A/N As usual, I own nothing... just my wish for an Adrian/Natalie happily ever after!


Adrian Monk leaned back against the wall of interrogation room two, between the two-way mirror and the corner of the room. Arms crossed, one foot on the wall, he knew he appeared agitated. He was agitated. He was so sick of stupid criminals. Maybe it was stupid people in general. However, he was also slightly irritated with Leland and Randy. They were not stupid people. But they were listening quietly, intently to the drivel coming from the mouth of the idiot at the table. Okay, the guy was dumb, but it was Leland and Randy's job to listen. Adrian knew that, and as he accepted it grudgingly, his irritation with his friends ebbed. As he took his hand away from his brow and looked more carefully, he saw Leland was also slightly irked. Why couldn't every criminal be smart enough to be at least a little bit of a challenge? Adrian Monk was truly fed up on this early evening, a feeling he was not used to when it came to his work.

Finally, exasperated beyond his limit, Monk pushed off the wall with his foot, threw his hands in the air, and rapped on the door with a sleeve-covered hand. He awkwardly greeted the officer who opened the door for him and exited the interrogation room. He knew he was sometimes as irritating to others as that suspect was to him today. His self-awareness had grown over the years. This was progress. He tried to tamp down his more annoying habits when he could. Especially in the last eighteen months since Trudy's murderer had been uncovered. So his exasperation today had nothing to do with Trudy's murderer or her actual murder as had previously been the case. He was out of sorts for other reasons, and he just couldn't get a hold of the rampant emotions running through his mind today. He had lost his grip on his emotional restraint, a situation that left him feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

What was it that Steve Wagner, the smarmy killer astronaut, had said on that long-ago career day in Julie's classroom? Being brave was being afraid of something but doing it anyway. Well, he had to do something soon. Something brave. Natalie was going on a fourth date with a complete Neanderthal that night. Fourth! What was she thinking? So maybe he was displeased with Natalie as well. That was a very rare thing in his life. Displeasure with Natalie was a foreign event these last few years.

Having finally come to terms with his own feelings for Natalie, Monk knew he had to find a way to be courageous and stop the madness of Natalie dating other men. Adrian had thought he might have been in the clear for a while when Steven Albright shipped out earlier this year after Natalie had broken things off with the young and handsome Lieutenant. Still, Natalie's charm and beauty were magnetic, and she soon had another suitor. She'd met the halfwit at her gym, she was taking yoga, he was a personal trainer. Natalie had introduced them when the Neanderthal had picked her up at the police station for their second date. She went off with "Terry" with a wave and a smile. That hurt. It hurt his heart, and it hurt his head. Terry was an idiot. The short conversation was enough to convince him that under all the muscles, very few brain cells lurked in Terry's head. Nowhere near smart enough to keep Natalie's interest for long, Monk had believed. Thus the root of his irritation with stupid people tonight. Ah! At last, he had an answer to his overwhelmingly out-of-control feelings. Therapy was helpful. He had found the root of an issue, of an irritation! On his own! Dr. Bell would be so proud.

Adrian left the station and breathed in the cool evening air. He had always loved autumn. He walked to his car, a purchase made just two months previously. A silver Toyota Prius, good for the environment and good for him. He began driving again twelve months to the day after he and Natalie had been discharged from the hospital, their bodies both clear of the poison inflicted by Kazarinski, inflicted at the behest of Trudy's murderer. He privately considered it their life anniversary. Natalie had been surprised by his request to take her keys that day and drive them home. Later in the evening, when he'd explained himself, he couldn't read her expression. There was some pride, some affection, some joy. From then on, he'd practiced driving with her in the passenger seat, and then he bought a sensible car, although most days they slipped into their traditional roles so he could concentrate on the case they were working. He did more of the driving if they were running errands or going out to eat, visiting Julie or Ambrose, or off to have some weekend fun.

