A/N: WARNING: This chapter contains sexual content and mature themes.

Okay, this is the big edit. If you'd like to see the smexin, without the fade to black, please go here: http :// angstgoddess003 . livejournal . com/23423 . html

Chapter 17.
A Rather Divine Denouement and Oblations of Declarations.


(A.K.A. Final Truths and Fuckily Ever Afters.)

I sidle up to Edward and let him lead me down the hall, the narrow space making our proximity close enough to make the skin on my arms tingle. In the middle of the hall before we reach the backdoor, I see a pair of shoes tossed against one another and smile despite my efforts not to. Once we reach the door, he holds it open for me. When I exit, I look out over the yard, observing the green expanse of their lawn and the tall, wooden security fence and gate at the edge of the tree line. I freeze as he starts walking over the grass.

"Uhhh," I stutter, looking down at my bare feet and curling my toes into the cement of the stoop.

Halting, he turns, creases his forehead, and follows my gaze downward. Seeing my bare feet, he tilts his head and walks to me, thumbing the corner of his lips as they tug up into an amused grin. "You aren't wearing shoes," he observes softly.

Rolling my eyes, I explain, "I didn't have any that fit."

Looking up at me through his lashes, the silver ring over his eyebrow reflects the sunlight, making him appear impish as he smiles crookedly. He turns his back to me then, and glancing over his shoulder, crouches in invitation. Comprehending, I make a really pathetic hop-slash-climb onto his back, his arms locking around my knees firmly as I wrap mine around his shoulders. My breathing deepens as I feel his warmth pressed so tightly against me, my breasts crushed to his shoulder blades. My nose feels so close to the skin of his neck that I can detect the scent of his shaving cream.

He smells motherfucking glorious.

I settle comfortably around his hips, across his back as he begins walking across the yard to the gate at the far end of it. His slender fingers press into the flesh of my thighs just above my knees, and it's like really difficult to focus on anything else. His back rises and falls with his breaths, the bounce of his steps making me hold his neck tightly. He doesn't seem to have any trouble carrying me whatsoever. He maneuvers his hands to unlatch the gate, turning and closing it behind him.

I notice there's a small area, likely meant to entertain guests in front of the fire pit, with a large picnic table settled against the fence.

When we reach the table, he gently lowers me to the edge. The view is really only of trees and the sooty fire pit, but I reason he and Esme had wanted to offer me some privacy, and I'm thankful. I feel like a spectacle of sorts, and it makes me uneasy—especially given how I'd totally shown my ass in front of his dad and unofficially granted their son my vagina in front of his mother.

"So," he begins slowly, ruffling his fingers through his hair before flattening the heels of his palms on the table behind him, lifting himself up beside me. Glancing at me sideways, he asks casually. "How you been?" though there is a twinge of anxiety in the bounce of his swaying foot and the crinkling of his eyes.

I shrug and respond, "Alright, I guess. You?"

He bobs his head, shoving his fists into his pockets and peeking through his lashes at the trees ahead. "Kind of weird, but… better than before, I guess." Angling his head to me, there's a small frown on his lips. "I'm sorry about whatever my dad said. He's still adjusting to the idea of everything."

"I never got to find out what happened with the tape," I immediately inquire, facing him at complete attention. I hadn't been able to get much information from Charlie regarding the evidence or the probable outcome of Edward getting it.

"They watched it. They had issues with finding it admissible, but..." he trails off and there's a smirk tugging at his lips. "I guess they found out it was the pharmacist, Victoria. She eventually confessed to doing it for James," he finishes.

I recall Jasper's story about her and feel my face fall, looking out at the trees. "Will he be able to work again?" I ask worriedly.

He tilts his head, thoughtful. "There's still some work to do after the conviction is overturned, but… he'll be able to work again," he concludes with a light sigh.

"That's great, Edward."

Chuckling, he looks to me with an impish grin. "Actually, I think they both wanted to kill me after they found everything out. I'm lucky as hell they're too distracted with legal shit right now." He leans back on his palms, kicking his legs out and swinging them back and forth.

I follow, offering him a timid glance as I hide my dirtied toes. "How's Jasper been?" I continue, feeling as though I've been secluded in Charlie's house for much longer than I actually have.

Squinting his eyes, he replies, "Left for Texas the next morning, promised to keep in touch when the trial comes around," and shrugs, dropping his chin to his chest. There is a long silence as I imagine him being with his mother, taking care of her house and maybe getting some honest work. Breaking the silence, Edward adds in a low voice, "That was a really nice thing you did for him, Bella."

