Title: How Things Began (4/23)
Rating: T
Author: jlrpuck
Pairing: Ruby Quarles, Elias McCoy
Disclaimer: The characters contained in this story are the products of my imagination; as such, I retain all right to and ownership of them.
Summary: Welcome to the story of how Elias McCoy and Ruby Quarles met, and grew to became the characters we know.
Notes: For those of you who celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas tomorrow. And for those of you lucky enough to live in the UK, I hope you enjoy both Hamlet and TEoT Part I this weekend (lucky devils).

Thank you to [personal profile] ginamak for acting as a sympathetic listener and excellent sounding board as I frantically penned this tale (and for enabling my Elias McCoy love), and for providing the first crack at beta of it when it was done. Huge thanks, as well, to [personal profile] earlgreytea68 and [personal profile] chicklet73 for their beta work, especially given how utterly insane their lives have been this past month.



Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4


“Oi! Boots on the ground!” Elias felt a thwack against his head, and kicked his boots down from the table before him. Erskine gave him a wink as he walked by, unrolling the pile of papers he held in his hand. “You, Sergeant, have the pleasure of going on a wee little field trip over the weekend. Pack your bags for the Cotswolds—last month’s suggestion to meet up with the communications staff was well-received, and they’re cycling you lot through there to meet up with the voices on the other end of the line.”

Elias blinked, a bit dazed from the rush of adrenaline in his system. “Sir?”

“You. Cotswolds. Maybe find out who Juliet is—been dying to know, myself.” Another wink. “The rest of you lads have liberty. Be sure to thank McCoy for the honour.”

His thanks from his team involved a good deal of beer and bawdy singing, and it was with a very fuzzy head that he staggered out the next morning to catch the ride down to the Cotswolds. He felt like hell, he was sure he looked—and smelled—like it, and he desperately hoped he’d have a chance clean up a bit before meeting with the commander of the office for supper.

He was in luck upon his arrival, the soldier who greeted him immediately taking in Elias’s appearance and the way he winced at bright light and sound and determining that it would be best for all concerned to get him to a room post-haste. He was able to shower—it felt almost as good as any shower he’d had after prolonged gallivanting in the wilderness—and then he allowed himself the luxury of a mid-day nap. He left himself just enough time to shave before pulling on the uniform the kind soldier had had pressed for him, and then it was off to the officer’s mess for his formal reception.

He was greeted at the entrance to the mess by the Warrant Officer in charge of the communications division. Gibson was a man of middling height and solid weight, and to Elias’s surprise was only some ten years older than himself. The handshake was firm, the man’s hands soft, and Elias tried not to feel too self-conscious about the disastrous state he knew his own hands were in. He did, after all, do some rather interesting labour for his living, and there was hardly any shame in his position within the services.

“Welcome, welcome. Fantastic idea, this! Wanted to have you be first to visit, didn’t quite work out so you’re our fourth.” Gibson’s voice was hearty and held a note of perpetual amusement; Elias felt a flash of surprise at that, realising he’d expected some dour, grim-toned bureaucrat.

He was surprised once more when he was shown into the mess and found dinner involved not just him and the Warrant Officer but also seemingly the entirety of the staff. He felt a flush pass through him, his collar suddenly feeling terribly tight; and he spared a brief thought of thanks that he’d not known what he’d be walking into when he’d been dressing for the meal.

“Got the whole staff tonight—managed to gin things so there’s been a night off for two out of the four of you. You got lucky.”

He murmured his assent, trying to bring his emotions under control. Somewhere in that room was the woman he’d spoken with.

A quick count showed there were a dozen people around the table; he’d been right in guessing the odds were stacked against him having a female comms officer, as there were only three of them in the room. All of them regarded him with keen interest; he knew that he’d spoken to two of them. But which one was her?

One of them was ginger whilst two of them were brunette, which increased the odds of his imaginings being correct; all of them were fit, which was no surprise at all. Two of them, as well, were almost as tall as he was; the third, one of the brunettes, was tiny enough that he wondered at just how strong she was. She had to be a beast, under that uniform, to be able to meet the requirements necessary to stay in the position. He hoped to gain the advantage, knowing he’d be introduced around the table by the commanding officer; had hoped that the officers would say something to him by way of greeting, and that in turn would help him to work out which of the women it was.

“Sergeant McCoy, let me introduce you around.” Elias fought back a smug smile as he was taken over to the first communications officer. The urge passed when he realised that each introduction was going to be a straight recitation of names and ranks punctuated by a handshake. The conversation, it seemed, was meant for later. He tried not to appear too curious when he was introduced to each of the women—and the lovely, tall brunette in particular. He smiled at each of them, shook their hands firmly, and gave them all the most charming smile he could muster. The tall brunette seemed to appreciate the effort; the other two women seemed singularly unimpressed.

