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The Desk Clerks Dressed In Black

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The knock on the door was no surprise to Lisbeth. He’d been coming around about once a week for at least three months now. Maybe four.

She slipped out of bed, picking up a tank top and pair of shorts from the floor and slipping them on. Even if the weather was icy for October, Lisbeth still liked to dress lightly; it was her apartment, and she could heat it to a level she saw fit.

She padded to the front door and opened it. Predictably, he’d brought bagels. The corner of her mouth twitched up. Kalle Fucking Blomkvist.

“I need your help,” he said. Also predictable. She opened the door wider to allow for his entrance and walked into the kitchen. He came in and shut the door behind him, following her.

“You didn’t bring coffee.” Lisbeth folded herself pretzel-style into a kitchen chair. Her laptop was on the table still running from last night.

“You have a coffee machine worth at least 300 Euros and Hawaiian beans in the freezer. I can make coffee.” He put the brown bag of bagels onto the table and Lisbeth began to rifle through the bag for one with jelly.

There was silence while Blomkvist got the coffee out of the freezer and ground the beans and Lisbeth munched on a bagel. She checked her email and answered Plague with an encrypted file. Blomkvist sat down after he started the coffee brewing; the sharp, bitter scent started to fill the kitchen.

“It’s hot in here,” he remarked, pulling a bagel from the bag. Lisbeth carefully restrained herself from telling him he could always strip if he was hot. She bit the tip of her tongue between her teeth and typed out a proof for the equation she was working on; she was in the middle of a problem/solution exchange with a math student at Oxford. As if reading her mind, at least a little bit, Blomkvist pulled his sweater over his head and flung it on the extra kitchen chair.

“Benjamin Lucovich,” he said around a bite of bagel.

Lisbeth looked at him over the laptop screen. “The stock trader?” She thought -- he’d been in the newspaper the other day, a profile as part of an article “30 Under 30 to Watch.”

Blomkvist nodded. “I don’t think his increasing fortune is due to his ability to pick stocks.”

Again: predictable. Lisbeth almost yawned. She opened up another browser window. “Drugs?”

Blomkvist got up to get the coffee. He shook his head. “Blood diamonds.”

Lisbeth shrugged. She didn't really care about the details, in and of themselves, only as part of the puzzle, part of the chase. Drugs or diamonds, it was still the same: people would do anything, to anyone -- the substance was only the excuse. It was stupid, wasteful and inelegant. Blomkvist deposited a mug of coffee, just the way she liked it, at her left elbow. For some reason the gesture struck her as unbearably intimate, and she had to look away.

“I thought we could start with the financials,” he said, sitting back down in his chair.

She nodded -- she always, always followed the money. She had already hacked into Lucovich’s computer; his bank account was unfolding itself on her screen even as Blomkvist spoke.

“I had a source from his office come to me a couple of days ago,” Blomkvist continued, warming up. “Frankly, I think he’s overly involved, too -- had some faded bruises around his collar -- but I’m not that concerned.”

Lisbeth wasn’t, either. She finally took a sip of her coffee. Blomkvist sighed, ran a hand over his eyes. Lisbeth risked a look at Blomkvist; he looked more tired than usual, lines in his skin pulling around his eyes and mouth. She bit her lip, waded in against her common sense. Besides, she was interested in seeing his reaction.

“It’s Burger,” she said, typing an account number into a search.

Blomkvist’s head came up so sharply Lisbeth could swear she almost heard it snap. “Excuse me?”

“Burger. You haven’t been sleeping; you’re worried about her.”

To Lisbeth’s surprise, Blomkvist smiled. It was wry, but it was a smile.

“I wouldn’t say worried, exactly. Reading my email again, Lisbeth?”

She did read his email every once in a while. Not this time, though. “Your sister.”

“You keep in touch with my sister?”

Lisbeth had to keep herself from rolling her eyes; she merely looked at him evenly. He sighed. “She’s pregnant,” he said, as if that wasn’t exactly what they had already been discussing.

“It’s not yours.” She managed not to make it a question.

“No.”

She almost asked how he could be so sure, but she restrained herself. Instead, she opened a document and started typing: names of associates, account in the Caymans.

“And, yes, I’m sure.”

Lisbeth looked up again at the tone. “You think it’s over. Your sexual relationship.”

“I know it’s over.”

Lisbeth shrugged. “Some men like that.”

Blomkvist merely stared.

Lisbeth shrugged again. “Some men like that,” she repeated. “They find pregnancy . . . erotic. The swollen breasts --”

Blomkvist held up a hand. “Yes, yes. I’m well aware.” He stopped. Lisbeth raised her eyebrows.

“It’s not over because of the pregnancy. I mean, it is. But not because of the physical dimension . . .”