I frown and divert my gaze to my toes again, though I'm melting on the inside because he's still using that name for me. "He's not a bad person, Edward. He didn't deserve the same fate as James," I say with vehemence. Of this I'm certain. I'm not so naïve as to think Jasper will change entirely. It's completely possible that he'll go back to doing drugs, maybe even resort to shady means to get them. But he has the chance he deserves now, and that's the greatest thanks I could have given him, considering what he'd done for me… and Edward.

"Still," he adds, but doesn't attempt to push it any further. "Watched any Tiny Toons?" he asks, nudging my foot with his playfully.

"Actually, no," I respond, raising my chin. "I figure… once you shoot a guy, you're probably too old for cartoons. Though, I won't deny spending an entire day watching a Beetlejuice marathon on cable."

He laughs at this, raising his eyebrows, "I actually caught an hour of that, but Delia's mom annoys the shit out of me."

I nod in silent agreement before asking, "Ever get an Angus burger, or some chocolate milk, or… you know… " I swallow thickly, finishing, "…a girlfriend?" My voice is audibly stiff by the time I finally blurt it out, and I can feel heat rising to my cheeks for the umpteenth time that morning.

Way to be subtle, Queen Psycho…

I'm not brave enough to gauge his expression as he hums, answering quietly, "I had three Angus burgers, no chocolate milk yet, though. Thanks for reminding me. I had a girlfriend for about two hours yesterday, but she kept bitching, so I had to kill her."

Jerking my gaze to him, his lips are arranged into that cocky, lopsided grin. "Is that so?" I play along, intrigued that he's being evasive but figuring he wouldn't be doing so if he did actually have a girlfriend. I capture my lips between my teeth as my eyes rake over him.

"Mhm," he bobs his head. "Buried her over there." He points his thumb in the yard's general vicinity, adding, "Real pain in the ass, too—all that digging." His face is mockingly annoyed, betrayed by his stifled grin. The muscles of his arms flex as he moves, braced against them as he leans back, casual, dripping sex with his dark stare into my eyes.

"Hmm," I hum, staring distractedly at his lips and licking my own. "Thought you usually just led 'em to kidnappers. Let them do the dirty work." I wink, nudging his foot with my toes.

His smile wavers, the puffs of his cheeks falling.

I sigh, my shoulders falling. "Too soon?"

His throat lurches with a swift swallow. "I think it'll always be too soon to joke about that, Bella." And I want to laugh, but I hold it in the best I can. For two men that may never be capable of getting along, Edward and Charlie can certainly agree on more than they know.


There is once again a charged silence, our feet kicking comfortably as I finger the hem of my sweater. I'm more than a little mortified at the outfit I'd chosen. The brown sweater and tight jeans really didn't do much for me, but they were the loosest items I owned. I was sick of feeling constricted and strangled.

"I missed you," Edward suddenly admits in a low whisper, ducking his chin and avoiding my gaze. I turn to him in surprise as he stutters, "I—I wanted to call, but… then your dad answered and… well, you know." He glances at me sideways and locks his jaw. "He hates me."

Frowning, I correct, "He doesn't hate you. He just doesn't know you." Before he can disagree, I meet his gaze and confess, "I missed you too."

Facing me, he stares into my eyes for an indiscernible amount of time. Our legs still as it intensifies, swallowing me in green irises and tiny black dots.

"I'd seen you before," he eventually whispers, my confused expression forcing him to elaborate with a careful, "Before you came into town."

Understanding, I simply stare blankly at him because I'd already figured as much. I'm certain everyone in Forks has seen photos of me, being a product of a small town, even if, on a bigger scale, I was completely insignificant. Now that I think about it, I feel ridiculous that I ever assumed he hadn't.

And I wasn't exactly ecstatic about the idea of him seeing my dress tucked into my panties.

"And…?" I trail off, rolling my eyes.

Swallowing nervously, he continues, "Alice kind of kept of with you, being from Forks and everything. She saw you as some kind of… I don't know… idol or something. Like if you could get out and be all glamorous, she could too." He rolls his eyes at this but meets my gaze and admits nervously, "I just wanted to tell you, be honest about it, because…" He stalls before his face contorts into a grimace.

If I didn't know better, I'd think he was blushing.

"Tell me," I push, offering him a small grin of encouragement.

He looks away, ducking his chin and finishing in a speedy breath, "Because it's common knowledge around here that I always found you attractive."

"Oh," I exhale, my eyes widening before I purse my lips in consideration. I can't tack down one emotion on it. I feel… embarrassed, yes. But that's more related to the context he'd found me attractive in. I feel sad that any part of our time in the forest may have been based off of some false impression of me. I feel upset that I may not be able to live up to it.

