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We Climbed Till We Felt Free

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“Is there anything you can tell us about the victim?” Dr. Brennan asked, sweeping onto the platform with her tale-tell swish of long shirts and dangle of jewelry, the scent of pepper and patchouli filling the space.

“Yes, I can tell you that these fractures on the rib come not from being hit by a large circumference instrument, but instead, they're from being stomped on,” he answered, hands twining together nervously as Agent Booth stepped into the room with Dr. Saroyan.

“He was stepped on?” Dr. Saroyan asked.

“Stomped on,” Vincent corrected gently but precisely. “By someone who wears a US size eleven shoe.”

“That is very good, Mr. Nigel-Murray,” Dr. Brennan said, examining the fracture lines carefully to check his work. “Have you come across this injury before?”

“Intimately. I have an eerily similar x-ray hanging in my bedroom,” he remarked. Dr. Saroyan regarded him with concern and he hurried to distract. “Did you know that while American’s have bodily percussive performances called step shows, in the UK, we call them stomps.”

“And that is relevant how?” Dr. Saroyan asked.

“I said stomped, you said stepped,” Vincent said, trailing off, the connection evident in his mind. Cam shook her head evidently dismissing him. “I believe the American connotation of the word stomp better fits what befell this poor fellow. Someone didn’t just step on him, but stamped down on him with their foot, fracturing his front ribs on impact and leaving stress lines on the bones on the back ribs when the rib cage was compressed into the ground.”

“Nice work, Mr. Nigel-Murray,” Dr. Brennan said, already pulling off her gloves. “Angela,” she called, beckoning the artist from where she stood, leaning against Hodgins’ station. “Can you model the possible surfaces he was laying on, from these stress fractures?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” she said, grimacing down at the body, still slightly fleshy on the table.

“I’ll run the particulates from his clothes and hair,” Hodgins said, hurrying towards the other end of the lab.

“And that could give us a murder scene,” Booth said happily, clapping his hands before ushering Dr. Brennan from the platform. Dr. Saroyan turned to watch them leave, taking a few steps after them before turning back.

“Mr. Nigel-Murray,” she said gently, and he knew he was in trouble.

“Did you know that in 2011, two hundred people in the UK legally changed their middle names to “Danger”?”

“Vincent,” she continued, undeterred. “Why do you have an x-ray of rib fractures from stomping hanging in your bedroom?”

He took an uncomfortable breath. He was dedicated to knowledge, and with that, came honesty.

“It reminds me not to dress too flamboyantly,” he said simply.

“Oh,” she said, either shocked or sympathetic, he did not desire to find out.

“I’m going to see if Dr. Hodgins found any significant particulates in the victim’s clothes.”

He snapped off his gloves and made his exit.

“Wait, Vincent,” Angela called, a smile in her voice. “How did you use to dress?”

“Fabulously,” he said with a grin, pretending to tilt a hat, and he could almost feel it under his fingertips again.




Vincent enjoyed going out in the field. Not necessarily because there was a body decomposing in tiny little bits everywhere, but because it felt a little more like adventure than it did in the lab. He was starting to regret his choice, however, when Hodgins’ car pulled up outside of a familiar bar.

“You alright, man?” his friend asked, when he hesitated in getting out of the car.

“Yes, quite,” he said, shaking himself slightly. He didn’t need the lingering FBI agents to guide him to the back alley; he was well acquainted with this particular path. He looked around at the scene, seeing the body, still half covered by trash, propped sideways against the dumpster. The remains of a rainbow tulle tutu were still clinging to his hips, and still sparkling flecks of glitter were embedded in his rotting face and neck.

“Dr. Brennan and Booth aren’t here yet, so you’re the resident bone expert,” Hodgins said, already on his knees, plucking rubbish off the victim and bagging what he deemed important.

“Male, early twenties. I can’t say more without touching the body, and Dr. Brennan doesn’t like it when I do that before she gets here,” he said pleasantly, though he felt a little sick. He was fairly sure he recognized that tutu.

“Oh, well this is interesting,” Hodgins said, knee walking closer to the victim. He leaned in close, holding his breath as he swabbed at his cheek. “Looks like there was ejaculate on his face, probably left there just before he died.”

