Lessons of Love

Chapter 19 Wedded Bliss

Standard disclaimer: I don't own Monk.

Notes: So very sorry for the long delay- things have been complicated. But never fear; I would never leave our Adrian Monk standing at the alter!

To recap- Last chapter, on the night before the wedding, Adrian spent the night at his childhood home & reconciled with his father. It's now A&N's wedding day (yeah, finally!) But alas, does anything ever go as planned for our gentle hero? ~LOL, a little nod to 'Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty.' ;)

Sorry for any typos or any unwieldy sentences but I just had to post today- it's 8-10-12! Not exactly the perfect Monk 10-10-10, but still pretty cool, yes?

A huge thanks to all my readers and special hugs to a, t and sc. Love you all! Xoxo


"Damn it!"

Standing before the mirror in his childhood bedroom, Adrian yanked the unruly tie from his neck and tossed it on the dresser. His gaze shifted from his scowling reflection to the clock on the nightstand. It was five past noon, a scant fifty-five minutes until the ceremony.

A tidal wave of anxiety crushed his chest.

He paced the room, alone and upset, emotions careening. Come on Monk, don't panic. Everything will work out…

Don't panic?! Everything will work out?! Oh, who the hell was he kidding? Notwithstanding the recent blessings in his life, beneath the joy and happiness, he was still Adrian Monk - the Prince of Darkness.

Okay yes, up until this moment everything had gone smoothly. The house was perfect, the backyard, exquisite, and the weather, stunningly beautiful. When Jack and Ambrose, already dressed in their impeccable suits, sent Adrian upstairs while promising to care of any last minute details, the groom had allowed himself cautious optimism.

It was only when he overheard Natalie and Julie and Sharona climb the stairs and commandeer Ambrose's room to get dressed, did Adrian let his guard down. He thought that for once there would be no disaster, no calamity, no 'Monk Curse'.

But now, with less than an hour until the wedding, he ruefully conceded that, deep down, he had expected a crisis. And, well, here it was.

And if there's one problem….

Turning lightheaded and feverish, Adrian's panic immediately conjured up a plethora of 'What ifs'- What if someone, Peggy perhaps, objected during the ceremony? What if he suddenly obsessed over something insignificant and ruined the service? What if, God help him, he 'Monked- out' and Natalie suddenly changed her mind? What if, what if, what if?

Desperate for someone to come into his room and reassure him, Adrian placed his ear to the door and listened. Damn, no Leland or Ambrose or even Jack. The only voices he heard where the girls across the hall. The anxious bridegroom crossed the room and peered into the surprisingly crowded backyard, hoping against hope he would spot his best man. Although the Captain was conspicuously absent, Adrian practically yelped for joy when he spied Randy Disher.

Adrian pushed opened the window and, not wanting to alarm Natalie with his cry for help, quietly hissed, "Randy."

The young NJ police chief, standing alone and munching on some sort of snack, twisted in a circle. He swallowed and covered his cupped hand, his guilty expression clearly apologizing- 'I know I shouldn't have swiped that handful of Jordan Almonds but I was starving!'

Adrian called a tad louder. "Randy!"

Turning another circle, Randy looked up and found his friend. He grinned, "Hey Monk."

Trying to beckon his friend upstairs, Adrian excitedly waved his hand and whispered, "Randy."

Feet firmly planted, Randy glanced around the backyard and nodded, "Yeah, it looks dandy."

Adrian shook his head and pointed at the young man, repeating with a low growl, "Randy."

Randy looked down, opening his hand sheepishly, revealing several candy-coated almonds. "Yes, I stole some candy- I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself."

Oh for Pete's sake! Pursing his lips, Adrian snarled, "Randy- Rrrrrrr!"

"Aarrrr?" Randy laughed, his blue eyes sparkling with glee, "Aye matey, I didn't know 't twas 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' t'day!"

Hands like claws gripping the windowsill, the harried groom leaned out and, though clenched teeth, enunciated, "Randy. Upstairs. Now."

Understanding crossed the younger man's face and, with a nod, he tossed the last few almonds in his mouth and hustled toward the house. Within thirty seconds he knocked on the bedroom door, "Monk, I'm here." Entering the room and seeing his friend's frazzled expression, Randy's good humor faded. "Hey, are you alright?"

Rubbing his creased brow, the true cause of Adrian's worry poured out. "He's not here and I can't find him! He's not answering his phone and he's not at the stationhouse-"

Randy interrupted, "Wait, what are you talking about?"

