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Love is a Struggle (Faceless Smiling Woman)

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Magnus opened the journal, sitting cross-legged at his breakfast table. It was his day off and he had every intention to try and relax. The media had finally let go of “Louise”’s story and he could finally read them again. He could freely admit he had felt some kind of pride at seeing his picture on the covers, but it had been a fleeting thought amidst all the horror and sorrow and bitterness that case had brought to the small Ystad Station.

 

Seeing “Louise”’s face was torment though. He still had nightmares about killing them.


At least it had brought him and Kurt together.

 

Magnus smiled to himself, his eyes lost into space, his cup suspended in the air, hold by a distracted hand. Their relationship was still in its infancy, but it was going well. They were going out once or twice a week, depending on their schedules and then spent the following night together, usually at Magnus’.

 

Well, except for the two weeks and a half that Kurt spent in Italy with his father. The older man did not say so in so many words, but it must have done their relationship a lot of good. He had come back looking rested and more happy than Magnus had ever seen him since their first night together.

 

Sex was still much of a rarity, between their workload and Kurt’s shyness with his own body. But the few time they had crossed the line between tender intimacy and sexual pleasure had been amazing. Magnus was very much a sexual being, but he found himself accommodating the new, slower pace without difficulty. Having emotional needs he had not even realised he had fulfilled to such an extent was enough for now, he found.

 

It did not hurt that, when Kurt did feel up to sex, he was a ravenous and passionate lover. And, surprisingly, a rather possessive one.

 

They had told nothing to their colleagues as of yet. They were both hesitant to break the status quo and deal with the professional consequences of their personal lives. They would have to, soon. It had been two months. The more they waited, the more difficult it would be to justify waiting. But it was difficult, and not only because Kurt was, albeit only technically, his supervisor. They were both men. No matter how well accepted it was these days, it would still be harder than it ought to have been. They would have to do two coming-outs in one setting, as it were, and there was no accounting for their colleagues’ reactions. Would they be okay with it? Anne-Britt, Nyberg, Lisa? Gossip would go wild. Would it complicate matters with the uniforms?

 

They had discussed the situation a few times, but not as much or as deeply as Magnus would have liked. Kurt was reluctant to talk it through, and clumsy when he tried. They had not talked at length of their romantic or sexual pasts, but he had gathered that whoever Kurt’s male lovers had been, they had not been numerous, dated from Kurt’s youthful days and had always been kept more or less under the rug.

 

Magnus put down the newspaper and finished his coffee in one go. He wanted to go running before starting his day of leisure.

 

After a quick shower he was on his way, idly thinking, not for the first time, that a dog would be great to run with. Not that he could keep a dog in his current flat, but if he was to stay in Ystad, and current events seemed to conspire in favour of him staying, he should start looking around to buy a house. Isolated. With a garden. With a dog.

 

And maybe with a Kurt?

 

He shook his head, stopping to drink, flank heaving. He was getting ahead of himself there.

 

And why not, after all? He loved Kurt. There was nothing wrong with entertaining optimistic thoughts of a future together. As long as he kept them to himself. For now.

 

A nice house with a dog, a room for Linda, a nice, comfy lounge where he and Kurt could relax, drink some wine, listen to Opera or watch a film together after a long day at the office.

 

He snorted. When had he turned into an old man dreaming of quiet evenings in instead of friends, clubs and bars?

 

His phone rang. He looked at the caller’s ID. His mother. He sighed and pocketed his phone, ignoring the ringtone. He had not told his family either, not even Ester. It did not matter much. He did not intend to. Well, he would tell Ester eventually, but since she would likely not care and was estranged from the rest of the family, it made little difference.

 

After his run, he went to the swimming pool and spent all his leftover energy there. At 12, he was back in his flat, cooking. He had become used to make healthy items and tried to gently nudge Kurt into doing the same. He wanted his boyfriend to take his diabetes seriously, but that was a herculean task. If he managed to convince Kurt to eat a salad and go running once a month, he already felt quite accomplished.

 

He spent the rest of the day inside, save for a trip to the cinema. He indulged in a modern horror film, something he had not yet dared introducing Kurt to. But he would at some point.

 

If only to see the look on Kurt’s face.

 

There was something comforting about horror flicks. The gore and terror were faked, the monsters always well defined, inhuman and different from the day to day life. You knew the fear you experienced was danger-less. You would still be alive and well at the cinema’s exit.

 

Magnus liked that feeling. It was different from the very real, very bleak despair and revulsion that clung to his professional life, especially of late.

 

After exiting the cinema, he hesitated for a while, letting the still warm end-of-summer wind play with his hair. Finally he decided to make the short trip to the Ystad cemetery. After all, no-body was expecting him at home.

 

Kurt was having dinner with Linda and her steady boyfriend for the second time in as many weeks. A doctor. Magnus smirked. Kurt and a potential physician son-in-law. He would have loved to see it, but Linda had said she would rather introduce her father and Jamal without Magnus, for now. Kurt had said nothing either way, but Magnus knew he shared Linda’s opinion.

 

Thus it was the second time Kurt was meeting his prospective son-in-law without his own boyfriend. Magnus did not know what to make of it, but, at the same time, he was aware that they were still a relatively new thing. And not a traditional one at that, by any shape or form. Linda accepted them and she was lovely to Magnus, that was more than he could have hoped for, considering their unusual situation.

 

Apparently, Jamal was just one year younger than Magnus, which, the blond had to admit, might make things a trifle awkward. And he was Muslim. Magnus had very little understanding of the Muslim faith – faiths? – and what that meant. He knew he was prejudiced, but he could not help it. He did not like the sound of it. He hoped the man was not expecting Linda to convert, or anything like that. Was he against homosexuality? Would he become a problem for Kurt and Magnus?

 

His father and mother had always been very reluctant when confronted with foreigners, people of colour in general and people of Muslim heritage in particular, and while Magnus was keenly aware his parents were not role models, rather the contrary, he had still been raised in a very conservative and racist environment. Knowing it and wanting to be better, and actually going against what had been ingrained in him since infancy and thus came to him subconsciously, were two different animals.

 

He tried to tell himself that this was different: he would eventually meet Jamal, would be introduced as Kurt’s boyfriend, and they would be perfectly fine. Jamal would be lovely, speak and act Swedish and all would be fine.

 

How many times should he repeat “fine” and hope it would work?

 

He still remembered when Kurt and he had lunch the day after Kurt’s first encounter with Jamal. “He’s a nice boy,” Kurt had replied to Magnus’ “how was it?” but he had looked somewhat uncomfortable with the topic.

 

He sighed, shaking his head. He had a bad feeling about it all.

 

Ah well. He hoped Kurt would not make a fool of himself and would not antagonise Linda. As much as the man loved his daughter – and he adored her, Magnus knew all too well – he was bad at maintaining their bond. A lot of difficult history there. And the fact that Kurt was hardly diplomatic.

 

He stopped in front of a tombstone and read the name and modest message.

 

He visited Kalle every other weeks. He did not know why, if it was his guilt or a sense of duty which kept him coming time and again.

 


 

The call came just after he had turned off the light, about to fall asleep, trying to decide if he would invite Kurt over the next day or give him time to digest this night’s dinner, no pun intended.

 

He did not get to see the bodies, but the description alone made him slightly queasy. Two old people in their modest home. Beaten. Tortured. Dead. Day off or not, late evening or not, the whole squad had been recalled to take part in the investigation.

 

He grabbed his wallet and his phone and made his way to the Station. Apparently Kurt had been amongst the first at the crime scene and the old lady had been able to whisper something to him. Obviously not the name of their killers, or the Ystad Police would already be on high alert, but maybe, just maybe, it would be something helpful enough to stop the maniacs going around beating up old folks in their farms.

 

“What is going on with Sweden these days” would be the burden of Kurt’s song, Magnus was sure.

 

Then again, who wanted to admit that there might not be an explanation? Humans wanted rational explanation for things, especially things that barbaric. But they were not always there.

 

Magnus sighed.

 

They spent a good chunk of the night trying to find information on the couple. Kurt was out, first checking the crime scene and then notifying the next of kin. He had refused their support for the last part and Magnus had had to refrain from cursing Kurt’s professional bad habits once again.

 


 

He waited for Kurt downstairs, with a fresh cup of coffee he had bought at the coffee shop next to the Station instead of the horrible stuff they had inside. He wanted to see his boyfriend before their briefing.

 

When the older man entered, Magnus winced internally. He looked dead on his feet, large purplish circles under bulging eyes. Despite their being together, Magnus knew Kurt still found it hard to sleep. When he was not at Magnus’, he continued to spend most of his nights in his armchair in front of the telly, despite all of his boyfriend’s gentle rebukes.

 

“She died before my eyes,” Kurt muttered, taking the coffee gratefully. “Their daughter is in a horrible state. She doesn’t understand it, and frankly neither do I. They had nothing of value. Except perhaps an old horse, if that has any value these days, and it wasn’t stolen. It bolted.”

 

Magnus bit the inside of his lips. Kurt smelled of cold sweat and stale air.

 

“You alright,” he asked, despite all evidences to the contrary, “you look exhausted. Did you sleep at all yesterday?”

 

He knew Kurt must have not slept that night at least, but, perhaps, the night before…?

 

No such luck. Kurt’s eyes evaded his, a clear answer, as far as Magnus was concerned.

 

“Kurt,” he started, wanting to ask about the dinner, about the next day, about… but before he could ask anything, Anne-Britt joined them and they all went up to their meeting table.

 

Lisa and Nyberg were already there, sitting next to each other. Magnus sat in front of them and so did Anne-Britt, but Kurt stayed up, simply leaning on his arms on the table.

 

They were still waiting for a potential replacement for Kalle, one man short. He turned on the fan, feeling like the atmosphere was heavy, stuffy and smothering in its heat.

 

“We do have some prints from the living room,” Nyberg announced, “But nothing on the rope yet. I still think there must have been two of them for that… carnage.”

 

Magnus, who by then had seen the crime scene photos, tended to agree.

 

“But Anne-Britt said she tried to say something,” Lisa inquired, forcing Kurt to raise his head then his torso. “The woman.”

 

Kurt looked haggardly at Anne-Britt first and then, a bit more awake, at Lisa. God, he looked utterly exhausted. Magnus tried to calculate when he could hope to get Kurt to come over to his flat and sleep.

 

Not any time soon, probably.

 

“Maria, yes, I doubt it’s anything, really,” Kurt replied, straightening up, hand on his hip. “I mean look at the state she was in, she was, eh...”

 

He stopped. The reluctance he showed made Magnus suspicious. Whatever the woman had said, or may have said, was something Kurt had not liked. What could it have been, for him to act so skittishly?

 

Wallander sighed and finally added:

 

“It sounded like…”

 

New pause, new hesitation.

 

“I don’t know, maybe “farmer”? I don’t know, maybe something with an “f”?”

 

Magnus would have taken it at face’s value, had it not been for Kurt’s reluctance. It was not “farmer” Kurt had heard, or thought he had heard, or he would not act like that. Farmer was innocuous, but another word beginning with an “f” was not, and there were a lot of farm hands that were...

 

““Foreigner”, I suppose, it could have been “foreigner”.”

 

There they were.

 

“Foreigner,” Magnus repeated, uncrossing his arms and leaning over.

 

Kurt raised a hand with a scowl. “It could have been, just saying...”

