I don't own Perry Mason and I hope my dabbling doesn't offend whoever does.

This story has no connection to any book, episode or movie. It's just something I wanted to play around with. It's also my first try at first person.

E. Wallace

A drizzling rain cools the breeze blowing in the partially open balcony door, softening the September night. I would much rather be relaxing with Della on the couch in my apartment by a crackling fire, but we're still at the office and at the moment I can't predict when we will be leaving.

Reading over the final version of the brief we've worked on for the last hour, my mind is on the words but my expectations are on the cup I pick up. One sip breaks my focus. "Coffee's cold."

Della's concentration on the file in front of her is so deep that it takes her a moment to process my statement. Testing the metal side of the percolator with her fingertips then the palm of her hand, her actions deliver the bad news before she speaks. "Pot's gone cold, too. I'll make some."

It is nearly eleven and another round of coffee is the last thing either of us needs at this hour, but we're waiting for the report from Paul that will help finalize a dozen points for court Monday. Once everything gets squared away, we're free for the weekend and I have plans - none of which include leaving the apartment. I've already notified the service that calls, even ones from potential clients already sitting in jail, are not to be put through until after noon tomorrow.

The brief is forgotten as I watch Della push away from the table with a sigh so soft I only hear it because I'm listening for it, because I want to hear it.

Della's sighs are as eloquent as words when one has learned her 'language' and I have been a diligent student.

Appreciation at a glorious sunset over the ocean... satisfaction for a case won... contentment as she melts into my arms on the dance floor... sated exhaustion after -

Her movement distracts me before I get carried away. She rises from her chair and grabs the pot in one graceful motion, padding quietly into the next room in her stocking feet. Unless we're expecting a client, the shoes almost always come off around ten o'clock. Paul is due within the hour but formality is never an issue with him.

I lean back in my chair, watching the doorway even though I can no longer see her. I've observed the ritual often enough to follow along by the sounds. As yet another sixteen hour day winds down, Della is tired, but habit makes her movements measured, her slender, manicured hands efficient.

Her slender, manicured hands... moving... touching...

It takes more effort this time to drag my thoughts from the desirable to the mundane, and I focus on the sounds from the other room.

The metallic rattle of the percolator being disassembled; the moist plop of old grounds landing in the trash; cold coffee splashes down the drain; a short burst from the faucet to rinse the pot then a long run to fill it with fresh water; the gentle clatter of the basket being reset. A momentary silence finally filled by the soft clink of saucers meeting counter and cups meeting saucers. The scarcely audible creak of an opening cabinet and I know the coffee canister is next. She will need to stretch a little bit further to get it off the shelf since she is missing a good two and half inches of artificial height.

I glance at her shoes lying haphazardly under the table... the only disorganized habit I know her to have. The endearing imperfection seems to make her more perfect in every other way.

The snap of the percolator top being pressed into place pulls me away from thoughts of Della's perfection, and I pick up a folder in time to pretend to be reading when she returns to retrieve our used cups from the table and my desk. On her way back across the office, she notices the wind has picked up and is now blowing the rain in towards the open balcony door. She detours by the door and, since her hands are full, uses her elbow to slide it closed. Continuing on, she disappears again then I hear the dishes go into the sink for the cleaning crew.

What happens next is always determined by the time of day. First thing in the morning her task would be to check with the service for messages. During the day there is time to pull a file, type a few more paragraphs of a document, or step back into my office to continue whatever had been interrupted by the need for coffee.

Tonight, at this late hour, after this long day, she won't move from the counter. The coffee bubbling in the clear top of the percolator will mesmerize her like a snake charmer. She will stand with her left hand braced on the counter while her right hand opens and closes and her wrist rotates, flexing out the cramps brought on by the large volume of dictation she took down over the last three hours.

I give up all pretense of work to watch her cross the room when she returns, leaving her cup and the pot on the table by the file she left open. She makes a second trip to get my coffee.

She reaches slightly to set the cup and saucer on the desk in front of me, careful to avoid the papers strewn there. I lean forward and catch her hand before she can straighten.

Easily reading the intentions in my eyes even before I tug at her hand, Della allows my gentle pull to lead her around the desk. She drops into my lap with practiced ease, looping her arms around my shoulders. I cradle her in one arm while my other hand caresses her hip.

