So many, many years ago there was an episode of EE... at the time I enjoyed the episode but it always bothered me afterwards as I thought there was a lot they could've done with it... this is my attempt to rectify the situation...

The Fight.

Jack knelt before his nephew, winding the strapping around his right hand. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" he asked him quietly.

"Don't have much choice, do I?" the younger man muttered.

"Just because your dad wants you to do this, doesn't mean you have to…" Jack reasoned.

"If this gets Derek to shut up for a little while, it's worth it…"

"So getting seven shades of shit knocked out of you will please your father?" Jack chuckled.

"Glad to know you have such faith in me, Uncle Jack…" Joey said, clearly offended as he pulled away his hand.

Jack reached for Joey's left hand and began to do the same to this one. "I'm simply being logical, Joey… Have you seen the size of the other guy? He makes the Mitchell brothers look like Bill and Ben, the flowerpot men…"

"Who?" Joey asked.

"Never mind…" Jack said, shaking his head and suddenly feeling very old. "All I'm saying is your opponent is built like a brick shit house… You're good, Joey… I know you are… I've seen you sparring over the last few months… but this man is twice the size of you…"

"Your support and encouragement is overwhelming…" Joey muttered sardonically.

"I am here for you, Joey Branning…" Jack said. "You'd better finish getting ready… You'll be called out there soon…"

There was a couple of sharp knocks on the door to the changing room and both men looked at it. The door opened and Max poked his head into the room. "How's it going in here?" he asked.

"Uncle Jack has just finished giving me his version of a pep talk…" Joey said sarcastically. Max came into the room, nodding his head and smiling, completely missing his nephew's sarcasm.

"It's getting busy out there…" Max told his brother, "I swear more than half the square is out there… and they're still coming in…"

"I'm sure Derek will be pleased…" Joey muttered. He lifted his hands and began flexing his fingers, clenching them repeatedly into fists as he tested the binding around his hands.

"He's strutting around out there… looking like he's the best thing since sliced bread…"

Her voice surprised him and Joey lifted his head, seeing his cousin standing just behind her father. "Lauren, that's no way to talk about your uncle…" Max admonished her. "What are you doing in here anyway?" he asked her. "What are you even doing here?"

"I'm here with my friends…" Lauren explained. "And I came in here before Uncle Derek wanted you both to go out there… It's the family gym… and he thinks it would be great publicity… There's a reporter and a photographer here from the Gazette so he wants you both…"

"Stay in here with Joey and make sure he warms up properly…" Jack said as he ushered his elder brother out. "I'll come back when they're ready…" he told her before they disappeared from the room.

"I didn't think boxing matches were your thing…" Joey said once they were alone.

"They're not… I was hoping to talk some sense into you…"

"Are your friends really here?" Joey asked.

"Yes… they're all excited about tonight… and Tyler's fighting before you are…" Lauren breathed.

"Ah… Well, now it becomes clearer…" Joey breathed, recognising that he wasn't necessarily the draw for all of the crowd.

"Aren't you supposed to be warming up?" Lauren asked him.

"There seems little point… apparently it's not going to be much of a fight…" he chuckled bitterly. He looked at Lauren, seeing her frown at what he'd just said. "Uncle Jack was telling me about my opponent…"

"I haven't seen him…" Lauren admitted.

"Jack doesn't think the fight will last long…"

"That's good, right?" she whispered.

"Not if it goes the way he thinks it will…" Joey admitted.

Lauren stepped closer but she paused after a couple of steps. "You don't have to do this…" she whispered. "No one will think any less of you if you pull out…" she added.

"Derek would kill me… It'd be easier to just do the fight… and would probably hurt less…" Joey told her. He watched her face, seeing it fall at his words. He closed his eyes when she started to bite her lip. "Lauren…" he murmured. She looked up at him and he hated seeing the look on her face, the tears in her eyes. "Don't, babe…"

"I don't want you to get hurt, Joey…" she told him quietly.

"I'll be okay…" he told her softly.

She stared into his eyes and he swore time slowed down as they looked at each other. It had been like this ever since he'd first arrived in Walford… the first time he saw her, she'd taken his breath away… There was a connection between them that neither of them understood or would be able to explain if asked. They hadn't ever spoken about it… but every conversation between them was filled with meaningful looks and intense stares. "Don't do this, Joey… please…" she whispered.

For the first time he was going to press it… he could feel the tension between them and he wanted to try and get her to admit that she felt the same way that he'd finally admitted to himself that he did. "Tell me why…" he murmured.

"I told you… I don't want to see you get hurt…"

He chuckled, "It's nice to know that everyone has such faith in my abilities…"

"I don't doubt you can fight him, Joey… but I don't want to see it…" she whispered.

"Then you should leave, babe…" he told her softly. He moved closer to her and lifted a wrapped hand, pushing some hair back from her face and tucking it behind her ear. "Don't stay and watch…" he told her.

"I can't go…" she whispered.

"Why not?" he asked, staring into her eyes.

"I need to know…" she murmured.

"Need to know what, Lauren?" he pushed.

"I need to know that you're okay…" she whispered, lifting her head and staring into his eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek and he quickly brushed it away with his thumb.

"I will be…" he stated.

"You promise…?"

"I do…" he murmured. Time seemed to freeze once again, neither of them moving at all. She took a step forward and wound her arms around his waist, hugging him as she rested her forehead against his chest. Joey was surprised by her move but he didn't push her away, winding one arm around her loosely. He pressed his mouth against the top of her head, feeling her tense slightly as he did so. "Why don't you wait for me here?" he whispered. "Then you can make sure I'm okay once it's over…" he added.

"Are you sure it's okay for me to do that?" she breathed.

"Of course… I want you to…" he informed her.

"You should be getting ready for the fight…" she told him, pulling away from him and lifting her head so she could see his face. He stared down at her, peering deeply into her eyes, hoping he wasn't imagining the emotions he thought he could see in them.

"Will you help me?" he asked her softly.

"What do you need me to do?" she asked him.

