A/N I own nothing except my love of Monk and a happy ending for Adrian and Natalie!


Gorgeous. Stupendous. Magnificent. It was one of those fantastic spring days that really defied description by mere mortals. Adrian Monk was as happy and carefree as he ever became, as evidenced by him noting the weather and genuinely enjoying it. Of course, he would never have been able to enjoy a day like that spring day without the help of so many people. Dr. Kroger, Sharona, Dr. Bell, Leland, but most of all Natalie. Adrian was whistling as he strolled the pathways in the quad of Berkeley's finely manicured campus. He wasn't whistling a particular tune, but he was happy and knew it. He passed his and Trudy's bench and smiled. For once, the smile wasn't tight or sad, nor was it marked with anger or pain and regret. Instead, he smiled with happiness that he had the beautiful memory at all. He had recovered so much in the two years since resolving her case, and the feelings inside him, the happiness at the good memories, and the slow but steady letting go of the anguish proved it.

Other things filled Adrian Monk's mind these days. He spent time reading and studying again. Learning. In fact, he had just met with someone he knew from when he was a student in the Criminal Justice Department over thirty years ago. Brad Krauss was now a professor of forensic anthropology. Monk had spent over two hours with him discovering new methods to look at human remains as evidence of murder or foul play. It had been a wonderful and an enlightening, if slightly morbid, conversation. Monk had left with a head full of new information as well as a copy of Dr. Krauss' new book and something new he could use in the work he did as a consultant with the SFPD. Police work had come so far in the days since he was a rookie. 2011 was shaping up to be a good year for his career and life. As always, learning something new was a bright spot in his otherwise fairly ordinary day-to-day life.

He was alone today, as Natalie had some personal business to attend to, "lady things" as he liked to think of them. Doctor's appointments, an appointment at her hair and nail salon. He preferred to always have her near, but the days he could handle being on his own were getting more manageable and more frequent. He still didn't want to make a habit of it, though. But on "lady things" days, it was okay because he'd once tagged along on a hair and nail appointment and was sorry for it - what he'd seen, smelled, heard, and experienced. He trembled slightly at the memory. How women did the things they did to themselves, some of them obviously painful and horribly foul-smelling, he would never understand. However, on Natalie at least, the results were always spectacular, and he enjoyed observing them.

He headed past the student union with the idea that he might find Julie Teeger at Zellerbach Hall rehearsing for the spring showcase being presented the following week. Of course, he and Natalie would be in attendance, but he thought a preview was something he wouldn't mind, so he'd know what to expect. Sort of like a surprise alert, but one he could arrange for himself. Adrian quietly slipped into the rear of the auditorium. A young man of about twenty in a piecemeal knight errant's costume was being moved about the stage by a woman who Adrian recognized as the director of the showcase, to whom Julie had introduced them several weeks earlier when he and Natalie had met her for dinner. The pair on the stage seemed to agree upon the movements, and the director sat down in the front row. A piano began to play from the orchestra pit, and the lights dimmed. Just like Julie, the young man was poised and confident. His beautiful tenor was an evident physical gift. He was singing a song from an old musical, one that Adrian had seen with Trudy, right in this very room many years ago. And as with all things, his perfect recall brought the play and the story back to him instantaneously. It tells the story of the "mad" knight Don Quixote as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. He floated on memory until the words really cut through to his conscious thoughts.

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

And to run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong

And to love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest

To follow that star

Oh, no matter how hopeless

No matter how far…

The song continued, and Adrian sort of lost track of it. Monk thought that if he had a theme song, that could have been it. The Impossible Dream. He definitely tried to right unrightable wrongs. That was his life's work. He had spent the past fifteen years bearing unbearable sorrow. And now… now he was most definitely loving pure and chaste from afar. Well, not far. Generally not more than three or four feet away, but still pure and chaste. Adrian Monk was in love with Natalie Teeger. There. He'd thought it. In a complete sentence. He'd known it, felt it, and ignored it for as long as he could. He knew he'd have to acknowledge it with more than a thought, and soon, or else he'd wind up back in a psychiatric hospital. The song ended, and he was still thinking about Natalie. He wondered what her hair would look like today and what color her nails would be after her salon visit.

