The final chapter, which is actually an epilogue.

This chapter is more about what happens when they are forced by circumstances to sit back with each other and letting things happen. Especially without Gibbs' ever watchful eye on them. How it might turn out for them. It might be a little too much on the realistic side but I'll leave that up to the reader's interpretation. As Ducky said a couple of weeks ago, change is inevitable.

As always, I do not own any part of NCIS.

Butch and Sundance

-4-

Six months later

Tony DiNozzo stood on the landing outside the Director's office looking down on his desk. A woman with her light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail sat there now, Dorcas Drake. The red-headed man who sat at Ziva's old desk, his name was Ben Jamison. Gibbs' desk was empty. But McGee still sat at his old spot, typing away. The acting Senior Field Agent for the MCRT looked busy but Tony knew he was just dawdling until it was time to meet Abby, Ducky and Ziva for lunch. Gibbs might show too. The Boss was in with Vance right now but who knew for how long?

Working his left shoulder back and forth to ease the stiffness Tony thought about survival and second chances. In the past 6 months he'd been through hell; 3 surgeries on his left shoulder, endless hours of extreme torture masquerading as physical therapy and finally realizing that somehow, in the midst of all the pain and worry, he'd found something pretty special, something worth holding on to.

His own talk with Vance earlier had been short and to the point. The bad news - he was never going to be a field agent again, even if he could pass most of the physical requirements including accuracy on the gun range. The permanent stiffness and inability to raise his left arm above shoulder height was going to keep him desk bound. He'd known it was coming but still he'd felt adrift for a few moments after Vance made his pronouncement. What else could he do? He was a cop. If he couldn't hack it with NCIS would a small town police force hire him?

But good news followed. Vance started talking about Quantico and the FBI training facility, about a position for him there as an instructor. Both Gibbs and Fornell had given him their endorsements for the job. Training new agents, an endless stream of probies, staying in the D.C. area, it was definitely something he was interested in. He'd asked Vance if he could let him know his decision tomorrow and gotten the okay. There was someone he needed to talk to before he made it final.

Down below he saw McGee look up and smile. Even from where he stood, Tony could hear Abby's voice.

"McGee, where's Tony. We're starving!"

Ziva was hidden behind Abby until the taller woman stepped aside to sit on the corner of McGee's desk. Tony smiled. Gone were the days of cargo pants and work boots. Today she was every inch the young professional ninja. A tight, dark green skirt, white silk blouse and very tall black heels - the sexy secretary look he called it just to piss her off. Her hair was pulled back on either side, held with jade combs and then left to hang loose down her back. He knew she wore it that way for him. She walked with a sure and even stride, a far cry from the bent over, shuffling gait she'd had at the beginning of her rehab. The clothing also hid the new scar bisecting her left side from belly button to spine, a permanent reminder of the removal of her destroyed left kidney.

So many things had changed since the shootings. Ziva now worked in NCIS Intel. When you stopped to think about it, it was the perfect fit for an agent with her knowledge of the Middle East and gift for languages. Director Vance had been more than happy to slide her into an open position in the department. She'd been angry and stubborn about it at first but once Gibbs sat her down and told her the hard facts about not ever being able to be a field agent again what with a missing kidney and a damaged liver, she'd calmed down, accepted the position and even thanked Vance for the opportunity. She was already making a name for herself, both in the US and overseas, as a force to be reckoned with. His Ninja - a force of nature for damned sure.

Just then she looked up and saw him. Her smile warmed him from the inside out. In fact, he hoped he wasn't blushing. She just did something to him when she smiled like that, like he was the most important person in her world.

It still surprised him how it all worked out. There'd been no discussion really, it just happened. Without the dual stressors of work and Gibbs and sharing rides to physical therapy appointments they were thrown together constantly, often spending the night together when she would make supper for him after she recovered enough to stand up for more than a couple of minutes at a time, or at his place where he would order in and they'd watch movies. Laughing, arguing, commiserating with each other, encouraging each other, soon she spent more time at his place than at hers.

It just came naturally, organically; like it was meant to be, although he didn't believe in such nonsense. Now most of her clothes were hanging in his spare closet. Her toothbrush, toiletries and make-up were in his bathroom. Their dirty laundry shared the same basket. She slept in his bed every night and they woke up to each other every morning; all wild hair, morning breath and sheet marks. He couldn't get enough of it.

Sex hadn't been a part of their new relationship, not until a few weeks ago. They were both too early in their rehabilitation process but then early one morning he'd woken up to Ziva kissing him, running her hands over him, and then climbing on top of him. It hadn't been the best sex he'd ever had but it had been by far the sweetest and most satisfying. Afterwards, and the whole thing was over way too damn fast by his usual standards, with Ziva asleep once more snuggled into his side, he finally admitted to himself what THIS was. This was exactly what he wanted; no, what he needed.

