TCOT Lost Love Labor

I just went to post this story and I guess that everyone wrote about LL after it aired yesterday and with similar thoughts in mind, LOL!

I wasn't going to post but I started this months ago and picked it up on Sunday night (as a sort of companion to Sorrowful) and spent three days of free time on it so what the heck…at some point I fear that we will all start overlapping anyway so…!

Denver, CO

December, 1986

In the Bible John said, "…and the truth shall set you free."

Perry Mason thought of that quote often and tried to impart its genuine wisdom to clients. How many times over the years had he told them that it was so much easier to defend someone—even if they had made egregious mistakes—if they told him the truth?

Immutable elements like truth, those he understood, those Perry Mason could make work. Not having the truth always worked against him in court. No matter what, Shakespeare had it right in "The Merchant of Venice," when he wrote "…the truth will out."

You were found out, that's just how life worked.

Perry Mason, an ardent lover of literature, was fond of quotations; yet another thing he shared with Della Street. In that very first week he noticed that she would finish his quote, which had seldom happened to him before; or he might finish hers, or she might site a complimentary example on the same topic or one of them would make the other state the author. He was particularly proud of her when she was able to finish famous legal quotations.

As the years progressed they would pass books to one another, sometimes reading the same book at the same time in bed together. In the office they read briefs or notes or almost anything over one or the other's shoulder or leaning in to one another at the desk; it was an excuse to be close and Paul enjoyed nothing more than teasing them about it.

"Beautiful, you look like you're reading him a bedtime story!" then Paul would blow out a stream of smoke from a sardonic grin.

They almost always read the paper together in bed, Della's back against his chest, sitting between his legs holding up the paper while he held her around the waist, often with his chin on her shoulder. That had started in '52, drifted away when they drifted apart from '82 until '85 and it never returned when they were back together full-time, or over-time as Perry would say, little more than a year ago. But then, he thought to himself, it wouldn't be all that easy, physically, anymore considering his knees and, of course, his size.

In fact, overall they were having quite a time adjusting in general now. This slip up wasn't going to help make it any easier and it was going to hurt Della, badly. Again.

Sweet Della.

Why had he done it? Was it that lifelong obsession with the truth; is that perhaps why he felt the need to correct her and say it was 30 years instead of 35? Della had virtually let it go; not quite but almost. Had she had an idea of what happened? Did she simply misspeak?

Della Street was almost as jealous of Laura Robertson as Laura was of her only Della had the right where Laura did not. Over the years Laura had had at her any number of times. Perry knew that he should have gone out of his way to make Della feel better, to make her feel safe, secure. Hadn't she earned that small bit of protection after all of these years?

Unfortunately, right now he also felt he had to protect Laura.

There was no doubt in his mind at all that Laura was in love with Glen and that Glen absolutely worshipped his wife. He had certainly proved that. When Perry and Laura saw one another again, there was also no denying that there was still something there but what? Laura was so delicate, so fragile and needed to be tended—even if it was just to free her husband, whom he genuinely felt was innocent, he had to protect her. Everyone else thought that Laura controlled situations as if by remote control but he didn't see that; perhaps he couldn't.

In the unerring clarity brought on by the hurt of someone you love, Perry realized how outrageous it was to drag Della here to this conference and then disinvite her to the dinner.

"Della, you don't have to go. You'll just be bored," he had told her when she asked what time she needed to be ready.

Della looked at him so strangely that he felt like he had been caught in bed with another woman. When had her boredom ever bothered Perry Mason? They both asked that unspoken question in their heads when he told her she wasn't coming. He could tell she was stunned but she let it drop with a weak attempt at humor.

"Fine, just let me know in the future so I can bring one less suitcase. That dress I packed needed a bag of its own."

This was going to be hard on her, this case, being in such constant and close proximity to her only real rival. Were the positions reversed he would have been impossible to live with he knew that. In point of fact, he wasn't too crazy as it was about Glen being around Della since the two of them had a bit of a past; granted a much more chaste one than he and Laura, just a few weeks of dates in L.A. before she and Perry met.

Perry had "caught" her speaking to Glen numerous times over the last few days and he was annoyed each time he saw it. When he mentioned it to Della she just looked at him as if he was insane.