Vincent sucked in a breath, and felt his already pale skin go paler still.

“You sure you’re alright?” Jack asked, turning to him with a look of concern.

“Yes, yes, I have to go speak to someone,” Vincent said, pulling his gloves back off, unused. “Let me know when Dr. Brennan arrives.

He slipped inside the back door of the bar, tapping his nametag when an agent stepped towards him. She let him pass but watched him carefully as he walked straight to one of the bartenders.

“Vinnie,” he greeted, his face pulled into the approximation of a smile. “I forgot you had the creepiest job in the world. Never thought I’d see you at work.”

“I’m so sorry, Markie,” he said, earnestly.

“Do you know who it is?”

“Officially, no,” Vincent answered his friend.

“Who is it?” Markie asked again, water bottle crackling in his grip.

“He appears to be wearing a rainbow skirt.” The bartender went ashen, wiping his face with a clammy palm.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “Peyton?”

“We won’t know for sure until we can get him to my lab, but I think so,” Vincent said contritely, aware he could probably get in trouble for this. But he was here for a reason. “Look, Markie, there’s something else. We think there was semen on his face, left there shortly before he died.”

Markie’s eyes when dark with recognition.

“Those fuckers again?” he growled, screwing the cap on his bottle before said it down harshly, hands balling to fists on the bar. “They killed someone this time? I told them they weren’t allowed back in here, not after last time.”

“We don’t know for sure, but you need to tell the FBI.”

“You should tell them,” he said. “You know first-hand what those assholes do.”

“I can’t, Markie, this is my job,” Vincent said, stepping in and hissing at his friend.

“That could’ve been you!” the bartender shouted, drawing the attention from the agents at the door. Vincent glanced around quickly and swallowed hard when he saw Hodgins making his way toward them.

“It wasn’t and no one can know,” Vincent said fiercely, pleadingly. “Just tell the agents what you know.”

“And what does he know?” Jack asked, coming to stand next to him.

“Who did this,” Markie said darkly.

“And how do you know that?” he asked, suspicious of everything.

“There are only a couple guys who make a habit of beating the shit out of lovely boys and then coming on their faces before they leave,” the bartender said lowly.

“So the guy out back, isn’t the first?” Hodgins asked.

“He’ll be the last,” Vincent said, and Hodgins definitely caught it when the brightly-dressed bartender reached across the lacquered wood to squeeze Nigel-Murray’s hand. Just then the door opened again, shedding morning light on the dark interior of the club. Vincent pulled his hand away sharply as Agent Booth stuck his head in the door.

“Who can I talk to about the murder?” he called in.

“Try not to be so… gay,” Vincent advised quietly to his friend, before sending Markie toward the angry looking agent in the door.

That left Hodgins and the intern leaning against the bar.

“You knew exactly who to talk to after I told you about what was on his face,” he said leadingly. “They ever do that to you?”

“Unfortunately, I must say I’m grateful that they only beat up the first couple. If they’d gone straight to murdering queers, I never would’ve met you all.”

Jack didn’t seem to know what to say, which suited Vincent just fine.

“The average male ejaculate actually contains as much protein as an egg white.”

“Gross,” Hodgins said good-naturedly.

“Or very healthy,” Vincent answered in turn, and the two men laughed a little.

“Brennan is here, by the way.”

“Yes, thanks for the warning,” he said sarcastically, before snapping on his gloves and going to pull rubbish out of a corpse.




After the case, and it had been quickly solved, they gang went out to Founders for drinks, celebrating a job well done and a weekend that would be free of overtime murder mysteries. They’d settled down at a large tabletop, Daisy and Sweets joining them as Vincent, Cam, Jack and Angela took seats, Booth and Brennan arriving later after their meeting with Ms. Julian to sum up trial details. Vincent knew he should be a part of that trial. But one of the other boys from the club, who had regrettably experienced similar mistreatment from the murderers had been willing to act as a witness should the prosecution need him.

“So, Vinnie, my man,” Hodgins said, taking a seat next to him. “Are you a regular at that club?” He coughed into his drink, looking around wide-eyed for reactions. No one seemed surprised. He supposed Dr. Saroyan and Angela had probably already assumed, and then after Hodgins put his pieces together at the club the other day, it was really only Daisy and Sweets who could’ve been surprised. And neither of them looked it.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a regular,” he hedged.

