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Our Steps Will Always Rhyme

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CAROLINE. Auckland. October 10th

She was awake but it took her a few moments to orientate herself; she was in a strange bed in a strange room in a strange flat in a strange city. In a strange country. She had been dreaming about Magnus again. She had woken within the dream with him beside her, his scent, his touch, his taste enveloping her. But no, that was just a dream. In reality he was many thousands of miles away, and she was here alone. She sighed, her heart heavy; this exchange thing had seemed like such a good idea last year, when she was lonely and getting a little bored with her life in Leicester. Work, friends; they were alright, as far as they went, but since she had split from her last boyfriend her feet had been itching.

And here she was, where she had wanted to be. But now, after her trip to Italy… She got up and walked to the window. The view was less than inspiring: the rear of the hospital, her new workplace. That said, it was familiar, reassuring. She will immerse herself in work and the year will pass quickly; the opportunity to visit this beautiful country is such a gift, she must not waste it. But her heart was a long way from there, under a cool Northern sun, on a stony beach with a big sky above it.

 

MAGNUS. Ystad. October 9th.

He walked out along the little jetty, gazed southwards over the glassy sea and sighed. Everything seemed so pale, colourless without her. She was so very far away. He closed his eyes and saw her cheek, the soft skin stippled with grains of sand. He could feel the Tuscan sun on his back; hear the waves breaking gently on the beach. He could smell her fragrance: Chanel and shower gel and Lipton’s peach iced tea all mixed up. He allowed the memory to deepen: salt crystals from her skin melting on his tongue…

‘Magnus? You OK?’

He spun around to see his superior looking at him curiously. Magnus wasn’t given to wistfulness usually; most of the time he was promoting action, activity, not deep thinking or admiring the scenery.

‘Yes, sorry Kurt. Just thinking about my holiday.’

‘Well get your mind back on the case. We need to find this girl before dark, if we can.’

 

Tuscany. A month earlier

The first time she saw him it was just a glimpse. It was the first day of her last-minute getaway holiday, just arrived at the place, she’d dropped her bags and stepped out onto the veranda to catch the last of the evening sun. She looked over to her left and there he was. A mop of curly blond hair topping off a lean tall frame; she saw his profile against the sunset, then he turned away and disappeared back into his cabin.

Caroline didn’t remember much about the rest of that day because she was wiped out. She just unpacked a little, then fell onto her bed and slept dreamlessly. She had been working flat out for weeks preparing for her relocation. New Zealand was awaiting her! Equal parts excited and terrified, she had signed up for a year-long exchange scheme her British hospital had started with Auckland City. Now it was just a matter of weeks until she flew over and she was no longer so sure. It was so far away.

Halfway around the world.

Still, it wasn’t as if she would be leaving anything behind or more to the point, anybody. Friends, of course, but not a husband, not even a boyfriend. But that did mean she was facing it all alone. Nevertheless it was a great opportunity, not to be missed. So, for the past couple of months she had been working her normal shifts while at the same time trying to find the energy for packing and putting her life in order ready for a year away in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Because she had decided to take a holiday before she left, things had been even more frenetic in the last week. But now she was here: La Maremma.

 

The next morning dawned bright and the sound of the sea caressed her as she woke slowly. This was just what she needed; peace, sun, sand and nobody hassling her for two weeks. Grabbing her robe she covered up and stepped out onto the deck in front of her little cabin and looked through the trees to the beach and beyond that to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Her nose was filled with the scent of Corsican Pines and sea water, with a slight hint of coffee. She scanned the cabins either side of her, looking for that gorgeous tall drink of water she saw briefly the night before, but she was the only one around, unless you included the lizard sunning himself on her steps.

After dressing she made a pot of espresso on the little stove and sat on a chair outside. She was paying quite a bit for the privilege of staying in this nature reserve, so she might as well enjoy its beauty. The beach was less than a hundred metres away, and the number of visitors strictly controlled: the night before she had to produce her booking details to get past the security at the entrance, driving past cars full of irritated tourists or locals heading for an evening’s barbecue on the beach. When she had found it on the net it had appealed to her immediately. She needed a complete break from routine, a chance to reset herself before she headed off on her big adventure.

 

Magnus woke at about the same time as his neighbour, but he stayed in bed for a while, listening to the sounds of the forest. He was used to pine trees, but this was a very different place to his Scandinavian home. Lizards and snakes were everywhere, scurrying or slithering out of his path the afternoon before when he had taken a walk before his first dinner at the little bar. The warmth of the air, even after the sun had dropped below the horizon was a balm to him. This was his first solo holiday. For years he had travelled with his brother or friends, but after the past few months of work he felt he needed a different sort of break; not dancing and drinking and girls. Something more profound.

A few months before he had shot and killed a man. It had been unavoidable: the man had a gun to the head of a woman, and it was her or him. Magnus had to make a split-second decision and – thank goodness – he had hit the target. All the usual procedures had followed: counselling, time off, firearms retraining. It was a traumatic experience, no matter how necessary, and he had been coping well; on the surface, anyway. But the truth was that inside he was struggling, and he wanted some time alone, a long way from Ystad to process it.

Stretching his long limbs he yawned loudly. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed he stood up and made for the bathroom. After a shower and a glass of orange juice he checked the brochure to see what time the café opened in the mornings. Eleven am, it said.

‘Shit. Make my own breakfast then, I suppose.’

Reluctantly, he mooched around the kitchen, opening the cupboards and the fridge, and managed to assemble something edible: black coffee and toast. Picking up his mug he walked outside to finish it and spotted someone on the deck outside the next cabin. She looked over and he raised his coffee in salute.

‘Hi! Oh… I mean… Buongiorno!’

Magnus laughed. ‘Good morning! English?’

‘That obvious, huh? Sorry.’

She was lovely. Shiny dark blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, a long slender neck; he felt his cock twitch. He hoped she was alone. He strolled as casually as he could manage over to the end of his deck nearest to her.

‘Hi. I’m Magnus. I’m from Sweden.’

‘Caroline. From England, as you correctly guessed.’

She stood and walked nearer as well. He was very attractive; over six feet tall, slim and that hair she had spotted last night topped a lovely face. And Swedish too? Oh yes please.

Not too obvious with the flirting, Caro. Play it cool, but not too cool…

‘It’s lovely here, isn’t it?’ Magnus was looking at her expectantly. Now she was closer to him she could see how blue his eyes were. She felt her mind drifting off like an untethered balloon.

‘Sorry, er, yes, it is. I chose it because I wanted something quiet and undeveloped.’

Magnus laughed. He had done the same, but, stupidly in retrospect, he had expected to be able to get a coffee or a beer whenever he wanted; the cabin had the basics but a shopping expedition was needed soon.

Caroline tugged her eyes away from him reluctantly. ‘Well, I’m going to try out the beach this morning.’

‘Oh yes, me too. I’ll see you around.’

She smiled at him and headed indoors to gather her things. She had brought a couple of books to read, but she wasn’t really a sunbather. Another reason for choosing the resort was the network of footpaths around the park; she intended to make use of those as much as possible. She found a place and stretched out on a lounger to read near the trees. She spotted Magnus down the beach, heading for the water. He saw her and waved. She waved back, admiring his long legs. He was quite tanned already, but then it was September. Even in Sweden they get some sunshine in the summer.

They met again at lunch, and he sat with her for a beer and a salad at the little beachside café. They talked, smiled, he flirted a little. She was mildly disconcerted to hear he was a policeman; her last boyfriend had been in the police, and that relationship hadn’t ended well. But he seemed charming, cultured, and his English was excellent; which was good as her Swedish was non-existent. Magnus was very attracted to her. She was beautiful, of course, but more than that she was clever and funny. A doctor; his mother would be thrilled. But he wanted to take things slowly. Rushing had ruined his chances before, so he tried to rein in his natural impulsiveness.

In the afternoon the beach was crowded and too hot, so Caroline changed into her walking gear and headed for the trails. She took a compass as well as a map. It looked as if it would be all too easy to get lost in the forest. She hiked for over two hours without seeing another human. She caught glimpses of the wild creatures the reserve was set up to protect: the warm pink plumage and extravagant crests of two hoopoes, the bright iridescence of a kingfisher. Reptiles abounded, and later, in a particularly dense thicket she thought she may have heard a large mammal; a wild boar or perhaps a porcupine. She certainly saw quills on the path. Both of these animals are to be avoided, so she hurried on.

 

According to her map, by about five-fifteen Caroline was on the homeward stretch to the resort when she heard a voice raised up ahead. She couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded like swearing, although not in a language she recognised. She turned a corner and there was Magnus, sitting at the foot of a tree, his fingers running through his blond curls.

‘Hi Magnus! Are you OK?’

