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Toward Silver Spires

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Isaac was too young to remember much of the invasion. He remembered the adults being worried, everyone speaking in hushed, frantic voices while emergency broadcasts filled the television, and unwashed proselytizers on street corners holding signs pronouncing "The End is Nigh". His parents sent him to bed early so that they could huddle close to the TV, watching the nightly news report with the kind of religious devotion previously reserved for Sunday morning services. He remembered tension palatable in the air, so strong that even the playground lost its interest, though few children knew why the tension was there. Those that did didn't come to school anymore.

There were riots shown on the TV every day. The big cities were in turmoil. The aliens looked just like us, the reporters said. They could be anyone. Suspicion swept the nation and no one was sure who they could trust. Was the stranger on the bus an average joe or one of their new overlords come to spy on them? There were new rules for behavior, new laws put in place while old laws were broken, but none of that mattered much in backwater Idaho where Isaac grew up. His parents had raised him to have manners, and to his young, impressionable mind that was all the new rules were – manners and respect and being a better society.

He remembered getting out of school for a month, which had been great until school started up again and classes stretched into the summer to make up for lost time. He remembered sitting in Mrs. Engel's English class in the sweltering heat with all the windows open because the school's air conditioning had broken for the third time that month and staring out at the shiny silver spires rising up in the distance. The spires were the landmarks of a new era, but they also felt a bit like hope. They were the signs of the new order that pulled their society out of political chaos.

Whole governments had been uprooted and in distance places like New York City and Toronto, people were fighting, trying to win the world back in what would prove to be an exhausting, futile effort. But for the little people, like his mom and dad, who cared for little beyond putting their time in at the factory and the paycheck that resulted, life went on much the same.

After that sweltering summer, he hadn't had time to give much thought to aliens. The new school curriculum was hard, not so much in the pace but the material. It was like overnight they went from memorizing formulas and statistics that they'd only need to remember long enough to be tested on to actually being expected to learn. There were no more standardized tests to teach to, no more whispers of lost funding or performance evaluations. There was only learning and absorbing the information he had to to pass that grade. He'd never been the brightest kid. College wasn't in his future, but despite that he found he kind of enjoyed it. Failing didn't mean the end of the world but rather a chance to try again and again until he got it right. It was fun, in a way school had never been before.

The day after he turned eighteen, Isaac packed his gym bag full of clothes, tucked his laptop, phone, and a few books and other keepsakes into a backpack and bought a ticket on the next bus out of town. He ended up in New York City. He'd never been there before but the locals said it was a city changed forever. The buildings were just as tall, the parks just as green, but there were strange sections of the city that were walled off by chain-link fences and plastic sheeting – the ruins of the resistance, now dead and gone, but there were supposedly hermits that lived there still, clinging to the remains of what had once bee.

He got a job at a coffee shop that looked out onto a massive silver spire, one of the same spires he'd stared at so often as a child. What had once been nothing more than a gleaming pin pushing up towards the distant sky was now massive, towering over the city's skyscrapers like a sunflower shooting up from amidst the weeds. He felt like an ant in comparison, but that was the way it should be. He was just a wandering farm boy and they were the aliens, the world's new overlords and keepers, here to put humanity back on the right track. Or at least that's what the silver-robed proselytizers shouted from the street corners. He didn't have much to compare it to.

*****

The front door chimed as another patron stepped through the door, just one more in the seemingly endless stream that was their morning rush. The sudden hush that fell over the crowd warned him that this new patron was anything but ordinary, even before he looked up to see tanned skin, silver-blond hair, and bold blue robes. This was not another corporate suit with the latest phone plugged into their ear, nor one of the hoards of construction men and women from the endless improvement projects, or even one of the ragged rebel beatniks that filled the shop every evening. There was an alien in their coffee shop, the first alien that Isaac had ever seen up close.

The crowd parted, leaving the aisle clear for the strange visitor. Some of the patrons edged towards the entrance, and he was pretty sure some had already slipped out the back. Not everyone who favored their shop was happy with the new rulers. Some were even vocal about it, muttering their grievances to fellow sympathizers while huddled over coffee or putting their feelings into badly written poetry for the weekly open mic night. Had word of the discontents reached the aliens? Or was there something wrong with the business itself that had brought the alien down from the silver spires? Did it have something to do with the after-hours meetings the owner had with some of the local workers? Isaac wasn't even supposed to know about the meetings, and he wouldn't have except for the unfortunate accident of forgetting his scarf in his locker on a cold November evening the year before.

