Title: vim and verve
Blaine wanted to tell his side of Origin of Courage
Anything you recognize doesn't belong to me.
This is another fic in the With a Trace 'verse; specifically, Blaine's POV of "Origin of Courage."
WARNING: Sexual harassment/unwanted sexual attention is very loosely alluded to. It's not explicit and not even really definitive, but I don't want to upset anyone.
Also, the title comes from The Wizard of Oz song "If I Only Had the Nerve."

It's nearing three o'clock and Blaine still hasn't been able to sleep. Everything is lodged up against his throat and there's a pounding behind his eyes and aside from all that is the desperate knowledge that once he falls asleep, he'll have to wake up and once he wakes up, he'll have to go back to school. And once he has that thought he starts to panic, breathing coming quick and quick and quick.

Something like a whimper is pressed from his throat and he winds his fingers through his damp curls. Damp from his third shower since coming home from school that afternoon. A wisp of a curse drops from his lips and he notices that his hands are shaking. He swallows and shakes his head, cursing with more strength then. He just doesn't want this. Pushing a sigh from his lips, he glances over at his clock-radio. It's so late, but… His eyes skitter over to his cell phone. It's so late, but he promised. He said he would always be there, that he would always pick up…

Swallowing, Blaine reaches for the phone suddenly, fingers shaking so that he hits the wrong speed dial the first time. The phone rings through several times and Blaine nearly thinks he won't pick up and the panic is rising in his chest. He gnaws his thumb to shreds before his uncle's sleep-roughened but fond voice answers. "What's up, champ?"

Relief immediately floods through Blaine's lungs. And just like that, just having someone who he knows will believe him, who he knows won't shove this off as an overreaction, the words just spill out, between short gasps. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's so late and I'm sorry, I wasn't going to call but then I couldn't sleep and I couldn't tell my dad about it because I don't know what his reaction would be and I don't even think I'd be able to say the actual words to him and I was just going to forget about it but…" He breathes in deep, trying to steady his voice and failing. A hand shoves through his hair and he thinks of everything that happened that day and he suddenly can't take it all and he spits out, "I can't go back there, Uncle Trace."

Because he can't. He really, really can't. He can't go back to the everyday of it, to what happened earlier. Because that was certainly not "everyday" and it hurt in so many ways but mostly in putting shame into his system like a poison choking him.

"Calm down, bud," is Trace's soothing voice. "Tell me what happened, huh?"

Tell him what happened. God, can he do that? He thought he could. He couldn't to his father but he could to Uncle Trace. Uncle Trace would understand, he'd listen and not judge him and calm him down and tell him everything was okay, that it would all be okay. Yes, yes. He could do this. He takes a few deep breaths that don't manage anything really before starting. He's halting, more asking questions than making statements. "It was in the locker room today, after gym? And I was just getting dressed and keeping my head down? And I could hear these guys nearby talking about me a few lockers down but I was just ignoring them?" His voice breaks because his eyes are shut and he can see it all playing out behind his eyelids. He can see them coming closer with this look in their eyes and thinking back on it, Blaine knew what was going to happen at that moment, the sick feeling deep in his stomach told him that. He gasps, covering it with his wrist and wiping over his eyes that are just starting to spill tears.

When he starts again, his voice is loose and sodden and it's fully obvious that he's crying now. "I don't know what I did, Uncle Trace! All of a sudden they were shoving me and I was up against the lockers and they were…saying stuff and calling me…" A sob cuts him off and he tries to make himself go on, to tell more. To tell about what they did and how it was so very wrong and it didn't even make sense, because of course he hadn't been looking at them and he definitely didn't want that. He chokes on the last words and covers his face with his fist, because he hates that he's crying over this, that this happened.

The other line is silent a moment before Uncle Trace asks, in a quiet voice with his own desperation wound through, "Blaine… Blaine, buddy, did you tell anyone about this?" and Blaine would be upset that he upset his uncle but Trace had always told him not to be, that he was his uncle and this was his job. But truthfully, he's still upset.

And then Trace's actual question registered and the hurt solidifies to something hot and hard in Blaine's chest. "Yeah," he says, the word ragged and bitten off. And he supposes he can't be too angry, really, because he didn't tell the whole story to the administration either. But how could he? How was he supposed to get those words out when he can't even tell it to the one person he trusts more than anyone in the world? "Yeah, it was all 'nothing we can do about it' and 'boys will be boys.' It's the same old…shit over and over!" Blaine can feel the broken gasp he takes sticking like a barb in his lungs and it burns and he's choking over sobs and it feels like he can't breathe any more, like he can inhale but he can't exhale and everything's getting heavier and harsher and his vision is going slower than the world is and nothing is quite making sense until –

"Blaine, breathe."

