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Finding a New Balance

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Almost all of the lights in the squad room had been switched off. Two desk lamps provided the only remaining illumination.

Gibbs looked over at his senior field agent's desk. He cast a critical eye over the man who was studiously typing, noticing the fine lines of pain, the dark circles under his eyesand the general look of exhaustion.

The Tony who had returned from Israel was not the same one that had left. Tony had been quieter and more withdrawn in the few weeks that had passed. His left arm was out of the sling, not completely healed but close enough that Tony had started ignoring doctor's orders, and Gibbs wasn't going to call him on it. The doctors had been very close to ordering a pin be put in due to the break being made worse by Ziva's actions. The rough flight home hadn't helped either. He suspected they had been talked out of it by the patient, but decided he wasn't going to ask questions when Ducky hadn't raised a fuss.

Those who were not so observant would conclude that the reason behind Tony's withdrawal and general despair were due to some romantic attachment between him and Ziva. Gibbs knew his agent better than that. He knew the guilt and blame Tony would unfairly place on himself when things went wrong. After eight years he had hoped he'd have broken him of that, but things don't always work out as planned. He knew Tony blamed himself for breaking up the team again. He still hadn't completely recovered from the first time, less than a year earlier. He also knew that Tony was worried about what dangers Ziva could face back at Mossad. Because, despite the lack of romantic feelings and the issues of the past few months, they were still a family. Maybe not the close knit family they had once been, but still a family. And it wasn't just Tony who was worried. They all were, and not just about Ziva.

He looked back over at Tony, who hadn't moved. He sighed internally. Time to do some damage control.

"DiNozzo, it's late. Go home," he barked in his usual gruff manner.

"I'm fine Boss. Got a few things I need to finish," came the reply, over the sound of typing.

Gibbs sighed silently as he turned off his own computer and lamp. He should have known this wouldn't be as easy as barking an order. He walked over to the front of Tony's desk.

"Tony, it's late,' he said, using a gentler tone. 'You haven't been home in three days. Take a couple of pain killers and get some sleep. Don't want to lose an agent because they're too exhausted to think properly."

Tony's eyes finally meet Gibbs'. The despair and guilt in them were practically begging him to let him stay. Gibbs understood the reason why. There were times when you would do anything to try and forget. That was why he'd recently begun building a new boat in his basement after all. Despite this, he knew that it was time for Tony to get past the last few weeks. And, unfortunately, it was up to him to live up to his bastard reputation and act in Tony's best interests, even if Tony didn't agree.

"It's not up for debate, DiNozzo."

"Boss, please," Tony whispered and Gibbs isn't even sure he was meant to hear it.

The team had tried all sorts of things to snap Tony out of his misery. Abby had taken him out drinking, Ducky had fussed over his health and Palmer had gone around to Tony's place with pizza and movies. All they had received for their troubles was an 'I'm fine' and Tony retreating further into his shell.

Gibbs decided a more direct approach was needed. He grabbed the chair from behind McGee's desk and wheeled it over to Tony's desk.

"It wasn't your fault. Ziva chose to stay," he said, as he sat down.

Tony's head snapped up. His eyes locked with Gibbs'.

"If it wasn't for me, she wouldn't have had to choose. She would still be here. If I had trusted her, she would still be here. If I hadn't killed her 'boyfriend' she would still be here." Tony's head dropped as the anger suddenly left him and only the despair remained.

"It's all my fault," he mumbled, putting his head in his hands.

"Tony." The commanding tone was one that Tony knew better than to ignore. Gibbs waited until Tony's eyes meet his.

"This started long before you suspected anything about Ziva. It started with Director David not trusting his own daughter. And there wasn't anything else you could have done when Rivkin rushed at you. You trusted your gut. That's all you can do."

Tony gave a snort.

"My gut sucks. It hasn't exactly kept me out of trouble in the past."

Damn thought Gibbs. He thought they had moved beyond the self confidence issues that had raised their head again last summer. Then again he'd been dealing with DiNozzo's self confidence issues ever since they'd first met, way back in Baltimore.

The headslap that came was fast and hard.

"DiNozzo, haven't we been over this before? Your gut works fine. You just have to trust it more and call for back up when you do. That's what gets you into trouble; the way you completely ignore your own safety."

"Like it matters,"Tony mumbled under his breath, and again Gibbs was sure that he wasn't meant to hear the comment. This time however, he decided that the issue needed to be addressed.

"You ever known me to say something I didn't mean?"

"No, Boss" came the reply.

"Then believe that it matters to Abby and Ducky if something happens to you. It matters to me if you get yourself killed. Already lost most of my family. Don't want to lose what's left."

Tony looked at him and Gibbs could see that some of the darkness in his eyes had lifted a little. Gibbs had no illusions that the problem had been fixed but it was a start in the right direction.

He got up and started walking towards the elevator. Not turning around he said, "Coming? You can help me with the boat tonight."

Tony scrambled to pack up and reach the elevator before the doors close. Gibbs concealed a smile. Tonight he would feed Tony something home cooked. After working on the boat together, the spare room would be ready for Tony to get some much needed rest. And tomorrow they would continue to move on with their lives.