A/N As per usual, I own nothing but the scenario and my deep love of everything Monk.


Natalie Teeger was settled, as she so often was, on a hard stone bench beside a familiar gravestone made of black and gray marble and granite. Chiseled on it were familiar words, "Trudy Anne Monk, 1962-1997, Beloved Wife and Daughter." She had once wondered why the actual dates of Trudy's birth and death weren't there too. Then she counted the letters. Forty-four. Even. Natalie made this particular pilgrimage possibly more often than Adrian Monk, the widower of the late Trudy did himself. After visiting her own late husband's grave on the other side of the cemetery in the military section, she would drive around and visit Trudy. Natalie never brought anything with her, although she wanted to. But she never wanted Mr. Monk to know she'd been there.

It had started after they'd been trapped in the bank vault together many years ago. Maybe it was the need for catharsis; perhaps it was that Natalie hoped to let Trudy know that Adrian was really doing better. It had started as a whim that had now become a habit. So, frequently, Natalie used the time that Adrian deep cleaned his apartment every other Sunday morning to visit both of their late spouses.

On this lovely May morning, Natalie summarized the previous few weeks of cases she and Adrian had worked, detailing how brilliant Adrian's summations had been and other things in their daily lives that she might want to know about. She spoke of Molly and Julie also, believing that if Trudy could see Adrian, she could see all of them.

"Molly just had a great article published in Entertainment Weekly on the making of a new movie and a review of the film as well. She is thriving in Los Angeles. We miss her so much, but her career is just taking off. You'd be so proud, Adrian and I both are! I think Julie misses her most of all. They are as close as sisters. I know you were an only child, as are they. But, I think they found that sibling bond that each of you missed out on. Julie just finished her freshman year at Berkeley, Trudy. I am so proud of her. Adrian is too. I think she loves it there just as much as the two of you did. He told me she would, and I believed him, but letting go is so hard sometimes." Natalie sighed. "Julie's going to visit Molly for a week. She leaves later on today." Enough small talk, Natalie. Today she'd come here to confess something to Trudy. Something big.

"Trudy, the real reason I'm here today, and why I haven't been here in a few weeks, is because I have to tell you something. It's a secret I've been keeping. Something I've been avoiding saying out loud to you. It may be something you don't want to hear, but I need to get this off my chest, and I think you deserve to know. I love your husband. I mean, of course, I love him, we've been friends forever now, and we're like family. But, I mean to say that I'm in love with your husband, and I just don't know what to do about it. I have felt this way for a very long time. Maybe since we were trapped in that bank vault I told you about, but definitely since he and Leland faked his death. I just can't keep hiding how I feel. I can't keep dating other men hoping they will be 'the one' to break me of these feelings." She began to cry.

"That's never going to happen. Never. I am so sorry if this hurts you. I didn't mean for it to happen. It started as a job. Just a job. One I thought I'd get tired of, just like all the others I've ever had. But I never got tired. It just got more interesting. He got more interesting. The more time I spent with him, the more I understood him. I grew to care about him. Now look at me. I'm desperately in love with a man who won't, or can't, love me back." She was really bawling by then. It became an ugly cry, or as ugly as the beautiful Natalie Teeger ever became.

"I'm so scared, Trudy. I'm scared I'm going to live the whole rest of my life never feeling his arms around me, except for when he's saving my life from a lunatic. That I'm never going to know how it feels to have his mouth on mine. I know it's probably a huge faux pas to say this to his dead wife, but you must know how I feel - you loved him yourself!" Natalie rooted blindly in her purse for a tissue but found a wipe instead, making her cry even harder. "He can be so sweet, and he is loveable, although he disagrees. I'd like to prove him wrong for once. I wish I could see you and talk to you like he does. Maybe you'd be able to offer me your wisdom. I tried to push these feelings away, push them down, ignore them." Natalie continued to sniffle, and she hiccuped once for good measure as she sat and contemplated Trudy's headstone and her own life.

Unexpectedly, Natalie felt gentle hands on her shoulders. She craned her neck to look up. "Adri-Mr. Monk! What are you doing here? Isn't it a deep cleaning day?"

"Yes, but it was so nice that I wanted to take a walk and leave that for later. I thought I'd bring Trudy some flowers, but I think you might need them more." He handed her the bouquet of ten roses, white with pink edges. Natalie looked down at her lap and fiddled with the wipe in her other fingers.

"Natalie?"

"Yes?" She asked hesitantly.

"Why would you pour your heart out to a piece of marble and granite instead of telling me how you felt?"

"Oh, God! You heard all of that?"

