Seeing as how story update and review emails seem to not be working, I've put Sanctuary on temporary hold until the issue is resolved. In the meantime I wrote a one-shot based on some spoilers from the digital spy website for upcoming episodes on 30th and 31st May 2013.

So all of my previous one-shots have been what I hoped I would see in the show... and I therefore end up a little disappointed but not overly surprised when they don't happen. This time I've challenged myself to write something I really hope we don't see in the show... at least this way I'm hoping that what we end up seeing won't be anywhere near as bad. IT HAD BETTER NOT BE ANYWAY!

So here it is... now I should warn you, I cried while writing most of this, so be warned... there is a definite tissue warning for this one. Don't hate me...

Torn.

Lauren was in such a lot of trouble... so she did the only sensible thing she could do. She ran... or maybe staggered would be a better description, seeing as how she was drunk at the time of doing so. Maybe if she hadn't been drunk she wouldn't have just had the spectacular catfight with her ex best friend... but then again, this is Lucy we're talking about and she was asking for it. Drunk or not, Lauren would've most likely slapped her, just for the comments she was making and had been making for several weeks now.

Of course, they'd both been surrounded by their friends at the time so there were plenty of witnesses to what she'd just done... and Lauren knew Lucy was more than likely going to press charges. Lauren had got a good few punches and slaps in before Tyler had dragged her back. In that time though she was pretty sure she'd broken Lucy's nose and she wished she could hang around and see the damage tomorrow but she really didn't have that option.

So she was walking into the night, in the pouring rain, wondering where in the hell she was going to go. She had about fifty quid in cash, plus some change on her – all of which she'd managed to blag from her mum and dad this afternoon but she didn't want to use it just yet. She could get away using her two feet for the time being.

*JL*JL*

The weather had taken a turn for the worse and Lauren was freezing. She was huddled in a bus stop, trying to get some shelter from the rain but it wasn't protecting her from the wind and the cold. Her clothes were drenched through, she could feel them sticking to her body. It was barely two in the morning and it didn't look like she was going to get any respite from her current situation for a few hours yet. She closed her eyes and pulled her arms around her waist, trying to retain some heat in her icy body. She winced slightly as she did so. It seemed Lucy had managed to get at least one lucky strike in the melee... Lauren would look and see how bad the bruise was, if she had the energy but she really didn't.

*JL*JL*

Lauren woke with a start, hearing the birds singing in the background and realising it had finally stopped raining. Maybe that was why she now felt so hot? The sun was just starting to rise and when she looked at the time she saw it was nearly five am. She dragged herself to her feet, wobbling slightly as she moved back out into the street.

Her progress was slow as she made her way further away from Albert Square. She didn't know where she was going and she wasn't that clear on where she was either. She wasn't that clear about anything this morning. A haze of confusion had descended over her. She ached a lot too, her less than ideal sleeping arrangements had obviously had an impact.

*JL*JL*

Lauren was taking shelter once more under an overpass. She was feeling pretty miserable now and she longed to be tucked up in bed, in the warmth but that was an impossibility for her, at least in her short term future anyway. She pulled her legs up to her chest, wincing slightly as her body protested the movement.

*JL*JL*

She'd been on her own for more than a day now and for a brief second she wondered if anyone had noticed she was missing. Would they even care? She also thought about if the police were looking for her yet. She guessed they were by now and she knew she needed to stay hidden. She couldn't be found.

Her thoughts danced briefly onto the subject closest to her heart; that of Joey. She missed him. She was glad he hadn't been witness to her latest act of depravity. She'd already made a show of herself so much in the last few weeks when it came to him and she was glad that, this time at least, he hadn't been around to see the mess she was making of her life.

An image of his face stayed in her mind and it brought tears to her eyes as she remembered the many things she loved about him. She knew it would be a very long time before she relinquished the little piece of her heart that was reserved entirely for him, if she ever was able to do so.

She tried to get to her feet as she pushed the thoughts of him to the back of her mind but she swayed slightly and saw stars as she felt a little faint. She sat back down with a thud, closing her eyes and trying to push away the nausea that was increasing at a fast rate. Now she concentrated on it the whole of the left side of her body was in agony and she wrapped her arms around her waist and curled up into a ball, willing the pain away. She would kill for a drink right about now.

