Noctis doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t tired. And aching… everywhere and all at once just aching all the damn time.
It became a little easier to understand when he was sixteen and the doctors were finally, finally, able to diagnose what the hell was wrong with him. It’d taken years of blood tests, MRIs, x-rays, physicals, and failed treatment after failed treatment to really get down to the real cause of Noct’s nearly constant pain and crippling lethargy:
“Myalgic Encephalomyelitis”, they told him, but it was easier to call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
But understanding is so much more different than accepting.
“There’s no cure” he was told, along with “there’s no treatment,” and that sounded a hell of a lot like “there’s no hope.”
He couldn’t bear the thought of making his dad, his only family, taking all of his time to take care of his poor, sick son. His father is already busy enough managing a multi-million gil company in the capital of the world. He was an important man with a lot of important responsibilities with a son whose condition sometimes took around-the-clock care at an age when Noct should be completely independent.
So at age seventeen, he tried to kill himself. He couldn’t handle living as a burden to the one person he loved in the world. He took the entire bottle of pain pills the doctor had given him for particularly bad aches and pains and swallowed them down with some bitter alcohol he found in a cabinet in their kitchen.
Two weeks later, he woke up in a hospital bed. His father held his hand, looking at him with eyes that looked aged by years.
“Sorry,” was the first thing Noct said out loud. It hurt his throat and chest, but at least it distracted him from the pain in his joints.
“Don’t you ever leave me, my son.” Regis kissed Noct’s forehead, and Noct felt a teardrop fall onto his face. It was the first time his father ever cried in front of him.
So Noct resolved that he would power through his disease, no matter how hard it got at times. No matter how bad the pain got, no matter how much he just needed one more hour of sleep (which always turned into many, many more hours), he would never try to take his own life again.
Now he’s twenty years old and, well, his dad isn’t so young anymore. He’s approaching sixty, and it isn’t easy for him to help Noct off of the floor when he’s too tired to get himself up after passing out from exhaustion. Granted, that hasn’t happened in a long time, but he can’t keep expecting someone to always pick him up when he falls, literally. So, over dinner, he brings up a topic that’s bound to be sore:
“I wanna move out.” Noct says, pushing the vegetables to the side of his plate as usual.
“Certainly not.” Regis doesn’t even look up from his dinner.
Noct pushes the issue anyway. “I want a chance to prove I can take care of myself.”
Regis is unflappably patient. “I understand that, Noctis, but you’ve just recently gotten your condition under control. I don’t think it’s wise to rush things along.”
“One month.” Noct pleads. “Give me one month on my own.”
Regis places his fork down carefully and folds his hands in front of him. “You know why I’m afraid to leave you alone, don’t you?”
“Dad…” Noct looks away shamefully. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“I’ll always worry.”
“I’m more careful nowadays. I use my wheelchair when I have to.” He reminds his father. He was positively bullheaded about it as a teenager; he didn’t want to look like he had a disease, and the wheelchair was a deal-breaker.
“You do…” Regis admits.
“And I’m better about my diet.” Noct is collecting evidence in the case to prove he’s ready to at least try to be on his own.
Regis raises an eyebrow, smirks, and glances down at the abandoned vegetables.
The corners of Noct’s mouth frown and he holds back a chuckle. “Well, maybe not all the time…”
Regis is the first to lose his composure, breaking into soft laughter, and Noct follows suit.
In less than a week, Noct moves into his high-rise apartment owned by his father’s company. It’s too large for just him, but fully furnished and has everything he could need or want. It feels a little bit bad to be handed this beautiful apartment for literally nothing, but independence, the chance to live a little bit of a normal life makes him excited and gives him a burst of energy. He spends the first half of move-in day grocery shopping, and the second half packing up the empty cupboards and refrigerator. What is usually a mundane errand for most people is a triathlon for Noctis, and he’s feeling it by the time 4:00 pm rolls around.
Every muscle connecting to his shoulders feels pulled in all directions, heavy and strained and tight all at once. His back and torso throb from his very core, and his thighs and calves feel like they carried him across the ocean. He definitely won’t have the energy to cook anything for dinner. And just as he closes his eyes, laying on his new couch, his phone rings.
“Hey,” Noct anwers, trying not to sound so worn out.
“How was the first day?” Regis asks kindly. Noct can hear the warm smile in his voice.
