Disclaimer: All things SAAB belong to Morgan & Wong and whoever else owns the rights to them. No copyright infringement intended.

Special thanks to JESSIE who wrote the FARSCAPE story WATCHING, before I read that story, the ideas for Legends & Lies were rattling around in my head but wouldn't come together. After reading, I changed my point of view and everything fell into place. Watching is a wonderful story and I recommend it highly.

RATING: PG 13 for language

TIMEFRAME: In the late fall or early winter after Tell Our Moms..., but before Christmas 2064.


Legends & Lies


Phyllis Christie

The Tun Tavern was doing its usual brisk business, though the atmosphere was muted for a Saturday night. The battle that had started before noon was over and pilots and crewmen were taking a much-needed break. Chief Gus Henley was back behind the bar where he belonged, instead of manning a forward turret gun. His experience from the old war, The AI Rebellion, where he had served as Chief Gunnery Officer on the Carolina came in handy at such times. He stretched to get the kink out of his leg, and loosen muscles that were tied in knots thanks to a Tank that had deserted his gun post and left the Chief's position open to enemy, years ago.

The surge of battle left him drained, but he was a fifth generation Navy man, who knew his duty. In this new war, were every person counted, he had two jobs, both equally important. He was thankful for his second career, as he called it, as head barman of the Saratoga's Tun Tavern. If not for that position, his bum hip and leg would have kept him Earthbound. That was no place for a career Navy man, when a shooting war going on out in space.

There was always a new face in the bar, trying to get a drink without a billet card. But Henley had been tending bar too long to let any of those hotshots get away with anything. He was careful to do his job with proper respect for his ship, and those who served on her. There were no bar fights on his watch, well that wasn't quite true, he smiled to himself. There had been one or two, but it had never been because someone had gone over his or her drink limit. 'No sir, not on my watch,' he thought to himself as he looked around at the men and women in his charge.

'There they are, the Wildcards,' he sighed as a weary group of young people came through the swinging doors that marked the boundary to his territory. He hadn't thought much of them when they had been permanently assigned on the 'Toga. He had heard all the scuttlebutt about their performance at The Battle Of The Belt, and figured it was just a flash in the pan. After all what could be expected of a group that not only had a Tank as a member, but was lead by one as well. The betting pools had been giving high odds in favor of the Chigs dealing them all an ace of spades within a month. But they had beat the odds, and lived up to their name. Whenever there was a tight spot, that needed a special touch, it seemed that Commodore Ross would send them in, and they got the job done.

He wondered if the 58th knew that most of the newbies emulated them? Did they know that they were talked about in the lower decks? The Barman shook his head. War or no war, the Marines and Sailors that served on the Saratoga were the same as those that had hung around the clubs on all the bases where he had worked since his injury. None of them saw the man behind the bar, and very few of them realized he had ears for anything more than filling a drink order. But he knew, he heard them talking. He heard all about the Wildcards and the man who lead them. It had been a long time since Gus had thought of HIM as just the Tank Colonel.

As he poured a pitcher of beer and set six glasses on a tray, he thought about the man behind the 'Cards, Lt. Col. TC McQueen. For years he had heard stories about the Ace Fighter pilot and highest-ranking in-vitro in Military Service. If even a small part of what was said about the man was true, it was no wonder that the Wildcards had turned out like they had. The shocker was that a Tank would turn out to be a man like McQueen.

Looking at the men and women who made up the 58th, Gus could see that the war was changing them. They still looked young, after all they couldn't be more than 24, at the oldest, but it was something in their eyes. He had heard other Marines call it _'a thousand yard stare.'_ He didn't think it had anything to do with distance, unless that distance was measured in time. The amount of time a man aged when someone died, either by their hand or the enemies. That group had seen a lot of death, even lost two of their own.

