Chapter 72.

By the time it got round to Lauren's birthday Joey was much better. He had been forced to drop out of his firemen's course but had been promised a place in next year's enrolment. He'd been disappointed but this gave him the opportunity to work on his general fitness, which had deteriorated since the stabbing.

His parents had returned to treating him the way he was before the stabbing, although this had had a slight blip when the police informed them that the person responsible for the stabbing had come forward and was being questioned. When they found out it had been Spencer Moon Joey hadn't ever thought he had seen his parents quite so angry... not since when Joey had first arrived at their house and his dad had disappeared with his Uncle Jack for a few hours to calm down. Uncle Grant hadn't been much better either and Joey got to witness his 'Uncle' at his worst... which had scared him more than he thought it would as it reminded him a little of Derek when he'd been a small boy. Uncle Grant had flown into a rage when Spencer was released on police bail and had gone into the pub with his brother and cousin. Joey was there with his family, on his first evening out since the stabbing... it was also the first time he'd been out of the house since he was released from hospital. News of Spencer's involvement had been running around the square for several days and Max had only just calmed down about it himself. When the Moon brothers and their cousin, Michael, walked into the bar all hell had broken loose. It was mainly Joey's dad and Grant who made their feelings known but everyone else hadn't been far behind.

It was Joey that brought a stop to it... well, Joey and Lauren. Joey had sat frozen, watching the events as they began to spiral out of control. He couldn't move as he watched the pub landlord start to shout and hurl abuse at the brothers. Even Lauren's presence beside him hadn't helped him; he was caught up in memories of his childhood, trapped back at a time when he'd been unable to escape and feeling very much the same now.

"DAD!" Lauren had shouted when she heard Joey start to hyperventilate and he'd turned round and looked at his children. He saw the haunted expression on Joey's face and all his anger dissipated, only to be replaced by worry and concern for his son.

Grant was unaware of what was happening and Max watched when he saw Joey cower in fear as the landlord moved towards Spencer and threatened to dish out his own justice. Max looked to Phil for support and they managed to drag Grant away, Alfie and Spencer leaving the pub shortly after. Once he was away from the Moons, Grant noticed the distress Joey was in and he felt guilty, hating how he flinched away from him when he went to speak to him and apologise.

Lauren was also upset by what had happened, hating seeing Joey so distraught and at this point she may have forgotten where they were and tried to comfort him like any normal girlfriend would do her boyfriend... by kissing him. It was clear the instant the rest of the pub realised what was happening and there was a growing murmur among the pub; a slight sound of disapproval from some corners of the room but acceptance from others. As the background noise became louder Lauren realised what she'd done and she pulled away from Joey, staring up at him with an apologetic expression on her face. She was surprised to see him smiling at her and then he leant forward and kissed her again.

"That's enough you two..." Their dad said, although the words weren't said in disapproval. Once they'd pulled apart again, Max turned his attention to his son, "You okay?" he asked him softly.

"Yeah... just... you know..." he murmured, slightly embarrassed by his reaction to what had happened.

"It's alright, Joey..." his mum said, "You shouldn't have to face the person who was responsible for nearly killing you." She added.

"It's not Spencer's fault, is it?" Joey said softly. "Yes, he stabbed me... but we all know who was really responsible for it, don't we? I'm sure Spencer had very little opportunity to get out of doing what he did..." he said.

Michael had been standing by the bar and he came over to the table, "Derek threatened Alfie, Kat and Nana..." he told them, "that is why Spencer did what he did... and he's truly sorry for it. He never meant to do the damage he did to you, Joey. He was just told that you had to end up in hospital and it had to happen on Christmas Eve." He explained, staring at Joey rather than anyone else at the table. "He is very sorry for what he did, Joey."

"I know..." Joey said softly. Michael stared at him for a second or two more then nodded his head and left the pub. "I think I'm going to head home..." Joey said softly.

"I'll come with you..." Lauren said quickly, looking at him in concern. Their parents nodded and the couple got up, Joey wincing slightly as his back protested the sudden movement. They left the pub hand in hand, walking across the square and back to the house.

*JL*JL*

Joey lay in bed a little while later, his arms wrapped around Lauren as he held her tightly against his body, her face buried in his neck and shoulder. They hadn't done anything apart from lie together, although they were both naked. "I'm sorry..." Lauren whispered.

"What for?" he asked.