‘Oh, er, hi. I’m lost, so no, I’m not ok. I’ve been wandering around for ages. I can’t find my way back.’

He was blushing; it was humiliating for a policeman to admit it, but he had set off without a map.

‘Well I think I know where I am. Shall we see if I’m right?’

Caroline could see he was embarrassed and made light of it. Her map-reading skills hadn’t let her down and after twenty more minutes of trudging they were within earshot of the sea. Magnus decided to make the most of the opportunity and asked her to join him for dinner at the café as a thank you for rescuing him.

‘After all, if you hadn’t come along I might have been eaten by wolves or something.’ He gave her his best thousand-watt smile and of course she accepted his invitation.

Lying in bed later that night Caroline wondered if she had done something to put him off. He had been looking at her with undisguised hunger all evening, yet he made no attempt to do more than kiss her on the cheek when they said goodnight. She was a little disappointed. She didn’t make a habit of sleeping with men of first dates, but he was gorgeous, if a little serious. He seemed tense, so perhaps there was something else going on. A wife or girlfriend back home, perhaps? Closing her eyes, she thought about his long legs and his beautiful face. She imagined grabbing those curls and pulling him against her and soon her fingers were bringing her to orgasm.

Magnus was also pleasuring himself. He had struggled; he managed not to make a pass this evening, despite every cell in his body craving her. ‘Nice and easy does it,’ he had kept repeating in his head. Slow build-up, it will be so much more enjoyable that way. But now the time for restraint was over and he was working his hard cock enthusiastically, thinking about her legs and her breasts and her mouth. Had he been right, had she been disappointed when he just kissed her cheek? He was pretty sure. Maybe tomorrow. Yes. Tomorrow.

 

CAROLINE. Auckland. October 12th

She held the mouse tightly, her finger hovering. Should she click on ‘send’? An email seemed so cold, so impersonal. But it was what they had agreed on and she had poured her heart out in it; he would see that, surely? She wanted to say everything, put all her cards on the table. No secrets, no assumptions, no misunderstandings. She missed him horribly. Her eyes closed and she was there, in his bed. The waves were hissing on the sand; she could almost feel the cool night breeze. His stubble on her cheek; his fingers on her sex. She needed him so badly. She had never ached for a man like this before. Sweden seemed like another planet; so did Italy. Tears fell down her cheeks. Too far; too long.

 

MAGNUS. Ystad October 12th

Magnus chased the fish around the plate with his fork. He wasn’t hungry, but Kurt had bought him dinner anyway. He looked up to see his boss and friend eyeing him thoughtfully.

‘Something wrong, Magnus?’

‘No, I’m fine.’ Too prove it, he shoved a forkful of dinner into his mouth and chewed with artificial enthusiasm. He tasted nothing. Kurt wasn’t fooled for a moment.

‘A woman, is it? Meet her in Italy, did you?’

Magnus glanced at him with undisguised irritation; he could never keep any secrets.

‘Yes, if you must know. But there’s no point in worrying about it. She’s English, which would be difficult enough, but now she’s gone to New Zealand for a year.’ He looked down at his plate again, hoping Kurt wouldn’t see the tears.

Wallander watched as Magnus struggled to keep his composure. ‘Poor lad, that’s rotten luck,’ he thought. He poured Magnus another glass of wine, then topped up his own.

‘Have you heard from her since the holiday?’

‘Not yet, no.’

 

Tuscany

Magnus realised he wouldn’t be able to wait any longer when he saw Caroline the next morning. She was sitting at the little table on her deck and the sun was catching her hair and making it shine like gold. She had stretched her legs out, resting her feet on the empty chair opposite her. He could see the dark red polish on her toes, and for some reason that detail made his cock twitch. He felt a rush of lust; he had to have her.

Caroline looked over when she heard him open the door and watched as he took in the sight of her. At that moment she knew he wanted her, and her heart lifted. He looked so sexy, all tousled and crumpled from sleep, and few things are more alluring than that look of pure want in a man’s eyes; she smiled, almost to herself, and then their eyes met and no words were needed. They both knew.

Magnus stepped off his deck, down the four little step and walked over. Caroline stood as he approached and he almost ran up the steps to her. He took her in his arms and with no further delay their mouths found each other. Unleashed from his previous restraint, Magnus was like a wild animal. He could not, would not stop now. His hands ran over her restlessly, touching all the flesh he had imagined touching, feeling all the hills and valleys and angles of her.

Taking her chance when he had to pause for breath, Caroline whispered in his ear.

‘Magnus, we should go inside.’

He nodded, unable to speak. She took his hand and led him through the door and on into the little bedroom. Wordlessly they undressed each other, unable to break eye contact until Caroline felt the fastening of his trousers under her fingers and had to look down to see. He leaned down to kiss her shoulder and lick down to her collarbone. She gasped as his tongue teased the skin and then it was his turn to draw in breath sharply as she slid his boxer briefs down. His mouth had reached her breasts and he sucked gently on one nipple, his thumb brushing over the other as he wrapped his fingers around her. Her breasts were large and he loved that, kissing and licking and sucking both and the skin between. Then his hands moved down to remove the last barrier between them; her panties soon joined the pile of clothing on the floor.

‘Beautiful,’ he murmured, bringing his lips down to meet hers again. Caroline reached for him, taking his length in her hand and stroking it gently. He moaned into her mouth and his hips bucked a little. Then he grabbed her bottom with both hands and lifted her up and onto the still-unmade bed in one swift movement, falling on top of her. Kissing her again, he pressed his fingers against her mound, and it was her turn to lift against him, searching for more friction.

 

‘Magnus. Hold on. I have some condoms in the bathroom.’

He stood and went towards the door; the cabins were identical, so he knew his way.

‘In my toilet bag.’ She called after him, watching him walk away. Long legs and perfect round arse, muscles moving under smooth tanned skin. Hang on! No tan lines, Naughty…Swedish.She smiled to herself. He returned in seconds, the frontal view even more arousing: his perfect tanned chest, a dark treasure trail leading to his large hard cock. Caroline licked his lips and held her hand out for the packet he was holding.

‘Allow me.’

Magnus swallowed and passed her the condom. She opened it swiftly and crawled across the covers to reach for him. He moaned loudly as she slid the rubber over his silky soft/hard flesh. He was in danger of losing it again, so he pushed her gently back onto the bed and got between her thighs. He looked into her face and saw his own desperation mirrored in her flushed cheeks and hungry eyes.

‘Fuck me, Magnus,’ she whispered.

So much for the slow build-up.

She was wet, very wet. He had no difficulty as he slid his length in steadily, gritting his teeth to control the urge to pound into her. Fully-sheathed, he paused and breathed deeply; her moans of pleasure weren’t helping but they were gratifying. Caroline wove her fingers into his curls and pulled his face down to hers for another deep kiss. Their tongues massaged and his sighs matched hers. Her muscles clenched around him and a whimper escaped into her mouth as his pelvis began to roll and she met his movements. They were both holding on by their fingertips; anxious not to finish it too soon, while simultaneously desperate for completion.

Her legs wrapped around his waist and he pulled her thighs hard against him. The new position made her keen with pleasure and he lost the last shreds of his composure. Driving into her, fast and deep, grunting with every thrust, he was sending her to the brink of madness. Then she toppled over the edge, yelling his name and flexing beneath him as he followed her. Utterly drained, he fell onto her as his cock twitched in the last of his orgasm. Their lips met once more and the kiss was soft and gentle, her hands caressing his face as his traced the outline of her breast.

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, October 13th

‘See you guys tomorrow.’

Wearily waving as she turns the corner, she headed along the corridor to the bank of lifts. Her first full shift had left her exhausted. Just learning where everything was, grappling with new, unfamiliar forms and admin procedures, all of which makes the simplest task a chore at first would have been hard enough; two cardiac arrests and a major bleed only added to the fun. She glanced at her watch and did a quick calculation: it was breakfast time in Sweden. Had he seen her email yet? She hadn’t looked at her inbox all day, it would be too distracting, but now her mind was free to wander through the stratosphere and up, up, so far away… to him.

Just thinking about it made her heart beat fast, but she made herself wait until she could check on her laptop in the flat, just a few minutes’ walk. Switching it on and waiting while it was powering up, she suddenly felt afraid. She stood and went to the kitchen, looking for something to eat. Putting the kettle on for tea, she pondered: what if there is a polite, dismissive email in reply?

A brush-off. But no, that wouldn’t fit with all the things we said. But it was a holiday romance, in a lovely, remote location. People lose their heads in these situations, don’t they?

The computer played the little tune it always did and she made herself walk over and sit down at the table. Opening her email, there it was. A reply.

