Lessons of Love
Chapter 1 (Mis) Communication
Standard disclaimer: I don't own Monk… Drat.
Notes: This story begins approximately a month after 'Unbound Heart." ~Lots of info in this first chapter so please forgive my Kevin Dorfman-y ramblings.
Many thanks to Monkwriter for the critical eye and open heart!~ xoxo
Adrian stood near the kitchen table, livid. With his brow furrowed in disbelief, he snapped at Natalie, "No, I don't know why you are mad at me. I -" he lowered his voice and couldn't stop the accusation from rolling off his tongue, "I didn't do anything wrong!"
He shifted his shoulder, waiting for her explanation and an apology. I could be wrong, but- His thought halted as Natalie tilted her head. In slow motion, her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. The Look. He stood motionless, a deer caught in headlights. Without warning, she brushed past him and marched toward the staircase, leaving behind a string of muttered epithets. Adrian's anger ebbed and doubt surfaced. Wait, could I be wrong?
After climbing two steps, Natalie stopped and turned. She crossed her arms across her chest and, although she was half hidden in shadow, Adrian could make out her clenched jaw and unblinking glare. He gulped, wishing he could disappear.
"You don't understand why I'm angry? Really?" she snarled, incredulous.
Adrian meekly confessed, "I don't."
Natalie let out a huff, "Well, Detective, why don't you stay down here and give it some thought? I'm going to bed- I won't wait up." Not waiting to see remorse pale his cheeks, she turned and stormed up the stairs. Her light, graceful footsteps somehow managed to thud down the hallway then, unsurprisingly, the bedroom door slammed shut.
Adrian released a quivering sigh. What had he done? This morning, everything had been so perfect and harmonious. Now, a scant twelve hours later, Adrian was at a loss. The silence of the house taunted him. Without giving it a thought, he went and took a broom from the closet.
Sweeping his way across the already-spotless linoleum, Adrian relived the day.
Bright blue sky unblemished by clouds, it was a beautiful, albeit a chilly, morning. But since it was the middle of winter, Adrian wasn't about to complain. Rather, Adrian was in a glorious mood. With only one day until they left for Lake Tahoe, eight days until 'The Big Day', the hastily planned wedding was coming together surprisingly easy. "Without a hitch," Natalie joked each time she crossed an item off their list.
It had been a scant four weeks since Natalie had accepted Adrian's proposal and, with the decision to marry as soon as possible, the happy couple had spent nearly every waking moment plotting and planning, finalizing nearly every detail. From the minister to the reception hall and all the little choices in between, Adrian was grateful for Natalie's gentle prodding and leading questions. How did she know he liked the color combination of blush and white and wanted square, individual cupcakes instead of a traditional tiered wedding cake?
With Julie the lone Bridesmaid and Leland the Best Man, the ceremony would be an intimate affair with only family and the closest of friends. But, when Jonathan regrettably announced he couldn't get time off from his job in Lake Tahoe, the wedding and honeymoon location was suddenly changed. Though not as glamorous as Natalie initially wanted, Adrian was secretly thankful they were spared the ordeal of going to Hawaii or, worse, some far-off European city.
The wedding ceremony would be nice and simple, but, with only nine guests- Julie, Bobby, Peggy, and Jonathan Davenport, Leland and TK, Sharona, Benji and Randy- it just wasn't neatly symmetrical. Adrian sighed in resignation, "So close to being, you know, perfect." Natalie teasingly chided him about his miscalculation. Touching her still-flat stomach, she reminded him there was a tenth guest attending, "And since I'll be ten weeks along, it will be perfect."
Adrian and Natalie did, however, have one unexpected disagreement. It was about the accommodations at the mountain lodge. While they would rent a cozy cabin for their week-long honeymoon after the service, prior to the ceremony, Natalie had insisted on separate rooms at the main hotel. With a touch of hesitancy Natalie admitted that, despite their already consummated relationship and impending parenthood, she wanted to recapture the sanctity, and excitement, of the wedding night. He was eventually persuaded, Natalie motivating him with an intense preview of future activities.