"That's what I do, Perry, especially with the men. They always need a shoulder, a friendly face to turn to…you seem only to care about supporting the ladies, with the exception of Sister Margaret who was more comfortable with me, but the men need our support, too."

So why did he correct her? If Perry was being honest with himself, as honest as he demanded of everyone else then he had to admit it was anger, simple anger. When he told her he was going to this banquet, alone, he didn't say he expected Laura Robertson would be there; but he did.

Della called him on it this afternoon—Della who never called him on anything and had probably only done it trying to figure out why he had disinvited her to the dinner—but she did and he got angry.

Now what?

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Della scratched her head. Literally.

Why would he do that? She was giving him an out by saying 35 years. She just wanted to know if that's why he dragged her up her to Colorado for this conference told her that they had a formal fundraiser to attend and then told her not to come because she would be "bored."

Della knew that he had an affair with Laura while they were together; knew the exact weekend it had happened. At the time they had been seeing one another for five years but in the earliest days their relationship was unformed and had no name.

They worked hard and long. They slept together several nights a week but she knew that she had no real claim on him; he had made no offers and she made sure not to force any issues. If asked she would say she was dating someone but she never once described Perry as her boyfriend. To her own mind she hadn't had one of those since her early 20s when she first came in L.A.

Della had fought, very gently, for Perry. When he loved her, when he told her he loved, when he offered his love, it was whole and complete and unlike any other man she had ever seen or heard about. Patience was all that was required with Perry but patience was indeed vital. When he approached 40 things started to change and by the time he was taken ill in late 1962 and early 1963, their relationship had changed significantly. In part, Perry had seen mortality, didn't like the looks of it, and wanted some permanence in his life.

They were also older now, craving commitment from each other, particularly Perry who had become somewhat clinging, a little angry and very jealous. Perry had started asking her to marry him in the late 1950s but Della was eternally waiting for what she considered was a real proposal. In 1957 when he and Laura had spent a weekend together it hurt but he came back to her as she knew he would if she just gave him room.

Laura was a trooper. That was the limit. The place was littered with troopers from Glen who stood accused of murder trying to protect the unbridled ambition of his wife, to Della and even to Perry. Now Laura Robertson had enlisted the same kind of devotion from Perry that she had from poor Glen. And he was giving it.

But Laura was the trooper?

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Perry seemed calm and collected, almost cold, on the surface but he was making a series of mistakes with this case and with them. He was not seeing it or Laura clearly, for one thing and he was starting to sense that. There was nothing in the world he hated worse than being wrong about someone he cared for, especially if they played him for a patsy.

At this point Della thought it best to get Glen free and then deal with everything that had happened between she and Perry at home, and her list was adding up. But Perry, bless his soul, just kept making that about as difficult as he could.

When he came back to the office from springing Paul, Della was sitting at the suite's large table working.

"Hi," she had a way of drawing out her words, lifting them at the end that always made him feel warm.

For some reason, Perry was so relieved to see her that he wanted to throw his arms around her but his need to know what happened with Laura was overwhelming.

"What was that all about, Della?"

"Gee, how can you read that much into a simple 'hi'?" She looked at him sideways, a sassy smile twisting her lips.

"Della, I believe you know what I'm talking about. What transpired with Laura?"

Della didn't like his accusatory tone; it felt a bit like she was being slapped. But she tried to be light.

"Just being girls together," Della rolled her eyes as she had when she passed him as she left them on their own, to have some privacy.

"You seemed flustered." Perry was stone-faced, unmoving.

"We don't talk about these things in the office, Perry; even if our 'office' is temporarily a hotel suite this time around," Della smiled.

"Just remember she's our client." Perry started unloading his briefcase.

"Actually," Della said, stung, "Her husband is our client, unless you know something I don't know."

"Pardon me, she's the wife of our client and she's very fragile—always has been—but particularly right now."

Della just stood there watching Perry, her eyes stinging. The conversation with Laura was painful enough but to have Perry come in and…defend Laura when he didn't even know what had transpired was shocking. Laura had now officially come between them; or maybe that happened, the night he went to the fundraiser without her. Della felt herself turning inward, trying to protect herself.

Why that one question bothered her so much, she couldn't say.

"Ever marry?"

Only Laura could pack so much into two, little words. Of all of the unpleasant implications the worst, of course, was that she was the poor, dutiful, little secretary standing by, a smug cloak of unrequited love pulled around her, instead of what she was—his lover and partner for almost 40 years!