“Bartender seemed to know you pretty well,” Jack said, upper lip foamy from his beer. “And you recognized the victim from his tutu.”

“Well not that many men wear tutus,” he reasoned.

“Please tell me you have that statistic in your arsenal,” Angela laughed.

“No, but I should.”

“The guys we caught,” Sweets began, unable to leave work behind. “You ever run into them?” Vincent pursed his lips, firmly reminding himself that honesty was always the best policy, unless it was going to cost you your job.

“Do you know what it’s like to get come in your eye right before it swells shut?” Vincent asked, downing the rest of his rum and coke in a single swallow. “Unpleasant, that’s what. Beats broken ribs though, anything beats broken ribs.”

“Who’s breaking ribs?” came a voice from behind him, and he turned to find Wendell’s smiling face. “Because I’d feel sorry for that guy.”

“Oh hello,” he said, pleasantly surprised, and glad to have a distraction from the awkward silence his candor left at the table.

“Angela texted me, hope you don’t mind if I join you,” Wendell said, moving towards a barstool next to Vincent’s.

“By all means,” he said, before hopping off his own stool. “Anyone need seconds yet?” he asked, taking a couple orders before heading to the bar. Wendell followed him, offering to help him carry.

“Does it seem a little tense back there?” he asked him, leaning against the bar, tilting his head to indicate the table, now leaning in close and apparently having a harshly whispered discussion. “Should I not have joined?” Wendell asked, concern puckering his brow quite adorably. Vincent shook such thoughts from his head.

“No, it’s not you at all,” he hastened to assure his friend. “I accidently just mentioned a sexual trauma to a psychologist. I bet Dr. Sweets is having a great go of it.” Wendell’s eyebrows rose up his forehead.

“Are you alright?”

“Of course, it was before I joined the Jeffersonian,” he said. “It was only brought up by the case we just finished.”

Wendell looked at Vincent strangely. “You mean the guy who was killed behind that gay bar?”

“The very one,” Vincent said, glad he had a drink back in his hand, and he smiled at the bartender who handed it to him. She was gorgeous, blonde with bright blue eyes and a plush bottom lip. He winked at her and laughed when she rolled her eyes.

He turned back to Wendell who was still staring at him strangely. He raised a brow.

“You don’t make a habit of beating up faggots in alleys, do you?” He was pleased when Wendell flinched at his harsh language, felling a little better that at least he wasn’t comfortable with the word.

“No, of course not,” he said, more shocked and hurt than defensive, which was a good thing.

“Then we shouldn’t have a problem,” he said jovially, swinging an arm over his shoulder and squeezing affectionately. He let go before it could be considered as lingering and, with Wendell’s help, carried the drinks back to their table.

“So, Vincent, are you seeing anyone?” Angela asked as they returned with drinks.

“I’m flattered, Angela, truly, but you must know my loyalty to Hodgins will always come first,” he said, demurely, passing her her drink with a wink.

“That wink is deadly,” she commented with a giggle.

“Funny, the pretty bartender just found it comical,” he said, and he tried not to laugh as everyone turned to look at the bartender and saw she was a woman.

As they turned though, they also caught the entrance of Booth and Brennan. Cam beckoned them over to their table, and they waved before heading to the bar for drinks.

“And if all you’re curious about is my sexuality, I think I will take my leave now,” Vincent said, smiling at his friends before casting a wary look towards Agent Booth. “I trust you all will not share what you’ve learned with Agent Booth. Or Dr. Brennan, as she will just tell Agent Booth.”

“Oh, honey, you don't need to worry about Booth, he’s a total softie,” Angela said, forehead creased in concern.

“Believe me, when you’ve had sex with as many men as I have, and been beaten up as often as I have because of it, you get very good at recognizing which kind of man to avoid,” Vincent said with a grin that belayed his sincerity.

“I’m open about myself, and he doesn’t have a problem with me,” Angela insisted.

