Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Synopsis: This is Halloween - UT Style, not your average homey story.

It was the little things that reminded him of home. The spiral-back notepad – one among many he had brought back with him – the pen he was using to write down his thoughts, the television set Aeryn had given him and the tapes she had brought too. But there were other things as well, things he found replacements for when he couldn't get the real thing. Like pumpkins. There were no big orange pumpkins in the Uncharted Territories, but there were similar things.

His calendar – the electronic one his sister had given him – helped him keep track of the days and months back home and upon realizing that it was Halloween back home, the urge to do something about it had overwhelmed him. And the trip to the commerce planet the day before had granted him this odd occurrence, which could replace a pumpkin if he used his imagination. Granted, it wasn't orange, but it was about the same size as a pumpkin and the guy selling these ... fruits ... had insisted it was edible and harmless. The toxic green color made him think of watercolors and finger paints and impossibly green grass on a childish painting, and the fruit was round, smooth and cut-able.

He had gutted it, scraped out all the flesh and the amazing amount of seeds, which looked like oversized sunflower seeds, and had set about carving a face on the damned thing. It didn't smell like a pumpkin, of course. There was a touch of the putrid about it, but it wasn't nearly enough to make him stop what he was doing. And once it was cleaned out, he could douse it with some of Zhaan's concoctions and thereby remove the rest of the smell.

With a halfhearted grin, he cut out one eye and sat back to admire his handiwork. "Better than when I was a kid, at least," he muttered and set about carving out the second eye. It wasn't as even as it could be, but the eyes seemed appropriately ominous and would be complemented by the leering, fang-infested mouth he still had to carve. All in all, none of his friends knew what a Halloween pumpkin was supposed to look like, so he could basically get away with anything.

"What's that?"

Aeryn's voice interrupted his somewhat sad reverie, but he didn't glance back at her. He didn't trust himself not to have a total emotional meltdown right now and the last thing he wanted was to start bawling his eyes out over nothing in front of her. "Halloween pumpkin," he countered and wiped the back of his hand under his nose. "It's not orange, but it'll do."

She sat down next to him on the long bench running along the long table in the center chamber and eyed his creation thoughtfully. "What the frell is a hallo een pum-kin?"

Despite his present depressive state of mind and surging homesickness, he couldn't help grinning. Aeryn was trying very hard to speak English properly and she was doing great in general. But there were words that she never really picked up. "Halloween pumpkin," he repeated, stressing the pronunciation of the words to make them clearer for her. "It's a ... tradition. It's Halloween today ... back home."

She continued to eye the makeshift excuse for a pumpkin with a slight frown. "And what is Halloween?"

There was no denying that she learned a hell of a lot faster than anyone he'd ever known. He smiled feebly for a moment, but felt it falter and stopped trying to pretend to be happy. "It's a really silly superstition, actually," he said with a light sigh. "Old tradition. Halloween was originally All Hallows Eve, the one night per year where the dead could come back to haunt the living," he explained, uncertain of what she would make of it. "To keep dead relatives at bay, people dressed up as someone or something else and put pumpkins in front of their houses. Something like that, anyway. Nowadays it's more a kid's thing. You take your kids trick or treating, going from door to door, demanding candy. If there's no candy, you can play tricks on your neighbors. Like tp their house and stuff like that."

Aeryn blinked, her gaze locked on the would-be pumpkin. "Tp?" she asked.

"Toilet-paper. It's a stupid tradition, really, but the kids have fun," he countered.

"So, you take your children out to demand something edible from your neighbors or you'll annoy the dren out of them?" she asked, a frown furrowing her brow. "That sounds like a really frelled way to celebrate."

"I didn't say it was intelligent," he said with a smile. "It's all superstition and smoke screens. But it's fun. You get to dress up, go to parties and get drunk if you don't have kids, or just help the kids have a fabulous time if you do."

She shrugged in return, accepting his explanation without further question. "What do you do with this, then?"

"You carve a scary face on it, put a candle in it and leave it on the doorstep to keep ghosts away. Problem is, we don't have a doorstep on Moya and I don't believe in ghosts." He shrugged in return. "I just need to do stuff like this sometimes. It's kinda important."

Aeryn nodded. "I understand," she claimed, then focused on the bowl that now contained the insides of the green pumpkin. "What do you do with that?" she asked, nodding at it.

