Stay For a While

Primary Characters: Wallander, Stefan, Linda
Rating: T
Spoilers: minor ones
Warning: m/m kiss, adult themes
Description: Wallander and Stefan go to Estonia in connection with a case. There they have to deal with certain unforeseen circumstances.

My therapist told me to write a diary, to collect my thoughts and I do, but I can’t write the whole truth there. She doesn’t know anything. No one alive does, except me – and one other person. My real diary is here, inside my mind. That’s the only safe place for it. Because now I’ve done what I’ve despised and renounced, when other cops have done it. Frank Borg. That vile Roffe Liljegren. Not in the same way though. I think you need to respect the rules. They exist for a reason. You can’t just choose to ignore them. Not for any petty little thing anyway. But I did it. I think I did the right thing. I don’t regret a thing. It’s been worth it, so if I’m having trouble sleeping at night – and I am – it’s nothing to do with what I did.

I knew right away that something was going on, something more than just what Wallander was hinting at. That Stefan had been burned out or something and that he couldn’t do his job anymore. I should have known even then, that the old man had some ulterior motive. It wasn’t just the job, it was Stefan himself. But I didn’t get that until much later. Sure, I’d known for a long time that the old man had secrets and that they might be something to do with Stefan, but I had no idea how bad it war.

Anyway, I had some premonitions. As soon as I heard about the blood behind the doorframe, I knew it was something to do with Stefan. I mean, I knew about that gunshot wound. Thank god I went out to his place right away. Something was eating at me. That there was something to do with Stefan that I had to do something about. Something serious. Yeah, I sensed he was in danger, somehow.

And the second I walked in, I saw it. At first I just saw that he was leaning on the back of the armchair. All that was visible of him was the hair. Those few steps around the armchair were the longest ever, even counting that time when mom had blacked out and I thought she was dead. I thought he was dead too, even though I couldn’t see any blood. He might have taken something – other than the booze. Then at last, I saw that he was breathing. I can’t even begin to describe how relieved I was. Not until then did I see the gun. He had put the barrel into his mouth. His eyes were closed and it was clear that he hadn’t heard me walk in, but then, when I noticed, I must have made some kind of noise. He looked up and spotted me.

All I could think was please, please don’t do it and I think I held out my hand to him, as if I could have taken the gun from him. Except I knew I couldn’t. I thought that me walking in like this might have rushed him. Then after a long pause, he pulled the barrel out of his mouth, though he didn’t put the the gun down.

That was when I began to beg. Begged and begged as if I didn’t have any pride. And I didn’t. Not when it came to his life. I think I would have done anything, just to make him stop.

“Please don’t do it. Let me -”

I knew he could hear me. He was listening to me, but it wouldn’t make any difference. He sobbed and it seemed he wasn’t going to be able to say anything, but then he snuffled and swallowed snot. Normally, that would have grossed me out, but now I couldn’t care less. Not even his voice was the same. He was so utterly disconsolate, just hearing his voice made my eyes fill with tears.

“You don’t know what it’s like. I tried to forget, but I can’t. I should have known it would never work. Forgive me, Linda, but I can’t do this anymore.”

Of course I knew there was something more than just that murder. Just. I’ll have to watch out so I don’t laugh out loud. The woman in the next bed, might hear me and wonder why I’m laughing. But she’s on such strong sedatives she’d never get it. Besides, people laugh here all the time, and it’s not even funny. Just – well, when it comes to saving Stefan I really don’t give a damn about his killing a fucking paedophile. I’d probably have forgiven him worse.

So like I said, I knew there was something behind it, but not exactly what it was. He seemed to realize that I didn’t know what he was talking about, so he showed me the photo. I looked at it for a long time before it hit me what I was looking at. Sure, I’d seen that sort of thing before. I mean, I’ve been working as a copper for a couple of years. It’s part of the job. But at first I didn’t connect it with him. When it sank in, I felt a stab of pain, almost as if I was having a heart attack, at my age. I went cold all over and thought no, no, no. Not that. And suddenly I knew. I blinked furiously to clear my sight. No matter what I said, it wouldn’t make a difference, not after what he’d been through.

Before I knew what I was doing, I’d pulled my gun out, but I never hesitated. If that was how it had to be, then so be it. I aimed it at my temple. Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to put the barrel into my mouth. I was thinking of gun oil and – I don’t know what. As if that would matter a minute later.

It was obvious that Stefan was only half there, but this time he really looked at me again, and his eyes widened.

“What are you doing?”

I was shaking so badly I could hardly speak, so I had to swallow and try again.