"The gloves…" he murmured. She turned and picked up the boxing gloves that sat on the table at the side of the room. When she turned back towards Joey she found he was now sitting on the cushioned bench. She stood and looked at him, feeling unsure about what she was supposed to do. "Come here…" he said softly. He held out his hand towards her and she took it, allowing him to pull on her hand so she moved towards him. She stood between his knees and placed one of the gloves on the bench beside him. She lifted the other and eased it onto his left hand.

"Is this okay?" she asked him softly.

"You need to fasten it at the wrist…" he told her. She did as he asked, tugging on the laces. "Tighter, babe…" He watched her face, fighting a smile when she bit her lip in concentration as she pulled on the laces harder so the glove was secured in place. She moved to his other hand and did the same with the other glove.

"All done…" she breathed and she stepped backwards, looking at his face. Joey slid off the bench, standing close in front of her and staring at her face.

"I need your help with something else…" he breathed. She lifted her head, looking up at his face. All air was sucked from the room as their eyes met and neither of them moved for several seconds.

"Yes…" she eventually whispered.

"I need to take off my top…" he told her. He was watching her face as he spoke and he saw her eyes widen slightly… and was it too much to hope that they looked darker?

"Your top?"

He smirked slightly, "Don't want to get blood on it, do I?" he joked but he wished he hadn't when he saw her flinch. "Sorry…" he added quietly.

"Shouldn't you have done this earlier?" she asked as her hands rested on his chest.

Joey shrugged, "Guess that explains why I dropped out of school and the only thing I'm good at is using my fists…"

"Speaking as someone who also dropped out of school… that doesn't make you stupid…" she said, her hands slowly running down his chest until they settled on his waist.

"You're going back to school now… and you are far from stupid…" Joey told her, trying to control his body's reaction as she tugged on his top so it pulled free from his shorts.

"Nor are you…" She protested, "You helped me with that marketing campaign for dad… and I've seen you at the car lot… you have a gift for sales, Joe…"

Joey's heartbeat faltered as she said his name. She was the only person who called him Joe… and he had to say he liked it. He reasoned he would probably like it if she called him Joseph as well but he wasn't willing to test that theory. Silence continued as she lifted his T-shirt up his body and he lifted his hands above his head to help her in her task. She gripped his top in her hands once it was removed, staring at his face intently. Joey said nothing, noticing how her eyes dropped several times to look at his chest.

The door to the room opened suddenly and it broke the moment that had built between them. Joey could see a guilty expression on her face as she took a couple of steps away from him.

"Oh good, you're ready…" Jack said as he walked back into the room, not seeming to notice the atmosphere in the room. "Tyler's fight will be starting in a few minutes… The first fight was over in the first round so we're a little ahead of schedule."

It was the first time Joey was aware of the noise coming from the main room, the noise of the crowd as the fighters for the next bout entered the room. A nervous energy began to build within him and he turned away from the others and leant on the bench. He lowered his head, tension was climbing his frame so he rolled his shoulders a couple of times, hoping to relieve it but not getting the relief he wanted or needed. The noise of the crowd increased in volume so he knew that Tyler's fight had started.

"You'd better get back out there, Uncle Jack…" Lauren said softly.

"You should come too, Lauren… be with your friends…" Jack said.

"I think I'm going to stay in here…" she said. "Boxing isn't really my thing…" she admitted.

Jack stared at her, confused by what she'd said. "I'll be back once Tyler's fight is over… Make sure you get yourself ready…" he said before quickly leaving the room again.

Silence hung in the air again, both of them ignoring the roar from the other room. "You seem tense…" she murmured. "Are you nervous about the fight?" she asked when he didn't reply. She stepped closer, moving to his side. Her hand was shaking slightly as she lifted it, tracing her fingers lightly over the skin at the base of his back. He hissed at her touch and she withdrew her hand quickly. Joey turned his head looking at her and Lauren's mouth ran dry when she saw the intensity in his eyes. "Talk to me…" she whispered.

"I'm not nervous… as such… It's the anticipation… build up before…" he told her, his voice gravelly and doing things to Lauren that no other ever had. "Usually you know who your opponent is before you fight them… You can study them… pick out their flaws… spot their weaknesses… work out how you win before you've even entered the ring…"

"But not this time?" she asked him softly.

"No, not this time…" he said, "Derek decided to make it more interesting…" he laughed bitterly.

"Do you know if he's done the same for your opponent… or will he know everything there is to know about the way you fight?" she asked softly.

Joey froze, frowning as he contemplated what she'd said, "I hadn't even thought of that…" he admitted. He could see the expression on her face, could see the fear growing in her eyes. "I will be fine, babe…" he told her. The crowd noise increased in volume and Joey knew their time was running short. "It won't be long now…" he whispered. He lifted his hand to push some hair back from her face but remembered he was wearing the boxing gloves. He started to lower his hand but Lauren curled her hand around his wrist, pressing her cheek into the curve of the glove and holding it against her face.

"Please be careful…" she whispered.

"I will be…"

"I mean it, Joe… If anything happens to you… Well, I don't know…" Her words faded and she lowered her eyes, looking down at her feet.

"You don't know what?" he murmured, stepping closer to her. His other hand rose and he pressed it gently under her chin to lift it so she was looking at him again. "What don't you know, eh?" he whispered.

Her eyes filled with tears and she bit her bottom lip, "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you…" she breathed, her eyes running over his face, as if she was trying to memorise what she could see.

"Nothing is going to happen to me, babe…" he told her, not for the first time.

"I couldn't bear it…" she breathed.

"And I couldn't bear to see the pain on your face…" Joey whispered, stepping towards her again. He took a deep breath, watching her face as he slowly lowered his head, pressing his lips against hers in a gentle, albeit brief kiss. He watched her as he pulled away again, wondering how she would react to what he'd just done. Her eyes opened slowly, widening as she looked up at his face.

"Joe…" she breathed.

"Should I not have done that?" he asked her, unable to read her expression as she stared at him.

"No… I mean yes… I don't know how to answer that…" she told him. "Fuck…" she added softly. She stepped closer and rose on her tiptoes, kissing him softly. She wound her arms around his neck tightly as she deepened the kiss and Joey covered her arse with his gloved hands, pulling her against his body as he returned her kiss eagerly.