*JL*JL*

She tried to pry her eyes open but it was as if they were welded shut. She felt so tired... exhausted even. She groaned and another wave of nausea washed over her. Within seconds she was throwing up the meagre contents of her stomach and the pain in her body increased dramatically as she continued to heave for several minutes after there was nothing left for her to expel.

*JL*JL*

She wished she was lying in Joey's arms right about now. She wished she was in his bed, her head resting on his chest as his arms held her tight. Other than the obvious, that time was one of her most favourite times with him; feeling his strength holding her so tenderly against him.

*JL*JL*

She loved the way his eyes would stare into hers. They could have so many conversations without even saying anything to each other; just looking into the other's eyes, they would know what they wanted to say.

*JL*JL*

She really needed a drink. And just for a change she didn't mean an alcoholic one. Just some water would be welcome at the moment. She'd go and get something, after all she had money in her pockets but every time she moved the world spun and she had to return to her current position. She had managed to make it to her feet on one attempt but that had resulted the world going black and a headache that rivalled any hangover she'd ever had when she came back round several hours later.

*JL*JL*

She could hear voices and if she wasn't so exhausted she'd open her eyes and see who it was. The noise surrounding her was almost deafening. It was confusing and overwhelming and yet frighteningly all too familiar. Someone was saying her name... which was odd. How did they know who she was? Where was she exactly? The unknown voice spoke again, much closer this time, repeating her name. She tried to move and it was like a red hot poker shot through her body, causing her to moan and try to roll away from the hands she could feel holding her down. Now she was scared... where the hell was she? A desire to see one person who she knew would make everything better came to her and she whispered his name, "Daddy?"

*JL*JL*

It was a couple of hours later and Lauren was a little more aware of what was going on now. She was still in pain but it had been tempered slightly by some drugs, making everything a little blurry round the edges. Lauren had slept for some time now but she woke to the sound of her name, "Lauren..."

The voice was soft but she recognised it immediately. It was her dad. She struggled to open her eyes, blinking repeatedly as the bright light above her head caused her pain, "Daddy..." she whispered. She lifted her hand and tried to remove the oxygen mask over her face but he stopped her from doing so.

"Leave it there, babe." He said softly. She could see the tears in his eyes. It wasn't often she saw her dad as emotional as he looked now. "Do you want me to get your mum and sister?" he asked her. She shook her head violently, her face paling as the quick movement and she groaned. "You okay?"

"Gonna be sick..." she whispered. It wasn't the first time she'd said those three words in the last few hours.

He reached for a bowl and removed the mask from her face quickly so she could throw up. There were tears on her face as he helped her roll onto her back. Her hands were clutching her stomach. "How do you feel?"

"In agony..." she whispered.

"I thought they'd given you painkillers?" She shrugged, wincing again. He brushed her hair back from her face, putting the oxygen mask back in place after wiping her mouth. "I'll go and get a nurse..."

"Don't leave..." she said, her hand grabbing his, much tighter than her poor condition would lead you to believe was possible. Max clasped her hand in both of his and lifted it to his mouth, kissing it softly. "I'm sorry..." she whispered, tears falling from her eyes.

"What for?" he asked, frowning at her.

"Being the person I am..." she whispered. She was staring at the ceiling, unable to look at his face, knowing she'd only see disappointment on it. "I wish I'd been a better daughter for you, daddy." she murmured. "I always seem to let you down, don't I?"

"I still love you, babe..." he whispered. "I'll always love you, whatever you do..."

"Am I in trouble for what I did?" she asked.

"Lucy reported you to the police..." he told her.

"I knew she would. It's why I ran..." Lauren muttered. "Do they want to speak to me?" she asked, "They know I'm here, don't they? I guess that's how they got in touch with you..."

"You don't have to worry about it now, babe..." he breathed, his hand brushing her hair back from her face, resting briefly on her forehead. Lauren shut her eyes as she felt the heat of his hand on her face.

"My stomach hurts, daddy..." she murmured.

"I know, babe. I'm sure a nurse will be in shortly and they can give you something to take away the pain..." he reassured her. Even as he spoke the door opened and a nurse came in. He spoke to her quietly and Lauren was soon given a drug to ease the pain she was experiencing. "Is that better?" he asked her after a few minutes. She hummed in response, her eyes closing briefly. "I think your mum and Abs want to see you, babe. You should see them."

"Can't..." she sighed.

"Why not?" he asked.

