned a little to lay on her back again. His arm lay across her stomach now, and he propped his head up on his other hand, his elbow bent and his face mere inches from hers. At that moment, he was as un-germaphobic as a germaphobe could be. He was just thrilled that he was getting a few moments to study her without her being aware of his scrutiny. He looked at every inch of her face. Her smooth skin, her lashes spread out above her cheekbones, her eyebrows a multitude of shades of blonde and light brown. Her nose, small and delicate, just like the rest of her. It crinkled when she was amused, he knew from much experience. Her mouth, even in sleep, turned up in the barest hint of a smile, lips parted slightly. The lightest dusting of freckles—concealed by makeup most days, sprinkled her nose and cheeks today. As he often did, he pictured a child with her daring green eyes and those freckles, and it disconcerted him again to think about what he was imagining. Although that particular little girl often came to mind when he gazed at her. A little girl that wasn't Julie Teeger. A little girl that was part Natalie and part him. This was what his heart was really yearning for between the two of them. A forever that included that little girl.

Again she shifted, and she began murmuring in her sleep. "Adrian." He clearly heard his name fall from her lips. One of a handful of times he'd heard her say his given name in all the years they'd known one another. It used to feel strange, too intimate. Now he understood why. Because it was intimate. With Sharona, it had been motherly and said as a caregiver; at a time when he'd been so lost and broken, he'd needed mothering and care. But when Natalie said his name, it sounded like a combination of prayer and purr. Sexy, intimate, and way too much for him to hear all the time without wanting to ravish her no matter where they were. He knew that people thought of him as some type of asexual crime-solving apparatus. Not much more than a living, breathing precision tool they pulled out when needed. But deep down, Adrian Monk was still a man, despite his name and his self-imposed celibacy these many long years. He loved Natalie; he wanted Natalie. If only she could want him back. Those thoughts were unsettling and exciting. Frightening and thrilling.

Natalie had finally stopped shivering and had started to sweat. Her fever was breaking. Adrian knew he had to move before she woke and found them so entwined and him touching her so intimately. He heaved a huge sigh, and moved carefully away from her, back off the bed, straightened the covers, and sat again. He turned to his book and began to read. Natalie shifted again, and this time she was facing him, and once again, she started to talk in her sleep. "Don't go, please, love. I hate when we're apart." She must be dreaming of Mitch or Julie. It was the tone of her voice that suggested Mitch to him, though. She sighed and reached for something in her sleep, and her hand landed on his thigh. He looked at her small hand on the gray gabardine and felt the heat through to his skin. He shifted his neck as the warmth of her hand coursed through him, wondering if he should move, not wanting to move. Feeling like he could hang from the ceiling by his nails with fear and excitement, and agitation. Then, finally, she spoke again, "Adrian, please stay. Don't leave me. I just can't watch you walk away from me anymore, please. Don't leave me ever again." The words were a shock and a euphoria at the same time. She was dreaming of him! Asking him not to leave her. He put his book aside on the nightstand and covered her hand with one of his. Trying to convey through his touch and into her dream that he wasn't leaving and he would never leave her and that he loved her so much. He leaned over and kissed her forehead, damp from the broken fever. He stretched out next to her, happy that she was getting over the fever so quickly. He fell asleep soon after, exhausted from the worry, and they stayed that way for the better part of the day—hands clasped—asleep in his bed.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Natalie stirred first. The sun was low in the wintery sky when she woke. She woke in stages. Experimentally seeing how she felt bit by bit. She was achy but not as overly warm. She did feel sweaty, particularly her left hand. She opened her left eye and saw a closed eye, very close by. Raven-wing black lashes, one coal-black eyebrow, sexy five o'clock shadow, olive skin. Adrian? She moved her head a fraction of an inch and saw her hand was clasped in his up high between their bodies as if, together, they were petitioning the God of sleep for good dreams. Hers certainly had been. They were lying in his bed, side by side, so close she could feel his steady breath on her face. Oh no, she'd been breathing on him too! She'd get him sick. Before she could move, he woke up. Much as he always did, he came awake all at once. He turned so his burnished brown eyes stared into her eyes of aquamarine for long moments until Natalie broke the silence shyly. "Hi."