But since then, Adrian quietly fretted about it. He counted off the hours until the start of their temporary separation. He admittedly had grown accustom to the entwinement, not only the raw caresses of passion, but the gentler pleasures of sleeping and waking in concert. For seven lonely nights, he would miss the safety and warmth, the belonging and comfort. Natalie, conversely, had become giddy about the separation, slyly dropping hints about fiery reunions that would melt the surrounding snowcaps. They would cause global warming by snuggling in front of the fireplace and…
Breaking from that incredibly distracting image, Adrian refocused on today's events. What had he done?
This morning had been busy: packing for the trip, picking Julie up from Berkley, having lunch with his girls and then, off to divide and conquer. They had separate errands before tomorrow's trip. Natalie and Julie needed to pick up their dresses, shoes and a few other last minute needs. Adrian, meanwhile, needed to pay a visit to Ambrose. He had phoned Ambrose several times and attempted tell his older brother about the upcoming nuptials, but Ambrose had experienced some progress in his own life and had been uncharacteristically talkative. Not wanting to interrupt Ambrose's enthusiastic stories, Adrian had not been able to get a single word in about the wedding or the baby. Today he intended to sit down with Ambrose and tell him everything.
As he continued to sweep the kitchen, Adrian mulled over the lunch date with Natalie and Julie. It had been easy and, except for some scandalously unmatched silverware, uneventful. They had talked about the trip, the girls giddy with anticipation. After, driving to Tewksbury, Natalie and Julie's bantering merged into a comforting hum, their voices a pleasant background noise while he placidly stared out the window. Adrian had commandeered his usual passenger seat, his mind registering all the familiar scenery while organizing his thoughts.
He felt feverish; there was so much to tell Ambrose- He and Natalie had been living together, had gotten engaged, were about to be married and, were going to have a baby. Adrian leaned his forehead against the door's window, the cold glass cooling his brow. A smile flicked across his lips. There was so much he had to tell Ambrose!
The car finally slowed and parked at the curb in front of the blue, Tudor house. Natalie murmured something but Adrian didn't move, his thoughts still awhirl. When her right hand touched his knee, Adrian jumped.
Blinking his eyes into focus, he turned to face her, "Sorry?"
"I asked if you're sure about taking a cab home. I can pick you up after I take Julie back to school for her night class, remember she has that exam she can't miss. So I can be back about 5 o'clock?"
Adrian unbuckled his seat belt and, patting the package of wipes in his jacket pocket, smirked at Natalie, "I think I can brave a cab. See you at home."
As he placed his right hand on the door handle, Natalie grasped his left hand, "Hey did you forget something?" He gave a blank stare and she laughed, "We love you!"
Julie parroted from the back seat, "Yeah, we love you!"
Adrian chuckled, his eyes moving from mother to daughter. "I love you too, both of you."
He pushed the car door open but Natalie's hand held firm. Grinning mischievously, she leaned closer, "And?" Getting another blank stare, she pouted, "Where's my kiss goodbye?"
"I, ah-" Suddenly speechless, Adrian blushed and shot a quick glance at Julie, snickering in the back seat. Adrian balked. While he was finally getting comfortable with sharing discrete signs of affection in public, with Julie barely two feet away, the car felt claustrophobically small.
Squeezing his hand, Natalie brought him from his thoughts, "I know you're a little shy about kissing in public but, you know, we need to get some practice in before 'The Big Day.'" Natalie began to lean in but stopped when Adrian shot another furtive glance at Julie.
"Ugh!" Julie groaned, rolling her eyes as she turned her face away. Covering her eyes with her hands, she proclaimed, "I'm not looking or listening so you guys can say your goodbyes and make-out now." She proceeded to quietly chant, "La, la, la, la, la..."
After sharing a quick laugh, a nervous smile spread across Adrian's face. Natalie smirked and shifted back in her seat, her eyes wide and expectant. Holding his gaze, she licked her lips and whispered, "Well?"
