February 2002

Paint the Sky with Stars 
(This is *not* a happy story)

Note: Inspired by, and includes lyrics from, the song 'Paint the Sky with Stars' by Enya.

'Place a name upon the night
One to set your heart alight
And to make the darkness bright
Paint the sky with stars.'

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was dark and he was alone. For how much longer, he did not know. Would they find him here, high amongst the tangled and gnarled branches of this tall, old tree? Would they think to look this far away from the compound, knowing that to cover such a distance would be agony with the multiple fractures and deep mauve bruises that made him cry silent tears as he scrambled and clawed his way to the freedom that beckoned? Would they find him and take him back?

A puff of wind against his wet cheek startled him, and he forced his battered body to push further into the thick branches, the tree's dark green leaves hiding the bright orange jumpsuit they had put him in on his arrival two weeks earlier.

He had been here two weeks.

The thought brought with it a fresh wave of tears as he remembered.


It had been the last word he'd spoken before they had dragged him screaming and crying away from his lover's arms; his promise to stay with Chakotay broken almost as soon as he'd made it. He had tried to fight them off, kicking and punching whoever was in reach of his frenzied attempts, before they had overpowered him and carried him from the room where they left his lover lying, unmoving.

Tom screwed his eyes tightly shut as his emotions bubbled up inside of him. He wanted to scream his anguish to the indigo sky above him, but they would hear him then, wouldn't they? And the fear of discovery was strong enough to keep him silent.

He swiped at his face with the back of one trembling hand and cleared most of the tears from his eyes, wincing as the simple movement sent a dizzying wave of pain along his arm to the shoulder he'd dislocated during his escape from the so-called hospital building.

His vision clouded by the salty residue of his grief, he looked out from his vantage point towards the structure on the horizon. Even from this distance it looked foreboding, it's high mesh fence that pulsed with a potentially fatal electrical current standing out as the compound's floodlights illuminated the area and glinted off the strong, shining metal that the fence had been constructed from.

They had taken him to that place two weeks ago.

And although the night was warm, Tom shivered. 

He remembered his first glimpse of the place they had said was his new home. The overpowering smell that hit him as he was thrown from the back of his captors' transport vehicle was indelibly imprinted in his memory. He would forever recall the putrid stench of rotting flesh hanging in the air, and the pungent odour of sweat and blood that permeated the filthy room that he had been taken to.

He turned away from the building, and the frightening recollections he had of the place, and nervously scanned his surroundings; scrutinising each group of low-growing bushes and all the tall trees that grew in haphazard clumps between his position and the hospital.

They were not there. They had not come his way. He was safe for now.

He closed his eyes as he sank wearily back between the branches, his tired and shattered body protesting every tiny movement as he tried to find a way to sit that would keep his constant pain to a minimum. It was a futile effort. Nothing eased the persistent fire that seemed to burn in his blood, and he slumped forward, clutching his dirt-stained knees with his cut and bloodied fingers, his chin resting on the tattered orange material that covered his chest.


He whispered his lover's name into the night as images of the man danced behind his closed eyelids.

/I love you, Tom./

The words had been spoken softly during their final evening together. That fateful evening that had ended with a promise barely uttered before their world had fallen apart, and Tom had been dragged from Chakotay's arms. Arms that had held him in a warm and strong embrace, and that belonged to the man he had intended to marry. He had been so happy then. Two pain-filled weeks ago.

Two weeks?

/It'll be Valentine's Day in two weeks time, Cha. Let's get married then./

Tom clutched at his chest, digging his shaking fingers into his torn clothes. The pain his body felt was nothing now compared to the agony that filled his heart. Tears fell again as he wept uncontrollably, his resolve to stay quiet forgotten in his anguish, and he cried out, his heart-wrenching sobs slicing through the calm of the night to send a flock of startled birds wheeling high into the dark, cloud-covered sky, their shrieks of alarm piercing in their intensity.

/Let him go! Don't hurt him! Please!/

He'd seen Chakotay silenced by two vicious blows to the head, and had tried desperately to reach the older man as a trail of bright red oozed down his swollen face, but he couldn't get away from the ones who held him captive. Tom could still hear the desperate pleas as his lover begged on his behalf, the words reverberating over and over in his mind, their effect on him worse than the tortured screams he'd heard from the rooms either side of his in the hospital.

He shivered uncontrollably, the terrifying thoughts mingling with his grief. Where was Chakotay now? Had he survived? Was he somewhere in the compound? Or had he been taken, like so many inmates had, to a fate unknown? The iron and salt smell of their bodies fluids had been all that remained to remind those who were left that their captive comrades had ever existed.

"I love you, Cha."

The words left his mouth in a hushed whisper; the one, single truth he still knew. He hugged himself as tightly as his cracked and hurting ribs would allow, and gently rocked as he tried in vain to soothe his tormented soul.

/On your feet!/

The order had come regularly during his enforced stay in the tiny, unfurnished hospital room, the floor and walls of which were stained and discoloured with the lifeblood of its previous occupants, the sickly smell of his predecessors' essence clinging to the stale air even as his own had joined it.

Tom snapped his head up, expecting to see his captors walking towards him, their faces contorted into hideous grins as they kicked out at him before he had chance to follow their orders. But he was still alone.

The words were just more memories that he wished he never had. Memories that hounded his every waking moment, and haunted his fitful sleep's dreams.

A gentle breeze stirred the large tree's leaves, but he barely noticed. The world around him seemed unreal somehow, more an unattainable oasis of peace in the midst of his nightmare. He closed his eyes, his chest rising and falling irregularly as irrepressible sobs continued to rack his body and add to his pain.

/Your friends are all dead./

He'd prayed every night that what they'd told him wasn't true. Someone must have escaped with their life. From what he'd seen of the ship as his captors' shuttle had taken him from it, Voyager had been severely damaged. But not all the crew could have perished, could they? They couldn't *all* be gone. Chakotay?

Tom's rocking increased, and his weight shifted on his precarious perch. The branch beneath him creaked suddenly, and then he was falling, quickly approaching the ground with no means to soften the impending impact. His breath left him in a rush as he landed in a crumpled heap beneath his former safe haven, birds once again rising from their resting places as their sleep was disturbed, and they screeched their displeasure into the night sky.

Tom moaned and stirred, but he was unable to move his tangled limbs. He could feel the dry dirt beneath his left cheek, but the pain that had been his body's constant companion since he'd been brought to this world was all gone now. Everything was numb. He lay still, for how long he didn't know, his breathing ragged as he mentally assessed his condition, and came to the only conclusion he could. His neck was broken.

The thought should have disturbed him, but it never had chance to. A loud rumbling noise reached his ears, followed by the sound of banging doors. It was them. Their transport vehicle. Alerted to his position by the flock of birds that still circled overhead. He couldn't see them but he could hear their footsteps approaching on the hard ground.


The name slipped from between his swollen lips and emerged as an almost inaudible whisper as he stared up into the darkness above.

A sharp, unexpected blow to the side of his head made pinpricks of light appear in front of his eyes; bright spots of pure white that twinkled overhead like stars. And then there was nothing.

He would never utter another word.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

'Place a name upon the night
One to set your heart alight
And to make the darkness bright
Paint the sky with stars.'

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