Title: How Things Began (6/23)
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: I’m sorry for posting so late! Hopefully the content will make up for the tardiness. I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and I'll see you all next year!

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 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6


It took Elias a fair while to accept what Ruby Quarles had said to him, during that visit to the Cotswolds. He’d been stung a bit at first, not understanding why the warm woman from the radio was so recalcitrant in his presence. How could she not see that it was him, well and truly; that he did in fact care for her, no matter how it appeared to her.

He regretted, actively, not having the chance to speak with her again before she resigned from service. December, she’d said; she’d be gone by the New Year. And so he marked the turning of the year with a heavy sigh, and a wish that he’d asked her to please keep in touch with him even after she left. Of course she did know how to find him—she had his name and his rank, and even knew where he was based—but when weeks passed without a letter from her, he took it as a sign that perhaps she’d not been as enchanted with him as he had been with her.

And he was enchanted with her, by her. A week didn’t pass that he didn’t think of her, wondering how she was, if she was enjoying her new life, if she thought of him at all. He couldn’t radio in for a check without thinking of those nights they’d talked; of how he’d felt able to simply talk, unchecked, when she was listening, no need to be Sergeant McCoy but rather just Elias.

He worked out that’s what she’d meant, when she’d asked him if he was always so on; he regretted that he’d not be able to tell her the answer to the question, that the man she’d spoken with on the radio was the real him, not the swaggering eejit she’d met when he’d visited her base.

And, daft eejit that he was, it wasn’t until he was in the field four months after he’d seen her, speaking on the radio while gunfire and munitions rained around him, that he finally acknowledged he’d gone and fallen in love with her at some point. As he tried to bury himself as far as possible into the mud of the forest, his head resting on the speaker of the radio as he held the mic to his lips, he pictured her the night he’d visited her in the comms building, when she’d told him that people had died whilst she’d spoken to them. He’d wanted nothing more than to pull her to him, to comfort her, to take the memories from her so she’d not have to relive them. He wished it was her on the other end of the radio at that point, that if he was going to hear anyone’s voice for the last time that it would be hers.

He loved her, no question. And he’d stupidly let her slip through his fingers, and had even managed to lose track of her. For all he knew she was married by that point, some wise bloke in London snatching her up for his own.

The thoughts were chased from his mind by a renewed attack from the other side. But as he communicated with Gaines, grateful for the man’s steadying influence, he watched as Erskine was cut down, the man unquestionably dead; then as another of his mates was wounded. He really, really hoped the rest of them would make it out of there alive.

“Guaranteed one casualty, one injury. Have to go, Alpha, work to do. Delta out.” He signed off, hoping it wouldn’t be the last time anyone outside that damned glade heard his voice.

It was a month later, after they’d all been debriefed and patched up—mentally and physically—that he decided he really didn’t much care to go skulking about the fields and forests any longer. He’d heard rumours as the remnants of the team recuperated, that what had happened to them had been avoidable; that there had been several opportunities in fact for things to be stopped or changed before it had come down to a battle in the rainy, muddy woods of the west of the country. It infuriated him, the needless death of a man he’d adored as much as his own father, of a team member he’d loved like a brother. And it destroyed his faith in the system, or at least the system as it functioned at that moment.

His commission was up for renewal, sparing him the necessity of outright resignation; he took the honourable discharge instead, accepting a position with a firm made up of men like him—former team members who’d left service, but whose skill and talents were being harnessed to try to effect change for the better in the service. It had sounded like an excellent place to be, and they paid him an almost obscene amount of money for his experience; but after nearly a year of it he decided the firm was in truth just as bad as the service; worse, in fact, because they were in it for straight profit.

He’d stashed a small bit of his princely earnings aside as he worked, and he was able to walk in and quit on the spot one sunny spring day, feeling happier than he had in ages as he walked out the door knowing he’d not have to return.

Throughout it all, he kept wondering about Ruby. Even a year and a half gone from the last time they’d spoken he could still see her; could close his eyes and remember her smile, or recall with astonishing clarity some of their conversations. He’d blathered on often enough about her to his cousin that the man had given him Wuthering Heights to read; he’d replied that he was no Heathcliff, and even if he were he wouldn’t be stupid enough to deal with things the way the character had.

“Says the man who chased a ginger-haired stranger through a train station, convinced that she was the woman of your dreams. Get busy moving on, then, or go find her. Lord knows you’ve got the resources to, if you really wanted.” His cousin had shaken his head, giving him a gentle punch on the shoulder before passing over another beer.

The Met were still hiring, that he knew—their recruiters called him periodically, reading a script telling him that exciting opportunities were available in the civilian services and he’d be a fantastic addition to their ranks. He’d rung off each time with a “No, thank you”; but now that he was unemployed, and having decided that his future did not in any way lay with the military, perhaps it was time to kill two birds with one stone.