"That would be affirmative." He tried to get her to look at him, but she hung her head, and her hair fell on her face. He put two fingers under her chin, brushed away her hair with his other hand, and lifted her face until her watercolor green eyes met his. They were rimmed red from crying, but they were still beautiful. "Natalie," he began as he sat next to her on the bench, "how long have you been coming here?"

"A long time. Maybe four years or so." She sniffed. Finally finding a tissue in her purse, she dabbed her eyes. "I visit Mitch on the other side of the cemetery, and then I come here for a while to catch her up on your life, our work, the girls."

Adrian looked at her in awe and admiration. He'd known for a while how lucky he'd been to meet Natalie. Well, really, from the time they'd met, he'd known he was fortunate to find such a feisty, intelligent, kind, happy, funny, and brave woman to have as his assistant. What he'd only come to realize recently was that he was lucky because, for a second time in his life, he had found someone he could love, a true love, one that would last forever. So he decided he trusted her with his most important possession, his battered, bruised, and imperfectly healed heart.

He repeated her name, his voice rough with emotion and longing. "Natalie." She startled at the sound. "Look at me, please." She complied because the tone of his voice was one she'd never heard before.

"I love you, Natalie. I didn't imagine that Trudy's graveside would be the first place I said this to you, but here we are, and there it is. I am madly, passionately, crazy in love with you and how we've made it this long without me kissing you is beyond me. But I think I will hold off on that until we are someplace less public, less depressing, and much more appropriate."

Natalie choked out a short laugh then. As quick as it was, the laugh was filled with relief and happiness. Adrian Monk loved her! As in, in love, not just as a friend. Her mind was reeling. Adrian stood and held out his hand to her. She took it gratefully and rose from the bench. She touched Trudy's headstone and placed the roses in the holder next to the monument before they turned and left, and she whispered, "Thank you," to her predecessor in Adrian Monk's life.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Natalie drove them, following Adrian's precise directions. He obviously had a destination in mind; they weren't heading towards either of their homes. Natalie snuck glances at him as they wound their way through San Francisco. The serene expression on his face was one she'd never seen before. Finally, they wound up parking at Baker's Beach—a small park near the Presidio. Adrian went into Natalie's trunk and retrieved the blanket he knew was always there. They walked for a while, quietly, hand in hand, towards the water. They had always liked to walk together. Now they found their hands fit together perfectly like a locket and chain, their fingers threaded together comfortably. They soon arrived at Marshall's Beach—known to natives as San Francisco's most hidden beach—a spot that offered privacy and quiet along a rugged stretch of the Pacific Ocean shoreline. The only way to access Marshall's Beach was by foot off of the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. There are stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a great spot to observe serpentine rock formations, native plants, and local wildlife. Not to mention pitch a little woo. Adrian carefully spread the blanket on the sand.

"I used to come here sometimes when I was a teenager."

"You did? I thought you didn't like the beach or the ocean."

"I do like them both when I want to be alone. Or alone with someone else," Adrian smiled broadly. "So many of the things I don't like or have a 'thing' about don't seem to matter as much when you're near me."

"What about the wildlife?"

"There isn't so much of that as you might expect." Natalie laughed at that. She assumed he was correct, as usual.

"Why did you come here when you were a kid?"

"To escape. My father was gone. My mother was very ill. Ambrose was already a recluse. I wanted to leave all of the responsibilities in my life behind for a while and stop thinking about the things I didn't have. A father, friends, a girlfriend, direction." He sighed. "It was right in this spot that I decided to become a cop. I was on my way here one day—I wanted to watch the sunset." Natalie nodded encouragingly, curious. "As I drove here, I saw three different things happen. First, I saw a cop save an elderly woman from being mugged. Next, I saw a police car stopped to help in a traffic accident, and then I saw the police and fire department at the scene of a fire."

"I see."

"As I sat on the beach contemplating the future, I knew I was heading to college, wondering what I should major in, what I should do with my life, I knew I wanted to help people. I knew I was good at puzzles and solving people's mysteries. Then all at once, as I sat right here, on this beach, in this spot, it clicked. Sort of like how solving crimes works for me now."

"I can't believe I never knew how you came to be a cop before today."

"I may not have felt like sharing with you before."

"But, you have always shared so much about your life with me, Adrian."

Hearing her say his first name sent a frisson of delight through him. "I know, but my thought process, how it coalesced that afternoon, didn't really seem to mean anything after Trudy was murdered. I was so lost, I couldn't do the one thing I always thought I'd be good at in life. I couldn't solve her case, even though I could solve any other case. So now that her case is well and truly over, I'm rethinking why I became a cop in the first place. Was it that I wanted to help people, or was it that I wanted to feel wanted?"

