My brain scares me sometimes. This is short, a one-shot, and probably doesn't make sense except to me. Sorry to everyone else! Also, thanks for JK for her excellent beta work, as usual.
I don't own Kingdom Hearts or NCIS. This is just the product of an overactive imagination.
The air was hot and humid when Leroy Jethro Gibbs stepped out of the SUV, the smell of something burnt heavy in his nostrils. He held his coffee cup just a little bit higher to his face, letting the aroma mask the horrid scent, hard blue eyes surveying the scene. There was a slight breeze in his face, bringing the awful burnt smell right to him, but all he did was frown and head straight for the source. He pulled a black cap over his grey hair as he moved, matching the black jacket he sported against the breeze.
"What have we got?" he yelled to his companions, the three men and single woman dressed similarly to him who had taken their usual tasks without his guidance. He went over to one of the men, an elderly gentleman in a hat, and crouched next to the reason they were there in the first place.
"One of ours, I'm afraid," the man said in a British voice, peering intently at the body in front of him. "From the other side of the country. It's a mystery how he got here, but that's what we're going to find out, hm?"
"Yeah," Gibbs said, his thin patience prompting him to ask, "But who is he?"
With long black hair, high cheekbones, and green eyes staring sightlessly at the air next to Gibbs' head, the victim looked to be in his mid-twenties. He was wearing the uniform of an NCIS field agent, just like what the NCIS agents were wearing now, but this one had been charred across the front, large gashes torn through the material. Where the uniform was burnt trails of blood started, becoming invisible as they hit the black jacket. Aside from that, the only other thing out of place was something white poking out of the pocket of the victim's jeans.
"He was agent Lea Burns," the other man said, handing Gibbs the ID wallet. "From NCIS in Washington State." The man, Doctor Donald "Ducky" Mallard, returned to his study of Agent Burns.
Gibbs flipped open the wallet and glanced at the details there, the smirking photograph a near mirror of the man on the ground in front of him. "Cause of death?"
"Hard to say," Ducky mused, poking the slashes. "It looks like he was attacked by a bladed weapon, a rather large one at that. At first glance I would say that he died of blood loss due to these large gashes. However, I'll be able to tell you more when we get him back home."
"It doesn't look like he was killed here," Gibbs noted, raising the body and examining the ground underneath. "If he was, there'd be blood on the ground under him." He let the body fall back and reached for the pocket, the sliver of white it held. "It looks like the killer dumped him here." Carefully, he drew the white object out of the pocket. It was revealed to be a playing card, the eight of Hearts, though it was pristine. Not one smudge marred the square of cardboard, something that Gibbs thought was odd, but he wasn't there to analyze the evidence. That would come later. Right now he grabbed an evidence bag and slipped the card into it. As he did so the back of the card came into view.
"That's an odd symbol," Ducky remarked, leaning closer to peer at the card. "I can't say I've ever seen it before."
Gibbs turned the card over and studied the strange picture there. "It looks like… an upside down heart," he noted, turning the card over. "It looks like a heart with a cross at the base."
"Or rather," Ducky corrected, "A cross with a heart at its base. An unusual symbol indeed."
"All right, what do we have so far?" Gibbs asked his team as he entered the NCIS command center. He pointedly didn't look at Tony DiNozzo and Tim McGee, the two men seemingly wrestling at Tony's desk. Instead he looked at the only woman present.
"Ducky's confirmed that the gashes were the cause of death, though he'd like to see you in person to discuss them," Ziva David reported, flipping through the contents of the file. "The only thing Abby got off the card was fibers from Agent Burns' pants, nothing from our killer. She's running the card's symbol through a search engine to try and see if she can find the rest of the set, but otherwise-"
"Okay, what about Agent Burns?" Gibbs asked impatiently. "Did you interview his coworkers?"
"Yes. The interesting thing is, Agent Burns vanished without a trace about six years ago," Tony said. "Nobody could find him. At all. It's like he just dropped off the face of the earth. A year ago he shows up again, but he can't tell anyone where he'd been. He'd only been cleared for active duty again two months ago, after the investigation turned up nothing. However, he went to the same ice cream shop every night after his return, and his coworkers say that he wasn't the same as before."
"Still a smartass though," McGee put in.
"According to his coworkers, Burns didn't work any high profile cases, he didn't have any enemies, they don't know who'd want to kill him," Ziva finished.
"All right," Gibbs said. "Go beyond his coworkers. Tony, Ziva, head to Washington and retrace Burns' steps. Visit his home, his desk, that ice cream shop, anywhere. If he had any enemies they wouldn't have to be involved in his work."
Tony and Ziva nodded and grabbed their gear.