MAGNUS. Ystad, October 13th

He had dreamed about her again last night. He had tried to stop obsessing and checking his inbox every few minutes. He had told himself that she was working, that the ten-hour time difference meant that she might not see his email for a while, but his subconscious didn’t listen. In the dream they were in his apartment, she was there, with him, they were happy but everything felt wrong, as it sometimes does in dreams. He had awoken with tears on his cheeks and felt more worried than ever. He reached for his phone and, for the millionth time he checked for her name in his inbox.

 

Tuscany

Whatever the two of them had planned for their respective solo holidays soon became irrelevant. They spent their days together; walking, reading, swimming, shopping in Grosseto. The nights were for exploring each other. They had an easy comfort with one another, one that meant it quickly felt as if they had been together for months rather than just days. Magnus had never felt this way before, so secure and relaxed with a woman. He had a couple of serious relationships in his past, but they had not survived his job. The hours and the pressure made life intolerable for his girlfriends. But Caroline had the same sort of career, and she understood him in a way none of his previous lovers had.

They immersed themselves in each other; tasting, feeling, touching, loving. Neither of them wanted to face up to the fact that this romance or whatever it was had an inevitable expiry date. At the end of the next week they had to go back to their lives; Magnus to Sweden, and Caroline to England then to the other side of the planet. For an entire year. The day was looming ever closer, skulking behind the door, just out of sight but not out of mind.

Caroline knew after a week that she was in love; hopelessly, helplessly and painfully. She was about to embark on an adventure she no longer wanted. Not that it would have been a lot easier with her in Leicester but at least they’d have been in the same hemisphere. Turning over in bed in the wee small hours she saw that his eyes were also open.

‘Magnus?’

‘Yes my love?’

‘What’s going to happen?’

‘When we go home, do you mean?’

She sat up so she could see his face properly, nodding.

He sighed heavily. He had been lying awake worrying about the same thing. There was no point in pretending it was going to be easy.

‘I don’t know. Do you?’

Caroline knew he was right not to tell a comfortable lie. She snuggled up to his chest and his arm came around and held her to him. They lay there, comforting each other, both looking into the darkness ahead.

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, October 20th

Caroline looked out over the harbour. She was sitting on a bench, eating her lunch and contemplating her fate. She was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, working in an amazing hospital with great people and all she wanted was to be thousands of miles away. She missed him so much that her body hurt. If she had allowed herself, she could have cried all the time. His email had told her that he felt the same. But that didn’t change the situation.

I miss you. I want you. I need you.

I love you.

But I have only been here three weeks. Forty-nine to go. Will I – will he – feel the same after so much more time has passed?

 

MAGNUS. October 22nd

He fidgeted in his seat. It was raining, and the damp coldness was creeping into the car and making him feel even more miserable. There was a movement near the dock fence: this was what they had been waiting for. He spoke quietly into his radio. Kurt answered and then the chase was on. Twenty minutes later they were back at the station. The action had been brief, happily, and no shots were fired. They had caught the man they were looking for and Kurt was content with the outcome.

But Magnus was not content; not even close. Work had become a chore; a ball and chain keeping him tied to one place, when all he wanted – all he could think about – was a woman half a world away. He had told her in his email a few days earlier that he loved her. It was true, but he had also said the other thing he felt: that a year is a very long time.

 

Tuscany

Caroline followed Magnus as they both drove their respective hired FIATs out of La Maremma reserve and down the motorway to Rome. They had said goodbye in many ways over the preceding hours, and they would do so again at the airport but it just kept getting harder. This was not Caroline’s first holiday romance, far from it, but those had always led to a wistful, bitter-sweet parting. This was like having her internal organs removed; one at a time, without anaesthetic.

His flight was first. They sat holding hands, waiting for it to be called. There were no more words. She would soon be over a day away even by the latest modern jet. Nothing could sugar that pill. When the moment came, Caroline felt a sob come from deep inside her. She had been trying to be brave, but the actual physical reality of his departure hit her like a ton of bricks; it took everything she had not to collapse on the floor.

Magnus walked away slowly, his feet dragging as if made of lead. He looked back as he went through the gate: her face was a mask of pain. He hung onto the hope that they would be together again one day, but he wasn’t sure they would. They had promised not to ring or text, but to wait a while, until she was in New Zealand. She would email him and they would see how it went. If they both wanted to continue the relationship they could ring and Skype after that.

Caroline cried all the way to Heathrow. She tried to keep it together, but watching him disappear was too much, and she couldn’t get that image out of her head. Once, a million years ago, she had been excited about her year in the Antipodes; now she wished there was a way of cancelling. There wasn’t, of course, so she just had to go through with it. She thought that the wait would make or break things. If he wanted to keep in touch after a couple of weeks then they might have a chance. If not, then better stop now.

 

CAROLINE.  Auckland October 27th

Caroline looked around as she waited for the traffic lights to change so she could cross the street. Her days off were strange now; no friends to shop with or meet for coffee, but lots of new places to visit and discover. But it was less fun alone. She had started what might prove to be good friendships with colleagues, but they were all shift workers and finding common time off was tricky. The city was lively, beautiful and cosmopolitan. If only she could enjoy it more.

Back at the flat she fired up her laptop. She checked her watch: she had time to make a sandwich and coffee. She was just sitting down when she heard the familiar noise of his call. She licked on the icon and his lovely face filled the screen.

‘Hi love.’

Her heart swelled.

‘Hi Magnus.’

 

MAGNUS. Ystad October 27th

Magnus had set his alarm, but there was no need; he had been awake for ages. They had agreed a time to talk, and he was excited. This would be the first time he had seen her since Fiumicino airport, and the agony of parting. He didn’t know if it – whatever ‘it’ was - was going to survive her year in Auckland, but he knew one thing: he wanted to try. And when he saw her beautiful face smiling eagerly at him all the way from the other side of the world he wanted to dive into the screen and kiss her.

‘Hi love.’

‘Hi Magnus.’

Chapter Text

Auckland, 5thNovember

My darling Magnus. I miss you, but you know that already.

Work is busy, which is good because it stops me remembering how far away you are and how long ago we were together. That said, being a doctor has its down sides; it was horrible today. A patient came in very sick and died, a youngish man who had a very bad stroke. It was awful, and then I had to tell his wife. That’s the worst part of my job, and one I know you have in yours as well. At least in mine it isn’t usually such a horrible shock: the sorts of patients I treat are usually old and many have been ill for a while. How do you deal with it, I wonder? You have such a kind heart; it must upset you.

Sorry to bring you down, but I needed to tell someone. I wanted to hold you so badly when I got home. I wanted to feel your skin and touch your lips with mine. But I want that all the time…

Your Caro xxxx

 

Ystad, 6thNovember

Älskling Caroline

I am sorry you had such a bad time today, my love. If you want to really talk about it, I am home now.

I hate that part of my job too. The worst is when it is a child. I had to do that once. I didn’t sleep for days, I just kept seeing the parents’ faces. Like you, I love my job, but often you are with people at the worst time in their lives.

[…]

The nights are so long now. I can get through the days as you do, by being busy and people talking and all the mundane things of life fill my time and my thoughts. But in the dark, alone in bed I miss you so much. I remember how it was when we lay together in Italy and I could feel your skin against mine. What I would give to feel that right now! My darling, how much I miss your breasts, I miss your mouth, I miss your cunt. I am sorry to be so crude, but I do.

It hurts to be without you.

Min älskar

 Din Magnus xxxx

 

<It’s raining. It reminds me of you. I want to walk in the rain with you. C x>

<The sky is dark with snow clouds this morning. I want to show you the strange light. You would love it.  Mx>

 

Auckland, December 1st

My sweet Magnus

It will soon be Christmas and it feels so strange here, with the warmth of summer everywhere and people in shorts. It clashes with snow and sleigh bells and reindeer! Not that I care. I have volunteered to work through the holiday; I don’t want to have the time to think about you up there in the snowy north, so far from me.

What I wouldn’t give for a few moments in your arms – or even better – a few hours in your bed, snuggled up against the cold. Feeling you inside me, driving me mad with pleasure; that would be good too. I think about that at night. It hurts but it helps as well.

 Is it snowy in Ystad? I must check my weather app… I look most days, just to see how it is where you are…

Caro x

 

Ystad December 22nd

Min älskar

A parcel arrived today. Is that from you? I will wait to open it when we FaceTime

[…]

I think about your skin all the time. How it gets pinker when you are aroused… How goose bumps form on it when I touch your arms and back. How it tastes. I need to touch you and hold you and fuck you…

It hurts that you are so far from me

Magnus xxxxxx

 

<Merry Christmas my love. I need to see your face. Can we speak tonight/in the morning? Cx>

< Of course. I will ping you now. I raised a glass for you today. God jul! Mx>

 

Auckland January 1st

Happy New Year, my darling! Last year was a special one: it brought us together. Let’s hope this year does the same. 