“I’m fairly certain that imagining two men going at it doesn’t quite give him the same warm feeling he gets when imagining you with another woman,” Vincent pointed out, finishing his drink in a hurry. “Please? Just don’t say anything, and it won’t be a problem.”




It took him three tries to open the door, bandages slipping on the knob as his aching hands protested the grip. Upon opening it, Wendell’s grinning face was among the last things he would’ve thought to expect. His smile dropped rather rapidly from his face upon seeing Vincent on the other side of the door.

“Oh,” Vincent said, frowning. “Do you have the wrong door?” he asked, searching his brain for a good statistic to use, but the concussion made it difficult and he quickly abandoned the effort.

“What the fuck?” Wendell asked, a broad hand pushing the door open further. Vincent winced and sucked in air through his teeth as the wood slammed into his bruised frame. “Shit, I’m sorry,” Wendell said, pulling the door closed behind him. Vincent wasn’t exactly sure when he’d stepped in, but he was still cradling his injured ribs, head still aching with lingering pain.

“Do come in,” he said anyway, trying to make sense of Wendell Bray standing in his apartment, one hand holding a large container of soup, the other carefully touching his chin.

“What happened to you?” he asked, tilting his face this way and that, looking at the bruising clotting over his jaw, before tilting his jaw up to look at the bruising dark across his throat.

“What are you doing, exactly?” Vincent asked, staring at his ceiling and trying not to memorize the feeling of those warm fingertips on his tender skin.

“You told Dr. Saroyan you were sick,” Wendell answered. “She asked me to take your week but I switched with Daisy.” He paused, finally dropping his hand from Vincent’s skin. “I should probably apologize to Dr. Brennan for that, next time I see her.”

“Why would you do that?” he asked, making his slow way back to the couch, walking carefully.

“I figured if you were sick enough not to come to work, you’d probably want soup.” Vincent stared at the blond man, holding his container of soup, looking absurdly earnest.

“That’s incredibly kind of you,” the brit answered, his voice tainted by disbelief. Wendell blushed, before coming to sit on the couch with him.

“You’re not sick, though,” he said, looking at Vincent like he was waiting for an explanation.

“My current health is not, at the moment, well enough for me to do my job,” Vincent hedged.

“You don’t have bronchitis. Which is what you told our boss.”

“Perhaps not,” Vincent admitted, leaning back and letting his eyes drift closed. He was so tired. He clenched his jaw and the pain woke him back up.

“What happened, Vin?” Wendell asked quietly, and it made the brit want to laugh, if it didn’t hurt his ribs so badly.

“Apparently I live in the wrong neighborhood to be a “twinky british faggot”” Wendell flinched and he felt a little vindicated, though he didn’t know why. “Made the mistake of kissing a man on the street last night. My behavior was appropriately corrected.” It was quiet for a moment as Wendell absorbed, and Vincent tried not to fall asleep again.

“Was he your boyfriend?” Wendell asked, and Vincent snorted.

“No, definitely not after how quickly he ran after the first one hit me. I suppose I should be grateful he got away, but the selfish part of me things two against four would’ve been much better odds.”

“Christ,” Wendell muttered under his breath, sinking into the couch next to him. He turned his head towards Vincent again. “You haven’t said a single random fact since I’ve been here.”

“In New Zealand, there are an average of 24,000 concussion cases every year.”

“You’re not supposed to be alone after you sustain a concussion,” Wendell said, and Vincent grunted his agreement, eyes closed and heavy head tipped back again. Before he knew it, however, there were gentle fingertips against his cheeks. His eyes opened to see Wendell’s blue ones staring down at him.

“What’re you doing?” he mumbled, not wanting to move his mouth too much, unwilling to dislodged the fingers on his face.

“Don’t worry, I’m a doctor,” Wendell said with a cheeky grin. Vincent snorted, amused, before letting the other man look him over with a critical eye. Gentle hands prodded at his jaw, throat, chest, forearms and hands, all places were the damage was worst. “Only your right hand is broken,” he surmised, holding the hand gently in his own. “And from what I can tell, you can really throw a punch.”

“Good thing, too,” Vincent remarked, even sleepier from the warm treatment. “Nothing hurts worse than broken ribs.”

