So it seems I'm not done with this story yet (after a bit of persuasion). I can't promise how frequent the updates will be... they'll be (sort of) based on episodes so if there are plenty of Jauren moments... it will probably give me the urge to write. No promises though... this could be the end. Oh and a change of rating - so I guess you know where this is going, right? Or do you...

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved tonight's episode but this is what I would've liked to have seen...

Chapter 2.

LAUREN POV.

I woke up the morning after the night before and for the first time I didn't wake up already planning how to get through the day. I woke up thinking of one thing only. Joey. I had a smile on my face which was also something relatively new for me. Really, Joey should be prescribed as therapy... for me at least. I haven't felt this amazing for longer than I can remember. I don't even feel like I need to go for a run this morning but I'm going to go anyway... after last night, I'd be silly not to.

*JL*JL*

Ten minutes later I'm heading out of the front door, spending a few minutes stretching before I start my run.

"Alright?"

I spin round to face him, surprised by his sudden appearance. I wasn't expecting to see him yet. My heart picks up as I see that he's wearing his running gear. "Joey..." I say softly.

"Seeing as you've started running... I thought maybe it was something we could do together..." He said. I wanted to laugh because he looked shy. This was a side of Joey I didn't get to see very often. It was a side of him that I liked to call my own and it made me love him all the more.

"I'd like that..." I tell him, shoving my iPod back in my pocket.

"You ready then?" he asks and I nod my head. We start off at a gentle pace and I can tell he's going easy on me. I start to run a little faster and hear him chuckle slightly, picking up his own pace to match mine. I ignore Auntie Carol as we run past her and I know she's judging me for being with Joey. After what she said to me yesterday I know she blames him for what happened to me but I know it was nothing to do with Joey. My problems were much more deep seated than that.

The run continued and I have to admit it was better running with someone than running on my own. He pushed me further than I would normally take it and by the time we got back to the square I was knackered. "Thanks Joey..." I tell him as we both warm down. Really, I'm not looking at his physique... I'm not... oh, who am I trying to kid? Wouldn't you?

"You don't need to thank me, babe." He said, pulling me out of my thoughts. "I told you I'd be with you every step of the way."

"I didn't think you meant literally." I said, smiling at him. I glanced towards my house, "You want to come in for a coffee?" I ask him.

He looked at his watch, "Yeah, okay... I'd like that a lot." He follows me into the house and I walk through to the kitchen, flicking on the kettle. We're back at the scene of the crime from yesterday and it's starting to freak me out. I'm facing away from him and I grip the surface tightly with my hands. Why is this so awkward? He must be able to see the tension in me because he breaks the silence, "Maybe I should go..."

"No, Joey, it's fine." I spun round to face him and he's standing in exactly the same place as he was yesterday. "Sorry..." I whisper.

He walks over to me this time, "What are you apologising for?" he asks me softly.

"I don't seem to know how to talk anymore... not without a drink in me." I look at the floor, "No one's going to want to hang out with me now... I'm the boring one who can't drink..."

"Hey..." he whispered, his fingers lifting my chin so I have to look at him, "Does it look like I don't want to hang out with you, eh?" I shake my head but I can't stop the tears from welling in my eyes. Neither of us stops it when his head moves towards mine and when our lips meet a tear falls down my face. The boiling kettle pulls us apart and I turn to make the coffees, sighing in frustration. It's awkward again, even more so in some ways once we're sitting down with our drinks and I'm starting to hate the silence. My mind starts to plan how to keep myself busy for the rest of the day... when did this day start to go wrong?

After a tense ten minutes he downs the rest of his drink and makes his excuse to leave. I can't say I blame him. I did warn him I was boring now.

*JL*JL*

I walked towards the club with Lucy and Whitney and it was nice. After the pep talk with Kirsty I felt a bit better and the last hour or so with the girls, it was like it had been a few years earlier; the time before I started drinking.