Even when it wasn't overt, Laura always found a way to diminish Della if she could. It was too bad because, especially as they had aged, Della didn't dislike Laura anymore. In fact, she genuinely felt for her.

Not having had a response to Perry's statement, and assuming that he didn't want one, she walked over to where she was working and dove back in. Perry glanced over at her, noticing her finger occasionally swiping her cheek beneath her eye.

Perry sat back in his chair sighing, opening and closing his hands on the edge of the desk. What was wrong with him? He seemed to take so much out on Della. Often he wondered how or why she even put up with him. This case was taking its emotional toll on him and with his knee he was in constant pain. But she knew that better than anyone and went out of her way to care for him and make his life easier. Perry sat staring at her, one arm across his chest, the other hand in a fist on his lower lip.

Perry thought back decades before, to a case from 1964. While he had gone off to meet the police back where the body was lying in a ravine, he left Della at the garage to wheedle information for the case out of the owner. With great joy she recounted later that she had told the mechanic that he was her little brother but the attendant said he looked like "her old man." So she had to admit that he wasn't her little brother, she was actually 42, but she had raised him, which laughing they both agreed was true.

Although Della was more than five years younger than he was, she was always a much older soul, much more centered. Perry Mason was a boy, albeit a giant one, even in his courtroom antics and his ingenious trickery in getting the information that they needed.

Perry sat staring at her; always so steady, always so warm and loving. She took his moods and whims in her stride and every time she looked at him and talked about his skill and talent to someone it was always with such love in her eyes. Then, of course, there was her allure, the classic, timeless loveliness and understated sexy way she had of doing just about everything.

"Della, are you okay?" He asked quietly.

Della kept her head down and nodded.

"Do you want to tell me what happened? Tell me what she said to make you so uncomfortable?"

Della paused her work but still didn't look up; still didn't meet his gaze. She didn't want him to see her tears though she suspected he knew that they were there.

"It's her discomfort you're worried about, isn't it; not mine?"

"Della, I'm sorry I said that. Please forgive me. I want to know what she said to hurt you."

"She didn't hurt me. She upset me but she wasn't the one who hurt me."

"I'm sorry, Della."

Della kept working, silent.

"Darling? Please?"

Della continued working, "First, she asked if I was still steadfast and loyal. Then she asked me if I had ever gotten married?"

"What?" Perry was shocked. Laura knew what was between she and Perry, more or less anyway. That was just being…mean.

"Mmm hmm. Surprised me, too, and surprised me that it surprised me and, finally, it surprised me that it bothered me so much. She really does know how to turn the knife," Della turned her chair to face the window, elbow on the arm, her cheek resting against her fist.

Snowflakes were falling softly, the big, sugary, fat ones that she remembered from her childhood back home. They mesmerized her until she felt a warm presence from behind. Perry turned her chair back toward him and sat on the edge of the table.

"And?" he asked softly drawing her chair closer to him.

Della finally looked up at him. "Then…then she asked me about us. She said that she had never had the nerve and the bad manners at the same time to ask…I find that hard to believe," Della said with a short wave of her hand. "But she proceeded to ask, 'What about you and Perry?'"

"But she knows that weekend I told her…"

Perry stopped short, the color drained from his face.

"Oh stop, Perry. I knew about that weekend in '57. I only said 35 years because it's when you were originally together and I was…giving you the 'out.' At times I wonder about you."

"But you were angry."

"Of course I'm angry. But not about that; we weren't official just…well whatever we were."

"Us."

"Okay. If that makes you feel better but I have no idea what means. Still, I had no claim, really. I would have preferred you hadn't needed it; would have preferred to think that I gave you everything you needed."

"You have, Della. You actually have been everything to me."

"All evidence to the contrary, Counselor. Besides, I had plenty of dates, too, you know?" She said blithely.

"Oh, many suitors, hmm?"

Della just shrugged a shoulder.

"Did I give you everything you ever wanted?" Perry looked seriously at her.

Della immediately got tears in her eyes. "Nope. You couldn't give me your commitment, still can't. But I'm smart enough to know that even if you couldn't give me what I wanted you were the only one from whom I want it so…"

Della crossed her legs and looked down, pulling at the collar of her beige turtle neck and smoothing her skirt.

