A/N I've often thought that Trudy, despite being married to Adrian, couldn't have known him as well as Natalie does due to the amount of time Natalie and Adrian spend together. Of course, I own nothing except my A/N shipper heart.

Adrian stood quietly, leaning against the archway that led to the ballroom from the hotel's main foyer. He was watching Natalie flit from spot to spot around the vast space as she made sure everything was ready for the gala. She moved like a butterfly moved from flower to flower. Just then, he felt the eyes of one of the bodyguards who'd been retained by the gala committee to watch over the proceedings that evening boring into his back. He tilted his head and shrugged both shoulders—first his right, then his left. He popped his jaw for good measure, hoping the discomfort would fade. The guards' staring was distinctly disagreeable and disconcerting, but necessary, he understood. The valuable auction items, the jewels worn by the ladies in attendance, and the sheer volume of cash in the attendees' pockets and pocketbooks would be worth stealing.

Desperate for comfort, he retrained his thoughts and eyes on Natalie. She was so lovely in a sweeping, strapless red velvet gown. Her hair was swept off the creamy length of her neck in an intricate and delicate-looking design. She looked every inch what she was born to be—a wealthy man's daughter. Diamonds, borrowed from her mother, glittered at her throat, wrist, and ears. Why she still worked for him, spent her free time with him, Adrian had no idea, but he was certainly glad she did. Alright, he had some idea, but that was dangerous territory. It was for later, not right now. He pulled at his bow tie, straightening the already straight silk. He hadn't worn a tuxedo in ages. It felt good to get dressed up. It had felt particularly wonderful when he entered the ballroom and Natalie spotted him. She gave him a smile so wide with her eyes sparkling like the diamonds she wore—that expression on her beautiful face just for him. Those lips… those eyes… he sighed mightily and shifted his weight to his other foot.

How had they gotten here, he wondered as he continued to watch her confer with others, two women Adrian vaguely recognized just from Natalie's descriptions, and she also spoke with the head of security whom he identified as an ex-cop. Several months earlier, somehow, her mother had gotten Natalie to agree to co-chair this gala for the American Heart Association—on Valentine's Day of all days. Natalie, Julie, and Adrian had spent Thanksgiving day at the Davenport estate; a first in all the years Adrian had known the Teegers. Usually, they spent the day with just the three of them, or some years, with Ambrose at his house. This year they were invited, no, maybe a better word would be summoned, to Thanksgiving dinner at the Davenport Estate.

The ambush from Peggy had come just before dinner was served. At the Thanksgiving table between the salad and the soup courses, Natalie had confessed to Adrian she'd had a weak moment, then she described the conversation she'd had with her mother to him in a hushed whisper. She'd foolishly agreed to help her mother for once, to Peggy's absolute delight. Peggy talked about the rich, single men Natalie would meet by doing her mother this favor throughout dinner. Natalie turned and rolled her eyes at Adrian; he suppressed a smirk. He knew chapter and verse what Natalie thought of her mother's matchmaking attempts. Natalie wasn't sure why she'd said yes to Peggy while they were standing together by the bar before dinner. Possibly it was the two glasses of wine Natalie had already consumed just to deal with the meal ahead of them, so her defenses were down. He remembered saying to Natalie after she told him about Peggy's surprise request, "I warned you about the wine and being alone with her," before she grasped his lapels and pulled him close right there at the table. "I should always listen to you," she had whispered with an ironic half-smirk before grazing his cheek with a kiss, quite close to the corner of his mouth. He felt himself blush at the memory just as he'd reddened when she'd kissed him.

His mind left November and came back to the present. He'd never seen Natalie looking so lovely as she did tonight. Peggy was right about one thing: a line of men would be out the door wanting to dance with her, romance her. He realized he had clenched his hands and his jaw uncomfortably. Of course, he was preemptively jealous. Covetous. Of her time, of her smile, of her body. He wanted it all…all to himself. She was shining so brightly - like a jewel on a velvet pillow. One he wanted to steal and keep for himself. He'd never seen that dress; he knew it had been purchased especially for tonight. He looked at the highlights in her hair shining bright in the pinpoint lights raining on her from all directions, and that also made her eyes sparkle brilliantly. He couldn't believe this night had arrived so quickly; she'd been so nervous and excited for the last few days. Her excitement was contagious, so he was sort of, if not excited, then happy observing her excitement grow.