 

“Did she say anything about colour,” Lisa asked.

 

“Now, wait a minute,” Kurt tried, but Magnus barely heard him.

 

“Well, it would not have to be black,” he pointed out, thinking fast. After all, there were not that many Black people in Sweden, but there had been an increasingly strong immigration flow from Turkey and Eastern Europe. “I mean, there are migrant workers from all over now around here. The place is swamped.”

 

“No, Magnus, no,” Kurt snapped, low but hard. “Not “swamped” okay? Most foreign workers in this country have a perfectly legitimate right to be here!”

 

His look, especially, caught Magnus off guard.

 

He looked disgusted.

 

He had never seen him cast such a look in his direction before. Even after the “tranny” disaster.

 

They had never talked about that again, but he thought Kurt knew he was not a bigot. What he had said had not been racist, right?

 

“Asian, maybe,” tried Anne-Britt, oblivious, and Magnus jumped on the bandwagon, relieved that he was not the only one thinking in that direction. “Right,” he approved and she continued “I mean it was dark, maybe she just heard someone speak. How dark was it?”

 

“Look,” Kurt said forcefully, “it might not have been “foreigner”, I’m just saying it was one of the things it sounded like...”

 

It looked like it was going to turn into a full blown argument but an uniform, Peters, interrupted them shyly:

 

“Er, the press’ downstairs...”

 

“Thank you Peters,” Lisa replied tiredly, still scribbling notes, “let’s make it official...”

 

“We don’t mention this “foreigner” thing, okay,” Kurt cut, then repeated “okay”, more harshly when he did not obtain an immediate acquiescence. “Not to the press!”

 

He grabbed his vest and put it on.

 

“That goes for all of you, right?”

 

He looked expressly at Magnus and the younger man lowered his gaze. It felt like a blow. He knew Kurt still thought him too much after fame, but he should have known better. After “Louise”, Magnus had no desire to see his name associated with something like that anytime soon. Wallander should have seen it. He had been there, was still there, when he tried and failed to repress the nightmares, the pain.

 

Magnus said nothing and went at his desk, feeling hurt and humiliated. He was no racist and he was definitely not a snitch.

 


 

“Pfiou, they’re finally all gone,” Anne-Britt said, coming back up after having gone to fetch them all something to eat.

 

She put a sandwich chicken-tomatoes and a bottle of mineral water in front of him and he smiled gratefully.

 

“The press,” he asked, and she nodded, half sitting on his desk to unwrap her own lunch. “Where’s Kurt?”

 

Lisa, coming to get her own food, shook her head thoughtfully.

 

“He got a message from someone, I don’t know who, and left.”

 

Many would have said that Lisa was too lenient with Wallander, even if he was her best investigator. But there truly was no other way to handle Kurt.

 

Even in his personal life, Magnus thought sourly, since his boyfriend had not even deigned warning him he had personal matters to attend. He bit vengefully in his sandwich. He was still angry at their last exchange and he did not want to admit he felt ashamed too.

 

He had no reason to feel ashamed. None at all. He was investigating. Nothing else.

 


 

“It’s my father, Magnus,” Kurt’s voice was slightly distorted by the phone and the sounds of his car, but Magnus could have sworn there was also a sob mixed with it. “He… he’s losing it… Gertrude doesn’t know what to do… and neither do… neither do I...”

 

The blond leaned against the window. He was in Kurt’s office, away from prying ears. He gripped the phone tighter.

 

“What happened,” he asked softly and listened as his boyfriend related his father’s wandering in the fields, his confusion, how some Arab-speaking farmhands had found him and brought him to the hospital. How Jamal had taken over. What he had explained to Wallander.

 

“Kurt, I...” he stopped. He did not know what to say. If Kurt’s father had a form of Alzheimer or something similar, nothing he could say would make it better.

 

“I thought… I thought we were finally finding each other,” Kurt’s voice shivered, and he stopped to take a trembling breath, “I thought we could finally talk… It doesn’t seem fair...”

 

Kurt was crying. He could hear it and felt helpless and angry at his own impotence.

 

“Do you want me to come over,” he asked, licking his lips.

 

“N… No. I have to… Someone saw the horse. I’m on my way there.”

 

For a moment, Magnus wondered what the Hell he was talking about, until he remembered the dead couple’s missing old stallion.

 

“And Anne-Britt said that Maria’s brother has something important to tell us.”

 

“Okay. I’ll… see you later then?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

The phone went dead and the blond cursed himself. He felt like he had failed his lover. Kurt had needed him and he had not been able to deliver the comfort or support required. He was shit at this.

 

At family.

 

He tried to imagine his own father losing his mind and all that came to him was a sort of vicious satisfaction and then the realisation that cold indifference would have been better that this. He was not over what his parents had done to him, to Ester, to Kristoff…

 

He shook his head and exited the office. What was he supposed to do now?

 

He sighed again, resigned, and went to the cafeteria to get his sixth coffee of the day.

 

“Hey, Martinsson,” a voice called from behind him and Magnus nearly burnt his hand with the hot coffee.

 

The worry was making him jumpy. He put the pot down and turned. It was Noren, with his partner Peters in tow.

 

“Is that true? That the guys who killed the Lovgrens are foreigners? Farmhands?”

 

Noren had been a uniform at the Ystad Station long before Magnus’ arrival. He was lightly round around the middle, had a receding hairline and no ambition whatsoever except have his grand-kids over in a nice farm in the countryside someday, as far as Magnus knew and he only knew that much because Kalle was a gossip…

 

He stopped his line of thinking and nodded, despite being a bit behind on what Noren had actually asked.

 

“Yeah, well, seems so, of course nothing is sure yet, could be any number of things but it seems that the old woman said something along the line and...”

 

But Noren had stopped listening and had gone for the coffee pot himself. Not unusual to see people tuning him out when he was rambling, but it was particularly aggravating when it was a policeman.

 

Peters threw a nervous glance in Magnus’ general direction and for a moment, Magnus wondered why. Peters was barely younger than the blond detective and they had already talked a couple of times. Peters wanted to be a detective someday and Magnus had tried to help. It was nice talking with someone who was not looking at him like the office boy, but like a superior officer. They had even had a drink a few months prior. He had no reason to be timid in Magnus’ presence and had never been before.

 

Shrugging internally, he left the cafeteria. He had more things to think about than the strange attitudes of the uniforms.

 


 

He was working on a report for an unrelated case when the sound of the news penetrated the haze of his concentration. Something about a farmer crisis and EU-Sweden relations. He scowled. It was not unusual for someone or other at the Station to turn on the TV around the time for local news. It did not mean he had to like it. It was distracting.

 

The voice of the journalist was grating on his nerves.

 

“Hey, they’re going to talk about the case,” someone said, and Magnus turned his eyes towards the screen.

 

One second later, he was standing next to his colleagues, watching with fascination and dread as the reporter exposed what was supposed to be a well-kept secret.

 

“...Looking for foreigner suspects...”

 

Kurt was going to burst a pipe and Magnus hoped, desperately, that, somehow, it would not end up with him on the altar of his supervisor’s anger.

 

It was only made worse by the fact that, for his part, he thought the leak might not be such a bad thing. Perhaps people would come forwards? It was inevitable anyway… They had no other leads, right?

 

Kurt entered just as the reporter was showing the Station’s building. It was like looking at a storm slowly making its way towards you. He walked up to the TV, eyes riveted to the screen as the reporter talked about “sources close to the investigation” as they always did when spouting facts out of nowhere.

 

Well, those were pretty specific facts. They knew about Maria’s last word, even if they had extrapolated from it.

 

“How did they get a hold of that,” Kurt asked, with cold fury. When nobody answered, he screamed “How?” and glared at them all. Then he made an imperative gesture in their direction and Magnus exchanged a worried look with Anne-Britt, following their supervisor in his office.

 

Lisa had barely closed the door behind them that Kurt was snarling:

 

“Well someone leaked that to them!”

 

“I don’t think it was anyone here,” Lisa tried in a conciliatory voice.

 

Big mistake.

 

“Well who else knew,” Kurt snapped, pointing his finger, “because I expressly said not to tell anyone about what she said!”

 

Magnus raised his hands, trying to appease him. He was nervous and had found it difficult to stay silent this long already.

 

“You said not to tell the press...”

 

Perhaps someone had blabbed to their families, words got around and…

 

Kurt’s eyes narrowed.

 

“Meaning?”

 

And when, God, when would he learn to shut his goddamn mouth!

 

“Well, I guess around the Station...”

 

Kurt was now glaring at him and only him as if…

 

“Oh you blabbed, did you? You opened you big bloody mouth!”

 

For fuck’s sake! As if Magnus had not been trying to hold his lover together just a few hours prior. For once, he stopped talking, feeling again as if he had been slapped. Surely Kurt knew better… Had to…

 

“It was mentioned Kurt,” Anne-Britt protested. “It was bound to be...”

 

He did not want anyone rushing to his defence, especially over something like this. Kurt should know better.

 

“Oh yeah, well you know what this will do, don’t you,” Kurt nearly screamed again, “It’s going to be a bloody witch hunt! There are idiots out there just waiting for a reason! Any reason!”

 

Magnus thought he had to be exaggerating. It was Sweden, not Nazi Germany. At any rates, it did not warrant spitting in Anne-Britt’s face.

 

“But you did said, you thought she said the word “foreigner”,” he tried again.

 

“I said “maybe”! Maybe!”

 

“Well,” the blond started, extending a hand towards Kurt.

 

They could not let the murderers escape because of political correctness. Lisa seemed to think along the same lines.

 

“It’s still an area we have to cover, Kurt,” she said, in a firm voice.

 

“Well I thought we knocked this on the head,” Kurt snapped, even if he was on his own.

 

“I understand your fears, Kurt, but we can’t let correctness,” she started to argue, rolling her eyes.

 

“I am not,” Kurt replied, slow and stern, hand moving to underline each intonation “interested in correctness. I am interested in the truth. And I don’t think that, now, the truth stands much chance.”

 

He half turned, took a breath, and ordered:

 

“I want you to issue a denial release. To the press. A denial!”

 

You had to admire the man’s stubbornness, even if it was bloody infuriating. He left them hanging, pushing the door opened with brute force and a martial pace.

 

Magnus grabbed an empty cup on his supervisor’s desk. Nervous, irritated and worried as he was, his natural instincts towards cleanliness – that some would call mild OCDs – were coming back full force. He stretched his neck and exhaled slowly.

 

“It’s okay, Magnus,” Lisa said in a conciliatory voice, “He’ll come around.”

 

Magnus shook his head.

 

“No, he won’t. You better issue that statement.”

 

And he left to go back to his report, glancing time and again at his phone. He hoped, but knew better than to expect, that Kurt would call… or text.

 


 

“They won’t bulge,” Lisa said, putting a pile of files on Magnus’ desk. “They seem to know it’s a real lead and it’s juicy.”

 

She seemed to hesitate and he looked up with a questioning gaze.

 

“...You didn’t...”

 

He blinked, perplexed, when she trailed off, arranging the files in a neat pile.

 

“Didn’t what?”

 

She looked at him again and suddenly, he understood.

 

“What?! No! Of course not! It wasn’t me! How can you even ask that?”

 

She raised both hands. “I’m sorry, we’re just on edge...”

 

He was too stunned and angry to reply, and she left. Anne-Britt was watching him from her own desk.