"I'm sorry I've been so difficult this week. I feel old, Della. This cane, my health, I don't know. I can't ski anymore and I used to love it. I nearly killed myself. I do know whatever it was is done. That I promise you, whatever this was, is over."

"Old…Perry you can't ski because of your weight not your age. I told you not to even try; to come cross country skiing instead with me. That would have been hard enough. We're damn lucky you didn't have a heart attack and die; or break your damn knee, which was bad enough before this."

Della shook her head.

"I suppose that's true isn't it? So…what did you tell her?"

"I was about to say that we have been together for a very long time but that we never needed to get married. I don't know…" Della laughed women do when she trying to protect her pride, "I don't know if she would have bought that last part. In fact, that was probably the whole point of asking if I had ever married. Anyway, you walked in so she never got her answer."

"I see."

"But by all means, Perry, make sure that I don't upset her."

Della put her hand on his thigh, pushing him away.

"We don't do this at work."

Perry took his cane off the table and went back to where he had been working, remembering a night in 1967 when he promised that she would never have another moment of hurt like that one.

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When Perry said that Laura had asked that they all meet at downstairs for dinner, Della thought she might fall on the floor. That was something that held little, one could say absolutely no, appeal for her. Perry almost laughed at the look on her face but thought better of it—a lot better.

Nodding she gave a shake of her head, hand on hip, one leg crossed in front of the other and stood leaning on the desk. Suddenly she missed Paul's father; missed her friend and the way he would tell Perry what an ass he was being.

But Perry had a point that he needed to make to Laura Robertson once and for all; to a woman he once loved but was beginning to suspect hadn't been entirely honest with him about this case. He wasn't sure what was off but something was and now that his head was clearing it wouldn't be long. Perry had no desire to make things any harder on Laura but this had to be done; for Della.

Dinner went well, Della her charming ineffable self, acting as if nothing in the world was wrong. Perry marveled at it. She chatted warmly with Glen reminiscing but, always a lady, allowing in not a hint of the inappropriateness that would always border, even define, his relationship with Laura.

Next to Della, Laura in her furs and jewels and boots looked a bit garish, he had to admit. Della on the other hand, looked astonishing in a scoop-necked, form-fitting, black dress, with a modest slit up the back and short sleeves that had a demure, girlish puff. The back dropped down leaving a good deal of exposed skin with a series of crossed straps at the top. With sheer black stockings, high black heels and a simple strand of pearls, she looked girlish.

Perry paid a great deal of attention to both women, but a very different kind of attention. Laura he flattered, knowing her weakness for it but Della he loved, openly and with what was for him, abandon. When Laura took aim at Della several times, his girl deflected the shots with what could only be described as admirable humor. When they went off to the ladies' room together, which Della had fought, Perry worried a bit for her. But dinner had certainly proved she could handle herself.

"You're an ass, Perry," Glen said as the women became a memory and they sat back down in their chairs.

Eyeing his rival, Robertson took a sip of his bourbon and smiled.

"Do you think it's wise to alienate your defense attorney Mr. Robertson?" Perry had a half smile.

"I'm not worried. You have that righteous streak. You know I'm innocent and you wouldn't stop now no matter what. Even Laura doesn't matter where that's concerned. So I stand by what I said."

"Would you care to elaborate in so far as I'm not a mind reader, despite what people think; that's actually Della's field."

"There. Della. Sweet, kind, gorgeous, sexy still after all of these years, devoted beyond anything any man deserves; even you because unlike others I don't hold you in the same unwavering esteem. I know that you're really only a man like the rest of us; just a lot better at what you do," Glen had an evil grin from the look that put on Mason's face.

"Leave Laura to me, I can handle her. You're too nice for her. You always were. But if you insist I'll happily take Della off your hands because when I say beautiful, well, Della actually redefines that word. I've never seen anyone like her before or since. Actually, I feel as if I've shown her disrespect just by talking about her like this."

"I'm surprised you let her go then."

"I didn't! She went to work for you and that was it, you know that."

Perry directed his gaze straight at Glen in that way he had; mouth a slim line, eyes hooded and dark inscrutable and a bit terrifying behind the beard.

"Didn't know?"

Perry still hadn't said a word.

