Open up your lovin' arms (watch out here I come)

ch. 1: when it rains

... ... ...

"I'm going to run for Senior Ball Queen," she says.

She's sitting in a curved booth at the back of The Grill with Elena, churning the ice in her glass of water absently with her straw. She keeps her eyes diverted, but she can already tell that Elena's brows are raised in apprehensive surprise; her best friend is predictable in that way.

She even expects the question which follows the brief silence.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?"

Her eyes roam the table; her Coca-Cola glass tinted green, the nibbled edges of Elena's loaded potato skins, the little green light that flashes on Elena's iPhone which she infuriatingly refuses to check. When Caroline finally raises her eyes, fluttering her lashes and settles her gaze on Elena's, Elena's dark eyes search her face, the concern weighted and barely concealed.

"I ... I just mean with all that's been going on ... do you ... will you have time to do it?" Elena brushes her fingers through her long, straight locks, threading through tiny snags.

Caroline shrugs, her mind already made. "I'll find time."

Elena's not exactly placated though, and her obvious skepticism begins to rate on Caroline's nerves. "It just... that stuff seems like a lifetime ago." Elena shrugs, exhales in a long, low breath. "It was a lifetime ago," she adds, almost as an afterthought and seemingly more to herself than Caroline.

And that's essentially the hammer hitting the nail on the head for Caroline. That's why she wants to do it. "But that's exactly it, Elena!" She reaches a hand forward, grasping Elena's hand in her own, covering it with her palm. "That part of me — the beauty pageants, the crowns, the competitions — those things were important to me." She pauses, chewing on her words, trying to find the perfect way to present them. She's thought about this a lot over the past few weeks; it's not a decision she's taken lightly, and the venue of such a pageant sticks out in her mind, cautioned off with red flags.

"I did those before all of . . . this," she waves a hand languidly between them, "happened. That's who I was. Miss Mystic Falls, Student Body President: that's who I am." And the curse of the supernatural that's fallen over the town can't take that away from her. She won't let it.

Elena's mouth parts in a silent, delicate 'ah' and her doe eyes flick off to the side for a moment, narrow just the slightest, then fall back on Caroline. Caroline follows Elena's trail, and she holds back a sigh when her eyes land on Rebekah and Kol Mikaelson, the latter who had made a less-than-spectacular (see: wanted) return to Mystic Falls sometime over the past weekend.

Rebekah seems to sense she's being talked about, or maybe hears her name (with her annoying acuity to auditory triggers) and glances over her shoulder, the smug smirk present as it always seems to be. She's still after Elena, and no man — not one of her brothers, not Damon or Stefan, or woman (a still-present Sage) deters her. Even Klaus has threatened Rebekah, warned her to back off after a few calls come a bit too close for his own comfort (because his motives are less than pure; Elena's survival is necessary for the future of Klaus' happiness, and essentially: her life, her blood — guarantees his own).

When Rebekah kisses her palm and metaphorically blows it their way, Caroline does roll her eyes, and shifts in her seat so that her body blocks Elena's view of her.

"Anyway," she shakes her head, brushing out her curls, then twists a large chunk around her finger and tosses it over her shoulder, "I know that you have a lot going on, but I was wondering if . . . you wouldn't mind helping me out, maybe?" Because that's what they used to do. Partners in crime, partners in beauty, and something between them should stay the same when everything around them is changing so rapidly.

The smile that lights up Elena's face makes Caroline's still-beating heart swell. "Of course," Elena squeals happily, and Caroline swears her eyes are a shade lighter. "It'll be nice, just to have something to take my mind off of . . . everything."

Holding up her phone, Caroline taps the screen with her fingernail, smiling suggestively. "Sweet! So I was thinking that maybe we could start after school tomorrow?" She opens up the virtual calender in her phone and scrolls through the days of the week, pulling up the To Do list for Thursday. "Maybe start sketching things out?"

Elena taps her fingernail against the wooden table top, her jittering foot tapping the metal support pole on the underside. A nervous habit, Caroline has learned.

"Yeah . . . that should be fine."

