Here is my one-shot following on from the travesty that was Friday's show. This is how I'd like to see tonight's episode going... however, I know it won't because the scriptwriters just aren't that nice to us. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

Stand By Me.

She couldn't breathe. It felt like her heart had been ripped out. Again. Why did she keep letting him do this to her? The first time they'd ended had nearly killed her. And she already knew this time was going to be worse. She'd pretty much been living with him this time. Things were more serious now than they'd been before Christmas.

She lifted the glass of 'lemonade' in her hand and took a mouthful. It made her feel sick and she slammed it back down on the table in front of her. She didn't need the drink. She needed Joey. And however miserable she was, she wouldn't do the one thing everyone expected her to do.

Tears fell down her cheeks and she lowered her forehead to rest on the table, closing her eyes and wishing there was some way she could go back in time to an hour or so ago; back to when it all started to go wrong. Great body shaking sobs began as she tried to come to terms with the fact it was her best friend who'd put her in this position; who'd caused her this pain. And all because she was jealous of the relationship Lauren had with Joey. So she'd made it her mission to break them apart. And it had worked. What that said about their relationship exactly, Lauren wasn't sure but she guessed that was irrelevant now. He'd dumped her... again.

"Lauren, are you okay?" Alfie asked her gently, his hand on the back of her shoulder. She didn't even lift her head off the table, just shook it violently. He walked away, leaving her alone once more.


"Lauren, babe..."

"Daddy..." she whispered, unable to lift her head from the table. She felt drained. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

He put his arm around her, pulling her upright and against his chest, "Alfie called me..." he said, kissing the top of her head. "What's happened?"

"Joey dumped me..." she whispered into his shirt. She felt his hand brushing her back and it made her cry harder because that was what Joey would do.


"I was drunk... and I'd said I wouldn't drink anything." She sobbed.

"Lauren..." His voice sounded so disappointed and it made her cry harder.

She tried to pull away from him but he wouldn't let her. "I didn't buy anything, dad. I've got no money... I'm completely broke. Lucy said she'd get me a drink and I asked for a lemonade, I promise. That's all I've drunk." She waved her hand at the half drunk glass on the table.

Max reached for it and took a sip, wincing as he tasted the vodka in it. "It's got vodka in it... if I had to guess it's more than one."

She looked up at his face, "I was trying, dad. I was doing it for Joey... and for me." She looked down at her hands. "I know I have a problem... I just don't know how to deal with this, dad. Everything keeps getting on top of me and the only way I can deal with it is to have a drink. I want to stop. I want everything to just stop."

"We'll sort this, babe." He told her softly. "Let's get you home..."

"I can't... Abs said she hates me." She cried.

"Come on, let's get out of here. We'll go to the car lot." He pulled his daughter to her feet and led her slowly out of the pub and across the square, having to support her more than either of them liked. He opened the door to the portacabin and ushered Lauren in. He sat her in the chair and then began to make her a coffee in an effort to sober her up.

"How do I fix this, daddy? How do I get him back?" she whispered despondently.

"I think you need to deal with the main problem first."


"The drinking, babe..." he said softly, crouching down in front of her, "He obviously doesn't like it... as much as your mum and I don't."

"I can't do that without him, dad..." she whispered.

He wiped away her tears with his hand, "I think you're going to have to try..." More tears replaced the ones he'd wiped away. "I can help you if you'd like..." he said softly. She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. He kissed her cheek. "We can do this together, babe. I'm going to be there for you..." He abandoned his effort to sober her and lifted her up from the chair. When she clung to him he lifted her feet off the floor, "Let's get you home, babe." He said softly. She didn't put up any protest this time. They left the car lot and he carried her over to number five. He knocked on the door and Tanya opened it.

She sighed when she saw the state of her daughter. "What happened?"