Julie's quiet 'la, la, la…' continued to fill the car but somehow granted them some privacy. Adrian felt lightheaded, butterflies flitting in his stomach. This was his chance at another 'first kiss.' Eyes trained on Natalie, he tentatively leaned forward. La, la, la, la- Julie's voice faded from Adrian's consciousness. Heartbeat thumping, he murmured, "I guess I should, you know, go." He watched her nod, her eyes on the verge of closing. A sudden confidence rushed through his veins. Raising his hand to her cheek, Adrian broached the distance, finding her lips. It was brief, too brief, but it stole his breath away. When he pulled back, a sly grin crossed his face. "How was that?" His voice was unexpectedly low and sultry.
"Wow, that was-" Natalie chuckled, her cheeks flushing, "pretty darn good."
"Only good? We'll have to practice then. Later, tonight?" Natalie nodded and Adrian reached out to Julie, plucking her arm so her hand came away from her face, "Come up front, I'm leaving." As Adrian slid from the car, Julie clamored over the center console and took his seat. Before closing the door, Adrian winked at Julie, "Good luck with your test, kiddo."
"Thanks, I need it. I didn't study enough." Julie smirked and touched her temple, "Whenever I tried to concentrate, I ended up daydreaming about skiing!"
"Me too, except," Adrian shuddered, "my daydreams were, you know, nightmares." The girls snickered in exasperation as he closed the car door.
Stepping away from the car, Adrian stood at the curb watching his girls drive away. For some unknown reason, he felt compelled to wait until they disappeared from sight. Only then did he turn to face his childhood home.
Adrian suddenly stopped sweeping the quiet kitchen.
Today's trouble had started at Ambrose's house.
Taking the four steps across the front porch, Adrian held his breath, bracing himself for Ambrose's exuberant welcome. He quietly knocked on the door and let out the breath, waiting. But instead of Ambrose, a studious, twenty-something woman opened the door. She stepped aside and motioned him inside, "Hi. You must be Adrian. Come on in, Ambrose is tied up in the kitchen."
Hesitantly crossing the threshold, Adrian scanned the familiar entranceway. But it wasn't completely familiar, Ambrose had rearranged it! After doing a quick inventory, Adrian tore his eyes away and focused on the woman. She gave him a warm smile and it suddenly hit him, "Oh, you're the woman Dr. Bell sent over to help Ambrose. Robin, right?"
"Yep, I'm Robin Banks – and you're Adrian Monk, the detective! Isn't that a hoot?" She laughed and Adrian cocked his head in puzzlement. She laughed again, pointing at Adrian then herself, "You're a cop and I'm Robbing Banks!"
Adrian chuckled, amazed that this funny, cheerful woman was in his brother's house. No wonder Ambrose had been such an unrelenting chatterbox on the phone. Adrian shot a quick look towards the kitchen, "I talked with Ambrose the other day and he said you've been very helpful. He said you've been getting him out of the house?"
Robin nodded excitedly, "Yes, we actually went into the grocery today! But, you know he's helping me as well. I'm doing my Master's Thesis on agoraphobia and Ambrose has been such an agreeable participant! I'm grateful that Neven Bell arraigned our interaction." She picked up a backpack from the floor and slung it over her shoulder "Speaking of which, I need to head off to school. It's been a pleasure meeting you!" Offering a little hand wave in lieu of a handshake, she returned to the front door and called out, "I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Monk." Without waiting for a reply, she was gone.
Stopping at the kitchen's doorway, Adrian watched his brother organize cans in a kitchen cabinet. Tenderness griped his heart. Ambrose had gone to the grocery! He was so proud of Ambrose's progress. Clearing away the huskiness that gathered in his throat, he quipped, "You sure they're even?"
Ambrose turned and retorted, "My system entails more sophisticated parameters then symmetry or, I scoff, evenness." Abandoning his task, he excitedly crossed the kitchen and stopped a little too close to Adrian, "How are you? I've been well, in fact, did you meet-"
"Robin, your partner in crime? She let me in." Adrian smiled, pulling Ambrose into an awkward embrace, "It's good to see you." Ambrose mumbled a 'you too' and Adrian released his hold, warning him, "Wait. Let's sit down; I need to tell you a few things."
