An unexpected emergency necessitates Bella, a mere grad student, perform the intake for a new mental health counseling referral at the Clallam County Community Health Center.
*Very* alternate universe; given the alternate history and background of the characters, you will not find either Emmett or Rosalie in this story-though other familiar faces will make a belated appearance.
Huge thanks to the multitude of betas/pre-readers who have provided feedback and guidance: TheOldOne, OrdinaryVamp, Shanda, and, most importantly, Elizabeth440.
Any familiar elements belong to S. Meyer. All original plot elements are mine. This disclaimer applies to all future chapters.
"It is fate that I am here," George persisted, "but you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy."
A Room with a View
It is an ocean of emerald, green upon green, unrelieved by the colors found in other forests: the brown of bark and branch, the autumnal hues of red, orange and yellow, or the bright blossoms of sweet flowers. Moss clings to the trees, obscuring any hint of brown, a velvet curtain draping, hiding, muting. Evergreens need no blooms to reproduce, the umber of their cones hidden within the drooping boughs; even after falling, their color is lost amid the needles and ferns carpeting the forest floor.
The caramel of the fawn is a dusky mark in this sea of green, soft not only in color but in texture; the downy pelt seems to signify the divide between it and the forest. Fleeting, blood-filled creature, muscle beneath fur, usually a stark contrast to the immobile, silent trees.
Only the fawn is not moving. Its posture is graceful, slender legs delicately extended as if, were the creature only upright, it might still lope through the towering trees, ducking amongst the ferns, the only evidence of its passing the bruised clover trodden by sharp hooves.
Its narrow head, though, is at an unnatural angle, a garish stripe of red showing where its throat lays open. Standing near, the boy is as still as the unmoving deer, as still as the immense conifers surrounding him. It is an unnatural stillness that renders difficult determining…is he alive? Is he blood-filled and fleeting, a creature of muscle and sinew destined to seem but a second in the long life of these woods?
There is a sound, a twig snapping, the tramp of feet. The boy does not shift, does not flee, simply staring down at the fawn as if made of stone. The sounds grow closer; there is enough time to retreat, to evade notice, but he does not move.
They are upon him shortly. Garbed in the bright colors of day hikers, their clothing marks them as foreign interlopers against the green of the forest, the fabric artificial and gleaming even in the dulled light that filters through the moss draped canopy. Loud gasps are soon followed by demands that the boy not move. It is the first time he does so, but it is only to lift his head, watching their outraged reactions with a blank expression. A cell phone is retrieved, a call is made. The man stoops to the deer while the woman averts eyes filled with tears.
Soon, a ranger is traipsing towards the motley group: the two hikers, flushed and upset; the still fawn, all concern gone; and the silent boy, whose only intimation that he is like the hikers and not the fawn is the shifting of his gaze.
"No hunting license, I bet—isn't the season regardless. And with a knife? Might be considered animal cruelty…" There is a storm of words, of noise. The group breaks apart, the hikers returning to their trail with heads cast down while the boy walks before the defensive ranger, posture stiffly upright, his hand trained on the taser at his belt.
At the trail head, a wide expanse of concrete buffers the forest from the highway, the paint meant to divide one car from another faded and broken beneath the relentless rain of this region. A cruiser is already waiting, the officer behind the wheel slamming out of the car when he sees who the ranger is escorting. He has no qualms about handcuffing the boy, weariness at seeing his face again mixing with discomfort at being in his unsettling presence. Pretending bravado, he puts a hand to the boy's shoulder to force him to stoop into the back seat. He immediately regrets the action, suppressing a shudder as he rounds the car and returns to his position behind the wheel.
"You're in a lot of trouble, kid," he states into the rearview mirror.
It is the first time the boy reacts to his surroundings, meeting the wavering gaze of the officer, his golden eyes narrowing as a broad smile curves his lips.