And tonight he had a little surprise for her. His therapist had given him the all clear to go ahead and do push ups, a useful euphemism for male superior position intercourse. Oh yeah. He felt a big smile spread across his face. Yep, Tony DiNozzo was definitely going to be back in the saddle tonight.

"She doing okay, DiNozzo?"

Oh shit. It was Gibbs. Tony quickly lost his smile. Gibbs probably knew what he was thinking and there might be a head slap coming his way any moment. To distract his soon to be former boss Tony answered his question in detail.

"Yeah, boss. She's good. Back to running at least 3 miles every morning. Happiest when she's on the gun range, of course."

"How's the new job? MacLeod's her boss, right?"

"Yeah."

"MacLeod's a good man."

Tony looked down at Ziva again. She had her little forehead wrinkle going as she saw him and Gibbs standing together and talking.

"And you? How 'bout you, DiNozzo?"

Gibbs' eyes were locked onto his, demanding honesty.

"I'm doing okay. In some ways better than I ever have before," and he couldn't help it. He looked down at Ziva again then back to Gibbs.

"I guess you know I won't be coming back as an NCIS field agent, right? Vance told me you'd recommended me for the position at Quantico."

"It's a good fit for you, Tony. Different than what you've done, but a good fit."

"So you really think I should take it?"

Gibbs nodded.

"Yeah."

Looking back down into the bullpen, Tony saw Ducky had arrived and was receiving his customary bone crushing Abby hug. It was time to join the group for lunch.

"I have to talk it over with Ziva first, Boss. I told Vance I'd give him my answer tomorrow."

He watched Gibbs out of the corner of his eye expecting a frown or something worse but Gibbs nodded and grinned. Grinned! Now his day was perfect; a new job waiting, Gibbs not smacking his head for being with Ziva, smiling about it in fact, and the freedom to indulge himself and Ziva tonight without restraint.

"We're going to Toscano's for lunch. You're welcome to join us," he offered.

Gibbs nodded again.

"Let's go," he said.

They walked side by side down the stairs. When they reached the bottom Ziva was there. Gibbs reached out and took her in his arms and hugged her to him whispering something in her ear that made her start and then smile and kiss him on the cheek. When she turned to Tony he picked up her hand and kissed her palm, their special greeting since that day in the SICU. He kept hold of her hand as Abby came clomping over and hugged Gibbs until his face turned red.

"Abs…" he gasped.

"Oh, sorry, Gibbs, sorry. We're going to lunch. Wanna come with us. Timmy's buying."

McGee made a startled sound.

"What?"

"Well, you're the one who just got the big raise, Timmy."

"I'M buying," Gibbs said.

They all turned to stare at him. Sure he'd buy coffee sometimes but never lunch. He stared right back.

"But, Gibbs, you never…"

"I know, Abby, but this time I am. Let's go."

Ziva, Ducky, Abby and Tim all started toward the elevator but Tony held back.

"What's up, Boss?"

Gibbs glanced around the bullpen then back to Tony.

"Lots of changes coming, DiNozzo. I told Vance today I wanted to take retirement. Gave him 90-day notice."

"What?"

"It's time. I don't want to train another team…and my dad's not doing so well. I'm going to spend more time with him, see if I can get him to move down here."

"But, boss, what about…?"

"It'll all work out, DiNozzo. Life's all about change. This one's a lot easier than most."

With that he walked away leaving Tony puzzled, confused, off balance and just generally not sure of the ground he walked on anymore. Gibbs not at NCIS? It had happened before but this time it felt more permanent. No go backs. He shook his head. Was the world as he knew it ending?

Gibbs made it to the small group by the elevator just as the doors opened. Everyone but Ziva went inside and she gave them a wave to go on without her. She came back to him.

"Is something wrong, Tony?"

She touched his arm. She was always doing that now, touching him. Each and every time she did it, physically expressing her feelings for him, in public or private, his heart beat a little faster.

"No, nothing's wrong. Everything's right."

He pulled her into his arms and did something he'd never thought he would, he kissed her right there in the office. A deep, wonderful kiss with tongue, her breasts pressed into his chest and he knew she was getting into it when she put her hands behind his neck and pulled herself up on her toes. They only broke apart when they began to hear scattered applause behind them.

"There's going to be some changes, Ziva. Already have been, I know. But more are on the way."

Her smile could have been painted by DaVinci.

"Nothing Butch and Sundance cannot handle, yes?"

"Yep."

They started walking toward the elevator, holding hands.

"And I have a really BIG surprise for you tonight, Ziva David. I think you'll like it."

"Yes? A really BIG surprise? And you will like it too?"

"Yes, I will. I look forward to this evening with, shall I say, great anticipation."

Her dimples showed and she winked at him.

"Ditto."

FIN