Title: How Things Began (8/23)
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 think, by the end of this, many of you will be saying, “Finally!”

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 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8


Ruby spent the morning consumed by the pile of papers, trying to work out what was going on in the story they told, finally determining what wrongdoing there was, what evidence they had to support the charge, and who might be the main suspects based off of the information contained therein. Wen didn’t seem terribly surprised by what she reported back to him, questioning her on only a few points before turning his attention to his computer and typing rapidly.

“Oh, Quarles, do me a favour and review the notes from that attempted murder,” he said idly as he worked, nodding his head in the rough direction of the file. As he typed she read, flipping between pages, finding similarities and differences between interviews and evidence, her mind sifting through everything to find potential courses for further inquiry.

It was what they often did, when they weren’t out on a scene itself. Wen would review things and come up with his own idea—which he kept to himself—and then she’d do the same. They’d compare notes after that, Wen questioning her rationale for decisions and assumptions, challenging her to defend her choices. He was, as he’d told her the first few times, trying to get her used to being questioned herself; to having her investigations challenged by defence or even superiors. “You won’t always have your answers in black-and-white; you need to be able to justify the greys,” he often said, and his method had taught her to think far more critically and thoroughly than she’d done when she first started working with him.

She’d learned well enough that their discussions lasted far less time than they used to, Ruby having grown used to framing her arguments in a way that would address most of Wen’s questions, Wen having learned where her strengths and weaknesses lay. He was to the point now of giving her first go at many of the cases, trusting her to draft up the reports and to make decisions on how the case itself would be pursued.

The result was that there was rarely a day where she had a proper break, her ten-hour shift flying past as she and Wen focused intently on chasing down suspects, finalising charges, or ribbing each other across their desks. And it made it even easier for her to lose track of days, each of them flowing into the other, her mind frequently focused on case particulars as she made her way out of the building, navigating home through practice while thoroughly distracted by a particularly thorny issue or challenge.

Thus, it wasn’t until Saturday that she remembered she owed McCoy a call, as she and Wen shared a rare moment of peace in the office.

“Bugger,” she muttered, fumbling for her purse, cursing when she couldn’t find his card. She must have put it in her suit pocket, and of course now the suit was in a pile at home, waiting for a trip to the cleaners. “Wen, I need to run upstairs for a sec, that alright?”

He smiled up at her. “Quarles, so long as you’re not going off on a holiday, you don’t need my permission. You know that.”

She did, but she was still used to seeking permission from a superior to leave her post. “Right. Got my mobile.”

“Good on you,” he answered, shaking his head in bemusement as he returned to reading the journal article before him.

Seventh floor, southwest corner… She got her bearings, then took the stairs up two floors. It was laid out in much the same way as the fifth floor, and she nervously made her way through the maze of offices and cubicles to the area of the building housing McCoy’s desk.

She paused, her eyes seeking him out. She was nervous about coming upstairs to see him, and hastily swiped her palms on her trousers as she had the thought that perhaps he wasn’t working on a Saturday. He had suggested they had opposite shifts; perhaps he was on nights, as well.

She was about to turn, seeking out one of the Detectives who was working to ask if McCoy was in, when she finally spotted him. His desk was in a dark corner of the area, and he was bent over it, focused entirely on writing. Her lips quirked as she noted he was using a pen, his shirtsleeves rolled up so they wouldn’t stain with ink. His jacket was hanging crookedly from his chair, and she noted the small, soft rugby ball half-squashed under the bottom of his desk.

She crept closer, staying quiet until he appeared to have finished whatever it was he was working on.

“Got a minute?” she asked quietly, not wanting to startle him as she walked into his line of sight.

His mouth quirked. “Thought you were giving me the silent brush-off.”

“It’s lovely to see you, too,” she replied defensively, knowing he was right but too embarrassed to acknowledge it. She glanced down at the guest chair, picking up a cricket ball before sitting down.

“Ah, yes, I seem to have forgotten my manners. It’s a delight to see you, Ruby, do please have a seat.” He smiled, holding his hand out for the cricket ball.

“Would you believe me if I said I lost track of time?”

He sighed, and capped the pen he still held in his hand. “Yes, I suppose I would.”

“And that I left your card at home?”

He glanced back to her, his hand now absentmindedly tapping the pen against the papers before him. “You came to find me, Ruby. I doubt you’ve have done that if you were giving me the brush off.” He tossed the pen down, rubbing his hand over his face. “And, again, you’ve caught me in a bit of a tired state, so I’m coming across as passive-aggressive and not sincere.”

She sat back, surprised by his self-assessment. “Have you had a break since I saw you last?”

“Been working a case, and a bit of a mad one at that.”

“Do you have time for a break now?”

He glanced at the papers before him, then back to her. “I need to type this up. But after that, I do. I should, rather.”

“You hand write your reports?” She couldn’t resist teasing him, turning so she could read what he’d written.

“You don’t?” he replied defensively.