"McGee, you hack his computer. Find anything, and I mean anything, that he kept hidden from his coworkers."
"Yes boss." McGee headed for his desk before Gibbs was even finished speaking.
Satisfied, Gibbs turned and headed for the stairs. "I'm going to see what Ducky wanted."
If the smell was anything to go by, Sora mused as he emerged from the Gummi Ship's magic portal, then this world was going to be unpleasant. He wrinkled his nose took stock of his surroundings, purposely not taking deep breaths of the whatever-it-was that permeated the air.
He was in a storage closet, he decided as he tried to identify the unfamiliar materials. There was a broom and a dustpan and not much else that he could recognize, but there was a lot of it and it was arranged neatly. He'd emerged in the narrow aisle that was the only open space in the room, though he'd luckily avoided making a mess. The door was directly in front of him, through which he could hear several voices.
"You wanted to see me, Ducky?" a male voice asked as Sora crept close to the door.
"Ah yes, Jethro. I examined our Agent Burns and he had much to tell me indeed. You see, he died from loss of blood through the gashes on his chest." The other voice was almost cheerful, Ducky seeming not to mind that he was talking about a dead man. "However, the edges of the gashes were burnt, just like on his clothes. It was as if the weapon was red-hot when he was hit."
"That would account for the singeing," Jethro's voice said. "You know what kind of weapon did it?"
Sora debated whether or not to open the door and decided what the heck. The smell was making him nauseous and it was only a matter of time before he succumbed to the urge to throw up.
"It was an unusual weapon," Ducky responded as Sora eased the door open and slipped out. "At first I thought it was a blade, but after looking at the wounds I think we're looking for something round and jagged. Look here," and he paused. Sora found himself facing the two men and the body they were standing over, though their backs were to him. From the angle he couldn't see the face of the dead man. "I think he was struck with the weapon before he was slashed, see these two stab wounds? If I had to guess, and I'm no weapons expert, I'd say the weapon was round, like this." Sora saw the shape he sketched into the air, a circle with four spikes evenly spaced around the edges. It was a familiar shape, nagging at the edges of memory, but he was too caught up in Ducky's description to pay much attention. "However, it is still a mystery as to who killed him. I found no traces of the killer, no DNA or hairs."
"He must have cleaned up after himself," Jethro guessed, taking a sip from the cup he held in his hand.
"I didn't find any sign of that, but it's entirely possible." Ducky looked over at Jethro. "I hope you find who killed him."
Sora opened his mouth to say something, guessing that their conversation was over and if he didn't want to be shot by the gun on Jethro's hip he needed to announce himself, but his voice died in his throat. Jethro had moved, turning towards the door away from Sora, and the teen could now see the face of the man they'd been discussing. A lump rose in his throat, pain in his chest burning suddenly, so fiercely that it brought tears to his eyes, and he stumbled towards the familiar face in the unfamiliar place. He didn't even care about Jethro's gun anymore, the man dropping his cup and drawing it on him, or that he was a stranger here.
"Axel," he choked out, a sob accompanying the name. He hadn't even really known Axel very well, but Roxas had. This was his grief, Sora realized dazedly, Roxas's reaction to seeing his best friend dead in what had to be a morgue. He had to catch himself on the edge of Axel's deathbed before he fell, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was that Roxas was mourning for his friend and Sora, Sora was along for the ride.
"Put your hands up!" Jethro ordered, and vaguely the teen heard the gun cocking. It didn't register, though, as Sora, no, Roxas reached out and brushed his dead friend's cheek.
"Axel," he whispered again, tears falling from his eyes. "I thought… we'd have ice cream again."
Then there was nothing, their grief swallowed up by the blissful oblivion of darkness.
When Sora came to, he registered a bright light above him, burning right through his eyelids, as well as the smell that still hadn't gone away. His head hurt like he'd stayed up all night, which didn't make sense if he was waking up. The talking that he could hear in the corner of the room wasn't helping any, either.
"Ugh," he moaned, raising his arm to block out the light. It was only making his head hurt more. "Donald, whatever you did, don't do it again," he berated his friend. "I've told you time and again to stop using me as a guinea pig!" That was the only thing that could have caused his headache, Donald trying out a new spell and it backfiring horrible. Sora had learned to get off the same world as his friend when Donald was in an inventive mood.
After a moment Sora realized that he had, indeed, gotten off world. He'd gone to explore that new world that had opened up, which was where he'd seen…
"Welcome back to the world of the living!" a familiar voice said. "Although I don't know about experimenting on you. I tend to do that to the dead, not the living."
