Los Angeles, Friday Afternoon, July 8th, 1966

Every book was off the shelf, at least it felt that way, and it was taking forever to put it all right again. Stretching to reach from the ladder Della realized that working for Perry Mason was, in part, why she had never needed exercise classes.

With a crushing caseload this week and the Gods of fate being volatile and capricious, Perry was highly charged and slightly needy. Between supporting him, helping with his work, and taking care of the office Della was behind in her own work. Of course she spent plenty of time dodging his hands and then practically had to drag him back to work after lunch.

Perry had admitted it to her probably one-hundred times over the years; when he got in these moods, his mind traveled straight to her body for release.

In the afternoon the fun continued with Perry first facing an unpleasant client he was firing. As a parting shot the movie producer flirted wildly with Della culminating in a dinner invitation, which she flatly but pleasantly refused. Too pleasant for Perry, who knew she was in an awkward position but still glowered from the doorway. Recklessly Perry made the unusual move of informing his now ex-client that his secretary was otherwise involved. With a smirk, the man left and Della had at Perry who just angrily shut his door.

Next a reporter called asking for a comment regarding them being seen leaving the Chateau Marmont at 5:30 the previous morning—both a little too late and a little too early depending on which side of the clock you were on. Despite Perry offering proof that they were there for a client who was a guest at the hotel, the reporter insisted they were there for an assignation and that is precisely what she planned to print.

That conversation ended much worse than the next one where Hamilton refused to accommodate Perry's scheduling needs for an upcoming case. But the fight with Burger was bad enough and certainly didn't help his mood any. With the exception of the flirtatious client, Perry had kept his anger in check all day, although bottled up might be more accurate. These three tussles and residual anger from those in the morning left Perry so agitated he was like a wild animal in a cage, eyeing Della lasciviously and chain smoking.

Then a client from the past called, in trouble again, needing Perry to bail her out of jail and be in court with her Monday morning. After Perry returned from County he and Della worked for three hours planning their strategy for this woman, Perry growing increasingly annoyed by the stupidity of the situation into which she had gotten herself and, by extension, them.

Della was able to either befriend or ignore his femme fatale clients most of whom chased him with varying degrees of ambition. This one was different; she sensed he found her attractive and she pouted the whole time they were working. What was in the air in that office Della began to wonder?

But Miss Street's possessiveness, a rare beast indeed, furthered incited Perry, who reveled in her extremely uncommon display of jealousy. Since he was incapable of hiding his jealousy for her, which was severe, he often wondered how she managed to keep hers so well hidden and any time it seeped out it made him want her.

Perry couldn't believe how stunning Della continued to grow each year. Lately she had been wearing her hair a bit shorter on the sides and higher on top, sophisticated and yet so feminine. Since they were originally scheduled for court this morning, re-scheduled to the following week, she had on a suit; this one black with a straight, slim skirt to her knee and a matching fitted short jacket with a straight, high collar. When Della removed the jacket to work, she wore one of her softest sweaters, angora and silk, this one white with a full collar; it was impossible for Perry to keep his eyes or his hands off her.

For all of Della's lingerie, the sexiest thing Della Street could ever wear as far as her lover was concerned was angora, cashmere or the extremely soft brushed cotton scooped neck shirts she relaxed in on weekends with a pair of capris. Then Perry just wanted to scoop her up in his arms and snuggle with her.

But tonight he had no interest in anything so innocent. Della had seen him like this many times over the years and tried to stay out of sight, for several reasons. But as she was finishing on the ladder, she heard the door and knew. When she turned he was leaning back one hand in his pocket, hair tousled, tie off, collar open, the other hand holding a cigarette, which he put out in an ashtray.

Della got a shiver up her spine from that look and laughed nervously. His eyes on her were animalistic, unapologetic. She knew that stare so well, it was the one he reserved for seducing her; chin down, blue eyes dark and hooded, not a trace of his boyish smile.

"Oh no… Counselor." She said shaking her head. But denying him when he was in this particular mood was a mistake; also it was useless.

