Ten people stood underneath a huge Christmas tree. The top bent over a little, so the star on top was crooked. Fred was drinking sparkling cider, but the majority of the group had champagne in their hands. Dinner had been a peaceful, enjoyable event. There had been a lot of laughter.
Buffy was sitting on the couch, leaning against Angel, his arm around her shoulders. Angel was watching Will, who kept sneaking glances at Dawn and her barely there little black dress. She was giving him wicked grins now and again. He mentally cringed. This will be fun, he thought. Just the way to start the New Year.
Giles was going back to England in a few days. It hadn't taken much to convince him to stay for Christmas. Willow was leaving the same day, citing her responsibilities in France. She was thrilled for Angel and Buffy though. Willow was excited about the future for the first time in a long time. The future looked bright for once.
Xander was toying with the idea of staying in LA. He liked it here. Being in the city was a big change, but he found, with surprise, that it was a good change. He liked the excitement of the city, the possibilities. And Africa held no pull for him anymore. He didn't want to hide there any longer. The past few days had led to an interesting friendship with Fred, and he had developed a fondness for Angel that surprised him. these were good people, he decided.
Fred's pregnancy was progressing smoothly. Wesley stroked the small bump of a belly she was sporting, praying to whoever would listen to take care of his wife and unborn child. He had never wanted to be a father, but since Fred had expressed interest in children he had dove into parenthood without reservations. He would do anything to make her happy. And he was surprised to find that the thought of being a father made him happy as well. He loved his child already.
He hadn't given up on finding the Connor file, but he had decided to wait until after the holiday. Wesley was nothing if not patient.
Gunn sighed contentedly. His adopted family was happy. Buffy wasn't so bad, he thought. He could get used to her. And he was excited about being an uncle. They hadn't made the announcement yet, but Gunn understood that. They wanted to be sure this one would take before they said anything. He was excited to see what the coming year would bring.
Angel could not find fault with his life. The woman he loved was at his side. His friends were happy. Fred's pregnancy was going to go smoothly. There was a different smell to her this time. The heart beat of the baby inside her was getting stronger by the day. Her pheromones were different in ways he couldn't describe and he was sure this baby would be born healthy; he had known the other two wouldn't make it before Fred had.
Xander had quietly pulled him aside, told Angel he was thinking about staying in LA. Angel had been quick to offer him all the help he needed in getting settled. Xander hadn't asked yet, but Angel had a feeling he would soon be putting an application into Wolfram and Hart. He didn't think Xander would like flipping burgers. Besides that, Angel didn't think the man should squander his talents.
He was coming to a point in his life where he could forgive Giles. Wes had said that if placed in the older man's shoes, he might have done the some thing. Angel had almost dropped him to the floor at that, but had understood the point. It was time to get over it, he realized. It was time to move on with his life.
Angel was back. He was feeling stronger, quicker, than he had in a long time. He was ready to take the demons on again with the full force of his company. He was ready to focus on expanded Wolfram and Hart into other dimensions. He had plans to expand his holdings of businesses around LA. He was going to start slowly, but he was ready to start now.
This was the first day of his new life. His complete and happy new life. And, he thought, the world better get ready for me. I'm going to turn it upside down