(spoilers for Wallander Series 1 finale.)


Magnus silently walked up to the table at which Kurt alone sat, the only light in the room coming from the flickering candle set on top of the table. Magnus looked at it for a long moment, thinking of the comrade they had lost and all the surprising secrets he had possessed. Kurt gazed at the candle with a similar, but more world-weary, intensity. Perhaps he was thinking of the same thing.

"You okay?" Magnus asked.

Kurt's eyes slowly moved away from the candle and went to Magnus' face. He stared at Magnus for a long while, until Magnus thought he wasn't going to answer, but Kurt instead drew a breath and quietly began to speak.

"I'm fine. Linda's safe," he said, his voice low and restrained. "She'll be alright."

Magnus didn't move a muscle as Kurt continued to stare at him. The senior detective could have something more to say, but one never knew until the words were uttered.

"She would be dead right now, if you…" Kurt's voice quickly broke. The tears that Magnus had seen streaming down his face earlier that day came back again now. "If you hadn't followed me," Kurt forced out. He drew a hand across his face, wiping the tears off. "Thank you, Magnus."

Magnus nodded. This was the first time ever, in their years of working together, that Kurt had ever thanked him for something. And Magnus knew that he wasn't receiving the gratitude of a colleague and superior, but of a father.

That meant infinitely more. More than Magnus felt he deserved.

Kurt glanced down at the candle, then back up at Magnus. "Are you okay?" he sent Magnus' own inquiry back.

Magnus kept his eyes fixed on the candle, the flame flickering between waxen walls as it journeyed downward. "I've never killed anyone before," he said.

Kurt's gaze remained steady. "I know."

"I know that he was a monster, a psychopath," Magnus blurted. "But I never want to do anything like that again."

"You'll have to," Kurt replied. "Someday. Again and again, you'll have to."

Magnus took in a shaky breath, still looking at the candle. "I know," he answered, surrendering to the fact. Silence fell again. Neither felt particularly inclined to break it.

"I found your vomit in the garden," Kurt said.

Magnus grimaced shamefully, but still he did not take his eyes off the candle. It was as if he were afraid to look at Kurt. "I'm sorry about that," he said. "After I shot him, I just couldn't…"

"It's alright," Kurt said softly. "I couldn't hold it down the first dozen or so times either."

Magnus' eyes finally lifted from the candle to look with surprise into Kurt's. "You couldn't?"

"No."

They became quiet again, eyes resting on the candle because there was nowhere else they wanted to look.

"I don't think I've quite realized that he's dead yet," Magnus confessed. Kurt gave a tiny nod. "But he's at peace now, isn't he?" He looked to Kurt, as though seeking the older man's confirmation. He only found a pair of very sad eyes. "We unraveled the secrets, stopped the killer. Karl can rest."

Kurt slowly nodded. "Yes," he said quietly. "When he's laid down tomorrow, he can rest."

Magnus nodded also and put his hands in his pockets. "Good night, Kurt," he said.

"Good night, Magnus," Kurt replied.

Magnus turned and walked away, going home. For a moment Kurt found himself wondering what sort of home Magnus had. Did he have the "crap dad" that Kurt's daughter Linda did? Did he have the ideal and near-impossible family that everyone wanted? Did he have no one at all?

Kurt's head turned away from where he had angled it to watch Magnus leave, and he looked again at the candle.

Magnus was right. Karl could rest now. It was finished.

Kurt thought of letting the candle burn all the way down, reach the very end of its wick. But Karl didn't get to do that, did he? Neither would his candle. Kurt stood up, bent carefully over the table, and gently blew the candle out.

Somehow the almost-total darkness brought him a sense of peace. Kurt looked at the shadowed outline of the extinguished candle, the scent of smoke still sifting through his nostrils, then turned and walked away.

Linda was waiting for him when he got home, and they fell asleep on the floor, holding onto each other because they were too afraid to let go.