He hadnít expected it to be so lonely, but it was. The silence clawed at his insides and he actually missed the noise of teenage girls and men trying to pretend they were a helpful part of the machine.
"Spike, can you tighten this bolt, the action isnít quite taught enough."
"Spike, I canít reach the cereal."
"Spike, will you patrol with us?"
"I canít let you go yet."
There he had been needed almost every minute. Twenty girls vying for his attention, hoping to be the one he had a spare minute for. Giggling in the bathroom about his body, excited to catch a glimpse of skin when Buffy or Anya were patching up some random wound inflicted during the nightís hunt. At the time it had all seemed so innocent; fresh faced girls desperate for a touch of something normal, a high school crush or whatever it was they thought normal girls would have on the bad boy amongst them.
Not that there werenít other options, Xander and his steady job, Giles the father figure, Andrew the boy they could tease without remorse, Robin the authority figure that they felt guilty for being attracted to. None of that with him, Spike was there to be oggled, taken for granted even, but always wanted by one or the other.
He missed it painfully now.
"Go away, Spike."
"Please be quiet if youíve nothing to contribute."
"We donít want you here Spike."
"You know that woosh thing you do, where youíre suddenly not here? I love that."
Sterile gray walls greet him as he enters the basement apartment that he is forced to call home because he simply has nowhere else to go. There are no fancy penthouses for him. No stucco covered walls with tapestries and weapons on the walls. Just a simple white stove and a thrift shop table crammed into a room that can hardly be meant for living. A single bed staring him in the face, whispering in his ear ironic words, mocking his plight to change.
"No, here, just hold me for tonight."
"You taste like ashes, a girl must find her pleasure."
"He was just there."
"Not like youíre going to be sharing it with anyone, right?"
Always alone at the end of the day. He has a phone, stolen from Angelís desk. He picks it up each night, punching in numbers he knows belong to the Slayerís friends, never brave enough to hit the last keystroke. Instead he dials Angelís office, waiting to hear a familiar voice, even if itís just Harmony.
"Spike, you know Angelís gonna kick your ass if you donít bring his phone back."
"Heís gonna have it turned off you know."
"Don't you have anyone else to harass?"
"No, heís upstairs asleep. No, Iím not going to give you the number."
Sometimes though, Angel answers. Usually he just hangs up, but on those rare occasions where he doesnít Spike almost feels like that man who was chained to the basement wall, kept alive because they needed him. Wanted but not. His captors unsure what to do with him when he wasnít being helpful.
"Have you ever fought a Gameck demon? How do you kill them?"
"The seers here will never be as good as Drusilla."
"What was that place just outside Athens we went to?"
"Do you still hear their voices when you sleep? I did for years."
Sometimes, just sometimes, Spike doesnít have to be alone, surrounded by the gray walls and linoleum table. Once in a while the phone will ring and it will be the only person with the number, Spike always answers "Angelís phone" because he feels like the secretary. Taking down notes to be sure he meets him in the right place. Stopping to buy dime store clothes that the watchers at Wolfram and Hart havenít stuck little tracers in.
"I need you tonight, vamp nest in Santa Monica, I just feel like a fight."
"I went to see Connor tonight. Heís growing a goatee."
"What was it like in the hellmouth, do you think it was like the hell I was in?"
"Thereís a motel off Waterford. Iíll leave the door unlocked."
Spike always meets him, wordlessly entering whatever fleabag heís chosen for the night. All smiles when Angel kisses him, happy to be wanted, by anyone he doesnít have to pay to pretend. Heís not sure why Angel calls, never sure why this is what he needs from Spike, but he gives it all the same. Kisses the back of his neck as he presses deep within, tears forming in his eyes when Angel bucks back against him, a cry in his throat, words mumbled so quiet Spike has to strain to hear them.
"Iím sorry, youĎll forgive me, right?"
"God I wish I didnít need you so bad."
"Why do you always come?"
"If I had the phone turned off I couldnít keep calling you here."
Itís still lonely most nights, and he hates it, but he sleeps with the stolen phone next to his pillow, hoping its shrill ring will call him into action. Reminding him that there are still shelves too high, fights that canít be fought alone, and giggling lovers happy to catch a glimmer of pale skin in the middle of the night.