hands all over



Exactly two days after the full-moon fiasco goes down, the blue ball gown that she'd had neatly folded and boxed disappears from the top shelf of her closet. The only thing in its place is a single black rose.

She examines it closer, noting that spray paint coats the stem, and the entire flower head —petal to petal— is covered.

The possibilities of its meaning run wild in her imagination, but she ignores them and checks her desk drawer to see if his drawing is still there.

It is.

She wonders if he'll be back for it later, if he's taunting her for her role in the betrayal of his family; her manipulation of his affection for her. The window is wide open, and a thick, cool breeze whistles as it jostles the curtains.

She slams the window shut, and jams the lock back in place.

She pretends it'll make a difference.

… … …

She catches him four times over the next three days, in glimpses and wisps. He haunts the usual places she visits: her home, The Grill; always with Rebekah or newly returned Kol, loitering around the bar with a drink in hand, or the new coffee shop she works at down the street, claiming that he's only interested getting a cup of fine, dark coffee, and one day after school when she's at the grocery store grabbing a carton of 2% milk for her mom, she sets down her carry-cart to examine the expiration dates of the bottles, and when she turns back around, a small pot of Forget Me Not's has magically appeared in her cart, beside the coffee creamer and lip-gloss.

She bristles, gazing slowly about her. She doesn't expect to see him, and she's not sure that she even wants to. She wants to confront him, figure out what his angle is, but she wants distance, too.

And yet, though he's always there, never lingering too far from her, he's invisible; biding his time before he strikes.

So she squares her shoulders and picks up her cart, leaving the milk behind.

She marches to the closest checkout line with trepidation, and is careful not to glance around. She swears to herself that she doesn't want to see him.

But she kind of does.

… … …


It's not so much a greeting as a means to get her attention, but she's just totally not in the mood to deal with Damon Salvatore and his crude, witless jokes, so she ignores him and practically tosses her grocery bags into the trunk of her car.

"What do you want, Damon?"

She slams the door shut and stomps around to the driver's side, taking care to stomp on Damon's toes as she passes.

He snorts, and pulls at her hair as one hand slams against the door, keeping her outside of the vehicle.

"Listen," he snaps; his expressive eyes wide and serious. "I get that you're PMS'ing, but we fucked up." He's got both hands bracing her shoulders now, and his face is so close that she can reach out and give him an Eskimo kiss if she wanted to (but she totally doesn't).

"I didn't do anything," she retorts coolly, crossing her arms. She stares him down defiantly, refusing to be intimidated by the likes of Damon Salvatore. "I followed the plan exactly as it was."

Damon sucks in his cheeks, and the whole of his eyes go dark; menacing, angry. "Yeah, well he's out for you too, sweetheart," he bites. "Don't fool yourself."

She hasn't.

"Let me go, Damon." She attempts to tug her shoulders out of his grasp, but he's stubborn and strong and holds her in place for a second longer, his eyes ghosting over her curiously.

Neither of them speaks for a moment, and the air is so thick, so tense as they stare at each other, both refusing to bend even an inch.

Then suddenly, a wave of cold air slams into her face, and he's gone.

… … …

It takes the Salvatores a day before they hatch a new plan, as cockamamie as every other one.

She of course, is stuck doing their bidding.

… … …

"We need to talk."

When she gets home after night settles over Mystic Falls like a thick, dark curtain, she finds Elena sitting in one of the deck chairs beside her front door. Her shoulders are rigid, and the ever present frown that's been tattooed on her lips greets Caroline with a warning.

She tenses, holding back a sigh, and proceeds to unlock the front door. She can already tell that she's not going to enjoy this conversation, and if it has to do with Klaus, or Damon, or Bonnie—which it inevitably will — she wants no part of it.

"Look, Elena," she starts as she steps back to allow Elena into the house. "I've had a long day, and I really just want to take a shower and jump into bed." And avoid all talk of the Mickaelsons and the Salvatores altogether.

Elena looks apologetic, and rings her hands together as she stands there awkwardly, looking as uncomfortable as Caroline is feeling.

"I know…" She looks like she has more to say, but she doesn't come right out and say it. Instead, her mouth snaps shut and she studies Caroline as she hangs her jean jacket on the coat rack, and follows her into the kitchen.

Then, hesitantly, "Caroline, I think you should stay at my house for a while."

Miraculously, her phone goes off at that moment, and she turns away from Elena; feeling like she's just taken a sucker punch to the gut as the little white message sign glares at her ominously, and a familiar name typed in dark block letters burns across her retinas.


… … …

When she first sees Tyler, he's leaning forward in the chair with his elbows resting on his knees, staring pensively at the ground. His skin is tanned, kissed golden from the sun, and his red shirt contrasts brightly. His hair is long and so dark where it rests against his forehead in spiky, unkempt locks.

Before she even gets his name out, he catches her scent, or hears her footsteps or something, because he's out of his chair and shooting across the room, barreling into her like a brick wall.

His arms are tight around her, his head level with hers and she hears a heavy, relief-filled breath expelled, and his arms tighten around her back just a fraction.

She grips his neck even tighter, pulling herself as close to him as she possibly can.

