“Elena,” as he says her name, she chokes back another cry of despair. She keeps her head down in shame and her jaws clenched tightly. Elena attempts desperately yet without success (as she has now for three days) to ignore the searing pain in her gums, the burning sensation that descends all the way down her parched throat. “Elena,” Damon says again, his calming voice barely above a whisper. “Look at me.”
At first, she tries to fight it. God help her, she tries so damned hard, as though everything depends on her averting her eyes elsewhere, to anywhere but his. After all, her inner suffering is as clear as day, etched in grave lines on her face. She is in such a state of emotional undress before him that it takes Damon gently lifting her chin with his feather-light touch to even get her to consider meeting his gaze. Then, just as Elena had expected, the moment their eyes meet, her torment spills out of her in droves.
“I can’t do this, Damon,” the words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. In fact, Elena thinks to reclaim them only after they’ve been said but another pulse of piercing agony in her jaws renders her both speechless and stock-still. Damon furrows his brow, allowing the pad of his right thumb to ghost over Elena’s descended left fang as he cups her face. Though Elena flinches initially, the gesture soothes her unexpectedly, causing her body to relax and the dark veins around her eyes to lessen.
“Yes, Elena,” he tells her firmly. “You can.”
For just a moment, for less than half of the mortal heartbeat that Elena now misses so overpoweringly, she actually challenges herself to believe him.