“My handwriting scares small children and schoolteachers.”

“That’s not true—I’ve seen it.”

“You’ve see my shorthand, which is infinitely better than my script.” She stood, her fingers just resting on the edge of the desk. “Come find me when you’re done; I owe you at least a cup of coffee.”

“You do?” He looked bewildered.

“I do. Fifth floor, north-eastern bit. Kind of the middle.” She glanced around his desk, then reached for the pen he’d tossed aside, unable to keep from smiling as she saw it was a fountain pen. “Or ring me.” She jotted her extension down on the edge of his blotter, then returned the pen to where she’d found it.

“Alright,” he replied dazedly.

“You. Report. Type.” She smiled at him, then turned to return to her own desk.

“What’ve you been up to?” Wen asked upon her return, giving her a suspicious glance.

“Nothing!”

“Hm. You’re smirking. Can’t be good, whatever it is.”

“Wen!”

“Doesn’t matter, so long as I don’t have to write a report.” He looked back at the magazine he was now reading, rocking back in his chair.

She tried to focus on straightening her case files, still trying to create a system that made sense but didn’t require too much maintenance. Alphabetical was always good, but maybe it would be better after all to simply go with date. Wen always did his by location, so he could keep an eye on what was going on in various parts of the city…

She looked at the list she’d drafted, trying not to look at her watch whilst working out any other options for organisation. She needed to do something with the folders, but she didn’t want to get too involved in the project, not if McCoy was going to be ringing her up at some point.

He, of course, did not ring; he instead appeared at her right arm as she glared at the list before her. Wen glanced up from where he was reading, feigning only idle curiosity, asking blandly, “Can we help?”

“I prefer tea,” McCoy said, smiling at her from where he stood. “And I’m buying.”

She sighed, deciding it wasn’t a battle worth fighting. “Tea it is. That alright, Wen, if I pop out for a cuppa?”

“I’ve told you, Ruby—”

“Right. No need for permission. I’ve got my mobile; care for a coffee when I come back?”

“Please. And no rush—if there is, you’ll know.” Wen returned to reading.

“Thanks.” She stood, reaching behind her for her coat. She smiled, pleased, when Elias held it for her, helping her into it. “And thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he replied lightly, stepping back.

They were quiet on the walk to the lift, and then on the ride down, and Ruby felt her heart begin to race along. He was, still, undeniably handsome—perhaps even more so now that he was a bit older and was wearing a suit instead of drab khaki. And they didn’t technically work together, not anymore…

She clenched her fists, not quite willing to go down that path.

He didn’t speak until they were outside, the air sharp and cold after the warm heat of the building. “Good week?”

“Busy.” He remained without a coat, although he’d at least pulled on his jacket; she, however, stuffed her hands into the bottoms of her coat pockets, pulling it close around her.

“Anything good?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Not really, no. Sad to say, your case was the most excitement I’ve had recently. How’s it going?”

“It could be better. Didn’t get the right villain, unfortunately.”

“Oh,” she replied, a bit more sharply than she’d intended. She’d conveyed all of the information she’d received, accurately, and they’d been sure it was the right bloke...

“Turns turns out we’d been chasing the wrong level within the organisation.” Elias gave her a rueful smile.

“Ah.”

They reached the coffee shop, finding it busy in spite of its out of the way location. Ruby recognised a few of the faces having a break, and McCoy nodded at a few others as they made their way to one of the few open tables along the wall.

“Coffee with sugar?” he asked as she took her coat off.

“Yes, please,” she answered, surprised. She’d not thought he’d remember—or even that he’d noticed.

He returned a few moments later with their beverages, gently sliding her coffee to her before turning his attention to his tea. She watched, bemused, as he meticulously prepared it, glaring briefly at the swirling liquid before finally taking a sip.

“Ritual for you?” she asked when he set it down.

“I’m a bit … particular.”

“I’d not noticed.” She smiled into her coffee.

They were silent for a few moments, neither of them really looking at each other. She watched the flow of people in and out of the shop; Elias, she noted as she stole glances at him, seemed particularly fascinated by the wall behind her.

She finally couldn’t take it. “You’re different.”

“Am I?” His attention shifted to her, his eyes a lovely warm brown.

“You are.”

“Still off-putting?”

She laughed ruefully, her cheeks flushing as she glanced down at her coffee. “That was a terrible thing for me to have said. I’m sorry for it.”

“I’m not.” She looked up, surprised, and he added, “I really was a bit of an ass.”

That earned a quickly-smothered guffaw. “You weren’t any different from any of your colleagues, in that regard.”

It was his turn to give her an apologetic smile. “Funny how that works.”

“How are you finding London?” she asked after another moment.

“Very…Londony.” He smiled. “It’s not changed much since I was here the first time.”

“How old were you then?”

“Ten. Didn’t I tell you that particular story?”

She pretended to think about it, not wanting to admit that she could still recall almost every story he’d told her with ease. “I…I don’t think you did. Refresh my memory.”