 

“What,” he snapped and she averted her gaze.

 

Was everyone in the bloody Station so certain that Magnus was the leak? What the Hell!

 

He got up, took his jacket and his phone, and left. They could find Lovgren’s mistress and whatever else without him. Fuck Kurt, fuck the Station and fuck his life!

 

He was out of there!

 


 

Kurt did not call or text. Had he even noticed that Magnus had left?

 

Wait till he needs his office boy, he thought nastily, nose in his coffee. He had gone back home and ignored Lisa’s call and subsequent concerned message. He was furious and more hurt than he cared to admit.

 

Yes, he was a blabbermouth. But he would never, ever, leak anything to the press. Especially after the whole “Louise” debacle.

 

He missed Kalle, suddenly. He smirked to himself, mockingly. Why would Kalle have reacted any different? Just because he was absent did not mean he would have been on Magnus’ side if he had still been… alive.

 

The coffee tasted like ash.

 


 

Eventually, an hour later, he was back at the Station. He could not stay away from his job, his mind would not let him. He did not say anything to Lisa and she did not ask, thankfully.

 

She was too occupied with Anne-Britt and Kurt in his office.

 

Nice to see some things never changed.

 

The phone rang and he grabbed it. It was Nyberg, who wanted to talk to Kurt, of course.

 

He got up and went to the office.

 

“Nyberg for you,” he said, neutrally, “he thinks he might have something on the rope.”

 

Kurt barely looked at him. “Tell him to hang on, I want to get out of here.”

 

“Why, yes, of course, sir,” Magnus gritted between his teeth, but either Kurt did not hear him or, more likely, he ignored him. Instead he said “Do you mind, thanks,” to Anne-Britt, pointing in the desk’s general direction, and left.

 

The taste of ash became even more bitter.

 

Like the good little secretary he was not, thank you very much, he went to relay the message to Nyberg.

 

“Something’s wrong,” asked Sven, voice more anxious than sympathetic.

 

It was in Nyberg’s nature to dislike conflict and disorder.

 

“No, I’m perfectly fine,” Magnus said in a sarcastic voice, and hang up.

 


 

Kurt did not come back to the Station. Magnus stayed till 10, because he had a lot of work to get through. Or so he told himself. He thought about the conversation he had overheard between Anne-Britt and Nyberg. Apparently Kurt had refused to share a pizza with Sven, deciding instead to tour the nearest and biggest migrant camp in the region.

 

He reminded himself that they had made no plan for that evening, that they were not married, that Kurt and he were taking it slow, that…

 

It still hurt. He wanted to talk with Kurt, wanted to older man to care that they had a fight, sort of. That Magnus was not feeling well.

 

He knew he would apologize to Kurt himself if it meant they could clear the air between them, and hated himself for it. He had done nothing wrong. Nothing!

 

Had he?

 

And if Kurt wanted to tour the miserable place, scared that fascist ghosts were on the prowl, he would have gone with him.

 

And thus he did not go home, kept opening a new file, a new report, a new email. Anything to keep working. And hoping.

 

To stop himself from reaching for his phone and call Kurt.

 


 

As it happened, Kurt had been right. Those fascist nutjobs were on the prowl and very much not ghosts! What the Hell?! Explosives?! In modern Sweden?!

 

Magnus felt guilty, sickened and all around terrible, as he bandaged his lover’s hand, without looking at his face. They had spent the night at the camp, trying to get translators while the firefighters eventually managed to put out the fire.

 

A family had lost what little they had as mean of a home, two more had almost nothing left of their shacks.

 

How was any human being supposed to live like this? Of course Magnus was aware that extreme poverty existed, that even in Sweden where the number was in the lows there still was a lot of homelessness and indigents.

 

Being aware and seeing, being in the middle of such misery, was very different.

 

I should be doing something, he thought, knowing many thought the same and most never acted on it. Volunteering or something. I don’t even know.

 

“They called. They want blood.”

 

Magnus had tracked his lover down to his house after Anne-Britt’s call to the Station. He was only there for his lunch break. It would not do if both he and Kurt deserted the fort for too long.

 

The older man had let him in with a guarded look, his lips tightened in a slim line.

 

But as soon as Magnus has sat down beside him on the sofa, Kurt had let go and leaned against him with a painful sigh. He had been trying to take care of his hand himself, with poor result. Magnus had taken over, silently, pushing aside his own grievances.

 

He caressed the back of Kurt’s hand. A hand that was burnt because Kurt was the kind of person who would cut both his arms and his legs if it meant saving someone else.

 

This time, though, he had almost lost his lover because of a doll, of all things.

 

It would have been funny if it was not so terrifying.

 

And now the bloody terrorist had called Kurt directly. To brag. And threaten.

 

Bastard.

 

“I know. Anne-Britt told me.”

 

He raised his eyes to finally look into Kurt’s. The man looked… he was tired of always seeing Kurt like this, half dead and defeated. It was exhausting and filled him with a hollow sort of despair. The sort one gets when there is nothing one can do to help a sick loved one.

 

Kurt was sick, physically but especially mentally. Or if he was not yet, he was on his way.

 

Depression.

 

Magnus both knew too little and too much about it.

 

Kurt got up, nervous and fidgety and started pacing.

 

“This should never have happened!”

 

Magnus did not know whose fault it was anymore, except for the people who thought justified to put innocent civilians’, kids’, life in danger in name of… what? Patriotism? Nationalism? Or simply pure cruelty disguised as ideology?

 

Kurt had been right about the escalade into violence, if not about Magnus’ part in the whole affair.

 

As for the foreigner thing…

 

Who knew? Magnus did not feel comfortable, not with himself, his reactions, not with Kurt’s and his accusations.

 

Even if a group of foreigners had indeed tortured and killed this old couple, nothing justified what had happened that night. Magnus was happy he had never, not even in the deepest corners of his mind, thought otherwise.

 

He himself had not gone on a cop-killing spree after what Sandin had done to Dolorès and those other girls after all.

 

It was disgusting and sickening.

 

And theirs was a right mess.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, not really knowing if it was an apology, and if it was, what he was apologizing for.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Kurt replied tiredly.

 

But his tone said he did not completely believe that, and it hurt some more.

 

“Kurt, I’m not...” he trailed off.

 

Not what? Racist?

 

He did not know anymore.

 

Kurt raised a hand to caress his cheek and leaned in to press a kiss to the his lips.

 

The doorbell rang.

 

Because, of course it did.

 

Kurt went to answer and Magnus identified the young female voice immediately.

 

Linda sounded pissed off.

 

Kurt reappeared first but she was just behind here.

 

“...Oh,” she stopped mid-word when she noticed him, “hello, Magnus.”

 

Her voice was chilly, distant. Kurt sent him a somewhat desperate look and the blond took his cue.

 

“Hey,” he got up and grabbed his vest, “I need to go back to the Station. I’ll see you later, Kurt. Bye, Linda.”

 

Both Wallanders nodded and he left, feeling tense and like nothing had been solved between him and Kurt.

 


 

“A pay-phone in a service station on the E-65,” Magnus repeated and the technician gave a vague grunt of ascent. “Nothing else?”

 

No, of course not. It could have been a prank, or a delusional dickhead, but the attack on the camp did not add up. He transmitted the result to Anne-Britt and she nodded.

 

“You slept at all last night,” she asked, without looking at him.

 

The question took him off guard. He was so wrapped up in his own anger and his worry over Kurt – who had yet to come back – that he was barely conscious of her presence outside of work.

 

“Why,” he asked in return.

 

“You look… tired,” she said delicately.

 

A sort of Anne-Britt’s version of “death warmed over”. But he did not know how to answer without raising more questions, and, while her concern was touching, he was too annoyed to want it.

 

“I’m fine,” he said firmly and got up swiftly to transmit the latest info to Lisa.

 

As good a way to avoid speaking as any.

 


 

“Do you think it’s genuine,” he asked Kurt, already knowing the answer.

 

Asking just to talk. To fill the silences. To have Kurt talk to him…

 

“We need to set up watches on all the sites in the area, we need to find that Lovgren killer, we need to bury this before it gets totally out of hand!”

 

Kurt’s speech always quickened to a high degree when he was agitated. Magnus leaned forwards a little to hear him better, arms crossed over his chest. The Station was more than warm, yet he still felt cold somehow.

 

“So we got good reason to believe it was a robbery, right? That someone knew that Lovgren had that money. In cash.”

 

“The mistress,” Anne-Britt deduced.

 

“So let’s find her, priority, and the son. I mean, it’s an illegitimate child, maybe if we can find out when she was seen, how old the boy was, check the birth records, retrace them through that, I mean, the birth would have to have been recorded as “father unidentified” wouldn’t it?”

 

Anne-Britt glanced up at Magnus, and he knew that, again, he was going to be the one stuck with the meaningless herculean task. There was at least 30 ways this reasoning could go sideways – determining a boy’s age via testimony of a third, no, a fourth party, the woman could have been from another region, hell, another country, etc. – this was never going to work.

 

“It’s a bit of a long shot,” he noted with a moue.

 

Dammit, why had he said that out loud?

 

“Well, what else would you suggest,” Kurt sighed, getting up.

 

This time, Magnus had nothing to say.

 

He watched, as Kurt took Anne-Britt with him. Left behind. Again.

 

Fuck.

 


 

“Kurt said 61, 62, around those years,” Anne-Britt said, with her cocker-spaniel face on.

 

“Right,” Magnus muttered, “based on the vacillating memory of a story told to a farmer by another farmer long dead, more than forty years ago...”

 

“I know, but it makes sense,” she pleaded.

 

“No. It doesn’t. Kurt just wants it to be something that it isn’t, or rather doesn’t want it to be what it is, and you know it.”

 

She sighed and leaned back on her chair, looking at the empty desk. He followed his gaze. Kalle may not have been a calming presence, or even a joyful one, but they missed him all the same.

 

“You think it’s...”

 

“I think,” Magnus grumbled, “that foreign farmhands tried their lucks. That’s what I think. Not because I’m racist, because that’s logical.”

 

She looked at him again, dubiously.

 

“I am not racist,” he repeated, irritated now.

 

“I never said you were,” she murmured, calmer, more stern.

 

Which, obviously, meant she totally thought he was.

 

Fuck. This. Shit.

 

“How would they have known, anyway,” Anne-Britt remarked, “about the money?”

 

“Maybe they didn’t. If it was rumoured he had some...”

 

“Seems like a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think? Just the day he withdraws a massive amount of cash.”

 

Of course she was right. Too much of a coincidence. Which did not make it any less infuriating. He grimaced and opened the files from the town-house's official registry.

 


 

They saw Kurt come back like the wind, going immediately in his office to make a call. He had something under his arm.

 

“Magnus,” he called out, while waiting for the call to come through, phone in hand, “in here. Now.”

 

The blond frowned but obeyed.

 

Wallander had set a few evidence bags down, including a brown bag.

 

“Nyberg’s on his way,” he said, hanging up.

 

Good. That meant they had to wait before analysing the evidences. Which, in turn, meant they were free to talk of something else, weren't they?

 

“Kurt,” he started, closing the door behind him.

 

The man sat down, heavily, before looking up at him. His eyes were keen, though. He had a lead, or at least the beginning of one.

