“I know you want to stop it; protect her from it. But you’re young, you don’t see what I see.
It’s not just that she makes him a better person, and she does. But he changes her too.
Damon challenges her, surprises her. He makes her question her life, beliefs.
Stefan is different. His love is pure and he’ll always be good for her.
Damon is either the best thing for her, or the worst.”
Rose to Jeremy, 3x19
I’m a late-comer to the Vampire Diaries fandom. I’d hardly been aware of the show before then; I knew it was based on books I’d read a long, long time ago and that the show centered around a love triangle between a teenage human girl and two vampire brothers.
One afternoon in early December, 2011, I was browsing Netflix for something to watch and decided to give The Vampire Diaries a try. The first several episodes were cheesy, and I got a strong whiff of Kevin Williamson’s ‘soulmate’ shenanigans from Stefan and Elena, but I stuck with the show. I ended up watching the entire first two seasons over the course of the month, then managed to acquire (through magic, no really) the first nine episodes of the third season.
I was engrossed, absolutely captured by the show. In particular, I fell in fangirl love with the relationship between Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert, two parts of The Triangle of Doom.
Damon was born in 1840, and he died in 1864 along with his younger brother, Stefan, both with vampire blood in their systems. He was in love with Katherine, a vampire who played the brothers against each other and ultimately ruined their relationship. His love for Katherine would remain the driving force of his existence for the next 145 years. When we meet him at the beginning of the series, he’s a charming, sexy, cold-blooded murderer out of touch with his humanity. He’s in town to break Katherine out of a tomb he think she’s been trapped in since the night he died.
Elena is the doppelganger, a mystical duplicate, of Katherine. At the beginning of the series, she’s barely seventeen and only four months removed from a horrific car accident that resulted in the deaths of her parents. She meets Stefan and instantly falls for him, eventually learning about vampires and her doppelganger status.
Damon and Elena have undeniable chemistry from the moment they first interact, and they strike up a prickly friendship. They bug each other, primarily because she can be a wee bit self-righteous and he's basically an asshole with a faint grasp on morality.
Over the next three seasons, Damon and Elena’s relationship grows, changes shape and deepens. They are not a sparkly, fun, happy ship, though – Damon has hurt her, threatened to turn her and fed her his blood twice, snapped her younger brother’s neck (he lived, there was a magic ring). Damon doesn't really understand how to deal with his emotions, and he lashes out.
Because of all that, Elena understandably struggles to see the good in him, however close they may grow. She finds him overbearing, his love an unwanted obstacle at times. Damon has expressed out loud on more than one occasion that he will always choose to protect her life, regardless of what she wants for herself, regardless of whether she'll hate him for it. Even though Elena herself loves in the exact same way (see: having Damon compel Jeremy, twice) she deeply resents him for it, and lashes out him without fear. In the first gif, Damon has interrupted her suicidal plan to give herself over to Klaus in order to save everyone else. Everyone Else would rather she come up with a different plan. In the second gif, FROM THE SAME EPISODE, Damon is physically preventing Elena from rushing into a tomb after Stefan, which isn't a good idea because Katherine's trapped there with him. Take a good look at his 'hate me, whatever' face. (Stefan, meanwhile, is listening, and doesn't say a word.)
At the end of Season Two, as Damon laid dying in his bed from a werewolf bite, Damon apologized for all the wrong he'd done her, and she forgave him. He told her he loved her, and she accepted it, told him she already knew. He told her he didn't regret making the decisions he'd made in his life, because they lead to meeting her. When Damon said he wished she would have known him in 1864, because she would have liked him then, she said, "I like you now. Just the way you are." And then she gave him the kiss he craved, and he thanked her. She said, "You're welcome."
At the beginning of Season Three, Stefan has regressed to Ripper!Stefan, and Elena and Damon grow closer while he's away.
When Ripper!Stefan does come back, Klaus compels him to switch off his humanity and protect Elena. When plan after plan to save him from himself fails, Elena finally tries to convince Damon to let Stefan go. They'll survive without him.
After that, there's death and disaster (must be Thursday) and after Jeremy beheads a hybrid on their front porch, Elena asks Damon to compel her brother to leave town and go live with family friends in Colorado. Afterward, Elena thanks Damon for being there for her, that she wouldn't know what to do if he wasn't there. Damon admits to feeling guilty for wanting her, and that if he's going to feel guilty, he's going to feel guilty about THIS:
In the next episode, she tells him him can't kiss her again, that it's not right. He corrects her, saying, "It's right. Just not right now."
