Thank you so much for your reviews! I'm glad you like my portrayal of Booth and hope you similarly like Brennan's. This is actually the end of the road for this one--it's simply meant to highlight their sacrifices, yada, yada--but I'm working on something longer and in the future that should hopefully work out. This is around "Cinderella," so it's kind of my take on which one is struggling with their feelings concerning the relationship. Let me know!

xoxo


It wasn't unusual for Brennan to have a meeting with the director of the Museum — contrary to what Angela thought and often implied, playing Hepburn to Booth's Tracy (whatever that meant) was hardly her only responsibility at the Jeffersonian, and Dr. Saroyan was hardly the only person to whom she reported — but it was a bit unusual for Dr. Walton to insist upon a private lunch in his office. She actually couldn't remember another instance when the kindly septuagenarian paleontologist had made the request, not even when he invited her to be the keynote speaker at the annual fundraising gala. Still, she recognized and respected the role of hierarchy within an organization, so she was outside of his oaken double doors at promptly 12.28 p.m.

"Temperance, how marvelous. Right on time, I see," he said, taking her right hand with both of his and shaking it warmly.

"Yes, of course," she said. "I greatly appreciate punctuality. How are you, sir?"

"Oh, marvelous, Temperance, just marvelous. Amelia and I recently returned from San Francisco, where we were visiting our daughter and grandson."

"They're well, I trust?" she had never gotten very close to Dr. Walton, who had replaced Dr. Goodman after Harvard had hired him away, but he did honestly seem like a nice person. He himself had originally been on faculty at the University of Chicago, an institution that she respected despite the fact that it was not Northwestern.

"Oh very well, very well," he pulled a photo off of his desk. "I don't believe you and Jennifer had the privilege of meeting when she came to the gala at the start of last season, did you?" He handed her the frame.

"No, I wasn't able to attend the gala for very long last year."

"Yes, I believe you and the FBI liaison were working on a case very late that night?"

"Yes, we had a case," she replied, handing the photo back to him. "Your daughter is lovely." She really was — clear, deep-set blue eyes, symmetrical features, straight teeth, long blonde hair. Classic markers of health, wealth, and success in modern Western society.

'Thank you," he said. "She works with Google." He pointed to the small, rolling bar by the table in his study. "Would you like anything to drink?"

They made small talk for a while, first over water and then over salad. They discussed the Institution's latest fundraising push despite the lagging economy; her research, which would soon take her to India; his son, who worked at an investment firm in Dubai; whether she would help identify remains in the wake of a recent earthquake in Pakistan (she thought she might swing by for a few days during her India trip, but she didn't want to spend more than three weeks away); the recent exhibits opened at the Museum, which included an exhibit on Northwestern Native American Culture, which she had contributed to as well. They also, of course, touched upon her work with Booth and her novels, both of which had brought her quite a bit of renown around the Jeffersonian. She even found herself open to discussing her father's operation of the co-curricular science activities. Dr. Walton was really an illuminating conversationalist, and it was actually quite a delightful lunch.

"You've a wonderful view," she commented as she looked out the window across the Mall, all the way to the Washington Monument. She realized how rarely she had simply … sat there, even when the office was Goodman's.

"Yes, I do," he said, placing a coffee and a piece of cheesecake in front of her. "And I'll miss it dearly."

"You're ... leaving, Dr. Walton?" He really had only been there for a short period of time.

"Oh, yes," he said. "It's simply time, Temperance, surely you understand."

She didn't, not really — she knew intellectually that one day she may leave the Jeffersonian, but she would prefer if it remained her home base. But she nodded. "Of course. You have grandchildren. I'm sure you're experiencing the urge to see them more often, as your life enters its late stages."

He didn't blink. "Precisely. Museum politics are not for the old or faint at heart," he said.

"How much longer are you remaining in the position?"

He paused. "I'd like to leave by the end of the year if possible. Amelia and I have plans to visit Ireland this December, and I would prefer to extend that vacation and treat it as a retirement celebration, of sorts."

She nodded. "That should give the Regents enough time to find a suitable replacement and ensure a smooth transition."

"Actually, Temperance, the Regents and I already have a candidate in mind."

He gave her a sly look that she couldn't quite read, and suddenly she felt like she was floundering in the conversation, a feeling she hadn't experienced in quite a while. "Oh really?" she asked. "That's wonderful."