Lisbeth’s sigh mirrored Blomkvist’s. “You think it will entwine her even further with her husband.” Lisbeth restrained herself from pointing out that Berger had always been married.

“Children change everything,” he said.

On that, Lisbeth agreed. Personally, she thought Berger had been astoundingly stupid about the whole thing. A woman near 45 getting pregnant in the first place . . . it had either been an accident, which Berger should have been able to easily avoid, or she had intended to get pregnant, which . . . that was even more unfathomable to Lisbeth, at least as far as Berger was concerned.

“It won’t last,” Lisbeth said, waving her hand in dismissal.

“What?”

“Child or not, you won’t be able to leave each other alone.”

“Well, I expect our friendship will remain in some capacity, as well as our business partnership,” Blomkvist said.

Lisbeth was well acquainted with how far friendship got a person, for both good and ill. She pulled up a map of Africa and waved her hand again.

Blomkvist huffed. He sounded angry; Lisbeth frowned.

“You haven’t been able to keep away from each other, sexually or otherwise, in twenty-five years.” She shrugged. “Give her until a few months after the birth, and it’ll be the same, particularly since you’re no longer seeing Figuerola.”

“I’m not going to even ask how you know about that,” Blomkvist said, getting up for another cup of coffee.

That, she knew from his email, but she kept silent.

“It’s not -- she broke my trust, Lisbeth. It’s not about the sex.”

At this, Lisbeth did roll her eyes. She opened the email she’d just gotten from her contact in the Caymans.

“She didn’t tell me she was planning on having a child -- not as her friend, not as her lover.”

Lisbeth nearly laughed. “Women don’t always plan --”

“This is Erika. She plans everything,” Blomkvist said. Lisbeth decided not to argue.

“It’s about the intimacy,” Blomkvist finished.

“You’re not upset it’s not yours?” Lisbeth sent a quick email back.

Blomkvist sat back down heavily. He took a sip of his coffee.

“No,” he said simply. It was convincing, to a point.

“So you’re upset that she didn’t tell you first?”

“In a way.” He paused. “We -- we’ve been together, in many ways, for a long time. For her not to tell me something like that . . .” he shook his head.

“It’s her business,” Lisbeth pointed out.

Blomkvist raised an eyebrow at that. “Indeed.” The way he said it, Lisbeth knew the subject was closed. For now.

“I’m going to use your bathroom,” Blomkvist said, getting up again. He disappeared down the hall, and Lisbeth continued tracing the Cayman accounts.

Lisbeth felt more than heard Blomkvist come back. When she looked up at him, he was still standing, looking at her a bit strangely. Lisbeth attempted not to let this alarm her, and she mostly succeeded.

“Why do you have a Heartbreak Hotel sign in your bathroom?” he asked.

Fuck. She had forgotten she’d put it up, mostly as a reminder to herself. “Shit decor seemed appropriate to the venue,” she said.

Blomkvist’s mouth didn’t even twitch. “Doesn’t really seem your style,” he said mildly.

Lisbeth shrugged. “It was a gift.” That, at least, was true. She tabbed back to her document and started adding more information.

“Someone gave it to you?”

“No,” Lisbeth said, and kept typing.

“Were you going to give it to someone?”

“Do you want it?” Lisbeth sounded casual.

“Was it meant for me?” Blomkvist asked.

“It’s not blood diamonds. Not technically. But the diamonds are from The Republic of Congo, which doesn’t have a diamond mining industry, so the chances that the diamonds are from somewhere else and financing something nasty are high. Lucovich has been receiving deposits to his bank account from an allegedly untraceable account in the Cayman Islands. That account belongs to a John Wyatt, who technically works for an investment firm in England, though I think he has connections to the Bloomfield diamond cartel operating out of Paris -- I’m still following the money on that but I think that’s the connection --”

“Lisbeth.” Blomkvist’s voice interrupted her babbling and she hated that she was babbling.

“It was.” Lisbeth stuck to the truth. “The Christmas after we solved the Vanger murders.”

Blomkvist’s brow knitted, the lines around his eyes deepening..

“Why didn’t you give it to me?”

“I didn’t see you.” That one was a lie, but Lisbeth made sure it didn’t show on her face.

“No, you didn’t see me for quite a while, did you?”

Was his tone accusatory? Anger and shame mingled in her chest. “I can make my own choices about whom to associate with,” she snapped.

“Indeed,” Blomkvist said. “It just seems odd to get someone you didn’t intend to see again a gift, and then to hang that gift on the bathroom wall of your new apartment.”

Lisbeth’s computer beeped. She had a message from France. She ignored it, but turned her face to the screen. Was she really going to have to relive all of that, much less have to tell him about it? She had had enough with humiliation. She lifted her chin and looked Blomkvist in the eye.

