Author's note: I always pictured Perry and Della back in LA eventually, and based another of my stories on that premise. This is my version of how that came to pass. I hope you enjoy. All mistakes are mine. I'm probably off on the timeline. If I am, please pm me to help me out with that for my next story, if there is one. I'm awful at math, even figuring dates. I'm a big picture person.

I claim no monetary gain, but I do love me some Della & Perry.

Denver, Colorado

April 21 1996

Della knelt on her sidewalk plucking out adventurous weeds, a thick gel pad underneath her knees to prevent the ache that she knew would follow later if she didn't. It was April, but after living here for several years now, Della knew that Spring was a treacherous time for gardening in Denver. There might be three weeks without snow and then howling winds and 9" or more of snow would bring freezing temperatures and icy conditions. But, it was still technically Spring and gardening was in her blood. She'd been receiving magazines and making lists of plants that she'd like to try this year since January, though her space was as limited as her growing season.

After they decided to throw in together so to speak, Perry had sold his condo and Della had allowed the lease to expire on hers, and they had purchased a lovely Victorian one and half story. The beautiful mahogany door with the sidelights led into a foyer where Della and Perry both tried to keep a vase filled with welcoming flowers. To the left was the den and to the right was their library, beautiful wood bookshelves were filled to the ceiling and two deep burgundy leather armchairs faced the fireplace.

Perry watched her through one of the library windows while she worked, his large hands buried in the deep pockets of a Carolina blue sweater. He may not have been aware of it, but his facial expression made his feelings evident. Watching the woman outside was one of the few things lately that made his intelligent eyes crinkle and his smile soften underneath his full beard. He watched while the wind tossed her curly hair and then grew amused as she tried and failed to pull hair out of her eyes without taking off her gloves. He abruptly decided she needed a break, and he wanted her attention. He had always wanted all her attention for over forty years.

Della didn't hear Perry as he walked up behind her until he cleared his throat loudly. She glanced up and smiled. He still made her heart skip a beat after all their years together. She noticed the mug in his hand and moved to get up.

"I thought you might be getting chilly out here, miss," he said, leading her up to the porch chairs.

She pulled the gloves off and tossed them to the table between them. Taking the steaming cup, she took a sip. "Mmmm. Cocoa." They smiled at each other, sharing recent memories and many past years of intimate pleasures, along with a very public life, as well.

"Here. I brought you this." Perry handed her an oatmeal colored thick Irish cardigan. "I thought you might be getting cold."

Taking it from his hand, she placed her mug on the little table between them and put it on. She reclaimed her cup and smiled back into the incredible blue eyes she'd fallen in love with the first time she saw him.

Indifferent observers who didn't know them would consider them to be like a million older married couples, socioeconomic status, quite nearly the same age, work winding down. Observers would be wrong.

"How goes the landscaping," he asked. "You know it's-"

"Too early for flowers. Yes, dear, I know. But I just had to get my hands in the dirt again."

"My offer still stands. We have enough space for a greenhouse in back of the house," he said. Perry took a sip and eyed her over the rim of his mug. The lawyer had sensed something unsettled about her lately. She wasn't eager to share and he knew better than to push. She would say, 'Fine,' and he would nod. He would know nothing more than he did before he asked.

"It's fine, Perry. Piddling around in these flower beds and with the porch plants is enough."

"Before I forget," he said, "Ann called from Francine's Dress Shoppe to ask if you wanted the dress you picked out delivered or if you would be back to pick it up. She also asked if you were feeling better. She said when you left the shop that you were quite upset."

Her cheeks pinked a bit. "It was nothing, Perry. I was just tired and remembered another appointment that I needed to get to, that's all."

"So, this dress? Will it make you even more ravishing? You apparently were quite taken with it."

"I don't know about the ravishing part, Counselor, but I did like the dress. I just forgot, that's all. I'm fine."

She said the words, but they rang hollow to Perry's ears. There was an echo of yearning that left him unsettled. Della had always kept his career—and life—running as smoothly as possible. Feeling there was something that she needed that he hadn't sussed out, or worse hadn't noticed, made his chest tighten.

"Good," he said, "that's settled then because I gave her my credit card number and told to deliver it as soon as possible."

As if she sensed his thoughts, and probably did, Della gave him a little sweet and sassy smile.

A great poker face, his girl had, Perry thought.

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

1996 April 1

Denver, Colorado

Della had been shopping at Francine's, her favorite dress shop. She had taken half a day off and eaten lunch with Margaret. On her way home, she'd decided to stop in to look for a new dress for a private dinner thrown by the university dean to which she and Perry were invited.