"Ducky," Sora guessed, lifting his head to take a peek at the elderly man towering over him. "Sorry for sneaking in, I was going to say something when…"
"You seemed to know my charge," Ducky said cheerfully. "And then you lost consciousness, which was entirely surprising. How's your head?"
"I'll be fine," Sora assured him, finally venturing to sit up. "I was surprised to see him, is all." And he had been, since Axel had died the year before to save him from a legion of Nobodies. The shock of seeing someone who looked just like Axel had reawakened Roxas' grief, Sora realized. His Nobody hadn't really been able to deal with the loss of his best friend, not with the impending encounter against Xemnas and saving the worlds again. Now that the shock had worn off Sora could think rationally. "I wonder… can I see him again? He might not be the same person after all."
"Ah… That might not be a good idea," Ducky ventured, glancing to the side at something Sora couldn't see. The teen followed his line of sight and saw Jethro standing in the doorframe, staring intently at him with a gaze that could sear steel. "I'm afraid Gibbs will want to ask you a few questions."
"Gibbs?" Sora repeated, swinging his legs over the side of what he realized was an autopsy table. He hoped fervently that Axel hadn't been on this one as he hopped off quickly. "I thought his name was Jethro."
"I answer to Gibbs," the man so named said shortly. "Only my friends call me Jethro."
"Ah." Sora walked over and offered his hand. "I'm Sora."
Gibbs didn't take it, only looking at him harder. "Sora what?"
Dropping his hand, Sora tilted his head in puzzlement. "What?"
Gibbs just shook his head and gestured for Sora to follow him. "Ducky, let me know when you're finished with the other body."
A shiver ran through the Keyblade Master's spine and he quickly decided to leave the cheerful mortician to his work.
Sora fidgeted in the hard chair, wondering if he'd done the right thing in following Gibbs into this small room. The only things in it were the two metal chairs and the metal table, though a large mirror dominated the wall he was facing. Across from him was Gibbs, sipping from the white cup he held. They'd been like this for at least ten minutes, Sora not knowing what to say and Gibbs seeming to wait for Sora to say something. All in all it was an awkward situation and the teen wondered if he'd have been better off with Donald after all.
"So," Gibbs said at length, drawing a folder from somewhere under the table and setting it on the table. "Sora, right? No last name?"
The boy so named only looked confused. "What's a last name?" Where he was from people did sometimes have two names, but only when they shared one name with someone else. So a Mary would become a Jean-Marie or a Mary Joan, or they'd even change it sometimes. Then again the islands were small, with a relatively tiny population compared to some worlds like Hollow Bastion.
Gibbs looked incredulous at his question. "You don't even know what a last name is?"
Sora shook his head.
"It's like… a family name. My father had the last name Gibbs, and when I was born I got his last name too. It lets people track family lineages."
"Oh," Sora said blankly. "The Islands don't have that. Births are recorded so there isn't a need for a family name."
Gibbs just stared at him, causing him to duck his head like he did when he got an answer wrong in class. "What?"
"Nothing." Gibbs pulled something out of the folder and slid it over to Sora instead. "Do you know him?"
Axel's face stared up at him from the photo, causing Sora to swallow the lump in his throat. "This looks like my friend Axel. He… he died a year ago." He drew the picture closer, tracing the familiar cheekbones, the face lacking its usual smirk. "He saved my life."
"I see. That's really funny, because Agent Burns was murdered last night," Gibbs said coldly. "Odd for someone who died last year, right?"
Sora glared at him. "Like I said, it looks like him. I never said it was him."
"Your reaction to seeing him in the morgue proves otherwise. You seemed rather convinced it was him," Gibbs commented offhand. "Speaking of which, how DID you get into the morgue?"
Sora opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again. While he didn't very often follow the "no meddling" rule, he was very careful to follow the "they can't know we're from other worlds" rule. So he didn't know how he could mention that he'd simply appeared in that closet without mentioning that he was from another world. After a moment he decided to just say, "I can't tell you."
Gibbs really wasn't pleased with that answer, he could tell, but he didn't press the issue. "So you know Agent Burns. Do you know who killed him?"
Sora shrugged. "That weapon Ducky mentioned doesn't sound…" All of a sudden it clicked, the reason the weapon had sounded familiar. "That was Axel's weapon!" he blurted. "That chakram that Ducky drew in the air, that was Axel's weapon! And he used fire, Roxas said that he'd light his chakrams on fire before tossing them at enemies!" Roxas hadn't "told" him much, since his Nobody was part of him, but he did have access to some of his memories. And sometimes, just sometimes, Roxas could influence his actions.
Gibbs raised his eyebrow. "Roxas… who's that?"