I feel so tired today; I have not adjusted back from the night-shift yet. I am not sleeping well. When I do I dream about you and then I wake up crying. I ache for you my darling Magnus.

[…]

Time is passing quite quickly now, which is good. Remember how far away Christmas seemed when I first got here? I hope the rest of the months pass as fast…

[…]

Your Caroline xxxx

 

Ystad January 12th

[…]

I cannot take much more. How can I love you so much after just two weeks together? Has this ever happened to you before? I never believed in soul-mates, but you and I seem so in tune. Sometimes I know when you will ring or text me before it happens. My phone vibrated yesterday in the station and I said to my colleague ‘That’s Caroline’ before I even looked at it. I just knew…

[…]

Din Magnus xxxx

 

Auckland February 10th

Darling man

It has already been so long since I left, but when I look at the calendar I see that I still have many more weeks here. I hate to wish my life away, but what else can I do?

I need to explain to you about last night. When you asked me about my holidays coming up I should have been less vague, and I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. I was embarrassed, that’s why: the problem is my darling that I simply can’t afford to fly back to Europe. I still have to pay off my student loan (the money gets taken out of my salary) and I am trying to save up to buy a house as well. I am in a savings plan with a fixed term, so that can’t be changed either. All that means I don’t have much spare cash. Not enough for a return ticket back to Europe anyway. I am not poor of course, but that is just too expensive, and the timing and everything, none of it works. I just can’t. I wish I could so much!

That was part of the attraction of the exchange for me; a chance to come over here without having to pay. How ironic that now all I want is to travel back!

I wish I could come to Sweden and be with you, so much it burns. I don’t know how I will get through the two weeks leave in April. People keep making helpful suggestions like I should go to South Island or pop over to Australia or whatever, but the truth is I am already dreading it. Without the distraction of work it will be two weeks of hell, because all I will be able to do is remember you and how far away you are from me.

[…]

I miss your cock too, my lovely man. I miss all of your beautiful body. I need you. I love you, my beautiful Magnus …

Cxxxxx

 

Ystad February 12th

Älskling

It’s OK, no feelings hurt. I guessed. What a pity, I know it is a long way and not cheap to fly of course. And two weeks is not long enough if you have to go back to work right away. I can see that.

But it is very difficult to be here without you, knowing it will be so long until I can hold you in my arms and kiss your lovely mouth again.

[…]

I think of you always

Jag älslar dig

Mx

 

<You looked tired this morning. Are you OK my darling? Cx>

<I am not ill, just lonely. Life seems so dull and pointless right now. But then I see you and I feel better. If I could touch you…Mx>

 

Auckland March 15th

My love

It is only two weeks until my leave, and no, still I have no plans. People, especially Robin and Clive keep telling me to go on a wine tour or to Hobbiton or something, but I just can’t work up any enthusiasm. I had so many ideas before, when I first agreed. I was going to go everywhere I could, but now it all feels so pointless. Nothing feels right… Every time I see something amazing and beautiful I just wish you were with me so we could see it together… I think I will just download some movies and hibernate…

[…]

Miss you more than ever

Caro xxx

 

Ystad March 27th

Min älskar

I wish I could see things with you too, and we will when you return. There are so many places I want to show you in Sweden…

[…]

We have to go up north for a case next week, for a few days. It means I won’t be able to email or text much. Reception is very bad up there. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a day or two. Bad timing with your holiday starting, but that’s my job. Sorry. I will contact you as soon as I can.

Your man xxx

 

<Are you back yet? It’s been 3 days, love. Cx>

<Now I am worried. Has something happened? Please reply. Cx>

<Magnus love? Cx>

<Sorry to frighten you, my darling one. Been travelling. All is well. Mx>

<Are you OK? It’s the middle of the night in Sweden!. Cx>

<Not where you are tho. What are you doing? Mx>

<Trying to read my book. Missing you, worrying about you. Cx>

<I am OK. You will see that if you open your front door.>

Chapter Text

Auckland,  April

 

Caroline almost fell over in her haste to get the door. She spilt her coffee and dropped her paperback novel into the mess on the floor, but barely noticed. She opened the door and there he stood, his eyes shining as they fixed on her. He dropped his bags and took her into his embrace.

‘My darling…’ His voice was hoarse with tiredness.

Lifting her hand to cup his cheek she suddenly gripped his chin hard.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? I’ve been so worried the last few hours. I thought you’d been shot or something!’ She tried to keep up the angry glare, but it was no good. He looked back into her eyes with such a puppy-dog expression that she relented and hugged him, allowing him to lift her off her feet.

They kissed then, and that went on for a very long time. There was so much longing and love in their kisses; all the feelings of the past seven months went through their lips and tongues and their hands on each other. They paused only for breath every so often, and finally went inside the flat with Magnus’ bags only after her neighbour had to squeeze past him to get to her own door. He left his luggage on the floor just inside the door, picked Caroline up again and carried her over to the first thing he saw: the sofa.

He sat with her across his lap and still they kissed. Their kisses told each other how they felt, how much they had missed each other and how happy they were now infinitely more eloquently than any words could have done. Caroline felt his love flowing through her and hers going out to him. She wanted his body, of course, but this was not sexual, it was beyond that. It was as if their spirits were mingling, dancing together. She could feel him getting hard underneath her, but that was not her focus for the moment. They paused and she leaned back a little to look at his face properly.

‘You look tired, my love. I remember how drained I was when I got here. You need sleep.’

Magnus looked at his watch, but it made no sense to him. He had no idea what time it was, what day it was, but none of that mattered. He was here with her. As he felt the stress and loneliness drain out of him he did indeed feel very weary.

‘I might need to rest for a bit. Is that OK? I desperately want to make love to you but I am so tired.’

Caroline watched him falling asleep as he spoke, so she stood, pulling him to his feet and led him into the bedroom. She undressed him and he allowed her, then she took her own clothes off and they lay down in the bed skin to skin. He dropped off immediately, his arms around her and her head resting on his chest. She lay still, feeling his heart beating, his breath going in and out and enjoying simply being next to him. Just minutes ago she had been lonely and dreading the forthcoming weeks, assuming he was ten thousand miles away. Now she felt her every muscle relax in contentment as she pressed her body against his. Soon she was asleep as well.

 

It was dark when Magnus finally woke up. He had only slept for seven hours, which after a thirty-hour journey wasn’t too bad. Caroline had a pot of coffee brewed and had heated a can of soup, which he wolfed down greedily. He looked pale and still tired but she couldn’t wait any longer. As soon as he dropped his spoon into the empty bowl she rose and circled the table towards him. He watched her approach, a slight smile on his lips. He couldn’t put it off any longer either, so he turned in his chair as she reached him and took her onto his lap greedily.

Now it wasall about sex, and the pent-up feelings of the past months burst through in a frenzy of kissing and licking and squeezing and biting and grinding. Magnus was only wearing joggers and Caroline had just put a t-shirt and pyjama shorts on when she left him sleeping earlier, so it was the work of moments for them to be naked.  He stood and carried her back to the bedroom, allowing her to fall onto the bed and going with her in a flurry of limbs. His lips roamed her body as if searching, taking in her neck and her breasts and her belly. Caroline moaned loudly as his mouth reached her sex and her back arched as his tongue teased her clit.  She caught his blond curls in her fingers and tugged, making him growl against her.

Magnus’ usual style was the slow build-up, but there was none of that this time. Within a few minutes he had her screaming his name as she crushed his head between her thighs, and in an instant he was kissing her mouth again as he slid his rock-hard length inside her. They both grunted as he was fully-sheathed and their eyes met. This was the moment, the deep joining of body and soul they had both missed and longed for over the past months. He knew that after his day and a half of travelling this would not be long or beautiful, but it could still be loving and tender. They kept eye-contact as his hips began to roll and hers rose to meet them.

Caroline fought to keep her lids from closing and her head from rolling back, so strong were the waves of pleasure rolling through her. This was the first relationship she had had where the sex matched the emotional bond in intensity; before she had experienced great sex or deep love, but never the two together. It was as if their bodies were made for one another, and every shift of his slim pelvis against her wider one was driving her nearer to another orgasm. She began to clutch at his back as his tempo increased and then his rhythm was gone and he pounded his way to his own release, carrying her along with him. They watched each other come undone and they loved each other more than ever. One last deep thrust and he shuddered as he collapsed onto her. She pulled his face to hers and they kissed for the thousandth time since she opened the door.

‘My love, that was better than I remembered, and I have been remembering the best sex of my life.’

He smiled weakly. ‘That may have to last you for a while. I am done.’

He flopped over onto his back beside her, his chest heaving and his arms flapping. Caroline reached up and stroked his cheek.

