Archer had never had a good night's sleep.
There was always something there, in his room or his head or his dreams, something that chased or stalked or hunted, a nameless terror that left Archer waking up screaming and sweating and terrified.
Seeking to be rid of the nightmares, Archer's parents had taken him to all sorts of doctors and psychologists, and had gotten him a variety of pills and techniques to try. The pills simply trapped Archer in his dreams, while the techniques made no difference at all.
Archer, now a sleep-deprived teenager, had finally resigned himself to a sleepless life, when he received a birthday gift from his aunt.
"It's just a superstition," she said, as he pulled the curious object out of the box, "but it's supposed to trap your bad dreams and keep them away. I figured it was worth a try."
Archer held the dream catcher up so that the light caught in the clear bead in the center of the web. The feathers drifted faintly in the wind, and the small beads tied to each feather clicked faintly together. "Thanks," he said, giving his aunt a half-smile. At least it was better than the horrid sweater she'd gotten him last year; that would have given him nightmares, if he hadn't already had them.
Deciding that the dream catcher was worth a try, Archer stuck a tack in the only bit of empty wall-space in his room and hung the dream catcher on it. He sat down on the bed to contemplate his new decoration.
It didn't exactly match the band posters, but if it kept the nightmares away, Archer would put up with a hell of a lot more than something fluffy and white-ish hanging on his wall.
It was dark when Archer woke up that night, and for a moment he just lay there in confusion. He wasn't confused about waking up in the middle of the night, but rather over the fact that he wasn't sweating, scared or screaming.
Blinking his eyes and wondering what the hell had woken him up, Archer noticed that the room was a bit lighter than it usually was. The light seemed to be emanating from the dream catcher, hung on the wall opposite his bed, and Archer frowned at it as he fumbled for his glasses on the nightstand.
"The hell?" Archer asked, when the world came into focus and he could see the source of the light. There appeared to be a man trapped in his wall. His face was in the dream catcher, unless it was behind the dream catcher, or in front of the dream catcher so that Archer could merely see the webbing through the man's head.
Arms folded, the glowing man was glaring at Archer, the rest of his body stuck inside of/behind/in front of the wall in the same way his head was trapped by the dream catcher.
"Who are you?" Archer asked, scratching at his slightly greasy hair.
"I'm your worst nightmare," the trapped man snapped.
"Oh," Archer said. "It worked."
"Of course it fucking worked," the man said, still glaring.
Archer scratched his neck. "So now you can't bother my sleep?" he asked.
"I'm trapped," the man ground out, as though that answered everything.
"Sweet," Archer muttered, removing his glasses. He folded them onto the bedside table again and started shuffling his blankets back into their original positions.
"Well?" the glowing man demanded after a while.
"Well what?" Archer asked.
"What are you going to do with me?"
Archer laughed. "You just told me I'm going to get the first good night's sleep of my life, and then you expect me to do something with you? Not bloody likely. Goodnight." And with that he rolled over, ignored the man trapped in his wall and went to sleep.
Sleep was a wonderful thing, Archer discovered the next day, when he awoke. His parents were concerned because they hadn't heard him screaming in the night, but Archer smiled and bounced as he danced around the kitchen, pausing barely long enough to explain that he'd slept the whole night through before he danced off to school.
Archer slept soundly the next few days, but after a week or so he drifted off while doing his homework, only to blink awake an hour later due to the uncomfortable position he was sitting in. The glowing man was back in his wall.
"You're still here," Archer said.
"Where else am I going to go?" the man asked. "I'm trapped."
"Oh," Archer said. "I guess that's too bad." He turned back to his homework for a moment, but couldn't quite focus with the strange man's glare directed at his back. "Why did you haunt my sleep?" he finally asked, turning back to the wall.
His ex-nightmare frowned. "I'm a nightmare, it's what I do," he said.
"Yes, but why me?" Archer asked, twirling his pen.
"You were there," the man replied. "You didn't have a dream catcher."
"Thank goodness I do now," Archer said. "Do you know how wonderful sleep is?" he asked. "I never thought it could be so restful."
The nightmare growled and glared, but couldn't do anything else.
Two weeks after that the glowing man was still there, and Archer could see him without even falling asleep.
"What's your name?" Archer asked one night.
"I don't have one," the nightmare replied, arms crossed and glaring.
"Why not?" Archer asked.
"Dreams don't have names unless they're caught."
"But you're caught, so you must have a name," Archer said.
"Not until you give me one," the nightmare replied.
"Minuit?" Archer suggested.
"That's a girl's name," the man grumbled.
"You're just going to name me 'dream' in another language? That's creative."
"You speak French?" Archer asked. "Great, then you can help me with my French homework."
The nightmare was not too happy about that, Archer could tell because he crossed his arms and glared. Although, if Archer used that to judge, then the nightmare didn't like much of anything at all.
Archer's French grade improved, but then, all of his grades were improving now that he could actually sleep.
"What are you going to do with me?" the nightmare asked one night, interrupting Archer's physics homework.
"What do you mean?" Archer asked, glad of the distraction.
"You can't just trap me here forever," The nightmare snapped.
Archer reminded himself to think of a name for the man. "If I let you out, you'll just haunt my dreams again," he said. "I'm getting far too attached to my sleep for that."
"I can't haunt your dreams now," the nightmare said. "You trapped me."
"Yeah," Archer said. "So?"
"So you have to do something with me," the night terror snapped, his hands clenching on his arms.
