Title: How Things Began (17/23)
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: 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 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17


It felt odd to return to London after the holiday. Things had changed fundamentally for Ruby, but nothing at all had changed at work, or at the flat. Bruce had been excited for her, bouncing on the sofa when she showed him the ring, demanding details of the proposal (she’d only told him about the one in the morning, earning a sigh; he’d met Elias a few times, and mooned over him routinely). When she got to work, she was pleased to be first congratulated by her DCI, Cunningham glancing to her hand, nodding with an almost imperceptible smile, and then saying, “Well done.”

The DCI had not—as Wen promised—made her fetch his coffee. Good thing, too; she suspected Elias might have done something rash if Cunningham had, and the last thing she wanted was to do something that would lead to Elias’s career derailing prematurely. Especially as everyone in his rota adored him—his charm, as always, worked to his advantage—and she’d heard Cunningham murmur once or twice about the good work from Ephraim and “his young wonder.”

Instead Cunningham had used her as any DI would use a DC, asking her to research leads, to run down witnesses, to conduct interviews and draw conclusions based on the facts at hand. Unlike with a DI, however, she was doing work not on her own cases but on the cases of any number of teams—including, on an occasion or two, for Elias and Ephraim. It was slightly awkward but also fascinating, affording her a chance to see the wide variety of ways teams operated. It was almost like a master class and she realised Wen had, as always, known exactly what he was doing when he’d arranged it.

Working for the DCI also allowed her a bit more flexibility in her time, meaning she was able to spend a good part of the autumn arranging her forthcoming wedding to Elias. They’d agreed to have the ceremony in the North; it had taken a bit of negotiating but Elias had finally convinced her to have it in Scotland, at the ancient church in the village in which he’d grown up. Her mum and da had been over the moon when she’d told them of her engagement, to the point that they didn’t object when she mentioned the marriage would be in Scotland instead of Lancashire.

Getting married in the village church had many advantages, Elias had told her—chief among them was the fact that it was a small place, able to hold about fifty people at maximum. It automatically limited who they could invite, and the two of them finally decided to make it immediate family and old friends only. There were a few exceptions, Wen and Ephraim both being invited, but by the time the list was finalised she and Elias had both managed to keep it very short indeed.

The largest debate, however, focused on when to actually get married. Elias was in favour of doing it sooner, before the end of the year; she was adamant that it occur in the new year, maybe even around the time they’d first crossed paths again. He countered that it put it too close to Twelfth Night, and that no one would be able to attend their wedding because of holiday celebrations; she retorted that perhaps they should mark the anniversary of the date they’d first shagged, then, as nothing ever happened in late March.

He’d calmed her with a kiss and a reasonable argument, and they finally settled on late February—after the festivities of Lupercalia had passed—as the date of their marriage.

That meant, of course, that she had to survive the holidays first. Elias’s mum was insistent that she come celebrate Hogmanay; and then her own mum declared that meant Elias was thus free to join the Quarles family for Twelfth Night in Lancashire. It felt like the worst kind of negotiating, and she was relieved to come out the other end of it with only some minor family squabbles and no all-out battles.

It was lovely to visit his family—to finally meet his mum, Rona, who was as remarkable a woman as she’d expected; to see the church in which they’d marry; to watch as Elias went completely native in his accent and food preferences, charming the veritable trousers off anyone he came across as he regaled them with stories of life in London. She was amused to be introduced as the one who’d won his heart, and she realised that Elias had been deemed the prize catch of the town after she caught more than one glare from a local lady.

All in all, it appeared that the wedding of Elias McCoy was going to be quite an event in the village, and she had a brief bout of panic at the realisation that her wedding would be considered entertainment by several hundred strangers.

Elias seemed to bear visiting with her family in good humour, unleashing his still-not-inconsiderable charm on her mum, bonding with her da over footie and the woeful state of the national teams, even entertaining her brother with stories from the Met which she’d never have told Rob. Her friends from home—only a few of whom she’d stayed in touch with after ‘running away’—were all keen to meet him, word having got round the neighbourhood that she had found herself a fiancée, and she had the dubious pleasure of watching several people she knew flirt with Elias one afternoon over tea.