“I purchased the gift for you. I was on my way to deliver it, and I saw you with Berger. You were clearly involved.”

“That doesn’t explain why you didn’t give me the gift.”

Lisbeth gritted her teeth; she didn’t think Blomkvist could see the resulting tension in her jaw. “Doesn’t it?”

It took a few moments, but Blomkvist wasn’t a stupid man. He never had been. “Oh.”

Lisbeth shrugged, opened the file from France.

“Lisbeth.” Blomkvist’s voice was unbearably kind. Tender, even. Lisbeth fought to keep from squeezing her eyes shut at the very tone. Pity was the last thing she wanted, next to derision.

“Spare me your platitudes, Blomkvist,” she said, her voice scalding even to her ears.

“Lisbeth, look at me,” Blomkvist said.

It was an order, and everything in Lisbeth wanted to disobey. Instead, she looked up, though it wasn’t into his eyes.

“Why do you think I come here?”

It wasn’t the question she expected. Lisbeth blinked.

“I need your help, it’s true,” he said, quickly. “You’re the best . . . the best at tracking, hacking, finding clues and patterns . . . brilliant doesn’t even come close to describing it.”

Lisbeth searched for the objection, for the mocking harmony, in his words.

“But --” Blomkvist said.

“But --” Lisbeth repeated, the scorn in her voice seemingly directed at him but really all for herself.

“But I could eventually get to what I needed on my own.”

“So you come here to, what? Check in on me? Laugh at me?”

“Lisbeth, look at me.” This time Lisbeth didn’t obey. Blomkvist sighed. “Lisbeth, if any other man were visiting any other woman on a regular basis, why would you think he was doing that, was bringing her bagels and making her coffee?”

Lisbeth began to burn in shame. She had been so foolish. “You want me.”

“Yes.”

Lisbeth looked him in the eye. The look there was not what she expected. It made her flush, but it wasn’t lust she had seen. “I’m selfish,” she said.

“Debatable.”

Lisbeth scowled, and Blomkvist had the audacity to smile at her. “I won’t share you,” she said.

“I wouldn’t ask you to.”

Lisbeth’s look could have cut steel, but Blomkvist didn’t even flinch.

“Not even with Berger.”

“Erika has made her own choices, and I have made mine.”

“So I’m just the next-best thing.”

No.” Blomkvist’s voice was firm. “You are, perhaps somewhat inexplicably, the only woman I can see. You fill everything -- my vision, my life, my mind. I’ve begun to think that’s the reason Erika got pregnant -- she knew it before I did. I just didn’t think that you knew, too; that you would ever.” Blomkvist stopped. “I’m making a fool of myself.”

“Yes,” Lisbeth said, but she was smiling her crooked smile. She stood up. She came forward and stopped just in front of Blomkvist, peeling off her tank top. Blomkvist’s eyes tore themselves from her face and moved to her breasts.

“Lisbeth.”

“Follow me,” Lisbeth said, starting down the hall to her bedroom. She shed her shorts on the way so that by the time she crossed the threshold she was nude.

“Lisbeth.” Blomkvist appeared in the doorway. She could tell by the way he was working his jaw that his mouth was dry.

“Mikael,” Lisbeth said, sitting on the bed.

At that, Blomkvist sprang into motion, crawling up the bed and capturing Lisbeth’s mouth in a take-no-prisoner’s kiss. Lisbeth sighed into his mouth, using her tongue to vie for dominance. Blomkvist pulled away only when Lisbeth was short of breath.

“Only if you’re sure,” Blomkvist said, his breath wet on her cheek. Lisbeth shivered. She mouthed his jaw and started in on the buttons of his shirt in answer.

Blomkvist kissed her again, a blend of tongue, lips and teeth that made her so dizzy she got no further than the third button in his shirt. She fisted her hands and tore, vaguely hearing buttons hit the hardwood floor. Blomkvist shrugged his shoulders out of the shirt, tearing his wrists out of the cuffs. The motion angled his hips against Lisbeth, and she could feel how hard he was even through the wool of his trousers. It made her close her eyes in anticipation.

Blomkvist pulled back, panting slightly. Lisbeth moaned at the loss of contact, but Blomkvist was working on his belt and Lisbeth’s eyes flew to his hands, the long fingers working first the belt and then the button and zip. Lisbeth sat back to look, knowing that he would be naked faster without her help than with it.

Sure enough, Blomkvist was soon back with her, though this time he leaned his head down to capture her left nipple with his mouth. Lisbeth gasped. He rolled the nipple between his lips before biting slightly as he pulled away.

“Those are . . . different,” he managed, his hand coming up to gently grip Lisbeth’s right breast. He flicked the nipple with his thumb experimentally but firmly, and Lisbeth’s hips rolled. “Just as sensitive I see.”

