One more time, I don't own NCIS or any characters on the program. If I did then Tony would get better story lines. I can't believe that we've made it to what feels like the end of the story. This has been a labor of love for me. Thank you for embracing Eve Dupree into the NCIS fandom. I hope that I was able to stay as true to the characters as possible, and I thank each and every one of you who read, reviewed, and put this story on alert. It really meant a lot to me to see the response from all of you out there. God, it's hard to actually write this, but here it is the final chapter in our journey…

Finding Balance

For Tony the next weeks were a confused blur of pain relieved by mind numbing morphine. He marked each day he spent in the hospital by who was sitting at his bedside. His Gibbs days were spent with the faint smell of sawdust and coffee, and, when he was awake, an occasional discussion of current cases. His Ducky days were marked by the soothing accented voice of the ME as he discussed his current case load or past adventures. His Abby days were filled with excited chatter, many hugs, the occasional kiss, and the weirdly soothing sound of Bert the hippo farting each time Abby squeezed him.

Though as much as he enjoyed those visits, Tony found that he most looked forward to the nights the hospital staff would bring Eve into his room, first in a wheelchair as she recovered from her own surgery, and let her sit with him. At first he didn't understand why the staff let her stay in the room with him every night when they had run off whatever team member had kept him company during the pain filled days. It was only when a nurse updated him on his "wife's" condition that he realized what was going on. The staff had assumed that he and Eve were actually married, and apparently none of the players involved had bothered to set the record straight. Since the misconception allowed him to spend each night with her fingers intertwined with his and the soothing scent of jasmine filling the room he wasn't inclined to tell the truth either. After everything they had been through together, he really didn't see the point.

It hadn't been a picnic, those first few days. He had almost bled to death on the helicopter ride to Bethesda. The only things keeping him from following Kate into the light had been Gibbs' plea to stay and Eve's tears as she lay next to him on the deck of the yacht waiting for rescue to come.

When he awoke to tubes inserted into any opening the doctors could find and crushing pain he almost wished he had taken the easy road to whatever came next, but when his hazy vision cleared and he had managed to meet the relieved crystal blue eyes of his surrogate father he found that he was indeed happy to be alive.

The doctors were optimistic that he would make a full recovery. He was thankful for small favors, but knew that if given the choice again, even knowing the possible outcomes, he wouldn't change anything he had done during this entire operation.

The day after he got out of the ICU Tony awoke to a visitor he didn't recognize. He stood by the window, a tall, lean man in full military uniform decorated with more medals than even Gibbs possessed. His silver hair was a short buzz cut and his bearing was almost regal. It was when that marine sat down in the chair next to his bed that Tony realized something. His eyes were a familiar shade of emerald green. Finally after a few moments the stranger spoke.

"Good mornin', Agent DiNozzo. I'm Hamilton Dupree." The faint Southern accent still showed shades of his birthplace in South Carolina's low country. "I wanted to come by and say thank you."

"For what?" Tony felt disoriented by the drugs and wasn't sure exactly what was going on.

"Son, you saved my daughter's life. She told me how you shielded her from a bullet that would have killed her for certain. I can never repay you for that."

Tony was surprised, but responded, "She's my partner. It's my job to protect her as much as it's hers to protect me, so no thanks are necessary. I'd do it again if the situation called."

"You're a brave man, son. There aren't many who would. Someone taught you well."

Tony grinned, thinking about the man who had taught him all he knew about duty and honor. "Yes sir, someone did. He was a marine, too."

Hamilton smiled and said, "I won't keep you any longer, you need your rest if you're going to recover properly. I just want you to know that if there's ever anything, anything at all, I can do for you; please don't hesitate to let me know."

"Thank you. I appreciate the sentiments."

The General nodded his head and walked from the room as silently as he had come. Tony leaned back on the pillows, deep in thought. He needed to give Director Maxwell an answer to his job offer, so with that thought in mind he reached for the phone next to his bed and dialed.

Gibbs was heading down the hospital corridor on his way to Tony's room. He still hadn't gotten over the shock of almost losing his senior agent to death. Tony, who never handled pain medication well, had talked wildly in his sleep about following Kate to the light. Those statements had been nearly enough to give Gibbs a heart-attack. Once he had regained full consciousness the wild ramblings had stopped, and it looked like they were in the clear now. Tony's collapsed lung had responded well to the treatment once it had been re-inflated and the bullet had caused no permanent muscle damage in his chest. Once the doctors released him Gibbs intended on taking him his house, just to make sure that Tony was taken care of.

Just as Gibbs arrived at the door to Tony's room he saw the Director of the CIA standing by Tony's bed in deep conversation. He stepped back from the doorway, content to listen.