He definitely hoped that he’d be held to quiet conversation with Gibson over supper, while the rest of the communications officers talked noisily with each other; he wanted to have the chance to suss out who Juliet was before she could recognise who he was. However, his luck seemed to have finally run out, the Warrant Officer insisting on speaking with him while the other staff silently listened.

“So, Sergeant, good ride down today?”

Elias sighed, realising that not only was he going to be the first to speak; he’d also be doing it with his back to the group he most wanted to watch. His Juliet would have the advantage of knowing him—assuming she recognised his voice, and why wouldn’t she?—while he remained in the dark as to her true identity.

“Fair enough,” he replied equitably. “Made excellent time, and was able to catch a nap upon arrival.”

“Excellent! First time to this base?”

“It is. Seems to be in a prettier bit of the world than where I’m currently based.”

“It has its benefits.”

Conversation slowly built around them, the junior officers feeling they’d heard enough to be polite. He strained to listen for Juliet’s familiar voice while trying to carry on a polite conversation with the Warrant Officer, but by the time the meal concluded he was feeling completely frustrated. He’d not been able to pick out her voice in the group. What if she’d transferred out? What if she was gone?

“The group been with you long?” he asked as his post-supper tea was served, keeping the question as quiet as possible.

Gibson took a sip of his coffee. “Every last one of them’s been with me for ages. Bates there—” A middle-aged man near the end of the table raised his head-- “He’s been here six years. Most recent one’s Newman—” The petite brunette gave him a small smile-- “She’s only been here a year. Rest of ‘em been here everything in between. Going to lose Quarles there soon—bloody police came a’calling, made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.”

The ginger woman gave him a steady gaze, and then returned her attention to the man next to her.

“Damned Met, deciding their best recruiting ground is my staff!” the older man huffed, his coffee cup rattling precariously on its saucer.

“Sorry?”

“They’ve not tormented you lot? Somehow they got a list of officers up for re-enlisting, managed to snake their way into town and hold a fair offering good jobs and better pay simply for running around after common bloody criminals in that filthy city.”

“They’ve recruited a Sergeant to come be a PC?”

“Not just her, whole load of folks from here.” The man swore under his breath. “Clever, that lot—bringing ‘em in in specialty positions. Quarles there’s supposedly getting fast tracked for investigation, although given her spotty success with surveillance heaven only knows how it’ll work.”

“Oi!” Elias turned to find Sergeant Quarles glaring down the table. He raised his eyebrows in surprise, used to flexibility in the chain of command but not quite that much flexibility.

“Now, Quarles, no disrespect. Just a bitter old man, me, angry at losing a star pupil.”

The Sergeant let out a tolerant sigh, shaking her head and returning to her conversation.

“One of the best, she is,” Gibson murmured. “Good grab by the Met, but I’ll not soon forgive them. Rest of my bunch, though—they’re staying. Bless the lot of ‘em.”

The Warrant Officer insisted on buying Elias a drink after supper; several of the comms officers joined him, and as drinks were handed round and consumed several of them introduced themselves using their call signs. He considered asking the men which of the women was Juliet, but as drinks were passed round and conversation moved on, the moment was lost. None of the women were there, much to his disappointment, but he was determined to enjoy himself with the company he was given.

He awoke the next morning with a hangover significantly less vile than the one he’d experienced the morning before. A long hot shower, several glasses of water, and a handful of paracetamol prepared him for his day, and he slowly made his way back to the mess where he’d been told to report for breakfast.

Food and pastries were laid out on the sideboard, and it looked as though a few of the officers had already come and gone by the time he finally arrived. He passed the tall brunette as he entered, receiving a smile in return as she continued her conversation with one of the other comms officers; inside were the ginger woman and two of the men with whom he’d been drinking.

“Morning, all,” he said by way of greeting, used now to blasting through the awkwardness of walking into a room full of quasi-strangers.

“How’s the head?” Gaines, one of the longer-tenured of the officers, enquired.

“Better than you’d expect. It’ll be even better with a spot of food.” He headed directly for the small buffet, grabbing one of the plates and piling it with as much of a full English breakfast as he could find. He topped it all with a black pudding, then carefully made his way to the table, taking care not to spill any of it.

He was surprised when a cup of tea appeared at his side, accompanied by a murmured, “For the head.” He glanced up to catch the bemused gaze of the ginger Sergeant Quarles before she moved to the sideboard to fill her own plate. He glanced down at the cup again, frowning, wishing she’d said more so he’d be able to tell if she was the other woman he’d spoken with.