"Kissing you like that in the pub... I did it without thinking."

"It's fine, LoLo..." he whispered.

"So I guess, it's out now then..." she sighed, "Everyone knows about us now..."

"I guess..." he said. "Are you okay with that?" he asked her.

"Of course, I am... Are you?"

"Absolutely." He replied.

"I was surprised mum and dad didn't say anything..." she whispered.

"I've had the discussion with them already..." he told her.

She pulled away from him, "You have?" she asked him in surprise.

"Yeah, a few days after I was released from hospital. I think you'd gone back to school by then..." he whispered.

*JL*JL*

Joey was laid on the sofa watching something mindless on TV while dozing. He could hear his mum moving around the kitchen, cooking his favourite dinner in the hope it might entice him to eat something (which it was unlikely to). His dad was sat at the dining room table, working on some paperwork for the car lot. He could tell there was something his dad wanted to talk about and he had a small idea what it might be. After all, the subject hadn't come up since he'd woken up at the hospital. The only reason he knew his parents knew about his romantic relationship with Lauren was because Lauren had told him.

"Do you want to talk about it, dad?" Joey asked him softly. His dad looked up and stared at him in silence for a couple of minutes.

"I guess we should." He finally said. "Let me go and get your mum and we can sit down and talk about it properly." He went to the kitchen and Joey could hear the two of them speaking softly.

Joey struggled to sit up, wincing slightly when it felt like fire was burning through his body. Maybe some more painkillers would be nice. He glanced down at Bear who was lying beside him, having been brought down by LoLo this morning, so he could look after Joey, "I think we might be in trouble, Bear..." he said softly.

*JL*JL*

Max and Tanya sat on the armchairs, looking at the lounge. Joey waited in silence, Bear now situated in his arms. "Why didn't you tell us how you felt about Lauren?" His mum finally asked.

Joey shrugged, his face going pale as the movement jolted his body. "I wasn't sure what you'd say..." he whispered once he could talk again.

"But you could speak to Grant?" she stated, sounding disappointed that he hadn't talked to them.

Joey was silent for almost a minute before he replied, "It was easier to talk to him because I didn't have to worry as much about what he thought..."

"Why do you have to worry about us?" Max asked.

"Because she's your daughter..." he whispered.

"And you are our son." Max said quickly.

"She's your daughter and I know, if push came to shove, you'd pick her..."

Tanya couldn't sit where she was anymore and she rushed to Joey, pulling him carefully into her arms and hugging him as tight as she could without hurting him, "Joey, you are our son... I may not have given birth to you but I have known you the whole of your life. I've loved you for the whole of your life and I've been your mum since the day your real mum died. You are as much my child as Lauren is, I promise you... and we would never choose one child over the other."

"Mum is right, we just want the both of you to be happy." His dad said, "There are no legal reasons why you shouldn't be together and we've always known you were close." He smiled at him, "Lauren has listened to you and responded to you since before she was even born."

"She has been with you for all of her firsts... so being her first boyfriend isn't that much of a surprise..." His mum added, "We just ask that you treat her right and remember how young she is... but this isn't anything we wouldn't say to you about any girl you are dating, Joey. It has nothing to do with it being Lauren... and it's as much for your sake as it is for hers."

"So you're really okay with us being together?" he asked, his hand subconsciously clutching Bear's paw as he awaited their answer.

"We are. We saw at the hospital how much she loves you. She wouldn't leave you on your own and she didn't ever want to not be with you. We're aware that there will be people who won't approve of the two of you being together but you have our support." His dad told him. "Grant and Uncle Jack and your Grandma and Granddad all know about the two of you and they're all behind you as well."

*JL*JL*

Joey looked at Lauren, seeing her absorb what he'd just said. "They are really okay with us being together?" she whispered.

"They really are, babe..." he whispered, lowering his mouth to hers and kissing her softly.

A/N: Just a little chapter, explaining how Joey dealt with the conversation with his parents. What did you think about the confrontation at the Vic and Lauren revealing their relationship again (you'd have thought she'd have learnt by now...)? Send me a review. Back tomorrow... with Sins...

HOWEVER... I have a one-shot that I can post tonight... AS LONG AS I GET 12 REVIEWS BY 9PM AND THEN I'LL POST THE ONE-SHOT. I'M FAIRLY SURE YOU'LL LIKE IT... SO BACK LATER... MAYBE! XX