A/N: So here's the last chapter. Kind of sad to see this one end already. Thanks to everyone for their reviews (so far). It's so good to hear feedback from people about what I've written and at least one part of this story wouldn't have been here if not for getting them.
Joey stood at the top of the aisle, waiting for his bride to be. He was so excited he could hardly stand still and it seemed his mood was affecting his son, who he held in his arms. Bradley was wriggling against him, nervous energy seeping from him. If it wasn't for the fact he'd get dirty as he crawled around the church Joey would put him on the floor and let him get rid of some of it, but he knew better than to let him ruin the little suit he was wearing. It had taken ages to convince Bradley to wear the suit he had on, it was only because Joey was in the same outfit that there had been any success and he wasn't about to risk it getting ruined now.
"Are you okay, Joey?" Tanya asked as she stood in front of him. He nodded, words failing him as he stared at Lauren's mum. She smiled slightly when she saw how nervous he was. She reached over and took his son into her arms, turning and passing him to Jack, who stood behind her. "Give us a minute," she said softly to his uncle. He nodded and walked off, Bradley in his arms, calmer than when Joey had been holding him. Maybe he'd been affecting him more than he thought. Tanya stepped forward and adjusted his tie for him, straightening it and pulling it tighter, "I wanted to talk to you about something, Joey."
"Okay," he whispered.
"I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you." She said with a soft smile, "I know how much you love my daughter and I know the last year or so can't have been easy for you." Her hand reached up to his face and she tentatively brushed her fingers through his hair, much like his own mother had done when he was a small boy, "I also wanted to thank you." She said quietly.
"What for?" he asked her, already stunned by what she'd just said to him.
"Not giving up on Lauren. For keeping trying when you first arrived on the square, even when she kept pushing you away. You could've walked away at any time and you never did, despite how painful it must've been for her to keep rejecting you." There were tears in her eyes now.
"Not as painful as the months when I didn't know where she was." He admitted. "Loving Lauren is the easiest thing I've ever had to do. Getting her to admit she loved me back was the hard part."
Tanya beamed at him, "I'm glad you convinced her to do so. I don't think anyone else would've been the right person for her." She hugged him tightly, "I'm glad I get to call you my son." She whispered to him softly.
Joey inhaled sharply at her words. Even his mother wasn't interested in him anymore. She'd left London to stay with friends within weeks of Joey and Alice moving to the square, shortly after Alice saw her when Bradley was born and hadn't even responded when he contacted her about her grandson. The wedding invitation had been returned in the post two weeks after sending it, taped back shut and it had been like a knife to his heart. In some ways her rejection of them had been worse for him than Derek's because that had been expected and his mother's had not. He also took it much worse than Alice did. The only thing that had kept him sane during that time was Lauren. She'd been there for him, holding him when he'd given in to the tears, reassuring him that he would never be as bad a parent as either of his. The one black cloud that had hung around him for all of those weeks since then had been the sadness of knowing he had no parents that cared for him. It had been painful for him but he'd convinced himself it didn't really matter. With Tanya's words though he knew it did matter. He did need parents and it seemed she was taking up the offer of being his mother without him even having to ask. "Thanks mum." He whispered, hugging her tightly.
She pulled away from him, tears in her eyes as she looked at him proudly, "Max feels the same way about you too, Joey." She told him, "You'll never be able to replace Bradley, no one ever could, but you're the closest thing to it. He loves the fact that you're working at the car lot with him. He's so pleased he's planning on changing the name back to its original one," Joey lifted an eyebrow in question, not understanding what she was saying, "He's changing it back to Branning and Son." Tanya said, a smile growing on her face when she saw the stunned expression replacing his confusion. She glanced down the room and saw Jack walking back to them, a huge smile on his face as he nodded to her. "It's time." She says gently to her new son.
Jack walked over and handed Bradley to Joey, "Are you ready, little man?" Joey asked his son.
"Dada..." he said, looking up at his daddy with huge round eyes.
"Good boy..." he says quietly, "You remember what we practised this morning, Bradley..." He kissed him gently on the temple. He'd been working with Bradley over the last few days when it appeared that he was starting to talk. The first time he'd heard him say dada had taken his breath away and it was important to him that Lauren got to enjoy that same feeling.
He stood straighter when he heard the music begin to play, his arms tightening around his son automatically. Taking a deep breath he turned his head to see her for the first time and he froze. She had never looked so beautiful. He wasn't sure if it was the knowledge that she was, again, carrying his child or the confidence she possessed as she walked towards him but he was caught, hook, line and sinker. Bradley wriggled slightly in his arms, seeing his mummy coming towards him and smiling widely at her.
When she finally reached his side, Joey took a step towards her and Bradley reached out for her. Lauren smiled at them both and took her son's hand. Like the little pro he was, he stuck to the plan his daddy had been working on and excitedly called out one word, "Mama."
Joey's eyes watered as he saw her look at their son in wonder before turning to him. "Something we've been working on." Joey told her gently.
When he spoke Bradley turned and looked at him, "Dada." He cried out, clapping his hands together which made everyone else in the room laugh softly.
"Good job, baby boy." Joey said in a whisper to his little man. He turned to Alice and passed Bradley to her, brushing his hand through his dark curls before turning back to his beautiful bride. Joey stepped closer to her and took both her hands in his, "Hi." He said, smiling at her.
"Hi." She said softly. "Shall we do this then?" she asked him quietly, looking almost scared that he'd say no.
"There's nothing else I want to do." He replied, only slightly lying because they were both more than aware there was something else he'd rather be doing with her and it wasn't something you should do in front of a crowd of people, although he laughed to himself when he realised that they'd done just that that night when they met. Joey squeezed Lauren's hand in his as he thought about the gift she'd given him the night before. He was determined to be there for her every step of the way this time. She'd probably regret telling him he was going to be around so much, no doubt annoying her with his overprotective nature. He wasn't going to miss out on a thing this time. He smiled at her, seeing her blush as they waited for the vicar to start. One last thought ran through his head before the service began. Maybe this time it would be a girl...
A/N2: So there you go. I haven't ruled out a sequel for this story... in fact most of my stories are left open enough that I could do a sequel - just in case I have some inspiration. And that is most definitely the case with this story. I need to write some of the stories I'm already thinking about before I go there though. I've got one mostly done... just need an end and the middle... and to change the start a bit but it's there in essence. So I'll hopefully start posting that in a week or so. Of course I may get sidetracked by another idea that starts screaming out at me so you'll have to wait and see.
Anyway I hope you liked this story. Send me a review and let me know what you think. See you soon no doubt...