The men were bantering in the way that close colleagues do, earning a tolerant nod of the head from Quarles as she returned to the table. She swatted at the hand of one of them when he reached for some of her bacon, and she laughingly pulled the plate towards her before unfolding her napkin.

“You’re like the mean older sister.”

“I am mean, but given I’m a good five years younger than you, Sammy, you’ve no room to call me older.”

Elias’s knife slipped as he sawed at the bacon on his own plate, the sharp squeal of the action echoing through the room.

He glanced over to the group sheepishly. “Sorry.”

Sergeant Quarles was looking at him, eyebrow arched, challenging. She’d done it deliberately, making sure he’d be able to hear her, testing him to see if he’d recognise the voice.

Of course he would. He’d know it anywhere.

He opened his mouth, determined to say something effortlessly clever. And then he froze, drawing a complete blank. Her expression shifted to a smile, and she slowly drawled, “Troubles, Sergeant?”

“All is well, thank you. Just need this bit of tea and a spot more breakfast.” He shoved a bite of food into his mouth, chasing it with the scalding tea. He took his time eating, enjoying listening to the ongoing teasing at the end of the table, savouring hearing her voice in person. She looked nothing like he’d expected, but as he considered that fact he determined it didn’t much matter. It was her personality and her voice that had entranced him—to the point of suggesting this ridiculous scheme which was no doubt costing the military quite a lot of money—and he was happy simply to listen to her in person.

“Ruby, we need to go get the room set. You mind making sure our hungover guest can find his way over?”

“I think I’ll manage,” she replied drily, causing him to grin into his teacup. He gave the men a friendly little wave as they passed him on their way out; and then he realised he was alone with her.

“You alright, Sergeant?” She’d moved, was standing next to him, her plate in her hand.

“Yes! Just fine. Bit hungover.”

“Yes, you’d mentioned that. Finished?” She gestured to his plate, still holding a few bits and pieces from his meal.

“I think so, yes.” He watched her as she collected his plate, deftly juggling the dishes before carting them over to the small window at the back of the room. He continued to watch as she set them down, giving a good knock to the wood panelling; then as a panel slid aside and the dishes were pulled to the other side. The wood slid shut with a snick; and then she was looking at him.

“Right,” she said, her shoulders squaring before she walked over to him. She settled into the chair beside him, extending her hand. “We’ve not been properly introduced, I don’t think. I’m Juliet. But most folks call me Ruby.”

Her grin was infectious, and he felt like a grinning idiot as he took her hand. “You might know me under a variety of names, but most people call me Elias.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Elias.”

“Likewise, Ruby.”

~ - ~

He was tall. He was dark. And he was most assuredly handsome. He also had charm to spare and was more than aware of the fact, something which put her slightly on her guard in spite of wanting to get to know him better.

She’d had plenty of time to think about him the evening previous, having reported to her duty station immediately after dinner had ended. It had been a fairly quiet night, many of the teams tucked away in their bases, and she’d been left alone with her thoughts while the rest of the group took their guest to the usual watering hole. She’d not missed how he’d surveyed the room at dinner the evening before, his eyes weighing each of the women in turn. Fiona had received a fair appraising glance before Ruby had noticed his eyes narrowing; Elizabeth—always one to draw long glances from straight men—had most assuredly held most of his attention.

As for herself…well, he’d barely looked at her at all, which she had to admit had stung. Especially when each of the three men who’d been to visit prior to Sergeant McCoy had been more than keen to speak with her—well, to speak with everyone—eagerly introducing themselves to the room with little prompting at all from Gibson. But Sergeant McCoy had been a bit more deliberate about the whole thing. Calculated, really. And it coloured her perception of the man she’d grown fond of over the radio.

His indifference from the night before had changed, of course, once he’d heard her that morning. It had been almost comical, watching him try desperately to act nonchalant as she spoke, as he put the pieces together. She’d known who he was as soon as she’d heard him speak the night before, and had hoped—well, assumed—that he’d been looking for her. She’d decided during her shift to test the theory, and she felt no small measure of glee at finding she was right.

But the fact remained that the man in front of her, while very much sounding like the man who’d fascinated her for months, had a personality that was nothing at all like she’d expected.

“Missed you at the pub last night,” he said casually, trying very hard indeed to look nonchalant as he played with his cup of tea.

He wasn’t half so observant as he thought, she noted; she was wearing the same uniform she’d worn the night before, and even her hair was unchanged. Perhaps if he’d not been so busy ogling Elizabeth he’d have noticed. “Had to work,” she replied simply, raising her eyebrows as she took a sip of her stone-cold coffee.

