A/N: I've been revisiting all the Austen novels, and am currently on Mansfield Park. I'm finding it depressing that there is such a shocking lack of MP fanfic, and even less Edmund/Fanny fic – everyone seems intent on pairing Fanny and Henry together, sadly.
I can see why people may be against E/F, and it annoys me too that he seems to rebound to her, and sees her as a choice who 'might do just as well' as Mary. Ugh – so I decided to try and write a story that would make his feelings for Fanny sympathetic – please tell me if I've succeeded!
This story will probably have around five chapters. Now let's bring on the angst and fluff!
When It Alteration Finds
Chapter One – Clueless
'It is impossible,' Edmund said with a sigh, as he and Fanny proceeded with their usual walk through the park, 'that I should ever find anyone like Mary again.'
She squeezed the arm she held within hers, and he treasured the gesture of silent sympathy. There was nobody who knew him or understood him better than Fanny, and it was only natural that just as he had communicated all his hopes and feelings regarding Mary to her before, now he would communicate his futile wishes and reg– no; no regrets. When he remembered just why he had turned away from Miss Crawford, he could not regret it. Even while his heart still at times yearned for her, his head had told him that their marriage would not have been happy for long.
It was hard when he thought of Mary's sparkling dark eyes or her lively teasing or her ready wit. But he had been slowly beginning to realise that they had wanted things that were too different. He would have been pushed by her to become something he did not want to be, in order to gain the distinction she wished for, and to provide her with the elegant life in town which she desired. He would have grown miserable, and so would she.
If only she had been a little more serious on important matters – if only her upbringing had been different – what a perfect woman she would have been! Well... it was too late now. And he would never find such another; it was too much to expect anything of the kind. He had had his chance at love, and had been unlucky enough for it to go awry.
He sighed again, but then turned as he felt Fanny's concerned eyes upon him. She looked away from him with a tiny sigh of her own, and he could have kicked himself for being so selfish. Here he was constantly regaling her with his own great heartbreak when she herself was suffering under a far more grievous injury. He had been deceived in Miss Crawford's true character, but how much more taken in had she been by Mr. Crawford! He could not imagine the pain she must have gone through when she heard of his affair with Mrs. Rushworth.
He attempted to convey his contrition in words. 'My dear Fanny, I'm so sorry – I have not been thinking of you at all.'
Her gaze snapped up sharply to meet his, and her face seemed unusually pale where it would normally by now be flushed with the exercise.
'Here I am,' he continued, 'droning on about my problems when you have been bearing a far worse affliction without complaint.' Looking at her very seriously, he pressed the arm within his. 'I want you to know that if you ever need to talk to someone, I'm here.'
Her brow creased in what looked like confusion. 'Affliction?'
'I know you must have been cruelly disappointed by Mr. Crawford's heinous indiscretion. I would never have thought him capable of such wickedness.' He shook his head. When he had recovered from his shock on first hearing the news, he had been furious, strangely not on his sister's account, but on Fanny's. His first thought had been for her, his dear, sweet Fanny who would be heartbroken by this news. How dare Crawford use her so, and manipulate her into falling in love with him, only to dash her hopes like this? 'Abominable scoundrel!' he burst out. 'I cannot tell you what I feel on your account. He is no great loss to you, Fanny,' he continued fervently, his face grim. 'I hope and trust that you will recover and will not regret him long.'
Comprehension had dawned on her face while he had been speaking, and she now looked away in seeming agitation, her flustered state apparent in the involuntary blush which crept up her neck. 'I must tell you, Edmund,' she began, haltingly at first, but then with greater steadiness, 'I have never been at all attached to Mr. Crawford. His attentions to me at their most recent have been almost as unwelcome to me as they were at first. Although I never thought him capable of this, I have seen much in his behaviour at Mansfield to disturb me and make me distrust him. I cannot say that I am sorry that he no longer pursues me.'
What a glorious relief it was to hear these words! Despite all of Mr. Crawford's machinations, and despite the endeavours of everyone around her – including himself, he thought, suddenly feeling rather ashamed – to change her heart towards him, she had followed her own infallible internal guide. She had been right all along, and Mr. Crawford's behaviour had only served to justify the soundness of her judgment. He would not have liked to see Fanny wasted on such a man – she deserved far better than the likes of Mr. Crawford.
As they were entering the house, he saw her let out another involuntary sigh, her gaze distant and sad. His heart sank. She was still in love with the rake, but dear, brave girl that she was, she was trying to be strong for his sake, for his family's sake. 'He is no object of regret indeed,' he cried warmly, 'and I am glad that you can say as much. But, dear Fanny, I trust it will not be long before that becomes the acknowledgement of more than your reason.'
She opened her mouth to speak, but he would never know what she had been about to say for at that moment she was called to the side of her aunt, who, it seemed, could not do without her company for another minute. With one apologetic look at him she was gone to her aunt, and over tea Edmund was left to contemplate the cosy family scene he saw before him with Fanny attentive to every comfort of Lady Bertram's, soothing every despondent mood of Sir Thomas's, patiently helping her sister Susan with her needlework and tirelessly listening to and conversing gently with them all.
But then tea was over, and he had to leave for Thornton Lacey, which, being without Fanny's presence, suddenly seemed a dull and gloomy place indeed.
If there were any clue to let Edmund know that maybe his feelings for Miss Crawford were not so incurable as he had at first thought, it was perhaps that he thought of her less and less with each passing day, and that in Fanny's company on his almost-daily visits to Mansfield, they had managed to move on to topics of conversation other than the Crawfords.
In all good ways it was like a return to the past, to their lives before the Crawfords had arrived; but the difference, Edmund finally realised, was that they were now equals. Where before he had been the teacher and mentor and Fanny the student, their exchange of ideas was now mutual. Everyday she surprised him with some remark so insightful whether in her attitude to life or in her opinions on the books and poetry they both loved, that it was brought forcibly before him that she was no longer the timid child he had always loved and protected, but rather an intelligent young woman whose outer beauty was matched only by a mind and heart equally lovely.
Where would he be, where would they all be, if not for Fanny? By taking her in as a child, they had done themselves the greatest favour. With such an example of goodness and sweetness in their home, they were able to pull themselves out of their despair and follow her lead. Where Miss Crawford would have shattered his faith in women, Fanny had kept it alive; for, as long as she was near, he would always be reminded that there was goodness and kindness in the world.
She was his cousin, his student, his teacher, his guide, his confidante, his oldest friend. He loved her more than words could say.