In four great strides he crossed the room grasping the railings to block her descent. Della could feel his warm breath on her calf. With a finger he began making a trail from the top of her elegantly turned out foot, over her ankle where his hand opened up so he could caress her slim, strong, calf. Perry's lips brushed the stockings there and a moan literally escaped her, finally making him smile. While his hot palm followed the curve of the other calf, his lips continued skating up and down the other.

Perry's elegant, long and slender fingers migrated north and while they may have been tickling her behind the knee then thigh, she was very definitely feeling it elsewhere.

Even at 44 Della Street remained the girl-next-door, the quintessential "good girl" except when she wasn't—except where Perry Mason was concerned. Only because she loved him in a way she could never have imagined loving anyone else, would she allow herself to live her life in a way she could also never have imagined.

"Turn around," he commanded, his voice already hoarse.

Della did as she was instructed looking down on him scowling a bit, impertinent, challenging. Perry took a step on the ladder, both hands caressing her legs under her skirt. As he reached the top of her stockings his thumbs played with the garter clips, his index fingers tickling under the straps. Sneaking them all the way up under the elastic and lace he slowly drew her panties down her legs with the two fingers.

With his warm hands on her cool, bare hips Perry pulled her down two steps, pushing her skirt and slip up until she was not quite exposed. Staring into her eyes his hands disappeared first and when he saw her eyes flutter and her head drop back, he disappeared underneath as well.

"Oh…Perry…no…" Della was clutching the railing, partially bent over it, eyes closed.

Perry's mouth was uncompromising, unrelenting making Della gasp as she stood, holding a railing in each hand even though all she wanted to do was lay down. When he had her so she could no longer stand he emerged, his arousal obvious.

"Sweater, please."

"Perry, no," she said still panting but sternly indicating with her chin the door to the office, which had not been locked.

Perry started up the stairs on the little ladder when she held up her hand. Afraid that it couldn't hold them both, and of the headlines such a collapse would produce the next morning, Della unzipped her skirt and threw it down to him. Slipping her arms out underneath, she then pulled her sweater over her head and threw that to him.

Perry closed his eyes and buried his face in it, rubbing his cheek against the softness, warming her mood slightly. It was a habit they shared and it embarrassed Della, the way they took every opportunity to indulge in one another's scent. They often marveled that it really was chemistry between them.

Right now, her slip was all that was left between them and he wanted it. This he showed her by fingering the hem, finally holding it up for her to take. As she lifted it over her head he watched her wriggle out of it, her hips switching slightly.

Standing on the stairs in nothing but her black lace push up bra, garter belt and heels, she stared down at him defiantly. Della wasn't going to give an inch either but she was shockingly uncomfortable being exposed like this. Perry's head cleared a bit when he saw the look on her beautiful face and, horrified, he realized that he had gone too far putting her on display like that; even for him.

Della immediately relaxed when she saw clarity on his face. Reaching out his hands, which she took, Perry brought her down two steps before sweeping her up in his arms and taking her into his office. As she buried her head in his chest he whispered something to her and she nodded then smiled up at him. When those hazel eyes sparkled just like that it was a secret code meant only for him, and he knew it.

Laying her gently on the couch he went and locked the doors when she asked, kissing her hand before he left her. When he returned he flipped off some of the lights and sat next to her on the couch curling a hand around her to unhook her bra, slipping the straps down her arms kissing her shoulders, upper arms and the baby soft inside of her elbows and forearms.

Now that she was naked, Perry leaned over his lap, elbows on his knees, chin resting on his clasped hands just staring at her. Della didn't mind at all being admired like this and stroked his cheek where his dimples met.

"My beautiful boy," tears started to form in her lower lids and he just shook his head at her.

Perry knew he was not ageing the way she was; knew he had deep lines and an expanding waist, and best of all, an increasingly dour personality. The love of his life didn't seem to know it, however. There were times in your life when you were on top of the world, even when everything went wrong because you knew that you were loved by someone so special, so wonderful that her faith in you and love for you made everything right.

Perry had spent 17 years in that Heaven; so loved that he felt invincible, was invincible.

Their eyes remained locked, as Perry unbuttoned his shirt. Della reached over to unbuckle his belt, his thick eyebrows raising, making her giggle. Stroking her soft belly Perry's hands moved up finding the two most sensitive spots on her body, making her shiver. Soft, lips, moist and open found his favorite place, lingering in the sweet, velvety path of skin between her underarm and breast.

