Love Always Wakes the Dragon (Damon/Elena meta)

Dec 12, 2011 22:45

I'm terribly late with fics for the meme, but I have this awkward feeling that if I was late with the meta, my head would roll (I'm looking at you, Frances), so here I am. The post is freakishly long, which may or may not imply that I have no life. I regret nothing. The banner was made for me by juana-a for another Damon/Elena meta, and I'm shamelessly recycling. The title comes from Richard Siken's “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out”. The screencaps I'm using belong to ladymanson. The thoughts, I'm afraid, are mine.

Banner made by juana-a. Quote from "Little Lion Man" by Mumford And Sons.

My first instinct was to write this meta chronologically. Just describe step by step how this relationship was developing, and end with a big speculation paragraph explaining how, obviously, my idea for future Damon/Elena is the only acceptable idea ;). But then: I've read metas like that. They were damn good metas. I might have two or three new things to add, but not enough to make this post worth reading for anyone who is at least remotely interested in the ship; we've been through the whole “Damon tries to seduce her to mess with Stefan => she shows compassion => Georgia => Katherine not in the tomb etc” thing, haven't we? So that's not how this meta is going to work. Screw chronology. Let's talk about themes.

Warnings: This is a Damon/Elena meta prompted by ever-neutral for my December Meme of Doom. No functional relationships will be found in this post. No shipwars will be found in this post. Not enough graphics will be found in this post, because I have no Photoshop skills :(. All the romantic delusions that can be found in this post belong solely to Damon. Oh, and there are spoilers up to TVD 3x09.

Love Always Wakes the Dragon
A Big Damn Damon/Elena Meta

1. Do you trust me?

I often hear that Damon and Elena have quite an awkward friendship, because, if it wasn't for Stefan, they wouldn't really have anything to talk about. It's true... to some extent.

Elena: I think I got Rebekah on our side, too.
Damon: Really? What'd you learn from her?
Elena: I learned that she's just a girl, then she lost her mom too young, and she loves blindly and recklessly, even if it consumes her.
TVD 3x08, Ordinary People

When Elena talks about Rebekah, it's clear that she's thinking about herself, but then the camera goes to Damon, and guess what? Damon, even though he might've read Elena's intentions correctly, is also thinking about himself.

Of course communication is important in friendships, but in this friendship? Not so much. They don't have communication, because they have an understanding. They can't talk about stuff, because their relationship is based on sharing things they don't talk about. Damon, for Elena, is about how she thinks that she's one of the monsters. Elena, for Damon, is about how he thinks that he's still more human than anybody would think he might be.

Hence their awkward conversations about trust. Because, logically, Elena just can't trust Damon in 3x09. As goldy-dollar pointed out to me, he's broken her trust so many times it would be stupid for her to trust him. And yet she does, and it's not stupid. It's just that, at this point, Damon is predictable for Elena (or at least this is how she feels about him; there are things that the viewer knows and Elena doesn't, and they shed a different light on the matters between Damon and Elena). She knows when he might go behind her back. She knows when he may snap. She knows she has some emotional power over him. Elena's trust isn't based on Damon's good intentions, it's based on her knowledge of what he might actually do.

I don't deny it, it is a weird friendship, but then Damon and Elena aren't the healthiest people on this planet, and the fact that their friendship is twisted doesn't make it any less real.

2. Damon is discomfort. Damon is comfort.

Now, Elena's attitude towards Damon can be played on two levels: psychological and metaphorical. Let's be nerds and start with the latter.

Elena is the central part of a triangle - and I'm not talking about a love triangle. As much as I'd love it, there is no actual threesome, at least not yet. But there is a sort of a “narrative triangle” working, and, since it's so important in the structure of the show, I think it should be the context to read Elena.

Of course there are other interpretations possible, and there is more to Stefan and Damon than I'm about to do with them, but let's just accept this reading for the sake of the argument, because I believe it provides us with an interesting angle on Elena's attitude towards Damon.

Let's assume that the Salvatores aren't characters on their own behalf - they are just symbols of two sides of Elena's personality.