 

Maybe that was the reason Magnus found himself at loss about how to start, or even what he actually wanted to say. After a long pause, he licked his lips and took a breath. However, before he could even try to formulate anything, Wallander raised a forbidding hand.

 

“Magnus, not now, please.”

 

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

 

“Then, when? You never talk to me and...”

 

The door opened, cutting him off. As it happened, Nyberg had already been in the building.

 

Fuck.

 


 

“So… The brown bag was in the barn,” summarised Magnus, “and the stable door was forced from outside, deliberately, by hand. Before the horse bolted.”

 

The killers had found what they were looking for. Good for them!

 

“That’s what scared it. The Lovgrens were both tortured to find out where the money was. He kept his mouth shut. They didn’t know where it was. They threatened to hang Maria. She didn’t know anything about any money. Finally they got it out of him.”

 

Nyberg nodded.

 

“I’ll check for prints. They’re still processing the ones from the house, but no match yet.”

 

Because it would never be that easy. Except when the guilty party was some dumbass assurance scammer or a deadbeat small time shop robber. But God forbid they ever get lucky with a murder case!

 

One step forward, two steps back.

 

“Okay,” Anne-Britt’s arrival, and with a small, eager look on her face, was good, “I’ve got a list of women here. Fatherless children born between 61 and 62.”

 

“Don’t tell me there are hundreds,” Wallander pleaded.

 

Probably, it made sense that…

 

“No. Four in the Scanian region.”

 

Oh. Kurt and he exchanged a surprised look. A good news. At last.

 

“Four,” Kurt repeated in a relieved voice.

 

I traced them all through the citizen register. One is dead, on emigrated to Australia in 1975, that leaves one in Gladsax and one in Simrishamn.”

 

Kurt did nothing less than bouncing forward and practically running out with a “Right, who’s first?” before Magnus had any time to voice his opinion that Kurt should not be too hopeful. Or that Magnus could, perhaps, come with him at least?

 

And maybe continue their conversation?

 

He passed a hand through his hair with a sigh, frustrated, before gathering the evidence to take them back to the locker.

 

He was sitting back on his chair, thinking about what he should do right now, what lead he could follow, when his phone rang.

 

His mother. Again.

 

He bit his lips and took a deep breath. He would not be able to avoid it forever.

 

“Hello, mother.”

 

“Magnus. Finally.”

 

Her voice was far too sweet for it to be anything but bad news.

 


 

“Magnus?”

 

He looked up at Lisa, jolted out of his thoughts.

 

“Are you alright,” she asked softly, “you’ve been looking into space for a while now.”

 

He blinked slowly and reflexively looked at his watch. He had been staring into nothingness for almost a quarter of an hour. Geez.

 

He shook his head slightly.

 

“I’m… okay,” he said at last. The phone call had been a rather lengthy one and he was feeling out of sort.

 

His mother’s brother had pasted away and he was called back into the folds for the funerals. Nevermind the fact that his uncle and he had never gotten on, or that he really, really did not relish the thought of being forced into close quarters with his family.

 

And his mother had, for some unfathomed reason considering they never wanted to talk about her usually, demanded he contact Ester and “make her come”.

 

Not that it would happen. For all the affection she had for Magnus, he was under no illusion that Ester would accept any entreaty on his part on this particular subject, which left him in an awkward and uncomfortable position.

 

If only he had the courage to cut all ties, the way Ester had…

 

He shook his head and went back to work, or rather, at least to give the illusion that he did.

 


 

 

Kurt did not come back before the end of the work day and Magnus did not have the energy to wait for him. Anne-Britt had been briefly back before going get her kids but had not clearly responded to his inquiry about Kurt’s whereabouts, simply saying he had had “personal matters” to attend to and then went straight home.

 

It probably had to do with Kurt’s father. Again.

 

He hoped against hopes that his boyfriend would call him. Not that it was likely.

 

Still, he went shopping for some vegetables and fish. He could try and phone Kurt, ask him over for dinner. He missed his lover, both in a psychological and emotional sense, and in a very physical sense.

 

Not that he could burden Kurt with his family troubles. They were on shaky grounds, and with Kurt’s father… He sighed.

 

If at least they could share a meal, in the intimacy of his flat, quiet and safe, maybe they could resolve the tension between them. Reconnect, somewhat.

 

When his phone rang, he knew instinctively it was not meant to be.

 


 

It was insane. It made no sense. It was sickening.

 

They had killed a man, just because of his origin. Just because he was there. A young man. A young man with a family.

 

He still heard the cries of his mother and his children in his head. Another memory to fuel his nightmares.

 

He may have found there were too many foreigners in Sweden, but this? He felt anger growing in his heart and his fists closing, nails biting in his flesh.

 

Those people had next to nothing, and worked their arses off for it, and this was what they got? And someone thought... that they deserved it? How can one shoot a man in cold blood, someone who had done them no harm. Someone they did not even know.

 

Burning crosses and burning migrant camps. He felt like he was thrown in a mix of deep south KKK America and 1930-40 Germany.

 

Except it was present days Sweden. And Swedish people were to blame.

 

People like himself.

 

People who denied others their humanity, considering them as insects, or a virus, or an invasion.

 

People who normalised that way of thinking.

 

He was sick and tired, of himself and of everyone else.

 

That early morning, in his bed for a couple of hours rest before going back to the Station, he felt cold, even with two blankets.

 

He wished he could lose himself in sex, in someone else.

 

He was ashamed to think that someone did not even have to be Kurt. He just wanted someone to keep the cold bitterness away for a short time. And Kurt was not available, neither physically, nor emotionally.

 

But he was with Kurt, was he not? At least, until Kurt said otherwise, which seems to be more and more likely, when he considered how the older man seemed to ignore him.

 

In the icy darkness, it did not matter than it had only been a few days, that Kurt had had other issues to deal with, all he could see was how Kurt had only looked at him with something that, he felt, was akin to contempt and had not talked to him in private for a long time. Had actively refused to talk with him.

 

He missed his lover. And he was scared.

 


 

He droned the gun specifications in a neutral voice, unable to feel anything but the deep cold that the end of summer could not chase away.

 

A standard shotgun they would not be able to trace.

 

A standard shotgun that took away a young life, with all its possibilities, emotions, ties...

 

He was slumped on a desk and Kurt slouched across from him in a such a way that seemed to imply he would never be able to get up again. His skin had a pallid, sick tone to it Magnus did not like, and his cheeks were gaunt and slacked. He doubted Kurt had been eating properly, or enough.

 

Sleep was eluding them all, that was not even in question.

 

Everyone in the Station looked defeated. Only Lisa still had some energy in her tone and some life in her steps. She asked if they were monitoring Far Right groups.

 

Boy, were they ever? Magnus had never wanted to throttle people with his bare hands that much since Sandin. “Louise”’s case had not bred such contempt and anger, even after they had killed Kalle and all those innocent people. “Louise” had been sick.

 

Those fuckers were just hateful, and smug about it too. Listening to their conversations was like being skinned alive repeatedly. Outright, most of them condemned the acts, but one could easily hear the joy and vicious satisfaction every new attack brought them.

 

They felt validated, victorious.

 

“And your mystery caller, did they say anything you could go on,” Lisa asked.

 

That was another, entirely horrifying thing. Kurt was again at the centre of some fucker’s plan. Yes, he was more or less the face of Ystad’s police, and while Magnus did not wish it on Lisa either, he really wished they would leave his boyfriend alone.

 

As if Kurt did not have enough to deal with.

 

As if he did not make everything entirely too personal already.

 

Now it would be almost impossible for Wallander to see reason, Magnus was sure of it. He would want no help, would isolate himself even more, would feel it was his responsibility, would keep them at bay.

 

Would keep Magnus at bay.

 

The woman dying in Kurt’s arms had been a bad start, but the caller had made sure of it.

 

Kurt glanced up and Magnus’ chest constricted painfully at his expression.

 

“Just that they would take someone for Lovgren’s wife next,” he mumbled.

 

Magnus felt sick.

 

They would not… kill a woman? Right?

 

He did not know why, but thinking they might kill a woman next made it so much worse. Ingrained ideas about innocent “women and children” perhaps? Or motherhood?

 

He shook his head slightly, trying to force back his errant thoughts on the problem at hand. Lack of sleep was catching up with him.

 

“I’m gonna call in the National Crime people,” Lisa started and Magnus pre-emptively closed his eyes and lowered his head.

 

“No!”

 

Here we go, he thought with exhausted bitterness.

 

“This is local! We find the Lovgrens killer, we can put an end to all this!”

 

Magnus licked his lips and sighed, glancing at Kurt’s now darkly animated face.

 

“Just give me time to find the mistress, Lisa, just let me have time for that!”

 

“Why can’t we put someone else onto that,” Lisa argued and Magnus had to stifle a stress-induced manic chuckle. Right. Someone else. As if. She glanced at him inquisitively while continuing. “Check out these women.”

 

He answered the phone, because it was better than listening to Kurt’s excuses or snappy comments, to his unbearable need to control everything.

 

Anne-Britt’s voice was a breath of fresh air, and brought with it some good news.

 

“It’s Anne-Britt,” he cut Kurt, pointing at the phone, “she thinks she might have a witness. One of the migrant workers.”

 

Kurt got up and left immediately and Lisa followed him. He heard them argue until their voices faded away down the stairs. He went to make himself a coffee and manipulated his phone pensively while drinking it.

 

He wanted to text Kurt, to ask him for some time to talk. But the case… and Kurt’s father…

 

It did not seem like it was a good time.

 

He put his phone back into his pocket.

 

What am I doing, he thought sadly. Why did I think we would ever work out?

 


 

 

An old Mercedes.

If that migrant worker guy was really able to tell the type of car by sound… They would have been very lucky for once.

 

Not that it helped them much but still: for their witness to happen to be a guy who could do that?

 

Magnus had a fleeting thought that he would like to meet him, hear how he got that strange talent. Listen to his story. Ask him how he ended up in Scania, in the vast and quiet Swedish countryside. What he had wanted to be as a boy. If he wished he could go back to his country. Or if he was born here, perhaps? His family’s country then…

 

But he felt ashamed. He had a more than comfortable life. He would probably look like some white tourist looking for some “misery porn” to commiserate over or something, would he not? He had learned the term recently, and it made him deeply uncomfortable.

 

Still, maybe he could find if a Mercedes had been involved in a crime or had been stolen recently. One never knew.

 


 

Ahuh. He cocked his head to the side. There it was. A stolen Merc, barely just reported. Like 30 minutes ago reported.

 

Weird.

 

Then again, if the owner had just come back, it made some sort of sense. Perhaps the thief knew the guy would be away for the night.

 

Oh well. One does not look a gift horse in the mouth. He called Anne-Britt immediately.

 

Yet doubt kept nagging at the back of his mind.

 


 

1975 brown Merc.

 

Magnus was not into cars but he knew enough to guess it was pretty much unique in Scania. It made no sense. A thief planning to commit a crime, especially a murder, would not steal such an easily recognisable car, unless he also planned to dump it rapidly, burning it in the process or something. And they had had no such report.

 

Kurt seemed to agree.

 

“He’s not going to report his car missing if he’s committed a murder in it, is he,” Anne-Britt argued.

 

“Why not, clears him straight away.” Kurt was on the roll. “If you’re planning to get away with a random killing, why do you steal a car from a quiet residential area, in the middle of the night, under a row of blazing street lamps, eh?”