Suddenly he saw Julie and another girl come to the stage. Julie was her usual smiling, lovely self. Julie was a striking combination of Natalie and Natalie's late husband, Mitch. Some days, Monk felt that he knew Mitch because he knew Julie so well. Adrian hoped he was doing what Mitch would have wanted him to do for "their girls," as he often thought of Natalie and Julie. For years now, Adrian had often felt he was the Earthly keeper of Mitch's family. Adrian drew his mind back to the stage. The other girl was Julie's opposite number, diminutive with dark curly hair, very curvy, whereas Julie, although beautiful, had a more athletic build. Julie was wearing a robe and holding a white gown in her hands, which she promptly hung on the back of a door that Adrian could see led nowhere. The other girl, Antonia, he heard the director call her, was wearing what would have passed for elegance in the late 1800s, a time when skirts with long trains and bustles were at the height of fashion. After a few directions, the director again sat in the front row. Adrian was happy Julie didn't know he was there; he didn't want to disturb or distract. When she disrobed, he was twice as glad. He wasn't sure where to look, although she was entirely covered by the undergarments of the time period she was obviously portraying. A white chemise, drawers to her knees, woolen stockings up past her knees, and a corset were all part of the costume. Finally, he relaxed when he peeked and realized she was fully covered and was only about to add more layers as the scene commenced. The two young women talked about Julie's character's wedding day and how happy she was with her choice of husband. Antonia was clearly playing her very pregnant sister-in-law, Anne, and they agreed that Julie's character, Jenny, and her groom were a perfect match and began to sing.

He is the left hand, I am the right

He is the full moon, I am the night

A scrap of ribbon, a strand of hair

We make a beautiful pair

He is the valley, I am the hill

He is the river, I am the mill

A country fiddle, a county fair

We make a beautiful pair.

He is the sugar, I am the salt

He is perfection, when I am at fault

I lose my bearing, he knows the way

He's often speechless, I know what to say

I am the locket, he is the chain

He is the sunshine, I am the rain

A fluffy pillow, a favorite chair

We make a beautiful pair

What could be righter than we should care?

We make a beautiful pair

An idea formed in his head as he listened to Julie's clear, pretty soprano and Antonia's rich contralto. A way he could tell Natalie how he felt and show her, just as the song suggested, that they made a beautiful pair too. After the song concluded and the performers left the stage, he slipped discretely out of the auditorium and out of Zellerbach Hall. He had plans to make, and he had one specific thing in mind to buy.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Adrian drove to a place where he'd once solved a robbery and homicide. It was an antique store that sold estate jewelry pieces. He would usually be appalled by the thought of buying a used, old, germy piece of someone else's jewelry to gift to another. But he was looking for something unique and old-fashioned to make his point. He found the perfect thing while perusing the selection Jolies Antiquités et Bijoux had to offer. A locket of 18-carat gold and ebony. The ebony inlay boasted a cloisonne relief butterfly orchid—Natalie's flower. Time and again, she had exhibited all the traits that specific flower represented. Beauty, strength, resilience, grace, refinement, and love.

Natalie was indeed the epitome of the butterfly orchids' most profound meanings. He handled the oval locket carefully. The gold was burnished and slightly worn in some spots where it had been held as it was opened over and over. It was obviously much-worn and well-loved over the years. When he popped it open and found it empty, he was almost disappointed. He was hoping to see an image of those who had given and received it long ago. He took a sharp breath when he saw the engraving inside: N, With Love, A. The back was also engraved with a monogram that read "NMA." Well, if that wasn't fate or a coincidence, he didn't know what was. Not that he believed in any of that "hooey," as Leland called it, but this was one of those moments that no other word would do. Fate had found him and at last given him a positive sign. Whether he realized it or not, that kind of thinking was definitely Natalie's influence on him.

