i can feel your bones beneath your skin

.

.

.

She leaves.

It's so drab and boring and repetitive. Mystic Falls, that is. Elena is still stuck in her little threesome with Damon and Stefan. Bonnie's still hating the supernatural and everything in it. Tyler's still an asshole. Matt's just human. It's too much for her. She needs something different or she's going to end up staking herself or going on a murderous rampage.

So she leaves. She packs her bags and shoves them into the back of a car she'd bought under the alias Candy Martin. She makes her mother promise not to tell anyone about where she's going, hugs her goodbye, and then she's gone.

The bracelet Klaus had gotten her hangs from her front mirror, swaying and glinting in the morning light. She glares at it, cursing Klaus for ruining her life. She grabs the necklace from the mirror and tucks it into her center console.

Then she guns the engine and steps on the gas.

She's never really liked pink, but she finds herself buying pink hair dye in a cute little salon when she'd only come in to have her nails done.

She's staying in Miami, reveling in the bikinis and martinis and the boys. God, the boys.

She walks to her condo on the beach, sandals flip flopping on the sidewalk, purse swinging, eyes reading the back of the dye box. She kicks her door open, not having bothered to lock it when she'd left. Who would steal from a vampire anyway? She drops her purse on her couch and enters the pristine bathroom.

Two hours later, the lower half of her hair is dyed a dark pink. She examines herself in the mirror, pulling faces and pursing her lips. She hates it, she decides. But, Candy Martin loves it.

She's looking for something different, something new. She donates all of her old clothes and goes shopping. She comes home with bags filled with lacy underthings and tight jeans and v-necks and boots. She waves goodbye to her skirts and her sandals.

The goodbye doesn't really make her sad, because she supposes she'll have years and years to change and then maybe go back to what she was before. She packs up her bags and leaves Miami after only two days.

He finds her in Rome. She's touring the colosseum, looking nothing like a tourist with her black leather jacket and white v-neck and biker boots. She's leaning over the railing, imagining the gladiators and the lions battling it out in the arena below when he sidles up to her.

"The pink is lovely." he says, fingers running through the ends of her hair.

To her credit, she doesn't flinch. In fact, she gives him an award winning smile and chirps, "Thanks!"

He takes a moment to note that the bracelet is nowhere in sight, and when he looks up, putting a faux offended look on his face, she's gone. All that's left of her is her vanilla perfume.

So, she's running, then. From him, or herself?

He smirks, and picks up the trail of her scent with ease.

"Stop following me." she says loudly, whipping around. Her pink hair swishes against her neck, and he decides he likes her blonde hair better.

"I'm sightseeing." he says, lifting his hands, "I can't help it if you're a lovely sight."

She crosses her arms over her chest, "You're the reason I left in the first place." she snaps.

Klaus allows himself to smile. "Oh, no. I think you were already planning on leaving." he says, and Caroline's jaw clenching lets him know he's right. "I think you like the change of scenery."

She glares at him, her baby vampire temper flaring up. "Leave me alone." she hisses, stepping back.

He gives her a pitying look, "Darling, it's much too late for that."

She runs.

She throws her things together and switches aliases. She's Carmen Black now. The pink vanishes and the ends of her hair are jet black.

She flees Rome, hoping he'll lose her. She knows she can't run from an Original forever, but still, she'd like to have some space between them.

She's never been sure of why he picked her, but now, she wishes he would have picked Elena instead.

"Figures," she snorts to herself, settling into her first class seat on the plane to Canada. The one person who picks her and not Elena is an Original Hybrid with a murder complex and a Caroline fixation.

Sometimes she can't believe her luck.

She doesn't see him again for three years. She's passing through Mystic Falls, visiting her mother.

She stands outside of the boarding house, peering into the large front window. She can see Damon and Elena seated at the kitchen table, talking about something trivial. Stefan is standing behind them, leaning against the counter, book open in his hands.

She'd never really belonged here, with them. Tears well up in the corners of her eyes, and she brushes them away. When she looks back in the window, Stefan is staring at her.

They watch each other for a moment, and then Caroline lifts her hand, waving. Stefan lifts his own hand, half smile forming on his face.

She's gone before he puts his book down and starts towards the door.

She stumbles through the trees, wondering how she could have fooled herself into thinking she had a place with the Salvatore's and Elena for so long. Her back hits a tree trunk, and she slides down it, pulling her knees up to her chest.

"Perhaps you're meant for greater things." a voice says, and her head snaps up. He's there, standing on a fallen tree, hands shoved easily into the pockets of his jeans.

"Maybe you should have just let me die." she snaps back, wondering why he always shows up when she's having some kind of identity crisis.

He frowns. "You want to die?" he questions, head tilting.

Caroline blinks, "I wouldn't be opposed to it." she mutters, looking away from him.

When she looks back up, he's gone.

She's tired of him showing up when she's finally gotten a hold of some sense of normalcy.

The black in her hair is replaced by blue, purple, red, brown. She goes through colors and cycles and names and she can't really let go of Caroline because he's always there, reminding her of who she really is.

It's a year later when she opens her middle compartment, searching for the lipstick she'd shoved in there earlier. She pulls out the diamond bracelet, watching it sparkle in the sunlight.

She purses her lips, looks down at herself, and decides it matches her outfit.

"How do you always know where I am?" she asks lightly, no longer afraid of him. She's learned that he's not a threat to her, he's simply curious. She can't fathom why. She's so boring.

She strips out of the black dress she'd been trying on, and he doesn't seem perturbed that she'd just stripped down in front of him, but then again, that's what he gets for traipsing into her dressing room like he owned the place.

Klaus simply shrugs in response to her question, "You're predictable."

She stills, turning to glare at him. "Am not."

"Are too."

"Am—no, I'm not doing this with you." she slips back into her summer dress, still glaring at him. His eyes float over her body appreciatively, and she crosses her arms over her chest, glare intensifying.

"When are you going to admit we're friends?" he asks.

"Acquaintances." she corrects.

"Acquaintances don't buy each other jewelry." he says, glancing pointedly at the bracelet on her wrist.

She flicks her hair, "It matches my outfit."

Klaus lifts an eyebrow, "You've worn it everyday for the past year." he says in amusement.

"Stalker." she snaps.

He just smiles, whispers, "When are you going to go back to being Caroline?" and then he vanishes.

"I am myself." she tells the mirror, eyes dark with makeup, hair perfectly straightened against her shoulders.

Her shoulders sag as she realizes she doesn't really believe that.

She finds him in a bar, picking through a dessert menu. She's half surprised he's not feeding off of the pretty girl serving him.

She sits in the seat across from him. "How do you keep a hold of yourself?" she asks without preamble.

He keeps flipping through the menu. "You don't."

"But you—"

"I am an exception. I am an Original. You're just a baby. You'll never be as you were." he sets the menu aside, giving her a curious look.

"I just wanna be Caroline, as much as I can."

He leans forward, eyes gleaming, "Now there's an idea."

She swears she'll never go back to crying in the night and wishing she was the first choice.

And she doesn't.

She becomes Klaus' first choice and the only thing he loves besides himself, and it feels good. She stops dying her hair and she stops changing the clothes she wears and she's just Caroline.

Not girly little Caroline or bunny killer Caroline or shallow Caroline, just Caroline.

It occurs to her that maybe, all along, the only thing she's needed was to be accepted and unchanged and wanted.

fin.