Hello! Wow, I haven't posted a story in years... but, seeing as this is the longest summer ever (I don't leave for college for a few more weeks), I've finally had the time to sit down and write. This is the result.

This story takes place during (and a little before) Kingdom Hearts II, but I've added an OC to the mix. I know a lot of people don't really like OCs, but personally I really like stories with OCs, as long as they're well written. But, if you don't like it, then just click the little back button and find something else to read.

However, if you do happen to like stories with OCs, please give this one a chance! I kind of suck at writing beginnings, so these first couple chapters might be a bit rocky, but I promise it will get better :)

Anyways, I'll stop rambling now... Let's begin!

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or Disney. I do, however, own Aila and her family.


You see things;

And you say, 'Why?'

But I dream things

That never were;

And I say, 'Why not?'

~George Bernard Shaw


Chapter 1: Beginnings

"Remember to keep all the doors locked at night. And the windows. And don't open the door without seeing who it is first, and don't go wandering around by yourself after dark, and… Are you listening to me?"

Aila sighed. "Yes, mom. Lock doors, don't talk to strangers, yada yada yada. Honestly, this is all really common sense stuff."

Anna ignored Aila's comment and continued on telling her daughter things that she already knew. Her parents were going out of town for a while and this would be her first time home alone for a substantial period of time. So, naturally, her mother worried, as mothers do. Aila shook her head, sighing again. "Mom, I'll be fine. I'm not a kid you know."

"You're fourteen," her mother said with a frown.

"And besides," Aila continued, pretending not to have heard the last comment, "Lisa's gonna be checking in on me like every two seconds anyways, right?"

"That's true," her mother mused, looking slightly more relaxed as she remembered the family friend that had 'volunteered' to check on her daughter every so often.

"Anna, she'll be fine." Aila turned to smile at her father, who winked at her. He finished carrying the final suitcase out the door before turning back to look at his wife and daughter. "What's she gonna do, throw some wild party or something?" The three of them laughed, though Aila had a sneaking suspicion that that was her father's way of warning her not to attempt anything of the sort.

"All right," Anna sighed, having calmed down a bit. "Just… call us if you need anything, okay?"

"Will do," Aila said, giving a two-fingered salute. Anna smiled before pulling her daughter into a tight hug, which Aila returned.

"Come on, Ann! We're gonna hit traffic!" John called, trying to figure out how to close the trunk with all their stuff smashed inside. Anna gave Aila one last squeeze before making her way to the car, Aila following close behind. She made her way to her father, who had just forced the trunk closed and was grinning triumphantly. "See ya later, Ailagator," he joked, giving his daughter a hug as well. Aila rolled her eyes at the nickname as she hugged him back. John then made his way to the driver's side, Anne already in the passenger's seat, while Aila turned to head back to the front door, stopping just in front of it and facing the car again.

"You be good!" Her mother called with a smile as her father started the car.

"I will," Aila replied happily with a small wave. The three shouted goodbyes as the car pulled away, leaving Aila standing in front of her house, alone.

Alone…

"YES!" she shouted, pumping a fist in the air. She rushed into the house, slamming the door behind her with a goofy grin plastered on her face. "I'm home alone, I'm home alone!" she sang, skipping happily into the kitchen to grab something to eat. She then collapsed onto the couch, grabbing the remote and ripping into a new bag of Oreos. Munching happily, she turned on the TV and waited for the picture to appear.

When it finally did, she paused, a cookie raised halfway to her mouth. She raised an eyebrow curiously, staring at the three figures walking in place: a boy with spiky brown hair, a small white duck, and a tall dog.

"Kingdom Hearts?" she questioned, recognizing the menu screen. 'That's odd,' she thought. 'Didn't know Alex liked that game…' Her nine-year-old sister, Alex, had left for camp that morning. Apparently she had woken up extra early to get in some last minute gaming before she left.

Usually, Aila would assume that it had been her older brother, Danny, who had grown to love the game after some initial… persuasion… from Aila to give it a try. But he had been on some trip with his friends for the past few days, so naturally the only other person it could have been was Alex, despite the fact that she wasn't necessarily into video games, a trait which both Aila and Danny had tried time and again to remedy.