So Caroline nods and plugs the date into her phone, sets a reminder for herself.

She chews on the thought, contemplates why it's so important to her. She bid her old life goodbye just months ago — even had a funeral for it! But this, this is something that she can't let go of. It's something inconsequential, something minute, but to her, it practically means the world.

It's the only truly human aspect of herself that's left.

... ... ...

She's pulling her Economics book from her locker in the morning when a pale hand shoots out and slams the door shut before she can fully pull her hand away. She stomps her foot indignantly and whirls sharply on her heel, expecting to find Stefan Salvatore, or Rebekah or Tyler. Anyone but Kol Mikaelson, who frames her with a quirky smile and sparkling dark eyes.

"Caroline." His arm stretches above her head, resting casually against her locker, and he hovers over her (which is kind of an accomplishment, because she's freakishly tall for a girl), and his eyes hold hers with an uncomfortable pull.

She doesn't even hold back the sigh that bubbles against her lips. "What are you doing here, Kol?"

He shrugs a shoulder and glances away from her, his lips quirking down into a carefree smile. "I'm a student here," he says, still surveying the crowded hallway (probably for someone to snack on or something, she guesses).

Caroline shakes her head and waves a hand in his face in dismissal. When she steps around him, he mewls in protest and he's suddenly right beside her, falling in step, almost matching her stride for stride. She feels his hand slip around her elbow, his fingertips exerting pressure against her skin.

"Got that, thanks, but what are you doing here?" she repeats, as in why are you following me/do I have a magnet attached to me somewhere that prevents me from getting away from your insufferable family?

Kol smiles, and it's way too innocent looking to actually be innocent. She doesn't know Kol well, but she knows him enough to know that innocent and Kol Mikaelson don't go hand in hand. More like, crazy, or impulsive, or off the rails . . .(and for a moment, she forgets which Mikaelson sibling she was describing. Until Kol's fingers dip deeper into her skin, which hey!— she's fairly sure that she's bruising).

"Ah, yours is the first familiar face I've seen, love," he says with a shrug, like that's supposed to appease her.

She totally doesn't believe him. She saw Rebekah's luxurious red car in the parking lot on her way in that morning, and where one Original goes, another is sure to follow.

"Riiight," she snorts (very un-lady like, mind you). "Well I have to get to class." She shrugs and turns sharply to her left, breaking his hold on her arm. He follows her though, blurring to her side as she stalks down the hallway, trying her absolute hardest to seem unphased.

"Okay, well just tell me one thing." His hand is on her arm again, and when she continues walking, fully intent on ignoring him, he tugs on her arm and forces her to stop and look at him. He cocks an eyebrow, waiting with an expectant grin.

She gawks, rolling her eyes. "Fine," she snaps. "What?"

A devilish grin stretches across his lips, one that is so reminiscent of the trademark that is Klaus' smirk (and no, she has no idea why that thought even popped up, because when does she care about Klaus' (dimpled) smirk?).

"How can I get you to be my running mate?" He grins, and his tone is so confident (borderline cocky), that she sort of just wants to stomp the heel of her boot into his big toe.

Caroline squints at him, his question lost in translation, and she glances past his right shoulder at the clock that is bolted to the wall. She has exactly three minutes to get to homeroom before she's marked tardy, and she's already missed way too many days of school as it is. She simply can't afford any more marks against her record (and it's kind of reprehensible anyway, because she's never missed a day of school in her life up until the past year, and she's slowly finding herself caring less and less which is totally weird).

"Running mate?" she parrots. She never really knows what he's on about. Klaus can be overbearing, but maybe he's better than Kol. At least she understands him when he speaks, but she's only have ballpark three conversation with Kol, and each time, he's just spouted off about liking a girl with gall, and she finds that where he goes, the urge to roll her eyes an obscene amount of times comes with him. "Running mate for what?"

His eyes sparkle — legit sparkle — and she wonders if it's a vampire trick (an Original trick). Both hands grip her shoulders, and the grin he frames her with is totally devious. If his hands weren't holding her to her spot, she'd definitely have bolted by now.