"Ah…" That was something else Sora couldn't really explain, but he knew that Gibbs wouldn't take another evasion again. Something about how the man eyed him, tense but forcing himself not to be, made him think about his explanations. Instead he asked, "You don't know what a Nobody is, do you?"
Sora sighed, leaning back in his chair and stretching for lack of anything better to do. "Didn't think so. It's really complicated, but let's just say Roxas knew Axel two years ago."
"And Axel died a year ago. What about Roxas?" Gibbs wanted to know.
"He came home," Sora answered as truthfully as he could.
They stared at each other for a moment before Gibbs, looking through the file, said suddenly, "You said Axel died a year ago, right?" At Sora's nod, he slid another paper across the table. "Agent Burns vanished six years ago without a trace, but he came home a year ago. Can you explain that?"
Sora stared at the page, trying to make sense of the information presented there. "Agent… Lea Burns?" he murmured, a fragment of Roxas' memory once again tickling the edge of his mind. "Roxas told me… Lea was Axel's real name." He got up and paced back and forth, a release of nervous energy while his mind went in circles. "Gibbs," he said finally, turning back to the man that was watching him interestedly. "On Axel… Lea, I mean, was anything else found? I think I have a hunch…"
Wordlessly Gibbs slid a plastic bag over, a bag containing a playing card. Sora picked it up and scrutinized it. "The eight of Hearts… and Axel was number eight." He turned it over and his face scrunched into a scowl. "I thought so. The Organization symbol."
"What Organization?" Gibbs asked calmly.
"Two years back Roxas joined them, since he had something they needed. There were thirteen members and Roxas was number thirteen, while Axel was eight," Sora explained. "All of the Organization members died, the last being number one, Xemnas. They were trying to make Kingdom Hearts for themselves."
"Do all the members have X in their names?" Gibbs asked, to which Sora nodded. "Were those their real names?"
"Nah," Sora said dismissively. "They took the names of their Somebodies and rearranged them. The Xes were a show of solidarity, I guess."
Gibbs scratched something on a paper, musing to himself, "So… Lea was Axel's… Somebody."
That brought Sora to a halt, his eyes widening comicly. "Of course! Axel died a year ago, and Lea came back a year ago… That means that all of the Nobodies I defeated probably returned to where they belonged!"
"What's a Nobody?" Gibbs wanted to know, but now Sora looked sad.
"We could have come to visit him," he said mournfully, sinking into his chair. "Even if he didn't remember us, we could have come to see him…"
Gibbs just got up. "If you know that much about Lea, maybe you can help us. Come with me."
Sora sighed and stood, but then his stomach rumbled. He realized that he didn't know how long he'd been out, but he must not have had anything to eat recently. "Er, is there going to be food?" he asked hopefully.
An hour, two hamburgers, and a bathroom trip later, Sora was once again in the morgue staring at yet another familiar face. This one wasn't as familiar as Axel's, but Roxas had seen enough of him during his time in the Organization that Sora could easily recognize him.
"Marluxia," he said immediately, taking note of the long hair, brown this time rather than pink. "I'm guessing there were flowers around where he was found. He had power over flowers, cherry blossoms I think."
"Cherry blossoms are a symbol of Death in Japan," Ducky said mildly. "I once knew someone who mistakenly sent her Japanese friend a cherry blossom bouquet for the birth of her daughter. It was amusing, in a tragic misunderstanding sort of way."
"But how did he die?" Gibbs asked, interrupting before Ducky could get very far into his story.
"A large, flat blade, wider at the base than the tip," Ducky explained, showing them the mold he'd made of the wound. "It looks like all it took was one swing and our friend was very dead. The flowers were sprinkled on him afterwards, I'm guessing, judging from the fact that they were in the wound without any signs of being bled on."
Gibbs turned to Sora. He didn't understand exactly what Sora knew about this case, but the teen seemed to know what he was talking about and so Gibbs would hear what he had to say. "You mentioned that Axel's weapon was a chakram. What was Marluxia's?"
Sora thought hard. "A… scythe, I think."
They all looked at the weapon mold on the table. "That looks like a scythe blade to me," Gibbs said finally. He picked up a plastic bag and handed it to Sora. "I'm guessing that Marluxia was number eleven in that Organization?"
Sora regarded the Organization symbol for a moment, then turned to see the face of the card. Marluxia's face stared at him, pink hair streaming in the wind and flowers surrounding the Js in the corner of the card. "Yeah."
"Sora, you need to tell me," Gibbs said seriously, leaning over to look Sora in the eye. "What is this Organization, really? What are Nobodies, Somebodies, and why is someone targeting them?"