Over the next eight episodes, Damon professes his love angrily and is in turn angrily rejected, he sleeps with Rebekah, he kills and turns Bonnie's mother in order to save Elena's life, has more sex with people who aren't Elena, and while being tortured he hallucinates Elena coming to his rescue, swearing she won't leave him and feeding him her blood.
Stefan at this point has realized that there's no point in pursuing revenge on Klaus, because in the process he's lost everything. Elena tries to insist that he hasn't lost her, that she still loves him, but he tells her that she's also in love with Damon. She denies it, but when he demands she look him in the eye and tell him she doesn't feel anything for Damon, she can't. The two of them cook up a plan that involves Elena and Damon traveling to Denver to talk to Jeremy and bring him home, and to kill two birds with one stone, figure out what she feels for Damon while she's there.
In the next episode, in one of the first scenes, Elena asks Stefan to the 20s Dance. I don't know. Mayhem, catastrophe, witchery, desiccation and multiple deaths happen over the next few episodes. The entire season, every single character has either commented or out-right asked Elena about her Salvatore problem; in 3x21, while clincally draining Elena of her magical hybrid-making doppelganger blood, Klaus just has to know which brother she'd pick. Soon after, she gets her head knocked into the edge of a step.
In the finale, Elena makes her decision. To sum up a complicated situation, Elena is physically halfway between the brothers: Stefan is in Mystic Falls while Damon is 100 miles away. Both are likely to die within an hour and she only has time to get to one of them and say goodbye. Elena calls Damon and he asks her, "If it was just down to him and me, and you had to make a choice, who got the goodbye . . . who would it be?" The answer is Stefan. She softens the blow by saying, "Maybe if you and I had met first . . . " Damon gets off the phone and has his ass beaten by Evil!Alaric, only finding the will to fight back when he remembers that they did in fact meet first.
Elena doesn't remember it, because Damon compelled her to forget him because he didn't want people to know he was in Mystic Falls yet.
Meanwhile, Rebekah stands in the middle of Wickery Bridge, causing Matt to crash his truck over the side and into the lake. Helpfully, Rebekah had called Stefan to let him know she was pretty much going to do this, so he shows up to save her. Except she wants him to save Matt first, because she's Elena and and it's a full-circle situation and this is the place where he saved her. Her father had insisted that Stefan save Elena, and he did. This time, Elena insists he save Matt first. And because he's Stefan, and not Damon, he respects her wishes and saves Matt first. (Super slowly.)
Elena drowns, her death triggering the end of Evil!Alaric. One hundred miles away, Damon knows immediately that the woman he loves has died.
That morning, though, she'd woken up in the hospital after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage from hitting her head on the step, though Dr. Fell had told Jeremy it was just a concussion. Unbeknownst to everyone, she'd used vampire blood to heal Elena.
In the morgue, Elena wakes up in transition.
So that's where we're at.
For more insight into Damon/Elena from people who write metas and think thinky thoughts:
upupa_epops's Damon/Elena Shipper Manifesto, Parts I and II
badboy_fangirl's Damon/Elena Shipper Manifesto
On to the Fic Recs
In no specific order
No AU AH
Fic Rec #1: After the Storm
Why This Must Be Read: Set roughly four years in the future as Damon and Elena weather through the good and bad of their relationship. The writing is beautiful and this story really seems to capture how difficult maintaining a relationship with Damon could be. The sequel, Hold You For A Million Years (http://distant-lines.livejournal.com/16365.html) is equally, if not more, gorgeous and moving.
Fic Rec #2: Keep You Here And Human
Why This Must Be Read: Damon finds Elena directly after the events of season 3, and they have a conversation concerning the decision she needs to make, along with all the things that should be said before she decides.
Fic Rec #3: Another Flashing Chance
Why This Must Be Read: This fic includes one of my all-time favorite lines I've come across, in response to Elena's choice of Death Cab for Cutie: "Oh, Elena Gilbert, no," he said and switched the station. "I just picked you up at an obscenely reasonable hour of the morning so you could be terrible company despite the ridiculously attractive man chauffeuring you around in a classic car, the least you could do is pick some decent tunes."
Fic Rec #4: Conversations in Cars
Why This Must Be Read: This fic is fabulous and captures the strange friendship/hate-you vibe of Damon/Elena circa mid-Season Two.
Fic Rec #5: Out of My Mind
Why This Must Be Read: In 3x18, Rebekah toyed with the notion of compelling Damon to hurt Elena, and that thought gets fully explored in one of the most original fics I've come across in this fandom.