 

Magnus glanced at him.

 

“Because you’re like, really devious,” he tried, mischievously.

 

He saw the quiclk smile that stretched his lover’s lips for a flash and finally felt a silver of warmth piercing the cold.

 

Sadly, there was nothing on the car owner. He was totally clean. Magnus said so, hand passing over his chin and mouth nervously. He crossed his arms, eyes fixed on his screen. Bergman did not even have the slightest affiliation with the Far Right.

 

“Well, there’s something wrong,” Kurt groaned, hands stuffed in his pockets.

 

“Anyway,” Anne-Britt continued to argue, God only knew why, “he reported it before anyone knew that was the car we were looking for...”

 

“No,” Kurt cut sharply, eyes blazing, “before the public knew that that was the car we were looking for. What if he knew that we knew about the Merc.”

 

Magnus frowned.

 

“How would he know that?”

 

Oh. Right. There was still Kurt’s suspicions about an inside source…

 

“The same way the press got hold of the foreigner thing. How did it all start, Magnus?

 

The sound of his name on Kurt’s lips derailed him for a few seconds.

 

“No. Let’s keep this into proportions, Kurt,” Lisa snapped. She really did not like what Kurt implied and Magnus knew why all too well. The forces were her responsibility. She knew them all. They were her people. She would not admit anything of the sort without hard evidence. “This started with an elderly couple being tortured and murdered, and you hearing one of them say the word ‘foreigner’.”

 

Oh, that would go swimmingly…

 

“No,” Kurt replied, leaning forward sharply, “I said that I thought, that maybe, that’s what I heard!” he almost spit in his effort to articulate each word clearly, his harsh whisper filled with anger and frustration. “Someone in this Station is leaking information!”

 

“Well, prove it Kurt,” she challenged.

 

“I’m going back to Bergman’s house,” he snapped and left.

 

Magnus scratched his hair with a sigh while Anne-Britt and Lisa both looked at Kurt’s retreating back with worry for the first one and frustrated resignation for the second.

 


 

The rest of the day went as badly as it had started, and Magnus was more than happy to leave the Station. He called Kurt’s house, just to confirm what he already suspected. No reply.

 

He drove straight to the nearest street to Bergman’s house and parked. He grabbed his vest and the bag of sandwiches he had purchased on the way. He did not want to feed Kurt’s bad habits, but when one wants quick peace offerings, and offerings that may have a small chance of actually being consumed, one could not really be choosy.

 

He spotted Kurt’s car easily and waited to be sure it was unobserved before walking to it and knocking on its window.

 

He saw Kurt jump out of a light dose and did not wait for an invitation to climb inside.

 

“Magnus?”

 

Kurt’s voice was rough and contained a note of surprised perplexity.

 

“I brought you dinner,” he said, raising the bag up for Kurt’s inspection. He saw the moment Kurt’s fatigue beat his instinctual “I’m not hungry” response.

 

He opened the bag and gave Kurt one of the wraps.

 

“Nothing?”

 

A shake of the head.

 

Kurt opened the paper and started eating gloomily. Magnus doubted he could taste any of it, all his attention was fixated on the house, now dark and silent. The younger man did not ask if Kurt was sure of this, because obviously, he was, that mulish pig-headed man, or he would not be there.

 

On the other hand, Kurt did have an almost unnatural instinct. His hunches were rarely wrong.

 

“Kurt,” he started, almost without realising it. He could not stand the silence between them. “Are you...” he stopped and licked his lips.

 

“Yes, I’m sure,” Kurt snapped, “something is wrong here!”

 

“Do you want us to stop,” Magnus said calmly, ignoring the interruption.

 

The older man turned towards him with a frown.

 

“What?”

 

Magnus bit his lips, unable to quite formulate his fear. He turned away. It was easier not to look at Kurt.

 

“Do you want us to stop being together,” he tried again. Messy. But he felt there was no good way you could ask your significant other if they wanted to leave you.

 

He was looking out the window and almost jumped out of his skin when he felt Kurt’s hand grabbing his chin and turning his head back.

 

“Where did that come from,” Kurt asked and he looked more awake, confounded and a bit… afraid perhaps?

 

“I know I’m not,” Magnus said and trailed off. Why did he feel like he should apologize, or beg, or something. He had said some things that were debatable, he knew he was had not been a good person, but he was not the one keeping his distances, right? “… I haven’t been really… look, what I said, it was wrong, I know it was, and I get it, I swear, but… you’ve been…”

 

“Magnus, we’re in a middle of a case,” Kurt chided and that shocked him into anger.

 

He pushed Kurt’s hand away and glared at him.

 

“I am aware, believe me. And we have been before. But these days, you’re acting as if I barely register on your radar, except perhaps to be a nuisance!”

 

He crossed his arms, defensively. The older man sighed and rubbed his eyes tiredly. Magnus felt his heart melt and his worry rise, and hated himself a bit for it. He was supposed to be angry at Kurt and he had reasons to, dammit!

 

“Magnus, I… No, no, I don’t want to leave you. This case is… It’s bad, Magnus. Very bad.”

 

On that, they could agree. But Kalle’s case had been bad too.

 

“I just want it to be over,” Kurt continued, voice hollow, “I can’t concentrate on anything until it’s done. I have to see it through. That man… he died because of something I may have heard. Something that’s probably not the truth anyway. Maybe I was mistaken. And he died anyway.”

 

“Why are you so sure ‘foreigners’ isn’t what you heard,” Magnus could not help but ask. “Foreigners may have done it, and so what? That doesn’t mean those...” he waved his hand, hoping to encompass all the Far Right monsters they had been dealing with for days, “...people are right.”

 

Kurt whipped his mouth in a furious movement but did not reply. Magnus did not understand, why was Kurt so worried he may be wrong about what he heard? It did not seem to be “only” about the case, but the blond did not get why.

 

The silence stretched and lengthened and Magnus felt smothered by it.

 

“How’s your dad,” he asked eventually, then wanted to slap himself. Did he want to antagonize Kurt? Why could he not just…

 

“It’s bad too,” The older man said simply, and did not add anything else. There was fear in his tone, and a deep rooted sadness.

 

“My uncle died a week ago.”

 

Gee, Magnus, anything else in you bag to ruin the mood, he thought, wanting to bury his fist in his mouth. Kurt turned towards him, eyes tired but now sharp.

 

“I’m… sorry,” he shifted, facing the blond with a concerned frown. “Someone you were close to?”

 

“Not really. He’s my mother’s brother. He never quite… accepted me for who I am.”

 

A delicate way to put his uncle’s glaring homophobia. He lowered his gaze, until he felt Kurt lean over and, as he looked up again, press a gentle kiss to his lips.

 

He wrapped his arms around Kurt’s shoulders and pressed into the contact greedily. He had missed it so much! The feel of Kurt’s lips on his, his arms around him.

His lover’s lips were strong, decided. They shared deep kisses for a while before separating, Magnus licking his lips awkwardly. He jeans pressed onto his erection and it was uncomfortable.

 

They stayed silent, each on his seats, looking at each other and then away.

 

“You should get some rest, Magnus,” Kurt said finally, with tenderness in his tone, but the younger man shook his head. He would keep Kurt company as long as he could.

 

“I’m sorry… For saying you were the one to leak informations. I know it’s not you. I never doubted that.”

 

Magnus glanced at him, suddenly feeling like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

 

“You really mean it,” he could not help but ask, and Kurt smiled, self-deprecating and sad.

 

“Yes, I do. I was an ass to you.”

 

Magnus had to kiss him again. And again. On his lips, along his stubbled jaw and neck, on his lips again, deeper, framing the beloved face with long fingers.

 

And then stop, because they would not have sex in a car like a couple of teenagers, or risk being arrested for that matter.

 

They settled back, almost fell asleep a few times, before he agreed, reluctantly, to leave Kurt and go home. He knew the man would not bulge for now and he needed to be sharp enough to relieve him as soon as Lisa would inevitably cave to Kurt’s decision to tail Bergman.

 

With a last lingering kiss he left, feeling more secure and happier than he had been in weeks.

 


 

I look down at Magnus, dozing in my car, and all I can think about is how lucky I am and how much of a mess I keep making of things between us.

 

People in romances often say they wouldn’t change a thing about their one and only.

 

Wanting to change people is unhealthy, or so they say.

 

I don’t know. There are things about Magnus that exasperate me.

 

Some of them, I have learned to live with: his mild OCDs, his inexplicable obsession with running and swimming, and his mother-hen attitude when it comes to my… health. I can deal with those.

 

Some of them are just who he is and that makes them alright. That makes them good, sometimes, even. Like how many times he says the perfectly wrong things at the perfectly worst time. I love how spontaneous and uninhibited he is, and that goes with it.

 

It’s just who he is.

 

But there are other things, darker things, that I find myself disturbed by. I’m tiptoeing around his thoughts on foreigners, because I’m scared to find that my blond angel has a racist core.

 

I’m scared enough of my own provincial old brain, I don’t want to find that in him. He is too young… He shouldn’t be like this…

 

I still know very little about his past, next to nothing about his family, his friends. I don’t know if he is even conscious of how at length he keeps me.

 

I can understand him not trusting me. I don’t trust myself either.

 

But there’s one thing I know. I cannot be with someone who would uphold racist views.

 

Yet I love him. My heart hurts just thinking about him. Magnus is tough, brash, solid. It feels so good to have someone I can rely on. Someone strong enough to support me, to look after me.

 

A man should not think like that. But I’m weak. I have always been.

 

Inga was strong. Magnus is more so because he understand: the job, the pain, the nightmares.

 

Most of all, he doesn’t ask anything from me that I can’t give.

 

Maybe he doesn’t dare. But I don’t think so. He has a quick mind, and very observant eyes. He understands thing, like my need to keep my wedding ring, that I would never have been able to explain.

 

And underneath all, he is sweet. Kind.

 

I don’t want to lose him. Yet it feels like he’s slipping through my fingers and I don’t know how to stop it. I just can’t deal with it.

 

So where does that leave us?

 


 

Magnus was annoyed but not surprised when he saw Kurt, still in the same clothes than the day before, push the Station door at 7.15 in the morning, barely able to stay upright.

 

After all, Magnus himself had been unable to settle and had been back at the Station at 7 sharp. Then again, he did not have the accumulated lack of sleep of one Kurt Wallander.

 

Now secure in Kurt’s affections, he did not hesitate and joined his supervisor to try and convince him to take some rest.

 

“I don’t care where,” he snapped at Kurt’s childish rebuttals, “in the cells why don’t you!”

 

He did not know if Kurt actually did so to annoy him or simply because he was too exhausted to think of anywhere else.

 

He still took a picture of Kurt’s on the cell’s bunk. One day he would get to use that.

 


 

He heard the argument before he even got a glimpse of the ruffled form marching towards him.

 

Kurt Wallander versus Lisa Holgersson, round 3.

 

He snorted to himself, sipping his coffee and biting on his toast. Maybe I could convince him to have some fruits…

 

“Bergman’s taking the piss! Someone in this Station is talking to him!”

 

The clang of the emergency box on the table had him raising his eyes towards Kurt and he watched, resigned, as the older man grabbed a bottle of pills.

 

...Or not.

 

“Okay, I’ll detail a couple of...”

 

“No, I want Anne-Britt and Magnus!”

 

“But Kurt!”

 

“I want people I can trust!”