"Yeah, a few weeks after she started working for you. She said that she had started working for someone who had become more than a boss, seemingly overnight. That it was more than being in love, it was finding her soul mate; said she couldn't date anyone else, it would be dishonest. She would never love anyone else, no matter what happened with him. And that was it.

To my knowledge she never dated anyone else again; oh dinners here and there. And I kept track, too," Glen took another sip of his drink and looked at Perry over his glass with a smile, "Straight through you stepping down from the bench."

"Through San Francisco?"

"Well, there was always a chance she might wake up, wasn't there? Anyway, you kept track, too, didn't you? My operatives ran into Drake's more than a few times over the years."

Perry who had been smirking stopped abruptly.

"Don't worry; you're secret's safe. You might want to check Drake's files sometime, though."

"That seems deliberately cryptic."

"Nothing even remotely questionable about Della but you might want to check."

"I love Della Street more than anyone or anything in this world. That's why I agreed to this dinner. I wanted us to all be on a level playing field about that issue. By the way," said Perry now eyeing Glen over his glass, "I may have been physically attracted to other women a time or two but I have never, ever been in love with anyone but Della Katharine Street."

"Well, good for you," said Glen rising as the women returned, "But I don't think I'm the one you've got to convince."

Perry thought it was time for the couples to have a little space, and he genuinely wanted to dance with Della who had been graceful and adorable, despite any number of bumpy moments mostly directed at or around her.

No sooner had she sat down than he popped up, standing behind her chair putting his hands on her trembling shoulders.

"I believe that they're playing our song young lady," Della looked up behind her smiling and let him take her hand.

"Perry," interrupted Laura, "Do you think it's the best idea to be dancing during my husband's murder trial?"

"Well it's a two-step, a slow two-step at that, and you're not the ones dancing."

Perry led Della slowly to the dance floor in front of him, a hand on her hip. He didn't even feel his knee. Her scent wafting behind her was intoxicating, enveloping him; just to hold her, breathe her in with no one else around, that's all he wanted.

When he slid his arm around her waist, keeping her at a bit of a distance until she got settled, she surprised him and curled immediately into his shoulder. Perry breathed an enormous sigh relief as he nuzzled his lips in her curls.

"Baby…"

Laura watched from a distance, an odd expression on her face.

"Well," said Glen Robertson, "I guess we know the truth now, from the way he's holding her. Amazing they've kept that so well hidden this long. After all, look at them…"

Laura squinted surveying her former lover, her translucent eyes always revealing what was going on in her head, the reward for anyone brave enough to look.

"I wonder why, though."

"Why he loves her?"

"Oh, no, that's rather obvious. I actually quite like Della. I hate that I do," her husband laughed, making her laugh. "But I do. She's quite impossible not to like really. He loves her because she's gorgeous, look at those legs and that figure! And men always find devotion like hers… well if there is anyone as devoted as she is I don't know her. For men that's the most powerful of aphrodisiacs. And she's funny and smart, wise really. Who wouldn't love her? In fact, if I went that way…"

Glen laughed out loud. He did love his wife sometimes; they were meant for one another whether she wanted to accept it or not.

"Why 'why' then," he took a sip of his drink.

"Well, look at them," Perry had Della's fingers at his lips, as he often did when they danced. Both had their eyes closed, their foreheads touching passing the same air back and forth. They didn't even know where they were.

"Wanna' go break it up, just for kicks?"

Laura laughed in her elegant way. "You can't kid me. I know you dated her a million years ago. You think I'm so bad…as stunning as she looks tonight, you want to get your arms around her again."

Ken laughed again, nodding. "We belong together you know that don't you?"

"That, my darling, is a terrifying thought," she leaned over and kissed him. "Probably true but absolutely terrifying. You know that I love you very, very much don't you?"

"Oddly I do…." Glen said.

Laura smiled at him and took his hand.

"But tell me what are you wondering?"

"Why they've kept it hidden all of these years. Why?"

"Not everyone chooses to live their life in the spotlight, as we have; or if they are forced to for some reason, they don't necessarily enjoy it."

"Partially I suppose, yes. It's something else though, too…but what?"

Ken watched as Perry let his lips find hers, neither of them ever opening their eyes. "I'm guessing that they don't even know themselves."

