One Touch

Her warm kisses scorched across his skin…her soft flesh pressed so close he could feel every inch of her…her golden hair was damp and draped around her beautiful face…she smelled like lavender…her hair was everywhere…tangled around both of them…her lips…

"Trudy." Adrian Monk cried out, lurching straight up in his bed. He let out several deep gasps, looking around the room in confusion. His heart was still beating wildly and his body felt slightly damp with perspiration.

Adrian slowly sank back into his pillow, realizing his whereabouts and that he had just awakened from a particularly intense dream. He moved his arm out to pull his wife towards him; to take her gentle, sleeping form and bring her close. He certainly wouldn't bother her while she was sleeping, of course, but just having the warmth of her body near him would be enough to subside the intense need for physical closeness that the dream had awakened.

His arm swept across Trudy's side of the bed, but only an empty coldness was there to meet his grasp. There was no warm body lying next to him. No beautiful woman sleeping beside him, ready to be drawn in close to him. There was no Trudy anymore.

As the warm shroud of dreaming lifted, and reality finally settled in, Adrian let out a deep and frustrated moan. It came from somewhere deep within him; from the darkness and hopelessness that he tried so hard to keep repressed inside.

She was gone. She was gone. Why couldn't he remember that? And why did he have to have dreams, dreams that made him both miss her intensely and feel unbearably frustrated inside. He could never kiss her again, never touch her again, and never even draw her close to him during a cold and lonely night.

Adrian gave a bitter sigh as he wrapped one hand across his eyes. No one would imagine he would be suffering in such a way; almost praying for human contact, when he usually spent so much of his time either trying very hard to avoid it or to wash its presence off of him, as when he would be so unlucky as for someone to shake his hand.

But that was because no one could quite understand. No one realized that he did need human contact; that the safety Trudy had provided him had led to that physical outlet, the only time in his life he was able to have such an outlet.

Adrian turned angrily on his side. There would be no getting back to sleep now. The dream had awakened a deep and powerful hunger, something he had usually kept repressed and ignored, since there was no one remotely safe (or clean) enough he could share such physical things with…or absolutely anything physical with.

He wished so desperately he could talk to someone, just to hear another person's voice, to know thatthere was someone else in this world right now that would bring him some comfort. He could call Natalie…maybe tell Natalie that he needed her to stop by.

Adrian sank as far into his pillow as he could, now gazing intently at the ceiling. He didn't feel right, he thought, as everything was hot and damp. He realized, with sudden horror, that he had been sweating…the sheets were all damp, all damp with perspiration. He needed to put them in the wash right away…and his nightclothes too…they were all damp and dirty…he needed to shower, needed to clean himself…needed to…

Adrian let out another frustrated sob, wishing to God he could just stop thinking, just stop thinking and go back to sleep. Couldn't he just stop, he wanted to sleep so badly…

Call Natalie. A part of him urged himself, knowing she would be able to soothe him, to stop him from obsessing over the need to begin scrubbing. He reached for the phone near his bedside, tears now threatening to cloud his vision.

His hand trembled on the phone; waiting eagerly for her familiar voice to answer. He hopelessly felt like the only person alive in the world right now.

"Hello?" A groggy voice answered on the other end.

Adrian felt his heart leap up into his throat. He gave a hard swallow, trying to clear his head. "I—I need to shower…I'm dirty…sweat…sweat everywhere…"

"Mr. Monk?" The voice sounded more alert now, and he detected a note of worry in it. "Mr. Monk, do not turn on that shower. Do not go near that shower, okay?"

"I'm so dirty. I can't stop…"

"Can't stop what? Why are you dirty? What happened?"

"I—I had a dream—and…and then…"

"You had a dream? Like, what, a nightmare?"

Adrian shook his head, his voice growing shakier; the want to move towards the shower only growing stronger within him. "No—no, n—not a nightmare."

There was a moment of silence on the other end. "Did you dream about Trudy?"