He’d been charming through that, too, but she noticed it was a different sort of animal. Where he’d been open with her family, with her friends it was much more of a forced thing, his eyes tense as he exuded an air of slight standoffishness. She’d never really noticed any difference in it, and it was a revelatory experience.

The last month between their return to London and the trip north for the wedding was spent in a whirl of final arrangements. She had to have her dress fitted; he needed to have his kilt cleaned. They both needed to get ready to move in together, his studio not being large enough for the both of them, in spite of their desire to keep it. Bruce had happily agreed to take over the lease on Elias’s studio—he loved the wet room as much as she and Elias did—and she and Elias found a slightly larger one-bedroom flat off the northern line.

Movers were booked to transport their things, and the final moves were made in the last days before they drove north to Scotland for the wedding. She was touched by the surprise bridal shower her friends had arranged for her the day before she left, the women who weren’t coming to Scotland celebrating her marriage with a small party after work one evening. Elias was treated to a stag night the same evening, stumbling bleary-eyed into their new flat as the sun rose outside scant hours before they were supposed to leave.

It was the first time he let her drive his beloved car, his crashing hangover making it impossible for him to do much more than groan in the passenger seat as she steered them north. He was almost back to normal by the time they reached his mum’s house seven hours later, and what headache remained was quickly chased away as Rona coddled him with soup and unending tea.

“You’re terribly spoiled,” she mumbled against him that night, torn between being amused and slightly horrified.

“I am. Most especially by you.” He knew exactly how to mollify her, and she finally settled on amusement.

Her family came north the next day, meeting Elias’s for the first time. Ruby had been prepared for a clash—but then she’d underestimated Elias’s mum, failing to consider that he’d learned his social graces at her knee. By dinner the parents were all laughing together, their good humour aided by the excellent whisky Elias had brought with him for the meal.

Her wedding day was a bit of a blur, filled with hurrying to and fro before the ceremony, dealing with last-minute panic and emergencies around her while she tried to get ready. Elias’s favourite relative—Charlotte, the wife of his beloved uncle from London—was there to try to keep things in some sort of order, and thanks to her efforts Ruby was able to be at the head of the aisle perfectly on time, ready to march to the altar and marry Elias. She’d chosen a simple white dress, the only adornment the thistle pin Elias’s mum had given her that morning. He was wearing his kilt, the bright blues and greens of the MacKay tartan chosen, he said, because they reminded him of his da.

The vicar had known Elias in his youth, and shared out several blackmail-worthy stories of him before finally performing the ceremony. At that point she completely blocked out anything in the church but the vicar and the man next to her, watching him as he recited his vows, smiling at him as she recited hers in turn. There was a bit of a challenge sliding his wedding band on his finger; it had been his father’s and he’d had it re-sized when they’d visited it Hogmanay, not accounting for the slight weight he’d put on over the holidays. The ring finally slid into place, accompanied by his laughter, and then he slipped her simple gold band onto her finger, replacing the engagement ring he’d given her.

And then he was kissing her, smiling as he leaned forward, laughing as he pulled away to turn to the assembled guests. They were married: Ruby and Elias McCoy.

The reception was held at his auntie’s, their guests cramming into the large house just outside of the village. Her mum and Elias’s had worked together to make sure everyone would be well taken care of with food and drink, and she and Elias spent the entirety of the time smiling and chatting, working their way through the crowd, accepting congratulations and hugs from relatives and friends. Ephraim had come north for the wedding, as had Wen and Vi. Bruce had remained in London, covering Elias’s shift for him—but she’d been pleasantly surprised to see Cunningham had made time to come north for the affair. She’d been uncertain about inviting him, liking him well enough but wondering at the awkwardness of having her supervisor there. Bruce had finally nudged her into issuing the invitation, blithely saying the worst that could happen was that he’d say no and then deny her leave for her marriage. Elias appeared just as surprised as she was at Cunningham’s appearance, murmuring, “He must quite like you,” with a wink.

