Sit Vis Tecum

Chapter Six:

"He Who Hesitates

is Dead"

Something darted in and out of Eric's line of sight, causing him to lurch back and throw up an arm. His heart pounded as he jerked around, looking for the object or person that had gotten his attention, and it was only when he realized that Ryan was right next to him –and they were still in the locker room-- that he could start breathing again.

Worry creased the other man's brow as he said, "Hey? You all right? You've been staring at that for five minutes, now."

Eric glanced down and saw his blood-stained shirt clenched in his white-knuckled fist; he hadn't remembered even taking it off. He swallowed as the memory of his sister's face on that monster came up with the bitter taste of bile at the back of his throat. "Yeah," he croaked. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"You don't look fine," Ryan said, and it sounded like it had come from the far end of a long tunnel.

Eric couldn't tear his gaze from the destroyed shirt, but all he could see was the blood that obscured the pattern on the fabric. He swallowed again as he held it up and stared. It was horrid, really. The ugliest Hawaiian print shirt he'd ever seen, in fact. He'd been out with Marisol when he saw it the first time and commented on the absolute atrocity of it. So naturally, when his birthday had rolled around three weeks later, she'd handed him a box, carefully wrapped in tasteful paper and a nice bow… and inside was that ugly shirt. It had been wrapped around a rare CD he'd been wanting and had been hunting down for ages. That had been the real gift, but it didn't stop his promise of retribution when her birthday came.

That birthday never arrived. Marisol had died and the atrocious Hawaiian print shirt came out of the back of his closet. It had become his favorite; a little piece of his beloved sister --with a wicked sense of humor that most never saw.

Now it was ruined; soaked clean through with the blood of a fellow officer and that… thing. So drenched that the fabric had clung to his skin, leaving a slimy film behind that he didn't think would ever wash away.

"What's the matter, little brother? Not happy to see me?" The voice had mimicked his sister's --just like the face had-- but it was so… oily and cold.

Eric glanced back at Ryan, about to assure his friend that he really was fine, but everything seemed to start fading into the black spots at the edge of his vision and his stomach flipped threateningly. He shoved the ruined shirt at Ryan and dashed toward the latrine. He knew before he took three steps he wasn't going to make it that far and aimed for the nearest trash can. He gripped the sides of the can as he heaved up lunch, breakfast and part of last night's dinner, then held on longer while the painful spasms subsided.

He barely noticed as a pair of strong hands guided him back to the bench between the rows of lockers and helped him sit down, then something cold was pressed against the back of his neck and he flinched.

"Easy, Eric," Ryan said from next to him. "It's just a bottle of water."

"Thanks," Eric mumbled as he took the bottle, cracked the seal and dumped enough in his mouth to rinse it. He stood to spit into the trash can and felt the shaking of his legs warning him of collapse. He fell back onto the bench, recapped the water and pressed it against his chest just under his collar bones. The coldness was soothing and alleviated the fresh wave of nausea that was beginning to roil.

He sat in silence for a long moment, waiting for the rest of the shaking to pass and trying desperately not to think about the scene in Interrogation Room One. Eric felt Ryan next to him and he started to wonder how the other man was holding up. A glance told him not much better than himself. Ryan was bent forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped tightly. Eric couldn't see his face, but the clenched jaw and nervous jiggling of Ryan's left leg was enough. "What about you?" he asked.

Ryan's head came up and he scowled at Eric in confusion.

"You gonna be all right?" Eric clarified.

Ryan went still as he thought about it a moment, then he said, "About as all right as you are."

Eric chuffed softly and a small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "We're both screwed, then."

"Edward, what can you tell me about that red substance we found in Mr. Tucker's basement?" Horatio asked. The examinations were over and Alexx had declared both boys in excellent condition under the circumstances. Edward, Alphonse and Colonel Hughes were now in Horatio's office; a place that was a bit more private than the interrogation rooms.

It had been a very long day and it was nowhere near over, but the Elrics were no longer suspects. In fact, they were willing to assist in the investigation –although just how far that willingness would go was still up for debate. From the way the boys shifted in their seats, Horatio had a feeling that he'd just hit their limit. Hughes was still and confident, but Horatio thought back to when he was talking about the test results on the red substance with Natalia, and the quiet argument the colonel had with Edward, and that look of fear on Alphonse's face at the sight of the sample.