"With pumpkins you can make pie, but this stuff doesn't smell so good, so I think I'll just dump it in the trash when I'm done," he countered and started carving the mouth.

For a moment, Aeryn remained silent. Then she reached out and prodded the contents of the bowl with one finger. "You actually touched this dren?" she asked and glanced at his hands.

John grinned and showed her his slightly green-tinged hands. "Yup, that's part of the fun. It's icky and squishy. That's part of the Halloween tradition," he agreed and put the finishing touches on the wannabe-pumpkin. "There! What do you think? Does it look scary?"

She eyed it for a moment, then glanced at him, her expression speaking more than words. "Yes, sort of," she finally said and he could have kissed her for that little white lie. It was obvious she didn't think it was the least bit scary, but she said yes anyway to accommodate his feelings. She had come a long way since he'd seen her that very first time.

"Yeah, it'll spook the hell out of Rygel," he countered with a smirk and put the short, stout candle that he had bought along with the green pumpkin inside it.


Silence had once again settled on Moya after the beginning of the night cycle and John found himself sitting alone in the center chamber while he was contemplating whether or not to paint the ghastly-green pumpkin orange. It worked fine in green, actually, but it was still a bit of an eyesore rather than the reminder of home he had hoped for.

The bowl with the innards of this particular fruit was still sitting on the table and he had to acknowledge that it didn't smell better with time. Making a face, he finally decided to give up on his endeavor of bringing Halloween to the Uncharted Territories and rose to get rid of the smelly batch of fruit-flesh.

But when he reached for it, he suddenly realized something was moving inside. With a slight frown, he leaned closer, squinting at the dark-green, vile-smelling mush. Something the size of one of the seeds had started wiggling around. "Yuck," he muttered. It would appear that this stuff rotted a lot faster than anything else he'd come across out here.

He grabbed the bowl, intent on getting rid of this slush before it could turn into a maggot-infested bowl of slime, but he no more than managed to turn in the direction of the waste disposal unit when the wiggling thing inside got company. Within seconds, the whole bowl was alive with wiggling and squirming ... things.

He made a hasty move toward the waste disposal unit, but didn't manage to take more than two steps before dozens of little critters buzzed out of the bowl and surrounded him in a slow-moving funnel for a moment. Then they took off in all directions and disappeared into the corridor, the air-ducts and any other opening that was big enough to let them through.

John just stood there and stared at the doorway, uncertain of what had just happened. "Uh ... Pilot?" he finally managed.

"Yes, Commander," Pilot replied instantly as his image appeared on the clamshell.

John glanced at it, then back at the door, then back at Pilot's image. "I think we have a problem," he said.

"And what problem might that be?" Pilot asked. He didn't sound alarmed. At least not yet.

"Something just ... uh ... flew out of this bowl," John said, holding it up for Pilot to see. "Lots of little somethings," he added and sent another glance toward the doorway. "What is that thing I bought?"

"What thing?" Pilot asked.

John stepped aside to allow Pilot to see the green pumpkin. "That thing," he said, nodding toward it.

Pilot's image studied the round fruit for a moment. "I do not know. I have never seen anything like it before," he confessed. "These ... somethings you say flew out of that bowl ... where did they go?"

"Down the hatch, out into the corridor, through every crack and cranny they could fit through," John said and glanced into the bowl. "I think they were the seeds in this thing," he added thoughtfully.

So far, Pilot still did not sound worried and that made John hope that there was nothing to worry about. "It is quite likely that the trill-bats will pick them off. I would not worry about it," Pilot finally said and John breathed a sigh of relief.

"Good to hear, Pilot. I just thought I'd mention it. Just in case," he countered, then dumped the rest of the bowl's contents into the waste disposal unit. "Sorry to wake you."

"I was awake," Pilot replied.

"Well, sorry to keep you up then," John said, dropped the bowl on the kitchen counter and headed out the door. He was tired and moody, both things caused by the fact that nobody around him cared that it was Halloween back home. Apart from Christmas, it had always been his favorite holiday and even though he hadn't celebrated it in years, he had spent Halloween with his nephew and in the lap of the family and it was at times like these that he sorely missed life back on Earth.


When he entered the quarters he shared with Aeryn, he stopped short despite it being dark. He couldn't see most of the room and what he could see were shadows within shadows. But there was still something that set off his internal alarm bells.

"Babe?" he asked quietly, wanting nothing more than to calm the anxiety that had suddenly befallen him.