The room began to fill with elegantly dressed people, and music began to filter through the air. Once again, he watched Natalie in bewildered amazement as she greeted people and shook hands, and smiled and laughed. How did she do that, he speculated briefly. She made small talk and put people at ease with her quick mind and beauty. He observed her grab a glass of champagne from a passing cater-waiter's tray and saw her chest rise and fall quickly as she breathed a sigh of relief. He knew her various expressions of relief, exasperation, and happiness by heart. He hoped he would also know her expressions of desire and satisfaction by night's end. This time, when he shifted his weight, he was slightly uncomfortable with himself.

In the months since Thanksgiving, Julie returned to Berkeley for intersession classes to earn additional credits in her double major, and crime, as it always did, slowed to a crawl in the winter. So Natalie and Adrian had to find other ways to keep themselves busy. Natalie worked on the gala, but that didn't require as much time as she thought it might. She had been one of many on the committee. Dividing the work made it go more quickly. Apparently, her mother's matchmaking was seriously extended to the entire time - planning and the night of the gala. Adrian was partly puzzled as to why Natalie would have none of it—the opportunities and the men with interest were plentiful. The rest of him was relieved, something else that he couldn't confidently understand or explain.

Meanwhile, Adrian and Natalie had begun taking on private cases a few years ago to fill their time and supplement their income. They were definitely making more money and living more comfortably. This allowed them other pleasures in their free time. They went to museums, went to the theater, and haunted Brick Row, a rare and antique book shop on Geary Street, a favorite pastime as they were both voracious readers. They took walks in the botanical gardens and the zoo. They even went away for long weekends up and down the coast of California. Each activity drew them closer and closer. Shared fun, shared learning, shared experiences made them more of a team, more of a pair.

At the end of each workday, neither wanted their time together to end, so they extended it by cooking and eating together, finding television shows they could enjoy together. They even tried out the new "binge-watching" trend and found many old shows they could enjoy together via Natalie's ability to navigate the latest cable television devices. No more Channel Ten as the only alternative to limit his entertainment choices and pop culture knowledge. Natalie had coached him to broaden his horizons, and he'd enjoyed what she'd taught him. She'd broken him from his protective shell and ingrained rituals in so many ways. He'd really begun channeling his disorders in a host of productive ways other than solving crimes, instead of being debilitated by them, thanks to Natalie's kind, sensitive care. The result? Their lives were bound together by more than work now. But they assiduously avoided discussing what was happening between them, but they each felt the subtle changes.

One evening, on a cold and rainy early January night right after New Year's Eve, they were watching Rebecca, the film from 1940. It was storming in the movie just as it was outside Natalie's house. Oddly, the movie echoed their situation in some additional ways. In the film, a self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat's wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife's spectral presence. In their case, Adrian was the self-conscious person, Natalie, the daughter of aristocrats that they both tried to fit in around. And of course, Natalie was the woman trying to avoid being intimidated by Adrian's wife's spectral presence. As the particularly brutal winter rainstorm raged outside, rather than risking Natalie driving both ways in the awful weather, they agreed that Adrian would spend the night, as he often did these days. It was simple; he had extra clothes and toiletries there, and now with Adrian so much more considerate and less self-absorbed, he didn't lodge a complaint about not going home. He simply turned back to the television. They were comfortably settled on the couch, each with a blanket and a huge shared bowl of popcorn between them.

The film, a beautifully made Hitchcock work, had always captivated Natalie's imagination. They were so caught up in the movie, Natalie inadvertently began talking about the future—a future she wanted them to share. She and Adrian were on her green couch munching popcorn and enjoying the movie when she absently said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a fantastic old house like Manderley one day?"

Adrian's hand, full of cinnamon-coated popcorn, stopped on the way to his mouth when her words infiltrated his brain. If we could have a house… did she mean it? Is that what she really wanted? He didn't make a sound, waiting for her to realize what she had said. But she did not. Or she didn't acknowledge it, at least. The movie went on, but Monk's brain had totally checked out. He was internally jumping from thought to thought as his body sat perfectly still. What had she meant by what she said? Finally, the movie ended, and Natalie snapped off the television with the remote, and they both began cleaning up the popcorn crumbs.

