"Pull it out. I can't reach it, Elena…"

The irony was glaringly apparent, though his voice was dull with impatience. He had tried to put as little feeling into it as possible but the words slipped out as if rolling off of the forked tongue of a serpent, coloured with his repugnance and leaving a bitter taste lingering in his mouth.

Elena was ignorant to all but his patronizing tone. She was ignorant or maybe apathetic, to the fact that he had leapt in front of his speeding death to avoid the pain of witnessing hers. The nerve of this woman. More infuriating still, Damon sensed more than felt the unbearably light pressure of her small hands as they encircled the arrow embedded in his flesh. She was unsure of how to proceed, so typically human as she gingerly felt the intruding object for a way to remove it without causing any pain. For a moment, he was amused but the feeling quickly gave way to his seething rage. It was not for the first time in a millennium plus that Damon thought that the deficiency of the human race seemed to be their unflinching stupidity.

Physically she was weaker. They both knew this. He had enough strength to break her bones without exerting any effort, to overcome any futile resistance she could possibly summon and tear into that olive column of flesh with barred fangs. And yet that unbelievably breakable woman had been able to find the wreckage of Damon's humanity, that thing he could not reach and she began to build it up again, brick by brick. He had ruined it all, all in one moment. Damon had a disturbing vision of Katherine savagely winding the arrow from his flesh, breath bated as she savored his pain. Eventually she would bring him to his knees, finally freeing the arrow and perhaps lapping at the savage remnants of his flesh as they clung to her prize.

But hadn't Elena brought him to his knees, time and time again? Katherine was just more upfront about it. Truthfully, Damon thought he might have preferred her savagery to Elena's gentle pressure. Elena had not needed strength and the skill of a psychopath to inflict pain. Less than ten words had opened a cut that only whiskey had begun to scab.

"I love Stefan. It will always be Stefan!"

She had unknowingly used her words to open his wounds, to bleed him out. It was unfathomable to Damon that she should fear so much his pain when she had caused such an immeasurable amount of it. But worst of all, Elena had aimed neither to wound nor to kill and yet he had come undone in her hands. It was infuriating. This girl with a face so fragile in its grace that it was disarming, it's beauty was the mask of a monster, a murderer. That had been Katherine's greatest weapon, the one that disguised her wild selfishness and taste for blood. Yet, it was Elena's greatest burden.

In the end, Damon chose to manipulate Elena. He did not need to compel her. Elena's buttons were so easily labeled and ready to be pushed. Damon was all too familiar with Katherine's tactics. He had employed them when, mortally wounded, he lunged towards Jeremy. The hands of a hunter had grasped both sides of Jeremy's neck, fighting the urge to feed as Elena's pleading protests rang in his ears. He knew that if he turned to look at her, to stare into her big brown eyes filled with tears, he would lose the only weapon he had. This time, it was Damon's words formulated to cause the maximum amount of wreckage as he turned the switch and snap. He would do anything to avoid the insanity that his lips against hers had stirred in him, the insatiable feeling that for the first time since he was sired was spun from desire and not hunger. The rejection was palpable and he would do anything not to feel its weight bearing down on his shoulders.He dropped the body in the same way he had let go of his humanity, tumbling to the floor like a bag of bricks. He heard the pattering of Elena's footsteps as she rushed to her brother and slumped to comfort his corpse. It was only when she was wrapped up in her grief that Damon risked looking at her and when her eyes turned up and caught his, he froze. In that moment, Damon realized that Elena's greatest weapons, her courage and unfailing humanity, were his downfall.

Damon tossed his head, doing his best to shake free of his rage as he focused on the numb memory of the present day's pain. A wooden arrow in his back hurt him less than this stupid, clueless, fragile human girl. Damon tried to ignore the imagery and continuing irony as he spat out,

"Just pull the damn thing out… it hurts. "

Elena pulled the arrow free of his cartilage and ruined skin, completely unaware that Damon had not been talking about the arrow at all.