Disclaimer: Right. Because if I owned Bones, I'd definitely be posting fanfiction online. ;-)
A/N: I haven't been very active around here lately, but I promise that I haven't entirely abandoned the Bones fandom. As proof of my continued existence, here is my (extremely tardy to the party) contribution to 6x22: "The Hole in the Heart." I miss VNM, gosh darn it.
It's one-third hobby, one-third nervous tick, and one-third defense mechanism. Facts, that is.
And his fascination with them is the product of a lifetime.
Vincent Nigel-Murray is born into a firmly middle-class family with upward aspirations.
His father, a solicitor with a keen interest in zoology, takes him to the local zoo every Sunday and points out the different animals.
"See that zebra?" he says. "Just as you and I have distinctive fingerprints, each zebra – that one included – has its own unique set of stripes."
"They all look the same to me," Vincent says.
"Then look again," his father replies. "Things are rarely as they appear at first glance."
His mother, a life-long lover of literature, works at the nearby Waterstones.
"Vinnie, sweetheart, help me shelve these books, will you?" she asks.
As he puts books back on shelves, he glances at their titles and feels a whole new world opening up before him. Curiosity burns within him, and he ends up spending more time reading than shelving.
He is not particularly popular at school. For some reason beyond Vincent's comprehension, not everyone enjoys learning.
"Were you aware that butterflies are cold-blooded?" he asks the boy sitting next to him in class. "They won't fly if the temperature is below 11 degrees Celsius."
"Bully for them," the boy mutters, rolling his eyes.
"Mr. Nigel-Murray, Mr. Smith, is there something you want to share with the rest of the class?" Miss Hawthorne asks tartly.
"Nigel-Murray won't shut up," Smith whines.
Miss Hawthorne sighs. "Mr. Nigel-Murray, please save your facts for later. Mr. Smith, no one likes a tell-tale."
Vincent always knew there was a reason he liked Miss Hawthorne.
Sometimes his facts are appreciated, however.
"Poop can fizzle like seltzer when it hits the toilet water," Vincent tells the eager crowd of boys. "When that happens, it's because the poop is super-charged with bubbles of fart gas. After the poop is excreted from the body, it's in a lower-pressure atmosphere, which causes it to de-gass and fizzle in the water."
"Wicked," George Harrington says, properly awed. "C'mon, give us another, Vince."
He needs no further prompting.
When Vincent is nine, his father loses his job.
Then he starts drinking. Really drinking, that is, not just a couple of beers.
His father never becomes physically abusive, but sometimes Vincent wishes that he was. It would be easier to prove, easier to deal with.
Instead, it's just cruel words chipping away at his self-confidence and his mother's peace of mind.
(Sometimes Vincent wonders if he's just being too sensitive.)
His father says that he's just trying to toughen Vincent up, trying to prepare him for the "real world". But if words like his father's are those of the "real world", then Vincent wants no part of it.
His mother says that his father doesn't really mean everything he says when drunk. That doesn't stop her from crying, though. She thinks that he can't hear her, but the walls in their home are thin.
There are no more trips to the zoo.
As the years go by, he escapes by learning new facts.
The opposite sides of an ordinary dice cube always add up to seven.
India has a Bill of Rights for cows.
If the average human baby (half a stone at birth) grew at the same rate as a caterpillar, it would weigh 13,500 stone when fully gown.
When his father calls him 'stupid', Vincent reminds himself that he isn't. According to standardized testing, he is highly intelligent.
It's a fact.
(And if he repeats that enough times, maybe he'll start to believe it again.)
In order to cheer his mother up, Vincent allows her to teach him how to do embroidery with silk ribbons.
They're both surprised to discover that he has a talent for it.
After getting accepted to Leeds, however, he doesn't touch ribbons again for years.
He loves his parents, but he needs to separate himself from them for the sake of his sanity.
(Besides, doing embroidery? A sure-fire way to get bullied (even more).)
When he reaches Uni, he's thrilled to finally be amongst his peers. He's eager to learn and to share. So it comes as a bit of a blow to discover that not everyone's there to study and learn. And those who are there to learn are fiercely competitive, refusing to share their knowledge or to engage in light-hearted camaraderie. It's most disappointing and not at all like the novels said it would be. He determines to stick to nonfiction from now on. Facts have never let him down.
"Would it interest you to know that the pupil of the human eye expands as much as forty-five percent when it encounters something pleasing?" he asks the exceedingly attractive female bartender with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"Let me guess…" the bartender says dryly. "Your pupils are expanded that far right now, and I should be deeply flattered."
