A/N: This is a sequel to my story Mr. Monk and the Pink Parka. This story was written for the comm older_not_dead. Also for stories_a_z prompt F. Many thanks to my beta for this story Pixie Blue any remaining mistakes are my own. Disclaimer: I do not own Monk or the characters.
-Julie and Molly-
Natalie looked over a spotless living room as she nervously smoothed down her already wrinkle-free skirt. Looking at the coffee table, she decided she liked the vase on the right and the magazines on the left, so she switched them. She stood back and looked again. Still not right. Shaking her head in exasperation, she picked up the vase and switched them so now the magazines were on the right and the vase was on the left.
"I thought that was my job," Adrian said as he watched Natalie switch the items for the third time.
Realizing she was reaching for the vase for a forth time Natalie stopped and huffed out a breath in exasperation at herself. "I'm sorry; I guess just want everything to be perfect. So you're not nervous?"
"Of course not," Adrian said calmly although he gave himself a way when he unconsciously touched the tableside light.
Natalie raised an eyebrow at the gesture and Adrian smiled ruefully at being caught. Walking towards him, Natalie said, "I just want them to be okay about the two of us." Stopping in front of Adrian, Natalie looked up at him in need of reassurance.
"Natalie," Adrian placed his hands on her shoulders, "They both love us and therefore will be happy for us. It will be fine you'll see."
Natalie leaned forward and rested her head on his chest and asked in a muffled voice, "When did you become the voice of reason?"
Bringing up a hand and resting it on her head, Adrian just chuckled and with a twitch of his shoulders, said, "I have always been the voice of reason."
Laughing at that blatant falsehood, Natalie raised her head and looked into his eyes; she felt her breath catch a little at the way he was looking at her. She had waited for so long to see that look in his eyes. It had been a month since Adrian had asked her to call him by his first name, and since they had spent most of their time together.
They had decided that they would tell Julie and Molly first about the two of them and since Julie was home for spring break it seemed like the perfect time. So they had invited them both over for dinner. They had discussed it at length and had agreed they were going to act how they normally would before they got together until after dinner and then they would tell them.
Natalie felt a curl of warmth in her stomach as Adrian reached up and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, before slowly leaning down to kiss. Closing her eyes, Natalie pushed up to meet him just as the front door bell rang. Natalie quickly stepped away like a teenager caught making out on the front porch by her dad. Looking over at Adrian she was relieved that he found her antics funny rather then odd, laughing at herself a bit she went over to open the door.
Smiling a welcome to both Julie and Molly who had arrived at the same time, Natalie took their coats and ushered them in. Dinner was comfortable and it was nice that they were all together. Towards the end of dinner Natalie looked around at the three people sitting at her table, and she started to tear up when she realized that this was her family. Adrian touched the back of her hand with one finger and gave her a concerned look, but she just shook her head, and turning towards him she whispered, "I'll tell you later."
Looking up she caught Julie's eye, and Natalie knew she knew. Julie stood up and walked out of the room. Natalie quickly got up and said to Molly and Adrian, "Keep eating, we'll be back."
She caught up to Julie, who was on the front steps sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees, Natalie sat beside her without saying anything for a few minutes in order to gather her thoughts.
It was Julie who broke the silence with a quiet, "So you two are a couple now?"
"Yes," Natalie answered just as quietly, before continuing, "Are you upset because I am in a relationship with Adrian?"
At Julie's nod yes, Natalie was confused so she gently asked, "Why? I have dated before and you didn't seem upset."
Julie took in a deep breath and said a softly, "Because I was always sure it wouldn't last, that they would fall by the wayside eventually." Then continuing on in a whisper, she said, "But with Mr. Monk it would be different, you've been in love with him for awhile but that was okay because he didn't feel the same, but now he does. The way you two looked at each other just now, I know it is forever and that just made me miss dad."
Natalie understood and said, "I will always love your dad. He was a good man, and a great husband and father. I still miss him. But the human heart is big place and I can love Adrian Monk with all of it but that takes nothing away from what I feel for your dad. Does that make sense?"
