Title: How Things Began (12/23)
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: So, I’m going to Disney this weekend to celebrate my sister’s 40th. What that means, I’m afraid, is that I won’t be posting Chapter Thirteen this coming Monday. Before you grab the pichforks, rest assured that this is the best spot for me to take a small break. And of course I’ll be back bright and early next Thursday morning, one week from today.

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 these past months.



Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


They took the smaller A road back, emerging from fog into bright, overcast countryside about ten miles away from where they’d stopped. Elias still wore a slight frown as he drove, both hands wrapped loosely around the steering wheel; she enjoyed the chance to watch him, understanding what it was about him that had so fundamentally changed. She knew what it was like to hear people die; she couldn’t imagine how unbelievably horrifying it was to be there and watch it happen. Especially when it was people he’d so clearly cared about.

She remembered the man she’d spoken with, the one who had joked with his lieutenant—killed, she remembered, and her heart broke just a bit more for Elias—and had waxed rhapsodic over the brilliance of the night sky. It had been that latter which had most captured her attention, the ability to see beauty and ponder it a rarity among the men who, while polite enough, tended to be a bit more grounded than that. She wondered if that was still there in Elias, the ability to find the light out of the dark; she hoped it was.

She had no idea what to say to him as they drove, the two-lane road passing through small villages in between traversing the fields of Hampshire. He, however, finally appeared tired of the silence.

“Not many people at work know what happened.”

“I’m happy to keep your secret.”

“Thank you.”

They were approaching another village, and Elias had to move one of his hands from the steering wheel to the gearbox to shift. She waited until they were leaving the village again, Elias upshifting, then reached over to capture his hand. He glanced at her, surprised, the corners of his eyes tightening in pleasure, and she watched as his frown relaxed even more.

His hands weren’t as rough as they had once been, his time out of the field allowing them to heal. As she looked, his hand clasped in hers now, she found still another scar, this one running in a thin white line from the knuckle below his pinkie almost to his wrist.

“How’d you do this one?” she asked, her finger tracing it.

He glanced over, his eyes bright as he looked at her.

“Fishing.”

“Fishing? What were you using, concertina?”

He laughed. “No—fish are no good if you cut them to ribbons before pulling them in. It was when we were trying to cut one from a line. Hamish slipped and got me instead of the fish.”

“Hamish?”

“Cousin.”

“One of the many?”

“That’d be he.”

“How old were you?”

“Twelve. Mum was not best pleased, boxed my ears and told me that’s what I’d get for trusting the daft son of her idiot brother-in-law to do anything.”

“Your mum sounds like a very interesting woman.”

“She is, that.”

“Are you the only one that went into the military? Out of the whole brood?”

His lips quirked. “Brood?”

“Brood. Or ‘bruid’, if you’d understand it better in your native tongue.” She affected a brogue, teasing him further.

He glanced over to her in amusement. “Where’d you learn that?”

“I told you—Bruce is one of your countrymen.”

“Brucie, then, is from Glasgow.”

“He is.”

“How often did he mock you before you got it right?”

“Ye of little faith. I got it within a week of living with him.”

“Really?” He was surprised, and she couldn’t help but grin.

“Really. Can do most any accent you ask me to.”

“Welsh?”

“Even that.”

“’s that why you went to Caernarfon?”

“I can’t answer that.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.” He wiggled his hand free. “Need that, you can have it back in a tick.” They’d reached another village, and he slowed the car down to navigate the parked cars and farm equipment blocking the road. “How are you at imitating Wen?”

“I’m not brave enough to find out.”

“I knew ye were a wise lass.” True to his word, he returned his hand to her once they were back at speed.

“If you keep talking like that, I’ll be able to do a fair imitation of yours, soon enough.”

“Unfortunately for you, the performance ends upon the return to London.”

“Do people really treat you differently, if you have the brogue?”

“You have no idea.”

“Oh, I might.”

“Then why’d ye ask?”

“Because I thought perhaps it was different for a Scot. Northerners, well, people just assume we’re all stupid. But you lot—you’re accorded a bit more respect, surely.”

“Woe betide the soul who ever mistakes you for an idiot.”