"I... I don't want them to..." Her eyes opened and locked on his. She didn't need to say anymore. He knew what she was trying to say. "I hope Kirsty has a girl..." she told him. "Maybe you'll do better this time..." she breathed. He couldn't speak for the lump in his throat... this was the last thing he wanted. His eyes flickered to the machines on the other side of her bed and watched the readings briefly, holding his breath. He squeezed her hand in his again. They were both silent for a while until Lauren broke the silence once more. "I'm scared, daddy." she whispered.

"I am too, babe..." He didn't try and hide the tears that ran down his face as she shifted slightly on the bed. He could see the pain was returning even though it had only been a short while since she'd received her last dose. He wished there was some way he could make things better for her. If only she'd been found earlier.

"Daddy, I need you to do something for me..." she whispered, staring at him.

*JL*JL*

The doors to the Vic opened and the pub fell quiet as those present saw two police officers enter the bar. They walked over to the bar and spoke softly to the barmaid who pointed them towards the person they were looking for. Both officers walked over to the table and the group of people stopped their quiet chatter and looked at them. "Lucy Beale?" One of the officers asked.

"Yes... is this about the assault the other night...?" she asked, smiling smugly.

"Yes, we'd like you to come to the station with us, Miss Beale... to answer some questions."

"I gave the officer all the information about what happened a few days ago." She said, looking a little confused.

"We'd like to speak to you about your assault on Lauren Branning..."

"She started the fight!" She said loudly. "You should be speaking to her not me..."

"Unfortunately we're not able to do that," the other officer said.

"You can either come with us voluntarily, Miss Beale, or we'll take you to the station." The original officer said sternly.

"What's all this about, Officer?"

"And you are?"

"Mr Ian Beale, Lucy is my daughter..." he explained.

"We're interested in talking to your daughter about the events of a couple of nights ago..."

"My daughter gave the information about it to the constable who came out to speak to her a the day before yesterday."

"There has been a new development in the case and we need to ask your daughter for some additional information."

"I can come to the station later this afternoon, I've got to go back to work shortly." Lucy said.

The two officers shared a look and the second officer nodded sagely. "Lucy Beale, please stand." She did as they asked, "I'm arresting you for actual bodily harm on Lauren Branning. I'm also arresting you for the manslaughter of Lauren Branning. You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence." There was the sound of soft gasps around the pub as they digested what the officer had just said. "Please turn around Miss Beale." Lucy did as she was told, her face pale as she absorbed everything that was happening. Handcuffs were put on her wrists and she was led out of the pub.

The group gathered at the table looked towards the one person who wasn't sat with them, having been at the bar when the police walked into the room. Two pints of beer were gripped in his hands as he stood rooted to the spot, his expression tight, pain radiating from his eyes.

The door opened and Jack walked in. He'd seen the police car leaving the square as he was walking over to the pub. He'd jogged the remainder of the way, having got the call from Max about ten minutes earlier. He saw his nephew as soon as he was through the door and could see everyone watching the young man who'd just received the worst news anyone could ever hear. He strode over to him, prizing the glasses from his hands and placing them back on the bar. He shared a look with Alfie, acknowledging with that one glance that it was true. "Joey..." he said softly, turning back to his nephew.

"What happened?" he whispered, his voice barely audible despite the silence.

"It was a ruptured spleen..." he told him, loud enough that most of the pub heard. This was not a conversation he was going to want to have twice. "By the time they found her, it was too late to successfully operate. She was bleeding internally and had been for two days. They made her as comfortable as they could."

"Why didn't anyone call me?"

"She didn't want to see anyone... Max was with her. He was the only one she would see." He said gently. "She wouldn't even see Tanya or Abi..." he added. "She didn't want that to be their last memory of her."

Joey took a deep breath, slightly shakier than Jack was sure he would've liked although he was pretty sure Joey didn't care what anyone thought at the moment. He was also fairly sure Joey wasn't even aware of anyone else even being around him. "I want to see her..." he whispered.

"I can take you to the hospital..." he told him. Everyone watched them as the elder man led Joey from the pub.

*JL*JL*

Joey and Jack walked into the hospital, finding Max standing, waiting for them. "They've arrested her." Jack told him as he hugged his elder brother tightly.

"Good." He said hoarsely. Max glanced at Joey. "How is he?"

"He wants to see her..." Jack said softly.