Of course it starts out as a binary opposition, because it's TVD, and they enjoy setting up binary oppositions (mostly in order to screw with them until there's nothing left). So Stefan is functional when Damon is dysfunctional, Stefan is reasonable when Damon is impulsive, Stefan is kind when Damon is passionate, Stefan is altruistic when Damon is selfish, Stefan is under control when Damon is wild. And Elena doesn't want to be Damon. Of course she actually IS Damon (see: section 1), and she doesn't try to deny it (they have an understanding), but she is not comfortable about it, and, as long as Stefan keeps up being the good brother, Elena finds it in herself to keep in check this “other” part of her personality, and this results in her being constantly uncomfortable around Damon. But as soon as Stefan starts slipping up, the symbolics of Damon collapses as well (the brothers only work as symbols when they're juxtaposed). So we can have Elena being visibly embarassed when she meets shirtless, drunk Damon in 1x15 A Few Good Men, but sitting comfortably with her legs on his lap in 1x20 Blood Brothers. It could've been two weeks tops for her, and yet she's moved so far for no good reason. Well, there is a reason: Damon can only work as a metaphorical source of discomfort when Stefan is working as a metaphorical source of comfort.

In s3 the game changes.

It's not Stefan vs Damon any more. Is memory of Stefan vs Damon, and the beauty of memories is that they don't let us down. Elena talks herself into believing that Stefan had some sort of personality transplant and he is not “the real Stefan”, so whatever he does, cannot break her dychotomy of safety. It breaks on its own accord, because Elena is getting darker and darker, and she can't really play it the safe way, not any more. It happens gradually: she gives up on looking for Stefan in 3x03, she is victimized by him in 3x05, she stabs him in 3x06, she witnesses the horrors of “Lexi Detox” in 3x07. The bed scene from 3x08 has a surprising parallel in 3x09 - Elena stabs Rebekah in the back. Those two scenes seem completely different, and yet they're essentially the same; it's Elena acknowledging her dark side, first metaphorically (by letting Damon stay in her bed and showing how comfortable she is with it), then literally (by doing something ruthless).

We could say that for the first two seasons Elena was othering the darker aspects of her personality by othering Damon, and once she had to embrace her darker side in order to survive all the horrors of early s3, she stopped othering Damon, because it just lost any sense to her.

Now, the psychological interpretation is much more down-to-Earth.

I believe we've been talking about it with ever-neutral: Elena's attitude towards Damon is somehow a reflection of her attitude towards her own sexuality, and I'm not talking about fancy metaphores. Damon is an attractive man, and Elena does find him attractive (see: Caroline calling her out on it in 3x04), but at the same time this is a forbidden attraction, because, essentially, Elena believes that she shouldn't bone a hot guy she doesn't love. This is one of her rules, and yet Damon keeps the interactions between them sexualized on some level (innuendos, “accidental” touch, flashing, opening her underwear drawer etc). He is provocative and abusive, and there is nothing attractive about that, but there is still something attractive about HIM, and Elena is constantly uncomfortable around him, because she doesn't want this attraction. She wouldn't go for it, she doesn't want to have sex with Damon, but she can feel this attraction on a very physical level, and she acts out by constantly showing him how uncomfortable she is.

In s3 everything gets at least a bit blurry, and, after seeing so many horrors and crossing so many lines, the unwanted, inappropriate attraction doesn't seem so bad. It's still unwanted, and Elena still wouldn't have sex with Damon, but now she has things that bother her much more, so she doesn't feel the need to express her discomfort the way she used to. She needs Damon as an ally, and his friendship is important for her. The “comfort” factor outweights the “discomfort” factor. It doesn't mean that the discomfort disappears, or that it lessens; it doesn't, there are just other things, not connected to sexuality, that make her react more positively.

3. She looks like Katherine

There is one very important thing about Damon/Elena that is rarely discussed in fandom - Damon isn't over Katherine.

Let's not get into some simplified, lazy interpretation here: we are not talking about rebound girls, and we certainly are not engaging into a shipwar. There will be no “whose love is more true”. We are just noticing a few simple facts. It's not about Damon not being able to tell the difference between Elena and Katherine. He knows they are two separate beings (he just gets fooled when Katherine wants to fool him, and it's not like he is the only one). Damon isn't over Katherine. Damon really is into Elena. Damon loves them both. Damon used to be this boy full of romantic delusions, and when he was turned into a vampire, it all got magnified. Damon loves the idea of being in love.