Perry stood pantomiming removing his pants until she shook her head, smiling, making him laugh, his face covered in that little boy smile he showed all too rarely these days. Long ago she had told him that it was socks first then pants; no man, no matter how young, handsome and virile could pull off the black socks/underwear combination. Clowning around, which almost never happened anymore, Perry did a sexy sock striptease making her giggle again.

Lying back with an arm behind her head, watching him, she reached out her free hand and unzipped his trousers. When they dropped she sat up, stretching her back like a cat, and released him from the constraints of his boxers. Admiring what she saw at eye level, Della wasn't smiling anymore. Perry put his knee next to her on the couch and she pulled him down to feel him against her. Reaching around behind him she ran her hands as far down as they would go, staying a long while as he gasped and nipped her shoulder.

Perry draped one of her legs over his hip as he moved against her, causing her to make the most incredible, most feminine sounds.

"Oh, my love, my love…"Della held him tight against her, the way he had told her loved being held by her.

"Baby," he moaned in her ear.

They brought each other to the precipice over and over, only to pull away from one another when they were in danger of falling over into the abyss. Finally they allowed themselves to let go, screaming, exploding, feeling as if their flesh was melting into a single being. Their eyes kept contact until the very last seconds when they both arched, heads back, floating together well above the Earth.

Della loved after, when Perry was at his most vulnerable and took refuge in her body like a child. Sometimes he would curl against her, wanting her to wrap herself around him from behind. Tonight was her favorite though and she thrilled at the way his limp body covered her entirely, clinging, threatening to almost crush her. A lock of Perry's damp hair was splayed across Della's breast, one hand clasped with hers over their heads, the other under her so his hand curled back over her shoulder.

Della's other hand held his cheek, her thumb tracing that full lower lip of his. Feeling him still, she knew that he wouldn't be sleeping any time soon and no sooner had she thought it than she could feel a pair of very ambitious lips, Della rolled her eyes, her deep throaty chuckle enveloping him.

Turning on his right side Della just smirked when he gently brought her around to her right side to face the back of the couch. Kissing the backs of her shoulders, Perry ran his fingers through the curls at the base of her neck, kissing her in the place behind her ears, then all the way down her spine. Della, covered in goose bumps and making little cooing sounds, kept her eyes closed.

Perry drew her into his body prompting a sound from some deep place inside her. With a hand on her belly and another on her breasts, he made them float together well above the Earth once again and again and…again.

Della walked over to the bar and with no warm water immediately accessible, she chose bourbon instead of single malt scotch, pouring a triple, neat, for them to share. When she came back to the couch he was sitting up. Holding the glass for him to take a sip before taking a sip herself she passed it back to him while she went for cigarettes.

Della straddled his lap in as ladylike a manner as any woman could manage.

"You did that very seductively young lady," Perry noted

"Well, when you're both naked, that's pretty much the only way you can straddle a man's lap."

Perry fell into her laughing as she lit a cigarette for them not letting him help, although he grabbed for the cigarette and the lighter. Arms crossed in front of her, the cigarette elegantly aloft in her hand, the smoke escaping her pursed lips she watched him drink the bourbon trying to hide his shy smile behind the glass.

"You weren't so shy earlier tonight, Counselor," wisps of smoke escaped.

Perry nodded, "Sorry about that."

Della brought his lips to her with a tug of his chin, kissing him then rubbing his nose with hers. She may have been 44 but on nights like this she didn't even seem 25; barely looked it, either.

"Switch vices?" she suggested.

Perry laughed revealing that little hitch on the side of his mouth that she so love, and took a deep drag on their cigarette. Crossing an arm over his chest he contemplated his amazing girl.

After a few minutes of her lover staring at her amused and smitten, Della had that look in her eye again.

Perry chuckled. He had, after all, performed many times for well over an hour and a half, without so much as a break. "Della, I need ten minutes; I'm not 35 anymore."

"Mmmm," she purred in his ear. "I like you much better all grown up; took you long enough by the way. You were tough to raise, my boy!"

