Author's Note: I want to say something about the William/Spike thing in this fic. I realise I might be confusing people and I don't want to do that so here's a little attempt at an explanation of what is in my mind. Read the chapter first and then see my Author's Note at the end.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
"I just want to know where I stand. That's all. I like you, Buffy Summers or Finn or whatever the bleedin' hell your name is. I'm not bothered about you being a parent. I like your son, and Dawn's sort of growing on me too and as for you, where do I start? You're smart and you're beautiful and..."
Beep. "Message three." Beep.
"Oh you have got to be kidding me! Not another one." Buffy muttered aloud.
"Like I was saying. You're smart and beautiful and witty and down to earth..."
"I think its sweet!" Dawn declared with a grin and skipped past her to sit on the stairs.
"Shouldn't you, I don't know, study or something."
"We could take the kids out for a picnic or to the zoo or the beach or something..."
"Ooooh," Dawn squealed excitedly. "The Zoo! RJ would so love the zoo!"
Beep. "Message four." Beep.
"Yeah, right," Buffy burst her bubble. "Like that's ever going to happen."
"Hi, yeah, me again. So, like I was saying, we can take the kids or sort childcare but if you do want someone to spend some time with without the kids around – give yourself a break, you know – maybe I could be that someone...and it doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to..."
"Oh, he is so totally in love with you."
"Dawn! Homework! Now!"
"Everyone knows they only say it doesn't have to mean anything if it actually totally means everything!" Dawn continued excitedly. "And when you get married RJ can be ring bearer and you can dress him up in a cute little sailor suit and-"
"Dawn! Homework! Now!" Buffy ground out between gritted teeth, "Or so help me you'll be on diaper duty for a month."
"Geez! I'm leaving! Threatening me with RJ's diapers is like, way below the belt. You could nuke North Korea with those things!"
Buffy opened her mouth again but Dawn was already gone, skipping up the last few stairs with a cheeky smirk on her face. Buffy frowned. Sometimes her sister was just mean.
"I'm waffling, aren't I? I should probably go. Just call me. Please?"
Beep "Message five," Beep.
"Hello, I'm looking for a Mrs Finn, I'm calling regarding your telephone bill. If you could call me back on this number as soon as possible thank you."
Beep. "Message six," Beep.
"Mrs Finn, this is the IRS. I'm calling regarding an overpayment we made to you last month. You erroneously received an extra twenty dollars due to a computer error. We'll be contacting you soon by mail. As its a small amount we're willing to deal with it informally, if you could just complete the postal order we're sending to you and-"
Buffy switched the machine off. Like she had an extra twenty dollars lying around! That was a whole morning's work! If things carried on like this she was going to lose the house, and what would happen to Dawn and RJ then? Something had to give.
~ o0o ~
"I just don't get him!" Buffy complained to Willow the following day. "When I met him at the service station he was this loud, brash, self-confident jerk and then when he came here he was all thoughtful and sweet. I'm so confused." Buffy searched for her front door key as she spoke and Willow made sympathetic noises as she bounced RJ trying to content him while keep him back from his mother who was trying to find the door key so she could let them both inside the Summers' house.
"Really, Buffy. I think you're looking too much into this. You like him, he likes you. Its worth a shot isn't it?"
"How do you know? How do you know he's not just playing nice to suck up to me? He left these messages on my machine, rambling on about how much he liked me and...and yet I can't get over the fact that I switched on the television the other night only to see him living the high life, half-naked girls draped over him," Buffy sighed. "I've been messed around too much by too many men to make any sense of what's going on. I just don't feel like I know him, you know. I like him, more than I should. And now I feel like it was all just a lie to make me like him."
A short while late after the last of William's messages finished Willow pointedly ignored Buffy's 'See? There!' look and quietly sipped her tea.
"So?" Buffy asked, demanding affirmation of her position from her best friend.
"He sounds nice."
"Okay so he has this whole, macho, public persona thing but William – he's nice. He likes you and he's loaded. I'm not really seeing the problem here, Buffy."
