A/N: So I finished writing my other EastEnders story (A Father's Love) and this idea sprang into my head and was really easy to write. I originally intended this to be a one-shot but by the time I'd finished it was a bit long to post as one chapter and there was a natural split in it. So here it is.
Lauren vividly remembered the night like it had been yesterday. However it wasn't yesterday, it wasn't even last week. The night she dreamt of so clearly each night was five months ago.
She'd walked into the club and smiled as she heard the loud music and felt the thud thud thud as the speakers reverberated the sound through her body. Walking up to the bar she saw the barman standing, serving drinks to a customer. She had to queue for a while to get her drink. Normally she'd be annoyed by this delay but today it was a blessing because it gave her time to run her eyes up and down his body and appreciate his beauty. To watch as his whole face lit up when he flirted with a customer. To see the amazing smile that took her breath away.
She took a step forward, one customer closer to the god behind the bar. She looked at the customers in front of her, both of them were women. She wasn't vain but she could clearly see she was the prettiest of them. The one currently being served stepped away and she moved forward again. Her heart was beginning to beat a bit faster now that she'd nearly reached him.
The girl in front of her was searching in her purse for money for her drink and the god looked up and caught her eye, smirking at her and winking quickly. The girl in front looked up and passed him the notes, her face flushed with embarrassment. He turned and put the money away in the till. The girl sidled off, looking vaguely disappointed and Lauren stepped forward, her body pulsing in excitement.
"What can I get you?" he asked her.
"Vodka and coke, please." She asked.
He smiled again, his face coming alive with that small movement of his mouth. Stepping away from her he got her a shot of vodka and then quickly poured some coke into it. He put the glass down in front of her, "Anything else?"
"A kiss would be nice..."
"I don't know if I'm in your price range." He said, smiling widely.
"I think you'll find I can afford you," She flirted with him openly.
"Maybe later..." he said, "I've got a break in a while."
He glanced at his watch, "About 45 minutes..." She reached over the bar and grabbed his wrist, glancing at his watch so she could see what the time was now. Touching his skin was like getting an electric shock, setting her whole body on fire.
"See you then." She smiled at him brightly, "How much do I owe you?"
"It's on the house." He said, winking at her again.
She felt her face heating and she blew him a kiss quickly, before grabbing her drink and moving away. Her journey wasn't very far, she stood at the end of the bar, watching him through her hair, seeing him glancing in her direction, smiling at her intermittently.
Time seemed to be passing slowly but just as she was finishing her drink he was striding in her direction. His head was bowed then he looked up and there was such intensity in his eyes that it made her hold her breath in anticipation. "Hi," she said softly, knowing he probably wouldn't be able to hear her.
He grabbed her hand in his, staring into her eyes. His other hand brushed her hair back from her face and then his lips were on hers, his tongue brushing against hers. She gripped the front of his shirt, her hands feeling the muscles hidden by the white cotton. She moaned slightly as the kiss deepened and felt him smile against her mouth. They pulled apart, staring at each other as they tried to catch their breath. "Did that meet your requirements?" he said, smirking at her.
"Not bad... Maybe you should run it by me again, just to make sure I caught all the finer details."
"I think I can manage that." He looked around them. "Come with me?" he asked her gently. She nodded. He almost lifted her in his arms, striding away from the bar, into a dark corner, hidden from view of everyone. She was so focused on him she didn't really notice their movement until she was being pressed into a wall behind her. His hands drifted to her hips and he pushed himself against her. She stood on tiptoes and wound her arms around his neck, her hands brushing into his hair as she pulled his head down to meet hers. Their mouths met and he fought her for dominance, the power of his kiss sweeping her away.
The minutes passed much quicker than she would've liked, their passion culminating in a high she wasn't sure she'd ever achieve again. She enjoyed the feeling of his hands on her skin, the sensation of his lips on her mouth and neck, the sheer power of each thrust of his hips against hers, the depth and tenderness in his eyes as they stared into hers.
"Wow," she breathed as they pulled apart and straightened their clothing.
"I take it that was okay then?" He smirked at her as he did up his jeans.