With the help of Ann, a familiar attendant there, Della had tried on several dresses, but nothing really took her fancy. She felt like something jazzy or at least different to make her feel renewed. The winter had been long, bleak, and damn inconvenient.

"Miss Street?" Ann called to her, "I have something you might like." She passed it through the curtains into a private dressing room.

"Thank you. Give me a few minutes, and I'll need you to help me with the back."

"Yes, ma'am."

Della slid the deep red dress on and stepped out in front of the mirror where the clerk waited and fastened the back.

"Miss Street, that looks lovely on you!"

Della did like the simple lines, deep V-neck, and the vibrant color. She felt the dress was strikingly lovely, and she turned to Ann to say that she'd take it when a distinctive voice took her by surprise.

"The dress is attractive, Della. Prosaic, but you probably do it…. justice. A special occasion?"

Laura Robertson had stepped out from another dressing area in a leopard print sheath which she was trying on. Her eyes were not soft nor was she embarrassed one bit about the last time the two of them had been in the same room, court room, to be exact. Her demeanor was still haughty and overconfident.

Della was unnerved, but she recovered quickly. "How are you, Laura?"

Without answering her question, Laura bluntly asked, "Is Perry well?"

Later when she thought of it, the woman's words had hit her as if an ember of fire had been suddenly flicked into her chest. Taking a breath to steady herself and not lose her temper, Della's usually soft hazel eyes were like flint as she turned to finally face off with Laura Robertson. Her melodious voice was steady and never raised, but there was no mistaking her meaning.

"Perry and I are both wonderful, thank you for asking. We've settled nicely into our new house here. I'd like to say it's been nice running into you, Laura, but it hasn't. In fact, it never has been," she said with a pleasant smile. "Give Glen my regards."

Laura Robertson seemed to physically shrink, and without waiting for an answer, Della stepped back into the changing room and forgot to ask for help in undoing the dress. She struggled at least ten minutes and finally succeeded in getting it partially undone, but, it was enough to finally get it off. She put it back on the hanger, got dressed, and walked out. There was no sign of Laura. The sales clerk tried to get her attention, but Della strode out, leaving the dress there in the shop.

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

1996 February 27

Denver, Colorado

Della was in the kitchen going to through her recipe boxes. She couldn't believe as careful as she was at work that the one recipe that she wanted was missing. She heard the door bell ring, and leaving her cards scattered on the table, headed to answer it.

"Rebecca, please come in. How are you? This is a surprise."

A close friend of Della's from church, the woman's face was red from the wind outside.

"Freezing. I can't believe how brutal it is from the car to here." She shivered. "I can't stay; I have to pick up my grandson. I wanted to stop by so that you didn't have to hear it on the grapevine, but Sandra Anders slipped early this morning in her driveway. From what I've heard, her hip appears to be broken along with her femur."

Della clapped her hands over her face in dismay. "Oh, no! She was finally getting out of the house after Cameron's passing."

"I know. She will be in a rehabilitation center for at least six to eight weeks. You know her son is in New York and her daughter is in Texas." Rebecca shook her head sadly. "It's a bad break, in more ways than one."

Della didn't know what to say. Sandra and Cameron had been wonderful bridge partners and a great couple to have over for dinner company on a long winter night. Their slide downhill had come on so quickly and so unexpectedly.

"I have to run. I don't want to leave Jacob out in front of the school in this weather."

"Thank you so much for coming by to let me know."

Rebecca nodded as she rewrapped a scarf around her head. "Will do, Della, I'll let you know as soon as I know more."

Della closed the heavy door after she left shutting out the wind, but the cold lingered for a long time.

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

1996 April 25

Denver, Colorado

Perry insisted on making dinner that night, while Della soaked, at his insistence, in their large bath tub. She had filled it as full as far as she'd dared, and allowed the heat from the water to draw out her aches and drive out the chill that had settled over her before she finished her yard work.

Music from the university radio station was coming from a small portable radio they left in the bathroom in order to get the weather forecasts while they were getting ready for work in the morning. It was Saturday's Sixties & Seventies Night. The Bee Gees were hitting notes that pained dogs all over the neighborhood.

Della slid down to where her hair barely touched the water. Watching bubbles form and pop, she allowed herself to relax. Perry had just wrapped up a pro bono case involving a student suing a professor for rights to work he had done but the professor had published. Pretty much a slam dunk, but the personalities involved were petty. She missed the excitement of a murder trial. The hunt involved. The pressure applied. Lately there had been a dearth of interesting people and cases, but plenty of 'blah' had seemed to pass through the office.