“Great, great.” Noct rubs his eye. “Bought groceries, put them away.”
“That’s a lot for one day.” Regis knows his son’s limits well, but is impressed with the young man’s determination to prove himself. “How do you feel?”
Noct goes to his default response: “Tired.”
Two weeks into his independence and Noct is doing… alright.
Well, he’s still alive, isn’t he?
The apartment is a bit of a mess, but tons of people live in less-than-perfectly kept homes, right?
By the time he makes himself a meal and manages to force some of it down, he doesn’t have any energy at all to clean up the mess it leaves behind, so there’s a bit of trash around…
… And he has done some laundry, but it hasn’t managed to magically fold itself, so he’s been pulling out clothes as needed, not caring how wrinkly they are, from the pile of clean clothes in the basket. It’s not like he goes out anyway, who does he need to look good for?
He talks to his dad every day, sometimes twice a day. He promises things are great, lies through his teeth about feeling better than he actually does. He doesn’t tell his dad that he’s been going to bed crying more often than not because the amount of pain he’s in keeps him up all night. He doesn’t tell him that he’s missed showering for a few days because he can’t get out of bed for more than a glass of water or a Pop-Tart.
Noct tells himself it’ll just take time to get used to the new routine. Once he builds his stamina a bit more over the next few weeks, things will be a little better.
It’s around the third or fourth day without bathing and he can’t stand the smell any longer, so he fights everything within him to stay under the blankets to get his clothes off and get into the shower. Despite all the extra hours of sleep he’s gotten, he doesn’t feel any more rested and his muscles feel more achey and sore than before. He hopes the hot water will help some of the tightness go away.
As he makes his zombie-paced walk to the bathroom, he hears a key turn in his front door. Before he can react, it’s being opened and someone is walking in. “Hello?” He yells out cautiously.
“Noctis?” It’s his father, and Noct can already tell that he’s seen the state of the place.
Noct feels like a little boy again, about to be scolded for failing to clean his room. “Dad…”
“Is this what you mean by ‘everything’s fine’?” Regis nearly hisses. “Noctis… You can’t take care of yourself like this!”
“We agreed on a month.” Noct reminds him, a hand going into his hair.
“You wouldn’t have held out a month!” Regis places a hand over his mouth, and Noct is wondering if it’s because of a smell in the apartment. “This is squalor!”
“I just got a little behind…” Noct tries. If his father had decided to come in a just a few hours, Noct probably would have had this place a lot better looking.
Regis goes to the kitchen and inspects the refrigerator: empty. “Noctis, what have you been eating?” He does the same to the cupboards and finds some, but very few, quick and low-nutrition single-serving foods. Regis sighs, his shoulders visibly lowering. He turns to his son, who has settled into humiliated silence. “We need to talk about other arrangements.”
Noct’s eyes start to sting and he knows tears are coming. His father is going to make him move back home and Noct’s going to have to be taken care of for the rest of his life.
“Sit down, please.” Regis finds a clear spot on the couch big enough for the two of them and sits first, waiting for Noct to join him before he speaks. “I know how hard you’re trying or else you wouldn’t have lied to me about all of this.”
Noct nods, an apology written in his gaze.
“But I can’t sleep at night knowing that this is the state in which my only son is living. I’m too old to endure such a thing.” Regis says.
“Don’t say that…” Noct pleads.
“Then please, humor me and let me look into getting someone to help you out around here?”
Noct grimaces. “Like a… butler?”
“Not quite.” Regis pats his son’s hand. “More of a… caregiver. Someone trained in medicine, someone who understands your condition and knows what to do to help you live a safe, happy life.”
“Would they… live here?” Noct has plenty of space in the apartment, but what good is living away from home if he has to live with someone else anyway?
“No. They would help you get out of the home more often to get things done, and make sure you’re safe doing it.” Regis’ nostrils flare. “And they would make sure you shower every day.”
Noct folds his arms and pouts. “Well, I’m not letting them give me any sponge baths.”
“No?” Regis jokes. “Not even if they’re cute?”
Noct’s eyes roll so far they nearly fall out of his head and he groans. “Sto-ooop!” He gets up and heads once again toward the bathroom. “I’m gonna shower now. And I’ll clean after, I promise.”
Regis nods. “I trust in you.”