They'd gone, except for Rupert, who was puttering in another room. They had to think about it - mostly at Giles' insistence. Honestly, Quentin thought these children never thought about anything. They just *did* things. It was both their problem and their saving grace.
"Why does he bother you so much?" Andrea's voice was soft, and he didn't have to ask about whom she was talking.
Travers stared unseeing out the window. "The rest are special. The witch is strong - I've read Rupert's reports. Rupert may be headstrong and self-righteous sometimes - and before you say it, I know that I'm one to talk - but he's Watcher born and bred. And the Slayer - well, she's the Chosen One."
"You can't deny the Sanhedrin Vision, Quentin. We interviewed them all - they all saw it. Now they *all* are Chosen Ones."
"But he's nothing special," the Watcher protested helplessly.
"If he can complete the Unity, he is indeed special. We just didn't know how until now." The woman's hand rested on her friend's shoulder a while, then she silently walked away.
The older Watcher just gazed unseeing at the night sky.
He heard the murmured voices of Andrea and the other two Watchers, bidding Rupert goodnight, and Giles response, then the tinkle of the door, and after a few minutes, the clinking of glasses behind him, which made him turn.
"Scotch?" the younger man offered, and Travers nodded and took the glass.
"Why didn't you leave with the rest?" Rupert Giles was perched on the edge of the table. Travers knew there was no love lost between them, but he had a grudging respect for this man - he had fought the good fight, and so far, stayed ahead. Or at least alive.
"There are things you need to know, especially since you are the Intellect. You must understand, because if you don't, they won't either. The reason we haven't explained it well is twofold. First, it's very hard to understand. And secondly, humans have never done this before. No matter how smart or strong or special the humans, they aren't angels, and there may be risks we can't foresee."
Giles slid off the table and sat in the chair across from the elder Watcher. "If we agree to do it, we'll be willing take on the risks. But I need to know what exactly you *do* know."
Meanwhile at Xander's apartment...
"Sorry, guys," Xander apologized, after escorting Anya to the door and dead bolting it behind her. "She forgets sometimes she has her own apartment."
"I dunno," Buffy teased, "I thought it was kind of cute how she kept explaining how understanding and non-possessive she is about us being here while she kept a death-grip on your arm."
"A very possessive death-grip," Willow chimed in.
Xander sighed and dropped into the overstuffed chair. "She's been like this ever since that troll incident. Anya never does much halfway, I'll give her that. She says she doesn't want to be jealous anymore, so she announces everywhere we go how not jealous she's being. Occasionally, she even makes me believe it. But usually, I think she's trying to convince herself."
"I'm glad Tara doesn't cling like that," Willow responded.
Before Xander could reply and begin what would be a long argument about the relative merits of their significant others, in which Buffy would feel significantly left out, the Slayer interrupted. "So, what do you guys think about this whole 'Unity' deal?"
"I'd still like to know what happens to us as individuals while we're Unity," Willow said.
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "I mean, are we walking around like 'Night of the Living Dead,' all zombie-like, or what?"
Willow pulled a notebook out of her bag. "I think we should make a list of questions, and then we can decide which ones are the most important to ask."
"I know one," Xander said, bouncing lightly in his seat, his eyes bright. "Do we get super powers? I've always wanted to have super powers."
"Uh, probably sorta," Buffy answered automatically. "I mean, I already have Slayer strength, so..."
"Yeah, but like flying, or web-spinning, or the cool things the comic book superheroes can do."
"Xan, they're not going to have us bitten by a radioactive spider," Willow chided.
"I'm gonna hold out for at least a cape and a Batmobile." The Wiccan rolled her eyes, but wrote it down anyway.
"I wonder how long it will last," Buffy mused. "Will we become the Unity, and then be stuck like that forever, or will it disappear in the middle of a fight because it expired and we have to put in another couple of quarters?" Willow was scribbling furiously.
"And what happens after we defeat Glory?" The girls both looked at Xander. "That is the whole point of this Unity thing, isn't it? To take her down?" The others nodded slowly. "So will there be any need for Unity after that? Will we be on call or something?"
"And what if we can't defeat her?" Buffy asked softly. The three sat in silence, considering that possible outcome.
