"We're not going anywhere, Quentin," the female voice that was still somehow that of Rupert Giles assured the older Watcher. Travers had called the hotel, summoning the rest of the team immediately. Unity sat calmly at the table, sipping tea and appearing unflappable.
Anya had been studying the other girl nervously. Finally, she blurted out, "Is Xander in there?"
Unity reached across the table and patted the girl's hand in a familiar way. "It's okay, An," she reassured the ex-demon. "Xander's fine. He's not just 'in here'; he's all of me, just as Buffy, Willow and Giles are. Xander's the heart - he's the feelings. But he's much more than that, as well."
"But where *is* he?" she asked plaintively. "He's *gone.*"
Travers snorted. After all, the Being - Unity - had just explained to the stupid girl that her boyfriend was now a part of something larger than himself, and she didn't seem to understand. Before he could dismiss her question as hopelessly thick, however, Unity spoke again. "He'll be back soon, An."
The girl's voice was barely above a whisper. "Only Xander calls me 'An.'"
Unity's brown eyes sparkled, and the crooked grin was as familiar to Anya as the face she was used to waking up beside. "That's right, An." And the woman sat back, still frightened, but comforted.
"Ya made it already," a nasally familiar voice said. "Ya was quicker than I thought ya'd be."
"Whistler," Unity said, genuinely pleased to see the demon. "Do we have work to do already? We thought we were only here to get comfortable with yourself."
"Y'are. The Powers That Be want me to be yer rep for them, since ya sort of evolved from my previous assignment. There are details to be worked out, stuff youse have to do, like that. How do ya feel?"
"The Watcher Brood's gonna want ya to prove yerself. Feeling *that* capable?"
Humor danced in the brown eyes. "They'll want us to prove our strength in magic and battle, and our knowledge of the arcane and metaphysical. Would you do us a favor?" The entity leaned over to whisper in Whistler's ear. The demon looked puzzled, but agreeable, taking the proffered key and excusing himself.
Travers frowned at the retreating back of the demon's figure, then turned to Unity. "There are details to be worked out as well, you know."
"Why, Mr. Travers, you actually believe we'll succeed when tested," the entity said with one eyebrow raised and a bemused tone.
"I've learned that with this Slayer, failure is rare and unique. Besides, the fact that you exist at all is proof enough to me that you're fit for the task, but I'll have to take a report back to the Council, nonetheless."
"We'll try to keep you entertained," Unity said wryly. "You mentioned details?"
"You'll need to make arrangements to cover the shop while Giles is 'indisposed,' and the other three need to have plans, as well."
"We have planned for Xander to work as an independent contractor, small jobs with flexible schedules. We have plans for help with the shop as well, but we won't be able to share some of those until later. We haven't made firm decisions on college as yet."
"When did you make these decisions? Last night, when Giles was absent? Because I'd think he would..."
"He's right here. We don't have to talk out loud to confer amongst ourselves now. Although these things were discussed whilst we were still divided."
"Oh, right." The Watcher was embarrassed. He was focusing on Unity as a separate member of the team, and he'd forgotten that they were all in there, intimately connected with one another. They weren't AS one, they WERE one. Further such contemplation was delayed by the ringing of the bell on the door, signaling the entry of the remaining Council members. Behind them followed Whistler, with a covered bundle of something, and Tara.
The blonde witch addressed Anya, unaware of any of the others present. "He took..."
Unity interrupted. "It's okay, hon. You'll see, soon."
"Willow?" the other girl wondered, recognizing the hair and the tone, but not the speaker.
"We're in here, honey. We all are." The inflection no longer British, but soothing and somewhat higher in pitch, comforted and reassured the nervous girl.
"She's... who?" Tara pointed and stared, again addressing the ex-demon.
