Welcome back, my friends! I promised a sequel to my famous "Guardian" story, and here it is! This chapter's a bit of a quickie, but it should keep you satisfied while I get the rest of the story figured out. I expect reviews for this when you're through. The other story may very well have remained unwritten without them, you know. And if you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate it if your reviews were a bit more…constructive. Don't just say things like "wow" and "awesome" and "this is so cool"; I would like to know just what you think is so cool about the story, why it is so awesome. Be a bit more specific, will you? It helps build me up, helps me to see what I do well on and where improvement could be used. Thanks!

Characters (with exceptions) © Disney

Story © unicorn-skydancer08

All rights reserved.

Chapter 1: Nightmares of the Past

"No!" Pinocchio screamed, breaking out of the terrible nightmare he had been wallowing in with an unpleasant start that jolted his whole body.

Then, looking around, struggling for breath while cold perspiration trickled down his face, the boy realized he was in his own room, safe and unharmed. He was lying on the floor next to his bed, with his legs entangled in the sheets and blanket. One of his pillows was with him, as was his new teddy bear that he almost always snuggled with when he went to sleep. Bright rays of early morning sunlight flooded through his open window. The soft, soothing chirruping of birds sounded in his ears. Realizing it was only a dream, Pinocchio let out a deep sigh of relief, though his heart continued to thud painfully against his ribcage and his stomach was still twisted in knots.

"Pinocchio?" a familiar voice called out just then.

In less than two seconds, Terence appeared in the door, looking frantic with worry. "Pinocchio, what happened?" he gasped, his sea-blue eyes wide with alarm, his handsome, youthful face the color of oatmeal. "Are you all right? Is everything all right?" When he discovered Pinocchio lying on the floor, he made a swift beeline to him. "What happened?" the white-haired man repeated, softly and more gently this time, as he knelt beside him. "How did you fall out of bed?"

Pinocchio didn't answer right away, but crawled closer to Terence, dragging his teddy with him. Terence promptly shifted his position, so that he now sat on the floor with his long legs spread out flat. Pinocchio climbed into the young man's lap and Terence folded the child into his arms, blanket and bear and all. Pinocchio curled up like a cat and nestled his head against Terence's chest, taking comfort in his guardian's warmth and solidity.

He always felt safe and secure whenever Terence was near.

"What happened, Pinocchio?" Terence asked a third time. "I was in the other room, and I heard you screaming about something."

He paused before adding in a low voice, "You had that dream again, didn't you?"

Pinocchio nodded.

"It's always the same, Terence," the boy said, finally speaking aloud. "I dream that I'm still in the circus, that Fabrizio is coming after me. I'm standing on the high wire, with Fabrizio in front of me and laughing. Then the wire breaks—"

He stopped, unable to finish, but Terence understood what the boy meant to say.

"Oh, my poor boy," Terence said softly, his countenance sorrowful, his deep blue eyes emanating heartfelt pity.

Not so long ago, both he and Pinocchio had been at a real circus. There really had been a Fabrizio—Master Fabrizio, to be precise. He was the cruel, ruthless ringmaster of the Fabrizio Expo, who cared for no one and for nothing but tobacco, alcohol, and all the money he could lay his filthy hands on. Even though Fabrizio was long gone, the memory of him still haunted Terence, and especially Pinocchio, to this very day. Even though Pinocchio was now safe with Terence, the child still suffered periodic nightmares and hallucinations of the time Fabrizio kidnapped him and kept him against his will in the circus, of the fateful night he and Fabrizio were involved in a grave accident that resulted in Fabrizio's death.

Were it not for the saving grace of the Blue Fairy, Pinocchio would not be here today, either—nor would he be in the form of a real boy of flesh and blood, in place of a pinewood marionette.

"I'm so sorry, Pinocchio," Terence went on as he brushed the boy's hair back from his forehead. "It all seems so real, doesn't it?"

Pinocchio nodded again. "Do you have dreams like that too, Terence?" he couldn't help asking.

"More times than I care to number," Terence answered grimly, recalling how he himself often awoke in the middle of the night to find his sheets and pillows soaking wet, as though someone had poured a bucket of water all over him.

It still knifed the young man's heart to think about how he had lost Pinocchio, however temporarily. He would never forget the sorrow and the pure agony that beset him that night after the fatal mishap at Fabrizio's circus.

The grief killed him, almost literally.

"Well, Pinocchio," Terence said at length, "all I can say is thank heaven it's all nothing but a bad dream, and we are here now, safe and well."

Pinocchio smiled, thinking of the time that had gone by since Terence first took him under his wing. These last few months were among the best of the boy's life, in spite of the nightmares.

His real father, Geppetto, had sadly passed away due to a grave illness. Pinocchio didn't know where he would be today had Terence not come across him, nor did he want to think about it. Terence was like a second father to him. Actually, since the man was so young (despite the shining whiteness of his hair, he looked to be somewhere between eighteen and twenty-one), he was sometimes more like an older brother looking after his small sibling.

Father, brother…at any rate, it didn't matter. What did matter was that Terence was always watching out for Pinocchio, was always there to help whenever his help was needed.

He always treated Pinocchio with love and respect, and every now and again, for just the tiniest space of time, Pinocchio could swear he saw Geppetto standing in his place. Thanks to Terence, Pinocchio now had a home, a family, a warm bed to sleep in, and plenty of good food to fill his belly. Even this small, fluffy brown teddy the child now cuddled was given to him from Terence, as a very special gift. In Terence's honor, Pinocchio had named his bear Terry.

Terence smiled at Pinocchio in return and kissed him tenderly on the forehead.

"You didn't hurt yourself when you fell out of bed, did you?" he asked, his smile fading.

"No," said Pinocchio truthfully. "Just woke up feeling very scared."

"Well, come on," said Terence, helping to untangle Pinocchio's legs from the web of sheets and lifting the boy up with him as he rose to his feet.

He carefully set Pinocchio back down on his own feet before continuing, "Why don't you come into the kitchen with me for a bit of breakfast? There's bread in the oven and porridge on the stove right now. That'll cheer you up."

"With sugar and honey?" Pinocchio asked, his eyes brightening at the prospect.

"All the sugar and honey you want, little mate. And there's milk and fresh fruit, too."

"Yum!" It had only occurred to Pinocchio just now how genuinely hungry he was. His belly gave out a noticeable growl, and Terence laughed.

"Come on," the white-haired youth smiled again, "let's get a move on and get some food into you before your stomach has a fit."