She gave him a small smile. “It’s just easier to stick with the general accent, save the confusion.”

“That it is. And no, generally speaking the brogue doesn’t inspire either the fear or respect it once did. Mostly I just get questions about why I’m nae wearing a kilt.”

“Why aren’t you?”

He laughed, once again freeing his hand to navigate them through a village. “Makes it a bit difficult to run. Also it makes it easier for a suspect to fight dirty.”

“Do you own one?”

“I do.” His hand found hers again.

“When’s the last time you wore it?”

“My cousin Maude’s wedding.”

“Do you have your da or your mum’s tartan?”

He gave her a pleased look. “Brucie is a good lad, isn’t he, to teach you that.”

“He uses his kilt to pick up men.”

Elias guffawed. “Can’t say I’ve ever done that.”

“Bet you’ve used it to pull a girl or two.”

“I’d be lying if I said I’d not. Englishwomen, in particular, seem susceptible to its charms.”

“If you think wearing a kilt’ll get me out of my knickers, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” he replied mildly into the awkward silence which had followed her statement.

It was dark by the time they reached the orbital a few hours later, and Elias gently took his hand back permanently so he could navigate through traffic. Her hands felt cold without it, and she folded them together to try to capture some of the warmth he’d left against her skin.

Traffic was appalling, everyone trying to get into or out of the city for their weekend. Elias finally let out a sigh, leaning his head back as the car sat, idling, on the motorway.

“We could always take the A roads north,” he said, tilting his head to look at her. His face was bathed in an odd combination of red and white light which highlighted his gorgeous cheekbones.

“We could. I, interestingly, have a map right here.”

“And we could maybe stop for supper, if you’d like.”

“I’d like,” she replied simply.

“Right.” He flicked on his indicator, and slowly nudged his car into the lane to their left. “Is there a sane way from here to your flat?”

“No. But that shouldn’t be a barrier to getting there.”

He matched her grin. “The question is—could you do it without the map?”

“This far out? I reckon I couldn’t. But get me closer in, and I probably could. Is that a challenge?”

“Not tonight. Maybe next time.”

“You’re assuming there will be a next time,” she replied with a sly smile.

“Won’t there?”

“I don’t know. Bit difficult to top a haiku as an invitation, don’t you think?”

“You’d have to improve upon your masterpiece of blank verse as a response.” He succeeded in reaching the exit lane, and rapidly accelerated up the ramp.

“I guess, in that case, I could argue that an in-person invitation is acceptable.”

“Are you saying you’d accept if I offered?”

“Ask me after supper,” she laughed, holding onto the handle before her as he reached the roundabout at full speed.

Dinner was at a pub in one of the small villages which was slowly being swallowed up by the continuing expansion of greater London. There was a small car park behind the quaint whitewashed building, and she smiled as Elias took her hand as he met her at the back of his car. The pub was smoky, the wood dark with age; and the booth was positively medieval, the benches having high backs and sides which afforded them an intimacy she’d not have expected in a public house. Someone at some point had decided to class it up, and the table was lit by a small flickering candle-powered lamp.

“Bit romantic for your average pub,” Elias observed as he wedged himself into his side of the table.

“I suspect they’re going for ‘quaint’.”

“So long as the food is good, they’re welcome to use whatever adjective they please.”

“I’m sure they’ll be grateful to hear that.” She grinned, then turned her attention to the small but impressive menu before her. She kept getting distracted by Elias, his gaze serious as he perused the menu, the flickering light making his hair and eyes darker.

He caught her looking at him at one point, self-consciously asking, “What?”

“Nothing.” She smiled, shaking her head as she returned her attention to her own menu.

“Is my hair a mess?” He brushed a hand over his hair, taking care that it was smooth.

“No, no, your hair is fine.”

“What, then?”

“I just…I’d never quite expected to wind up here.”

“Neither did I; that was part of the fun.” He gave her a small grin, showing he was being deliberately thick.