A loud rap on the door tore them apart, both breathing heavily as they stared at each other. "I'd better be going…" he whispered.

"Don't break your promise to me, Joe…"

"I won't, babe… I won't…" he breathed and she hugged him again, her face buried in his neck. "I think we need to discuss this later…" he whispered in her ear. She tensed slightly against him. "I love you, Lauren Branning… Never doubt it…" he whispered, unable to stop himself from saying the words, whatever the consequences. He pulled away from her, "Can you pass me that robe?" he asked. Lauren nodded and she picked up the black and gold robe. She held it up, easing it onto his arms and then shoulders.

"You're ready…" she told him.

"Will I do?" he asked.

She looked at him, hearing the double meaning in his question. She felt her cheeks heat and she could only nod her head quickly. "Good luck…" she whispered. Joey smiled at her and then started to move past her. Her hand settled on his bicep and he looked at her. "I love you too…" she murmured.

Joey's smile lit up his face and he dipped his head and kissed her tenderly, "Good to know, babe…" She kept her back to him as he left the room, not able to watch as he went to meet his foe.

*JL*JL*

Lauren sat in the room, listening as the crowd cheered when Joey walked out of the room and entered the ring. She could hear her heart beating in her ears, her stomach was churning and she wondered briefly if she was going to be sick. The bell rang for the first round and people began to roar Joey's name. Her heart beat faster and she closed her eyes and prayed for Joey to be successful. The bell rang again and she relaxed for a couple of minutes, knowing that Joey had got through the first round.

Her respite wasn't very long. The bell rang again indicating the second round had started. The noise of the crowd was even louder this time and Lauren stood and began to pace around the room. Time was ticking by slowly and she stopped when she heard a slight pause from the crowd and she needed to know what was happening. She opened the door but there was so many people she couldn't see anything. She began to weave through the crowd, trying to get as close as she could. She could hear the referee counting slowly and people were chanting Joey's name. It was starting to dawn on her that just maybe it was Joey who had been knocked to the floor.

The referee was up to five by the time she reached the edge of the ring and the beat of her heart was roaring in her ear when she saw Joey's prone body on the floor. His face was turned towards her but his eyes were closed and she wasn't even sure he was conscious. He was breathing heavily and Lauren had no idea how she could help him.

"Come on, Joe… get up…" she said, her voice louder than she'd intended it to be. Joey stirred slightly and she watched as his eyes slowly opened. "Get up…" she urged him and his eyes focused on her more firmly. "Come on Joe…" she whispered. He moved, slowly at first but then faster as he got to his hands and knees. He was staring at her and shaking his head. "You need to get up now…" she said, shouting to be heard over the top of the crowd. He nodded his head and pushed himself up to his feet. She watching him, seeing the slight stagger once he was standing. The referee approached him, checking to see if he was okay and Lauren saw him nod his head firmly. The referee restarted the fight moments later and Lauren realised she was about to watch him fighting and she wished she could retreat back into the safety of the changing room. Unfortunately her feet wouldn't move from the spot and she watched as Joey stepped forward and threw three punches at his opponent… each one hitting its mark and clearly taking the bigger man by surprise. The bell rang and both men moved to opposite corners.

Lauren continued to watch Joey as he sat on the stool. Jack squirted some water into his mouth and Joey spat it out into a bucket. Jack was talking to him, advising on how to approach the next round but Lauren could tell that Joey wasn't paying any attention. His head was lowered now but he was staring at her as she watched him through the ropes of the ring. She smiled at him, hoping it would help him somehow. The bell rang again and Jack climbed out of the ring as Joey got to his feet. He glanced her way and winked quickly, a small smile on his face. He moved into the middle of the ring and she watched him, trying to stop her body from shaking.

The round started pretty much the same way the second one had ended… with Joey on the offensive. She had no idea what he was doing but even she could tell that each punch was a good one. His opponent was clearly astounded by it and couldn't even defend himself. He ended up doing the only thing possible and wrapping his arms around Joey.

The referee pushed them apart and the two men danced around each other for a few seconds. Lauren knew it wasn't going to be long until the end of the round. Joey seemed to realise this too and he threw several jabs again. There was a murmur from people around her and Lauren wasn't sure what caused it, she just watched as he threw an endless number of punches. They turned as he kept hitting and then Lauren could see his face, could see the determination on it, despite the blood around his eye and at the corner of his mouth. She looked at his face again and could've sworn he was staring right at her as he drew back his fist and launched it forward, striking the taller man under the jaw. His opponent's head flew backwards and then he was falling, crashing down on the raised surface, out cold. The referee counted him, quickly reaching the number ten and declaring the match over.

Lauren felt an immense sense of pride as she saw Joey's arm lifted in the air and she felt her emotions bubbling to the surface. Flashes from cameras were going off everywhere and Lauren cringed as she saw Derek climb into the ring and congratulate his son. She backed away from the ringside, wanted to get back to the room so she could wait for Joey to return to her. She withdrew into the crowd, quickly disappearing among the people. Once Joey was out of sight she turned and headed back to the room, closing the door behind her once she was there. She leant back against the door briefly, her body starting to shake again as everything that had happened in the last hour finally hit her.

*JL*JL*

The door opened and Lauren looked up, watching the doorway, tension in her body. She relaxed as she saw Joey re-appear, Uncle Jack just behind him. Their uncle had a first aid bag in his hands. "I'm fine…" Joey told him, clearly not for the first time because Lauren could see the frustration on his face.

"Did you see the fight, Lauren?" Jack asked eagerly. "Did you see how well our boy did?" Lauren shook her head and she saw Joey frown.

"Don't you need to go back out there…?" Joey asked him.

"I can't leave you on your own, can I? You were out for a few seconds, Joey…" Jack said.

"I'll be here…" Lauren said, "and I can use a first aid kit just as easily as you can…"

"Are you sure?" Jack asked. Lauren nodded. "Is that okay with you?" he asked, looking at Joey.

"As long as Lauren doesn't fuss over me quite as much as you are, I'll be very happy…" Joey growled and Lauren giggled.