"Anthony, are you sure that there's nothing I can say to change your mind?"

"No sir, I'm certain. I realized something about myself during this operation. As much as I enjoy the adrenaline rush of working with your agency, I'm a cop. I always will be a cop; it's what I love and I think that my talents are best used by staying exactly where I am. I appreciate your offer, more than you'll ever know.

"I respect that. I'm sorry you won't be coming to work with us, but if you ever change your mind there's an open spot with your name on it. You just have to say the word."

"Thank you, Director, for everything."

Maxwell reached out his hand and he and Tony shared a warm handshake before the director turned to leave the hospital room. Once in the hallway he saw Gibbs standing there and stopped in front of the Senior Agent.

"You're a lucky man, Agent Gibbs. You have a fine agent in there. I hope that you appreciate him."

Gibbs gave a sardonic smile before saying, "I know." Two words that said both nothing and everything to the former spy.

Maxwell headed down the corridor while Gibbs opened the door to Tony's room and entered. He found his Senior Field Agent leaning back against the pillows, his eyes closed and a smile on his face.

"Hey, Boss."

"How're you feeling?"

"Hell, I don't know. I think better, but I don't think I'll really know until they take this chest tube out." Pain had begun to creep back up, so Tony paused for a minute to hit the button on his PCA unit. He waited until the morphine began to work on his pain before continuing. "I turned down the job. I'm a cop not a spy. Although, I admit to enjoying the action involved in the profession." He gave a crooked smile that made Gibbs wonder what he was remembering then continued, "So unless you want me to transfer to another team I'm all yours."

Gibbs sat down in the chair by the bed and took a sip of his coffee as he formulated his response. "Tony, I want you right where you've always been, watching my six. I need you there. I know that we've got some things to figure out, and that's just as much my fault as it is yours, but we'll work through them, together."

Tony turned hopeful eyes to Gibbs and repeated, "Together?"

"Yeah, Son, together."

Eve crept into Tony's hospital room as quietly as she was able. The sight of him lying in the hospital bed was still more devastating than a physical blow as she took in his condition. His chest was bandaged heavily hiding the gunshot wound he had suffered while trying to protect her. He was sleeping, the even rise and fall of his chest giving proof to the fact that he was completely relaxed. Sleep was the only time that Tony had ever looked relaxed to her, and she had spent many of the nights they were together just watching him as he slept.

She sighed loudly and Gibbs, who was sleeping in the chair beside Tony's bed, stirred. He opened his eyes and turned his trademark stare to the woman standing in the doorway. She looked a little worse for wear, the shadows under her eyes proof of many sleepless nights and her side still heavily bandaged.

"The hospital release you, Agent Dupree?"

"Yes. Trent got me released. I'm heading back to Langley as soon as the paperwork is completed. I just wanted to see Tony before I go."

Gibbs gave a grunt and stood. "When DiNozzo wakes up tell him I went for coffee." He strode from the room. He still wasn't sure how he felt about her, but he wanted Tony back on the job and not distracted by any personal issues, so he figured that he needed to give them a chance to say their good-byes.

She sat on the edge of his bed; her hand reached out of its own volition and gently stroked his cheek. Tony awoke to the familiar scent of jasmine and a feather light touch on his face. He lay there for a minute enjoying the caress before he finally opened his eyes and scanned her face; his green eyes probing hers to see what secrets she hid.

His voice was raspy from sleep and slightly slurred from the pain medication, but he managed a smile when he spoke, "Hey, Evie." He kept his gaze locked with hers, understanding the truths she revealed to him without words and asked in a weary voice, "What happened?"

Eve dropped her gaze, unsure of how much to reveal. "I'm heading back south next week. Another assignment has come up and they need me."

"Where are you going, or can you tell me?"

"I'll tell you, because I know I can trust you. I'm heading to Ciudad Del Este to track terrorists trading guns on the open market."

"Who's watching your back once you get there?"

"Mossad has an operative in the area. I'll be working with them on this."

He nodded, satisfied with her answer and reached out to lace his fingers with hers. "I'll miss you."

She turned even more serious as she studied their entwined fingers. "I owe you my life, and I'll never forget what you did for me. I finished what I started, and now maybe I can do this for the right reasons." She paused to take a breath then said, "The whole cartel operation is all tied off. I spoke to Trent a few minutes ago, and he told me that nothing will blow back on us. We're both in the clear."

Tony felt a wave of relief at her announcement. "Are you going to be okay?" he asked, pulling her close with his good arm.