"Lucy spiked her drink and she got drunk." He said softly. He kissed Lauren's forehead gently when he heard the tears restart. "Joey ended it..." he added quietly. "I'm going to take Lauren up to her room." She nodded and he started up the stairs.

"What happens now?" Tanya said softly.

"I help her get better..." he paused his movement up the stairs and said quietly.


Max laid Lauren on her bed and pulled the covers over her. He sat on the edge of her bed for a few minutes and brushed her hair back from her face. She had cried herself to sleep since they'd left the car lot. He sighed and finally went downstairs.

"Is she okay?" Tanya asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"She's asleep. Not sure if okay really covers it." He said. He leant on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. "She wants to stop drinking. I've said I'll help her."

"Kirsty will love that..." Tanya whispered.

Max sighed again, knowing she was right. He lowered his head, staring at the floor. "Call me if you need me to come over here, okay? I'll be at the flat."

"Okay." Max started to walk to the front door, "She's going to be okay, isn't she, Max?"

"I hope so..." He said before walking out of the house.


"Where the hell have you been, Max?" Kirsty asked the instant he walked in the door.

"I told you I had to go to the Vic." He said.

"And that would be the reason I just saw you leaving her house...?" She accused.


"Maybe I should go there too... do my shift there, seeing as that's where the Vic is located these days."

"It was Lauren, okay?" He said quietly.


"Alfie phoned... she was drunk in the pub and he couldn't get a hold of Tanya."


"Lucy spiked her drink and Joey dumped her..." He looked at his wife and she could see the abject misery written across his features. "She's a mess, babe."

Kirsty looked at Max. "We're supposed to be celebrating moving into our new home together..." she told him.

"I need to be there for her." He sat on the couch and held his head in his hands, elbows on his knees. "I can't lose another child." He whispered.

Kirsty felt a pit of nausea welling in her gut. The irony of his words combined with her lack of being pregnant made his statement all the more painful for her. She grabbed her handbag and coat, "I've got a shift to get to. I'll see you later...maybe." she said softly. She walked out of the flat and her heart sank with each step she took towards the pub. She'd always thought it would be Tanya that would suck him back to that house but it seemed it was going to be his daughter. The problem was she liked Lauren and she didn't want her to suffer... she couldn't resent Max wanting to be there for her. It was right for him to be there for her.


It was just before eleven o'clock at night when his mobile rang and Max grabbed it, answering it quickly when he saw it was home that was calling, "Hello?"

"You need to come over..." It was Abi and Max could hear screaming in the background.

"What's happened, Abs?" he asked softly as he grabbed his coat and keys.

"Lauren's got drunk..." she whispered.

"I know that already," he said, walking out of the front door.

"No, she slipped downstairs while we were eating in the kitchen and she grabbed a couple of bottles and then went back up to the bedroom, locking herself inside and she drank them. Mum's trying to get her to come out of the room but she won't."

"I'm at the door, Abs. Let me in." He said softly. He could hear the screaming through the door and when it swung open the noise got louder. He was walking up the stairs within seconds, only pausing briefly to hug his youngest daughter. He found Tanya standing outside the girls' bedroom door. She was crying and he could hear Lauren screaming on the other side of the door. "Go downstairs, Tan... I'll deal with this." He told her, hugging her for a few seconds too long for someone who wasn't his wife anymore. She nodded against his shoulder and then pulled away and walked down the stairs. He heard the lounge door shut and he knew she was with his other two children. "Lauren... open the door..." he said through the door. The screaming died down slightly but didn't stop. He knocked on the door, "Babe, let me in." He could hear her crying now and the sound of it broke her heart. "If you don't open the door, I'll kick it down." He said softly. It took a couple of minutes but he heard the lock be drawn back. Not sure of what he was going to find when he walked in that room, he tentatively opened the door. Lauren was sitting on the floor, surrounded by sheets of papers from a sketchpad that were either torn or screwed up. There was three mostly empty bottles of various types of alcohol around her. His daughter was hunched over and she had her arms wrapped around her waist as she continued to cry, her shoulders shaking at the violence of her sobbing. He moved to sit beside her, nudging the paper and bottles out of the way. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her against his chest, much like he'd done in the Vic this afternoon.