"Well… yes," Vincent says.
"Look, I'm sure you're a real sweetheart," the bartender says (although her tone suggests otherwise), "but why don't you stick a little closer to someone your own age, hmm?"
"Science has proven that older women are in their sexual peak," Vincent protests, "Only younger men have the stamina to satisfy them."
"Are you calling me old?" the bartender asks, voice growing icy.
"Only in comparison to myself," Vincent says hastily. God, this woman is gorgeous when she's narked. Terrifying, but sexily so. "I can assure you that a sexual encounter with me would prove quite mutually satisfying."
"Stay away from me, and I won't get you thrown out," the bartender warns.
"But how am I supposed to get a refill?" he asks.
She glares at him, and he beats a hasty retreat to the other end of the bar.
His first real girlfriend calls him Vino Delectable in bed because of his delectable body and his ability to use his tongue for things other than speech. Fact.
However, when they get accepted to different grad schools, they go their separate ways.
The day that he is accepted as an intern at the Jeffersonian is one of the happiest of his life. Not only will he be studying under the brilliant Dr. Brennan, but he'll finally, finally be surrounded by people just like him.
He can't wait.
So they aren't just like him; they're impatient when he shares his facts, too focused on learning the immediately applicable to appreciate anything else. Fine. They're still the closest to "his people" that he's ever found.
For their sake, he tries to stick to relevant facts. It isn't easy to turn off the coping mechanism of a lifetime, though; half the time he spouts facts out of sheer habit. The rest? Well, he really does love facts of all shapes and sizes; loves sharing them.
This is a wonderful world in which they live, strange and mesmerizing and baffling. There is so much to learn, so much to know, that it is impossible for any one person to learn everything in a single lifetime. He loves trying, though, and loves helping others try as well.
He loves being able to explain the fabric of his little corner of the universe, loves uncovering the truth from facts and observation and the scientific method.
He loves the Jeffersonian, where he feels like he is less adrift. Where he isn't lonely, isn't afraid, isn't trapped. Where facts are entertainment rather than the proverbial life vest keeping his head above water.
When he's with Dr. Brennan's team, it's almost like having a family again.
He needs to know more about the intern who came before him, the one who Dr. Hodgins says colluded with a cannibalistic serial killer.
The one who Dr. Hodgins said everyone still likes.
So he does a little research and discovers the intern's name: Zachary Uriah Addy.
Apparently he graduated college at sixteen and became Dr. Brennan's intern at age eighteen. He interned at the Jeffersonian for several years before obtaining two doctorates and becoming an official staff member. Then he went to Afghanistan. Months later, he returned to the Jeffersonian and became an apprentice to Gormogon. He was eventually caught, labeled insane, and placed in an asylum.
Vincent goes and visits him there.
For a man in an insane asylum, Dr. Zachary Uriah Addy is surprisingly sane; or, at least, he appears to be no more insane than Vincent himself is. This is terrifying. Fact.
"Why did you do it?" he asks Dr. Addy.
"I was presented with what I thought was an irrefutably logical argument," Dr. Addy replies. "The logic was, of course, flawed, but I did not realize that at the time."
They discuss forensics and Vincent is forced to concede that the other man is very bright. They discuss the Jeffersonian team and he realizes that the other man would give up every bit of that vaunted intellect to be where Vincent is today.
It gives him an uncomfortable feeling.
Vincent is the first one to notice that there's something… off… about Arastoo. As the foreigners of the group, the two had naturally bonded over homesickness, confusion with American ways, and loneliness. But after the first two weeks, Vincent realized that not only was Arastoo's accent not quite right, but he never seemed properly befuddled by Americanisms.
At last, unable to bear the man's deception any longer, he says, "You know, it really isn't any of my business, but if you are going to pretend to be from Iran, you could at least do a better job of it."
Arastoo naturally denies the pretense at first, but eventually drops his head shamefacedly and asks, "What gave it away?"
"I did a stint of archeological work in Iran, you see," Vincent says somewhat apologetically. "And your accent combines too many different regional dialects to be authentic. Also, it keeps slipping back into what I can only assume to be an American accent… Southern California, perhaps?"
"San Diego," Arastoo mutters.
"I would not presume to guess why you feel it necessary to act as though you are 'fresh off the boat', as it were, but might I suggest that you pick one specific regional accent and stick to it?" Vincent says. "I am certain that the local library has some excellent audio tapes."