“If you die, I don’t want to live either. Are you listening to me? I love you. Whatever it is, we can fix it.”

He looked so crushed I just wanted to hold him, but it was obvious he’d made up his mind. I was just wondering was what he had left to say.

“No, we can’t. I killed him. That fucking paedophile who killed Johannes.”

“I know, but that’s not important. I’ll deal with it. Stefan – please. I never ask for anything. Ever since dad left us, I’ve known that’s not going to do any good, but I’m asking you now. Stay with me.”

A sob shook him.

“I can’t. Please just go. Get out of here and leave me alone. I love you too, but I let you down.”

“No, you didn’t. It’s alright. I understand.”

“No, you don’t. See this?”

He waved the photo at me again.

“I’m so sorry about that. Stefan – who did it? Your dad?”

“My dad? He didn’t give a damn about me. It was Roffe.”

“Roffe Liljegren?”

Stefan shivered and I felt cold all over. I couldn’t hold off the images that whirled around inside my mind. How it happened. What that fucking slimeball might have done to Stefan. I suppose the same images were flickering through Stefan’s mind too, because he wasn’t looking at me anymore.

“You don’t know what it’s like. It never ends. Linda, please let it end.”

It was as if something tore inside me. In the end, I lowered my gun and took a step back, and there my legs gave out under me. I began to cry again and covered my face with my hands. After that, nothing happened for a while. I was wondering what he was doing, and began to consider looking up again. That was when I heard a noise. He got up and staggered forward a few steps. That’s what it sounded like anyway. I thought maybe he was going to take me with him. That would be for the best. Us dying together. Then I heard a thud and it certainly wasn’t the bang from a gunshot. I looked up and saw that Stefan had crumpled up and was lying at my feet. He’d left the gun behind.

Our eyes met and it hurt to meet his gaze. I knew that he was going to stay for my sake. So I leaned over and pulled him to me. He smelled of sweat and blood and unwashed hair, but I didn’t care. We just sat like that, me holding him and both of us crying. Eventually I was going to get up. To my horror, he just slipped out of my hands, completely limp, and fell to the floor. For a few seconds, I thought he was dead. Not until then did I remember the blood loss. Fumbling with clammy hands down the side of his neck, at first I felt nothing. It was probably just the panic that did it, but it took me minutes to feel the pulse. I realized that it was the shock, though the gunshot wound was bad enough.

I managed to find my mobile and called an ambulance. When I knew they were coming, I called Wallander and our other colleagues. Just as well. By then they would have found evidence against Stefan anyway. As soon as I’d terminated that call, I began to think. The thoughts span around my mind, but I knew I had to calm down. I couldn’t make a mistake now.

First I took my gun and wiped it on my jumper, then I put it in Stefan’s hand and made sure I got his prints all over it. I took it over to where he had been sitting and picked up his gun with my other hand, then replaced it with mine. His I wiped clean too, but handled it a couple of times. That was about what I had time to do before the ambulance got there. When the paramedics walked in, I had Stefan’s head on my lap, fondling his hair. I wasn’t faking it. That was what I most wanted to do. Just sit there with him and know that he was still alive. The fever was burning him up, but I thought that once he got to hospital, he’d be ok. I refused to dwell on how he was feeling inside. I’d deal with that later. Besides, the experts could get to work on him too, much better than me.

They carried him away and I was going to come along, but then Wallander and the others showed up and I knew it was no good. I had to keep my promise to Stefan, no matter what I’d rather do.

While Wallander went through all that crap about what he thought Stefan was guilty of, I didn’t listen. I let his words wash over me and past me. It hit me that he was pissed off at Stefan, not for the first time. He’d been a fucking bastard to Stefan and I wasn’t going to let him forget that. Later. It was time to clear Stefan of what he’d done. Sure I could have waited for him while he did his time. He might even have been given a conditional sentence, in view of his mental condition, but I knew that his work meant everything to him. Almost everything if he’d meant what he said about returning my feelings.

The flow of words seemed to have abated, so I thought it might be my turn to get a few words in edgewise.

“Are you finished?”

“Erm. Yes. Tell me all you know. You must see that you can’t keep protecting him, not after what he’s done.”

“What he’s done? You just don’t have a clue, do you? I have to talk to you. In private.”

“I’ll take you back to headquarters.”

“No. I’m going to the hospital. I have to know how Stefan is doing.”

It looked as if the old man was swearing under his breath, but after a while he gave in. He seemed to think he was humouring a hysterical female next-of-kin, not his colleague, and naturally not his daughter.

“Then I’ll take you there.”