Isaac stood frozen at the cash register, too shocked to move as the alien approached. The alien paused in front of the counter and stared up at their menu board. It was written out in colored chalk, complete with tiny hearts and flourishes. Isaac couldn't help but stare at the alien. He was quite attractive, more attractive than the men Isaac had found himself with lately – Brian the recovering drug addict who saw conspiracies around every corner, then Jared the shell-shocked soldier, and currently Michael the wannabe revolutionary who worked as a corporate accountant.

To say Isaac was fascinated by the aliens was like saying he was fascinated by dinosaurs. They both interested him and as a child he'd often wondered what they were like, but it was an abstract sort of fascination, the kind he'd never imagined having to face.

"What do you recommend?" The alien asked, in slightly accented English.

Isaac blinked and answered without thinking, operating on three years worth of answering that same question in this very shop. "I'm partial to the whipped caramel mocha. There's also our nine-to-fiver special which is a tall black coffee with a double shot of espresso or the passion fruit green tea is quite nice if you're not into coffee."

The alien looked at him. Everyone in the shop was looking at him, and he only belatedly realized his audacity. Normal people like him weren't supposed to talk to aliens. He should have gotten his manager or a supervisor. But his manager wasn't in today and the rest of his coworkers had disappeared, likely hiding in the back from the moment the alien walked in the front door.

"I'll try the whipped caramel mocha."

"Of course. That'll be six fifty, please." Were they supposed to charge aliens? They hadn't trained him on this. He had no idea what he was supposed to do, how he was supposed to act. This was so beyond his pay grade. On the inside, he was freaking out, but he still managed to keep his polite smile firmly fixed on his face.

The alien waved his hand under the scanner bar. A blue glow shone momentarily beneath his skin – an ID chip, much the same as the one implanted in Isaac's hand, in everyone's hand. It was their photo id, passport, bank card, and building access all in one. Everything was interconnected now. Their whole lives were tied up in one tiny chip.

Isaac turned to make the drink, exactly how he would for himself with just a little bit of extra caramel and extra whipped cream on top. It was weird working in silence. Usually the hum of the machines was drowned out by the chatter of people talking to and over others, and by the constant beep and chirp of electronic devices.

When he turned back around, everyone was still in the exact same spot, as if they were too afraid to move. He should be as afraid as they were but he wasn't. Maybe it was because he had been removed from the invasion when it had been happening, too young to be enlisted and too remote to matter. He hadn't been here for the fighting in the city. All he'd known was the aftermath. He'd never learned to hate the aliens like so many people in the city did.

He handed the drink to the alien, not missing the way a few patrons' expressions shifted from surprise and concern to glares. What was he supposed to do, refuse the alien service? Pretend they were closed with a crowd of patrons inside? He waited with bated breath while the alien took a sip. The alien's face never changed expression from constant bland neutrality, but he nodded. "Thank you."

Good manners came second nature to Isaac. "You're welcome. Enjoy your drink." The glares only sharpened after that.

Isaac watched perplexed as the alien turned and walked out the door, drink in hand. Silence reigned over the shop for five more minutes as Isaac waited at the register, his hands twitching from nerves. Was he going to get fired now? Was he in trouble? He stared at the crowd. They stared back. He needed to do something or he was going to explode.

"Next?"

It was like his voice broke the spell on the crowd. They hesitantly shifted back into their places, their voices rising until the cacophony of shouted orders filled the shop once more. He smiled and wrote down their orders, the tension in his shoulders momentarily fading as his coworkers reappeared and formed their usual line behind the counter.

"You've got some balls, man," Jimmy muttered as he shot Isaac a look mixed with incredulity and disgust, but Jimmy took the orders Isaac handed him without further comment.

The shop went back to normal almost as if nothing had happened, but the strange way customers and coworkers alike stared at him, as if he was a stranger amongst them, made the day drag on longer than usual.

*****

The alien came back at the exact same time a week later. Isaac's plastered-on smile faded as the crowd fell to a hush. He welcomed the quiet after all the whispered speculation he'd endured the past week. He hadn't been fired or fined. No one had come to reprimand him. Maybe now he'd finally learn his fate.

The alien stepped up to the counter and stared up at the menu. "What would you recommend?"