Sora thought about it, then decided that with the storage closet right at hand, if Gibbs decided to not believe him he could make a break for the Gummi Ship. So it was a bit uncertainly that he told Gibbs everything he could about the Heartless, the Nobodies, and Kingdom Hearts. When he was done he regarded the two men in front of him.
He wasn't prepared for a comment from behind him. "Wow. That sounds like something you'd play, elf lord."
"Shut up, Tony."
Sora whirled to see two men and two women had come in during his story. "Uh…"
"That's awesome!" one of the girls enthused, leaping forward to engulf Sora in a giant hug. "And you really seem like you believe it to, which isn't really so awesome, but I've never heard of anything like that!"
"It's true!" Sora insisted, trying his best to worm his way out of the embrace. "There are Heartless that steal people's hearts and Nobodies that are those hearts' vessels come to life!"
"And of course a giant key that can defeat them," one of the men said dryly. Sora recognized it as belonging to Tony. "Boss, let me know when I can call the people with nice jackets."
Glaring at Tony, Sora held out his hand. "It's called a Keyblade." He summoned the weapon, watching everyone's faces as the Kingdom Key appeared in his hand. It looked just like a giant key, as Tony had said, complete with a keychain hanging from the hilt and culminating in a stylized version of King Mickey's head. He was greatly satisfied at the shocked reactions he received from everyone except Gibbs.
He dismissed the weapon and said, "So, what now?"
"McGee, Abby, check the internet. Look for anyone posting about these Nobodies," Gibbs ordered. "Ziva, go back to the crime scenes, see if there's anything else you can't see. Tony, stay out of the way." He then turned to Sora. "Someone's killing the Somebodies of your Organization members. You and me are gonna try and figure out who these Somebodies are before they kill the rest of them."
Sora nodded and followed Gibbs upstairs. "I wish there was some way to figure it out…" he mused in the elevator.
"If you can remember the names of the rest of the Organization, we can try," Gibbs assured him. "Remember, you said their names were anagrams of their Somebodies'. Going on that we can see if there's anyone else here that could be a target."
Several hours and a lot of sheets of paper, they finally got to number thirteen, Roxas. Gibbs wrote it down, then eyed Sora and asked innocently, "So, how do you spell your name?"
"S-O-R-A," Sora replied without thinking. Gibbs hummed, wrote it down, then nodded. " I see. Roxas was your Nobody, wasn't he?"
Sora flushed. During his story he hadn't mentioned that. "… Yeah."
"So when'd you lose your heart?" Gibbs asked. Sora told him about his first trip to Hollow Bastion, how he'd had to give up his heart to save Kairi, and how Kairi had saved him from the darkness. Gibbs listened intently all through, then asked after, "What happened to Roxas?"
"We rejoined," Sora answered. "It's hard to explain."
"Is he still there, or…?"
Sora didn't know why Gibbs was asking, but he answered anyway. "Kind of. It's not like he's another personality per se. I just know what he knows, but sometimes he pops out. Like in the morgue. That, er, was Roxas."
"I see." Gibbs got up and poured himself another cup of coffee from the maker right there. "So, do you think it was the same for Lea and Ulmaria?"
"Lea and who?" Sora asked blankly.
"Marluxia. That was his real name, Ulmaria. He's not an NCIS agent, but since the killer left that card on the body we have his case." Gibbs sat back at the desk and sipped his coffee, looking at Sora. "So, do you think they had Axel and Marluxia still in there somewhere?"
Sora shrugged. "I dunno. Roxas joined back with me willingly, while Marluxia and Axel were killed and rejoined their Somebodies that way. That means they might not have been there the way Roxas is."
"Ah. So what do you think made the killer target them?"
Sora looked down. "Well… I don't know. The killer's using their own attacks against them, Axel's chakrams and Marluxia's scythe. So it would have to be someone who knew about them and knew what their abilities were. That limits the field to people who actually encountered and fought them, and Roxas doesn't know anyone that survived their fights. There's only my friends, but I didn't even know about the Organization's Somebodies. I doubt they would."
"I see." Gibbs leaned forward, and Sora looked up to meet his eyes. "And do you think anyone but your friends would know about you and Roxas?"
Sora looked taken aback. "No… why?"
"Because, Sora, someone's killing off the Somebodies of Organization XIII. That means if they know about you, you're a target," Gibbs said seriously. "From what we've found, Lea and Ulmaria were alone when they were attacked, so you'll be safe as long as you're with someone. I'll assign Ziva to you until we can find the killer."
"No!" Sora said immediately. "I don't want to put anyone in danger. I can go someplace safe until you find whoever's doing this."
