Title: How Things Began (13/23)
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 back! Thank you for your patience as I wandered off and gallivanted in a most irresponsible manner.

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 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13


Elias remained standing on the sidewalk for several moments after Ruby disappeared into her building. She’d kissed him. Not a proper kiss, no, but the point stood; his eyes closed again as he remembered, the feel of her hand over his chest, the press of her skin against his, how soft her lips had been against his cheek.

It had been, he decided, an utterly brilliant day. He practically skipped back to his car, and let out a joyful laugh as he started the engine. He’d never have imagined the day going as it had, nor going so well in spite of the hiccoughs along the way, and he couldn’t help but giggle as he drove back to his flat.

The way she’d talked to him; the way she’d flirted with him. The looks she’d given him over supper; the way she’d simply taken his hand, and hadn’t seemed willing to let go of it. All of it made him feel almost drunk, and he took great care to drive responsibly as he made his way to the small car park where he kept his car. It wasn’t until he was halfway through his walk to his flat from the car park that he realised that it really was brutally cold, his breath white as he exhaled, his hands stinging because he’d left his gloves in the car.

He put the kettle on once he was in his flat, tossing his coat across the sofa, tugging his boots off and setting them with his neatly lined-up shoes. He collected a chipped mug from a cabinet, measured out some tea into an infuser, and then put a small measure of whisky and honey into the bottom of the mug to create a mild toddy. He needed to come down off the high he was experiencing, or else he’d never get to sleep. And, as happy as he was at the moment, he’d be a misery the next day if he was sleep-deprived. Plus, Ephraim would take him—quite rightly—to task for being irresponsible by not going to bed at a decent hour on a day off.

He poured the boiling water into his mug, idly stirring the infuser as he once again replayed various bits of the day. It had been quite a relief, telling Ruby about what had happened; her compassion had been a comfort, and he had been relieved to see no hint of pity whatsoever. She had understood.

His tea done, he dropped the infuser in the sink and carried his mug over to the sofa. He took an appreciative sip, sighing, letting his head drop back against the cushion as he flashed back to Ruby kissing him goodnight once more. He’d had a few heated dreams about her, and he suspected that kiss was only going to provide more fodder for his fantasies.

She’d said he got to pick where they’d go next. He had no idea of where to take her, nothing seeming quite right all of a sudden. What would she like? What did she hate? Did she have any sort of limit to how much time she’d be willing to spend in the car? He took another sip of his toddy, using its heat to focus his mind. He had time to solve all of those questions. There might not be a day out for them for a while yet, but that didn’t mean he’d not see her. And it wasn’t as though he didn’t know where she worked; he could always stop by her desk or—perhaps better yet—leave her a note. He grinned, liking the idea.

He didn’t see her for almost a week after their date, their schedules working at opposition. He did manage to slip her notes, though, stopping by her desk on his way out at the end of his shift, knowing she’d have been home for hours by then; he, invariably, found an answering note tucked into the same corner of his blotter the next morning, Ruby’s print greeting him as he drank his morning tea.

They were able to set a lunch date by the end of the week, and then a dinner date a few days later as they crossed shifts. Both dates were far too brief, and lacked the casual ease of the day out at Portsmouth, but he suspected it was because neither of them were completely comfortable—or completely themselves—when they were in London. The pattern of having meals together continued as his schedule slowly settled over the following weeks, to the point that by the end of February Ephraim came to expect that Elias would be having lunch with Ruby on Monday and dinner with her on Thursday.

In addition to their sporadic meals together, Ruby took to ringing his desk each morning, usually within a half-hour of the start of his shift. The smile in her voice was infectious, drawing an answering grin from him as she playfully inquired after his thoughts on the note she’d left; he found that, more often than not, the calls improved his mood and oddly helped him to concentrate. After a few weeks, he felt bold enough to ring her in the evening, before she left for the day; and then it seemed perfectly natural for the calls to shift slightly later, once he too was home for the evening. Those calls were more mellow, both of them unwinding after a long day, both of them letting their guard down as they came to know one another—although he still found ways to tease her, spinning all sorts of tales about what she might find on her desk in the morning. He’d been nervous ringing her mobile, that first time, but her obvious delight at hearing from him had made it an easy habit to form.