She inhales, closing her eyes to the aroma that surrounds them; he smells of sand and sunscreen, and coconut and everything she can't get in Mystic Falls.

"I've missed you so much, Caroline," he murmurs against her shoulder, and she feels him tugging on her hair as he lifts her feet right off the ground, and pulls her up so that her head is above his.

She doesn't even say anything, just wraps her legs around his waist and holds him tighter, clinging to him like he's a flashing neon lifeline in a sea of gloom and confusion.

Tyler's hands are all over her body, roaming over the delicate curves of her spine, the jut of her hips, the bend of her knees. He feels comfortable, safe, and she finally relaxes against him, letting out a kept breath of relief.

"I'm so glad you're back," she mutters into his neck, letting her lips lingering on the slope of his jaw, right in the sensitive nook where his jaw ends and connects with his ear. She feels the strong, sturdy muscles of his biceps flexing beneath her arms, and it all just feels so right.

"God, I've missed you so much."

She pushes away her increasingly conflicted feelings, and pulls her head back, staring straight into his deep, dark eyes. They glow like ignited charcoal as the sun casts a shroud of yellow light about his shoulders, and it starts to feel like maybe everything will be okay.

"I've missed you too." She tells herself that she's relieved for the right reasons; for his return, for working on the one thing she insisted was keeping them apart, for becoming his own person again, and not for a needed distraction.

And certainly not for an excuse.

… … …

Tyler convinces her to go back to school with him two days later, after he finds out that she'd skipped the past week and a half.

He's missed class too, he reminds her, so they're in the same boat. Abby has managed to convince Bonnie to go too, insisting that things can't go back to the way they were unless they all put in the effort, but Bonnie's become something of a recluse and keeps to herself, withdrawing into her own confined world.

The three of them sit together at lunch, but no one talks.

Elena's head pops out from the lunch line, and she casts a longing gaze on the table, and her eyes find the back of Bonnie's head. Caroline hears the sharp increase in beats of Elena's heart, but when Rebekah flounces up behind her with a pensive frown and whisks her away, Caroline feels for the second time in as many days that she's been punched in the gut.

She hates this.

And she hates Klaus for doing this to them, for tearing apart friendships that had been bonded since preschool, and relationships that were okay at best, to begin with.

But then Tyler takes her hand as Matt slides into the empty seat beside Bonnie, and she feels Tyler's nose against the side of her jaw as he gives her hand a reassuring squeeze.

If it hadn't been for Klaus, and Katherine, and Damon Salvatore, she wouldn't be sitting here with Tyler, looking into the clear, dark depths of his chocolate colored eyes.

It seems like her feelings are only becoming more and more conflicted with each passing day, but she decides right there in that moment, when Matt and Bonnie and Tyler are all back together and Elena's the only one missing from their group because of circumstances beyond her control, that she's going to find a way to put an end to the Mikaelson rule, and get things back to the way they were, no matter what she has to do.

Klaus has no right rushing into her life and upending it, throwing her off-kilter, and then sweeping her up in his gentlemanly charm like a dark knight in rusted armor.

He has no right to gaze at her like she makes him so shy and nervous, and tell her that she's beautiful and full of light, and flash swoon-worthy dimples at her with an earnest smile.

He has no right making her feel sick to her stomach when she thinks about the look of betrayal in his eyes that night, the hurt that so obviously rolled off of his persona in waves of unconcealed misery. He has no right to look affronted when she chucked his bracelet at him, to look irritated at himself for saying the wrong thing before she turned to leave later that evening when he'd told her about his father, and his favorite horse.

It's just not right.

… … …

"You have to get Bonnie to speak to me."

Elena's following her as she heads for the old Witch's house, tugging on her arm and brooding like a champ.

"Caroline, please; it's important."

"I know it is," she agrees, avoiding eye contact, feeling awkward as the tug-a-war continues, with her smack dab in the middle. "But I can't force Bonnie to do anything she doesn't want to do."

Elena sighs, so full of desperation and hurt, and Caroline hates it. She wishes it wasn't like this, genuinely and truly, and when she catches a glimpse of a large, thick golden wolf staring at her from its perch behind a gigantic headstone, she narrows her eyes and looks away, slipping an arm through Elena's and tugging her along a little faster.

She hears a growl, low and intimidating, but she speaks over it, praying that Elena doesn't hear it, too.

Without the ability to hear things so minuet, things beyond human recognition, Elena hears nothing and continues babbling on, just short of tears as she mulls over the woes of her life.

When Caroline glances over her shoulder again, the wolf is closer, and his eyes glow a bright hazel color, the color of hay when it's illuminated by the bright rays of sunshine. His lip curls, his snout scrunching up and reveals a scissor sharp fang that's dripping thick with saliva.

He leans back on his haunches, lowering his chest to the ground and a white-hot dread fills her gut.

This is it: this is the moment she dies.

She glances at Elena, who's walking on in complete oblivion, staring straight ahead of them at the Witches' house.

When Caroline glances behind her again, the wolf is gone.

… … …

She convinces Bonnie to accompany her to the Witches' house during the weekend, and they sit in silence as they both read over the grimoires of Bonnie's ancestors, neither uttering even a syllable.