"What a great movie, right?" Natalie asked cheerfully.

"Hmm? Yes. Great film. Hitchcock was a genius." Only Adrian's own genius could keep him talking about one thing when his mind was elsewhere. He plopped back onto the couch.

"Adrian? Are you okay?" She'd been calling him Adrian for the past year or so, at his insistence. Now it seemed too intimate, too full of unspoken promise.

"Uh, yeah. I think. Natalie, could you sit down?"

"And stop cleaning? Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes. I am sure. I think."

Natalie squinted at him suspiciously as she sat down beside him. His expression worried her. She raised a hand to his forehead to check if he was feverish. Instead, he quickly grabbed her wrist and stopped it before it reached his face and gently took her hand in his.



"Did you… did you mean what you said before?"

"Before when?"

Adrian swallowed as he recalled her words. "You don't remember what you said about Manderley? And about… us?"

Natalie shrugged noncommittally when she thought back. Oh no! She lowered her eyes from Adrian's, realizing her feelings had been laid bare accidentally.

"Natalie?" He spoke like a parent to an unforthcoming child.

"Alright, yes, I recall what I said."

"Did you mean it? Do you want us, you and me, to share a house like Manderley one day?"

"Oh, Adrian." She dropped his hand, stood, and began to pace in front of the couch. "I never meant… I didn't mean for you to ever know how I … that I… what I feel. For you, I mean. I didn't want to disrupt the rhythm of our lives, our work, our friendship. We have so much together, and I know wanting more is ridiculous and impossible for you. It's just… It's just that I've been falling in love with you little by little for years, and I know it's absurd. You will never… and I will always be just Nat, one of the guys… and you can't let go of… and even though you're so much better than you were when we met, will you ever be able to… you know… and … could you ever… want…" with that, Natalie burst into tears. She slid to the floor in a pile of quivering emotion.

"Good God, Natalie. Are you alright?" He knelt next to her and smoothed her hair back from her face. He'd long been able to touch her without fear, but the jumble of words that had just fallen from her mouth made everything confusing, emotional, and extremely scary. She nodded in answer, scooted away from his touch, for both of their sakes, and wound up back against the wall.

She got herself under some control, although her eyes were still full of tears and agony. "Adrian, I'm so sorry. Can we just pretend I never said anything and go back to the way things were three hours ago? Please? Let's just say goodnight."

Natalie stood then and sprinted up the stairs. He heard the soft click of the latch from her bedroom door. He rocked back from his knees and wound up sitting on the floor stunned. She was in love with him. He didn't know what to do with that information. Then she wanted to take it back? He sat and listened to the rain on the windows, and he heard Natalie moving around as she completed her bedtime rituals. He got up to finish the cleaning as he thought about their relationship. The years they had invested in one another. Then, finally, he too mounted the stairs to head to the guest room, a place he had spent so many nights in the past seven years; his head was pounding, his heart was racing, and for the first time in years, he had no idea what the morning would bring.


As it turned out, the morning brought… nothing. Just an utterly typical breakfast until the phone rang with a case. Even that was ordinary. What was extraordinary was that nothing that happened last night was discussed. Nothing was said about the night before, either at breakfast or in the car on the way to the scene of the crime they'd been called to investigate. The car ride was non-verbal, mostly because Natalie had turned on the radio in the car, and the news was impossible to have a conversation over. Natalie behaved as she always had, although now he knew that this behavior was an act covering feelings and emotions she'd been hiding from him for God only knew how long.

This went on for the next forty days. Normal meals, normal crime scenes, normal grocery shopping. Normal, normal, normal. Except it was anything but. Natalie's words from that stormy night had made Adrian examine everything he'd felt since the day he'd met the lovely Ms. Teeger and everything he wanted for himself and his future. Everything from how she'd impressed him in the science museum that first day when she put the costumed white corpuscle in his place. To the day she'd come to Nevada to find him after his fake death and covered his face in kisses and squeezed him so tightly in her slim arms. To the day she'd tried to get him to look at a double rainbow and then kept his hypnotized seven-year-old self from harm. To all of the cases they'd worked together. To this past Thanksgiving dinner at the Davenports, Natalie was a little tipsy and kissed his cheek, just at the corner of his mouth. He spoke at length with Dr. Bell and Leland as well. He needed all the help he could get to sort out his jumbled and confused thoughts and feelings. Some detective he was! The clues to her feelings were all there through the years, as Dr. Bell pointed it all out clearly and cleverly without making him feel like a complete fool. How she made him a part of her and Julie's lives. How she took care of him and put herself second in every way to help him recover. How her tender ministrations had been a more significant percentage of the reason he'd recovered as far as he had than Dr. Bell himself.