As they sipped their drinks he told her of his visit to the city whilst on holiday at his uncle’s house, his Uncle Duncan at the time being all of twenty and eager to show his nephew around the capital. She laughed as he regaled her with the story of their getting lost on the subte, and shook her head as he mentioned that his mum had rung her younger brother with an earful after McCoy accidentally told her the details of their misadventure.

“So you’re saying the subte still gives you fits, then?” she asked when he was done.

“It’s a challenging beast to conquer.”

“You’re letting it win.” She nodded sagely.

“It makes no logical sense!”

“That’s part of its charm.”

“It’s a bloody nightmare.”

“So take the bus.”

“Those are worse,” he groused, pretending to glare at his tea.

“Cycle in.”

“In this weather?”

“Says the man who came out without a proper coat.”

“That’s different.”

She sighed in mock exasperation. “Run.”

He pulled a face.

“Zeppelin?”

“For a five-mile journey?”

“Walk?”

“Bah.”

“Then it sounds to me like you’re stuck with the subte, my dear Mr. McCoy.”

“You forgot one mode of transportation, my dear Miss Quarles.”

“What—unicycle?”

“Car. And I happen to have one.” He smiled smugly, then took a long draught of his tea.

“How on earth can you afford to keep it?”

“Tsk, are you asking me what my income is?”

“No—besides, I can guess at that. It’s just…with council taxes and MOT and parking, I can’t fathom how it’s a reasonable thing to have.”

“It means I can venture out of the city with far more ease than most people.”

“Do you? Venture out?” She rested her chin on her hand, her elbow resting on the table.

“Every chance I get.” He glanced at his watch, his eyebrows arching. “That, however, is a tale for another day. I need to get back.”

She checked her own watch, surprised to find an hour had passed. “I’m surprised Wen’s not called.”

“That’s Wen? The one, the only, the inimitable?”

“That’s him,” she replied, shifting to pull on her coat. “You know him?”

“My mentor does. Talks about him non-stop. I’ll have to introduce myself when we get upstairs.”

McCoy cleared the table and then joined her while she queued for Wen’s coffee. “You work tomorrow, then?” He did an unconvincing job of appearing as though he didn’t actually care about her answer to his question.

“Tomorrow’s…Sunday? Nope, day off. You?”

“Work.”

“Ah. I’m back Monday.”

“Day off,” he shrugged.

“No wonder we never crossed paths before,” she said, shaking her head. She reached the front of the queue, collecting Wen’s coffee before they returned to their conversation.

“Tuesday?” he asked, holding the door open for her.

“Work.”

“Day shift?”

“Day shift.”

“Would you…would you be willing to have lunch?”

“Are you asking me on a date?” she asked, teasing, as they walked up the hill.

“Just a meal,” he replied, his voice firm.

“Lunch, and just a meal at that?” She glanced over to him, noting that once again he was doing a terrible job of hiding how much he cared about her answer. “I think I can do that. Cases willing, of course.”

That earned her another of his warm smiles, just as bright as she remembered but somehow far more sincere.

Wen was still reading when they returned, his feet kicked up on the desk as he perused a different magazine than the one he’d had when they left. He glanced up as she set the coffee on his desk, giving her a nod before glancing over to Elias.

“Wen, this is Elias McCoy.” She stumbled briefly before saying his name. “He’s new upstairs.”

“You’re the one with Ephraim!” Wen tossed the magazine aside, standing in a fluid motion and extending his hand.

“I am.”

“Pleasure to meet you, then.” McCoy had his hand shaken warmly. “Been hearing about you, these past months.”

“Ah.”

Ruby moved to her chair, letting her coat slide off as she listened to the two men briefly discuss the DI to whom McCoy had been assigned.

“You know Ruby, then?” Wen asked, turning his attention to her as she sat.

“I did, once upon a time. Worked together up north.”

“Ah, from her mysterious military past. Of course—I should have guessed.”

“We military folks are all over,” she said drily, logging into her computer.

“That you are. But this lad here is the first one you’ve known.”

“It’s a big military, and not that many of us down here.” She glanced up as she spoke, and felt her stomach do a flip as she noticed Elias looking fondly at her.

“You have an excellent point.” Wen moved back to his desk, reaching for his coffee.

“Best be heading back upstairs,” Elias said, still looking at her. “I look forward to seeing you for lunch, if we don’t see each other before then.”

“Thanks for the coffee.”

“You’re welcome.” She watched as he made his way back to the lifts, then turned her attention to her desk. Several folders had materialised in her absence, and she began to glance through them, curious.

“Nice bloke, that McCoy.”

“He’s improved with age,” she answered absently.

“Eph likes him, thinks he’s got potential.”

“He’s one of the smarter men I’ve met.”

“I see.” Wen set his coffee down, and reached for one of the folders on her desk.


~ - ~

Chapter Nine
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