A/N: So here is the second part of the story. Thanks again to anyone who reviewed this so far. I hope you like this story.
The car pulled up outside 5 Albert Square a couple of days after Bradley had been born and Lauren bit her lip as she saw several people staring in their direction. Her door opened and there was Joey, offering her his hand. She turned slightly and unclipped the car seat from the car. She couldn't believe her parents had gone and brought so many baby things for her and Joey to use. Not that they didn't need everything but still...
She took Joey's hand and he helped her out of the car. She turned and lifted the car seat from the back of the car and the slight movement caused Bradley to wake up, letting out a cry at being disturbed. The noise he made caused several people to turn and look in their direction. "Ssshhh," she said, a finger brushing the side of his face to soothe him.
"Come on, baby, let's get the both of you inside." Joey said.
As they walked towards the house from the car Lauren looked around and she saw Lucy and Whitney standing just down the road. She didn't know what to say to them, it had been a while since she'd really spoken to them and she knew a lot of that was her fault. She knew they were watching her and they were probably surprised by what was going on.
Joey helped her up the steps to the front door and held open the door for her. Just before she walked into the house, he pulled her against him and kissed her on the mouth, fire igniting through them both as it did each time they kissed. Lauren was a little worried that people would see but at the same time she was thrilled at the brazenness of it all.
Joey smiled at her as he lazily pulled away from her, brushing her hair back behind her ear. "I love you," she whispered to him. He positively beamed at her, hearing those three small words from her made his day.
When they entered the lounge they found their family gathered around the room. Lauren was pleased to see them but at the same time overwhelmed to see everyone all at once. She decided she was just going to focus on her son for the time being, everything else would take care of itself. Joey helped her sit on the couch and once she was seated she unbuckled the car seat and lifted Bradley from it and held him in her arms.
He seemed to have changed so much since the last time she'd been in this room with him. He was beautiful. His hair was really dark and she could see he had Joey's eyes. He had her mouth though which made her smile. He was like a perfect fusion of the two of them and that was just what she wanted.
"How are you feeling, Lauren?" Jack said, crouching down in front of her and looking at her child.
"Great, Uncle Jack." She said, a smile growing on her face as she continued to stare at her son.
"You have no idea what I was thinking when I saw you being carried out on that stretcher, Lauren." He said to her softly.
"Thanks for calling mum and dad." She said, glancing up at her uncle.
Bradley stirred in her arms and they both turned their attention to him, "He's beautiful, Lauren."
"I know." She whispered.
"Lauren, if you're ever in a situation where you can't talk to your mum or dad about something, please know you can always come and talk to me. I'll never judge you. I swear to you."
"I don't plan in being in a situation like that again, Uncle Jack, but I'll bear it in mind."
He brushed his hand over the top of her head and got to his feet. As soon as he disappeared, Abi was there. "Can I see him?" She asked excitedly.
"Course you can." Lauren said, "Do you want to hold him?" Abi's face lit up and Bradley was passed to her.
"Weren't you scared?" Abi asked after a couple of minutes of staring at her nephew. She glanced up at her sister's face.
"More than I knew I could be." Lauren whispered.
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"I didn't know how to, Abs. I was so confused and I felt like everything was out of control." Lauren bit her lip, "I was scared that if I told, that I'd really be on my own." Tears fell down her face and Joey didn't miss their appearance, moving to her side and hugging her to him.
"Don't cry." He whispered.
"I'm being silly." She murmured.
"No you're not."
"I am. I shouldn't be thinking about the past, I need to think about the future. Our future." She said.
"Lauren..." Abi suddenly said. "Uh, you can have him back now."
Abi blushed and refused to look at her sister, "He smells a little."
"I'll do it." Joey said, taking him from Abi and leaving the room.
The doorbell rang and Abi went to answer it. It wasn't long before Lauren's friends came into the room, surrounding her and making her feel very self-conscious. "Pregnant, Lauren?" Lucy said after a few minutes of pleasantries.
"Lucy..." Whitney said sharply. She turned to her friend, "I think it's amazing, Lauren. I'm so happy for you."
"I can't believe you got pregnant and didn't tell anyone." Lucy said again.
"You mean, instead of sneaking off and having an abortion but pretending it was a miscarriage?" Lauren said, Lucy's vicious streak bringing out the worst in her. "This was why I didn't tell you." She said. "I don't need you judging me. You're my friends, there are going to be plenty of other people round here who'll judge me without you doing it too."
