Author's notes: So Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters has to be one of my favorite books and I adore the mini-series to which I owe a great deal as it lead to my discovery of the novel. Honestly I think the mini-series is practically perfect in every way, so I don't really know why I'm writing this. I had this dream once and loved the idea, every now and again I think back on it and expand on the story in my head. I finally thought I'd put it down on paper so to speak.

Let me know what you think. Are there even people looking for or reading W&D fics these days? Besides myself. I noticed there aren't too many out there, but again I think the mini-series did such a great job that even though the book was unfinished there was little that needed to be added to such a great story.

STORY NOTES: This takes place in an Alternate Universe. In my story both Mrs. Hamley and Osborne Hamley are still alive, I like them as confidants and just love all the characters that I don't want any of them gone. Roger Hamley was still selected to go to Africa and almost everything leading up to his departure remains the same, but without the death of Osborne he had no reason to cut his trip short and so has been gone for years. Cynthia, having resolved her issues with Mr. Preston, broke off the engagement to Roger by post, and is now married to Mr. Henderson and living in London. Roger is finally returning home.

Chapter 1: Roger's Return

The salty sea air tussled Roger Hamley's brown locks and sent a tickle up his beard. He rubbed at it, noting how thick it had become. What a shock he was going to give his family upon his return! He could just make out the silhouette of the coast, seagulls starting to be heard from afar. It would not be long until he was back home on English soil. Finally, after more nearly 4 years, he would once again stand upon his homeland. Had it truly been so long?

He missed England, but he had seen and studied such amazing things abroad that he would not have changed things for the world. Except maybe that the beautiful Miss Kirkpatrick would have waited, and be waiting still for him. He had long come to terms with the fact that Cynthia had broken off their engagement. In his mind, he knew it was a ridiculous request to ask her to hold to their secret engagement for so long. Years apart with only letters to convey his feelings was obviously not enough to keep such a young and beautiful woman bound. Nor to keep their love fresh.

He could tell even from her letters and their brevity that her admiration was waning. When the final letter came, in his heart he already knew what she would say. There were no hard feelings. He was not at all upset that she had decided to end things. His family, however, was outraged, and further insulted to discover that as soon as Cynthia had jilted him; she had then gotten engaged to another man! The 'baggage' was now what his father called Cynthia in his letters, refusing to even write her name.

Miss Gibson, or Molly as he thought of her, had written him after a while informing him of all the news from Hollingford and of Cynthia's eventual marriage to one Mr. Henderson of London, a barrister-at-law. London, it probably suited Cynthia better to have lived in the city. He knew his mother was once a city girl and how much and how fondly she spoke of her city life. Molly did not mention much more of Cynthia in her later letters though. She kept strictly to asking about his adventures, probably to spare his feelings. He smiled thinking of all the curious things he had brought back and was eager to show Molly. From her letters his pupil was very interested in his research and the wildlife he had come across.

There was a particular species of beetle among the specimens that he was bringing home that he wanted to show her. Its exoskeleton shimmered with an incredible blue-green when hit by light and if you had seen it from afar you would think you were looking upon a living jewel. He had specially pinned one in hopes of presenting it to Cynthia on his return, but found that at least it seemed Molly would be able to appreciate it's natural beauty.

A cry from one of the sailors brought him out of his thoughts. The sailor was announcing that they would soon be docking soon and that all passengers need to be prepared to disembark when they did, as they would be leaving soon after for their next destination. Roger still needed to gather up his things in his cabin below deck. It wouldn't be long now. He hoped that all of his specimens and samples would make it safely along as well. They were packed on a cargo ship that wouldn't be arriving for a few more weeks. Hopefully he could find that beetle.

"OSBORNE!" Roger called out to the thin-faced, elegant man standing on tip-toes at the dock. It was obvious the dark haired young man was looking for someone, but Roger was not surprised that his own brother didn't recognize him upon first glance.