"Hello," he returned, also shyly.

"How long was I sleeping?" She asked, not moving away or retrieving her hand from his.

"Hours and hours." He answered but didn't move either. "You seem a little better, less feverish."

"I'm thirsty."

"There's a glass of water on the nightstand and some Tylenol."

"Tylenol?" Surprise lit her eyes.

"Yes, I got some at the market, along with soup and Gatorade. You need to hydrate and eat."

"I don't know what to say, Mr. Monk…Thank you."

"Well, you can thank me by calling me Adrian from now on… after all, we've slept together now," he laughed a little at his own jest.

Natalie's eyes widened in amusement and surprise, both at his request and at his joke. "Really? Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am. Would you like some soup now?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Yes, and thank you...Adrian."

He bounded off the bed and was sorry to lose the new, tentative connection they had formed that afternoon but knew they could do it again. They would find a way. He went to heat the soup for Natalie. He set the bowl on a plate and placed both on the tray along with a napkin and soup spoon. On a whim, he added a flower from a bunch he'd gotten at the market to the tray. When he walked back into his room, Natalie was sitting up with the covers tucked around her. She looked as at home as you please in his bed. He had to do a double-take to be certain she was still clothed. He spied the thin straps of her camisole on her creamy ivory shoulders and silently sent a word of thanks to God, not knowing what he would have done if she'd been undressed completely. In his rational mind, he knew Natalie better than that. She would never have undressed completely. What was wrong with him?

"Thank you, Adrian," Natalie said experimentally. Seeing how it felt to say aloud the name she'd said in her mind thousands of times.

"You're welcome. Did you take some Tylenol?"

"Yes, my head hurts."

"Probably from dehydration." She made a sound that sounded like agreement as she sipped her soup from the spoon.

"Definitely not as good as yours," Natalie said, "but it will do the job."

"Sorry, I was too worried about you to fuss with homemade soup. I didn't want to leave you alone too long."

"I wasn't complaining, just complimenting your culinary skills."

Adrian's cheeks pinked as they always did at Natalie's compliments, "Thank you, Natalie."

"Adrian, what happened to my sweater?" His cheeks went from pink to bright red.

"Um…I…When...I..." He composed himself. He was 51 years old, for God's sake. Get it together, Adrian! "When I came back from the market, you had pulled it down and off. It was twisted around your waist, so I hung it in the closet so it wouldn't wrinkle." Natalie accepted that answer at face value, it seemed to Adrian, and just nodded. Adrian breathed a sigh of relief. Until she spoke again.

"And uh, how did we end up sleeping together?"

Adrian hesitated and then decided on the truth. "Well, here's what happened… you were flushed and had pulled your sweater off and thrown the covers aside. Then you began to shiver so much that your teeth were chattering. I was worried, so I got the extra blanket, but it didn't seem to stop your chills." Here he paused to swallow. "So I - ah - I got into bed with you and held you to help keep you warm. Is that alright? Are you going to quit now? Is that a lawsuit waiting to happen?"

Her voice was rough with emotion when she replied. "You held me? To keep me warm? While I ran a fever?" He nodded, looking at her like she might still have a fever and was unable to process. A tear slipped slowly down Natalie's cheek. "Thank you for taking such good care of me today. It just shows how much progress you're making. And, no, I will not sue you, but if I were feeling okay, I might kiss you. But, that will have to wait." She winked at him. He looked at her open-mouthed and astonished. Then, pointing to her empty bowl, she said, "This was just what I needed. Do you mind if I sleep a little more?"