The question once more caught Isaac off guard. The weather had turned chilly that week, an early prelude to the coming winter. "White hot chocolate with a shot of banana. Or I could recommend some coffee or tea if you'd prefer?"

The alien glanced at him and nodded once. "I'll try the hot chocolate."

Isaac turned to make the drink as his coworkers had once more disappeared. None of them liked aliens. He half-suspected that Jimmy was part of the resistance, with the way he'd been giving Isaac shit all week just for making a cup of coffee. He paused mid-turn and looked back over his shoulder. He shouldn't, but he was curious and part of him wanted to do something audacious just to spite his coworkers, to prove their hatred was unfounded. "Can I get your name, please?"

"Jahir." The alien spoke as if giving his name was a trifle. Maybe it was. Isaac hadn't even been sure that they had names, but knowing the alien's name filled him with a strange sort of pride.

He grabbed a sharpie and scribbled the name on the cup before mixing the drink. He handed it over with a real smile. He was going to get even more shit from Jimmy but he couldn't stop himself. The alien was so strange and yet so familiar looking. If it weren't for his clothes, he could have fit right in with the crowd. "One white hot chocolate with a shot of banana for Jahir."

"Thank you," the alien's blue eyes flicked down to Isaac's name tag, "Isaac." Then he turned and walked out the door.

The stares were worse after that but he didn't care because the alien had said his name. He could almost pretend that he mattered.

*****

The front door slammed shut in Isaac's face. He frowned and stared through the glass at Mrs. Kreachly's back. He'd once thought she was a nice old lady. That opinion was rapidly fading. He raised his hand to the side of the door and waited for the lock to beep before opening the door. The elevator was out of service again which meant a cold trudge up eight flights of stairs to his apartment.

Michael was waiting in his apartment. He stood as soon as Isaac walked in the door, the anger on his face an obvious sign of trouble to come. "I heard you've been making friends with an alien," Michael spat, shooting the words out before Isaac had even closed the front door.

Isaac sighed and circled the room, keeping well out of Michael's reach as he headed towards the tiny kitchenette. "I made him a drink. Technically two."

"You asked its name," Michael hissed, like it was some huge crime.

Isaac pulled a glass from the cupboard and set it on the counter with a little too much force. He whirled. "His. I asked for his name. It's called manners. I was raised to have some."

Michael's eyes narrowed and Isaac knew then that this would be their last fight. He was surprised to find that he didn't even care. If anything, it would be a relief to have Michael out of his life. At least then he wouldn't have to tiptoe around his own apartment.

"I was raised to fight them."

Isaac snorted. It was the wrong thing to do, as he found out the second Michael's fist smashed into his face. Isaac reeled against the counter. His elbow knocked into the glass, sending it rolling off the counter to shatter on the floor. Isaac gingerly touched his face. His fingers came away red. He could feel blood trickling out of his nose.

"The only thing you know how to fight is other humans weaker than you." He glared at Michael and something in his eyes made Michael take a step back. "Get out and don't ever come back."

The door slammed shut behind Michael and it felt like he'd stepped over an invisible border. There was no going back from what he'd done. Michael would go directly to Jimmy. They'd commiserate over beers about what an alien-loving freak he was. The whole shop would know by morning, and if they didn't Michael would tell the boss when they met up at the shop after hours tomorrow night. He had no idea how he'd stumbled into such an idiotic bunch of resistance wannabes but he wouldn't be there much longer. He was definitely going to get fired now.

*****

He didn't get fired, but each day in the shop made him wish he had. He thought about quitting but then Tuesday rolled around again and all of the patrons miraculously disappeared at exactly 10:10am. Isaac had five minutes of blissful of peace, his solace in a storm of whispered slurs and muttered insults. Then the door chimed and Isaac looked up to see Jahir walk in. He smiled. He couldn't help himself.

Jahir stopped a foot in front of the counter and glanced up at the menu before fixing his blue eyes on Isaac. "What would you recommend?"

"Have you ever had a frappuccino?"

Jahir shook his head and Isaac thought maybe it was worth sticking around just for this.

*****

Isaac realized he was being followed too late to do anything about it. Two pairs of hands reached out from the shadows and grabbed him, pulling him into an alley. He opened his mouth to scream – a futile effort since no one was around to hear him this late at night – but a sudden fist to the gut cut off that avenue entirely. Two more shadows stepped into the alley, the same shadows that had been following him for at least a block.