He held out his hand to help me up, but I refused to take it. Maybe that was foolish of me, but I was just so pissed at him for leaving Stefan hanging like that. I watched one of the techs putting Stefan’s gun into an evidence bag, pretending I hadn’t noticed. I had to stay cool now, though I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

As soon as he’d closed the door and turned on the engine, I began.

“I did it. Not Stefan.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I shot that paedo.”

“You don’t mean that.”

I couldn’t help laughing at that. He had no fucking clue about how much I meant it. When he’d turned into the hospital’s parking lot, I pulled out the photo. As soon as he’d parked and turned the engine off, I showed it to him.

“What’s that?”

“It’s him. Stefan. He was eleven. Roffe Liljegren took it. Now do you see?”

“Yes, I see why he did it. I also see that you think you’re doing him a favour by lying for his sake, but that’s -”

“Do you want to hear how it went down?”

He nodded, but it was clear that he was still just doing to keep me from throwing a fit.

“When he left I followed. I was worried about him. He was there, of course. On the crime scene, but he never pulled his gun. He was screaming incoherently at that creep, accusing him of killing Johannes. That bastard was scared so he didn’t reply. Before I even got inside, I heard a gun go off, and I saw that Stefan had been hit. That guy was aiming at him again, so I wasn’t even thinking, I just pulled my gun and fired. You know the rest. Now I want to see Stefan.”

Wallander shrugged. That condescending bastard. To think that I became a cop so he’d like me. So he’d see me. But that bastard has never cared about anyone but himself.

Without a second glance at him, I went inside. I had to wait for quite a while, before they told me Stefan’s condition had been stabilised, but after that they let me in to sit with him for a while. Í leaned down and kissed his forehead. Now that I had him back, I wouldn’t give up until he was on his feet again. Whatever it took, I’d do it. But now it was time to convince the boss. It didn’t really matter what Wallander thought as long as Lisa Holgersson bought my version. Besides, that didn’t matter either. The only thing that really counts is what the prosecutor and the judge believe.

Wallander had waited for me in the parking lot and took me back to the station. All the way back, he was yelling at me, trying to make me stop that nonsense. That’s what he said. He called me childish, immature and a lot of other things and hinted that I was acting like a teenager in love. There was some truth to that, but no teenage girl was in my shoes. No one would be able to make me change my story. I’m just as much of a professional as he is. As anyone.

He must have called Lisa Holgersson because when we got to the station, she was waiting in the doorway to her office, looking just as condescending as the old man.

“Linda. What do you think to gain with this charade?”

“Charade? I’m just telling you what happened.”

“I see. Well, have a seat. You look as if you could use the rest.”

“I’m alright. I want to get this over with, so I can get back to Stefan.”

Lisa Holgersson shrugged, then began to cross examine me as I’ve seen Wallander do with suspects, though of course he wants to get them to confess to their crimes, while she wanted me to confess that I didn’t do it. She was wasting her time. I had everything covered. She took my gun and called a tech who came to pick it up. I knew they’d make something of me having Stefan’s gun, but I had an explanation for that. He used to spend the night at my place all the time. That’s when we happened to switch. She wouldn’t believe me, but she’d never be able to prove I was lying.

In the end, I think I surprised them. She and Wallander took turns questioning me, until I almost fell asleep, but they didn’t stand a chance. They might have threatened me with torture and I still wouldn’t have caved in. I wasn’t doing this for myself. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore, and demanded to see a lawyer. They were trying to set it up so that the lazy fool Sven Hermansson would represent me, but I wanted one of the best. Ludvig Horster or Silbersky. They just gawked at me when I mentioned the latter and I wasn’t serious. In the end they did call Horster and let me out of there.

Horster was handing a cup of coffee to me, from the machine, when I began to shake all over. Must have been the reaction setting in. Suddenly I noticed that I had spilled coffee all over me, and I probably got burned too, though I didn’t feel it then. I remember feeling so light and Horster’s mouth was moving, but I couldn’t hear anything. Everything turned white and that’s the last thing I remember.


Later I was told about what that creep Liljegren, had done. Mainly what he’d done to Stefan. Now, I mean, not when Stefan was a child. That he was the one who more or less set Stefan up to kill himself. It must have been one hell of a shock to him, finding out that Stefan was still alive and that there were photos to prove what he’d done to Stefan. I also heard about how that bastard had killed his neighbour and tried to kill her son. I don’t know if he’d abused the boy too, but in any case Wallander got to him before he killed the boy. It was lucky that it was the old man who went out there. If it had been me, I don’t know if I could have refrained from killing that slimeball. At the very least, I would have kicked him and beaten him, like that guy Frank Borg.

