A move back to England triggers a surge of bad memories for Carlisle, and the bonds of the Cullen coven are tested as those memories become a reality.
Warning: this story will mention child abuse and violence, so please don't read it if you find it triggering or it's not your thing.
It was just as cold and inhospitable as he remembered. Rain had rashed the landscape throughout the entire drive, and Carlisle found himself squeezing the steering wheel a little too hard. He clenched his teeth instead, hoping that the pain in his jaw might distract him from taking it out on his car. It didn't, but a tired sigh released the built up tension in his body.
Esme snuck her hand onto his leg as they drove. She was glad that they'd decided to travel alone; whatever it was that was bothering Carlisle, it wasn't helped by the others asking about it constantly. The silence in the car was so tight it was hard to breathe, and she couldn't stand it anymore. "Are you alright?"
"Yes." He had snapped, and they both winced. Instantly apologetic, he reached down to thread their fingers together. "I'm okay...Sorry." There wasn't anything that could have proved that he wasn't alright to her better than his abrupt response.
"You're upset about the move, though," she guessed. The silence only worsened as she leaned back in her seat, and she squeezed his hand. Usually, the lack of conversation was comfortable between them, and they could sit in each other's company for hours, but he was distant and she wasn't used to it. She didn't like it, either.
Driving came naturally, but it was growing exponentially more difficult as he struggled to stay focused. This wasn't a conversation he wanted to have with her yet, but there was no escaping it now. He knew that he couldn't fool her, and that she wouldn't just leave it alone. He thought about his reply for a while before answering, not wanting to upset her. "I'm not sure about leaving Forks," he admitted hesitantly, risking a glance over at her to gauge her reaction, but she had any disappointment carefully covered.
The half-truth was instantly obvious to her; she'd known him far too long for him to be able to hide anything. "Leaving Forks, or moving to England, Carlisle?"
Swallowing thickly, he bit his lip to avoid answering. She'd been excited about rebuilding their home for months, and he didn't want to ruin it for her. He also didn't want to lie. "...coming to England..." Saying it aloud make him want to hyperventilate, and he found himself counting lamp posts as a distraction. The habit had formed in the same area when he was a child, counting fences to stem the anxiety of going home. The landscape was very different now, but his feelings about it were still the same.
Her frown deepened. "We could move somewhere else," she suggested softly. It would be a hard blow to the family, seeming as they were all looking forward to settling again, but she'd do it in a heartbeat if it would stop her husband worrying.
He forced a smile; it was too late to agree to that now. "It's fine; I'll get used to it."
His head spun as he got out of the car. The sight of the house was enough to make him nauseous, and the fact that he had to live here for the next who-knows-how-many years made his stomach hurt.
Esme took the keys from him when he didn't move, unable to wipe the smile off her face as she stepped forward to open the front door. She took a deep breath upon pushing the door open, savouring the slightly toxic smell of fresh paint. The house had been in construction for the last six months, and it was finally finished. Turning around to face her husband, her smile started to fade. "Carlisle?"
Letting out a breath he didn't realise he was holding, he forced himself to walk forward, trying to calm down before he reached the door. The last thing either of them needed right now was for him to freak out the moment he got in the door.
Everything was too loud, and it was making his head hurt. Each scrape of the furniture against hard wooden floors only compounded the sick feeling in his stomach, and he just wanted the process to be over. It was making him rush, which didn't make him any more steady on his feet, but Carlisle just wanted it all to be over. Moving to England was supposed to be a fresh start for all of them, like moving always was; they would be able to make London home for at least another five years, maybe longer if they didn't attract attention. Except he just wanted to turn around and go back to Forks. Or Alaska. Or anywhere which wasn't where he'd lived as a child. Even Italy was better in his mind. But he'd stay here for Esme, no matter how awful being back felt. He could just get over it; she'd put her heart into designing the house, pouring over various shades of white and floor finishes for hours. All they had to do now was arrange the furniture, and they'd be settled. Or the rest of them would be. Carlisle wondered if he'd ever be able to feel comfortable here.
He was shifting the table into place when the room warped sideways. He stumbled back into the wall to find some stability, sliding his back down it to sit on the floor. Suddenly fighting back nausea, he leaned his forehead against knees.
Although he'd hoped to have recovered by the time Esme came back into the room, she noticed his silence and came in search of him. Her heart dropped upon catching sight of her husband. "Are you okay? Carlisle?" Crouching down, she swallowed hard to shove back panic, rubbing his arm.
Words wouldn't come. He tried to tell her that he was fine, but he couldn't form the sentence. Everything sounded like it was echoing through a tunnel, though he knew the wooden floors wouldn't distort Esme's voice like that. "...going to pass out..." he mumbled eventually. Either that, or throw up. It shouldn't happen, though; he was immortal.