"I assume your people, as well as the Hazmat team, had already run tests on it," Hughes said.

"We have."

"Then you know all you need to know about it, Lt. Caine. Just tell us where it's currently being stored and my people will take it off your hands."

Hughes was calm, but Horatio could see that the boys were growing more agitated. They each showed it differently, with Alphonse swallowing pupils dilating, even getting a bit pale and clammy. Edward was tensing; his left hand clenching and unclenching rhythmically. Neither boy was looking at Horatio, but Edward was glaring at Hughes.

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Colonel Hughes," Horatio said, never taking his eyes off of Edward. Any minute now, that young man was going to explode –and when he did, Horatio would get his information. "That tank and the substance in it is evidence in an ongoing investigation." His gaze met Hughes' then, as he added, "I have one officer missing, one whose career is over because he lost his arm, and three more who are dead, Colonel Hughes; all in connection with that seemingly harmless synthesized amniotic fluid. I need to know why."

Hughes sighed and brushed his hand down his face. "Lieutenant, we're not at liberty to explain. I'm sorry."

"This is bullshit," Edward mumbled, then he jumped to his feet, kicked his chair over and started pacing in front of Horatio's desk.

"Settle down, Ed," Hughes said, tiredly. "The information is classified for a reason."

Edward glowered and pointed somewhere behind the older man. "I know that! But the reason is getting people killed, dammit! It's getting cops killed! If cooperating with the police gets it back to--"

"That's enough," Hughes said as he rose to his feet and placed his hands on Edward's shoulders in an effort to get the boy to sit back down. "We can assist with the investigation, but we absolutely cannot give out classified information about that substance."

Edward jerked back, then snagged the front of Hughes' jacket in an automail grip and yanked him down to his level. "You want to cover this shit up?!" Edward waved his free hand back at Horatio and said, "They already know too much, asshole! Enough to put them on Envy's radar… or did you miss the fucking mess he made of the interrogation room today?"

Horatio wondered about the desperate sound to Edward's histrionics, but his concern was more with Alphonse who was growing paler. He doubted Alexx could have missed an injury, but it was possible that the younger sibling had a medical condition no one wanted to mention, and wouldn't show up in the standard examination.

Hughes didn't try to get free of Edward's grip, but his eyes had gone hard as steel and his voice was tight as he said, "The General knows very well what's going on, Edward. Do you think he made this decision lightly?"

Edward sneered as he shoved Hughes away from him. "Bastard," he whispered. "I never expected you, of all people, to become the General's favorite asslick—"


Ed stepped back and pointed at Hughes, his hand shaking and a disgusted grimace on his face. "You can't make this one just go away." He turned and faced Horatio, and opened his mouth.

"Lieutenant Colonel Edward Elric, if you say another word, you will be charged with insubordination. You will be court-martialed," Hughes snapped.

A slow, devious grin spread across Edward's face. "Well, if I'm going to end up in front of a firing squad, I might as well make it worth it."

Horatio shot another quick glance at Alphonse, just in time to see the smaller boy fly out of his seat and shove his bigger brother back from his desk. He never had a chance to try and stop it and wasn't so certain he wanted to. There wasn't any fighting or even a tussle happening anyway. Edward seemed to give in to his younger brother without much protest.

Alphonse had his back to Horatio, but he didn't need to see the boy's face to know he was furious. The trembling that quaked through his small frame was enough.

Edward, for his part was stiff in an effort to control his own anger, but he was hovering right at the edge of where his deference to his younger sibling was nearing the breaking point. "Al," he warned through gritted teeth.

"Shut up, Ed. Just listen for a minute." After a long pause, Alphonse's tone went gentle. "Please?"

It was subtle, but Horatio saw Edward relax just the slightest bit.

"You know why we can't give that information out, Brother."

"Just because someone knows it, doesn't mean they can do it Al. We know that know."

Alphonse shook his head. He whispered, "And we both know that won't stop them from trying. Do you really want to risk another--?" he cut himself off with a choke and the near crumbling of Edward's face at the unspoken name was enough: Nina.

