So here it is... the last chapter. Sad to see this end, I have to admit - although I think I say that every time I finish a story! Thanks to everyone who has reviewed. I've replied to most of them but obviously the guest reviews I can't... so thanks because your reviews make me want to keep writing.
Now as for my new story... well it's not a new story as such - more a continuation of a previous story but I won't tell you which because I'm cruel like that. This story has taken on a bit of a life of it's own so it's unlikely I'll start posting until the end of the week.
Chapter 40: Before Sunset.
It had been eight months since Joey and Lauren moved in together and things were going from strength to strength. They had, obviously, had their ups and downs over that period of time... both being fiery characters but there were many more ups than downs and their relationship became closer as the time passed. Lauren had got into the Art College and she was due to start next week. She was really excited about it but also a little apprehensive that she wasn't going to be good enough. There was also something else on her mind that Joey had noticed but she wasn't ready to talk to him about it yet.
"You okay, baby?" Joey asked as she walked out of their bedroom, dressed in her skinny jeans and a low cut top. They were going over for dinner at her parents. It was a weekly pattern that had been established about a month after they'd moved into the flat. It gave Lauren a chance to still see her brother and sister and while things between them and her parents were still a little frosty, there had been a slight thaw.
"I'm fine... just tired. I finished getting things ready for college today and I think I might have overdone it a little."
"You sure you want to go over to your parents?" he asked, seeing the tiredness in her eyes. He knew that whatever was on her mind had been causing her to not sleep well in the last week and he wished she would open up to him about it but he knew he was just going to have to give her time.
"We've got to... Abi and Oscar have been looking forward to us being there and we don't want mum and dad to have another reason to hate us."
"We don't have to stay too late... we can leave once Oscar's gone to bed, if you'd like."
"I'll see how I feel..." she said. She walked into the kitchen and came back with a dish to take over to her mum's. It had become a habit for Lauren and Joey to take a pudding with them.
"LAUR!" Oscar said, running down the stairs and throwing himself at his sister.
"Hey..." she said, smiling at her baby brother. "How was school today?" He took her hand and dragged her into the lounge, both of them sitting on the couch and he started to tell her about school. Joey took the dish off her and went into the kitchen with it.
"Joey..." Tanya said as she took it from him.
"It's apple crumble." He said as she peeked under the foil covered top.
"Can you ask Abi to set the table for me, please?"
"Sure." Joey said, walking into the lounge and asking Lauren's sister to do as his aunt had said. He helped her with it, earning himself a smile from the blonde. Once he was done he went and sat next to Lauren, her reaching for his hand and glancing at him briefly before returning her attention back to her brother.
"Hi Oscar... How did your football match go the other day?" Joey had spent a couple of hours at the weekend with Oscar, practicing scoring with the five year old for a game he was playing in this week.
"I scored a goal, Joey..." Oscar said, a huge grin on his face.
"Good job...!" Joey said, holding his hand up and Oscar high fiving him. Lauren watched the pair interact and smiled as she saw the two of them. Joey was really like a big brother to Oscar and her brother idolised Joey. Whenever they saw Oscar, her brother was a bundle of hyperactive energy, flitting between her and her boyfriend, vying for their attention.
"Dinner's ready... everyone sit at the table..." Tanya called through from the kitchen.
"Come on, Oscar... let's go and wash our hands." Joey said, standing and lifting the young boy up in his arms. The two of them went up the stairs, returning a minute later and sitting at the table, either side of Lauren.
"Where's dad, mum?"
"Oh, he had to go out tonight." She said distractedly.
Lauren frowned and Joey reached over and squeezed her thigh. This wasn't the first time her dad had skipped the weekly meal. Of the two of her parents, her dad was definitely the one who disapproved of their relationship more than Tanya... not that she was too enthusiastic about them either.
The meal was tense and Joey noticed several times where Lauren bit her lip to stop from responding to a biting comment from her mum. Much as he wanted to stand up for his girl, he knew he couldn't say anything because it would just cause more tension.
"So you start college next week then, Lauren?" Tanya said.
"Yeah..." she replied softly.
Her mum stared at her eldest daughter, frowning slightly. "Are you sure you're doing the right thing, Lauren?"
"Don't start, mum." Lauren said. This wasn't the first time this conversation had happened.
"I'm just thinking of you... I don't want you to feel pressurised or overwhelmed."
"Mum, stop it." Abi snapped. "Lauren will be fine. Try and give her the benefit of the doubt... I think she's going to do amazingly well at college." She smiled at her sister softly.
"I need to get some air..." Lauren whispered, standing suddenly and the chair she was sitting on toppling over in her rush to get away from the table.
"Baby..." Joey called after her but she ignored him and ran out of the front door. Joey turned to Tanya, "I think this arrangement needs to end... we won't be coming for dinner each week anymore. It just upsets Lauren too much..."
"But..." Tanya started, glancing at her other two children, knowing how upset they would be if they didn't get to see their sister.
