Hello! Another chapter for you all :).
Firstly, to Bonnie Sveen Fan and Cln9, thank you so much for your lovely reviews and support, it means a lot to me. I'm glad you're enjoying the relationship between Johnny and Carla - I know this is probably exaggerated and nothing like the canon universe that the writers would create, but I really enjoy writing it this way.
Johnny is such an interesting character. I didn't think that I would love writing this fic as much as I do. He is in a unique situation, which makes him very complex - as much as I hate him for what he has done to Carla, I can't help but feel sorry for him as he is trying not to hurt anyone. At the same time, it's his fault, so it's a very interesting perspective to write from!
In the chapters after this one, we start to see more of Carla blossoming herself and developing relationships with her friends as well as her father. For now, though, here is more of Johnny, Carla and little Robbie (don't get too used to him being sweet and innocent for long, though!).
Once again, thank you so much to all readers and reviewers, I'm over the moon that you're enjoying this. Warning: there is a bit of bad language in this chapter - only one word, but it seemed appropriate.
I hope you like the chapter!
12th August 1984
Johnny rushed around the family home, stuffing whatever he could find into his rucksack. Clean clothes, toiletries, the morning's newspaper and the little teddy bear that he'd bought only a week ago, everything that he thought he, Louise or their newborn baby boy might need over the coming days. Their little one had come into the world the previous evening, making an appearance a couple of weeks earlier than expected. He was absolutely gorgeous. He had big blue eyes, feather-soft skin and tufts of dark hair that almost curled at the ends. The way that his stubby little fingers had gripped Johnny's own mere hours after his birth made his chest swell with an indescribable love that he had never experienced before.
He quickly yanked the zip of his rucksack shut, swearing in frustration when it got stuck. He was desperate to get back to the hospital, to his wife and their tiny baby. He darted back out into the street and slammed the door closed behind him. It was a scorching hot Sunday afternoon, and the street was filled with cars parked along the curb, the scent of barbeques and the buzz of music filling the air. Consequently, he'd been forced to park in the next street, and he took off almost at a jog in the direction of his car. As he turned the corner, he stopped dead in his tracks as the crash of something shattering against a hard surface pierced the happy bubble around him. And then came a shrill scream, the little girl's voice hauntingly familiar. He was right outside Sharon's flat.
The protective instinct that Johnny had begun to feel towards his new son suddenly kicked in and, dropping his heavy rucksack to the floor, he darted to the front door and kicked it open; Sharon always left it unlocked. He bounded upstairs and, as he burst into the flat, his eyes widened as they instantly landed on Carla and Robbie, both of whom were cowering behind one of the kitchen units. He turned, and leapt out of the way just in time to avoid a glass bottle smashing against his head. Sharon had her back up against the wall and was staring in terror at the rough man opposite her, who Johnny recognized as her new boyfriend, George. He had met him at the pub the weekend before.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" George growled, narrowing his eyes at Johnny. Johnny stammered for words.
"I… I was just passing. I heard a noise." He turned his attention to Sharon, who had straightened at his entrance. "Are you okay?" Sharon nodded quickly, clearing her throat.
"I'm fine, I… Just go, Johnny." Johnny's eyes flicked to the two innocent little children, who were clinging to each other in terror and watching the scene in front of them with wide eyes.
"I'm taking the kids with me," he insisted, determinedly, moving over to them and placing a comforting hand on Carla's shoulder. George scoffed.
"Who are you, their dad?" he sneered. The question sent a chill through Johnny's spine, and he gave Carla's shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
"No. I'm a friend, they're nine and six-years-old and they're scared to death," he responded calmly, "I won't interfere with your arguments if you don't want me to. It's not my place. But I'm not having you terrifying the crap out of these kids. Call me if you need me, Sharon." He gave Sharon a nod that implied that he was there for her if she needed him. Then, he grabbed Robbie by the waist and swung him onto his hip, took hold of Carla's trembling hand and took them from the room, closing the door behind him. As they made their way to his car in silence, he was racked with guilt – he was seriously debating calling the police, but knew that social services would be crawling all over the flat in an instant, which he certainly didn't want for the two vulnerable children. He knew that Sharon would come to him if she really needed him.
"Uncle Johnny, where are we going?" Carla asked as he strapped her into the car, her voice small. He gave her a faint smile.
"You'll see. It's a surprise."