"I can take him in..." Max murmured. "Can you look after Tan and Abs?" He asked his brother. "I can't..." his words drifted off and Jack nodded, knowing how difficult this was for him. This was the second time he'd watched one of his children die. Jack understood the pain it invoked to lose a child all too well.

*JL*JL*

Max walked back into the room where she was with his nephew, his arm supporting Joey as they moved through the door. She was still lying on the bed, the machines around her now blessedly silent. Joey froze beside him, his eyes fixed on her. Tension was coursing through his body. Joey glanced at his uncle, such sadness across his whole face that Max knew was also reflected on his own. Joey's eyes, more than anything, held such pain and it showed Max just how much his nephew loved his daughter, despite the ending of their relationship several weeks ago.

Joey turned back to the bed and took a couple of stilted steps towards it. Max held his breath as he watched Joey bend down and kiss Lauren on the mouth. "I love you, Lauren." He whispered to her, even though she was past the point of being able to hear him. "I will always love you." His hand reached shakily for her hair and he pushed it back and tucked it behind her ear. "See... I've just done the hair thing that I know you love...d." He lowered his head so his forehead was resting on her chest and Max heard him softly crying. He walked back out of the room, giving him some privacy for his grief.

Max leant against the wall opposite the door, trying to come to terms with what had happened. It was an impossible task. There was no way of ever recovering from this. Ever since he'd received the call from the hospital and had made the dash here, he had been on a rollercoaster of emotions. Actually the ride had begun several days ago after that little bitch pressed charges against his daughter. It possibly was even further back than that when the same person was responsible for the demise of his daughter's relationship. Lauren had had a heart to heart with him a week ago, telling him everything that had happened. And he'd believed her. He'd looked straight into her eyes and had seen the devastation and he knew, despite her many faults and problems, she wasn't lying about what had happened. He'd tried to help her, trying to get her to stop drinking but it was a battle he was always destined to lose as her pain at losing not only her friends but the love of the one person she'd needed in the world had weighed too heavily on her. When the police had arrived at the door of the family home two days earlier, Tanya had called him in a panic and he'd run over to the house. Both had been shocked by what Lucy was alleging against their daughter but apparently there had been witnesses who'd backed up her story. Max and Jack had gone out to search for her, hoping to find her so they could take her to the police station, rather than them picking her up but they hadn't been able to find her. Then fifteen hours ago his mobile had rung and it was the police, notifying him that Lauren was at the hospital he now stood in. Jack had driven him there and he'd been given the heartbreaking news that Lauren had been found but it was unlikely she would survive the night.

She'd lasted longer than anyone had anticipated her doing but it was almost a relief when she'd taken her final breath. While it had been horrible to see Bradley die, the quickness of it happening making it all the more painful for him. Seeing Lauren suffer through those last few hours had been twice as bad. At the end he'd almost wished it was over so she could be at peace.

One thing that had surprised him was the fact she wanted to see him; or maybe it was that she wanted to see him but not the rest of the family. Their relationship had been sorely tested over a larger amount of her life than he'd like to admit and it had rarely been as bad as it'd been since Christmas. He'd wondered briefly if she was punishing him for his actions by making him watch her in those last moments but in truth he knew she was just a scared little girl who'd needed her dad's strength as she fought her last battle.

Max stepped back towards the room and peeked through the window. Joey was now sat in the same chair he'd been sitting in for more hours than he'd expected, his head resting on her hand, clutching it between both his. Max could see his shoulders were shaking and he shared the same sentiment.

*JL*JL*

Joey's focus was on the wooden box in the middle of the room. The box that contained his heart; his life. He'd been here since first thing that morning. He wanted to sit in the room, spending time alone with her before he had to say goodbye to her with everyone else.

He'd cut himself off from everyone in the last ten days, part of him had died with Lauren and he wasn't sure he would ever be able to get past this. He needed her in his life, the last few weeks had shown him that. If only she'd known that he'd been looking for her that night; that he wanted them to get back together and he knew she'd been telling her the truth that fateful night in the pub.

He'd asked them to open the coffin so he could see her one last time and had made sure he pushed her hair behind her ear in a final gesture of love. She was wearing the dress he loved on her, the purple one she'd been wearing when they'd smashed up the stock at the Emporium together. She'd also been wearing it the day after the afternoon he'd spent cuffed to a metal flower... when she'd tried to slap him for a second time.

