A/N I, as usual, own nothing of MONK, except my foolish romantic heart. This takes place after THE END, of course. One of a thousand ways the intrepid writers could have gotten A&N together if they'd had any romance in their souls!

Adrian wandered the spotless wooden floors of his apartment Wednesday night, humiliated and agonizingly hurt. He knew that he'd wounded her too, but Adrian knew he could fix it. It was humiliating to be so wrong. It was idiotic to continue to stand there in his wrongness as if he believed he'd been right. But, of course, he didn't actually believe that. No matter how right he usually was, he'd never been so wrong. It had been two days since he'd seen her, heard her voice, felt her touch. He was dying inside. Literally withering without her...

It all started Monday when Natalie walked in while he was looking through a photo album. He'd lost track of time. He'd meant to be done by the time she'd gotten there. A photo he'd been holding, studying really, had slipped to the floor when he heard her call, "Hello, Mr. Monk!" just as she did every day. He'd trembled and lost his loose hold on the edge of the picture. She breezed in and placed her purse on the hook by the door, and swiftly made her way to him in the living room.

"Good morning! Whatcha doing?" she asked as he tried to slide the photo he'd been staring at so intensely under the side table with his toe.

"N-nothing!" He exclaimed nervously.

"Uh-oh, what is it?" She asked with worry in her voice. She hadn't seen him so nervous since well before he'd gotten the resolution to Trudy's murder. Natalie couldn't imagine what had happened between eight o'clock the night before and eight o'clock this morning. He was so much better at being alone these days. Oddly, it was she who was having more trouble being alone lately. Adjusting to life with Julie in college and a boss who wasn't quite as needy as he used to be. It was almost as if she missed those days, she mused as she watched him fidget nervously. Almost. She concentrated back on Adrian.

Adrian knew he did miss those days. When he needed her more, and she somehow knew what to do to soothe him. Every time. A soft shoulder rub. A hug. A caress on his forearm. A gentle pat on his hand. He missed those days in a specific way. Of course, he didn't miss his complete depression and lostness, but he missed needing her that way. In fact, he still needed her that way, just differently. That made no sense, Adrian; he chastised himself. He had no way of knowing they were each basically thinking the same thoughts. Although neither expressed it aloud, they just did not want to be alone. Nor did they ever want to be without the other.

"Well? I'm waiting." She looked at him with her intensely green eyes, curious yet warm and friendly. Gorgeous, if he was honest.

"Nothing. Just straightening some photos and putting them into albums."

"Any new ones? Let me see!"

"No, just some of Trudy and ones you've seen of Molly. I wanted to see them side by side at the same ages. It was a fascinating project." He lied. Kind of. He had done that album a while ago. The album in his hands was a different one. He placed it back on his bookshelf, not showing it to Natalie, who simply shrugged and turned to go to the kitchen, coffee on her mind, not photos of Trudy and Molly.

Adrian felt relief when she didn't pry further. Well, pry was an ugly word. Incorrect. Natalie never pried. She let him come to her when he was ready. One of the many things that Natalie did that had helped him recover so much of his humanity when she came to work for him. So it was, when she didn't ask any further questions that he'd need to lie to answer, he felt relieved. He didn't like lying to her. He couldn't successfully lie to her for long. He grabbed the newspaper she'd brought in and went to the kitchen to join her for their shared breakfast.

Hours later, they'd cleaned the breakfast dishes, met a private client they were collecting a check from, and who luckily provided them with a lead for a new client. Then, they went to the Police Station to meet Leland for a briefing on the case they'd caught the day before. It had been a whirlwind of a day, and after a quick debate about dinner and a stop at the market, they settled on meatballs and spaghetti. They both enjoyed being busy, being together, working, and talking. Adrian made the sauce, his mother's recipe, and Natalie made the meatballs with the melon baller he'd gotten long ago just for that purpose. They worked side by side in his kitchen, effortlessly, companionably, listening to the news from the small TV on the counter.

Natalie went to the bathroom to freshen up while the meatballs simmered and Adrian cleaned the kitchen. On her way back to the kitchen, something out of place in Adrian's compulsively, obsessively neat, and organized home caught her eye. Something white was sticking out from beneath one of the end tables in the living room. When she bent to retrieve the offending item, Adrian saw what she was doing and rushed to try and intervene.

"Natalie!" he said sharply. "Don't!"