Fic Rec #6: Guide You Through
Why This Must Be Read: This is set directly after the Season 3 finale. Damon struggles to help her through transitioning.
Fic Rec #7: Pursuit
Why This Must Be Read: In the aftermath of making her choice, dying and transitioning into vampirism, Elena reevaluates what she needs and what she truly wants. This is one of the first, if not the first, post-Season Three finale fic to really take on transitioning Elena
Fic Rec #8: You Never Call Me When You're Sober
Why This Must Be Read: Set after 3x17. Damon and Elena indulge in some booze and brutal honesty.
Fic Rec #9: Glass
Why This Must Be Read: AU, set after the Season One finale, this fic assumes John Gilbert died after Katherine's attack. Damon is there to comfort her, and it's beautiful, the writing atmospheric and moody.
Fic Rec #10: Digressing Through Mist, Abiding Through Fire
Why This Must Be Read: Written late 2010/early 2011, this long, sprawling story features a road trip, saving Stefan from himself, blood exchanges and PianoPlaying!Damon before it was cool. Elena thought her life changed when she was 17-she was wrong. Three years later, the last shred of familiarity goes flying out the window. This is where her real life begins.
Fic Rec #11 A Corner of Your Heart
Why This Must Be Read: Written in early 2010, this is a future fic where Elena is in college and Stefan has gone off somewhere to get control of his Ripper ways. Damon is the best friend a girl could ask for.
Fic Rec #12: Bloodstream
Why This Must Be Read: Set Post S1 finale, Damon broods over how his moment with Elena on her porch was really shared with Katherine.
Fic Rec #13: I've Only Dreamed
Why This Must Be Read: Matt says, "Once you fall in love with someone, I don't know if you can ever shake them," and Elena's world explodes as she realises what this means with regards to her and Damon. A lovely insight into the shifting dynamics between Damon, Elena, and Stefan.
Fic Rec #14: Breaking Point
Why This Must Be Read: This is one of the best stories in the entire fandom. After discovering Bill Forbes had somehow learned how to fight compulsion, Elena wants to learn how and goes to Damon for help. Damon is Damon about it. The writing is just beautiful.
Fic Rec #15: And It's Hard to Dance With A Devil on Your Back
Why This Must Be Read: Set late Season Three, this fic delves into the aftermath of what Damon did in 3x17 and Elena confronts some hard truths.
Fic Rec #16: Pour a Little Salt, We Were Never Here
Why This Must Be Read: Damon and Elena attempt to exist in the aftermath of Stefan's departure. Just lovely writing, really.
Fic Rec #17: singing a bittersweet song
Why This Must Be Read: As Damon and Elena try to save the man they both love and understand what they are to one another, the rest of Mystic Falls settles back into normality. Damon and Elena think they finally have a lead, and maybe a way to save Stefan. A very good read with an interesting twist.
Fic Rec #18: Hungry Again
Why This Must Be Read: Elena's turned. Mortality, man. It's an issue. Near(ish) future. (Written in 2010)
Fic Rec #19: i don't have a choice (but i still choose you)
Why This Must Be Read: Post 3x17, based on speculation for 3x18, and so much better than what we got in terms of how Elena handled the situation.
Fic Rec #20: Shiver
Why This Must Be Read: She knew this river, this place, what it had already taken from her. She did not want to go back into that water. Written 2010.
Fic Rec #21 Between
Why This Must Be Read: When right and wrong fail and black and white blur, all that is left between them is goodbye. Dark Damon/Elena with strong Stefan/Elena overtones. Be warned. Not really a happily ever after.
Note: This is set after the 'Maybe that's the problem!' heard 'round the world and immediately after Damon turned Abby. The author is seriously pissed by the direction the season took and explains her bleak view in her author's note. It's still a fantastic story. Especially if you like your Damon POV on the bitter side.
Fic Rec #22: the minor fall, the major lift
Why This Must Be Read: She thinks she'd like to be loved like that.
Fic Rec #23: 3:18
Why This Must Be Read: Begins post 3x08 and explores what might have happened. Goes dark, and features the best Ripper!Stefan I've come across.
5:53 | 11:27 | 2:30 | 7:22
Note: This story seems to have been abandoned but still well worth reading.
Fic Rec #24: Can't Let You Fall Apart
Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7828127/1/Cant_Let_You_Fall_Apart">Can't Let You Fall Apart
Why This Must Be Read: Alternative version of the events after 3x11. Stefan carries out his threat and now Elena is going to become a vampire. Does it mean Klaus is going to leave them alone now? Where does that leave her and Damon? How does she really feel about it?