Mostly, I feel like fucking elated, because "flattered" is something I'd say if the feeling weren't mutual. And it is. Very much so.

And I finally realize—have this massive epiphany right here on a shoddy wooden table in the shitty side of small town Forks—that I can only be validated by compliments coming from those that matter. I'm sure the same is true for the converse, it must be.

It seems so obvious, even though it hasn't always been. I feel stunted in some way for not seeing it sooner, yet giddy all the same because I do, and this alone frees me from every tie to public scrutiny that I've been bearing for years. It's almost like I can feel the strings being cut from me, feel myself slipping from its grasp in the same way I had that first day, standing on the side of the road with Edward.

What people think about me can only matter if they matter to me.


Well, call me enlightened and recommend me to a fucking fortune cookie factory.

"That's really creepy, isn't it?" he asks cautiously. When I don't immediately answer, too busy with my whole epiphany business, he elaborates in the most comical of word vomits, "They just like to pick on me about it, and… really, it's… blown way out of proportion. It's kind of an inside joke, you know? Like, a teasing thing because… I know you don't know me well enough to get it, but… it's totally not my style to be into, or show interest in girls… like that or on TV., or just… and all it took was one innocent comment and I mean, fuck Bella, they really like seeing me suffer and—"

I silence his babbling with my charged lips, watching his eyes through my blurry and crossed field of vision as his panic slowly ebbs. He moves his lips against mine finally, lifting a hand to my neck and pushing my hair back over my shoulder, grazing my collar bone as our eyes flutter closed. His palm covers my neck as we kiss, his thumb rubbing small circles under my jaw.

I pull away, just enough to meet his gaze without straining my eyes. "You never really answered my question," I chide breathlessly, battling the urge to rub my thighs together as his hand remains on my neck, sliding downward. "Do. You. Have. A. Girlfriend?"

Licking his lips, his eyes dart to my mouth, his eyebrow curving upward. "I keep trying to ask her, but she's constantly fucking distracting me with—Hey, are you wearing lip gloss? Strawberry?" he asks, drawing closer to my face.

I scoff, pulling away and returning to my position on my elbows. "That's boyfriend-exclusive information, Special-Ed." I feign aloofness as I swing my feet again, looking out over the ferns, even though every inch of my body feels like it's on fire for him.

It's all I can do to not tackle him on top of this table and go for Dry Hump, Round Two.

My teeth grind.

Suddenly, warm lips are on my neck, flattening themselves and forming around my skin with an open mouthed kiss. I gasp, my neck falling back as my eyes roll back into my head.

Holy mother of fuck…

Edward speaks between wet kisses, his hand moving to my waist and ducking under the fabric of my sweater. "I know I don't really have anything to offer," he purrs seductively, and I inwardly protest as my head flops back, his tongue traveling over my throat.

His tongue darts out to lick below my ear and my elbows buckle. "I'm grumpy in the mornings, I'm addicted to caffeine, and I have no money whatsoever, no job, and no hope whatsoever of getting into a half-decent college." His kisses continue as he lifts himself, my breathing transforming into shallow pants. His teeth graze my earlobe and my elbows give, but his hands are pulling me up, sliding me to the edge of the table as he hops off and positions himself between my legs. A deep, longing whimper escapes me as he kisses up my jaw, muttering, "I have a criminal record… and the filthiest thoughts, Bella... most about you…" He's breathing as hard as me now, nudging me with his nose and flattening his palm over my stomach.

I take his pause as the opportunity to wrap my legs around his waist, pulling him against me with the heels of my bare feet. "Filthy minds think alike," I breathe, grinding against the bulge in his pants and putting my lips to his neck.

"God, Bella," he groans, pulling me closer and thrusting against me. His sigh washes over my neck, cool and moist. "I don't even have a car anymore," he chokes.

"My insurance will take care of that in ten-to-thirty business days," I say into his flesh, shoving his shirt up between us.

He hisses as my eager kisses drop to his stomach, climbing his chest. He buries his fingers into my hair, quickly pulling my lips to his and thrusting his tongue into my mouth. When he pulls away, he kisses down my throat again, panting, "My pride will be so fucking injured," with another deliberate grind between my legs.

I moan, and the sound makes his kisses faster, rapid sucks and licks as my thighs tighten around him. When he pulls away and meets my gaze, lips swollen, eyes hooded and dark, I straighten my back and press myself into him. I stare into his eyes as my hand snakes around his back to his ass, reaching in his back pocket and fumbling for his wallet. I open it with one hand, watching his eyes darken impossibly further as I emerge with the condom I'd once assured him he'd never use.