Arastoo takes his advice and downloads some acting accent files onto his ipod. Whenever he slips out of the Jordanian accent which he has chosen, Vincent is there to subtly remind him.
Dr. Brennan leaves for a dig in Maluku, and everything falls apart. Rather than watch his new family collapse, Vincent leaves the Jeffersonian to compete on that holiest of shows: Jeopardy.
When he wins Jeopardy, it feels like the validation of a lifetime of promoting so-called useless facts. But he goes through the money like water, and shortly after he's spent it all, he gets the news that his father died a week ago.
Then he learns that his mother's liver is failing, and he goes to a bar and gets completely arseholed.
Over the next few months, he steadily becomes more and more dependent on the drink, all the while insisting to himself that he's nothing like his father, and good riddance to bad rubbish anyway. He tries to forget his mum's health problems in the glass, but never quite succeeds.
When he is recalled to the Jeffersonian, he knows that he has to straighten back up. But it's not like he can't function at work, right? He just likes a good stiff one… twenty times a day.
Arastoo tries to talk to him about his concerns, but Vincent is not receptive.
"Man, cool down on the drinking thing, will you?" Arastoo says, sliding onto a stool next to him at the bar. "You're starting to worry me."
"I'm fine," Vincent replies dismissively, taking another long draught of beer. "Would it interest you to know that the average person in 1830 drank two and one half times more alcohol than the average person today?"
"So you're trying to beat them?" Arastoo asks.
"I will have you know that alcohol has a long and illustrious past," Vincent continues, waving his glass in emphasis. "The world's oldest known recipe is for alcohol."
"I don't dispute that," Arastoo says. "My point –"
"– King William III once hosted a party where the garden fountain was used as a giant punch bowl."
"Really?" Arastoo asks, briefly distracted.
Vincent nods. "The recipe for the punch consisted of 2,120 liters of brandy, 544,310 grams of sugar, 25,000 lemons, 76 liters of lime juice, and 2,267 grams of nutmeg. There was so much punch that the bartender rowed around it in a small boat, filling up guests' cups along the way."
"That's… a lot of alcohol," Arastoo mutters. "Look, Vincent, you've gone past recreational drinking and it needs to stop before it starts affecting your work."
"You realize that the ancient Egyptians found intoxication to be both desirable and spiritually significant. Children were frequently given names such as 'How Drunk is Hathor'."
"But you aren't an ancient Egyptian," Arastoo says firmly. "And you only spout this many facts in a row when you're seriously tipsy. How many drinks have you had today?"
"Nine. No, wait, fourteen-ty," Vincent says, counting them up on his fingers.
"You need to talk to someone about this," Arastoo tells him seriously. "You've got a problem."
"Why d'you have to spoil everyone's fun, eh, Arastoo?" Vincent snaps. "Just because you can't drink doesn't mean that the rest of us shouldn't enjoy ourselves. I think you're just jealous."
Arastoo flinches back as if stung. Unlike many of the others at the Jeffersonian, Vincent has never before made any disparaging remarks about his religion. In fact, Vincent rarely makes negative remarks about anything.
Egged on by the alcohol in his system and a desire to lash out at the person suggesting he has issues (the person trying to take away his drink), Vincent laughs bitterly.
"Jealous. Well you can't take away my freedom away from me, Mr. Vazz-iir-eee. I'd offer you a sip of my drink, but you're too uptight to enjoy it."
His lips tightening, Arastoo says contemptuously, "Next you'll be calling that –" he gestures to the glass clasped in Vincent's hand – "your 'precious'. Don't you hear yourself? You're being irrational and cruel, and the Vincent that I call my friend is neither."
"All I hear are the brayings of a petty man," Vincent replies cuttingly.
"You know what? Fine, be that way," Arastoo says disgustedly. "There's no talking to you when you're like this."
And with that, he exits the diner, leaving Vincent alone with his drink and his swirling thoughts.
But Vincent isn't like his father. He isn't.
In the end, it is Dr. Sweets who ends up making him face the truth.
"Dude, this isn't healthy," the psychologist says.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Vincent says, the urge to leave the room and get a drink like an itch under his skin begging to be scratched.
"You've become an alcoholic," Sweets says pointblank.
"Did you know that the word alcohol comes from the Arabic 'al-kuhl', which was a fine powder of antimony used as eye makeup?" Vincent muses. "Since it conveyed the concept of something particularly fine and subtle, Arab alchemists began to use the term to describe any impalpable powder obtained by sublimation, and eventually applied it to all compounds obtained through the distillation process."
"Vincent," Sweets says in a surprisingly stern voice.
