Holly looked very sad, very sad indeed, and Simon frowned as he scrambled to think of something—anything!—he could say to make it right. But for one of the first times in his life, Simon hadn’t any words to spare, no witticisms or quips or clever jokes to slip from his silver tongue. He stood beside her, fraught, confused and desperately searching for a way to make her happy. He tried to think of what Holy did to comfort him, and after a moment, the words came.
“Holly,” he said—softly, almost frightened. “Can I hold your hand?”
She was staring down at her shoes and didn’t even bat an eye, and Simon wondered whether or not she had even heard him. Still, he reached out his fingers and slowly, carefully, touched hers. When there was no objection, he eventually curled them around her hand, brushing his thumb slowly over her palm. Their fingers never interlaced. It was like two children holding hands instead of adults. But her hand at last held back. Her palms twitched in response to his touch and her fingertips explored the smooth, rutted recesses of his knuckles. And then, for a moment, she smiled.
—The Things That Stay
art, characters (c) me