At first Castle thought he was imaging things, the thuds and random noises that seemed to be coming from upstairs, but as they became more frequent, he knew he had to go investigate. Rome was supposed to be packing for camp and being left to his own devices was not necessarily a good thing.
As soon as he got to Rome's room, Castle had to bite back a laugh, it was impossible for him to be annoyed with Rome, but easy to be amused. Rome had a pretty impressive hat collection, most were replicas of antique hats and though he had a lot of them, he had a few favorites. But at the moment all of those hats were spread out across his room as he stood in the middle looking around trying to figure out how he was going to get the fifty some odd assorted hats into his already bulging duffle bag.
He was so deep in thought he didn't even notice his dad standing in the doorway, Castle grinned as Rome's face scrunched up, trying to figure out this life size Tetris game. Rome was good at puzzles, but this one seemed to have him stumped.
Rome picked up his favorite hat, his Civil War Union cap, then his second favorite the rough rider hat from the museum. He held them up and eyed the duffle bag, apparently coming to the same conclusion that his dad already had, there was no way he was going to fit all his hats, let alone his two favorite ones, in his duffle bag without the risk of them getting squished.
"Kiddo?" Castle called, Rome didn't even acknowledge him and Castle leaned forward looking at Rome's ears closer, his hearing aids weren't in. "Doc?" he said a little louder, when he still didn't get a reaction Castle sighed and chuckled. He walked into the room and tapped Rome on the shoulder. Rome jumped at least a foot in the air, dropping both his hats to the floor.
"Dad!?" he exclaimed turning to face his father "don't do that!"
"Whoa Doc breathe, I didn't mean to scare you." Castle comforted, signing as he went
Rome took a deep breath and shook his head
"Right," Castle replied not believing that one for a second, "that's why you just jumped so high you could've made a dunk for the Knicks."
"Or the Celtics," Rome added grinning, Castle chose to ignore that, he couldn't understand his son's fascination with Boston's teams or where it came from; Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, Sox, the kid loved all of them and cheered them on especially when they played against New York teams. He had brought Rome up as a diehard New York fan, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, Jets, but when he turned seven that was all over.
Rolling his eyes, Castle tapped Rome's ear
"hearing aids not working kiddo? They were working this morning."
Rome shook his head
"Don't need them today." He explained
"Really, then how come I called you twice and had to tap your shoulder to get your attention?"
"Deep in thought," Rome replied
"I can see that," Castle picked up the two hats, he plopped the Rough Rider hat on and then put the Union cap on Rome. "Such a camp dilemma, what to bring, what to bring." Rome grinned "where's your list Romey?"
"Right here," Rome reached into his pocket and pulled out the folded list that if Castle didn't know any better Rome had run it through the laundry, handing it to his dad, Castle chuckled at it
"okay Doc, from now on any important documents you get, do not put them in your pocket, bring them right to me or give them to your sister. Some reason they always end up in your pocket and they always end up looking like…well this."
"Oops," Rome replied chuckling as Castle read over the list intently and Rome's grin grew, his ears going red.
"Let's see Rome, sunscreen, toiletries-"
"Bathroom supplies," Rome reminded
"Right, because toiletries sound like you're bringing a toilet."
Ahem, bathroom supplies, enough clothes for at least two weeks, laundry services will be provided at the end of week two. Sleeping bag, pillow, money for camp-store and various fieldtrips, bathing suit, towels; goggles and small water toys are allowed, nothing exceeding two feet in length for storage reasons. Any medication should be brought to the camp nurse upon drop-off." Castle looked at Rome "I suppose I should give her your ear drops" Rome made a face "and your Benadryl…"
"Oh come on dad not the ear drops I don't need them…and the Benadryl do you really think I'm going to be reckless enough to eat some strawberries." Castle raised an expectant eyebrow and Rome shrugged "I'll be good, I promise"
"Like I believe that," Castle chuckled "anyways, moving on, I've got your epi-pen, just try to stay away from the bees Rome, I'd really not like a phone call with a Massachusetts area code. With a camp counselor on the other end explaining how you got stung by a bee and the nurse had to give you the epi-pen."
Rome made another face, he had only needed to use the epi-pen ONCE because of a bee sting, when he was five and he wasn't anxious to repeat the experience.
"I see a bee I'm jumping in the lake."
Castle rolled his eyes
"Right, so I think we've got pretty much everything covered on your list, but there is one thing I'm curious about Rome," Rome tilted his head to the side curious "I could have sworn I was sending you to a typical summer camp, albeit a summer camp specifically for kids with hearing loss, but still a summer camp full of swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, things of that nature."
"Then I have to know Doc, did gram switch your camps on me when I wasn't looking?"
Rome shook his head
"Did she manage to change it so you're going to Drama Camp?"
"No!" Rome exclaimed "why?" Castle nodded at the collection of hats and Rome understood "oh…the hats."
"Doc you can't bring all of them, I wouldn't even recommend bringing one." Castle explained and Rome looked up at his dad with puppy dog eyes "don't give me the puppy dog eyes, kid I taught you the puppy dog eyes." Rome went for the next step and quivered his lip, his father rolled his eyes "and I taught you the lip quivering too. It's not going to work." Castle sighed "why do you want to take all of them with you anyways?"
