A/N This idea came to me in the middle of an entirely different story. As writers know, sometimes a story sort of writes itself. Sorry "Bequest" readers, I'll go back to that one now!

Of course, this is a MandN shipperfic! (Post "The End!)


Adrian Monk paced in Leland Stottlemeyer's office all alone on April 1st. Waiting for his friend with impatience. He'd spent the early part of that Wednesday morning, Natalie's day off, pacing the length of the hallway in his apartment. He knew without a doubt if he was going to do this, it had to be a secret. Natalie couldn't know. Until after it was over. He wanted to do it for her, not with her.

This urge had come to him not all at once but in bits and pieces in dreams and in musings over the last several months. He'd gone to a movie with Molly way back in December, and that's when the seed germinated. The film, Walking Home, told the real-life story of a former Naval pilot, a prisoner of war, Malcolm Tredwell, who claimed to have escaped from a prison in Kosovo and walked 3,000 miles to freedom in Greece. It was based on the man's autobiography. The story was unbelievable but well written, directed, and the cinematography seemed good in Adrian's limited entertainment experience. More importantly, somewhere deep inside Adrian, the man's story reminded him of Mitch Teeger. Maybe it was simply the mention of Kosovo that had started him dreaming of the handsome young man he'd only ever seen in pictures and videos at Natalie's house. Maybe it was the resolution and relief he'd found since solving Trudy's case, and he wanted the same for his assistant, his friend. Perhaps it was all of those things combined that made the seed fully blossom.

Today he'd decided to act on the feelings he'd developed for Natalie, to show her how he felt in a way that wasn't a direct admission of his feelings but something that could convey his love, respect, and desire to do anything he could for her–without admitting he loved her– and face possible rejection. To Adrian's relief, Leland chose that moment to walk into the room. He whistled a tune Monk neither recognized nor wanted to hear ever again.

"Good morning, Monk. What's up? Did we have a meeting? Where's Natalie?"

As usual, when confronted with a barrage of questions, Adrian didn't know which to answer first. He was flustered. "Um, no. No meeting. She's off today. I needed to see–speak to you alone." Leland's face took on a fascinating, sly look that Adrian couldn't interpret.

"Okey-doke. What's up?"

"How do you think I can look into Mitch Teeger's death, a) without Natalie knowing and b) without going to Kosovo?"

"Why would you want to do that? Wasn't he K.I.A.?"

"He was, but there's more to it, and I know Natalie is still bothered by it."

Monk looked Leland in the eye as he said that, and he saw a light shine from Leland's eyes. Then Leland whistled. This time there was no tune; it was just one of those sounds reserved for surprises and amazement, possibly, rudely, for pretty girls on the street.

"Well, hallelujah!"

"Huh?" Monk looked at him with serious confusion.

"It's about time you took the opportunity to do something for Natalie."

"I do plenty for Natalie. I mean, I do pay her – fairly regularly."

"That's not what I was saying. You're doing something from your heart. For Natalie's heart. To show her you care about her."

How could Leland always see inside me? Adrian thought with frustration. He bit back a verbal response and simply nodded. He shoved his hands in his pockets as he did so often to keep from clenching his fists.

"I'm about to tell you something I swore to Natalie I'd never disclose, but I have to know the truth, and so does she. I–I know I can trust you."

"Okay. You can trust me. I will help you in any way I can."

"No one can know–definitely not Randy. Not even T.K. No one. It's just you and me on this one." His hands flew out of his pockets. They clenched and unclenched dramatically.

Stottlemeyer, clearly startled by Monk's vehemence, nodded solemnly. "I promise." Monk proceeded to explain the circumstances, as he understood them, surrounding Mitch Teeger's death and the accusations of his former crewmates. During Monk's tale, Leland's expression took on surprise, anger, compassion, and sadness.

"The only real problem is, how do I work this case without Natalie knowing?" Finally, he slumped onto the couch.

"That is a problem. I can give you space here for the files and the research, but Natalie is always with you. I warned you about being too dependent on her. Too interdependent with her."