Perry spanked her on the back of her hip.

"Why, Counselor!"

Della let him finish the bourbon then put the glass on the table next to them and put out their cigarette. Curling her left arm around Perry's shoulders she cuddled against him, stroking his chest and belly then letting her hand wander down between them. With her lips on his, she began torturing him and within two or three minutes he was smiling, amazed at what she could do to him and how quickly she could do it.

"Well, you're not always tough to 'raise.'"

Perry buried his head in her shoulder laughing but when he went to lay her back down Della put her hands on his.

"You've worked so hard already," she smiled, running her fingers through his hair.

"Della…"

An hour later they finally lay down in a tangled heap for a short nap, their lips still touching, still floating above the Earth together not even their dreams could separate them.

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When Della left Perry's office, a little fellow in a blue blazer with a giant note pinned to his lapel, was sitting there.

"Well, hi there…" Della came over to the adorable toe-head and crouched down in front of him.

"Hi," he said shyly. Two grips stood next to him and he removed his cap placing it on his lap.

Suddenly Della felt uneasy as his enormous blue eyes watched her and she wondered if she was about to be a stepmother, more or less. Somehow, although it was familiar, the blue wasn't quite right.

"What's this?" Perry had startled her from behind.

"I don't know, you tell me." Della shot Perry a sidelong glance.

"Well, I don't know, Della!"

"Uh, huh." Della stood lips pursed and she put her fist on her hip expectantly.

"Young man," Perry boomed at the small boy making him jump up and cling to Della's skirt. "How old are you?"

The little boy looked up at Della, who nodded. "Go ahead, sweetheart. His bark is worse than his bite. Usually…" Della cocked her head, smiling at Perry.

"I'm 7, sir." Della wrapped a protective arm around his shoulders and the little boy leaned in closer to her.

"Della give me the note." Della unpinned it from his lapel and handed it to Perry.

"Here you are Chief. I thought that you'd never ask. By the way, I will marry you if I need me to make an honest man out of you." Della's chin was raised saucily.

"Della, just once and you know with whom, how long…and why," he finished the sentence softly after starting out rather harshly because, after all, she had every right to be hurt. Then he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers lightly. Blushing, Della reached over and put her arm around his waist.

"Thank you," Perry kissed her forehead and ran his hand down her back and all the way to the top of her thigh.

Well into their forties they made love more now than they ever had, particularly since Della had lifted the office "affection ban." Perry couldn't believe that he had just made love to his beautiful girl for almost three hours and yet, he could go ahead and take her right back to that couch.

"You…" Della gave Perry a good shove backwards, giggling.

"Let's see where this young man belongs, shall we? Then we can get back to…work." Perry, smiling now, wanted to make sure the boy was safe and then get him out of there as fast as possible so he could get back to Della.

"By the way, son, what's your name?"

"Paul," said the little voice. "Junior."

Della and Perry immediately looked at each other and Perry knew he wouldn't see the business end of that couch again tonight.

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Sitting in Perry's office, Della picked the note up once again from the desk, shaking her head.

"I just don't know what to think, Perry."

"Della, Paul's the only one who can shed light on this, if even he can," said Perry glancing longingly at the couch.

"Sweetheart," Della crossed to the increasingly tired little boy. "Didn't your mommy tell you anything about where she was going? Anything at all, like….she was going to see a school friend or join the circus, or ride on a big plane?" Della's eyes wide, she tried to make it a game.

"Well," he was thinking hard now munching on half a sandwich that Della had called down for when she realized he hadn't eaten in hours. Della watched how his brow wrinkled then his familiar blue eyes went wide, exactly the way Paul's did sometimes.

"She did say that she had a very long drive, she said…" Paul looked down at his sandwich.

"It's okay, sweetheart. You can tell me," Della leaned in conspiratorially and gave him a little wink.

"She said she was going to 'heck,' only that's not the word she used Della," the little boy had gotten off the couch and leaned into her. "And that I wouldn't see her again."

"Never?"

The little boy shook his head, eyes starting to fill with tears. "She said if I did it would only be when I was a big man."