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"Ohhh…that mouth…" Della got a shiver up her neck that made him smile.

"Here's a question that I never thought I would ask you but…how did it go in the ladies' room?"

Della laughed and tipped her head to look up at him, "Lots of questions," Della's voice sang up as it did when she was being adorable. "Apparently your subtle details about our life together left your poor lost love curious about everything right up to and including our sex life."

Perry got a stern look on his face. "Della, do I want to know?"

"I was very complimentary, Perry," Della said devilishly.

"Young lady…I…never mind."

"Yes, good idea, Dear and don't forget I merely answered when asked."

The band was doing a fine job and had started playing a gentle bossa nova he recognized and loved. Della immediately looked to him smiling when she picked up on it.

Quiet nights of quiet stars,
Quiet chords from my guitar,
Floating on the silence that surrounds us,
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams,
Quiet walks by quiet streams,
And window that looking so to Corcovado,
Oh! How lovely.

"Remember hearing this music in Rio in '67 when we went? 'Corcovado' was our favorite."

"And 'Aquas de Marco' and when we came home you loved "The Girl from Ipanema' because it reminded you of..well...anyway... Antonio Carlos Jobim. That was a wonderful trip."

"Tom was a wonderful host and we managed to protect his rights as a composer," Perry kissed her fingers.

"That was a small piece of brilliance on your part, Perry. And Paul…well, he nearly got beaten to death but he did save the day. But you really were wonderful!" Della got that misty, proud of him look that he loved so much.

"You were something, too, going topless on that beach young lady. It was quite something! You have always been spectacular naked. I don't think I tell you that enough."

Della laughed and shook her head. "Let's discuss how I ended up topless; how I was sound asleep when my lover undid the back of my two-piece suit. Then when I sat up the top did not sit up with me. And being sleepy…well, it was a while and several pairs of eyes before I realized I was sunbathing topless."

"Spectacular!" said Perry looking off into the distance.

"We would make love all night on that little strip of private beach right outside our bungalow on Ipanema."

"I wanted to sleep out there but you saw…"

Della cut him off, "A spider as big as your head! Oh God."

Perry had to stop dancing he was laughing so hard. "Boy! Did you move!"

They were laughing until tears came down their cheeks. "I was trying to outrun it! I think the damn thing had a motor…"

Perry held her tightly against his chest still laughing then leered at her. "Remember carnival…?"

"Perry Mason you said that you'd never bring that up ever again," Della looked at him from beneath her lashes.

"Della, I never said never. I never do say never. That was quite a night making love to you… in the middle of a crowd…"

"Perry! And it wasn't in the middle of a crowd. It was around the corner from the crowd."

Della suddenly noticed that she was becoming slightly...uncomfortable.

"Your hair was short and full then and I've never seen you so tan. And you had on that short white dress, very plain, with your legs bare…and those lazy, laaaazzy hips, as Paul used to say," Perry smiled remembering Rio, remembering their friend.

"It was all of those sambas and bossa novas—not my fault. My hips were always energetic around the office."

Perry laughed at this, "Della you tried, valiantly even, but you couldn't help yourself, especially at the end of the day when you were tired. In fact, my darling, where do you think I heard Paul use the expression the first time?"

Della smirked a bit. She and Paul always had a little playful undercurrent about which Perry tried to be a sport but sometimes fell short.

"We ran around that beach naked every night…swam in the moonlight. You know, I used to love watching you run around naked, too," Della gave him a wanton stare. "You brought champagne out to me in the water."

Della reached up to kiss Perry.

"Then when we wanted to get out you ran up, got towels and wrapped me up," she drawled her voice growling, "Then swept me into your arms and carried me up the beach, kissing me the entire time; every night. There has never been a man as romantic as you, never."

"We were young."

"No lover, we weren't all that young. It was only 20 years ago and you were 50 by then! I was still young, of course," she flashed her eyes at him and he kissed her deeply, passionately, "We just hadn't been beaten down yet."

"Della, we haven't been anywhere in a long time have we?

"No we have not, boss."

"Let's go away next week; let's go away for the holidays. Anywhere tropical you would like to go, just name it."

"Hmmm… I could use a vacation," she said smiling at him. "Under one condition..."

"What's that? I don't have to wait until then to run around naked with you."

"Miss Street, I don't think at this point in our lives even you want to see me run around naked."