When he brought his problem to Leland, the police captain smacked his desk, shocking Adrian, and shouted, "Finally!" In the face of Monk's consternation.

"You knew how she felt?" Leland rolled his eyes and his shoulders and twirled in his chair.

"Monk, it was pretty hard to miss. The bigger question is, how did you not know?"

Monk sat deep in his miserable self-pity in one of the stiff back visitors' chairs in front of Leland's desk, wondering the same thing. "I. Don't. Know. I wish I did." Monk sighed with desperation. "Leland, can you tell me how I feel?" Leland laughed.

"Well, no. Only you can do that, but from my observation, I would draw the conclusion that you feel a lot of powerful, life-altering emotions around this subject, and also from years of observation, it is my opinion that you're in love with our beautiful Natalie."

"Why didn't you tell me that? Warn me?"

"About what exactly?"

"About the fact that I was falling in love and to stop!" Leland threw up his hands and left Monk in his office to stew in his own misery. Knowing that he'd tried over the years, and now Monk had to go the rest of the way on his own.

It took weeks of contemplation and sorting his wide-ranging emotions into manageable compartments. He finally concluded that, yes, he was in love too. Although he never thought it would happen to him again, it had slowly crept up on him like a shadow. Always there, but ignored until someone pointed it out. He supposed he always knew on some level that he had fallen in love with Natalie. Still, the disloyalty Adrian felt towards Trudy always overshadowed what he wanted for himself until he solved her murder and could move on and give in to his own needs.

Well, what better day to give in to his desires at last than Valentine's Day? All he wanted now was to take Natalie in his arms and dance her around the dance floor. Hold her close and feel her heart beating against his chest. To move his lips up the smooth skin of her throat to capture her lips with his. To never stop kissing her or touching her. He definitely wanted her; of that, he had no doubt. But would she allow her relocked down feelings to be free at last if he confessed his feelings to her? He knew she didn't want to ruin what they already had—which he agreed was pretty great. But they could have so much more, he was sure of it, or his name wasn't Adrian Monk.

Adrian circled the dance floor and watched couples in San Francisco's version of "le bon ton" dance and laugh. He spotted Natalie in the arms of a tall blond man whom he did not recognize. But Adrian could see the man was sporting a gold band on his left ring finger, so Adrian held his jealousy in check. He continued to the auction tables and looked at the beautiful items, experiences, and collectibles up for auction tonight that he knew would fetch a hefty sum for the American Heart Association. Oh, to have such deep pockets, Adrian thought. He knew that his private consulting was doing well. Still, Adrian sincerely doubted it would ever allow him luxuries like month-long private yacht cruises in the Mediterranean, percentages of diamond mines, or season tickets to the opera. Well, he was far better off than he had been seven years ago, he thought with a smile. Emotionally, financially, in every way. He could afford the things that mattered. The things that would matter to Natalie. He patted the pocket that contained a meaningful gift for the most extraordinary woman.

Finally, Natalie was free and made her way over to him. She looked over the auction tables, pleased with the contents and the table layout.

"I knew you were intelligent and talented, Natalie, but I had no idea you could do something like this."

"It must be genetic," she replied with a one-shoulder shrug as she turned to face him with a sardonic smile. Her lips were as red as her dress, and she had another glass of champagne in her hand, her nails the same shade of red.

"Who is the blond gentleman you were dancing with just now?" He tried to keep his voice neutral as he inquired.

"Oh, Daniel Moss. He's one of the committee members. He's married to a cardiac surgeon. He's a 'kept' man, you could say. Spends his time on charities and other good works. You should see their condo. Those two men have such good taste."