Della pulled the little boy to her and he started to cry softly on her shoulder. Perry watched as she soothed him, speaking in her soft, gentle voice and assuring him that he wasn't alone. "You're going to meet your daddy…"

"Della."

"Perry," She shot him a look.

"And you and I are friends now, right?"

"Yes, thank you. You're funny and you're very beautiful," the little man admired.

Della laughed and hugged him to her.

"Still have doubts?" Della asked over her shoulder, unable to contain her laughter.

She heard Perry start to laugh behind her and turned to him.

"That apple didn't fall very far…" Neither of them could stop laughing and the little boy hid his head in her shoulder.

"And mommy was right you are very, very nice."

Perry and Della stopped and stared at the boy. Perry started to boom again but Della reached out ever so gently and touched his cheek.

"Now why did your mommy think I was so nice?" Della laughed and smiled at the child.

"I don't know. She just said that I was going to live with my daddy and there would be a nice lady at his office who'd watch out for me."

"I see. Did she say anything else about any of us sweetie?"

The little boy flipped his sandwich back and forth thinking, then said, "She said she had dark, curly hair and she smiled like an angel I think you look more like a Princess. Are you a Princess, Della?"

"She certainly is, young man," answered Perry.

"Every girl is a Princess when she has someone who treats her that way," Della ran her hands through the little boy's impossibly white curls but looked into the handsome face of the man she adored.

Munching on his sandwich again Paul, Jr. said, "Mommy said there would be a big man there, too, and that he might look really scary sometimes but that he spent every day of his life just helping people who were in trouble so he had to be a good man."

The little boy looked at Perry with no small amount of skepticism, making Della laugh. "Well, if I'm a Princess young man it's because that fine gentleman is a Prince."

Perry stroked her cheek, and the little boy tried to smile but let out with a huge yawn instead, his eyes fluttering. Walking him over to her chair behind Perry's desk, she pulled him onto her lap and soon his was contently fast asleep, half a sandwich still in his hand.

"Where is he?" Perry tapped a pencil on his desk.

"I told the service it was urgent…" Della said disposing of the half-eaten sandwich and wiping the little face with a napkin.

"I know."

"I'm going to put him down." Della started to stand with him in her arms but Perry stopped her with a hand on her arm.

"No Della. Let me…" Walking behind her chair he stopped a moment and with his hands rubbing her shoulders, gave her curls a quick kiss. "You know, he whispered, "I wasn't done with you, yet?"

Perry came around and picked the child up from her lap. Walking toward "their" couch Della pushed him gently toward the other couch, clearing her throat. "One track mind."

"Oh. Yes."

Della fixed the pillows and turned to see Perry studying the boy's face intently. She stood next to him, holding his arm until he finally laid the boy down. Della knew what he was thinking, or at least she felt she did; for the first time, Perry Mason was considering that they might have made a mistake.

Pulling the a blanket up over little Paul she bent down and kissed him on his curly head. He turned on his side and snuggled into the couch, opening his eyes for a moment. "You won't leave me, Della, will you?"

"Now where am I gonna' go?" Della smiled, gesturing with her hand. "You get to Dreamland we have a busy day tomorrow, okay palsy-walsy?"

But the little nose started to turn red and his eyes filled with tears again.

"Listen, you don't happen to have…a special friend with you? Maybe tucked away in one of your suitcases, would Mr. Mason find a stuffed…"

"Bunny," The curly head began to sniffle.

"Perry…"

"Yes, dear," Perry said sarcastically but smiled. Of course it was in the second case, at the bottom. Perry inspected the ratty thing, which had seen much better days and only vaguely resembled a 'bunny,' and then only as seen through a Rorschach Test. Shaking it out he handed it to Della making a terrified face forcing her to turn away to laugh before she handed it to the boy.

"Della?"

"Yes sweetie…"

"Could I have a drink of water?"

Della glanced sideways and smiled knowingly at the little fellow. "Perry…"

"Yes, dear…"

Paul Drake, Jr. sat on the edge of the couch milking that water for all he could and staring at Della. In her gentle way she finally plucked the glass from his little paws when she decided he had had enough.

"Okay slugger, time to settle down."