After everyone had eaten space was cleared for dancing, and she and Elias spent the remainder of the night on the dance floor, dancing with each other or, periodically, guests. He was, she noted, a very good dancer; he had an excellent sense of rhythm, and his eyes were bright as he grinned through many of the dances. “Going to have to go dancing more often when we get home,” she finally whispered, grinning up at him as they moved through one of the slower dances.

“If you’d like.” He smiled. “Wasn’t sure this would be your ken.”

“You never asked.”

“And nor did you.”

She laughed. “I enjoy it with a good partner.”

“Ah. I wonder who would suit.”

“Fishing for compliments again?”

“Is it my fault I enjoy hearing them from you?”

“It is, a bit.” She shook her head in amusement. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“Did you just ask if I’m enjoying our wedding?”

“I was referring to the reception. I’d hope you enjoyed the ceremony.”

“I did. I don’t think I’ve told you--you look resplendent.”

“I think you might have said ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful.’ I thank you for all of them.” Her lips quirked. “You’ve pulled off the kilt remarkably well.”

“Of course I have.” He bristled at the idea that he’d look anything other than good in the wool.

“I could see why women would find it irresistible.”

“Oh?” His mouth tipped into a smirk, his eyebrow arching as his gaze darkened.

“Blue is a very good colour for you.” She laughed once more as he chose that moment to spin her out, pulling her back to him with a broad smile.

They spent the night at the auntie’s house, both of them too exhausted to do anything other than undress and go to sleep after the long day. Elias was already up when she awoke the next morning, humming to himself as he otherwise quietly moved around the room. He was, she noticed, already dressed.

“What time is it?” she asked blearily, her mind taking a few moments to work out that he was packing.

“Near to seven.”

She grunted, lying back down in the warm bed. He’d not wanted to leave until nine or so, so she’d have plenty of time for a bit more sleep.

She felt the mattress dip under his weight, felt his hand ghost across her hair. She opened her eyes, giving him a sleepy smile as he gazed down at her. “You can sleep a bit longer.”

“I sense a ‘but.’”

“No, no ‘but.’ Just an ‘or.’”

“Or?”

“Or we can leave early, get up there early, and spend the extra time together in bed.”

“And where is up there, exactly?”

He grinned, tweaking her nose. “I’m nae telling.” He stood, then turned around to give her a soft kiss. “Good morning, love.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, intent on pulling him into bed with her; he resisted, his mouth smiling against hers. He finally freed himself from her embrace, whispering, “When we get there. I promise.”

She pretended to pout, earning a gentle laugh and another quick kiss before he moved away from the bed. He continued to pack, humming once more, and she finally gave in and got out of bed.

He rewarded her with another kiss when she shuffled over to him; and another when she emerged from the shower a short time later. As she dressed, she noted everything was packed up, leading her comment, “Eager, Eli?”

“I’d like to get up there before dark.”

“Just how far are we going?” She tugged her jumper on, pulling her hair out of the collar before looking for her socks.

“Far enough.”

“But we’re going to the Highlands.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You keep saying ‘up.’”

“I say ‘up’ when I’m talking about anything north of London.”

“No, you don’t—you only use it when talking about north of here. Everything else, you say down.” It was her turn to tweak his nose. “Remnant of your being in the North most of your life.”

“Clever,” he groused.

“So, Highlands?”

“Not sayin’.” He crossed his arms, jutting his lower lip out as he dropped his chin.

“Would it make you happier to blindfold me?”

That certainly caught his attention, his eyes brightening as his chin rose. “Blindfold? Oh, absolutely.”

“For the drive?” She stood in front of him, her fingers playfully tracing up and down his sternum.

“No.” He drew the word out, capturing her hand. “Maybe later.”

“After we get to the Highlands.”

“Yes.” He blinked, shaking his head, then grinned. “Fine, we’re going to the Highlands.” He released her hand, waggling his finger before her. “But that’s all you’ll get out of me!”

She was still laughing as they made their way below stairs, Elias carrying the overnight bag they’d had with them, Ruby carrying only her purse. Their wedding clothes had been left in the guest room, and would be taken to Rona’s for storage until they next visited.

