Hello again! I didn't think I'd be back so soon with a new fic, but this idea caught me and wouldn't let go until I started writing.

A big, HUGE thank you goes to Layla Reyne who is such an amazing beta. She helped me with everything from the title, to the summary, to even placement of different scenes. I'd wither and die without her.

Also a thank you goes to Kate, ThisIsMyEscape for prereading everything for me. And for inspiring me to really go in deep on this one.

In this story, Elena will seem very OOC at times, but it's all in my master plan. This story is projected to have a sequel and could possibly be a trilogy. TSAS will get pretty heavy at times and deals with quite a few dark subjects. So beware. And if you've read any of my previous stories, there will be angst.

Rated M for language and adult situations.

"Damon Salvatore?"

Damon glanced up from his book and made eye contact with a middle-aged woman holding a folder full of papers. He placed his bookmark between the pages, snapped his book shut and rose from his seat, slinging his messenger bag over his shoulder as he walked over to where she stood.

"I'm Carol Lockwood," she said, holding out her hand. "I'll be going over your schedule with you today."

He shook Mrs. Lockwood's outstretched hand and followed her past the admissions desks and into the back where there were rows and rows of cubicles. Hers was near the back, with a window that let in the Virginia sun.

"Please have a seat, Mr. Salvatore," she said, indicating to the empty chair across from her desk.

While she rifled through her folder of papers, Damon took in the small cubicle. There were pictures of who he assumed was her son and her husband. There was also plenty of MFU memorabilia. In fact, her small space looked like someone had puked black and crimson all over it. Technically, Mystic Falls University wasn't even in Mystic Falls, but who was he to complain? The school was giving him a full ride for his senior year so that he'd swim for them, and he wasn't saying no to a full ride and a spot on the number one nationally-ranked swim team. The school may have been small, but it could kick some serious ass in the pool.

"Okay, I have your transcripts from the University of Tennessee, and it looks like everything transfers correctly, though you still need a Life Science credit, but you can get that knocked out this semester," she said, a pair of glasses balancing precariously on the tip of her nose. "Just give me a few minutes, and I'll have your schedule printed right up."

He nodded at her and sat back in the chair, trying to look at anything but black and red and failing miserably. He reminded himself of what an opportunity this was. It was a chance to get away from his asshole of a father, break off an engagement that he wasn't fully committed to any longer, and move far away from home with his little brother, Stefan, who was also offered a full ride.

"Here you go," Mrs. Lockwood said, handing over a small stack of papers all stapled together. "This is your schedule, a list of the rooms where your classes are held, a campus map and your meal card."

"Thank you," Damon replied as politely as possible, when he really just wanted to get out of there and to the pool.

He stuffed the papers in his bag, including the map, because, compared to UT, this place was tiny. He'd find his way around easy enough, and he didn't want to call attention to himself as the new guy. He hitched his bag over his shoulder and exited the administration building, heading straight for the pool. Thank God there was somewhere he belonged in this quiet little town. It was nothing like Knoxville, but he didn't mind that so much. He needed a change and a change is what he got.

The campus was overrun with green. Vines crawled up the walls of the old brick buildings, the trees were huge and their roots stretched across the grass, even pushing up some of the concrete sidewalks that lined the main quad. The place looked like a smaller version of the Harvard campus. It was beautiful here; he had to give them that. It was like entering a whole other world.

The late summer sun was warm and the humidity was pretty killer, but there was plenty of shade as he walked through campus. He only had to survive here for a year and then he could do anything he wanted, live anywhere he wanted. He couldn't wait. And really MFU wasn't so bad. After being practically disowned by his father, he didn't have enough money saved to finish school at UT, so when this scholarship came along, it was an easy answer to all of his problems.

Damon's father wanted him primed and ready to take his place as CEO of Salvatore Hotels. It was the very last thing Damon wanted for his future. True, he loved to travel, but he wanted to be in places rich with history and culture, not tourist traps that only boasted a blue ocean and sandy beaches. He didn't want to put on a three-piece tailored suit every day and discuss all-inclusive resorts; he wanted to wear his jeans and boots while teaching students to think outside of five-star hotels. He wanted to teach them to dig deeper, look harder, do their research, and really learn something. The last place Damon wanted to be was cooped up in some stuffy conference room breathing recycled air. It wasn't what he loved. It wasn't what he wanted.

He made his way to the aquatic center, changed and stored his things in the locker room and then stepped out onto the pool deck and dove straight into the water. Swimming was his release, the only way he could escape life for just a little while. It started when he was a kid, right after Damon's mother died. His father couldn't stand to look at him, because he reminded him too much of her. As a kid, he loved and idolized his father, and he hated seeing him in pain, especially when Damon knew it was because of him. He started to hate being at home, even to the point that when school let out for summer, Damon counted down the days until classes were back in session. So he spent the long summer days at the local pool or the swimming hole near his house. He would swim and swim until the streetlights came on, and he knew he had to head home. When he was out swimming, he actually felt normal, like he was any other kid.