We share long, slow kisses as she loosens my tie and unbuttons my collar. Her fingers are cool as they slip inside to curl around my neck

"Cream in your coffee, hmm?" She only puts cream in her coffee late at night.

"I'm out of brandy," she quips. "As always, there's plenty of sugar in yours."

I forego coffee and sugar in favor of trailing teasing nips down her throat to place tender kisses on the soft skin peeking between the triple strands of her pearls. I don't consider it a fetish per se, but there is just something about Della in pearls... especially Della in pearls and nothing else.

"Remember," she murmurs in my ear, "if you leave a mark, I have to cover it up and you don't get to look for awhile."

She knows me too well. She has never worn anything vulgar or low cut to the office because it's not her style and because she knows I don't need anything obvious to get my imagination working.

Sex in the office is an intriguing fantasy, but Della prefers to keep the professional as separate from the romantic as possible. She doesn't want to look at a client across the conference table or sit next to Paul on the sofa where we've made love. She uses the fact that Paul almost caught us in the law library once to underscore her point.

Lucky for me her definition of 'as separate as possible' allows for the occasional late night necking session.

She doesn't object as my hand slides under the hem of her skirt and up her silk clad leg, but she stops me when my questing fingers find the fastener holding her stocking.

"Paul will be here soon."

"The door is locked. We'll have time to make ourselves presentable."

She moves against me provocatively and feels my body respond as she knew it would, as only she can make it respond. "If you can make yourself 'presentable' in the short amount of time it takes for me to answer Paul's knock, I'm doing something wrong."

"You do everything right and that's why I let you get the door."

Della laughs at the same time Paul raps out his signature knock. Sliding off my lap, she does the timeless feminine shimmy to resettle her skirt and slip, and re-buttons the one I had undone to give me access. I don't refasten my collar but I do pull the knot of my tie higher.

"Shoes?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

"No, thank you," she tosses over her shoulder, reaching for the doorknob.

"Hi," Paul's gaze drops the extra inches to meet hers, "Beautiful. I should have remembered how late it is."

He slouches into the chair in front of my desk while Della goes to get a cup for him, bringing the sandwiches she had set aside for him back with her. She gets a 'Thanks, Beautiful' for catering to him which she acknowledges with a smile.

After he wolfs down the sandwiches and coffee, it takes Paul less than ten minutes to give his report while Della makes the necessary notes. Once that's done, Paul asks for some advice on another case he's working. Della straightens up the office while we talk. Forty-five minutes get away without us realizing it until I glance past Paul's shoulder to see Della asleep on the couch, covered with her coat. Her shoes, purse and briefcase have been positioned nearby for easy access.

Paul slips out quietly and I lock the door behind him. A quick call to the service pushes the 'no calls' edict back to six p.m.

Going down on one knee next to the couch, I am conscious of the symbolism in the action. I've proposed in the past - several times - and she has turned me down with a calm, well-structured rationale. I sense there is something she's not telling me, a reason that motivates her but that she doesn't expect me to understand. All I can do is love her and keep waiting, keep asking.

I do love her so. I've been in love before and I know this is different - deeper, permanent.

I caress her cheek before cupping her face in my hand. She nuzzles into my palm and her lashes flutter to reveal soft brown eyes. There is no just awakened confusion in her eyes, only love.

She pulls back a little when I lean in to kiss her, but I dispel her unspoken concern with a whispered "Paul's gone" and her mouth eagerly meets mine.

I'm the one who has to break the kiss if I want to honor her wishes about not making love on the sofa. "Let's get out of here," I say, starting to rise.

Grasping my tie, she pulls me back to look me in the eye. "Do you have food in your apartment?"

I have gotten better but she's learned to ask. "Yes, the refrigerator is stocked and so is the liquor cabinet. There's firewood, too."

Her praise for my good work is bestowed in a kiss that quickly starts to get out of hand.

"We could be doing this on the couch in my apartment."

She sits up and slips on her shoes, but when she reaches for the briefcase, my firm "Leave that here" stops her. She looks up at me and I know when she recognizes the desire I'm making no attempt to hide.

"If you're going to look at me like that, we'd better not be stopping at the couch."

She's right, of course.

A king size bed offers so many more options than a couch.