"Mr. Mason, this would be a rare, well not so rare lately, instance of you being very, very wrong," Della said deeply, giving him a slight shake of her pretty head.

"You have anything specific in mind?"

"I do. Meet me upstairs."

"We don't do that when…"

"Counselor, if you know what's good for you, at all, you won't finish that sentence. Now, let's go and say good-night."

"Miss Street?"

"Yeees?"

"Why do you love me?"

Della smiled, "Believe it or not, Counselor, you are a very easy man to love."

Perry looked at her askance.

Della cuddled close and started to serenade him quiet and slow in his ear, "You'd be…so easy to love so easy to idolize all others above…so worth the yearning for," Della pulled back and looked him in the eye. "So swell to keep the home fires burning for…"

Laura and Glen watched from the table when Laura asked with a wry smile, "Do you suppose that they even know the music has stopped?"

"Darling wife, I don't think it has for them."

Perry was caressing Della's back now, sending the same shivers across her body that her voice always sent through his. Another time he would parse the subject of how he had gotten so lucky to have this incredible woman, who could have had anyone in the world that she wanted, love him. Now all he wanted was revel in her.

Della continued her low crooning, "And we'd be so grand at the game…so carefree together that it does seem a shame…that you can't see your future with me because you'd so easy to love."

"You're the only thing about my future that I do see Miss Street."

"I was beginning to wonder…"

"I know. I'm sorry, Della. I'm sorry, Baby. I'm so sorry…I…"

"Wasn't their talk of bed a while back?" Della stroked his hair

"Indeed, young lady. Indeed there was."

Back at the table Laura was reading Perry Mason's mind. "How long do you think it will be until they make their excuses and leave us to our own device?"

"They won't even sit back down again," Glen said with a smirk. He turned out to be exactly correct.

Laura Robertson nodded; looking down into her brandy she lifted her glass to her husband and said, "Perhaps theirs' is a lead to be followed."

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They opted for Perry's room as it was the main part of the suite and had an enormous Jacuzzi where they started out. Perry had been clumsy about bidding the Robertson's good-night but all that discussion of making love to Della on the streets of Ipanema during carnival, of her being topless and running around naked, holding her close with his hand on her bare back, and then the final straw, her singing to him, was making his desire more visible by the second.

Fortunately it was Friday and they had several days—they needed every second of them.

By Monday morning, there wasn't a place in that suite where they hadn't made love; or a place on either of their bodies that hadn't touched with fingers or tongues. When they woke at 6AM they were fully rejuvenated; pink and plump, hearty and strong. They started visiting and laughing as soon as their eyes fluttered, Della calling for coffee as Perry got in the shower. When he was just about finished Della snuck in behind him making Perry jump and pull the curtain around him.

"Ohhh, my big boy…" Della giggled and wrapped her arms around him. "I know every inch of you after all of these years; every inch. I can see every bit of you any time I want. All that I have to do is close my eyes. You can't hide from me Perry Mason; never could and you, better than anyone, should know that."

Perry grinned. Della tipped her head up and sideways, lips pursed, so sunny, so dear that he couldn't resist and started kissing her on those full lips. By the time he left the shower she was, literally, in a lather.

When she came out her coffee was poured and on her nightstand and Perry was in bed reading the newspaper. Della took a sip of coffee then removed her robe and crawled into bed, naked, slapping his leg lightly with her hand. Perry looked up surprised but moved his leg as Della crawled over him. Using great care not to hurt his knee or…anything else…Della cuddled against him in between his legs. Perry handed her the newspaper.

"You know, considering how thoughtless I've been, not many women would have been trustworthy enough for that little maneuver," Perry grinned.

Della laughed warmly, "I trust everyone is comfy?"

Perry laughed and nodded.

"Actually I think at my age the agility is almost as impressive."

"Miss Street, had I not worried about being presumptuous regarding age all of these years, you would have heard me laud that very attribute numerous times!"

Della patted his hand.

"Oooo. Denver is not Brazil, I'm chilly."

Perry unbuttoned his pajama top then, taking her shoulders, pulled him against his warm chest. After pulling his pajama top around her he pulled the covers up over them. .

"Mmmm…" she purred.

"Better?"

Della turned over her shoulder catching his indigo eyes, "Better than it has been in a long, long time my one and only love."

