"He feels it as soon as she is born, that tug at his heartstrings that says his mate has finally come into the world. It's beautiful and terrifying all at once, but most importantly what he has been unknowingly waiting for all along."


"So, I've been thinking..." Kol suddenly appears at the door of Klaus' studio, a serious expression on his face as if he's actually contemplating something.

Immediately, the hybrid sighs. "Never a good sign," he mumbles under his breath, not deigning the other Original of a single look as he remains focused on the sketchbook open on his lap instead.

But the brown-eyed Mikaelson is unperturbed, effectively entering the room and carrying on.

"It's been, what, now? Another five months, give or take? Perhaps it's time you turn to some kind of handbook, Brother," he comments nonchalantly, plopping himself down on the dark brown leather couch right next to Klaus, a cheeky grin stretching on his lips as the latter turns around to scowl at him. "Like a sort of 'five steps to get your mate to love you back' guide, you know? I'm sure we can find one in Bekah's silly magaz—ouch! God, Nik," Kol yelps pitifully, clutching his left hand to his chest and then extracting the long pencil that his older brother has lodged right in the middle of it with a grimace, "why must you be so violent?"

Klaus moves to fetch another pencil from the small table positioned in front of the sofa, as if nothing happened.

"Because you are so vexing, Kol," he eventually retorts, obviously peeved.

The younger Original pouts dramatically. "That hurts my feelings. You can't even appreciate that I am trying to help."

"Right."

"It's true!" Kol animatedly protests. "You and Caroline are basically redefining the meaning of 'slow burn' right now, you're a 'sloth burn'," but he frowns to himself then, pausing. "Okay, that sounded wrong and somehow offensive to sloths."

Despite everything, the hybrid ends up letting out a low chuckle and shaking his head.

"I do not need your help; or anybody's help, for that matter. I am doing just fine."

His brother promptly snorts. "Could have fooled me."

The comment earns Kol a harsh glare, to which he immediately answers by holding both of his hands up in a sign of good faith.

"All I'm saying is that... yes, Nik, I'm all too aware of the soulful glances of longing that you and my Carebear," he briefly narrows his eyes at Klaus in a father-meeting-the-boyfriend kind of manner, "share, but you have been tiptoeing around each other for actual years now. You have to step up your game! In a respectful way, of course, or you can forget ever gaining my blessing."

The hybrid scoffs, still easily moving his hand across the page.

"The mere possibility keeps me awake at night, Kol."

"Good, because I'm being serious," and the sternness in his tone confirms it, hardening the air around the two Mikaelson siblings and making the older one stiffen.

It's only after a few moments of grave silence that Klaus sighs and finally sets his sketchbook aside. He clearly looks as if he's about to say something, uncharacteristically open up even, but the two brothers' attention is diverted by a sudden commotion before either of them has a chance to speak again.

"I've made it! I have finally made it!" Caroline's excited voice reaches them, prompting them to share a bemused look before standing up and joining the rest of the family in the living room.

They find their sister happily hugging the other blonde, the two rocking from side to side on the spot.

"This is an amazing achievement, Caroline," Elijah affords the human a genuine smile, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder for a moment once Rebekah eventually takes a step back.

"Thank you," she beams up at him, cheeks tinged with a faint pink as a consequence of her enthusiasm.

Curious, that's when Kol decides to chime in.

"Hey, what's going on here?" he asks, approaching the trio with Klaus silent but observing right behind him.

Caroline and his two other siblings all turn around then, and the former's lips seem to possibly stretch even wider across her face as she skips to him in a heartbeat.

"I've passed my last exam this morning—Theater Culture Studies III," the twenty-one-year-old half rolls her eyes, mentally scoffs at the subject and her annoyingly pretentious professor for making her take the test twice that year, even if her bright blue orbs are shining with pride as she speaks, "which means I can officially graduate next month!"

The vampire's eyes widen and, after less than an instant, he is lifting her up in his arms.

"Oh my God, Carebear!"

Laughing, the girl shakes her head and lets her feet dangle in the air with her hands firm on the Original's shoulders.

"Kol, put me down!" she shrieks at him, still giggling.

"No," he solemnly refuses, the intent however ruined by his own laughter and the fact that he does carefully set her back on the ground a moment later. "This calls for a celebration."

"Yeah, well," she grins, massaging the small of her back mostly jokingly, "I'd like to celebrate all in one piece. I'm still human, you know."

Of course, celebrating ends up meaning pizza and Tiramisu–

–and it's a sight, really: the sophisticated Mikaelsons, slaves to the culinary tastes of a barely-adult, little spitfire–

–even if it's just about three in the afternoon—so Rebekah picks up her phone and orders while Kol disappears into the kitchen to work on their dessert; even Elijah, in a subtle manner that only he can master, politely excuses himself and at last leaves Klaus and Caroline alone.

Things have been going really well between the two of them in the last couple of months, or at least as well as they can go considering the lingering tension in their every interaction and the feelings for each other that they are still keeping somewhat suppressed. After all, how is one supposed to act around the person whom they are apparently destined to be with? Life comes with no guidelines for such a situation.

Shuffling awkwardly on her feet and averting her gaze for a few seconds, the blonde clears her throat.

"So, how are you?" she asks quietly, immediately mentally cringing at how lame that must have sounded.

However, when she finally gathers enough confidence to meet Klaus' eyes, the expression on the hybrid's face is the furthest thing from bored or uninterested. If anything, painted over his softened features, there's a by now familiar look of tender intensity and unadulterated adoration which does not fail to leave her breathless.

He smiles, coy.

"Should I not be the one to ask you that?" he remarks, eyebrows arching as he takes a deliberately slow step closer. "Congratulations are in order, and yet I find myself speechless before your brilliant mind."