"The running court," he says, his tone light and totally duh, like she should know what he's talking about because it's so totally obvious. "For the ball . . . " At her blank expression, he narrows his eyes, scrunches his nose, and sighs dramatically. "The Senior Ball King and Queen." He shakes his head and drops his hands from her shoulders, tucking his fingers into the pockets of his jeans.

"Ah, I . . . wait, how do you know about that?" Seriously? He's been back like, a week. Not even. She's fairly certain he hasn't even been in class a full day yet. And since he's been daggered for a hundred years, she highly doubts he's ever attended a school prom, let alone run for the court.

He shrugs, rocking back on his heels and framing her with an infuriatingly teasing smile. "Well that's just the type of information a guy like me knows, sweetheart."

Caroline just shakes her head and turns on her heel, making sure to give her head a little extra shake, whipping her hair in his face.

"Oh come on, Carry," he protests, but when she turns to correct him (she really hates that name, because she can't stand Carrie Lewis and shesimply refuses to go by the same name as the slut), Kol is already gone.

... ... ...

She's standing at Elena's locker three minutes before the final bell of the day rings, tapping her foot impatiently. The air around her seems to freeze; peaceful and tranquil for a brief few moments, and then all at once a number of doors open along the hallway and the classrooms seem to spit kids out like vomit; they fall out, rushing, bumping, shoving, yelling as they head for their lockers and their cars or the bus loop (so awesome to be a senior — special lot and her own parking spot? Hell. Yes.)

They have a meeting in the auditorium for the running court, and Elena's promised she'd meet Caroline at her locker so that they could head in together. Not that Caroline has a problem going in on her own; she just hasn't really talked to too many people outside of her circle of friends since she'd turned into a vampire (which in retrospect, probably has saved their lives), and she's not really sure that she can just walk over to them and strike up conversation like she's hasn't been MIA (from their lives) for the past year.

But she doesn't see Elena's head bobbing above the crowd as she usually does, and she falls back against the locker with an irritated sigh.

"Cara!" It's not Elena who she finds standing in front her, but Kol. He smiles down on her, crossing his arms against his chest. "I'm glad I found you."

Of course you are. "It's Caroline." She spots Rebekah sauntering towards them, her arms crossed and a coy grin settled on her lips, and Caroline just prays that she'll keep walking right past them. "Have you seen Elena?"

Someone Up There must be laughing at her or maybe they just have it out for her because Rebekah stops right beside her brother, and when she smiles at Caroline, it's a saccharine sweet sort of smile. Her tone however, is laced with distaste.

"Oh, Caroline." Her eyes ghost down as her lips purse, and Caroline feels the dull tingle of embarrassment rush over her, heating her cheeks, and Rebekah doesn't even try to hide that she's scrutinizing her outfit. Kol just watches Caroline, his eyes never leaving her face, and though he's still grinning, there's something different about his eyes; something Caroline can't quite put her finger on.

"I've just come to remind you that we have a student gov. meeting this afternoon." Rebekah shrugs, and she's suddenly taken to examining her nails, "At 3." She looks up then, her face bright with contemptuousness.

It feels like a stake to Caroline's heart, and she can't even hide the whine in her voice. "What? You . . . you're like, part of student government, now?"

Rebekah laughs, her voice loud and fickle, but she shakes her head. "No, no, don't be daft." She shrugs. "I've more important things to spend my time on."

Kol nudges Rebekah's shoulder, muttering, "Yeah, like hijacking student dances and ogling after humans who give her jackets with letters on them." He rolls his eyes and tosses a grin, folding his arms across his chest, and leans casually against the locker. "Pathetic, yes, but that's my sister for you."

Rebekah narrows her eyes, waving her hand in his face, but Caroline's too focused on the earlier part of his statement to enjoy their banter. "You . . . you're on the dance committee?" Please, please, pleeeease, NO!

As if the sun spilled all of it's bright, gleaming rays into her face, Rebekah perks up with a facetious grin. "Yep."

"Since when?" Caroline almost stomps her foot, but the last thing she wants to do is look like she's having a meltdown in front of these two, of all people.