"Maybe she finally realized how awesome it is, and she's just too proud to admit it," Aila mused with a smirk. Snickering at the thought of her little sister trying to sneakily play a video game, Aila bent down in front of the console, finger over the power button. She hesitated, looking from the case of Kingdom Hearts II to the menu currently on the TV. If her sister really did like the game, then it would be rather mean to just turn it off. What if she hadn't saved recently? Sighing, Aila lowered her hand and stood up, shaking her head.

Looking to her left hand, the one she had placed on the floor, she found it to be covered in a thin layer of dust. "Gross," she muttered, making a face. It had been Danny's job to clean the floors before he left, and he obviously had avoided the task. She quickly made her way to the bathroom, sending her brother bad vibes all the way and hoping that he had to clean a lot on his trip.

As she dried her newly washed hands, Aila caught sight of her reflection in the bathroom mirror. A rather short, thin girl stared back at her, wearing a simple black tank top and dark blue jeans, along with her usual black and blue sneakers; she rarely took them off even if she was just hanging around the house, as she was today. Her long, jet-black hair was pulled into its usual ponytail, a few shorter, loose strands hanging in her face. Her blue eyes shone brightly, and she frowned, the lights flickering momentarily as if sensing her agitation.

Her eyes had always bothered her. They were such a bright blue that people always tended to assume that she wore colored contacts or something, which she didn't. Her siblings had the same shockingly blue eyes, the three of them forced to endure many strange looks because of it, becoming outsiders at the orphanage they'd once called home. Even adults seemed to avoid them, and it hadn't been until about five years ago that Anna and John had finally adopted them, saying that those kinds of differences just made them all the more special. Aila sighed and turned away from the mirror. 'Being different sucks.'

Walking back into the kitchen, she found some money and a note she had neglected to notice before resting on the counter.

Aila~

Just wanted to remind you to clean the house up a bit tonight so it looks nice for Lisa. I've left your allowance here for you, so just consider this your one big chore while we're gone. Don't procrastinate!

Love you,

Mom

Aila groaned. It wasn't like Lisa was staying there, so what did it matter if the house was a mess? Muttering, she got to work, deciding to get it over with. Her mom had probably told Lisa to make sure she actually did clean, and it wouldn't do well for her if Lisa gave a bad report. That could definitely hurt any future chances of staying home alone again.

She spent the rest of the day cleaning, cursing her brother for not doing his share while shoving a bunch of random junk into his room. Hey, as long as the house looked clean, it really didn't matter, right? Right.

A few hours later, she collapsed onto her bed, exhausted. The sun had now set, and she could make out a small sliver of the moon through her window. 'Maybe I'll actually sleep tonight,' she thought bitterly, looking up to the ceiling. She noticed that it was always harder for her to sleep when the moon was full, or at least fuller. She attributed it to the amount of light; her windows had no blinds or anything, so naturally it would be harder to sleep with a lot of light spilling in. 'I should really get curtains one of these days,' she mused, hands behind her head. She had had curtains in the past, but whenever they were closed she just felt so isolated. It was comforting to be able to see the stars, and the moon, even if it was sometimes a nuisance. That, and she also had a slight phobia of the dark, though she would never admit it.

Suddenly feeling rather tired, she smiled, snuggling more into her pillow. She'd developed a habit of being quite the insomniac, and she was due for a good night of sleep. She seriously doubted that it was healthy to stay up all night for weeks on end. "I'll finish cleaning tomorrow," she yawned. Without bothering to change, or to turn off the lights for that matter, she allowed herself to drift off to sleep.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, she opened her eyes groggily. Was it morning already? She groaned and went to pull her covers up over her head, groping around for a good minute before realizing that they weren't there. She sighed, rolling over to see if they had fallen onto the floor or something, only to find that… she was already on the floor. The cold floor. Which was odd, since her room had carpet… 'Wait, what?'