"'Cause I like them."
"I know you do pal, but it's probably not a great idea." Castle paused "tell you what, why don't you bring one of your replicas and a one regular baseball hat, instead of two of your replicas, sound like a plan?"
Rome thought this over and nodded
"I guess so,"
"So which one are you going with?"
Rome eyed both hats again, they were his favorite two and choosing would be tough
"I think I'll have to go with the Rough Riders, if we're going hiking and exploring that'll be the time to wear it."
"Nice thinking kiddo," Castle replied and looked over Rome's room, making sure his son had everything, his eyes moved to Rome's bed, more specifically Balto, Rome's favorite stuffed animal. Rome looked up at his dad and followed his eyes, wincing a little. "Not taking Balto Rome?"
"I'm kinda outgrowing him I guess, taking him to camp'll be…well"
Castle chuckled sympathetically
"You're afraid what Chase and the other kids will say huh?" he guessed and Rome shrugged again
"I'm ten dad, I'm going on eleven, isn't ten too old for stuffed animals?"
"Alexis is fifteen she still has Monkey Bunkey," Castle suggested and Rome shook his head
"Alexis is a girl, girls never outgrow that stuff…"
"it doesn't matter girl or boy Romey, kids outgrow that stuff when they're ready, sometimes it happens when they're ten, sometimes when they're 110."
"Dad," Rome groaned
"My point is kiddo, you decide when you're too old for Balto, not your friends, and knowing how special he is to you I don't see that happening for a while."
Rome looked at the stuffed wolf longingly, he hated to leave his best friend behind, he had enough trouble sleeping without him if Balto managed to end up at the end of his bed…or the few times he didn't risk bringing him to sleepover with his friends. He kept the stuffed wolf in his backpack and kept the backpack nearby, it wasn't so funny at sleepovers, but it would be weird if Rome kept his backpack in bed with him, at least he thought so.
But three weeks was a long time to be without him…it was tough enough being away from his dad, sister, and grandmother for three weeks…
Three weeks away from home in a new place, in a different state for that matter, it was the first time Rome had been away from his dad for that length of time and it was the furthest he had ever been away from home. That transition would go a lot smoother if he had something familiar with him, something that smelled like home, something that reminded him of home, more importantly something that had always provided comfort.
"I dunno," Rome admitted.
"Rome, did I ever tell you about Charlie?"
Rome raised an eyebrow
"Charlie?" he repeated "who's Charlie?"
"When I was little I had a stuffed bear named Charlie, we'd been together as long as you and Balto, as long as Alexis and Monkey Bunky. I had trouble falling asleep without him, even when I was your age. When I went to Edgewyck Charlie came with me after a long debate over the matter."
Rome looked at his dad in shock
"Dad you were fourteen when you went to Edgewyck I thought."
"I was," Castle admitted "but I was so homesick and lonely, having Charlie nearby made things a little bit better."
"And no one made fun of you?" Rome asked, still surprised
"No one saw him," Castle replied smiling,
"how come no one saw him?" Rome asked
Castle's smile widened he reached up to Rome's bunk bed and pulled down Balto and Rome's pillow.
"He stayed hidden all the time, no one knew he existed." He put Balto in Rome's pillowcase. The bulge of the medium sized stuffed wolf was only slightly noticeable amongst the already present lumps of Rome's favorite pillow. "I felt bad about my best friend being stuffed in a pillow case, but having him close made it easier to sleep at night, especially my first few months." Castle handed Rome's pillow to him
"So I could do the same thing?"
"I know how important Balto is to you pal, you don't really remember it but you were miserable when we left him in the loft that one time. You two have been together since we found him at the zoo. I also know how tough it is for you to fall asleep without him so yes I think you should do the same thing I did with Charlie. Three weeks is a long time Doc, I know you don't want to admit it, but you might get a little homesick."
Rome looked at his dad carefully
"Are you going to miss me?"
"Dude are you kidding me? What kind of question is that? Of course I'm going to miss you." Castle scooped Rome up in a hug lifting him off his feet "you're my mini me, that's what I mean by three weeks is a long time, that's three weeks I don't have my minion, my partner in crime. Your sister is good for bouncing ideas off of, but she's no Dr. Watson, plus she's not willing to be locked in a closet." Castle paused, Rome grinned and laughed a little, before his dad looked him more serious "you going to miss me?"
Rome nodded quickly
"Of course dad!" he paused and gave his dad a half smile "can I put you in my pillowcase too?"
Castle chuckled and hugged Rome tight
"I think that may be a little creepy kiddo, but believe me I wish I was going to camp with you. You're going to have so much fun while I'm stuck here at home with nothing to do."
"What about writing Nikki Heat?" Rome asked and he saw a dark flash over his father's face, it was extremely brief, barely a second, but Rome was observant and saw it." Quickly Castle put on a more reassuring face, aware that he was being suspicious.
"Well of course, but who's going to distract me when I get to the really boring parts?"
"Alexis?" Rome suggested and they both laughed
"If that should ever happen Romey I may never recover from the shock." Castle paused "no but you're right Doc, I'll swallow my pride and get some writing done, that way when you come home from camp it'll be nothing but fun adventures in the Hamptons for you, your sister, gram, and me."