"God yes." She turned her head, suddenly feeling very self conscious. Her fingers fiddled with the buttons of his shirt until his hands covered them, ceasing all movement.
"I need to get back to work," he said, glancing at his watch. He kissed her again, taking his time with this kiss but showing no less emotion. "I wish I could stay but I can't afford to lose my job."
"It's okay. I need to get back to my friends anyway." He stepped away from her, just one step but it felt like a mile. "It was fun." She told him and winked at him. He smiled at her and then turned and went back to the bar.
Lauren had gone back to that bar a couple of times but never saw him again and she was gutted. It wasn't until he'd walked away that she realised she didn't even know his name and he didn't know hers either. It was such a silly mistake to make... but not her last.
She walked through her house, hoping she'd have managed to avoid her family but she was not that lucky as her mother was waiting for her in the kitchen.
"Do you know what time it is, Lauren?" she asked.
"I didn't sleep very well," she explained, glancing at the clock and seeing it was nearly eleven in the morning.
"Are you going out today? You haven't seen your friends in a while." Lauren shrugged in response to her mother's question, pouring herself a glass of milk and sipping it slowly. "Darling, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, mum." She said, steadfastly staring at the surface of the table, ensuring she avoided the gaze of her mother's caring eyes. "I'm going to go and get dressed." She said, moving quickly out of view.
She stood with her back against her bedroom door, breathing deeply as she felt tears well in her eyes. She bit her lip and tried to push away the emotions that were coursing through her body. She took one more deep breath and then dressed quickly, choosing her favourite black and red stripy jumpy and jeans.
There was little for her to do other than go and see Lucy but she managed to pick a time when the shop was busy so she had to wait. Then she was witness to her uncle blackmailing her for money and she wished she'd stayed at home. They left the shop, the two of them talking about what had just happened.
She wasn't even aware of what was happening at first. She saw her uncle fall to the floor, clutching his face after a punch to the nose. His assailant turned round and her world tilted on its axis. She had to grab Lucy to stop herself from falling over.
It was him and Lauren couldn't breathe. She wasn't even sure he remembered her. Then he spoke and she wished she'd never seen him again. He was her cousin. Oh God! He was flirting with Lucy and she backed away from them both, hoping to make a run for it. However she managed to trip over an empty cardboard box from a market stall and she fell to the floor.
Her cousin was the first person at her side and as he looked into her eyes she knew he recognised her. He helped her to her feet and she ran from them, tears streaming down her face that blurred her eyes.
Joey had been in the square for almost three months now and so far Lauren had avoided spending too much time with him. He knew who she was now and he'd tried to speak to her a few times but she'd managed to give him the slip at each attempt. As a result of this she barely left the house anymore, almost living the life of a recluse. Her friends had gradually stopped dropping round to speak to her. She was on her own.
"Lauren..." It was her father calling up the stairs to her. She sighed and leant over the banister so she could see him. "Are you coming?"
"We're going out for the day. Didn't Abi tell you this morning?"
"Come on, hurry up."
"Can't I stay here?"
"Lauren, you never leave the house anymore. We're going to have a nice family day, the five of us."
He stared at her for several seconds. He strode up the stairs and looked at his eldest daughter closer, "Are you okay, Lauren?" She nodded, her voice evading her at his question. He brushed her hair away from her face. "Okay. You can stay here but I want you to go out today. Get some fresh air, see your friends, do something."
"I will." She said, her automatic response a lie as she had no intention of doing as he'd asked.
"We won't be late." He said, kissing her on the forehead before descending down the stairs.
There as a knock on the door and Lauren peeped out of the front window to see who it was. Her heart sank when she saw it was Joey. She ignored him, hoping he wouldn't see she was there. He knocked again and she sat as still as she could.
"Lauren, I know you're in there." He called through the letterbox, "Don't you think we should talk about this? You can't keep avoiding me. I'm not going anywhere, Lauren."
Tears fell down her face, wanting nothing more than to open the door but knowing that she couldn't. Why can't he just leave her alone? "Leave me alone." She whispered, even though he wouldn't hear her. She brushed away the tears.
"I'm going to keep coming back, Lauren. I'll be back later." He called but then he was gone.