"That's one of those big life thoughts that can keep a person up at night."

"Yes, but oddly, it's not the only one that keeps me up." His eyes were twinkling in the sunshine.

"Really? Tell me more," Natalie prompted eagerly.

"Natalie, I've laid alone in that bed night after night wondering if I am supposed to be alone for the rest of my life, or did I impose that on myself the way I have imposed all of my other rules and procedures and the need for order on my life."

Wow, Natalie thought, therapy was really working lately.

Adrian continued, "So a few months ago, I actually came back here. I sat in this spot. I thought about my life in the light of day rather than in the middle of the night as I'd been doing. I thought maybe sunlight might help. The light shining off the water reminded me of your eyes. The golden sparkle of the sun reminded me of your hair. There was a wave that crested with a white peak that reminded me of your smile. So I realized what my issue really was on that afternoon in the sun. I had fallen in love again. For the second time in my life, I truly loved another human being I wasn't related to by blood. I was scared, but I guess I wasn't shocked because I'd felt the love for a while, as an undercurrent to our everyday relationship… I was just doing what you told Trudy you were doing, ignoring it, pretending it wasn't there, pushing it aside, hoping it was a phase. But it's not a phase, and I'm never getting over these feelings. I adore you, Natalie. Plain and simple. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life showing you how much. I want to make you happy. I want to make myself happy at last, too!"

"Oh, Adrian. I feel the same way. I just want to spend my days with you, seeing you smile the way you are right now."

"This smile? This smile is because of you. It's only for you." Adrian leaned into her, and as the waves crashed against the shore, the couple shared a first kiss that was as passionate and as full of the need and the pull the beach has for the ocean. There was no other description for that moment but perfect. Everything in the eight years they'd known one another came down to when they, at last, acknowledged their feelings and did something about it. Natalie pulled him down to her as she lay back on the soft blanket, and he covered her body with his. His natural hesitancy fell away as his honest desire and eagerness for her touch took him over.

Adrian sank a hand into Natalie's hair as one arm went around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Their kisses were passionate and thrilling, nothing like what Natalie had imagined, but beyond her wildest expectations. They fit together naturally and just right from their hungry lips to their legs intertwined comfortably and intimately. The surf ebbed and flowed as a musical accompaniment while they became further acquainted in this new and intimate way.

They broke their eager kisses and daring caresses, and as Adrian pulled back, he gasped, "Natalie!"

She sighed happily and ran a finger over his slightly swollen lips. "Yes?" she smiled a sassy smile at him before she pulled him back in for a quick kiss. "What's wrong?"

"Absolutely nothing. Every bit of me is pulling me towards you, and my brain is off. All I can do is feel right now, and I've never felt more alive or happier, truly."

"I'm so incredibly happy too."

"I know this is going to sound a little crazy…" he shifted a little, nervous.

"You never sound crazy to me, Adrian." Natalie, ever the comforter, the cheerleader.

"Okay, maybe a little soon, then," he continued as he palmed her cheek and stroked her face gently with his thumb.

"Soon for what?"

His soft, deep brown eyes looked seriously into hers, "Natalie, will you marry me?"

Tears formed in Natalie's eyes.

"It was too soon, wasn't it," Adrian fretted.

"No, in fact, it was right on time. And yes, I will marry you."

"Say it again," he demanded with a deep rumble in his baritone voice.

"Yes. Adrian, I will marry y-" her words were lost as Adrian crushed her to him again and covered her pretty mouth with his own.

"Natalie?"

"Yes, Adrian?"

"I love when you say 'yes.'" Natalie giggled girlishly as he said, "Can we go home? I don't care to which home…just to one of our homes."

Natalie answered him with a sly smile, "I would be thrilled to go home and, um, make our engagement official…and I will be happy to say yes to you over and over again. Forever."

Adrian raised his eyebrows and jumped up from the blanket quickly; he bent to scoop Natalie up in his arms. He twirled her around and then set her carefully on her feet. Then, unable to help himself, he bent and kissed her again. He meant it to be a sweet, quick kiss, but Natalie's arms slid up his chest and wound around his neck. The kiss deepened, and their tongues explored each other's mouths. Again Natalie found herself surprised and excited by Adrian's fearlessness regarding this first stage of affection and intimacy.

When their lips parted, she said his name on a sigh, "Adrian."

"Sweetheart?"

"I love you," she sighed again.

"I love you, too, Natalie, endlessly. Let's go home."

#FINIS#