Rome nodded and looked at his dad
"Dad, can I ask you a question?" Castle started to remind Rome of his 'you can always ask me a question' policy but Rome shook his head "a serious one dad,"
Castle sighed, Rome was like him in so many ways and one of those ways was he didn't do serious very often, but when he did it was best to listen.
"What's on your mind Romey?"
"Is Detective Beckett mad at you?"
"What makes you say that Doc?"
"At my graduation, come on dad we all saw it, things were really tense with you two. She was talking to me and everything seemed fine until you guys came out of the auditorium. You could feel the tension dad,"
Castle took a deep breath, Rome's powers of observation amazed him sometimes, he knew it was mainly Rome's mind compensating for the hearing loss but it didn't change the fact it was mindboggling sometimes.
"Yes Doc, she's mad at me, she doesn't want me to follow her around anymore."
"Why?" Rome asked his eyes going wide "what happened?"
Castle paused and ran his hand through his hair, he sat down on Rome's desk chair and nodded for Rome to sit down on his video game chair.
"I'm going to tell you Rome, man to man okay?"
"Okay," he replied timidly, he pulled his gamer chair over to his dad and sat down so he was facing him.
"Do you remember that file you found?" Rome nodded, shivering a little. The image of Detective Beckett's mom was still floating around his mind. "Well I gave that folder to Dr. Murray,"
"The forensic guy who helps you out sometimes?" Rome asked and Castle nodded
"The very one. I thought maybe he could tell me something that the original detectives may have missed. Fresh eyes remember?" Rome nodded "well he found something pretty serious that the original M.E. and the original detectives missed."
"What was it?" Rome's curiosity was at an all-time high, he was on the edge of his seat, his eyes darting back and forth between his dad's signing and his lips.
"That's not important kiddo, the point is thanks to Dr. Murray I uncovered something about her mom's murder, I had to tell her what I learned."
"I'm guessing she didn't take it well, if she's mad at you."
"It wasn't that Romey, she was mad that I looked into the case in the first place. She…" Castle hesitated "she had asked me not to Rome and I did it behind her back which was wrong of me."
"Oh," Rome said, understanding everything now.
"But I couldn't keep that from her Rome, even if it meant our partnership was over, she deserved to know."
"So you're not going to be following her around anymore?"
Castle shook his head
"Unfortunately no kiddo, she told me we were through and in all honesty I deserved it."
Rome scooted closer to his dad and shook his head
"You were trying to do something nice dad, you weren't doing it to be mean or to hurt her, you were trying to help her. Maybe she'll realize that." Rome added with a shrug.
Castle chuckled and reached forward to hug Rome tight
"Kiddo your sister is right you are growing up, where is all of this maturity coming from?"
Rome shook his head in a panic
"I don't know, but I'm hoping camp stomps it all out!" he exclaimed, Castle let him go and ruffled his hair
"Now that we've got that settled. I don't want you to think about this whole thing at all okay? I just want you to have a great time at camp. Let's just make sure you do have everything now so we don't have to do it tomorrow morning. We've got to leave early tomorrow, Chase's plane gets in at nine, it'll take us a few hours to get up to the camp."
Castle stood up and the pair of them went down the list making sure Rome had everything, before Castle helped him pack his roughrider hat carefully so it wouldn't get squished. Because they were taking the Ferrari to pick Chase up and head up to the camp, Rome accepted wearing one of the few regular baseball caps he owned, knowing it made more sense to wear in a convertible, less chance of it getting blown away. The hat however drove his father nuts, but would probably earn him some new friends up in Massachusetts, his Boston Red Sox hat.
"Can we stop at Dunkin Donuts dad?" Rome asked pulling on his Red Sox hat, Castle had his back to him, double checking that Rome's backpack was free and clear of his computer and his Xbox
"What kiddo?" he asked turning around, he groaned when he saw the hat "Doc, how about while you're at camp you burn that? I'm sure the camp could use some kindling."
Rome grinned and shook his head
"No way." His grin widened "you know, we are going into Boston for the day at one point, I think we're even going to a Red Sox game, maybe I'll buy your own at Fenway."
"Funny Rome, real funny." Castle replied "come here you!" he reached over and picked Rome up, tickling him until he was turning red in the face from laughter. "Do you yield?!"
"NEVER!" Rome shouted between laughs "Dr. Watson never gives up, even in the face of perilous danger!"
"But does he surrender for pizza?" Castle asked, Rome's eyes lit up
"Pizza?" he asked, just as the buzzer went off
"Right on time," Castle replied "come my minion, let us feast to your last night home for three weeks!" he added carrying Rome down the stairs.
Not surprisingly Rome couldn't fall asleep that night. Part of the probably was excitement, but the main issue was nerves. He was already feeling homesick and he hadn't even left for camp yet, he hadn't even said goodbye to anyone aside from his friends.
Maybe it was just nerves, after all three weeks was a long time that he would be away from home, the longest time he had ever been away from his dad. He was used to spending the night at friends, but even that was nothing, a few blocks away from home, his dad within a five-ten minute cab ride if Rome wanted to come home. This was way different and Rome knew it. He wanted to show his dad he was growing up in that sense, that he was old enough to be away from home, that he wasn't a baby anymore, but in the back of his mind he really just wanted to go to the Hamptons with his family.