The house phone rang and Lauren picked up the handset from the table in front of her. "Hello?"
"Lauren, it's mum."
"Hi, mum. When are you due back? Do you want me to start getting dinner ready?"
"That's why I'm calling. We're staying overnight. Abi doesn't have college until tomorrow afternoon and Oscar's not got school either, it's a teacher training day."
"Oh, okay." Lauren said.
"Will you be okay on your own?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. It's only one night."
"I'll see you tomorrow morning, darling."
"Have a nice night."
Lauren was watching TV when things started going wrong. She'd been feeling gradually more and more off colour as the day progressed but when her stomach began to cramp early in the evening she became scared. "No, no, no, no, no." She whispered, getting to her feet and walking to the kitchen. She got herself a glass of water and went to take a sip. The glass slipped from her hand and smashed to the floor as she gasped from the intense pain she was now experiencing.
She tried to stay as still as she could until the pain faded then slowly walked back towards the lounge, ignoring the mess she'd just made. She turned off the TV and lowered herself to the couch. She lay down, hoping she was just imagining what she thought it might be.
An hour later and she knew she wasn't imagining it. The pain was coming quicker now and she could no longer pretend she wasn't in labour. The most worrying thing for Lauren though was it was early. Far, far too early. Pain ricocheted through her again and she couldn't stop the cry she made as her body adjusted itself for motherhood.
She wasn't ready for this. She'd been running from this ever since she'd realised she was pregnant. She hadn't wanted to accept it when she first found out because it left her disappointed as she wasn't able to share it with the person she wanted to.
Then the day had arrived that changed everything. The day she saw the father of her child for the first time in five months. The person she was desperate to tell. She'd wanted to tell him when she originally found out, had tried to find him on more than one occasion but now she could never tell him. She could never admit that her cousin, the son of her uncle was the father of her child. She felt sick every time she thought about it.
The door rattled again and she froze. "Lauren?"
A painful contraction hit her as she heard his voice and she cried out in agony. She turned her head towards the front door, listening to see if he'd heard her. There was silence and she shifted her focus back to her tired body as the pain once again intensified.
She knew there was no ignoring this now... but she was also realistic enough to know she'd left it too long to get any help because the contractions were too close together and she could hardly move. She was on her own and she was very scared by that prospect.
She pulled off her jeans and underwear, leaving her lower half naked and then edged herself off the couch, kneeling in front of it and leaning forward, trying to get some relief from the near-constant pain. Tears streamed down her face when another contraction hit hard.
She had no idea what she was doing but her natural instincts seemed to take over, telling her it was time to start pushing. But God, it really hurt and again she cried out, her hands clawing at the couch. She released a small gasp and a groan as the contraction ended.
"Lauren?" His voice was much closer this time and she thought she'd imagined it as she tried to calm her breathing. It was only when she felt his hand on her back, creeping beneath the baggy sweater and T-shirt she was still wearing and caressing her lower back that she knew he was there. She turned her head, knowing she looked a mess but way beyond the point of caring and found herself looking at his beautiful face.
"Joey..." she cried. Huge tears ran down her already damp face. Another contraction hit and she began to push again, his hand rubbing her back giving her the strength she needed. "I so sorry..." she whispered as her eyes met his again. His other hand reached for one of hers, grasping it firmly.
"I didn't realise..." He said softly.
"No one knows." She whispered.
"Not Max or Tanya?" He asked. She shook her head.
"I was trying to pretend it wasn't happening." She said, laughing slightly although it sounded more like a sob. "I looked for you at the club. You were never there."
"I had to leave." He looked down, "Someone reported me for what we did."
"I'm sorry." She said. Her hand gripped his harder as she felt another contraction coming. This one was stronger than the others had been and she forgot the conversation in lieu of concentrating on what her body was doing. He pulled her tightly against his chest, kissing the top of her head. Her voice was a whisper when she spoke once more. "Then I found out who you were and I couldn't tell anyone. How could I tell anyone what we'd done? So I pretended it wasn't happening. Almost fooled myself as well sometimes. Until tonight."
"When did this start, Lauren?"