Rebekah steps forward, brushing her shoulder against Caroline's and knocks her sideways into the locker. "Just now," and then she's gone, and all Caroline hears is the roaring in her ears, diluted only by the sharp clink clink sound Rebekah's heels make on the laminate floor.

"So, Corey," Kol begins, his smile bright and back in place. Oh my God. "Stay calm," she repeats to her self, take five seconds. Because he's a dimwit, he's obviously trying to work her up. (Wanna know a secret? — It's working.) "About that campaign..."

She's saved from having to respond though, because Elena comes up behind her and threads her hand through Caroline's, yanking her away from the young Original. "I'm sorry I'm late," she breathes, shaking her head and pulling on the hair that fans out around her chest. "Alaric held me back."

Caroline doesn't even comment on how weird it is that Mr. Salztman is even in school, but honestly, she just doesn't even want to open that can of worms right now because she still hasn't confronted him about him killing her dad and all, and she's still kind of too angry to go about it in a calmly manner. She thinks Elena should know better, that she should forbid Mr. Salztman from like, being around people for the rest of eternity because he has a tendency to kill randomly, but Elena's never really had a problem with murderers roaming the same streets she walks on (or the bed she sleeps in), so whatever.

She'll deal with it later.

As if she's just suddenly realized that Kol Mikaelson was hanging out at her locker, Elena stops and turns to Caroline, her thin brows furrowed closely together. She juts a thumb back towards her locker, glancing over her shoulder. "What was that about?"

Caroline just shakes her head, because really.

"I don't even know!" she huffs, throwing her hands up in exasperation, and tugs Elena towards the auditorium.

... ... ...

Kol manages to find them, even though Caroline had thought she'd done a pretty good job of concealing them in the shadows at the very back of the room. Elena sits on one side of her and before she can protest, Kol slips into the seat on her other side. Framing her with a cheeky smile, he taps her knee with one hand, gouging his nail into the skin over her kneecap, snagging the thin material of her leggings.

His touch permeates the spandex, and despite the fact that his skin is surprisingly warm, a shiver bolts down her spine just the same.

"So, what have I missed?" he questions, reaching across her to pull her cell phone from her hand. She clutches at it, swiping at his hand, but he's quick and sneaky and holds it out away from her, smiling jovially.

"Nothing," she snaps. "The meeting has just started." She holds out her hand, glaring at him (but despite her best efforts, she knows that she just looks more perturbed than infuriated), and with that annoying, pompous (and somehow still playful) grin, plops it in her hand. Like, he just drops it and it slips right between her fingers, falling to the floor (she catches it before it hits the ground; vampires reflexes, you know).

"Oh my God, would you stop?" she snaps, tucking her phone away in a pocket of her purse, and slides it safely beneath Elena's seat. Leveling her hand towards the stage, she glares at him pointedly. "Pay attention."

She's not actually going to run with him. She's going to try really hard to guilt Tyler to come back before the ball, because he's her boyfriend; Ball King should rightfully be his title, too (she's a shoe-in for Queen, obvs).

But Kol doesn't need to know that, because she doesn't want him to like, go out and start killing random kids as they walk to their cars after class or whatever. He's a bit too impulsive for her liking, and she doesn't doubt for a moment that he'd take any reason at all to kill somebody.

So she humors him. For now.

... ... ...

The meeting for the dance committee is held in a room on the second floor, at the very back of the building. It's a science room; small, cramped, and smells absolutely disgusting, like a thousand eggs had been cooked then left to rot. She nearly gags the moment she walks in, making one of those horrendous faces that ends up as a frame on a gag-reel.

She recognizes some of the people there, but most of them she hasn't talked to since last summer at one of the many parties at the watering hole on the Lockwood property. Before Katherine had turned her the night Tyler had crashed his car (how ironic, she thinks, because she's never really thought about the sequence of events like that).

She takes a seat on the far side, near the windows (and promptly cranks the two she's near open, hoping to waft the fresh air into the room), folding herself into her chair with a tired sigh.