He took a box out of his pocket and opened the lid. Inside was a ring he'd got for her about three weeks before they'd split up. It wasn't an engagement ring but it was a ring he had planned to give her to show her he was serious about her and about their relationship. He'd never got that opportunity though and he wanted her to have it now... because he was still serious about her and their relationship. There was a necklace around her neck and he unfastened it and slipped the ring onto the chain. It was soon resting on her chest, around her neck once more. "What am I going to do without you, babe, eh?" he whispered, staring at her face intently. "This wasn't how things were supposed to be. It was supposed to be me and you against the world." He lifted his head and stared at the ceiling, feeling the pain in his chest tighten as he thought about living in a world without her. "I don't know if I can do this anymore..." he told her. "I thought splitting up with you was the hardest thing I ever had to do but it was much easier than this. At least then I would still see you; around the square; in the pub or at R&R's... Now though I know I'm never going to see you again and it hurts. It hurts so badly, babe. What do I do now, eh? I'm going to leave Walford, I think." He told her softly. "I can't stay there anymore... too painful..." He's silent for several minutes, the funeral directors standing at the edge of the room. "They've charged Lucy..." he said. "She tried to say you did it to yourself but they didn't believe her. Apparently they're cleverer than me... they saw straight through her lies. What were you doing with an idiot like me? How could I not see how evil and twisted she was? I'm so sorry, Lauren; I wish things could've been different..." His fingers brushed the front of her hair back again and he bent down and softly kissed her cold forehead. "I love you, Lauren Branning and I always will. Look after my heart, babe because you own it... and I want you to keep it with you forever." He stepped back and nodded to the funeral director and allowed him to close the lid on her coffin and seal it again. He watched her face for as long as he could until she was hidden from view. It tore his heart in two to know he would never see that face again.

*JL*JL*

The service had been short; most of the people present were too shocked by what had happened. Joey sat alone, needing the solitude, knowing he wouldn't be able to get through these minutes any other way. Soon the curtain was closing and then she was gone forever. His heart was ripped to shreds in those moments and he knew there would be no recovering from this.

The room emptied but he stayed sat where he was. Each person who had come over to speak to him had left when he didn't respond to their well meaning words. He wasn't sure what to do. He didn't want to leave. He wanted to stay here with her. He sighed... he couldn't stay here, he knew that and she wasn't even here anymore. Everybody left him eventually. He was alone.

*JL*JL*

Joey lay in his bed, staring up at the ceiling. He had been lying here for two days now, ever since the funeral. The door to his room was locked so although Kat and Alice had tried to get him to leave the room, knocking on the door for minutes at a time. He'd ignored them. He didn't want to move from where he was. The only time he left his room was in the dead of night when he slipped down to the kitchen and had some food and a drink, enough for him to survive barely.

*JL*JL*

They were scattering her ashes today. Alice had told him as much through the door. For the first time in a week he moved from his bed while it was still daylight and dressed in some clothes he picked up from the floor. It was the suit he'd worn to her funeral and it looked just like it had been torn from his body and screwed up on the floor but he really didn't care. He shrugged on his jacket and slowly opened the door and went down the stairs. Alice appeared at the door of the lounge, watching him in concern and he guessed she was probably justified in that because he knew he looked a mess. He hadn't even brushed his hair and he hadn't shaved in over a week either. What was the point really? His reason for being was gone and there seemed little need to waste his time because he just didn't care what anyone thought anymore. He glanced at her, "Where?" he asked, his voice croaky from non-use.

"They haven't decided. Uncle Max wondered if you knew of somewhere..."

"What time?" he asked.

"At lunchtime..." she told him.

He nodded and walked towards the front door. "I'll see you then." He whispered before walking out of the house.

*JL*JL*

Max opened the door to number 5 and stared at his nephew. He was barely recognisable from the boy who'd arrived at the square almost a year ago. "Come in, Joey." He said softly.

Joey went through the front door and he felt closer to her somehow. He walked into the lounge and saw a picture of him and Lauren on the side. It had been taken at Jack's almost wedding to Sharon; before she found out about Kirsty being pregnant, which had spoilt the day for them somewhat. "That's new..." he said softly.

"It's one of the few times she was happy..." Tanya said softly, standing beside him and staring at the same photo.

He glanced at her. "I'm so sorry, Auntie Tanya..."

"It's not your fault, is it?" she told him.

"It feels like it should be..." he whispered. He was staring at the picture, the pain coming back to his chest as he took in how happy the two of them had looked. "I miss her..."