"Sora, you're not going to be safe until we catch this guy. And I'd feel a lot better if you stuck around here so we can protect you," Gibbs insisted. "So far whoever it is hasn't tried to attack you yet, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Sora chewed his lip. "I think the reason that Lea and Ulmaria were killed is because they couldn't fight back. They were human, they didn't have their Nobodies' powers. But I'm not defenseless. I can handle whoever this is!"
"You really think so, Sora?" Gibbs asked seriously. "Because this isn't a game. If you're wrong, you'll die."
"I could have died when I stopped Ansem, and Xemnas," Sora retorted. "If someone's going to stop him, I can. Now, do you know a way we can get this guy or not?"
Gibbs didn't like it, but with Sora's willing participation, a plan was quickly drawn up. Gibbs oversaw the preparations, his team minus Abby going over the details, and waited for what he knew was coming.
He didn't have to wait long. A door slammed above him and footsteps sounded against the carpet, heading towards where he and Sora were sitting and watching the activity. "Gibbs! My office, right now!"
Gibbs shot Sora a look that plainly said, "You're coming too," before ascending the stairs towards Director Jenny Sheppard's office. He heard Sora following him, the teen's footsteps surprisingly soft in his oversized shoes, and stepped aside for Sora to enter the room in front of him.
"Why didn't you run this operation past me, Jethro?" Jenny asked, glaring at the elder man. She walked over to her desk and leaned against it heavily, facing the two males that were the target of her ire. "I can't believe you agreed to this! Using a child as bait for a serial killer!"
"It was his idea," Gibbs said mildly. "He didn't listen when I tried to talk sense into him, I figured I'd let you try."
Jenny turned her glare onto the teen. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she asked venomously. "You're letting yourself be a target! That's incredibly foolish and reckless, even for a kid. Why should I let you do it?"
Sora glared right back, drawing himself to his full height. He was barely taller than Jenny, but that didn't deter him. "Look, I told Gibbs, I'm ready for this. I can fight whoever this is, and I can win."
"With what, a giant key?" Gibbs asked, finally voicing the concerns that had been plaguing him since Sora had suggested this whole mess. "Because that didn't look like a good weapon to me. It just looked like a toy!"
In response Sora stepped back and the Keyblade appeared out of thin air, just like it had last time. "Didn't I tell you what the Keyblade really was?" he asked, swinging the weapon around idly. It looked clunky but Sora handled it expertly, passing it from hand to hand in a move that he must have practiced many times before. Jenny, not having seen the weapon before, only stared at it in awe. It passed very close to her desk on several passes but Sora seemed to know exactly where he was swinging.
Gibbs shook his head. "You only said that the Keyblade was feared by those Heartless."
"Didn't I tell you why? It's because the Keyblade is Light. It's the weapon of light that only a strong-hearted person can wield. The Heartless fear it because it's the only thing that can destroy them," Sora said seriously. "And as long as I have it, I'm never going to be safe. Whenever there are Heartless near they're going to come after me, because they're scared of it. With the Door to Light sealed I've been safer than before, but there are always places that the Heartless hide. And I have to go there because they hurt people." With one final twirl the Keyblade disappeared. "That's what being the Keyblade Master is, Gibbs."
Gibbs, for a moment, saw the teen before him as he really was. He saw a young soldier, not unlike some he had served with in his time in the military, who hadn't asked to fight, to be on the front lines. They'd grown up too fast, saw too much of the world, and when they felt they had to do something they would do it no matter what anyone said. After the moment had passed he sighed, then turned to Jenny. "You see? It's like trying to convince a brick wall."
"We really can't talk you out of it, can we?" Jenny asked, sitting back heavily in her chair.
Sora shook his head, a grin on his face. "Nope!" The grin faded away, replaced by a determined look. "We'll get him, Gibbs. Axel won't have died in vain."
The night descended quickly and the plan was put into action. None of the NCIS team were happy with the situation, but Sora was adamant that he draw the killer out so Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Ziva were hidden around the clearing. It was one that Sora had chosen, declaring that if it came to a fight he'd be able to defend himself adequately, and it had trees and brush that would hide the NCIS and police stationed to back him up. Sora had been fitted with an earpiece and a mic, something that it took him a while to get used to, but now he could hear the whispered conversation going on around him. Every few minutes someone would ask him if he was sure about this, to which he said tersely yes, he was. Aside from that he stayed out of the conversation, instead choosing to sit and relax in the middle of the clearing.
An hour passed, then two. Everyone was getting ansty, the brush rustling as they shifted into better positions, and Sora himself got up and started pacing back and forth, back and forth. After the third hour Gibbs was ready to end the whole thing when, finally, something happened.