"Uh, mind? No, no." He took the tray, closed the door firmly behind him, and made himself scarce. He fled to the kitchen, ate a late lunch, and cleaned. The next time Adrian looked up, several more hours had passed. It was mid-evening, and the sun had long set. He peeked in on Natalie, and she was still fast asleep. He retreated and closed the door again. He really liked how she looked asleep in his bed. That image he often conjured of a little girl chasing butterflies, freckles across the bridge of her tiny nose, green eyes squinting into the sunlight, black curls flowing down her back imposed itself over Natalie's face. That image had appeared to him more and more often lately. Once again, he turned off those thoughts as he turned and walked away to switch on the lamps in the living room. Then he turned on the news on the kitchen TV for the company and the distraction from the thoughts in his head as he made dinner. As he worked, he was still circling those three words in his head, Unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. Unsettled. Why those words? He wondered to himself.

Nothing about Natalie nor even his feelings for or about her were unfamiliar. Just the part about waking up next to her and her saying she would have kissed him if she wasn't sick… that was, well, that was new and unfamiliar. Maybe unexpected is a better term. Nothing about Natalie made him uncomfortable anymore, except seeing her partially undressed and knowing he gazed at her a little more than was probably decent. But in his heart, he felt as if she were already his, and he had a right to her, although that wasn't strictly true, at least not in the romantic sense. Yet. But his discomfort most likely stirred from the understanding that that was what he wanted more than anything and had to make his feelings known. He couldn't live like this any longer.

The unsettled part, that was easy. He was having thoughts that were both desirous of her body and desirous of her future. He wanted her so badly - he ached and not just in the sexual way, but he simply longed for her - he wanted that piece of himself that was missing that he finally, truly understood only she could provide. The puzzle solved at last. The future he desired? He envisioned their child so often he could almost imagine she was real. A miniature version of them, both brilliant and adventurous, freckles across her tiny nose, fire in her emerald eyes, raven curls spilling down her back. He, a man who'd been afraid to become a father, yearned for the child only he and Natalie could make together. He sighed as he stirred a simple sauce his mother had taught him to make when he was just a child himself. One he'd now like to pass on to someone else.

Natalie came into the kitchen, and when he looked up at her, he realized she was wearing one of his shirts. "I'll have it cleaned, don't worry." She smiled when she saw him swallow hard.

"I wasn't worried," he lied. Badly. Of course, he was worried, he was worried because she had nothing else on that he could see. No pants. No shoes. Possibly the camisole was still in place under the windowpane checks. But, dear God, she looked so alluring, especially tousled from sleep. His shirt swallowed her slender frame. The sleeves were rolled to her delicate forearms.

"I just wanted to be more comfortable, and my clothes weren't doing it for me."

"It isn't a problem, Natalie," he choked out as he tried, unsuccessfully, to keep his eyes from wandering over her long bare legs and her dainty feet with their perfectly manicured toes. "How do you feel?"

"Better. I can't imagine what that was," she shrugged as she slid onto one of the new stools he'd recently purchased for the kitchen.

"Maybe you were just worn out. You seem much better now."

"My temperature is back to normal. I certainly slept enough."

"I'm not sure about that; you probably could sleep more."

"I could always sleep more," she laughed. Sleep was one thing that Natalie never seemed to get enough of with their weird hours and their busy lives. He smiled, knowing that for the truth it was. "Whatcha doing?"

"Making dinner for us, if you're up to eating."

"Yes, I'm actually quite hungry, and something smells delicious!"

"I thought old-fashioned comfort food might make you feel better. So I made spaghetti and meatballs."

"That's great. Can I do anything?"

Get dressed, so I don't have a heart attack, he thought. Aloud he said, "No, it's almost finished. Go rest."

"I'd rather sit here and talk to you."

"Whatever you want."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Other than that one?" he smirked at her. They often had this same back and forth.

"Yes."

"Go ahead," he answered trepidatiously.

"Why did you take care of me today, Mr. ...I mean… Adrian?"

"Because you were sick." He said as if that would take care of her question and her curiosity.

"I've been sick other times in the last eight years we've known each other."

