So here is my new story… again something very different to anything I've written before… and not something that I think has been done to Jouren before. Thank you once again to Eastendersfan444 who has helped me so much with this story - including doing the synopsis for me.

I should probably, at this point, warn you that this is a very dark story… and there will be tears… no doubt from everyone, not just the characters… so now you know… Nevertheless I hope you like the story. Please don't forget to review… it'll make me carry on writing… and I'm working on the next one as I write this.

Hidden Truths.

Chapter 1.

Lauren opened the door after the bell rang and she was surprised by who she found on the doorstep, "Joey?" she exclaimed. Her eyes ran over his face quickly and she could see bruises and cuts clearly visible. "What's happened to you?" she asked him softly.

"Can I stay here for a while?" he asked, his eyes fixed on the floor rather than looking at her.

"Of course you can." She stepped back, opening the door wider and he walked into the house. He stood awkwardly in the hallway and Lauren became more concerned. This was not the same guy who she'd first met a couple of weeks earlier. She reached out for the bag, gripped tightly in his hand and prised it from his fingers. Her action made him jump and that worried her further. She put the bag at the bottom of the stairs. "You can go in…" she told him.

"Would it be okay if I have a shower? Freshen up?" he asked her quietly.

"Of course…" Lauren told him. "You know where the bathroom is… there's a towel in the cupboard under the sink and I'll take your bag up to Oscar's room," she said, picking the bag back up and started up the stairs, turning when she realised he wasn't walking behind her. "Are you coming?" she asked him. He looked up at her, her words obviously startling him. He nodded and then began to walk towards the stairs.

*JL*JL*

Lauren could still hear the shower running and she was pretty sure the water must be running cold by now. He had been in there for twenty minutes and she was getting more and more worried. He was different from the first time she'd seen him. She still remembered that day so clearly. The day her life changed completely; the start of several days that gave new purpose to her life.

*JL*JL*

Lauren had been coming out of the café with a takeaway cup of coffee when she saw her Uncle Derek fighting with someone outside the launderette. It wasn't someone she recognised but as her feelings for her uncle were less than favourable, she was instantly hoping the stranger would be the winner. He wasn't. Derek hit him hard, with a punch that sent him falling to the ground and her uncle smirked, gloating at the fact he'd clearly hurt the younger man. He turned and was soon disappearing into the Vic to celebrate his victory.

Lauren walked forward, crouching beside the young man who was lying on the ground. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine…" he said, covering his eyes with his hand as he willed away the stars that were flying around his head.

Lauren had been staring at him, seeing for the first time how good looking the stranger was. She was instantly drawn towards him for some inexplicable reason. "You're lying on the ground… that doesn't look that fine to me…"

"It's nothing I've not experienced before…" he told her wryly as he made an effort to sit up.

"Your head is bleeding…" she said, her fingers almost touching his face only to be withdrawn as she realised what she was about to do, "Come back to mine and I'll clean it up for you."

"I told you, I'm fine…" he said, looking at her for the first time. He stopped speaking, his mouth running dry as he looked at the girl crouching beside him. "Fine…" he whispered again, this time in agreement. Lauren stood and held her hand out towards him, her pulse racing slightly as his hand took hers. Soon he was stood beside her, towering several inches above her and he was looking at her face intently. "Lead the way." He said, smirking at her.

She walked them back to number 5 and ushered him inside the house. She didn't know why but she instantly trusted this stranger. She didn't know him at all and yet here she was, inviting him back to her home. Some of her friends would say this was standard behaviour for her… especially recently but this was different. This time she wasn't drunk.

"Come through to the kitchen." She said softly, leading the way into the room and pointing towards a kitchen chair while she opened a cupboard and reached inside for the first aid kit. She walked to the table and put the kit down, turning to the sink and running some water. She put a little in a small dish and moved towards him, "This might sting…" she whispered.

"I'll be brave…" he teased, wincing slightly as she started to dab at his face.

"And I'm really sorry but the only plasters we have are Spongebob Squarepants ones…" she giggled as she cleaned away some of the blood from above his eye. "Kid brother…" she added softly.

"Does it really need a plaster?" he asked, frowning and wincing again as he did so.

"Careful… you just re-opened the cut…" she murmured. "Yes, you do… or you'll get dirt in it… anyway it'll stop you from bleeding all over the place." She finished clearing up all the blood again and picked up one of the plasters, taking it out of the wrapper. She carefully put it in place, "All done…" she whispered.

"Thanks." He said softly, staring into her eyes.

Lauren cleared her throat, feeling the tension between them. "So…" she said, turning from him and putting away the first aid kit back in the box and then away in the cupboard. "What did you do to gain the wrath of my uncle?" she asked as she shut the cupboard door.

"Your uncle?" he blinked, confused.

Lauren nodded, looking back at him, "Yeah, my Uncle Derek… sorry, I didn't even tell you my name, did I? My name's Lauren… Lauren Branning."

Joey stared at her in shock, "Joey…" he said softly, "Branning… Derek is my father…"

"You're Alice's brother?" she whispered.

"Yeah… I've never met another Branning before…" he said, smirking at her, "Never fancied it to tell you the truth…"

"Yes, well… we're not all like him…" she said softly, her face heating as she stared at him.

"Yeah, I can see that," he replied, their eyes locking for several seconds longer than necessary.

"Have you come to visit Alice?" Lauren asked.

Joey shook his head, "to take her home…"

"Oh." Lauren whispered, unable to hide the disappointment from her face and voice.

"Do you know where she is?" he asked.

"Probably with your dad… there's a wedding in the square today. She was excited to be going with him." She saw something on his face… still getting her head around the fact he was her cousin. "Derek's not a good man, is he?" she asked him softly. He shook his head. "Is Alice safe?" she asked.

"I don't know, babe…" he admitted.

Him calling her babe set butterflies off in her stomach but she was more concerned about her other cousin at the moment. The front door opened and Lauren recognised the footsteps as those of her father. She hoped he was alone.

"Babe…?" he said as he walked into the kitchen, staring at the strange boy who was in the room with her. "Who's this?"

"This is Joey… Alice's brother… and Derek's son…" Lauren said. Max tensed slightly. He'd heard quite a bit about Joey from his brother. And none of it was favourable.

Joey recognised the look on his uncle's face and knew Derek must've mentioned him at some stage, "Whatever Derek told you about me is probably a pack of lies… I haven't seen the man since I was seven years old so he knows nothing about me. I'd rather not be seeing him now if I was being honest but I'm here to look after my sister." Joey said, getting to his feet.

"What happened to your face?" Max asked, taking in the plaster that Lauren had clearly put on him.

"Derek…" Joey said.

His reply surprised Max… and yet it didn't too. He knew Derek had a violent streak in him, after all he'd been in prison for armed robbery so he wasn't exactly a pussy cat but to know he had punched his own son… suddenly Max wasn't so sure everything Derek had told him about his son was true.

"Can Joey stay here, dad?" Lauren asked.

"What?" both men asked, looking at her as if she was insane.

"Well he can't exactly stay with Derek, can he?" Lauren said pointedly, looking at her dad sternly. "He's here to see Alice… so can he stay here until he's seen her and managed to convince her to go home with him?"

Max sighed, "Fine… You can put him in Oscar's room… Oscar can stay in with me and your mum."

A/N: So there you go… just the start of this story. This was originally going to be a one-shot… but that theory didn't last very long. Did you like my version of Joey and Lauren meeting for the first time? SEND ME A REVIEW. Back tomorrow…