Aila's eyes snapped open and she sat up, looking around. Of course, it didn't make much of a difference; it was so dark that she had to blink a few times to make sure her eyes were indeed open. 'What is this?' she thought in annoyance, placing her hand mere inches away from her face and still having trouble seeing it.

For one terrifying moment, she thought she'd gone blind; her room was never this dark. 'I'm not in my room,' she reminded herself as she felt the cold, hard ground beneath her. 'I must be dreaming…' She looked around again, trying to make her eyes adjust. Nothing but darkness… She sweatdropped. 'Jeez, my imagination really sucks.'

The world is full of darkness.

Aila jumped, looking around for the source of the voice. "Who's there?"

Shadows will forever surround you, no matter the path you choose.

The voice echoed through the… place, and Aila had the strange sensation of hearing it in her own mind as well. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the possible schizophrenic episode. Finally stopping, she waited, perfectly still, straining her ears for any sound. All was silent. She smiled, thinking that the voice was gone.

But fear not.

Nope.

With a sigh, she stood, being careful not to lose her bearings, something she discovered to be considerably more difficult when you can't see the floor.

All you must do, is turn on the light.

She raised an eyebrow. "Like, a light switch?" she asked to the darkness, not really sure where to direct her question.

Can you do it?

Her other eyebrow rose to join the first, a look of pure confusion covering her face. She looked around again, spreading her arms in front of her and feeling around for some kind of wall with a light switch on it… or even a lamp. Maybe a flashlight? "Uh… Can you do it?" she asked the voice. "I kind of can't see, well, anything."

Sometimes… you can only truly see… when your eyes are not open.

What? Aila was now thoroughly confused. "What am I, a magician?" she asked. "How can I see with my eyes closed?"

No answer.

"Now you're quiet," she muttered, glaring into the darkness. She was never any good at riddles, and she got the feeling that this voice enjoyed them immensely. Can a voice enjoy riddles? Aila ran a hand over her face, closing her eyes with a groan. After a few moments, she saw a flash, causing her to yelp and jump back, her eyes flying open. Once again, all she saw was darkness. "What was that?"

Curious, Aila closed her eyes again. A few seconds passed, and suddenly there was another flash, causing her to jump yet again, but careful to keep her eyes shut this time. Everything was still dark, but she could now see outlines of things in the shadows.

She noticed that she was on some kind of circular platform, outlined grey against the vast nothingness beyond. In front of her there was some kind of pedestal, its features indistinguishable in the darkness. Other than that, there really wasn't much there. She cursed her boring imagination once more before moving towards the pedestal, keeping her eyes shut tight. She was almost afraid to open them, finding just these faint outlines more comforting than the almost suffocating darkness of before.

When she reached the pedestal, she noticed something etched in the stone. She squinted her already closed eyes, trying to 'see' the markings more clearly. Suddenly, they glowed brightly before quickly fading again. However, it was as if they were now burned into her eyes; she could now see their outlines pretty clearly. 'Guess that explains the first glow,' the thought noting that these new outlines were the same as those of the platform and the pedestal itself.

Focusing again on the markings, she realized that there was what appeared to be a crescent moon overlapping a sun, a star resting at the bottom tip of the moon. Below this was… a handprint? She stared at it for a moment and then looked at her own hand. It too glowed, allowing her to see its outline as she raised it in front of her face. It looked rather odd and detached from her body since she still couldn't see her arm, and she opened and closed her fingers a few times to be sure it was really her hand. Satisfied that it was, she looked back to the handprint before her. 'I wonder…'

Reaching out slowly, Aila felt her fingers touch the cold, smooth surface of the pedestal. She hesitated before finally allowing her entire hand to fall into the outline of the handprint. They matched perfectly.

Suddenly, she felt a jolt run down her arm and out of her hand, causing her to yelp. She jumped back, tripping over her own feet and falling hard onto her backside. Groaning, she opened her eyes, blinking a few times as she did. It was no longer dark. Instead, light seemed to radiate from, well, everywhere; the platform she stood on shone with different colors, reminding her of some kind of odd mosaic, and the pedestal in front of her, which appeared to be white marble, glowed warmly, both the handprint and the moon/sun/star marking lit up with white light that shone so brightly Aila almost felt the urge to close her eyes again.