"There's no danger of that…" she confirmed. She saw hurt cross his face after she spoke and Lauren hated what she was doing. Her uncle also seemed to believe what she was saying and he passed her the first aid bag, nudging Joey in the back towards where she was sitting. "Do you have any ice I can use on his hands, Uncle Jack?"

"I can bring some back in a moment… Then I'll leave you to it and be back in an hour or so, I guess…" Jack said, "There are some people who want to talk to us about sponsorship of future events and Derek wants to try and sort it all out now… while the momentum is high…" He started to leave the room but paused as he reached the door, looking back at his nephew. "You did good, Joey… I'm really proud of you… and Max and your dad are too… You've really helped us out tonight and I don't think any of us will forget that for quite a while…" he told him, nodding his head and then leaving the room before Joey could say anything in response.

Joey was standing in front of her once they were alone and it was only then that Lauren realised she should move. "Did you mean that?" he whispered distractedly.

"Mean what?" she asked.

"What you just said?"

"About me not fussing over you?" she asked him. He nodded his head quickly. "Of course I didn't…" she told him, "After everything earlier, do you really think I'm not going to be fussing over you?" she said. "We have to keep up a pretence though, don't we?" she added. "No one can realise what's going on between us…"

"Did I imagine you earlier?"

"When?"

"In the second round… and after?" he asked her.

"You didn't…" she confirmed.

"But you said…"

"Joe, Uncle Jack clearly didn't see me out there… so I thought it would be easier to just let him believe I didn't see any of the fight… If anyone is going to guess about everything, it will be either him… or maybe my mum…"

"That makes sense…" Joey admitted.

"Let's switch places… and then I can start sorting you out… That cut above your eyes looks quite nasty…" Lauren said.

"It's fine…" Joey said.

Lauren covered his mouth with one finger, silencing him quickly, "Don't argue…" she whispered, "Just let me look after you… please…"

"Okay…" he said, kissing her fingertip before she could pull her hand away. Her cheeks coloured and she slid herself off the bench, moving around him.

"Sit…" she ordered. Joey smirked as she bossed him around but didn't say anything. Lauren focused on opening the first aid kit, rifling through the contents. The door to the room opened and Lauren walked over to it, taking the bucket of ice and water from her uncle and carrying it back over to where Joey was sitting.

"See you both in a bit…" Jack said, leaving them along again moments later.

"Is there anything else apart from the eyebrow?" she asked. She lifted his right hand and started to unlace his glove, easing it off his hand once it was loose enough.

"My lip feels a little sore… it may need a bit of your attention…" he said, fighting a smile when he saw her roll her eyes.

"There was blood coming from your mouth earlier…" Lauren said softly.

"Yeah… I bit my tongue when he knocked me to the floor…" Joey told her.

She quirked an eyebrow and then began to unwind the wraps from his hand. She turned his hand in hers once she was done, noting how big his hand was in comparison to hers. "Does it hurt?" she asked him softly.

"It aches… but the ice will help…" he told her. She turned her attention to his other hand, removing the glove and wraps from that one too. This hand wasn't as swollen as the first one and she looked at them both.

"I never realised you were left handed… why hadn't I noticed that before…?"

"Because you were looking at other things when we're together…" he said softly.

"Other things?" she breathed, looking up at his face.

"Well, I'm pretty sure you weren't checking out my hands when we were working on that marketing idea for your dad…"

Lauren smiled, "I guess…" She grabbed the bucket of ice and put it next to him on the bench and then pushed his hands into it, seeing the grimace of pain as the ice began to affect him. Now that was done she turned her attention to his face and she tore open some of the sterile swabs from the first aid kit and began to dab at the cut above his eye. "There's gonna be a nice bruise here tomorrow…" she told him.

"Will I still look alright?" he asked.

"I don't think you'll be getting any complaints, Joe…" she whispered.

"Not even from you?" he whispered, watching her face.

Lauren turned her attention back to the first aid kit and she opened the jar of petroleum jelly and dabbed it over the wound softly. "All done…"

"You didn't answer my question…" he murmured.

She stared at his face, her eyes running over his face, "I don't see anything to complain about…" she stated. "In fact there is plenty that I find I like…"

"Maybe now would be a good time to talk about earlier…" He suggested.

"How are the hands?" Lauren asked him, changing the subject again.

"The ache isn't as bad now… the ice is working…"

"Nurse Branning to the rescue…" she whispered.

"Indeed…"

Lauren turned and grabbed a towel from a shelf, "You can take your hands out of the water now…" she said. "What do I need to do with your gloves and the wraps?" she asked.

"Just leave them there… Jack will sort them out for me…"

Lauren nodded her head and then gently dried his hands in the towel, being careful not to cause him any further pain. "Which locker is yours?" she asked him.

"Number 5." Joey said. Lauren looked at him for several seconds and then turned towards the lockers. "The key is on top of the lockers… Can you reach?" he asked.

Lauren stretched up but she couldn't quite get her fingers to the top. "No…" she muttered. She jumped when she felt Joey's arm wrap around her waist as he reached above her head and pulled the key from its hiding spot.

"Here you go…" he murmured, passing the key to her.

She took the key from him and slid it into the locker, turning it and opening the door. She reached inside and grabbed his hoodie, lifting it to her face and inhaling his scent. She then passed the top to him, staring into the locker rather than watching him put his top on. "Do you want to put your normal clothes on?" she asked.

"Nah… Can you bung them in my bag…?" he asked, still standing right behind her. She did as he asked then pulled the bag from the locker and shut it again, dropping the key into his bag once she was done.

"What do you want to do now?" she asked him. "Meet up with the others?"

"Can we just go and talk somewhere… I want us to talk about what happened earlier… and what it means…" Joey pushed.

Lauren looked at him and he could see the hesitation on her face. "Do we have to?" she asked.

"Don't you think we need to?" he said softly. With his left hand he reached for her, slipping it into hers and squeezing it gently.

"I know…" she whispered. "Where do you want to go?"

"How about back to mine?" he asked. He'd been staying at the B&B since arriving in Walford, having not been able to stomach staying with Derek and there not really being any room anywhere else.