The problem was, Rome knew if he asked, his dad would call the camp and cancel Rome for the summer, he wouldn't argue with him or question it and Rome couldn't do that, he had to go camp.
All these thoughts kept running through Rome's head, which made him toss and turn, no spot comfortable, literally keeping him awake. In the end he gave up around two in the morning, deciding he wanted a glass of chocolate milk to settle his stomach. He carefully began climbing out of his top bunk, but misjudged the bottom rung and slipped, hitting the floor hard.
He sat there, perfectly still waiting for someone to come running to check on him. His dad was a light sleeper when it came to his kids and had managed to perfect his 'spidey' senses to be asleep and wake up in a second if he sensed one of the kids was hurt or having a nightmare. This had been true since Alexis and Rome were little and hadn't changed even as they got older. Thankfully Rome didn't feel any vibrations of his dad coming up the stairs, nor did he feel anything that would signify his sister coming to check on him.
The rooms weren't far apart, with only the bathroom separating their bedrooms. Originally the upstairs had been one big room with a large bathroom and a good size closet. It had been originally just for storage. Castle kept most of his "toys" up there while Alexis and him stayed on the first floor.
When Rome was born Castle converted the upstairs space into two large rooms with a bathroom in between them with a single entrance in the hallway Rome stayed in his crib in Castle's room while Alexis had the other downstairs bedroom. When Alexis was seven he let her move into her new room on the second floor, but waited until Rome was two to finish the renovations and let Rome have the second room.
So Rome was surprised with their rooms being so close together, that Alexis hadn't heard his thud either, surprised, but glad.
Quickly Rome made his way downstairs towards the kitchen. He ran over to the fridge as quietly as he could and pulled it open, surveying its contents. The milk was a given, everyone in the family was a gang of milk fiends, Rome and Alexis especially, so it was always in stock, but Rome didn't see his chocolate syrup, he was the only one who liked dark chocolate milk so it didn't make any sense for it to be gone.
He stood on his tiptoes peering into the fridge, but still didn't see anything. Then he remembered the ice cream sundae pig out after his graduation, he had used the last of his dark chocolate syrup to create a dark chocolate whipped cream masterpiece on his ice cream. But he also remembered that his dad kept things in the apartment well stocked and had purchased a second container just in case. The problem was, it was up in the cabinet, where Rome couldn't reach.
He flicked on the light switch above the kitchen sink and lifted himself up onto the countertop, where on his knees he was able to see inside the cabinet. Why his dad had put the syrup on the very top shelf was beyond Rome, as if for some bizarre reason, he was trying to hide it. Not that it mattered, he knew how monkey like Rome could be as far as climbing on things and would just climb onto the countertop anyways.
Getting down proved to be the tricky part though. As with most kids with his type of hearing loss, Rome's balance tended to be iffy, he could usually compensate for it, but being overtired and over nervous worked against Rome's tired brain and just like coming down from his bunk bed, Rome misjudged getting down, lost his balance and crashed to the kitchen floor, taking half the contents of the cabinet down with him as he grappled for something to hold onto.
This time there was no doubt in his mind that his grandmother and father would hear that, gram especially since her room was right near the kitchen. She came flying out of her room, tying the belt to her bathrobe around her waist, in a panic.
She threw on the lights and stared dumbfounded at the sight of her grandson, sitting on the kitchen floor, surrounded by unopen boxes of cereal, cans of soup, and a large bag of rice, looking over tired and slightly dazed.
"Roman Camden Castle, it is two in the morning, what on earth are you up too?" she exclaimed, just as Castle's office door flew open and he came rushing into the scene, looking bedraggled and barely conscious.
"Mother?" he started "what is going on?" Martha shook her head and pointed to the floor. "Rome?!" Castle exclaimed
"Hi dad," Rome replied sheepishly
Castle rushed over and picked Rome up, setting him down on the counter and checking him over for injuries. He spotted the chocolate syrup in Rome's hand and the mess on the floor and figured out pretty quick what had happened.
"Are you okay Doc?" he asked and Rome nodded
"Roman, what were you up too?" Martha repeated her earlier question, she too came over and checked him over, before taking the syrup from his hand and opening it to make him a glass of chocolate milk.
"Couldn't sleep," he admitted "thought some chocolate milk might help,"
"How many times do I have to tell you Romey? Do not climb on the countertops. I've warned you that one of these days you're going to fall and look, it happened." Martha scolded gently as she handed him his milk.
"Thanks gram," he replied and shrugged as he took a sip, "there wasn't any more in the fridge, I knew where it was and figured I could get it myself."
"How did you fall?" Castle asked suspiciously and when Rome didn't answer he sighed "you lost your balance didn't you?" Rome nodded "are you okay? Nothing hurts?"
"Pride only," Rome explained "sorry I woke you guys up,"
"It's okay Doc,"
"Just glad you're okay kiddo," she replied kissing the top of his head she turned to Castle "Richard why don't you head back to bed, you've got a lot of driving to do tomorrow. I'll stay up with Rome while he finishes his milk and I'll help him back to bed,"
Castle hesitated for a second but Rome nodded
"It's okay dad, I'm good I promise," Rome reassured him and Castle finally nodded
"Okay, but no more using the kitchen as a jungle gym Doc,"
Castle reached over and hugged Rome's shoulders before zombie walking back towards his room. As soon as Rome finished his milk, he placed it in the sink and Martha helped him slid off the counter. She took his hand and led him back up to bed. Alexis was waiting at the top of the stairs rubbing her eyes, she looked at Rome confused
"Rome?" she asked "gram?"