"A few hours ago." She breathed. "Mum and dad are away overnight with Abi and Oscar. It's too soon, Joey. This shouldn't be happening yet." Her voice was bordering on hysterical by this point.
"Have you called an ambulance?" he asked her.
"No." She whispered. "I've left it too late. They won't get here in time now anyway."
"I really think I should call them, babe. You haven't seen a doctor at all through the pregnancy, have you? What if something is wrong?"
"Don't say that..." she whispered, her eyes filling with tears again at the thought of losing her child. Another contraction hit and she pushed again. With each one she could feel the baby moving further down. She looked at Joey and saw him moving the phone to his ear, "What are you doing?" she hissed.
"Ambulance please..." he said when it was answered, "My girlfriend is in labour." He paused, "She's not due yet. It's early." He stared at Lauren as the person at the other end of the line spoke to him, "Hang on... let me explain to her." He put the phone down on the couch and turned his attention to Lauren. "She wants me to look and see how you're doing." He told her gently. Lauren began to sob at his words, suddenly wishing this was all over. She nodded at him once and he helped her move so she was lying on the floor. She watched his face, seeing an expression of awe wash over it as he took in what he was seeing. "I can see the head," he said to the phone which was now on speaker. Lauren didn't listen to the response, she was taking in the strength of his face as he sat before her. He reached for her face, his hand brushing across her cheek and drawing her attention back to him. "On the next contraction, the head will be out, Lauren. You'll need to stop pushing once that happens. I've got to check and make sure the cord isn't in the way."
"It's coming..." she told him softly, gripping his hand tightly as she bore down and began to push.
"That's it, babe." He encouraged her. Lauren let out a scream as the pain intensified. "Stop now, Lauren. Just for a few seconds."
"It hurts, Joey."
"I know, honey, I know." He fell silent as he followed the instructions he'd previously been given, "There's no cord," he called out to the voice on the other end of the phone.
"On the next push, your baby will be born," the voice said gently. "You'll need to leave the umbilical cord attached until the ambulance arrives. It should be with you within the next couple of minutes."
"Joey..." Lauren whispered. The contraction hit and the baby's body was pushed from her into its father's hands.
"It's a boy..." he whispered as he lifted him carefully. He passed him to Lauren, laying him on her chest. Lauren stared at him in wonder. Her child. Their child. Her finger touched his tiny hand, counting the fingers and coming back with four. She repeated this on his other hand and both feet, finding him to be perfect.
There was a knock on the door and Joey left quickly to open it. Two paramedics were soon surrounding her and they checked over the baby and Lauren before helping Joey cut the cord. Lauren was keen to stay at home but Joey managed to talk her into going to the hospital and getting her and their son checked out.
Lauren was loaded onto a stretcher and taken out to the awaiting ambulance. Some residents of the square were waiting in the street, having seen the flashing lights. Joey followed behind them, his son in his arms and as he climbed into the vehicle with her, they heard a gasp from some of those gathered.
Lauren sat in the bed, holding her son in her arms. She was staring at him in wonder, she couldn't take her eyes off him.
"Have you thought of a name?" Joey asked her as he gazed at both of them in awe.
Before she could answer, the door opened and her parents walked into the room, "Lauren?" Max said, shock clear in his voice.
"Dad... mum." She whispered.
"Darling, why didn't you tell us?" Tanya said as she stepped forward.
"I'm sorry," Lauren whispered, her composure disappearing as she looked at her mother. Tanya hugged her against her body as the tears began once more.
"Lauren, you could've told us." Max said gently once his daughter had calmed down.
"I was scared. At first I tried to pretend it wasn't happening. The longer I left it, the harder it was to tell you."
"Can I hold him?" Tanya asked gently. Lauren passed her son to her and watched as Tanya stared down at him.
"You should've said something to your mum when you spoke to her earlier."
"I didn't know I was in labour, dad. It wasn't until later that I realised. He was early and I wasn't expecting it to happen yet."
Max looked at Joey, "Thank you for looking after her, Joey." He said, stepping forward and shook his hand. Joey looked at Lauren and Max didn't miss it. "What?" he asked.
"I..." he began but stopped because he wasn't sure how to tell him.