"What?" Aeryn's reply was instant, but her voice sounded a little sluggish as if she'd just woken up.

"If you're up, why's it dark?" he countered and turned in the direction her voice came from, which was nowhere near the bed.

"I'm not up," she countered.

Something hit the floor with a thud and John frowned, then reached for the light controls.

Aeryn was across the room from the bed and she had just dropped a small black canister on the floor. She squinted in the sudden light, then bent down to pick it up. As she did, John noticed a bleeding cut on her arm.

"You're bleeding," he stated needlessly.

"Of course I am. That's what happens when you dabble around in the dark," she countered, grabbed the canister and straightened up again.

"Good one on the sarcasm, Aer," he said with a smirk. "What happened?"

She opened the canister, which turned out to contain some sort of first aide kit, and pulled out a bottle of something liquid. "Don't know. I woke up because something cut me. I don't know what, though. I didn't want to turn on the light because of little D."

John glanced toward the crib at the foot of their bed and found his son sleeping peacefully. "He doesn't seem to mind the light," he said and returned his attention to his lovely bride. She was in the process of dripping some of the liquid onto the wound. It sizzled when it hit the blood, but she didn't even grimace.

"That's because he sleeps like the dead just like his father," Aeryn countered, dried off the excess blood and stuck a bandage onto the cut. Then she looked up.

"Well, he has to have inherited something from me. He's got your good looks and your strength too," he said with a grin. "Let's get some shuteye. He'll be awake soon enough."

"That he will," Aeryn agree with a slight sigh and headed back toward the bed.

"Oh, by the way, just so you know, there's a truckload of bugs buzzing around on Moya right now. You're bound to run into a few of them," John said and followed her over to the bed.

"Bugs?" she asked with a frown. "Where did they come from?"

"The seeds of that pumpkin I carved out tonight. Seems like they weren't seeds at all, but bugs. Pilot is keeping an eye on things. He seems to think the trill-bats will have a field day picking them off," he explained and settled down on the edge of the bed.

Aeryn pursed her lips, then glanced down at her cut arm for a second. Then she shrugged. "Well, as long as it's under control," she said and slipped into bed next to him.

Moments later her breathing had evened out and she was fast asleep once again. John lay awake for a bit until he too drifted off.


Aeryn woke with a start because little D started screaming his head off. She sat bolt upright and took a moment to regain her bearings before she turned on the lights, slipped down the length of the bed and leaned in over her screaming son. "What's wrong?" she asked and picked him up.

He squirmed and fussed, but stopped screaming. After a microt he had his thumb in his mouth and was half asleep again. And during all that time, John hadn't stirred.

Aeryn glanced back at him and sighed. "How the frell can he sleep through all the racket you make?" she muttered to her son and caressed his cheek. "Why are you waking me up like this? What's the matter?"

Naturally, her son provided no answer until she realized that her hand on his back was slightly moist. Expecting it to be an accident on her son's side, she sent a quick glance into the crib. What she saw there made her freeze. Then she leaned the baby forward and peeled her hand off his back. It came away bloody. "Frell," she muttered and pulled his little t-shirt up to find a cut on his back that was bleeding; not heavily, but enough for it to worry her.

"John," she snapped and kicked him when he didn't respond at once.

He pushed himself up on his elbows and blinked sluggishly at her. "What?"

"He's bleeding," Aeryn said and that got her mate going. He sat up and turned around to face them, worry already etched into his face.

"What? What happened?" he demanded.

"I don't know. He woke me up, screaming his head off, but he stopped as soon as I picked him up. He's got a cut on his back," she countered, then frowned. "Much like the one I have on my arm," she added and glanced at John. "Are you hurt? Do you have any cuts?"

He took a microt to check himself out and then shook his head. "No, nothing," he said and returned his attention to his son. "Let me see."

Aeryn handed the half-asleep baby over to his father and got up to find the medi-kit to deal with his injury.

"It's not deep," John commented. "Bleeds a lot, though." He then leaned in over the crip, obviously searching for whatever had caused this cut. "No sharp edges, nothing in there that's not supposed to be there. How the hell did he get cut if there's nothing to get cut on?"

"I don't know," Aeryn replied and settled down next to John. "Hold him still. He may not like this," she said and dabbed some of the cleaning solution onto little D's back with a wad of fabric. The toddler squirmed, but remained silent and that made Aeryn smile. "That's my boy," she muttered and put a bandage on the small cut.

