Saturday, December 21st, 2002

What had she been doing in the bedroom all of this time? The sun was preparing to set on Malibu, and the champagne she had requested was losing its bubbles.

"Della!" he bellowed as only he could. "For god's sake sweetheart, whatever it is—you can't find it!"

"A lot you know. I found it," she chuckled in a voice that had only gotten lower and sexier these last 53-plus years.

Perry who had been sitting back relaxing on the deck, stood up and held her chair for her when she walked through the sliders. He would have done so anyway, as a matter of course, but tonight she took his breath away she looked so lovely. Wearing a cashmere sweater set with a straight linen skirt, and those damn heels all in her signature pale pink, she was radiant.

"Well, this is worth the wait young lady," it made Della smile that he was still calling her that at 80.

"Young lady…"

"You never did understand how much I love you. When I look at you I see the girl who walked into my office in May 1949; especially when you wear pink. I guess I always will."

"Oh, I know, dear, you still look like the same boy to me, too. Boy…" Della shook her head, smiling.

"I was going to ask if you wanted to walk up the beach for a bowl of clam chowder later but you have something else in mind, don't you miss?" Perry asked. Ever since a successful knee replacement fixed a knee that had tortured him for 30 years he wanted to walk everywhere, especially on the beach, and had subsequently lost nearly 100 pounds.

"I most certainly do," there was a gleam in her eye and her lips were pursed in that same sassy, sexy smile.

"Am I up to it?" Perry laughed, although they were both in good health he was, after all, 85. Not that age had dimmed his ardor all that much, as Della had noted on numerous occasions.

"I have an anniversary repast planned for you that is extravagant in every sense of the word, my love. Beluga caviar with crème frâiche on blinis; Fois Gras and Mousse Truffée on toasted French Bread with cornichons and," Della tilted her head slightly as Perry's eyes widened, "Your favorite triple crème cheeses…"

"I get to have you and cheese today? I hope my cardiologist is on call." They both started laughing.

"Don't worry he is, I checked first." Perry pulled Della over to his lap so he could hold her while they watched the last pink and orange shards dip below the horizon. Once it was down Della looked into his eyes, stroking his beard completely content. When Perry tried to kiss her, however, she dodged away giving him a little wink.

"Shall we then?" Perry took her elbow and guided her inside flipping on the stereo on their way to the kitchen.

Della lit the candles and Perry opened a fresh bottle of champagne. She took the French bread and blinis from the oven, arranging the food while he cut the bread into thin diagonal slices. Eating in silence they touched often, reaching for each other's hands, Della stroking his beard or putting a hand on his chest, Perry feeding her a morsel or kissing her fingers.

"What's for dessert?"

"Me," she purred, making that "e" last a lifetime. "Then should you wish it your favorite brandy, which I have managed to procure at great expense and logistical magic and later some of that very good bouche du noel the kids brought the night before last." Paul, Jr.'s children were as their grandchildren.

"Brandy?" Perry smiled; nothing in the world pleased him as much as Della Street wooing him.

"Of course…" Della's smile was as full of sin tonight as it was when she was 30.

"That thing was pretty good for a class project; hope they make another for Christmas Eve. You know, we used to make maps out of macaroni for class projects not create French pastry. By the way, when are they arriving?" Perry then looked up and with a big smile asked, "And leaving?"

"Well…granddad…" Della came over and stood between his legs.

"What?" Perry asked sternly.

"The twins have been begging to have Christmas here with us."

"But Della, that's all of them not just a sleep over for the girls!"

"Dear we've got four bedrooms and the nursery you insisted on! Anyway, the girls want to 'camp out'…in our room…" Perry started to complain but Della stopped him. "If granddad wasn't quite so engaging with giant sheet tents and his ghost stories and, I'm told, toasting marshmallows in our bedroom fireplace… By the way when exactly did you do that?" asked Della with her hand on her hip.

A sheepish Perry cleared his throat, "A couple of weeks back; you went off to the store and when you leave they get very, very cranky. This, as you no doubt know, makes me very, very cranky." Della just nodded and laughed her lovely laugh.