He paid for the locket, a tidy sum. It came with authentication papers. The locket had belonged to the wife of a Forty-Niner, and it was created in 1851 for her out of gold he had discovered himself in the American River near Sutter's Mill. Romantic and poignant. His name had been Addison Monroe, and his wife's name had been Nadine. He had made a small fortune from prospecting and had opened a business in the fledgling city of San Francisco. How coincidental, he and Natalie had a fledgling business in the long-established city created from the gold rush itself. Natalie was going to love the story, and Adrian loved the symmetry.

He unearthed the perfect photo to reproduce and reduce to place into the locket in the next few hours. The picture was from the night he had solved the 101st case of his career at the party for a TV special celebrating his 100th case. One of the detectives had taken a photo of Natalie and him, and they were looking into each other's eyes, not the camera. The cop had given him a couple of copies of it back then for him and Natalie, and he'd hidden them away like a secret. Something about how they were looking at each other made him weak-kneed. He'd treasured that photo and would have framed it had their relationship been something different than it was. He went to his local camera and photography store and had copying and reduction started. Adrian was promised he would have it the next day. His next task was to figure out how to increase his bravery before next Friday night. He thought about all the years they had been together, which gave him hope that he needed honesty, not bravery.

Later that evening, Natalie came over to have dinner with him, as they did so often these days. No one liked to eat alone, so they didn't. It had never been a formal discussion that he could recall. It was just a new habit they had started when Julie went off to college. They cooked together, listening to and commenting on the news of the day from the small television on the counter. Then they sat to eat Natalie's excellent meatloaf and Adrian's smooth mashed potatoes, made without milk but with cream cheese. Natalie never had the heart to try to explore the cheese/milk ingredients issue with him. Their conversation consisted of catching each other up on what had happened when they were apart. He complimented her hair and her nails. Her hair was somehow brighter, and her nails were a pretty shade of pink, like the inside of a shell. She listened to his detailed explanation of what he learned from his meeting with the forensic anthropologist. If either of them had paid attention to the perfect version of domesticity that they created, they would have been surprised. Possibly freaked out. Maybe not. Each accepted the ease they felt together after years of being side by side and doing nearly everything together. They were rarely apart, now even at night, they found ways to be together, neither acknowledging they were simply making excuses to be with the other. This was just another of those nights.

"So Julie tells me that the song she and her scene partner are singing at the showcase next week is from an old Broadway show from 1975 called Shenandoah," Natalie said. "All of the pieces in the showcase are from older shows from the 60s and 70s. I thought that was unusual. Everyone is so interested in the here, and now, people tend to forget the beauty of the past. I think the director made a good choice."

"Oh, that's interesting," he replied absently. Thinking dreamily about the perfect piece of the distant past he'd just discovered to give to her. Thinking about the lyrics he'd heard at the rehearsal he'd secretly attended.

"Mr. Monk? Mr. Monk?" She couldn't fully capture his attention, so finally, she tried, "Adrian?"

"Yes, sorry, Natalie, what were you saying after the part about the show? I started daydreaming."

"Yes, I noticed. It took me saying your first name to get your attention."

"You should do that all the time."

"What should I do all the time?"

"Call me by my first name."

"Really? Are you certain?"

"Sure, I think I've had my fill of being 'Mr. Monk.'"

Natalie shrugged and nodded. "Okay, if you want that, I'll do whatever you want, Adrian." Her lips curved in a smile that melted his heart. That smile created the sensation that his feelings were dripping all over inside of him. He had to contain his sentiments for at least a few more days because he had something special planned, and he couldn't ruin this opportunity with a spontaneous outburst of …feelings. He was prone to impromptu outbursts when he had a lot on his mind. He forced his face into a sober expression, despite his delight at her calling him by his first name. Dinner continued without him having either a nervous breakdown or blurting out everything on his mind.

As they rose to clear the table and do the dishes, Natalie's cell phone rang. Natalie answered it. "Hey Natalie, is your other half with you?" Natalie was startled to hear the captain call Adrian "her other half" but quickly got over it as he began to explain that there was a body in the Mission District at a pretentious restaurant.