Little D sucked furiously on his thumb and tried hard to ignore his parents fussing over him and that made Aeryn believe that whatever had caused that cut might not be dangerous.

"Well, he seems settled," she said and sighed. She felt a little out of sorts, which was probably caused by interrupted sleep and not enough of it in general. Although John argued that their son was one of the easiest babies he had ever heard of, that didn't mean little D agreed with him and let his mother sleep. "Let's get some more sleep," she suggested after changing the bedding in the crib and Little D's shirt, then put the toddler back in his crip and stretched out on the bed.

"You must be wasted," John commented, tugged his son in and joined her.

"I am. Despite all your reassurances, John, he is keeping me up at night. And since you sleep like the dead, you're not much help to me. I don't want to have to kick you out of bed every frelling time he cries," she countered and draped an arm over her face.

"Sorry," he whispered and kissed her elbow before turning off the lights and pulling the covers back over them. "I don't know how to change that, though."

"Don't worry about it," she mumbled into the crook of her arm. "Just let me sleep in tomorrow," she added.

He kissed the side of her head and moments later, his breathing had evened out and he was once again fast asleep.

Aeryn lay there for a moment while she listened to her mate and her child breathing, then allowed herself to drift back to sleep.


At the end of the sleepcycle John was up and ready to get going and, as promised, he let Aeryn sleep and headed for the center chamber with his somewhat fussy son in his arms.

"What's the matter with you, buddy? You're not normally this cranky in the morning," he admonished the boy and set him down on the floor of the center chamber before going for some breakfast for them both.

Little D just sat there, his face scrunched up as if he was about to start screaming his head off, but not really making the effort. John glanced back at him and arched an eyebrow, then retrieved the mush the kid liked so much and left it on the table before going for his own breakfast.

"Frell." Chiana stepped in and she looked like crap.

John stopped short in his search for food and eyed her. "What's wrong with you?" he asked.

"I've slept badly," she countered. "I feel like I've eaten something I shouldn't have," she added and pressed a hand onto her stomach.

"Yeah, well my bouncing baby boy here seems to have the same problem. He looks almost constipated," John countered and glanced back at little D, who was sitting where he'd left him, that scrunched-up expression still on his face.

"Must be that dren he's eating," Chiana suggested, waving a hand toward the bowl of mush.

"Nah, he's been eating that for a while now and hasn't had a problem with it. Maybe there's something wrong with the fruits we picked up," John said and waved at a bowl of perfectly good-looking fruit.

"Who the frell knows," Chiana said and shrugged, then moaned under her breath as she eased down on the bench by the table. "What the frell is that?" she suddenly asked.

John glanced back at her and grinned. "Pumpkin. At least it looks like one," he said.

"Why the frell have you gutted it and carved a face on it?" she asked and glanced back at him.

"It's an Earth tradition," he countered, generalizing to avoid having to explain why different regions on a world like Earth had different habits. Chiana didn't seem to grasp the concept and he had stopped trying to explain it to her. "Called Halloween," he added and grabbed a handful of grolash and dumped it on his plate before sticking it in the unit that passed for a microwave.

Chiana poked the pumpkin and grimaced. "That's frelling ugly," she stated.

"It's supposed to be. Actually, it's supposed to be scary," he explained. "It's superstition, really. It was originally called All Hallows Eve. Traditionally it's celebrated on the thirty-first of October. That's supposedly the only day a year that the dead can come back to haunt the living."

"And you believe in that sort of dren?" Chiana shifted the pumpkin around, then looked inside it. "There's a candle in here," she said.

"Yeah. And no, I don't believe in it. It's more a tradition that you celebrate with the kids. They get to dress up and go from door to door in the neighborhood, asking for candy from the neighbors. It's a kid's thing, really," John tried to explain, then retrieved his now smoking hot grolash from the unit and put the plate on the table. Then he picked up his son and sat down to feed him first.

"Sounds like fun," Chiana said and sighed. "Frell, my stomach is not happy today."

"Why don't you go back to bed? I've got things covered here," John countered while trying to feed little D, who sternly refused to open his mouth.

"You might not want to feed him if he's got what I've got. Just the thought of food makes me sick," Chiana said and rose again. "And I think I will go back to bed." That said, she made her way out of the center chamber on decidedly wobbly legs.

John watched her go with slight concern. It took a lot for Chiana to admit illness. Where she came from, admitting weakness could be fatal. "Yell if you need any help," he called after her.