Buffy remained silent.
"Look, one date. Give him that and see if you like him. It wouldn't hurt, would it?"
It wasn't quite three am this time but the following morning as RJ began to wake up Buffy dialled William's number, having no idea that he had been out again the night before, if only to Oz's place to have a serious discussion about the band. She tucked the phone under her ear as she went to get RJ and listened to the rings at the other end. RJ was none too happy at waking up to discover he was lying on dirty nappy and started wailing at the top of his lungs just a a bleary, hungover William answered at the other end. When William let out a horrified cry at the other end of the phone, Buffy cuddled her screaming son to her body and carried him over to changing table.
"William! Its Buffy!" Buffy exclaimed with great enthusiasm down the speaker phone as she laid RJ down to be changed.
William let out a long groan. "Argh! My head!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I wake you up?" Buffy apologised down the phone.
"The noise! My head!!"
"Sorry, you're on speaker phone. I'm just changing RJ. I'm sorry about the noise, he'll settle down in a minute as soon as he's changed. I just wanted to call and see how you were doing," Buffy chattered away and she efficiently went about changing her son. "I hope you don't mind. I figured since you don't have set work hours that you'd be around, right? I thought I'd try and catch you before I left for work."
"Bloody hell! Its like, three am or something!"
Buffy secured RJ's clean diaper and he was finally starting to settle down to 'I'm hungry whimpers' which she would see to in just a minute. "Seven, actually," Buffy replied. "Just a minute, I have to go wash my hands." She picked up RJ and put him back in his crib then wandered out of RJ's room and to the bathroom to wash her hands.
"I feel sick..." William groaned again down the phone. Then there was the sound of rapid bare-footed footsteps and as Buffy came back in there was the tell-tale sound of someone throwing up echoing down the phone when she went to pick it up.
"Oh, let me guess. Out partying again last night? Tell me, how many nearly-naked girls draped themselves all over you last night? More than at the party? Or less?"
At the other end of the phone William wiped his mouth and tried to remember what had happened last night. Why would Buffy be so cruel as to wake him up at this ungodly hour when he had such an awful hangover? Then it came to him: two nights ago. The party, the girls, the television cameras and the fervent wishing that Buffy was doing anything other than watching television.
"You saw, didn't you? The party? I'm really sorry about that. The record company set us up. If I'd known I wouldn't have gone. It'll never happen again, I promise."
"You mean the randy naked girls draped all over you and Oz? Where you two were drowning yourselves in alcohol? I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about Spike?"
William winced at Buffy's sharp, angry tone that grated with his pounding headache. The bitter taste of stale alcohol and stomach acid mixed in his mouth and he spit into the sink, trying to get the taste out of his mouth. "The record company likes the band to have this stupid 'bad boy' image. Oz and I only put up with it for long enough for a few paparazzi to get their shots. It didn't mean anything, I didn't fuck any of them and I came home alone."
"Right. 'Cause you looked like you were having a terrible time!"
"Buffy, believe it or not I want a bit more out of a girl than being treated as some bit of meat on a stud farm. Yeah, a couple of years ago I might have taken one or two of them home with me but I'm not that guy anymore and lets get one thing straight, yeah? Might have been a player in my time, but I was always free and single. I don't cheat. If it was up to me I wouldn't have allowed it but until Oz and I get our next album out the record company has us by the balls and we have to go through with all this stupid stuff to make them happy. It doesn't mean anything. It...it doesn't change how I feel about you. If I offended you somehow I'm sorry, just let me make it up to you."
Buffy wanted to ask if he'd fucked the lead dancer on his 'Vampyre' music video but she decided not to push her luck. One chance, Willow had said. That was all he was getting. Buffy finished changing RJ and sat down, settling him at her breast. On her end of the phone Buffy leaned against the back of the chair situated just inside the doorway of RJ's room and stared at the set of corner shelves next to RJ's crib. Riley's cap, photograph, his medals and the flag from his coffin were set on each of the shelves, carefully dusted and arranged for RJ's viewing. Next to them her son lay in his crib every night and wriggled his hands and feet for attention from the unmoving image of the father he would never know.