This is the one thing she's been looking forward to all year, because she's finally the one who gets to chose the theme. She's waited four long years to get to this point, and spent countless hours debating, and listing, and crossing out said lists until she settled with The Perfect theme.

She can't control most of what happens to her, nothing that happens to her friends, but she only has a few months left of high school; she'll probably never have the chance to go to a normal theme-dance after she graduates, and she fully plans to take advantage of the opportunity while she still can.

She pulls a small Steno notebook from her purse and jots down a few of her (top ranked) ideas. Parties are her thing. Planning, implementing, decorating — she's got this.

"Sorry I'm late."

She doesn't even look up, but dread curls in the pit of her stomach, mixing not so agreeably with her lunch. Rebekah waltzes in, a smug smile tattooed on her lips as she slides elegantly into the seat directly front and middle. She crosses her legs and turns to face the small group of students, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder.

"What did I miss?"

Romy Brenno, the senior class president (who bares a striking resemblance to Ronni from the Jersey Shore) just shakes his head and extends a light blue piece of printer paper towards her, then passes a copy out to the rest of them. "I need to know what you guys plan on doing for the dance," he says, and points to a small girl with really thick black hair, twisted into coiled curls. The senior class treasurer. "So the budget is . . . lacking funds, and we'll have to do fundraising to make up the difference."

Caroline has already thought about this, and she has the absolute best idea for a fundraiser. She's going to hold a kissing booth! It'll be perfect! She figures that she can charge a dollar a kiss, and maybe she can talk Mayor Lockwood into letting her use that old fashioned popcorn machine she's seen in Tyler's basement, as like, an incentive for people to pay for a smooch (the popcorn would be free, though).

But she's not sure that she really wants to present this idea right now, because she doesn't want the Evil Blood Slut hijacking it or ruining it (and of course she would, because when isn't Rebekah being a total jerk and attempting to hijack Caroline's life?). So she holds her tongue until she can talk to Romy on her own. She'd need someone to construct some sort of booth for her, but she might be able to talk Matt into it... or maybe she'll talk to Elena to talk Matt into doing it for her. They've been all chummy lately, she thinks, chewing on the inside of her cheek (she's totally not jealous, because she has Tyler, and she's perfectly happy with him).

"Themes," Romy says, moving to stand in front of the black board with a piece of chalk poised at the ready. "What's the theme going to be?"

So many ideas run through Caroline's mind, that she doesn't even know what to suggest first. Fire and Ice, Disco Fun Night (she totally kind of wants to order some platforms, but she'd definitely only be able to wear them for a disco night), or even better — a dance through the decades. She loves the seventies but she also wants to do a 50's sock hop too, or a dirty thirties theme, so it could be cool if they did a mix.

They could totally do something based off of a movie, like American Graffiti or Saturday Night Fever or recreate American Bandstand.

So she likes the prospect of a multiple decade dance, but if they absolutely have to stick to one-theme, her heart is kind of set on the 70's.

"How about . . . a Blast From the Past?" she suggests. They've done pretty much everything else; masquerade, western/cowboy. She likes the seventies, because she can dress up without having to spend a fortune on a costume and she can try out those sponge curlers her grandmother gave her when she was younger (she has them buried somewhere in the attic, because she usually ended up looking like an untrimmed poodle after using them). She'll have to find a pair of bell bottoms (she doesn't even own flares let alone flares wide enough that they could be substituted as bell bottoms).

She figures she could always watch a few episodes of That 70's Show just to get some ideas. She's really good with braiding; she could probably figure out some really cool hair do with braids and curls and bows.

"Like what?" Romy questions, his brows furrowed in confusion.

Rebekah's eyes slide to Caroline's, lips pursed, nose scrunched, and it's painfully obvious that she's not a fan of the idea. But this is Caroline's dance, and she's going to do what she wants to do anyway, so she shrugs and moves to stand beside Romy, turning to face the rest of her classmates.