"What am I going to do without him, daddy?" she whispered.

"I don't know, sweetheart... but we'll figure it out."

"I need him like I need oxygen... I can't do anything without him."

"You can, babe and you're going to have to..."

"I don't want to... I want him back."

"I know you do but I think you need to do this without him, to prove that you can..." He looked around her side of the room, "I don't think drinking these will have helped, babe." He said quietly.

"I woke up and you weren't here. Then I remembered what had happened and I wanted to forget." Max's eyes settled on a couple of sheets of the paper that were in front of them and he saw how each page was a drawing of Joey's face. "I'm going to be sick..." she whispered, pulling herself from his arms and making an unsteady dash for the bathroom. Max followed after her, holding her hair back as she threw up everything she'd consumed in the last few hours. She started crying as her body continued to heave well past the point of her stomach being empty and she rested her forehead on her hands. Max reached for the flush and pulled it.

"You should get some more sleep, babe." He said softly once the heaving had ceased.

"Think I'm going to have a shower first..." she whispered hoarsely.

"Okay... I'll go downstairs and get you some water, painkillers and some toast." He kissed her temple and then helped her to her feet.


Max leant on the sink as he stood in the kitchen. The door opened and he glanced at it, seeing Tanya there. "She's having a shower." He told her.

Tanya walked into the room and stood, leaning against the cupboard beside him. She rested her head on his shoulder and put an arm around his waist. "I don't know if I have the strength to help her deal with this..." she whispered.

"I'm going to be here." He told her, "We've done this to her, Tan. I've done this to her. I need to help her get better."

"Joey has his own share of the blame..."

"He really doesn't, babe. Her problems with drink began months before he even arrived on the square and you know it. Yes, it's him ending their relationship that has pushed her over the edge this time but this has been building for at least two years. It was never going to be if it happened but when it happened."

"She will get past this won't she?"

"I hope so." Max whispered. "I'm going to head back upstairs." Carrying a glass of water, some tablets and a plate of toast he walked up to her room, slightly surprised to find she wasn't there. His mobile rang before he could go and look for her though. He sighed when he saw it was Kirsty. "Babe..." he said as he answered it.

"Where are you?"

"I'm looking after my daughter..." he said.

The line was silent for a few seconds. "Are you going to be there all night?" she asked, her voice harsh after the silence.

"I'll be here as long as she needs me for."

"I need you here."

"Don't make me choose, Kirst... I don't think you'll like the response you get."

More silence. "I'll see you when you come home..." she whispered, ending the call before he could say anything else.

Max put down his mobile, trying not think about the fact he felt like he was home for the first time in four months. He walked towards the bathroom and heard the water was still running. Almost hidden by the sound of the running water was the sound of Lauren crying once more. He turned the handle and found it unlocked. The room was steamed up when he opened the door but through the fine mist of moisture in the air he could see Lauren huddled up in a tiny ball in the floor of the shower. He strode across the room and reached in to the shower to turn the water off. He went back to the top of the stairs and called down to his ex-wife. She appeared at the bottom of the stairs, "Can you come up and give me a hand?" he asked. She silently agreed and was soon standing beside him. "She's in the shower... can you help her?" he asked gently. "I'll grab her some clothes and bring them in..." he told her, disappearing into the bedroom and returning with some things for her to put on.


Tanya led their daughter out of the bathroom about ten minutes later and Max pulled Lauren into his arms, feeling her body shaking and knowing this time it was probably because of the cold. "Thanks Tan." He said gently. She smiled at him shakily and left the father and daughter alone. Max didn't even bother getting Lauren to walk to her room, he just picked her up in his arms and carried her to her bed. She clung to him tightly, not even releasing her hold once she was on her bed. He lay beside her and held her in his arms, his hand brushing through her hair softly. She began to cry again... he was surprised she had any tears left. It was fifteen minutes before she fell asleep.


