He woke in a cold sweat. His eyes snapped open like he'd been pricked by a needle. With a gasp he tore himself from the blankets and lurched from his bed in a surge of primal fear. It was purely instinctual. He knew it was nothing more than a dream no matter how real it felt, but the fear still clung to him like a Meowth to a gold coin.

He took a moment to catch his breath. Dream images still flitted before his eyes, half seen and half imagined. They swam in and out of reality, merging with the nightstand and the bedspread and roosting in the shadows of tree branches cast upon the carpet by moonlight. He followed the apparitions with watery eyes. A mix of sorrow and longing flavored his gaze. The corners of his mouth twitched once, twice, fluctuating up and down before settling in a neutral position.

There was a pit in his chest, and he could feel its absence. It was brimming with want and need. He looked to his dreams, though they had since faded from the view of his physical eye, and saw the means to fill. He just needed to dig a little deeper.

His sight returned to the concrete as he looked down to his yellow-furred companion. Its white mane, like its master's, had grown unkempt over the past months. The two mirrored each other further, with dark circles beneath bloodshot eyes and a hunched stature that spoke of a resigned attitude toward gravity. They were tired, and they had been for some time. The only real contrast between them was the look in their eyes. The master's, though they held sorrow, also carried an eagerness. They looked forward. The servant's shared the sorrow, but in place of eagerness they carried a different sort of pleading. They looked forward only for an end, one they couldn't see.

The master saw the silent plea. He'd seen it before. /Stop/.

"Once more," he begged, choking back a sob.

/It hurts you. I can taste it/.

"Once more, please." His voice cracked. "This'll be the last time. I swear."

The servant could not bear to see its master suffer, but it had no choice. It could only hope to choose the path of lesser suffering. Reluctantly it held aloft the old medallion, chipped and tarnished and dangling from a broken string. Its master smiled his broken smile and sank to the floor where he could meet the pendant with eyes that were, in truth, worlds away. As the little metal circle danced on the string, swinging left and right and twirling about, the man's lids grew heavy and he slumped to the floor.

Its work only half done, the servant lifted its master from the cold wood floor and placed him in his bed. The servant took its time, being sure to fluff the pillows and tuck its master in comfortably. Still the servant's work was incomplete.

With a heavy heart and an unsteady paw, the servant lifted its medallion once more to fulfill its master's orders. The pendant danced before closed eyes, but its audience felt the effects no less. The servant wove a bridge between its master's dark memories and his sleeping mind.

Almost immediately the man began to fidget. Soon he was tossing and turning, limbs trying to break free from the restraining covers just as his subconscious tried to escape the pain and fear. It clawed and bit at the servant's bridge, as fierce as any opponent on the battlefield, trying anything to be free from the torture. The servant fought back as its master, at least when conscious, willed, knowing full well that it hurt him in the process. To not hurt him in this way would be to hurt him in another, so the servant complied.

The battle waged on for what might have been minutes or hours. Regardless, the servant tired, the medallion slowed, the bridge was severed, and the man jolted awake, still grasping at that horrid slumber wherein he could recall what he had lost. He had been fighting as well, battling the nightmares that he called upon himself. The toll it took was clear in each labored breath he took and each bead of sweat that stuck to his skin. The pit was deeper now, but for one brief moment, a second of bliss in an eternity of suffering, it had been full and overflowing. And he would do it all again. He would go through hell and worse just to see her face one more time.