A/N: I don't own Perry or Della, of course. But I have tons of fun messing with them. This piece is in response to a request from a reader to find out what happened between Perry and Marshall Stockton. Hope you enjoy it!
P&D P&D P&D P&D
Heart pounding and breath coming in painful gasps, Della Street leaned against the door. Hands at her throat, she worked to open the collar of her blouse. Fighting her instinctive reaction, she forced her breathing to a slower, more deliberate, rate. Her mind began to regain control of her body.
This was not the first time this had happened. But it had been such a long time since the last panic attack that she'd hoped it was all over and done with.
It started in the car. She'd known it was a mistake to go to dinner with him. Although, she had to admit, he'd been a perfect gentleman. Absolutely perfect.
That didn't change the fact that once they were in the car and headed for her apartment, panic took over. By the time he stopped the car in front of her building, her breathing had become quick and shallow and she was horrified that she might pass out before she made it inside. And what if he tried to follow her? To come up to her apartment?
Della couldn't even remember what he'd said as he took the key to the outer door from her shaking hand. She remembered watching him slip it smoothly into the lock. He said something as he returned it to her. What had he said?
And did she reply? She had no idea. All she knew was as soon as the door opened, she slipped inside and almost ran across the lobby to catch the elevator. Now, safely - safe? really? - inside the apartment, the panic began to subside.
Della took a deep breath and at last managed to pull herself away from the door. After double-checking the lock, she laid her purse and keys on a table and went into the bedroom. Her robe waited at the end of the bed.
Quickly divesting herself of clothing, she picked up the robe and went into the bathroom. A hot shower would do wonders for her relaxation. She laid the robe on the counter next to the sink and turned on the water. Within minutes the mirror began to fog.
Della let the water course over her head and body. She breathed deeply, slowing her heart beat; the panic finally giving up it's hold on her.
Twice before she'd experienced these attacks. Both of them happened in the month after she left her job with Matthews and Stockton. She knew herself well enough to know that it was a delayed reaction what had happened there. That was why she'd been so very careful, not to let herself get into a situation like that again.
He didn't give her a chance. He just swept her off to dinner without even a chance to refuse. With barely a thought she left with him. The dinner had been superb and he was the perfect companion, but when they left the restaurant, alone in his car, she felt her vulnerability acutely. He could have taken her anywhere, done anything and she'd have no way to stop him.
That was when the panic started.
It wasn't just being in a car with a man. That wasn't what set her off. It wasn't as if she'd given up dating after "the incident". There were even one or two that had made it as far as her apartment. Those had been good experiences. No fear, no panic.
What differed in this situation was the man himself. Perry Mason was her boss and that made things complicated.
These thoughts caused the muscles in her shoulders to tighten again and the memories poured over her, just like the hot water. She tried to stop them, but couldn't.
"Miss Street! Prompt as ever! Come in." Marshall Stockton stood from his hand-tooled leather desk chair and smiled widely. "Have a seat over here on the couch." He gestured to the leather sofa across from his desk. He walked over to it and seated himself at one end.
Della smiled at her employer and gestured with the notebook and pencil she held in one hand. "The secretarial chair is much easier for taking shorthand."
"There's plenty of time for that in a moment. I wanted to talk with you for a few minutes, first."
His eyes, right then, told her everything she needed to know about what was going to happen. Why hadn't she listened to her instincts? Why hadn't she run right then?
The memories flashed through Della's mind, fragmented and jumbled, but still all too powerful.
"Can I take your jacket, Della? It's rather warm, don't you think?"
A hand on her knee. Then fingers sliding up beneath the hem of her skirt.
"You seem so uptight. Why don't I just help you relax, then we can get down to...work."
Hands on her shoulders. Hands sliding down her arms.
She could still smell his cologne.
The smell! That's what it was. Mr. Mason wore the same cologne. The odor of it was still present, even under the shower spray. The same cologne - how could something that insignificant trigger such a powerful response? Tears welled up in her eyes and started to fall down her face, mixing with the water from the shower.
