Epilogue

Six months later…

At half past eight in the morning the sun was already streaming through the kitchen window of Maple Cottage as it promised to become another warm and sunny day. Still glad in a light, cotton dressing-gown, Ruth hummed quietly to herself as she pulled the griddle with muffins from the oven and placed it carefully on top of the stove. A second griddle with breakfast buns went straight back into the still warm oven and as they baked Ruth wrapped the muffins neatly in a tea towel so that they could cool off but not lose their soft texture.

A cupcake frenzy was sweeping the nation and although it had taken some time to get Marie around to the idea, Ruth had finally convinced her that this might be just the thing to interest younger women to participate in WI activities. The first cupcake-decorating workshop had been such an overwhelming success that they were already planning a series of workshops in the coming months.

A pair of strong arms slipped around her waist from behind and she happily leant into the solid chest behind her.
"I thought you were going to have a bit of a lie in?" she asked quietly. It had been a rather busy week for the both of them and between a couple of trauma-calls in the last two days, she'd seen very little of him. Only last night he hadn't come home until two in the morning. And as much as she looked forward to spending the day with him, she rather wished he was well-rested before they started on it.

"The bed's too big without you in it," he mumbled against her, gently kissing and nipping at the sensitive skin of her neck.
She hummed appreciatively, tilting her head a little to the side to grant him better access and relaxing a little further in his arms. He hadn't shaved yet and she blissfully rubbed her cheek against his.

It was rather amazing how quickly things had moved between them, once they had finally admitted their feelings for each other. The house had been put up for sale after all and to their surprise it had only taken a month before the first seriously interested buyer showed up. They had already discussed looking for a place together and a little tentatively, Ruth had suggested him to move into Maple Cottage for the time being while they looked for another house. Quickly they had agreed they would take their time looking around the neighbourhood, patiently waiting until they found the perfect house.

"Well…" she said grinning, turning around in his arms and pulling his head down for a proper 'good morning-kiss', "how about breakfast then?"

"Sounds wonderful," he whispered between kisses, but never letting her move from his arms. Instead he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, his fingers tracing all the sensitive spots on her back that he had discovered in the last couple of months, until she was sighing in his mouth.

She still marvelled at the effect he had on her, at how his touches could make her feel. At the beginning she had been anxious about the physical side of their relationship. The last years of her marriage to Eddie had destroyed all her confidence in that area and she'd never been overly sure of herself in that respect to begin with. Eddie had long ceased to find her attractive, planting the idea firmly into her head that she simply wasn't. In the last years they had barely ever been together and it had always been just a quick release to him, while she was left wanting and craving the intimacy.

She had tried not to let those past insecurities influence her relationship with Tim, but it had been hard. The first time she had been nervous as hell, no matter how much she wanted to be with him. In the end she never should have worried. He had picked up on her nervousness and gone out of his way to make her as comfortable and secure as he could. Afterwards she had laid trembling in his arms, her body still tingling from the sensations and her heart-rate in overdrive, while he had kissed away the salty traces of her tears.
She had cried, – as much as she'd hated herself for it- at the height of it, she hadn't been able to stop the tears from trickling down her face. But all that remained was an overwhelming sense of relief that everything had gone alright and would continue to become even better.

It hadn't happen overnight. She wasn't used to expressing herself while she was with a man, or to be with a man who admired her so openly and thoroughly. The big change had come when he had surprised her with a week away to York. For nine, glorious days her biggest worry had been where they would eat that evening and she had finally allowed herself to relax around him and to fully enjoy being with him. And slowly but surely her restraint had fallen away she became more carefree, secure in the knowledge that he loved her and wanted nothing more than to love her and give her pleasure. A sentiment she heartily returned with growing confidence.

They had returned to Knapely, ridiculously happy and even more in love than before. After their little 'honeymoon' as she jokingly referred to it, some of the magic had remained, even when the dull routines of everyday life began to demand their share.

The sound of the oven-clock chime brought them back to the real world and Ruth took the buns from the oven, while Tim made coffee. Looking outside the kitchen window that offered a clear view of the street, he suddenly frowned. "Isn't that Patrick and Annie?" he asked curiously.

Looking up from her buns, Ruth peered over the curtains and grinned. "I think it is." Recently Annie had adopted an adorable Irish Setter pup and as a fellow lover of dogs – he owned the most enormous, scruffy sheepdog – Patrick and Annie were spending more and more time together lately.

"Did I miss something?" Tim inquired, his eyebrows rising. "Well, you know…" Ruth commented lightly, coming to stand beside him and moving back in his arms. "He has a dog… she has a dog… they spend a lot of time walking their dogs…"
Annie and Patrick reminded her so much of the way she had Tim had started out, almost a year ago now. Tilting her head back she kissed the underside of his jaw. "I'm very happy for them."

"You're a sweetheart," he told her seriously, tightening his grip on her a little more. "And speaking of McKinney, I got an email from him the other day and he might have found another house for us to look at. From the pictures it looks rather promising, I must say." Teasingly nuzzling a spot behind her ear, he added: "Apparently the bathroom contains the most enormous bathtub."

"Oh, I'm sold already!" Ruth beamed, pulling him down for one last brief kiss, before picking up the breakfast tray. "Come on, I'm starving."

As was their custom on summer mornings during the weekend, they had their breakfast in the little garden behind the cottage. Since it faced East it was already warm and sunny there. Looking at her from over the rim of his coffee mug Tim realized he with a small jolt that he was happier than he could ever recall being so. And it was all down to her. She made him so very happy. Committing himself once again to a relationship had been rather difficult for him after his last, disastrous involvement with Carol. At first he had feared that after the first blissful phase of just being together had worn off, the same troubles would arise. And since he cared more for Ruth than he had ever cared for Carol, he found himself highly dreading the prospect.

But it never happened. Somehow Ruth made things easy for him. At first he had worried that Ruth was still pushing her own wants and wishes aside to accommodate him, but as time progressed he began to realize that she was perfectly capable of setting boundaries when things really pushed passed what she felt comfortable with, but that she just wasn't the sort of woman who deemed it necessary to pick a fight about every little detail. It was just little things really. He was still working rather gruesome shifts on a regular basis and although he loathed the fact that it meant he sometimes didn't get to see her properly for a few days in a row, they had managed to work out a way to make it, if not ideal than at least a little bit more bearable for the both of them.
Ruth was an incredibly light sleeper. To the point where she joked she would wake up if an ant was walking across her pillow. At first the idea of waking her when he returned in the middle of the night had bothered him. Especially since, no matter how quiet and carefully he tried to move about, she just always woke up.

So he had suggested it would be better if he slept on the couch on such occasions. It had probably been the only time he had ever come close to having a really angry Ruth on his hands, ready to get into a full-blown argument. So now, whenever she woke up when he slipped in bed next to her in the death of the night, they cuddled and kissed for a bit, filling each other in on the most important things of the day, before falling asleep again. And whenever they found themselves with a shared couple of days off, they just made the most of it.

She made him so very happy and he only hoped he could make her equally happy as well.

His cellphone beeped, interrupting his musings and as he reached out to grab it, he was happy to see it was a long awaited text-message from Rod.

Mate, flowers are in.
Annie and Chris agree to distract Ruth this afternoon.
Did you get the ring? If you need help w/t preparations, give me a shout.
Can't believe you're tying the knot! –Rod


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