Janet was getting ready to head over to Eddie's for a dinner party, at least that is what they were loosely calling it, with Eddie's group of friends. It was odd, because with her work schedule she hadn't really gotten a chance to hang out with Eddie's friends, as a group, that much. She worked at a bar after all, and Friday or Saturday nights off came at a premium. When she did have a Friday or Saturday off, she and Eddie tended to want to spend it alone together. As much as she loved spending that type of quality time with him, she was really looking forward to this evening with his friends and their girlfriends.

As she thought back over the past half year, even though she hadn't hung out with the group that much, she had gotten to know his friends, and their girlfriends, as individuals. It was mostly because of her job as Sully's best bartender and, after all, Sully's was the bar where they all liked to hang out. Over the past few months she thought back about how things had changed as these people had started to become her friends.

Starting with Owen Rowan. He was the first one of Eddie's friends that Janet had gotten to know in the time since she and Eddie had gone public with their relationship. Owen would come into the bar on slow nights and talk to her for hours about Allison, about his kids, and her favorite part, he would tell her stories about the gang when they were kids. Janet was a great bartender with strong listening skills, a necessary job trait. But it didn't take much skill to listen to Owen. He was a pretty expressive storyteller, and, especially when the subject was Eddie, it was all of great interest to Janet.

It was fascinating listening to Owen relate the stories about the guys as kids, not just because she was learning more about the man she was undoubtedly crazy about, but because when she thought about this group of guys, she often wondered what could have brought such a diverse group of kids together and bonded them so thoroughly as friends for life. It seemed that the more she heard, it was Eddie who centered the group and brought them together as kids. She knew from personal experience that he was still doing that today. Sure, Eddie had told her stories about the gang as kids as well, but he always seemed to leave out the parts that flattered him the most. Instead, he'd focus on the great or funny things the other guys had done. It seemed to her that every time Owen came in he would volunteer something new about Eddie as a young boy, or as a teenager, or even something she didn't know about the man he was today. She smiled when she would hear stories - like about how Eddie always plowed the snow and shoveled the walks for some of the town's older residents and, knowing they were on fixed incomes, never charged them a dime. That was her Eddie. How was it possible that other people didn't know he was such a good man? Yes, Owen was quickly becoming her favorite of Eddie's friends. She wished he could find a way to get his life back in order.

She also saw Ikey at the bar quite a bit. Never when Owen or Eddie were there, but he too would sit at the bar and talk to Janet. He avoided talking about the guys – clearly it was a sore spot for him – and he probably realized talking about them would put Janet it a tough spot. But he did talk about Allison, and she could tell he really cared about her a lot. Maybe even loved her. Janet debated telling Eddie this, but she really felt sorry for the guy. She secretly wished that Eddie would extend another olive branch to him like he did on Christmas Eve. She knew that Ikey was a touchy subject for Eddie, so she would wait for just the right moment if she ever decided to bring the idea of 'getting over the disappointment' that was Ikey by forgiving him.

Now, Nick was a whole other story. She and Nick just hadn't connected thus far and she really hoped that they would at some point. It wasn't as though he was cold to her or ever anything less than kind, but he did seem slightly aloof. She didn't take it personally, because she had pretty much decided that it must have something to do with Hannah Jane being her best friend. Just a little too close for comfort for Nick Garrett she supposed.

She hated to admit, as Hannah's best friend, that Aubrey was actually growing on her. Of course, it didn't change the fact that Janet was still rooting for a Nick and Hannah reunion – after all she knew her best friend and she knew that no matter how much Hannah protested, Nick was, and would more likely than not always be, the love of Hannah's life. Still, she liked Aubrey as a person and couldn't help but think that Aubrey would be better off shifting her focus to the other Garrett brother.

There was one pretty important thing she and Aubrey had in common, besides being the girlfriends of business partners and former (and maybe future) best friends. Few people knew that Janet had attended classes at Dufresne College for years and had earned her bachelors in Psychology with a minor in French history. She had begun waiting tables, and later bartending at night to pay for the classes, food, and rent. When she graduated, she was so in love with her job that she just kept doing it. She actually confided in Aubrey about her education one night when the two couples were playing pool at the Johnson Inn.