"I think it might be best if you go..." Joey was standing in the doorway, holding a sleeping Bradley in his arms.
"Oh, if it isn't daddy dearest," Lucy sneered.
"Lucy..." Whitney said.
"Do you not realise how sick the two of you are?"
"Lucy!" Bianca said as she stood behind the girls. "I agree with Joey. It's time you left, Lucy."
"You can't make me go." Lucy said stubbornly.
"No but I can," Max said as he stood on the other side of Joey. "We don't need your attitude here, Lucy, so I'd like you to leave." Lucy stared at him, "Now!"
Lucy stood and swept from the room. Lauren sat in shock as the last few minutes sank in. "Lauren..." Joey said as he sat next to her. "Don't take any notice of what she said, babe." He hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead. Lauren leaned on his chest staring at her son, unable to stop the silent tears from running down her face. Joey noticed but said nothing. He glanced at her father and Max seemed to pick up what was needed.
"Right guys, I think it might be time we leave the new parents be, let them get settled back in. I'm sure you'll all get a chance to hold Bradley over the next week or so. Let's go to the Vic and wet the baby's head."
They all left the room, just Joey, Bradley and Lauren remaining in the lounge. Once it was just the three of them Lauren dissolved into tears and Joey tightened his grip on her body. "Do you want to go upstairs?" he asked her softly.
"I just want us to be happy." She whispered.
"Let's go up to our room." He said to her softly.
"Your parents have been sorting some things out while you were in the hospital." He got to his feet and held a hand out towards her. "Come on."
He walked up the stairs and then pushed the door open to her old room. The room was now set up as a nursery/bedroom. There was a double bed that caused Lauren to blush, a crib and a rocking chair in the room along with cupboards and a wardrobe. "Where's Abi going to sleep?"
"She's staying with your nan for a few days until things are sorted out."
"She's left the house?" Lauren said, getting upset again.
"It's just for a few days."
"I don't understand..."
"Abi's getting Oscar's room. He's going in with your parents for the time being and they're going to sort out some more usable space in the house that they'll be able to change into a room for Oscar."
Bradley was sleeping in his crib and Lauren and Joey were lying on their bed. "I love you, Lauren Branning."
"I love you too." She murmured.
Joey pushed himself up so he could lean on his elbow and stare down at his girlfriend. "I never thought that one day I'd be a father."
"Do you regret it?"
"God, no." He told her gently. "I don't know what I was expecting when I walked into your lounge the other night." Lauren moved closer to him, "I had no idea you were pregnant but when I walked in and I saw you, I knew I was where I needed to be."
"You never even asked if he was yours..." she whispered.
"I know you, Lauren. Alright I don't know you as well as I'd like to but I knew he was mine because I'd seen how you'd reacted to me since I came to the square. I knew you weren't that kind of girl. It never crossed my mind to doubt he was mine. Looking at him now, he looks like me and you."
"Weren't you scared when you found me that night?"
"Yes but it wouldn't have been any benefit to you for me to show that."
"You gave me the strength I needed when I had so little left." She breathed.
"I was worried when I first saw you. I had no idea what to do to help you. It's one of the reasons I called the ambulance. I couldn't do it on my own and I needed to make sure you were okay and looked after. That our child was okay." His hand brushed under her top, his fingertips grazing the soft skin beneath and coming to rest on where their child had formed. "When I saw the head appearing, it was as if everything in the world suddenly made sense. I guess that sounds soppy."
"It doesn't, Joey. It sounds just like how I feel."
"When he was born and I held him in my hands before passing him to you, I wanted you to know how much I love you. I wanted to be able to tell you how I felt but I was scared. I was worried you'd push me away. That I'd lose both of you."
"I'd never keep you out of Bradley's life, Joey." She whispered. "I'm not sure I could keep you out of my life either. I know there's still a lot we need to learn about each other and I'm sure we'll face plenty of hurdles but I can't see a future where I'm not with you."
"That's good to know, baby." He kissed her gently. "I wish I could show you how much I love you right now..." he murmured into her ear as he pressed a kiss against her skin.
"Joey, I'm sure we've had this discussion already." She stared into his eyes, "Anyway, we're supposed to avoid anything like that until he's at least six weeks old." He pouted and she lifted her head so she could kiss him. "It's nice to know you find me desirable though."
"Now you're teasing me..." he whispered, his mouth meeting hers in a heated kiss.