"Alien lover," an unfamiliar voice taunted seconds before someone backhanded Isaac across the face. "Freak. Traitor. Whore."

The words were nothing new, but the outright assault was. He wasn't used to this kind of pain. He'd never been physically bullied in high school, never even got in a fight, not like this. He crumpled to the ground but that only made it easier for them to kick him.

After what felt like an eternity, they stopped. They laughed as they walked away and as Isaac slowly picked himself up off of the dirty concrete he realized he'd never even seen their faces. They could have been anyone – his coworkers, his neighbors, or even just a patron at the coffee shop. The only thing he'd done to provoke their hatred was to be polite to an alien. No wonder the aliens rarely ventured out of their spires.

He trudged up the stairs to his apartment with a new sense of caution, keeping an eye out for his less-than-friendly neighbors. Someone had sprayed slurs on his door once again. The entire wall in front of his apartment was covered in graffiti but he'd stopped caring weeks ago. Let the landlord clean it up if he wanted. It would just be back.

He stepped inside his dark, empty apartment and leaned back against the door. It was a solid weight cutting him off from the rest of the world. The world was supposed to be better now. No more racism. No more homophobia. No more wars. They had equal rights, fair taxation, better quality of living. Still, no matter how the aliens tried to improve humanity, to shove them into the mold they wanted, humanity still found something to hate.

In this case, it was him.

*****

"Good morning." Isaac leaned against the counter as Jahir walked in. He always admired the way Jahir carried himself, so full of confidence and mystery. Isaac wished he had that kind of confidence. It would be a welcome change from running and hiding, from locking himself inside his apartment when he wasn't working. Even then, he didn't feel safe, but he did here, out in the open with Jahir nearby. "What can I get you?"

"What would you recommend?"

Isaac turned to glance up at the menu. The small of his back pressed against the counter and he winced as the bruises on his side made their presence known. They'd gone through most of his favorite drinks, and even some of his lesser favorites. The only things left were the different flavors of coffee and tea, but that seemed too boring to serve an alien. He placed his hands on the counter and hoped up, his back to the alien. He leaned back and twisted, regretting the move as he did it but it was too late to turn back. He reached into the low, open cooler next to the register and pulled out a bottle of blackberry soda. When he turned, he belatedly realized how close they were, barely a foot of open air between them. Jahir's eyes were fixed on Isaac.

Butterflies filled Isaac's stomach as he held up the bottle. "Have you tried this before? It's really good."

Their fingers brushed as Jahir took the bottle from Isaac's hand. Isaac felt himself blush and looked away, hoping in vain that his blush wasn't noticeable. He was infinitely grateful that the shop was empty. The last thing he needed was for people to start thinking he wanted to sleep with an alien. He would in a heartbeat, but he got enough shit as it was just for talking to Jahir.

"I will take it."

"Sounds good." Isaac hopped off the counter and pointed the hand scanner at the drink in Jahir's hand. He managed to get both the drink and Jahir's chip in one shot. He wondered if the aliens got paid or if they just had unlimited access to money. "Enjoy."

"Thank you." Jahir cast a lingering glance at Isaac before leaving, bottle in hand.

*****

There was no visit the next Tuesday. At 10:10am the shop cleared and Isaac was left waiting in an empty store until ten thirty passed and customers tentatively streamed back into the shop. He signed off the register as Jimmy took over and slipped into the back room.

"What's the matter? Your boyfriend dump you?"

Isaac ignored the taunt, bracing himself with a hand against his locker a second before Alex shoved him against it. He waited until Alex left the room before moving. He folded his apron and shut it in his locker with a growing sense of foreboding. His hours had been reduced dramatically already – few customers wanted to be served by an alien sympathizer – but if Jahir stopped coming then he'd lose his job altogether.

He kept his head down as he slipped out the back. He hurried down the short alleyway before he could get cornered there again. His hair was growing longer, making it easier to hide his face behind a messy fall of brown. He slunk through the crowd, trying to stand out as little as possible until he made it onto the relative safety of the subway. He caught sight of two soldiers in uniform and followed them into the second car. A few people shot dirty looks his way, but the presence of the soldiers kept them from doing anything about it.

The train sped through the tunnels, barely making a sound thanks to the alien improvements. They arrived at the next stop in seconds. The soldiers got off at the seventh stop and Isaac followed them. The number of unfriendly stares had grown since he'd first boarded and he definitely didn't want to be left alone with those stares.