"I'm not a frelling narl. I can take care of myself," she yelled back and that made John grin. She might not be feeling too hot, but she was still sassy.

"Well, that leaves you and me, buddy," John said to his son, who was still refusing to eat. "And why, if I may ask, are you not hungry? That's not like you at all."

As if to answer John's question, the boy suddenly arched his back, nearly slipping out of John's grasp in the process. "Hey, ho, watch it there, little man. What's wrong?"

Instead of just squirming, little D seemed to be caught in some kind of seizure and it took everything John had to keep him on his lap. Mere seconds later, the seizure stopped and the kid slumped in his arms for a moment. Then he grabbed out for the bowl of his food and stuck both hands into it only to bring two fist-fulls of the mush up to his mouth. He eagerly sucked at his hands, then repeated the procedure while all John could think of doing right then was watch him with a mixture of surprise and concern.

It took him a moment to respond to his son's at present abnormal behavior and when he finally did try to stop Little D dunking his fists into the mush every two seconds, his bowl was nearly empty. "You got one hell of an appetite there, little man," he said quietly, grabbed a rag and dried off the kid's hands. "Let's not tell mommy about this unless it becomes necessary, okay? She worries too much about you as it is."

Little D ignored his father's jabber and stuffed a now clean fist into his mouth as far as it would go. Then he burped heartily.

"Bless you," John muttered. He would have to keep an eye on the kid for now. There was definitely something odd going on here.

"Pilot?" he called and turned toward the clamshell.

"Yes, Commander?" Pilot's reply was instant and he still did not seem concerned, so John assumed that whatever was wrong with his kid had nothing to do with the critters from yesterday.

"Is there any way of finding out what this green pumpkin is?" he asked, nodding toward the odd decoration.

"You could always try the datastores," Pilot suggested.

John glanced toward the local terminal and made a face. Even after four years out here, he still had a hard time grasping the written language of the datastores. Written language was quite different from the spoken and even though the translator microbes did their best to help him, reading was different than hearing. "I'll give it a try," he said, set Little D down on the floor and stepped over to the terminal. His kid was in good hands even if he should decide to use this moment to start crawling. The DRDs were always watching out for him.

The terminal came alive the moment he touched it and displayed an odd concoction of symbols. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to them while the microbes worked hard on translating what he saw. "Okay, is there any way of entering a picture of that thing into the datastores and use that to search on?" he asked and glanced back at Pilot's image.

"Of course," Pilot replied and he sounded a tad miffed right now.

One of the DRDs scaled the table and snapped a photo of the pumpkin, then relayed it to the terminal, where a perfectly sharp image of the leering pumpkin face appeared. "Search for that," John suggested.

The terminal started working, flipping through file after file so fast, John couldn't keep up. He blinked and glanced away from the dizzying array of images flickering over the screen. When he glanced back, there was the perfect replica of his pumpkin on the screen; sans carvings, of course. "Okay, so this is a ... blah-blah fruit," he read, struggling with the pronunciation of the word.

"Bah-lah," Pilot corrected, having kept up with the search at his end.

"Right, Bah-lah," John agreed and made a face. "And it's edible. Well, that's good to know. Not that I would ever think of eating this thing," he added. "It's very tasty? Yeah, right. Not while it smells like rotting meat inside."

"In its first cycle it is edible," Pilot said. "It is also orange in that period. Once it becomes green, its flesh becomes spoiled, hence the smell of rot."

"Nice going," John growled. "I could have had a perfectly good-tasting, orange pumpkin and that guy sold me the spoiled version. Will I ever get this right?"

"Do not blame yourself, Commander. Not even Aeryn seems to know what this fruit is and she is very knowledgeable."

"Yeah, okay," John muttered. "Right, what else does it say?"

"The fruit is seedless," Pilot read on, then raised his head. "Did you not say there were many seeds in it?"

"Yeah, but the seeds were the ones that flew away," John countered, "so I'm going on a hunch here that it could be seedless."

Pilot eyed him for a moment, then returned his attention to the read-outs.

John did the same. "It is also known as the preferred breeding ground for the setsee-fly?"

"Tsartzee," Pilot corrected him. "That's pronounced tsarzee."

"Okay, Tsartzee then. What does this fly do?" John countered.

"It uses the fruit for its first stage of existence, namely laying its eggs. Once they hatch, the winged larvae will search for ..."

