A/N: As usual I own nothing of Monk besides my A/N Shipper heart! Monk and Natalie are at a party on New Year's Eve. They wind up in each other's arms at the stroke of midnight. What will happen? A supershort story! Post "THE END"


The noise of the ball drop from the TV, party horns, the laughter, and the general merriment was overwhelming. Adrian awkwardly hugged TK, and when he turned, he found Natalie, just twirling out of Sergeant Steiner's hug and into his arms. The surprise of finding himself face to face with her, just like he'd often dreamt it … was disquieting. His arms came around her back, and hers went around his neck automatically. Without thinking, their lips crashed together in an explosive, passionate kiss...the likes of which neither had experienced in well over a decade, if ever before. Neither had the will to stop it. The noise and activity around them ceased to exist for them. The only thing either could hear was their own blood rushing, and the only thing they could feel was the touch of the other. Lips, tongues, chests, arms, hands, fingers. Finally, they broke apart only to realize no one around them had even noticed what the two of them had been doing. The glory of a holiday, cops, and alcohol. They stood there simply staring at each other, Adrian's cheeks, which had been flushed, drained of all color as Natalie's uneven breathing slowed. The expression on both of their faces was one of shock. Not horror, just surprise, and revelation.

"Happy New Year, Adrian…" Natalie tried for jovial nonchalance. She could still feel his soft curly hair under her fingertips.

Finally, Adrian stuttered, "I'm sorry Natalie, so…sorry," and turned on his heel then ran from the room. Mortified by what he'd just done. By how much he'd enjoyed it.

Natalie tried to get a hold of the ricocheting emotions warring for prominence in her mind. Love, of course, that one was always there; she couldn't stop it if she tried. But fear, anger, sorrow, excitement, and discomfort were all banging around in there now too. Where could he go? She was his ride.

Natalie waited for a few minutes. Giving him space to calm down. He was probably upset and agitated. That kiss was certainly something to get agitated over. It was pretty spectacular. All feeling and no thinking, at least for her. It seemed he, too, was feeling something and not thinking. That would be a first. Eventually, she walked through the house in the direction he'd gone. She grabbed their coats from the study while on her hunt. She finally found him out on the front porch, alone, shivering a little. Hands in his pockets, eyes closed as he leaned on a garland-covered post.

"Hi," she said quietly.

He opened his eyes, and there she was, handing him his coat. As always, there with what he needed most—exactly when he needed it. He took the coat from her outstretched hand, and their fingers brushed briefly. She saw his Adam's apple bob quickly, nervously.

"Th-thank you."

"I'll leave you alone."

"No, Natalie, wait. Please." More than anything, more than the look in his eyes, the sound of his voice, it was the word "please" that made her stay. One word he so rarely remembered to use in his dealings with other human beings. He was often terse, short, and used to getting his way. Natalie knew it wasn't because he was rude or meaning to be hurtful; he was simply either oblivious or trying to be expedient. So she stayed. They remained there on the Stottlemeyer's front porch, silent. Each kind of lost in thought but hyper-aware of the other person. Of course, they wound up speaking simultaneously.

"Natalie…"

"Adrian…"

They laughed; the tension eased slightly.

"Natalie, I apologize."

"For what, exactly?" Monk often apologized for things when he had no idea what the right thing to do would be, a kind of insurance policy against wrongdoing. Blanket coverage for when he wasn't sure what to apologize for in the first place.

He stared at her for a moment as if she were a little daft. "For what? For before. For assaulting you."

"Adrian…"

"Let me finish," petulant and childish but sorrowful. "I did something unforgivable, so I understand if you need to quit. And you never ever want to see me again. And if you need to leave me here. I'll get a ride or take a cab home."

"Adrian," she began again. It was a good thing she'd started calling him by his first name last year. This was not a conversation for Mr. Monk and his assistant. "First, you didn't assault me." She shook her head at the very idea that Adrian Monk would hurt a woman. "Second, I'm not quitting or leaving you here unless that's what you want me to do, as I'm equally responsible for that really incredible kiss."

"Of course, I don't want you to quit. You are irreplaceable, Natalie. Where could I ever find an assistant, a partner, a friend, a woma… uh...anyone like you ever again?" He paused. His brain caught up with her words. "Incredible?" Her eyes sparkled at him like emeralds.