Looking down to her hand, which was now clearly attached to her body again ('Thank God'), she noticed with some shock that even she was glowing. A faint white light outlined her features, making her feel oddly like a firefly. She also noticed that she was not wearing the same outfit she had had on when she went to sleep. She now wore somewhat baggy black cargo pants and a dark blue tank top under a short, black, short-sleeved jacket with a silver lining. 'Like a cloud,' she thought with a stupid grin. She had always wanted cargo pants (they made her feel like she was going on an adventure), but they never seemed like something she would wear in real life. However, since this seemed pretty darn far from what one would call 'real life,' she was content. She still wore her same black and blue shoes and was now sporting black fingerless gloves with a single silver crescent moon on the back of each. Her hair was still tied back in a low ponytail.

"This is so weird," she muttered, standing up once again. As she did, she noticed that the platform mural was decorated with the same moon, sun, and star thing as on the pedestal. There were also three figures, their features hidden in shadow. Suddenly, one became visible, causing Aila to gasp. "Is that… me?" She was leaning against the moon, arms by her sides, face turned towards what Aila assumed would be sky if the picture went on. She had a somewhat sad smile on her face, and her eyes were closed. Her picture was outlined in white, which Aila noticed resembled the white glow around the real her at the moment.

The second figure, which Aila got the feeling was a boy, was leaning against the sun, his arms crossed in front of him. He too was looking up, but his face was still completely shadowed, so Aila couldn't see his expression. He was outlined in gold. The way they were situated, Aila couldn't help but feel that she and the boy were facing opposite directions for a reason, almost like they didn't want to look at each other; she felt sick at the thought for some reason and forced herself to look away.

The final figure, the smallest of the three, stood directly below the star, arms spread out wide. She looked up at the star, directly between the other two, and it was clear that from her vantage point she would be able to see both the sun and moon, as well as the figures that accompanied them. Her outline was a bright yellow, making her actual silhouette seem even darker.

Aila studied the picture for a long while, unable to tear her eyes away from it. It really was a beautiful mural…

The light will cut through the darkness.

Aila jumped, clutching a hand to her beating heart. She had all but forgotten about the voice, its sudden reappearance startling her. Scowling, she straightened herself once more.

But be warned…

Aila raised an eyebrow, getting a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach.

For where there is light…

She turned, eyes widening in shock as dark patches began to rise from the ground. "Uh oh…"

There must always be shadow.

The dark things began to take shape, and before long Aila could make out beady yellow eyes staring back at her. "Heartless?!" she cried in alarm, backing away from the creatures. She turned and ran, only to find herself at the edge of the platform with nowhere to go. She spun back around, the Shadows moving in closer. "I think I liked it better when I had a crappy imagination," she said worriedly.

And you…

She took another step back, her heal almost slipping off the edge.

Must fight.

"What?!" Aila shouted. "But… how?!" She looked up and received no answer, the Shadows getting closer and closer. "Can't I at least get like a weapon or something?" she asked desperately. Suddenly, a light appeared in her right hand, and in a brilliant light show, it formed…

A very plain looking staff.

"Are you kidding me with this?" Aila cried exasperatedly. Her new 'weapon' was anything but impressive. Just a simple, metal staff, almost like an unhollow pipe; it kind of reminded her of Robin's bo-staff from Teen Titans, except she was pretty sure hers wouldn't extent to be like fifty feet long. Really, how did his do that? It was just not physically possible, and rather unrealistic.

"Ah, focus, Aila!" She hit herself in the head. Now was no time to be thinking of cartoons! Suddenly, a Heartless crouched, getting ready to attack. Aila's eyes narrowed. It may have been a boring weapon, but at least it was something. And she was gonna use it to get rid of these things. The Heartless jumped at her, and with a yell Aila swung the staff like a bat, aiming right for the thing's head. Right before the Heartless and the weapon collided, Aila felt the same jolt of energy from before run through her arms and into the staff.