"Dad, Joey's the father." Lauren whispered, her voice barely audible.
"But you're cousins..." he shouted, causing his grandson to wake and begin to cry.
Lauren reached for her son and took him back into her arms, jostling him slightly in her arms to try and calm him, "We didn't know, Dad."
Max stopped and stared at his daughter. "Explain it to me." Both of the youngsters remained quiet, "NOW!"
Lauren started, "It was eight months ago, before Joey came to the square. I'd gone to a club with the others and Joey was one of the bar men. As soon as I saw him I liked him, dad. It was like I couldn't fight it. We ended up together and it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Then he was gone... we didn't even know each other's names." She saw her dad frown, "Okay, it wasn't out finest moment but I had no idea what was going to happen."
"Do you make a habit of taking advantage of young girls who frequent the places you work?" Max accused his nephew. "Without even finding out her name."
"NO!" Joey said sharply. "It had never happened before and it hasn't since. Like Lauren said, there was this attraction between us, I can't even begin to explain it."
"You should've told us when you found out," Max said to him.
"I only found out tonight." He said, looking at Lauren and his son.
Max crouched beside the bed so he could see his daughter. "Explain this to me, Lauren because I don't understand why you didn't say anything."
"I realised about two months after it happened and I went back to the club to see if I could find him. I wanted to tell him. He deserved to know. He wasn't there though. I tried four or five times to find him but I never did." She leant down and kissed her son on his forehead. "I was scared and I was alone so I ignored it. I hoped it would go away." She looked at her parents, "I know it was stupid and that was never going to happen but I wasn't really thinking logically. Then when I was five months pregnant, Joey arrived on the square and I found out who he was. I felt sick when I realised we were related and we'd had sex. Suddenly it became much more frightening. At first I didn't think he'd recognised me but then I knew he did and so I ran." A tear ran down her face and she felt Joey sit on the edge of the bed and put his arm around her, "Since that day, I've avoided him. He wanted to discuss what had happened and I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the truth. And I was scared to tell you. Scared you'd think I was disgusting. Scared that if I told you you'd be so ashamed of what I'd done, you'd throw me out and then I'd truly be on my own. Then this evening, I realised I was in labour and the fear really kicked in. Joey had knocked on the door twice during the day, the second time was just as a contraction hit and I cried out in pain. I'm guessing he heard me through the door and he came into the house through the back and found me in the lounge. He called the ambulance and then delivered his son."
"So what happens now?" Joey asked after a couple of minute silence.
"What do you want to happen, Lauren?" Max asked.
Lauren stared at her dad, trying to work out what he would say to what she truly wanted. She realised she needed to start being honest with everyone. "I want to raise my son..." she whispered, "with his father." Joey squeezed her shoulder with his hand and his other hand joined hers, holding their son. "I'll understand if you'd rather we left the square, dad."
"That won't be necessary, Lauren." Tanya said.
"Your mother's right," Max said. He stared at the three of them, "So can I hold my grandson?" he asked.
Lauren passed him to her father and watched as he looked at him in fascination. "Would you like to know his name?" She asked softly. They all nodded, "I thought we could call him Bradley Maxwell Branning," She said, looking at Joey as she spoke.
"That sounds like a good name." He whispered, hugging her tenderly.
"Are you sure, Lauren?" Max said,
"Why shouldn't he be named after his uncle and granddad?" Lauren bit her lip, wondering if she'd made a mistake. Was her dad upset by what she'd said?
"I think your brother would've been very proud. I know I am." He looked at his grandson, "Welcome to the world Bradley Maxwell Branning." He said, a small smile on his face. He looked at his daughter, "You should get some rest," he told her, laying the baby back in the crib. He moved to his daughter and hugged her tightly, "We'll be back in the morning." He whispered to her before turning to his nephew, "Do you want a lift back to the square, Joey?"
"No, I think I'm going to stay here, if that's alright." He replied.
The grandparents left them and Joey turned down the lights so Lauren could get some sleep. She was laid in the bed but she couldn't sleep, "Do you want to talk?" she asked him quietly.
"It can wait till the morning." He said as he stared at her and brushed his fingers through her hair, trying to help her drop off to sleep.