"The Captain… Leland." Adrian rolled his shoulder, lamenting, "My best man isn't coming!"

"Not possible." Randy shook his head, "He's just running a little late."

"A little late? It's-" The distraught groom glanced again at the clock, "Nine after twelve! I'm getting married in fifty-one minutes! He has the ring! He's-" He fell silent, his breathing suddenly labored.

"Calm down, Adrian. He'll be here soon - he'd have called if he ran into a major delay." Randy put a comforting hand on his shoulder, "Listen, I promise he's coming. I spoke with him this morning. He wouldn't miss today for the world."

"But where is he?" Adrian whined, twitching with impatience.

"Let's find out." Randy reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone. Speed dialing the phone number that would always be his number one contact, he flashed a smile when the call was answered on the first ring. "Hey Captain…Yeah, it's me... I'm at Monk's house- Ambrose's not Adrian's, you know, for the wedding- Adrian's not Ambrose's…" Falling silent, Randy shot Adrian a look of exasperation. After a moment he said, "Oh, I just called to find out what's up. Monk's kind of 'Monking- out' because his Best Man's AWOL."

Adrian scuttled beside him, imploring, "What's he saying?"

Pressing the phone to his ear, Randy waved him off. "Who was that? Oh, just Benji." He turned toward the window, "No sir, I swear he's not right in front of me….So, where are you?" After another pause, he spun and faced Adrian. "Okay Captain, see you soon. Bye." With a click, he pocketed his phone. "He's in his car on the 101. He had to pick something up for the wedding."

Adrian growled with frustration, not bothering to ask about The Captain's last minute errand. Didn't Leland realize that the only thing Adrian wanted (and needed) was his best friend, standing by his side?

"Hey, why don't we get you ready while we wait?" Giving an encouraging smile, Randy snatched Adrian's abandoned tie from atop the dresser and looped it around the groom's neck. Adrian raised his hands but Randy gently batted them away, "Let me."

Adrian twitched. "But -"

Randy interrupted, "But nothing, my friend. Trust me. I'm the expert- the man for the job." Adrian raised his brow, skeptical, and Randy asked, "You've worn a tie what, like ten times in the last dozen years?"

Quickly adding Leland's wedding and his brief reinstatement, Adrian shrugged, "Fifteen."

Randy snorted, "Fifteen?" He flipped up Adrian's collar and centered the tie, "Well, yours truly has tied on a tie five days a week, fifty weeks a year for fifteen years. That's got to be around-" he paused, his mouth falling ajar.

"Three thousand, seven hundred and fifty times. More or less." Adrian answered. After mentally comparing the two numbers, he raised his chin and offered his neck, "Do your best, Randy."

With sure hands, Randy (while inexplicitly humming the theme song for 'Police Academy') deftly looped and tugged the silk into a perfect Winsor knot. After buttoning down the collar tips, he gently pushed Adrian towards the mirror. "There, take a look."

Even and symmtrical, it was a thing of beauty. It was also, Adrian thought, a good omen. The groom ran his finger along the perfectly straight knot, "Thank you Randy."

The younger man grinned, unaware of the gift he had given his friend. "No problem."

As they stood before the mirror admiring Randy's handiwork, a sudden knock on the door ricocheted through the room.

Randy thumped Adrian on the back and crossed the room in a flash. "See, he's here!" As he pulled open the door, he playfully chided, "Dude, you're -"

Randy fell silent; Leland Stottlemeyer was not on the other side of the door.

Standing in the hallway was the bride's father, Bobby Davenport. With a steady and unflinching gaze, he deadpanned, "Dude?"

Randy stammered, "B- Bobby, I mean, Mister Davenport. Hi." He grabbed ahold of the older man's hand and shook it vigorously, "Randy Disher- you remember, from Jonathan's near fatal wedding with Teresa, the Black Widow?"

Bobby's face momentarily darkened and Randy, releasing his hand, continued to babble, "Of course you remember- it's not like you're o-… Ooh, anyway, sorry about calling you 'dude'. I thought, well, it's not important what I thought. But I bet you're here to see Adrian, so I'll just shut up now. Please, come in."

Stepping aside so the older man could finally enter the room, Randy patted his pocket and glanced at the groom, "I'll see if I can get an ETA." Adrian gave a grateful wave and Randy was gone, closing the door behind him.