If they can just find a way to kill Klaus, a loophole to his impenetrable power, they can really develop a good plan, and not one that Damon dreams up while trashed on blood and booze. If they can't find a way to physically injure him, she realizes with a start; her face going numb and the tips of her fingers tingling, then they'll never be able to get rid of the gloom that hangs over Mystic Falls, never be able to move on with their lives.

She leaves without Bonnie later that night, when the only light they can read by is provided from the dim washed-out light of a hundred lit candles.

"Are you sure you want to stay here?" she questions, lingering at the foot of the staircase. Midnight blue shadows are cast against the walls from the flickering flames, and she wonders what monsters hide there, concealed by the dark. "I don't mind checking on Abby with you, if you want to leave now."

But Bonnie shakes her head and smiles a smile that convinces neither of them.

"I'll be fine, Caroline," she insists. She always is. "But thanks."

So with a resigned nod, Caroline turns and flies up the stairs.

Klaus is waiting for her outside, stretched width wise across the bottom step. It strikes her odd how casual he looks, with his ankles crossed and his hands resting lazily on his stomach, and his head titled back against the concrete banister.

Her heels clink against the concrete floor, but Klaus shows no sign that he's even aware she's there until she's standing right in front of him, staring down at him with an irritated scowl.

"Seriously?" she questions with her hands on her hips. She steps over him, shaking her head, and fully expecting him to follow her.

He does.

She doesn't want to look back at him, doesn't want to see the way he's holding his shoulders with steely determination because she doesn't want him to know that she's scared, that there's an ounce of remorse bubbling somewhere deep inside of her chest, that on some level that she refuses to let surface - he terrifies her.

They walk in silence, and Caroline wraps her arms around herself, keeping her eyes rigged to the ragged trail ahead, but never losing sight of Klaus. She keeps him in her peripheral vision, where she's safe, where she can watch for sudden movement.

He doesn't suddenly jump at her, or knock her to the ground, or morph into a wolf in a fiery show of shredded clothing and twisting limbs.

He just falls into step beside her, his hands tucked casually into his front pockets, and lets her lead them away from the Witches' house.

She tells herself to keep quiet and bites her tongue when she starts feeling antsy, the silence of the unknown that lingers between them filling her with a sense of building dread, like she's facing a rickety old step bridge with decaying wooden planks and only one way across to the safety of the shamrock green grass on the other side.

"I trust you've got a new Operation Kill-Klaus plan in the works?" he questions suddenly, startling her from her depressed reverie.

She inhales sharply and casts a weary glance at him, looking away when she catches his eye. It's weird; he walks slowly still, keeping her pace, his hands still tucked lazily into his pockets, and a grin has stretched across his lips.

She's not fooled though, because where his eyes had previously held a peculiar warmth, a startling honesty that she hadn't thought he was capable of possessing, and a shy, inexperienced gentleman set on wooing her with earnest smiles and pleading gestures was now replaced with a calmly calculated expression of ease, and an arrogant smirk.

At her silence, he shrugs and chuckles, mirthlessly. "You can tell me." He catches her eye again, and this time she doesn't look away. "I expect nothing less from the likes of you lot."

Well then, she thinks, if he's going to act so cocksure and decisive about things he thinks he knows, then, "Yes."

He nods, his grin widening to a smile.

"It'll fail, you know."

She knows.

He stops then, and when he flashes in front of her, causing her to take a step back, she stops too. She stares at her feet for a moment, finding the resolve from within herself to regard him coolly, unperturbed, as she thinks she should.

She raises her eyes slowly to his, to find an amused smirk dancing on his red lips.

"Maybe so," she acknowledges, squaring her shoulders tight and high. "But that doesn't mean they'll stop trying."

Klaus chuckles again, and his light eyes ghost over her face, his expression unreadable. She contemplates blurring away, but when his hand is suddenly on her face, his fingertips cool and his touch firm, she freezes up completely.

"I'd hate to see you swept up in the carnage, love."

And she knows exactly what he's doing. It's what he always does; speaking in cryptic words, leaving a sense of uncertainty floating around her, striking up fearful anticipation but alleviating her fears with a peculiar sense of trust and calmness with a subtle look that's just entirely too human for a psychopathic 1,000 year old vampire to possess.

She just doesn't get him. She doesn't understand what he's trying to do. He's always so random, so surprising; so madly spontaneous, like nothing about him at all is premeditated or rehearsed. She feels like he acts on impulse around her, but that just doesn't make any sense, because it's Klaus. He's always one step ahead, and she knows so because he's said so himself. He isn't spontaneous, but he is calculated.

It's driving her crazy.

"Why?" She folds her arms across her chest, and with her heels, they stand about eye-level. He regards her regally, and the corners of his lips quirk up into an infuriating smile.

"Why what?" He looks down his nose at her, and she swears she can physically feel his eyes on her, burning a trail against her sensitive skin.

"Why do you keep coming back?"

She knows why. Because he's Klaus, and he gets what he wants. Because he's Klaus, and he's cunning and sly and slinks right up into your defenses, and digs his hooks into them the moment you let your guard down even an inch.