Perry came to tell her that dinner was ready. He knocked on the door, but she didn't answer. He could hear her singing along with an old song that always took his mind back to California. Della was singing along loudly, and he had a large grin when he barely cracked the door open and peeped inside.

His lover had her eyes closed, one toe up inside the opening of the faucet and was hitting every note and hummed along if she missed a word.

"If everybody had an ocean
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody'd be surfin'
Like California
You'd seem 'em wearing their baggies
Huarachi sandals too
A bushy blond hairdo
Surfin' U.S.A.

You'd catch 'em surfin' at Del Mar
Ventura County line
Santa Cruz and Trestle
Australia's Narabine
All over Manhattan
And down Doheny Way

Everybody's gone surfin'
Surfin' U.S.A!"

Della's eyes were drawn to the unexpected movement at the bathroom door.

"Oh, my God! Perry! You scared me to death!" Della almost slipped completely underwater in embarrassment.

Perry couldn't stop laughing. He loved her so much, and he never loved her more than when the normally perfect lady, color-within-the-lines Della really let her hair down in private.

"You!" She scolded him. "How could you! You could have knocked!" Her cheeks were deep pink from embarrassment and the steam from the hot water.

Perry was laughing so hard at her discomfiture that he managed to get his large body down on the edge of the tub beside her, despite his weak knee, and literally shook with laughter.

"I should pull you in the tub, mister!"

Perry caught his breath. "Then what? You'll have to call 911 to get me out. I'm sure the fire department would love that. You won't be able to get out around me, you know."

Della's laughter burst out against her will. The bathroom echoed with it. When they finally calmed down, Perry said, "May I?" and held out his hand.

She took it and he pulled her from the water, still smiling, admiring her.

"Could I please have my towel," she asked. "It's chilly out of the water."

Handing her the soft terry cloth, he leaned down and whispered, "I know. I can tell."

Her "Oh, you!" followed him out the door, but both were smiling.

Donna Summer was belting out "Hot Stuff" while Della finally dried off and put on her robe. "Hot Stuff" indeed, she laughed.

After they climbed into bed later that night, Perry pulled Della close, her head on his massive shoulder.

"Della, I want to know if there is something going on that we need to talk about."

Beside him, she snuggled in tighter and he wrapped his arm around her more firmly.

"Yes," she murmured against his neck.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

"Yes, but I don't want to upset you or be the reason for something you don't want to really do." Again, she wanted to add, but bit her tongue.

Now Perry was really puzzled.

"I have not a shred of evidence nor a clue as to what you're talking about, but if you're unhappy, I want to know what's causing it. Please."

Della grew quiet. He could feel her start to shake with sobs. Tears were a rarity for her. He would wait her out, holding her tightly.

When the flow started to taper off, the big man left the bed and returned with a cool wash cloth. He patted her face and then folded it and gently lay it across her eyes. Already she was falling asleep.

She'd tell him when she was ready.

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

1995 November & Thanksgiving

Paul, his wife Rae, and their three children, one boy and two girls all under six had flown from Los Angeles to be with Perry and Della for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was a special holiday that they always tried to spend together, and for Della it was a huge deal. Weeks before the Drakes arrived, she was already nesting and preparing. Getting the guest rooms ready. Stocking the pantry. Planning the menu. Perry complained as good naturedly as possible that he was being ignored and teased that her work was beginning to slide.

Della would just narrow her lovely doe eyes at him and tilt her head in that way she did that meant business, and Perry would wisely clam up.

Even Ken knew better than to tease her at this time of year. He knew he was welcome at their home, but this year he was going to his parents for the holiday.

Della left the office early about a week before Thanksgiving, when Ken finally got up the nerve to ask Perry about something he'd been pondering. He wandered into Perry's office, and the two were deep into the Rockies' prospects for over an hour, before he finally had the nerve to ask.

"What exactly is the deal with Della and Paul, Jr.? I mean, he's not really her secret son….is he?"

Perry didn't smile, and he didn't take the boy's head off because he didn't think that Ken was trying to be cute.

"No, he isn't, and it's a long story."

"I know his father died and the three of you were best friends. What happened to Junior's mother?"

"She left," Perry said bluntly. "She came back. She left. Repeatedly."