More than two days had passed and Max hadn't left Lauren's side, apart from when she went to the toilet. He'd had several calls from Kirsty over this time and he could hear the mistrust and anxiety in her voice each time she spoke to him... or rather accused him of not wanting to go home to her. At this point he wasn't sure she was wrong.

Lauren was dealing with the ramifications of withdrawal from the copious amounts of alcohol she'd consumed on that fateful day. She had slept in his arms for six hours after she'd had her shower but that had been the only sleep she, and by extension Max had had. Tanya called the doctor around the following morning when Lauren really began to suffer from withdrawal. Her body wouldn't stop shaking and she was sweating and felt sick. The toast from the previous night had remained uneaten which was probably just as well because she couldn't keep any food down now. The doctor had wanted to admit her to the hospital but Lauren had stubbornly refused. Max and Tanya spent the next twelve hours sitting with her, the doctor revisiting twice to ensure her patient was still okay. Abi and Oscar had gone to stay with Dot and Sharon respectively so Max and Tanya could focus on helping Lauren. Apart from everything else they didn't want either of their other children to be upset by the state Lauren was in, especially Oscar who had a close bond with his eldest sister.

The second day had started with a shock for them both. Lauren had a seizure and while Max tried to make sure she didn't hurt herself, Tanya had ran from the house to get the doctor. The doctor came back with her and checked their daughter over. She'd called an ambulance at this point and while bother parents knew this wouldn't be what Lauren wanted, it was necessary because this wasn't something they could cope with at home. They both went in the ambulance with her, several people around the square seeing them. The elder Branning's had spent more hours than either of them would like watching their daughter deal with the ravages of withdrawal. It was a painful sight but they both knew this trip to the hospital was necessary.


She opened the door to the lounge and found him exactly where he'd been the night before when she went to bed. "Are you going to sit there forever?" He grunted in response. It wasn't the first time he'd given her that answer to the same question. "Why don't you go and talk to her?"

"What's there to say?"

"Joey, you're miserable... and I'm pretty sure she's miserable too. You didn't want to end it with her. Talk to her and see if there is something that can be done to fix this..."

"It's going to take a little bit more than empty words and broken promises for this to be fixed, Al..."

"Whatever..." Her answer reminded him of his ex-girlfriend. "I'm going to go and look after Scarlett. I'll see you later." She said, grabbing her handbag and walking out of the house.

Joey sat on the couch and thought through everything that had happened. It was all he'd done since he'd walked out of the Vic, leaving the love of his life behind. He gone through everything he remembered from that day and his realisation had been that Lauren was right. Lucy had spiked her drink. He remembered Lauren had been on the phone when Lucy went to get a round of drinks for everyone. He knew Lucy still held some resentment against his relationship with Lauren, despite the fact Lauren was her best friend. Joey knew Lauren had broken some sort of best friend code when she'd got together with him but there was this chemistry that had been there since the very first time they set eyes on each other. The time he'd spent with Lucy had been when he was trying to fight his feelings for his cousin. It had meant nothing... it was a passing dalliance which he'd hoped would keep him suitably distracted from Lauren. It had failed completely. If anything his relationship with Lucy had just pushed his further towards Lauren because Lucy was far too clingy for his liking. If anyone was at fault for their relationship ending, it had much more to do with Lucy than it did Lauren.

He sighed and dragged himself to his feet, knowing he needed to do one thing. He ran up to his room and after the quickest wash in the history of the world he was putting on some fresh clothes and then left the house for the first time in days. He walked across the square and through the market. He felt like everyone was watching him and he had no idea why. He opens the door to the cafe and sees the person he's looking for behind the counter. She looks up and smiles at him.