"Won't people think it strange if they see us?" she asked.

"Why don't I go first…? I'm bound to get a bit of attraction from people as I leave… then you can sneak out… wait for me by the door and we'll go back to my room… I don't think people will notice and if they do, you could always say you're making sure I get back to my room…"

"You were knocked unconscious… for a few seconds at least…" she said, "You probably shouldn't be on your own anyway…"

"There you go then…" he said, a little smugly. She thrust his bag over to him and then opened the door to the room, staring at him as he stood in the doorway. "I'll see you in a minute… near the front of the gym… I'll try not to be too long…" he told her softly. He left the room and she watched as he made his way back into the gym, seeing people smile and walk over to him, shaking his hand over and over. Joey laughed and smiled as they spoke to him, playing along as much as he could. Lauren looked back around the changing room and checked she hadn't left anything behind. She then walked out of the room, skirting around the edge of the room and avoiding seeing anyone. It didn't take her long to where she was supposed to be meeting Joey but she quickly hid when she heard her friends leaving the gym.

"Did anyone see Lauren after the fights started?" Whitney asked.

"Nah… but I don't think this was really her thing anyway… she only really came because it's her dad's and uncle's gym…" Tyler said.

"You were amazing tonight, Ty…" Whitney said softly, squeezing his arm as she pressed herself against his side.

"My fight was over in two minutes… and my opponent wasn't anything like the one Joey fought…"

"You could tell it was Derek who arranged the fights…" Lucy said bitterly. "Of course he picked the biggest person for his son to fight…"

"Not that he stood a chance against Joey though… I thought he was a goner in the second round… I've no idea what it was that made him get up again…" Fatboy said.

"Me either… He was pretty amazing…" Lucy said, smiling coyly. In the dark Lauren rolled her eyes, her stomach churning as she thought about how her friend's words made her feel. The crowd left the gym without seeing Lauren but she remained hidden, not wanting to risk anyone else seeing her.

*JL*JL*

"Babe?" He was looking around, trying to find her but she stayed hidden a little longer, wondering what he would do when he couldn't see her. She watched as his face fell and then his left hand clenched into a fist so she took pity on him, stepping out from where she was hidden. His face lit up and he moved next to her, slipping his hand into hers.

"Are you sure we should?" she whispered, glancing around.

"Do you not want to?" he asked her softly.

"You know I do… I just think it'd be better to make sure we aren't seen by anyone…" She explained.

He pulled his hand from hers and then opened the door, his hand at her back as she walked out of the building. They headed up to the street and then began to make their way over the square towards the B&B. "Well tonight went better than I imagined it would…"

"You didn't think you'd win?" Lauren asked him.

"I had no idea… but after what Uncle Jack said to me, I began to worry a little…"

"You never said when we were talking…" Lauren said, looking at his face.

"You were worried enough already… I didn't want you to worry even more…"

Lauren stopped in the gardens after he said that, Joey not realising for several seconds. He turned back to look at her, "You lied to me…" she whispered, her face showing how hurt she was.

He strode back to her, standing in front of her and staring into her eyes. "Not to hurt you… to protect you…" he told her softly. "It would've done you no good to know I was worried too… I didn't have any choice other than to do the fight…"

"I don't want us to start this off with you lying to me… I grew up with my dad lying the whole of my childhood… I don't want our relationship to be tainted in the same way…" she whispered.

He smiled, "I like the sound of that…" he admitted.

She looked confused, "Of what?" she asked him.

"Our relationship…" he breathed, his hand lifting and pushing some hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

"Isn't that what this is?" she whispered, suddenly worried she'd assumed too much.

"I truly hope so…" he murmured. "Let's get over to the B&B and we can talk properly…" She nodded her head and they continued to make their way across the square. Joey opened the front door to the B&B and paused as he listened to hear if anyone was around. The building was silent so he led Lauren inside, up the stairs to his room. He unlocked the door and then held it open for Lauren so she could enter the room. The room was silent as he closed the door behind them. "Is this okay?"

"It feels a little strange…" she admitted.

"In what way?"

"You have to admit this is a bit weird… We're cousins, Joey… Everyone will hate it if they find out we're in a relationship…" She said softly.

"Does that mean you don't want this?" he asked her. She stared at him for almost a minute, before lowering her head and staring at the floor. "Talk to me, babe…" he said gently, walking towards her until he was standing about a foot in front of her.

"Are we being selfish?" she asked him.

"In what way?"

"Hurting everyone else just so we can be happy…"

"Don't we both deserve some happiness?" he asked, stepping a little closer.

She looked up at him, "Do we?" she whispered.

"Come on, babe… we both had pretty crappy childhoods… and you can't tell me that you've been happy recently either, can you?" he prodded.

She shrugged, "I guess not…" she admitted.

Another step forward and he lifted his hand, brushing his fingers into her hair as his thumb stroked her cheek. "Ever since the first moment I saw you… I was hooked… You are beyond enticing, babe…" he told her. "Even when I found out who you were it didn't put me off… I just wanted to get to know you… to spend some time with you…"

"I felt something for you too… although I fought against it… I know this is wrong, Joe… we shouldn't be together…"

"But you do want us to be, right?" he prodded. His thumb stroked her cheek again and she looked up at his face. She nodded once. "Good… because I want this too… I want it more than I've ever wanted anything in my life…" he whispered. He slowly lowered his head, allowing her time to pull away if she truly wanted to. She didn't move a muscle, simply watching him as he moved closer. Moments later his lips met hers but it was Lauren who deepened the kiss, her tongue brushing against his. He walked her backwards until he pressed her back against the wall beside the door, his hands running over her body gently. He pulled his mouth from hers, both of them breathing heavily as he stared into her eyes. "So…?"

"Kiss me again…" she whispered. Joey grinned at her and then did just as she asked. She wound her arms around his neck as the kiss deepened again and Joey moaned into her mouth when her fingers brushed through the back of his hair. His mouth moved from hers, slowly kissing across her jaw and then down her neck, hearing her breathy moan as she did so. "Joe… please…" she whimpered.

He chuckled against her skin, "Please what, babe?" he breathed in her ear.