Fic Rec #25: Consumed
Why This Must Be Read: Was the kiss at the end of "The New Deal" really worth feeling guilty about? Elena isn't so sure. Goes AU from the end of 3x10 and explores an alternate Season Three.
Note: This story shows the progression of a writer from 'good' to someone capable of 'excellent.' I mean, there's missing punctuation in the very first line. The first part of it seems a little too fluffy, a teensy bit cheesy, but then the story begins to grow and the characterizations flesh out a more and more. The writing by the end is amazing.
"Do you feel that?" Damon asked quietly. She nodded. "Imagine that's all you can hear, Elena. Imagine that sound is roaring in your ears like the ocean. Not just the beat of your heart, but the sound of the blood pounding in your veins. I can tell that your blood pressure is high from anxiety, can hear the sheer weight of red blood cells crushing against the inside of your arteries. I can hear the fear in every breath you take, Elena, and that kills me." His fingers trailed against her neck, and she froze, like a mouse trembling before a hawk. "But part of it makes me so fucking hard it's all I can do not to hold you down and take you in every sense of the word. You sound and smell and feel and taste like food and sex and life and death. And so does every other person on this planet, Elena. Every minute of every day."
Fic Rec #26: Dark Stars Shine Bright
Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8275588/1/Dark_Stars_Shine_Bright">Dark Stars Shine Bright
Why This Must Be Read: Post 3x22 - He said he'd leave, but he said a lot of things. In the end, things aren't ever quite what you expect - but they usually end up being exactly like you need them. Damon/Elena - Warnings for language, adult situations, violence, and general bitterness.
Note: This author is bittercakes over the show. You can tell. Still an awesome story so far, although Damon is veering close to mean and Elena is nearly feral.
Fic Rec #27: That looks on tempests and is never shaken
Rating/Warning(s): M, DARK
Why This Must Be Read: After the events on Wickery Bridge, Elena transitions. But what kind of vampire will she be?
Special Reccer's Note: I'm a stuck-up snotty snob when it comes to fic, and this one has a few technical issues (everyone seems British and there's a strong whiff of crack!fic sometimes), but the story is awesome and original. I mean, Elena's a Smasher (compassion amplified leads to tearing down buildings when she's upset, Damon fears for his nice things), Damon's running for Mayor (against KLAUS!), Elijah takes Elena away after she does a VERY BAD NO GOOD AWFUL SHOCKING thing I never thought I'd see in a fic, there's a long-distance romance between D/E, and Damon refers to and speaks to Matt as <i>Matt Fucking Donovan</i> throughout the entire 80k fic. Even after he moves Matt and Jeremy into the boarding house (and gets him a new truck and helps him qualify for state health insurance!). The entire ensemble, Katherine and the Originals included, is featured.
Fic Rec #28: Nothing To Write Home About
Why This Must Be Read: Elena knows that her story is terribly written. It goes in circles, and no matter what she does, now matter how hard she tries to move on and have a normal life, Damon is a recurring theme. The writing is fantastic and makes you want to squeeze both of them so you can stop feeling what they're feeling.
Fic Rec #29: Healed By the Same
Why This Must Be Read: He kidnaps her on a Thursday, picking her up from school on a day when Stefan never turned up because of other pressing issues (read: Klaus finally came to town). This story involves the two of them staying in an old farmhouse and riding horses and watching a marathon of The West Wing (they ship Josh/Donna!) while the sexual tension builds and builds deliciously between them. What. More. Do. You. Want.
Fic Rec #30: Self-Inflicted Wounds
Why This Must Be Read: Spoilers through 2:22-As I Lay Dying. "If I had chosen differently, I never would have met you." Elena chose to kiss Damon. Stefan chose human blood. Katherine chose redemption. Damon chose to confess. These choices change everything. D/E, S/K.
This is hands-down one of the best stories I've ever read in any fandom for any pairing. I rec it everywhere. The writing is excellent, the story is well-plotted, there's action, adventure, romance, road-tripping, angst, tension, heartbreak, violence, hurt/comfort, sex, multiple pairings/characters are fully featured.
The sequel, Down a Crooked Path, is a WIP nearing the end. It has a tighter focus on Damon/Elena, with a strong Stefan/Katherine presence, and it's romantic, heart-wrenching, sickening, aching, sexy, hilarious, sweet and sad. At the beginning of the story, Damon and Elena have been together for three years, and each chapter features a flashback that shows how the two of them work hard to form a lasting, functional relationship, despite their differences and problems.