"You have pretty hands," Nick said, quite without meaning to, and then immediately wished he had kept that particular thought to himself because Jay was now looking at him with a moderately bewildered expression.
Jay had invited Nick to go out on his hydroplane, as they had a couple of times before, and then to have lunch afterward at Jay's house, just the two of them. Nick had managed to act fairly normal until now but he supposed his luck was just not meant to last.
"I mean…" Nick struggled for a way to remedy the situation, but it was somewhat hard to think quickly when he was busy berating himself for his loose tongue. Pretty hands? What had come over him? And now Jay (elegant, handsome, pretty Jay) probably thought Nick was…attracted to him. Which Nick was. Jay probably also thought Nick was a fool, which Nick also was, or at least felt like at the moment.
"What I mean to say," Nick tried again, "Is that your hands are…well-proportioned. Like in a painting. They look like the hands in paintings I've seen. I mean. I enjoy art. Intellectually." And this is the exact reason why I should never leave my house.
Jay was smiling now, a barely-there grin that looked like he was trying to suppress it, but it kept creeping to the corners of his mouth, turning them upwards. "So what you're telling me, old sport," he said, examining his own hand, which was holding a wine glass. "Is that, in your esteemed opinion, my hands look like art."
"Yes," Nick said, because he didn't know what else to say. But then there was silence for a few seconds and Nick couldn't stand that so he unfortunately started talking again. "That's not always a compliment, though. Not all art is beautiful. I've seen some horrid pieces."
Jay gave him an inquisitive look. "Oh. So you mean—"
"No!" Nick interrupted, fearful that Jay had taken that last part the wrong way. "I wasn't trying to…I wasn't saying that you're horrid. You're not. You're…" Beautiful. "…not horrid."
Jay pressed his knuckles against his mouth and it was a moment before Nick realized he was trying not to laugh. The laugh he was holding in shone out through his eyes, which were bright and blue and, damn it, pretty.
"Well, for whatever it's worth, old sport, you're not horrid either. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say you're far prettier than I am. Your hands included. Perhaps I'll hire someone to paint you someday. I know many talented artists. This one fellow, I met him during my time at Oxford, he…" And Jay continued to talk but Nick was having trouble hearing because Jay Gatsby had just called him pretty.
That was not the response Nick had been expecting.
Maybe, Nick thought, he should compliment Jay more often.