‘That’s not a problem, as long as we can sleep naked next to each other, I am happy. The fucking is just a bonus.’

Magnus raised his head, his eyebrows peaked in surprise. ‘What? Just wait until I have a good sleep. Then I’ll show you!’

She laughed, winked and kissed him gently. ‘I know. I’ll be ready.’

 

The next day Magnus awoke properly refreshed, although still confused by the time-difference. He explained that he had managed to get comparatively cheap last-minute flights which meant he could stay until the day Caroline went back to work. He had been planning the surprise for weeks. She was shocked to learn he could be so devious; he had always seemed so open and readable. But she didn’t mind, she just gloried in the fact that he was there, with her, within arm’s reach.

After a long breakfast they ventured out so that she could show him the neighbourhood and stock up on food. Her grocery supplies were low as her plans had been to live on snacks, biscuits and take-away food for the duration of her leave. Now she had a six-feet-tall athlete to feed, one who liked healthy options as well as vodka and beer. A trip to the supermarket was needed urgently. As they passed the main entrance to the hospital, Caroline heard a familiar voice calling her name; it was her colleague Robin, chief nurse on the unit.

‘Hey you! How’s your holiday going?’ She spotted Magnus holding Caroline’s hand. ‘Oh, who’s this?’ Robin’s face was wreathed in smiles. She recognised him from the photos she had been shown many, many times. ‘You must be Magnus! I didn’t know you were coming!’

‘Neither did I until he showed up on my doorstep last night.’

‘How romantic!’ she stretched up beyond her full height of just five feet to kiss Magnus on the cheek. Looking at Caroline she said in a stage whisper, ‘This one’s a keeper.’

Her English friend laughed and, kissing her Kiwi buddy goodbye she tucked her arm into her companion’s and they set off for the shops in the milky autumn sunshine.

Chapter Text

The first thing she became aware of was the sound of him and it made her smile; a soft snore with three out of every four breaths. Loud enough neither to wake her up nor to keep her awake, but just enough of a noise to comfort her that yes, he was really there. Then she could feel him: her lips millimetres from his neck, her breasts against his smooth, broad back, her hips pressing on his tight round bottom, their legs touching. Best of all, her arm was over his side and her fingers were just resting in the trail of hair below his navel. She flexed her hand and – oh! – thereit was at her fingertips. Velvet over iron: his morning erection. She breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of Magnus, a heady mixture of sweat, cologne, soap and sex.

Stretching herself fully awake, Caroline rubbed her pubic hair lightly against his backside, moving her left leg between both of his. He stirred slightly but didn’t rouse fully, so she reached for his cock, wrapping her long fingers around it and tugging gently as she ran her thumb over the tip. Magnus, who was already waking, inhaled sharply and turned his head to look at her.

‘M-morning,’ he breathed through a sleepy smile.

Caroline smiled back but did not let up, walking her fingers up and down the length of him gently. She swiped her thumb over the tip again, spreading the drop of pre-come over the surrounding area before grasping him firmly once more.  Moaning softly, Magnus reached back and squeezed her bottom with his big hand, then slid it over her hip and stroked her folds. She was already wet and he easily slipped a finger inside her.

‘Morning to you too,’ Caroline gasped as he began pumping in and out. Tightening her fingers around him, she licked a line on his back up to the neck and felt him shiver under her tongue. Both of them were rocking their hips gently against the friction the other was applying. Caroline was just thinking she could stay like this forever when he suddenly turned over and flipped her on her back. His lips were on hers instantly, crushing them with a deep and passionate kiss.

Magnus wanted to be gentle, but the reality of her made him mad with lust; every cell in his body was screaming for him just to fuck her. Now he had recovered his energy after the long flight he could and he would see her come apart under him; he was determined to take his time. Caroline looked at his beautiful face as he loomed over her; his blue eyes, heavy-lidded and almost black with want, his lips parted, a few beads of sweat on his high forehead and she wondered how much more any woman could love a man.

‘Turn on your side,’ he said quietly, and she did. As Magnus moved up behind her she felt him lifting her leg and then his cock was sliding along her wet slit. She moaned and pressed back against him as his hand came around and began rubbing her clit, then he slid inside her with one slow, steady push.

‘Magnus…’ Caroline breathed as he rested there, lightly tapping her nub as she reached up and back to tangle her fingers in his messy morning curls. He nuzzled against her neck and a wave of love surged through them both as their bodies melded. Then he began to move and they could only think about the sensation of his cock in her cunt and his lips on her neck and breasts and his hands on her hips as he held her tight.

Afterwards, as they lay panting next to each other, the sea breeze from her window cooling their fevered flesh, Caroline started laughing.

‘What?’

‘It’s just funny, that’s all: this holiday. I had planned to stay indoors and bury myself because I didn’t want to go anywhere without you. Now you’re here and the furthest we have been is the supermarket!’

Magnus sat up and leaned on his elbow. ‘Let’s go somewhere today then.’ He nodded at the window. ‘It looks like a nice day.’

Caroline put on an exaggerated pout. ‘Well, it’ll cut down on the fucking, but I suppose we could go out for a littlewhile…’

After breakfast they browsed the tourist websites and booked a wine tour for later in the week, a trip to Hobbiton and a helicopter flight for a few days after that. Then they set off for a day of sight-seeing in the city itself. They started in Kingsland Village, looking at the boutiques and checking out bars and restaurants for later reference. They walked past Eden Park, the rugby and cricket stadium. Caroline started trying to explain both games to Magnus but gave up after she realised she didn’t really understand the rules of either herself. Rugby was not unfamiliar to him, but cricket was a mystery, and it seemed it was destined to remain so for the time being.

As they walked they talked. They had fallen back into that easy familiarity they had found with each other in Tuscany. Caroline wondered if it was always like that when you fell in love; she felt as if she had known Magnus all her life. Whenever she found out something new about him she was surprised, as if she had nothing left to learn. The fact that they had spent so little time actually together, let alone that he was from another country seemed unimportant, somehow.

Magnus stole little glances at her as they strolled along. He didn’t want to waste a moment of their time together which was going to be over far too soon. It occurred to him that he only felt fully alive in her company; his body was suffused with an energy he had been lacking since they parted at Rome Airport. It truly felt as if she had taken part of him away with her and it was only now that were reunited that he was whole again. How hard was it going to be to leave her for a second time?

 

The next day dawned warm and sunny again, so grasping the opportunity they took a picnic to the Botanic Gardens. Magnus carried the basket to a spot between the two lakes, near to the scenic bridge and they settled down on the blanket they had bought en route. Swedes are good at making the most of whatever sunshine they get, and Magnus stretched his long frame out, his face turned towards the sun, his hair in a halo around it. Caroline thought he looked like a Gap-clothed sunflower as she sat down beside him and began to unpack their lunch.

Seafood rolls and fruit were washed down with the local Sauvignon Blanc, and soon they were cuddling as they lay on the ground listening to the unfamiliar calls of the native wild birds and the more common squeals of small children playing. Caroline let her mind wander to the future and imagined herself back home, in Victoria Park or the University Botanic Garden in Leicester. She longed for the day she would board her flight back to Europe. She was learning a lot from her new friends and colleagues, the city was beautiful, but she wanted to go home more than anything.

Magnus was thinking about the future too, but he was not as happy about it as his lover. He had been doing some research – it was his forte – and he knew that it would not be plain sailing for them even with Caroline back in the UK. He had discovered one bit of good news: he could fly to her local airport from Stockholm. But as for them being able to live and work in the same country? Not so simple even without the language factor. He tried to forget all those worries for now and enjoy the time together. Maybe love can find a way

 

Magnus turned over in bed as gently as he could. Caroline was asleep and he didn’t want to wake her. The bedside clock read three-twelve am; his spirits sank a little as he did a quick calculation. In fifty hours and 47 minutes he would be landing at Stockholm airport. He hated the thought of it. Tears pricked at the back of his eyes as he sat up and swung his legs onto the floor. Slowly, carefully he rose, trying to minimise the movement of the mattress under his lover’s body. Mission accomplished, he walked through the darkened apartment and sat on the sofa to think.

He needed to have a conversation with Caroline before he left, but he couldn’t seem to bring it up. She was so happy and he loved to see her smile; he didn’t want to make her cry and he knew that his words were certain to do that. But he also felt that it would be wrong to allow her to think that everything was going to be sunshine and roses once she returned from New Zealand. He didn’t doubt his feelings for her any more. The love he felt had not wavered since Tuscany, not for a moment. It had scared him, but that wasn’t surprising; he was not familiar with feeling that way, and it seemed ridiculous after such a short time. He wanted to have a future with Caroline, he was sure about that. Life would be infinitely better if they were together all the time, but that might require a sacrifice from one of them. Could either of them commit to that, on the strength of such a short time actually withone another?