"You're brother wanted a late night drink Alexis and decided that climbing on the counter was a good idea."
Alexis gave him a look and Rome shrugged grinning sheepishly
"Right," she said "are you okay?" he nodded "okay, I'm going back to bed," and with that Alexis turned and went back into her room, leaving the door open a crack.
Once inside his own room, Martha watched Rome carefully as he climbed his ladder to the top bunk and slid back under his covers.
"Now why are you having so much trouble falling asleep?" Martha asked and Rome shrugged "are you over excited for camp?" she guessed and again Rome shrugged "Roman Castle shrugging is never an answer you know that
"Sorry gram, I guess yeah I'm excited, but I'm also a little nervous too."
Martha smiled gently
"That is perfectly understandable darling, it's a new experience, and everyone gets a little stage fright with new things. The first time I went on stage in high school I was a nervous wreck," she reached up and brushed his bangs back "and the first few days you're going to get homesick, that too is perfectly understandable. But we are just a phone call or a text away. This is a wonderful experience for you Rome and you're going to have a wonderful time."
"I know gram," Rome replied
"I'll bet within the first few days you're going to be having so much fun you won't even realize what day it is, and before you know it three weeks will be up and you'll be in the Hamptons with us, back home and missing camp and all your new friends."
"You're welcome darling, now close your eyes, stop your worrying and just get a good night sleep. You're going to need all your rest and energy for all the fun and excitement you're going to have over the next few weeks."
"till morning my darling" Martha replied and Rome grinned a little, as he rolled over and curled up tight, the chocolate milk and more importantly gram's soothing words helping him fall asleep.
"Chase is fourteen so he didn't have go as an unaccompanied minor, so he didn't have to have someone pick him up at the gate. He said he felt more grown up that way." Rome explained as they waited near the baggage claim area for Chase to come.
"One of the many things to look forward to about growing up," he replied with a chuckle, he looked at his watch "well his flight is on time so that's a good thing."
Rome looked up at his dad and grinned
"I didn't tell Chase that we were driving up to camp in your Ferrari. He's gonna be floored by it, he's a big car guy, his dad took him to a car show last year and he said it was awesome, he couldn't believe the cars he saw, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, he said he even saw a Maserati."
Castle was about to reply when a rush of people began heading down the escalator towards the baggage claim. Castle reached over and grabbed the collar of Rome's tee-shirt, just to be sure he didn't lose him in the herd.
"Rome?" a new voice called and Rome grinned at the teen standing in front of him "hey nice to finally meet you!" the teen exclaimed stepping forward to shake Rome's hand. Chase was average height for his age, with sandy colored hair and a farmer's tan from playing soccer and helping his parents with their small vineyard. Even though Chase was wearing Seattle Seahawks hat, Rome could see the cochlear implants sticking out under the hat.
"Nice to meet you!" Rome replied "Chase this is my dad,"
Chase grinned at Castle and timidly held out his hand
"Nice…nice to meet you Mr. Castle. My parents are huge fans of your work. They were so jealous that I was getting to meet you. My dad let me borrow his copy of 'When it Comes to Slaughter' and I seriously can't put it down." Chase reached into his backpack and pulled out the clearly well-read paperback book "tried to finish it on the plane, but I've still got a few more chapters to go, it's awesome." Castle chuckled, he liked this kid already "and of course I've got a backup for when I finish it," he reached back into his backpack and pulled out a hard cover copy of 'At dusk we die' I really can't wait to read this one. My parents said they're both awesome."
"Good taste there Chase, impressive." Castle replied nodding, he looked down at Rome who grinned at his dad and his friend "remind me when we get to the camp I'll sign those for you okay?"
Chase's eyes went wide as he grinned a childish grin
"Seriously Mr. Castle? That's awesome thank you!"
A whirling noise caught their attention as the baggage claim conveyer belt started up, they headed over with the rest of the crowd.
"What are we looking for Chase?" Castle asked
"I've got a large blue Nike duffle bag and a small red rolling suitcase." Chase replied, Castle nodded and grinned down at Rome
"Rome want to explain to Chase how things work in the Castle family?"
Rome nodded and looked at his friend who looked confused
"We've done this since my sister and I were little, the one who spots the bags first gets to pick where we stop for lunch." Rome explained and Chase nodded understanding
"Cool deal," he exclaimed "come on then you're on!" He grabbed Rome's shirt and gently pulled him closer to the belt, both boys watching the bags go around intently, searching for Chase's bags.
"Is that it?" Rome asked pointing to a Nike bag making its way around, Chase looked at it carefully and shook his head
'No,' he signed grinning 'too small,'
Castle moved behind the two boys and looked over their heads eying the bags, he grinned wide and tapped both boys on the shoulders.
'Does it happen to have a soccer ball ID tag?' he signed, Chase and Rome exchanged a look, grinning and Chase nodded slowly
"They both do," he admitted
Castle's grin got wider as he pointed to the ramp depositing the bags
"I win," he replied smugly
Chase and Rome looked to where Castle was pointed and Chase groaned good-naturedly as he nodded.