Chiggy Von Richthofen had killed the first one, that lovely dark haired Lt. Winslow. She had been one of Gus' favorites. Not just because she was good looking, but she was one of the few Soldiers that took the time to know his name. Sometimes late at night when she couldn't sleep, she would sit at his bar and they would talk. Not about anything serious, or sad, and definitely not about the war, just everyday things. He was always happy to see her come in, because he enjoyed their talks and that mischievous grin of hers. He knew if she wasn't sleeping, something wasn't going well for her, so he would play the game like she wanted, and pretend they were back at Loxley or Pendleton, or one of the other big bases, and not on a silent ship weaving in and out of harms way.

The other one to die had been Lt. Wang. Gus smiled as he shook his head and thought, _'there was a young man who was out of place, if he'd ever seen one.'_ The Lieutenant loved to play poker, like all the other 'Cards, but he couldn't play worth a lick. For the longest time, you could tell just what he was thinking by looking at his face. Then something happened. Stories were all over the ship, but no one knew what to believe, and those who did, weren't talking. Whatever had happened to him had been a lot worse than death. But the kid had pulled out of it in the spring, just before the terrible battle that had taken so many lives. Gus had been sure that all of the Wildcards would die, along with thousands of others that had been left on that Devil Planet for all those months. But their luck had held and they were one of three squads to return without losing a man, or so the rumors said.

It was sometime between the two deaths that Gus began to look at McQueen as something other than a just another Tank. He wasn't sure when it happened. He remembered serving him a bottle of scotch and a glass, the night that Von Richthofen was killed. It was against all the rules, but the Bartender hadn't cared. He would have given the man in the black flightsuit anything he wanted that night. The Chig Red Baron was dead at the Colonel's hand. It had seemed fitting that the in-vitro had avenged the death of one of his own.

That was the same night that Gus had gotten his first good look at the new doctor, Jenny Kirkwood. He had seen her in the Tun with the Wildcards, and he had heard a lot of stories about her. She had saved the life of some Big Brass General and a number of other men on a nasty little planet a month or so before Christmas, 2063. But the stories that made her special where the ones she had told to the men while trapped on that planet for over three weeks; stories about a Marine pilot that had been killed at the beginning of the war. He wondered if she realized that her stories were being told even now, spread by the men who had heard them from her. Gus shook his head at the terrible loss, a man like her Major dead, leaving a woman with only stories to tell. But it was strange, those stories belonged to the slice of time when Dr. Kirkwood was caught on Kordis, because she didn't tell them anymore. He wondered if she had believed she wasn't going to live to get off that pile of rock, so it was all right to talk about a man who was only alive in her heart?

Seeing her with McQueen that night was a thing to behold. The Colonel, was half way to being drunk and dizzy to boot, from some medical thing that had kept him from flying. Though he had gone out in a Hammerhead, and single-handedly done what numerous squads of pilots had failed to do: kill Chiggy Von Richthofen. Gus didn't understand why the ex-Angry Angel couldn't fly, but he knew it had to be something serious because of the blood that had oozed from other man's ear, and the look in the Doctor's eyes when she tried to get him to leave the bottle behind.

That Tank could give a seasoned Marine a case of the shakes with one frozen glance, and when he put his mind to it, he could be a mean son-of-a--a--. Gus would have liked to say bitch, but after all, the man was an in-vitro, so that didn't apply. The little Doctor stood right up to him and let his temper blow over her, without blinking an eye. It didn't do her much good though, McQueen had pulled rank on her and there was nothing she could do about it, or so the Colonel had thought. It wasn't ten minutes later that one of the Wildcards showed up, sitting just out of their commanding officer's line of sight. All night long the 'Cards worked in shifts, keeping an eye on the older man. It had tickled Gus no end when Commodore Ross had finally arrived and gotten the drunken Marine out of the Tun. He didn't suppose anybody else but Boss-Ross could have pulled it off. There were rumors that the two senior officers went way back and he supposed that there was probably some truth to those stories. He had seen them having a casual drink together on and off over the last year, though it was hard to imagine how that friendship got started: a high-ranking career Navy man and a Tank Marine.

