It was intended to be a brief stop at the used book store to waste a few minutes before meeting friends. Trooper and I split up with a kiss as we each went to our favorite areas. I found an interesting book on blacksmithing when he came up to me, a few books in hand, and a strange smile on his face. We moved to check out and I scanned through the book he held out, moving to the center and more modern timeframe within it.
And there it was - a familiar face, disguised with exhaustion and paint, but the full mouth catching my eye. A group of three in that small photo, he noted the one in the middle who looked skeletal was dead, lost in a different skirmish in a different part of the world...
I scanned that section of the book the other day, reading details that he would never give, understanding a bit more behind his only confession of months back about an airport and no cover with nothing left to do but go forward with high aggression. A mowing down, it seems, of men intent on removing them from that terrain.
I can see him allowing those memories to flow back to mind, so many years gone, and remembering the gory glory days when his body and mind were immortal. How much harder it must be to deal with the petty bullshit his supervisor is dealing out, knowing that once he roared life and death in turn. How to hold ones hand against that kind of insult? I find it nigh unto impossible myself and I've nothing like that iron in my spine.
I return to that page, that photo, and feel a deep admiration that the damned petty fool still breathes. That lion is not defanged, after all. Older, yes. But the skills are just as sharp, the claws just as capable of rending soul from flesh. A line repeats in my head when I think of that bastard: "My God, but you are brave."