Sora had stopped and was in the middle of sitting down when the ground beneath him rippled, darkness spreading from where his feet touched the grass into a puddle big enough to swallow the unwary teen. Several people cried warnings into their headset but it wasn't needed. Sora saw the darkness just in time and leaped clear.
"I know you're there so come out!" he shouted to the darkness, whirling around. "Why are you killing the Somebodies of Organization XIII?"
A laugh chilled the air and another pool of darkness appeared, this time directly in front of Sora. "The Somebodies?" a cold voice mocked. "They're nothing more than the same Nobodies in different clothes. If you give them time they'll try again to make Kingdom Hearts!" As the voice spoke a figure came into view, stepping out of the portal. It took the bystanders a few minutes to pick out the speaker, as he was clothed from head to toe in a black coat. Sora settled into a battle stance, ready for anything.
"You don't know that!" the teen contested hotly. "Lea and Ulmaria, they might not have even known that they'd had Nobodies! Killing them only makes you a murderer!"
"Oh really? I watched them before I was certain," the figure retorted. "When he returned, did you know that Lea ate sea-salt ice cream every night? He also showed indications of having fire powers, just like his Nobody. If you'd have left him alone long enough he'd have found Ulmaria, a florist who found that he could make his plants grow at will after his return. Together they'd have rebuilt Organization XIII!"
"And what about me?" Sora asked, gesturing to himself. "I'm the Keyblade Master! Why would I rejoin Organization XIII?"
"The Organization would blackmail you into gathering hearts for them," the stranger sneered. "Just like they did last time. You're a liability that can't be left alive!"
"Then at least let me know who you are!" Sora shot back. "Only a coward hides behind his enemy's cloak!"
The stranger chuckled, bringing his hand up to rub at his chin thoughtfully. "Only a coward, indeed. I suppose my Somebody could be called that… That is, if I were a proper Nobody." The stranger shrugged. "You won't survive, so I guess I might as well." He reached up and pushed the hood back, revealing a head of short-cropped silver hair, green eyes piercing a Sora shocked into silence.
"But-!" Sora spluttered, eyes wide. "Riku!"
The strange teen scowled at Sora, eyes darkening with his rage. "Don't call me that!" he spat. "I'm nothing more than his shadow, a clone created to mirror his form and abilities. I was meant to force you to fight for Namine, but when that fell through, I was supposed to die! I went and fought Riku, I wanted his place in your life. And if I didn't win I was supposed to die!"
"But you called yourself a Nobody," Sora said slowly. "And Nobodies don't die…"
"They reunite with their hearts and become whole," the Riku Replica sneered. "But I didn't have a heart, I'm just a copy! So I was reborn in Twilight Town and I devoted my life to one purpose: Ensuring that Organization XIII wouldn't rise again."
"So you've been killing the Somebodies of the Organization," Sora said darkly. "Innocent people!"
"Not like you'll care," the Replica sneered. "I'm going to kill you, even with your backup scattered around the clearing."
Sora's only response to that was to summon his weapon. The Replica did the same, the Soul Eater weapon appearing out of darkness in his hand.
Afterwards, the NCIS agents could only describe the fight in flashes. Sora leaped at the Replica, who parried, and then they were all over the field, slashing at each other and defending in ways that made martial arts movies look like school dances. Blows landed, blood dripped, and when the combatants broke apart, each looked more winded than the last time. Ten minutes into the fight lightning crashed down, sending the fighters apart, although years later everyone would swear there hadn't been a cloud in the sky. Things slowly turned more into one of McGee's fantasy games after that, fire and lightning and ice flying around the clearing freely while all NCIS could do was gape.
Finally, after it seemed hours had passed, Sora landed the final blow, sending Replica sprawling into the dirt. Both teens were battered and bruised, cuts torn into their clothes and skin with burns peppered everywhere for flavor. Sora was breathing heavily but still standing, and NCIS, seeing that the battle was over, moved from their cover cautiously.
"Well?" Replica gasped, struggling for breath. "Finish me off, Roxas. Who knows? I might actually die this time."
"I'm not Roxas," Sora said wearily, standing and dismissing the Keyblade. "And I'm not like you. I'm not going to kill you."
"You killed the others, though. Larxene and Marluxia, and the rest of the Organization that Riku or Axel couldn't get," the Replica laughed. "That's how many? You're just like me, Sora! I was killing to protect people from them, just like you. Why not add one more to your collection?"
"The difference between him and you," Gibbs said, coming up to stand next to Sora, "is that he knows when to stop."
Sora didn't look up at Gibbs, but he didn't look at the Replica either. "What're you going to do with him?"
