Queen of the Forest

If I owned Inuyasha, you would know. I don't.

Chapter 1: Sleepless Hanyou

Mist was draped delicately over the trees, hiding the birds and wild creatures that dwelt among them. Their forlorn cries seemed to come from wraiths.

All the land lay in quiet, with the hint of sadness that always accompanies calm. Sadness like that of a homeless wanderer floated among the foliage, whistling a wistful tune of disappointment. In the misty ocean of trees, something was weeping. An elusive mourner, grieving for all the pains of the world, every tear, every heart broken; the little child in the dark that dwells in all silence, hoping that when the waking world is quiet, it will hear its keening. It lives in constant fear, for there is a demon in everyone that haunts the shadows of every heart. Sometimes this demon can turn you against the world, against all you love, into what you love not, especially when it resides in your very blood.

The spectral sounds of the forest wrapped themselves around the only restless soul in their domain. In these trees, Inuyasha found no rest.

Heaviness enveloped him, and for a moment he could feel the pains of his past pounding relentlessly in his head, demanding attention. Days of fear, days of hatred, and even some days of love all banged at his skull, trying to break through the barrier that kept them locked away, where he didn't have to see them. But the demon in him banished the pain, leaving him with only a dull ache at his core, the keep of the fortress of his heart. Here was the last defense from the world he yet maintained, the demon's last stand.

With sullen mumblings he began to lower himself from his perch, but stumbled and fell gracelessly to the earth. Again grumbling, he started to lift himself up, stopping as he saw blood bubbling from a scratch on his arm. In silence he mused at the irony that lay in the red. He could not live without it, yet it was the very thing he wished to be rid of. The human in him. "This is the dividing factor, " he thought bitterly. "This is what draws the line between my full potential and where I am now, this fragment of power, this, my greatest weakness…" But he knew the lie in these words instantaneously. His true greatest weakness was probably hundreds of years in the future right then, leaving him alone with all these memories…

It was odd how she affected him. When Kagome was around, the ache inside him seemed to fade away, only to hit him in the face like a brand the minute she dropped down the Bone Eater's Well. He told himself it was because of Kikyo, the ghost he could sometimes see behind her eyes; he told himself that whatever he felt for her he felt for the woman who once had her face. But so often she proved herself different, so often he had the feeling that he was meeting someone entirely apart from the priestess he once loved. And then there was Kikyo herself…

Inuyasha crossed his legs and gazed into the mist above and around him. Kikyo. A shell of earth and ashes with a tattered and stained fragment of vengeful soul within. He had loved her…but was that Kikyo truly dead? He shook his head fiercely. Why was he thinking these things? He couldn't betray Kikyo. He had promised her, so many years ago, that he would remain with her forever, a promise that did not apply to Kagome. Kikyo he had loved, and, whether he did or not now, his oath held him.

He was bound to Kikyo.

Kagome was not the one to whom he had sworn.

Fear and shock at his own admission widened his eyes, but after a moment he accepted his foolishness. No, Kagome was not Kikyo, so why did he rant, rage, and make such a fool of himself in front of her? When he thought of Kikyo his thoughts were of death and sorrow, but with Kagome he was living in a way he'd never thought he could. It was almost like…

She completed him…

With a wince he found the problem. Kagome was very unlike her predecessor from this time; whatever he felt for her, he felt for her alone. But what did he feel about her? Did it even matter? She belonged to the future, to her family, friends, and life in that time.

She wouldn't leave it all for him.

His ears twitched in agitation at his own worthless musings. What good would these soft thoughts do? He must be tired beyond measure.

Curling up against the tree from which he had fallen, he tried to dismiss the fooleries of the past few minutes. But no matter what he did, the warm eyes of one young Miko followed him, bringing waves of memories and a suddenly strong undertow of sorrow.

Under the misty starlight, Inuyasha heard music.

It began softly, twinkling like some fairy tale, where surely there must be a happy ending. But sadness tinged it, for no such ending had yet been found. Yet still, hope rang in a line barely audible beneath the others, promising what perhaps was unachievable. Slowly, the hanyou drowned himself in it, let it sweep him away until naught but a shell sat in the waking world. It was so surreal…so familiar…he couldn't help but listen to it.

