3. Things you said too quietly.
Nico had been with Will for a long time. It had been slow going at first. After Gaea was defeated, it took them two full years to finally get their act together. It was Will who bit the bullet and confessed, and it was Nico who shortly after initiated their first kiss. Nearly two years after that, and it was a norm for everyone at camp to see them together. They were Will and Nico; inseparable and, though they fought often, happy.
And they were happy. Nico couldn’t entirely believe his luck. Somewhere along the way, he’d picked up some irreplaceable friendships and found something like a family. Hazel, Reyna, Jason, Frank, Will, Piper, Percy, Annabeth - they were all a part of that patchwork family they’d knitted together for themselves. By all accounts, Nico should have no worries.
Only, he could feel said worry gnawing away at him each time Will said those three words that, try as he might, Nico was unable to say back. Whenever Will would flash those bright blue eyes and declare, unabashed, “I love you,” Nico would feel something in his chest crush at the way Will’s face fell when Nico remained silent.
“Yeah,” was his response. Or, “Me too.” Or even more dreaded, “Thanks.”
He knew Will was genuine, and he was certain that his own feelings were the same. But it still scared him. Words had power. A demigod knew that better than anyone. And the last time Nico had said, “I love you,” had been to Bianca. There was no way he could rebuild himself if he lost another person he loved. Still, eventually, Will was going to get tired of waiting. Nico knew it, and it terrified him all the same.
Will was lying in bed beside him, seemingly fast asleep with his hair mussed up and a childish pout on his face. Nico smoothed his bangs back and watched him for a moment. Will deserved better.
“I…” he whispered then fell silent. He felt foolish. He couldn’t even say it when Will was asleep. “I lo…” He cleared his throat. He could do this. He thought of all the times Will said it to him and never once pressured Nico into saying it back. He thought of all the nights Will stayed up with him counting sheep. He thought of the smile that came on Will’s face each time he saw Nico. “I love you,” he finally rasped and felt immensely light. He breathed out a laugh. “I love you, Will,” he repeated.
Mission accomplished, and making a mental note to try to say it for real in the morning, Nico curled into his boyfriend and let his eyes slide shut.
And, just as he started to drift off, Will Solace’s lips twitched upwards. He wrapped his arms around Nico and pulled him closer before mouthing soundlessly, “I love you, too.”