And perhaps it's cheesy and a little bit over the top—Caroline has already learned that the Original in front of her never seems to do things halfway, after all—but that doesn't stop the human from blushing, bottom lip suddenly trapped in between her teeth in a nervous habit as she feels her whole face become warmer by the moment.

"I'm not the only one who's graduating," she points out self-consciously, not exactly used to be complimented and especially not for her academic results.

If possible, her modesty only makes him appear even further enchanted, orbs twinkling proudly.

"That doesn't take anything away from what you are accomplishing, Sweetheart," he insists, moving even closer and making her swallow thickly.

His gaze is smoldering, piercing, almost as if he can see so much more than just her body whenever he looks at her–

–and he does, doesn't he... he sees everything

–and so she can't help but let her own eyes rake over him, because—shut up—it's not her fault that he's so damn handsome.

With his whole attention trained solely on her, Klaus easily catches her staring, the corners of his lips twitching upwards. But he doesn't look smug, not even at the fact that her heart is literally hammering in her chest and he can hear it happen; honestly, he never looks anything other than happy when he's around her.

Unsure on what else to say, the blonde eventually opts for a simple nod.

"Well, thank you."

"You are most welcome," he smiles, before skillfully changing the topic and making Caroline's forehead crease in curious confusion as he starts. "I couldn't help but notice, earlier, that you said you are still human?"

Immediately taken aback, her eyes widen and she softly gasps. She hadn't even realized

"It doesn't mean—I didn't mean—"

"Caroline," the hybrid calls her name, firmly and yet affectionately, interrupting her rambling. "It's quite all right. You should never be ashamed of what you desire, not with me."

She offers him a small, grateful smile, although still feeling flustered.

"It's just—" she takes a deep breath and wills herself to continue, "it was involuntary, really. It just came out."

"Of course," he reciprocates the smile, suddenly appearing wiser somehow, his gaze even more consuming. "Your subconscious is simply trying to tell you what I already know, Caroline: you are meant for so much more than mere mortality."

Once again, under his scorching blue eyes, the human is suddenly rendered speechless.

She is way past her fleeting years of doubts and insecurities, having long understood that she'd rather have people who do not deserve to be in her life anyway leave than forced to stay around, but it's still nice to hear someone state just how much she is worth to them. And not just anyone but Klaus, her... mate.

Studying him attentively, almost frowning, she can tell that part of him seems hopeful. It makes sense, really, since they are meant to be together and he's already bound to eternity; but she just knows, she can feel it in her bones, that the prevalent emotion in his eyes and voice is nothing if not utter honesty. Because even if the hybrid's heart has been dead for centuries now, cold and motionless underneath his steel ribcage, he wears it on his sleeve when it comes to her–

–always selfless and always selfish, in his need for her to be happy.

Taking to again worry her lips with her teeth, Caroline briefly ducks her head and inhales deeply before setting her gaze back on Klaus. This time, she doesn't let the intensity that he's emanating catch her unprepared.

"Thank you," she repeats. "Although I don't think I'm ready, yet."

He good-naturedly nods, seemingly satisfied by her answer.

"Perhaps one day," he edges.

"Possibly," the twenty-one-year-old smiles, and she's the one taking a few steps closer this time. "Thank you for understanding, too."

Before the Original can react–

–and that's an achievement all in itself—to beat him to something, to find him with his guard let down–

–she is right in front of him and deftly wrapping her arms around his neck.

It's a bit of a clumsy hug at first, with Klaus completely frozen and holding his breath, unable to truly believe that his mate is willingly touching him so intimately for the first time in over a decade. After a few tense moments, however, he finally moves—it's a natural instinct for him, to want to hold her and keep her close—releasing a shaky breath into the blonde's sensitive ear and making her shudder as his own arms surround her thin waist and his hands lock on her hips.

Following his slow response, Caroline seems to relax further into the embrace as well, soft curves melting gently against the hard planes of his chest and face half burrowing into his neck. The hybrid's grip tightens around her almost unconsciously then, his fingers delicately stroking the small of her back, his lungs working to fill his whole being with her unique scent, his mind cataloging every single feeling and sensation that he is currently experiencing. And he is being unabashed in his perusal, because who knows when he will get to hold her this way again. They are moving forward but it could be years, even... he will not let this chance pass him by.

So they remain pressed together for minutes on end, searing themselves onto each other even more than Fate has already done, Klaus eventually branding a whispered—

—"Always."—

—on the already heated skin of Caroline's cheek.

And maybe the special connection between them and the growing need to just cave that the young blonde feels do play a part in her decision, months later. But the thing is that being awarded an internship at Whitmore to help supervising freshman year's Drama class doesn't really live up to her expectations and ceases being challenging and exciting after only a couple of weeks.

It's confusing and frustrating because shouldn't a position of control which requires severe organization and having back-up plans to her own back-up plans be the pinnacle of her dreams? Isn't that what she has been striving toward her whole life? It's the perfect training platform and a legit starting point for her future career, but something somewhere just feels off and lacking.

She has always loved having a good daily routine, to-do lists and projects, but this sad monotony that she's stuck in? That was never supposed to be part of the deal.

The realization never hits her; it bubbles up inside of her little by little instead, smooth and confident, giving an answer to so many things that had been left unsolved throughout her existence until she is all but bursting with it.

When she goes back to Mystic Falls for her birthday–

–and it's the most fitting occasion to share her latest decision, to announce her upcoming renaissance

–finding herself in the middle of the Mikaelsons' living room with four pairs of expectant eyes placed on her, Caroline's gaze is unwaveringly set on Klaus and only him.

"I want you to turn me."