"We'll meet you there shortly," she sighed as she hung up. "Doesn't death ever take a night off?"

"What's up?" Adrian turned to look at her over his shoulder.

"Another murder at another restaurant in the Mission District," she replied dourly. They had planned to watch a movie and just relax that evening. This was the third murder in the last two weeks at a restaurant. An alarming pattern was beginning to emerge. "Let me just freshen up," and off she went to the bathroom. Adrian finished placing the dishes in the dishwasher and waited for the bathroom to be free.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

They made good time to the scene. Still, CSU and the coroner were already there and awaiting his analysis. Standing close to the body was Dr. Beltran, a doctor that worked in Monterey usually but was on loan to SFPD because their regular coroner and half of his office were ill with the flu.

"Well, if it isn't Peanut Butter and Jelly," the coroner said jovially as Natalie and Adrian approached.

"What?" Natalie and Adrian said in unison.

"You know, peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, needle and thread… you're a pair that goes together. You just fit together. Where one is the other is never far away."

Natalie smiled and said, "You're right. I guess I never thought about it like that." This caused Adrian to quiver slightly. The coroner's words cut a little too close to his plan. But if he "Monked-out," as Leland had dubbed his panic attacks, Natalie was sure to see he was freaked out, and then he'd let everything slip at once. Instead, he got himself together mentally, or as together as he could get without Dr. Bell or Natalie's help, and began surveying the crime scene. Natalie was right behind him with evidence bags, wipes, or whatever else he needed. As soon as he was immersed in the crime scene, he relaxed into the rhythm of work.

On the other hand, Natalie tensed as she thought over what Dr. Beltran had said. It was true; she and Adrian were sort of inseparable these days, where one of them was the other wasn't far off. Like the salt and pepper shakers on a table or a knife and fork. Each item is necessary to be a pair, yet still separate individual entities. Soon after Natalie began as his assistant, she had known that she would never have a real life outside of his orbit for as long as she worked for him. He was just too much. Too needy, too overwhelming, too selfish, too rigid, too…everything. Over time, however, he began to show signs of real improvement. The selfishness, at least with her, fell away. His confidence in her grew. He finally seemed to believe she wouldn't leave him, at least not if it was within her power to stop it. His confidence in himself began to rebuild and return.

The person he'd been before Trudy's murder made reappearances when Natalie least expected it. They shared secrets. They shared their lives. Their life together began to go far beyond work as their orbits began to merge, and they shared holidays, birthdays, visits to her parents, visits to his brother, and more meals than anyone, except maybe Adrian could possibly count. Something changed for her along the way. She looked to him for reassurance, advice, support, and understanding. Most days, when he was not involved in a case or distracted by something in his ever-shortening list of "things," he was able to provide all of that for her. Plus friendship, companionship, and the fatherly presence in Julie's life that Julie really needed some days.

In the past few years, Natalie spent a lot of time lying to herself about her feelings. She was trying hard to live a normal life, one where her work was separated from her personal life. But for every date she went out on, she rarely went on a second. Regardless if the date was a military man or a former leper, a fireman or an arbitrageur, it never seemed to click. She knew it was foolish, but none of those men she met could meet the impossibly high standard she had set for them. The reason? Because none of those men was Adrian Monk. She'd fallen in love with her boss, and it was as unchangeable as it was unworkable. Irrational as it was impossible. And yet as she stood there on that cool spring evening, she watched him work and listened to him speak to Leland in that gentle, yet, in this arena, self-assured baritone, she knew she would never be able to stop wanting him to love her in return. He was the key to the lock of her heart, and she wanted more than anything to be the key to his.

Natalie tore her mind from her inner turmoil and shrouded feelings and focused firmly on the crime scene in front of her. Watching the man she loved, admitting to herself that it felt good to watch him. Love him. Simultaneously, it also felt terrible. She sighed silently, not wanting to distract Adrian or let him notice her melancholy mood. Her heart lurched a little as he stood straight up and looked into her eyes. She smiled, but the action didn't quite reach her eyes.