"Well, like I said, I was thinking that it would be fun to do a 70's theme." She sees a few nods, and she takes that as encouragement to continue. "Like, we could post up stills from Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy, and we could open the dance with The Hustle!" It all sounds amazing to her, and she sees lots of streamers and glistening lights, creating a kaleidoscope of colors on the walls, and they could use words like, 'groovy' and 'copastetic' and okay, really, she wants the DJ to play Sweet Caroline because even though it came out in the late 60's, she thinks it'd be so totally awesome to have a song played for her. And really — she doubts that most of the kids in her class would even know when the song came out.

Rebekah shakes her head though, because of course. Man, if Caroline had a stake made out of an old white oak tree . . . Rebekah would be getting it real good.

"But that's sooo . . . common," Rebekah drawls, touching her fingertip to her chin in contemplation. "Now, yes to the decade theme, no to the 70's." She abandons her desk and she too comes to stand beside Romy, flanking his other side. "The Roaring 20's... now that was the best decade of all."

Caroline chews on her lip, and when Rebekah glances over at her with a raised brow and a knowing smile (you know, because she was there, sort of, before her brother stabbed her into incapacitation).

"I don't know," Caroline sighs, purposefully avoiding Rebekah's gaze. "I think that more people would be able to associate things from the 70's; people can buy wigs from Party City and bell bottoms and shirts with stripes, and let's just be real: this is a high school. Nobody is going to know how to do the Jitterbug and whatever else came from the 20's and 30's, but everyone knows the Electric Slide and the Two Step."

Rebekah just stares at her, leveling off a nasty glare, and Caroline shrugs back, wishing Elena was there — just someone to back her up on this.

"I don't know, Caroline." Rebekah sounds bored, once again studying her nails and doing an excellent job of appearing disinterested. "I think most people know the Fox Trot, and the Jitterbug is just... swinging."

"You know, I'd like the 20's," a girl from the back of the room speaks up, whom Caroline knows to be the Freshman class president, glancing between two of her friends, to which they of course, agree. "It be so cool to deck out in pearls and wear firetruck red lipstick!"

"Yeah," another girl speaks up, this one Caroline has seen on the JV cheerleading squad. "I don't think it'd be that hard to learn to do swing. Like, in that PCD video, when they are in those frilly dresses..."

Caroline knows what song the girl is talking about (and admittedly, she does love the song Sway), but she it's obvious that she's already lost this fight, so she doesn't even bother pointing out that Sway was a song from the 50's, not the 20's, and that the Pussycat Dolls only did a cover of the Dean Martin version. Instead, she just bites down on her back molars, seething quietly to herself.

These stupid Originals are seriously ruining everything and she doesn't know how much more disappointment she can take at their hands.

... ... ...

"So, word around the watering hole is that a little blond vampire is running for Prom Queen."

Caroline and Elena sit at a small two-person table at The Grill, in a dingy spot just before the second floor rises. The light that hangs above them has a busted bulb, shrouding them in a hazy fog of dust particles and melted light.

Of course, she (Elena) can't go anywhere without Damon Salvatore popping in and adding his two scents worth, and Caroline can only sigh, because okay — she was sort of totally expecting him to try to talk her out of it or make fun of her for liking beauty pageants ("Hey, I don't object: prettiest meals around," he says affectionately, a shameless grin pulling up one corner of his mouth), and of course with Kol running on her heels and Rebekah lurking around the corners to find any way possible to ruin her life while simultaneously toying with Elena, it really isn't a surprise Damon got word.

She did however think he'd give her at least a couple days worth of peace before he confronted (taunted) her.

Elena speaks up for her though, staring at Damon through narrowed, cautious eyes. "So what if she is?"

Damon sighs dramatically, rolling his hand in their direction and shifting his jaw, but his eyes do that weird retract-constrict thing and she wonders if it was Elena's defense of her that pisses him off, or just Elena in general.

Probably a little bit of both, she thinks.

But Damon turns to her, and the way his half-grin turns into a full smile totally makes her flashback to Rise of the Dark Knight: the Joker's smile. Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny.

He shrugs, and his light eyes positively look right through her. "I don't know," he drawls, "doesn't that kind of seem like . . . a downgrade?"

Of course he doesn't understand her need to run for this competition. He does his best to pretend he has absolutely no human urges left inside of him; why would he understand something as insignificant as this?

