Title: GTB, Part II: Ramifications

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.

FAIR WARNING: This is my promise to the reader: an enormous amount of research goes into each of my stories; the ones I complete under this name, and the ones I co-author under other pseudonyms. Over 90 completed stories are archived here in fanfic-land to serve as my witnesses: I don't make this shit up. For the purposes of dramatic effect and angst, I often push the envelope. For example: While it is not common for an oral surgeon to break someone's jaw on purpose during a molar extraction ("Phantasmagoria"), the operative thing to remember is that it can happen. Repeat after me: "FraidyCat says it can happen." Memorize these words, and repeat them as often as necessary as you read this installment of GTB. I'm pretty sure I will be taking you places no man -- or at least not our timid Charlie -- has gone before. Fair Warning Subplot: The bulk of my work, recently, has been completed before I begin to post; nothing is more annoying that investing in a story, as a reader, and then having it stand you up just like that guy did last Friday. (TMI?) Yet there is something to be said for writing "live", as well. Reviews can help determine the direction a story takes. Plus, knowing people are counting on me creates both stress and motivation. This is how I began writing and posting fanfic; 'on the fly', as it were. At least 50 of my completed fics stand as a testament: I assure you, I am not in the habit of leaving unfinished work. Ordinarily I write pretty stinkin' fast ("Sound of Silence" and "Grand Theft Brother" were both written as they were posted), so I ask you to extend me the benefit of the doubt on this one. Several days might pass between chapters, due both to the excessive research I anticipate and the monster known as Real Life. My desire is that anything I do post be worth your investment of time in reading it; I promise to do the best I can.

Credits: Again I thank Tanager36 for the original bunny that led to "Grand Theft Brother". As is often the case with bunnies, there are now several more running around, and they have hopped up "Ramifications", the GTB sequel. (Remember, this could really happen. I looked it up.)

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Chapter 1: The Cover of Night

He sat in the sweltering East-L.A. apartment, sticking to the cheap, cloth-covered futon that served as his chair, his bed, his dining room table, his entertainment center -- virtually his universe -- and dragged another hit off the bottle of vodka. The lockless, splintered door stood open to the narrow, dark hallway, and the life taking place in other apartments leaked into his own. A mother screeched at misbehaving children on one side, while rap music and party noises drifted from the other. Further down the corridor, a door slammed as one lover ended a spat with another; thunderous footfalls echoed in the stairwell as the incensed partner slammed down the six flights to freedom. A telephone shrilled unanswered across the hall, and canned laughter blared from a television of indeterminite location.

The bottle now empty, he tossed it listlessly to the other end of the futon. The summer heat drained him, even sitting in front of the box fan, and further expenditure of energy was both unwise and unnecessary. He slumped on the futon, his head pounding in time with the relentless bass beat of the rap music, and thought about his miserable existence.

Jeffrey Michael Danielson was an unhappy, unhappy man...and there was an Eppes to blame for it all. First, the oldest son had managed to...disconnect him from his earthly shell, for lack of a better description; in a warehouse almost as filthy as this crumbling walk-up. He had somehow been able to save what really mattered -- the core of his being -- but he had to share this body with the other Eppes. The whiny, skinny, weak, disgusting wuss that was Charlie. The gutless wonder who had killed his brother.

His Mark.

That was indeed reprehensible, constantly being pushed down to the background as he was, while he dwelled there, simmering, just below the surface. It was nearly unbearable, what he had to endure; all matter of shit. The cloying, insufferable, insatiable father; always hanging on, always wanting more. The insipid, wretched, vapid woman; teasing relentlessly with her scent, her knowing looks. The intolerable, macho, swaggering brother, insistent and assertive, his presence as constant and relentless as fungus. The mind-numbing numbers; Jeff felt as if he was sharing a body not just with one man, but with hundreds. Some days he felt as if he would be trapped there forever, buried beneath twisting '8s', and '4s' with angles as sharp as knives.

He wanted out. Every time he bubbled to the surface, he fought harder to stay. He was always so relieved, he wasted a lot of time just breathing, thinking, drinking... It was time to turn things up a notch. There were things to accomplish when he was out. Plans to make, and punishments to administer.

It was difficult to know where to begin.

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Charlie awoke in a cold sweat; which was quite a feat, considering it was a record-setting June in Los Angeles. Temperatures hadn't been this hot for this long in nearly twenty years. He and Larry were exchanging e-mails stuffed to the gills with algorithms intended to explain the trend. Perhaps they would even solve the global warming problem in the process.

He sat up slowly, sticking to the painted surface in the humid night, and wondered where he was. It was dark, but streetlights illuminated trees, benches; a small playground. Was he in a park? It was difficult to breathe in the suffocating heat and the equally suffocating fear, and Charlie gasped a few times as he explored the world directly around him. He discovered, to his growing dismay, that he was indeed in a park, and had been sleeping on a bench. He shot to his feet, guilty and uncertain exactly why, looking furtively into the shadows. How late was it? How did he get here? He moved to rub his sweaty palms on his jeans, felt something besides denim and made a soft noise of distress as he looked down. He appeared to be wearing shorts. Khaki walking shorts he couldn't remember ever having seen before, let alone buying, and...flip flops? Where were his shoes? And when did he replace his cotton shirt with this grey, sleeveless, rib knit tank top? Even in the heat Charlie felt naked, and he transitioned from sweating to shivering.

He searched the shorts' pockets for a cell phone, so he could check the time. If it wasn't too late, maybe he could call Don to come and pick him up -- if he didn't mind admitting to Don he had no idea how he had ended up asleep on a park bench; and if he could figure out where he was. Wherever he was, he soon discovered that he had come there without a phone. He took an uncertain step in one direction, then stopped and turned to face the other way. He had no idea which way was up. It was almost an abstract worry, the fact that he should be in his car, squinting into the sun and driving home after grading his last finals. Where had the time gone? It must be very late, for only a few vehicles had passed on the street that ran alongside the park. Charlie checked his pockets again, hoping to find money this time; if he had money, he could hail a cab. From a cargo pocket, he withdrew a soft pack of cigarettes, half gone, and a lighter. He regarded the foreign objects for a moment, mystified, before finally tossing them into a trash receptacle near the bench.

He sighed shakily and decided to walk in the direction most of the cars had been traveling. He hummed tunelessly, nervously, automatically. This was...bad. It had been disconcerting when he had gotten lost at CalSci, somehow going to the science computer lab and not the lecture hall that had been his destination when he left his office. It was discomfiting when he couldn't remember if he had written all of his final exams or just thought about it, and had actually had to check with the department secretary. It was unnerving when his father started shouting at him while Charlie was peeling potatoes in the kitchen, and he had followed his dad's horrified gaze to see that he had peeled off a good chunk of his finger, and not even felt it. The potato absorbed the blood like a sponge while Alan danced around waving his arms, demanding to know what Charlie had been daydreaming about. All of that had been confusing, but this...this was mortifying. He had never lost hours of time, before. He had never awoken in a strange place, wearing strange clothes, before. He craved the comfort of his family, yet he was embarrassed and afraid to tell them about this. A sense of shame permeated the very air that choked him.

Maybe it was good that it was night. He would figure out where he was, and walk home. He could get the spare key out of the garage, sneak into the house and up to his room, and no-one would know.

No-one would know.

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End, Chapter 1