It was no surprise to him that their conversations over the phone had much of the same ease of their long-ago radio talks. And it was a great relief—and a delight—to find that as the days wore on, that ease bled over into their face-to-face conversations as well.

They’d tried, several times, to set a date for a day out, only to have a murder case (on his part) and a robbery (on hers) put paid to the plans. And so it wasn’t until the end of March, nearly two months after the trip to Portsmouth, that they were able to get a day off together once more. He’d used the time well, though, learning that there was very little she wouldn’t be willing to do as a day trip, the sole exception being, seemingly, abseiling. She’d clarified that one with a note that she wasn’t particularly keen on heights; he’d replied by saying he’d cancel the skydiving trip.

He’d actually planned a bit of hiking for their day out and muttered a prayer of thanks when he awoke to find the day sunny and dry. It was still a bit chilly, but nothing like January had been, and it was with a light heart that he carried his pack to his car for the drive over to Ruby’s flat.

She was waiting for him, her face lighting up as he pulled to a stop in front of her flat. She was wearing hiking trousers, a jumper, and good boots—he’d been careful to tell her to dress for a good walk in the note he’d left her the day before—and she, too, had a small rucksack which she tossed into the backseat of his car.

“Ready for a day out?” He smiled at her as she settled in, and got a grin from her as she picked up on his brogue.

“Can’t wait—it’ll be divine to get out of the city for a bit.”

The sky remained clear as he drove them northwest towards Oxford, his goal being to get them to the Ridgeway Trail before ten. It took him a bit longer than he’d expected to find the village which had access along that part of the trail, but they were still standing on the dirt path by quarter past ten, clear wintry sunshine filtering through the trees.

“Which direction would you like?” he asked, pulling out the small map he’d purchased.

“I don’t know.” She stood next to him, leaning against his arm as she peered at the map. He wondered if she could feel his heart speed up or how very warm he was. “What are the options?”

He moved the map so she could more easily see it, although she seemed perfectly content to continue leaning against him. He shifted his attention to her, watching as her eyes scanned the map, her brow furrowing every now and again as she pondered the options. She’d pulled her hair back in a ponytail, and had skipped the makeup she wore when at work with the result that she looked several years younger.

“How about south?” she finally decided, glancing up to him. She froze as she found him gazing at her, her dark eyes flicking to his mouth then back up again.

“Aye,” he said softly, taking the map from her hand, sorely tempted to toss it aside and kiss her instead of dutifully marking where the car was parked. He’d brought a small sat nav with him and reluctantly pulled it from his pocket, reading the coordinates, jotting them in pencil along with the bearing for the path to the car. Ruby watched as he worked, her lips parted slightly as her chest rapidly rose and fell.

He felt like he’d run for miles by the time he slid the map and sat nav in the thigh pocket of his trousers, tucking the pencil in after them before buttoning it closed. He shifted his pack on his shoulders, making sure it was sitting comfortably, then reached for her hand.

She took it, smiling, and they set off along the path.

He’d expected more people to be out but for the most part it was just the two of them, talking as they walked. They encountered the occasional local, taking their dog for a walk, and they passed a small group of school children headed—thankfully—in the opposite direction. Otherwise, they had the trail to themselves, its beauty and peace theirs to enjoy.

They stopped for lunch just before one, Elias having packed fruit, cheese and bread in with some water. Ruby, too, had brought water, along with some additional fruit—she appeared to love the stuff, he noted—and they found a level boulder upon which they could sit and bask in the sun as they ate.

“Good choice,” she said as they were nearly finished, leaning back on her hands as she surveyed the land around them. A small knoll rose behind them, edged at the bottom with trees; a low dry stone fence ran before them, marking for the time the line of the path.