"O-okay, sweetheart," she stammered. Her eyes burned with tears that would never fall as she watched him struggle to remain conscious. It was like her world would end if he did happen to pass out. "What's happening? What do I do?" Short of pleading with him, she was stuck. "I don't know how to help you, Carlisle..."
He forced himself to look up at her. "It's okay, Esme...I'm just dizzy..." His voice shook more than he wanted; he was scared, as much as he didn't want to acknowledge it.
She squeezed his fingers, nibbling her lip. "Do you want to lie down for a while?" Maybe the move was too much. Perhaps the stress had gotten on top of him. But it didn't make sense. Carlisle always dealt with everything.
"...I don't think I can stand up..." he admitted. His head throbbed and he leaned forward again.
"What do I do?" she pleaded again. Lost and beyond anxious, she sat beside him, wrapping her arms around him to pull him into her. "Carlisle-"
"...stay...please...?" It was all she could do. He couldn't say it, but Carlisle was terrified; this couldn't be happening.
She just nodded. Having him against her helped to dull the sting of her bewilderment, and she slowly guided him to lie with his head in her lap, gently sifting her fingers through his hair. "Of course."
Eventually, dizziness gave way to exhaustion. He still felt like he was going to be sick, but now he just needed to sleep, if only it was possible.
She sighed in relief as the tension relaxed from his shoulders. "Let's leave the furniture until tomorrow; it can wait."
"Okay," he agreed, forcing himself to sit up again. The room was still spinning, but it wasn't as bad, and he felt steady enough to stand now.
"You need to hunt," she murmured upon making eye contact with him and seeing black instead of the usual honey-gold colour.
"No, I don't," he protested, too nauseous to want to consider it and confused seeming as they'd fed the day before.
"You do; your eyes are dark," she argued, shaking her head at him. "We can go tonight?" Seeking reassurance, she leaned forward to kiss him lightly, smiling when he wrapped his arms around her.
He just nodded; arguing it required too much energy. "I'm okay, Esme," he murmured, resting his chin on the top of her head as she leaned against him.
Standing in the woods at dusk had never made Carlisle was vulnerable as he did right then. Every inch of him wanted to beg Esme to go back to the house. His throat was tight, and he was trying not to shake. He could hear the soft footfalls of deer just out of sight, but the birds had stopped singing as they did when a predator was near.
The voice of his father was so loud that he flinched, sucking in a sharp breath. Panicking, he strained his ears again, each sound amplified. He was too scared to move.
Seeing him freeze, Esme crossed the few yards between them. She was confused for a moment, trying to figure out what he was listening to. She could hear the deer as well, but whatever had caught her husband's attention was invisible to her.
His voice hissed in his ears again. He instinctively reached for Esme, his breath starting to catch in his throat. "We need to go," he whispered to her, frantic.
"What's going on?" she whispered back, scanning the trees as she stood behind him. Starting to get scared now, she shuffled closer to him, wrapping her hands around one of his.
'I should have let you die.'
"We need to go right now." He spun around, ushering her backwards and refusing to let her go. "It's not safe- Esme, we need to leave." His chest was tight with anxiety, and he didn't want to tear his eyes off her for fear of something happening. "Run. Please."
His anxiety terrified her, and she bolted back toward the house. She could hear him behind her and refused to look back, petrified of what she might see. The new lock on their front door jammed as she shoved the key into it, but it swung open before she had a chance to force it open.
In the time they'd been gone, the rest of the coven had arrived. Emmett had opened the door upon hearing the keys shaking in her hand, but barely had time to comprehend what was happening before Carlisle slammed it shut and locked it.
Ignoring the shocked glances his family were throwing him, Carlisle wrapped his arms around Esme, somehow out of breath and quickly becoming lightheaded. "You didn't hear that, did you?" he whispered to her, squeezing her a little tighter when she shook her head.
"Carlisle, what's going on?" Edward asked, unable to make sense of his coven leader's jumbled thoughts.
Taking a few breaths to steady himself, he slowly started to calm down again. The painful knot in his stomach wouldn't shift, but he forced himself to loosen his hold on Esme. "Nothing, it's alright," he sighed, running his fingers through his hair as he glanced around the room.
The bewildered stares of the family looked back, completely fixated on him, confused by his behaviour. "What happened?" he asked again, more cautiously this time. "Are you okay, Carlisle?"
"Y-yeah, I'm fine. Everything is alright, I just- everything is fine." Without another word, he went upstairs, forcing himself to walk instead of running. He couldn't tell them. He didn't know how to tell them.