She remembered the moment when she realized how serious the situation with Stockton had become. He'd ignored her protests and her prodding towards getting started on the work that he'd said he needed done.
The arm on her shoulders suddenly tightened, the touch instantly changing from friendly and casual to something restrictive and demanding. "You aren't going anywhere, doll. You've still got work to do, remember? I guess you just haven't been informed as to everything your job requires."
He laughed, his face close to hers. The smell of his aftershave mingled with the whiskey on his breath.
The memories invaded her conscience, pushing at her defenses. She tried to stop the flood of images, with no success. The shower wall was cool against the small of her back as she braced against it for support.
The memory shifted again, and now she was standing, trying to pull away from his grasp. But when she tired, he anticipated her action and kept her close, cutting off her escape. He kissed her, hard, on the side of the mouth. She pushed him away and tried to run. His hands were like steel and she couldn't free herself from his grip. He laughed at her futile struggling.
She struck out, and managed to land a knee to his groin. His hold on her immediately relaxed. She freed herself and made for the door. Stockton grabbed for her again, managed to catch the arm of her blouse. The seam at the shoulder ripped as she yanked her arm away from him.
The memories were still hot and fresh. Her skin burned where Stockton had touched her. She could hear the obscenities he'd yelled when she kneed him. The spot on her arm that he'd scratched as he tore the fabric of her blouse stung once more. She pressed her hands to her mouth, trying to wipe off the taste and feel of his lips. And the smell, the cologne, assailed her nostrils, stronger than before.
The physical manifestations felt impossibly real, bolstered by the shame and recrimination in her mind. How could she have let herself get into such a situation? Maybe her mother was right. Maybe she was too young and too inexperienced to be here, alone, with no one to watch out for her. Maybe she should just pack it in and go home.
She slid her back down the shower wall until she was sitting, crying, beneath the flow of hot water. Finally her tears were spent and she reached over to turn off the faucet. Regaining her feet, she stepped out onto the rug and wrapped her body with the terry cloth robe. She dried her hair with a towel, then combed it before the mirror and stared into her own eyes.
She didn't like what she saw there. Della hated being afraid. The first few days after leaving - at a run - Matthews and Stockton, she'd felt this fear. Then she grabbed hold of herself and wrenched free of it's grip on her life. Determined not to give in, she started her job search with vigor, resolved not to let Marshall Stockton destroy her independence.
Then she'd reclaimed her social life and got on with the business of living. Everything would be fine. She'd been sure of it. She knew how to set boundaries and built walls to ensure that she'd never be put in that sort of situation again.
It worked until Perry Mason came along and barrelled over her objections as if they weren't there. Ever since going to work for him, she'd had a sense of foreboding, of dread. He was too good to be true. He gave the appearance of being open and honest with her. There didn't seem to be any ulterior motive behind his interactions with her. That made him more dangerous, she decided. If she couldn't read him, couldn't gage his intentions, she'd be in more danger than she'd ever been with Marshall Stockton.
Part of her argued that he really was being honest. He simply valued her as an employee and was appreciative of her contribution. His actions certainly seemed to bear that out. Della probably would have convinced herself it was true, if it hadn't been for the times when she caught his admiring gaze lingering on her with barely disguised infatuation.
How long until he used his power and authority to get what he wanted? Even as the thought crossed her mind, Della realized that he'd had innumerable opportunities to do just that, and had never been the least bit inappropriate with her. Tonight, especially, it would have been ridiculously easy for him to take advantage of the situation.
Della frowned and tossed the comb down onto the counter with more force than was necessary. She hated this fear. Hated it and hated herself for allowing it to color her reactions so completely. It wasn't as if she didn't know what kind of man she worked for. He was completely committed to truth and to seeking justice for anyone who came to him for help. Admittedly, at times she was appalled by the lengths he would go to for a client, even those that seemed barely deserving of such an advocate. A man like that would never take advantage of someone weaker, more vulnerable, than himself.