Xander woke suddenly, disoriented. He wasn't sure where he was, or what he was doing asleep in a chair. He looked around, and realized it was his own living room, and Buffy and Willow were asleep on the couch across from him - Buffy curled into a little ball on one end, and Willow stretched out, her head on the other armrest and her stocking feet almost in the Slayer's gut. Looking at his watch, he became aware that they only had about four hours before they were due back at the Magic Box, and they should all probably get some decent rest before that time. He carefully picked up his lifelong friend and carried her into the bedroom, managing to pull down the covers with his foot and tuck Willow in without waking her. After first turning down the other side of the bed, he returned to the couch and picked up Buffy, doing the same with her. Then he pulled a blanket and pillow out of the closet, kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the couch himself. Before he drifted back off, he wondered how his non-possessive girlfriend would react if he announced he'd had two women in his bed tonight? Too bad they were there without him.
He was moving, but he wasn't walking. He had no feet. He had no body. He couldn't think, couldn't analyze this, all he could do was feel. Not touch, taste kind of feel. Fear, love, anger kind of feel. He felt Giles' protective concern, and Willow's insecurity. Buffy's fierce love for her sister, for Willow and Giles and even himself. His own need for loving acceptance. He didn't just feel these things - he *was* all these things. Gradually, others became apparent. *I know where to look to find that information about Glory,* a voice not unlike Giles' spoke in him. *The goddess grants the knowledge and serenity. I can see her guiding us, and hear her wisdom,* Willow chanted quietly. *We can take her,* Buffy's voice stated confidently, *I'm so much stronger now.* *Love can overcome the anger she uses,* Xander heard his own voice add, and he wondered why, of all of them, he sounded the most unlike himself.
*You've hidden from your true nature too long,* Willow informed him. *You think your emotions are weak, but they're your greatest strength.* *You've become a fine young man, Xander,* the inner Giles-voice told him. *The facts show that you are an adult, with skills and responsibilities all your own.* Willow had spoken to his spirit, Giles to his intellect. *Buffy?* he called out, both eager for and afraid of her assessment. *Xander,* her voice purred breathlessly. *You're a man now. You've become strong, and you could probably even keep up with me. I'd like to... Xander? Xander!*
"Xander!" His eyes flew open, and he saw the Slayer shaking him awake, Willow watching over her shoulder.
"Couldn't you have waited a few minutes longer, Buff? I wanted to hear what y..." He shook himself awake, for once managing not to embarrass himself. "Uhhhm. What time is it?"
"Nine," she replied, "and we're supposed to be back at the shop at nine-thirty. And you have no food."
"That's not true," he defended himself, standing and finger combing his hair. "I have," he threw open a cabinet and looked inside, "A box of Captain Crunch." He shook it gently, then opened it and peered in. "An empty box of Captain Crunch." He gazed into the refrigerator. "And beer. One. Wanna share?"
"Ewww." The Slayer grabbed him and pulled him out of the 'frige. "Doughnuts. Now. Let's go."
"Can I change my shirt first?" he asked pitifully.
"NO!" both girls answered in unison, as they pushed him out the front door.
They entered the Magic Box giggling and licking powdered sugar off their fingers. The disapproving glare from Quentin Travers wiped the smiles off of their faces, although they did see an indulgent smirk briefly grace Giles' expression. Anya and Tara were there, too, both giving the evil eye to the trio. Although Tara's expression when jealous was usually more hurt than angry, it appeared that Anya had been bending her ear and had managed to upset her before their arrival.
"So, what did you three do last night?" the blonde witch asked, too casually.
"We talked until we fell asleep," Willow answered, her mind more on the decision they were there to make than her lover. Pulling the pad out of her bag, she faced the assembled Watchers. "We have a few questions," she began, but Travers held up his hand.
"Rupert, this is why we talked last night. Tell them what you know, and we'll handle anything you and I haven't covered." Giles ushered the three into the back room, and the other two girls moved to follow. "No," Travers stopped them, "they have to be able to focus in order to make this decision." Noticing them both pouting, the older man sighed. "You'd better get used to this - if they decide to become the Unity, you will soon find you have less in common with them than you ever did before. I wouldn't count on your relationships with any of them ever being the same again."