She laughed, and focused on selecting her meal. Once she’d made her decision Elias went to order, and she turned to watch the traffic moving outside the window at which they were seated. Cars crept along, the people on the pavements moving faster than the traffic, everyone moving with the purpose of those eager to be home for the night. It looked like the wind was picking up as well, several people walking with their chins tucked into their coats as the wind picked up the ends of their scarves or toyed with loose hair peeping out from under hats.

“Anything interesting?” Elias set their pints on the table, sliding hers to her before he sat. She gratefully accepted the lager, and pulled it towards her.

“No, I’m afraid not.” She felt a flash of heat from his warm gaze.

“Ah, well. Anyway.” He raised his glass, the dark liquid within seeming to absorb the light. “Here’s to a day of good company.”

“Cheers.” She clinked her glass with his, and took a sip.

They spent two hours at the pub, eating supper, nursing their pints, finally finishing with a coffee for her and a tea for him. By the time they re-emerged traffic had eased considerably—and the temperature had plummeted.

“Snow by morning, I’d bet,” Elias observed, glancing up to the sky.

“Joy.”

“You don’t enjoy it?”

“I do. If I don’t have to work.”

“And of course you do, tomorrow.”

“I do.” He’d unlocked the car door and she hurried into her seat, the chill snaking its way into her bones.

“When?” Elias belted in, and started the car.

“Early. You?”

“Late.”

“We’ll be two ships passing, I guess.”

“Seems so.” He concentrated on getting them out into traffic, then spoke again. “Would you do this again? With me?”

“Supper?”

“A day out.”

She raised her eyebrows. “A whole day.”

“If you’d like.”

“Would you like?”

“Very much so.”

“Good. So would I.” She smiled as he grinned at her. “Your choice next time.”

“Does that mean you’ll drive?”

“No car.”

“I have to pick and drive?”

“You poor thing, being given choice!”

“The things I do…”

“I’ll pay for petrol.”

“Deal.” His teeth glinted white in the headlights of oncoming cars. “When are you nae working?”

“Sunday and Thursday.”

He swore, surprising her. She’d heard him do it before, of course, but never in person. “Sorry. Can’t do it this week, then, our schedules are too opposite.”

“The week after, then.”

“Possibly. I’ll have to look at what Eph’s got us down for. I still don’t have a set schedule.”

She noted that his London accent was slowly creeping back into his speech; as he’d said, his brogue would go away upon their return to the city. She had the fanciful notion that he was under some sort of enchantment which prohibited him from speaking in anything other than an Estuary accent when he was within the orbital.

They reached her flat shortly thereafter, traffic now concentrating on going out to the countryside instead of into the city. He pulled to a stop in the middle of the street, slowly tugging the handbrake up and shifting the car into neutral. He paused a moment then, and then shut the car off.

“You don’t have to—”

“I know. I want to.” He unbuckled his belt and let himself out of the car, walking around to catch her door as she pushed it open. She smiled, grateful, her hands full with her keys and wind cheater, and she heard him gently close it behind her as she made her way to the pavement.

She waited for him, tucking her keys into her pocket as he slipped between the tightly parked cars to join her. It was bloody freezing outside, the wind cutting through her jumper, and she shivered as he stopped next to her.

“Alright?”

“Yeah. Just cold.” She smiled up at him. “Thank you for a lovely day.”

“Thank you for coming. And for listening.”

“They were both my pleasure.”

They paused, neither quite sure what to do, Elias once more looking as though he were sorely tempted to kiss her. She half-wished he would, but she also felt a flash of panic at the thought, not sure she was quite ready for that yet.

She compromised, making his decision for him by rocking up and brushing a kiss across his cheek. She pulled back, her free hand sliding from where it had braced against his chest, then took a step back. “Have a good night, Elias.”

His eyes fluttered open, and he gave her a tiny smile. “You, too, Ruby.”

He stood on the pavement, watching her as she climbed the stairs to her front door, as she unlocked it and walked through. He gave her a small wave when she turned to look at him, and still hadn’t turned around after she waved, then closed the door.

She let out a sigh, leaning against the door to catch her breath before climbing the flight of stairs to her flat. If Bruce was home he’d want to hear all of the details, and she wasn’t quite sure what she’d tell him.

~ - ~

Chapter Thirteen
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