"Sorry." She said in a whisper.
"It's okay." He kissed her again, the passion building between them, the months of abstinence between them climbing to a crescendo.
Bradley began to cry, or scream actually, and Lauren chuckled, "Saved by the baby." She said as she pushed herself from the bed and walked over to the crib. She picked him up, "It's okay, mummy's here." She said to him as she pulled him against her body. She rocked him in her arms as she moved around the room, talking to him softly in an effort to calm him.
Joey watched her as he lay on their bed. She was stunning. She was magnificent. She was his. "Lauren..." he said, startling her slightly.
"Marry me." His words took him by surprise as much they did her but he meant it, with his whole heart.
"Joey, we barely know each other." She giggled, not realising how serious he was. He froze when he saw her laugh. He thought she'd know how he felt. He thought she felt the same way. Joey got to his feet, stumbling blindly to the door and jogging down the stairs. "Joey?!" She called after him. He grabbed his coat and walked out of the front door, letting it slam shut behind him, ignoring her calls for him. "Joey..." she whispered.
It was dark when he walked back into the house and the house was quiet. He walked to the bottom of the stairs, "You're out late, Joey." He stopped and turned, finding his uncle standing in front of him.
"I needed some time to think."
"I think we need to have a chat, son." Joey stared at him, "Look, Joey, when we got home tonight Lauren was upset. Actually devastated is a better way to describe it. So, as her father, I need to have a talk with you." Joey followed him into the lounge, standing in the middle of the room while Max shut the door. "What happened tonight?"
"I needed to think about a few things." He replied evasively.
"So you walked out?"
"It wasn't like that..."
"Tell me what it was like."
Joey turned and moved towards the couch. He stopped when an image of Lauren kneeling in front of it appeared in his mind, "When I walked into this room three days ago, I wasn't expecting to find what I did. I just wanted to talk to her and clear the air." He sighed, "I guess a part of me was even prepared for her to push me away, although I hoped she wouldn't. The last thing I thought I'd find was her about to have my child." He wrapped his arms around his body and stared at the floor where Lauren had been lying as she gave birth. "I had no clue about what I was doing but I knew she needed me. My child needed me so I stepped up and I helped her."
"Where's all this going, Joey?"
"Do you think she wants me?"
"My daughter has been happier in the past few days than she's been the rest of her life. That is because of two things. You and Bradley. Don't sell yourself short, Joey. She loves you. She wants you."
"She pushed me away."
"I asked her to marry me." He clenched his fist as he thought about her reaction. "She laughed."
"Joey, I don't think it was like that. I know my daughter. If she didn't want to marry you she would straight out tell you to your face." He moved closer to his nephew, "Do you think maybe she didn't realise you were serious?" He saw Joey relax a little, "Your relationship is still very new and, although you have a son together, you've not been together for long. It's a bit early to be rushing into something like marriage." Joey looked at him, "Believe me, it would be a real mistake for the two of you to get married because of Bradley. I did that myself, with my son Bradley and it just ended up hurting everyone. Don't make the same mistakes I did, Joey. That's the last thing I want for either of you."
"I wasn't suggesting we did it tomorrow."
"I'm sure you weren't. I just think you need to take a few steps back in this. You've skipped several stages of your relationship. Tanya and I are more than happy to babysit if you want to take Lauren out."
"I haven't changed my mind. I still want to marry her."
"I'm not expecting you to change your mind. I'm just saying don't rush into this. Get to know her. It's about time my daughter had someone who loves her and cares for her. Show her that person is you. It's all she wants from you. Well, that and being a good father to Bradley."
Joey stared at his uncle and then nodded. In his heart he knew Max was right. They did need to get to know each other. "Can I go upstairs or should I sleep on the couch?"
"I'm sure she'll want you up there with her." Max said with a smile.
"Night Uncle Max."
Joey pushed open the door and inhaled sharply as he saw Lauren sitting in the rocking chair, feeding Bradley again. She looked up as she heard the door open and he saw her face light up when she saw him. "I'm sorry for running..." he told her softly.
"It's okay." She said, as she looked back at Bradley.
"No, it's not." He said. He walked over to her and crouched beside the rocking chair.
"Joey, I've spent the last three months running away from you, it would be a bit hypocritical for me to hold it against you when you do it too." She smiled at him calmly, "Maybe it's a Branning thing." She said cheekily.
"Has he been okay?" Joey asked her.