For a long minute Julie said nothing but then nodded and smiled tentatively before wrapping her mom in a hug and saying, "I love you."
Natalie returned the hug and said in a voice that was a little watery, "I love you too, kiddo." After a few minutes Natalie asked, "Are you ready to go back in?"
"Yes," Julie answered genially.
Walking back into the house they were greeted by a worried detective and Molly, who was doing her best to distract him by telling of her latest assignments. Adrian stood up when he saw them, and started nervous fidgeting with his clothes. Natalie started to speak, but Julie cut to the chase by going over and hugging the worried man. Monk smiled brightly and hesitantly returned the hug.
Natalie felt her heart might actually burst especially when Molly came over and said, "I am very happy for you both. I think you're good for each other."
-Sharona, Randy, and Benji-
Adrian nervously reached for the phone, and dialed it before he could talk himself out of calling, again.
"Hello," said a nasally New Jersey accent that could only belong to Sharona.
"Hello Sharona, it's me, Adrian Monk," Monk stammered out nervously.
"Yes, Adrian I know it's you, I have caller I.D.," Sharona said in fond exasperation. "How are you?"
"Good, I am doing well…" Adrian said his voice trailing off at the end unsure of how to begin to tell Sharona about him and Natalie.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Sharona said impatiently, "So, how's Natalie? I haven't talked to her in awhile."
Adrian felt warmth steel over him at the mention of Natalie's name. "She is doing great. We went for a walk the other day, and then to the store for our weekly shopping trip. Then we came home…" Adrian said his voice unconsciously softening.
A loud high pitched yell pierced his eardrums causing him to wince and pull the phone away from his head. Cautiously he placed the phone back against his ear just in time to hear an excited voice shout, "Oh my goodness you guys are together. I have to tell Benji, and Randy owes me five bucks! When did this happen? Who made the first move? What did you do? What did she do? Is it serious? What am I saying! Of course it's serious, it's you."
Feeling overwhelmed at the barrage of questions he interrupted with, "How did you know?" Adrian asked mystified he had thought he'd been subtle.
Adrian could almost hear Sharona roll her eyes when she said, "Your tone of voice, Adrian. You used the same tone you use when you've talked about..." Before she abruptly stopped as though maybe it was a taboo subject.
"It's alright Sharona, you're right. It is the same tone," Adrian said softly. "They are very different woman but I think Trudy would have liked Natalie would be okay with me loving her. And I do love her, she makes me happy in a way I thought I couldn't be again," He nervously straighten his already pristine desk, not exactly comfortable with this conversation, but Sharona was important to him and he needed her to understand.
When Sharona spoke next her voice sounded watery, "I think you're right Adrian, Trudy would be happy for the two of you. I know I am. Does she love you back?"
Smiling gently he answered, "Yes, she's even told me so, although I haven't said it back."
"Adrian you have to tell her, women like to hear these things," Sharona said a little shrilly.
"I know, and I will. I am just waiting for the right moment." Monk breathed out, he vowed silently that he would very soon.
Natalie stood next to Adrian, shivering in her light sweater and skirt. They were waiting for Captain Stottlemeyer to finish wrapping up the scene, as he was their ride back into the city. Natalie's car had developed a terminal knocking sound, and it had thrown a rod and now needed a whole new engine. Stottlemeyer had called them up this morning and had told them about a Mr. Mendoza who had been murdered and dumped in San Bruno State Park. They were looking for where Mr. Mendoza had been killed and hopefully that would lead to new clues and to his killer.
Natalie had foolishly left her coat at Adrian's place and was now paying the price. The fog that San Francisco was famous for had rolled in as the afternoon had worn on; now in the burgeoning twilight Natalie was shivering. Thanks to the fog, her clothes became damp, making the cold seem twice as biting. Natalie was so frozen that her bones were starting to ache. Wrapping her arms around herself in an attempt to conserve some warmth she looked over at Adrian. She could tell he was lost in his head as he was mentally going over the details of the case. She was very glad to see he was wearing his warm jacket, so at least he wasn't cold.