Adrian internally rejoiced. Taken and gay. Whew. He smiled and nodded at her. Then looked down at the nearest auction item. Then he looked back into her eyes.

Natalie sipped her champagne and looked at him over the rim of the crystal flute. He seemed different tonight, but she had no idea why. Was it the tuxedo making him look so dashing and sexy? Stop it, Natalie!

A new song started. One Natalie remembered from high school. Her first homecoming dance. But this wasn't high school. This wasn't a homecoming dance. This was her life, and the man she loved was looking at her like he had something on his mind. The strains of Chris deBurgh's Lady in Red played, and Adrian held out his hand to her.

"Natalie, would you like to dance?"

She spoke around a lump that threatened to choke her and said, "Yes, I'd love to." She placed her glass on the nearest cocktail table and took his smooth, warm hand.

Adrian led her to the dance floor as the song played, singing his thoughts, his feelings. "I'll never forget the way you look tonight, Natalie. You are simply dazzling. I don't have the words to describe what I've been thinking and feeling as I've watched you tonight." His voice was uneven with emotion, yet he danced her smoothly around the floor, holding her close, resting his cheek against her temple. He let the song say what he was thinking for a little while as he hummed along.

I've never seen you looking so gorgeous as you did tonight,

I've never seen you shine so bright; you were amazing,

I've never seen so many people want to be there by your side,

And when you turned to me and smiled, it took my breath away,

And I have never had such a feeling,

Such a feeling of complete and utter love, as I do tonight;

Natalie pulled back to look him in the eyes. What was happening here? She decided to just enjoy being held by the man she not-so-secretly adored and take it for the gift it was. They swayed, bodies close and snugly tucked together. The music played on, and they both wished it would last forever, but as songs do, this one came to an end with the words, "I love you…." Adrian pulled away slightly and looked into Natalie's stunning eyes, "Natalie, I love you." Her eyes widened and filled with tears and that same pain that he'd seen on that night in January. Natalie broke from his arms and ran as quickly as her high red heels would carry her. After a shocked moment, Adrian followed in her wake until they ended up on the terrace of the ballroom, in the chill of the February night.


"Stop! Go away, Adrian." She doubled over, crossing her arms over her stomach, looking for all the world like she was in terrible pain, which she was, although it wasn't physical.

"But Natalie!"

"Adrian, I told you to stop. I also told you to forget what I said that night. I don't need you to patronize me. I've never known you to be this cruel. I'm an adult. I can control my feelings. I can control my actions. I'm not leaving you or changing our relationship, or quitting us. I will continue to work for you. You and I will probably each die alone and unloved. You don't have to worry." She began to cry then, in earnest.

"Natalie," he placed a hand gently on her bare shoulder. She yanked away from his touch.

"No," she sobbed.

"Natalie, he said again, "look at me, please. This isn't a game." His voice had taken on a severe and stern tone.

"It took me six weeks, Natalie, and dozens of sleepless nights, conversations with Leland, Dr. Bell, and a lot of self-talk. I don't want each of us to die alone and unloved. I finally understand that I've been in love with you for years, maybe since the day we met. Remember the white corpuscle at the museum? I knew right then and there that you intrigued me. That intrigue turned to interest, and the interest turned to desire. But as I always do when things are uncomfortable, I pushed the feelings away, pushed them down. I felt guilty about Trudy at the same time, I felt unworthy of you. You know me, I'm complicated and difficult, and I tend to make everything more complicated and difficult than it needs to be." Natalie choked out a short laugh between her tears.

Adrian continued, "Honestly, there should have been nothing complicated about this. Loving you is really quite easy. So natural. It's why we've always got on so well. Why our life together—outside of work, I mean, has blossomed the way it has. Think of all of the time we've spent with each other. I would never have spent this much time with anyone else or have been so at ease with it. I didn't even spend this much time with Trudy day in and day out. In fact, she might have murdered me if we had. No one has ever loved me enough to be as patient and understanding, and kind as you have been with me. Looking back, I can't believe I wasted so much time. I love you, Natalie," he declared fervently, "I want that house. Our Manderley. Hopefully without the ghosts and the crazy Mrs. Danvers, of course. I want to fill it with love and laughter and the scents of your baking and us cooking together… and maybe, if you think it's possible… some other little people?"

