A Perry Mason / Della Street romance
Disclaimer: Characters (Della, Perry, Paul) are not mine. They belong to Erle Stanley Gardner. I just like to entertain them.
Timeline: 1950/60s. Rating: K
Summary: Paul joins Della and Perry at Lake Tahoe to investigate one of Perry's cases. What he finds is quite a different case...
Inspired by the a) PM s1 episode 7, TCOT Angry Mourner coz it rocks, and b) PM and TCOT Ruthless Reporter (1991).
The cabin was dark when Paul entered it, rushing in from the local airport. Della had offered to give him a ride. He had gently declined. A car trip to Lake Tahoe was too long a distance for his taste, no matter how pleasant the company. He had soon regretted saying no to her – Perry's car would have been much more comfortable than the airport departure area. A four hour delay, no money in his pocket to buy more than a snack. He was starved and sleep-deprived, exhausted to say the least, when he finally arrived. Now that it was pushing midnight, he was careful when he opened the door. The cabin was quiet. Two empty wine glasses on the table in the living room, a pile of files. Paul scanned the space as soon as his eyes had adjusted to the non-existent light. He closed the door, grabbed it just before it fell shut and let it ease into the lock. Then he put his suitcase down and took the two steps up to the dinner table. A plate was left on it, two sandwiches and a note. Paul took the lighter from his pocket and held it close enough to recognize Della's peppy handwriting. More in the fridge. Soup on the stove. See you at breakfast. He almost heard her chuckle reading her words.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in," Perry's voice sounded from behind him as he exited the kitchen.
"My plane was delayed," Paul grumbled and sat down to grab a bite.
"So I heard," Perry answered wryly and tucked his bathrobe tighter around his form, hiding something behind his back.
"Midnight snack?" Paul asked, an amused sparkle in his eyes.
"You found Della's note?" The lawyer ignored him and muffled a yawn.
"The world's greatest detective when it comes to food, remember?" Paul answered drily, quoting Della Street's sense of humor.
Perry nodded and changed the subject. "You're late. You got to crash on the couch." He patted his friend's shoulder and passed him to go back to bed.
Paul looked up and stopped chewing for a minute. "What happened to the bedrooms?"
"There's only one," Perry gave back and shrugged. "We drew straws and you lost."
"You drew straws with whom?" Paul asked, ignoring his friend's wicked smile.
"Della," Perry answered matter-of-factly.
"So I get the couch and you get the girl," the investigator stated, finishing his second sandwich in two or three hungry bites.
"My house, my rules," Perry smiled. "Everything you need is on the couch," he added.
"That has Della's signature all over it," Paul returned, spotting the already prepared sofa.
"Wouldn't it be polite to leave the room all to herself?" Paul Drake dared to ask in a teasing voice.
"She insisted on the straws," Perry was deadpan serious.
"Of course she did," Paul gave back with a mild chuckle and shook his head. "Please let her know I appreciate dinner."
Perry Mason nodded, already halfway down the hall. "Good night, Paul."
The next morning, Paul woke to the sound of running water, naked feet tiptoeing on the hardwood floor and china on the dinner table. He turned in his sheets and almost fell off the couch.
"Good morning, beautiful," he growled, propping himself up on one arm to look at the intruder on the elevated dining level.
"Paul," Della said apologetically. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
"No worries," he returned with a sleepy smile. "You left me dinner. I don't mind."
Della smiled back at him, warmly in that way of hers. "How did you sleep there on the couch?" She asked with a hint of guilt, ignoring his eyes caressing her.
"Good enough," Paul answered with a yawn and rubbed his back. "You?"
Della's smile lit up before she turned her face away from him. "Same here." Her voice was soft and almost shy.
Paul observed her, her movements smooth, her bathrobe elegant. Her tousled, curly hair. No hint of makeup on her pretty face.
"Perry up yet?" He asked after a while, careful to study her reaction. A smile crossed his lips as he saw her squirm, trying to avoid an answer with her usual graceful pout.
"I let him sleep," Della answered scantily, resuming to set the table.
"Long night?" Paul tried to tickle her with words. Her reaction was unusually quiet, she almost seemed to shy away. "Della?"
The concern in his voice made her look at him, her face blushed, her smile genuine but small. Before Paul could pursue his questioning, Perry sneaked up on them with sleepy eyes.