Edward sighed and relented, then shot a glare at Hughes. "Time's wasting," he said, then headed for the door.

It was just as Horatio had suspected and feared. Somehow that harmless fluid was part and parcel of the creation of that pathetic, horrifying chimera. "Gentlemen," he said gently, "I believe I have enough information. There is no need to risk your military careers over this, just yet." He turned his attention on Hughes and said, "I propose a compromise. I'll order tighter security on that vat of fluid; along side military officers of your own choosing. However, it will not be released to your people until this investigation is complete. That, Colonel Hughes, is non-negotiable."

Hughes appeared to think about it for a moment, then he nodded and pulled out a cellphone. "I'll have people here in a few hours, lieutenant." He shot a glare back at Edward. "I have little doubt that the General will be willing to listen to his 'favorite asslicker'."

Edward hesitated the briefest moment with his hand on the knob, glanced back at Hughes, and cocked an oh-so-bland brow at him. Then he opened the door and left.

With a frustrated groan, Alphonse muttered as he followed Edward out, "I swear it's a full-time job being his brother. I wonder if I can demand a better benefits package. Maybe hazard pay. Definitely a vacation. Like… for a year."

"I take it life is quite interesting with those two boys around," Horatio said with amusement.

"Yeah," Hughes said as he put the phone to his ear. "Like 'Chinese Curse' interesting."

"—That seems to be the popular opinion about you lately," Roy chuckled into the phone as Major Riza Hawkeye entered the office with an arm full of files. He listened with only half an ear as Hughes gave his report and knew without a shadow of a doubt that the man was not telling him everything. He'd known Maes Hughes far too long to dismiss that overly manic tone he got when he was hiding something. Not that it mattered; Roy would get it out of him eventually. He always did.

He scowled down as the files landed in the middle of his desk with a muffled thump, then waved Hawkeye back before she left. He gestured for her to wait and finished up his conversation with Hughes. "I'll scramble a team right away, Maes. Thank you. I'll also put in a request for a new, more descriptive job title for you."

"You're an asshole, Roy."

"So I've been told. And you, apparently are my favorite—"

"By the way, Gracia said Marion was asking about you the other day. You want me to give her your new number?"

Roy groaned and closed his eyes. Some women just didn't get the message…

Victorious, Hughes chortled and hung up.

Roy tossed the receiver back into the cradle and faced the major, suddenly feeling very tired. "I need a team out to Miami A.S.A.P."

"How bad is it, General?"

"Worse than expected. Tucker's dead and the Miami-Dade police department confiscated a vat of catalyst from his basement," Roy said as he stared into space rubbing his chin and wondering what else was going on.

"Any tests they run on it will just show up as a harmless fluid, sir."

"Maybe," Roy said. "But this is the Miami CSI." He gazed at Hawkeye, knowing she knew exactly the reason he was concerned. It was up to her people to keep careful track of all the best –and nosiest—detectives wherever any of their operatives might be working and Horatio Caine was legendary. They'd managed to stay off his radar all these years so far. Leave it to Fullmetal to turn on the spotlight when a candle would have been sufficient. With a sigh he propped his elbows on his desk lowered his head to rub at his temples. "Not exactly the 'debut' I was hoping for."

"You should have anticipated this when you sent the Elrics to Florida," Roy heard Hawkeye say, and glanced up in time to catch the mischievous spark in the major's brown eyes just before she added as an after-thought, "Sir."

"Send Havoc, Breda and Fuery," Roy said, choosing to ignore the mild insubordination. "That should be plenty for security."

Hawkeye nodded and as she headed out of the office, said, "I'll make sure the Bouki is stocked with extra airsickness bags."

"I thought we sent that rattletrap to the graveyard?"

The major shot a 'you-must-be-joking' look back over her shoulder and said, "Captain Havoc refuses to allow it to be decommissioned."

"He curses that thing every time he has to do the maintenance on it and half the time when he has to fly it," Roy said as he shook his head.

"You should know better by now than to try to understand his logic, sir."

"Logic, Major Hawkeye, seems to be in as short supply as sanity in the Alchemist Program."

"Speak for yourself, General," Hawkeye said and opened the door. "I'll get the team together."