But Elena's on point today and having none of it. "Leave us alone, Damon."

His head snaps to Elena, and they stare off in a weird pseudo-staring content. Damon's jaw works, the muscle below his cheek clenching, and his pupils constrict then dilate, then constrict then dilate, constrict then dilate a little bit more and just when Caroline thinks maybe Damon's going to reach over and like, snap Elena's neck or something (because yeah, that was totally another rejection), he grins, snorting a chuckle.

"Aw, come on." He's not really pleading, but definitely taunting, "I'm just trying to get the 411."

Elena crosses her arms and leans back in her chair. Her jaw hardens and she just shrugs, "Well do it somewhere else."

Caroline totally feels caught in the crossfire, because while she's never liked Damon (okay, maybe she did a little bit like, way back before she knew Damon — but can you blame her? Who doesn't love a tall, dark and handsome stranger in leather who drives a vintage Ford?), this whole passive-aggressive-let's-taunt-each other routine is totally getting old.

But before either of them can get another word out, Damon's gone with the blink of an eye and the cheese fries they'd been sharing have disappeared with him.

... ... ...

Elena leaves before Caroline does because Jeremy calls, and even though Elena insists that he's still safer out in Colorado than here in Mystic Falls (which, what? Like there aren't supernatural creatures there too... but again, whatever), Caroline thinks that maybe Elena's resolve is starting to break. It's probably only a matter of time before she decides that Jeremy should come home.

Caroline stays behind because she has still has to sketch up her campaign for Senior Ball Queen, and her house is just totally way too quiet and truthfully — sometimes it starts to creep her out a little bit (let's be real: Mystic Falls is the place where nightmares become realities, you know? So her fears really aren't unfounded or ridiculous, because the chances of them happening are better than them not coming true).

But then her mother calls and says that she got out early and that if Caroline could make it home, she was thinking about making dinner.

Her mother doesn't even have to say anymore; Caroline doesn't even care what her mother plans to make — just the fact that Liz is home and basically saying that she wants a sit down dinner together (just not in so many words) is like, huge for Caroline, because they don't really do that kind of stuff anymore. Yeah, ever since Tyler bit her, her mother has made more of an effort to be her mother again, but like before, work always takes precedence (and okay— not completely her fault, because her mother is like, the town's only Sheriff). But sometimes when they are together, they don't exactly know what to say to ease the awkward undertones that surround them.

So Caroline decides to finish her sketch for her campaign fliers later, because she wants to get home before her mother changes her mind or suddenly (more likely) gets called in for duty again (because crime at the hand of the supernatural is way too common for this town).

It's the end of March and the wind has picked up something fierce, and whips against her face and tousles her hair, blowing thick strands of blond curls into her eyes. She fumbles with the lock for a moment before finally getting the door open and sliding into the seat.

She's not cold — maybe the coolness of the air is bit nippy, but the warmth of the car soothes her tremendously.

She has way too much on her plate, she thinks as she jams the key into the ignition and brings the car to life.

The engine reeves loudly, clouding her thoughts.

... ... ...

She can add dead car to the list of things that are going wrong in her life.

Only ten minutes after she pulls out of the Grill's parking lot, her car dies.

She seriously (but not really) contemplates finding Tyler and asking him to bite her again, because really? Really? Every time things starts to look up, something goes wrong again and the rug is pulled out from beneath her feet. Falling from Cloud Nine, that sort of thing.

So okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but of all the times for her car to die, this is definitely the most inopportune. She's stranded on the side of the road in a section that of course, happens to be free of housing and establishments and pretty much all civilization, and while it's not some huge deal for her to go back to The Grill to call Triple A (super speed is pretty great for things like this), it's just like . . . it's that kind of day.

It's her oil, she knows right off the bat, because she's sort of like, ten thousand miles overdue for an oil change. Her mother has been nagging her to get her oil changed and clean the filter, because "Oil can only last so long they don't tell you to come back just for the hell of it," but really, that kind of stuff is just totally low on her Importance List.