"I see the party has already started," he said in a husky voice and exchanged a loving smile with Della, one of those Paul so often overlooked at the office.
"Della started it," Paul nodded his head towards the now completely set table.
"I see," Perry said. His eyes still locked on his secretary's.
Paul watched his friends and felt awkwardly out of place. Something was different about them today. Yet Paul couldn't put his finger on it.
"What's for breakfast?" Perry finally asked and followed Della into the kitchen and back out again, helping her fill the plates.
Paul smelled her cooking now. Bacon and eggs, freshly brewed coffee. And watched her pour a cup for Perry and then fill her own. Paul noticed how attuned they were – his morning habits, her routine, they seemed so familiar with each other.
"Are you coming?" Perry calmly shouted down to Paul. He took a seat and looked after Della who had rushed back into the kitchen to get the rolls from the oven.
"Be right there," Paul quipped and pointed his finger down the hallway. "The bathroom's down the hall, isn't it?"
Perry nodded as Della returned with a basket full of steaming breakfast bread.
"Towels are under the sink," she joined the conversation.
"Thank you, beautiful," Paul appreciated her care and headed towards the bathroom. On his way down the hall, he passed Perry's master bedroom and risked a look through the ajar door. The bed was still unmade and looked comfortably rumpled. A king-size bed, Paul noticed, both sides crumpled and used. Della's clothes neatly folded on a chair, Perry's on another. Unspectacular in a way, normal, almost boring. The scenery so everything but that of a lawyer and his secretary in their usual discretion.
When Paul reached the bathroom and closed the door, he smelled Della's shampoo, her soap, her beauty care. He grabbed a towel from where she'd said he'd find them and smiled at the sight of her nylons hanging over the bathtub. Another everyday gesture, another sign of comfort and trust – her toothbrush next to Perry's, her curlers neatly packed away in a box by the sink. Della's blushing smile suddenly got such a different meaning.
When Paul was done freshening up, he walked back to the dining room, careful not to make a sound. When he peaked his head around the corner, he heard Della choking a chuckle and was fast enough to spot Perry pulling her onto his lap. Paul's smile died, then resurrected as he watched Della putting her arms around Perry's neck to meet him for a kiss. Tender, intimate. He face contented, glowing somehow. Her eyes sparkled, meeting Perry's with a blissful smile.
Paul found them absorbed, lost in that moment. Perry's hand gently caressed her face.
"We should tell him," Della closed her eyes as Perry drew her closer to him.
"He's a big boy. He'll find out for himself," Perry answered, his hands preoccupied with the silky belt of her elegantly revealing bathrobe.
Della rested her head onto his shoulder and nuzzled his neck. "What did you tell him about last night?" She sounded sultry and low.
"That we drew straws," Perry answered, his voice trailing off.
Della chuckled against his skin and raised her head to the sudden sound of footsteps.
Paul had rushed back to the bathroom to give his friends the privacy they seemed to enjoy so much. When he returned to them he dragged his steps, purposely giving them a warning of his return. When he turned around the corner, Paul found Della sitting in her chair pouring him a cup of coffee. Perry was eating his breakfast. Everything looked normal, the lawyer and his secretary were at ease. And no one would've suggested anything beyond their professionally defined yet personal confidence.
"Gee, I'm hungry," Paul announced as he joined them at the breakfast table, exchanging a smile with Della first and then with Perry. "Any news on the case yet?" He asked between a bite of eggs and bacon.
"I want you to check up on the family first," Perry answered in his business voice.
Paul nodded. "Anything in particular?"
"Look into their secrets," Perry replied. "Complex men keep complex secrets."
Paul Drake couldn't help but smirk at his friend's remark.
"Something the matter, Paul?" Perry asked ingenuously. But the investigator shook his head.
"Complex is such a nice word for it," Paul simply quipped and finished his breakfast while he was getting up. "Thanks for breakfast, Della," he said, grabbed his jacket and rushed off. "Oh by the way," he added, already halfway out the door. "Complex is beautiful." He winked at Della. "Have a nice day." Paul smiled and closed the door.
Author's note:"Complex men keep complex secrets." is a direct quote from PM and TCOT Ruthless Reporter. The quote tickled me so much, I just had to use it somehow...