The song mellowed out into a thick and warm tone, bringing to mind the steady falling of autumn leaves. Gently sloping and majestic harmonies rose and fell in a pattern that seemed most predetermined, a slow ascension toward some great moment. The sections climbed and climbed into a majestic forte, blasting a triumphant chorus, through time itself it seemed, ongoing and ongoing, rolling over lands beyond imagining and tales of any and all kinds. The great joy of existence poured over Inuyasha in floods, the music flowing about him like the waters of some mighty and roiling sea. Power and confidence coursed through him, and nowhere seemed out of reach.

Then the song changed.

The vibrant sounds of before faded away, narrowing into a subdued minor chord, then even further until some unrealistically quiet line whispered in the emptiness of the song, alone. Sorrow seeped throughout Inuyasha's soul, creeping in. The keening sounds that reached his ears coaxed terribly pleasant memories to the surface, replayed countless days from countless years ago over and over in his mind. Scenes of beauty, scenes of horror, it was all the same. These reminiscences didn't pain him; there was just the ache, a dull throb in his heart. In the eerie sound, he almost didn't feel it. He was a vessel of the song.

In the dreamlike trance of it all, Inuyasha almost didn't notice the heavenly figure walking through the mist, a figure he steadily began to recognize as a woman, yet not like any other woman. Truly she was glorious, tall and sturdy, but also lithe and shapely. About her shoulders was a cloak not unlike the mist that surrounded her, and in her wake was the brilliance of the forest sun. But she was otherwise modestly dressed, wearing a simple green robe held with a silver cord. Every step she took echoed with the otherworldly silence of the wood. She was the song, and with her approach its mood lifted in a soft arpeggio, blooming like an early spring flower. Beauty enclosed him firmly, and as the brilliant stranger turned a lovely veiled face to him he felt his breath begin to catch harshly in his throat. How was he worthy of being looked upon by her? He didn't think he'd ever felt so inadequate, but then, there was something about her that felt familiar… She held herself so steadily, yet seemed so humble in bearing, so pure…

She must be an angel…

Childlike awe filled the harsh hanyou eyes, making for a stark contrast to wicked claws and pointed ears, yet it seemed right. Inuyasha had never felt more in place than here, in the music and the misty forest, awaiting some mysterious angel; for once the demon inside didn't cloud his eyes, for once he saw as a human would, with wonder that he knew he could never explain. The music rose again, approaching its peak of emotion; the sun, and happiness with it, already began to shine about the trees, banishing the mist. The imminent new day seemed connected with the cloaked woman's approach. She slowly drew back her cowl, the whole ensemble returning to the music once more…What did an angel's face look like? So close…

And then Inuyasha awoke. For a mere moment, it was as though he had changed, like perhaps he was new, at peace, great in some humble way.

Yeah, likely.

The hanyou snorted derisively at his stupidity. He was beyond childish dreams, meaningless wishes that could never come true. The idiocy, the madness…He wasn't going soft. No, he was better than this; he had to be! Some fairy princess in a musical forest; it was a pup's thing. A waste of resting time.

With a huff, he settled back into his sleeping space. Maybe when Kagome returned these blasted dreams would end. With Kagome knots untied themselves…But once more he cursed himself a fool. This had nothing to do with Kagome, it was the blasted trees, and the whole blasted forest, the blasted mist, and the blasted stars, something other than that Miko…anything…

The demon dismissed the evening's insanity and drifted into sleep.

But the human thought back to the day Kagome had left for home once more. To "study" she had said. "Just a week Inuyasha, please, just a week? I promise I'll be back. When have I not? Please?" was what she had pleaded, her eyes shining with tears clearly meant to disarm him. The ease with which she could jump from yelling in his face to becoming an innocent victim of his cruelty amazed him beyond any well thought out reply. Naturally, he had said no. So, just as naturally, she had gone anyway. One week alone with his torturous memories.

Only one day to go.