Anger flashed through her mind at that thought. 'Weak? Vulnerable?' Since when did those terms apply to her. Is that who she was now? She glared at her reflection for a moment then shook her head. She'd certainly been naive and perhaps slow to act, but she wasn't weak or vulnerable. Not then, not now.
Della stood a little straighter and grinned at her reflection. After all, her well-placed knee may have spared the world the possibility of dealing with Marshall Stockton's progeny. He wasn't a man who was often denied what he wanted. He wanted her and had been prepared to do whatever it took to have her. And she'd stopped him.
Della padded out of the bathroom and towards the kitchen. She wasn't really hungry - the steak she'd had for dinner was much more than adequate - but she opened the refrigerator anyway. After a few moment's perusal, she took out a bottle of milk and poured a glass.
As she raised the glass and took a drink, the phone rang. Della sighed. There was no one she could think of that she felt like talking to, but if she didn't answer, she'd spend half the night wondering who had called. She went into the living room and picked up the receiver on the forth ring.
The caller turned out to be Maddie Forrester, erstwhile receptionist and office manager for Matthews and Stockton. She and Della had become friends and kept in touch even after Della left the agency. Earlier in the day they had talked while Della waiting in the front office to see Marshall Stockton. With barely even a perfunctory greeting, Maddie jumped straight to the point.
"Honey, you didn't tell me he was gorgeous!"
"Excuse me? Maddie, who is gorgeous?" Della felt like she'd missed something important.
"Your new boss, that's who! I mean, I've seen his picture in the newspapers - who hasn't? So I knew he was a handsome guy, but, oh my lord - those eyes! Cameras do not do the man justice, Della! And that voice! How do you get any work done? I'd just sit and stare at him all day."
Della laughed a little uneasily. "Well, he is handsome, but - "
"The man is a Greek god, Del! Seriously, I though I would just melt when he leaned over my desk and asked where to find Mr. Stockton. He was positively seething!"
"Oh, no..." Della closed her eyes and rubbed her temple with her free hand. Her head began to ache.
"Oh, yes, my dear. Oh, yes!"
"I knew...well, not for sure, but he must have... What did he...?" She stumbled over her words, not at all sure what questions she wanted to ask and whether or not she wanted those questions answered.
"You don't know?" Maddie exclaimed. "You mean he didn't hot-foot it back to the office, sweep you off your feet and make passionate love to you?" She paused for a breath, then continued in a more sober manner. "That's very interesting."
Della sighed. Maddie was a good friend, but Della was in no mood for guessing games. "What happened, Maddie? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about your knight in shining armor, that's what! He came to the office this afternoon - a couple of hours after you left. And the man was absolutely fierce!"
The headache leaped forward a few notches on the pain scale.
"I was at my desk, updating some files, when he came in," Maddie began.
Perry Mason strode purposefully across the spacious lobby of Matthews and Stockton's downtown office. The receptionist eyed him with cool professionalism; courteous, but not effusively welcoming. "I'm here to see Marshall Stockton," he said.
"Do you have an appointment, Mr. ...?" Her voice trailed off as she waited for him to fill in the blank.
"Which office is his?" Mason asked, eyes boring into her.
"You won't be seen unless you have an appointment, sir. Mr. Stockton is very busy." She reached for a schedule book. "If you'll give me your name...?"
Mason had already left the desk and headed down the hallway, looking at nameplates over doorways as he went.
"Sir! Wait! You can't go back there!" She keyed the intercom in Mr. Stockton's office to warn him of the invasion.
Mason found the door he was looking for and jerked it open. A lean, overly tanned young man whirled to face him. He'd just been speaking into the intercom, no doubt warned by the receptionist.
"Mason!" he exclaimed. "What do you mean, bursting in here like that? You scared my girl half to death out there!" In his surprise, he neglected to turn off the intercom.
"I have something to say and I'm not wasting time waiting on you to decided whether or not to see me."