She hit it, her staff going clean through the Shadow before it disappeared, its purple heart rising into the sky. She watched as it vanished and then looked back to her staff. It was now emitting a bright white glow, making it slightly more impressive. Still, it seemed to be effective, as the Heartless were backing away, as if pained by the light. Another brave one leapt at her, but she hit that one as well, with the same effect. Smirking, she looked back to the other Heartless. "So, who's next?"

Now much more confident, she proceeded to destroy the last of the Shadows. She grinned triumphantly, her staff returning to its original dull state. She had no time to celebrate, however, as the ground began to shake, pools of darkness appearing all over the mural. It took all her concentration not to fall over, the shaking growing more and more intense.

Some lights will go out.

The darkness began to cover the figures on the mural, and Aila gasped as her light section of ground began to shrink.

Do not be tempted to follow.

The figures were almost completely covered, and Aila found herself surrounded by darkness. It began inching its way up her leg and she screamed.

Do not be afraid.

Aila made a sound of annoyance, hacking at the dark tendrils inching their way up her legs, but being careful not to hit her own body. The tendrils kept coming, inching their way around her torso, and she screamed again before one slid over her mouth, silencing her.

Your journey will be a dark one.

She struggled, now completely bound by the darkness. It forced her to the ground, and soon she was almost completely engulfed in it.

But remember…

The darkness began to slide over her fear-filled eyes, which darted back and forth, searching for something, anything that could save her.

But there was nothing.

Light shines brightest in the dark.

She closed her eyes, and everything went black.

KHKHKHKHKHKHKHKH

Aila groaned as she slipped back into consciousness. "What a nightmare," she mumbled, bringing a hand to her head. She rolled over, pulling the covers up higher over her head.

"She's awake!" she heard someone exclaim, followed by footsteps coming towards her bed. 'Mom must be coming to wake me up for breakfast… wait, isn't mom on a trip? I thought I had the house to myself…'

Aila gasped and sat up, her eyes darting around wildly. This was definitely not her room. It was cluttered, with many books strewn about and strange objects pushed into the corners.

"Whoa, easy there," someone said, putting a hand on Aila's shoulder. She jumped and turned to see two girls smiling at her. Two girls that she had seen somewhere before… she froze as she finally made the connection. "It's okay, we won't hurt you," said the girl, obviously misinterpreting Aila's actions.

"How are you feeling?" the other girl asked sweetly.

"Uh…" Aila looked back and forth between the two. It couldn't be… Yuffie and Aerith? But… how… She groaned, placing her head in her hands. 'I must still be dreaming,' she thought, shaking her head.

"You okay? You don't look so good." she looked up again to see Yuffie, a slightly worried expression on her face.

Aerith looked worried as well. She reached a hand out and placed it on Aila's forehead. "You have a fever," she stated softly, withdrawing her hand and smiling kindly at Aila. "I'll be right back." She made her way outside, closing the door quietly behind her, and Aila was left with Yuffie.

"What… what happened?" Aila asked slowly, not quite sure what to do. Yuffie sat down on the edge of the bed, putting a finger to her chin in contemplation.

"Well… I don't really know," she said after a while. Aila let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. "To tell you the truth, we were kind of hoping you could tell us," Yuffie said with a small laugh. Aila gave her a confused look. "I mean," Yuffie continued, "Me and Leon were out patrolling when we found you passed out in one of the alleys."

"What?" Aila asked, growing more confused by the second. Yuffie nodded, and Aila frowned, looking down at her hands. She noticed she still had those odd gloves on. So it was still a dream. She sighed, still not completely at ease, but feeling somewhat better knowing that she would wake up at some point. "So… where is here?" she asked finally.

"Hollow Bastion, of course," Yuffie said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Aila's head shot up, her eyes nearly bugging out of her head. Just at that moment, the door slammed open and two men walked in, followed by Aerith. The blonde man looked rather irked about something.

"I'm telling you, that damn security system is more trouble than it's worth! We should just scrap the thing and find something else, something that will actually act like a security system every once in a while!"

