Tanigaki lays in the space next to Sugimoto, safe and warm in their camp with the others probably fast asleep in their own shelters. He looks to the man next to him, only seeing Sugimoto’s back and messy hair. The only time he takes his hat off is to sleep and he still forgets to do that half the time, waking up the next morning to find indentation marks across his forehead (much to the amusement of Shiraishi and Asirpa). As if hearing Tanigaki’s thoughts about him Sugimoto stirs in his sleep, his body contorting awkwardly and then as though he was trying to curl up even tighter than he already was, he brings his knees up to his chest and grips at his own hair with scarred and bruised hands. Tanigaki, having slept with the man a number of times now that they had become more familiar with each other, has a feeling he knows what’s happening. A nightmare or maybe Sugimoto wasn’t even sleeping and instead trying to not remember things and unfortunately failing.
“Sugimoto,” Tanigaki whispers, he tries to keep his tone soft enough so Sugimoto doesn’t jump out of his skin. He sees a slight flinch so he repeats himself, “Sugimoto, are you awake?”
Sugimoto turns to face Tanigaki. He looks miles different to how he looked when the sun was still up only a few hours ago. Dark circles decorated his eyes and he doesn’t even look awake the way he almost stares through Tanigaki rather than at him.
“Yeah…” He mumbles.
“Dreams again?” Tanigaki shuffles closer and places a hand gently on Sugimoto’s hip.
“No actually,” Sugimoto replies, furrowing his brow. “No, it’s pain. Everything aches.”
Tanigaki is hardly shocked at this. Anybody who knows Sugimoto knows how he is in a fight and more noticeably, knows how many scars the soldier has earned from those fights. All across his chest, arms, back, even down his legs were scars from various weapons. Guns, knives, even the claws of animals have all gotten to Sugimoto and with each one he survives, but a new scar is added to his morbid collection. With each addition the man becomes a little more restless, no position being comfortable for too long thanks to new scars still stinging and old ones tugging at skin. ‘Immortality’ can only do so much.
“Can I help?” He asks it bluntly, he doesn’t feel the need to ask where it hurts or how it hurts, he just wants to help Sugimoto get some rest.
“I don’t know.” Sugimoto hesitates for a moment before continuing, “can you just… hold me for a bit?”
Tanigaki doesn’t need to be asked twice, he simply nods and closes the space between them with a not so graceful shuffle and pulls Sugimoto into his arms, being extra careful not to squeeze too tight. The last he wants is to add to Sugimoto’s aches and pains. He traces soft patterns onto Sugimoto’s back, light and gentle circles in between his shoulder blades. Even through the layers he can feel the more brutal scars that were most likely from before their travels together.
“Thank you,” Sugimoto sighs into Tanigaki’s chest.
Tanigaki feels Sugimoto relax against him, their legs tangled together and Sugimoto’s free arm draped over his side. The frayed blanket covering them does its best to keep the draft out, but in the end they’re cuddling as close as they can to stay warm and comfortable. Not that either seem to complain about that.
Sugimoto, now asleep and hopefully peacefully, sometimes twitches and mumbles in his sleep and Tanigaki stays awake to… what? Protect him? Is that what he’s doing? He’s not sure, but he cares more about Sugimoto than he can perhaps put into words so if he can love Sugimoto by simply being here for him during tough nights then he’s happy. The thought brings a smile to his face so he continues to rub patterns on the sleeping man’s back for the last few minutes his own exhausted body allows him to remain awake for.
Morning comes slowly, the sun taking its time to peek through the trees and eventually through the entrance to their shelter. Tanigaki wakes first, always being a light sleeper out of habit, and he’s relieved when he still feels Sugimoto in his arms. He considers just staying there and telling the others they’ll catch up later because he’s never seen Sugimoto look so peaceful in his sleep and he wants to give the man as much rest as he needs. Half the time, Tanigaki is convinced Sugimoto doesn’t sleep a full night if at all, especially with the way he fights. Maybe it’s not bravery but sheer exhaustion that makes him throw himself into harm’s way like that.
Sugimoto moves slightly under the covers and Tanigaki pulls back a little to give the other room to wake up. He looks… perfect. He doesn’t look half as exhausted as he usually does when they camp for the night.
“Good morning,” Tanigaki says, watching Sugimoto blink in the light as though trying to remember how they came to be cuddling in the night. Then, with a furrow of his brow, it seems he remembers.
“Good morning… sorry about last night.” Sugimoto pushes himself up with his elbow until he’s sitting with only his legs covered by the blanket. Tanigaki follows suit, racking his brain as he did so trying to figure out why Sugimoto would ever need to apologise for simply being human and not ‘The Immortal’ like he was so used to being seen as.
“You don’t need to apologise. I wanted to help.” He pauses. “Did I?”
Sugimoto looks at him. A tired smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah, you did. I can’t remember the last time I actually slept like that.”
“I’m glad.” Tanigaki places a hand on Sugimoto’s leg and for once the other man doesn’t flinch with pain, or at least not as much as usual. “We could do this more often if that’s okay with you.”
Sugimoto yawns and stretches at the same time. “Yeah, I’d like that, Tanigaki.” They both stand together, lingering in each others personal space for a while before each getting their things together. Sugimoto returning his hat to its rightful place atop his head and Tanigaki pulling his boots on and collecting his gun.
“The others should be awake now. We should head out, Sugimoto.”
After an affirmative nod from Sugimoto, they both head out of the shelter, stamp out the last flickering flames from the night’s campfire, and join up with the others.