"A pitcher of beer and six glasses, please," it must have been Lt. West's turn to buy, Gus thought as he accepted the young man's billet card then handed over the drink order he had set up when the Wildcards had arrived.

"Will you be wanting a glass of scotch to go with that?" The Bartender grinned, knowing that McQueen would most likely be joining the group sometime soon.

"Naaaa," West laughed. "The Colonel's on his own tonight," neither man mentioned the glass of wine that Dr. Kirkwood usually ordered when she joined them. The fighting that had raged most of the day had taken its toll. There were missing faces in the bar tonight, and both men knew that the Lady-Doc, was probably fighting a battle of her own in surgery. With any luck, she would see to it that some of those missing people returned to their duty stations in the near future.

Gus watched as West carried the beer back to his friends, _'now there was one lucky young man.'_ When he had heard the initial gossip about the Marine who had joined the Corps to be near his lady love, on Tellus, and was now trying to find her among all the ruin of the war, the older man had figured it was one of those romantic myths that people needed when the fighting was bad. But he'd been wrong, along with all the others that had doubted. It hadn't been a myth. It had been real. West had believed and it had paid off. He had gotten his lady back from the Chigs.

The Bartender stopped for a moment and gazed out over the heads of the Wildcards, was that part of it? Was that part of the secret to their success, their faith that the young woman had been alive? Because they had believed it, he had heard them talking often enough to know that all through that long first year of the war they had believed. It was like she had become a symbol to them that made them stronger. And by God, they had been right to believe. The Chief shook his head at the miracle of it, though the cost had been tremendous.

Maybe that was how miracles worked? Next time he saw Chaplain Baeslack; he'd have to find out a bit more about modern day miracles. He hated to think they came with a price tag, but he supposed that everything did now days. He didn't need to ask the Wildcards if the price had been too high, he knew how they would answer. Though it had cost them one of their own, and almost the lives of the two women 'Cards, he figured that they would do it all over again if they had to, even knowing the outcome. It was all about having the strength to back up your faith and protecting those who couldn't protect themselves.

How would McQueen answer that question the older man behind the bar wondered? It had cost him a lot, too. There had been talk about the Wildcards' luck finally running out. Lt. Wang dead; and Lts. Vansen and Damphousse missing in action. That had been real hard on the Colonel, but his price had been even higher, he had lost his leg and if the stories were to be believed, almost lost his life. Gus didn't know any Tank that believed in a higher power, but McQueen had taught his squad all he knew about honor, it was possible they had taught him about faith, because the man had to have had faith or else he had a guardian angel looking out for him.

"Hey, Chief," he looked up into the tired gray eyes of Lt. Com. Jenny Kirkwood, MD "How's your hand doing tonight?"

"Fine, just fine, Ma'em," he flexed his fingers for her so that she could see that he was healing. The day before, Gus had sliced himself on a broken glass and Dr. Kirkwood had stitched him up. She had a real gentle touch, he had thought at the time. She wasn't anything like he had expected. When she had first arrived on the Saratoga he had heard stories about her, not just the ones from Kordis, but ones from Earth, too. He had known who she was before he ever saw her face. She had written a book that had stirred up more trouble than any woman had a right to. She was also, an active leader in the In-Vitro Rights Movement. He had been prepared to dislike her on general principles, but he hadn't been able to. "You look like you had a rough night, you want your usual?"

"Nooo," she thought a moment. What she really would have liked was a glass of scotch, not to drink, but to smell. She only liked its taste on the lips of the man who wasn't sitting with his squad tonight, so she would have to wait until later. Even if he had been with the Wildcards, she wouldn't have done any tasting until they were in private. "Do you have any cognac?"

"I've got a bottle of brandy hidden away. I know it's not the same, but it's as close as I can get. Unfortunately, it's not any of the good stuff," Gus shrugged his shoulders. He could picture her drinking the amber liquor in a balloon shaped glass and somehow it fit. "I don't have any of those fancy glasses to put it in, though."

"The glass doesn't really matter," she placed her billet card on the bar in front of her and slid onto a barstool. "Put it in anything you've got, as long as it's straight up."