"Aren't you the least bit curious about who we might have lead the museum?"

She shrugged. "I'm sure that if you and the Regents have reached a reasonable consensus this individual is imminently qualified, and I have faith that he or she should work well with the staff."

"Yes, we think … this person is quite prodigious. Uniquely qualified inside and outside of her discipline. We're quite confident that we have made the proper choice."

She nodded, again confused. "I look forward to meeting her."

Finally, he gave up. Even she could understand that something was clearly exasperating him. "Temperance, the board of Regents would like you. I would like you."

"To be the director of the museum?" she asked, astonished. She looked at Dr. Walton, forty years her senior. "That's ludicrous. For one, I'm far too young."

"Your body of scholarship says otherwise. You're one of the busiest and most productive scientist-scholars in the country, in addition to your crimefighting and novel writing."

"I'm a physical and forensic anthropologist," she said. "An ideal candidate would have a much more administrative background, not to mention curatorial experience. My research and work is hardly related to the public face of the museum, as well as completely unrelated to its philanthropic and educational mission."

"You're one of our most popular instructors; you're also a huge draw as a fundraiser, and you approach fundraising with a positive attitude." He sounded like that was a big deal.

"My field is extremely specific; I lack a well-rounded background in other fields, including paleontology, archaeology, geology, and even cultural anthropology."

"You know that any university in the country would hand you a Master's and likely even a Ph.D. in any of those fields; your knowledge through your own inquiry and research easily makes you the most fiercely well-informed scholar on staff."

"That still doesn't negate my lack of curatorial experience. The museum needs someone more well-versed in curating."

"We have curators to handle that part. You've always, in every speech you've given at the Jeffersonian, mentioned that undiluted academia and scientific inquiry are your joint first loves, how they need to be better protected and funded."

"Yes," she responded, confused at his tangent.

"Well, you're very involved in the day-to-day. This gives you a chance to step back. You just mentioned that it was unlikely for you to spend more than three weeks in India, possibly denying yourself a chance to help recover and identify earthquake victims, because of your ever-increasing commitment to the FBI. While you are in a sense tied because of meetings, you're much freer to set your agenda and schedule, and you could perform more scholarship independently. And we have every confidence that you'll be able to set a holistic vision for the museum. Honestly, Temperance, please do not let insecurities get in the way of such a mutually beneficial arrangement."

Before she could tell him that insecurities were not something she possessed, something he had said to her had not even occurred to her previously. "I wouldn't be able to continue to work with Agent Booth?"

"Well, he is the liaison to the Medico-Legal Lab, specifically," he said, puzzled and almost agitated at her responses. "He would work primarily with them, of course. While your schedule allows for some flexibility and your responsibilities for some freedoms, it is, generally, very unheard of for someone to continue to perform all the duties of her old job and her new one."

"Sir, you're … very much mistaken if you believe I feel that my duties to the FBI, as a researcher in the Medico-Legal Lab, are intrusive upon my scholarship. I actually do enjoy my time with the FBI quite a bit. It's very enjoyable."

"You would really let that one aspect of your job lead you to turn down an excellent offer? I really must stress how eager the Regents and the Secretary are about you taking on this role, Dr. Brennan. They want nobody else."

"Dr. Walton, I'm sorry, but I had not anticipated this turn of events. Is this even a formal offer? An interview?"

"Well," he suddenly looked almost shrunken in his suit. "Well, the Regents and the Secretary would, of course, conduct an interview, but we anticipated that it would only be a formality. Should you not accept, we would likely turn to an interim leader and search nationwide. This … this is much easier for all involved."

"Well, I greatly appreciate the honor of the request," she said, standing. "Still, I really must discuss this with my partner."

"Your partner?" he asked, confused. He rubbed his temple, but absentmindedly, as if he did not recognize what he was doing.

"Yes. Agent Booth?" They had just been discussing him.

"Oh," he said, in a voice filled with innuendo. "I didn't realize … that a private relationship would weigh so heavily upon this decision. I'm sure that he'll support this career advancement, though, Dr. Brennan. Surely he is not a Neanderthal who would begrudge you this opportunity."

That was the thing, a little bit, that annoyed her. Booth would tell her to take it. He had told her to go with Sully into the sunset and he would repeat his urgings here. "No. Booth is slightly overprotective and has strong alpha-male reactions but one could not categorize him as a Neanderthal, no."