Stockton had the easy grace of a man who spent long hours on the golf course and racquetball courts and his impeccable attire was that of a man who spent a lot of time in front of a mirror, perfecting his appearance. He swung around the end of his desk and seated himself in his over-sized leather executive chair. "So, talk," he said. "Matthews and I already agreed to the terms you sent over this morning. I thought that finished the business. Are you trying to change the agreement now?"
"This has nothing to do with the lawsuit," Mason said. He sat down in one of the client chairs across the desk for the younger man. "I've come to see whether or not I'm going to break your scrawny neck," he said, his voice even and firm.
"Excuse me?" Stockton's mouth dropped open in surprise.
"You seem to have a problem comprehending the English language, at least when it's spoken by women. I am here to help you understand a few things. Failing that, I'm going to break your neck."
Marshall Stockton glared across the desk at his visitor. "Have you lost your mind, Mason? What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Della Street."
Stockton's eyes flashed. "What about her?" His voice had an edge of wariness.
"Leave her alone."
"You've got some nerve, Mason. I don't know where you got the idea that you can come barging into a man's office and try to tell him what he can or can't do with -"
"This is exactly what I mean," Mason interrupted. "If you can't comprehend a simple instruction like that, I don't see any point in continuing this conversation. Perhaps you'd like to step outside now?"
"You're not serious!" Stockton laughed. "Besides, I'm younger than you and I'm in better shape. You should be careful who you challenge, old boy."
Mason stood and leaned over the desk. His prize-fighter's physique - broad shoulders and barrel chest tapering down to a trim waistline - towered over the other man. "And you should be careful who you proposition. Miss Street has made it clear to you, on more than one occasion, that she wants nothing to do with you. I'm here to make it clear to you that if you ever try a sleazy stunt like this again, you'll pay for it. Painfully, publicly and legally. Got it?"
Stockton sneered up at him. "I can see she's wormed her way under your skin. Let me guess, you told her you'd take care of her and protect her from the big bad wolf. Too bad she's not here to see you do a little pointless posturing on her behalf. Too bad she didn't take me up on my offer. Her loss."
Mason looked down at him, the expression holding only icy disdain. "You are a sad excuse for a man. Is extorting sex from your office staff in return for continued employment really the best you can do? No wonder you get angry and vindictive when they don't succumb to your 'charm'. Let me clue you in on something, junior. A real man doesn't have to blackmail women into his bed."
"Blackmail? Extort? Well, let me educate you on one of the finer points of law that you seemed to have missed out on, Perry Mason. You can't libel a person like that. I'll sue you. I'll have your license. You'll regret the day you ever set foot in my office!"
Mason shook his head. "You should perhaps reacquaint yourself with the definition of libel." He leaned closer, staring the other man down. "And make sure there is no misunderstanding. Leave Della Street alone. Don't call her, don't try to see her, don't even look at her if you see her on the street. Understand?"
Face reddening, Stockton jumped up from his chair. "You can either shut up and get out of here, Mason, or I'll shut your mouth for you and throw you out myself."
"Do you understand me?" Mason growled.
"Oh I understand what you're saying, but now you listen to me! My private life is none of your business. Della may be telling you she's never had a thing for me, but she's obviously trying to feather her nest by getting on your good side. Trust me, she's no babe in the woods. She's been around. And if I decide that I want a piece of that skirt, then there is nothing you can say or do to stop me."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Mason intoned ominously.
"Oh really?" Stockton countered, sarcasm dripping from his words. "You go ahead and try it. The papers would have a field day! 'Prominent Attorney in Brawl Over Secretary'." He laughed. "That would do wonders for your poor Miss Street's virtue, wouldn't it? Not to mention your professional reputation. She'll make a fool of you, Mason. Best just leave it alone."
"Think again, Stockton. You've got a lot more to lose than I do. If you attempt any further contact with Miss Street, she's going to swear out a criminal complaint against you for harassment. And then she's going to sue you for everything you've got. Let me promise you this. She's got a very good attorney who will make for damn sure," he reached out and poked a finger into Stockton's chest, punctuating the words as he spoke, "you get burned."
