The fear that had enveloped him before the surgery was over. He had survived. The procedure had been a dubious proposition with a person so overweight and a previous heart attack.

Perry Mason could hear voices, sounds that faded in and out. He was dreaming, floating, hallucinating. The faces of people he'd loved, along with their voices. His mother telling him not to spoil his supper eating cookies. Snatching them anyway. Her blue eyes joyful.

Paul laughing, sitting in a booth at Clay's. One cigarette right after another, teasing and flirting with any woman within his radar range.

Della's face. Beautiful, sweet, perfect Della. He should have been a better man. She had blossomed with age. Still full of grace. Through Della, light fell upon him.

Angry voices, angry faces. Hamilton Burger, practically purple with rage and frustration, then the same face gray with illness and contorted with pain.

Pain, remorse and anger twisted through his drug altered thoughts.

Betrayal at so many turns. Frank Halloran. Laura. And, Laura.

Betrayal was not a one way street.

Perry's 'Street' only ran one way—to him. She didn't have to run. He would stand still and wait for her. Forever.

Why was it that in dreams, everything could appear so lucid, solutions and wrong turns seemed so easy to see, yet upon waking, the knowledge was just an echo in the early morning light.

Morpheus and his kindred had final control. Gray faded to black. Black faded to an abyss into which his exceptional mind and mortal soul were suspended.

If God and Fate were kind and allowed, it was temporary.

**************************************************P&D*********

Della Street was beyond tired. No words could ever adequately express what she felt right now, as clichéd as it seemed to even think.

Exhaustion went so far into her bones, muscles, and mind that all she wanted to do was crawl into bed beside her lover and sleep. If he didn't wake, she didn't want to either. What was the point?

She knew it would come to this; one day one of them would go first. It was inevitable. After all, wasn't that the joke? No one got out alive.

It was easier not to think of it. It was no joke. It was why she prayed at night that she would go first; she couldn't bear the thought of his leaving her. It left her with a clenched stomach and aching heart, and sometimes hot, fat tears dropping from her eyes.

Some losses were so monumental that no amount of time could ever heal them. They were so soul leaching that a person simply could not live afterward.

Oh, the body could keep moving, survive.

Della had known husbands and wives who once their partners died simply sat down and didn't move along in life. It was as if they were just… waiting.

Biding time because there was nothing left in this world for them. No promise of any more adventures together. No more laughter. No warm touch at night. Just a bottomless emotional hole of absolute nothingness.

It was amazing that a person could feel such anguish and yet the body would continue, heart beating, eyes blinking, stomach growling. Why didn't that type of pain take life away? Another great cosmic joke.

There were no children to comfort her. No part of him to cling to and no eyes reminiscent of his, to remind her that part of him lived on. Part of them lived on.

Vague lines of a poem read long ago rippled across her tired mind like stones skip across smooth water.

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'"

Dust. Dust was all that was left in the end. No matter how great, and no matter how noble. No matter how beloved.

Hope now was in a life beyond this, where she believed, whether it was popular or not, that there was a life still waiting for them. A place and life where they would always be together.

Her hazel eyes closed, her hand holding tightly to his in hope, that if he left her during the night, she might be close enough that she would be taken with him.

**************************************************P&D**********

When the nurse came in around 3 am to check her patient's vitals and replace the IV bag, she noticed that his color had improved.

She had checked his chart: colon cancer, a resection. He was not a young man, but he looked powerful. Perhaps that would be enough to help him through the rough days ahead.

The nurse's attention now turned to his wife who lay awkwardly on her side in the recliner, her left arm stretched and her hand clenching his even in her sleep.

She smiled; the big man had more in his favor than she first thought.

**********************************************P&D***************