Or actually, it wasn't even on her list at all. It was definitely off her radar. Waaay off.

Because being bit by your werewolf boyfriend, then being saved by the same guy who made him bite you, then being wooed by said man, then having your boyfriend skip town without saying goodbye and having your best friend's witch mother turned into a vampire all constitute problems that are just a little more pressing.

But now she sort of wishes she'd just called and set an appointment to have her oil changed, because she really doesn't have the money to pay to have her car towed, and who knows what's happened to her engine now.

Seriously, this day could not get any worse.

Until it does, when Klaus' familiar black luxury car comes trudging towards her, the revving engine being the only sign she gets that someone's joined her. The window rolls down lazily, and a familiar blond head sticks out from the passenger window a few seconds later.

Caroline leans against her car and for a moment, she contemplates blurring away. Klaus, she could probably deal with, but Rebekah too? No. Just... no. But the car pulls to a stop beside her, pulling over the white lines and Klaus lets it idle.

She expects them to get out of the car; either Rebekah, to boast and laugh that her car has died, or Klaus to like, maybe offer his assistance or check it out or something. But neither of them do that. They just stay in the car, and it becomes clear that they're waiting for her to approach.

So she huffs and blurs herself to the passenger side, because even though she sort of hates Rebekah, Klaus makes her kind of nervous. The minute she leans down towards them, the window rolls down all the way and Rebekah's smug face grins up at her.

It's Klaus that speaks though, silencing his sister. He lowers his sunglasses to the bulbous part of his nose (button noses, she thinks), peering at her over the thin rims. "What seems to be the problem, Caroline?"

She expects a smile, or maybe a smug grin like that of his sister's — anything that goads on her situation, but his expression is fairly blank, staring up through tow lashes. Her shoulders tense involuntarily, and her skin prickles with the urge to run.

Klaus is a wild card, and she's learned too quickly not to 1) let her guard down around him even just a little, and 2) not to expect anything when it comes to him (he's the kind of guy that knows you expect him to do the opposite of what you're expecting, so he'll purposefully do exactly what you thought was too obvious, just for kicks).

Rebekah's lashes flutter and her eyes narrow, and that annoying bitchy puss look flashes across her face. "Well," she snaps, waving a hand in Caroline's direction, "get on with it. We haven't got all day."

Caroline juts a thumb over towards her car. "I... it's the engine. It overheated."

She looks at Klaus for a moment, but she finds it easier to focus on Rebekah. He speaks though, his voice too soft and lilting.

"Can I offer you a ride, Caroline?"

He's polite, just as he should be, but Klaus has never been anything but (except for when he's, you know, trying to kill people). She declines though, because it's the moment that she gets in his car that she's worried about. He's sneaky, wording his promises with loopholes and snags, and she's not willing to get caught in them.

"No, I . . . I already called for Triple A." So she totally didn't, but she really isn't going to get in the car with them.

Rebekah snorts, her lashes fluttering incredulously. She turns to Klaus, shaking her head. "She's lying, Nik," she says, her tone full of indifference. She flips the mirror down from the sun guard,and admires her makeup, ignoring both Klaus and Caroline.

"No," Caroline argues, "I don't need a ride."

But Klaus stares at her with skeptic eyes, and his lips part slightly. He doesn't say anything for a beat, and she wonders if that's her cue.

But then, "Caroline, don't be ridiculous. You cannot drive your car: get in."

She won't. "No, I have to stay with my car when they come to tow it."

Klaus looks as if he's about to protest, but then his mouth snaps shut and he narrows his eyes. He holds her gaze, and she can't look away.

"Your choice, love," he grins smugly, shrugging, pushing his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose, and pulls the gear shift into drive. "I'm only a phone call away." (Rebekah totally rolls her eyes and huffs, like that has such an affect on her).

And then, the tires spin on the gravel and he pulls away, tiny rocks and gravel spitting out beneath his tires.

She's left with nothing but the taillights, and a car that won't start.


A/N: Review? I love getting feedback about the flow of dialog, characterization, plot development, etc. It's very much appreciated, and each and every review is taken into consideration.