Sweet Bird of Truth

by Forest

Disclaimer: Voltron is the property of WEP.

The song is "sweet bird of truth" by the The.

I stole Hunk's nationality and Pidge's eye color from Heroes.

The door to the cockpit of the transport opened silently, just wide enough to allow a figure to slip through. Keith, by the height and dim silhouette. That hair was unmistakable, even in the dark. If it had been the copilot, Sven, Hunk probably would have feigned sleep. There was just enough light that he knew Keith would be able to see it reflecting in his eyes.

Keith paused directly next to him and spoke in a low, quiet voice just above a whisper. "Just checking up."

Hunk nodded, and Keith passed through the next door to the main compartment of the transport, his booted heels clicking ever so slightly over the engine's resonant hum, muffled snores from the main, and the sleep-heavy breathing of the two other men in his compartment. Men. Hunk had to stifle a snort. Only in war.

Across from him, Lance's gangly form twitched and stirred occasionally, as restless in sleep as he was awake. Periodically a single snore would start, only to cut off abruptly as if his body, even asleep, knew there was danger and that silence was best.

Curled into the seat next to Hunk, sleeping in an impossibly small amount of space with his legs tucked up against his chest, was the youngest member of the team. Men? Not even close. An Alliance officer at age seventeen, Pidge's alien genes made him look even younger. At first glance, even with his closed-off posture, he looked like any 12-year old kid asleep, eyelashes brushing his round cheeks, mouth slightly open, thick, unruly hair tousled. But that would be discounting the vise-like grip he maintained on Hunk's large hand, the tension and strain that never really left him. Pidge was his best friend, had been since they first met in the Academy, and more than anything or anyone else, Pidge raised questions in his mind. Uncomfortable questions that he didn't really want to face the answers to.

The rear door slid open, and Keith once again paused by his seat. "You really should try to get some sleep."

Hunk shrugged. "Can't."

"Everyone else is. Even Sven finally knocked off about an hour ago."

Hunk cocked an eyebrow, though he knew Keith probably couldn't see it. "We're on auto? Aren't we closer than that?"

Keith shook his head. "We're not quite to the Gulf. I'm about to go take her off auto now."

Hunk grunted in response. The Gulf. His throat tightened slightly. In the darkness, he saw Keith move his hand as if to touch him, then stop.

"Get some sleep, Hunk. We'll need it." With that he stood and returned to the cockpit. He was young too. The youngest Captain in the Alliance by far, a year younger than Hunk. A boy. Good Captain, though. People followed him, believed in him. People killed for him. It was easier that way. Not easier on Keith, of course, but the kid never showed the strain. He was good.

Hunk distantly wished it could be that easy for him. That he could look at the corpses piled at his feet and tell them it was because he believed. In someone, something, it wouldn't really matter. But he couldn't. This encounter was just too fucked up. This was Earth for fuck's sake. Earth. Headquarters of the Alliance, the unification of hundreds of planets scattered across two galaxies. They weren't supposed to be fighting here. They were supposed to be off protecting allied planets from invasion, stopping the encroachment of the Drule Empire, putting an end to slavery and the planetary rape the Empire employed to fuel itself.

Well, he corrected himself, some of them were. He'd joined Garrison as a mechanic. And Pidge... there was no way Pidge should be fighting, on Earth or in space. It was a fucking waste. It was... it was just wrong. It made him angry just thinking about it, about the fucked-up logic that had put Pidge into this mission.

The grip on his hand tightened he hadn't thought it possible and Pidge shifted slightly in his sleep. Hunk forced himself to take a deep breath and think about something else. Unfortunately, there was only one other topic his mind would allow. The Gulf. Across that, his homeland. A land returning to a heritage so bloody it was a wonder the waters didn't run red, a wonder the sands were not saturated, the earth itself stained by countless centuries of conflict. A heritage that wouldn't release its gore-dripping talons, apparently. And a land where faith was everything, and belief lent meaning to death.

So where did that leave him? Belief in anything was in short supply. So he was left questioning, not a position he was comfortable with. He couldn't quite decide which was worse: the questions that did not lead to any answers, or those few that did.

Would he live through this strike? And if so,how many would he kill? It was a useless question, he knew, and one that wouldn't be answered. He didn't know how many he'd killed in the last one. Just that he was unprepared for the deliberateness of it, the closeness. The desperation and ugliness. But then, that was the story of his home. One of the stories, at least. It hurt that those historical pages were being reopened, after being closed so long ago with the Unification.

And he couldn't quite shake the feeling that this was a spark, a beginning. Who knew what would go up in flames if they didn't manage to put it out? But how many of them would have to throw themselves on the pyre, and would their bodies smother the flame or just feed it? Or neither. Would their actions make any difference at all? He stifled the urge to touch the boy sleeping next to him. He shouldn't have been there.

Suddenly, he sat upright, cocking his head to one side. Listening, as the engine changed tones. He recognized as it slid into a complaint, and squeezed his eyes shut in denial until he heard the tell-tale whine. He shook his hand slightly to wake Pidge while simultaneously kicking the seat across from him. Lance bolted up with a startled cry, Pidge just blinked his eyes open and asked, "Are we there?"

"No. There's a problem."

Just then Keith's voice cut in over the intercom and the lights flared on. "This is your captain. Message status: Urgent. We are above the Gulf of Arabia, we are losing altitude. Prepare for emergency water landing. Repeat..."

Lance scrambled out of his seat and towards the cockpit. "Oh, no fucking way! If this cow's goin' down, I get to crash it!"

Hunk shook his head as the door closed behind him, even as he began crash prep. Lance was the best pilot he'd ever seen. And true, they'd probably have a better chance surviving the crash with him putting them down. But there was a reason he hadn't been piloting in the first place and that hairbrained reaction showed it. Procedure could mean the difference between life and death, but Lance routinely blithely ignored it. One of these days it was going to get him court-marshaled or worse. If they didn't all die tonight, of course.

It took Pidge's touch on his arm to make him realize he'd stopped moving. He looked down into those too-serious, concerned green eyes. They could die tonight. They could be dead in minutes.

"Hunk? You okay?"

"Fine. Finish up."

As they buckled in, he thoughts looped back. Belief. He didn't believe in anything. He wondered if Pidge had any gods they'd never really spoken of it. He hoped he did. He hoped Pidge's gods wouldn't let him be alone at the end, because that's what belief was really all about, wasn't it?

Someone was sobbing in the main. Several people were cursing. He wondered how many were praying.

A small hand held his tightly.

-the end

sweet bird of truth
the The, 1986

6 o'clock in the morning and I'm the last person in this
plane still awake.
Y'know I can almost smell the blood washing against the shores
of this land that can't forget its past.
Oh the wind that carries this plane is the wind of change,
heaven sent, and hell bent.
Over the mountain tops we go, just like all the other G.I. Joes
Ee-ai-ee-ai Adios!

This is your captain calling with an urgent warning
We're above the Gulf of Arabia our altitude is falling
And I can't keep her up there's no time for thinking
All hands on deck this bird is sinking

Across the beaches & cranes, rivers & trains,
all the money I've made bodies I've maimed.
Time was, when I seemed to know, just like any other G.I. Joe
Should I cry like a baby or die like a man
While all the planet's little wars start joining hands,
Oh what a heaven what a hell
Y'know there's nothing can be done in the whole wide world

I don't know what's wrong or right.
I'm just a regular guy, with bottled-up insides.
I ain't never been to church, or believed in Jesus Christ
But I'm praying that God's with you, when you die.

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