Blue eyes twinkling, Bobby crossed the room. "So, today's the big day. How's my future son-in-law?"

Adrian paled; although all his irrational worries had ebbed, the presence of Natalie's father unearthed the one terror that still lurked in his heart. He rolled a shoulder, his voice unsteady, "Good."

"Just 'good'?" Bobby stiffened, "You're not getting cold feet, are you?"

"Oh, God no! It's just-"Adrian let out a ragged breath, his anxiety a hot coal burning in his chest.

"Just what?" Bobby barked, his expression disturbingly reminiscent of Natalie's infamous 'The Look'.

Flinching, Adrian stared down silently at his hands. The room's quiet turned thick, heavy.

Letting out a breath, Bobby softened, "I'm sorry- I guess everyone's a little keyed up today…What's bothering you, Adrian?"

Adrian swallowed the lump in his throat; it was time to confront, and hopefully expel, the demon that inhabited his nightmares. The groom raised his gaze and rasped, "I, I just can't help but think about the future and, you know, worry. I mean, of course I'll do anything, make any sacrifice, for Nat and our family, but-" He shuddered, "What if I screw up? What if I can't take care of Natalie and the baby? What if I'm a bad father?"

Bobby was quiet, slow to respond. Stepping away and retrieving Adrian's jacket from the closet, the silver-haired man quietly tisked, "No son, that won't happen." Standing behind Adrian and holding open the coat, Bobby continued, "You'll be a wonderful father…and husband. You'll do a good job taking care of your family, I'm sure of it."

Hearing Bobby's confidence, Adrian felt the knot in his stomach unravel a little. However, even as he slipped his arms into the jacket, he couldn't easily dismiss this one fear. Could he make the same mistakes Jack made? Adrian had to ask. "How are you so sure I won't mess up?"

Bobby's eyes were bright, cloudless. "Because today, my daughter is vowing to spend the rest of her life with you. Natalie believes in you, son. She loves you and trusts you. "

Such simple words, and yet, they soothed his soul. Adrian nodded, speechless.

After smoothing the back of Adrian's jacket, Bobby laid a firm hand on the groom's shoulder and broke the silence. "Now, as for your fear of messing up, don't be so hard on yourself. You don't have to be perfect, nothing in life ever is. Now I know it's useless to tell you not to worry- but really, do not worry. Remember, you're not going to be on your own, Nat will be there."

Adrian's head bobbed absent-mindedly, a faraway look in his eyes. How could he have overlooked this most basic fact? Natalie would always be by his side. Always.

Circling in front of Adrian, Bobby ran a quick hand over the groom's lapels, "You're a good man, Adrian Monk. Don't ever forget that."

The weight of his fear releasing, a breath escaped Adrian. No, he would never be like Jack.

Bobby tilted his head and brushed a microscopic piece of lint off of Adrian's shoulder, an impish smile crossing his face. "And besides, trust me; I wouldn't let my little girl marry you if I didn't have faith in you."

Let her marry? Taken aback by such an audacious declaration, Adrian chuckled, "I don't know about that, sir. Natalie's pretty independent. I don't think anyone could stop her from doing what she wants."

Casually smoothing down the sleeves of his own jacket, the silver-haired man bantered back, "True but, hypothetically, don't you think a man- an extremely wealthy man- could make a 'vexation' disappear from his child's life? Well, if the World's Best Detective isn't on the case, probably."

"Wow, given that some thought, have you?" Adrian smiled, bemused by the thinly veiled threat.

Mr. Davenport laughed out loud in exasperation, "After the hell we went through with Jonathan and Teresa, you damn right." His face a kaleidoscope of emotions, Bobby moved to the window. Adrian followed, standing at his side, patient, waiting.

Laughter from the crowd below filtered through the glass. Scanning the crowded backyard, without turning his head, Bobby said, "You know, Peggy and I are truly happy you and Nat found each other."

Also facing forward, absorbed with the scene below, Adrian gave an imperceptible nod. His eyes skimmed past all the guests and wandered down the aisle, past the chairs. There under the pergola he saw the ceremony's officiant, Judge Hackman, pacing small circles, ready and waiting. Adrian's gaze dropped, focusing on the small patch of grass where he and Natalie would exchange their vows. He was once again astonished by the joys that had come into his life.

Without thinking, Adrian suddenly murmured, "Me too."

