Disclaimer: Most of the characters in this story are the property of Disney and are only used for fan related purposes. Any original characters featured are the intellectual property of their creators.

Jack and the Lantern
(or, Turniphead)

October 31, 1899

It was Hallowe'en again, and Jack Kelly couldn't say he'd been looking forward to the day. Quite the opposite really.

He still hated Hallowe'en.

He was probably one of the only fellas that did. Every 31st of October there were festivals and feasts, mischief and merry-making, stories of ghosts and goblins and far too many legends given life. It was a time for the boys of the Lodging House to have a little fun scaring themselves silly, crossing themselves as they half-heartedly believed in the ghouls and the witches and the evil ones out there.

Because that was all they could do. Believe half-way. When you lived on the streets and your next meal was more of a wish than a certainty, you saw real evil every day. That's why Hallowe'en was fun—for once, you can pretend that there were worse things out there than the reality of living life in stinkin' New York.

But for Jack Kelly—seventeen, now, and still stuck in New York—the truth of it all was that on Hallowe'en, he believed that there were worse things. The stories from his father were forgotten in favor of the few life lessons Francis Sullivan, Sr. imparted on his boy (My father taught me not to starve, he always said matter-of-factly)… except on Hallowe'en. That's when his imagination took over and the stories from the home land, from Ireland, the stories were all remembered and worse: believed.

One night of the year, the darkest night of the year, Jack was forever young, forever looking over his shoulder should a black cat cross his path or a banshee start wailing in his ear or a… a turnip start sprouting legs and follow him across Lower Manhattan.

No, he thought a little crossly. The carved turnip was last year's fright. This year it was… it was—

"What the hell is this?"

They were sitting out behind the back of the Newsboys' Lodging House on Duane Street. It was still light out and the gaslamp overhead wouldn't be lit for a few hours yet. Stress had claimed the spot and marked it with a few newspapers she had bought off of Jack that morning during his sales. He had tried to give them to her for nothing—now that things had ended between him and Davey's sister and he and Stress were attempting to make a go of it he couldn't find himself able to deny her anything—but even though the strike had ended in the boys' favor, she had insisted on paying her penny a pape.

Jack knew better than try to argue with the fiery Irish lass. If he thought banshees and withes were scary, they had nothing on Stress Rhian when she was all riled up.

Her golden cat's eyes bright with excitement, Stress was kneeling on the folds on her skirt, up to her elbows with orange goop. There was no better word for it. The stringy, mucky, messy stuff she was pulling out of the big, round orange thing was definitely goop.

But what was that thing? And why did it smell so bad?

"It's a pumpkin," Stress explained as she finished clearing the pumpkin of its insides. "I bought it off the man who sells apples on the corner. It's kinda turnin' now that's it's been so warm lately, but he let me have it for a two pennies so who am to argue with 'im?"

"But why would you buy it, Stress? What are you doin' with it? Makin' a pie?"

"We're not eatin' it," she said, picking a stray seed off of her arm and flicking it at Jack. "You're gonna carve it. I thought it might be easier than hackin' your way through a tough ol' turnip."

Jack had wondered why she'd brought a knife along with the pumpkin but he hadn't wanted to ask. Now it all made sense. Stress leaving the girls at Bottle Alley behind and asking him to come out back in the midst of the Hallowe'en festival inside the lodging hosue… he should have known she'd have something up her sleeves like this.

To think he'd let out a small sigh of relief that morning when he woke up and there wasn't a carved turniphead lying beside him on his pillow. The boys must have gotten it out of their systems last year, or maybe they forgot the story of Jack and the Lantern, or perhaps,even, they didn't want to upset a Jack Kelly still fresh off of his victory against Pulitzer… whatever it was, he was glad they'd left him alone this Hallowe'en.

He had never thought that Stress would be the one who reminded him how silly he'd been the year before, toting the carved turnip around, secretly afraid that if he didn't, it would end up behind him anyway.

He shook his head, stray pieces of thick sandy hair falling down into his suddenly brooding face. "I don't wanna."

"It's just a little Hallowe'en fun," Stress said insistently. She nudged the knife a little closer to him.

Jack mumbled something under his breath.

"You say somethin', Jack?"

He shrugged. "It's just that you said that last year. Remember? Me and my turnip," Jack said, before smiling wickedly. "You and your mirror."

Stress's pale cheeks lit up like they were on fire. The silly game of the girls and the mirror had been fun in Hallowe'en's past and when he caught her looking for her beau in the glass last year, she'd hoped that he'd had no idea what she was up to. It seemed that he was more versed in the myths and the legends than she'd given him credit for.

She reached for the blade of the knife. "Fine, ya silly Cowboy. You don't have to make any ol' jack o'lantern if you're afraid to. I guess I'll do the carvin' instead."

Jack winced. It was never a good sign when she called him Cowboy. He put his hand over hers before she could pick up the knife.

"No," he said, "I can… I'll do it."

Stress brightened as if she knew her ploy would work. It had and, with a gleeful grin, she let Jack have the knife. "Now, ya didn't go and make any deals with the Devil this last year, didja?"

"I'll have ya know that I ain't in the habit of goin' around and sellin' my soul."

"Then ye ain't got nothin' to worry about, yeah? It's just a lantern. 'S just a light." She pointed to a spot at the top of the hollowed pumpkin. "Start carvin' the eye about here. I got a candle and a match in my pocket. I figure we'll need a good amount of light tonight."

Jack poised the tip of the knife where Stress told him to. He wasn't sure if it was the best idea, what with him being called Jack and tonight being Hallowe'en and the fact that maybe his fingers were a bit too itchy this past year and everyone knew what happened to a thief, but he tried to forget about all that and just focus on Stress's innocent expression and the way she ever-so-slightly had tilted her head back to look up at him.

"Yeah?" He raised his eyebrows, that cocky, charming grin of his not too far behind. "Why's that?"

"It'll be dark when you walk me back to the Home," Stress said, fluttering her eyelashes though it was a struggle for her to keep her own coy smile from curving her lips. And then, because she wanted to get Jack back for his tiny jab at her mirror game, she added sweetly, "'Cause the Lord only knows that without that lantern, all the ghoulies and beasties might get ya on your way back here."

Jack froze, the knife still resting against the pumpkin's flesh. Stress let out a laugh and gave him a light kiss on his cheek before falling back on her knees and waiting for him to start the carving.

A few seconds later—despite the fact that he was well past seventeen now, he was the infamous leader of the newsies of Lower Manhattan and the bane of Joseph Pulizer—Jack Kelly started to carve himself a Hallowe'en lantern out of a slightly mushy, slightly spoiled pumpkin that Stress brought him for just the occasion. Because apart from wanting to see the excited light in her eyes, he had to admit something—

Damn if he wasn't just a little bit nervous about the walk back to Duane Street that Hallowe'en night.

End Note: I never planned on adding a second chapter to this. However, for the Twelve Days of Papes on tumblr, one of the days was a prompt that had to do with one of the newsies carving a Halloween pumpkin. My first thought was that it fit in with my headcanon about Jack being a little nervous about Jack o'Lanterns because of his Irish upbringing and his Victorian superstitions. I guess this little ficlet is the result of that.

Since, in my Jack/Stress universe, Jack and Stress get together shortly after the strike ends - and after Jack and Sarah end things - I thought it would be nice to pick up with these two a year later, on Halloween 1899. I thought this was a cute little follow-up to a story I wrote 2 years ago, and I only hope you guys agree.

Happy Halloween!

- stress, 10.25.10