He drove now, sort of aimless and a little lost. Not as in "couldn't find his way in a city he knew like he knew his own mind" but lost as in "at loose ends." Eventually, he found himself parked in front of Natalie's house. He had promised her he would track down a smell she said was permeating her refrigerator, even though she'd cleaned it thoroughly. He mostly trusted her cleaning skills, but if she said there was a mysterious smell, there was a smell. He slipped quickly from his car and locked it, checking it twice as was his habit. Then, he turned to the walkway and climbed the steps to Natalie's front door.

His key to her home was explicitly cut for him out of a blank with a pattern Natalie had long ago chosen for him. It was a police shield on a blue and silver key. Natalie had found it at the local hardware emporium and had decided long before he was ready, long before he'd been reinstated, that she would give him that reminder that he would be reinstated one day. She had faith in him when he'd had none in himself. The store was huge and overwhelmed him on the best of days, but on that day, she had guided him directly to the key cutting kiosk and back out. She handed him the key and watched with a smile as he slid it on his keyring. He was reminded of her endless devotion and positive outlook as he used that key now and walked into Natalie's quiet, orderly home. It was orderly now that "tornado" Julie had moved to Berkeley, he thought with a fond smile and a shake of his head. He hung his coat in the hall closet and walked straight to the kitchen. The light over the sink was on, as it always was when Natalie went out. That soft glow was more than enough for him to do what needed doing in Natalie's kitchen.

Sometimes, his detective skills were put to unusual use. An hour later, having discovered the source of the foul odor, a small piece of cheese that had slipped behind the crisper drawer slide and had become rancid and moldy, he cleaned the obviously already clean refrigerator and then arranged all of the contents in his preferred way. Pleased with his accomplishments, he washed his hands. As he dried them, he heard yelling outside. It was Natalie's voice. Then Terry's much deeper voice. He couldn't discern the words, but the tone was unsettling. Then he heard a car door slam and another. After that, nothing for a few minutes. No sounds, no movement. He expected Natalie to walk through the door, but he went looking for her when she did not.

There she was outside on the top step, sitting in the dark, weeping quietly. Adrian felt bands of anger and empathy constrict around his heart. He closed the door behind him quietly and took a seat next to her on the step.

She felt his presence and looked up from where her forehead was on her arms across her knees. "Mr. Monk, what….what are you doing here?" she asked as she tried to hurriedly brush away the tears on her cheeks with the backs of her hands. She hadn't noticed his car out front in her anger at Terry.

"I, uh, knew you were out, so I came to check out your refrigerator situation."

"You are so sweet," she sniffed and began to cry again.

"Natalie?" Why would he doing her the favor she had asked of him make her cry? "Natalie, why are you crying?"

"It's nothing. Really, Mr. Monk."

"Natalie, please, look at me." He took her by the shoulders, and she flinched away from him with a yelp of pain. "Natalie, what's wrong? Did I hurt you?" Adrian asked worriedly, moving his hands away quickly.

"No, not you."

"Then who…" She turned her tear-filled eyes up to his, and he knew. Gently, he moved the sleeves of her jacket off of her shoulders. Then the straps of her pretty dress - and he even pushed her bra straps aside, without a single twitch of discomfort. His only concern at the moment was Natalie, not his sensibilities. What he saw on her ivory shoulders made his blood boil. Significant red marks - fingerprints that would surely become dark bruises by morning. "Terry did this? But why?" He asked angrily.

"I uh, I wouldn't…you know…."

"I do?"

Natalie made a face that indicated he should know.

"You know." She emphasized the word "know." He still looked puzzled. Natalie exhaled with frustration, "Have sex with him, Mr. Monk; I wouldn't have sex with him."

"Well, I should think not; you've only gone out four times!" Monk said with indignation and relief.

"He didn't agree."