"I'd rather do it now. I can't sleep anyway." Joey thought about it and then nodded. "Can you sit with me?" she asked him softly. She shifted over in the bed and Joey say next to her, pulling her against him. They sat in silence for quite a while.
"Shall I start?" He eventually said.
"Sorry," she whispered. "I guess I'm a bit overwhelmed by everything that's happened."
"It's okay, you've been through a lot." He kissed her forehead, leaving his lips pressed against her skin. "That night, in the club, was special to me. I've never met anyone quite like you, Lauren Branning."
"That's me, one of a kind." She chuckled, her cheeks tinged with red.
"I wanted to stay with you so much that night and if I'd known I was going to lose my job anyway, I would've done. You intrigued me. You excited me. And the sex was amazing."
"I felt the same. I still do."
"When I saw you in the square and Lucy told me your name, I understood your reaction. I was confused about how I felt but after a couple of days I realised I just didn't care about the fact we were related. I wanted to be with you... more than I've ever wanted anything. It was never my intention to stay, I was just coming to get Alice, to take her home. Then I saw you and I couldn't leave."
"I'm sorry I avoided you." She whispered.
"It's okay. I can understand that you must've been very confused. Your hormones would've been all over the place because of the baby on top of that." He paused, "How did you manage to hide it from everyone?"
"It wasn't that difficult really. I wore baggy clothes all of the time. I didn't see anyone, I just stayed in the house so I only had to hide it from the family. I also didn't get that big fortunately."
So are you open to us trying this out? Being together, I mean."
"I think I need a reminder of what I've been missing." She told him with a giggle.
"That can be arranged..." he said back to her and then leant forward and kissed her gently. It was like going back in time. All the passion from that one night returned and they both gasped. Joey groaned into her mouth before tearing away from her, "We need to stop before I start something I can't finish." He laid on his back, pulling her against him, his hands brushing gently through her long thick hair. "I'm sorry you had to go through it all on your own," he whispered to her. "I wish I'd known."
"It's okay. It's not your fault." She kissed him softly on the neck, "I'm sorry I kept pushing you away and I'm glad you didn't give up on me today. More than anything I'm glad you were there when I needed you. I don't think I could've done that on my own."
Shortly after that they both fell asleep. A nurse came in a little while later and found the two of them lying on the bed. Joey was wrapped around Lauren, protecting her from everything. The nurse smiled as she saw the looks on their faces and left them there.
After a couple of hours, Bradley woke them, needing a feed. A nurse helped show Lauren how to feed him and both took to it very well. Joey watched in fascination. He'd expected Lauren to struggle with motherhood but she seemed to be coping with it very well. She was a natural at this.
The nurse left them alone and Lauren caught Joey watching her feeding Bradley, "Jealous?" she teased him.
"More than you'll ever know." He murmured. "Do you know how beautiful you look when you're doing that?"
"Looking at your face, I can pretty much guess."
"Hey, I'm a healthy young man, these things are on my mind a lot." He smirked at her.
"Yeah, well just as long as you only keep thinking about it. It's going to be a while before we go there again." She looked at his face and laughed when she saw the look of disappointment flash over his face, "Joey, I've just pushed a six pound baby from my body, without any drugs might I add, if you really think I've the slightest interest in having sex with you now, you're mistaken."
"I know." He said. "It's just been a while." He kissed her gently on the temple, "And the sex was amazing."
"Okay, okay." Bradley pulled away from Lauren and Joey lifted him from her arms and placed him on his shoulder and began to wind him, "I'm obviously just going to be having a few cold showers." He said to his son as he walked around the room.
"Joey..." Lauren said, a blush staining her cheeks and chest.
"Just because we can't have sex, doesn't mean we can't do other things." She whispered to him.
He stopped walking and spun round to face her, "Seriously?"
"Yes." She pulled her top back into place, "but not until we're home and settled a bit. Till then you're going to have to do what you need for yourself." She lay on her side, her back to him and smiled as she heard him complaining to their son about the unfairness of it all.
A/N2: This is not something I've really done before so I'd be interested in hearing what you think. The next (and final) part will be posted tomorrow. Please review.