"I know you don't like physical contact, but even you must admit, it was a great first kiss." Her lips curved in just the right way to send his heartbeat skyrocketing.

"First?" He squeaked. He looked at her with fear and longing in his eyes.

"If I'm reading you right."

"Reading me?" All he could do was echo her, it seemed.

"Yes, we're two adults, Adrian. Two grown people who've both been alone and lonely a long, long time." He nodded. She went on, "This is the perfect time to tell you, I've been in love with you for a very long time, and what better day to tell you than at the start of a clean, fresh new year?" He blinked at her in response, so she continued. "I think the reason we kissed just before was that it was a natural, spontaneous extension of all the years we've been together. The experiences we've shared. Added to the fact that when we're together, we aren't lonely. I know you don't usually do 'spontaneous,' but I think somewhere inside of you, your heart did it for you!"

Adrian knew he had to say something. The first thing he said was, "Is this even legal?"

Natalie furrowed her brow. "What do you mean? I'm over 18, you're over 18, we're both single, heterosexual humans. What would be illegal about this?"

"Well, I do pay you, semi-regularly, anyway."

"I think our feelings go beyond prostitution, Adrian!" Natalie exclaimed, more than a little angry.

"No! No, no, no, no, no…. That isn't what I meant. I meant I'm technically your boss. Isn't that …um…" he tripped over the word "...sexual…um, harassment?"

"Oh my God, Adrian!"

"What?"

"People have relationships, affairs, and fall in love at work all the time. Most people only ever see the people they work with or see them more than anyone else in their lives. It's how many relationships start!"

"They do? It is?"

She grinned up at him. "We really have to do something about the gaps in your social knowledge. Yes, they do, Adrian. How many people have you put away for killing their lovers? How many of them worked with that lover before they became involved?"

"A lot, I suppose. But Natalie, I would never kill you."

"Well, I would hope I'd never give you a reason to!" She laughed a little. "But my point stands, we've spent a lot of time together in the last eight years. We know each other very well. Better than we know anyone else in our lives, I'd wager. The first person I think of when I get up is you. The last person I think of at night is you. I often wish you were there when I go to sleep, Adrian. I want your arms around me."

He moved then to fulfill her desire. He put his arms around her and pulled her towards him, so her head was pillowed on his chest. "Years ago, when I went to sleep, Natalie, my last thoughts used to be of Trudy. For years and years. Then one day, my last thoughts of the day? They were of you. What were you doing, reading, thinking? Then my guilt and anger would get the better of me, and I'd force myself to concentrate on the past instead of what I really wanted for the future. Which I felt I couldn't have until I solved Trudy's murder and could think of myself again." She heard him sniffle a little. "But little by little, even before we solved the case and found Molly, I started letting myself think about the future and about you and your beautiful eyes more and more. You occupied my dreams and my heart, yet I was so afraid you would leave me like everyone else has in my life."

She pulled back from him for a moment and looked into his sad eyes. "Adrian, I will never leave you. Not if the world is ending, not if something else drastic is happening. I told you, I love you. I do. You know I don't lie to you. Definitely not about the big stuff."

"And you know I can't lie." Natalie nodded, thinking of their very first adventure together. Realizing she'd met an honest man for the first time, possibly ever. Even Mitch had lied occasionally. "I love you, Natalie. I don't even know how long I've loved you, but I do. I don't think I can ever stop. You know me—when I love, it's forever." Natalie offered him a teary smile and a small laugh. "Can I… may I kiss you again, Natalie?"

"Yes, please!" She tasted of champagne and chocolate, of love and desire. He didn't want to stop kissing her. It had been so long since he'd wanted anyone this way, and to be graced with this feeling for someone he knew so well was like a gift. No fear, no weirdness, just need and want and love. When their lips parted this time, instead of shock, there were shy smiles.

"You're right, Natalie. This is definitely an excellent way to start the new year. I can't wait to see what the rest of it looks like." He was looking forward for a change, not back.

"I know it's going to be wonderful. And happy. I promise you the days are going to be filled with happiness, always."

#FINIS#