Bobby's arm lightly brushed against his and Adrian roused from his fluttering thoughts. His face feeling heated, the groom pivoted his head, wanting to voice his thanks. But as he eyed Bobby's profile, words slipped away from his tongue. His emotions too vast, he returned his gaze to the backyard.

Bobby checked his watch then shifted his weight, his hand coming to rest on the detective's back. After a moment he braved a smile, "Only thirty-five minutes. Soon."

"An eternity." Adrian countered. After a shared chuckle, Bobby's hand dropped and they fell into a comfortable silence.

Their shared serenity, however, was quickly shattered. A loud set of footsteps echoed downstairs: first clomping through the vestibule and then thudding up the staircase. Both men turned as the footsteps clattered down the hallway.

Finally! Moving toward the door, Adrian spoke over his shoulder to Bobby, "That'll be my best man."

But before Adrian could reach the door, the doorknob turned and the door flung open. Adrian froze, dumbstruck.

"Hey bro!" Jack Jr., wearing a suit and sporting a fresh haircut and shave, burst into the room. He tossed his arms around Adrian and, tightening his bear-hug, laughed, "Congratulations man! I knew you and Nat would end up together!"

"Wait!" Squirming in the embrace, Adrian stammered, questioning, "How'd you-" When the Captain appeared in the doorway, Adrian relaxed in his brother's hug. Looking over Jack's shoulder, he nodded a thanks to his devious friend.

Releasing the bridegroom, Jack Jr. gushed, "Yeah, I'm temporarily sprung- out on a 24 hour leave for your big day." He raised his hand and gave Leland a mock salute, "Thanks Cap'in."

After introducing Bobby to Leland and Jack Jr. and engaging in some small talk, Adrian, mindful of the time, said, "Jack, we need to catch up later. Why don't you and Mr. Davenport go out back now?" Jack Jr. turned to go but Adrian, struck by a thought, caught him by the arm. The detective leaned close and, in a low voice, commanded, "Do not try and escape."

Jack Jr. rolled his eyes, "Don't worry bro, I won't." Smirking, he tugged up his pant leg and turned his ankle, showing a small black box. "I'm wired up." He jutted his chin towards Leland, "He'd catch me if I ran."

Pushing back the flap of his jacket and exposing his badge, Leland matter-of-factly stated, "I'd shoot you if you ran."

Snorting a laugh, Jack followed Bobby out of the room, both men calling their best wishes. Closing the door, Adrian turned to his best man, relief and happiness etched on his face. He rolled his shoulder and grinned, "Doesn't take a detective to know why you're late."

"Well yeah, sorry about that. Getting him ready took longer than expected." Leland's mustache twitched, "Anyway, I know you hate surprises but I thought-" He exhaled and shrugged, "I know you've been going upstate to visit Jack…I hope this was okay."

Despite the lack of a 'surprise-alert', Adrian was oddly calm. "It's amazing my whole family is here." He reached out and straightened- and kept straightening- the Captain's boutonniere, "Thank you Leland."

He stepped back, escaping the fussing hands. "You're welcome Adrian." Leland buttoned his jacket while his narrowed eyes passed over Adrian, "So how are you, buddy? I mean, you look great- calm and good to go. Are you? Do you need me to do anything?"

"As long as you have the ring, I'm-" Adrian smiled when Leland pulled the ring box from his pocket. "I'm ready."

"Great. Let me just run across the hall and make sure the girls keep their door closed and we'll go outside." The Captain slipped from the room and returned in mere seconds. "Okay, were clear."

Stepping into the hallway and hearing Natalie's voice coming from Ambrose's room, Adrian suddenly felt untethered and weightless, as though he could float away. He glided toward the closed door, drawn like a magnet. Here was his partner and his love. His Natalie.

The Captain grabbed his arm and gently chided, "No, no, no. Let's get you downstairs." Adrian surrendered to his best man's guidance and, when they reached the front entranceway, Leland asked, "You okay? Back from Monkland?"

Adrian wandered into the living room and unconsciously straightening the photo of Natalie and himself on the guest sign-in table. Heart eased and equilibrium restored, Adrian gave a self-deprecating shrug and raised his eyes. In that glance, their bond forged through years of friendship, unspoken understanding passed between the two men.

After a moment, Adrian smiled and stepped toward the kitchen. Leland trailed a step behind, quietly humming. When they reached the back door, he impulsively clapped the groom on the back of the neck, "You gonna cry today?"