"She's Unity. I've seen Xander and that looked and sounded like Willow. She usually sounds mostly like Mr. Giles, and looks mostly like Buffy, but they all seem to be gone otherwise, so I'm gonna say they're all her, or she's all them," the girl waved her hands uncertainly, "or something." Anya seemed a bit overwhelmed - after all, she'd lived more than 1100 years in the realm of the supernatural, but only human emotion seemed as much a mystery to her as this being was. The witch and the former demon moved closer together, both seeking protection, but unsure of what from.
The dark man clicked his stopwatch. "That's quite enough," the Watcher assured the entity. Unity had changed from her black jumpsuit to white knit shorts and a tank top, and had been run through inhumanly vigorous tests by the Council Representatives. She'd passed stunningly, and barely broken a sweat. She'd done the same with the verbal and written tests of her knowledge of demons, supernatural beings and other arcane lore previously. All that remained were the magic tests.
The leather jumpsuit was back, although no one in the room could remember Unity leaving to change. She stood in the center of the group as they observed, and produced a levitation spell, a binding spell, and a fantastic glamour of Oprah Winfrey, causing Anya to ask her for book recommendations. "Satisfied?" the being grinned, the expression making it look again mostly like a feminine Xander.
The murmurs of approval rose from the Watchers. "We have one more thing to finish up with," Unity informed the visitors. "Whistler?"
The nearly forgotten demon came forward, pulling the covering off a small cage.
"See?" Tara whispered loudly to Anya. "He took Amy!"
Unity spoke a few words of some unknown language over the rat, which she had first removed from the cage and placed on the store counter. Mist swirled and something sparkled, and when the air cleared, a very naked and attractive young woman sat where the rat had been.
"Hell - O!" Whistler said admiringly. The assembled Watchers were all proper and British, becoming stuttering fools or turning crimson.
Unity distinctly leered at the lovely girl before announcing, "See? Counter help. She really helps that counter."
Amy Madison's satisfied grin turned to an expression of sad confusion. "Would somebody here get me a blanket, and then tell me what's going on?"
"So let me see if I get it," Amy exclaimed, clutching the blanket around her with one hand, and her cup of tea with the other. "I already know I've been a rat for the past couple of years. And Willow's turned me back once or twice, but it never held." She saw a look of surprise on Unity's face. "You really never knew you succeeded, huh Wills? You came so close. And, you are in there, right?" Unity nodded patiently - that had fast become the most common question asked, whenever someone spoke directly to one of her Parts. "And now, you," Amy continued, motioning to Unity, "are what Willow's become. And Buffy, and Xander and Mr. Giles." The entity nodded again.
"But they - we - aren't gone. We'll only be in this form part of the time."
The two women were sitting in the back room, alone. The Council members were conferring at the table in the front room, while Whistler had simply vanished, as he often did. Anya and Tara had gone for doughnuts.
"Well, thank the Willow in there," Amy said seriously. "I know how long she's been working at de-ratting me."
"Yeah," Unity grinned wickedly, "but it was Xander's idea to do it in front of all the Council members and freak them out. He knew you'd come out naked. Actually, we're not sure which one of us knew that, but it was fun to watch their faces." The being slipped into Willow's chatty manner. "Being Unity has increased all our powers - the Body is stronger, the Intellect sharper, the Heart - the emotions - truer. We knew what we wanted to do with the increased magical powers." She grew more serious, although still Willow-y. "You know your Dad moved away. He kind of pegged you for one of Sunnydale's many shady statistics."
"Well, he never really approved of my witchcraft, anyway. He probably figured out sort of what I did - that I wiped myself out, magically."
Unity was suddenly all Giles-like. "Your first decision should be whether you choose to follow him. You'll want to at least let him know you're alive." Amy nodded. "If you would like to stay here in Sunnydale, we feel somewhat responsible for your being unable to finish your education. We'd like to offer you a job, caring for the magic shop and taking calls for Xander's new business, if you'd be interested."
"I think I would, really. I do need to talk to dad, but I'm old enough, I'd probably be on my own by now anyway."
"With you and Anya handling the store, we'd be free to go where and when we're needed."
