5. Kurt and Ann-Britt

"Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing"

"I thought you might come."

She smiles at him from where she sits on the floor, loading a few more logs into the new wood-burning stove. He smiles back, sinking down into one of her armchairs. A weary smile, it tells her all she needs to know about what's going on in his head.

"Would you like a drink? I have some Scotch." She throws out the mention casually, as if she always has a bottle of his favourite malt whisky in the cupboard. He doesn't need to know that she went out yesterday and bought some 10-year-old Glenmorangie precisely for this eventuality.

"I shouldn't." A rueful smile briefly crosses his face. "But I'm not feeling very strong. A small glass would be good."

She disappears into the kitchen, returning with two glasses of whisky. She offers him one and his fingers momentarily brush against hers as he takes it. She barely knows where to look. They raise their glasses to each other and each take a sip. The Scotch burns its way down to her stomach, leaving her momentarily breathless. She's not normally a whisky drinker and it amazes her how he can knock it back so easily.

He's finished his glass already.

"More?" she offers.

"Why not?" He holds out the glass and she takes it to refill it for him. Their fingers brush again and... is he? No, he can't be doing it on purpose. She tells herself to stop reading so much into everything. The main thing is that he's here. He came looking for a friend, so be a friend. But all the same...

The silence between them is a comfortable one. He leans back in the armchair and shuts his eyes for so long that she wonders if he's asleep. She studies the face that she already knows so well and wonders what they'll both do if it comes to the worst, if the doctor finds that there really is something wrong with him.

He opens his eyes and looks up at her suddenly with a worn out smile, and she finds she has to quickly swallow the lump in her throat.

"I'm sorry, Ann-Britt. It's been a long day."

She smiles, shaking her head a little.

"It's quite all right. Why don't you stay here tonight?"

He needs the company and, she realises, so does she.

As usual, she's there, gazing at him with that questioning look of hers. If it's not to do with the case it's bound to be about office politics or interpersonal relationships. In particular his daughter's relationship with Stefan. Inwardly, Kurt Wallander sighs. Not even he can figure out what's going on there, and damned if Linda will tell him anything.

"Is something wrong?"

She shakes her head.

"No, nothing. I just wondered if you'd heard?"


She pauses and glances at her feet for a moment, before looking him in the eyes again.

"I'm transferring to Malmö. They've asked me to lead their serious crimes squad."

"Congratulations, Ann-Britt. You've earned it."

Her smile seems self-conscious and even though she looks suitably pleased, he senses something behind the facade, something hesitant and slightly regretful. He thinks he understands - it's a wrench leaving behind a close-knit team of colleagues, especially when you've been a member of it for so long.

"It's going to be different around here when you go. How long have we worked together now?"

"Oh, I don't know. More years than I can remember." She shakes her head again. "I'm going to miss you. I'll still be living in Ystad, of course, but it won't be quite the same. I hope we'll still see each other sometimes?"

"I hope so too."

She smiles, a little wistfully and seems to be about to say something else, when his phone suddenly rings and startles them both. Seeing that it's from Linda, he excuses himself. He can't help noticing that she gazes after him as he moves away to take the call. He wonders if there's something she wants to tell him, but can't find the words for.

After the phone call, as Kurt sits in his office staring into the middle distance at nothing in particular, he wonders if, after all, there isn't something else he should say to Ann-Britt.

A/N: There's definitely some subtext between these two. In the books it's hinted at most clearly at the end of Firewall, in the Swedish films Mörkret/The Darkness is a prime example. Whichever version you look at, there's just enough hinted-at romantic tension that I'm convinced that neither Kurt nor Ann-Britt would have been completely averse to the idea of getting together. Linda, of course, would have hated the idea XD