"So, Peri and Della will stay with us in our room, little Paul and the baby will be in the nursery and Paul and Kelly can stay in the downstairs master."

"But that means if anyone starts crying we have to fix it?"

"We, dear, and 'fix it'?"

"I don't like you leaving my bed." Della leaned down and stroked his grumpy face.

"You haven't had enough of me, yet?"

"I'm just getting started, Della. I've only loved you for 53 years. Probably seems like a lot longer to you."

"Sometimes it does my one and only love, sometimes it truly does."

"You do know if you hadn't agreed I would have known that you were lying?"

"Do you ever ask a question to which you do not already know the answer, Mr. Mason?"

That long ago question, which never failed to make him feel young. "What do you think?" Della just pursed her lips.

"Anyway there's a lot to do before then and we're in court Monday and Tuesday."

"We've got tomorrow…"

"No, Counselor, you're going to need to recuperate tomorrow," Della down shifted from her business voice back to her purr, which always meant good things ahead. Pulling him up from the bar chair she curled around him, letting him lead her around the kitchen. Tucking her head under his shoulder, he pulled her fingers up to kiss them slowly then pulled her hand into him.

"I remember how much I wanted to do that, that first night we danced; hold you closer, kiss your beautiful fingers."

"The night you hired me," Della laughed sarcastically. "All my big talk in our interview…"

"That wasn't an interview, sweetheart. You were already hired." Perry laughed.

"Yes but all my big talk about the attorneys I worked for in the past only being interested in my physical attributes and then I go and…" Perry cut her off.

"Della Street that was 53 years ago do I still have to re-assure you? You were hired for one reason only," Perry was unyielding now. "You were, and remain, the best legal secretary I've ever known and one of the best researchers-slash-detectives I've ever known. Della don't ever doubt this, the only reason I have the name I have today is because of you and, to a much lesser but still important extent, Paul."

Della freed her hand to stroke his cheek. She had no doubt that he meant exactly what he said.

"Della…is that what…took you so long?"

Della looked out at the water. "Yes. Yes it is. But also, Perry, I was scared of you, scared of what I felt for you, scared of the passion we had for each other before we even did anything about it! It scares me still… oh…every now and then… I'll get absolutely petrified."

Perry knew what she was thinking without either of them saying a word. They couldn't live forever and, inevitably, one of them had to go first. And they both wanted to be the one.

"And don't forget, it meant 'living in sin,' for me and I wasn't really that kind of girl," Della chuckled a bit ruefully. "But marriage wasn't for you and I knew it. At least not then, not when we were young, even middle-aged, and there was such constant scrutiny from the media, so much work and so little time. And I never wanted to be a housewife."

Perry stroked her back surprised, and yet not, decades later at the age of 80, Della was still thinking about these things. "What if I asked you to marry me now?"

"Oh no," Della shook her head. "That means we somehow negate these last 53 years. No my love we are what we are now…for better or worse," Della smiled up at him.

Perry found he couldn't let go of her tonight. Through the years he had spoiled her with things, given her the world, interesting work and freedom to be her own person. But he knew that he hadn't really done right by her. In an odd twist of fate, it was his best friend who had given her the child and the grandchildren she had always wanted.

Della hummed lightly against his chest.

"You don't sing anymore," Perry said wistfully. "You had such a wonderful voice."

***Della rolled her eyes and shook her head, "Oh, honey, I never had a good voice—too many cigarettes—you just liked it because it was deep, I knew all of the songs you loved and you thought I looked sexy in the red wig."

***"Did you ever; made your eyes green and your freckles pop." Della just laughed at him looking off into the distance where his memory lurked. "Sing to me, Miss Street…I'm sorry, Miss Williams."

"You're mad!" Della looked up at him through her lashes, flirting. "Besides at this point there isn't a key low enough."

"C'mon baby," Perry growled in her ear, his hot breath making her shiver just as it had for more than five decades.

"You, Perry Mason, are a dirty old man," Della's eyes twinkled as she walked the fingers of her right hand up his chest. They were still dancing as she slid her body against him seductively. "Love for Sale? I recall what that used to do to you."