"Abi and Oscar can come over to ours for dinner each week instead." Joey said, glancing at Abi and seeing her nod her head. "Now, I'm going to go and see how Lauren is..." he said. He walked over to where Oscar set, seeing the little boy look upset and crouched next to his chair, "She's okay, Oscar. Don't worry... How about Lauren and I come and collect you from school tomorrow and we can help you with your homework." He glanced at Tanya and she nodded her head... albeit reluctantly. "Now are you going to give me a hug? I'll pass it on to your sister for you." He said to Oscar.
Oscar wrapped his arms around Joey's neck and hugged him tightly. "Tell Laur I love her lots..." he whispered to his cousin.
"I will, Oscar." Joey stood up and walked out of the house, squeezing Abi's shoulder as he walked past her.
Oscar looked at his mum, "Please may I be excused from the table...?" he asked in a whisper.
"You haven't finished your dinner."
"I'm not hungry..." he added.
"Okay," she sighed.
He got up from his seat and ran from the room, running upstairs to his bedroom and slamming the door.
"Well done, mum." Abi said softly.
"It's not my fault, Abs..." Tanya protested.
"There wasn't anyone else who started having a go at her, was there?" Abi said, tidying up the half-empty plates that were scattered around the table. "If they leave Walford because of tonight, I will never forgive you and I don't think Oscar will either." She added.
Joey saw Lauren sitting in the middle of the square on a bench and he remembered it was the one they'd been sitting on just after the arrangement ended. He walked over to her and sat next to her, putting his arm around her shoulders, pulling her against his body, "I've told your mum we won't be going over there again for dinner... Abi and Oscar will come to ours once a week for their dinner so we'll still get to see them." He turned his head and kissed her temple gently.
"Okay..." she said.
"Do you want to go home?" he whispered to her.
"Can we stay here...? Maybe watch the sunset?" she asked him, glancing up at his face.
"Of course we can..." He smiled, staring into her eyes.
"That evening on the beach... I was so happy that night..." she whispered.
"Aren't you happy now?" he asked her in concern.
"Of course I am... but it's different now. That night, I didn't have any worries, you know. I liked it when no one knew about us being together... even we didn't know we were together, not really. It was easier... now everything is more complicated..."
"And you don't like it now?" he asked, not really reassured by her answer.
"I do, Joe. I love what we have... but it's like that sunset, yeah?"
"You're going to need to explain it to me, baby."
"You remember how I said that it was like one thing ending and another thing beginning..." she murmured, resting her head on his shoulder and watching the sky turn red and purple.
"I remember..." His eyes locked on the sunset too but after a couple of minutes silence he shifted his gaze to look at Lauren instead. "Babe..." She looked up at him and he saw her eyes were filled with tears. "Are you saying you want to end this?" he asked her in a whisper, devastation running through him.
"I saying that it's time for something new..." she said, a tear falling from an eye and running down her face.
"I'm still not understanding you, baby..."
"That's it..." she whispered.
"Are you planning on doing anything in seven months time, Joe?" she asked.
"Should I be?"
"Probably..." she whispered, glancing down at her lap.
He reached over and lifted her chin, "Talk to me." He whispered.
"I took a test last week... and the doctor confirmed it this morning... I'm... we're... pregnant, Joe."
"Baby...?" he gasped.
She nodded, "Exactly, Joe. Everything's going to change now... I'm not sure we're ready for this."
He leant forward and kissed her deeply, his heart pounding in his chest, pulling her against his body. "Baby... I don't think you realise just how happy you've made me..." he whispered to her.
"Really?" she asked, "We don't have to do this..." she told him, "I'd understand if it's not what you want..."
"Don't you want this?" he asked her, freezing when he heard her last words.
"I do, Joe... more than pretty much anything in this world but if it means losing you, then... I don't know, I guess I'd have to rethink it."
He pulled her against his side and turned his attention back to the sunset, "Let's watch the sunset... then I'm going to take you home and make love to you... and show you just how much I want this, baby."
"I want this too... I don't think I realised how much until I told you about it..." she murmured.
The sun had set as they spoke and Joey softly kissed her forehead, "Let's go home, baby..." He held his hand out to her as he stood and pulled her to her feet when she stood. His other hand lifted, brushing her hair back from her face and tucking behind her ear before his finger gently ran down her jaw as he lifted her face so he could kiss her again. "I love you, baby." His other hand lifted both their hands and slipped inside her jacket and settling on her still flat stomach. "There's a little bit of you and me in here, Lauren. It's part of us, made from our love."
"So you don't think it's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing that amazing could be wrong, babe." He kissed her again, "Let's go home..." he said softly.
Joey stopped her from walking up to the front door, bending and lifting her off her feet. "This again, Joe?" she giggled.
"I figured today was an important day... It's worthy of me treating you like a princess."
"Are you going to be like this for the next seven months?" she whispered in his ear.
"Maybe..." he admitted.
"Okay..." she said, smiling at him.
Joey carefully starting removing her clothes as they stood in the centre of their bedroom. "I'm not made of glass, Joe..."
"I do know that..." he whispered, placing a tender kiss on her shoulder. "You said I could treat you like a princess... that's what I'm doing. I've got two of you to be protective of now... and I'm going to make sure nothing happens to either of you."