Adrian swallowed. "Y—yes."

"What did you dream about Trudy?"

Adrian searched the room frantically, looking for some kind of answer to that question. "Can you stop by? Please."

"What? Mr. Monk…" She gave a heavy sigh. "Mr. Monk, it's one in the morning."

Adrian nodded, his head jerking towards his shoulder. "Please." He gasped, his voice coming out shakily. "I need you to stop by."

"Mr. Monk…I can't leave Julie. I can't."

"Natalie…" He moaned, pressing his head up against the back of his hand as he leaned forward in agony. "Please."

There was another heavy sigh. "Alright. Alright. You just lay back down, okay? Lay back down and stay there, I'll be over in a minute. And I don't want to find you in the shower, do you understand?"

He blinked, heavy tears sliding down his cheeks. "Yes."

"Okay. You lay down, okay? Lay down and I'll be over in about ten minutes."

Adrian placed the phone down, taking in a raspy breath. He knew Natalie had given him implicit orders to lie down, but he couldn't just now. He was still shaken inside and lying in the silence and…emptiness…of his bed would have been just too torturous.

Natalie will be here soon. You won't be alone. He told himself, over and over as he paced the floor. You won't be alone soon.

The knock on the door startled him from his thoughts; brought him back to his cold surroundings. He nervously shuffled towards the door; eager to see Natalie's face and to hear her reassuring voice.

He opened it and found, much to his dismay, that Natalie did not seem as eager to see him. Her hair was very messy; it was pulled back but golden strands were still falling in every direction. She had hurriedly dressed herself, wearing a pair of jeans and a simple T-shirt.

"Are you okay?" She asked, and it seemed that once she found he was not physically harmed she became very cross again. "Can you tell me why you called me over here at one in the morning? I had to wake Julie up and drop her off at my neighbor's house, which woke her up. So now we're all awake at one in morning, just like you."

"I—I had a dream." Adrian mumbled, closing the door behind her as she moved into the house. "A dream."

"You had a dream." Natalie sighed, putting one hand up to her forehead to rub it. "Okay, what was the dream about?"

Adrian felt his gaze fall to his feet. He couldn't talk about that dream, not even to Natalie. He grasped at something that he would feel comfortable with her hearing, "It made me—it made me miss Trudy."

Natalie nodded, her hand still held to her forehead. "You don't think it would make you feel any better to talk about it?"

Adrian shook his head quickly. "No….no."

"So why were you dirty?" She continued, her blue gaze watching him intently. He suddenly felt a little foolish, answering these questions with mundane simplicity.

"I was sweating…a lot…"

Natalie gave a small, understanding smile. She moved a little closer towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I think I understand the dream now."

An uncomfortable feeling bubbled up within him. He felt his body twitch nervously, his hands fidgeting at the sides of his nightshirt. "No…no, you don't. No…no, no you don't."

"Mr. Monk, it's okay. You were married for seven years. You miss her."

Adrian shook his head profusely, although he agreed with her statement, there was even more to this feeling than the usual ache of missing Trudy. "I—I miss…"

"You're feeling very lonely." Natalie rubbed his back, gently. "Is that it?"

Adrian gave a short nod; the tears once again rushing to his dark brown eyes. He gave another heavy swallow and let out a shaky breath. "It's so cold…and lonely…in here…"

"Mr. Monk, it's okay. You know you're not alone." She gave his back another comforting pat, and he appreciated the gesture. It did more than bring him some comfort; it brought him some of that physical contact he had so desperately longed for. The intense neediness was subsiding now…just her gentle touch on his back was helping with that…

"Natalie…can you stay?" Adrian asked, his eyes blinking towards the ceiling again. How come he had never noticed that crack before…?

Natalie sighed, and withdrew her hand slightly. "I need to be getting back home, as soon as I'm sure you're okay. You're okay now, right?"