"Man," Rome grumbled "please tell me that doesn't mean McDonalds," he asked and Castle smiled mischievously
"We'll see what I'm in the mood for, I might even change the rules of our game and make you boys buy me lunch." Castle added, he reached over and snatched up Chase's bags as they went by.
Rome tried to sling the duffle bag over his shoulder but nearly fell over in the process, which made all three burst out laughing.
"Dude, what do you got in here bricks?!" he exclaimed trying to lift it up unsuccessfully, Chase shrugged grinning as he lifted the bag up with no problem.
"My mom packed it, I have no idea what's in this sucker and I'm a little afraid." He nodded at his suitcase "my dad and I packed that, I'm less afraid of it." he slid his backpack off and handed that to Rome "this is a little lighter. I can handle the duffle bag. I'm used to my mom's packing. It's cruel to force that on someone who's innocent."
"All right guys now that we've gotten that settled, let's get out of here, we've got a long trip ahead of us and I don't know what traffic is going to be like."
While Castle led the way the way through the airport dragging Chase's rolling suitcase, Rome and Chase followed close behind, chatting about everything from video games, to camp, to even Chase's implants.
Rome listened carefully as Chase explained that he knew a bunch of kids who were going to the camp who had implants, but he also knew a few who were like Rome and were hesitant to get them or had decided they didn't want them at all.
"That's the nice thing about this camp, no one judges you, I mean we're all basically in the same boat here, we each have to do what we think is best for ourselves. But seriously dude, you're going to have so much fun. I loved this camp the first time I went," Chase explained, he grinned "and it'll be okay if you get a little homesick I was too the first few years I went. And I was nine when I first we-." Chase stopped midsentence as he stared at the car Castle was putting his suitcase into, his mouth dropped open and his eyes were just as wide "dude…you…your dad drives a Ferrari!?" he exclaimed,
Castle looked over at the boys and winked at Rome who gave him a look that clearly said 'I told you so' as he grinned,
"Rome it's official your dad is the coolest grownup I've ever met!" Chase exclaimed climbing in the backseat.
"Thanks Chase, I appreciate that," Castle replied, sliding into the driver seat as Rome retook his spot in the passenger seat. "Ready to rock and roll minions?"
"Minions?" Chase asked looking at Rome, Rome turned in his seat and grinned as he slid on his sunglasses
"You get used to it, it's a good thing trust me." Rome replied before looking at his dad "All systems check captain, we're ready for departure!" he exclaimed
"Then let's get this show on the road!" Castle said loudly, he reached over and gave Rome a fist bump, then turned to Chase, holding his fist to the dumbfounded fourteen year old. Chase quickly got over his shock as he grinned and returned the fist bump.
Grinning wide, Castle backed the Ferrari out of the parking spot, pulled out of the airport parking lot, heading for the highway.
Rome wasn't sure what to expect when it came to the summer camp, he had seen pictures of it of course, both online and in the new-letter, but he was still blown away by it.
The lake was huge, there were cabins spread out with different animals engraved on the totems out front of each cabin and running all over the place were kids his age, older and younger, with parents giving their goodbyes.
Chase couldn't get out of the car fast enough, despite the coolness of the Ferrari, he spotted a friend he hadn't seen in years heading towards one of the counselors.
"Be right back!" Chase shouted as he ran over to the friend, calling and waving at him excitedly.
"Wow Doc," Castle breathed as him and Rome slid out of the car "this place is amazing, would you look at that lake, they're never going to get you out of there."
Rome grinned a little, he loved to swim, loved being in the water and it was definitely muggy out, more than he expected so the lake was looking more and more inviting.
"Hi," a female voice called from behind the pair, father and son turned around to face a woman in her mid-fifties wearing a red Camp Keller shirt.
"Hi," Rome replied shyly
"Hello," Castle added slinging an arm around Rome's shoulders
"My name is Kirsten, I'm the head counselor here at Camp Keller,"
"I'm Rick Castle this is my son Rome,"
"Hi Rome, how are you?" Kirsten asked signing as she went
"Always good on the first day of camp, it's a great place Rome you're going to have a lot of fun with us this summer. This is your first time right?" she asked and Rome nodded. "Thought so, I know everyone here at camp and I knew I had never seen you before. Well, welcome to Camp Keller Rome." Kirsten looked down at her clipboard, running her finger down it "okay Roman Castle" she looked at him and smiled "everyone calls you Rome right?" he nodded again "okay Rome, you're in cabin Cherokee, which is right over there, the one with the wolf totem."
Now Rome broke into a huge grin as he looked at his dad
"Well that's a lucky pick kiddo," Castle said returning the grin, Kirsten smiled but looked kind of confused "Rome's a wolf nut, they're his favorite animal so it's appropriate that's his cabin."
"Well then you're really going to like what we've got planned next week Rome," Kirsten exclaimed and Rome looked at her curious "we always take a select group of kids to a wolf sanctuary in a little town called Ipswich. There will be a sign up sheet in the mess hall on Monday and the trip will be next Friday. It's a long drive and not everyone wants to go so we only take about twenty kids so make sure you sign up early. It's worth it though, a lot of fun and the wolves are beautiful."