After they read the whole front section, Della felt a gentle nibbling on her neck and a pair of large hands climbing up from her belly.

"Will you go topless like this next week?" Perry urged in her ear.

"I am not topless, Mr. Mason. I am wearing two rather large, avid hands."

Perry guffawed

Della chuckled, "Wellll…you're not so bad. I suppose the management could try and accommodate you."

"Speaking of accommodating me…"

"Hmm, yes, Mr. Mason. I do see that you are shall we say glad to see me after a weekend full of being happy to see me? You are a remarkable man."

"I don't need breakfast," said Perry crunching the paper in a hand and tossing it on the floor.

"Well, I do!" Della was laughing now. "Perry…"

"I'll get you a muffin on the way out. Unless, of course, I'm in this alone."

Perry let his hand glide down her belly until it dipped between her thighs. Della turned flattening the side of her head against his chest, groaning.

"Ah…well, a muffin it is for my lovely secretary."

Perry held her back against him letting both of his hands run along her body as she turned her head and brought his mouth down to hers. As they kissed she rolled over to face him, making him moan against her warm, soft mouth. Sitting up on his lap, one long, beautiful leg on either side of him he took her cheek in his hand.

"Della, I know how lucky I am. Don't think that I don't."

Della sat up on her knees, laying her body against his upper body and her elbows on his shoulders. She ran her fingers through his hair on both sides, taking his lower lip between her lips and concentrating on it until moving to his upper lip.

"My love," she whispered. "You're a 70 year old man. When are you going to stop being scared? And what can I do to help you?"

When she drew back he had tears in his eyes. Della dropped her head down, her check against his and nodded. "Poor boy. My poor boy."

Raising herself up, she settled slowly down on his lap, making him reach out for her. Taking both of his hands in hers, she wrapped them around her waist feeling his thighs behind her, his belly beneath, as she moved against him over and over.

To have her like this, her strong legs around him, her beautiful body on display in front of him, Perry reached his hand over his head, grabbing onto the headboard and tried to remain as quiet as he could. Perry's moans were so low they were making Della insane.

"Della I don't think I can…"

But as Perry was about to tell her he couldn't hold on much longer, the door to the living room opened and shut. Perry grabbed Della's thighs to hold her still but she kept moving….slowly with a little smile.

"Come on in," he said trying to sound…bright, chipper but instead sounding just this side of deranged.

Perry was biting his lower lip and squeezing her thighs to get her to stop but it was useless.

Giggling, Della was cringing against his chest when he said in a strangled voice, "Leave it there, charge the room please and add $20 for yourself…thanks…"

"Della stop moving, damn it," he whispered, "…oh God…"

The door shut quickly and Della fell upon him torturing him with her soft, moving faster as he grabbed the headboard again only this time with both hands. When they were finally finished Perry had given up trying to be quiet and had embarrassed himself several times over.

Della lay forward against him, as he held her still on his lap, stroking her curls and kissing her gently.

Perry panted afterwards, "This is how reading the newspaper together always ended up. Must be why….I recall it so…fondly."

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Selfish to the end, Laura had forced him to eviscerate her on the stand, where she finally admitted her guilt not just in the accidental death of Pete Dickson, but in making her devoted husband take the fall and for playing her devoted former lover for a patsy. Laura would always put herself first she knew no other way to live, to survive.

As they took her away, Della came over and stood behind Perry, massaging his shoulder with her delicate little hands. This case had hurt her, hurt her to her very core and what did she care about right now? She cared about him. Della Street's only concern was the considerable pain and embarrassment she knew that he was feeling.

Perry Mason finally saw Laura; saw her for what she was beautiful, vulnerable, manipulative… and vicious.

When Perry walked out onto the steps of the courthouse there was Della, waiting, as ever. There was a stillness about her and he knew that she was holding her breath; holding her breath about so much from their distant future to their very near future and whether he would defend Laura.

After their dinner on Friday night with the Robertsons, after they cleared the air and found one another again and after Perry planned their island getaway for Christmas, Della had rebounded. Until then she had been befuddled walking around in a fog; she hadn't been clear about anything. But he was.

For the first time in a decade Perry Mason was very clear about everything.

"Della," he said putting his arm around her, "Let's go home."

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

~Fin~