'It must have been really bad for the Lady-Doc, today,' Gus thought to himself as he found the little used bottle and poured her some. He had never seen her drink anything except the occasional red wine. Stopping for a moment he watched as she nibbled at the peanuts on the bar. She didn't look anything like the plucky young woman who had taken care of him yesterday. Tonight her shoulders drooped and her smile didn't make it to her eyes.

He had to admit he liked her better in the jeans and sweater she had on now, than what she had worn when she took care of him yesterday. He'd seen her in her doctor outfit before, but that was usually dashing through the corridors to some emergency, never up close, since she didn't wear surgery clothes in the Tun. What had surprised him the most was seeing a Wildcards' patch and an Angry Angel patch on her lab coat. He had heard stories that she had been with the Angels before the war, but had relegated it to gossip. After all she wasn't a pilot, let alone an ace pilot. Though he had heard McQueen call her Angel-Doc once or twice. It made a man wonder where the truth began and the rumors left off.

He knew she had been a Wildcard for almost a year. But that assignment didn't make anymore sense than her being an Angel, unless you believed the crazy rumors that she had had something to do with the downfall of the Hayden administration. Gus shook his head at the silly things people would say just to pass the time. He did know that the 58th had considered her one of them and still treated her as if she was, so that settled that.

"When you're done fixing the Doctor's drink, would you get me a scotch on the rocks, Chief?" McQueen's deep voice broke into his thoughts.

"Coming right up, Sir," he reached for the Dewers that he knew McQueen favored. It was times like these that Gus found it hard to remember that he didn't like Tanks. Maybe it was that he found it hard to remember that McQueen was a Tank? It didn't really matter, like or dislike, he respected the man across the bar from him, nodding the Chief decided he could live with that.

"Good evening, Doctor," the man with the cool blue eyes stood behind the woman seated at the bar. "May I buy your drink for you?" He placed his left hand on her left shoulder as he exchanged his billet card for hers on the bar in front of her.

"Thank you very much, Colonel," her voice sounded breathy and low, to Gus' ears as he finished fixing their orders, but the bar was getting busy and he didn't have time to think about it.

"Here you go," McQueen handed over her card with one hand and her drink with the other, as he stepped back giving her some space.

"'Night, Gus," Jenny smiled as she slid off her barstool, a look of genuine pleasure on her face and her eyes twinkling, as the they headed for the table occupied by the 58th.

"Goodnight, Ma'em, Colonel," Gus nodded, not sure what he had just seen. The woman who left the bar was a different one than had arrived a few minutes earlier.

Hours later, sitting in a darkened Tun, the Chief had poured himself a brandy while he massaged his sore leg. It had been a good night, all things considered. He didn't usually hang around after he closed the up, but something was nagging at the back of his mind and he couldn't shake it free. He swirled the brandy around the whiskey glass, as his mind wandered over the evening. It had something to do with the Wildcards, he knew that much, but what was it?

He thought of each of them as he had seen them tonight. West looked content, as he had for a long time now. Damphousse was looking better. She had had a rough year. The gossip was that she had been jilted by a guy back home, and then had taken a liking to Paul Wang before he died. Added to all that were the injuries she had received when she had been MIA. But she was doing fine and her friends were taking good care of her, especially that new Wildcard, Mitch Connelly. What ever was bothering Gus didn't have to do with any of them. Though, if it had been any other squad he would have worried about the way Connelly looked at Damphousse when her back was turned.

Taking a slow sip of his drink, he remembered weeks ago, when he had overheard a conversation between Connelly and West. _'Mitch had been saying how lucky he used to think Paul was to be in the same squad with 'Phousse, and how, he hadn't understood why they hadn't become an item before Paul died. But he understood now, because once you were in a squad with a person it changed all the rules. Forcing you to put those feelings aside until the shooting stopped.' _ The Wildcards had given Connelly the call sign of 'Hoyle,' Gus decided it really fit, because the man played by the rules. He raised his glass in a silent toast, wishing the two young people luck after the war.