“I hear that,” Wendell remarked, and the two men smiled, bonding over their shared misfortune. Vincent realized that the blond was still holding his hand, tenderly stroking over the bandages covering his split knuckles.

“You brought me soup,” Vincent said quietly.

“Yeah, are you hungry?” Wendell asked, preparing to pull away, but the brit’s aching fingers flexed around his hand.

“Not particular, just commenting.”

“Well then yes, I passed on an extra week of work hours so I could bring you soup,” Wendell said, cheeks pink and smiling bashfully at the other man.

“That seems unlike you,” he said, in answer, unsure if they were flirting or if he was actually in a coma in a hospital somewhere. He heard coma dreams could be quite vivid and exciting.

“Maybe I couldn’t figure out how to ask you to dinner, so I took an opportunity to bring dinner to you.”

“Oh, sweet God, I’m in a coma, aren’t I?” he asked, eyes wide at the realization. Wendell just laughed at him, shaking his head.

“Don’t you think if you were dreaming, you’d feel better?”

“If I was awake, you wouldn’t be asking me out on a date,” Vincent reasoned with perfect and clear logic.

“How can I convince you?” Wendell asked laugh lines crinkling around his eyes.

“90% of coma dreams are auditory or visual in nature,” Vincent said quietly. Wendell hummed thoughtfully.

“So close your eyes,” he said, leaning forward. Vincent did, regretfully, closing his eyes on blue eyes sparkling in mischief, full pink lips being wet quickly by a clever tongue. Once his eyes were closed though, those lips were on his, and he forgot about the ache in his bones in favor of being grateful that a split lip wasn’t among his injuries.


Two days later, Wendell was knocking on his door again, this time just as battered and bruised as Vincent was. His eye was shockingly bruised, his nose was a little crooked, and his knuckles were dark with dried blood.

“Booth knows,” was all he said, when Vincent opened the door and stared at him in stunned silence.

“Bloody hell, he did this to you?” he asked, pulling him into the apartment all the way through to the bathroom. He ran the water and examined his hands.

“No, those guys that beat you up did,” Wendell said with an unapologetic shrug. “I called in a favor I had waiting for me at the police department, found their names and went to talk to them.”

“You’re a bloody idiot,” he said, pulling Wendell’s hands under the faucet once the water was warm, rubbing away the dried blood with gentle sweeps of his thumbs.

“Yeah, well, when the police came to arrest us, I took three of them with me,” Wendell said, leaning forward to press a kiss to his temple.

“That was incredibly stupid of you,” Vincent hissed, refusing to be proud or impressed or adoring.

“Anyway, my favor at the police department extended to calling in a favor to Booth to get me off without charges. But then he was angry that I didn’t go to him in the first place. He seemed really sad when I told him that my friend didn’t trust him to be cool with the queer thing, and he looked especially sad when I told him that if he had a problem with the queer thing he would have a problem with me.”

“You’re such an idiot,” Vincent said, pulling one hand up to his lips, kissing the back of it where the skin wasn’t broken. Wendell grabbed his face, kissing him soundly, wet hands trailing drops of water down under Vincent’s shirt collar. They broke apart when their noses knocked together, Wendell pulling back with a wince.

“So Booth knows about me, and he still got me out of jail. If he treats me any different, then we’ll know you were right all along. If not, though, then you have nothing to worry about.”

“You’re a bloody fool,” Vincent said, shaking his head before pulling at the buttons to Wendell’s jeans. “You self-sacrificing, selfless, kind, pathetically adorable fool.” And then Vincent spent a couple moments being glad his jaw wasn’t as sore as before and that his knees weren’t bruised. Wendell’s moans were lost under the sound of running water, and the scabs on his knuckles tugged at his boyfriend’s dark hair.




The cat was really out of the bag only a few weeks later.

Booth had, as predicted by everyone but Vincent, treated Wendell exactly as he had before. In fact, when he jokingly teased him about a pretty girl, he took a moment to ask if he did actually like girls, too. Wendell smiled and said that, yes, he liked girls, too, and so did his boyfriend, and sometimes they’d check them out together. Booth had laughed, and they’d gone about their business.