Little Paul propped himself up on an elbow and kissed Della on the cheek before falling back on the couch. Perry watched as Della wrapped an arm around the boy's small head playing with his curls.

"Della?" Della was shaking her head now and laughing.

"Am I really that easy? It's one thing that you know I'm wrapped around your pinky but for a 7 year-old I just met to know…"

Perry chortled at this. Resigned, Della just sighed. "What sweetie?"

"Can you sing to me?"

"Alright, snuggle down."

The squirming, little body burrowed into the couch and Della pulled the blanket up to his chin, teasing him as he giggled. Perry watched Della who just naturally knew what the little boy needed, just as she had two years ago with the baby, Leander. At the time, Perry had tried to get her to let him call a nurse but she wouldn't have it. Della insisted that she could take care of one, little baby and she had. And then she had to give him up; Perry never wanted to see her heart break like that again.

Tucking Jr. in, who Perry could already see was going to be quite a rival for Della's affection, she got down on her knees and started to sing low and quiet.

"Bye bye, baby
Time to hit the road to dreamland
You're my baby
Dig you in the land of nod

Hold tight baby
We'll be swinging up in dreamland
All night baby
Where the little cherubs trot

Look at that knocked out moon
Been a-blowing his top in the blue
Never saw the likes of you

What a gal, what a guy what an angel

Bye, bye baby
Time to hit the road to dreamland
Don't cry baby
It was divine but the rooster has finally crowed
Time to hit the road

Look at that knocked out moon
Been a-blowing his stack in the blue so high
Never saw the likes of you

What a gal, what a guy, what angel

Bye bye baby
Time to hit the road to dreamland
Don't cry baby

It was divine but the cuckoo has finally crowed
Time to hit the road

Time to hit the road
Time to hit the …time to hit the road

The way she spoke to him, held him, comforted him, it was so natural, so easy for her. Perry thought about all of the times he told her "to think like a woman," or to "imagine she was a woman," or asked her to play act as someone's wife for a case and he felt like an insensitive heel.

Finally exhausted by his long day, the boy was sound asleep. Della gave him another peck on the forehead and pushed herself up from the floor. Lost in his thoughts Perry didn't reach out to help her until she was almost up. But she put a hand on his chest and gave him a kiss of thanks anyway.

Perry's expression was somber but not unreadable and when she responded it was with a bit of hurt and a foreshadowing for the future that would have shocked her. "Don't get any ideas, boss; not with me anyway. Time isn't an issue for men, but I'm almost 44 now. You'll have to find yourself a nice young woman…"

Perry reached out for her but she danced around him. "Probably wouldn't have happened anyway. We never were all that careful and we certainly have been…prolific…"

Della's laugh was unrecognizable but then it wasn't really a laugh. As he went to try and hold her again they heard the back door.

"Well, there's our wandering boy!" said Della. "Your timing is, as ever, impeccable."

"What is it, Beautiful?"

Della stepped aside and waved a hand in the direction of her new best friend asleep on the couch.

"Little young for you, isn't he?"

"Mmm," Della laughed. "You wait my fine fellow. You just wait."

Della had the note in her hand now, presenting it to him with a flourish of her hand.

"What's this?"

"Birth announcement."

"What's the gag, Beautiful?"

"This is no gag, Paul." Perry had stepped behind Della, holding tight to her upper arms from behind. "He's 7, his name is Paul Jr. and his mother had him dropped off here tonight. Apparently, she's leaving him with his daddy. She told him he'd never see her again."

"Or at least not until he was 'a man'," added Della.

"No, really….what's the gag you, two?"

"Paul this is serious. Think back 8 years ago who did you…

"You're kidding right?" Paul interrupted.

"Well, she enclosed his birth certificate and a hospital record of her blood type so tomorrow I'll call my private physician and get you in to see him. In the meantime," Perry stopped and sighed.

Encircling Della's waist Perry put his chin on her shoulder. Della covered one of his hands on her belly with one of hers. Watching the two them behaving so intimately in front of him, Paul finally realized just how serious a matter this was.

"What the…"

"Paul, he looks like you. He sounds like you. His mannerisms and facial expressions are just like yours. If I had to guess, I would guess that he is your son," admitted his friend.