"Okay, well, let's get you inside and put some ice on those bruises." He gathered her into his arms carefully and walked her into the house. He sat her carefully on the couch. Reverently he took her shoes off, and he swung her legs onto the couch. He covered her with a blanket from the back of the sofa. She was so tiny and that brutish oaf laid his hands on her with violence! He hurriedly grabbed some ice from the newly cleaned fridge and half-filled two large Ziploc bags. He wrapped them with kitchen towels and went back to Natalie. "You are so sweet," she said again. More tears escaped her eyes.

"Natalie, stop, please. Forget about him. He doesn't deserve you." Misunderstanding her tears. Gently he draped the ice against the bruises already forming on her shoulders. Then he moved his large, gentle hands to her cheeks and wiped the tears from them with his bare thumbs. Natalie covered one of his hands with one of hers.

She looked into his eyes with a kind of helpless expression that, to a different man, might have spoken volumes, but to Monk, it just wrenched his heart that she was so broken over an idiot. "Natalie, truly, you deserve so much better than someone who would manhandle you or try to force you to do something you didn't want to do. You deserve someone who will treasure you, worship you, treat you with respect and devotion. Someone who will love and respect you before demanding you give yourself to him in that way. In fact, he should never demand anything."

At this point, Natalie and Adrian's hands had lowered from her cheek and were joined in her lap, and as he spoke, she involuntarily squeezed his hand. "Thank you, it means so much to hear you say that to me. About me."

"Natalie, you are worth about a thousand of Terry. Possibly more. He was not meant for you. He was not your destiny." For Pete's sake, now he was starting to sound like Natalie herself. She laughed slightly, and her breath hitched a little.

"You sound like me."

"What can I say? You're starting to rub off on me."

"Starting?"

"No, not starting, Natalie. You are a large part of who I am now. You are so deep inside my mind and my heart, I don't know what I would do without you. I cannot imagine…." Adrian paused suddenly and realized what he'd been about to reveal to her. Her aquamarine eyes were as dark as emeralds as she looked into his eyes with hope.

"Adrian?" She continued to look unblinkingly into his eyes as she uttered his name in a way he'd never heard it said before. Certainly not from her lips. It had always been "Mr. Monk." Always. Except for that one time when Sharona visited. Oh. And the day he'd been hypnotized. Wait, and the day before she'd become his assistant at that godforsaken bar where she'd worked. Three times she'd used his first name in eight years. Until now. This was number four. What did it mean?

"Natalie, I knew that idiot… that guy… wasn't right for you. But the truth is I'm never going to think any man is right for you, except for one." Good start, Adrian. He patted himself mentally.

Natalie sniffed her tears away and smiled a little. "And who is this mysterious one man who is right for me?"

"Well, he is very intelligent. You cannot be with someone who is as dumb as Terry."

"You're telling me. I had to hear about eleven kinds of protein powder at dinner tonight. It wasn't exactly stimulating conversation."

"Mmmmhm. Also, Your perfect man likes to work hard at solving other people's problems, not causing them. By the way, you should file a police report."

"Do you think that's really necessary?"

"I do. He'll just do this to someone else."

"Okay, later. Please continue telling me about this man who's right for me."

"He is neat and clean, a good cook, and he will be madly, irrevocably in love with you, Natalie."

"Uh-huh."

"He is old-fashioned, but not so old-fashioned he doesn't want you…but he won't demand, he'd ask permission." He watched as her lashes fluttered prettily when he said that, and he could feel her pulse speed up through their joined hands.

Natalie's cheeks grew warm then. "And do you know such a person?

Gathering all of his courage, Adrian gave her a rueful smile, "I'm not sure how you will take this, Natalie." He one-shoulder shrugged in his old Monk-like way. "But, it's me. Natalie, I'm talking about me. I think I'm the right man for you."

"You do?" She asked with a huge smile, forgetting the pain in her shoulders and everything awful about that evening before that moment.

"I do," he said firmly with a brief nod.

"Well, that's a relief. I thought you were trying to fix me up with Mr. Clean or Bill Nye or Bobby Flay or Bill Gates or someone like that."

"Who are those people?" Confused and puzzled, he asked her worriedly.