Rome couldn't stop grinning as he looked at his dad excitedly, this camp was getting better and better by the minute.
"This is awesome!" he exclaimed and Kirsten smiled
"Okay, the nurse's office is in that building over there, next to the mess hall, if you have any medications you can drop them off with her. You can drop your stuff off in your cabin and your counselor is in there to help you out okay? At five we'll make an announcement for dinner, it's done by a bugle call and flashing lights in the cabin. That's also how the wake up calls are done in the morning. But your counselor Brian will explain everything to you okay Rome?" Kirsten asked and Rome nodded "and my door is always open if you need anything." She looked at Castle "the same goes for parents as well, you have the packet we sent out right?"
"That has all the camps contact information including my cell and my office phone. It can be just as tough on the parents as the kids the first time away at camp so if you want to call and check on Rome feel free to call. He has a cell phone I'm assuming?" Castle nodded "all kids do now a days" she replied chuckling "cell phone reception up here is spotty because of the mountains, but the camp phone doesn't have that same issue. So don't hesitate to call if you want. We have a video chat set up on the camp's computer if that's needed." Kirsten paused "do you have any questions at the moment? Concerns?"
Castle looked down at Rome who was still grinning wide
"No I think the only issue I'm going to have is getting him to come home when the three weeks is over," Castle replied chuckling and Kirsten nodded
"Not the first time I've heard that trust me. Anyways I'll be floating around if you guys do need anything," she offered and turned "ah, another newcomer, excuse me."
When she walked off, Castle tapped the brim of Rome's hat
"Come on Doc, let's check out your new digs."
Brian, Rome's counselor introduced himself as soon as they stepped in the door and pointed out an empty bunk for Rome to take, Rome was excited to see that Chase was there too, talking to his friend Nelson, who was in the bunk next to them and introduced himself too. Castle went back to the car with Chase to get his stuff and helped both boys unpack their belongings. Castle smiled as Rome put his pillow down, the familiar lump of Balto outlined in the fabric, but tough to see once Rome pulled his sleeping bag out.
Once Rome's stuff was stored, father and son stood awkwardly in the middle of the cabin, both knowing the time to say goodbye for three weeks was getting closer, even though neither was ready to admit it.
Castle put his arm back around Rome's shoulder and they walked out onto the porch of the cabin, looking out at the camp.
"You ready Doc?" Castle asked, slowly Rome nodded "don't get into too much mischief okay?"
"But a little is okay." And Rome nodded, returning the grin he was about to answer his dad when Chase and Nelson came running up to the pair
"Rome dude, you gotta see what they've got at the lake, Nelson said they added it last year, it's a water slide! Come on, come check it out!" Chase exclaimed as he gestured for Rome to follow, running back towards the lake.
Rome hesitated, he wasn't really ready to say goodbye yet…this was happening way to fast, he wasn't ready.
"Go on kiddo, I'll see you in three weeks Doc, have fun okay?"
Rome nodded, he started to run off, but paused, turning back to his dad, he ran back and wrapped his arms around his dad's waist hugging him as tight as he could
"Love you dad," he whispered, Castle felt a little choked up, something he wasn't expecting, he knelt down so him and Rome were eyelevel and he returned the hug,
"I love you too Rome, I'm going to miss you Doc,"
"Gonna miss you too dad," Rome replied "but three weeks, it'll go by like that," he snapped his fingers and Castle grinned
"Your grandmother told you that didn't she?" Rome nodded "thought so," Castle paused and Rome go "have fun Doc, now go, go with your friends, see you in three weeks."
Rome nodded and gave his dad one more wave before scampering off after Chase and Nelson as the three boys headed towards the lake.
Castle took a deep breath and slowly made his way back to his car. As he headed towards the Mass-Pike, which would take him back to New York, his mind drifted back…
March 1st 1999
Castle carefully carried the car seat as well as dragged Meredith's heavy suitcase into the elevator. He wasn't sure how she had managed to accumulate so much…crap in such a short hospital stay.
Thankfully Rome was not only sound asleep in the car seat, but was such a tiny thing that he was easy to carry compared to the suitcase. Meredith claimed she was too tired to do any heavy lifting and Castle was too tired himself to argue with her.
As they stepped off the elevator, Castle could hear shuffling and even giggling coming from the other side of the loft door and Castle couldn't help but laugh himself, knowing the giggling was coming from Alexis.
When he pushed open the door Alexis was jumping up and down pointing up a the large sign with her handwriting that read:
'Wellcom hom daddy, mommy, and Rom.' the five year old had drawn smiley faces, what resembled cats, and her own rendition of the family. Alexis was also wearing her a tee-shirt that Martha had purchased for her that said 'I'm the Big Sister,' and she wore it proudly.
Martha had the camcorder in hand and was filming the homecoming. Meredith seemed less than pleased by this and tried to stay out of the camera line for probably the first time in the time Castle had known her.
He didn't have time to contemplate this though as Alexis' jumping became too much for the five year old and she ran over to her parents
"Daddy, daddy, daddy!" she exclaimed, she wanted nothing more than to jump into her daddy's arms, but she knew she couldn't with him holding her baby brother.