 

Magnus kept his smile hidden. It felt good, had felt good the night before when it was only between them, but it felt good now too, that it was said in front of everyone.

 

Even if it meant a tedious stakeout for both he and Anne-Britt on a simple hunch.

 

“Well what about Lovgren’s mistress,” Lisa asked, aggravated.

 

Magnus bit into his toast to free his hands and grabbed a cup to fill it with coffee, putting it strategically close to Kurt’s hand, while Anne-Britt pointed out there was one possibility left on that count.

 

Kurt looked at her, then put the pills in his mouth and grabbed the cup to swallow the lot. Magnus took a sip of his own, contented in the knowledge that he was getting better at the whole “taking care of Kurt as much as he could, and as discretely and efficiently as possible” thing.

 

He watched them leave and went back to his breakfast.

 

“I’m sorry about that,” Lisa said to him, probably meaning the whole stakeout business.

 

He smiled.

 

“I’m not,” he replied, and ignored her somewhat bewildered look.

 


 

Lovgren’s son by his mistress was dead, and the mother had already had her revenge, in the form of a quarterly payment that tied the man to her and his mistakes until his death, ironically probably provoking it too.

 

“And the son checks out,” Lisa asked him, grasping at straws.

 

“Yep,” he replied with a light shrug, “it was an industrial accident in Vancouver. Four guys killed when the bridge they were building collapsed.”

 

A horrible death that left at least one mother all alone in the World.

 

“I’m still certain that somebody knew there was money in that house,” Kurt said, pacing.

 

Lisa continued the grasping.

 

“Well, maybe whoever it was just got lucky… hit the farmhouse, old couple, thought they had some money stashed, finally got Lovgren to own up!”

 

But Nyberg nipped that idea in the bud.

 

“No, they brought the rope with them. There was nothing on it that matches anything on the farm.”

 

So, the murders, or at least the torture, were premeditated… Not that it really helped. They still had no idea who might have planned it.

 

“And did we run a check on the dock?”

 

Magnus stopped himself from rolling his eyes, his frustration transpiring in his tone.

 

“What’s to check? We’ve got no descriptions, we don’t even know what we’re looking for! We have nothing! We still don’t have a shred of evidence on who might have killed that old couple!”

 

He glanced at Kurt’s back. The man was looking at something outside intently. Then Lisa brought up again what Maria “might have said” and that, of course, brought Kurt back to them, in a bad way.

 

“We don’t know what she may have said,” he snapped, insisting on each word.

 

Lisa did not push, bless her. Everyone was too exhausted to deal with the Kurt vs Lisa battleground. She chose to ask about the other thing that weighed heavily on Magnus’ mind: the obsessive Far-Right arseholes, latest in a long list of people too obsessed with Kurt for everyone’s peace of mind. And those killed people just for being immigrants on top of it. He did not want to imagine what they would feel justified to do to a cop, even a white Swedish one.

 

Magnus stroked his forehead, feeling a strong headache starting behind his eyes, inflaming the pathways to his brain.

 

“Where are we on that,” Lisa asked, far too loudly in Magnus’ opinion.

 

Nowhere, that was where.

 

He realised Kurt was looking at him, something like worry in his expression.

 

“Anything from Anne-Britt on Bergman?”

 

Magnus’ lips twisted. Kurt’s intuition, still going strong, still getting nowhere.

 

“No,” he admitted reluctantly. It was his turn to stakeout the place that night. He did not imagine anything much would happen. Still.

 

“Well, I’ll take tonight.”

 

Wait, what?

 

“Kurt,” Lisa protested before he could, but he was not far behind.

 

“But it’s mine!”

 

“I’ll take it, okay” cut Kurt, leaving no room for argument as he leaned over Magnus to take his jacket on the blond’s chair. “Thank you.”

 

No way was he going to let his man spend another night awake and then only sleep a couple of hours in the morning! He ignored Nyberg who went to take Kurt’s place at the window and hastened after his lover. He passed Lisa who tried to stop him but ignored her.

 

“Kurt,” he called in as cold a voice as he could muster. The man did not slowdown.

 

If he thought Magnus was above making a scene in the Station, he was going to be sorely disappointed.

 

“Kurt, would you stop,” he called, “I’m talking to you!”

 

Kurt finally stopped and turned to look at him. Magnus refused to let himself be intimidated by the glare, or softened by the blue circles under his eyes. He joined the older man and used the advantage his size gave him to cross his arms and glare right back.

 

“I’m going, Kurt, you’re dead on your feet!”

 

“Magnus, please,” the annoyed tone did nothing to help Kurt’s case.

 

“You really think I’m going to let you push until you kill over,” he snapped in a whisper.

 

He could feel the uniforms observed them covertly, trying to look inconspicuous. Let them look. He was too worried, too angry and frankly too tired to care.

 

Kurt swallowed, probably considering his next move. Finally he growled.

 

“I’m still your boss, Magnus. I said I’m going.”

 

Magnus’ eyebrows raised. So that was how Kurt wanted to play it? At some point, he might have been scared of the implications, of what it meant for their relationship, for Kurt’s feelings.

 

But not now. Now he was going to call the man’s bluff.

 

“Really,” he murmured with a chuckle, “you think that’s gonna do it? If your order made a lick of sense you damn right I’d obey you without question, Kurt Wallander. But this? This is you being an arse!”

 

Wallander’s cheek blushed a bit in anger, but the colour was tempered by the ashen grey of his skin. He shook his head, lowered it… and when he was facing his lover once again, he looked more defeated and worried than angry.

 

“Magnus, you’re exhausted. I’ve seen how you move, you have a migraine, don’t you?”

 

That, admittedly, the younger man had not expected. He did have a migraine, but he was frankly astonished Kurt had even noticed.

 

“This is me grasping at straws, Magnus,” Kurt murmured, leaning a bit into him, unconsciously repeating the blond’s earlier expression. “I doubt anything will happen. I just wish it will. I want you to be okay and I can’t… I can’t stop and think. I need to do something or I’ll go mad. It’s too much. Please.”

 

There was a lot of things he could say to that, starting with the fact that, if nothing was going to happen, Magnus could as well go. That Kurt may need to think. Or at least talk. Talk about his family, even if Magnus could not help. But he was so surprised, and so pleased, that Kurt was thinking of his well-being in the middle of a case that he found himself nodding.

 

And yes, he was scared of failing at family talk again. Of failing Kurt again.

 

He did not know yet how much he was going to regret this small indulgence.

 


 

He spent the night at his apartment, going immediately to bed after a light soup and a quick shower. He had terrible nightmare, the exact nature of which eluding him as soon as he woke up. The light was still more dark grey than not and he glanced at his alarm clock. 5am. He turned and burrowed his nose in what he had come to consider as “Kurt’s pillow”. It still bore the man’s faint odour.

 

His migraine was gone at least, but he still felt slightly ill. There was something in his throat, and at the pit of his stomach. A sense of foreboding. Deciding to abandon the idea of sleep behind, he got up, made a quick toilet and exited the apartment, intent on getting some breakfast from the nearby bakery, for both him and Kurt, and joining his lover in his vigil.

 

The phone call came when he was paying for the two coffees and danish.

 

He left everything on the counter and dashed out.

 

Kurt, God, Kurt!

 

He was on the road in an instant, ignoring most of the traffic codes and speed limits. Someone was shooting at Kurt. Why, why, why! Magnus was supposed to be the one getting shot at, or shooting at, or both. Not his Kurt, never, never, never!

 

He mouthed “please” incessantly.

 

If anything happened to Kurt…

 


 

Something had happened to Kurt, but Magnus did not know how to feel about it.

 

On one hand, Kurt was alive and whole, when he could have been hurt or worst, considering what the terrorist was packing.

 

On the other hand… what Magnus had spent the “Louise” case trying to avoid with single minded determination had happened.

 

Kurt has killed someone.

 

And okay, it was not like “Louise”, this one was a true piece of trash, a racist killer, a white supremacist… and yes, it has been in self defence, the man would have killed Kurt without a qualm, but…

 

But the man who would not kill, who recoil at the mere idea of taking a life… had done so.

 

Magnus bit his lips forcefully enough to taste blood and felt a surge of hateful anger towards the blond uniform miserably confessing how he had betrayed Kurt and his orders.

 

Peters.

 

None of this would have happened without that little shit! That fucking blabbermouth!

 

Because of him, those white supremacist garbage piles had learnt about Kurt and what he thought Maria might have said, because of him, they had started their vendetta against innocent people, because of him, they had singled out Kurt, and now...

 

Magnus could not face the fact that he had been the one to confirm Noren and Peters’ suspicions, that day in the cafeteria. Not yet.

 

He wanted to beat Peters into a pulp as he watched the young man sob on the chair in the interrogation room. Lisa was patting the youth’s arm gently, and Magnus wanted to scream at her that the piece of trash did not deserve her forgiveness.

 

But he kept quiet.

 

He wanted to go back up, wanted to hold Kurt, wanted to comfort him. Wanted to be there for him the way Kurt had been there for Magnus after “Louise”’s death.

 

He knew from personal experience that nothing he could say would change anything to the guilt the man felt. But he wanted to be there.

 

He turned and left, ignoring the other uniforms, pushing Noren aside when the man tried to get his attention.

 


 

“I beat him up,” Kurt said softly, as Magnus pushed a cup of strong tea into his hand and Anne-Britt wrapped a hand around his shoulder. “Peters.”

 

He was in shock, looking at the ground as if he was not completely there. They had found him looking at the ocean and had brought him back towards Anne-Britt’s car, and then to the Station. He had followed them as if in a trance, not arguing, not talking, dazed and silent.

 

Magnus would have preferred to be alone with him, but he could hardly tell Anne-Britt to beat it without explaining a lot of things.

 

Now he had to go and identify the man Kurt had… killed. But he was reluctant to do so. He wanted to stay with his lover, take him home, wrap him in his arms and tell him everything was going to be okay, even if it was a blatant lie.

 

He exchanged a worried look with Anne-Britt and she shook her head silently. She wanted him to leave, so she could talk to Kurt, and he felt irrationally angry about it. After all, she did not know about them, it was normal she felt she was the closest to Kurt, the one who could comfort him.

 

He gritted his teeth, but turned and left, going as far as his computer and watching, frustrated, as Anne-Britt closed the door to Kurt’s office after him.

 


 

At least, the killer had been easy to identify. They did not even need to wait for the prints, he was all over the white supremacist dark web that Magnus had become familiarized with in the last few days. He printed his profile and joined his colleagues at the briefing table.

 

“Valfrid Strom,” he exposed in a hollow voice, “Nationalist. Neo-Nazi. Comes up on lists all through Europe. He’s not local. Came down from Stockholm.”

 

He stopped to look down at Kurt. The older man’s eyes where fixed on Strom’s picture. The man looked… normal. Even too hairy to be a proper skinhead. And yet…

 

They’re hiding everywhere, he thought, something stuck in his throat, and they make their ideological beds easily in our mentalities, in the dark corners of our minds. Sometimes, they’re not even hiding.

 

Before he realised it, he was leaning against the wall for support. How am I supposed to comfort Kurt, when I feel like screaming until I can’t anymore?

 

“And Bergman,” Kurt asked.

 

Anne-Britt was quicker to answer: “Picked him up earlier, he came clean about the Merc. They’ve got it in a lock-up back in Ingelstorp.”