They exited at Avenue U. The spire loomed closer than ever, rising out of the Lower Bay like a gleaming tower. It had to be at least a mile wide at the base. From this close, it seemed to reach all the way up to heaven.

He walked the length of Avenue U, stopping in at each shop and restaurant he came across to see if anyone was hiring. The few that seemed interested weren't after they heard his name. Rumors spread fast in this city. He wasn't going to be able to afford his rent in another week. He couldn't apply for unemployment until his boss actually fired him, which meant he was screwed if he didn't find a new job soon.

He headed home once twilight started to seep into the streets. It was dark when he stepped off the subway and he ran the entire way from the subway exit to his front door. He was certain he could hear pounding feet on the street behind him, but whomever his pursuers were, they never caught up. A rock flew past his head, barely missing him as he ran past the remains of the old police station.

Seconds after he made it into his apartment, safe behind the thick wooden door, his phone rang. He sighed as he glanced at the caller id and raised the phone to his ear. Wind whistled through his broken windows and he shivered in the cold.

"Hi, mom."

"Hi, honey. You sound stressed. Is everything okay there?"

"Everything's fine," he lied. His back slid down the door and he stayed there, sitting in the faint pool of light cast by the hallway lamps and stared out at an apartment that was too dark and too quiet.

He didn't dare turn on the light. He didn't dare make a sound too loud. He was afraid of his own apartment and the one thing that made him feel even remotely safe had abandoned him today.

*****

Pounding on his door woke Isaac from an uneasy slumber. He rolled off the bed, checking the locks on the windows with a touch through the blinds as he passed. He pulled on a dirty shirt. He hadn't had a chance to do his laundry in weeks. The guy in 2B kept cornering him every time he tried.

Isaac blinked twice as he stared through the peephole. It wasn't his landlord for a change, but rather something much worse – soldiers. Had the landlord finally gone through with his threat to evict Isaac?

He opened the door with caution. "Hello."

The soldier on the left glanced down at his tablet. "Isaac Young?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"We need you to come with us."

The door slipped open wider as he stared down at his stained white t-shirt and blue sweatpants that hung too low on his hips. "Um, give me a second to change."

"That will not be necessary." One of the soldiers grabbed Isaac by the arm and pulled him from the apartment.

Isaac knew better than to resist. He let them lead him to the elevator and outside into the noon sun. The asphalt was cold against his bare feet but he didn't have long to worry about it before they were pushing him into a black sedan. The door shut, leaving him alone in the dark back seat. He knew without trying that the door wouldn't open for him. Two doors opened and shut in the front of the car but there was a thick privacy shield cutting him off his view of the soldiers.

He caught brief glimpses of the city skyline as they drove. The windows were tinted thick, casting the outside world in deep shadow. He spotted enough landmarks to know they were travelling south, towards the military center and the spire. Were they finally imprisoning him for daring to speak to Jahir or had his landlord trumped up enough charges for him to be sent to jail? He wracked his brain for anything else he might have done wrong but he came up blank.

The car pulled into a tunnel and Isaac lost track of where they were.

When they finally came to a stop, they were in a parking garage. The soldiers flanked him as they marched him to a secure elevator. A blue beam of light swept over all three of them at once before the doors opened to let them in. There were no buttons inside the elevator, nor any lights to indicate what floor they were on. The lift rose. After a few seconds that felt like an eternity, the doors opened, revealing a plain white hallway lined with unmarked doors. They walked past six sets of doors before the soldiers chose a door and ushered him into a small sitting room.

It wasn't what he'd been expecting at all. The soldiers stayed outside and shut the door behind him, leaving him alone in the modestly appointed room. There was a small couch against the wall and three plush, comfortable looking armchairs, all surrounding a fragile-looking glass table. But the furniture wasn't what really caught his attention. His bare feet sunk into thick carpet as he hesitantly crossed the room to the giant picture window that spanned the entire exterior wall. His palms pressed against the glass. It was cool to the touch and reassuringly solid, but he still felt like he was going to fall if he leaned just a little bit forward.

The room looked out over the city from an angle Isaac had never seen before. The lower bay glistened far below, the water shimmering like it was littered with crystals. It wasn't crystals on the water, but rather the reflection off of the silver spire. Not silver, he realized now. Glass. The spire was made from glass.

