A/N: Because I'm feeling inexplicably soft and squishy today. Here's hoping that'll pass before morning comes. Apologies for any mistakes. I banged this puppy out in a flurry of inspiration this afternoon.
Disclaimer: Disclaimed.


Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

While technically correct, it's the kind of rhetoric spewed by self-help gurus and new age airheads to help them face the mundane agony of their everyday lives. He doesn't think either label applies to him. Anyone looking to model their lives on the train wreck he's turned his into should be provided with daily doses of SSRIs, and orange juice is about as close to new age as he gets. But he woke up this morning with the words running round and round in his head, and he's never felt the truth in them more keenly than he does right now.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Last night he closed the chapter on one of the most significant stages of his life, and ceased to be Senior Field Agent to Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Last night he left the pod of desks that had been his home—not even his home away from home, but his home—for the last eleven years. Last night he gave up his trusty probie, and had to let go of his unshakably loyal partner. Last night he somehow avoided getting blind drunk and bursting into tears at the bar where they all wished him well and sent him off to start having adventures without them.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Today he woke up with a new title, if not exactly a new job. Today he is Team Leader Anthony DiNozzo, a man privately terrified by this new responsibility, but confident that by the time his new team reports for duty on Monday he will be able to convince them that he's got this in the bag. Today he is embarking on the next epic chapter of his life, and the unknown mostly excites him. He can't wait to get started.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

He woke up alone that morning, just like he planned. There was a moment last night as the clock crept towards midnight when his partner's smile and impulsive kiss to his cheek as she said goodnight made him think about chasing her company until the sun broke over the city. But he held his impulses in check. Last night they were still partners, and they were still obliged to keep their toes on the right side of the line Gibbs ruled. Their shared respect and unending gratitude for their boss' guidance would not be repaid with non-compliance of his rules, not even in the dying minutes of their seven-year reign.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

As of 12.01 this morning, Gibbs' Reign had been over. Tony would take many of the rules drummed into him (slapped into him) to his own team, and continue to apply them to his life. Don't waste good—no point in reinventing the wheel. That included the rule that hung over his neck like a guillotine since the minute his partner slouched into their lives. But that rule, the one that kept him awake at night, gave him stomach ulcers and broke his heart a hundred times over, does not apply to Tony anymore. At least not in the context of the woman he has wanted to break it for. As of 12.01 this morning she is no longer a co-worker. At least not according to the definition of the rule. (It's the only rule that needs a written definition, sub-clauses and a guide to pronunciation.)

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

It's 1300 by the time he makes it to her door. He knocks like he has a hundred times before, but today it feels different. Today the knock sounds determined and relieved. It does not herald her partner coming to whisk her away to a crime scene, or her partner bringing DVDs and pizza as a believable excuse to spend more time with her. Today he arrives at her door as a less complicated man than he had been 13 hours ago, and she stands aside and grants him access to her personal space without requesting an explanation. He takes the ground offered to him with no intention of ever giving it back to her.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Her apartment seems lighter than usual. The blinds are raised as high as they'll go and the windows are open, and sunlight and fresh air swirl through her living room. He's not new age, but he feels like the change that's been sinking into his skin all morning has made its way to her apartment as well. As she crosses to the stereo to turn down the music that had been keeping her company he notes that her hair is curly today. Although he is a mere male, he believes this is significant. In his head, curly hair equals relaxed and open. Straight hair equals need for control and stubborn walls. And every time they've come close to crossing the line, her hair has always been curly.

Today there is no line to cross.

He knows this is one of those moments that he'll remember clearly for the rest of his days. He can already hear the beginnings of the story he'll tell his grandkids forming in his head. It was a Saturday afternoon, the day after the rule no longer applied. She was standing in a patch of sunshine that made her glow. Her hair was curly that day, and she was in a grey t-shirt. She wore a lot of grey back then.

"We haven't been partners for 13 hours," he tells her upturned face and curious eyes. He hasn't planned this, but ultimately he doesn't think there's much to say. She gets him. She always gets him. He's just got to be clear enough so that she knows that this is the moment. The actual conversation part has already been had, one line at a time, over seven years. This moment is just the wrap up.

"I know." She smiles, but there's a slightly bitter tug to her lips that he understands. They're not partners, and that is hard to accept. They were good together. They excelled together. She's been the best partner he ever had, and now she's…not. In his heart of hearts he doesn't want it to end, but his heart of hearts is also smart enough to know that ending it is the only way to begin again. And she knows it too.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

He doesn't draw it out any longer. The last chapter of his life has finished and he's too eager to start the next. He shrugs like what he's about to say is a given. And it is.

"So now I'm free to say this. I'm completely in love with you," he tells her, and a smile has broken over his face before he's gotten to the end of the sentence. God, it feels so good to finally say it aloud. He presses ahead, stepping forward to brush his hands over her cheeks. "I want to do this," he says, not feeling the need to define this. "Starting now. No more wasting time."

She looks like she might cry, but not in that way that usually makes him panic. He's relieved to see these tears because they tell him before she opens her mouth that he's done the right thing. The story he's writing in his head for their grandkids gets another line. She gave me that look she does when I've done something that makes her happy. It's my favorite one

Small hands bunch his t-shirt and pink lips turn upwards. She closes her eyes briefly, as if committing this to memory (he wonders how the story she'll tell their grandkids will go), and then rises on her toes to almost reach his height.

"No more wasting time," she agrees, and then closes the distance between them completely. Her lips turn soft and sweet under his, and there's an underlying intensity in the embrace that suggests she's been ticking off the minutes to his arrival.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

And it comes not a moment too soon.