"Well, considering what you and he can do, he'll probably be put in a maximum security prison until trial," Gibbs said. "After that… given what he's confessed to, he might get the death penalty after all."
The teen's shoulders sagged, and he watched Ziva and Tony drag the Replica into a sitting positon and cuff him into place. "He can use the Dark Corridors to travel. I don't think you'll be able to keep him."
Gibbs put a hand on Sora's arm and steered him away, towards where an ambulance had pulled up. Just the small weight seemed too much for him and he leaned into the older man for support.
"You did great," Gibbs assured him, helping him down onto the gurney.
Sora's eyes were closed before he hit the pillow.
Two weeks later Sora was fully recovered and all of the case's loose ends had been wrapped up. The Replica, true to Sora's word, had vanished from maximum security a few days before without a trace. Shortly after his release from the hospital, the Keyblade Master showed up at NCIS.
"Sora!" Tony greeted, waving from his position underneath his desk. The teen didn't dare ask what he was doing there, instead just waving back and looking around for Gibbs.
"Gibbs is in Ducky's office," Ziva said helpfully. "How did you get in here?"
"I asked to see Gibbs at the door?" Sora offered. "I think everyone knows me now."
"I'll say," McGee muttered. "Abby's ecstatic over that video she has of your fight."
"You know the way?" Tony asked, extracting himself with a curse and nearly tipping his desk over.
"Yeah," Sora said, waving again as he headed for the stairs. He'd been confined to bed so long he was glad to exercise his leg muscles.
Sliding on the rails was fun, too.
He found Gibbs and Ducky in the morgue, right where he'd seen them the first time. They were talking over a body, one that Sora didn't recognize this time, and Sora had to clear his throat to get their attention.
"Nice to see you back on your feet," Gibbs said approvingly. "I think you need new clothes, though."
Sora eyed his ripped outfit and shrugged. "It'll mend. I just came to say goodbye before I left. So, what did you do with Lea and Ulmaria?"
"We sent them off to their families to be buried," Ducky told him. "I don't know how you handle the dead on your Islands, but that's how it's done here. We let the family grieve and move on."
"That's good," Sora grinned. "We do something like that back home. Instead of burying them, we send them out to sea in their canoes. The family takes care of the preparations and the sending, though, so they get a chance to say goodbye."
"That's actually quite personal, I like it," Ducky mused. "It reminds me of-"
"That can wait until another time," Gibbs cut in, then turned to Sora. "I have one thing I'd like to ask you. What that boy said, about you killing the Organization… was it true?"
Sora cringed and looked away. "… Yeah. But if I hadn't, we wouldn't be sitting here right now."
"I see." Gibbs nodded. "Well, there's something I'd like to show you. Do you want to come up to Abby's office?"
Sora looked surprised. "Sure, I guess."
Only a few minutes later Sora was being fussed over by the dark-haired goth girl, Abby, while Gibbs tolerated her bubbly personality with the air of one who was used to it. Abby babbled something about wills and video wills and how she already had hers recorded while she worked at the computer Sora pointedly stayed away from. He'd had enough experiences with computers, thanks.
"Ah, here we are!" Abby declared, pulling up a video. "This is Lea's will, we watched it to see if there was anything to link to his killer back before we knew that clone guy did it, and we thought you'd want to see it."
"Why?" Sora asked blankly.
"Because it's meant for you, Sora," Abby chirped, pressing the play button. The teen turned his attention to the screen, where Lea was sitting at the camera rubbing his head self-consciously.
"I know I shouldn't put this in here, everyone's going to think I'm crazy," he said, his voice achingly familiar. "But I want to say something to Sora. I don't know if you'll ever see this, since no one probably knows who you are, but I just have to tell you. You see," Lea said, glancing offscreen and then back, "I remember it, Sora. I remember my time in the Organization with Roxas, and I remember eating ice cream with him every day. I still do that, you know, go to a local parlor and eat sea-salt ice cream. And I wanted you to know… I don't regret anything. Now that I have a heart to feel with, I'm grateful to you, Sora and Roxas, for everything." He grinned at the screen. "Now go beat up Xemnas for me, okay?"
The video ended, but Sora didn't register it until Abby reached in front of him and closed the window. He didn't even realize there were tears streaming down his face until Gibbs wordlessly handed him a tissue.
"I'm going to Twilight Town," Sora said finally, "and getting a huge bowl of ice cream. Then I'm going to sit on top of the station and eat the whole thing. For Axel and Lea, and Ulmaria and Marluxia."
"How're you going to get there?" Gibbs asked, genuinely curious.
Sora grinned up at him, crushing the ball of tissue in his hand. "I never did tell you how I got here, did I?"