Elias must have told his auntie they were awake while Ruby was in the shower, as they found breakfast waiting for them in the dining room. There was no hint that a large party had been held in the house the night before, and Auntie Keith (as Elias called her) greeted them warmly as they sat at the impeccably-set table. Ruby had been hopeful of a lazy breakfast but Elias had opted for speed, and they were soon saying their goodbyes after a breakfast of thick, creamy porridge and a pot of tea.

She was surprised when, upon leaving the house, Elias walked to the small four-wheel drive vehicle which was parked on the tarmac rather than his car.

“Highlands,” he said by way of explanation, grinning as he tossed their bag into the back. “Borrowed it from the cousin for the week.”

“Does that mean said cousin gets to use your car until we come back?”

“Don’t be daft,” he chided.

She laughed, helping him move their luggage over from his car—practical on motorways but most likely useless on the snowy roads which lay to their north. His auntie waved at them as they set out, Elias growing familiar with the gearshift and the other controls of the automobile as they followed the long driveway out to the A road.

They were in the car for five hours, one of the few cars venturing north on that Monday. Snow first became apparent as they drove along Loch Lomond, the line of white sneaking further and further down the mountains the further north they went, and by the time they turned left on the road marked “Oban”, snow was covering the entirety of the ground from mountaintop to road.

They turned onto a narrow B several miles later, the vehicle bouncing and slipping along the track as it narrowed, the trees the only thing keeping it from becoming a quagmire of snow and slush. She couldn’t imagine Elias’s car would have been very successful at navigating the road, and she wondered how often the hotel—or cottage, or inn, or wherever they were going—had to come out and rescue stranded guests. Finally, however, the track passed through some gates, and the shrubbery and trees gave way to a large baronial stone house, the windows glowing warmly in the weak winter light, their light shining gold on the snowy lawn.

“Welcome to Ardanaiseig.” He glanced over to her, a smile tugging at his mouth, his expression showing how very pleased he was with himself.

They were greeted warmly at the door, staff hurrying out to collect their luggage and even offering to park the car in the small car park. Elias, she noted with amusement, was happy to give them the keys; if it had been his own car, he’d have thanked them and parked it himself, regardless of the weather out. He caught her knowing smile, gave her one in return, and then slipped his hand down to capture hers as they walked into reception.

The hotel was quiet after the bustle of Lupercalia—or perhaps the staff accorded such courteous attention to every honeymooning couple. No matter the reason, they were welcomed with hot tea, then escorted to their room with the promise of sandwiches and other food to follow. Their luggage was already awaiting them when they entered, the suitcases unpacked.

“Wow,” she breathed once they were alone, taking in the plush décor, the bed that looked like something out of a film, and the flowers which decorated the dressing table and the side tables. The curtains were drawn back to allow them to enjoy the view, the loch still as glass below the snowy mountains surrounding them. A fire had been lit in the fireplace, making the room just warm enough rather than close.

“You like it?” He stood next to her, his hand still in hers as they gazed out the window.

“It’s amazing, Eli.”

He grinned. “Excellent.” The smug note was back, and she skated a glance in his direction.

“You’ve outdone yourself.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re booking all of our holidays from here on out.”

He laughed.

Their meal arrived a few moments later, accompanied by a bottle of wine and chocolates. There was a short note from the manager, congratulating them and offering to be of service in whatever way necessary; Ruby skimmed it quickly, swatting Elias’s hand away from the chocolates.

“But I’m hungry!” he whined.

“Those are dessert.”

He pretended to pout again, leading her to wonder if that’s what a child of theirs might look like. He wanted children at some point, and so did she, but she’d not expected to want them quite so quickly after being married.

She reached forward, cupping his jaw, her thumb stroking his cheek, and then she leaned in to kiss him. “Have some lunch, then you can have the chocolate,” she whispered as she leaned back.

Elias’s eyes were bright as he slowly reached for one of the sandwiches, hesitating a beat before taking a bite. She smiled at him in return, reached for a sandwich of her own, and then settled back into the wing chair to enjoy the late lunch.

~ - ~

Chapter Eighteen
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