"What, you don't like that one? OK, how about this. Dentures made from actual human teeth – extracted from the corpses of soldiers on the Waterloo battlefield – were sold throughout Europe for quite some time. Since most of the teeth came from young, healthy boys, these 'Waterloo teeth' were highly esteemed amongst denture wearers."
Sweets makes some notes on his pad, a frown creasing his face. Then he looks up and says, "Vincent, you know that people can severely damage their brains – not to mention the rest of their bodies – with excessive drinking, right? I worked at a hospital one summer while I was in college, and I saw several once-intelligent people with extensive alcohol-induced brain damage. You're a smart kid with a lot of potential… I'd hate to see you become one of them."
"I'm not an alcoholic," Vincent scoffs uncomfortably.
"When was the last time you didn't need several drinks to get through the day?" Sweets inquires, gaze intent.
"I don't need them, I just want them," Vincent mutters. "There's nothing wrong with the occasional drink."
"But you have more than have the occasional drink, don't you, Vincent?" Sweets presses. "You drink regularly throughout the day and even more at night."
"So what if I do?" Vincent says defensively. "That's my business."
He tries to stifle the voice in his head reminding him that children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than any other children.
He's not an alcoholic. He's not.
"You're going to ruin your life," Sweets says, "and I refuse to sit by silently while you do it."
Vincent shifts uncomfortably in his seat.
He isn't an alcoholic, but…
Dr. Sweets' words about brain damage circle through his head.
He can't lose his mind. He can't. It's all that he's got. It's who he is.
If he loses his mind, his personal fabric of existence will unravel one fact at a time.
A shrimp's heart is in its head. Vincent can relate.
"How many drinks would you say you have per day, on average?" Sweets asks.
"I don't know, thirteen?" Vincent says, rounding down.
"That isn't just 'a few'," Sweets says. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"Of course not!" Vincent says, offended.
"What's going on, Vincent?" Sweets asks.
And suddenly everything comes out in a rush of words. His father's death, his mother's poor health, the disbanding of their Jeffersonian family.
Although he doesn't realize it at the time, this is the first step on his road to recovery.
Having accepted his alcoholism, Vincent researches it. Of course he does. He learns the statistics and the facts associated with recovery.
He struggles over the next few months, but his friends help him.
He refuses to be like his father.
Fact: He'll never admit it, but more than anything else in the world, he wants Dr. Brennan's approval.
Fact: However, he'll readily admit that Dr. Camille Saroyan is the most enticing female he's ever encountered; she's smart, beautiful, and commanding, and there's the added bonus that she doesn't come with a glaring male bodyguard the way the other females in his workplace vicinity do.
(But if Vincent is to be completely honest, even if she did have a male paramour working at the Jeffersonian, he'd still find her the most attractive woman he knows.)
Fact: He has come to see Dr. Hodgins as something of a friend. At the very least, they are frequent partners-in-crime at the lab. Therefore, when he hears about the possibility of the doctor's unborn child possessing Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, he does his research.
When he tries to reassure Dr. Hodgins about the low statistical probability of the child inheriting LCA, however, the older man gets a tad snippy.
"I swear to god, Vincent, if you cite any of those statistics at Angela, you'll be the one with the high probability of being blind," Dr. Hodgins growls.
Understanding that the entomologist is undergoing extreme emotional stress, Vincent lets the outburst slide. Besides, Dr. Hodgins makes a valid point; Angela Hodgins is – most shortsightedly – not the sort of woman to be comforted by facts. And Vincent has no wish to cause her any extra anxiety.
"Were you aware that one in three male motorists picks their nose whilst driving?" he asks Dr. Hodgins, changing the subject.
The average lifespan of an adult butterfly is twenty to forty days.
Vincent's lifespan is only twenty-three years.
It begins with a wail in a Birmingham hospital and ends with a ringing phone and an unseen bullet, hundreds of miles from England.
Sterile. Bright lights. Unintelligible sounds.
He isn't ready to go.
There's still so much! So much to do, so much to see, so much to learn.
[Termites eat wood twice as fast when listening to heavy metal music.]
He loves it here.
[Only one percent of deaths are murders.]
He isn't ready.
[He is Dr. Brennan's favorite intern.]
He is shipped back to England on a drizzly day.
His coworkers (friends, family) send him off with facts and a rendition of his favorite song.
Although he does not know it, one child will be named after him and another conceived because of him. The natural order of things will continue, life and death in an unceasing cycle.
But he will not be forgotten. Fact.