Frank Borg. When Stefan got a little better, he went into therapy here at the hospital. I was actually quite surprised that he felt up to talking, not about what had happened when he was a kid, but other more recent incidents. He talked to me too, apologized, not just once, but many times, because he’d cheated on me when we were together. Before this happened, that is. I told him it was alright. Compared to everything else, that’s nothing, right? I know why he did it. I’ve read about guys who were abused as children and grew up to be sex addicts. Always hunting for new prey. Like I’d hold that against him.

After a while, I realized that there was more. Not just that hotel woman, and those other women, but something else too. At first I was afraid that he’d abused some kid too, but it wasn’t anything like that. I don’t know how I could have believed that about Stefan. He – hell, it’s no secret that I love him. Everyone knows that now.

He was eager to tell it all, so that there wouldn’t be any more lies between us. I told him that if he thought telling me would make him feel better, then sure, but it wouldn’t make any difference to me, my opinion of him wouldn’t change. Apparently it was important to him, to tell me everything, so in the end he told me he’d had sex with Frank Borg. At first I didn’t believe him. I mean, come on. I’ve slept with him. It’s nothing to do with this, but I definitely didn’t have anything to complain about, if you know what I mean. Besides, after what he’d been through, why would he want to have sex with a man? But clearly he had, and then he told me something I didn’t get, about how dad had walked in and that Wallander had been pissed off about it.

It took me a while to get the rest of it. That my bloody dad had slept with my guy. How fucking sick can you get? I’ll admit that I thought that him being bisexual was hilarious. That’s pretty cool, right? Of course I should have guessed why he ended up with that blackmailer. I should have realized what his contacting Stefan implied. Those two are quite a lot alike, to look at, I mean – Stefan and that guy Janne. That was why Wallander had ended up in bed with him. It was Stefan he wanted all along. Now I get what really happened in Estonia. The old man must have been all over Stefan even back then.

For a while, I was wondering if he’d been so dead set against me and Stefan being together, because he was jealous, that it went that far back. I guess I’ll never know now. Jealousy. That’s why he’d thrown Stefan to the wolves, when he needed his colleagues the most. I don’t know if Stefan attacked that wife beater, and to be quite honest, I don’t give a damn. Yeah, yeah. I love him. I’m not apologizing for that. But I don’t think he did it. Not Stefan. And that’s when my bastard of an old man suspended him. It was just jealousy. Bloody old creep.

As soon as I heard about that, I knew I was going to make him pay for it. First he takes advantage of Stefan – a guy with that background. That alone is one of the worst things you can do. Then he just throws him away, like so much garbage, just because another man abused him. That guy Frank Borg. Some day I’ll get him too, but that will have to wait. He wasn’t Stefan’s boss. He’s not my dad. What he did, isn’t quite as bad as what Wallander did. I get so furious I could die, when I think about how dad was going on about how Stefan let us down, that he couldn’t handle the work anymore.

On my first leave, I decided to confront the old man. I told him I wanted to talk. Perhaps he was hoping I was going to confess, tell him that I’d been lying to save Stefan. If only he knew.

Wallander came to pick me up in the car. We went down to the beach where we used to talk. At first I wasn’t too keen on that, because it’s only there that I’ve been able to connect with my dad. It’s really only from there that I have any good memories of him. Then I thought that it doesn’t matter anymore, not after what he’d done. I was wondering if he had any conscience at all, if he regretted being one of Stefan’s abusers. Who knows how his mind works?

What I did then wasn’t planned. We were in the car, looking at the sea. It was pretty calm, but cold, so there didn’t seem to be anyone on the beach, as far as I could see. Then it hit me that he probably had his gun. I mean, work is so much more important than family, right? It turned out I was right. He had put his coat in the backseat. I asked him if there was a scarf or something, because it was so cold. It might have been anything, as long as he looked away for a moment. He began to rummage around in the glove compartment, and I just took it. His gun. I slipped it into the hem of my pants, just like that and I opened the door, as if I’d tired of waiting. In any case he didn’t find any scarf.

We went down to the beach and it was just as empty as it had looked. Just me and him down there. How fitting. I looked straight into his eyes. I wasn’t going to miss his reaction.

“How could you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“How could you sleep with Stefan?”

He tensed up. It was obvious he was hoping he’d misheard me, but knew he hadn’t.

“Well? Admit that you left Stefan hanging, because you were jealous. You didn’t give a shit about him after you caught him with Frank Borg. Admit it.”

“Linda -”

“Answer me. How does it feel to have taken advantage of a guy with Stefan’s background? Someone who has been through what he has. Well?”