Louise glanced up from the little baby wrapped up in a pale blue blanked who was resting in her lap and raised her eyebrows as Johnny ushered Carla and Robbie into the hospital room. She shot Johnny a quizzical look, who merely mouthed 'I'll explain later' in return. Then, she grinned broadly at the children.
"Hello, you two." In an instant, Carla was by her side, her eyes lighting up at the baby's wrinkled cheeks and pink skin.
"Oh, he's so cute!" she gushed, her fingers brushing across the baby's forehead, barely gracing his skin. Robbie, meanwhile, hung back apprehensively, feeling for Johnny's hand. He wasn't really old enough to understand what babies were all about. Johnny lead him over to the bed and, after pressing a loving kiss to Louise's temple, collapsed down into the chair beside her and pulled Robbie onto his lap.
"Do you like him?" he asked Carla. She nodded eagerly.
"Look at his hair…" she breathed, aweing at the softness of it as she wound her finger gently around one of the tufts. Johnny sucked in a sharp intake of breath. The baby's hair colour matched hers almost exactly; in fact, he was strikingly similar to how Carla had looked as a newborn baby. "What's his name?" Adoringly, Johnny took his wife's hand in his own, lacing their fingers together and giving her hand a tender squeeze.
"He's called Aidan."
The children spent a couple of hours at the hospital, before one of the nurses insisted that both Louise and baby Aidan needed to rest. As much as Johnny loathed having to leave his family's side, he knew that he had a duty to the two children that he'd voluntarily taken into his care, and he took them back to his house for a while longer and made them some dinner.
When it looked as though young Robbie could scarcely keep his eyes open, he walked them back around the corner to Sharon's flat. When she tentatively opened the door, Johnny made her promise profusely that George was spending the night in his own home before he would let the children inside.
"Carla, can you take Robbie to go and brush his teeth and put his pyjamas on? Then I want both of you to get into bed, and I'll be in in a bit to say goodnight," Sharon instructed her young, spirited daughter, who shot Johnny a shy smile before leading her brother into the bathroom. Once the door was firmly shut behind them, she continued. "Thank yo-"
"What the hell are you doing, Sharon?" Johnny hissed, cutting her off, "How can you bring a bloke like that into your kids' lives?"
"It was just an argument."
"Chucking bottles at your guests isn't what I'd call 'just an argument'."
"He would never touch the kids. God, he would never touch me! George is lovely, he's just… Opinionated."
"Is that what you call it?" Johnny scoffed, his eyes narrowing. "I'm not having Carla anywhere near him. Or Robbie, for that matter."
"Sorry, Johnny, but you surrendered your rights when you paid me off and left her not knowing who her father was!" Sharon snapped, folding her arms defiantly across her chest. "You didn't want her. You made your decision." She had plenty more that she wanted to say, but she was interrupted by the opening of the bathroom door. The two children moved into Robbie's bedroom, and the adults waited until Carla reemerged a minute or so later. She closed Robbie's bedroom door, but hovered by her own, watching the adults with a precocious curiosity.
"Go to bed, sweetheart. I'll be in in a minute." Carla, however, had other ideas. She padded across the living room floorboards and, upon reaching them, flung her arms around Johnny's waist. He was taken by surprise, and stood stock still for a few seconds before hugging the little girl back, stroking her dark hair affectionately.
"Thank you…" she whispered, so softly that Johnny wasn't sure that Sharon had heard. As she pulled away, he bent down and dropped a soft kiss to the crown of her head.
"'Night, love…" he murmured, giving her a warm smile, "Sleep tight." Carla returned the smile, before turning and scurrying across the room and into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Sharon let out a pent-up breath, and when he looked at her, Johnny was amazed to see that her eyes brimmed with tears, which she quickly tried to rub away.
"You'd best be off," she uttered, her voice breaking, "Frances at the corner shop told me your little boy was born last night. Congratulations." Johnny simpered.
"Thanks." He hesitated, before slowly frowning instead. "If you're scared about him coming back, I can stay. I can't go back to the hospital tonight anyway."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not your responsibility."
"Maybe not, but she is," he pointed out, nodding towards Carla's bedroom. "I'm worried about you. All of you." Sharon forced an unconvincing smile, but the fear was evident in her eyes.
"I'm a big girl," she insisted, bravely, "I can handle myself."
"You call me if you need anything."
"Well, goodbye…" Johnny paused. After what seemed like minutes but was, in reality, only a few seconds, he moved towards the door, not daring to look back over his shoulder for fear that he may refuse to leave.