She rested her head against his chest for a moment, tears flooding her eyes as she thought about what could have been if she had not been what she was. Tony was right to stay at NCIS, it was his home and his team was his family, and that was something she could never be. She finally tilted her head up and kissed him passionately, which caused his monitors to speed up when he responded. She slipped a card in his hand and replied, "Oh yeah, I'm gonna be just fine. Aren't I always?" She stood and after adjusting his pillows turned to leave the room as silently as she had entered when she heard him murmur, "Yeah, yeah you are."

Tony leaned back into his newly fluffed pillows and watched her walk out the door; only then did he turn his gaze to the small card in his hand. A cell phone number was scribbled on it. He tucked the card away, along with his memories, to analyze later, when he felt a bit more like himself.

Tony straggled into the bullpen. He had barely made it into the office on time. Although in the scheme of things, being on time to work wasn't very high on his list of priorities. He had just spent the last two months in hell trying to put his life back together. Eve hadn't exaggerated when she had told him the whole thing had been finished. The guilty parties had been punished one way or another and the quiet surrounding the entire screwed up operation was almost deafening. For his part in the aftermath, Tony had spent three weeks in the hospital and another five in physical therapy to regain his clearance for field work. It had not been a picnic.

The constant visits from everyone at the office, and the careful bullying from Gibbs had not done much to battle the depression he had felt at how quickly Eve had disappeared back into the black hole known as the CIA. When he had finally gotten home to his apartment he had hoped that there would be some sign of her presence somewhere in the 1,500 square feet he called home, but all that he had found was a jasmine plant in a pot sitting in the kitchen with one of her knives buried in the dirt up to its hilt. There had been no note, but one whiff of the fragrant flowers and the sight of the steel had caused memories to flood his senses. Even though there was no card he knew she had left them there for him; it was just her way of letting him know she was still around, somewhere.

Coming back to work at NCIS had been awkward for the first few days. Tony had endured the questions that inevitably came his way. He had simply worked at getting from one case to the next until the routine had taken him over. It was easier that way, no real need to think about how much everything, hell how much he, had changed.

Spring had just begun to peak out from behind winter's apron when Gibbs noticed that Tony still had not completely snapped back from his ordeal with the cartel. His investigative work was flawless; his instincts had done nothing but improve, but the changes in his personality were marked. He was quieter now, more thoughtful, and always cautious. In fact Gibbs couldn't remember the last time DiNozzo had used any movie references or played any practical jokes on his co-workers. Yes, he had changed, but Gibbs was still hopeful that he would snap back and resume being the Tony everyone knew and really missed.

Ziva observed her partner. She had wondered, on and off, where Eve Dupree had disappeared to. She was obviously on assignment, but no one would give any information on the operation. Tony knew; Ziva was certain that he had at least had an idea of where she had disappeared to, but he wouldn't say. He would talk about a lot of things, but the one thing he refused point blank to talk about was her. Whatever had happened between Tony and Eve was his secret.

He was finally back at work, and at times he seemed almost like himself again. There were subtle changes, like the small tiger head tattoo he'd suddenly sported on his chest that covered the scar left from the bullet wound. Abby had been ecstatic about that change, but there were others as well, including the knife that he now wore constantly. If Ziva had tried to guess she would have said that these were his coping mechanisms, but, then again, she was no psychologist. If Gibbs was worried he had given no sign. He had only said for them to give DiNozzo his space and let him heal in his own good time. Ziva just hoped that Gibbs was right, but privately she was worried for her partner.

Tony sat in the small bar, a drink in front of him, listening to the music that played softly in the background. He hadn't heard from Eve in months. He had decided to take his weekend off and take a trip to Miami. It was the first time he had been back since he had visited the city with her. He had found a key to her apartment on Calle Ocho in his bag, and had come in the hopes of seeing her. He had been disappointed; the apartment was empty and cold. He was returning to DC on the red-eye.

Hours later he made his way into his apartment. Exhausted from his whirlwind trip, he dropped his bags in the hallway and made his way directly to the bedroom intending to sleep until he had to go to work the next morning. Sleep eluded him, and he tossed and turned for hours more before he finally drifted off.

When he finally awoke he felt something was wrong. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he wasn't alone in the apartment. He grabbed his Sig from the bedside table and crept out. He made it as far as the living room before he stopped, shocked at who his visitor was.

Eve was sitting on the couch as if she'd never left at all. She looked up when he approached, and smiled when she saw him there. They locked gazes for several minutes, her emerald eyes full of emotion she didn't want to express and his jade green ones full shadows. Finally, he held out his arms to her so she raced across the room into his embrace. He put his hand under her chin to tilt her head up and said the only thing that came to mind.