"Never mind. Can you go back to the part about being irrevocably in love with me?" she asked as she wound her free hand around the black curls at the nape of his neck.

"Oh, Natalie, sweetheart. I've been trying to find a way to tell you how I feel for the longest time… months and months. I was so sure you'd laugh or cry… neither in a good way."

"Well, for once, you're wrong. Very, very wrong. I've loved you so much for so long, and I never, not for a moment thought you would love me in return."

"I've never been more grateful to be wrong about something so important," he smiled into her eyes. "Natalie, I'd like to kiss you now if you'd allow me to," he said softly.

"I would like that very much, Adrian. Very, very much." With her permission granted, he leaned towards her slowly and met her lips with his. Contrary to his previous worries about this moment, he didn't once think about germs or what he should do. It all came perfectly naturally. The kiss began gently, but they were each overcome with the longing they'd felt for so long that passion overtook them. Before they knew it, they were lying twined together on Natalie's green couch and making out like teenagers at a no-parent party in someone's basement. Natalie clearly felt how much Adrian loved her. Every feeling and emotion was right there in his kisses and touches, which only happened after he asked and received her permission again. After a while, they came to their senses. They each had a glow about them that would tell anyone who looked at them that something extraordinary had happened to them. People that knew them would know instantly that there had been a change in their relationship—a change for the better. But before things went too far that evening, Adrian called Leland and explained what had happened to Natalie at Terry's hand. Then the new couple made themselves presentable again. Clothes askew were straightened, lipstick was removed from around one mouth and reapplied to the other. Finally, they sat on the couch to wait for their friends' arrival.

A half-hour later, when Leland and Randy arrived to see Natalie and take her statement about pressing assault charges against her erstwhile date, they brought a female officer with them. The two women went upstairs so Natalie could have some privacy and disrobe for some photographs. Apparently, other bruises were coming out now, a few hours after the incident. When the two women returned to the living room, Adrian took Natalie's hand—a gesture that didn't go unnoticed by Leland. Thankfully he didn't say a word. He just raised his eyebrows at Monk, and Monk nodded once and smiled. Confirming Leland's suspicion that Monk had finally gotten his act together and said something to Natalie about his feelings. Natalie missed the exchange as she was bidding farewell to the officer who had taken the photos.

When they were alone again, Natalie spoke first, "I'm glad that's over."

"Me too," Adrian replied, and he kissed her temple.

"What happens now?"

"The usual. They will swear out a warrant for Terry's arrest, he'll appear for his arraignment, be allowed to post bail, and then be given a trial date."

"What if he comes after me?" Natalie worried aloud.

"I'll be here, or wherever you are, to protect you."

"I have dreamed of a day you would say something like that to me. Maybe not under these circumstances, but I wanted you to take care of me. For us to take care of each other."

"I'd like to do just that. Natalie, would you like to go out with me tomorrow evening?"

"On a date?"

"Yes. On our first date."

Giddy with excitement, "Yes, Adrian, I'd love to go out with you tomorrow."

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Everyone knows that first dates are nerve-wracking and tense. You don't get to know a lot about someone the first time you meet them because both people are trying to navigate their way around without appearing awkward. But in this case, on this particular first date, the two people couldn't have possibly known each other any better. Any amount of awkwardness between them had long since been dispensed with as they had seen each other daily for eight years in nearly every conceivable situation and state of mind. Adrian picked Natalie up at five pm sharp.

He drove straight to their first destination. He wanted to get to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens just before their last entry time for the evening at six pm. He opened the car door for Natalie when they parked and held out his hand for hers to help her out. They strolled the quiet and nearly empty garden paths looking at the early autumn flowers and admiring the decorative displays for the upcoming fall holidays. Beautiful music spilled discretely from the treetops as they walked and talked and kissed for the better part of two hours. As much as each had professed the love they'd secretly felt for the other the day before, and despite the inspiring kissing on the couch, it was that couple of hours walking spent in animated conversation about life and about their future that made it real for each of them. Although the love each felt before was unquestionably real, it was unrequited. To have unrequited love returned, at last, was indescribable for each of them. The smiles on their faces were genuine, full of the blush of true love and complete happiness.