It was too late. Her fingers had already closed on the edge of the white square. Natalie lifted the stiff card-like object and saw that it was blank. Once she turned it over, she looked at what she saw with puzzlement. What was a picture of her doing on the floor of Adrian's apartment? She didn't recognize the photo. It was her face, close up, in profile. Her expression in the photo was curious and excited. Her expression looking at the picture was mystified and confused.


He swallowed and had no answer for the unasked question Natalie had posed. So he asked one of his own. "Yes?"

"What is this?"

"A photograph of you. Your profile, to be specific."

"Yes, I can see that. What I mean is, I don't recognize this photo; I don't remember it. Where was it taken? How did you get it?"

"I don't recall," he lied. Badly.

"You. Don't. Recall. You, Adrian Monk." She narrowed her eyes. "You are lying."

He nodded mournfully. "One of the crime scene guys took it while you were watching me. He had a crush on you. So I told him to…to keep his distance. And I kept the pictures. And the… thing… with the negatives…digital ones… the uh, SD card."

Natalie didn't know which piece of information to address first. The fact that one of the CSI guys liked her and Adrian hadn't mentioned it—neither had the guy. Or that Adrian had basically threatened said CSI guy. Natalie wouldn't want a guy who wasn't brave enough to face Adrian's wrath anyway. But still. Or that Adrian kept the photos the guy took and the SD card and was apparently embarrassed and keeping all of that a secret. Suddenly, a thought struck her. She strode to the handsome bookcase against the far wall and opened the door. She pulled out the photo album she'd seen him with that morning. It was white with golden embossing. He remained silent but ran a hand across his eyes.

Shocked, Natalie slowly turned the pages of the album. Pictures of her filled the pages from the various cases they'd worked, again photos taken at crime scenes. Some from the press and some from the CSIs. Pictures she'd had taken of them by strangers on the short trips they'd taken. Newspaper clippings with pictures. Pictures of her with Julie. Pictures of her with Adrian at parties and the Stottlemeyer's wedding. Julie's high school graduation, the three posed like a family. Some photos saw her smiling at the camera; in some, she clearly didn't know she was being photographed. All she could think was, How? Why? One more thought… look at my expression in this picture, the one still in her hand.

"Adrian?" she asked again. Leaving the rest of the question dangling and unsaid. He, however, clearly understood what she meant because he looked nervous but moved to take her hand and guide her to the couch.

"Natalie." He swallowed. "Natalie," he started again, nervously. "I've really… I've wanted to tell you for a while that I have been feeling things. Uncomfortable, embarrassing, unusual things. I didn't mean to feel them. They snuck up and then hit me hard, and I've tried to put them away, wish them away, shove them to the back of my mind. I don't want these feelings. I can't... I shouldn't have these feelings."

Natalie sat silently, trying to process what Adrian, in his most Adrian-ish way, was trying to say. He was having feelings for her that he didn't want, yet he was keeping an album of her photographs. So he was denying the feelings he was having, yet preventing another man from acting on his feelings for her, and not bothering to find out how she, herself, may have felt, even after seeing the expression on her face in this photo. And worst of all, the man who purported to be her best friend did not even deign to tell her any of this—or even hint at it. Natalie didn't know whether to be flattered, angry, hurt, or all three. She decided upon hurt … that was the most prominent feeling. She blew out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding.

"So what you're saying is you may have some very confusing and unsettling feelings for or about me... and rather than discuss it like a mature man, you squirrel away secret photos to take out and obsess over when I'm not around, the same way you used to do over Trudy. Or still do for all I know. Except, my darling Adrian, I'm very much alive, and I have feelings, too. A lot of them. The ones I'm feeling most right now are hurt and anger."

"Natalie… I'm sorry… I didn't mean to…."

"No, Adrian, you never mean to do anything." She moved away from him. "I can't live like this anymore. I've been desperately in love with you for years. Dating other men, hoping they'd break me of my own obsession… my obsession with you. It never worked. Now you're not even allowing me the option to date. You're stopping someone from even approaching me. How many other men have there been that you stopped? Two? Five? Ten? I can't wait for you forever, Adrian. I just can't." Natalie ran from the room, grabbed her things from the hooks by the door, and slammed out. Shocked by Natalie's words, Adrian belatedly tried to chase her, but she was in her car and down the street before he even got to the door. When he'd walked back into his apartment, the sterile silence that greeted him depressed him more than usual, knowing she'd not be coming back for their cozy dinner or any other reason.