This kind of relationship is usually harmful to the loved rather than the loving, but here it goes another way round. Damon doesn't try to shape Elena to fit the image he has in his head, because this image has nothing to do with her; it's ultimately selfish. Damon just wants a person to love, and he will take anything he can get. Elena is good and sweet? Fine with him. Elena is getting more and more like Katherine? Fine with him. Katherine did some unspeakable things to him, and he still loves her, so I can't imagine what Elena would have to do for Damon to think she went too far. Probably set him on fire. Although even that might not help.

This kind of unconditional love is incredible and terrible at the same time. Damon has no standards, Damon has no expectations; he will embrace everything that's worst about Elena, and he will do it happily. He loves her blindly, and it has every potential to destroy him. It's also a bit destructive for Elena, because when she starts spiriling down (or has she already started?), Damon will be the first to notice, but he will not react in a way a friend would. He will follow her when Caroline, Bonnie or Alaric would try to support her. It's not about saving Elena; it's about a healthy friendship. The understanding and acceptance Damon has for Elena may be amazing and liberating for her, but there also is a dark side to it. As the story with Katherine shows, Damon takes things to the extreme, and that never ends well.

4. Be the Better Man

Elena, on the other hand, is full of expectations, and I'll try to be brief about it, because this topic is widely discussed. Basically the point is that, as the show goes, Elena develops a habit of using her emotional power over Damon in order to blackmail him into being the better man. Let me remind you one s2 scene:

Elena: Please don't do anything stupid.
Damon: Yeah, but stupid is so much more fun.
Elena: Damon, I mean it. All I'm asking is you try to keep it together. Be the better man.
Damon: Ok, then.
TVD 2x13, Daddy Issues

She isn't even trying to be subtle about it. If Damon wants to be in her life, he needs to obey certain rules. It makes sense, to some extent; Damon is an unstable, psychotic vampire, and Elena shows some good judgement by being afraid of what he might do. But, at the same time, having so much emotional power over someone is destructive for her, especially since Damon stops standing up to her (he acted out in 3x04, and that would be it; when he came back after that, he told her he would never leave her). Elena can keep Damon in check, but there is a price; their relationship cannot be equal, because Damon has lost most of his power (see: section 2; even when he was obeying her, he used to be able to intimidate Elena by using his sexuality, and after 3x08 he lost this kind of power over her). Elena is flawed, because she is human, and having that much power wouldn't be healthy for anyone. Damon is submissive. He gives in. Elena has manipulative tendencies. This is not a good combination.

What I'm trying to show is that the best things about Damon/Elena (Damon's unconditional love, Elena's capability of making Damon the better man) are at the same time the worst things about them; everything awesome in this ship has a darker side, an understanding can turn into abuse for both of them, there is a history of crossing the line and causing pain on both sides. Of course we could argue who is more guilty, and we could try to count who is more harmful, but this is a relationship, not a tennis match. It's a wonderful relationship, and it's a terrible relationship at the same time. It's both harmful and helpful, productive and destructive, supportive and abusive. You can't bring out the best without bringing out the worst. Elena tells Damon she believes in him, and he murders someone, because he can't bear Elena's faith. Damon loves Elena so much he force-feeds her his blood, and I doubt she will ever forgive him. When Elena stabs Rebekah, it's Damon who helps her hide the body. This is why I love this ship so much. The good and the bad are so tangled together it's impossible to make heads or tails out of it, and every time you stir it, you get a slightly different shade of gray. Love always wakes the dragon.

5. Oh my God, are you twelve?

Let's take a minute to talk about the ultimate idiot ship. It's gonna be epic.

Damon: How you doing?
Elena: Um, freaking out a bit. You?
Damon: Cool as a cucumber. Come on, remember the last decade dance? The vampires were all, "ahh!" And you were all, "aahh!"
Elena: Right. And we won.
Damon: Yes! We did .
TVD 2x18, The Last Dance

The silliness seems a little gratuitious, and yet it's hard to have a full image of what Damon/Elena is without taking it into account. Silliness, for them, is the way to avoid talking about things they don't want to talk about. Sometimes they use it just for fun, but mostly it's a shield: something they do not to expose themselves too much, and something they use to wield power over each other. Look at the way Damon uses his sexuality here (again, those thoughts are the result of a discussion with ever-neutral): he behaves like an idiot, that's true, but at the same time he tries to intimidate Elena with his body. He tries to throw her off balance, up to the point when he actually pushes her into a stream, and then confronts her about the kiss they shared in 2x22 in such a childish way the viewer can't help but wonder what's wrong with this guy.