Stirring from her slumbers a couple of hours later, Caroline reached for Magnus and found only a cold empty sheet. She sat up and called his name, and received a reply from the sitting room. Getting up, she put on her robe and went to sit next to him on the sofa, resting her head on his shoulder.

‘Trouble sleeping, love?’

‘Yes.’ He looked straight ahead, not wanting to meet her eye. ‘I don’t want to go home.’

He put his arm around her and hugged her tighter against him, kissing her hair. Caroline swallowed her tears and turned her face up to his, her lips meeting his softly.

‘I don’t want you to leave either, but that’s how it is. I’m so very grateful that you came all this way. It’s been bliss having you here.’

Magnus looked at her, and when he did he realised that he wouldn’t say anything about his worries before he left.  Such things can wait, enjoy the moment. He cupped his hands around her head and kissed her, pulling her into his lap as he did so. Her silky robe slid off her shoulders and he let his mouth follow the fabric’s trajectory: down her arms and across her breasts to pool at her waist. Her back arched and she moaned quietly as the soft warmth of his tongue left a trail of cooling wetness over her skin. She wove her fingers into his curls and scratched at his scalp lightly, making him growl against her belly. The sound made her hips jerk involuntarily and he took the chance to untie the robe and remove it completely.

Magnus was just in his boxers and they did little to hide his arousal, which was pressing into Caroline’s moist centre through the thin cotton fabric. She ground against it, making him growl more loudly, so she lifted up on her knees and pulled his underwear down, grasping his burgeoning erection as it sprang free. She rubbed his tip along her folds, closing her eyes and relishing the sensation as she did so. The gentle light from the window was enough for him to see her face and he watched in awe as the pleasure she was feeling showed. Then he moved his eyes downwards to where their bodies were about to be joined.

Caroline whispered his name like a prayer as she lowered herself down over Magnus slowly, inch by inch until he filled her. His large hands were splayed across her shoulder blades as he supported her, his gaze fixed on his lap where their dark hair was meshed. He allowed his eyes to roll shut while he concentrated on everything he was feeling. Cool air on his body; the scent of her skin - Chanel No 5, neroli shower oil, his cologne - all mingling; the warmth of her inner thighs across the top of his and over his hips; the tight, velvety, wet tunnel that was surrounding his cock. He would never tire of her, never stop loving her and whatever it took, he would make a life with her somehow.

Whatever it took.

 

Chapter Text

MAGNUS Ystad, late April

‘So, Magnus,’ Anne-Brit was smiling brightly, fake innocence shining on her face as they all sat around the table, drinking their coffees after the morning meeting, ‘are you going to tell us?’

‘Tell you?’ He tried to look nonchalant. He knew they were all desperate to hear how his apparently sudden and unexpected trip to New Zealand had gone.

Kurt looked down at the table. Magnus was the always the first to ask about other people’s love-lives, and up until now he had been pretty open about his own. This time, however, he had been oddly reticent, secretive almost. Wallander thought that was indicative of the seriousness of it. He looked at his young colleague, thinking he seemed a little sadder since his return; quieter, subdued even. Something wasn’t right.

‘Oh, come on Magnus,’ Lisa, their commanding officer was winking at Anne-Brit, ‘we know you didn’t fly all that way just for the scenery. You went to see, er…, Caroline, is that her name?’

Everyone was looking at him expectantly, and Magnus could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. How could he explain that he felt worse than ever now he was back? He should never have gone; it just confirmed how deeply in love he was with her, and that only made things more painful. Clearing his throat he stood up and pulled his jacket off the back of his chair.

‘Yes, well, it was lovely but now I’m back, and I’ve got to go and speak to that old man again.’

He strode out of the room, hoping none of them saw the tear he wiped away. Kurt did, and it troubled him greatly. He resolved to get Magnus aside for a private talk when he could.

 

<Something’s wrong, Magnus. Talk to me Cx>

<Its fine. I’m OK. Mx>

 

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, May

‘How are you today, Doctor?’

Caroline was slightly taken aback by the question; she was supposed to ask her patients that, not the other way round.

‘Oh I’m fine, Mrs MacDonald. More important, how are you?’

The elderly lady harrumphed. ‘You don’t look fine, dear. Me? I’m much better than yesterday, thanks to you.’

Her physician blushed. She knew she looked rough this morning. She hadn’t slept well all week, not since the last time she and Magnus had FaceTimed. Something was wrong but she couldn’t get it out of him. She was desperately worried she was losing him. He had only been back in Sweden for ten days. For the millionth time she went over in her mind all that was said and happened between them before he flew out. As far as she knew, everything had been OK. They were both very upset when he left of course, but he had been as affectionate and passionate as before. And he said, more than once, that he loved her.

So why was he so distant when they spoke on Saturday?

‘I’m glad to hear that, Mrs M. So, we’ll continue with the new medication for another day or two, and then perhaps we can see about getting you back home. How does that sound?’

 

<Are you there, love? What happened? I miss you Cxxx>

<Sorry. Work stuff. Speak later. Mxx>

 

MAGNUS. Ystad, May

Things were very busy and he was glad of it. No time to think, no time to fret about what would happen. No time to brood; an excuse to miss their dates to speak. Caroline was very upset and getting angry with him because he wouldn’t talk about it, but the fact of the matter was Magnus didn’t know what to say to her. When he was with her, holding her in his arms, no obstacle seemed insurmountable, no barrier too high. Now he was back to reality and he saw more clearly how impossible it all was.

The heavy caseload the Ystad Police were dealing with meant that Kurt hadn’t had time to have that quiet word with Magnus yet, but he could see that things were no better. The last twenty-four hours had seen two of the outstanding cases handed over to the prosecutor so when he found Magnus pouring himself a coffee in the office alone, he grasped the nettle.

‘Fancy a drink and a pizza later?’

‘Thanks Kurt, but I think I’ll just…’

‘Come on, Magnus. I need a bit of company this evening. Please?’

The younger man looked at his superior, not fooled for a moment. He knew full well what Kurt was up to, but he also knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t give up, so he held his hands up in surrender.

‘OK, OK… But my shout. You paid last time.’

Later, sitting with Magnus in the café with beers and a big pizza to share, Wallander didn’t mince his words.

‘So, are you going to tell me what the trouble is?’

‘What do you mean, Kurt?’

‘Don’t give me that, Magnus! You’ve been like a bear with a sore head ever since you got back from New Zealand. Did something happen down there?’

Magnus ran his hand through his blond curls, shaking his head.

‘No, not really, nothing bad, anyway. It was wonderful, Kurt, actually. It’s a beautiful place, and being with Caroline was fantastic.’

He paused, looking at his superior intently. They had become closer over the past months, since the shooting. Kurt was less impatient with him; Magnus was more reflective and less rash. They had a shared experience, the kind that changes a person. They had that particular trauma in common. He trusted Kurt with his life; he could share this with him safely.

‘I’m in love with her, Kurt. And she loves me too. We both want us to be together, but how can we, really, practically?’

Kurt put his fork down and leaned back in his chair, taking a sip of his lager.

‘What do you mean?’

Magnus loomed over his plate, closing the newly-opened gap between them, his hands gesturing.

‘Well it’s obvious isn’t it? Caroline is a doctor in England. She doesn’t speak a word of Swedish, so she can’t come and work here. And as for me, well, I can hardly request a transfer to the Leicestershire Constabulary, can I?’

His hands returned to their relentless, harsh tugging at his hair as he glared as his dinner.

Kurt thought carefully before he said anything. One thing was bothering him about all this. He understood the difficulties that Magnus was outlining, but that wasn’t it. One quality he had always admired in his younger colleague - even on the days in which he was highly irritated by him – was his sheer, bloody-minded doggedness. If he smelt blood, he never gave up. Never. So why was he giving up on this?

‘You know, Magnus, you shouldn’t ever underestimate a woman. I’ve made that mistake myself a few times, and it has always come back to bite me on the arse.’

‘What do you mean, ‘underestimate’?’

‘What I mean is, if she loves you as much as you love her, she won’t let you go.’

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, Late May

‘Gah!’

She threw the book across the room. She had got nearly every one of the exercises wrong. Near despair she poured another glass of Sav, as the locals call it: would she ever be able to learn this stupid language? The rational part of her brain said that she was being way too hard on herself, that she was tired, anxious, and lonely, with enough on her plate already. But the other half - the part that was all about how much she loved Magnus - was screaming at her to GET THIS IN HER HEAD NOW! She wanted to surprise him, so she had bought a course. She was reasonably good at the pronunciation she thought, but the rest seemed too hard, as if her brain had no capacity to retain anything non-medical any more. She had been good at Modern Languages at school, only reluctantly setting them aside to concentrate on science in order to get into Med School. Surely she could learn at least a few sentences to delight her lover with next time he called?