They’d gone on a date later in the week, after the bruising receded to a passable skin tone and they could go out without stares, and Wendell braggingly told him that they whole lab was gossiping about his mystery boyfriend.

It all came to a head because of an absurdly early phone call.

Vincent heard the ringing, the tone distinctly different from the one he used as an alarm. He reached for the nightstand, bleary eyes telling him that it wasn’t even five in the morning. He checked the display and saw that it was Dr. Brennan.

“Hullo, Dr. Brennan, what’s got you calling so early?” he asked, rubbing at his face.

“Mr. Nigel Murray?” she asked.

“This is he,” he said, smiling a little when Wendell sleepily reached out for him, hand falling against his stomach.

“Why are you answering Mr. Bray’s phone?”

Vincent pulled the phone from his ear in confusion. This was not his phone.

“Oh buggar,” he cursed. “One moment, Dr. Brennan,” he said into the phone before putting it face down on the table. “Wendell, wake up right now,” he hissed.

“What is it?” he asked sleepily, cracking one eye open, the hand on Vincent’s narrow stomach slipping into his underwear.

“Good Lord, stop it,” Vincent squeaked, pulling at his wrist and shaking him further awake. “Dr. Brennan called your phone and I answered.”

“Why would you do that?” he asked, sitting up slowly and rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“I didn’t mean to,” the brunet insisted sharply. “Here.” He shoved the phone into his hands, before collapsing back into the bedclothes, awake for only moments and already exhausted.

Wendell and Dr. Brennan had a short conversation, in which he instructed to be picked up, yes, from Mr. Nigel Murray’s house. He slid down next to his boyfriend, wrapping around his cool frame, warming him back up. He pressed his face into his neck, and slung a leg over him.

“Are you mad that they know?” he asked. “Because I’m not. I’m glad that they know.”

“I wish Dr. Brennan hadn’t found out quite like that,” he said, curling his arms around his partner, pulling him in against his chest. “But no, I’m not mad. Or rather, I’m mad about you, but only in the very best way.”

Wendell grinned against his neck before digging in slightly with his teeth, as he had been with increasing frequency after the bruising there began to fade. Vincent was worried it might become a problem. He wasn’t quite worried about it yet, however, as Wendell’s prickly scruff rasped deliciously over his pale skin.

“Do we have time?” he asked, already trailing a hand down the pack of his boyfriend’s boxers, cupping a perfect cheek.

“No,” Wendell groaned, before pushing himself away, laughing when his partner made a sound of protest. “C’mon, Vin, the job calls. Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth will be here in twenty, for both of us. Apparently there are lots of bodies in lots of pieces in a pond somewhere.”

“A recent study shows that most couples complete sex in only 5.4 minutes," Vincent cajoled, leaning back in the bed, looking long and lean in the early morning light.

“I bet that study was done with heterosexual couples and only counted the male orgasm as the end time,” Wendell critiqued.

“Good thing we’re both men, then,” he retorted with a cheeky grin, grabbing himself through his briefs, mouth falling open teasingly. “C’mon dear, I bet you’re still loose, it wouldn’t take even a minute and I could slide right inside.”

“We’re going to be late,” Wendell complained, but he was already falling back into bed with a hungry mouth, kicking out of his shorts as he went. Vincent grabbed him with greedy hands, pulling him on top of him and grabbing at his ass. “Oh fuck,” Wendell bit out, grinding down against him.

“Yes, let’s.”


When Booth’s SUV pulled up, he had to honk the horn three times before the pair stumbled down the stairs, shirt collars still flipped up under their ties, shoes untied, and half a piece of toast still wedged in Wendell’s mouth.

“Good morning,” the brit said as he slid into the car, polite as ever.

“Yeah, maybe for you,” Booth said sullenly, drinking from a travel cup of coffee.

“It has been,” he said with a grin, reaching over to smooth out his partner’s collar.

“Ugh, God, and I thought Angela and Hodgins were sickening, now we’ve got these two, too.” Booth complained.

“I think they make a rather stunning pair,” Dr. Brennan said. “They’re both incredibly intelligent and have fabulous bone structure.”

Wendell grinned at him, and he smiled back, tapping the brim of his hat, a black little number he’d pulled from his closet. He thought they were rather fabulous in deed.