"What do you mean, 'relationships will be difficult?' Isn't that a fact of life?" Xander was staring at the former librarian as if he'd just stated the most obvious thing ever.
"I mean, you will find it very difficult to maintain the level of, umm, intimacy, with Anya, for example, that you currently have."
"What, parts of me are going to fall off?" The young man paled slightly. After what appeared to be a fairly vivid mental picture of what Xander might be imagining, Giles grew a bit pasty too.
"No, no," the Watcher reassured him, "You'll still be intact. But you don't seem to understand what the mental link entails. We will literally live inside one another's minds. There will be no such thing as privacy. Your every thought will be shared. As will Buffy's, Willow's and my own. Most partners would find it difficult to share their most intimate moments with three other people, particularly of mixed gender."
"Most partners aren't Anya," Willow pointed out, almost kindly. "She'll gladly share detailed statistics of her and Xander's experiences without being asked. With crowds of any size." She looked over at her childhood friend, who was studying the floor intently, his face a bit flushed. The witch became introspective. "But Tara might not like it much." She looked again at her best friend, and suddenly slugged him in the arm, hard.
"I didn't have to be inside your head to see what you were thinking, buster," Willow huffed. "In your dreams."
He rubbed the sore spot. "Well, yeah." At the glares from the other three, he just shrugged, but wisely remained silent.
Giles slogged on in spite of the less than dignified turn the conversation had taken. "Jobs will be difficult to maintain, simply because we can't time when and where the Unity will be needed. We will be able to maintain the bookstore with some outside help, but Xander would be best working as an independent contractor, and I'm not sure if we could work around college or not. We managed well with the slaying in high school, but this is a bit less under our control."
"I personally never felt a whole lot of the slaying stuff was under my control, either, Giles. So what else would be new?" Buffy finally spoke up. She had the least to lose, it seemed. She was used to her life not being her own, and she had no serious relationship she could mess up. Really, she thought it would be kind of nice to be assured never to be alone again, no matter what. But her friends would be giving up any hope of ever living a normal life again. And Giles - to be permanently connected with three people half his age would probably drive him buggy. "How do you feel about it?" she asked the older man seriously.
He took off his glasses, a distant look in his eyes. "I've not really been close to anyone outside of you three since Jenny died. Olivia and I didn't have that kind of depth to our relationship," he acknowledged sadly. Putting his spectacles back on, he brightened some. "And there is the prospect of saving humanity. I know we've done it before, but it still has a certain charm." The laughter in his Slayer's eyes, and the grins on the other two faces assured him his humor was appreciated. "I'm game, myself." The levity was gone again, and silence reigned for a few minutes.
"Hell, I say we do it. Let's save the world again," Xander said, breaking the thoughtful quiet. He stuck out his hand, balled in a fist. "Unity."
Willow gave a crooked grin. "Why not?" she mused, covering his fist with her hand. "Unity."
They both looked to Buffy, but it was Giles who moved next, capturing the other two hands in his own. "Unity."
The Slayer's tiny hand couldn't wrap around the other three, but she rested it atop theirs, sure in her heart that there were no three people on earth she would rather be a part of. "Unity."
Then cold fire rained down from the ceiling, and electricity sparked, lighting the room with a blinding flash. An inhuman shriek tore through the air. They all gasped, and then stopped breathing. And they were gone.
"What was *that*?" Anya jumped up, Tara at her heels.
"Perhaps you hadn't ought to go in there..." Travers' voice trailed off, aware they weren't listening. The two girls both tried to go through the door at once, getting caught in the narrow opening. The Watcher followed resignedly.
The three stood just inside the door, speechless. Finally, unsurprisingly, the ex-demon found her tongue first. "Who are *you*?"
The person sitting on the floor had apparently been thrown down by whatever had caused the uproar. She stood, her body petite and yet strong, her facial features similar to Buffy's, but her hair was dark red and her eyes, chocolate brown. Standing and smoothing the black leather jumpsuit she wore, she looked at the people before her with affection in her expression, in spite of her serious and driven air. When she spoke, her voice was deep for a female, and had a British accent. "We are Unity," she introduced herself.