And so, finding himself in a place he'd never been, surrounded by people he'd never met, he did the only thing he knew. He swam.

Damon's first appointment on Monday morning was with a Professor Saltzman. On Friday afternoon, he'd received an email asking if he was willing to TA for a History professor whose assistant dropped out at the last minute. He'd immediately said yes. It was an awesome opportunity to assist any professor, but one doing the same thing he wanted to do… He couldn't have said no.

Professor Saltzman's office was like a library. A very small, very messy library. There were books shoved haphazardly into bookcases and knickknacks and souvenirs dotted all the available surface space. The large desk in the middle of the room was covered in papers and open books.

"Professor Saltzman?"

The sandy-haired man in the midst of the mess whirled around at the sound of his name. He was much younger than Damon imagined; he looked only a few years older than himself.

"Are you Mr..." He looked down at one of the papers on his desk. "Sal-va-tore?"

"Damon," he supplied, holding his hand out between them.

"Pleased to meet you," Professor Saltzman said with a gruff grin. "You can call me Alaric or Ric, whichever. Thank you for accepting this position on such short notice. My original TA dropped out just before I was informed that I had a new student transferring into the department. Works out for both of us, I guess."

"I'm happy to do it. How can I help?" Damon asked, glancing around the cluttered office, wondering where they'd even start.

Alaric rifled through the papers on his desk before finding a giant stack and handing it to Damon. "I promise the jobs will be more entertaining than this, but can you staple these copies of the syllabus together?"

Damon nodded and took a seat to get started. Alaric chatted happily while he desperately tried to get organized. Damon appreciated Alaric's laid back personality, but his laid back organizational system needed some serious help. Alaric told Damon that he'd just started working at MFU last semester. He, too, moved to Mystic Falls from a large city. It was a relief for Damon to find someone he had common ground with, even if it was a Professor.

"So, how do you like living in this tiny town?" Damon asked, having moved onto getting Ric's filling cabinets in order.

"I love it. It's really rich in history," Alaric said, getting so caught up in what he was saying that he completely abandoned the mess on his desk, leaning forward on his elbows, right on top of the papers. "Did you know there are still families that live here whose ancestors actually founded the town?"

Damon stopped what he was doing, also getting distracted from the mess of Ric's office. "I had no idea."

"And it was said that, at one point in the mid-1800's, the town was crawling with vampires. So much so that the town banded together to lock the vampires up in an old church and burn the place to the ground," Alaric said, his eyes lighting up with enough excitement to fill the small office and to stoke Damon's curiosity. He was such a sucker for places with old stories like those. It was exhilarating to him to hear the stories and folklore behind any place and wonder if they were true or not.

By the time he left Alaric's office, he was much more excited about living in Mystic Falls. He couldn't wait to find out more about the town, the folklore, the history, the people, all of it. Though by lunchtime, Damon found himself at a table full of his teammates wondering how he never noticed before that this place was basically a high school with ashtrays. The students gossiped like high schoolers, even hung out in cliques like high schoolers. It was all very entertaining to watch, for about five minutes.

"Dude, you'll never guess who just walked in," his teammate, Matt, said, hitting his other teammate, Tyler - son of his academic advisor - in the arm. Damon glanced around the dining hall, trying to catch a glimpse of the person they were talking about. All he saw was the most beautiful girl he'd ever laid eyes on. The first thing he noticed, after tearing his gaze away from her face, was that she was in a long sleeved shirt and jeans. In September. It wasn't even close to being chilly out, especially not in the middle of the afternoon.

"You've gotta be shitting me!" Tyler gasped under his breath, but Damon barely registered his words. He was too enthralled by the girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes. She walked through the room as if she owned it, yet glares and whispers seemed to follow her every step.

"I can't believe she'd show her face here again," someone else muttered and Damon turned back to his teammates, realizing they were all watching the same girl as him. Only their reactions were almost the complete opposite of his. He looked back at her and watched while she ordered her lunch.

"Who is she?" Damon asked, still keeping his eyes on her as she crossed the room with a tray full of food and placed it on an empty table, sitting by herself and not looking the slightest bit fazed by it.

"Someone you want to stay far, far away from," Tyler said, still shooting her death glares that made Damon want to punch him in the jaw.

"She looks harmless to me," Damon replied, watching as she flipped her hair over a shoulder and dug into her food, seemingly still without a care in the world despite the entire student population avoiding her like the plague. Every nerve ending in his body stood at attention.