He tapped against the window. It didn't echo like usual glass. There wasn't even the slightest give under his hand, like he was knocking on solid concrete.

"Quite the view, isn't it?"

Isaac turned, his eyes wide as he stared at the newcomer. He hadn't heard the man enter, hadn't even heard the door open. He licked his lips. The stranger's eyes followed the movement of his tongue.

"Yes." He forced the word out. "It's lovely."

The stranger joined Isaac at the window. "I didn't think so when we first came to your planet, but it has quite grown on me."

He didn't know what to say to that, so he kept his mouth shut.

The stranger turned and spread his hand toward the chairs. "Please, have a seat."

Isaac brushed his palms against his sweatpants and desperately wished he'd had had a chance to change his clothes before leaving his apartment. His feet were freezing and the rest of him wasn't far behind. He felt extremely out of place and underdressed. The couch seemed to swallow him as he sank into the seat. The alien sat in one of the chairs opposite, his hands primly folded in his lap.

"My name is Farar."

"Isaac Young," he offered. He had no idea why he was here. If this was about his eviction, the aliens shouldn't be involved.

"I know."

Of course he knew. The aliens knew everything.

"Do you know why you're here?"

He shook his head.

Farar regarded Isaac for a moment before nodding. "How are you, Isaac?"

The question caught him off guard. "I'm fine," he said, the answer reflexive after answering the same question from his mother week after week. Really, he was anything but.

"You're lying." Farar tilted his head. "I would prefer if you answered honestly."

Shit. Isaac could feel the blood draining from his face. His hands tightened on his knees.

"What do you know of the resistance?"

Isaac's eyes widened and he shook his head violently. "I don't know them." It wasn't quite a lie. He had his suspicions but surely they weren't true. Michael wouldn't be that stupid. His boss at the coffee shop wouldn't risk his employees lives that recklessly. "I don't know any of them. I wouldn't-"

Farar raised a hand, cutting off Isaac's babbling. "You know some of them, though you may not have known where their allegiances lie. They certainly know about you."

"W-what?" He had the sinking suspicion that he'd been right. He hadn't even realized the resistance was still a thing. He'd thought they were all dead or hiding, just a bunch of cowards who talked about fighting but never did.

"They want to kill you."

"What!?" Isaac felt dizzy. He was going to faint or be sick. Possibly both. He'd known there were people out to get him. He'd known he'd been followed, but he'd thought it was just panic and paranoia. He'd thought they were just bullies, lashing out at the most convenient target.

The room started to spin around him. Loud buzzing filled his ears. He felt cold and hot at the same time, like his skin was readying to melt off. Then Farar was there, pressing a cool piece of metal against Isaac's neck. The dizziness faded, leaving Isaac with the realization that his head was on Farar's shoulder. He pulled back quickly.

"I'm so sorry."

Farar stayed close. Too close. His blue eyes reminded Isaac of Jahir, but there was a faint bit more emotion on Farar's face and something vaguely akin to concern. "Why?"

"For..." He waved his hands ineffectually between them. He had no idea how to phrase it without being offensive.

Farar stood and resumed his seat. "Does my proximity offend you?"

Isaac shook his head a bit too fast and some of the dizziness returned. He took a deep breath but otherwise kept his mouth closed, afraid of saying something to offend the alien.

"Is it because our genders match? Your people have such strange stigmas."

He shook his head slowly. A blush spread across his face. In any other situation, he would have thought Farar attractive. He definitely thought Jahir was attractive, even though he knew he shouldn't. But they were aliens and Isaac was human. The aliens didn't like humans, not like that. There was no way they could ever return Isaac's interest. He wasn't worthy of their attention.

"Then why do you apologize?"

Isaac looked away. "Because I... I mean, we're not supposed to... I didn't mean to... touch... you."

There was silence from across the room. He could feel Farar's gaze on him, judging, measuring. What kind of thoughts were going through the alien's head? What did he think of the weak, shivering mortal across from him?

Farar's shadow fell across Isaac as Farar stood. He heard Farar's robes swish as he crossed the room. Then there were fingers in his hair, pulling his head back against the couch so that he was forced to look up at Farar. Blood rushed to his face and pooled in his crotch.