She turned her head, looking at his face, "I want you… I know I shouldn't… but I do… I can't help it…" she rambled.

"You'll get no protest from me, babe…" he said softly, stepping forward and pressing his body against hers. He kissed her again, just as deeply as he had before and again she deepened the kiss, her hand on his face this time. Joey, for his part, was just as caught up in the moment but he was very aware when he ran his hand down her body and ran it lightly up her thigh again, sweeping under her skirt. She tore her mouth from his, panting as his hand crept higher. Joey stared into her eyes, watching her reaction as he neared the apex of her legs. He held his breath as he eventually touched her, brushing over her soft underwear and hearing a whimper from her. "Do you want it too?" he whispered, his voice a little hoarse… and although he hated to admit it, needy.

"So fucking much, Joe…" she whimpered. Her eyes met his, "Touch me properly…" she pleaded. He was only too happy to oblige and they both moaned as his fingertips pushed beneath her underwear and grazed over her. "Oh god…" she murmured, her head falling forward so her forehead rested against his chest. One finger stroked over her core and her whole body shook.

He pulled away from her, lifting her skirt and tugging his hand free so he could ease her underwear down her thighs, letting them fall to the floor. He stared at her but Lauren pushed his hands away and let her skirt fall, hiding her body from him. She then moved her hands to the zip of his hoodie and slowly eased it lower. Once it was undone she eased it from his shoulders and down his arms. She stepped away from the wall and pressed her mouth to his chest, directly above his heart, kissing his skin tenderly. She pushed against him, shoving him backwards until his legs hit the bed behind him. She pushed him again and he fell backwards onto the mattress. He reached towards her and took her hand, pulling her to climb onto the bed with him. She laid beside him, resting her head against his shoulder, her arm curved over his waist. "This is not how I imagined the evening ending…" he admitted.

"How did you think it would end?"

"Well, I expected to lose the fight… and I probably would've done if you hadn't been there… You gave me the strength and encouragement to continue… I never even expected you to be there… Even if it was just to see Tyler fighting…"

"I was never there to see Tyler…" she whispered. "It was always you, Joe… If I'd been there to see Tyler's fight, I'd have watched him… but I didn't… if you remember I was in the changing room with you while he fought…"

"So you were…" he breathed. He rolled them so he was lying above her and kissed her gently. "Now I think it's time I get to explore your body a little more…"

"Do you have to?" she whispered.

"You are so beautiful, Lauren… Babe, there is nothing about you that doesn't take my breath away…"

"Don't lie…" she murmured.

"Why on earth would you think I was lying?" he asked her, shocked by what she'd said. He was aware that she wasn't the most self-assured of people but she'd always seemed so much more confident than she was now when she'd been out with her friends.

"Everyone lies… to me at least…"

"Well, I'm not lying, babe… You are the most beautiful woman I've ever been with…"

"I'm pretty sure you haven't 'been with' me… unless I've forgotten it… blocked it out because you're not that good…" she stated.

"Oh, believe me, babe… if I'd been with you, you would remember every single moment of it… have no fear…" he reassured her.

She grinned at him, "I'm not scared about that…" she whispered. "It's the bit after that that scares me…" she admitted.

"The bit after…?"

"Tomorrow…" she whispered. "After tonight… once I leave here and you realise I'm not what you wanted after all…"

"Never going to happen…" he told her firmly.

"I'm scared that I'll let you into my heart… and then you'll break it… you'll break me… Because I'd be a mess if that happened…" She whispered. She sighed, "Even more of a mess than I am already, I guess…" she added.

"Like I said a moment ago, never going to happen, babe…" he repeated. He stared at her face, looking deep into her eyes. "I know you saw me fighting earlier… but I've had to fight for everything I've wanted the whole of my life… My mum raised me and Al on her own and it wasn't easy… I helped her once I was old enough but it was still a struggle… Her family rejected her when she married Derek and still weren't interested, even after he left… So we've had to fight for everything…"

"I bet you had women throwing themselves at you though…" she said softly.

"I did… but I never wanted them… I never fought to hold onto them… once was always enough…" he admitted. "I'm more than sure that won't be the case with you and me though, babe…" he added in a whisper. "I will fight for every moment we have together… and if that means taking on the rest of our family… if it means taking on Derek and your dad… I would do it in a heartbeat… because I can't bear the thought of losing you… You already mean too much to me… and that isn't going to change…" He kissed her again softly, pulling away slightly before returning and deepening the kiss. His hands ran over her, easily covering a breast, hearing her moan. "Can I touch you…?" he breathed against her lips.

"Please…" she begged. They pulled apart from each other and Joey helped Lauren remove her top… and after a brief pause and several passionate kisses, her skirt also disappears. Lauren reached behind her body and she undid her bra, throwing onto the floor once she had. She lay there, naked before him, staring at his face intensely. "Time for you to even the score, Joe…" she whispered.

He smiled and pulled away from her, pushing his shorts off his hips. He turned away from her and stood, pushing the jock strap he was wearing off his body. Once he was naked he turned back towards her and saw the expression on her face. "They're comfortable… and keep everything protected…" he explained.

"It's certainly not what I was expecting you to be wearing…" she admitted.

He smiled, "So you've thought about me in my underwear…?" he teased as he climbed back onto the bed.

Her cheeks coloured, "I'll admit I've thought about you in various stages of undress…" she whispered.

"Do I live up to what you imagined?" he whispered in her ear.

He closed his eyes, breathing heavily when he felt her hand circle his length and start to stroke him slowly, "You are more than adequate…" she breathed. "Do you like what you see?" she asked him and he could hear her vulnerability in her question.

"I've told you already… you are stunning… even better than I'd imagined…" he told her.

"Kiss me…" she breathed, her hand still moving on him. Joey lowered his mouth to hers as his hand cupped one of her breasts, brushing his thumb over her peak and hearing her moan into his mouth. He moved so he was lying on top of her, her hand slipping from his length. He was rock hard now, his cock digging into her stomach and telling her exactly what he wanted. They were both breathing heavily when the kiss ended and she looked up at his face, "Condom…" she whispered.