Because he thinks he's entitled to everything and anything he wants.

Because he's lonely, and he thinks she's lonely too.

But then his expression changes, his chiseled features hardening in a second, and his eyes grow half-lidded; tired.

"Because I enjoy you." He's said as much before, but the words just don't make sense. Not when they come from him.

Caroline narrows her eyes, still cautious to believe him, not at all willing bend an inch, because he's standing there so close to her; his eyes soft and eager, and looking all too much like someone who's too young to have seen so much, and ready to take a mile.

"But… I tried to kill you." She realizes she shouldn't have brought it up, but sometimes there's a disconnect between her brain and her mouth, and the words are out before she can stop them. She almost cowers, ready for a sudden attack, but he surprises her again by shuffling back onto his heels.

He glances away from her, squinting into the dark of the night; everything about him just screams ease and relaxation, and everything she feels that she knows she shouldn't.

"Don't worry, Caroline." He turns back to her with a grin, radiating a false sense of debonair ease. "I haven't forgotten."

And then, with a whoosh of wind, he's gone, the night just as black and cold as it was before.

… … …

"Look, all I'm saying is that you're going to screw everything up."

Damon is, as usual, so subtle in his tactic, and with a scowl, Caroline slams her glass on the rounded edge of the island counter.

"I'll be fine, Damon," she berates, fully feeling like a broken record and unable to keep the irritability out of her tone. "I can take care of myself."

His eyes are narrowed, but he doesn't say anything.

She rolls her eyes, wondering why he insists on acting like a petulant teenager when she is in fact, the one stuck eternally in her adolescence.

"Just tell Elena to call me, alright?"

With a mock salute, Damon grins. "Aye, aye, Distraction Barbie!"

She pretends like that doesn't sting.

… … …

When she's washing her face with a coconut face wash that smells like Tyler, and Florida, and a life she can only pretend she has, she hears her phone beeping with a newly received message.

'Seriously, don't screw this up. –D'

She chucks her phone against the glass shower door, and all but flings herself onto her mattress, face first into her pillow. She hears the glass shattering to the floor in tiny slivers of glass behind her, but she doesn't have enough energy to care.

She wonders when her life became like this, why she's always stuck in the middle of the fight. Why she's always used as the tool… If that's wherein her value lies.

She wonders when she let her guard down enough for Klaus to creep into her heart, where he certainly doesn't belong.

"They'll use you again, you know."

He's standing at the embroidered bench beneath her window, legs crossed at the ankles and arms folded lazily against his chest. The casualness of his words, the ease of his stance throws her off balance once again, because psychotic vampires with the ability to completely compartmentalize their human emotions shouldn't be allowed to look so soft, so caring.

So she ignores him, and reaches for the light.

He's not going to kill her; not yet. If he does it, he'll do it the same way he does everything else: big. Make a show of it, use her as an example.

She's not scared of him, because he has this horrendous ability to put her completely at ease. But she is weary, and she's fighting so hard against her feelings, because she knows she should hate him—and she does; for taking away Tyler's mortality, for siring him, for using her best friend as a personal blood bag, for wooing her like a gentleman should, for sharing an intimate memory with her that's so incredibly human she can't completely comprehend it.

So she turns her back to him and snuggles beneath her covers, pulling them up to her chin, pretending that they're more than just a few layers of cotton and satin sewed together. She pretends they're lilac colored force fields that block him from getting to her.

When the bed dips beside her, she clings to the covers and closes her eyes; clenches them shut.

Klaus doesn't have the right to sit beside her, on her bed, in such an intimate position. There are only two guys she's ever given that right too: Tyler and Matt; and Klaus has no right tainting their memory on her bed sheets. She's inevitably going to end up in the plan that kills him eventually, anyway; she doesn't know why he'd even want to hang around her.

"You're no safer with the Salvatores than with me," he says, conversationally.

She sighs, and shrugs one shoulder.

"They'll just as soon use you with the likes to get to me . . ." she hears the grin in his voice, "and then toss you aside, like you mean nothing to them."

She pretends he's wrong.

He doesn't touch her — doesn't even move. Just sits there in a stony silence, and she curses herself for feeling so comfortable.

For the first time in two weeks, she doesn't try to fool herself when she goes to sleep.

… … …

"I talked to Bonnie last night."

She's late for homeroom, but Elena is staring at her so eagerly, waiting for acknowledgement and assurance and Caroline feels obligated to appease her.

"What'd she say?" She really is curious, because she'd just talked to her, and Bonnie had still seemed like she had a personal vendetta against the world (and she kind of does).

Elena sighs though, and glances down at her boot-covered feet. "She's… still mad. But she said she knows it was Damon's. . ." she trails off, and again, Caroline hears when Elena's heart beat speeds up, and she can actually feel the pain churning in Elena's stomach.

She's way too empathetic, and that's exactly what's gotten her in the middle of the mess.

"Anyway," Elena shakes her head as if physically moving will rid the emotional cobwebs that have invaded her mind. "We're late; we should get going."

So they do, and Caroline strikes up conversation about the new project they've been assigned in Economics, because distraction is one of her best skills.