"Yes, but this is a special case. I've never needed or wanted to work a case without her before now."

Leland paced in front of his desk, quite like Monk had in his hallway earlier that morning. Then, suddenly, he snapped his fingers. Monk jumped in his seat.

"I know! We'll make up a soldier. A case with a fake name, different circumstances. A different branch of the military, even. We can give Natalie things to do for us; send her to the library for research. We can just keep her busy until we–you can unravel what really happened to Lieutenant Commander Mitch Teeger."

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Leland put in a call to the nearest Naval Base to inquire about obtaining Mitch's military records. The essential function of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure informed citizens, which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. Leland used it to its fullest effect that day, gathering as much information about Mitch's service, death, and the investigation into his death as possible to be delivered to him "eyes only." It could take up to a month to receive the information he was told, despite it being for a police investigation. He hung up the phone, both frustrated and happy. He knew he'd spend at least an hour putting the request in writing, but he'd do it for Monk and for Natalie.

Monk knew waiting for the Navy files would be a new kind of hell. In the meantime, he would try to dig around in the areas he could. Subtly probing Natalie for information. Also, poking around her house when she wasn't there. After leaving Leland, he went to the library. With some help from a librarian young enough to be Monk's child, he obtained information from the Internet publicly available to anyone. He learned all of the basics of Mitch Teeger's life that he hadn't known from Natalie's stories over the years. Where he was born, went to school, and so on. All found in the newspaper account of his death. There were pictures of a very young Julie clutching the right hand of a youthful, newly widowed Natalie.

Natalie stood stalwart, folded flag in her left hand. Monk could see in her expression, even in a faded newspaper photo, the broken underpinnings peeking through her façade–the same ones he wore outwardly. Her shoulders and back ramrod straight, and the stubborn set of her chin said she'd firmly pushed that pain as far down as she could. He knew she always said it was for Julie, but he had begun to think that if his coping mechanism had been an emotional breakdown, hers had been the opposite. Hers was an emotional wall built to protect herself and her child. He looked carefully at the mourners pictured. He didn't see her parents. Of course. Natalie's parents hadn't approved of her marriage to the late military man. He did see a young Jonathan, Natalie's brother, by her side. With the help of the hovering young librarian, he made copies of all the information and put it in a blue folder.

A week later, on Natalie's next day off, Monk watched her drive off from a distance, and he stole into Natalie's house while she was at the yoga studio. He had about two hours. Adrian knew he was sort of in the wrong, despite always being welcome, despite having his own key. He made his way to the attic first and looked for boxes of Mitch's possessions. Interestingly, there was no dust or grime up in the attic on Mitch's things. Natalie must clean up here regularly, Monk thought, both impressed and a little heartbroken for her. Knowing she felt for Mitch the same way he felt about Trudy all these years but kept it locked inside. He pictured that defiant and stubborn chin he knew all too well. He also imagined her only allowing tears to fall up here in the quiet of the attic where no one else could see. Yet he allowed his feelings to often flood their lives like an erupting volcano–with irregular, unexpected, sometimes frightening outbursts.

He carefully opened boxes, hunting for what–he wasn't sure. He took some photographs, some papers with written military orders, and some memorabilia. The bundled letters to Natalie and Julie he left alone. Monk was pretty sure that Mitch wouldn't have written about anything classified or dangerous to Natalie directly. When pleased that the attic looked precisely as it had before his intrusion, he went to Natalie's bedroom.

He became overwhelmed by her scent immediately and felt so lightheaded he needed to sit on the edge of the bed. Filled with a sudden desire and powerful need he almost didn't recognize as being his; he was bewildered yet elated. Monk thought he'd lost the ability to feel feelings like those when Trudy died. But, apparently, his libido was waking up again.

Adrian got himself together and began a cursory search through Natalie's drawers and closet. He steeled himself when he got to the drawers that contained her intimate apparel. Adrian searched as quickly as he dared without causing too much noticeable disturbance except in his head, where he imagined some of the soft lacy garments on his beautiful Natalie. He found nothing of note in her bedroom except for his heightened desire. After making sure everything was set right, left the room.