I can't say it was easy being in the club and those non-alcoholic cocktails were grim... it's no wonder people drink if that's what's on offer! So I switch to the diet coke and insist that the girls have something alcoholic. I guess that was my first mistake.

*JL*JL*

I come back from calling my dad and there's definitely an atmosphere at the table. Joey's there and I soon work out that there is something he doesn't want me to know. Of course, my mind automatically assumes it has something to do with Lucy and him... until Whitney tells me everything.

She slept with him.

He slept with her.

At least I know what it was that ended her relationship with Tyler now... but I really wish I didn't. I try to pass it off as if I don't care and I'm surprised when they let me leave just a minute later with a feeble excuse about my dad needing me to go home. Do I mean that little to them that they can't see this has broken my heart?

I'm walking out of the club and there it is on the bar. Temptation in an ice cold glass. No one notices that I pick it up as I walk past. Maybe I've mastered the art of invisibility since obtaining my sobriety. It shouldn't be an issue soon, that's for certain.

*JL*JL*

His words from the previous night come back to me.

He doesn't want to be the reason that I don't get better properly.

The meaning behind what he said now makes much more sense to me. I can see everything with a clarity that I've never had before. He was talking about this thing between him and Whitney. He KNEW I would find out what happened. He knew what my finding out would do... and yet he's not here. He's not here with me. He didn't come after me.

The glass is beside me and it's like there's this little bad me whispering in my ear, telling me to drink it. It's difficult to ignore and my hand is shaking when I pick up the glass. The good side of me is fighting every fraction I move the glass closer and it's only when the liquid is in my mouth that the good side wins. I spit it all out – the words of the consultant ringing through my ears. Just one drink could kill me; which is odd because I think the last hour has already done that.

I can't help the tears from flowing down my face and I wrap my arms around my knees as my crying continues and intensifies. I don't notice the time passing but its dark when I come back to awareness. I pull myself to my feet and walk back to down the street. I find myself outside R&R's and I can see it's quiet. Dad's going to be freaking out because it's clearly after 11 o'clock. I know I should be heading back to the house... that I should be letting dad know that I haven't had anything to drink... well, nothing I swallowed anyway. But I can't though, I stare at the door to the club and after wondering if I'm still sane I walk through the door and head down the stairs.

Someone is coming up the stairs and I'm surprised to see Carl walking towards me. Why is he still at the club?

"Lauren Branning... I've heard a lot about you since I got to the square." He smirked at me and it made me feel uncomfortable. I'd heard quite a bit about him since I came back to the square too and none of it was good. The fact he used to be friends with Uncle Derek is hardly a point in his favour as far as I'm concerned.

"Is Joey down there?" I ask, just wanting to get away from him as quickly as I could.

"Yeah, lover boy is there... Give him my regards..." he said, that smirk on his face again.

I continue down the stairs as quickly as I can. That man gives me the creeps more than Michael Moon does. I stop when I enter the bar and Joey is clearing up glasses and wiping down the bar. He's alone. "You said it didn't mean anything..." I say softly and he looks up, obviously surprised to see me.

"It didn't, babe. I was missing you and I didn't know if you were coming back."

"But Whitney...?" I whisper, wondering why he would choose her of all people.

"I know... and I'd like to say I was drunk but I wasn't. She came onto me though and she was drunk. She'd had a row with Tyler and ended their relationship. It just happened and as soon as it was over I just wanted to forget it. She wasn't you, babe."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I knew what it would do to you to find out... I didn't want anyone to know. Tyler already punched me because of it..."

"Something like that will never remain a secret, Joey... you should know that now. You've been around our family long enough to realise that lies don't do anything apart from cause pain."

"I know... I'm so sorry, babe." He walked two steps towards me but stopped thinking better of it. "I wish I could go back in time and change things..." he said softly. "I tried to come after you but Sharon made me stay in the bar... I wanted to find you and talk to you."