… … …

She swears he's following her again, because when tumbling practice lets out after school, Klaus is sprawled out on top of a shiny white car, his face raised to the sun.

Miraculously, Tyler's truck happens to be only three spots away, and she can't possibly get there without Klaus noticing.

He ignores her though, fully devoting himself to the illusion that he's just a guy there waiting for a student from the school. His arms are crossed behind his head, his sun glasses fit snugly across his nose, but she catches the grin he flashes towards the beating sun.

"What are you doing here, Klaus?"

He doesn't have to answer though, because Rebekah flashes past her so quickly that she's knocked off balance, and tumbles into the cab of Tyler's truck.

"Waiting for me, of course." Rebekah sounds so dubious, like Caroline should have known. Like Klaus coming to pick her up from tumbling practice is something that happens every day; like they're just a normal family, whose only concerns involve the most frivolous of activities to those who don't know better.

When Klaus unfolds himself and comes to a stand beside his sister, leaning back against the door, he does so with grace and complete ease.

Rebekah smiles, coy and suggestive, and glances over her shoulder at her brother. "See you tomorrow, Caroline."

She gets in the car, sliding into the passenger seat, and Klaus pushes himself off of the hood of the door, meandering around to the driver's side. His glasses are still on, concealing his eyes, but his confident grin is flashing madly at her, and he nods curtly before slipping into the car beside his sister.

"Hey." The air tenses as she feels Tyler's hands on her waist. His fingers feel like cement weights on her hips, and when the peculiar feeling of figuratively burning flesh brushes over her, she glances over her shoulder to find Klaus staring at her. She'd expected a glare, but what greets her is a carefully concealed look of disdain. Cold, antagonized.

"Evening," Kol greets and he slips in the seat behind Rebekah, shoving her head forward roughly before closing the door.

Caroline hadn't even noticed he'd joined them, but she can see a lacrosse stick propped up against the seat behind the driver's chair, and with a flash of white and dirty exhaust, the car is gone.

… … …

"Sit down and listen, Blondie."

Damon's demanding her loyalty, again, without so much as any concern to her own wellbeing. She glances past Damon's shoulder at Stefan, who's watching her with bemusement, his thin lips set into an irritatingly calm grin.

Master Plan Part Trois: bound to fail spectacularly.

So for the first time in her life, she decides to be proactive.

She leaves, ignoring Damon's affronted protest, and Stefan's calm but based-on-an-ulterior-motive pleas for her to stay.

… … …

The Grill is fairly packed that night, but she, Bonnie and Elena manage to find a table in the back, beneath a window.

The night is dark, boasting colors of rich midnight blues and raven blacks, and the moon is a cookie cut-out of the perfect circle. It shines brightly, and when she focuses on it, she can see the dark gray craters that flaw its surface.

A pizza sits between them, barely eaten, but no one is saying much. Bonnie stares at her pizza slice, only bitten at the ends, and Elena stares at Bonnie, diverting her eyes when caught.

Caroline feels torn, stuck between wanting to strike up conversation, and worried that it will get lost in the sea of things that hang unsaid in the air between them. She wonders why it's difficult to find common ground amongst them now, when conversation used to come so easily.

She hates that the only topics of discussion that come to her when she racks her brain, are about Klaus or Damon and Stefan. And she's totally not going down that road, because she doesn't want to talk about Klaus — doesn't even want to think about him, and she's certainly smart enough to know that bringing up Damon to either Bonnie or Elena isn't the smartest move.

So she sips on her Diet Coke, trying to swallow down the emotional frog that's become lodged there when she realizes that they've been drifting away for some time now; longer than she'd realized.

They leave the Grill in silence, each heading to their respective cars, and Caroline just wants to cry.

When Elena's pulled away, Bonnie climbs from her car and knocks on Caroline's window, motioning for Caroline to roll it down.

She does, staring up at Bonnie expectantly, and very, very confused.

"Hey," Bonnie nods, and it doesn't escape Caroline how nervous she looks, how she glances around the parking lot with apprehension, or the way she tucks her arms around herself in a protective embrace. "Follow me?"

Caroline nods, and when Bonnie pulls out of the parking lot in her little purple Jetta, Caroline follows obediently.

… … …

She follows Bonnie to the small car park near the entrance to the forest, just before the sand embankment that separates the town from the outer layer of rock that confines the river.

Bonnie's out of her car and waiting for her near the bike rack when Caroline finally manages to convince herself to leave the safety of her car behind, and meets Bonnie where she waits. Bonnie watches her pensively, and it makes Caroline nervous, because she'll be damned if she lets Bonnie do anything to put herself in danger.

"Why are we out here?" she questions, pulling the folds of her jacket closer to her chest and huddling in on herself for warmth.

Bonnie looks past her, and then nods towards the direction of the Witches' house. "Come on," she says in lieu of a real answer, and turns sharply on her heels.

The path to the Witches' house is well worn; the grass golden and dead from the months of cold weather and trampling feet, and weeds have begun to grow around its unkempt edges. When the Witches' house comes into view, it stands like a stark reminder of their reality; windows and doors boarded up with decaying planks, long vines of ivy crawling up the sides and the once immaculately preserved concrete of the walls is now cracked and dirtied from weather over time.