The idiocy is supposed to help with self-confidence, it replaces the actual communication, it is communication itself. Damon and Elena don't exactly develop a habit of openly sharing their feelings with each other. Poking fun is safer.

6. Neither of us is broken enough to talk about it.

Let's sum it all up with some speculation. So far this entire post was about what Damon/Elena is, about power, friendship, and abuse, and sexual tension, and now it's time to talk about what it's not, what it would or wouldn't be in the future, and what it should never become. In short: let's speculate about Damon/Elena as a sexual/romantic relationship.

Damon/Elena will not happen any time soon, and it shouldn't. Just look at Elena. A girl needs to be far more screwed up than she is to know exactly what Damon is and still have sex with him. He is insane, and abusive, and uncontrolable, and have I mentioned batshit crazy? Sexual tension or not, nothing like that is going to happen now. Right now Elena is attracted to Damon, but she would never let anything go further. Come on, haven't you ever had a crush on a guy you totally shouldn't? A guy you'd never sleep with, because he is just so WRONG, but hey, he is hot and a girl has eyes? There is a difference between feeling sexual attraction and actually wanting to have sex with someone.

Damon/Elena may be a happy relationship, to some extent, but it'll never be a healthy relationship, because the “understanding” they have goes too deep under their skin. Each of them associates the other with the aspect of the self they are othering (bad pun is bad). It's not about destiny or undying love. Those are the symbols they made up in their own heads; they GAVE each other so much significance, and now they're stuck with it, because they need each other, on a very basic level: they have something supernatural going after them all the time (or they're dumb enough to go after somethins supernatural), and neither of them could survive this alone. They might comfort each other, they might find solace in what they have, but a healthy, balanced and funcional relationship is out of the question without some major personality transplants.

Damon/Elena would be romantic. Because Damon is a performer, and he was brought up in the 19th century, with certain set of symbols and prejudices that got kicked into his head. For him, love is worship. This True, Real, Human Love he used to dream about as a boy. So yes, he would pull all the classic, cheesy tricks from bad novels, but that's it. An act. Elena might let it go for a short while, but if she doesn't put a stop on this show, then Damon definitely will, because that' not the only performance he needs to carry out.

Damon/Elena would be harsh, maybe even abusive. Because Damon is a part of a circle of abuse that doesn't break overnight, because Elena is getting manipulative and ruthless, and they are both under circumstances that will probably bring out the worst in them. Because they are both selfish. Because they are both angry. Because, despite the fact that they aviod communicating, they expose themselves (look at Damon in 3x09; we've seen him having angry outbursts like that before, but we've never seen him having them in front of other people) and they are honest , and when people like that are honest, ugly things come to the surface. Because she can be dark with him, and he can be vulnerable with her, but neither is noble or fair enough to do it without collateral damage.

Damon/Elena would be friendly. Help-you-move-the-body, could-call-you-in-the-middle-of-a-night, I-will-never-leave-you kind of friendly. They are a team. They share things they would never share with anyone else. If they weren't so fucked up, they could probably take over the world. They could never not be fucked up.

Damon/Elena is not a ship that would have exceptionally good sex. They'd have angry sex and comfort sex, clumsy sex and drunk sex, selfish sex and sex that fulfills their deepest fantasies, tender sex and rough sex, real emotions and performance, understanding and othering. What they have is not about being sex gods. It could get ugly, and not in a hot way.

Damon/Elena is a terrible thing to ship.

And, finally, some recs. Because I actually, you know, treated this meta seriously, so I've been reading things, and talking to people.

- There were two amazing Damon/Elena discussions on my own journal; they just came out of nowhere and consumed a few days of my life. They're both pretty chaotic, but if anyone is interested, it's scattered around those posts: click click.

- ever-neutral wrote an incredible Damon/Elena meta after s2: All You've Done is Give Up. When I was writing my post, I was trying very hard not to mention things covered by Alex, because why would I copy-paste?

- laniaaa wrote an awesome meta explaining why she ships Damon/Elena and how Damon is a horrible person: very big, very long discussion on why i ship my otp, and why i sometimes hate it .

If you have some more D/E discussion or meta recs, please do tell :).

meta, damon omg damon, fandom: the vampire diaries, december meme of doom, elena gilbert is amazing

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