Her mouth was dry and her head spun. She was sure this had to be some sort of cruel joke; some sort of drunken gesture. Her mind flooded with different possible responses.

You are ridiculous, goodnight.

No, Tony, what have you been drinking?

Rule twelve.

We must talk about this first.

She needed something clever to say to fill the void, but she knew he would not let her speak.

He was right: they had tried to have this conversation many times before. When Gibbs left to Mexico. When they came back from Paris. After they had both tried new love, and lost. Every time they tried to talk about it they never got to the point they wanted to be; separately or together. Somehow it seemed like words did no more than clutter their lives with confusion. Maybe this was the easiest way. Maybe they should stop trying to test the waters and just dive in head first, into the deep end.

He stared and waited for her response for what seemed like hours. The residual signs of a grin still looked back at her. His eyes were soft and lacked the urgency he spoke with, as if he were trying to make a point not to scare her off. She took a few breaths to calm herself, all the while not breaking eye-contact with the brave, if not slightly insane, man in front of her.

Could this really be playing out? A former assassin and a All-American goofball? She did not question her feelings for him anymore, though at a point in a time she thought her interest in him would just be a passing fad. On the contrary, her love for her partner grew from small smiles; playful teasing and most importantly, that he had always looked out for her. He let her make her own mistakes when it came to men, career and growing into her own person.

She took a step forward and raised her hand to his eyes, covering them as he followed suit in closing them slowly. He stood there, not moving, not forcing her hand either way. She was tempted, as mean as it was, to turn and go inside, leaving him there. He would not have to watch her walk away from him, she mused, which may be the hardest part. Instead, she took his face in both her hands and met their lips gently. Her hands fell to his shoulders, his finding their way to her hips, holding her close.

The taste of his lips was intoxicating. Though his hands held her close, his lips were unpresuming, giving her full control. This time her head spun for a different reason. Her entire body felt flush, and if he were not holding her she was sure she would not have held herself up. She pulled away slowly and felt him shudder beneath her hands. She watched him open his eyes to hers, and they were already brighter. He gave her a huge smile and tightened his hold on her quickly once more, as if to make sure she was still there.

She tried to suppress her smile almost shyly, and let out a soft laugh. Though she knew her feelings were deep for this man, she did not expect to be acting like some flustered high school teenager. She turned her body slightly to open the door, and when she turned around he had pulled away from her completely. Hurt and confusion flashed in her eyes at once, thinking she had been played somehow.

Noticing this he stepped towards her once more, hand on each side of her face, he tilted her head towards his and kiss the top of her forehead, pulling away with a smile. He made a move to leave again, and turned to her, speaking gently.

"Baby steps, my ninja," with a smile and a wink he turned to walk down the hall. She could swear his step had a little more bounce as he walked away, and as much as she wanted to stop him, her mouth formed no words.

He was giving her space. He was giving her time.

And in the morning, she knew right then what her first two words to him would be.

A/N: Apologies! My work schedule gives me just enough time to post and crash out before my next shift. Sadly I wasn't able to double check and made sure this posted! Also, thanks to the reader who pointed out my error of confusing the two chapter orders! (: Please review and tell me what you think!