Bonnie motions her forward, and doesn't speak until Caroline is right beside her, their heads bowed in towards one another. Bonnie glances around them, looking for eyes or looming figures, and when she deems it's safe, she slips her hand through Caroline's bent arm and tugs her closer.

"I found something," she whispers, staring at the ground. "I think it's important."

She doesn't elaborate more, and Caroline doesn't ask. Not when the likelihood of prying eyes and ears on them is high as they wander through the magic-infested black forest of Mystic Falls.

When they hit the concrete stairs prefacing the door, Bonnie stops them and glances around the yard, casting her gaze around protectively.

"Come on," she nods, pushing the door open and waiting for Caroline to step through. "We'll be safe in here."

Secretly, Caroline hates the Witches' house. It's everything wrong with their lives, Caroline thinks, but she'd never admit it to Bonnie. She hates knowing that 100 dead witches who still hold power over her are watching her every move, ready at the whim to incapacitate her if they feel the need. The inside is just as drab as the outside, and despite the fact that her skin technically shouldn't pick up temperature differences, she swears there's a noticeable chill in the air that encompasses them.

Bonnie flashes past her, heading for the stairs. "It's in the basement," she calls over her shoulder as she flings open the door and hits the stairs two at a time, creaking the whole way down. Caroline follows her faithfully, wordlessly, but holds off near the landing when Bonnie digs through a pile of grimoires she has stashed in a cabinet on the far side of the room.

Caroline can't figure out what Bonnie has found that she hasn't, because she's been through those exact grimoires, too. But Bonnie's determination is set on her face, and she digs through the journals with a frenzied fever that Caroline can't bear to interrupt her.

Her anticipation turns to worry, though, when Bonnie starts dropping the journals onto the ratted couch, mumbling, "No, no — no-no-no-no-no!"

Caroline almost can't bring herself to ask what Bonnie's found, but when their eyes meet, Caroline can see every ounce of terror and desperation reflected in her dark pupils.


With a shrug, Bonnie stares at her, looking for all the world like the poster child for defeat. Then, "It's gone."

And Caroline's world comes crashing down.

… … …

"A grimoire," Bonnie explains as they walk back to their cars, their pace hurried and alert. There's something in the air that surrounds them, something tangible that Caroline can feel. It's charged, tingling her skin and weighing down heavily on her shoulders. "I found it last night before I went home."

She pauses, and Caroline waits patiently for her to continue. When she does, her voice is soft, her tone exhausted, and Caroline knows exactly how she feels.

"It was written by Emily, I think," Bonnie continues, casting weary glances around them. She feels it too, Caroline thinks, that thing in the air. "But it was from Ayana. It… it was drawings of something."

Bonnie shakes her head, and her eyes squint as she claims recollection. "I couldn't really understand it, but I think . . . I think it had to do with the Originals." She lets her shoulders drop, and they both stop, standing to face each other.

Bonnie's eyes are wide, and terrified, and so full of emotion that it makes Caroline's chest ache. Her hands are on her shoulders, her grip warm and firm, and so soft.

"Caroline, I think that grimoire has the answers we've been looking for." She leans forward, her breath coming out in a white puff of smoke between them. "And it's gone."

… … …

Bonnie leaves before Caroline does, and she watches as the little dark car zips through the forest, leaving a trail of smoky dirt behind it.

She sits in silence, wishing the radio was on, but unable to force her arms to reach for it.

She's so incredibly conflicted, and she doesn't quite understand it. Her chest aches, emotion clogging her throat in a thick lump, and she closes her eyes. She doesn't know what to feel. She knows she should be relieved, that something out there exists and is tangible and actually holds the answers that their looking for, that they aren't just driving in circles and running on exhaust fumes.

But at the same time, it's real. There's something out there that will tell them how to destroy the Original family, something that they've dedicated the past six months of their lives to finding, and now that they know it's there, that it's a physical object they can hold in their hands . . . it's terrifying.

It's one thing to think about it, to be afforded the ability to draw up her own conclusions about what it might hold, but to know that there's nowhere else to go . . . Well, it's surely more terrifying than she'd ever expected it to be.

A knock on her window startles her, and she knows it's him before she even looks up.

A few seconds later, her suspicions are confirmed when he calls out to her. "Caroline, open the door."

He stands back, hands clenched tensely at his sides in tight fists, but he doesn't move or tear the door off when she just stares at him for a few moments too long. His brows are furrowed and his mouth is turned downwards into an agitated frown.

The moonlight casts silver slivers of light across his face, making him look gaunt and sickly pale in the night's faint light - everything that she knows he's not.

When she finally steps from the car, he takes a step forward too, his movements jerky and his anger barely contained.

"What was she talking about?" He's questioning before she even gets the chance to greet him.

And right there in that moment, as he stares at her with dark, menacing eyes and lips pursed into a tight, angry line, she remembers who he really is. The suave, charming, surprisingly warm man that she'd become accustomed to over the past few days is gone, and in his place is the savage, ruthless, impulsively monstrous Original vampire that had all but disappeared over the past week since the Original Witch had been awakened.