Adrian shook his head, his eyes now trained to the crack at the ceiling. "No, no…I still don't feel right. I mean…I—I never feel right but…"

"Look at me. Hey, look at me." Natalie placed her hand on his shoulder, and Adrian felt his gaze drawn back towards her face. She gave him an encouraging smile. "You just need some sleep, okay? I'll be over first thing in the morning. We're going to see Stottlemeyer and Randy too, for the case, remember? So you won't be alone. You just need sleep tonight."

No, no…she didn't understand. She needed to stay; to keep her hands placed on him, so that he didn't feel so cold…didn't feel so alone in the world. As soon as she left he'd be alone again, completely isolated, with only memories of Trudy keeping him company.

"I—I can't sleep." He pointed to his head, as if it were the source of his agony. "Dreams…"

"It bothers you? I mean…those dreams?"

Adrian shook his head, quickly. "Not the dreams…no…it's the waking up. It's the waking up…" He felt the lump grow heavy in his throat and he snorted through the sudden rush of tears. "…it's the waking up that I can't stand."

Natalie blinked quickly, and Adrian could see she was feeling sorry for him. He sighed, he hated it when she felt sorry for him, it made him feel so weak, like he was less of a man.

"I hate waking up." He finished, his eyes now glued accusingly to that unsightly crack on his ceiling. He would deal with that soon enough…

"Well, in that case, I think sleep is the best thing right now." Natalie gave his shoulder another quick pat. "I'll be here first thing in the morning, Mr. Monk. An hour earlier than usual. I promise, okay?"

He didn't want her to leave. As soon as she left she'd take her voice…and her warmth…and her lavender scent with her. She couldn't leave. Not tonight.

If he was strong enough, he would have told her these things. He would have asked her to stay and tell her that he needed her right now. He would tell her that she couldn't leave; she couldn't take her touch away and leave him alone…and cold…again.

But he wasn't strong enough and the words couldn't seem to work their way through the lump in his throat. So he just murmured, "An hour earlier?"

"I promise." She smiled, rubbing his shoulder gently.

Adrian watched her intently, his eyes turned ever so slightly to the warming hand on his shoulder. He glanced back up towards her face; her hair was everywhere…draping across her face in smooth, golden strands…her icy blue gaze watching him from beneath that blonde curtain.

I need you here. But he wasn't sure if the words were spoken or thought, so tangled was everything in his mind. All he knew was that one hand had risen from his side and had drifted ever so dangerously towards Natalie's messy golden hair. He noted, with some surprise, that her breathing had grown shallower and quieter in response to this motion. He moved that hand slowly, shakily, towards her blonde strands to move them…to tuck them gently behind her ear…to feel that touch he had so longed for all night.

He knew…he knew what would happen if he was brave enough to touch her hair. Fingers trembling and shaking, he touched her hair, and with the utmost sincerity he moved to tuck it gently behind her ear, his fingers brushing slowly against the side of her face. With only a moments lingering, he then moved to pull his hand away, but found that before he could, hers had reached up to grab his wrist.

He gave a startled tremor, his eyes staring deep into her blue gaze, wondering what this meant. Daring to wonder…to wonder what this touch meant…

Keeping a firm grasp on his wrist, Natalie moved forward and paused, her face now only inches from Adrian's. Her warm breath was intoxicating as he felt it move across his face. It filled him with a strange anticipation, one that was not entirely unfamiliar to him, but that he had not experienced in a very long time.

Adrian took in a deep, shaky breath. Her breath tickled his lips; she was so close to him. Slowly closing his eyes, Adrian pressed his own lips deep into Natalie's. She let out a sharp gasp, but the hand on his wrist only tightened. Her other hand, which had once been at her side, now sprang up to grasp a fistful of his nightshirt in order to pull him even closer.

Their bodies pressed together and the warmth that followed was overwhelming. Adrian felt his breathing grow rougher as he pressed his lips even more deeply into hers. His hands reached out to grab onto her hips, pulling at her so that she was now tightly entwined around him. One of her hands was still holding his nightshirt in her first, the other now moving up the side of his face to rest behind the back of his neck.