Joey leaned away from her towards his bedside table and tugged open the drawer, pulling out a square foil. Lauren took it from his hand and tore it open, removing the latex sheath and looking up at his face to get his permission. "Go ahead…" he said softly. She rolled the condom onto his length slowly, watching his face as she touched him again. Once she was done she waited for him to resume his previous position. "How do you want to do this?"

"I don't mind… I just want to do this…"

Joey chuckled as he moved closer to her again, "You want me…" he sang in a teasing tone. "You desire me…"

"I love you…" she breathed and he stopped teasing, his expression getting serious.

"And I love you…" he admitted. "More than I thought I ever would feel… for anyone…"

She moved her legs apart so he could lie between them and they were silent for several seconds as they stared into each other's eyes. Lauren lifted her hand and cupped the side of his face, "What are you waiting for, Joe?" she breathed.

He smiled and then his cock was at her entrance and he slowly slid inside. She moaned, her eyes closing as he pushed into her body and Joey rested his forehead on her shoulder, breathing heavily as he entered her. "Fuck, babe… you feel so good…" he panted once he'd entered her completely.

"Wow…" she murmured, her hands clutching at his body, her nails digging into his skin.

"Is that a good wow?" he asked.

Lauren laughed, "Christ, Joe… this is already the best sex I've ever had and you've barely started…"

"Oh we are far from done here, babe…" he whispered in her ear.

"Show me…" Lauren said softly.

"It will be my absolute pleasure, babe…" he told her as he pulled back out of her. She moaned when he eased himself back inside her and her back arched off the bed. She moaned again and he continued to move within her, watching her face as they made love.

"Faster, Joe…" she whispered, feeling her arousal increase.

Joey chuckled, seeing the desperation on her face. He took her thigh in his hand and pushed her leg up to her chest, opening her up to him further and she whimpered. He sped up his movements slowly, feeling her tightening around him. He could feel his own peak building and he knew he would never get enough of the girl beneath him. His mouth found hers in a savage kiss, both of them battling against each other. The bed was squeaking as their movements sped up and then he came apart, his cock throbbing inside her as he moaned into her mouth. Lauren clung to him but she hadn't peaked and Joey was worried she hadn't enjoyed what they'd done. He kept moving within her, feeling her body still tightening around him. He lifted his body off her slightly, watching her face and seeing the desire in her eyes. He slipped his hand between their bodies and pressed his thumb against her clit, her body quickly responding, her back arching off the bed and she cried out his name as her peak tore through her. He kept up his pace, wanting her orgasm to last as long as it could. She sagged back onto the mattress after a minute and he eventually slowed, pulling her into his arms as he rolled them over so she was lying on him, his cock slipping from her body. He pressed his mouth against her forehead as he held her and she kissed his chest. "That was amazing…"

"Mmm…" she murmured.

"Are you sure?" he asked, hating the fact he didn't know her answer.

"Joe… I told you earlier… that was the best sex I've had…" she reassured him.

"I was worried… it took longer for you…" His words faded and he stared down at her face.

"Oh I enjoyed it, Joey." She told him.

"But…"

She smiled and lifted her head, moving her mouth to his ear, "I rarely reach orgasm from sex…" she whispered in his ear.

"So it was only because I touched your clit?" he asked, frowning slightly.

Lauren shrugged. "Most guys I've been with haven't been that bothered about finding out…" she told him, "They're more interested in getting what they wanted out of it…"

"Well, it gives us something to work on, babe…" he said.

"Did you not enjoy it?" she asked.

"Of course I did…" he reassured her, "but I want you to enjoy it just as much…"

"I did!" she protested.

"I know, babe… and it's now my mission to make sure you always will…" he told her. He rolled away from her slightly, sitting up on the edge of the bed and carefully removed the condom from his flaccid length, tying it closed and dropping it in the bin. He smiled when he felt Lauren press her body behind him, her arms looping around his neck as she kissed just in front of his ear.

"I love you, Joseph Branning…"

"Babe, please… not Joseph…" he murmured, although as he'd previously thought he felt his cock twitch as she called him by his given name.

Lauren had apparently noticed too, "I think you like me calling you that…" she whispered in his ear.

He glanced at her, "I prefer it when you call me Joe…" he told her. "It's like it's your special name for me…" he added softly.

She smiled at him, "It is… It feels right to call you Joe…" she said.

"I like it very much…" he told her.

"Are you up for round two?" she asked him, her hands running down his chest and abdomen until they circled his cock, starting to stroke him gently.

"If you keep that up… most definitely…" he breathed.

"Good…" she whispered, "because I'm not done with you yet…"

Several minutes later he was fully erect but she kept stroking him. "Babe, you may want to stop…" he moaned. Lauren rose up on her knees and leant over him, pulling another condom from the drawer. She held it out towards him this time and he opened it and rolled it on. "How do you want to do it this time?"

"I want you to fuck me…" she murmured in his ear. "I want you to use that strength I saw earlier and make me scream your name…" His cock jerked in his lap and she giggled. "Oh, you like the thought of that, do you, Joe…"

He moved quickly, turning and kneeling on the bed in front of her, kissing her passionately as his hands roamed her body. He pushed two fingers into her body, careful to avoid touching her clit if he could help it. He was eager to get her to come… in fact, he now saw it as a bit of a challenge. She was clearly aroused as he finger fucked her, her channel slick with desire. She moaned loudly and Joey smiled at her. "That's it, babe…" he whispered.

"I need you, Joe…" she panted, her body moving against his fingers.

"On your hands and knees, Lauren…" he said softly. She stared into his eyes, pausing briefly before she did as he asked. Joey moved so he was between her legs, behind her and his hands settled on her hips. He placed the head of his cock at her core but held his position there, sensing the increasing anticipation building.

"Joe… please…"

He took a deep breath and then slammed into her, burying himself in one smooth, hard thrust. He smiled as he heard her moan, her body shaking before him and he felt a sense of pride climb. "Is this what you wanted?" he asked her, stilling his movements.