As soon as he looked into the aquamarine depths of Natalie's eyes, he knew, despite the smile on her lips. He immediately knew something was distressing her, but he also knew this wasn't the time or the place to find out what it was or to find a way to fix it. He conferred with Leland and Randy, and several other detectives about the body and simultaneously watched as Natalie tuned out for the first time ever on a case. Her mind was definitely elsewhere. He could see it, sense it, feel it. This was the only time this had ever happened in all their years together, aside from the one case they'd worked when she'd become the Lotto girl for those few days back in 2008. It was as if half of him was concentrating on the case, and the other half was staunchly concentrating on Natalie. That would not do. He had to handle work before he could handle Natalie.

Natalie realized she didn't care how the poor dead man was murdered or even why. What they had was a crime that deserved punishment. Two more things that went together. Everywhere she turned lately, she saw things that were meant to be together. In this case, she knew that Leland, Randy, and Adrian wouldn't rest until this "restaurant murderer" was sent to prison. That wasn't her job; her job was to be whatever and wherever Adrian needed her to be. So, she focused on that and got through another late night, another murder.

On the drive away from the crime scene, Adrian shifted in the passenger seat to look more carefully at Natalie. Work done for the night, he was able to turn his thoughts to the personal. He was concerned about how withdrawn she'd been all night, and he decided to probe a little. "What's wrong, Natalie?" He asked with genuine caring in his voice. "You've been distracted all night—since we left home." When she heard the word "home" come out of his mouth, a short sob left her throat involuntarily. "Natalie!"

"I'm okay. Really, I'm just tired." How could she tell him that her heart was in her throat from all of her thoughts, from the way his eyes looked at her with such concern earlier and just then when she dared peek, and then… his use of the word home? As if it was their home together. Looking at her as if he loved her and was worried about her. This had to be a first. Natalie couldn't—wouldn't ever explain to him what the look in his eyes did to her, what the sound of actual distress in his voice over her made her heart almost explode inside her chest. She would never entertain the thought that it could be real, even if it sounded real. Finally, she got a grip on her random and wildly lurching emotions and managed to get them back to his apartment unscathed. Once she saw he was safely inside, only then did she cry all the way home.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

At Berkeley several days later, with the restaurant murders wrapped up due to Adrian's keen observations, they parked in the lot closest to Zellerbach, and they began to walk towards the Vernon DeMars designed building. By then, Natalie had gotten her feelings and emotions back under her tight control, and things felt normal again. It had been another gorgeous spring day that had become a perfect spring evening. Natalie had a bouquet for Julie, and she noted happily that Adrian had a small gift bag with him. He had really become the father figure she'd hoped to provide Julie for far too long. Natalie took Adrian's arm as she'd done so often over the last nine years. He smiled at her briefly and then faced forward again. They walked in and showed their tickets. An usher escorted them to seats on the aisle in the tenth row of the center of the orchestra. This was Adrian's preferred location in any theater. He only had one armrest to share, and he was in the tenth row.

They read their programs, and Natalie noted, "Julie's song ends the first act."

He replied, "So I see." He smiled, thinking how perfect it would be. They could slip out during intermission and not have to stay for the rest of the interminable performances.

As the first act passed, Adrian internally rehearsed what he wanted to say, how it should sound, where he would pause and wait for her to internalize his words. How he imagined her expression would be. Shocked surprise? He stopped his internal practicing as the knight errant, Don Quixote de la Mancha, came onto the stage, and once again, the strains of The Impossible Dream threatened to drown him in their beauty and in their honesty. This time, however, he felt Natalie grasp his hand, and when he turned to look at her, her beautiful eyes were huge and silvery sage green with unshed tears. Apparently, the words had found their mark in her heart and mind as well. Understanding how well they defined him and his existence. When the song ended, the applause was loud and long. The singer definitely had a rare talent. When the clapping had faded away and Natalie's hands had stopped moving, she returned her hand to his in an extraordinary gesture of understanding and support. He smiled to himself and threaded their fingers together, a gesture of thanks and acceptance.