Natalie looked at him in surprise and with no small amount of joy, her tears of hurt and anger rapidly turning to tears of happiness and hope. "Are you sure?"

"One hundred percent."

"Wow, that's very sure."

"I've never been more sure about anything, truly, Natalie. This isn't a game or a ploy to keep you working for me or anything more than love. There is no 'catch!'" She smiled through the rest of her tears as he assuaged her fears and his own biggest fear: the inevitable 'catch,' which she had advised him time and again there wasn't one where she was concerned. He reached into his pocket and took out a long flat jewelers box. "Natalie, will you be my Valentine tonight… and always?"

"I've been your Valentine for a long time, Adrian."

"Well, let's make it official, shall we?"

Natalie opened the velvet box and inside found a charm bracelet. She carefully examined the bracelet. The first charm was a rose-gold heart with the letters A & N engraved and entwined with an ampersand between them. The next was what looked like a human cell; it was shiny in white-gold. As she traced her finger over it, she looked at him, and simultaneously they said, "I'd like to know less about you," and laughed. There was a yellow-gold goldfish, a silver police badge, a tiny casino chip created from peridots and white gold, a tiny enamel magnifying glass, a small onyx chess queen, a gold silhouette of a little girl with the letter "J" on it, a gold rainbow with the colors enameled on the front. Natalie remembered each case or shared event the charms represented, and she could see there was also room for additional charms.

"There's room for the future, for additional charms," he smiled a boyish smile that allowed his dimples to appear.

She loved that smile. "It's just beautiful. Please help me put it on?"

"Are you sure, with this gown and the diamonds?"

"It means more to me than a million diamonds, and it will go with anything I wear because it's from you." He smiled bashfully and clasped it around her wrist, and locked it. She gently fingered the charm that represented Julie. "Did you mean it when you mentioned wanting some 'little people' to fill a house with us?"

"Yes, Natalie, if you want to, I want to have children with you. You know how much I love Julie, but I would also love for us to have children together."

Natalie swallowed a gasp. Even if she had ever imagined he would ever love her, she had never once imagined this. She shivered with the thrill of the idea. A baby. Babies… with Adrian. She could already picture them. She could see them in his eyes.

He pulled her towards him and wrapped her in his arms, "Are you cold?"

"A little, but not enough to go inside yet. Adrian, you're sure you want to be…with me? Have a family…with me?"

"Yes, I've stopped being afraid because with you by my side, I can do anything. I really believe that. I believe in us." Natalie smiled and bit the inside of her cheek. She lowered her eyes to Adrian's mouth and traced his lips with her index finger. He kissed her finger, and then Adrian covered her lips with his, and for the first time, the love they each felt was expressed without words but with their bodies. They were fused together out on that terrace until they really couldn't handle the chilly air any longer. They escaped to an alcove with a leather banquet and privacy within the ballroom. Several of these alcoves and private spaces dotted the edges of the ballroom. Some were occupied by other couples looking for privacy. As many times as he'd been in this building, in this very ballroom for different events, once for a case, he'd ignored or overlooked these small intimate spaces. Out of näivete or plain, obstinate, purposeful ignorance. Now the private space was all Adrian Monk craved, aside from the woman he wanted to share it with.

They sat facing each other as they had a million times before, and Natalie reached her hand to Adrian's face, her small palm cupping his cheek, the bracelet he'd given her tinkling near his ear. He turned his face and placed a kiss in the center of her palm. "I've been a fool, Natalie. I've caused you so much pain. I've wasted so much time. I'm sorry."

She looked at him with an expression that was half love, half forgiveness. "I guess it just took one of us finally saying something to stop wasting time."

"And yet, I let another six weeks go by."

"Six weeks, seven years… at this point, we need to stop looking back and counting and start looking forward."

He moved in toward her and kissed her as if his life depended upon it. "Well, even if you said it accidentally, I'm so glad you did. I can't remember ever feeling this happy or this intensely connected to another person's emotions. I can feel you inside my heart, in my mind. I've discovered that all I want to do is make you happy, make you feel good, and make you feel safe."

"I want all of those things too, but not here. Can we go home?"

"I would like that."

"Until we have our Manderley… which home do you want to go to?"

"Whichever is closest because wherever you are is where I'm home, Natalie."