"Hey you. I've been worried about you." She said in greeting once he was at the front of the queue.

"A coffee please, Luce."

"How are you feeling?" she asked him softly, pouring the coffee into a mug for him.

"I know what you did, Lucy..." he said quietly as he passed her the money for his drink.


"Why don't we go and sit down...?" he said, "We need to talk..." He moved away from the till and over to the table by the window. Lucy followed after him and he couldn't help but notice the hopeful smile on her face.

"What do you want to talk about, Joey?" She asked as she sat opposite him.

"I know you spiked her drink, Lucy."

Her face froze and he could see the panic in her eyes, "I was just trying to show you the kind of girl she is... she's never going to change. You know that now..."

"She was trying, Lucy."

"Like she did last weekend? She made no effort to see you run, did she? Who was there for you, Joey? Me!" She glanced at the tabletop before looking up at his face again, "She doesn't care about you in the same way that I care about you."

"You're wrong." He said firmly, "but really that isn't what's important, is it, Luce?"

"What do you mean?"

"It doesn't matter which one of you loves me more than the other... What matters is the way I feel about you both." Lucy stared at him. "I don't love you, Lucy. I don't even like you that much at the moment..." He took a swig of his drink. "Maybe in time we can be friends but that can't happen right now. I can't forgive you for what you did to Lauren... you made me hurt her in the worst way possible."

"It always Lauren, isn't it?" she said bitterly.

"It's always going to be Lauren, Lucy. I love her. Without her, my life isn't worth living. She's everything I need and you made me break her heart. Again." He scowled at her.

"Even though she's a drunk?" she whispered, her own heart breaking at what he was saying.

"Yes. She wants to change. I know it." He murmurs.

"You're an idiot, Joey. She's never going to change... and you're making a mistake." She spat at him.

He got to his feet and leant on the table, moving his mouth close to her ear, "It's my mistake to make, ain't it?" He said to her harshly, "Now, leave the two of us alone. Don't come near us again... the only time you need to speak to us is when and if we speak to you first. Other than that, steer clear of us." He walked from the cafe, slamming the door behind him. He walked back through the market, feeling everyone looking at him again and not understanding why.

"Joe?" It was Alice, pushing Scarlett in her buggy towards him. "You're out?"

"Just sorting things out once and for all with Lucy..." he said darkly.

"So you didn't see then?" She was frowning at him and when he looked at her closely he could see she was upset.

"See what, Al?"

"The ambulance..." she whispered, her eyes unable to meet his.

"What is it, Alice?" he asked, already dreading the answer, feeling his heartbeat increase in speed. He knew what she was going to say and he didn't want to hear it.

"It was Lauren... she went to hospital. Max and Tanya went with her." She said softly.

Joey grabbed his sister by the arms, "What was wrong... what was wrong with her, Al?"

Alice stared up at her brother, seeing the fear in his eyes... and was that tears? "I don't know, Joey. I wish I could tell you but I can't. The doctor was at the house... I heard someone say that she's been there a few times over the last few days." She swallowed, "Abi's staying at Grandma Dot's... and I think Oscar is with Sharon and Phil..." she told him softly. He was frozen and she knew he needed a shove in the right direction. "Are you going to go to her?" He nodded once and kissed her on the forehead, before turning and running for the tube station.


Joey ran up to the hospital and up to the reception. "Lauren Branning? She was brought in here a while ago..."

"And you are?"

"Her cousin..." he said hesitantly.

The receptionist looked at her computer, "She's in A&E..." She pointed him in the right direction and he ran off.


"Uncle Max..." he said breathlessly as he saw them waiting outside the ward. "What's wrong with her?" he asked.

Max stared at his nephew, seeing the concern on his face. "She's been going through withdrawal for the last couple of days."

"She quit drinking...?" he whispered.

"Yes. She wanted to prove to you that she could do it..." he said softly.

"So why is she here?" Joey asked.

