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Long Road Ahead

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Small, was probably the first thing Julius noticed when he met Romeo. He had read his file, of course, but seeing it in person was a different thing altogether.

Their introduction went as awkwardly as one would expect. After they had shown him his room doctor Rachel had pulled him aside, emphasizing how important it was that they got along. Since they would be working together for the foreseeable future, it made sense that a strong bond would be integral to the success of her research.

The first few weeks he mostly went about his business as usual since they didn’t have any missions scheduled and as a result he hardly came in contact with Romeo at all. He could almost forget about his presence if it weren’t for his voice sometimes ringing through the halls as he was talking about one thing or another. The few times they did meet ended in brief conversations before an awkward silence took over until one of them excused himself.

That day Julius had decided to seclude himself to finish his paperwork. Normally he would be doing them in his room but the addition of Romeo just down the hall made it hard for him to concentrate. Not that he found the boy entirely bothersome, it was just an adjustment to go from being alone to suddenly having someone else around.

He sighed and leaned back on the bench, papers spread out in front of him on the small table he had brought to the patio. Maybe he and Romeo just weren’t compatible with each other. After all, how could someone like him get along with someone who could endlessly talked?

He was about to think of how to tell doctor Rachel about it when the door to the gardens opened and Romeo walked right in as if summoned. The short teen stretched, clearly enjoying the sun and it was probably the most relaxed he had ever seen him. He only realized he was staring when Romeo turned and noticed him, his entire body growing tense.

“C-Captain! I didn’t mean to intrude!” He stood to attention as he said it and Julius almost lamented being noticed.

“You did not,” he said with a smile. He gestured to the bench opposite of him. “Why don’t you have a seat? It’s a lovely day today.”

For a moment it looked like Romeo was going to decline and run away. But to his surprise the blond nodded at him and slowly padded over and took a seat. It felt like a success until the awkward silence returned. He wished he hadn’t finished his tea earlier so the only option he had was to start a conversation.

“How is your training going?” Julius could just read the reports doctor Rachel provided but he figured it was better to ask the person himself. Romeo seemed to grow even more tense.

“Uh, not that good. I haven’t picked a weapon yet so it’s been kinda...”

He nodded in understanding. “Finding a weapon that suits you is an important part of being a God Eater. There is no shame in experimenting.”

Romeo seemed to consider his words for a moment before finally meeting Julius’ eyes. “Um, Captain? What kind of weapon do you use?”

“A long blade with an assault gun and shield,” he responded without hesitation. He must be curious and looking for references for his choice. “It’s a versatile combination that is suitable for most situation. It has a balance between speed, strength and defense that other combinations lack. It is a good choice for beginners, since it allows for quick adaption to any situation.”

Romeo seemed to follow him but the look in his eyes was strange. Oddly serious, as if he was thinking about something. “Uh, so are there any downsides?”

Downsides? Julius leaned back for a moment, trying to think of any. “If I had to say it would be the lack of specialization. An aragami with sufficient speed, strength or armoring could easily overwhelm me. But that’s an expected sacrifice.”

“Lack of specialization...” Romeo turned his eyes towards his lap, his eyebrows knit in thought. He was about to ask what he was thinking about when he suddenly jumped from his seat with a panicked look on his face.

“Crap! I forgot I need to go to doctor Rachel in the lab! Been nice talking to you, captain!”

Julius didn’t even get the chance to reply before Romeo had already left. He looked over to his paperwork again which hadn’t become any less unfinished. As he sorted through them again he realized that while it hadn’t been long, that was the first conversation they had that hadn’t ended in awkward silence. Perhaps they were making progress after all.

A week later they were green lit for their first mission together. Julius had managed to hold short conversations with Romeo, mostly small talk but it was myriads better than when he had first arrived.

As they arrived in the hangar to get their God Arcs, Julius couldn’t help but watch his team mate got his. During their conversations Romeo had became incredibly evasive about his choice of weapons and while he respected his privacy, Julius couldn’t help but wonder why. So he watched as the case revealed…

“A buster blade?” he asked out loud, genuinely surprised by it. Judging by how the boy had run off after their conversation in the gardens, he had expected him to choose a long blade on his recommendation.

“Yup!” Romeo said with a bright grin as he picked up his weapon. “Pretty cool, right? Took some time getting used to swinging it around but after a few sessions I got the hang of it.”

Julius took another look at the weapon. The blade looked even bigger than it already was when Romeo was holding it, his short frame making its mass stand out even more. “It’s certainly interesting. Is there any reason you picked it?”

That seemed to embarrass Romeo, his cheeks suddenly turning a light red. “Well… I figured I couldn’t do much about speed or strength. But defense is mostly about the shield anyway so I guess it was better than nothing?”

“Defense? What are you--” Julius stopped, suddenly recalling their conversation. He couldn’t mean…?

Romeo blushed a bit harder but he turned towards him with a wide smile. “Well, I gotta support my captain, right? I’m not very good at the whole fighting thing but I can tank some of the damage at least! Like this!” He moved the blade into a defensive position against an imaginary foe. “Well, not like I want to get hit but you get the gist.”

Julius was at a loss for words and could only watch as Romeo kept talking. Against his expectations he had not picked a weapon that would benefit himself but one that could protect someone else. Not just anyone either, he specifically had Julius in mind. He had listened to his concerns and decided to pick something that would compliment him.

He genuinely didn’t know what to say. He was used to working alone, his only company the staff members, doctor Rachel and Leah and occasionally Ciel but to suddenly have someone by his side to fight with…

“Uh, captain? You okay? I didn’t break ya, did I?”

Julius blinked, realizing he had been spacing out for quite a while. Shaking his head, he got his own God Arc and smiled at his team mate. “Well then, are you ready to test that defense of yours, Private Leoni?”

His response was a bright smile. “You bet I am, captain!”

Yes, they were making progress.