DISCLAIMER: I don't own The Vampire Diaries. Obviously.
A/N: This is the first time I've ever attempted a Vampire Diaries fic, please be kind! I realise that this starting point has probably been done before, but I am going to make sure it it's also like nothing you've read as much as I can.
Chapter One: The Start, Again
Elena Gilbert awoke suddenly with a gasp. Her sheets were soaked with cold sweat and in the semi-darkness of her room, the shadows seemed to jump out at her before her eyes adjusted. It was always the same, every night; the same flashback which arrived in the form of the same nightmare. It always began with a crow and ended with darkness as the water filled the car and she saw her parents for the last time. Not wanting to relive it in her waking hours as well as in her dreams, Elena swung her feet out of bed and pushed her long brown hair out of her face. Today was her first day back at school and usually she'd be excited, but it felt like just another day she had to get through.
Aunt Jenna was in a rush as usual in the kitchen as Elena made her coffee. Jeremy was in a mood, as he always was these days. Their parent's death had triggered some sort of rebellious streak in him that scared Elena to death. The idea of losing her little brother too was too much pain for her to stand, and to see him taking drugs and staying out late every night worried her. She didn't take in much of the brief conversation in as she gratefully took in her morning caffeine, only reassuring Jenna that she and Jeremy would be fine. He was out the door before she was, but she was relieved when her best friend Bonnie finally showed up to catch her ride to school.
"Looking forward to a new year?" Bonnie asked her as they climbed into Elena's car.
"A new year and a new start." Elena smiled softly. She really hoped that was true. She wished she could really wake up inside and start living again, but she also knew that it would take time before every day wasn't a struggle anymore. Still, having something to do again, classes and socialising being chief, it would do her good; take her mind off things. Get her back to normal.
On the drive, Bonnie talked about her supposedly psychic visions and her alcoholic Grams' ramblings about her being a witch. Other than one hiccup, Elena drove them safely and unharmed into school. There was the usual excitement in the air as the student body flooded inwards towards the building. The Virginia sun was warm and kissed Elena's olive skin. And heading towards them, the usual smile on her face, was Caroline Forbes, her bright blonde hair glistening in the light.
"Are you ready for this?" Bonnie asked Elena as they paused to wait.
"For what? School or Caroline?" Elena quipped as the blonde came upon them.
"Hey! I've already scouted the place and none of the guys have gotten hotter over the summer. I mean, Josh Shales has bulked up, I guess to try out for the football team or whatever, but he still hasn't done anything about that acne and if anything it's worse because most of the girls have gotten hotter over the summer." Caroline rolled her eyes, launching as ever straight into matters without further ado. "I mean, Matt is as cute as ever and he totally asked me if I'd seen you today, Elena, but I told him you still weren't over your parents dying yet and-" Elena did not miss the widening of Bonnie's eyes in Caroline's direction after she made this rather callous statement. Caroline stammered, "I- I mean that in as sensitive a way as possible, obvs."
"Obvs." Elena smiled, trying to show that it was okay. And it was true, Caroline's thoughtlessness neither bothered nor surprised her. Caroline may be her friend but she was also somebody who'd eternally considered Elena a rival and that wasn't likely to change any time soon, even if Elena had 'checked out' of life as of late.
"Anyway, you guys are coming to the party aren't you?" Caroline asked, changing topics at the speed of light.
"I'll be there." Bonnie assured her with a smile.
But Elena was no longer paying any attention. Across the parking lot, over Caroline's shoulder, Elena had locked eyes with a stranger- an extremely familiar stranger. Her stomach twisted sickeningly as she recognised him. He was the one she'd been talking to when she waited for her parents to pick her up that night- the last person she'd spoken to before they'd skidded off Wickery Bridge and they'd died.
She didn't recall him ever telling her his name, but she would know those eyes anywhere. They stood out even from a distance; bright, piercing blue and intense, set in a chiselled face framed by dark hair. He wore the same black leather jacket she recalled him wearing that night and the rest of his clothing was also dark. He was leaning against his car, arms folded, but she knew that he was looking right back at her.
"Elena?" Bonnie repeated her name, but Elena was already gone, walking as if in a trance towards him, swatting Caroline's inquiring hand away. The man- he was definitely too old to be a high school student- saw her heading his way and stood up straight as if to make his way towards her, but then Elena's determined stride was broken.
"I'm sorry." Whoever she'd walked into caught her as she stumbled, righting her on her feet. She barely had a glance to spare for the guy whoever he was, and she made a vague acceptance of apology and one in return without even looking at him. She was still focused on the guy she'd been heading towards. She had to have answers, so badly, about that night, answers she felt he owed her. Nothing about that night added up in her head now, including the conversation she'd had with him before-
"Hey, erm, I'm sorry but I'm new here and I was told to check in at the reception. Where is that?" Elena looked away from the stranger for a second to look at the guy whom she'd slammed into. He was muscular, with brown-blonde hair and a strong jaw- attractive, by anyone's standards, but Elena hardly noticed. She glanced back toward where the guy had been standing but infuriatingly, he was gone. She spied his car pulling out of the parking lot and leaving. Clanging her teeth together in annoyance, Elena looked back at the guy at hand.
"It's straight through those doors over there." She pointed.
"Thanks…?" He said archly.
"Elena. Elena Gilbert." She forced a smile, reminding herself that it wasn't really his fault she'd missed her golden opportunity and that he was new in town; she ought to be more welcoming. However, her mind was already elsewhere so she merely managed a, "Sorry, I have to get to class," Before she departed.
Bonnie and Caroline caught up with Elena at her locker.
"Oh my God, who was that guy?" Caroline demanded, "And what was up with you before?"
"That guy was new in town. And I thought I saw somebody I knew…" Elena wasn't ready to elaborate on the dark haired stranger yet- she wasn't sure she'd ever be ready for that conversation. She busied herself with offloading some stuff into her locker.
"He seemed… different." Bonnie said in a strange voice. Elena glanced at her best friend, whose bright eyes seemed to be seeing something other than what was in front of her. Caroline just rolled her eyes, used to their friends' mysterious 'psychic' spacing's out.
"I've gotta get to class. Laters!" The blonde trilled, disappearing down the corridor.
"Did you get that guy's name?" Bonnie asked Elena distractedly, her voice still low and distant. It reminded Elena of how she felt on the inside most of the time these days, then sighed at her own internal commentary, rather like she was living inside an angsty boy-band's record.
"I… no, I didn't ask." Elena realised, surprised at herself. "Why?"
"I don't know, I just have a strange feeling… never mind." Bonnie hitched a smile back into place, "Let's get going."
A/N: I am so, so nervous about this! I am sorry if you feel like you've read a thousand 'if they'd met first' stories, I promise that I am going to work extremely hard to make sure that this is different and I hope you will all like it. I will be sticking to canon for the most part, outside of the obvious changes, so don't worry about that, but there will obviously be changes to the dialogue/scenes and stuff as a result of the whole 'butterfly effect' change here. So please be patient and above all please review!