The difference in this night and the previous ones lay in the awareness that tomorrow would bring about a surrendering. The medical professionals who came through all night regarded him with sympathy, their compassion evident in their movements around him.
Tony, for his part, pushed the reality of the situation into a back compartment of his mind. He pulled his chair up and sat carefully, grabbing his abuela's hand and clasping it.
"I will make you smile, now my grandmamma, in your heart, because you bring so much joy to me." he announced.
Tony began to relate one incident and memory after another, his voice both passionate and soothing as it described snapshots of the two of them which had played out over the years. A couple of times he stopped to get himself under control, emotionally, but for most of the ensuing hours, he spoke without a break.
He fought to stay awake, determined that he convey to his abuela how much she meant to him. Refusing to leave the room, he skipped the cafeteria's offerings and settled for the water from the pitcher on her bedside table.
Squaring his shoulders, he kissed her hand and promised that he would not turn her loose and let her go until she left him.
The sky opened again with a burst of colour and she turned. Her parents waited there, both looking the way they had looked the last time she had seen them. She moved towards them but abruptly stopped and turned back.
Turning back to them she spoke softly, "What will my Baby do?"
Her father answered, "What will you do for your baby, Maria?"
"This is your eternity," her mother smiled, and used both hands to blow a kiss to her. She motioned her forward.
He fell asleep at some point, despite fighting to remain awake and talking to Maria. Some time later he sat up in shock and looked around him. The sun peeped over the horizon.
Terror filled him then, realizing that this new day brought Maria's last day within its dawning.
Tony knelt down by the bed and prayed, repeating prayers she had taught him. A few minutes later he stood and smiled down at his grandmother. Then kicking off his shoes, he crawled onto the bed beside her, gently repositioning the tubes and monitors so that he could gather her in his arms. His back to the bedrail, he desperately held her as he witnessed the dawn break over the town.
Watching the sun stream through, he reached up and softly began rubbing her hair, speaking urgently to her, "Abuela, please come to me now. Your baby is here. Llegado a su bambino. I need you please, por favor, Abuela. It is your Antonio, it is your Bambino, and I want you to come back to me. Te Quiero a ti. I need you."
Maria looked from the light to the hospital room. Suddenly she felt a hand, soft, gentle, and familiar, stroking her hair, rubbing it softly.
He continued to caress her hair, and when his eyes began to fill, he hastily rubbed his face on her nightgown, an action he had repeated countless times over the years when he was upset.
"Abuela, don't leave me! Please, I need you with me. Who will take care of me? Who will love me and watch over me like you do? Who will hold my own little boy or my own little girl the way that you have held me? Who will tell them stories, and will be waiting as they run and call for their grandmother? Quien hara que? Who will rock them?"
Though he tried his best to stop them, the tears began to fall, slowly at first, then in rapid succession. Tony bit the side of his lip, "Abuela! I need you! Tu bambino te necesita! Your Antonio needs you, and I love you, Abuela."
He gently laid his head over her heart, and caressed her hair softly.
When Jethro, Ducky, and Tia arrived together that morning they all stopped abruptly when they saw Tony snuggled against his grandmother, his hand tangled in her hair.
That sight nearly undid Ducky, who pulled off his glasses to wipe on his sleeve and whispered, "Oh my, now, I have seen her hold the lad…."
Tia started to cry softly, "What will her baby do with her not here? What will we do without her?"
Gibbs leaned against the door for support and the chance to pull himself together before he entered the room. The picture of his boy, his baby, and his unrestrained love for his grandmother just broke his heart.
He could do nothing to make any of it better.
He didn't respond to either of the other two, but motioned instead. "It is time to go in now."
Squaring his shoulders, he led them in, and immediately he crossed to the bed and leaned down to kiss his son. "Anthony, wake up now."
Tony stirred and shifted, but did not wake. Gibbs tried again, speaking a little louder and a little more urgently. "Tony, it's time to get up, Son. Wake up now."
This time the shifting came as Maria brought her hand up from the bed to lay it across Tony's cheek. She whispered hoarsely as she slowly opened her eyes, "Why is my Bambino upset?"
Before anyone could react she slid a bit further, and then covered the hand Tony had entangled in her hair with her own hand. "Antonio, bebe, why did you need me? Por que me necesitan? Why have you cried?"
The other three stared incredulously, too stunned at the moment to take in the turn of events or to properly process the sight before them.
Maria leaned over to kiss Tony's cheek and responded, her voice weak but clear. "Here I am, Bambino, Abuela is here with you. Look at me. Me miran."
At the sound of her voice he began to wake then, slowly. When his eyes opened fully they focused immediately upon his grandmother. He took in the scene and began to sit up, then automatically puffed out his lip into a pout and murmured quietly, "I thought you were leaving me, Abuela mia. I got scared."
He began stroking her hair, and she brushed his bangs back.
"Never," she responded softly, "never would I leave my Bambino."