Title: Grand Theft Brother

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: In the case of fanfiction, the author will usually give a disclaimer saying that the author of the fanfiction does not, in any way, profit from the story and that all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s). That sounds reasonable to me.

A/N: Plot Bunny -- apparently a rabid one -- courtesy Tanager36.

Chapter 1: The Break-Down

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

He began soiling himself on the seventh day, unable to control his bowels any longer.

He was given water on days one, three, and six. He never saw a face when it was delivered. The four-inch-square slot in the heavy wooden door was slid open, and a disembodied hand would drop a plastic bottle of water onto the floor. The bottles were never full; usually, the container yielded only two or three good swallows. He tried to save some; he tried to ration; but there was simply not enough. Every day the bottle dropped, he would crawl across the cold cement floor like an animal, and drink greedily.

He felt like an animal when he tried to use the empty bottles for urinals, too. The three bottles were lined up in the corner, silent sentries. Mocking witnesses to his distress, he could imagine that the content was changing; in color, in viscosity; probably even in odor, although he couldn't be sure of the last. For one thing, he was always careful to twist the lid back on the top. For another, after so many days in the tiny, dark, windowless room...there were many sources of odor. Most. he did not want to contemplate.

There was no sleep.

On Day One, when he had grabbed the wrist that slunk through the open cubby and begged for his brother, the bottle of water was dropped and the foreign fingers grabbed back. As his own hand was drawn to the other side, he heard The Voice for the first time. Masculine, firm; promising to punish him for pretending to be someone's brother. "You are alone," the voice insisted, and he heard the metal door sliding closed on its track. "You have no-one," The Voice droned, and he tugged hard to pull his hand back inside the room. "You are not a brother," The Voice thundered, and he screamed both in rage and fear and yanked back his arm as hard as he could. He was able to avoid amputation, but the edge of the door sliced into four of his fingers and the wounds were ripped wide as he pulled them to himself. He sunk onto the floor, his back to the door, and cradled his wet, sticky hand, nearly hyperventilating in his terror. The pain kept him awake that first night. The pain and the cold, after he removed his outer shirt and clumsily wrapped it around his hand in the dark, a makeshift bandage. He shivered in his thin t-shirt and his hand throbbed in time with his heart, and there was no sleep.

Sometime later, The Voice began again, and it never stopped -- except when a cacophony of discordant and meaningless sounds filled the air instead. The room was so small -- two steps in any direction -- that he could not escape either, whether the cubby was open or not. "You are not a man," it bellowed over and over, and then the cackles and wails would shrill harshly until he held his hands, one bloody and torn, over his ears and rocked desperately against the concrete wall. "You are bad," The Voice would then hiss, "and evil. You have committed grievious sins." And he would feel shame, lying in a fetal position on the floor. "All that you know has been bad," The Voice would tease, and he would wrap his arms over his head to escape the dissonant hoots that followed.

In the beginning, he had tried to argue with The Voice, but it would drone on over his protests, unhearing. By Day Seven, beyond exhaustion and hunger, he did not even notice the disparity when The Voice began to make demands. "Admit that they are bad," it growled. "Your father sins. Your brother sins. They are evil. Immoral, wicked reprobates." He had completely forgotten about Day One, when The Voice had claimed he was alone. He pounded on the solid door and felt the guilt descend upon him like a blanket. "Tell me," The Voice persisted into the eighth day, " confess that they are iniquitous."

He was standing at the door, weaving and waiting for the cubby to open, when it ripped through his parched throat. "They're bad," he rasped, "all of them." The cubby immediately slid open, and the bottle of water that dropped on Day Nine was half-full. He fought dizziness and the nausea of starvation, barely able in his weakness to twist off the loose cap. After drinking greedily, he nodded his head in confirmation. "They are diabolical and wrong," he told the door, echoing The Voice, "full of misdeeds and wrongdoing." The cubby slid open again, and a cracker dropped to the floor, breaking into several pieces. Even though it was the first food he had been offered in almost ten days, still the humiliation and self-reproach threatened to steal his appetite.

It was all he could do to lick the pieces of saltine off the floor.

"You are bad," The Voice began after an infinity of midday-traffic noises raged around him, returning to the original theme. "You are rotten, and peccant, just as they are. Tell me."

His culpability was deep, and ran through him like a knife. On Day Twelve, he lay in his own filth and sobbed uncontrollably at the undeniable and disorienting truth. Who am I?, he wondered. What am I supposed to do? The depression was mind-numbing and he understood at last that he deserved it all.

On the thirteenth day, Charlie broke.