“But I thought—”

“For dinner, we all had the night off. Still work to be done, though, and your team’s not the only one out there.” She tried to soften her tone, knowing she was being a touch oversensitive. He’d not lived up to her fanciful imaginings; it was hardly his fault. Well, it was partially his fault, but mostly it was hers.

“Right enough. Good shift?”

“Oh, the usual. Punctual radio checks, all quiet on the Western front, that sort of thing.”

He laughed, pushing his cup and saucer away. “I’ll never live that down, will I?”

His laughter was infectious, and she couldn’t help but chuckle in return. “Only if I tell my colleagues about it.”

“But with you…” He leaned toward her, a move whose sincerity she couldn’t determine.

“I’ve a long memory, Sergeant.” She arched an eyebrow, taking another sip of coffee before leaning back in her chair. “How’ve you enjoyed being out in the field?”

“It has its moments.”

She gave him a knowing smile. “That it does.”

“How’d you work out I was Scottish?” His expression relaxed a touch, a sign that this was a question of genuine interest to him.

“You get sloppy when you get tired.”

His brow lifted slowly, the innuendo clearly the first thing to occur to him.

“Your accent, that is. Yeesh.”

He grinned, an almost feral expression. She shook her head, pushing her cup of coffee away.

“’bout time to be getting you over to the office, Sergeant.”

“Elias.”

“’bout time to be getting you over to the office, Elias.” She shook her head again, standing before reaching for the cups. She was pleasantly surprised when he shooed her away, collecting the dishes instead and walking them over to the cubby in the back corner of the room. He was a quick learner, she noted, even getting the knocks right; and she continued to watch him as he sauntered to meet her by the door.

“You bussed the plates; figured I could do the cups.”

“Quite the hospitable guest, you.”

“Always.” He held the door open and gestured for her to lead the way.

“Are you always this charming, then? Or is this something exclusively for our benefit?” She asked the words with a smile as they exited out to the still-foggy morning, the mist softening the hard edges of the utilitarian buildings.

“You think this is an act?” He glanced to her, his expression serious.

“I don’t know what to think,” she replied frankly.

“Ouch,” he replied slowly. She heard him take a deep breath before he continued, “It’s how I am, all of the time. At least, I think it’s how I am.” He sounded thoughtful, and she stole a glance at him as they crossed the tarmac. His brow was furrowed slightly, his mouth turned down at the corners. She thought it suited him far better, the addition of a slight bit of seriousness, and it comported a bit more with the image she’d had of him from their conversations. The man she’d spoken with was intelligent and witty, but he also had a good bit of thoughtfulness to him—just as McCoy did now.

“Maybe it’s being in a new environment,” she suggested, preferring the idea that he was simply uncomfortable to the notion that he was so ‘on’ all of the time.

“Possibly. I take it you don’t approve, regardless.”

She was surprised by the tone in his voice and stopped on the pavement, a few feet short of their destination. “I…I’m just trying to figure you out. You’re not at all what I expected.”

“How so?”

She frowned. “I don’t know.” She shook her head, forcing a smile. “Don’t mind me, I’m always a bit off after shift. Usually go for a run to try to clear away the cobwebs.”

To his credit, he didn’t let her completely get away with her answer. He looked steadily at her as he softly said, “I’ll answer any question you put to me.”

She felt a flush creep up her neck, and once again noted how very intensely charming he could be. Almost lethally so, when he was serious about it. “Duly noted, Sergeant.”

“I mean it.” He leaned forward as he reinforced his point. “I—”

“Ah, there you are! Many thanks for seeing our guest over, Quarles.” Gibson strolled up the pavement, clapping Ruby on the shoulder, extending his hand to McCoy. “Appreciate your staying up late to do it.”

“My pleasure, sir.” She took a step back, feeling able to breathe again with more distance between her and McCoy.

“See you later this afternoon?”

“Aye, sir. I’ll be there.”

“You’re…you’re not coming inside?” McCoy looked genuinely surprised—and, she thought, disappointed.

“Worked all night, remember? It’s well past bedtime for me.” She extended her hand. “Been a pleasure speaking with you, Sergeant. I’ll see you later.”

He took it, his calloused palm rough against hers. She noted—as she had the night before—that his hands were larger than hers by a good bit, and very warm. And that his handshake was very firm indeed. “I’ll look for you then.” He was slow to release her hand, was even slower to return his hand to his side. Gibson seemed not to notice, beginning to eagerly speak to their guest as she stepped away.

She forced herself to not look back as she set out for her barracks.

~ - ~

Chapter 5
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