Getting comfortable in the dining room, they began to talk, or rather, Adrian talked and Ambrose listened. The eager groom recounted his proposal to Natalie and all the subsequent wedding plans. Ambrose remained silent, his mouth agape in surprise. Eventually Adrian quieted, pondering how he should tell his brother the really 'big news', the baby.
Ambrose managed to find his voice, "Adrian, I'm so happy for you. And for Natalie. You two belong together. Congratulations on the wedding!" As Adrian solemnly accepted the congratulations, Ambrose rose from his chair and quietly chuckled, "I knew there was a reason things didn't work out for Natalie and me."
"W-what?" Adrian stuttered, looking up at his brother. Confusion crossed his face, "What didn't work out?"
The elder brother blushed and answered softly, "Us- Natalie and myself. You remember, we had that date after I was almost poisoned. Anyway-" Ambrose lightly grasped Adrian's shoulder, a radiant smile on his face, "I'm so pleased! I am sorry I can't go to the ceremony; I'm not up for such an adventure."
Ambrose continued, "But, I know, I'll host a party for you here, at the house, when you get back from your honeymoon. I've been writing to Jack Jr. and he's close to his release date from prison, maybe he can get a day-pass and attend? And Natalie's parents and Julie, too? Would that be agreeable?"
Mouth open, Adrian reflexively nodded. His mind was still trying to process the idea of Ambrose and Natalie. Ambrose and Natalie?This was an unexpected, abhorrent surprise. He was completely unaware that Ambrose and Natalie had 'dated'. Why hadn't she told him? She told him about all her other dates…
"Really? But she's had so many 'dates!'" Dale Beiderbeck's taunting voice materialized out of thin air.
Adrian stood, nearly knocking over his chair. "I, I just remembered, I need to get home. I'll call you."
If Ambrose replied, Adrian didn't hear. He was too intent on getting home to Natalie.
Adrian arrived home to an empty house, the only sign of life the blinking red button on the answering machine. Thinking it was Natalie, Adrian pushed 'play.' Another unwelcome voice materialized.
Hey Natty, it's Stephen! I left a message on your cell but you haven't called back. I hope that boss of yours isn't working you to death…. Hey Nat, come on, you can't stay mad at me forever. I said I was sorry I gave my ex-fiancé another chance. But people deserve a second chance, don't they? How about a second chance for me? God, I never should have let you go… So I'm back in Frisco for at least six months. Give me a call and we'll get together and sort this out… I miss you babe, give me a call.
Fighting the urge to break the answering machine, Adrian stepped back, unclenching his fists. Rolling his shoulders, he started to pace the living room. First Ambrose and now, Stephen Albright? He looked at the clock; it was just past five o'clock. Even though Natalie was taking Julie back to school, she should have been home by now.
Adrian picked up the phone to call, but didn't know what to say. .. . How could Stephen call her? And the date with Ambrose? How could she keep all these secrets? Jealousy and indignation silenced his tongue. Returning the phone to its cradle, Adrian collapsed on the sofa, his head in his hands.
There was nothing to do but wait.
An hour had passed since hearing the Naval Officer's message, one of the longest hours of his life. And with the lothario's despicable voice still ricocheting in his head, Adrian continued to grapple with his emotions. Fury and resentment had melded into disbelief and victimization, then transformed back into outrage and bitterness.
Hearing the kitchen door open, he forced himself to remain still, concentrating on inhaling and exhaling. Adrian heard the rustle of bags and her keys and purse drop on the counter. Daring not to give into his volatile impulses, he remained seated on the living room couch, his fingers laced together.
"Adrian, I'm home and boy, am I beat!" Natalie called from the kitchen, bustling with garment bags and a plethora of shopping bags. She dropped the bags and hung the bagged wedding dresses on the hook beside the washer/dryer that already held Adrian's suit. "We had some final alterations done to the dresses. They're so-, oh you'll have to wait and see!"
Peering through the doorway, she smiled, her cheeks rosy from the cold, "Everything's done! Julie and I even picked up a few new outfits for the trip and, since I know you worried about not being warm enough, I bought you some flannel shirts. Before you say 'no', let me tell you, I think you'll look pretty sexy in them."