The room falls silent and I know it's my turn to speak but I can't... the words are stuck in my throat because I know that what I need to tell him will be as painful as anything I've heard tonight. "I nearly had a drink tonight..." I whisper, staring at the floor... anywhere other than look at his face. I don't want to see the pain I've just put on it.

"Lauren..." he sighed and I hear the frustration and anger in his voice. It makes me feel worse.

"I didn't though." I tell him quickly, risking a glance at his face. "I spat it out." He turned away from me and went back to the glasses and I can tell he's angry. The only problem is I'm not sure who he's angry at. Despite everything I hope it isn't me. I walk round to the other side of the bar so he has to look at me and I sit on one of the stools. "I've disappointed you, ain't I?" I ask him.

He stops what he's doing and looks at me, "How can I be angry with you after what I've done?" he tells me, "It's me I'm angry with... I made you do this..."

"You really didn't Joey... It wasn't you, it was me. No one else made me pick up that glass and take it with me... I didn't want to drink it...not really... it's like a security blanket, I guess. Something to fall back on."

"I told you I didn't want to be the reason that you don't get better properly... and I meant it."

"I know..." I whisper. I decide to change the subject. "I bumped into Carl on the way in here..." I tell him, frowning when I see the tension creep into his stance. "Joey...?"

"Did he do anything to you?" he asked.

"No... Why would he? He doesn't even know me?"

He grabs my hand and squeezes it, "What did he say to you?"

"Nothing really... He knew who I was and said he'd heard a lot about me since he'd arrived on the square." I shrug, confused by the dark expression on Joey's face. "He obviously knew about us... our relationship I mean. He referred to you as lover boy when I asked if you were down here and he told me to give you his regards." I'm watching him carefully now and I can see there is something clearly upsetting him. "What's wrong, Joe?" I whisper.

He sighed and released my hand, walking around to my side of the bar and standing between my legs. "I found a bag of cocaine in here earlier... before you and the others arrived." My eyes widen as I look at his face. My hand reaches up and I brush the side of his face. My heart is racing and I know I'm breathing a little too fast. "Carl's dealing... I spoke to him about it and he mentioned Alice..."

"He threatened you, didn't he?" I ask and he nods his head.

"He asked me how Alice would cope if I wasn't around..." he said softly. His hands are holding my other one and with every second his grip is a little tighter.

"And that thing with me earlier?" I asked.

"Was his way of telling me he knew about you... about how much you mean to me..." he whispered. One hand lifted and he pushed some loose strands of hair behind my ear. His thumb brushed the side of my cheek. I stare into his eyes and the tension increases. It's only seconds before our lips meet and the passion is still there. He lifts me off the stool and I'm reminded of the strength in those gorgeous arms of his. Those arms that are barely hidden in the tight white shirt he has to wear for work. Sharon is a very clever woman, you know. No wonder he's so popular with the clubbers.

My legs wrap around his waist and my arms are around his neck. I want him and I want him bad... Are we rushing into this? To be honest, I just don't care. This feels right... He pulls his mouth from mine and we stare at each other, silently looking to see if the other doesn't want this. I can't find it on his face at all and apparently he doesn't either because in moments his lips are back on mine and he's carrying me somewhere.

*JL*JL*

I hear a crash and then he's laying me on the now cleared desk in the office. I guess he's going to have some explaining to do in the morning. "Is this really what you want, babe?" he whispers as his hands start to remove my clothes.

"Of course it is... I wouldn't be here otherwise, Joey, surely you know that."

"I do... I was just checking." He said softly.

Wouldn't you know it... my mobile rang just at that moment. I sigh and grab my bag. "It's probably dad..." I tell him, "I was supposed to be home by eleven."