"We all do, Joey..." Max said, moving to stand the other side of him.

"Alice said you weren't sure where to scatter her ashes?" he whispered.

"Yeah... was there somewhere important to her?"

"I think she'd like to be with Bradley..." he said softly, glancing at his uncle and see the pain wash over his face. "She told me about the tree you planted for him..."

"I can't believe I didn't think of that..." Max said.

"She wouldn't want everyone there..." he added. "She hated being the centre of attention... she'd just want the fi...four of you and Uncle Jack."

"She'd want you there too, Joey." Tanya said. "And Alice should be there."

"I don't think she would want me there..." he whispered.

Max reached inside his coat, "She wanted me to give you this..." he said, holding an envelope out towards him, "She got me to write it just before..." he stopped talking and turned away from them. "God..." he whispered as a fresh wave of grief ravaged his body.

Joey stared at the object in his uncle's hand. He longed to reach for it and take it from him but at the same time he didn't want to read her words.

"She'd want you to read it, Joey." Tanya said softly, taking the envelope from her ex-husband and passing it to her nephew. It was almost as if she could read his mind. Was he that transparent?

"Thanks." He said, still staring at it as he clutched it in his hand. He eventually slipped it into his jacket. "Shall I call Uncle Jack and Alice?" he suggested.

"Yeah," Max whispered, emotions clearly heard in his voice.

*JL*JL*

The family gathered near the tree they had planted to commemorate Bradley just a few years ago. Alice was clutching Abi's hand, her arm around her shoulder as they both fought tears. She had tried to be there for Joey, of course, but he'd pushed her away. Jack was holding Oscar in his arms, his head was resting on Jack's shoulder. Joey wondered how much of this the young boy understood. Tanya and Max were standing side by side, hands entwined, trying to give each other the strength to get through this. Both looked a picture of misery and Joey knew exactly how they were feeling.

"Go on, Max..." Tanya said softly.

"Joey should do this..." he said, staring at his nephew.

"I can't..." he said, shaking his head furiously.

"Joey..." Max said. "She would want you to do this..."

He took a deep breath and stepped forward, taking the urn from Tanya. He hoped no one noticed how his hand shook as he unscrewed the lid. He crouched beside the tree and started to pour the ashes around the base. "Bye babe..." he whispered.

*JL*JL*

He'd left her behind an hour after everyone else had gone, having to psych himself up to take the first step from her. He slowly walked to the road and caught a taxi back to the square. He got out of the cab and stood in the centre of the square for a few minutes. The envelope was burning a hole in his pocket and he knew he needed to read it. He shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and walked to the place he felt closest to Lauren; the playground where he first told her he loved her. It was a place that held many happy memories for him.

He sat on the same bench and pulled the letter out. He knew the next few minutes would be really tough but he wanted to read what she'd wanted to say to him so badly. He took a deep breath before sliding his thumb into the envelope and tearing it open. He recognised the writing as his uncle's but at the bottom, in writing that was a messy version of hers were a few words written by Lauren's own hand.

My darling Joey,

I'm sorry that I can't be with you anymore. I understand why you did what you did and I know you were right to do so. I have a problem with alcohol and you know I find it difficult to trust people. I rarely open up to people because I've been hurt so many times... but I guess there's no time like the present. I don't think I'm going to get another chance to do this so this is me, opening up to you.

It was such a big decision for me, getting together with you but I don't regret any of it. Sure, we had difficult times but we're both Branning's so I guess the perfect happy relationship was always going to be a struggle for us. I can honestly say I knew the moment I met you that you were the perfect guy for me and I just wish I'd been the perfect girlfriend. I'm sorry I held myself back from you so many times. I think I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt... but just ended up hurting myself in the process.

When I found out who you were it was like a punch to the gut... oh the irony of that... I wanted you so badly but I knew we would face so many barriers if we were to get together so I did what I do best and I pushed you away. Then you got together with her and I guess that was our first mistake. I knew as soon as she got her claws into you, I stood no chance. I never realised just how far she would take it though.

When we got together I don't think I've even been so happy, despite all the issues we faced by getting together. The first time we made love was the most perfect moment of my life but I ruined it with the guilt I felt afterwards. I have a habit of ruining things in my life but spoiling our relationship is my biggest regret.

When I ran from the square the other night, the one person I wanted to see was you. I felt like you would be able to save me; whether that was from myself or from the circumstance I now find myself in, I'm not sure.

