"Where is he?" Torkild mutters from his post at the window eyes never leaving the small forest's edge, even though he's growing increasingly restless and fidgets on the spot.
Peter takes a deep breath and reaches for a new bottle.
Arne will be as long as he needs, and then he'll be back. Torkild knows that just as well as Peter, and yet he still frets. And even though Peter knows that there really is nothing to worry about, Arne just needs to blow off steam in a way Peter can't help him with and it's been a long time coming now, Torkild's fretting is rubbing off on him and feels more and more nervous with every passing hour that Arne stays away, like a prickling all over his body, almost like worry, and there's a pull in his gut, an impulse to go after Arne, to bring him back. Because it's not fair. Just because Torkild is being an idiot and pushing all of Arne's buttons, testing and trying him, crowding him into a corner until he's crawling out of his skin, until he snaps, as usual, and just because Arne needs to explode before he implodes, that doesn't mean he has to leave Peter.
I haven't done anything, Peter thinks sullenly and glares a little at Torkild because it's his fault.
"He'll be back", Torkild assures him for the fifth time when he senses Peter's eyes on him. "Soon! You know what he's like..."
Peter's skin prickles at that.
"I know", he bites out because that's crossing the line.
Torkild catches himself, a little too late.
"Of course you do!" he amends quickly. "I just..."
He gestures vaguely and Peter nods, once.
"Yeah..." Torkild trails off and turns back to stare out the window.
Then suddenly he turns back to Peter and moves to sit down across from him at the table, but just as suddenly he changes his mind, and direction, and heads outside instead.
Peter opens another two bottles of beer.
"Hiya!" Arne chirps when he eventually reappears, as if nothing has happened, and maybe nothing has, except Arne stayed out all night and Peter couldn't sleep because the only time he's slept without Arne at least being in the same room as him was when he was locked up, and he was barely conscious then, other than that he's always had Arne close-by.
And last night he didn't, so he couldn't sleep. It was as if he'd forgotten how. A small part of him took comfort in the thought that Arne also lay awake somewhere in the forest, thinking about him, also unable to sleep. But judging by the spring in the other man's step and his energetic mood, Peter would say he had a really good night's sleep. His chest clenches at the thought.
Arne meets his eyes briefly, and something unfamiliar flickers by in his face, something unsure, and Peter feels light all of a sudden, and not in a good way. Then Arne quickly looks away again and continues into the kitchen. Torkild trails after him, clearly anxious to make up if making up is needed. Peter listens to their voices drift through the air and feels himself drifting too somehow, but rather than feeling like he's shoved himself off the ground, it's like the ground has plummeted below him. He doesn't like it.
"Come on", Torkild says and breaks him out of his thoughts. "We're all going to the beach! Together!"
Arne is hovering behind him, glancing at Peter over his shoulder, almost shyly. Peter nods and puts the bottle down.
As they're walking, Arne sidles up and falls into step with him. He doesn't say anything, doesn't even look at him, just walks close enough to him that they bump shoulders every now and then.
Peter sits down heavily next to Torkild on a weather worn tree trunk that's been washed ashore. Stefan and Hanne are walking along the water's edge, laughing and in love. A bit further down the beach, Arne is throwing rocks into the water. There's something definitely carefree about him. Some sort of innocence that Peter can't remember ever having seen in him before, not even when they were kids.
After a while Arne tires of the rocks and the water and joins Peter and Torkild on the tree trunk instead. They all watch Stefan and Hanne for a moment. Peter and Arne wave at them.
"Stefan looks really happy, doesn't he?" Arne says, voicing exactly what Peter had been thinking, and what he'd also thought about Arne when he was watching him in the same way earlier.
"Are you okay?" Torkild demands.
"Yeah I'm fine thanks", Arne replies genuinely.
Peter smiles. He still feels light, but Arne's warmth where he's pressed against his side anchors him. As if he had heard his thoughts, Arne squirms a little closer to him. Making a split second decision, Peter moves his arm behind Arne and immediately the other man settles against him and rests his head on his shoulder. He'll get a crick in his neck, Peter thinks, but hugs him close all the same. Torkild mutters something, but they both ignore it.
After a while Arne leans his head back again, but stays snuggled into Peter's side.
"Hey..." He murmurs quietly.
Peter looks at him. There's a glint in the other man's eye, and Peter knows that glint, know it very well, one might even say intimately, except now it's a little warmer than usual. Peter swallows thickly as if that would tamp down the emotions welling up inside of him.
Arne opens his mouth to continue, but is interrupted by Stefan and Hanne approaching them and the wary look on Stefan's face.
"Hanne has had a good idea", he croaks, faking a smile.
"Oh?" Arne says and it's not even sarcastic.
It's a ridiculous idea, of course. But for some reason it seems to be important to this girl who happens to be important to Stefan and Stefan in turn is important to all of them. So here they are.
Peter and Arne glance at each other, and at each other's eggs, unsure of how to deal with this, or even feel about it. Peter is suddenly seized by a childish impulse to shield his egg from Arne's judgmental scrutiny and he angles himself away from the other man, whose look clearly said What is that? Haven't you ever held a paint brush before? and Peter hasn't, but then neither has Arne, he's sure.
Arne knocks his knee against Peter's. It's a gesture. And Peter will take it.
Then suddenly the mood around the table shifts dramatically. Hanne is laughing, just laughing and laughing, almost hysterically, and she just won't stop and Torkild's face gets redder and redder. Peter quickly reaches for his beer. Stefan is trying to calm Hanne down, but it's not working. Arne opens his mouth to tell Stefan to give it up and just get her out of there, but before he's had the chance to utter as much as a syllable, the laughter stops and Hanne is bleeding from her nose.
"Stefan, for fuck's sake, just get her out of here", Arne says.
"Yeah", Stefan mumbles and helps his girlfriend to her feet, gently guiding her back towards the house.
Arne leans in to assure Torkild that there must have been something wrong with that egg. Peter quickly agrees, "Of course you can blow eggs, Torkild. There's just something wrong with that one."
Torkild gratefully accepts their reassurance and agrees that the egg shells looks completely weird on the inside.
"Yeah", Arne says briskly. "A sick hen clearly laid that egg! I wouldn't worry about it, Torkild."