Buffy looked at her son. His harsh cries had quietened now that his dirty diaper had been changed and only the quiet whimpering of the hunger in his belly remained that soon quietened when he latched on.
She just had to remain sensible about this. One date, that was all, just to prove that it could never work. Besides, its wasn't like William was all that special anyway, right? His cornflower blue eyes were like a hundred other guys, Buffy was sure – she just hadn't met any of them yet...and his toned body wasn't anything to write home about and hey, every guy smiled at RJ like a doting father and listened as she waffled on about baby troubles. Right?
"William..." Buffy spoke aloud. Then another part of her mind snapped into action. What was she thinking even contemplating starting something with William? Hadn't she learned anything from Riley? "Look this really goes against my better judgement but...Dawn heard the messages and...well she told my best friend Willow and she somehow got me to promise to give you a chance. One though, that's all. What you said was," Buffy took in a breath and sighed. "It was sweet of you but I can't deal with naked girls draping themselves over you here there and everywhere."
"Whatever you need, I'll do it, Buffy. I can't lose you from my life when I've only just found you."
"Oh God, William... why do you always have to do this?"
"Be nice to me."
"I like you. Course I'm nice to you. How's RJ? And you know, that was cruel waking me up like that! What was wrong with him?"
"Dirty diaper. I just, I hate the you I see when you're on stage. Spike is brash and rude and he swears all the time and he sleeps around and doesn't care about anyone but himself...but then I talk to you and you apologise and you sound contrite and you ask after my family and...who is real William? How am I supposed to know?"
"You know, Buffy. You do. Because I'm only like this around you. I've been putting on the 'Spike' character so long I almost forgot what it feels like just to be William. Its like, when you're this big star on stage, the rest of your life is eclipsed by what happens in that few hours on stage and I let that happen. I let Spike take over my life but you've made me realise that's not who I am. I'm sorry if you have a problem with Spike, but it is just an act, I realise that now. I'm not Spike, I'm William and I want a life as William that's separate from Spike – that's not eclipsed by my life on stage. You made me want that." He said and then groaned. "God, that was a cheesy line. I blame it on the drink and oh! How my head hurts!"
Buffy chuckled. "Flattery? Just how much did you drink last night?"
"No idea. Oz and I brought the party home after the end of the posh thing. Think he's passed out on my incredibly uncomfortable couch right now."
"So you brought someone home last night and didn't tell me?" Buffy teased.
"HaHa. Sorry to burst your happy little fantasy but Oz and I aren't like that."
Buffy chuckled, "Party pooper."
William smiled, in spite of his headache. "So does this mean you're not mad anymore?"
"Oh I'm still mad," Buffy assured him.
"And I'm really not sure I trust you enough to start a relationship with you."
At the other end of the phone William's shoulders sagged.
"But I promised my friend Willow I'd give you one date and maybe if you're willing to start out as friends and see where it goes you could try and win me around by say, taking us all to the beach on Sunday. I have a day off."
"Okay, yeah. That sounds good."
"And I want a picnic."
"Consider it done."
"With strawberries!" She added.
William chuckled warmly. "I'll see what I can do."
The moment William hung up the phone he decided that enough was enough. Buffy's words about the girls had been enough to spur him on. Last night he'd ranted wildly, driven by too much Scotch and had made audacious claims about freeing the band from the suffocating yoke of their commercial contract. Well now he was sober and after hearing Buffy talk about seeing him at the party he decided once and for all that the record company could go to hell. If it took a court order, paying them off or something else, he had had damned well enough of jumping through their hoops like a trained dog. Hungover and still feeling very much the worse for wear, Spike got up anyway, showered and made coffee to wake himself up.