"Have I met Anya?" Amy asked. "I only have brief and hazy memories of things that happened while I was a rat."
"Trust us," that Willow grin again, "if you'd met her, you'd remember."
The various parties had all regrouped, with doughnuts. Tara had brought back clothes, and Amy was dressed in the other witches' skirt and t-shirt. Unity looked around. "We presume we met with expectations? May we divide now?" She looked at Whistler specifically. "Unless we are needed further?"
"Naw," the demon said, grinning, "I think you've done your part so far."
The female form shimmered, and melted away. Four figures stood in her place.
"That was..." Buffy began.
"Cool." Xander finished.
"A bit..." Giles pondered.
"Scary," Willow went on. Her face screwed up. "Is this..."
"Normal?" Xander stared at her, then his bewildered gaze traveled to the others. "Are we always..."
"Gonna finish each other's sentences?" Buffy completed.
Giles face was thoughtful. "I believe it's simply..."
"The newness of the bond." Willow agreed. "We haven't..."
"Completely separated." Buffy finished with relief. "Maybe we should..."
"Shut up now." In spite of himself, Xander grinned as he spoke. After a moment, his brows drew together in contemplation. "What do we..."
"Do next?" Giles offered. They turned as one and looked at Whistler. Anya was clearly a bit freaked by the apparent choreography.
The demon smiled. "I think youse guys need to spend a night together, since it'll be kinda hard to finish thoughts across town. The whole thing'll fade soon, anyway, but communicating with others without all four of ya there'll be too much otherwise. I'm thinkin' the Council could find room in their travel stipend for a hotel suite, huh?" He shot a nasty grin at Travers, who glared back.
"Why don't TPTB equip their demons with expense accounts?" the older Watcher asked no one in particular.
"So, we get one of bedrooms, and..." Anya was whispering to her lover, sure no one else could hear, when she was cut off.
"Xander, I don't..." Buffy cut in.
"Think that's such a good idea tonight," Giles finished for her. They were wearing twin expressions of concern.
"But we were apart last night, and..."
"I really miss her." Willow walked up to finish Xander's thought, holding Tara firmly by the hand.
Whistler joined the group. "At least while you're all still partially joined, I don't think any hanky panky with partners would be such a good idea."
"That?" Willow and Xander asked seamlessly.
Instead of answering, the demon took Buffy by the hand, and led her outside, away from the others. "Trust me?" he asked, and the Slayer nodded silently. "Okay," he confirmed, then took her in his arms and kissed her. In an instant, there were three people surrounding them.
"What the.." Giles fumed.
"Hell are you doing..." Xander growled.
"You little pervert!" Willow screeched.
The demon released the somewhat stunned Slayer and grinned at her companions. "You knew everything the instant it happened, didn't you?" They all nodded in angry unison. "Okay, imagine one of you having sex while you're still that connected, and..."
"Never mind," Willow gulped.
"We get the picture," Xander finished.
Giles turned to Anya and Tara, who had followed them fairly quickly. "Sorry, honey," he began. "Oops."
"We were..." Xander glared.
"Supposed to say that," Willow went on sadly.
"We're still having..." Buffy interjected.
"Trouble sorting out..." Giles continued.
"Who begins and ends where," Xander sighed.
"This is too damned annoying," Anya pouted, stomping her foot for emphasis.
"The thing is, Toots, it'll get better. The bond is gonna be easier to break once they're more used to it. But right now, they need to cope on their own, and dealing with you two is just gonna confuse them." The demon escorted the girls back to the door; gently propelling them back inside before turning to the Slayer. "By the way, I've always wanted to do that, just out of curiosity. I see now why Angel thought ya was worth his soul." He grinned cheekily and went in the door.
"Thanks," Buffy said weakly.
"I think," Willow followed softly.
Tara was silent, but also was the only one who noticed how the four who were Unity kept touching each other unconsciously. They all went back in the store, and she followed uncomfortably behind.