Lauren smiled, a blush colouring her cheeks. "You're my perfect man, Joe." She whispered. Her hands lifted to his shirt and she began to undo the buttons.
"You're taking your time..." he said with a smile.
"Well, I could rip it off you..." she said, looking up at him. He winked at her and she took that as a yes. Using strength she hadn't realised she had, she grabbed both sides of his shirt and tore it open, buttons pinging across the room. It turned out when she was horny she could do just about anything she wanted. She kissed his chest as she eased his shirt off his shoulders and arms so it eventually dropped to the floor. She then moved onto his jeans and when they dropped to his ankles he stepped out of them. She repeated the task with his boxers and circled his length with his hand. "Do you know how much I want you now?" she asked in a whisper as his cock hardened.
"I think I can guess..." he said, his fingers slipped inside her knickers and he brushed her clit gently, causing her to moan. "I want you too, baby." Her knickers were pushed to her knees and she eased them off her feet. He lifted her and she wrapped her legs around his waist. Taking a step forward Joey lowered her gently to the bed and then eased his cock inside her. Both of them moaned and Joey began to slowly make love to her. "Are you sure this is okay? I'm not hurting the baby?" he whispered.
"Joe, baby's about the size of a peanut I think, you really don't need to worry."
"Okay." He murmured. His mouth met hers in a soft kiss that did wonderful things to her. The man had a very talented mouth.
"Oh, Joe..." she gasped, feeling her arousal climbing further.
He rolled them over so he was now beneath her, his hands settling on her hips and helping her move on his length. He stared into her eyes intently as she tightened on him, he was so close now. "Baby...?"
"Marry me..." he whispered, his eyes locked on her face, watching for every emotion to wash over her face, trying to find some sign for what she'd say.
Lauren stared at his face, seeing the vulnerability at his words to her. He really thought she was going to say no... Silly boy. "Okay." She said, smiling at him shyly.
Joey paused her movements on him, freezing as she answered him so simply. "Really?"
"I said I would say yes..." she whispered.
"I was worried you might've changed your mind." He said.
"I'm having your child... why would I not want to marry you?" She tilted her head, unused to seeing the unsure side of her boyfriend. He was usually so cocksure of himself... She leant forward and kissed him, her hips shifting on him, "I want you in my life forever, Joey. I want to marry you. I want this child with you and I want us to grow disgustingly old with each other."
"I want that too, baby."
"Good... now are you going to make me come?" she asked with a smirk.
"Do I ever disappoint you?" he asked.
"Never have so far..." she whispered.
"Never intend to, baby." He pushed his body upright, taking her with him and wrapped his arms around her. "I can't wait until it shows..." he murmured against her mouth.
"So you'll still love when I'm the size of a beached whale?" she asked him, rising and falling on his lap.
He inhaled sharply as he felt her constrict on him further. "I will love you forever... I have loved you since the moment I saw you. I knew when I suggested the arrangement that I was taking a big risk... I wanted to show you how much I loved you and I hoped you would return those feelings... Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be at this stage though. I never thought it would become a serious relationship. I've never been in such an intense relationship." He saw she was biting her lip and he kissed her passionately. "I know you've grown up with your dad repeatedly telling your mum how much he loved her... but I really really mean this, baby. I will never do what your dad has done. I can't imagine myself ever being with anyone else because nobody has made me feel the way you do... and I don't think anyone ever could. Do you believe me?" In his head he was pleading with her to believe him... he knew she struggled with trusting people.
She was staring into his eyes. "I think I knew our arrangement was going to go wrong as well. I don't know if I loved you when I first saw you... but I did have some pretty intense feelings that confused me slightly. That's never changed, Joe. I believe you. I know you're not like my dad... just like I know you're not like your dad as well."
Joey pressed his thumb against her clit and watched as her eyes rolled back in her head. She came with a scream, her hands clutching at his shoulders tightly as she came really hard. "I love you, baby... both of you." He groaned, his mouth pressing against her shoulder, his hands cupping her breasts as he came powerfully inside her.
"What are you planning to do about college, baby?" Joey asked as they lay entwined with each other.
"I'm going to speak to my tutor next week..." She whispered. "I'll find out what my options are... I can't be the first pregnant student they've had, right?"
"I'm sure you're not. We'll work it out, baby." Joey kissed her softly on the head.
Lauren clung to Joey as they lay in their bed, silence between them for some time. "I'm really glad you're my best friend, Joe... but more than anything I'm glad you're my boyfriend... well, fiancé now I guess." She whispered.
"Me too, baby." He said, pulling her a little closer to him. He pressed his lips to her forehead and smiled against her skin. His best friend was the most amazing girl he'd ever met. She was the first person he'd loved and she would be the last. Never had he been so grateful for coming to Walford. Maybe he should be thankful his dad reappeared on the scene after all.
A/N: So did you like the ending? Yeah, I know I've left it open... but at the same time I think it was the right place to end it too. I hope you agree. Also, I was starting to run out of films that fitted. Anyway, no doubt you'll be hearing from me again soon.