Pulling open the door, Adrian sighed, "Probably."

The Captain snorted, "Well, me too. Good thing I'm packin' tissues."

~~~~~LOL~~~~~

With words of congratulations and best wishes still echoing in his head, Adrian took his place under the pergola between Judge Hackman and Leland. Feverishly eager, he turned and stared at the backdoor; his thoughts only on seeing Natalie, the world fell away.

The detective's subconscious, however, took everything in, memorizing the scene: The lone cloud drifting across the halcyon sky, the verdant grass below his feet, the profusion of flowers scattered about and, most importantly, cherished family and friends: his father Jack bracketed by his two brothers, Peggy and Jonathan beside Bobby's empty chair, Benji next to TK, Randy with his mother Maria and her boyfriend Sheriff Mathis on one side and Sharona and Varla Davis on the other, Sharona's sister Gail sitting suspiciously close to Joe Christie and surrounded by four other officers from the precinct, and finally, in the last row of seats, the biggest surprise yet- Dr. Bell and Harold Krenshaw with their respective wives.

Adrian continued to focus on the door, blind to his surroundings. Time passed, slowly. Glacially. Then, after a millennium of waiting, Adrian saw the doorknob turn.

He forgot how to breathe. His heart took flight. Needing an anchor, Adrian reached over and found Leland's hand. The Captain gave quick squeeze, gleefully whispering, "Here comes the bride."

But actually, as the door opened, Adrian saw that, first comes the bridesmaid.

Julie stepped into the backyard, her face lit with happiness. With her blond tresses swept up into a braid and clad in a champagne-pink dress, she was poised and beautiful. She quickly scanning the guests before her eyes met Adrian's.

Watching her tilt her hand up in a small wave, noticing a sparkle come from her wrist, Adrian teared up. In an instant, his mind went back to yesterday, right before he had left for Ambrose's.

He had stopped by Julie's room for a heart-to-heart and, while both thanking her for her loving acceptance and vowing to forever cherish both her and her mother, Adrian presented her with Trudy's diamond bracelet. Although Julie had tried to refuse his gift, telling Adrian it was too precious, Adrian's mind was set. He insisted it was she who was precious, pressing the bracelet into her hands. Today, seeing the diamonds shimmered around Julie's slender wrist, Adrian was overrun with emotions.

One of Leland's tissues found its way into his palm and Adrian quickly dabbed away his tears. Steeling himself for Natalie's entrance, his heart beat harder and harder. Bobby walked through the open doorway. And then, there she was.

As Natalie stepped out into the sunshine, fresh tears burned Adrian's eyes. His bride was radiant, a vision. Simple yet elegant, her hair was set in soft waves and her gown, the palest pink chiffon, floated around her petite frame.

He watched with utter devotion as she took her father's arm and proceeded down the aisle. Bobby was soon placing a kiss on her temple and releasing Natalie's arm. He clasped her hand and, before guiding it over to Adrian's, murmured, "Be happy, princess."

Taking hold of Natalie's hand, falling lost in her gaze, the reality that both Natalie and he were given this second chance stole his breath away.

When Leland tapped him on his arm, it took Adrian a minute to realize he was also saying something. He repeated, "It's time for the rings, buddy." Blinking back to reality, Adrian realized that Judge Hackman was already half way through the service and was now calling for their exchange of vows.

Natalie went first. Holding his hand, she slipped his wedding band over the tip of his finger. "Adrian, today I marry you, my best friend, the one I will live with, dream with and love forever. I vow to faithfully stay by your side, to share the joys of life and to help shoulder the challenges. I look with joy down the path of our tomorrows, knowing we will walk together side by side, hand in hand, and heart in heart."

Unbound joy filling his heart, Adrian took his bride's hand. "Natalie, since I found you, I have found a new life. You are my best friend, my faithful partner, and my one true love. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, and cherish you with all of my heart and mind and soul until the end of time and beyond."

And as he slipped the ring onto her finger and kissed his bride, Adrian knew. Their story was just beginning.

~~~~~LOL~~~~~

A/N: LOL, I know the ending seems abrupt, but please know I'm planning a honeymoon story next ("murderless' and completely drama free and, ahem, 'M' rated, to be sure) and there's bound to be some wedding flashbacks…. Also, please note although I have an outline completed, it'll be a while before I actually write; I need to take a little time off…. So until next time, take care, ya'll!