"Fuck pride. The Volvo's back seat is roomy, and we'll need it," I promise in a husky voice.

I've never been so glad to be proven wrong.

Fade to black...

Ten minutes later, we both lay on the table, fully clothed and utterly gelatinous. I've settled into the crook of his arm, my leg thrown over his crotch while he twirls a lock of my hair around his finger lazily.

I turn my head and prop my chin on his shoulder, meeting his drooping gaze while my own fill with something tender and new and thrilling. His eyes, green and shining, fill me with wonder. I want to pretend to be the little flecks of gold that hide just beyond the drops of black, and scatter myself about in their fashion, spreading and resting haphazardly against the green heat of his intensity. I want to extend my fingertips and smooth away the furrow of his brow should it ever return. I want to see where the water departs when it bleeds down his skin and explore his every reaction so that I can only ever bring him happiness.

That urge is not selfless when it's this.

It's completely unquestionable. In the same way that fire burns and ice freezes. Much like the sun will rise and set and the ocean will wax and wane. It's similar to death and birth and rebirth.

No other option exists.

He grins lopsidedly as I stare at him, soft and slowly spreading over his lips, pulling upward and crinkling one eye. He hikes his pierced brow.

"Has anyone ever told you that you have the most captivating eyes?" I ask while staring into them, feeling that similar warmth bloom and bubble inside of me.

"Not exactly," he answers, his finger moving around my lock of hair languidly. Shifting his head to see me better, his fingers graze my cheek and he asks, "Has anyone ever told you that you're the craziest, sexiest, smartest, hardest core, fucking beautiful woman they've ever had the pleasure of being in the company of?"

Chuckling softly against him, I answer with a curved brow and a dry smile, "Um, no."

"Hmm," he hums disapprovingly, settling his head against the wood and he gazes up to the cloudy sky. It is silent for another moment, and I rest my cheek against him again, closing my eyes and drowning in cheesy, bubbly, fluffy, sickeningly sweet, lovey-dovey bullshit that I wouldn't trade for anything. His chest expands with a deep inhale, his exhale a mockingly put-upon sigh as he promises, "Well you'd better get used to hearing it, Juicy, because it's true, I'm all about the honesty nowadays."

And I smile because I know he is, much like me. Because I might not know every single thing about him yet, but he's willing to show me, as I'm willing to show him. I smile because Forks feels like home and I have so much more than just a friend.

I smile because Withering the Ferns with Edward Cullen is only the first chapter in a very long book that I can't wait to write.


A/N: This was my gift to obsessingovered for the Twilight Gift Exchange. Here was the prompt, made by stolenxsanity :

Isabella Swan, famed New York socialite falls and Edward Cullen, the guy from the wrong side of the tracks end up stuck together in some cosmic twist of faith (author can be creative about that). What happens next? AH - Angst/Romance

This is my first ever completed fic. At almost 75k, I honestly started this with the intention of it being more like 20, but I just got so immersed that I couldn't do it without doing it, kwim? I also stalked my prompter, stolenxsanity for weeks. Now you know why I did it and hopefully, I'm a little less creepy?

For those of you who don't know, the gist of the Twilight Gift Exchange was that we were given prompts (summaries of a story they'd like to see written) created by different authors, and then we wrote them. Think of it as a secret santa for fic. They were posted as gifts to the authors who created their premises, but anonymously. Well, anonymous for most. Mine couldn't have been more obvious. There are some really great completed fics hanging out over there, so please, if you have some time and would like to read some awesome stuff by some amazing authors, go give it a looksie?

Big thanks to pastiche_pen (she made this fic not sucky) for beta'ing and helping me through late night WTF panics. All the pre-readers who offered me their feedback in chat and email: SorceressCirce, sideadde , britpacksuccubus, touchstonesart . The Twilight Sisterhood for taking my survey on "What's in your purse?" All the WC'ers who had to listen to me bitch and moan about not doing WA for an entire month while the word count on this motherfucker just grew and grew with each hour of challenging. gail2oprah for coaching me through all the suspense bullshit that I'm fairly certain I suck at, because she certainly doesn't. stolenxsanity , the source of this quirky little prompt that I tried very hard to do justice to. obsessingovered, the recipient of it, and youarereceeding , the author of my totally awesome gift fic, Memoria in Aeterna (Seriously, read hers instead. It is too awesome to describe). And finally, ginny_weasley31 and sshg316 for making the Gift Exchange and putting up with all the bullshit... which may or may not have included my continual pushing of the deadline.

Thanks everyone!