“I’m truly sorry, but I didn’t know that.”

“You knew he was mine.”

He didn’t have an answer for that and at that moment I hated him so much I didn’t know myself. I pulled out his gun and aimed it at him. Not even then did he take me seriously. That hysterical woman nonsense was really getting old. At that point I lost all control and began to scream out all the hatred I’d been carrying around inside me and all the disappointments he’d caused me. I burst into tears and I knew it wouldn’t be hard for him to take the gun away from me, but I didn’t care. This time I’d tell him about how it had been for me and mom.

“You left us. Mom began to drink. Did you know that?”

“Yes, but -”

“It was your fault. You let her down. You left us.”

“I had no way of knowing that -”

“Sometimes she hit me. Then when I got older, I realized that it wasn’t her fault. You were the one who took off, you were the one who didn’t give a damn about her. I had to look after her. Can you imagine how that feels? Being your mother’s mother, when you’re just a kid yourself? Well?”

“Linda, put the gun down. Give me a chance to make it up to you.”

“How? You’ve taken advantage of my guy. Stefan had his own gun in his mouth and was going to kill himself. And you wanted to punish him. You wanted to make him suffer because he’d been with someone else.”

I could see that there wasn’t anything he could say to that and he began to look for something else to say.

“I got Liljegren. He’ll get his punishment and -”

“Sure. But what good will that do? Stefan will never be able to forget. And you didn’t make anything better when you -”

“Linda. I didn’t know about your mother and I didn’t know about Stefan’s past.”

“Would it have made any difference?”

“Yes, sure it would. I would never have slept with him if I’d known that he – You have to believe me, Linda. Let me make it up to you.”

“You can’t. It’s too late.”

Suddenly it didn’t matter anymore. I felt completely empty inside, now that I’d finally got to say all the things I’d been carrying around for so long. I felt as if I was a kid who had made a fool of herself at a party. The gun dropped from my fingers and I sank down on my knees and began to cry. Dad reached for the gun and put it away. Then he bent over me and held me. I tried to push him away, but in the end, I let him.

After a while, he took me back to the hospital. Once again, he swore to me that he’d make it all up to me again. As if he could. He’s not exactly bloody Harry Potter. Later he told me he’d confessed everything to Lisa Holgersson. At least about sleeping with Stefan. I can guess how she must have reacted. I’ve seen for myself how her eyes narrow when she’s mad at you.

Dad told me she’d snapped at him that she’s not a confessor. And she’s right about that. After all, it’s not against the law to sleep with another adult, even if it isn’t very smart to sleep with someone at work. I’m guessing it bugs her. She must have been partial to Wallander for years.

He handed her his resignation and she refused to accept it. Just as I thought. She’s attracted to the old man. Good luck with that, that’s all I’m saying. Anyway, Wallander hinted that no one believes me, even though they can’t get me to retract my testimony. They set internal affairs on me of course, but not even they could do anything about it. I stood by my version. The case is closed now and officially all suspicions against Stefan are dropped. Theoretically, we could both go on working as cops, maybe not here, but somewhere else, but I don’t dare to test that theory. We wouldn’t get another job, either of us.

But to hell with work. I have Stefan. He’s got me. We don’t need anyone else. Of course he still doesn’t think he’s good enough for me. From time to time he brings up that stuff about Frank Borg or dad and uses it to pick on himself. And I disagree with him.

“None of that matters. I love you.”

Then he looks at me with those eyes that makes my breath catch in my throat. Yeah, I know it sounds like a cheap love story, but it also happens to be true. When I look into his eyes – then it’s all been worth it.

“I love you too, but you know who I am.”

“Yes, I do, but you’re not what happened to you. You’re a good cop and – the guy I love. Nothing else matters to me. All I want is for you to get back to normal again.”

“Linda -”

I know what he’s going to say, but I’m not going to listen to it. How can you get well again, after what he’s been through? But I won’t stand for that.

“You’ll get well again.”

Then he smiles at me in that sad way of his, that just breaks me up, and gives in. I know he’s just agreeing with me so he won’t hurt me, but I don’t care. As long as I have him, I can help him. And he promises me that he’ll try again. Try to take it a little while longer. One day at a time.

“And so will you. Ok, you decide.”

I pull him close and each time he doesn’t tense up and pulls away, I’m so bloody fucking happy, even though I’m sad at the same time. So I hold him and comfort him and lie to him, whatever it takes. I tell him everything will be fine. I’ll never let him go. Never give up. One step at a time, one day at a time. That’s enough for me.


© Tonica

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