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh. Della has loved that boy since the day Paul showed up with him. Junior was just two weeks old, and his mother bailed on father and son the same night she showed up with said baby. She shoved Junior into Paul's arms, told him the baby was his, and she walked, or, more accurately, ran out as fast as possible."

Perry leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He would never forget the terror in his best friend's face when he showed up at Della's apartment with a baby. Not just a baby, but a baby with a raging fever.

Della had handled it like she'd done it all her life. Taking the pale, sickly, little thing and changing his diaper, she'd wrapped him up and told the two of them take her to the nearest hospital.

She'd stayed with the baby for ten days straight while he fought pneumonia from lack of proper care or nutrition. She cradled him, rocked him, and fed him. Perry practically had to beg her to go home to rest and change clothes.

It was then he really saw what he had taken from her, deprived her of. Della wasn't a young woman anymore when Junior showed up, at least not new mother young. Perry had never been jealous of his best friend, but now he was more jealous that he'd ever been in his life of anyone. Paul, not he, had given Della the thing she wanted most with Perry, but, was afraid in doing so, it would cost her the man she loved so much.

Paul died of a heart attack when Junior was eleven. Now he was their responsibility completely. Deep down, Perry knew that's when he started to put distance between himself and Della. Junior certainly needed her, and Perry didn't appear to as much. Or so she probably believed. He certainly didn't show her any different with words or behavior. Maybe it was jealousy or selfishness, he didn't know. Perry remembered that he had indulged in questionable behavior. Thinking back, he realized that he might have done it subconsciously to punish her for putting the child before him.

He did know when the judgeship came open, he was ready to leave Paul in LA, a freshman in college. Della would not, so Perry made THE stupidest decision he'd ever made, and he'd gone on without her. It had cut seven years out of their precious time together.

Perry was somewhat stunned. He knew he'd been extremely difficult and could have been more supportive, but he didn't think he'd been that big a bastard. He never appreciated all the hurt he must have put Della through. What a selfish ass he'd been. All along Della had told him that marriage and family wouldn't work for him. For them. She'd been a more astute judge of his nature than he. He suddenly felt ashamed.

"Penny for your thoughts? You were gone a long time there," Ken said.

"You have no idea, Kenneth. No idea."

That year Perry Mason put everything he had into supporting Della and making everyone feel as welcome as possible. He actually backed off of some of his sarcastic remarks about noise in the house. His epiphany about his own behavior had brought about a significant change in his attitude, and he was determined to show it.

That Thursday evening, Della and Paul were clearing off the dishes from the dining table after Thanksgiving dinner and singing along with Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas." Perry was in the den actually enjoying reading stories to the two older girls while Rae had taken their baby boy to the bedroom to nurse.

All in all, it had been a perfect family holiday. Perry and Paul had built snowmen with the girls, and Della had fawned over them all, especially Trey, legally known as Paul Drake, III.

When they left for LA, Della cried as usual as she hugged everyone good-bye at the airport, and after they arrived home, it wasn't just Della who remarked how empty the house suddenly seemed. Perry was as surprised as she was at his admission.

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

1996 April

Denver, Colorado

True to form, less than a week after Della's gardening, a blizzard warning was issued. Della rescheduled clients all morning at the office. By noon, Perry told Della to take the Jeep Cherokee and go home before the roads could get any worse. He'd finish up pressing paperwork and calls. Ken volunteered to bring him home in his Chevy 4X4, on his way home.

After finishing a call to a client near Jackson Hole, Perry placed the receiver slowly back into the phone cradle on his desk. It had just occurred to him how out of character it was for Della not to insist on his leaving with her, even if she knew he wouldn't. Today, she didn't even try.

The snow storm moved in faster than predicted, and the snow became so heavy that Perry and Ken left much earlier than they'd planned. Perry called the house to let Della know that he was on his way, but the phone went to voice mail.

Ken noticed the uncomfortable look on the older man's face. "What's wrong?" Ken asked.

"Probably nothing, but Della isn't answering the phone. Let's get going."

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

mid-March, 1996

Denver, Colorado

Perry was at his desk in the library when Della came down the stairs filled with joy and excitement.

"Perry! You have to come upstairs and see what I've found." Delight filled her eyes and she took his hand and pulled him along, though it did take him longer to get up to the second-floor spare room.

Leading him to a window overlooking their back yard, at first, he didn't see anything but the large tree branches almost brushing the house.

She drew his attention to a bird working tirelessly on a nest. They had a perfect front row seat into the bird's business.