'That's definitely Cid,' Aila thought with a sweatdrop. The other man, who she could easily see was Leon, shot Cid a look, the blonde biting his tongue. They then began making their way over to the bed, and Aila quickly looked away. Their footsteps stopped and she cautiously looked back up, only to find Leon kneeling right in front of her. Aila averted her eyes, knowing that many people found it unsettling when she made eye contact with them. And, well, Leon was kind of really intimidating.

"How do you feel?" He asked suddenly, making Aila jump a little. His voice was soft, which she figured he'd done on purpose so as not to startle her; mission failed. After all, this was Leon, for Christ's sake!

"Uh, um… I'm f-fine," Aila managed to stutter. She chanced a glance and saw him frowning slightly, obviously not believing her. 'Yeah, I wouldn't believe me either.' Aila was a terrible liar, and she was anything but fine. She was in the middle of a game… maybe. Talking to characters in that game. And she was in a game. A video game. She shook her head again, trying to clear it. 'It's not real,' she told herself again, frowning.

"Here." Aila looked up to see Aerith holding out some kind of bottle to her. Aerith smiled. "It'll make you feel better."

Aila took the bottle carefully, noticing a green liquid sloshing inside. It looked almost like a… potion? She stared at it questioningly. It didn't look too appetizing… but apparently it had great effects, she'd had seen that. Well, she'd seen it work in the game at least. Slowly, she took a sip, surprised to find that it really didn't taste like much of anything. It did, however, warm her from the inside out, making her head feel instantly better. Smiling, she drank the rest, giving the bottle back to Aerith when she was done. "Thank you," she said quietly, smiling slightly. Aerith nodded and smiled back, taking the empty bottle away.

"So," Cid began, sitting backwards on a chair. ('Why do guys do that?') "What happened to you?"

"Um," Aila hesitated, all eyes focused on her. She shifted, not really used to all the attention. "I… don't really… remember," she mumbled.

"She doesn't seem to know what happened," Yuffie told the others. "She asked me what happened, and I have no idea! I mean, I'm just as confused as she is!"

"I see," Leon said, standing up and leaning on the wall next to the bed. He was silent for a few minutes, staring at the ground, thinking. "What do you remember?" He asked suddenly. Aila looked down, scrunching up her face as she thought.

"Well…" She wondered if she should tell them the truth. Yes, that seemed like the best plan. Just leave out the whole 'you're actually video game characters' thing and there shouldn't be any problems. "My parents were going out of town for a while, so I was home alone. I was cleaning up and then I got tired, so I went into my room and fell asleep…" She frowned. "Then I had this really freaky dream, and this weird voice was talking to me. Something about light and darkness and… stuff… and then it sicked some Heartless on me…"

"Heartless?" Leon asked, eyebrow raised. Aila nodded.

"Yeah… I dunno if the voice told them to attack or what, but it wasn't helping things." Aila sighed, thinking about how crazy she must sound; voices in your head are never a good thing. "Anyways, I fought them all, but then this shadow thing came and I couldn't get away, and then…" she sighed again. "Then I woke up here." Everyone was silent.

"Well that's… interesting," Cid said slowly. Aila frowned. He didn't believe her.

"I'm not crazy," she said quietly, more to herself than anything.

"Never said you were," Cid responded. "Just said it was interesting."

"It sounds like," Leon said, choosing his words carefully. "You're from a different world."

'You have no idea,' Aila thought worriedly. The others gasped.

"But… how?" Aerith asked.

"Yeah, I thought someone disconnected the worlds," Yuffie said. 'Someone?' Aila looked at her strangely, though she didn't notice. Why didn't she just say Sora?

"I… thought so too," Leon said with a sigh. "But… this sounds strangely familiar. And with the Heartless involved…" He trailed off, not needing to finish. Everyone got the idea.

"What can we do?" Aerith asked quietly.

Leon paused. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens." He stood up straight. "There's nothing else we can do."

"Well then, kid," Cid said after a moment. Aila looked over to see him grinning at her. "Welcome to Hollow Bastion."