Perry shook his head. "You know what I want to hear…"

"I take it back," Della's face was serious now as she watched him click the remote through the CD tray until he found what he wanted. "You are a true romantic. The most romantic man I've ever known."

As Miles Davis starting blowing, Della leaned into Perry's ear.

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There is nothing in life but you

I never regret the years that I'm giving
They're easy to give when you're in love
I'm happy to do whatever I do for you

For you maybe I'm a fool
But it's fun
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand
Darling, it's grand
They just don't understand

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love

And I'm so in love
There's nothing in life but you

Tickling the back of his neck with her fingers he tried to bring her down into a kiss but she resisted. So, instead he slid his hands under her sweater, caressing her soft belly then running his fingers over her bra and up to her shoulders. Trying to kiss her again she ducked away from him, leaving him holding her sweaters.

"Alright, miss, what gives," but Della was walking upstairs now. By the time he got there she was naked. It was amazing how good she still looked, not a moment over 60, even with her partially white hair, which he loved. Often he wished he looked as good for her but was feeling a bit better about himself since the weight loss. Undressing him slowly Della seemed perfectly happy with the man he was just as she always had faults and all. And as Perry Mason was the first to admit, his faults were as oversized as the rest of him; he knew that he had not been easy to love emotionally or physically.

When he went to kiss her again, she turned and slid into bed pulling him in behind her. Snuggled down facing each other on their sides, Della reached a hand above to the book shelf and pulled down the sprig of mistletoe he had brought her exactly 50 years ago.

"Is that really the same piece of mistletoe," Perry queried somewhat incredulous. "Or is it like when a child's hamster dies and they just keep replacing it with a similar-looking rodent?"

Della started laughing hard. "No, dear, this is the actual piece you brought me. I promise you that if you hold this in your hand you will find yourself back in that car as if no time had passed at all."

Perry took it from her, careful not to hurt it in any way. With his other hand he cupped her cheek and brought her in close. "Della, let's do it all again—the good and the bad—it went so fast. If only we could wake up tomorrow morning to May 4th, 1949, I could have another 53 years with you."

"We can't be greedy, my love. We've been the most fortunate couple on Earth. No one has loved the way we have, Perry, no one." With her thumbs she brushed away the tears that had started down his cheeks; she was the only person who had ever seen those tears and that deep, unexpected but important piece of him meant everything to her.

"Even with eight very hard years…" he swallowed hard.

"You know what Shakespeare said you've quoted it often enough."

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

"From the moment you came into my life, there was never a moment that I wasn't in love with you; never, ever another man in my life."

Perry's heart ached as soon as she said it, wishing he could say the same thing to her. "From the moment you came into my life," Perry took a long pause. "There was never a moment that I wasn't in love with you..." Della leaned in and kissed him tenderly to cut him off.

"We did pretty well, didn't we?" She asked when she finally pulled away.

"Only because of you, Miss Street, only because of you; you have been a generous, patient, stalwart girl," he stroked her cheek, kissing her brow. "Tell me."

"Tell you what, my love?"

"Tell me that you know that I've never loved anyone even close to the way I've loved you."

"I do know, Perry. Why do you think I always forgave? Because I've always known how very much you love me and how very much it's scared you."

"Della…" Perry snuck a few feathery kisses on her lips until he heard her draw in a deep breath and sigh. "That may be the best thing you've ever said to me."

Taking the mistletoe back she held it aloft just as she had 50 years ago. Perry took her in his arms remembering every detail, every second of the first kiss, just as he promised himself he would, while also committing every second of this kiss to his memory. When he saw her tears Perry knew Della was doing the same thing.

"Perry Mason you really are my life," she looked at him with a love few people ever have the privilege of seeing in another's eyes. "I have loved you so…"

"Miss Street," he whispered into her lips just before he kissed her, knowing he would not exist at all if it weren't for her. "I will love you forever."

***NOTE: Am working on a forthcoming fan fiction about what Perry's referring to, The Case of the Tender Torch Singer

End Note: This may or may not be complete. I've yet to decide for sure.