Now it was two days later. Wednesday night. He was definitely diminished without her presence. He hadn't heard her voice, seen her smile, the sparkle in her eyes, or felt her touch in forty-eight hours. He consoled himself with the fact that he'd been right; she had finally left him. It had taken ten years, but she was gone. As he wallowed in pain and his rightness, he mourned. But, of course, it was his own fault. A combination of guilt, fear, shame, and worry had stopped him from confessing his feelings. Now it was too late. He further consoled himself with the photo album she'd left on the coffee table when she stormed out. When he looked through it for what had to be the hundredth time, he realized that he had "been with" Natalie for longer than he'd been with Trudy.

Then Adrian began rationalizing. He knew that his beloved Trudy would want him to be happy. There was no doubt that although he'd spent years in a cocoon of misery over Trudy's death, she would never have wanted that for him. Drs. Kroger and Bell and all of the people he knew had repeated that to him for years. He also knew Natalie could have her pick of men. So why on Earth would she want him?

On the other hand, she was angry as hell when she left. He smiled slightly when he thought of the stormy color of Natalie's eyes, the arch of her brow, and the set of her mouth. She was incredibly beautiful when she was angry. The push and pull in his mind went on for hours. He could admit, if only to himself, how he loved her, but he still felt guilty. How he ached for her but knew that physical desire was messy, sticky, dirty, and moreover, in his puritanical mind, for marriage only. Yet he knew that any of those things would be bearable, possible, worthwhile, and perfect with Natalie. How he missed her comforting presence next to him but realized for once just how selfish that sounded. What had he ever done for her? What had he done to deserve her comfort? He couldn't sleep. So as that angry, wise, beautiful woman had once advised him, he went for a walk.

His feet led him where they often did—in her direction, toward her small gingerbread house that had naval flags that flapped in the breeze flying from the steeply pitched roof. As he walked, he negotiated with himself. He would be truthful if she allowed him to talk to her. He would tell her he missed her, he loved her, and that he was sorry for what he had done. Maybe not in that order. Perhaps the apology should come before the other items on his list of things to say. God, I am so inept at these things; he was irritated at his ineptitude. It was dark. It was late, and he was so wrapped up in his internal drama that he didn't even notice when he banged right into the object of his thoughts as he climbed the hill near her house.

"Adrian!" Empty pain colored her voice.

"Natalie!" Joy suffused his face and lit his eyes.

They both spoke at once, "What are you doing here?"

"I couldn't sleep. My feet led me to you. Like always." He looked at her with sincerity in his eyes, trying to convey his apology without words.

"I couldn't sleep either; I was just getting some fresh air," Natalie replied in a tone that was neither caring nor concerned with his well-being as it usually was when he said he couldn't sleep.

Her coldness was a new facet of her personality, one he'd never seen before. Never in all of the years they'd spent together. He'd seen humor and warmth through every situation, compassion and kindness. He'd seen her anger, even directed at him sometimes, but it was always tempered with gentle understanding and love. This ice from her cut him inside like a knife had slid between his ribs directly to his heart. Adrian saw now he'd really damaged their relationship. A mere apology wasn't going to fix this situation. He would have to "go big or go home," as Randy was fond of saying. She turned and started walking back towards her house without even a goodbye.

Adrian followed her quickly and quietly. When they reached her steps, she turned to find him a few feet behind her.

"Natalie, can we please talk for a few minutes?"

"Go home, Adrian. There's nothing left to discuss."

"I think there may be a few things."

"I told you everything I thought and felt. You had nothing to say. What could possibly have changed between Monday and Wednesday? You're still the same persnickety, selfish, unfeeling, blind man you've always been. How could I have believed you'd grown and changed… with me, because of me. What a fool I am. What was I thinking, falling in love with you? Letting myself pine for you for so long? I should have left long ago and found a life and a man who could love me, not a ghost more than me, and not himself more than me." Tears were streaming down her face as she shouted at him in the darkness with just her porch light to illuminate her heartbreak. She lowered her voice when her neighbor's curtains opened, and she saw a face in the window. "You will never love anyone more than you love yourself, Adrian; that is clear. No matter what I wish or what I pray for when I lay in my bed alone at night… you are truly an immovable object. Like a glacier. Brilliant, cold, and unchanging. Goodnight and goodbye."

Adrian was stunned into silence at the pain and vehemence in Natalie's words. He had damaged her heart so much. He was a horrible wretch; she was right. But he'd walked all this way to fix this rift, not make it worse.


"What?" she whispered in a raw tone that sounded like it had been ripped from her throat. She unlocked the door and left it open behind her. He followed her, uninvited but not entirely unwelcome, perhaps. She started for the stairs.