"Give it to me..." he said softly. I pass him my mobile and he answers the phone. "Hi Uncle Max... yeah, she's here with me." He smiles at me, "She's fine... stone cold sober, I swear. She just got a little upset... had a bit of a row with Whitney." I watch as he rolls his eyes at me. I have to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing. "She just needs someone to talk to... I'll bring her back to the house soon. She'll see you in the morning, I'm sure." He pauses again, "I'll tell her, yeah." Just after that he ends the call and passes my mobile back to me. "He wants to talk to you in the morning..."

"Talking to me... is that what we're doing?"

"It's what we were doing..." he said with a slight smirk, "I didn't think he needed to know what I have planned for you next."

My mouth ran dry, "And what is it you have planned, exactly..."

He leant forward and kissed me softly on the lips. "What I promised you last night..." he said, "This..." A kiss on my mouth and I can't help but smile, "This..." he whispers, his fingers brushing some of my hair back from my face in the gesture that makes me love him even more. He smirks at me slightly and I see the flirty Joey that I met when he first came to the square, "And this..." he breathes as he pulls me to the edge of the desk and presses himself between my legs... and hello there! Well, that's different from last night, most certainly.

My voice wobbles slightly as I speak, "I thought you wanted to wait until I was better..." I ask him.

"Well, you didn't drink tonight, right? After finding out what I did, you didn't drink. Does that not sound like you're better?" he asked.

"I feel like a failure... because I nearly did..." I whisper.

"Well I don't, babe. I think you did amazing." He kisses me again and I stop trying to convince him to not do this because, truth be told... that is the last thing I want. I think I'm only just realising how much I want this.

Things speed up from there, a mad rush of arms and hands as we tear our clothes off each other but then it all calms down again as he eases himself into my body. I'd forgotten how good this could be. I'm not sure how I could forget something that is pure perfection but I had... and now I'm getting a very hands-on reminder. I think I moan but maybe I imagined it. He moves slowly and when I look at his face I find him staring back at me. I can't tear my eyes away from his and I don't think he can either. His hands brush over my body, cupping my boobs and I have to close my eyes because the feel of him touching me there has always worked wonders... I do remember that much.

His lips meet mine again and his tongue enters my mouth. The man has skills. Tick two off the list... plenty of kisses... and some amazing sex... what more could a girl ask for? Even as I think that I get my answer... I'm so close now and when his fingers brush the hair back from my face and tuck it behind my ear I turn my face and press my cheek into the palm of his hand. His hips speed up and he's staring into my eyes, the intensity in them so intoxicating. It pushes me over the edge and my back arches off the desk as I cry out his name. Two deep thrusts of his hips later he's pulsing inside me, my body coming alive again as he kisses me and I see the emotion he's feeling written all over his face. He loves me... I feel a fool for ever doubting him.

*JL*JL*

He walks me back to the house, just like he told my dad he would. When we reach the bottom of the stairs we turn to face each other. "I'll see you in the morning then, eh?"

"The morning?" I frown... did I miss something?

"Our run... unless you've changed your mind..."

"No, I'd really like that." I tell him, smiling at him widely. "I'll see you in the morning then. Is eight o'clock okay?" He nods. "Thanks for tonight, Joey..." I say softly, "It meant a lot to me..."

"Me too, babe... but you know that already, right?" It's my turn to nod and I grin at him. He steps forward and kisses my forehead softly. "Your dad's waiting for you..." he whispers. "See you in the morning, babe." He turns and walks away from me and I can't help but watch his ass as he goes. I'm sure he knows I'm watching because he glances back and smiles at me. It's enough to make me turn and run up the stairs to the front door. I see my dad's worried face in the window and I smile at him broadly. I'm not sure if he guesses what's happened tonight or if he just sees that I'm happy and sober but his face relaxes and I open the door. I think it's time my dad and I have a talk.

TBC? - maybe...

A/N: So what did you think? Good? Bad?... Let me know - although nothing too cruel, please. I'll see you again when I see you... still working on my new story - five chapters left to write.

I'll reply to any reviews tomorrow as I won't be writing for this one tomorrow - since there's no show!