“Thank ye.” He happily popped a section of orange into his mouth, glancing around them.

“It’s the one thing about London, isn’t it? You can’t get out and just…walk.”

“Hard to run, too.”

“My neighbourhood’s not too terrible for that. Then again, it took a while to find a route that worked.”

“You don’t run at work?”

“Not like you do, apparently.” She grinned at him.

“I was referring to using the equipment, not my misadventure of the other day.”

She laughed. “You’re lucky you didn’t break an ankle.’

“You sound like Ephraim.” He’d been determined to catch the main suspect in his latest case, leaping over any and everything in his path in his attempt to make the collar. Ephraim had told him, after he’d limped back, that it was a small neighbourhood and that PCs had been prepared to catch the bloke at each of the routes out; he was then reminded—again—that it would be a very good idea to become familiar with London so he could be ‘a bit smarter about things.’

“I don’t want to see you hurt.” He didn’t miss how her gaze warmed as she said the words.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She glanced down, picking up a small piece of the soft cheese left sitting on the serviette.

“I was thinking of starting to tour the city on my days off.”

“Oh?” She glanced back up at him.

“Aye. Been told it’ll make me a better detective.”

“I think they tell that to everyone.”

“How’d you learn your way around?”

“I took the subte.”

“I hate the subte.”

“I know.” She grinned. “I also rode a fair number of buses, and did a lot of walking. Still do when the weather’s decent and I’m sure of not being mugged.”

“Would you want to join me? When I go out?”

“If I can.” She sighed, dropping to her elbows, bringing her right foot up to rest by her left knee. “Wen’s talking about retiring, and I think he means it this time.”

“What’ll happen to you?”

“I’ll be orphaned.”

“I was serious.”

“So was I, sort of. He’ll make a recommendation for who I should be partnered with, but of course that list is a bit limited to DIs who currently lack partners.”

“That doesn’t make them bad, necessarily.”

“No.” She drew the word out. “It’s just the hassle of having to get used to a new personality, and quite possibly a new way of work. Wen and I have a system.”

“I have every faith in your ability to learn a new system.”

She threw her crumpled napkin at him, laughing. “I appreciate the faith.”

He glanced at his watch, then up at the sky. “We’d best be going, if we want to be back to the car by dark.” She sat up, collecting her rubbish, but stilled when he leaned forward, adding quietly, “You’ll be brilliant no matter who you’re partnered with, Rue.”

She gave him a shy smile, murmuring “Thanks,” as she stuffed their rubbish into a carrier bag. There were no dustbins handy so she tied it off and tucked it in her rucksack before shouldering the pack and joining him. “South again, then?”

“We can, for a wee bit longer.”

“Let’s see where we end up.” She took his hand, grinning, practically bouncing as they resumed their hike. After a half hour of walking south it was time to turn back, retracing their steps along fields made different by a shift in light.

They reached the turning for his car just as the sun reached the edge of the horizon, hanging a brilliant orange above the spring greens of the fields. The sky above them was already a deep blue and he paused to watch the colours shift as the sun set.

“You love the sunsets, don’t you?” Ruby asked quietly, leaning into him once more as he watched.

“Aye.”

“I remember you telling me about them, those rare nights you actually got one.”

He smiled, glancing down at her. She was looking up at him, her eyes dark in the dwindling light. She continued to watch him as she slowly pushed up onto her toes, as her hand rested on his chest; and then her eyes fluttered shut just before his did, her lips pressing gently against his.

He felt adrenaline flood through his system, his skin flushing as he slid a hand to her jaw, gently holding her as she continued to kiss him. She pulled back a moment later, her cheeks flushed in the warm light of sunset, her eyes glittering. His hand continued to cradle her cheek, and she turned to brush a kiss against his palm. “We should get back to your car before it gets dark,” she murmured.