"We are not as severe in such things as you humans make us out to be. We demand loyalty and respect but we are willing to give respect in return." Farar leaned down before Isaac could respond. His lips covered Isaac's, swallowing Isaac's gasp of surprise. Farar's tongue pushed into Isaac's mouth, warm and demanding. Isaac responded automatically. His mouth opened up for Farar, inviting him in. Farar's leg pushed between Isaac's and he slowly spread his legs. He felt strangely shy. He wasn't a complete stranger to sex but in those encounters he'd been on level playing fields. This was something new and different and he knew that if he let it, it would consume him.

When Farar pulled away, there was a strange light in his eyes. The way he looked at Isaac was both intense and possessive. "You seem quite willing to serve. Am I mistaken?"

Isaac shook his head the barest of fraction.

Farar's fingers slipped from Isaac's hair and rested momentarily against Isaac's cheek. "Never apologize for a mistake you did not make."

Isaac's breath sounded too loud in the quiet that fell over the room. His chest heaved. His heart was beating so hard that Isaac worried it might explode.

Farar smiled, sort of. It was a faint upward twist of his lips, almost a smirk, but it was the closest Isaac had seen to real emotion on an alien. Farar stepped back, towards the door. "For your safety, you are to stay here."

Isaac's eyes widened. A dozen questions crowded his lips, nearly swallowed by the protests that flooded over them. Not a single sound made it out of his mouth by the time Farar opened the door. Farar cast one last lingering look back at Isaac before he shut the door.

Apparently he'd been sent to prison after all.

*****

Isaac stayed frozen on the couch for a while, too afraid to move. His head spun, trying to catch up with the reality of Farar kissing him and the fact that he was in the spire. He wondered if Jahir was near or if Jahir would come see him. Doubtful. Why would Jahir want to see him? He was just a coffee boy.

He stood on uneasy legs and crossed the room to stand in front of the door. His hand rested on the knob for several minutes before he tentatively tried to turn it. It moved easily in his hand. He stuck his head out into an empty white hallway and then shut the door again. He wasn't as trapped as he thought but he had no idea how to get out, which brought up the question of whether he wanted to get out at all.

If the resistance really did want him dead then he was better off here. There was also a growing part of him that was thrilled to be here, like a child on Christmas morning. He'd been fascinated with the spires since they first rose up on the horizon and now he was standing in one. It was like he'd stepped from the nightmare that was his waking life into a dream made flesh and real.

He took a deep, calming breath and then wrinkled his nose as he caught a whiff of his shirt. He really should have changed clothes and done laundry. There was another door at the opposite end of the sitting room and he opened it to find a spacious bedroom. The dresser next to the bed felt like wood but looked like plastic, but Isaac could care less what it looked like as long as there were clothes inside. There were, but not his own. They'd have to do.

He picked out a shirt, socks, and pants but couldn't find any underwear. The fabric of the pants was soft enough that he wouldn't need them, hopefully. He dropped the bundle of clothes on the bed and opened another door, this one leading into a strange looking bathroom. There was a fixture that was obviously a sink and something that looked close enough to a toilet, but what he cared about most was the shower. It took up the entire wall and was separated from the rest of the room by a thin sheet of glass.

Isaac didn't spare a second shucking his dirty clothes and stepping into the shower. The water came out hot as soon as he pressed a button. He hadn't had a hot shower in weeks thanks to his dick landlord. It felt like heaven. There was a dispenser in the wall that he assumed held shampoo and another that held a bodywash sort of gel that lathered quickly and made his skin tingle.

He'd almost forgotten how much he loved hot showers. The water washed over him, momentarily carrying his troubles away. The heat soothed his tense muscles and faded the constant ache of bruises.

A faint noise on the other side of the room made Isaac open his eyes just in time to see Jahir toss his open robe to the floor. Isaac's eyes widened as he took in Jahir's bare chest. Jahir was quite obviously muscled. Strange markings ran down the outside of his arms, tattoos in the shape of alien words. Then Jahir stepped out of his pants and Isaac's attention focused solely on the thick erection rising up between Jahir's legs.

Want spread through Isaac, so strong that he didn't know what to do. He stood under the spray of water, too surprised to move. Jahir took care of that for him. Jahir's mouth opened as he stepped into the shower, pushing Isaac back against the wall as his lips claimed Isaac's in a fierce kiss. It was almost like the way Farar had kissed him – hot and possessive, like kissing molten will, but there was an edge to it that Farar's kiss had lacked. Jahir pushed harder, kissed deeper, like he was trying to swallow Isaac whole. Isaac let him.