Letting out an involuntary grunt, Adrian remained on the sofa.
Natalie flittered into the living room and sat beside Adrian, sliding her cold hands around his bicep, "Don't be so grumpy, it's only new clothes." When he didn't respond, she asked, her voice touched with fatigue, "So how did it go with Ambrose?"
"Oh, so you're wondering about Ambrose?" Adrian stared across the room, not making eye contact.
"Of course I am, silly! How is he? What did he say about our impending nuptials?" Natalie shifted on the sofa, nuzzling his shoulder. He remained rigid and she leaned away, her hand now stroking his back, "What happened?"
Adrian's mouth twitched and he grudgingly glanced at her. "You know."
"I don't know, that's why I asked you- what happened?"
Shifting and rolling his shoulder, Adrian remained stone-faced, "You know."
"I don't!" Natalie giggled, but stopped when she noticed Adrian's demeanor. "Adrian, just tell me, what happened?"
"You never -" He cleared his throat, "told me about it."
She shook her head, "Told you about what?"
"Your, you know-" Hating to say it, he shuddered, "Date with Ambrose."
"Date? What are you talking about?" Her face contorted by confusion, she suddenly brightened and laughed, "You mean when I went and had dinner with him? Adrian, it was just dinner with a friend!" When he didn't appear relieved, she continued, "Believe me, sweetie, I'd tell you if it was a date."
"Because you tell me everything? No secrets, right?" As he asked the question, he silently cursed himself. This had turned into an interrogation and he knew Natalie was about to trip herself up.
"Of course, no secrets. Adrian, I'm sorry I didn't tell you about my dinner with Ambrose, but it happened ages ago. It didn't mean anything and I just forgot."
"Right, because we don't keep secrets." Slitting his eyes, he lurched from the couch and stalked over to the answering machine. Natalie rose to her feet and followed him. Angry eyes confronting her confused gaze, he deadpanned, "Sorry, I forgot to tell you, you have an important message on the machine." He hit the button then crossed his arms across his chest, his breathing loud and jagged.
Looking at the machine, annoyance showed on her face, "What the?-That jerk!" Shaking her head, she touched Adrian's arm, "Sweetie, I'm sorry I didn't tell you about his first message- when I heard his voice, I didn't even listen to it, I just hit delete."
Adrian stiffened, "And you didn't think to tell me your, your ex-boyfriend has been pestering you? –Why didn't you call him back and telling him to leave you alone because you're, you know, getting married?"
"That's right, WE are getting married." She held up her left hand, defiant, "I accepted this ring from you, Adrian Monk. You are the man I want to spend the rest of my life with." When his mood didn't soften, she questioned, "Why are you so worried about my past? It's, you know, the past." She crossed her arms over her chest, mimicking his stance.
Adrian stared fixedly at Natalie, knowing he didn't have a logical reason for his anger. He just was and he couldn't contain it. Turning away, he stepped into the kitchen, muttering, "Maybe if you didn't have such a worrisome past…"
In an instant, Natalie was behind him in the kitchen, eyes blazing, "What?"
"What what?" Adrian snarled back. Noticing her expression, he added, "What's your problem?"
Trembling in anger, Natalie hissed, "You're kidding, right?"
"No, I don't know why you're mad at me. I didn't do anything wrong."
Fatigued, Adrian looked at the kitchen clock- it was almost 3 AM. . He was back to where he had started from and, with his offense still a mystery, his stomach tied into knots. Frustrated and defeated, he put the broom away and sat at the kitchen table. The dark and silence night taunted him- it was just like old times.
A/N: Grrr, sorry about the drama! ~I wanted LoL to be a fun, romantic and somewhat steamy story, but angst showed up uninvited. :(
A/N2: I had to post today because it's Valentine's Day! Awww, the perfect day to begin Adrian and Natalie's wedding story, right? But, I'm sorry it's going to be a while until I post the next chapter- although I could blame my laptop dying as well as recent ice storms/ lack of electricity -I confess, I've been a very lazy writer. I promise I'll hit the keyboard this week!