AN: rbs89, thank you for your review; I'm glad you're enjoying this! I very much enjoyed getting Edmund to admit he was a dunderhead.
Now for the conclusion:
When Edmund awoke, only one thought was on his mind, and as soon as his brother's eyes opened, he expressed it. "I love her, Tom."
Because Tom was still weak physically and not fully roused from sleep, some time passed before he was able to form the words, "Are you referring to Miss Crawford?"
"No, Tom. Fanny."
Tom raised his eyebrows, now fully alert. "Fanny? Our cousin Fanny?"
Edmund nodded. "Our cousin Fanny. I am hopelessly in love with her."
Tom continued to look quizzically at him for a moment, and then his lips slowly curved into a smile. "I have sometimes wondered if this would happen, for you two are as peas in a pod."
Edmund sighed. "But she is too good for me."
Tom laughed. "This is true, but nobody minds having what is too good for them."
"No, you do not understand. I have wounded Fanny deeply and do not deserve her."
Tom was quiet again, and then he motioned for Edmund to help him sit up before speaking. "By law I am our father's heir, and many younger brothers would have seized an opportunity like this to … let their elder brother die, and thereby profit. But not you."
"Tom, I would never…!" Edmund protested.
"I know. I am proud that you are my brother and that I can have such confidence in you. I am very grateful you for all you have done for me."
Edmund shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He knew his brother felt affection for him, despite their numerous squabbles over the years, but he had rarely expressed it.
"You are a good man, Edmund, a very good man. You deserve all the happiness in the world." Tom paused. "I know I am not the best judge of women and affairs of the heart, but I have never been convinced that Miss Crawford would make you happy. What she values, you do not; and what you treasure, she does not. Fanny is much better suited to do you good and bring you joy."
Edmund was silent for a moment as he ran his hands down his face before exhaling. "I have created a mess, Tom. I do not know how to undo the expectations I have produced in Miss Crawford and her circle. And I do not think our father would approve of a match between Fanny and me."
"I cannot help you with the first. But as to the second, do you think Fanny will accept you?"
Not wanting to breach Fanny's confidences, he replied, "I think so."
Tom grinned. "I think so, too. Fanny adores you for some unfathomable reason, and that is all that matters."
Edmund smiled also, for if his brother's sense of humor had returned enough to tease him again, he was certainly healing.
"If it helps," Tom added, "I will champion your cause with Father. What do you think—will he listen to a chastened prodigal?"
John arrived with breakfast, briefly putting an end to the brothers' conversation. While they ate, Tom pressed Edmund with additional questions about Fanny, and as he answered, his conviction about his love for her grew. They spoke frequently of their years at Mansfield with Fanny, and with such a person and place on their minds, Tom announced as they completed breakfast, "Edmund, I would very much like to go home."
Edmund agreed; and although the physician on his arrival advised against it, wanting Tom to have additional days of recovery before traveling, both young men were eager for the comforts of family and home. Furthermore, Edmund's desire for Fanny's company had become a painful yearning, and from Mansfield Park he could persuade his father to allow him to travel to Portsmouth to retrieve her. He longed to see and touch and talk to his beloved, and God willing, they would be married in short order.
As the brothers prepared to quit the inn, expressing much gratitude to the innkeeper and his family, especially John, and to the physician for his care, Edmund pondered how much more lighthearted he was upon departure than he had been at his arrival. His spirit was not completely settled, for he did not know how he would end his connection to Mary honorably; but his doubts and confusion had ceased. By opening his eyes to his love for Fanny, the Lord's comforts—and hers—had indeed brought delight to his soul.
Comments and concrit welcome!