"Ah," Roy said, and Hawkeye turned back to him. "Add Armstrong to the list."

She arched a fine brow at that. "Sir?"

"I'm playing a hunch."

She smiled a bit and nodded. "Yes, sir."

After Hawkeye left the office, Roy tapped his lips with a gloved finger and said, "What are you not telling me, Maes?"

Ed closed his cellphone and leaned back against the wall. At least the bench in the corridor was cushioned. Sure, he wasn't seriously injured, but damn, did he hurt. He knew from the reports that Envy was strong as hell, but he didn't expect the homunculus to sling him like a wrecking ball into the wall like that. He was looking forward to that Jacuzzi at the hotel later, even if it did mean that he was going to have to spend extra time re-oiling his automail afterwards.

He flexed his right arm and felt something catch. Not bad. It wasn't something that needed looked at right away, anyhow. But it made for a plausible excuse for what he really wanted Winry to do. He glanced at his younger brother's anticipatory expression. "She'll be here, Al."

Al let out a sigh of relief and said, "This is a good thing you're doing, but you know General Mustang is gonna have both our hides when he finds out."

"Yeah, well, he's indirectly responsible for it, isn't he?" Ed said.

"You're not being fair." Al shot a quick glance past Ed's shoulder.

Ed twisted to see what caught his brother's attention and saw Hughes exiting Lt. Caine's office with the Senior CSI. He grit his teeth as he watched words he couldn't hear be exchanged with smiles and handshakes. "They look awful tight, don't they?"

"You're certainly not being fair to Colonel Hughes, either."

Ed's jaw clenched and he stared down at his hands. "We don't know how much longer we can wait, Al; how much longer you can wait."

"We'll wait for as long as it takes, Brother."

Ed glanced back at Hughes and felt a flush of shame heat him up. Al was right, they couldn't rush this. Especially now. It frustrated him that he had to be extra careful, though. Any move they made could put a big ugly black mark on the Program, and that was the last thing any of the alchemists' needed. But Al was also wrong. They couldn't wait for as long as it would take. Not if it took longer than they had. That catalyst could be their answer, but if Caine didn't release it soon, it would be worthless. Ed wanted to cooperate with the police, to get this investigation over with as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, some things were need-to-know for a reason.

The last thing the general public needed to know was that a shadow group of created human weapons were on the loose and they were going after something that would make them even more invincible than they already were.

Hughes joined the boys and laid an affectionate hand on Ed's shoulder. Of all the people in the Elric brother's lives, he probably understood the most and forgave the quickest. Ed smiled sadly and said, "Sorry, Hughes. About earlier."

"I'm hungry," Hughes said, "and I have a sudden craving for Chinese. My treat."

"Oh, well," Ed said, brightening, "if you're paying, I know this place—"

"We'll hit the all-you-can-eat buffet down the street from the hotel."


"I know how you eat."

Horatio watched as the Elrics and Hughes left and thought more about what wasn't said today. He didn't turn when he felt the presence of both Eric and Ryan on either side of him. "Gentlemen," he said, acknowledging them.

"Man H, I think today was the strangest ever."

"And it's only going to get stranger, Eric," Horatio said, and strolled off. There was a room full of hand-written journals marked as evidence that were calling his name.

A/N: Bouki isa canine character in Creole folktales, typically the dimwitted victim of Lapin's trickery. The tale of the tarbaby and the briar patch, made world famous by Joel Chandler Harris's Brer Rabbit stories and by Walt Disney's 1946 cartoon rendition, has been collected from French-speaking Americans since the nineteenth century; see Fortier (1895, 108). Similar tales have been collected in French-speaking Missouri (Carriére 1937). AT 175; K741. Capture by tar baby; K581.2, Briar-patch punishment for rabbit. Three other Louisiana variants of this story--#33, #49, #200--appear in this book. From: Louisiana Voices – An Educator's Guide to Exploring Our Communities and Traditions.

Why? Because in THIS particular 'verse, Havoc is Cajun!

Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was created by Arakawa Hiromu and is serialized monthly in Shonen Gangan (Square Enix). Copyright for this property is held by Arakawa Hiromu and Square Enix. CSI: and CSI: Miami are created and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and owned by CBS. All rights reserved.