He let himself out, locked the door, and went to his car. He still felt weird about driving again. But once he had deemed himself recovered enough, he realized the time had come for him to regain control of that aspect of his life. Dr. Bell had wholeheartedly agreed. Plus, it meant returning a portion of Natalie's life to her. She still drove most of the time, but he had wheels now when she needed time off, or they could split up the work they had to do if necessary. It was most definitely necessary on this case. He gathered the blue library file and the separate green file of items from Natalie's house into his arms when he arrived at the police station. He separated them because he wanted everything to return to its rightful place when he was through.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Monk's cell phone rang while he compared items from the two folders. Two faces from two photos jumped out at him. One shot came from the blue library file from Mitch's funeral. The second came from the green "Natalie's House" file and was from a photo Mitch had sent home to his wife. The men were in full Naval dress whites in the funeral photo and in naval flight uniforms in the picture from Mitch. Mitch and the two men had their arms slung around one another's necks.

"Hello?" He answered cautiously, as has been his lifetime habit.

"Hi, Mr. Monk. It's me, Natalie," she said. "I'm just checking in. Everything alright?"

Distracted, he could sense her smile over the distance, he realized. He pictured her sunny smile as he responded. "Yes, everything is fine. Just, you know, fine. How has your day been?"

Surprised by the question, Natalie smiled again, "Good. My yoga class was great, and I did a little shopping, both the necessary and a little of the unnecessary–but pretty."

An idea came to him suddenly. "Do you have dinner plans?"

"No. Unless you count leftovers and a T.V. movie as plans."

Adrian shuddered. He detested leftovers. And T.V. movies.

"I most certainly do not. So why don't you meet me for dinner, my treat? No work talk, just a friendly dinner."

"That would be lovely, Mr. Monk. Thank you." Natalie wondered where this invitation was coming from and why, but she would not look a gift horse in the mouth. "Where and when?"

"On second thought, I'll come to get you at 6, and we could go to The Tailor's Son on Fillmore. I'll make a reservation."

Natalie let out a quiet gasp. The Tailor's Son was quite a pricey proposition. "Are you… are you sure–I hear it's rather, um, expensive?"

"Yes, but I heard someone at the station say the food is excellent, and the restaurant is quite clean."

Natalie stifled a giggle. "That sounds amazing, then, if you're sure."

"Good. Great. I am sure. I'll see you later."

"See you later."

Adrian put the phone into his pocket and put the photos and folders away in the desk drawer Leland had loaned him at the station. He had to get home and get ready for dinner.

Natalie pushed the end button on her cell phone and stared at it momentarily, not comprehending what had just happened but unwilling to let the good mood it put her in dissipate. Instead, she scampered up her stairs and went directly to her closet to find something to wear.

𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ𝕸ɳ

Adrian rang Natalie's doorbell at precisely 6 pm, and Natalie opened it with a smile when she saw him dressed in a pale gray suit with a yellow shirt and a tie that echoed both colors.

"Hi! Don't you look handsome?" she said as he walked through the door. Where had those clothes come from?

Natalie was wearing a jade-green dress that brought out her eyes and artful makeup that made it look like she wasn't wearing any–though her lips glistened like ripe raspberries, and her skin was dewy.

"And you look absolutely lovely, Natalie."

"Thank you," she said a little shyly, unused to compliments from her boss. "Shall we go?"

"Yes. Our reservation is for 6:45."

He led her out the door and waited while she locked it behind them.

Then he gave her his arm and walked her down the stairs and to his car, where he opened the passenger door and then, once Natalie was settled in her seat, closed the door with a firm click.

As they drove, they spoke casually about their day, Monk hiding everything about his secret case but detailing some progress on another case. Natalie talked about the price of eggs and the cute sneakers she had purchased. They chatted about the unusually warm weather for April and about Julie's upcoming play at Berkeley.

