All their dates so far had been just the two of them and Craig felt it was time to introduce Justin to his friends and maybe a bit later, his family. He arranged a small dinner party as his home with just four others so that Justin would not be overwhelmed and would have the opportunity to join in the conversation. He invited his four closest friends that included a couple, Romel was in nursing and his partner, Edward, was an IT geek. Craig was not absolutely sure what he did, just that he was good with computers and stuff and often helped Craig with his computer and phone problems. The other two friends were Raj, who worked in his parents’ Indian restaurant and Tristan who was a professional contemporary ballet dancer with Sydney’s premier dance company.

Justin was looking forward to meeting Craig’s friends but was also a bit apprehensive about whether he would fit in with the group. He was not normally nervous about meeting new people but these were the closest friends of the man he cared most for and so it was important to him that he made a good impression and not to in any way embarrass Craig. The menu for the night was especially planned with dishes that could be mostly prepared in advance so that Justin would not be left alone too much with the others. As they were all such close friends the risk was that Justin could be left out of the conversation if Craig was not there to draw him in. But they were all a friendly and easy going bunch and were pleased to hear Craig had a new boyfriend. It had been about 6 months since he had a steady, so they thought this one must be special. Via text messages on the few days before the dinner, they had discussed Craig’s lack of boyfriends recently and a few short term relationships. They agreed that after they vetted this one if they liked him they would do their best to help him fit into the group. A code was set up so that as each one assessed the new boyfriend they would signal to the others their approval. The code was to use the words car or Christmas. The use of either of these words would signal approval to the rest of the group.

As each arrived they were introduced to Justin and gave him a man hug, to show how pleased they were to meet him. Wines were gratefully received and Justin put them in the kitchen while Craig expressed to them his fondest for his new man. They all gathered around the lounge area, each with a glass of their preferred drink. Some sat in the lounge, some on the floor and presented themselves as a very informal group. As Justin was the star attraction of the evening Craig thought it necessary to give his friends a bit of background on Justin. He was introduced as a waiter and then Craig realised he did not have anything else to say about Justin. Tristan came to the rescue by asking the question Craig was hoping would not come up tonight but was bound to. That was, where did they meet. Justin jumped to answer for Craig and they all had a good laugh when he got to the bit about being catheterised by Craig even before they met. That broke the ice, but then confusion set in when Craig asked Romel about his new car. It was Romel’s first car so it was natural to ask if he was enjoying it. While Romel was trying to answer the other three looked at each other with question marks on their foreheads. Then the four burst out laughing, which left Craig and Justin looking perplexed. Had they missed a joke? When he could control his laughter, Edward sought to save the situation by owning up to their plan so that Justin would not feel he had done something wrong. Then they all rolled around laughing. Justin relaxed and felt that the group had accepted him. There was no more talk about cars.

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