Adrian looked down into the pot of pasta he was lifting and swallowed hard before he answered. The little pools of olive oil at the top caught his attention for a moment. They weren't even. His throat felt like a porcupine had taken up residence suddenly. Was he getting whatever Natalie had? No, it was just nerves. He spilled the pasta gently into the waiting colander. "Natalie, I - I want to talk to you about that, and well, a lot of other things, really. Can we wait until we sit at the table? It, and you, deserve my full attention."

"Sure, Adrian, whatever you want." A sudden shiver went through Natalie that had nothing to do with her earlier fever. She went to the living room, grabbed her favorite throw, wrapped it around herself, and returned to the dining room. She perched on "her" chair and waited for him. The subtle shift that had been gradually happening over the years, like the movement of the glaciers, suddenly felt like a magnitude seven on the Richter scale - a major earthquake. She fiddled with her silverware. He always set a lovely and symmetrical table. Over the years, his habits and his ways had certainly invaded her psyche until she also made things balanced and even, not just for him, but for herself as well. She also knew some of her ideas and relaxed ways had rubbed off on him as well. They were an oddly perfect pair, in her estimation, and wondered with no small amount of anticipation what he wanted to say to her over dinner.

Adrian came to the table with the tray Natalie had eaten from earlier. This time it bore two shallow pasta bowls filled with the lentil pasta he preferred. Ten perfect tiny meatballs dotted the top of hers, a plate of the same meatballs sat next to his pasta bowl. There was also a small dish of grated cheese and two glasses of water. He emptied the tray onto the table, folded it, and put it aside. She admired his effortless efficiency. She also knew without his saying a word that that tray had been thoroughly sanitized between uses. The scent of Clorox mingled with the smell of the food for a brief moment.

He sat across from her and smiled as he lifted his water glass, "To your remarkably speedy recovery."

Natalie lifted her glass and clinked it against his and then watched him over the rim as she took a sip of her water. She nearly choked at the expression in Adrian's eyes. It was one she'd never seen from him before, but as a woman, it was one she recognized. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. Then Natalie complimented the food, "See? This is an Adrian Monk culinary creation! So delicious!" She sighed with pleasure.

"I'm glad you can taste it. I am guessing you were just overtired before, and you don't have a cold or something worse."

"No, but thank you again for taking care of me. Which brings us back to our earlier conversation." She paused. Afraid and curious. "Adrian, why did you take care of me instead of sending me home today?"

Adrian knew this was it. He had to face Natalie, tell her what was on his mind, what had been in his heart for a long time, and exactly what he wished to have with her. He took a deep breath and put his utensils down. "Natalie, I didn't send you home or take you home because I wanted to take care of you. I would like to take care of you always if you let me." He paused as he watched the expression on her face for clues to her inner thoughts. But she was still and unreadable as she watched him intently. "I have realized you are the piece of me I've been missing, and you've been there all along. I gave you my trust years ago. I realize now I gave my heart to you long ago as well, and I know I will never get it back. I am yours if you will have me. I want to spend my life with you, not as coworkers, or partners, or friends. I want to be yours, and I want you to be mine, Natalie. I love you. I am in love with you."

Natalie's eyes rounded in awe and amazement as the words tumbled out of Adrian's mouth. "You … you love me?" Shocked at the words she'd longed to hear for so long, in disbelief that it had actually happened. She brought one hand up to cover her gaping mouth. "Adrian…you have no idea… how long I've waited…how long I've wanted…" she became too emotional to speak.

"Natalie?"

"Oh Adrian, I love you too." She left her seat, and he rose as well. She went straight into his arms, and illness and germs and fevers forgotten, their lips met in a first kiss that neither would ever forget. Sweet and gentle at first, deepening to passionate and needy as it went on. Flavored with desire and Italian spices, they gave everything to that first joining of lips and hearts. When at last, the kiss ended, Natalie found herself on Adrian's lap.

"The things I dream about never included this scenario," he laughed up into her eyes.

"What do you mean?"

"You in my shirt, tasting like my cooking."

Natalie giggled. "I can take it off," she moved her hands to the buttons at the front of the shirt.

