She never thought she'd be here. Somehow she knew it would come but she tried to ignore it. His hair had changed completely gray a few years earlier but he never slowed much until the past year. Age had finally caught up with him it seemed. Maybe he needed to slow down for once. Still today seemed the worst. He hadn't got up. He didn't even complain. The silence was eerie.
Brazen spent most of her time sitting with him but he seemed lost in thought all morning and distant. When he decided to break the silence with his ever roughening voice Susan jumped startled by him.
"I used to hate you." He said still staring off.
"Not as much as I hated you." She set the book aside and moved to sit beside him on the bed. He just rolled his eye at her. It was good to see his cranky and stand-offish demeanor come back.
"Hmm, must be why you followed me all across the damned country. Some hate you have baby."
Brazen laughed at his slightly sarcastic comment. "Cop hater."
Snake shook his head. Over the years that had become a tease and a joke.
"Not going to smile for me?" She continued to prod at him.
"Why?" He cocked his head and looked over from where he was laying. He still seemed distant and far off.
"I love you." She whispered and a little bit of a smile, which was a huge smile for Snake, appeared. "What are you thinking about?"
"The past." Snake shrugged. "My parents, Taylor, lot of people I lost long time ago."
Brazen took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Do you mean Bill Taylor?"
Snake nodded. "Think about him a lot lately."
"How did the two of you meet?" Brazen grinned. "You've still never told me about it."
"We were kids when we met. Our fathers served in Vietnam together." Snake seemed to brighten up a little more.
"What year was it?"
"Shit…. 1975 in the late summer." Snake shifted and Brazen helped him sit up in bed. It worried her to see him struggling so much. "His family had moved down from around Helena."
"Montana?" Brazen asked and got an affirmative nod as she rested up against the headboard beside him.
"My parent's had his family over for dinner the day they moved in. His sister was just a baby, two or three. All this stuffy ass bullshit from his mom especially. They tried to get us to sit still in the living room while they cooked. Worked for shit."
Susan giggled and leaned her head against his shoulder. She could imagine Snake sitting on a couch trying to sit still. She didn't even think he could do it much now.
"Taylor started it. Asked me if there was something better to do. We slipped out the back and took off."
"Started early?" Brazen commented with a knowing smile.
Plissken finally laughed. "You know it baby."
Snake went on with his story. "I decided he needed to see this pond down the road. Wasn't far but at that age seemed like miles away. We got there having a fucking great time. Bill'd filled his pockets up with frogs by the time they came looking for us. I knew the look my mom had. I was in deep shit."
Snake stopped to cough but Susan didn't think much of it when he went back to his story.
"Taylor's mom came up and grabbed him by the collar. He was going to get his ass whipped for something. Running off, the mud, who the hell knows. I saw it though. The frogs were starting to wiggle out. My dad saw it too and started laughing."
"That's where you get that from." Susan kissed his cheek "You are just like him."
"Always have been. Anyway. She went to swing and crack his ass and this huge fucking frog jumps out and lands right on her bare arm. My dad choked from laughter and all we could do is watch her scream and try to brush it off. She fell right in the fucking water too. Thought I was dead but Taylor was looking at his mom being helped out of the pond like Satan was rolling out of it." Snake slipped his arm around her as she slid in closer.
"Did you get out of trouble?" Susan glanced up at him already knowing he had some way out.
"Hell yeah. My dad and all his laughing. Started telling him he was the reason I was such a terrible boy. My dad looked at her still stifling laughter when she crawled up the bank muddy. Taylor's mom was so indignant about the whole damned thing. My dad stared them down, told them that his boy had safely got their son here and made sure he hadn't drowned should be grateful. Never seen anyone pissed off as Taylor's mom. She told my dad right there that she hated him. Don't think they ever got past tolerating each other after that."
Brazen was laughing by the time he finished but it stopped when Snake started to cough again. It sounded worse this time. His hand was over his mouth as the coughing fit went on. Brazen helped Plissken sit up and the choking sound subsided. Slowly he took a deep breath but Susan was already in shock at what she saw.
A tiny smudge of blood was on his lips. Brazen was afraid of that blood. "Snake?"
"I'm alright." He waved her off.
Susan shook her head and reached out with her thumb to wipe the streak from his lip onto her thumb. "Blood?"
Snake glanced down at her hand swiftly but it was too late to cover the guilt she saw.
"You knew?" Brazen accused sounding more hurt and defensive than she planned on. "You knew and didn't tell me?"
"Didn't want you worrying about it." Plissken had recovered completely from the bout of coughing.
Brazen felt the sting of tears. She rarely cried but now there was no choice. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know." Snake shrugged.
"What do you mean?" Susan's voice was nearly a shriek from what she felt when he treated this so nonchalantly.
"They don't know. I went to see a doctor." Plissken was in no mood to fight and she could see it.
"Those butchers!" Susan curled against him in the bed. "What did they say?"
"Four months, maybe little less." Snake seemed resigned to the fate of whatever he had.
"When? When did you go?" Susan felt like slapping him. It hurt to hear this from him.
"Beginning of April."
Susan started counting. Tears turned to a flood when the date worked out. "Last month? You could've died last month! That was two weeks ago."
"When were you going to tell me? When?" Brazen was frantic and reached out clinging to his shirt. Snake stayed quiet long enough that she sat up looking at him in disbelief.
"Don't argue with me. Not now." Snake had a look in his expression that was a plead of some sort. He knew something and she figured he was feeling lot worse that he let on. Susan forced away the tears wiping at the frantically to stop them especially when he started to wipe at them too.
"Stop crying. Keep telling you, makes you look ugly and I don't want no ugly wife."
Susan giggled through the tears and held tighter to him. He was so much smaller than he once was. Older, frailer but his mind and senses were still there like always.
"Snake, I'm afraid." Susan just held him but her mind was out of control with thoughts.
"Of what?" Snake's voice was quiet and soothing.
"Tomorrow." Susan was terrified now. What if tomorrow he was gone?
"What about now?" Snake made her look up at him as he bit back more coughing. "Are you afraid of now?"
Susan shook her head because she was unable to speak.
"Then nothing to worry about." Snake smiled and started to move over to get up. She couldn't believe he was dying and thinking like this but then that was Plissken.
"What are you doing?" Susan questioned when she let him go.
"Looks like a nice day. Been sitting on my ass long enough." Snake was on his feet beside the bed.
"What do you want to do?" Brazen followed after him as he stepped into his moccasins.
"Don't know yet." Snake smiled when Brazen took his hand. She loved that smile and it never changed. He still looked like he was up to something.
"Why? You want to come with me?" Plissken asked as if challenging her.
Brazen knew he was teasing her. He'd hassled her since the day she met him. "Depends on what you're doing."
"Told you, I don't know." Snake growled and it caused him to cough.
Susan did her best to ignore the fact he was coughing again. "Then I don't know either."
"You always this damned difficult?" Snake seemed tired just from standing up too long but the snap in his words was enough to make her smile.
"You married me." She teased as he started to walk out of the bedroom.
"Never regretted it." Snake smiled a bit at her and left the room. Brazen just watched him for a moment unsure whether to breakdown or smile. He said he loved her often enough but to hear that all the fighting and hate and struggling between them had never made him regret being here was too much. At times she'd regretted it. She regretted being with him. It was rare but she still did at times when things were bad. Susan smiled despite herself and caught up easily with him before he made it to the front door.
Susan took his hand and Snake held tight. She wondered how much time they had still for her to forget the regrets she imagined she had.