 

“The guys are fetching it now,” Nyberg droned, putting away Strom’s file. Magnus could understand. He had felt like vomiting all through compiling it.

 

“He’s a recent convert,” Anne-Britt continued softly, “Didn’t show up on the databases. Way out of his depths with Strom.”

 

Magnus did not feel inclined to any mercy, but he wondered how many judges might. Poor guy, right? Strayed? A good lawyer could spin any stories, about a man feeling pushed aside in his own country, a fragile mind, easily influenced, and white men so often got their ways. At least, Bergman did not have children whose futures he could have used as a defence.

 

“We got Peters downstairs,” Lisa said softly.

 

Magnus saw Kurt’s bandaged hand tremble.

 

“If you want to speak to him? He can’t stop crying. But I think he was traumatized by seeing the Lovgrens’ murders. He thought we were withholding information, so he leaked to the press.”

 

Kurt Wallander beats Lisa Holgersson by KO, Magnus thought with a sigh. Of course, Kurt had been right. But nobody felt like celebrating, and Lisa looked so sad, so betrayed. She had wanted to believe in them all. In her men and women, their integrity, their loyalty.

 

“The kid… did not think it could come to this,” she argued softly.

 

Kurt looked up, cold, almost detached. It was unnerving.

 

“What did he think then,” He asked, the anger all the more audible in the quietness of his voice.

 

He looked at all of them, and Magnus had to lower his own gaze. He might not have been the leak, at least, not as such, but he had defended it. Had minimized the consequences.

 

And Peters got his confirmation about Maria’s last words from Magnus, but the blond did not feel up to confess that just yet. Perhaps not ever.

 

“Wha… what did he think,” Kurt asked again, louder, in the heavy silence.

 

The four of them were alone in the vast room, far from each other, yet suffocating.

 

“I have to confiscate your gun, Kurt.”

 

Magnus raised his head at Lisa’s voice, seeing her now sat down in front of his lover.

 

Surely, they would not hold this against Kurt? No. It would be like with “Louise”.

 

Like with “Louise”.

 

God.

 

Kurt was going to have to live through it all. The suspicion, the paperworks, the nightmare, the guilt. Why! Why had Magnus not insisted to be the one to stake out Bergman that night!

 

Fuck!

 

“There has to be an investigation. The prosecutor is on his way down. You will have to be suspended.”

 

That seemed to jolt Kurt out of his lethargy and his eyes sharpened. Somehow, Magnus knew this was not about his suspension.

 

“What about the Lovgrens murders?”

 

Yep. Here it was. Being suspected, suspended, did nothing to Kurt in itself. Being pushed aside an active investigation however...

 

“We’ll have to do what we can,” Lisa tried, in that appeasing tone Kurt was totally immune to.

 

“But it’s my case,” He protested, vehement. “Lisa, that’s my case!”

 

“We know it, Kurt,” she tried again, still soft, still conciliatory.

 

Magnus would have liked to think being suspended would help Kurt deal with what he had done, had had to do. But he knew this was about the worst thing that could happen. His lover would never feel at peace with not being able to put an end to what he felt was his responsibility, and would never accept such a decision.

 

“The whole thing is a complete mess,” Lisa said.

 

Kurt turned his face away and Magnus gripped his file tighter reflexively.

 

“Go home, Kurt,” she pleaded.

 

At Magnus’ stupefaction, this did not start an explosion in Kurt. He did not stand up, did not start to rage and rave, did not have a fit of temper. On the contrary, his voice became even lower, softer.

 

It was painful.

 

“I never thought I’d do that,” he murmured and Magnus wanted to wrap his arms around him and kiss him, press the man’s head to his chest, protect him, “I never thought I’d take another man’s life.”

 

The phone interrupted them, and for once it was Anne-Britt who went for it immediately.

 

“Hoglund,” she said and listened for a few second. “Right.”

 

She looked down at Kurt, face full on cocker-spaniel.

 

“Prosecutor. He’s on his way.”

 


 

Kurt left under the media’s attention.

 

Vultures.

 

Magnus wanted badly to go with him, or even talk to him for a few seconds, but from the moment the prosecutor came to his official suspension and subsequent departure, Kurt was never alone. Magnus was given a hefty load of work. The prosecutor wanted the Lovgrens case close, despite their lack of any tangible lead. She would not listen to that though. Result, result, result. An end to the media circus and other Neo-Nazis related problems. Easy, right?

 

Fuck.

 


 

Magnus managed to escape around 2pm, under the guise of getting a quick lunch, and made his way to Kurt’s house.

 

The man answered on his first knock and Magnus was barely inside when his body was crushed against the door and a pair of lips tasting of stale air and wine was pressed against his. He took his lover aggression for a moment, opening his mouth and sharing breath and tongues, before gently pushing Kurt away.

 

He looked wild, lost, terrified and exhausted.

 

“Kurt,” he whispered softly, and the man sagged against him, pressing his face into the younger man’s neck. Magnus wrapped his arms around him and hugged him carefully.

 

They stayed like this for a while. Magnus finally murmured:

 

“I’ll fix us something to eat. Go clean up.”

 

He heard a muffled “not hungry”, just as he knew he would, but shook his head. “Maybe, but I am. Please, Kurt.”

 

He was not, but it did not matter. They needed to take a couple of breaths and sit down. Maybe they would not talk, but he would be there for the man he loved and Kurt needed it.

 

A few moments later, as he despaired at the content of Kurt’s fridge, he head the noises of a shower and smiled to himself in relief. He grabbed some carrots that looked far too old, a can of soup, an open pack of ham and a box of cream cheese and made some sort of lunch out of it. He put the wine away and closed the cupboard firmly.

 

When Kurt reappeared, he was dressed in a new shirt but the same jeans. He looked far cleaner though. He went directly to wrap his arms around Magnus’ waist and press his forehead between the younger man’s shoulder blades. Magnus stirred the soup, not saying anything, enjoying the moment.

 

An instant of calm that probably would not last.

 

They ate in silence, at the kitchen table. Magnus was relieved to see Kurt partake. Not much, but it was more than the blond had hoped for.

 

After lunch, he cleaned up and turned to try and talk to Kurt.

 

Instead he found himself under the assault of his lover’s mouth and this time did not resist. Hands found their way under his shirt and he trembled, his own long fingers grasping his lover’s hair. Kurt bit his jaw and he moaned.

 

“Magnus,” the murmur was fervent, feverish, “Magnus, I need you.”

 

He nodded and whimpered as his lover’s lips explored his neck. They were clumsy in their haste and Kurt bit too hard on his skin, but Magnus did not care. He struggled to find the buttons of his lover’s shirt, half-tearing them off, pushing the material aside, reacquainting himself with the strong shoulders and torso, the soft belly. But Kurt grabbed his hands, forcing them away against the counter as he unbuckled the blond’s belt and roughly pushed his trousers down his hips. The white shirt was discarded.

 

“Don’t you think...” Magnus tried, voice shaky, “the bedroom...”

 

“Hmmm,” Kurt hummed, uninterested. He was very obviously aroused and apparently had no desire to let his lover go for even a second.

 

He bit the blond’s nipple and Magnus arched, hands gripping the counter firmly.

 

“You’re so beautiful,” Kurt mumbled, licking his torso, hands grabbing his hips, holding him in place.

 

God, he was going to come if Kurt didn’t slow down!

 

But slowing down did not seem on his lover’s agenda. On the contrary, the older man went down on his knees, pulling Magnus’ boxer-shorts down in the same movement and swallowed him whole. The blond cried out, then bit his lips as he closed his eyes and jerked his head back.

 

Oh but Kurt was good! He felt utterly devoured, his lover’s mouth relentless in its goal.

 

He came far too fast for his taste, but the recent events and insecurities would not have it any other way.

 

Kurt stood back up and spit his come in the sink while Magnus tried to catch his breath. Then he grabbed the blond’s head and kissed him again, trembling hands still exploring every bit of skin they could reach.

 

Magnus pushed him away just long enough to pull his trousers and boxer-shorts back on, then grabbed Kurt’s hand and took him to the bedroom.

 

The bed was in a poor state, even if barely slept in, and the young detective grabbed the sheet and cover and threw them away on the floor, before pushing a rather spell-bound Kurt Wallander on the mattress on his back and taking his clothes off. Then he took care of his own, under the smouldering gaze of his lover, before straddling him.

 

They went back to kissing, Magnus bent supply over Kurt. Finally, he reached for what he knew was in the bedside table. They had only fucked at Kurt’s once, but Magnus had made sure there was condoms and lube there afterwards. It had been frustrated enough to have to resort to mutual masturbation that time because Kurt lacked the needed supplies.

 

“Magnus, you don’t have to…” the older man tried, but he pressed a finger to the moving lips. He did not care if he did not come again so soon after the rather amazing blowjob he had enjoyed a few moments ago. He wanted Kurt inside of him. It had been too long.

 

He prepared himself, then Kurt, his eyes never leaving his lover’s more than a few seconds at the time, devouring the beloved face greedily.

 

Kurt was smiling, red with arousal, but the most tender expression lightening his features.

 

He finally had to close his eyelids as he lowered himself on his lover’s cock. It burnt and stretched him in the most wonderful way.

 

“God, Kurt, you feel so good,” he gritted, while his name fell from the older man’s lips continuously.

 

Strong hands gripped his hips as he stilled, trying to get used to the girth possessing him. Then he started to move, slow at first, savouring the feeling of being so close, connected to the man he loved in such an intimate way.

 

A hand came to caress his cheek and he grabbed it, kissing it, lapping at it, suckling strong callous fingers into his mouth. Kurt’s deep groans and the jerks of his hips were enough to tell him how much his lover appreciated, but he still opened his eyes to look down.

 

Kurt was looking up at him, enraptured, as if he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

 

I love you, Magnus thought fiercely, but kept silent.

 

When his thighs finally tired, they moved, Magnus lying down and Kurt sliding behind him. Some may find the position impersonal, but the blond had never thought as much. He liked feeling Kurt around him, against his back, his lover’s hand caressing his hip, and the tender lips exploring his neck.

 

As the older man started moving again inside of him, Magnus felt tears against his back and grabbed his lover’s hand, pressing it firmly.

 

“I’m here, Kurt,” he murmured, seeking his lover’s lips despite the angle, “it’s going to be okay, I promise.”

 

The older man came with a groan and pressed his face against Magnus’ neck, holding him close. Then he disposed of the condom as quickly as possible, before coming back to the blond’s arms. They kissed for a long time, murmuring sweet nothing, half incoherent, trying to keep that little space of theirs alive as long as possible.

 

But a glance at the alarm clock told Magnus he had to leave, and sooner rather than later. He showered and dressed as quickly as he could.

 

When he left, Kurt was on his armchair, watching the news.

 

He was in his car, on his way back to the Station, when he realised that they had never really talked.

 


 

He got a phone call from Linda just as he was settling back at his desk. Nobody had said anything about his 2 hours 15 minutes lunch-break. After all that had happened, they seemed to have all silently agreed to be lenient with one another.

 

“Dad is really bad,” she said and he nodded, even if she could not see him.

 

“I know. I went to see him.”

 

“You made him eat?”

 

“And shower.”

 

“God, Magnus, you’re a saint.” There was a long pause. “It’s like with “Louise”, isn’t it? He’s not going to lose his job over this, right?”