"Oh," Dr. Walton smiled, visibly relieved. "Well, then, I'm sure it's not a problem with him. Just … think it over, clear your head, and drop by sometime in the next few days." His smile turned into a grin. "I'm confident you'll make the proper decision."
"Thank you sir," she said, shaking his hand. "Congratulations on your retirement." He beamed.

She considered walking down 10th to the Hoover Building to talk to Booth, but quickly rejected that idea. He had a lunch meeting of his own, with a former Army Rangers colleague, anyways. She considered going back to her office, but the lab was quite full and Dr. Saroyan would likely put her to work. She considered sneaking out with Angela for tea, but Angela would start to discuss subtext again, and frankly, that was a discussion that always left Brennan confused. Instead she sought the exit, walked along Constitution and crossed 9th, down to the Navy Memorial. There was a Starbucks there, and she ordered a gigantic latte.

She felt indecisive, and that in itself felt ridiculous. Logically she knew that this was a huge honor, and — even more logically — one that she had, without a doubt, earned. She was a preeminent scholar; her knowledge of other fields regularly surpassed its specialists. She had also brought a bit of fame to the Jeffersonian via her writing; on top of that, she was a polite and willing attendee at fundraisers. This would allow her to travel more. Write more. Beyond the fact that she would look desperate, which would impede salary negotiations, she had been ridiculously stupid to decline to accept Walton's offer then and there.

She knew that she had been spending fewer days traveling as of late; in fact, the past year, really. Instead, she spent her weekends in D.C. and she did, she knew, spend more time working with Booth, consulting on cases that three years ago she would have deemed as unworthy of her time. But she still managed at least two trips overseas, albeit shorter ones (five years ago, she was gone about five months out of the year; now, it was closer to two), and performed more osteological consultations. She taught a second class, now, as well. But much of it was because of what she and Booth did. It was important, it solved things, it brought closure to people whom she knew desperately needed it. Including her own family. And after five years of calling D.C. home, she was putting down the proverbial roots. Really, that part was inevitable. And much of it, further still, was Booth.

She had to acknowledge that her relationship with Booth likely was playing a factor in her fear. She was not blind, as a scientist, she was supremely gifted at culling all the evidence necessary. She knew that in the last few years, she had come to rely on Booth heavily, both professionally and personally. She knew she was closer to him than anybody else. She knew exactly what Angela's comments insinuated, and even what Sweets insinuated sometimes (the pie metaphor was a little suspect, however), and she could understand why — due to the extreme amount of time they spent together, the deep level of trust they required of each other, their mutual lack of a social life at this point — they would jump to their erroneous conclusions.

To believe that she and Booth were or could be something different from good friends was to ignore base truths about the both of them, including their professionalism, her need for proof and his need for faith, their individual goals, and how they approached sex and emotions and relationships. Broaching the topic of sex alone made Booth uncomfortable, suggesting something like a mutually satisfying sexual relationship coupled with their friendship would nearly kill him. While he was not a Neanderthal, he certainly had his — what was Sweets' juvenile and imprecise term? — hang-ups.

But not getting to work with Booth every day would be extremely difficult for her, and likely, she suspected for him. She would miss his attitude, his ability to read people, his dependability and even his over-protectiveness. He inspired a unique sort of bravery and strength in her, and she would have to say that he did make her a better person.

He wouldn't like working with Clark Edison or whoever her replacement would be; he would lose much of the enthusiasm and purpose he derived from his job would be greatly diminished. Starting over with a new partner, losing that level of trust and confidence he had in their partnership, would be difficult for him, would even be troublesome for his career at this point in his path. And he, for some reason, personally needed to protect her, something he could not do if she was safely ensconced in the museum's third floor. But he would encourage her to take it, would tell her how great she would be, would say that nothing would change. He would tell her that their friendship would not change. And that she did not believe. And she had no desire to change the nature of their relationship intentionally. Entropy dictated that yes, someday, it would change, and that they would no longer work together. But she would not be the entropic force. Which meant she couldn't even discuss the possibility with him.

She stood, discarding the mostly-full latte in the garbage bin, and squinted up at the Hoover Building, before realizing Booth's office was on the other side. That decision had been easier than she had anticipated, she thought as she crossed Pennsylvania. The decision was almost easy.

She could not accept this offer.