I'm so sorry for disappointing you in the last few weeks and don't try to deny it, I know I did. I disappointed myself too but it wasn't until I was lying here that I recognised how low I'd sunk. And I finally understood why you did what you did.

I love you so much, Joey. I love the passion in your eyes when you look at me. I love the way you gave me the confidence to be the person I wanted to be. I wish I'd had the confidence to tell you what I was struggling with and to ask for your help. I'm an idiot but I'm an idiot who loves you.

I wish I had the courage to see you before I... Sorry I can't bring myself, or my dad, to finish that sentence. I wish I could allow myself one last chance to see you but I know it would just be too painful for me to see you and know it would be for the last time. I guess I'm a coward but there's a large part of me that doesn't want you to be put through that either.

I want you to do something for me, Joey. I want you to live your life to the full. I want you to fall in love with someone and live the life we could've had together if I hadn't been so stupid. I want you to be happy, babe. That's all I've ever wanted for you and I hope that for at least some of the time we were together, I made you happy.

Promise me you'll do what I've asked, Joey. I'd hate for you to be miserable. You could make someone really happy. You made me happy... you may not have seen it all the time, but I really was.

I love you Joseph Branning and I will for the rest of my life.

Lauren

xx

Joey sat in stunned silence for several minutes after reading the letter through three times. Tears were falling down his face faster and faster with each read through. He carefully folded the letter back up, his thumb brushing over her messy signature and the kisses beneath. Placing the letter back in the envelope, he then put it into his wallet, promising to himself to keep it safe. It meant too much to him, just like she had.

He got to his feet. He knew what he had to do. He walked back to number 23 and up to his room. No one else was home. It didn't take him long to gather up all his stuff and soon he was walking back out of the house and across the square. He knocked on the door of her house and after a small pause it was opened by his uncle. "Joey..." His eyes scanned down and saw the bag of clothes at his feet. "You're leaving?"

"I need to get away for a while..." he whispered. He could see the understanding on his uncle's face. "I read the letter..." he told him, "Thank you... I'm sure it wasn't easy for you to do that for her."

"I'd do anything for my children..." he replied.

"Can you look after Alice for me?" Joey whispered. "Explain to her...?"

"I will... We all will." Joey picked up his bag and began back down the stairs, "Joey..." His nephew turned back to look at him, "She loved you very much... Every word of that letter she meant from the heart."

"I know..."

"You were the only one she asked me to write a letter for..." he told him softly. Joey stared at him in silence, his heart being torn apart all over again. Joey turned to face the bottom of the stairs again and took a step, "Take care, Joey. We'll still be here when you want to come back."

Joey walked away from the square, his bag over his shoulder. It had been less than a year since he'd arrived in Walford but it had changed him completely. Now his life was torn apart all over again. He'd found and lost the love of his life. He was suffering a pain he never wanted to experience again but he didn't regret his relationship with Lauren. Despite what her letter said he knew it would be impossible for him to open himself up to this kind of pain in the future. He'd rather be alone for the rest of his life than love someone else as much as he'd loved her. He wasn't even sure he could love someone as much as that again. It hurt too much when it was over.

He walked through the market, stopping briefly at one of the stalls. He walked back to Lauren, needing to see her and speak to her one last time before he left. "Hey babe..." he whispered as he knelt next to the tree. He placed the small bunch of roses at the base of the tree. "I hope you like the flowers. First time I've ever bought them for a girl and meant it. That's how much you mean to me, Lauren. I've read your letter and I'll think about what you asked me to do. I'm not sure I want something like what we had with anyone else. It will never be the same or as good as what we had. No one else could make me as happy as you did, babe." He took a deep breath and bit his lip as his emotions began to climb again, "I'm leaving the square for a while. I need to get away from everything that reminds me of you for a bit... It's still too raw being here. I just can't do it but I will be back, Lauren. I can't stay away from you too long, I told you that at Christmas and I meant it. I still do." He swallowed the lump that was building in his throat, "I need to leave now... or I'll never go. Take care, babe. I love you. I'll see you again soon, I promise." He got to his feet and stared one last time at the bunch of flowers before turning and walking away from her.

THE END.

A/N: Like I said, this had better not be something we see in the show... However, I do feel a bit better for having written it and it somehow makes what we've seen on the show not seem quite so bad.

Anyway, I hope to be back with Sanctuary as soon as possible...