He squinted his eyes as he worked his way around the table of Wildcards in his memory. Maria Del Mar had been next, but no, it wasn't her. She was as brash and straightforward as her call sign, 'Aces 'N Eights.' It took guts to be named after a dead man's hand, but he figured she had the spine to back it up.

That left the Tank, Cooper Hawkes and Capt. Shane Vansen. She had had a rough year too, but things were looking up. There had been that young man last spring who had been killed and broken her heart, but she pulled out of it. And Hawkes, well what could you say about him? It was said he was a damn good pilot; and anyone with eyes could see he was turning out to be a damn good Marine, even if he was an in-vitro. It tickled Gus to watch Hawkes tease Vansen, he doubted anyone else could have gotten away with it. That young Captain had a spit fast temper. The Chief had a feeling that under all that teasing and temper there would have been something brewing between those two if things had been different.

Watching that squad had made the Barman realize how much he missed the rock solid friendships that formed in a fighting group like that. Shaking his head and taking another sip of brandy he realized that he wasn't any closer to solving his problem than he had been fifteen minutes earlier. But he had run out of Wildcards...or had he? Throwing back his head Gus let out a deep belly laugh, he had forgotten about the head Wildcard, himself, Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius McQueen, otherwise known as Queen Six.

The Chief stared into the empty bar and concentrated on what he had missed earlier. It had started with something small, as small as a touch; but when that touch came from a man who never touched; it changed the picture completely. The petite blond woman had come in looking tired, as if the job she had done today had drained her. Gus supposed it probably had. It was one thing to be a soldier and kill in the heat of battle, but totally different to fight death for those who were too week or injured to do it themselves. But that's the job Jenny Kirkwood did everyday and today had been rougher than most.

He had heard the pleasantries that McQueen and Kirkwood had exchanged, but he hadn't really listened to what was being said. He closed his eyes and let it play back in his head. This time seeing it as it must have happened.

The Colonel had started it. The Doctor had been sitting, waiting for her drink when he arrived. That was when things had changed. The usually cool, reserved in-vitro had not only bought her a drink, but he had put his hand on her shoulder. To the casual onlooker, it was nothing more than a momentary touch as he leaned over her to exchange her billet card for his, but the maneuver had caused his body to rub against her back as he surrounded her to complete the switch. Gus knew that McQueen didn't do anything casually. If he had touched the woman it was because he had wanted to.

There were only a few things the Chief considered himself an expert on, and one of them was women. He realized the Doctor had not only welcomed McQueen's touch, but had leaned into it for a moment. Her response had been the kind a woman makes when caught unawares by the man who quickens her senses and fills her heart.

How had he missed it before this? He had heard all the stories, even the one about them dancing one night in the Tun. Gus had been off that night, but he had heard about them. It had been in the fall, not long after McQueen had gotten back from the Hospital ship. His leg had been replaced, as if it had never been blown off by that Chig Envoy. It was said she had done the initial surgery to stop the bleeding, and then sent him off to get some kind of new transplant leg. Thinking about it, Gus realized there had been stories about them ever since Dr. Kirkwood had been aboard.

The Bartender had been watching men and women interact for years. He didn't understand why he hadn't seen what was happening between the two of them. Was it because the man was a Tank and the woman was Natural-Born, that he had relegated the important stories to lies and believed only what fit with his perceptions of right and wrong? Getting up and locking the bar, he realized that his old wound wasn't hurting him any more and he doubted it would ever bother him as badly as it had up until now, because he had learned a new truth tonight.

Rumor, lie, myth, legend, they were all a part of war. The group that was called the Wildcards was no different. It didn't matter if they were alive or dead; man, woman, Colonel or Doctor. People believed in them, so they filled a duel purpose. They gave hope and they fought to save lives. Gus figured that those serving on the Saratoga during the Chig War would never know the whole truth about them. That was just fine with him, because people deserved a bit of privacy, even if they were larger than life.

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