If he called

The thought crept unbidden into her consciousness. Things had been strained between them since he went back to Sweden. Caroline had no idea why, and Magnus wasn’t telling, so she just carried on. On dark days she allowed herself to fear the worse. If he was planning on dumping her she wished he’d just do it rather than this half-hearted, neither-one-thing-nor-the-other… But for now she fought. She had never loved anyone more, never felt like this with anyone else, and despite the obstacles, she was determined to make this work. But it would take both of them.

Sighing, she picked up the Swedish book and reached for her headset.

‘Hej, jag är en läkare.’

 

<Hej, jag älskar dig. Cxx>

<Is that Swedish? Jag älskar dig också, Caro. M xxxxxx>

 

MAGNUS Ystad, June

‘What’s this?’

Wallander had dropped a thick envelope next to the laptop on Magnus’ desk. It landed with a thud, causing ripples in his coffee cup.

‘Just some stuff Stockholm sent down.’ Kurt smiled enigmatically.

Magnus picked the packet up and turned it over suspiciously.

‘About what?’

He had a puzzled look; none of the current cases needed input from the capital, did they? He slid his finger under the seal and pulled out the documents. The top one was on Ministry of Justice headed paper. He looked at his senior colleague, his face an unspoken question.

‘Just read through it, Magnus.’

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, June.

Peeeeep…peeeeeep… Her iPad was ringing. She took a deep breath and tapped the green icon; Magnus’ beautiful face appeared, shining in the morning sun.

‘Hej!’

‘Hello you. I missed you.’

‘Well, I’ve been here waiting for your call.’

Magnus shrugged guiltily. He was the one who had been missing their FaceTime dates. He wouldn’t be doing that any more.

‘What have you been up to?’

Caroline steeled herself and began to speak unsteadily.

‘Jag lär mig… a…a…att tala svenska.’ 

Magnus’ face broke into the widest grin she had even seen. He whooped and clapped and laughed and Caroline laughed too, delighted by his reaction.

‘Mags, don’t get too carried away. That’s nearly everything I have mastered so far.’

‘You texted me in Swedish too! I wondered…’

Caroline looked at him, so far away, smiling happily across the ether at her. Only three more months.

‘I don’t think I’m going to be fluent any time soon, my love, but…’

‘Don’t worry my darling one. It is wonderful that you are trying.’

Caroline pulled a face; he was patronizing her. She didn’t like that. Magnus saw her expression and rushed to explain.

‘You see, lovely though it will be to hear you tell me how much you love me – or love what I’m doing – in mylanguage, you might not need to speak fluent  svenska.’

She frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘You’ll see. I just need a few more days. I don’t want to say more until I’m sure, but I hope to have good news in a little while.’

‘About what? Magnus, what are you talking about?’

He shook his head and refused to say more, changing the subject and ignoring all her pleas to the contrary. When they said goodbye two hours later, Caroline was frustrated but deliriously happy. Gone was the evasive, distant and cold man she had been getting for weeks; her Magnus was back.

Chapter Text

<I love you so much. More every day. Mxxxx>

 

MAGNUS. Stockholm, July

 

He couldn’t seem to keep his leg still for some reason. If he concentrated the bouncing stopped, but as soon as his mind wandered the vibration recommenced. The secretary behind the desk facing him kept glancing up disapprovingly; the drumming of his heel on the oak parquet clearly was irritating her. He looked at his watch one more time. The appointment wasn’t for another five minutes, but he was here, why not just see him now? It occurred to Magnus that the woman he was waiting for might be with someone, or on the phone, or simply very busy. Just because this felt like the most important day in history to him didn’t mean it had the same significance for anyone else; not even for the person who would be deciding his fate.

He tried to calm his racing pulse by thinking about his time in Auckland. The smell of Caroline’s hair always calmed him: her shampoo had chamomile in it; maybe that was why. He closed his eyes and allowed thoughts of her to soothe his fevered mind. Her skin on his, his nose nuzzling against her neck and shoulder as they spooned after making love, their bodies and souls melded. Once more he allowed himself to believe that they could be doing that all the time soon, and that thought brought him back to the room and why he was waiting outside the Överdirktör’s office this afternoon.

It was Kurt’s doing, mainly. Thanks to his contacts in the Ministry, he had discovered that there was a new initiative from Europol to improve communication and cooperation between the forces of member states of the EU, and that they were, in fact, currently looking for volunteers. Interested parties had to be short-listed by their own Länspolismästare; the final obstacle (excluding the normal vetting) was this interview. Following Wallander’s advice, Magnus had been completely open from the start about his motives, because Kurt reasoned – he hoped correctly– that this made him a more committed and determined applicant.

The door to his left suddenly opened and a tall dark-haired woman stepped out.

‘Kriminalinspectör Martinsson?’

Magnus leaped to his feet and took her proffered hand.

‘Yes. Pleased to meet you, Överdirktör Svensson.’

‘Come on in and let’s get started, shall we?’

 

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, July

‘Magnus? What are you doing in Stockholm?’

She looked at his surroundings, such as she could make out behind him in the small image. It looked like a hotel room.

‘That’s why I’m calling you so early: I wanted to tell you something.’

Caroline felt her heart start to race. Please let this be good news… Please!

‘I’ve come up here for an interview for a temporary transfer. An exchange, a bit like yours.’

‘Oh yes? Where to?’ Please don’t say Australia or China or something

‘If I get it, it will be to Nottingham. For a year. From October.’

Caroline was unable to speak for a minute. Her head swam and she felt woozy. Reaching for her coffee she took a big gulp and tried to form her swirling thoughts into words. Magnus was smiling at her, his own heart full of happiness. The interview had gone very well, and for once he was allowing himself the luxury of hope.

Finally Caroline felt able to attempt to speak. ‘What? How?’

Magnus explained. Ironically, the reasons behind the scheme were very similar to the one she was on: the exchange of information; comparison of working methods to improve professional practice; greater mutual understanding. The papers Kurt had obtained for him had thrown him into a flat spin for a few days: it was so perfect. There were various options, mostly in the UK or Sweden’s near neighbours. Within Britain he had the choice of applying to be with the Metropolitan Police, West Midlands, Strathclyde in Scotland or Nottinghamshire. It wasn’t hard for him to choose the neighbouring county to Leicestershire, and the bonus was that most other applicants would be drawn to the excitement of the bigger cities. He was as certain as he could be that he would get it.

‘When will you know?’ Caroline was near to tears with excitement and happiness.

‘In two weeks; there are quite a few applicants to interview, and then the host force has to approve me. I didn’t want to say anything until I heard, but it went so well today I just couldn’t keep it to myself any longer.’

She thought about what this meant: waking up in his arms every morning - for a year.

‘Oh my darling,’ the tears had broken through finally, ’that would be amazing. Oh Magnus…’

He watched her crying while he made soothing noises, tears falling down his own cheeks. The despair of a few weeks ago was banished.

 

<Any news? Cxx>

<Not yet, but they said it wouldn’t be until tomorrow. Lisa is acting oddly tho. Mxx’

 

 

MAGNUS. Ystad, Late July

‘Kurt? I’ve got those details for you. The father died in 1978, the mother in 1990. No information about the brother, though.’

‘No. The neighbour thinks he emigrated. Thanks.’

Hanging up the phone, Magnus’ attention was caught by Lisa, the Kriminalkommisarie, who was getting up from the desk in her corner office and walking in his direction. She was smiling, but said nothing. Instead of stopping to speak, she walked right up to where he was standing and embraced him. Caught unawares, he wasn’t able to return the hug due to the wodge of papers in his hand, but he managed a one-handed effort. She whispered in his ear and it was all he could do not to burst into tears right there in front of everybody.

<I got it. Mx>

<No words. I love you Cxx>

 

CAROLINE. Auckland, August.

She looked at her watch: ten minutes until the taxi was due. She did one last check of the rooms to make sure she hadn’t left anything. Not that she had brought many belongings, and she had been careful not to accumulate too much during the year. She had been allowed a small freight container, more of a trunk in fact, which she had mostly filled with books. That left a week ago and was ready for delivery back in Leicester when she said the word.

She looked out of the window. How many hours had she spent with her eyes not seeing the view – not that it was that fabulous, just the back of the hospital – because she was daydreaming about Magnus? This place was full of memories of him, despite being so very far away from Ystad. The past year had been, more than anything about him, about them.They had grown so much closer, despite the separation, and now they would be together – really, physically together – for a whole year. Magnus was going to be living with her and commuting to Nottingham. It wasn’t very far, and she lived on that side of the city anyway.

The day was here at last: in just over 36 hours she would be back home. Magnus wouldn’t be there, not yet, but that was OK, because in just a few weeks he would be.