"Wait. Please. Please, give me a chance to say something. You had your chance." She nodded and reversed course to the living room and the familiar green couch.

He didn't dare sit near her, so he stood by the fireplace. He held the mantle for support and possibly for strength and courage. "Natalie," he began softly, "First, I owe you more than an apology, but that is the first thing I want to offer you, humbly and honestly. I'm sorry for hurting you and for betraying your trust. I was…I was wrong to stand in your way of finding someone to be happy with, to keep you in limbo, even if I was unaware I was doing it." He shrugged eloquently then. "I've spent so many mornings eagerly waiting for you to arrive, and I've spent just as many mornings trying to resist you. My feelings for you." He swallowed reflexively. Nervous.

"But… Here's the thing, over the last two days, I've realized that I can't do that anymore. I've come to understand I just can't live without you. I don't want to be alone anymore. I don't want you to be alone anymore. I love you, Natalie. I want you. Truly. I have for so long… I can't believe I've been an even bigger fool than usual. Blind. Guilt-stricken. Full of confusion. I don't know why I'm so frightened right now. It's you, and it's me. You're the person I feel most comfortable with, most 'myself' with in this world. I'm afraid of never feeling this way again if you reject me."

Natalie took in his words, stance, and expression on his face. Then she shook her head vehemently, refusing his words. "You're saying this because you don't want to lose an assistant. You don't want to be alone. You're scared." Tears slid down his cheeks. They remained welled in hers.

"No, Natalie, I'm telling the whole truth at last." He kneeled in front of her, ignoring both the idea his knees might be getting dirty and that he was literally begging for her to listen. He took her hands in his and held them firmly. "Please, Natalie, you know I can't lie to you, at least not for long, at least not well." They both laughed a little then. The tension broke. He reached for her face, and he pulled her to him. He kissed her with a passion that shocked them both. He tasted the salt of her tears mixed with his own, and he allowed ten years of desire, for that's what it really was, ten years of pent-up love and need flow from him to her. Natalie received Adrian's love with the overwhelming joy of one receiving the gift they'd dreamed of and wished for forever.

"I want to love you for the rest of my life, Natalie if you'll allow me the privilege. I want us to live for that love, live in that love because I have imagined it so many times. We can love each other in a way no one has loved ever before. It took me a long time to understand that I am still alive and that I can still love, and although I've lost one love, I have found another, a different love. Because just as two people are not the same, two loves are not the same. I want to give all of myself, all of that love to you, and there is nothing I want in return except you in my arms forever."

His declaration made, Adrian let a last tear slide down his cheek and watched even as she continued to cry, Natalie's smile grew wider. He saw the end of his loneliness and his barren and solitary life.

"I love you, Adrian. I will always love you. Nothing in the world could keep me from you now that I know how you feel. I promise you, I will never walk away from you again. I'm sorry for the other night. I was just so angry and so hurt thinking that you would never allow yourself to want me, but you would never allow anyone else to have me either… and how unfair you were being to my lovesick heart. But, I swear on Julie's life that I will never stop believing in your love. We will never be apart again, never."

Adrian folded her into his arms, feeling an amazing lightness now that they had finally spoken the truth and declared their real feelings for one another. He'd forgotten what real happiness and true love felt like and couldn't believe they were his once again. He pulled back and kissed her with the desperation of a man drowning, and she was the air he needed to survive. "You realize I want to marry you, right?" he demanded as he broke the kiss.

"You do? Was that a proposal?"

"Not now, not like this, but I wanted you to know that I intend to make you mine in every way possible, as soon as possible... If that's what you want, I mean."

Natalie laughed. "Slow down there, cowboy. Can't we enjoy just falling in love for a little while? Of course, I would like to get married, but let's have some romance first!"

"We will always have romance, Natalie. I will never take our love for granted. I can promise you that." He kissed her again, reverently and without hesitation. He was beginning to find ease in their mouths joining, and he was becoming more and more aroused by the scent of her hair and the feel of her soft skin under his fingertips. He felt like he was falling into her each time he looked into the kaleidoscope of greens of her beautiful eyes as they showered him with the love she'd long hidden. The ribbons of color wove around his heart; he could feel them running in his bloodstream, making him burn for her. He begged his courage not to fail him as he tilted his head and touched her tongue with his for the first time. She moaned softly at the new intimacy and pulled him closer. They continued on this way for long minutes of complete bliss.

"Adrian," she sighed his name, and a frisson of desire ran along his spine when she said his name in that way. "Let's go upstairs."