"I feel so full…" she said, "You're so much deeper than you were before… and I love it… I love you…"

"Lower your body…" he said, pushing gently in the middle of her back. She did as he said and then he pulled slowly from her and paused again before pushing back into her. He kept moving this time, hearing the soft moans from her. "Do you have any idea how great we look together, babe…" he breathed, watching as their bodies moved together, his cock disappearing into her body and then pulling out covered in her arousal.

"Fuck, Joe… you feel so good inside me…" she panted.

Joey nudged her legs further apart and moved faster in her, hearing her increased moaning and the soft whimper from her before him. He kept increasing his speed, changing his pattern so she was always taken by surprise. Her peak took them both by surprise, her body gripping him like a vice as she screamed his name, her back arching up. Joey kept moving, knowing it wouldn't be long before he came as well but enjoying her experiencing it with him. Her body sagged slightly and he slowed his movements, giving her a minute or so to recover. He ran his fingers up her spine, feeling her body quiver under his touch and she turned her head, looking back at him over her shoulder. "One…" he said, winking at her and she shook her head, smiling at him.

"Idiot…" she murmured with a chuckle. "I want to see your face when you come…" she told him softly.

"Your wish…" he breathed, pulling his quivering length from her body and urging her to roll over onto her back again, "Is my command…" he added as he lowered his body on hers, thrusting into her once more. "Pull up your legs, babe…" he breathed as he moved his hands beneath her shoulders. She did, pulling them up to her chest as she watched his face. He started moving again, his pace as fast as it had been before. She moaned softly and Joey smiled, "That's it, babe…"

"Oh god…" she panted, "So deep… harder…" she pleaded. He did as she asked and her head tilted back, giving him access to her neck. He kissed her over and over, sucking on the skin and leaving a mark which he was sure he would get grief for in the morning.

He felt her start to tighten and then she was coming again, her body gripping him even tighter this time. Joey kissed her deeply, stifling her cry of his name as he moved faster within her, his own peak rushing up on him. He stilled on his next thrust in, his body tensing as he started to pulse inside her, grunting her name into her mouth. Lauren moved her legs slowly, wrapping them around his waist and holding him close as her body calmed. Joey collapsed on top of her, his energy finally spent after the last few hours. "I love you, babe…" he whispered into her hair as he rolled onto his side, pulling her with him. They spent a couple of minutes rearranging themselves on the bed, Joey disposing of the condom once again before lying back with her spooned in front of him, his arms around her waist.

*JL*JL*

Lauren woke before Joey and her first instinct was to leave the room and leave him asleep. In her heart though she knew she couldn't do that to him… not to the man she loved… and she was in this far too deep to pretend this was anything other than an intense, all-consuming passion that rivalled any other she was aware of. She knew she'd be laughed at by everyone who knew her if she tried to explain it to them… they wouldn't understand… and if she was being honest, Lauren wasn't sure she understood herself.

Joey stirred behind her, pressing his body up against hers, making her giggle when she felt his erection digging into her thigh. "It's rude to laugh, you know…" he whispered, his voice husky and causing Lauren's body to react. "A man could get a complex…"

"I never realised how good it would feel waking up with you like this…" she told him.

"I'm so glad you think so, babe… I wasn't sure I could go back to just being your cousin…" he admitted softly, kissing her shoulder. "So what now?" he asked her.

"Well, firstly I think you need to put that lovely thick cock to good use and make love to me… and then I think we should talk about what we're going to do…"

"Going to do?" he asked, reaching blindly behind him and grabbing a condom.

"Well, I don't think we can stay in Walford…" Lauren whispered.

"You want to leave Walford?" he said, surprised by what she was suggesting.

Lauren turned in his arms to face him, taking the condom from him and opening it, easing it onto his length. "We're not going to be able to keep this a secret… people will find out… they'll have opinions and try to stop us… They'll try and tear us apart and I don't want that, Joe… If we're serious about this, we have to fight for it… And if it's a choice between leaving here, being together and being happy or staying in Walford and letting everyone ruin this, then I know which one I want to choose…" she said. She lifted her leg and draped it over his knee, sliding it up his leg until it was around his waist. "Now make love to me, Joe…" she breathed, her fingers tracing the darkening bruise above his eye as she looked at him.

His cock slid slowly home and he knew that everything she'd just said was correct. They were on a losing battle if they stayed in Walford. Lauren was the one with the most ties to the area and if she was willing to give it all up to be with him, then who was he to argue? They stared into each other's eyes as he slowly made love to her and he could tell she was close to coming. What she'd told him the night before about rarely achieving an orgasm was clearly a complete fallacy, she just hadn't been with the right men… or man… And it seemed Joey was the one who could bring it out of her. To him it showed him how much they were clearly made for each other. "When do we leave then?"

"Soon…" she gasped. "Oh god…" she moaned, her body shuddering, "Yes, Joe… Yes…" He rolled onto his back, pulling her with him so she was sitting on top of him. She rocked on him, her hands clutching at his shoulders as she eased herself through her orgasm, continuing to move once it faded away.

"I make that four now, babe…" he said, "And only one of them was from touching your clit…" he said softly, trying not to sound too smug.

"Okay… I'll admit it, you're a love god… and I'm not worthy…" she said, a little bitterly.

"Oh, Lauren, you're very worthy… it was just you didn't have the right man between your thighs…" he told her. He pushed himself up so he was sitting and wrapped his arm around her waist, "Clearly everyone else you've been with weren't blessed with the right equipment…"

Lauren rolled her eyes, shifting on his lap and clenching her inner core as he spoke, pleased to hear the moan at the end of his boast. She moved on him faster and felt the moment he fell over the edge, panting heavily against her neck as she clenched around him, a smaller peak ebbing through her body.

"So, worth fighting for?" he breathed in her ear once they'd both calmed.

Lauren paused, already knowing the answer but knowing that voicing it would change her life… both their lives… irrevocably. She lifted their hands from her stomach, lacing their fingers together. "Yes, Joe… This is definitely worth fighting for…" she whispered.

THE END

A/N: So there you go... better than the episode? Yes, I'm still writing... although finishing any stories seems to be an issue for me right now... I'm trying my best though and I'll keep going... Let me know what you thought about this story... Hearing your thoughts will hopefully inspire me to write more... Laters...