Zombie-like Paul crossed to the couch, inspecting the tiny form. "Well, his cheeks are covered with lipstick. That's about right."

"It's mine," Della threw her eyes up at him.

"Smart kid," Paul lit another cigarette. "Okay you two, what do I do?"

"I'd say you need to find his mother, soon," advised Perry. "Although I have a feeling she means to make that as close to impossible as she can. In the meantime, Della and I will take care of him."

Incredulous, Della turned looking her lover in the eye then looked back at Paul. "But you have to make some long term decisions, Paul. School, for instance."

"Jeez, Beautiful…school?"

"Fortunately you live in a nice place with nice neighbors and a lovely landlady."

"How do you know his landlady young lady?" Perry was a little agitated again.

"Perry, how many times have I delivered something to his apartment, or taken him soup when he's sick?"

Perry nodded. Turning to Paul she said, "You're going to need someone to take him after school until you can get home and for the rest of the summer when he's going to be home all day and night."

"Look I have got to find this kid's mother. I can't do this! I can't care for a child. Hell I don't think I could do it even if I was married to his mother."

"I'll help you, Paul," Della said exasperated. "But you don't have a choice at this moment."

"Hey! What about Aunt Mae? Can't we send him to your Aunt? She'd love it."

Perry was about to yell at him when Della stopped him with a raised hand. Sliding her arm into Paul's she took him over to the chair in front of Perry's desk as he looked back over his shoulder at Perry, terrified of what she was going to do to him. Della perched on the desk's edge in front of him crossing her gorgeous legs and the only thing that could have distracted Paul was the one thing that had actually happened to him tonight.

"I know that you're shocked, Paul. At first when I saw him I thought…well, never mind what I thought but I think it's safe to say that we're all shocked. Not surprised, of course," Della smirked at him and winked, "But shocked in the larger sense.

Still… there is a little boy over sleeping on that couch and he is your son. And even though he is very scared, he is sweet and smart and you are actually a very lucky man," Della's voice began to crack and her eyes filled with tears. "You have been given this child, given this chance to be a daddy and it's an enormous gift.

And yes, we are going to help you. I am going to help you. But you are going to have to meet me halfway old friend."

Della held out her hand to Perry, who walked over and grasped it as if it were a lifeline, once again in awe of her poise and utter control of the situation.

You have to meet us halfway."

Paul, chain-smoking and as gray as the wisps of smoke curling into the air, nodded.

"Now," Della said, grabbing her pad, pencil on chin, eyes looking off in the distance. "We are going to take him to my apartment for a while, he needs a good night's rest. Tomorrow morning you will arrive at 9AM to make him pancakes. Bring maple syrup, I'm out. "

"The real stuff," interjected the gourmand, "Not brown corn syrup."

"Pancakes!" Paul jumped up.

"Yes. Pancakes. It's Saturday, Paul. Daddy's make pancakes on Saturday mornings. And that is what you are going to do tomorrow morning and every Saturday morning that you can. It is something called a tradition. It also provides order in the form of a scheduled activity and children both need and crave order."

Paul looked at Perry with a scowl, Perry just shrugged. "She reads a lot."

"Then we are going to bring him over to your apartment so he can see it and get used to it and we are going to figure out what you need there, which I'm guessing is a lot.

What's in that second room?"

"Junk."

Della sighed, "Okay then. You two are going to have to clean it out. Do you have a handyman at the building?"

Paul pulled on his cigarette, "Yeah, I guess so."

"Well we need to turn that into a little boy's room; paint, wallpaper, bed, dressers, desk and chair, toys, etc."

"Oh I don't like this, not one bit," Paul shook his head and started pacing, stopping to look over at the couch then started pacing again.

Perry had remained strangely silent throughout, since Della was handling it so well.

"So, you've got this all figured out, huh, Beautiful? School, room…"

"Yup!" said Della tipping her head and smiling.

"So efficient," Paul stood and sighed, grabbing the back collar of her sweater, "And you couldn't even get it back on right side out."

Paul pulled the door closed in front of him, "Night you two."

Della was holding the tag on her sweater and scowling at Perry, who found it impossible not to laugh.