Furious, Stockton slapped the lawyers hand away. Mason continued, "You'll be a social pariah by the time I'm done with you. None of the country club crowd is going to want someone like you anywhere near their daughters once your escapades become public fodder. Your business partner will be none too happy either. Your business is built on the public's trust and goodwill. You can't afford, personally or professionally, to have any of this hit the papers."
"Get out!" Stockton raged at the attorney through gritted teeth. "Get the hell out of here and don't ever come back!"
"My pleasure," Mason said with a grin. "Give my best to Mr. Matthews. I don't see any need to mention our conversation to him. Yet." He strode out of the office and down the hall towards the receptionist, who appeared to be occupied with her intercom buttons.
Stockton stomped out of the office a few paces behind him. "Go ahead!" he yelled at the lawyer's back. "Let her make a fool of you, Mason. I certainly won't stand in your way. But you can give that little whore a message from me-" The words were cut off when his body slammed into the wall next to his office door. When Stockton uttered the word 'whore', Mason whirled and grabbed the other man by the lapels, thrusting him back, hard, against the wall.
The lawyer leaned in close, eyes blazing, and said, "Unless you want to swallow a good many of those pearly whites, you'd best learn to keep your god-damn mouth shut. Say whatever you want about me; I don't care. But don't ever say anything like that about Della Street again."
Stockton didn't reply. He was still gulping air.
"Got it?" Mason growled. He tightened his grip, driving his fists into the other man's chest.
"Yes! Fine!" Stockton's voice almost cracked. "Got it." He reached up to massage the shoulder that had taken the brunt of the force of the shove.
Perry Mason released him and turned on his heel, headed back down the hall. "You might want to get some ice on that shoulder," he said. "That's liable to wreck havoc with your golf swing."
The receptionist, watching the scene with wide eyes couldn't hide a grin when her eyes caught his as Mason passed her desk on his way to the exit. He winked at her and made his way out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
"You should have seen that swine Stockton's face!" Maddie exclaimed. "He was livid, but he knew better than to try to stop Mr. Mason again. He just turned around and slunk back into his office. He sulked in there until five, when he left without a word. Mr. Mason made quite an impression." She laughed heartily.
Della sat quietly for a long time after the conversation ended, staring at nothing, contemplating what she'd been told. Mr. Mason had done all of that, and barely said a word about it?
The smile that curved the corners of her lips softened her expression. Tension ebbed slowly and she settled back into the couch cushions. Her smile widened as she pictured Perry Mason taking hold of Marshall Stockton and slamming him into a wall.
Della had no doubt that her boss' naturally powerful physique was more than capable of overcoming any physical resistance offered by his opponent. He had the innate strength and obvious gracefulness of an agile athlete or an exquisite dancer. Sometimes, when she watched him move about the office or even in the cramped space before a judge and jury, she pictured what it would be like to dance with him.
A soft sound escaped her lips. She sat immobile for a moment longer, then gathered up the glass of milk and returned it to the kitchen. 'Maybe he really is different,' she thought as she made her way to the bedroom.
Perhaps she could trust him. Only time would tell.
A few months later:
Perry Mason was too wound up to sleep. His companion was not bothered by the this. She slept soundly, her body sprawled across his. He stroked her back, starting at the mass of soft curls that rested on his chest and running his hand down the warm curve of her back, fingers brushing the swell of her bottom before returning to the top to start the journey again. Her deep breathing was almost like the purring of a cat.
Making love to Della for the first time had been everything he'd imagined. As he lay there, his body covered with her sleeping form, his mind turned back to the fist time they had dined together. She told him then that she was somewhat naive and inexperienced with men, given her sheltered mid-Western upbringing. If she was inexperienced, Mason thought, then he'd wasted far too much time with west coast women. Della was amazing.