He stared at the ceiling as he lay on the floor, the hard surface making his back crack in all of the right spots. How creepy would it be to chase a woman down to London? Especially one who’d told him “Thanks, not interested, you’re a bit of an ass?” She’d not said it in so many words, of course—she was too clever for that. But with time and distance, he’d finally finished reading between the lines, had determined that she might not have wanted a relationship with a colleague, but that she’d have bent the rule if she wanted it badly enough.

He wondered if she remembered him; if she thought often, or at all, of the cocksure young Scotsman whom she’d spoken to so many times. He doubted she knew what an impact she’d made on him; how could she, when he’d not known it himself, at the time? But then again there was nothing to say that she was as he remembered. He was idealising her, placing her on a pedestal as some sort of paragon, his ideal woman, the One Who Got Away. It would be utter, complete madness to go to London in the hopes of finding her.

He needed to remove her from the equation entirely, and focus instead on what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Or at least what he thought he might like to do for the rest of it; he was a realist enough, now, to know that people with his background and experiences didn’t generally find a place to happily settle down for years on end. Odds were he’d bounce from job to job for the rest of his working life, careers losing their appeal after a few years, maximum.

So why not give the Met a go, then? Give himself three years down there—long enough to get the bonus for signing with the department, to give it a chance to get boring or stay interesting, to maybe see if he was cleverer than the criminals of the capital city. Failing all else, it would be a nice chance to move south for a bit, to experience warmer weather and more sunshine in a month than he’d often seen in a year. He had family in the area, an uncle close to his own age and his wife and their children; he’d not have to be completely on his own if he didn’t want to be.

He drank a beer, then another, and finally worked up the courage to ring the number of the recruiter who’d called him so many times before. The other man sounded surprised at the call, but was happy enough to hear Elias say he’d accept their offer: a three-year contract with the services, with the option to go into either counter-intelligence or detective work. He signed the paperwork when it was sent to him without a second thought, and sent it back post-haste.

His start date was the first of June.

~ - ~

Ruby leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms above her head, wishing desperately she could go for a run to think. It had been the second-hardest thing to get used to, in her nearly two years with the Met—the fact that although she worked a shift her hours still moved around depending on the case, making it hard to create any sort of regular schedule for running through her neighbourhood and working off her spare energy.

The hardest thing, of course, was getting used to existing in an environment that was a bit more relaxed than she’d been used to in her previous career. She still had a bit of trouble understanding when it was allowed, even expected, to go outside the chain of command, and she had a terrible time calling people by anything other than their rank, but she was getting better at it. Her training officer—a crusty old beggar from Cornwall who still had a habit of slipping Cornish into his sentences—had been surprisingly good at helping her to adapt. In fact, the only time he lost patience with her tended to be when she wasn’t able to rattle off a particular applicable procedure or law, verbatim, right down to the subsection and line number.

She’d settled in far better outside of work, finding a shared flat with a classmate of hers—a refugee from the military as well, from a signals company in Scotland—and the two of them got on well enough to still be living together two years on. Bruce was a flirt and a bit of a cad but they shared a common interest in men, with the result that she couldn’t quite remember seeing so many lovely men parade through a place without having slept with a single one of them.

Well, she had slept with one of them, the only straight male to have visited the flat since she’d moved there. But that had been a disaster of epic proportions. She’d resolved after that to not bother, and to especially not bother with handsome strangers who pulled women at holiday parties.

“Plans for the holiday?” Wen—Wendron, actually, but nobody called him that—asked as she straightened.

“I’m on call—someone has to be so you old sods can go home.”

Wen smiled, the wrinkles of his face deepening. “The privilege of rank. Will you celebrate it with your dear Bruce?”

She laughed. “Bruce’ll be in town, aye, but I think he’s planned to spend the time over at…” She paused, trying to recall the name of Bruce’s current lover. “I think his name is actually Dieter. Lovely gent over on work from New Germany.”

“The wife and I will be staying in town, dear, if you’d like a place to celebrate the holiday.”

She smiled, touched by his offer. “I appreciate it, Wen.”

The man shook his head. “You put in for overtime, didn’t you?”

“Perhaps.” She grinned. “Not everyone has my particular talents, you know; it’s good to put them to use every now and again. Especially if it means extra pay.”

“The spirit of Twelfth Night,” he replied with a twinkle.

“I already said I was staying so people could go home! I just…leavened the statement with a spot of honesty.” She laughed.

“The offer stands nonetheless. If you finish early, or the case closes, or any number of unforeseen circumstances occurs to free up your time, do come over for the holiday meal. Vi would love to have you.”

“Thank you again—I will ring if things free up a bit.”