"ROGER!?" The wide smile that alighted Osborne Hamley's face probably reflected the one on Roger's own; probably the only similarity between the two at the moment. One sporting a full beard, thick mussed brown curls, and simple worn clothes of browns and tans; the other brother was clean shaven with hair carefully placed, and a finely embroidered black velvet coat.

"Osborne! It's so good to see you!" The two brothers clasped one another tightly. Osborne took a step back holding his younger brother at arm's length, staring wide-eyed at the taller man's face.

"Why I hardly recognize you! That beard! Why, Roger, I do say, you look quite the ruffian! And that tan! Trying to blend in with the locals I see!"

Roger laughed at his older brother's teasing. He put a hand to his beard scratching it purposefully. "It is quite the change is it not?"

"I'd say! Are you able to find your mouth in that mess?" Both men let out another roar of laughter before once again embracing in a hug. "I missed you!"

"And I you! Have you been waiting long?"

"Oh no, not at all. I'm staying at an inn a few streets down. The dock men seemed to know precisely when you would be arriving barring any bad weather, thankfully there has not been a cloud in the sky! So you see, I knew exactly when to be here. Come! We can grab a bite to eat. The coach to take us back to Hollingford isn't leaving for another couple hours. If all goes well, we should be back at Hamley Hall by late evening. Mother and father are so very eager to see you, they've not stopped talking about it for the past month or so! How was the journey?"

Roger smiled as his brother walked him down the docks, arm on his shoulder. How he had missed him, they had so much to catch up on. "The voyage was long; I've been at sea for weeks, but I was able to catch up with most of my letters. Do you know, I didn't even receive some of them until arriving at Lagos. I think there must have been at least 3 months worth of letters waiting for me! But enough about my letters. How are you? How is Aimee and little Osborne Jr?"

Osborne's smile brightened at the mention of his child. Roger slapped him on the back again. "You a father!"

"I know I can hardly believe it at times. Ossie is getting so big. He's walking now, and almost talking! Father spoils him and mother can hardly keep her hands off him half the time. He's been such a blessing to our family Roger. Such a blessing."

"I am so glad you told father and mother about him and Aimee."

"Yes, I am too. Though I could not have done so without your encouragement. Father was of course furious at first, and he refused to even acknowledge Aimee during those first few months. Thankfully he couldn't change mother's mind about housing Aimee while she was pregnant. Once Osborne Jr. arrived, everything changed. Aimee's English has improved greatly and father seems to be less hostile to her. I even overheard him commenting to mother on how much he appreciated that Aimee was trying to learn proper English. 'Well if she's going to live in this country, it's only right that she learn the language.'" Osborne said in a baritone voice imitating that of his father.

The two brothers laughed and continued their talks long into the day. They had lunch and soon found themselves back at Hamley Hall, just in time for dinner with their family. Mr. and Mrs. Hamley could hardly believe Roger's new appearance as well and most of the night was spent filling each other in on lost time.

Finally once they all realized how late it was the decided to retire for the night. Roger went up the old familiar stairs of Hamley Hall, thinking that it was just as he remembered it and at the same time different in a way. Something he couldn't put his finger on, maybe smaller than he remembered or even more cozy. He entered his room and found it exactly as he had left it years before. He was sure his mother would not have wanted a thing changed. The servants had set out a basin with water for him to cleanup and put out a clean nightshirt. He removed his dirty, travel worn clothes and washed himself with the provided cloth. As he lay in his bed, he closed his eyes completely happy, completely content, and most of all finally home.

Well what do you think? Sorry I didn't get as far as I would have liked this chapter. Next up: Molly finds out Roger is home!

Oh also I'm not British, I'm a sad American who hasn't taken a grammar class in something like 20 years. Please forgive my feeble attempts at trying to write in proper English. I love the language and the way people speak in British Dramas, but aside from what I gleam from books and TV I'm no expert. I apologize for any mistakes. :)