Her buzzer sounded then, so she picked up her luggage and headed for the door.

 

 

MAGNUS. Leicester, August.

‘In 200 metres, turn right.’

The hire-car sat-nav sounded like the BBC Radio announcers: a sexy female voice that reminded him so much of Caroline’s he was getting hard. But then again, that might have just been the anticipation of seeing her again. She was home from New Zealand; she had been for two days. Lisa had given him a week’s leave unexpectedly a few days earlier, and everyone at the station knew that Caroline was back at home in the UK. His colleagues were happy to cover for him. He had not told her he was coming, so he hoped she would be in when he arrived.

Taking the corner he recognised the road from Google Street View. Caroline lived at number 45…

‘You have reached your destination,’ the GPS siren announced. He drew up. A car was in the driveway – a BMW like hers. She had to be there. It was mid-morning, she’d be awake, he hoped, although she had texted him to say she was still quite jet-lagged. He could not wait to see her face when she opened the door.

‘MAGNUS!!!’

He never got a chance to knock; she had seen him from the window, and running down the path she jumped into his arms. Kissing him wildly, she was like a woman possessed.

‘Do you make a habit of this? Turning up unannounced, I mean?’

He laughed as he set her back on her feet.

‘No; only for you, my Caro.’

She flung her arms around his neck and spoke quietly into his ear. ‘Never stop. I like it.’ Pressing herself tightly against him, she could tell he liked it too. ‘Get your bags and come in. Now you’re here, I think I know what else I’d like.’

Magnus opened the boot of the car and retrieved his small suitcase then followed Caroline up to the house. It was small, a semi-detached on a quite crowded street, the main feature of which seemed to be the massive number of cars. Every house had a paved frontage with at least one parked on it, sometimes two or three. The street was also quite full of parked vehicles. It seemed very claustrophobic to him, with few trees evident, although he had seen leafier roads on his journey from the airport.

The inside of the house was blandly decorated, a narrow hallway leading to a staircase, with doorways leading to a sitting room and a kitchen-diner at the rear. He reminded himself it was a rental and noted Caroline’s furniture was bright and comfortable-looking, and her pictures and books were everywhere. Magnus felt instantly at home. He left his bags by the stairs and followed her into the kitchen.

‘Can I get you a drink? You must be thirsty after your journey.’

‘No, I’m fine. The flight attendants kept me topped up with coffee.’

I bet they did, gorgeous-looking bloke like you

‘In that case, come here.’

Smiling, Magnus wrapped his arms around her once again, lowering his face to hers and capturing her lips with his own. They both moaned into the kiss and Caroline lifted onto her toes to press her body more firmly against his, Magnus squeezing her bottom to bring her more tightly against him. He gasped as she ground against his erection, chuckling as he felt her lips smile. It had been over four months and Caroline was desperate for him; to feel his touch on her skin; to taste his tongue in her mouth; to have his cock inside her. She moved her hands between them and began to undo his belt. Magnus shifted slightly to allow her room while he lifted her t-shirt over her head.

Free of the cotton layer, her breasts were his to taste, lick and suck and her bra was soon gone as well. Magnus felt her arch her back as he ran his teeth over one nipple, making it stiffen. He paused briefly to remove his own shirt and returned to his work. Lifting Caroline up onto the worktop, he began in earnest, delicately but firmly licking and nibbling, driving her wild as he knew this would.

‘I have had dreams about your tits,’ he remarked in a pause for breath.

‘Good ones?’ she gasped as he sucked hard on one, pinching the other.

‘Oh yes. Waking up next to them, doing this, and… coming over them.’

‘Maybe later. For now I need you to fuck me.’

‘Yes. I kind of need that too.’

There was a small sofa in the corner of the dining part of the room. Magnus hoisted her up with her legs around his waist and carried her over there, putting her on her feet in front of it. They both removed their remaining clothes and Caroline reached for him as he lowered his long frame down between her legs. It had been a long enough wait, and there would be time enough for more leisurely lovemaking. For now, at this moment, they both needed to connect, and so he did not wait to slide gently but steadily into her. As he was fully inside they kissed and stayed still for a few minutes, kissing and relishing the deep contact, the sharing of each other they had craved since Magnus left Auckland in April.

Caroline ran her fingers through his blonde curls, teasing and playing with them, her other hand caressing the nape of his neck. They locked eyes as their foreheads met and their hips began to move together.

‘I love you,’ she mouthed as wave after wave of pleasure rocked her. She was always amazed by how much better it was than she remembered; there was simply nothing that compares with being joined like this with someone you love so deeply you could not imagine life without them.

‘Jag älskar dig öckså,’ he responded, his body expressing the sentiment in a shout. He shifted his position slightly and began to thrust more rapidly, changing the angle, twisting and turning. Caroline gripped him tighter and her moans became louder and more urgent. Magnus could feel his release was near but she was his priority so he slipped his hand between their bodies and pressed his thumb to her clit. Caroline felt her orgasm coming and begged him not to stop.

‘Come with me, my darling,’ he urged and she clamped down hard on him, not allowing him any option but to join her. A few more ragged jerks of his pelvis and Magnus collapsed panting, his head on the arm of the sofa next to hers. He was breathing heavily, his arms shaking with the effort. Caroline shifted to one side and he was able to lie against her, their legs and arms entwined. He nuzzled her temple, feeling the pulse just beneath the skin returning to normal.

She sighed happily. ‘Just think, Mags. In a couple of months you’ll be here all the time.’

‘I can’t wait.’ His long fingers drew patterns on her bare belly, making her squirm with the ticklish sensations.

‘Are you hungry? What time did you leave home?’

‘I stayed in Stockholm last night, because the check-in was at seven-thirty. I knew I wouldn’t sleep, so it was easier to be near the airport.’

She leaned her head back to look at his face. His keen, intelligent eyes were regarding her solemnly, but his mouth was resting in a half-smile of contentment.

‘You really are the most beautiful man I have ever known,’ she said seriously, running her fingertips along his cheekbones and brushing them across his lips on the way to his strong jawline. ‘The fact that you are mine never ceases to astound me.’

Magnus laughed softly as he looked at Caroline with the same reverence. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I never saw a more beautiful woman. I love you with all my heart and soul.’

She stood then and led him back to his bags then upstairs to show him the bedroom and bathroom. He unpacked and returned downstairs having dressed ‘so as not to frighten the neighbours’ as Caroline had suggested. He sat at the table and watched as she assembled a salad for lunch, busying herself opening cupboards and the fridge. She was singing softly and dancing as she worked and he felt a fresh rush of love and lust, but the overwhelming feeling was of happiness.

Caroline was singing because she was so happy she couldn’t help it. Back from her year away it was lovely to be in her own home again, and having Magnus with her was blissful. She stole glances at him as she moved around the kitchen, as if she could not quite believe he was actually there. The time since he confirmed that he would be coming to England for a year had been pure heaven; after all that time apart they were being rewarded with a whole year together. And she was sure that this was just the beginning. She loved him and she knew he was the one.

 A year before they had only just met, but even then they both knew this was something special. It had survived the months of separation and now they were on the verge of being in the same place for an entire year. In truth, they had only just begun to know each other, but it felt to them both as if their relationship was long-established, such was the ease and comfort they had with one another. It would never be easy; their careers and different nationalities would always put up obstacles, but at that moment Magnus felt – no, he knew –that it would be alright. He had always scoffed at people who spoke about their ‘other half’, but now he understood fully what they meant. When he had been without her, in Ystad, he had nearly allowed those difficulties to stop him, but sitting there he knew he was doing the right thing, because now they were together like this he felt complete; a whole man. A better man than he had been before they met.

As he watched her preparing their meal it occurred to Magnus that this was domestic bliss: it didn’t really matter where you were, as long as you were with the person you loved. Caroline put the finishing touched to the salads and brought them over, returning to the kitchen for two beers. She sat and they clinked in a wordless toast; a sip each and then their hands reached out across the table to join. They both watched as their fingers wove into one another’s. This was the real beginning for them; from now on, they would be one.

 

 

 

HEY THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE

 

I loved you in the morning

Our kisses deep and warm

Your hair upon the pillow

Like a sleepy golden storm

 

Many loved before us

I know that we are not new

In city and forest

They smile like me and you

 

Now it’s come to distances

And both of us must try

Your eyes are soft with sorrow

Hey that’s no way to say goodbye

 

I’m not looking for another

As I wander in my time

Walk me to the corner

Our steps will always rhyme

 

You know that my love goes with you

As your love stays with me

It’s just the way it changes

Like the shoreline and the sea

 

Let’s not talk of love or change

Or things we can’t untie

Your eyes are soft with sorrow

Hey that’s no way to say goodbye

     

                                  Leonard Cohen