Snagging his jacket by the elbow, she gently guided him out of the way when he wandered into the path of the coroner and his assistant wheeling the stretcher out to their van. She could tell he hadn't even noticed her actions, as wrapped as he was in his mental musings. Natalie took it to mean he trusted her to look after him enough to let go and knew she could handle any situation that arose.
Hunching her shoulders a bit, Natalie looked down the wooded path searching for any sign of the Captain. He had told them he would be only a few minutes, but when she glanced at her watch she saw twenty minutes had already passed. Trying to stop her teeth from chattering, Natalie tried to warm up by briskly rubbing arms. Although it did warm her up a bit it, quickly dissipated in the cool evening air.
Adrian unconsciously tilted his head as he reconstructed the crime scene in his mind.
A smudge on his left thumb…could be newspaper… or a flyer printed on cheap paper…or maybe…
Adrian's thoughts were brought to a halt when he noticed how hard Natalie's hands were her gripping arms. Shaking his head, he pulled thoughts back with a twitch of his shoulders.
Gum on shoe with sunflower shell attached…probably a high traffic area…mud on heel could be…
Monk couldn't help but notice how pale Natalie was, and how she kept rubbing her arms. Once again shaking his head he turned slightly to his left trying desperately to get his derailed thoughts back in order.
Where had he seen mud like that before…beach…no too gritty…garden soil…no not dark enough…
Hearing a chattering sound behind him he turned and for the first time in a couple of hours, he really looked at Natalie. He saw her too-thin sweater, her knee-length skirt, and her weather-inappropriate sandals. He saw the way she was hunched over, and how her hair had droplets of water on it. And more importantly saw how badly she was shivering. Taking in the full picture of his surroundings he saw how dark it was and that the air was heavy with moisture due to the fog bank that had rolled in.
Unbuttoning his jacket, he started to shrug it off saying, "Here, Natalie, take my coat."
Natalie shook her head at the proffered jacket, "No, I was the one who left my coat behind, I will be the one to suffer the consequences. Plus the shirt you are wearing is to thin."
Putting his jacket back on, he said, "I have an idea, come here." He beckoned her over.
Natalie raised an eyebrow but complied, coming to stand in front of Adrian; she could swear she saw a twinkle of mirth in his brown eyes.
Opening his jacket wide Monk simply said, "Hug me."
"Hug you?" Natalie asked with a laugh.
Adrian just waited patiently and finally Natalie gathered in close, and as soon as she felt how warm he was, she placed her hands on his chest and snuggled in as close as she could. Monk hunched over slightly and managed to do up the top two buttons on the jacket, it made for a tight fit but it worked. He wrapped his arms tightly around the shivering woman. Kissing the top of her head, he felt a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold work its way up his spine when Natalie tucked her head under his chin.
Adrian was pleased to feel her almost continuous shivering slow until Natalie was completely relaxed in his arms. As he rested his head over hers his thoughts returned to the case.
Mud…not soil…not sand…not clay…not mud…horse manure! The smudge was from a racing program, gum and sunflower shell from the filthy racetrack floor. Mr. Mendoza was killed at the racetrack and then dumped here.
"What?" Natalie asked seeing the smile.
Looking down at Natalie, Monk was once again taken by the fact that this woman loved him and that he loved her.
Maybe there was no perfect moment.
"I love you," he said softly.
Natalie felt herself tear up at the words she had wanted to hear for awhile, "I love you too."
Adrian's smile grew as he lowered his head and caressed his lips against hers before he deepened the kiss.
Hearing someone clearing their throat off to his right, Adrian brought up his head and saw a very amused Leland Stottlemeyer.
"Really?" Leland said with an approving smile.
"Yeah," Adrian answered back with a happy laugh as he felt Natalie smile against his chest and snuggle deeper within his embrace. Monk tightened his arms around his love and said, "About the case, here's what happened…"