"He's fine. He's just been sleeping and eating. Oh, and pooping." Her face screwed up at her last remark.
Joey smiled, "Guess I'm on nappy duty tomorrow then... to make up for it."
"You know I'm going to hold you to that, don't you."
"Good." He smiled at her. "Do you need me to do anything?"
"I left a glass of water over by the bed. Can you pass it to me?"
"Sure." He turned and walked over to the bed.
"I was going to say yes." She whispered.
He stopped walking, frozen to the spot. Had he heard her correctly? "You were?" His voice was nowhere near as strong as he'd hoped it would be.
"Yep." She whispered.
He picked up the glass and walked back to her, passing it to her, looking at her face. "I'll bear that in mind... for future reference."
"Good." She said, smiling down at her son as she continued to feed him.
The sun was shining and all Lauren wanted to do was smile. "Knock, knock." She turned to face the open and saw her dad standing there. "You look beautiful, babe." He said.
Max smiled at his daughter and walked into the room. "It's nearly time to go."
"I know." She said, smiling still.
"You're sure about this aren't you, Lauren. It's not too late to change your mind."
"It's what I want, dad."
"I know." He stepped forward and kissed her on the forehead, "I just wanted to make sure."
"Let's go then..." she said, picking up the bottom of the skirt of her dress and moving gracefully towards the door.
"You know, I'm not sure I'm ready to do this." He admitted to his eldest daughter.
"Give you to Joey."
"Don't be silly. I'm still going to be your little girl, dad. You just get a new Joey sized son as part of the deal." She looked up at her father's deal, "It's like the ultimate, buy one get one free deal." She said with a wide grin.
"Believe me, Lauren, nothing about today is free." He said, but his words were softened with a smile. He watched as she moved through the door, dressed in a beautiful bridal gown that made her look like the princess she deserved to be. He followed behind her, his hands on her shoulders to make sure she didn't trip. Abi and Alice were waiting at the bottom of the stairs, both dressed in bridesmaid gowns and looking almost as good as the bride.
"Here's the bouquet." Alice said, passing it to Lauren.
The cars were outside of the house and soon they were driving towards the church. Lauren clutched her dad's hand the closer they got. "You still okay?" he asked her softly.
"Yeah," she said, "Just excited."
Max smiled and looked outside the car as they drove along. He helped her from the car once they were there and waited while Abi and Alice straightened the dress out for her. Abi and Alice went to the entrance of the church and waited for the two of them. "I'm proud of you, Lauren. For the way you've handled motherhood and being with Joey."
"It wasn't just me, dad."
"I know. It doesn't change the fact I'm glad you have got the opportunity to be happy with Joey. I know it hasn't been easy since Bradley was born, that some people have made things difficult for you but I'm glad you both were there for each other and that you are taking this step."
It was time and they began to walk towards Lauren's future. Everyone turned to stare as father and daughter made their way down the aisle. Lauren's complete focus was on the two people awaiting her. One was the god from that one night, the man who made her happier than she'd realised it was possible to be. And the sex was amazing.
The other person was their son. At nearly ten months old he was looking more and more like his father as the days passed. Joey was holding him in his arms and she could see he was wearing a suit that matched his father's but he had a smile on his face that, no doubt, would make it obvious who was his mother.
As they reached the top of the aisle Bradley reached out towards her and she took his hand. "Mama." He said excitedly and she gazed at him in wonder. He'd never said that before and she looked at Joey in surprise.
"Something we've been working on." Joey explained.
At the sound of his voice Bradley turned to him, "Dada." He said, clapping his hands together. There were chuckles from those in attendance.
"Good job, baby boy." Joey said. He turned to his sister and passed his son to her, brushing his hand through his dark hair before turning back to his bride. He stepped closer to her and took both her hands in his, "Hi." He said, smiling at her.
"Hi." She said back to him. "Shall we do this then?" she asked him quietly.
"There's nothing else I want to do." He replied, turning with her towards the front of the church. Lauren's smile grew and she blushed prettily because she knew that was a lie. He'd proved that repeatedly the night before when he'd sneaked back into their room. She looked down at the floor briefly, knowing what had led to the events of the night before. Maybe this time they'd have a girl...
A/N2: So it got a little fluffy towards the end - which is a new thing for me - but it seemed to fit. What did you think? Let me know in a review. Anyway I'm off now to write another story. I seem to be on a roll a bit at the moment...