Pride

related to The Fix

H/C, angst, gen

Hutch wrapped himself in Starsky's comfort, a freezing man seeking warmth. Chills and a fevered feeling; the ever-present shakes. It was as though the torture could reach out still with cold hands, and reach him, even here. He clung to Starsky, unashamed as a child. Indeed, he had no pride left in him. It had all been burned out, all of it.

Starsky, it seemed, could still care for his pride, keeping him here in secret, but Hutch felt so empty, so desperate, he could not bring himself to care for such a thing—a thing that held no relief from the itching, burning inside his veins, from the chills and fever and awful pain. He wanted relief—just a moment's relief. That was all he cared for now.

Starsky was the nearest thing to relief that he could find. Strong arms wrapped around him, soft words to comfort him—little enough comfort it was, to the screaming, nails-on-chalkboard feeling that travelled through his whole body. Little enough relief, even for a moment.

But Starsky was warm—safe—strong. He held Hutch and rubbed his arms while Hutch shook. It was nothing Hutch could control. Starsky somehow managed to treat him both respectfully, and as gently as a baby. But even so, he would not give in. He would not give Hutch the only relief from this pain, this agony. Hutch begged and pleaded. He had no pride to keep him from it—only the need for relief, cessation of pain.

Sometimes, he slept. He was never aware of Starsky leaving him, but sometimes when he woke up the other man was gone.

Starsky always returned quickly. For a long time, what felt like forever, Hutch very much needed to not be alone. He had been alone far too long, and now he had not even the drugged sleep to cushion him—only his fears and his pain and his desperate, clawing need.

Starsky was there, a buffer and a wall of support for him—a very warm, muscular wall. Hutch was weak, so weak most of the time. A hand gripped, squeezed on Starsky's arm in the worst of his agony, brought a kind of relief, the feel of tight, sturdy muscles beneath his hands. Starsky wasn't going anywhere. Starsky would help him—

Except, he didn't, in the one way that would've brought him relief, no matter how temporary. Sometimes Hutch yelled at him about that. Sometimes he cursed. Sometimes he wept. He had no pride. A man who moments later could be puking his guts out had no pride at all.

Still, Starsky protected him, Starsky—somehow—respected him. He was gentle, kind.

In those hours, Hutch relied on his partner as he never had relied on anyone since infancy. He had always been a proud man, finding difficulty in asking for help, making friends easily but having difficulty opening up to any of them, or letting them know if he was hurt or insulted or feeling low. Now he had no choice (the intensity of this time robbed that choice from him) and he was left with Starsky, warm, capable Starsky, supporting him as perhaps no one else ever could.

Yet there was no oddness with it; no discomfort. When he was well, or rather nearly well, after they booked the man responsible for all of this, he could meet Starsky's gaze, and see no lingering doubts, no belittlement, no superiority or hesitation at all—just—love.

It was an amazing thing to be so supported, so trusted—right away, too—and nothing between them.

As Starsky drove him home, Hutch almost fell asleep on his side of the car, the powerful thrum of the Torino's engine as comforting to him as a lullaby. He felt grateful—for sunshine, for relief from pain, for Starsky.

Of course, it was not over—but the worst of it was. Starsky stayed with him, babied him past the point where he needed it, ever-solicitous of his eating, sleep, and care.

It was not until Hutch began to grow annoyed with this solicitude that the protectiveness dimmed. But he could still see it in Starsky's eyes—a shining, glowing affection, and even, somehow, pride.

Pride.

Starsky had pride in him. It was not the sort of pride Hutch had always dealt with—struggling to master his own inner feelings, struggling not to let something show if it hurt him, struggling to be the best at whatever he tried—not because he wanted to be the best, but simply because he must, because for him to be average was shameful, was actually less than average for other people.

Starsky's pride held no such unreasonable expectations or painful realities for Hutch. Starsky's pride was in the accomplishment of survival—the affection of one friend for another, who has come through the worst intact.

That pride was more healing to Hutch than he felt he had any right to. That pride let him walk tall the day he first returned to work, with Starsky by his side warm and sturdy and so present. If he could see himself through Starsky's eyes—and so often he could, when they were together—he could see the survival, and not the shame. The tested metal, the forged sword—not the fire.

As much as he had always expected of himself, he had not really believed in himself, not deeply, not the way a person would like to believe in himself. Doubts had assailed. But Starsky had none.

So when the fire / hunger burned in his veins at night, the remembered tang of need and desire—when he absently rubbed the fading needle marks, he thought of Starsky, and those shining, proud eyes.

He could fail himself, he could fail the world—but he would not fail Starsky. He believed, not in himself, not in any courage or ability—no longer could he fool himself there, having experienced being brought so low—but he believed in what Starsky saw in him.

He wanted to live up to that. He wanted to actually be that person.

It was only this that let him walk with his head high some days. Only this that let him crawl out of bed to go bust the addicts and criminals, to tackle the dangerous streets once again and try to make the world a little safer.

If Starsky thought he could do it, then he could. And he would.