At last, two songs later, Julie and Antonia came onstage and performed their song beautifully. Natalie was taken aback by the content of the song. Now that Julie didn't live at home anymore, Natalie wasn't treated to rehearsals and practices and adjustments to performances as she'd been when Julie was in high school. Natalie missed it. She particularly missed it right now as her shock grew when she listened to words so similar to the ones she'd been thinking about all week about how she and Adrian just fit together. Clearly, based on comments from other people in their lives, they were noticing it too. The hand that she was still holding clasped hers a little more tightly. She looked at him with a sudden new perspective as his smile grew more ironic as he continued to gaze at her with a look in those gorgeous velvety eyes that made her feel like her skin was about to burst into flames. She swallowed with difficulty and ducked her head. She tried to concentrate on Julie and her partner as they sang. Her thoughts were jumbled. Her mind was reeling. What the heck was this situation that had just developed?

When the applause faded away, and the curtain had dropped, Adrian stood and pulled her to her feet. "Come with me," he said urgently. She had no choice. Her hand was still tightly clasped in his. And at that moment, she would have willingly followed him to the end of the universe. As it turned out, she didn't have to go quite that far to have her world turned upside down. They walked silently and quickly away from Zellerbach Hall. He took her to a garden on the far side of Lower Sproul Plaza. It was quiet. Most people tended to mill right by the entrance to the building at intermission. When they got to a spot that Adrian determined was private enough, he turned and encouraged her to sit.

So they sat on a marble bench that was part of a planting sculpture. It was a lovely spot with spring bulbs blooming and the trees in the middle of the statue just unfurling tiny leaves. "Natalie," Adrian began, "I have something I need to tell you."

"Okay," she nodded quickly and encouragingly.

"That song that Julie just sang; I've been thinking about it for over a week. I snuck in to see a rehearsal when I was here last week, after meeting with Dr. Krauss."

"Oh!"

"But the song, the words are wrong, Natalie. It says, 'He is perfection, when I am at fault.' The truth is you are perfection. You. Whenever I do or say something wrong, you know how to fix it. You are the right hand, where I am the left hand. You are the jelly to my peanut butter, as Dr. Beltran said. You are the other part of me. I am literally only half of a person without you, Natalie."

"If this is your way of telling me not to leave you alone, Adrian…sometimes I just have to do some things on my own-"

"No, no. That's not what I'm trying to say at all!" He was messing this up. He blew out a long breath. "You know how left socks and right socks make a pair? And how a car needs a driver?" He questioned her like she was a student in a class here on campus, and he was the professor.

"Yes, of course. What are you getting at?"

"Well, I've been thinking of all the things in life that really require a partner to work as they're supposed to. You know, like a pen and paper or soap and water." That second example made Natalie smirk. "But there are others too. Like wisdom and age, and love and trust and like Julie's song said…." He raised his eyes to hers and placed the small gift bag he'd been carrying on the bench between them. He reached in and pulled out a small box that had a familiar shape, which he placed in her hands as he said the last words. She looked into his eyes for a moment, and when she looked away from his intense gaze, she saw a jewelry box in her hands. She found a very beautiful, very old locket and chain when she lifted the lid.

"...a locket and a chain." Adrian finished his thought. With trembling fingers, Natalie lifted the beautiful antique carefully from its bed of black velvet. She scrutinized it, turning it this way and that, and with fingers still unsteady, she pressed the clasp that allowed the locket to spring open as if it were brand new, not 161 years old. She gasped when she saw the picture. She recognized it immediately, even though it had been reduced and remade in a sepia tone as if it were as old as the locket itself. But her eyes welled when she saw the inscription.

With a deep breath, she said, "Oh, Adrian!" When she read the sentiment she'd longed to see or hear for so long.