"That's what everyone thinks at first, and she used to be harmless," Tyler said, shaking his head, ashamed. "We dated for a while last year. It was cool and the sex was insane, but the chick has issues. She'd show up at my place in the middle of the night, she'd never talk about her family, and she was always so secretive. I got tired of it and dumped her. She got pissed and slept with half of the school."

"Sounds like a woman scorned to me," Damon said, still not seeing the same girl as them.

"That's not the half of it," Tyler continued, leaning in like he was getting to the good part. "One day in class last year, some chicks were talking about what a slut she'd become and she flipped the fuck out. Just started screaming, crying and breathing all funny, and then she threatened to open a vein right there in the middle of class. They had to call in an ambulance to take her away, and she spent the summer in the psychiatric ward down at MF General."

Okay, now he was beginning to understand. Sort of.

"All that, just over a break up?" Damon asked, earning himself several looks that suggested he was the crazy one.

"Like I said, the girl is crazy, and I wish I would've seen it sooner," Tyler finished, holding his hands up indicating he'd washed his hands of her. "Stay away from that chick. The sex may be explosive, but she is certifiably insane. I'm surprised she even showed her face here again."

His teammates all nodded their heads in agreement, and Damon glanced back over his shoulder at the girl they claimed was crazy. He looked hard, studying her face and body language, but he couldn't see what the rest of them saw. She seemed perfectly normal, not to mention drop dead gorgeous. In fact, her appearance combined with Tyler's claim that she was insane in the sack was making certain parts of his anatomy really uncomfortable in his jeans. He needed to get a hold of himself.

The guys resumed talking about whatever collegiate douche bags talked about, but Damon couldn't take his eyes or mind off of her. If what they said about her was true, it must've been hard showing her face again in this school where everyone knew everyone else's business. But there she was, looking like she didn't give a flying fuck about everyone else. He already liked her.

Damon forced his mind away from the mysterious crazy girl when he realized he had about six minutes to high tail it to his next class. He dumped his trash and grunted a "later" to his teammates before hauling ass to the Biology building. He filed into the auditorium style classroom and wondered if the entire student body could fit in here. He was being dramatic, but it was an awfully large classroom, totally unlike the ones he had been in earlier that day. The student population here wasn't really that low, but after coming from a school like UT, it was a huge difference.

Damon took a seat in the middle row, at about the center of the classroom and the projector screen, and absentmindedly watched the class fill up. To his pleasant surprise, the mystery girl entered through the door right behind the professor. She walked into the classroom like she walked into the dining hall, as if she owned the damn place. Mystery girl sat herself in the front row, exactly six rows in front of him.

"Good afternoon. I'm Professor Mullins and this is Human Anatomy and Physiology. Class Number 22393. If that's not the class you signed up for, then I'd advise you to leave now." Their nerdy-looking professor glanced around expectantly and seemed pleased when no one got up to leave his class. "Alright, this is going to be a tough semester, so I've assigned you all a study partner who will also be your lab partner."

He pulled out a sheet of paper. "When I call your name, find your partner, and take a few minutes to get to know them, because they will be your lifeline for this class. If your partner is not here, please come see me." Then he set to work listing off last names of those who'd be partnered up.

"Salvatore paired with Gilbert," he said, and Damon glanced around the room to find a pair of big doe eyes staring up at him. He wasn't sure whether to be excited or horrified. He was paired with a girl who was rumored to be insane, even if she was the most gorgeous girl he'd ever seen. Despite the warnings from his teammates, his heart rate picked up knowing he'd have an excuse to be near her all semester.

She kept staring at him, and a few seconds later it clicked that she was waiting for him to move his ass down to the front row.

"Hi," Damon said, plopping himself into the fold down seat next to her.

"Hey," she replied, her voice sounding like music. Oh God, he would gladly listen to her read him the phonebook with that voice.

"Damon." He held his hand out, and she shook it with a small smile turning up the corners of her mouth. Up close, he got the full effect of her beauty. She had big dark brown eyes, full beautiful lips and olive toned skin that begged him to reach out and touch it to see if it was as soft as it looked.

"Elena." Even her name sounded like music.

"You a Biology major?" He asked quietly while the professor continued to read out partner assignments.

She gave a smirk. "Nope. Journalism. You?"

"History," Damon replied, a matching smirk on his lips. "Looks like we're screwed."

"As long as you are good with the lecture portion, we'll survive. I'm great at memorizing, so I'll take care of us in lab, but horrible at scientific concepts," she said with a light laugh. He was totally enthralled, all thoughts of her questionable mental state chased from his mind.

"I think I can handle lecture," he replied.

Her smile grew bigger, more genuine. "Then I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership."

Thank you so much for stopping by to read.

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