"Okay, slow down. Let's take this a little slowly."

"Okay, so, tell me, what do you dream about?"

"I don't want to freak you out."

"Do you think you could freak me out at this point in our relationship?"

"Well, it is only a few minutes old." He kissed her as he held her face delicately in his hands.

"I meant our overall relationship." She kissed him quickly, and he smiled.

"I constantly dream of a little girl with your eyes, your nose," he ran a finger down her nose, "your freckles and long black curly hair streaming down her back."

Natalie ran her hand through his dark curls, something she'd wanted to do for ages, and rested it at the base of his neck. She pressed her lips together to try and suppress a grin but was unsuccessful. "I dream of a little boy. He has black curly hair and your smile. My eyes. I want to meet those children, Adrian. I want you and those kids so much."

"Maybe it's a little soon to be thinking about these things?" he wondered aloud.

"Oh Adrian, I think we know each other and ourselves pretty well. I want you. I want to be with you. I've wanted it for so many years that I've lost track of when these feelings started. No matter who I dated, no matter who asked me out… I could never go the distance with any of them. Rich, poor. Educated or not. Whatever the case, I always found them lacking somehow. They simply never measured up to you in any way that mattered."

Adrian's eyes filled with happy tears. "Really?"

Natalie nodded emphatically and took both of his hands in hers, "Really. I wanted you. Only you. Not some pale imitation, not someone different. Now that we've both admitted how we feel, nothing is stopping us from forever."

"Well, I can think of several things," he smirked as he toyed with the buttons on the shirt she was wearing. Shocked delight lit her face.

"After dinner, I'd like to shower. Then we can start our version of forever." They returned to eating and talking about things they'd never spoken of before. After they'd cleaned the dinner dishes, Adrian ran out to Natalie's car for her "emergency bag," a version of which she'd kept in every car she'd had since she was a teen, never knowing where she might end up. Her wild-child tendencies were tempered by her sensible side. The bag contained the essentials for hygiene and at least two days worth of clothing and sleepwear. Adrian added "prepared" to the long list of Natalie's attributes that he found appealing.

Adrian changed the sheets on the bed, and Natalie showered and changed. When she finished, she tentatively stepped into the living room. Adrian smiled at her in a way she'd never seen him look at her before. Soft music was playing from the old phonograph he'd kept through change after change in technology until it was fashionable again. She liked the pop and crackle of the vinyl records - it seemed authentic and genuine—just like Adrian himself. She sat next to him on the couch, and he immediately pulled her into his embrace. Gone was the unsettled, nervous Adrian Monk of old. In his place sat a man who knew what he wanted and had finally spoken his wishes out loud to the object of his desire. Natalie herself felt reborn. A teenager with a first crush, a virginal bride on her wedding night, and a woman who had powerfully desired this man for years all rolled into one.

Adrian held her with one arm and took her chin into his other hand. He angled her face to kiss her. Nothing about the kiss was chaste or gentle. On the contrary, Natalie was pleasantly surprised by the intensity and the unmistakable desire in his voice as he growled her name after they broke the kiss. "Did you ever imagine we'd be here?"

"Kissing on your couch? I'd hoped, but I tried not to fantasize too much because I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment."

"I hope you're not… Disappointed, I mean."

"Not one bit. A little surprised maybe, but in a good way."

"Why?"

"I just got over a fever, and you are being surprisingly bold."

"I don't think you were sick, just exhausted, and if you think this aggressive, just wait."

"Was that a promise?"

"Oh, yes, it was indeed." He smiled that same "here's what happened smile"— the look he got when he was totally sure of himself and totally in control. Natalie was beyond turned on, as she always was by one of his summations. But this was no summation… this was about her, them, their summation, at last. She raised one perfectly arched eyebrow at him. He stood and held out his hand.

"Come to bed with me, Natalie."

"Why, Adrian, I don't think I'm tired right now."

"That's good because I have no intention of us sleeping just yet."

#FINIS#