Pairing: Perry Mason/Paul Drake
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of Perry Mason and I'm not making any profit.
Notes: Written for the SAC-2004 at: http://www.kardasi.com/Advent/2004/SAC-2004.htm
Beta: Characterization beta by Scribe. Grammar beta by Ellen. Thank you, ladies.
I quietly opened the courtroom doors and ushered Miss Williams in. Burger broke off his cross-examination of our client, a puzzled frown on his face as he tried to place my companion. Perry swiveled around to stare at me, brow raised. I nodded and the satisfied smile he gave me... I could almost see the canary feathers. Burger might not know it yet but his case had just been torpedoed.
I found the young lady a seat and walked forward to whisper into his ear, "She identified both Johnson and Grogan and put them at the scene. You owe me prime rib, Perry." Another quick nod and smile, then Perry's concentration was back on the testimony. I smiled at Della and took off.
It had taken me five days and two states to locate our missing witness and I was exhausted. I dropped by my office to pick up any mail and then I went to my place to shower and crawl into bed. What I wanted to do was sleep for forty-eight hours; what I got was about six before I had to get dressed and make an appearance at Perry's annual Christmas party for the clients.
The party was already in full swing when I got there. Well, as swinging as any party made up of mostly wealthy clients and members of the legal profession could be. My parties were a lot more fun, but this was business.
I made my way over to the bar and got a scotch on the rocks. Della's gotten the same caterers for the past three years and they don't water the booze too much and the canapes don't taste like cardboard. Della showed me the invoice one year and I am definitely in the wrong business.
I dutifully made the rounds and talked to whoever didn't consider me the hired help. Perry's a well-known, successful criminal lawyer and he looks like money. It's that bone-deep self-confidence and the polished appearance. I'm just a private investigator and we are less than welcome in high society. Too many straying husbands have found themselves paying higher alimony because of private dicks catching them with their pants down.
Still, there were a lot of bored wives at this party looking for anyone who could carry a conversation that doesn't involve legal terminology. I wasn't blind; I knew I was a good-looking guy and a little flirting never hurt anyone. When the husbands got worried, they moved in and I moved on, no hard feelings.
Eventually, it got late and people started drifting off. I managed to catch Perry's attention. "Good work today," he said, and saluted me with his martini.
"Thanks," I said drily, handing over my glass to a waiter who was gathering up empties from all the surfaces. "Wait'll you get my bill."
"Miss Williams made it to Las Vegas before you found her. I hope you're not putting your gambling debts on the expense report?" Della took another sip of her drink. Her tone was completely friendly, but there was enough of a sting in her choice of words to make me take notice.
"Scout's honor," I said cheerfully. "I never stepped inside a casino." Which wasn't exactly the truth, since I'd picked the witness up at a casino, but I hadn't stopped to place any bets, so I felt virtuous enough.
Della sent me an apologetic look, but kept silent as she hid her face in her drink. I didn't hold it against her. I liked Della, always have, and I knew she was in love with Perry. I was pretty sure she'd been hoping for a wedding ring, but she finally figured out it wasn't going to happen. I still remembered the day I looked up from telling Perry something private and saw her expression as she looked from Perry to me. It was clear she knew and it hit her hard. I didn't say anything to Perry.
Instead, I waited a week or so to see what she was going to do. It was a modern age, but this wasn't something that's acceptable in polite society. I'd have survived the scandal -- nobody expects moral probity from those in my profession -- but Perry's career would have gone down the crapper. Della took some time off and when she came back, she was business as usual. She settled for Perry's respect and friendship and treated me with unwavering professional courtesy. Della Street was my idea of a real lady.
Which was why I ended up driving her home when the party was over. I figured she'd maybe had one too many and I wanted to be sure she got home safely. I escorted her to the front door and waited while she found her key and put it in the lock. Pausing a moment, Della turned and said, "Paul, I'm so sorry..."
"Don't be," I said firmly. "We're okay, beautiful. I promise you." I kissed her cheek and waited until she got inside.
Then I drove back to where Perry was waiting for me.
The bright lights of the party had disappeared and only the front door was lit. The catering truck and the guests' cars were long gone, so I parked in the driveway. I let myself in with my key and went up to the master bedroom.
Perry was already in bed, but he laid his book down as I came in and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Hey," I said, smiling and leaning forward to kiss him.
His mouth was welcoming, the martinis he drank tonight not hiding the essential taste of him. I could feel myself relaxing.
Perry broke off the kiss and smiled. "I see you noticed the mistletoe," he said.
I quirked an eyebrow and Perry pointed to the center of the headboard where a bunch of mistletoe was tied. "From the party?" I asked.
"The decorators Della hired put it up with the rest of the holiday cheer. I didn't think it was appropriate for a business party and took it down."
I stared at that silly mistletoe and grinned like a sap. You'd have to know Perry to understand why it mattered to me. He didn't feel the need for romantic gestures with another man. In its own way, this unexpected whimsy was Perry's equivalent of long-stemmed roses and a box of chocolates. Which Della got on certain occasions and I didn't. Not that I'm bitter, you understand. I wouldn't trade places with her for anything.
I looked back down at him. Perry tilted his head up to watch me and smiled, his dark, liquid eyes shining with amusement, affection and not a little lust. Perry Mason's a beautiful man and I knew exactly what a lucky bastard I was.
"Merry Christmas, Perry," I said, leaning down to kiss him again. His arms came up to hold me and it was just what I wanted for Christmas.