"The doctor had been coming in to check she was okay each day and she came over this morning when Tanya got her. Lauren had a seizure..."

Joey staggered back and Max reached out for him, keeping him upright. "They're checking her over now. She should be okay... it's just a side effect of the withdrawal."

"I should've come to see her before now..." Joey whispered. "I was just so angry."

"With Lauren?"

"With myself..."

Max nudged his nephew into the seat and squeezed Tanya's hand as he sat beside her. She'd been watching them in silence since Joey had run up. "Tell us what you mean, Joey?" Tanya said.

"I was angry because I wasn't enough to make her stop... I haven't been enough for her for weeks. She's been bottling everything up and I've been letting her do it. I thought she trusted me enough to eventually tell me what was going on in her head but she doesn't and two days ago I gave her another reason not to do so."

"You're one of the reasons she wanted to stop." Max said. "Alfie called me to the Vic about an hour after you left her and she was sitting crying at the table... but do you know what?" Joey shook his head, "There were bottles of half drank beers on the table... and the lemonade which had more than just one vodka in it and she wasn't drinking any of it. She told me she wanted to stop... for herself and for you. She wanted to try and fix your relationship." He reached for his nephew and squeezed his arm.

"Do you think she'll see me?" he asked his uncle.

"I think she'd really like to see you. It will give her the strength she needs to beat this." Max said.


Joey paused before entering the room she was in. The doctor had said he could see her now. She was sleeping and they'd managed to stabilise her. They were pretty confident she would be okay. His aunt and uncle had already been in to see her, now it was his turn. He went through the door and saw her lying on the bed. She was sleeping. She was his own personal sleeping beauty... although her colouring made her more like snow white. Of course, he was assuming she was still his but he'd worry about that when she woke up. He sat next to her bed and took her hand in his. He bent down and kissed the back of it tenderly. He rested his forehead against her hand and said a silent prayer to a God he wasn't sure he really believed in that she would be okay and would take him back.

He lifted his head and looked up at her face. Once he was looking at her, he couldn't drag his eyes away and it remained that way for about forty minutes. That was when her eyelids fluttered slightly and he sat upright. He lifted her hand and pressed his lips against the back of it. She turned her head slightly and looked at him, "Joey...?" she whispered.

"Hey babe..." he said, "Always like to be a drama queen, eh?" he said with a smile.

"That's me..." she croaked.

He reached for a cup of water and held the straw to her mouth so she could take a sip. "It's not spiked..." he said, staring into her eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you." He kissed the back of her hand again, "I'm sorry I hurt you again as well." He whispered. "I'm proud of you though, babe."


"For stopping..." he told her.

"I needed to..." she said softly.

"I should've been there for you." He said.

"I didn't let you, did I? You tried telling me and I kept saying I didn't have a problem..."

"I still love you, Lauren... I never stopped," he whispered. "Please take me back."

She was silent for some time, just staring at his face. He stared right back at her, hoping she'd see the love he had for her in his eyes. "Okay, Joey... but you've got to prove it to me."

"Prove that I love you?" He asked. She nodded. "I can do that, babe." He got to his feet and bent down over the bed, placing his lips on hers and kissing her tenderly. The kiss was only a short one but he didn't move very far from her when they separated. His free hand moved and tucked her hair behind her ear, "I'll prove it to you every minute we're together." He pecked her again on the lips, "I've spoken to Lucy... told her that me and her is never going to happen. I also said she shouldn't see us or speak to us again unless we instigate it. She'll never do something like this again, I promise."

"I'm going to hold you to that, Joey." She whispered.

"I won't let you down." He promised her. "Not again... I can't lose you, Lauren. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone."

"I know, Joey. I know." She whispered, smiling at him tenderly.


So what do you think? Much better that the mess we're going to see tonight, I'm sure you'll agree. By the way next chapter of Santuary to be posted after the show tonight... it'll be up by 9pm (once I've watched the show...).