“I trust you’ll keep your word as an officer of the law.”

She grinned.

It was snowy over London on Twelfth Night, the soft white blanketing the dirty grey of the pavements, creating—even if only for an hour—a scene of peaceful beauty. She watched out the window as it fell, the headphones covering her ears providing a very strange counterpoint indeed. She listened carefully as the subject of the Met’s investigation set up several illicit activities, certain the “rubbish coppers” would have taken the holiday off; she continued to listen as she carefully typed up the details, then sent them off to the detectives currently stuck working out in the actual field that evening. She kept a close ear on activities, listening for anything that might indicate the group inside the house were aware they were being surveilled or that the police were en route, and she actually had to bite back a laugh as she heard their reactions to being caught in the act, the door being kicked in to shouts from the officers making entry. She started to type up her report as she continued listening, making sure that all remained well in the house, old habit keeping her on the air until the scene was clear.

And then she froze, the world falling away as she focused intently on what was happening in the house a good ten miles away from where she sat. She closed her eyes, trying to separate out the voices in the room, her heart racing as she willed at least one of the men to speak again.

And he did. “Put the knife away, you idiot, it won’t do you well here. There’s a good lad.”

She knew that voice, unquestionably. She’d thought about him once or twice—especially after she’d read the news of a team getting pinned in a kill zone along the border, bad maps and even worse decision-making from above leading to their stumbling into the place. She wasn’t familiar with the names of the dead, and hadn’t recognised the actual unit number, but she’d wondered if it was his.

The Met’s program to bring former officers into the police services had delivered mixed results—mixed enough that there was talk of suspending the program when the funding ran out in a few short months. But apparently they’d succeeded in recruiting Elias McCoy, her Charlie. How very odd, all things considered. He’d seemed quite happy playing with his team, and she couldn’t fathom that he’d be able to suppress his ego enough to be a police officer. It wasn’t fun, being wrong as often as you were right; more often than she liked to think she’d had to admit she was wrong, go back, and re-do hours or days of work as she tried to come to the right conclusion. She was lucky that Wen was patient with her. He’d explained that it was part of the training, learning what worked and what didn’t, being able to learn from the mistakes, to take the experience under the belt and use it in the future. She had improved, she knew that, but it had been an almost murderous process when she’d first started.

She honestly couldn’t imagine how McCoy would deal with it.

She continued to listen, rapt, as the four detectives on the scene—for a detective McCoy appeared to be, serving as DC to a DI she’d heard Wen mention once or twice—corralled the suspects, apprising them of their rights and then sending them off with a PC (or several, she thought, knowing that a prisoner transport had been sent) for booking.

She listened on as the men joked around after that; and she noted that McCoy still seemed to be new enough that he was taking clear direction on what to look at, what to ignore, and how to go about any number of small tasks that she now considered to be second nature.

He couldn’t have been long out of training, then; he certainly hadn’t been in much longer than four months, which was the earliest they’d let one of the new military recruits out into the field. What on earth had possessed him—a man with skills far above what the Met needed—to get a job there?

She felt a tap at her shoulder and pulled the headphones off, turning to see the friendly face of the DCI currently overseeing the operation.

“Got that report done, Quarles?”

“Aye, just have to finish typing it up. Could I get the names of the officers you sent out so I can put them in?”

“No problem at all.” He found a scrap of paper and a pencil and scratched them down.

There it was, proof that he was there—and that he was so new he was still on probation. “DC E. McCoy, Prob.”

“I don’t think I know any of these blokes,” she said, reading the list.

“Different bunch than you’re used to, although I’m surprised Wen hasn’t at least mentioned Ephraim a time or two—those two’ve known each other as long as you’ve been alive.”

“Ah.”

“Report, Quarles. Then I’m happy to gossip about any of them.”

She drafted the report, feeling strangely lightheaded as she typed McCoy’s name into the “arresting officers” section.

She sent the DCI the paperwork when she was finished, still feeling a bit dizzy as she moved over to the listening post and shut the equipment off. She earned a friendly wave as she left, the DCI thanking her once more for offering to come in and work; and she somehow made her way back to her own desk on a different floor, collecting her purse and her coat before re-locking her desk drawers. Somebody had decorated their space with faerie lights, lending a soft glow to the otherwise drab space, and she couldn’t help but smile as she made her way to the lifts.

Maybe she would give Wen a call; it was early enough that she’d be able to make it to his house before suppertime, and it would be nice to have a proper holiday meal instead of the leftovers lurking in the flat. She pulled out her phone, thumbing through the contacts as she waited for the lift, and didn’t pay much attention when it dinged, signalling its arrival.

She made her way to the doors, her attention focused on finding Wen’s number, and walked straight into none other than Elias McCoy.

~ - ~

Chapter 7
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