Before long, they were at the restaurant, Natalie's door was being opened, and Adrian was taking a ticket from the valet. Inside, the restaurant was quiet and soft music permeated the air. The scent of good food filled their senses, and they smiled at each another. The bright space was welcoming and modern yet warm and eclectically decorated. Finally, they were seated and looked around. Some of the imbalance and non-symmetrical decor choices were causing Monk some discomfort, but he tamped his tics down and concentrated on Natalie's voice. She was telling him about the antics of Shelby's puppies, now grown, and showing him pictures on her phone. Her cousin sent regular updates.

"We should go see them soon," he heard himself saying.

Natalie nodded in agreement. "Definitely. Ann Marie and Theresa say they are like watching a television show constantly."

Adrian laughed. Remembering when the puppies had all been little balls of evidentiary fuzz. Their appetizers arrived then.

Natalie's, the sogno toscano burrata, with pickled green tomato and asparagus, stirred her taste buds.

Adrian had ordered the sformato salad–a delightful combination of Bloomsdale spinach, truffled pecorino, and hazelnut. The sighing coming from Natalie's side of the table made Monk smile again.

"It's good, I take it," he said.

"So, so good. Do you want a bite?"

"I don't know; it looks so–so milky."

Natalie laughed and cut some of the "milky" burrata and tomato with a clean fork and her knife. She slipped it onto his plate. "Just try it."

"A–al–alright." After several attempts to get it onto his fork and into his mouth, he carefully chewed the burrata and tomato. "It's delicious. Clean and fresh tasting. I like the zing of the balsamic dressing too."

Natalie nodded again, her work for the evening complete. Adrian had tried something new.

About halfway through their meals, her's a delicious cannelloni with chanterelles, the Bloomsdale spinach, ricotta, bechamel, and sage; his, agnolotti del plin, tiny pasta parcels stuffed with veal and pork in a parmigiano-reggiano sauce, they had stopped talking and just savored the meal.

When Monk realized this lapse, he said, "Is everything alright, Natalie?"

She smiled a little sadly. "Yes, Mr. Monk. I was just thinking that Mitch and I never had the money for meals like this. I suppose we were too young and inexperienced to enjoy them properly."

Monk reached for her shoulder the way she'd reached for his so many times. "Tell me about him."

Natalie looked at him to see if he was being serious and found only curiosity and compassion in his gaze. So as they ate and then as they waited for their dishes to be cleared and their dessert to be delivered, Natalie described Mitch and his life in more detail than she ever had before. Monk prompted her with gentle questions about his friends in his unit and his assignments, stopping only when their coffee cups were laid before them and filled and when the apple crisp came to the table for them to share. Nothing Natalie told him, even if it was through the eyes of love, explained a man who would go on to commit what amounted to treason.

"Mr. Monk, can I ask you something?"

"You just did," he smirked. They often had this argument. Asking if you could ask a question.

"Haha. Why did you want to go to dinner tonight?"

"Well, we have to eat, and I thought I should do something nice for you. I often take you for granted. Leland is always on me about that, so I realized he was right."

Silvery tears swam to Natalie's eyes, threatening to spill over. Instead, she managed to contain them and simply said, "Thank you, Mr. Monk," as she took a sip of her coffee to compose herself.

"Thank you for saying yes," he replied, and for adding to my information about Mitch, he thought.

They drove home in silence, listening to soft music from the radio. Adrian yearned to pick up Natalie's hand and thread his fingers through hers, but it wasn't time for those feelings yet. And, of course, hands at ten-and-two was an important rule to follow at all times while driving. But if ever there was a person who could make him break a rule, it was Natalie Jane Teeger. Natalie alighted from the car, turned, and leaned back into the cabin.

"Thank you for a lovely evening, Mr. Monk. I had a very good time. I'll see you in the morning."

"Natalie…."

"Yes?" She leaned in again.

"Nothing. Sleep well."

"Thanks. You too." He watched until she entered the house and shut out the porch light. Then Adrian Monk drove home, his mind working hard to concentrate on the driving, not Natalie, Mitch, or anything else.