Adrian felt his back press up against the wall, suddenly; his soft moan broke the heated silence. Natalie was still in his arms; her hips were still firmly grasped in his hands. He felt his body shudder; she had opened her mouth to take his own in more fully, and he found that he had quickly followed her lead by opening his own. This was safe…this was safe…Natalie was always safe…

Her small form was now pressed tightly to his, her mouth still ravaging his own, and somehow his strong arms were moving…moving to pick her up…to lift her off the ground. Her legs were now locked on either side of his hips with her forehead pressing down against his. Her scorching lips still ravaged his mouth; as if she were just as lonely…just as hungry…just as deeply crying out for human touch and physical expression as he was…

"Why are you staring at me like that?" Natalie asked, as she moved her head back; her golden hair flying just out of his reach.

Adrian dropped his hand quickly; his heart thudding guiltily in his chest. His mind…it had wandered completely without his consent…those thoughts…those thoughts…he shook his head, quickly, as if trying to scrub them from his mind.

"Mr. Monk, are you okay?" She demanded, and Adrian could see that she now appeared a little unnerved. She had also backed away slightly…the gap between them was small, but to Adrian, nothing could be more painfully noticeable.

He shook his head, unsure if he was breathing as loud as he felt he was. "I—I'm fine." He finally spoke, uncertain of what else to say. He felt deeply embarrassed; he was unsure how long he had been standing there watching her, and found that this was something he could not even begin to contemplate any further.

It's just because you're feeling lonely. That's all it is. Loneliness…

Adrian's hand subconsciously moved to his wedding band and he rubbed it gingerly. He jerked his gaze angrily back at the crack on the wall, surprised he had never noticed how grim and disrupting it was before now.

"Look, try not to dwell on the dream, okay?" Natalie murmured, her voice returning to its gentle quality. "Think about others things."

"L—like what?" Adrian asked in a rather hoarse whisper, his eyes drifting over towards Natalie's messy blonde hair again.

"Like the case. You can think about the case." She suggested, nodding at him. "How you're going to solve the case and make things right again."

Adrian nodded slowly before turning towards his assistant. He gave her a small smile. It may have started out as a grimace, but he felt he had adequately forced it into a smile by the time it finished working across his face. "Yeah—yeah, I can think…think about the case."

"You can." She agreed, giving him a bright smile. "Now go lay down. I'll walk you to your room, okay?"

He nodded, dropping into step behind her. "Okay…okay."

He walked into the room and felt his heart drop into his stomach. There was the bed…the cold and lonely bed. He was the only other person in that bed; scrunched up on one side, desperately leaving the other side open; as if wishing to somehow recapture the warmer nights in which he had slept in that bed.

"Lay down." She whispered, pushing on his shoulders gently so that he was now lying across the bed. She gave him a quick nod and a smile. "I'll be here an hour earlier tomorrow. I promise, okay? Now you have to promise me that you'll sleep."

"I promise…to stay in bed." Adrian replied, his eyes watching her figure as it retreated towards his doorway.

"Okay. Goodnight, Mr. Monk." She murmured, softly. She shut the lights off as she left; leaving the bright glow of the nightlight the only thing keeping him from being swallowed up by the darkness. He heard his front door creak open before gently closing a moment later.

He shut his eyes tightly. She was gone again and the coldness was beginning to seep back into the room. It was so cold, so cold.

He shook his head, and tried desperately to grasp for some sort of comfort, anything that would get him through the night.

There…there was still the fact that she had stopped by for a while, that she had left some of her warmth behind for him to remember, that she had cared enough to guide him back to bed, and that she had reminded him that he could take his mind off of things with the case.

And…and the thought of what could have happened if he had been brave enough to reach out and touch just one strand of her beautiful blonde hair.