"Is that what I think it is," he asked, breathlessly.

"I think so. It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Not six feet away from them was a beautiful blue Stellar's Jay busily constructing a home to lay her eggs.

"It's incredible," he said. "I've looked but never actually seen one before."

Della took his arm, leaned in close, and said joyfully, "We have new neighbors."

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

1996 April

Perry and Ken came into the house together. Della's car was in the driveway, so she'd obviously made it home.

"Della," he called loudly, as he sat to pull his snow covered boots off. He hung his overcoat and hat up on the hall tree, and called again, "Della." His loud deep voice echoed off the walls.

Perry left Ken at the door, his manners temporarily forgotten, and he walked through the house searching in each room. When he got to the dining room, he stopped and called back to his young partner.

"I've found her, Ken, but you're welcome to stay if you think you it's too treacherous to go on to your apartment. Oh, and thanks for the ride."

Oblivious to anything wrong, Ken answered, "No, I don't have that far to go. I'll call you both later—and you're welcome," he said as he left, going back to his Blazer, where he'd left the engine running to keep it warm and the front window defrosted.

When he heard Ken close the door, Perry went back and put his boots and coat on. He went back out the front door and took the wrap-around porch to the side of the house where he had seen Della outside through the dining room window. She was standing still, no coat on, and she held something dark in her hands.

He stopped when he reached her side. In her hands was the Stellar Jay, dead.

"Oh, damn, baby. I'm sorry."

She just held it, neither she nor the bird moved. The beautiful shades of blue were brilliant against the white all around them.

"Come on, Del. Let's get you inside." He took the bird gently from her hands and tucked it into his large pocket. "I'll take care of this. Come on." Perry put his arm around her shoulders and led her inside where he put her in front of the fireplace, a blanket around her shoulders.

He disappeared for a few minutes and came back without his coat, but he was carrying another blanket which he placed over her legs and feet after he took off her boots. Her hair was damp from the snow and she'd started shivering.

"Della, honey, what were you thinking going out without a coat? At the risk of sounding like my mother—or you—you could-" Perry stopped talking. "What's wrong? I want you to tell me. You've not been behaving like yourself at all lately. Tell me. Please." His face was usually intense and his eyes powerful, but when she looked at him sitting on the hearth in front of her, she was suddenly aware of how worried and scared he looked. Instead of the legendary Perry Mason, she saw a frightened man, worried about her.

Della Street bit the bullet.

"I'm homesick. I miss California. I'm sick of snow. I'm sick of cold weather. I'm sick of wearing sweaters. I'm tired of boots." Her voice grew stronger and louder. "I love you. I want to be with always, and I've tried, Perry, but I want to go back."

I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to feel pressured to go with me. I didn't want another argument or anything that might tear us apart again like moving to San Francisco. I'm tired Perry. I'm older. I'm sick of unexciting cases. I'm tired of craft beer and health gurus. I want to see a little smog. I want to hear honking horns. I want something happening all the time. I want more action in our office than we've had." She leaned forward, tears on her face, and took his face in her hands. "I want us to go back to earthquakes, palm trees, the sea, and our old friends. I want, I need, a new old chapter now."

Perry gently moved his hands over hers, then clasped them with his own. Painfully, he slipped down onto his creaking knees. Looking deeply into the still beautiful face of the woman he'd know since she was 25, he said, "Is that all? You want to go back to California? Dammit, I thought you were dying or leaving me." He dropped his heavy head into her lap, and she ran her delicate fingers through his thick hair, no long dark but so very gray.

Della sat, stroking his back and head, knowing he had to be in pain on the floor, until, finally, he raised his head and flashed her a smile complete with deep dimples and laughing eyes. He said, "Okay, then."

His girl smiled joyfully, threw her arms around him, and helped him to his feet.

"Really? Are you sure? No second thoughts?" She asked, smiling through tears.

He brushed them away gently from her cheeks, and said, "Not a damn one. This cold weather is killing my joints," he said, "and I wasn't about to say something because I dragged you here and thought you liked it. I didn't want to cause you to uproot your life again to suit my needs."

"Oh, Perrry!"

Perry Mason kissed Della Street gently on the forehead, then placed a finger under her chin and lifted it up for a proper kiss.

When they pulled apart, she said, "Let's go upstairs and get in bed where it's nice and warm and start plotting that new chapter. I might even ask you to marry me. After all, I need to make an honest man out of you eventually."

Perry threw his head back laughing deeply, "You're the boss, and I second all those motions, Miss Street."