"Hiya Pumpkin!" Castle said, he gently set Meredith's suitcase down and expected Meredith to take the car-seat, but she muttered something about being tired and headed towards the guest room to go lay down, shutting the door behind her.
Martha gave Castle a look, but he didn't respond, she set the camcorder down and took the car-seat from her son. Alexis took the opportunity to jump into Castle's arms as Martha gently slid the still sleeping newborn out of his car-seat, cradling him close to her body.
"Can I hold Rome please daddy?" Alexis asked, her eyes wide as she pleaded "please, please I'll be really carefully with him I promise."
Castle looked over at Martha who nodded
"She's been practicing all day Richard with her dolls."
"Okay Pumpkin, go sit down on the couch and gram will bring him over to you," Castle gently set Alexis down and she took his hand pulling him over to the couch. He sat her down near the arm rest and piled as many throw pillows as he could under her arm to help her support Rome, not that the tiny newborn weighed much, but Alexis was only five and had been practicing on inanimate less than a pound plastic toys.
Once she was settled, she looked up at her father and grandmother hopeful as Martha carefully handed the sleeping infant over to his father. Castle sat down next to Alexis and as slowly and carefully as he could transferred the baby to Alexis' waiting arms.
"Mind his head darling," Martha reminded as she picked up the camcorder again, capturing the moment on film.
"Okay gram," Alexis said, her little face scrunched in serious grown up look. "he's so tiny daddy,"
"Yes he is baby," Castle replied "and he's going to need his big sister to look out for him, can you do that Pumpkin?"
"I can daddy, I'm going to be the bestest big sister," Martha chuckled at the cuteness and Castle couldn't help but join her "I will," Alexis insisted, not sure why her grandmother and father were laughing. In her arms Rome cooed a little, giving a sigh.
"We know Alexis, Rome is going to be one lucky little boy to have such a wonderful big sister." Martha said, she sat down in the love seat next to the couch, as close to her son and grandchildren as she could be.
Castle moved closer to Alexis and put his arm around her shoulders hugging her tight and taking Rome's tiny fingers in his own, the baby opened and closed his fists, before holding onto his dad's large finger.
"Who would've ever thought, mother," Castle whispered over Alexis' head "that I'd be a dad, me of all people."
"Richard you're a wonderful father to Alexis and now you'll also be a wonderful father to Roman."
Next to him, Castle felt Alexis shifting a little
"Do want me to take him Alexis? Are you getting tired?"
"No daddy, not yet, I want to hold him a little longer."
"Okay, but you tell me when you get tired okay?"
Alexis nodded and looked at her father
"Daddy can I bring Rome into school for show-and-tell tomorrow?"
Martha and Castle laughed again
"We'll see, maybe when he's a little older, Pumpkin, he's still to little to go on an adventure just yet." Castle replied "but I'll tell you what, tonight you can help me put him to bed. I think that'll be enough of an adventure for both of us."
"Mommy too?" Alexis asked, Castle looked over at the closed guest room door and sighed, that was a tough call.
"We'll have to see how mommy is feeling she's very tired right now."
"Don't worry daddy, I'll be your helper with Rome!"
Castle smiled, he leaned over and kissed Alexis on the top of her head, then leaned down to kiss Rome's forehead.
That memory slowly ended as Castle zipped through the tollbooth thanks to his EZ pass. He still couldn't believe Rome was old enough to be at an overnight camp…his mini me gone for three weeks…in a few years Alexis would be heading off to college, Rome would be heading to high school, then he would also be heading to college.
His kids were growing up so quick right in front of him. In his mind he could still see the three of them sitting on the couch, he was proud of who his kids were becoming, so much like him and yet so much more mature and grown up then him, but he wanted to keep that moment in his mind forever, because forever Alexis and Rome would be five years old and a few weeks old, at least in his mind.
Castle sighed, three weeks…three long weeks and he would have Rome home, and the family would once again be together, something he would hold onto for as long as he could.
Wow, that chapter really got away from me, but since it was the final chapter for the season 1 part of this series I guess it's okay. Yes, this is the final chapter for this particular part of the series, but seriously this is not the last fic I will be uploading with Rome's character. In a week or so Hug-Me and I will have the requested summer fic up and running and then when that is over I'll dive right into season two!
This fic started out as just a fun experiment, I never in a million years expected it to go where it did. I never expected the response I received for it and the wonderful friends I have made thanks to it. Because of this fic and because of all of you reading this right now who have given me so much support with it I feel like I really accomplished something here, it still humbles me with the amazing response from all of you and words will never be enough thanks for what you guys have all done for me, no matter how you connected with this fic, but mainly thank you to those who took the time to review, your words reassured me and gave me the confidence to keep writing this fic. It is because of you I can mark this particular fic as complete, something I never expected to do.
Those first few chapters I wrote on a whim because they were eating away at my imagination, so without your support it wouldnt have turned into an actual story, it would've been stuck at those few chapters.
Anyways, this chapter is already ridiculously long without my author note, so I'll leave it at thank you all! I hope you come back to read the summer fic Hug Me and I have written, be on the look out for it, it will be called "The Heat Draws the Storm" and as I said it should be starting up either next week or the week after and will stick to the same once a week schedule this was on. We're both excited for it and for all of you to read it so please check it out!
Thanks again everyone!