She's never been more thankful for being kept out of the loop.

Klaus steps forward, looming menacingly. Even though they're about the same height and he's not as daunting physically as someone who's got a greater stature than him, there's something in the way that Klaus holds himself, the air that surrounds him, the way he stares up through his lashes with disgust seeping from every pore that has her freezing up with fear.

"What was she talking about, Caroline?" he growls, and she can see from the rigid line of his shoulders that all of his self-control is seeping away as his anger, his feral instincts rise in place.

And for once, she can be 100% honest, and not bat a lash. "I-I don't know." She bites down on her molars, reprimanding herself for stuttering. She's worked so hard to give him the impression that he doesn't intimidate her, that he can't scare her into submission, but she knows that he could so easily kill her, and that it would take only the smallest trigger to set him off. She feels like she's got a grenade clenched in her hand, wondering when it's going to go off, but too afraid to let go and throw it away.

"Caroline." Her name rips from his throat in a growl; in a warning.

"I swear I don't know—" She barely gets the words out before her head is whipping back, and she feels herself moving through air, the sky and the trees and the ground all blurring into a hazy greenish-gray fog.

She hadn't even realized she'd been holding her breath until her back slams into a tree, and knocks the air right out of her chest. She gasps for oxygen, her human impulses engrained in every aspect of her being.

"Tell me," Klaus growls, his face so close to hers that their noses are almost touching. His pupils are wide and dark and his lips curl up ferociously, revealing a set of double fangs extended down past his bottom lip. Her words are lost though, and she just stares at him, her own eyes open wide; completely overwhelmed, and breathless with confusion. This is Klaus, she thinks, feeling foolish for allowing herself to believe his affections were more than just the thrill of the chase.

His hands are wrapped around her wrists, holding her hostage against the tree, and when she insists that she doesn't know what Bonnie was talking about, what the plan is, he shoves her back, crashing his body into hers. Her back is digging into the rough bark of the tree, his body pressed flush to hers and condemning her prisoner to him, and it's useless to struggle.

"Caroline," he warns, his voice is low, wispy, and there's a tone there that she's never heard. "Now is not the time to play your silly games."

The impulsive rage has seeped away, but the pain, the agitation, the ill-concealed fear is still there, still keeping his face all sharp angles and dark shadows.

"Klaus, I swear I don't know what she's talking about." Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm—breeeeathe, she repeats to herself, closing her eyes. She inhales deeply, letting her head fall back against the ragged bark, and she's suddenly hyper-aware of everything and lets out the breath she'd been holding in a release of panic. The way his fingertips dig into the skin of her palms, the way he's so perfectly still even as he presses against her; their bodies so close that not even a sliver of air could pass between them, the way his chest is so solid against hers, keeping her steady and pinned to his will. The way she can feel his eyes on her face, never leaving, never waning.

When her lungs start working again, she forces herself to inhale, to take a deep, calming breath and this time holds it in. His scent overwhelms her, invading her senses. He smells of Mediterranean sage and nutmeg, of fresh spicy fruit and exotic woods; a smell unique to him that is natural and yet refined, and still so sensual and completely fearless, and his essence encloses around her in a thick, velvety smooth cashmere pool that renders her dizzy; crashing, closing in around her and bogging her down.

She feels stuck in place, like his being has invaded her. Even after his hands are suddenly gone from her wrists and he's stumbling backwards, tripping over an upturned tree root, she feels paralyzed, unable to pull herself away from the tree. Her eyes are on him, but she's not seeing anything at all.

His scent lingers all around her; filling up her lungs, sifting through the limp curls of her hair, and she still feels the pull of his body to hers; the way his hips fit so perfectly between hers, the way her legging-clad knees had knocked against his jean clad ones. He's not there, but he's still all over her, and she doesn't understand it at all.

"Caroline," he snaps, both hands clenching his chest. "Caroline, what have you done?" He gasps, as if the air is being ripped right out of his lungs, and his mouth falls open, gaping, as his eyes go wide; dark and terrified.

And that terrifies Caroline, because she's never seen this kind of vulnerability with Klaus. He stumbles backwards a few steps, audibly gasping, and when his leather shoe gets stuck in the branches of a thick, leafless shrub, he hits the ground on his knees with none of the grace and composition he usually possesses.

"Caroline," he rasps, glancing around him like the earth will magically provide him with the cure he needs. When their eyes meet again, she feels like he's stabbed her in the heart; the pain and fear and confusion so raw and glowing in his eyes.

And when he reaches out to her, his voice echoing in her ears, something inside of her suddenly snaps, and she manages to gain control of her body again. She forces herself to move, to push her thighs away from the tree trunk, and she barely hears the snapping sound of the thin fabric of her legging nicking on the bark.

She falls to her knees beside Klaus as the distinct chill of rushing panic settles over her, flooding her chest. If there's one thing that she is, she's empathetic, and she reaches out to him in a blind mess of panic and bewilderment, completely clueless of what she should do.