A new, unexpected surge of pride and want went through him, and he felt the shackles of his strait-laced beliefs fall from his back. His fear and nervousness were still there; he hadn't been intimate with a woman since Trudy died. Would he disappoint Natalie? Would he humiliate himself? However, his need for her, his overwhelming ache for her, won out over everything else, and he said, "Yes. We definitely should. Go upstairs."

Natalie smiled against his lips. "You're sure?"

"Mhm," he murmured as he placed tiny kisses along her jawline and down her smooth, ivory throat. "Mine."

"Always. I will always be yours. I have been practically since we met, but now I want to show you, prove that I am only yours… now and forever." She took his hands in hers and led him to the stairs. She ascended backward and drew him along with her. Progress was slow as they stopped on each stair for a kiss, caress, or both. Suddenly, Natalie couldn't handle what she was feeling and turned to dash up the stairs, almost dragging a bewildered Adrian along with her. Finally, they reached her bedroom, and only the dim light of the nightlight illuminated the room. Adrian reached for her, his breath coming in short pants from sprinting up the stairs and from the overwhelming desire that threatened to drown him.

They began undoing the fastenings on each other's clothes. Buttons and zippers and hooks and laces all came undone with urgency. When they were bare at last, Adrian felt every inch of his skin blush as she regarded him carefully. "I cannot believe you managed to keep this body hidden under all of that," gesturing to the heap of clothing on the chair, "for all of these years," she said as she pressed herself against him and felt his arousal press against her in a tantalizing and teasing way. "Never again, Adrian," she whispered as she kissed her way from behind his ear down to his chest. "You are never hiding again. But we will worry about that tomorrow. Tonight is for this." She reached between them and enclosed his manhood in her small hand, and Adrian thought it might be possible to die from stimulation and desire. Instead, he groaned with that desire and began rocking towards her and then slightly away, trying to get closer with each motion.

Natalie drew him to her bed and guided him into her body as she was supremely aroused by a few kisses and gentle caresses. She was shocked because it usually took her a while to feel ready, but it was like she was ready instantaneously with Adrian. Natalie was further shocked when she came as soon as he moved into her and settled so deeply inside her that their hips touched. She called his name, and he felt her tighten around him. He reached up to tentatively caress her breast as he held himself above her with the other hand. They never even made it fully onto the bed, they were that desperate for each other, and this position was definitely something new for Adrian Monk.

She was half sitting, half lying back; he was half standing, half laying on her. After watching her shatter and seeing she was calming down a bit, he leaned over and sucked the dusky pink nipple of the breast he wasn't caressing, and Natalie moaned her pleasure and sank her hands into his hair. His body seemed to move of its own volition, the rhythm set eons before, encoded into the DNA of humans and passed down to him for just this moment. This wild, untamed moment for his and Natalie's pleasure in one another. When at last, he couldn't take another second, he looked deeply into her eyes and groaned her name as she tightened around him once again. His climax was as explosive and depleting as if he'd run a marathon. He realized he was clutching Natalie tightly when he could think again and said, "Oh my god. That was incredible."

"You're telling me!" Natalie replied on a pant.

After a few moments, the position that had created such pleasure started to become uncomfortable for both of them. Regretfully, Adrian withdrew from Natalie, they both whimpered a little at that, but then, he lifted her up, pulled back the comforter, and laid her on the bed. He leaned over and kissed her. "Be right back!" He said cheerfully and almost scampered, nude, from the room. She heard the hall bathroom shower and smiled. He was still her Adrian. A good thirty minutes later, Adrian came in, wrapped only in a towel at his waist. He looked a little bashful but threw the towel to the floor as he pulled her to him when he relaxed into the bed.

"Good thing you've made this my second home, and I have all of my favorite things here," he whispered into her hair.

"Yes, where would you be without the Gertler 4000?" She smiled an arch yet loving smile as she snuggled into his arms.

"I don't know," he said without irony, "but I do know my most favorite thing in the world is right here in my arms."

"Oh, Adrian." Natalie's eyes welled up again.

"Don't cry, sweetheart."

"I'm just so happy." She leaned up from where she was snuggled to kiss his lips gently. And as would happen between them for the rest of their lives, the embers caught fire quickly, and before they knew it, they were both ablaze with passion and were making love for the second time in as many hours. This time was as quiet, slow, and beautiful as the first time had been loud, frantic, and erotic. Then, when they were both wholly sated and satisfied with what they'd done and what they'd learned, they fell asleep in each other's arms, dreamless and content, never to be alone again.