“Do you --” Lisbeth broke off as Blomkvist put the breast that had been in his hand in his mouth. After a few moments he pulled away and blew on the wetness his mouth had left behind.

“I always liked them; I liked them then and I like them now.” He leaned up and kissed her. “Roll over,” he whispered and she complied, breathing into the pillow.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” he said, and kissed the nape of her neck. His touch disappeared entirely until, very lightly, as if he was using just the tip of his finger, he began to trace the outline of her dragon tattoo. Lisbeth inhaled sharply, but she nodded. Blomkvist continued to trace her tattoo, first with his finger, then with kisses, then with his tongue. Lisbeth was trembling by the time he had finished, and her hips were grinding small circles into the mattress. Blomkvist’s mouth traced kisses up the top of her spine and her neck until he was breathing in her ear, his body lifted away from her until the only slight connection between them was his lips near the curve of her ear.

“Lisbeth,” he said, his voice rough. “Do you think you can come for me, just like this? Do you? I’ve never made a woman come for me without touching her. Do you think you can?” He dropped his mouth from her ear to her shoulder blade, where the ink met bone. At the touch of his lips, Lisbeth’s thighs began to shake He replaced his lips with his tongue, gently sliding over skin with the very tip, sucking at the juncture where her skin was the thinnest and the ink darkest, bone nearly translucent under the skin. Lisbeth began to shake from the waist down, coming with a ferocity in exact counterpoint with Blomkvist’s gentleness.

When she was finished, Blomkvist kissed her shoulder one more time and then moved to the side, allowing Lisbeth to roll onto her back. Blomkvist’s cock was straining up toward his stomach, curving slightly to the right, a smear of pre-come just visible in the hair leading down from his belly button. Lisbeth started to sit up, but Blomkvist shook his head.

“I won’t last if you do that,” he managed, breathing deeply.

“Then I want you to come inside me,” Lisbeth said. She saw the flash that went through Blomkvist’s eyes when she said it, but he shook his head again.

“I want to use my mouth on you first,” he said, and Lisbeth shook her head.

“There will be plenty of time for that later,” she said, though she didn’t miss the twitch of Blomkvist’s cock. “There are condoms in the bedside table,” she continued, and Blomkvist reached an arm out toward the drawer.

He had ripped the packet open and was just about to sheath himself when Lisbeth’s small hand landed on his arm. He looked up at her.

“Unless you don’t want to use one,” she said. “Unless the idea of filling me up turns you on.” Blomkvist shut his eyes tightly. “Is that what you want? Do you want me like -- her? Belly swollen? Full, skin pulled tight around your child? Marked as yours?”

A groan ripped its way from deep in Blomkvist’s throat, but he rolled the condom on with shaking hands. “You belong only to you,” he said, leaning forward so that Lisbeth had to settle on her back. He loomed over her, arms shaking has he held himself up, eyes boring into hers. “Tell me you know that.”

Lisbeth nodded, maintaining eye contact.

“Tell me,” he said, shaking.

“I know,” Lisbeth said softly, then louder. “I know.”

Blomkvist closed his eyes and thrust, buried himself inside of her in one smooth motion. Lisbeth cried out in pleasure at the sensation and Blomkvist held still as her body adjusted around him, shifting.

“God, I’d forgotten . . . God,” Blomkvist said. “You are so wet.”

Lisbeth didn’t reply in words, canting her hips upwards.

“Lisbeth . . . I won’t . . .” Blomkvist opened his eyes.

Move,” she said, and he did, thrusting hard but slowly. Lisbeth felt a sheen of sweat break out on his back underneath her hands. She lifted her chin toward the ceiling and Blomkvist’s mouth latched on to her throat. She let him go slowly until she felt the heat pooling, felt the pressure build inside of her, around him.

“Faster,” she said, and she felt his hips snap, felt his cock begin to throb insider her as his hips stuttered an increasingly uneven rhythm. He came just before she did, her hips shaking uncontrollably as she wrapped her legs around his hips just to hold on.

He buried his face in her neck as they came down, her hips once again resting flush on the mattress. After a moment he pulled out, pulling the condom off and tossing it into the trash can on the other side of the bedside table. They breathed together side by side on their backs for a while, staring at the ceiling, before Blomkvist turned toward her and placed a kiss to her shoulder.

“Mikael,” she said.

“Yes?”

Lisbeth turned her head so she could look at him. “When you said before that you could do everything you ask me to help you with, how long would it take you?”

Blomkvist blinked, but he didn’t look put out. “To do what you just did in thirty minutes?”

Lisbeth nodded.

“Two months. Minimum.”

Lisbeth smiled.