 

“No, there’s no reason why he should.”

 

“But he’s going to have nightmares, like you did and… it’s dad. He...” she trailed off. He knew what she meant to say, and there was nothing he could add that would make things better. “He said he’s okay but he’s not, Magnus, he’s not!”

 

She took a couple of deep breaths. Then she paused long enough that the blond felt compelled to try and find a way to end the conversation. But...

 

“Magnus, do you think dad disapproves of Jamal?”

 

The question was so out of his immediate sphere of concern that he had to pause and wonder for a quarter of a second who Jamal even was. Then he found himself unable to answer.

 

He honestly did not know.

 

“I… don’t see why he should,” he lied, because he did not want to admit he knew why, that it had been the same idea in his head, and that he felt ashamed of it.

 

She sighed.

 

“It’s complicated. Sorry, I shouldn’t put you in the middle. Please, take care of him.”

 

He swore that he would and hang up, just in time to hear Nyberg say he was going to get a pizza with Wallander.

 

What. The. Fuck.

 

He sat stunned for a couple of minutes, before ruthlessly pushing the thought aside and going back to the investigation.

 


 

Don’t feel jealous, don’t feel jealous, he’s talking with someone, that’s good, that’s healthy, so what if it’s not his lover but a colleague, right?

 

Magnus could not concentrate and slammed his pen down in frustration.

 

He got up and went to get a coffee.

 

After all, he’s known Nyberg longer that he’s known you. They’re closer in age. Maybe it’s easier. Maybe…

 

He spilled the coffee and swore.

 

Maybe he just doesn’t feel like talking to you. Maybe he thinks you’re not right for the job, for any jobs, maybe he thinks you’re a disgusting racist and he doesn’t want to share his thoughts with you, and…

 

He shook his head forcefully, refusing to surrender to the poison of his own mind. Especially after the way Kurt had looked at him as they made love.

 

“Magnus, you okay?”

 

Anne-Britt was looking at him in concern, offering him a tissue. He took it and whipped his hand with a hollow chuckle.

 

“Not really. You?”

 

She sighed and pushed her hair behind her ear.

 

“I wish I could go home to my children and husband,” she said eventually.

 

He nodded in understanding.

 

“We have no lead, Kurt’s suspended, the press and the prosecutor are relentless...” She trailed off and shrugged. “I just wish we could find something. Close the Lovgrens case. Leave that ugly business behind. It has hurt us too much already.”

 

He poured her a coffee in silence, wanting to wrap an arm around her shoulders but knowing she was not too keen on hugs. So he just smiled supportingly and they went back to their desks.

 


 

Sometimes I wonder what he sees in me. The only thing I know how to be is a cop.

 

I’m not a good dad, I was not a good husband, I am not even a good son. Just a good cop.

 

And a good cop who is getting old. I see it in the mirror, everyday a bit more so. Grey hair. Soft belly. Hunched shoulders. Wrinkles. Diabetes. Old. Old. Old.

 

Am I even good for him?

 

He says he does not care how old I am, or how grey, and I believe him. He is not one for deception.

 

Now, I also see a murderer looking back at me with dull brown-grey eyes, in that cursed mirror. I took a life, there is no way around it. I’m a killer.

 

Funny. I have never think of Magnus as such. He saved me, saved Linda. He did what he had to, and paid a heavy price. I hold him at night when the nightmares become too much. I have seen him afterwards, the guilt tearing at him. That’s how I know he is a good man.

 

Or at least, I thought he was… I suppose I still think he is? It's just… hard. Do I even know him? My thoughts are jumbled, ever since I killed Strom. I can’t seem to focus, to order my thoughts. Not even about Magnus.

 

I’m not a good man. I wanted to kill Strom. No matter what Nyberg say, I wanted to kill him. The idea that maybe I could have subdued him, that I did not need to shoot him, it haunts me. Magnus had no choice when he killed “Louise”. I’m not so sure it was the same for me.

 

I want to talk to Magnus, and at the same time I don’t. I’m scared.

 

When he is with me, I want to hold him, to kiss him, to make love to him. I crave his skin and his moans and soft whimpers, how utterly beautiful he is, how affectionate, how giving and loving. I want to lose myself in him, to forget, become a part of him, never let him go. Never be myself again. I have not felt like this in so long.

 

But the idea to talk about all this…

 

I do not want to disappoint him. I do not want to remind him of his own fears and trauma.

 

It is not just that though. It is the idea to talk, at all…

 

How can you love someone, and be so scared to talk to them?

 

I am a coward.

 

Nyberg was safer. I wanted to tell him about Magnus too. I did not dare. It is like, something is closing in. Something I cannot name. I feel like I am suffocating. Like there are walls around me, ready to crush me.

 

A complete coward.

 

Magnus is so much to me and I am terrified I am pushing him away. But it is too much.

 

I do not want to lose him. Yet I cannot talk to him…

 

And I feel that, perhaps, I should not keep him.

 


 

Then came Kurt's big revelation. He arrived like the wind and gathered them all around the screen in the meeting room, starting the recordings of Lovgren at the bank. Lisa protested that they had seen them all, and boy, had they, but Kurt was not deterred.

 

“Yeah, second camera,” Kurt said, both wild and focused as he always was when he thought he had the solution.

 

He pushed another tape in.

 

“Two of them, behind Lovgren.”

 

Magnus shifted from his position on the table, legs spread and arms crossed, to lean forwards. Two guys, with a mean attitude and even meaner faces.

 

Kurt was right, you could almost see front mean guy read Lovgren's adress on the receipt.

 

Bingo.

 

Nyberg barely had time to suggest they printed the faces of their killers that Magnus was on it, only too happy to finally be able to do something, for a change.

 

He heard Lisa say “Foreigners, Kurt,” in a voice that said “told you so”. Lisa Holgersson, getting back up and snatching one point in round 4.

 

Magnus could not help feeling relieved too, that this was right, that this was not some racist fantasy.

 

“Yes, foreigners,” Kurt admitted, reluctantly.

 

Then he could not hear them anymore, fiddling as he was with the computer and the printer.

 

They were close to solving the case, they had to be.

 

“It's the fair,” Anne-Britt exclamed, passing him by a few moments later.

 

Of course. How could they have been so blind? The Summer Fair. Foreigners, with industrial ropes, no prints in the system… Magnus shook his head. They were so very close.

 

Hopefully the men would not have fled with their ill-acquired treasure, wanting to be careful, not attract suspicion. They would still be there, doing their day jobs at the fair, barely a few minutes from the Station.

 

The fuckers who cruelly tortured a couple of old people for their cash. Cash the old lady did not even know they had.

 

“Magnus,” Lisa called, as he was getting ready to leave with his colleagues.

 

He glanced at Kurt, talking with Anne-Britt and the uniforms. Was she about to tell him Kurt was not to take part? Because he was not the best person to stop Wallander, lover or not, especially considering she was not supposed to even know about them.

 

He went into her office anyway and closed the door.

 

“Magnus, Kurt wants to participate. You know how he is.”

 

The blond nodded, still unsure what she expected him to do about it.

 

“He refused to take my gun.”

 

“Oh for the love of...” he groaned, pressing his fingers to his forehead.

 

“I want you and Anne-Britt to keep an eye on him.”

 

He nodded, this time firmly, swearing to himself that the talk about Kurt's lack of survival instinct and wilful avoidance of the bare minimal safety procedures would not wait any longer. As soon as that case was closed, Magnus would give him a piece of his mind on the subject. The man had a daughter, for God’s sake! And a lover. His life was not his own to just throw away by being intentionally careless!

 

Meanwhile, he would make sure the man survived his own stupidity.

 

They walked around the fair, night closing in on them, lights flashy and exhausting, noises of children and adults and musics and machinery constant and overpowering. He had trouble keeping Kurt in his line of sight, while still looking around for their suspects, amidst all that cluster.

 

He had the fleeting thought that, in other circumstances, he might have liked going to the fair with his lover. He was not really one for those kinds of thing, and he doubted Wallander was either, but that would be something they could laugh about. Something new and exciting to try together, just for the Hell of it.

 

Damnit, where was Kurt?

 

He saw Anne-Britt arresting a man with some uniforms’ help, but no Kurt.

 

He hurried to the nearby ride, looking around.

 

“Magnus, there,” Anne-Britt called, pointing behind the ticket booth.

 

He ran and passed the roller-coaster, looking around desperately. There was no-one.

 

The trailers were stacked there, but the people who lived in them were all working at the fair itself and it was dark. He tried to locate where Kurt and the suspect might have gone. He slipped around the vehicles, gun firmly in hands, focused, trying not to think about having to use it.

 

He would. But he did not want to. He would for Kurt. Would never let the man be taken from him.

 

He heard a cry, then a shot. He screamed his lover's name and rushed in the direction of the gunshot.

 

What he saw when he arrived almost made him throw up. The perp had his gun lowered, but it was obvious he had been raising it until a moment ago, and Kurt was right in front of him, hands raised, walking ever closer.

 

He could reconstruct the scene in his mind and he wanted to cry and scream and punch the man!

 

Kurt, not the perp.

 

Did he count for so little that Kurt would risk dying in such a way? Did Linda? What the fuck?

 

“Guns down,” Wallander ordered, but Magnus did not obey, not even after the soft “enough.” It was not directed solely at them anyway, but also at the perp. Enough death. Enough bloodshed over all this.

 

He understood what Kurt meant, he knew what the man felt, how he thought, but he could not understand how he dared… How he could…

 

He let the uniforms take the perp in and finally holstered his gun. He did not go to Kurt, not immediately. He did not trust himself not to reveal too much in front of everyone.

 

But when he tried to find his lover after calming down somewhat, Kurt was nowhere to be seen. No-one knew where he had gone.

 


 

He tried to call him. The call went straight to voicemail.

 

Seven times.

 

The eighth and final time, he left a “Please, Kurt, call me. I need to talk to you.” he almost immediately regretted.

 

The night passed in silence. He vomited once and then spent the rest of it huddled in his bed, feeling like crying without knowing exactly why.

 


 

When he saw Kurt next, it was morning. The older man appeared in the middle of the small celebration they had for closing the case. He was in the same clothes as the day before, looking… purposeful. Magnus opened his mouth to talk to him, but the older man passed him by without a glance, going straight for Lisa.

 

“Kurt,” she said, “internal affairs are here, they want to see you at 9.”

 

Magnus had avoided them, he still remembered his own lengthy exchange with IAB. Knowing they were here for Kurt made it ten times worst.

 

What his lover did next though…

 

He put his police badge on the table, and turned away.

 

He ignored Anne-Britt's gasp, ignored Lisa calling his name.

 

He ignored Magnus.

 

He left.

 


 

He left more than the forces for a long leave of absence. Left more than his house.

 

He left Magnus. Without a word.

 

When the young detective went to talk to his lover, he found his door close and his car gone.

 

He tried to call again. Voice mail. Time and again.

 


 

A few days later, a text came: “I'm sorry. I have to leave. I can't deal with all this. I’ll call you.”

 

Somehow, Magnus knew he would not. He himself tried a few times over the following weeks, but Wallander’s phone was obviously turned off.

 

Even Linda did not know where he was.

 


 

He could have tracked Kurt down, he was a detective after all. But what would be the point? He kept pushing it off, hoping, fearing. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months.

 

Magnus Martisson got used to being heartbroken.