His legs shifted to make room for Jahir between them, though that was hardly necessary as Jahir dipped down, grabbing Isaac by the knees and then pulling up. His legs were spread wide and Jahir pressed close, dominating the space between them. Isaac shivered. The tile was cool against his back, a strong counterpoint to the heat of Jahir's chest. He felt Jahir's erection press against his thigh. Then Jahir shifted, bouncing Isaac once, twice, before lining their bodies up and sinking in.

Jahir filled him in one brutal thrust. Isaac's mouth opened, gaping wide, but no sound came out. His arms had wrapped around Jahir's shoulders, first for balance and now for security. His nails dug into flesh, but if it hurt Jahir didn't seem to notice. Isaac's breath pushed out of him and he gasped. His head fell on Jahir's shoulder. Water from the shower ran over them both but Isaac barely felt it. He was too focused on the point where their bodies were joined and the thick heat of Jahir inside of him.

Then Jahir moved and Isaac felt like he was going to burst. It hurt. His insides burned but that hardly mattered compared to the knowledge that Jahir was inside of him. Jahir took him, took all of Isaac and melted him down into a pool of quivering want. He forgot about the bruises, about the weeks of taunts, about having his apartment robbed and vandalized, his hot water shut off, his life degraded. It was worth it because he'd met an alien and had the courage to ask the alien his name and now he was here, in the silver spire and Jahir was inside of him. It was better than any of Isaac's fantasies.

He was coming before he realized it. He gasped and trembled in Jahir's arms as his seed spilled between them. It only seemed to encourage Jahir. He thrust up into Isaac, hard enough that Isaac's back slid against the tile. Jahir's fingers were like bands of iron where they dug into Isaac's legs. He wanted to have bruises, wanted to have the imprint of Jahir's hands on his ass so he could look at those and forget about the rest.

Isaac could have stayed like this forever, trapped between the wall and Jahir's body, but it wasn't meant to last. Jahir's thrusts grew erratic, harder and slower until he thrust up one last time, forcing a groan out of Isaac's mouth. Then he stilled. His breath was warm against Isaac's neck. The water hadn't chilled in the slightest but Isaac still shivered each time a drop of water fell from Jahir's loose hair to land on Isaac's shoulders. He felt like a wire stripped raw, bared to the elements around him and completely defenseless.

Jahir's hands relaxed in fractions, slowly lowering Isaac's legs back to the ground. His feet hit the shower floor but his legs refused to hold him. His arms tightened around Jahir's neck. He would have fallen without Jahir to hold him up.

"I'm sorry."

It took Isaac a minute to realize Jahir had spoken. They stood under the warm spray, letting the water wash away the evidence of their passion. He tried to turn his head, to pull away to look at Jahir but Jahir wouldn't let him. His arms held tight around Isaac's back, keeping them pressed together.

"W-what?" His voice came out harsh and gravely.

"I'm sorry they hurt you." His fingers brushed feather light over one of the many bruises on Isaac's back. "I shouldn't have let them hurt you."

"Never apologize for a mistake you did not make." Isaac parroted Farar's words. He wasn't sure what else to say.

A shudder ran through Jahir's chest and he exhaled, making a small sound that seemed almost like a laugh.

A thunderous boom filled the room. The ground shook and Isaac clung to Jahir for balance. Dread stabbed like a thousand knives up Isaac's spine. He pushed away from Jahir and took an uneasy step out of the shower. "What was that?" He didn't wait for an answer.

Water splashed on the tiled floor and he absently thought he should grab a towel, even as his feet propelled him out of the bathroom. He left wet footprints on the carpet as he crossed to stand in front of the glass wall. The view looked out onto the bay and beyond that was a city in flames. Black smoke rose from at least a dozen places. He wondered if any of the pillars of flame to the north were the coffee shop or his apartment building. How many were dead? How much of the city was lost? How much of what had once been his life was up in flames?

"That," Jahir said in an even voice as he came to stand behind Isaac, "is a lesson in loyalty. It is a lesson your fellows failed to learn the first time."

Isaac's fingers pressed against the glass as he stared out at the city. He knew he should feel bad. He should be mourning the dead. Michael was probably among them. But he felt none of that. As he turned away from the window and folded himself into Jahir's warm embrace, the only thing he felt for those outside the spire was pity.