Afterwards he woke Oz and the friends had a quiet hangover breakfast together before Spike agreed to drive Oz home and they made their way downstairs together to the parking garage and climbed into his old Desoto. It was earlier than he was usually up, but the sun was already high in the sky and there was enough traffic as he headed up to Oz's villa in the Hollywood hills to add an extra half hour to his journey.
As he drove, the bright sunlight shining down on his pale arm and the wind blowing in the open window, William thought about the changes he was making in his life. For starters, he was now determined to have one. The money, he had always thought, had never meant very much to him but he realised now that he had maybe given it more importance than he realised. Money was convenient but more than than, it was status. He was no longer the scrawny bullied kid, he was somebody – but he'd let other people tell him that the only way to get on top and stay on top was to be the star all of the time. Live for it. Let your life revolve around it until all you had was an empty phone book and a bunch of expensive, meaningless possessions with no one to share it with. How long had it been since he'd made time to visit his family? How long since he'd made the effort to make friends and keep them – apart from Oz. William had realised a long time ago that he was unhappy with his life but he was only realising now that the main thing wrong with William's life was that William didn't have a life. Spike had a life, and William had let everything else fall to the way side.
It wouldn't be easy making the changes he wanted. It would mean taking on the record company so that he no longer lived his life by their rules. It would mean learning to leave Spike on stage and life for other things outside of that and it would mean winning over Buffy, who was in a difficult position herself and was looking out for herself and her young family. Taking on the record company would be tough too and potentially very expensive. If it came down to paying back the company back the income they'd received from the contract, he would at least still get his share of the royalties from the first two album sales and he could get enough money from interviews and appearances to get him through until he and Oz got a new album completed. It was getting Oz on board that he was nervous about. They had already agreed that Angel had to go, being more aligned to the sympathies of the record company than the creative needs of the band, not to mention the fact that neither he nor Oz could stand the man. Nevertheless this was a whole other step.
Still, William twitched nervously as he pulled up in Oz's gravel drive, knowing he couldn't put off what he wanted to say any longer.
"I want to take them to court," He said quietly.
"About the contract?"
"You want to take the Record Company to court?"
"That's what I said. I'm not playing their game anymore. I want out of the contract. I want us to do a third album when we're ready to do a third album and I want us to have full creative control and full control of our own publicity. None of this 'they say jump, we ask how high' stuff. Oz, you're my best mate in all the world but I can't go on like this. I need out and I can't do it without you."
"I understand its gonna be difficult. Law might not be on our side and I doubt the press will be when they find out or next album will be delayed and that we've sacked another drummer but I really think-"
"I said okay, Will," Oz repeated quietly.
"Okay? You're in?"
"Yeah, man. I'm in."
"Right then. Guess I'd better find us a lawyer."
Author's Note: I recently heard an anecdote from a theatre actor. He was actually quite a shy guy, but he said he could play these crazy characters and run around stage doing all this crazy stuff because in his mind it is not him doing these things, it is the character doing those things. This is what is in my mind when it comes to William and Spike. William is actually a bit shy and unsure of himself in person. In canon he is a wallflower, without the confidence or ability to deal with being the centre of attention. In this story William has found a way of dealing with the attention he receives by creating the character of 'Spike' whom he can play in public. 'Spike' is everything that he isn't – confident, arrogant, lewd and brash but it it isn't William who behaves like this, it is the character 'Spike'.
The problem is that while a bit of Spike has rubbed off on William and my William isn't quite so painfully shy as canon!William, he is still isolated by Spike because of the way the record company exploits the 'Spike' persona. The public persona, 'Spike' is pushed so much by the record company that nothing else in William's life can really compete. William has been sidelined so much he doesn't really know who he is anymore. William lets 'Spike' become his life and so all his other friends and family have slipped from his life so that now he doesn't really have anyone that he can just be himself around which only makes the problem worse. Until he meets Buffy and she accepts him without question, but likes William more and Spike less and in this way he realises that in order to get what he wants in terms of a private life, he has to be able to turn things around and isolate 'Spike' and this means taking on the record company.
I hope that makes a bit more sense now.