“Aye,” he said, his voice rough. He desperately preferred to stay where he was, kissing Ruby Quarles—or, more accurately, being kissed by her—but there was sense to what she said. It would be far easier to pick their way along the narrow, rock-strewn dirt path leading to the car park while there was still some light, rather than relying solely on the torch he had in his pack.

The sky was a deep purple by the time they exited the path, stars just visible overhead, a deep magenta glow visible along the base of the horizon. They slung their packs into the back of his car, both of them seeming to walk on eggshells, neither sure quite what to do. At least, he assumed that’s how Ruby was feeling; it certainly was how he was feeling.

He took a deep breath as he closed the boot, coming to a decision.

Ruby was standing next to him when he turned and he leaned down, kissing her properly, his hands slipping into her hair as she leaned into him. He felt her grab at his jumper, pulling him closer to her, and he let out a groan as she returned his kiss. At some point he backed against his car, needing the cool support it offered, his arms sliding around her back and holding her to him; her hands had moved to his shoulders, and rested there when they finally pulled apart.

“I’ve wanted to do that for aeons,” he murmured, bringing a hand up to brush her hair back from her cheek.

“Been wondering when you would do it,” she laughed, resting her head against his chest. “Finally figured I’d have to.”

He wrapped her in a hug, brushing his lips across her hair. She leaned back a moment later, her hand sliding down to rest over his ribcage. “Your heart’s running about two hundred. You going to be able to drive home?”

He laughed. “I’ll manage. But just in case…” He leaned down, smiling as she leaned up into him, her lips curved. “Maybe another one.”

They kissed languorously in the deepening twilight, each of them illuminated by starlight by the time they reluctantly separated.

“We need to go back,” he whispered, his fingers tracing her cheek.

“Yeah.”

“We have to work tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Her fingers were drifting across his chest, distracting him terribly, tempting him to ignore work entirely the next day, if only she’d come home with him that night.

“We’re not going to get anywhere near to London if we don’t stop teasing each other.” He leaned forward, brushing a kiss against her temple. He continued, kissing her cheek, then her jaw, moving to pay attention to the other side of her face, following the same pattern as she whispered, “Yeah.”

Her hands slid to his hair, pulling him so his lips would find hers, and he once again lost track of time as he focused on Ruby.

They finally made it into the car, the clock in the dash telling him it was near to seven when he started the engine. They still had a drive of about an hour to get to her flat—assuming, of course, there was no congestion on the motorway. And his flat was about twenty minutes from that, again assuming there was no traffic, and then there was dinner to think about.

“Do you want to have dinner at my place?” Ruby asked as they rocketed along the motorway, her voice low.

“I would love to.” He grinned. “Unless it involves interrogation by Bruce, as well.”

“He’s on overnight shift.” She watched him evenly as she said it, and he gave her another small smile.

“Then I’d unequivocally love to.”

He’d thought it would be more of a challenge to park in her neighbourhood, until she pointed him to the mews behind her flat. “We have a space we never use. Just need to leave a note on the dash,” she said once they’d parked, and he was soon following her into the back entrance to her block of flats, her rucksack in his hand as she unlocked the exterior door.

He really rather desperately hoped she’d not want dinner just yet; he wasn’t sure he’d be able to be in close proximity to her, in her flat, without snogging her senseless again. He followed her up the stairs to the first floor, waited with what he hoped was a reasonable facsimile of patience, and then followed her into her flat.

She flicked on a light as she entered, the torchiere glowing quietly in the corner of the parlour as she let him pass. She closed the door behind them, turned the bolt in it, and then turned back to him.

“I’ll take that,” she said, reaching for her rucksack. He gave it to her, standing still, not sure what he was meant to do now. He knew what he wanted to do, knew that all it would take was a sign from her and he’d gladly forgo food and sleep for the rest of the night.

She tossed the bag aside, barely sparing it a second glance, and then looked back at him. His breath hitched, his heart beating still faster, and she leaned up and into him. “Sod dinner,” she whispered as she kissed him.

~ - ~

Chapter Fourteen
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