It occurred to her that it was odd that she hadn't revealed her education to an unknowing Eddie. Okay, so she knew why she hadn't told him up until now, knowing how he always felt about crossing to the other side of October Road. However, she decided that she needed to tell him about her education sometime very soon. After all, it was a pretty major accomplishment for her, and she didn't want to keep Eddie in the dark about it any longer.

Then there was Phil. Janet had spent quality time with Phil. There were several mornings when Janet woke up at Eddie and Phil's house that Eddie had to head off to work before Janet was really ready to leave. At first Janet would get up, get dressed and try to escape the house as quickly as possible. But, seriously, how do you escape a shut in that is constantly in front of the television? You don't. Phil had coaxed her into staying longer and longer each morning and they actually found that they shared a love for old movies. Who knew? She also found out that she had the biggest supporter of her relationship with Eddie, in Phil. He often told her how good she was for Eddie and how he hadn't seen Eddie this happy, well, ever. She loved the sound of that.

In those mornings, she also got to know Pizza Girl. She even knew her real name, but it was way too much of a game to ever actually use it. Pizza Girl was also a big fan of Eddie and Janet's relationship. Pizza Girl hadn't known Eddie for long, but she was clearly impressed with the depth of Eddie's devotion to Janet and vice versa. She once told her that Janet and Eddie's pizza toppings were very compatible. Janet thought that was one of the nicest things she'd ever heard. Okay, so she and Pizza Girl had little else in common, but they got along really well and even planned to hang out without the guys from time to time.

But tonight was going to be different. Tonight was an opportunity for her to get to know the gang together as a larger group, and see how well she would mesh with them in the group setting. Tonight they'd be having dinner with Nick and Aubrey, Phil and Pizza Girl and good old Owen. Truth be told, she was nervous and excited at the same time. She really wanted to fit in with Eddie's friends because she knew it would make her relationship with Eddie richer. If she was honest with herself, she really longed to feel like a part of them and feel like she fit in, perhaps in the way Hannah once had.

Janet was among the first to arrive and she walked in without knocking. She was wearing comfortable and flattering dark-wash straight-legged jeans, high-heeled boots, and an emerald green empire waist top that she had just splurged on at the mall today.

As she walked into the house, and looked around, she noticed that, for today, Eddie and Phil's house had a dining room. They were such bachelors that they didn't have formal dining room furniture, and the room wasn't technically a dining room. But they'd managed to turn the room to the right as you walked into their house into a pretty decent looking dining area that would serve it's purpose for this evening.

Janet had also noticed when she arrived that Eddie's truck wasn't outside and she decided that he must be out getting dinner. After all, neither of these guys was actually going to cook! They had decided they were going to have take out from Eddie and Janet's favorite local Italian Restaurant – the one with the Chicken Picatta she would die for and the Veal Marsala Eddie loved almost as must as the Veal Scallopini they'd had on their first date.

"Hey Janet" Phil called out as he walked in from the kitchen with the last of the place settings. Again, it wasn't like they were using the finest of china and not all of the settings matched, but Phil and Pizza Girl had made the room look cozy and had done a great job setting a warm, inviting table for seven.

"Hey, Phil, I love what you guys have done with the place. Anything I can do to help?" Janet asked. Pizza Girl walked into the room with a heavy ice bucket full of beer and gave Janet a welcoming smile "Sure, Bartender Girl, it would be great if you could get the wine. Eddie picked up several bottles of Merlot and Chardonnay. The red is on the counter and the white is on the bottom shelf in the fridge. You should know that I'm not so good with a corkscrew. You'd better do the honors." Bartender girl? Janet chuckled under her breath and kind of hoped it didn't catch on.

They were all working together doing all the last minute things needed to bring the night together when Eddie walked through the back door with two huge bags of food. Eddie always owned the room when he walked in – and Janet seemed to feel his energy even before he stepped in the room. Everyone stopped what he or she was doing to greet him.

