Disclaimer: This story has been in the pipeline for some time now and I finally felt the urge to complete it. Thanks to startwriting for making me re-watch PERRY MASON RETURNS (although I'm sorry to admit I've not made it through your stories, YET) and thus reminding me of this piece while I'm actually continuing my WITHOUT YOU tale. Characters are not mine but I love them like my own. I hope ESG doesn't mind.
Della loved the quiet surrounding her when she came home after a long day of work, the peaceful rhythm of her own heartbeat soothing her ears when she closed the door to lean against it. The wood was hard against her back, the scent of fresh roses greeting her every Friday night. She closed her eyes, felt exhausted from more overtime, her routine of avoiding the memory of Perry Mason. And yet there he was, always on time, his bouquet of red and white roses waiting for her to herald the weekend.
It was a year now to the day that Perry had left. Left his practice for San Francisco to claim the bench. She had been so proud of him to receive the offer and had urged him to follow his heart. It had taken him a while to debate the facts, but at sixty the appellate court seemed to be the kind of challenge he was ready to take. Being the man that he was, Perry Mason had asked his office pearl to come along. But Della Street had declined. As a judge, he didn't need her at the office and, so he had finally admitted to himself, he didn't want to have a wife. So Della had stayed in L.A. and had bought herself a house. She wasn't the type who handled sweet idleness well. Not for more than a couple of days. She had kept busy with her family and friends instead, a new job and then her home, small and cozy and every bit as beautiful as its owner Paul never tired of raving whenever she invited his family over for a Sunday lunch or weekday dinner.
It hadn't taken her a month to miss Perry or a week. Her pain had been instant, irrevocable upon departure, her smile forced at the airport but brilliant nonetheless. There was nothing Della Street would ever do to hold him back.
It was the phone that ate up her strength, his check-ups every Friday night. Air had begun to pierce her lungs when it rang, her poise dropped the longer she waited to pick up. She had been excited at first, had felt loved and less alone. But she had also sensed his new routine, his mechanism of dealing with the nuisance of office life by burying himself in a case. Tonight was no different. She inhaled sharply to suppress a sob that nestled deeply in her gut. She missed him so much, the life they had led, the comfortable silence of his arms.
The phone rang once more and then his voice, warm and tender, on her machine. "Della, it's me. Are you just coming in?"
She sank to the floor as she listened to him already starting their conversation. He never once doubted she was there waiting for him.
"Has your week been as busy as mine?" He paused, sounded tired and dissatisfied yet gentle when he spoke her name.
"You really work too much, you know. I know I do. I always hear your voice telling me so when my coffee gets cold and I check my watch to rush to my apartment to call you. Seems I didn't have to rush today though, Del." The smile was evident in his voice.
"Are you fighting with your coat again?" He chuckled quietly. "Maybe I should ask Camille not only to arrange the roses when she comes in to clean your place but also to stick around and assist you with your ravishing but impractical wardrobe."
Della cried. One year to the day he had left and it finally broke her to hear his voice caressing her, saying all the right things except what she longed to hear. Darling, I miss you. She cowered on the floor next to the phone in her coat half taken off while her heart begged to be stitched up, the bruises of his absence so apparent, her mind repenting for saying no to him.
After a minute of silence, Perry finally pleaded her to answer his call, gently persuading her to stop fighting her coat, unaware that her love for him was spilling over and suffocated her voice. Her hands were trembling as she grabbed the receiver, her breathing ragged and low.
"Life's a drag without you," he whispered, relieved to really find her home, making her smile through her tears.
"I told you it would be," she finally returned under her breath and wiped away the traces of her heartache, wondering if this was the closest to an I love you she would ever get.
It was the quiet that wrenched her heart when his call didn't come a week later. A Friday night without his voice gently avoiding the question of how she was holding up. Della heard the blood pounding in her ears instead of the ringing phone she'd grown accustomed to against her better judgment. A mild panic crept up from her heart, her stomach, choking her from within: what if something had happened, if he wasn't well, if he had found another woman to be in love with?
Della stood in front of her wardrobe mirror and quietly studied her face. All those laugh lines around her mouth and eyes, each caused by her feelings for Perry Mason. How she had loved to feel his lips probing hers for a tender buss, his intentions always on the tip of his tongue when he had caressed her mouth with so much passion it was hard for her to breathe. None of their friends had ever known the intensity of their feelings, not even Paul despite his hunch. And if they had, no one would have believed that kissing and fondling was as far as they had ever gone for the sake of their jobs.
She now struggled with her steadfastness and remembered the times he had proposed after completing a case, his heart injured by a crime, his blue eyes begging her to mend it. She remembered the night when she had come so close to giving herself to him. When she had allowed him to pull her onto his lap, his arousal had felt so good against her own when his hands had dared to sink into her skirt, then caressed her inner thighs and softly torn at her garter and stockings. Her own hands had trembled when they had unbuttoned his shirt to dive into the curls on his chest, then clenched as Paul had interrupted them with his trademark knock and reminded them that they were still at the office.
Della inhaled sharply at the memory, that phantom pain of remembering his mouth traveling all over her face and neck, his hands so hungry for her skin, ready to sully her reputation. The cautious love he had given her afterwards was cutting deep the more her body insisted on recalling it, no matter how hard she tried to will it away.
It was the familiar sound of footsteps that soothed her when she was doing her dishes in the kitchen to escape the pictures in her head. She eased into the warmth of his embrace even before he pulled her towards him from behind, the ticklish feeling of his newly grown beard scraping her neck as his lips nuzzled her tender skin.
"I was so tired of using a phone as a substitute for your kiss." His voice was asking for her forgiveness. "I just had to see you again."
Della gasped, then closed her eyes and inched closer to his body as if to make sure he was real. Perry smiled as he nibbled her earlobe and brought his arms around her waist to rest his hands on the womanly belly underneath her apron.
"I've missed you so much," Della whispered and turned around in feline perfection, inviting his hands to lovingly caress her hips before they fondled the small of her back. Then she encircled his neck with one of her arms to bury her fingers in his hair like she always had.
"I love you, baby," Perry said quietly and finally pulled her into an ardent kiss, wondering how she could smile and shed tears while her body so quickly excited his.