As the sun went down over the coast of California, Adrian and Natalie shared some more sweet kisses under an arbor of ivy and late blooming roses. Once again, he took her hand, they returned to the car and he helped her gently into her seat. He closed the door with a firm click and then got into the driver's seat. They drove to Nob Hill to an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant. Natalie was glad she had slightly overdressed for the evening. They were seated and were two amongst just twenty people in the dining room. It was intimate, sophisticated, and stunning. Natalie found it hard to fathom that Adrian Monk would allow someone else to choose his food, as this restaurant's interpretation of elevated and thoughtfully composed northern Californian cuisine was a constantly changing tasting menu. The owner was someone that Adrian had solved a case for years before at her previous restaurant, and she hadn't forgotten. She greeted them warmly and sent champagne to their table before the tasting menu items, nine courses, with small bites in-between, began arriving at their plates.

Adrian Monk was a man transformed in those first hours as Natalie's significant other. Natalie had always known that beneath the sadness and the phobias, there lay a man she had only occasioned a brief glimpse in decades-old photos and videos. A fully realized, unencumbered, truly happy man. One who was unafraid of touching, of laughing, of loving. The joy lighting his face reflected onto Natalie's, and she absorbed it all with delight. In turn, she reflected all the love she'd hidden for years back to him. He took her love in with amazement and exhilaration. He could never have imagined the complex and beautiful feelings she'd harbored all this time. He sipped the excellent champagne slowly and carefully to not drink too much and watched her over the rim of the glass. The animated expression on her face as she spoke made her even more beautiful than she always was to him. She was talking about planting roses like the ones they'd seen earlier that evening. She could have been reading the phone book. He would have listened with rapt attention to every word. Yesterday's pique over being fed up with people was in his rear-view mirror.

As they finished dessert, Natalie moved closer to him. "Adrian, this has been the most beautiful date I've ever been on with anyone," Natalie murmured close to his ear and then kissed the spot just below it, which sent shivers down his spine. "I am so happy. I love you." She'd never sensed, among all the things she'd seen underneath his anguish, what a romantic he would be when he was in love.

"I love you, Natalie." He took her hand and raised it to his mouth, and placed a tender kiss on her palm. "Come home with me tonight… and stay?" he asked softly, shyly.

Natalie looked at him with a mixture of desire and astonishment. "I would be thrilled, Adrian. Absolutely thrilled."

They left, knowing finally, every wish and desire each had ever had about and for the other was about to be fulfilled. The couple walked to the car to drive home and into their future. When they got to the door of Adrian's apartment, he turned and said, "I just want you to know, this is forever for me, Natalie. There will never be anyone for me besides you, now. I loved Trudy. I always will. But that is the past, and I put it where it belongs, in the past. All I can see is our future together."

"I know that, Adrian. I want you to know that anyone I dated between Mitch and yesterday were simply placeholders. I have been waiting for the right man, my prince in a world of toads. All these years. I have been waiting for you, my love."

He smiled his famous smile at her. The one, when captured by news photographers, told society he was simply the greatest detective in the world. The smile that had captured her heart many years ago, the smile that was for her alone now. Then he bent to kiss her with lips that were also hers. She knew that every fiber of him was hers, and the idea of that was thrilling and sexy and almost incomprehensible.

To Adrian, the idea that she'd been waiting for him, kissing toads until she got her prince, him, was also incomprehensible. It would take a while for each of them to really accept the miracle that love had called twice for each of them, and they had finally admitted it. But when they did, they would settle in for a lifetime of happiness neither thought they could ever have again. Best of all, the thing Adrian Monk had been most fed up with, being alone, he'd never have to be faced with ever again.

#FINIS#