Until he hears his uncle's strong, urgent voice. He inhales on command and exhales slow and shakily. And then again and again, deep breaths. Things puzzle piece together then. His vision slots together. His breaths come regular of their own accord. His sobs quiet to a calm crying. He whispers an apology but no sound actually comes from him.

"Now listen to me," his uncle's tone is solid but gentle, like the feel of his hand stroking surely down Blaine's back. "You got to stand up for yourself, bud. You have to. Either to those kids at your school or to the administration or to your parents, all right? I'll… I'll help you, you know I will. Things either gotta change at school or you gotta get out, okay?"

Blaine considers that a moment, just sniffling and thinking to himself and breathing. He pulls his shirt up at the hem to mop his tears away. He can't imagine anything ever changing but… Getting out. God, to not have to feel physically ill at the thought of waking up. Getting out and having Uncle Trace help him make it a reality… He swallows and sighs before admitting, somewhat shamefully, "I'm just so sick of this all, Uncle Trace."

"I know, buddy. I know, I'm sorry. Look, try to get some sleep, all right? Just… sleep on it and I'll get over to yours tomorrow for dinner and we'll see what we can do."

"All right," Blaine says, but he doesn't want to hang up yet. He doesn't want to let his uncle go yet. He wants to tell him the rest of the story, all that he can't say, like he just needs to get it out to someone. Because even if he leaves his school, even if he goes to one that's better… He'll still have this living in him. But he can hear the sleep pulling through his uncle's voice, like paper dipped in water, the heaviness spreading through a corner. "Okay. Thanks, Uncle Trace." He lies back down, licking his lips.

"Don't mention it, bud. I love you, Blaine Anderson." He can feel the weight of affection in his uncle's words. He wishes he were hunkered down next to Trace then, getting his hair smoothed and his silly tears wiped away like he had nothing to be ashamed of, not crying all over the place alone in bed, forty-miles away.

"Love you, too," he replies. It's soft and he sighs at the end of it. His mouth opens of its own account, the words There's more, nearly falling off his tongue. And there's a stall where he feels like it might happen and it's as uncomfortable as the first few seconds before vomit burns at a throat. But then he swallows it and forces different words out. "I'll talk to you tomorrow. 'Night." The buzz of dead air on an empty line comes before he realizes he hung up.

Once he realizes it, he immediately regrets it. The phone falls from his shaking hand and he covers his face. "And they hurt me, Uncle Trace," he wheezes out, voice high with tears. He says what he couldn't say half a second ago. Why couldn't he say it half a second ago? "They hurt me and it's not fair because I didn't want it and I never did anything. I never… I never…" His gasp rocks and he turns his face into his pillow and just sobs deep, soul-shaking sobs. His fingers clutch at the sheets as he wrings himself dry.

The tears stop before he's ready for them to. He always felt better after a cry, cleansed and like the problem could be solved. But he can still something toxic within him at the end of this bout and a desperate whining is in his ears like this will never be okay. His breathing comes to quick and his vision too slow again and the burning red of his clock blurs but it's nearing on five in the morning now. He has to get out of bed in an hour and a half. He has to get out of bed and get ready and go to school and… Fuck, he just can't.

His phone buzzes then, lost in his sheets and he gives a little jolt. Swallowing noisily and licking his lips again, Blaine fumbles over the layers of comforter and bedding until he finds the device. His head pounds as he sees the text message icon bobbing on his screen. From: Uncle Trace.

Blaine steadies his breathing and slumps against the headboard as he hits "view."

A single word is in the text space: "Courage." Just that. Courage.

It makes Blaine's chest ache and tears prick at his eyes but he just nods, as if his uncle Trace were standing over him, waiting. "Okay," he whispers to himself. Courage, he tells himself. He settles back down, grips the covers around him and tries for sleep.

And when Trace arrives at his house that evening, Blaine bounds to the door and collides with his solid chest, burying his face away and clinging tight. His uncle hugs him back, one strong hand stroking down his spine while the other scrunches soothingly in his hair. Blaine is crying but only a little and he can feel Trace's chest hitch under his cheek too. In his pocket, his cell phone sits with the text message from last night still on the screen: Courage.

AN: Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think.