"The inscription is original to the locket, Natalie. It's like fate brought it to me - to us." She was speechless. He gently clasped the hand that held the locket. "I love you, Natalie." She looked up from the locket and their hands and into his eyes again. Too stunned to speak, too amazed to respond. Silence was never her style. He looked at her with concern as his arm went around her shoulders. "Are you alright?"

The words put her brain back in gear. She nodded, "Yes. I am perfect. I am stunned. It's like you read my mind. I've been looking for a way to say these words for weeks… I love you too, Adrian. I have for so long, I can't even begin to tell you how-" He stopped her words with a kiss that began with a shy and tentative pressure but grew in passion and force as it continued. The potency of the kiss was enough to leave them both reeling. "I've been saving up all the love I have for you, hiding it in a secret part of my heart that I thought I would never get to show you." This time, she initiated a kiss that left them both breathless and smiling. And wanting more.

When they broke apart again, he leaned back against the smooth marble and laid his fingertips gently on her cheek. "I can't believe this is real, Natalie. It's everything I've been dreaming about for a long time."

"Well, you made it real, with your words and the locket." Inside, Natalie was amazed at his bravery. Amazed at how quickly her dreams, her fantasies could come true.

"Oh! Here, look," he pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket and handed her the papers that came with the locket and chain.

"Addison and Nadine Monroe," she sighed with the romance of what she was reading. "1851. Wow, this sure traveled a long way through time to get to us." When she looked up at him again, she had tears in her eyes. "It was made from gold he pulled out of the river himself! How amazing."

"I'd love to see if we can find out more about them. Addison was an original forty-niner, Natalie. Maybe you could show me on the worldwide Internet computer web thing?"

A smile played on her lips, "Of course. That will be fun." She turned the locket over and saw the monogram of the couple. NMA.

When Adrian saw her looking at the back of the locket, he ventured, "I know this aspect of 'us,' this version, is all-new for us, but you know how I am. When I said I love you, it's forever. I've been thinking about you and how I feel about you for ages and thinking back on how long I've probably felt like this without realizing it. I am so sure of how I feel that I would like it if one day that inscription could stand for Adrian and Natalie Monk." The tears that had been in her eyes finally found their way down her cheeks. A few dripped from her chin. She swiped at them as he smiled and moved to banish the rest with his fingers. "Not quite yet, of course. I think we'll need some time to adjust. To date? To fall more completely in love?"

"I don't think there is 'more completely in love' that I feel right now, Adrian. But as usual, you are right. Maybe we should be a couple for a little while, but maybe not too long, because I will love you forever too, and we do know each other almost as well as two people possibly could." Natalie leaned into him and kissed him gently, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled her body as close to him as she could possibly get. "But we still have a few things to learn about each other," she said against his lips, and he laughed a little nervously.

"Oh, Natalie…"

"It is true." She gave him a sassy, inviting smile.

"Well… maybe we should do something about that gap in our knowledge." His eyes twinkled with a bold combination of mischief and desire. Her eyes widened with shock at his suggestive words and his tone of voice. This was a new side of the man she'd known all these years. It thrilled her, and she was excited to explore this new side of him, one she'd never seen.

They did miss the second act, but the kisses and whispered words of love they shared were well worth it. They managed to separate long enough to make themselves presentable and find Julie backstage to give her the flowers Natalie had brought. Julie looked at the two of them oddly when they gushed about her performance and the show in general and then told her they would see her soon and rushed away. Julie forgot about it in the excitement of the weekend of performances still to come. Meetings with agents and the possibilities still opening up for her future. However, Julie Teeger was nobody's fool. She was also raised around and partly by the greatest detective in the world and knew when something was different or new. She would check in with her mother on Monday to see what was up with the two of them.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Over time, Natalie found she had been very wrong. Because over the next few months and years, she did fall more deeply in love with Adrian. Their lives together were happy and complete. The work they shared, the love they shared, the intimacy they shared, the marriage vows they made and honored, the home they built, the children they created. Each of them finally became the person they were always meant to be because they had, at last, found the love and contentment they had each craved for so long.

#FINIS#