He'd had no doubt that making love to her would be incredible. But he'd never expected her to be such a... ferocious lover. He chuckled quietly at the thought. The movement of his chest caused her to shift slightly, snuggling closer to him.
"Della," he whispered, drawing out the last syllable. "I've loved you for so long." He tightened his arms around her and closed his eyes, his mind finally ready for sleep. His breathing slowed and deepened as he relaxed further into the sea of pillows that supported their combined weight.
There was a lump at the small of his back. Eyes still closed, he reached behind him and pulled out a small cushion. He tossed it to one side and returned his arm to Della's back, settling down once more.
He wasn't even sure she had spoken. She hadn't moved. "What?" he asked, his voice barely audible.
She inhaled deeply. "I've loved you for a long time, too," she said, her voice muffled against his chest.
A smile of immense proportions threatened to split his face. "For how long?" he asked. She didn't answer. He ran his fingers lightly up her side, tickling her ribs. She squirmed and gave a moan of protest. "How long?" he repeated.
She turned over, rolling off of him. He pulled her closely into his side. She looked up at him as she settled her head on his shoulder. "How long what?" She rubbed an eye with the heel of her hand.
"How long have you loved me? A day? A month? Since lunch? I want to know." He grinned at her.
"Why?" she yawned.
"One year, seven months and thirteen days," he responded. Even in the darkness he could tell she'd raised one of those perfectly arched eyebrows in an expression of sardonic disbelief. He chuckled. "Well, I don't know precisely how long it's been, but that's close. I knew you were someone special on the day we first met."
"Since the day we met?" she asked, smiling up at him. "How romantic."
"Isn't it? So, forgive my curiosity, but I've suffered for a while now." She laughed. "How long have you loved me?" he asked, poking her side.
She groaned and rolled over on her back and gazed up at the ceiling. "Truthfully? I think I fell in love with you after a phone call from a friend."
"A friend?" He shifted, turning on his side so he could look down into her face.
"A girl I used to work with. She called me up one night and told me a story about how a man showed up at her office and nearly put her boss through a wall after he'd made some snide comment about me."
"Oh," Perry replied, his voice devoid of expression.
Della's reached up and put her hand on his collarbone, then drug her nails lightly down the skin of his chest, her eyes following the progress of her fingers. "Evidently her boss accidentally left the intercom on and my friend heard the whole conversation." Her nails skimmed the top of the bed sheet that rested on his waist, then dipped below it. "Maddie seemed to think that the man in question had a white horse tethered in the parking lot and was maybe wearing shining armor under his business suit. And there was some mention of his being as handsome as a 'Greek god'."
Perry cupped the side of her cheek in his palm, turning her face up to his. "And what did you think?" he asked.
"I thought," her voice trailed off and her eyes looked past him, focusing on something very far away. "I thought that it was too good to be true," she continued. "I thought that no one would ever do something like that for me and not demand something from me in return. Part of me believed that you were just another powerful man on the prowl, biding your time and wearing down my defenses. But part of me knew better - knew you better - and started to fall in love." Her fingers traveled down the side of his hip, under the sheet, to the top of his thigh.
She looked at him then and her voice held a hint of pain. "I'm sorry, Perry. I should have trusted you."
"Della," he murmured, pulling her closer. He tucked her head under his chin and marvelled at how perfectly their bodies melded together. "You have nothing to apologize for. We have a lifetime ahead of us to enjoy, together. I don't want to waste any of that time on regrets."
"You're right," she told him, "There are much better ways of spending our time." Her hand reached around the back of his leg and she gripped the muscle of his thigh as best she could, pulling his leg over her body. He gathered her into his embrace, branding her with searing kisses. As his lips reached her ear, he murmured, "I know lots of good ways to spend time with you..."
Her response was a breathy gasp as he lavished attention on an especially sensitive spot behind her ear. She wrapped her her legs around his and encircled his torso with her arms. "Lots of ways?" she asked in a sultry voice.
"Mmm-hm." He lifted his head and gazed down into her eyes. "How do you feel about... fishing?"