"Like what?" Archer asked, leaning back on his bed. "What are trapped nightmares good for?"
"Sex," the dream replied quickly, the glow behind his eyes flickering oddly.
Archer laughed and collapsed back on his bed. "In your dreams," he said.
"Nightmares don't have dreams," his ex-nightmare said, glaring.
"Right," Archer said, when he finished laughing. "What else can you do for me?"
Archer must have insulted him, though, as the nightmare sounded quite annoyed as he answered Archer's question.
"I can be sent to haunt other people's dreams," he said.
"That's useless," Archer said, "Anything else?"
"Answer questions about French homework."
Archer shook his head. "You're at my command, and you can't even do anything useful?"
"Do I look like I can fetch a glass of water?" The nightmare asked, spreading his arms to illustrate his trapped-in-the-wall-ness.
"What you look like is trapped," Archer said, just to torment.
Life went on like this for some time, and Archer grew used to the constant glare of the nightmare.
Then one night he woke up sweating. It took him a moment to realize it wasn't with fear, but he glared blurrily at the glowing figure across the room anyway. "I thought you couldn't haunt my dreams anymore," he said.
The nightmare snorted. "That wasn't me," he said. "That was some flimsy flutter-bye dream. She probably only targeted you because I'm stuck here."
Archer wasn't so sure the dream was a she, but decided not to say anything else as he rolled over and went back to sleep.
"You could move the dream catcher," the nightmare said a week after that.
"Oh?" Archer said. "And what would happen then?"
"I'd get to look at your room from a different perspective," the nightmare answered.
"What if I put it in the sunlight?" Archer asked, having done a bit of online research at one point.
"If it's direct sunlight from outside, I'd dissipate," the nightmare ground out.
"You'd die," Archer clarified.
"Yes," The nightmare replied, "but it couldn't possibly be as bad as this nothing you've trapped me in."
"You won't be able to escape if I move the dream catcher, will you?" Archer asked.
"No," the nightmare said.
"I'll think about it," Archer replied.
The 'flutter-bye' dream kept returning. Archer tried to believe that it was just the dream trying to torment the trapped nightmare, but it got harder to believe every night.
Waking up again, Archer sat up and rubbed his face, giving up on sleep for the moment.
"Who is Mir?" The trapped nightmare asked.
"What?" Archer replied, fumbling for his glasses.
"You called out for 'Mir' in your sleep," the nightmare said.
"Oh," Archer said, yawning. "He's no one."
"He?" asked the nightmare. "I doubt you're having those dreams about him if he's no one."
Archer squinted at him and shook his head. He'd been trying to think of a name for the nightmare a while ago, and one had stuck, but now wasn't the time to tell him. "He's no one," Archer repeated.
"You know you can tell me anything," the nightmare cajoled. "I'm trapped in your wall after all."
Archer sighed and pulled his glasses back off. "Good night," he said.
The nightmare glared.
"I've thought of a name for you," Archer said, long enough later that he hoped the nightmare had forgotten the name the flutter-bye pulled from his lips. "Will anything happen when I give it to you?" he asked.
"I'll turn into a shiny fairy and fly away to spread cheer and joy to all the people of the world," the nightmare replied, deeply sarcastic.
"Anything else?" Archer asked, moving to stand in front of the dream catcher.
"I'll be trapped in a dream catcher, and awaiting a command from a master who'll never give me one," the nightmare said, sarcasm no less in this second statement.
"I'm not sure you deserve a name," Archer said, stepping even closer to the dream catcher.
"And why is that?" the nightmare asked, glaring harder.
"Useless things don't have names," Archer replied.
"I'm not useless!" The nightmare snapped.
Archer laughed and shifted back to lean against the foot of his bed. "Then what are your uses?" he asked.
"I've told you!" the nightmare snapped. "It's not my fault that you'd rather dream of this- this 'Mir' person than make use of me!"
"Mm," Archer said, deciding that maybe tonight was not the night to name the nightmare after all. "I'll see if I can think of anyone I need a nightmare sent to," he said, stepping away entirely.
"What about my name?" the nightmare asked.
Archer shook his head. "Perhaps another night," he said.
Another night came and went, as did several more such nights, and Archer found it harder and harder to tell the nightmare his chosen name, not least because the flutter-bye dream kept returning each of those nights. Archer's sleep was becoming almost as disrupted as it was before he'd caught the nightmare, and it was frustrating him in a way the nightmares never had because now he knew what he was missing.
"Who is he?" the nightmare asked on yet another night when Archer gasped himself awake.
Archer looked at the nightmare's blurry outline in silence.
"Who is he?" the nightmare demanded, straining forward against his bonds. "Why does he get you when I do not?"
Archer's inner debate ended, and he stood up to walk across the room, the floor cold on his feet. "You want to know who he is?" he asked, stopping in front of the dream catcher.
"Yes," the nightmare hissed, reaching for Archer, though his hand was stuck inside of or behind the wall, and couldn't touch.
"You want to know what your name is?" Archer asked, leaning forward and putting his arms against the wall on either side of the nightmare's head.
"Ye-" the nightmare began, but he never got to finish, the word cut off by the press of Archer's lips.
"Mirage," Archer said a long moment later, whispering the word into the mouth of his dream.
Mirage laughed and pushed himself forward out of the wall. He wrapped his legs around Archer as they fell backwards onto Archer's bed. "You'll never be free now," Mirage said.
"I never was," Archer replied. "Nor were you. We're both trapped together."