After placing the food on the counter he walked over to Janet and placed a sweet, but all too quick, kiss on her lips. "I'm glad you're here and, by the way, you look great" he said, quiet enough to be just between the two of them. She reached up and touched the side of his face and gave him a sweet kiss back "I'm glad I'm here too and you don't look so bad yourself" Janet couldn't help but be pleased that Eddie had chosen to wear the deep blue pullover shirt she had bought him for his birthday. He had teased her unmercifully that he liked it much better than the wolf she had got him for Christmas. Janet had to admit that as much as she loved his collection of plaid button down shirts that he always wore over a t-shirt, she loved to see him wear something different every once in a while. And, man, she thought, did he look good in blue. Janet found herself blushing at the thought. As if he could read her mind, he lowered his lips to hers again and this time, he forgot they had an audience. After a few moments Phil playfully chimed in "Hey, you two, get a room." They shared a quick laugh and went back to work.

Soon all the other guests arrived. The food was amazing as expected, and Janet was thrilled by the ease that she fit in with the group. She found her private conversations with each of them helped to achieve a level of comfort with them she hadn't truly expected would carry over to the larger group. Even Nick seemed to grow more comfortable with her as the evening progressed. The only thing that brought her down at any point in the evening was thinking about how nice it would have been if it were Hannah here with Nick instead of Aubrey. Again, she liked Aubrey, but the idea of she and Eddie hanging out with Nick and Hannah, as couples, would add a certain level of perfection that she thought was ultimately achievable. She couldn't help but hope that perhaps someday it would happen.

As they ate, she noticed that Eddie kept edging his chair closer and closer to hers. He had no problem being affectionate with her in front of his friends and he varied between holding her hand, playing with her hair, rubbing her shoulders, and putting his arm around her to hold her close. She was less comfortable showing affection back, purely out the reserved bit of insecurity she still felt, but as she drank more of her Chardonnay she got more comfortable showing him affection back. At one point she had rested her hand on his leg and Eddie whispered seductively in her ear that she'd better remove her hand or he'd have to make a scene and drag her upstairs. She knew everyone had witnessed her blush and they had certainly witnessed the knowing look between her and Eddie, but she didn't have a care in the world tonight.

When all was said and done, the evening had been a complete success. They all drank, ate, and laughed for hours. It was around midnight when everyone had decided to call it a night. It had only taken Janet, Eddie, Phil and Pizza girl about an hour to clean up from dinner after which they said their "good nights" and each couple headed to their respective bedrooms. It was funny, at this point of their relationship; it didn't even seem to occur to Eddie that Janet might want to go home to her own place. And, he was right.

When Eddie closed the bedroom door behind them, he grabbed Janet and enveloped her in his arms holding her so close there was nothing, no air, no space, between them. He pulled back and looked into her eyes and gave her the warmest smile anyone had ever given her before in her life. Then, he kissed her. Man, did that boy know how to kiss.

Janet pulled back and, after catching her breath, expressively tried to express to Eddie how happy she was, "Tonight was… was… Eddie, I had no idea I could have had as much fun tonight as I did. I can't believe I was nervous how this evening would turn out. You, and your friends, made me feel like I have been a part of – well, all of this – forever. Thank you for putting this evening together – I loved tonight."

Eddie looked at Janet with some confusion on his face "Don't thank me for finally getting my friends together. We should have done this long ago. You know, on one of your other nights off. But, truth be told – I've been a little selfish about sharing you when we have so few weekend nights to spend together." Janet couldn't help but smile at the idea of Eddie wanting to keep her all to himself. After all, she felt the same way about him.

Eddie went on "bottom line is, my friends love you – almost as much as I do. And when you've been friends with a group of guys for as long as I have, it's really important to have your significant other fit in with them."

Janet smiled "significant other? … I like the sound of that."

Eddie smiled back with purpose "yeah, now, significant other, where did we leave off?" And with that, he led her back to his bed, and, well, let's just say they might have kept Phil and Pizza Girl up for the next few hours.