Their eyes meet again, and his are so blue, so pale and glimmering in the faint moonlight, and he reaches out to her with one hand, falling to his elbows as something inside of him clenches, and he physically recoils, his chest heaving and his body shaking with tremors beyond his control.

His head hits the ground, his forehead connecting with the cool earth, and he falls onto his side, gasping out in pain and reaching forward, dragging his fingers through the muddled dirt of the forest floor beneath him. She starts crying then, because this all entirely too much, and it's happening too fast and she doesn't even know what the hell is happening, until a razor-sharp inhalation of breath startles her out of her confusion.

The Plan. Damon and Stefan. They'd found a way to incapacitate the Originals, and they did it. And even without her knowledge — with her straight-up refusal to be 'bait' again, Damon had managed to manipulate her into being just that, weeding his way through the Original siblings. She hadn't known what they'd had planned, but she promised herself that she wouldn't feel remorse when it happened.

But she does, because she's Caroline Forbes, and she cares too much about people who she shouldn't.

"Caroline, please." Klaus' voice comes out softer now, a mere raspy whisper, and he rests his temple on his hand. He's still shaking, staring at her like she's the only person in the world who matters, like he's terrified of being ripped away from her, so she reaches out to him with a comforting hand. He grabs onto her, letting his cheek hit the ground, and the look he gives her makes her chest ache something fierce, because she's never seen someone look at her like she is their last lifeline, much less someone who's proven time after time that he's indestructible, completely reparable.

His face turns ashen, his light skin fading to a pale, murky gray, but he clings to her as he tries to tuck his feet beneath his legs.

"Kol . . . Rebekah," he gasps out, horror and anger swirling like a murky abyss in the depths of his eyes.

And then she gets it: Damon and Stefan, they'd double teamed the remaining Originals, and incapacitated two of them at once. How Klaus was so affected, she had no clue. He'd had a little more than heartburn the last time they'd pulled the stunt, but he was so clearly on his deathbed now, and Caroline still has absolutely no idea what to do.

This was it. This was the moment they'd been waiting for, the moment they'd been wasting their lives away for, over the past six months. This should be a relief. And it was, kind of. If Klaus died, they would be free, all of them: Tyler, Bonnie, Matt, Elena and Alaric, even Finn. And herself, plain old Caroline, who'd found her perfectly comfortable life upturned in the blink of an eye when Klaus had strolled into Mystic Falls, harboring in Alaric's body.

So why did it feel so bad, now? She owed him nothing, had no feelings to spare.

But she knew why: because Klaus had gotten to her. Not vampire Klaus: the Original Hybrid, not the pompous, arrogant, entitled monster that he so often displayed, but the Human Klaus, the one he kept locked away and hidden beneath layers of viciousness and terror, the one that only she got the privilege to see.

She cries for that Klaus, for the potential he had, for the good he could have brought to the world. But she also cries for the Klaus that brings destruction to everything he touches, like a jacked up King Midas, and the childhood that had turned him into a monster. She cries for the human Klaus, for the feelings he suppresses, for the love and affection he craves. She wishes the Klaus with his humanity in a box, the one that's just lonely and terrified of being alone for a condemned eternity had a better chance.

"Caroline," he gasps, clenching her hand painfully. "Get . . . me . . . out." He struggles to speak, and his cheeks are hollow and sucking in as much air as he can inhale, as if that'll suddenly, after a thousand years, help.

So she staggers to her feet, pulling him up with her. She has no idea what's going to happen, and as much as she tells herself to hate him, she knows that she can't.

Second chances and Forgiveness, those are the values that run her life. She'll never love him the way he wanted her too, never see him in the light she knows is there, because too much has happened at his hand.

But she's Caroline Forbes, and she's filled to the brim with compassion, and even Klaus — someone who's caused so much pain and despair for so many people she loves — deserves compassion in death.

… … …

By the time she gets him to her car, she's more or less shouldering half of his weight, and dragging the other half beside her. She drops him into the passenger seat — quite literally drops him, and he falls forward, his forehead crashing into the dashboard. She bites her lip, whispering an apology, and pulls him back against the seat, and buckles him in only because he's not staying seated upright on his own.

When she pulls the belt across his lap, she bites down on her cheek hard, because his hands are covered in sickly gray colored veins, and before she's even back to the driver's seat and buckled in herself, it's spread all the way up to his neck.

He's gone by the time she hits Main Street, and she doesn't even try to stop the tears.

She's not sure if they're happy tears or sad tears, but she lets them fall, mixing into one display of mottled emotions.

… … …

She slams the car into park when they get to his home, and she has her arm wrapped around his chest, trying to pull him from the car when he awakens with a gasp. His breath comes in sharp, shallow puffs, and he looks at her with wide, surprised eyes, and she's glad that he can hold himself up, because she lets him go and trips backwards over her own heels.

She can hear his heart beating, fast and wild, and she can hear the rush of his blood flowing through his veins, smell the copper scent emanating from his skin. His skin has filled out too, taken on a rosy sheen, and he touches his fingers to the hollows of his cheeks like he's never felt something so soft, so human before: like he never was one.

She recoils in horror, having completely forgotten that their goal was to get him human.

For once, one of their plans worked.


A/N: Review?