Before he could finish, Little D started crying. John lost interest in reading up on the local flora and turned his attention to the little boy still sitting where he'd left him. "Hey, buddy, what's up?" he asked and hurried over to his son. Little D had his back to him and John stopped short when he caught sight of the kid's hands. They were bloody.

He picked his son up and turned him around only to realize that the blood was coming from his mouth. The kid looked very distressed, as if in pain, and his crying intensified for a moment before it turned into wet gurgles instead. Before John could even come up with a course of action, the boy started vomiting blood, spattering everything within reach.

Within moments it was over and the kid went limp in his hands. John just stood there, holding his son at arm's length while he stared at him, completely in shock. "Dargo?" he nearly whispered.

His attention shifted to one of the many clots of drying blood on his arm and he noticed that it was moving, but he had no sense for anything other than the gruesome fact that the baby he was holding wasn't breathing any more. "Dargo?" he tried again, a little louder.

He turned around and laid the kid on the table, then wiped the blood away from his face as thoroughly as he could, but Little D was no longer breathing. "Oh god," John whispered. "No, this isn't happening."

He tried everything he could think of, everything he had learned for emergencies, but all it caused was a flow of blood from the kid's mouth and nose. The baby's lids were half open and his eyes were glassy. With shaking hands, John grabbed him and hugged him close. "Oh god, what have I done," he whispered, well aware now that these critters, these flies, had infected his son and killed him; flies he himself had let onto Moya in the first place.

The magnitude of this incident had yet to settle in, because he couldn't respond properly right now. All he did was stand there and hold his dead son in his arms while his mind was racing to find a solution.

Things began to come together in his mind and he felt cold all over at the realization that Little D might not be the only one who had been infected by this horror. "Oh god," he gasped. "AERYN!" he then yelled.

He laid Little D back down on the table and knew he would have to deal with the emotions he was right now suppressing in favor of the pure panic that rippled through him at the thought of losing Aeryn too. "AERYN!" he roared and raced out of the center chamber in search of his wife.

Aeryn was sitting on the bed in their quarters, looking pale as a ghost and very sick on top of it. She looked up when John came pounding into the room and took in the blood on him. "What happened to you?" she asked and rose unsteadily to her feet.

"Aeryn, babe, are you okay?'" he rasped, his voice breaking. "Oh god, please tell me you're okay," he added urgently.

"I'm not. I feel really bad," she countered and shifted uncomfortably. "I'm hungry and nauseous at the same time," she added and grabbed her stomach while making a face in agony. "Ah frell, what is the matter with me?" she groaned and doubled over.

John rushed forward and grabbed her shoulders, trying to steady her. Aeryn retched and spat blood on the floor, then looked up to meet his eyes, hers full of pain and fear. "Aeryn," he rasped, well aware of what was about to happen. "No, please."

She groaned, then doubled over again in agony. Within moments, she was throwing up blood by the buckets and the matter that came up with the blood was teeming with life.

Her upheaval was as violent as Little D's had been and when it finally stopped, she collapsed, dead before she hit the floor.

John dropped to his knees next to her and turned her over, searching for a sign of life he logically knew wouldn't be there. And then he heard a scream of sheer agony over the comms which transcended into wet gurgles and the sound of something wet spattering the floor.

His world collapsed around him. Everyone he had dared to love out here was gone, dead by his hand. He might not have wielded a weapon, but he had brought on their deaths anyway with curiosity and ignorance. Chiana was gone too. There was no doubt about it. He had lost his wife, his son and his best friend in one foul swoop and he just couldn't fathom the pain this left him with.


Hours later, he sat on the floor with his back to the wall, knees pulled up to his chest, and his arms wrapped tightly around them while he kept staring at Aeryn lying in a pool of her own blood while big, fat worms were wiggling around her. Every few minutes a few more would drop out of her open mouth and despite the disgust he felt at watching this, he couldn't turn away and he couldn't leave.

"Commander!" Pilot's voice ripped through the horror and grief shrouding his mind and drew him partially back to reality. He felt cold and sick to his stomach.

"What, Pilot?" he managed, his voice a croak away from being totally gone.

"The flies ... must have invaded Moya," Pilot pressed out, in obvious distress. "She is ... in great agony."

Moya's movements had become erratic, a sure sign of her pain, and the lights were flickering on and off all the time. "There's nothing I can do," he whispered as a tear tore free and rolled down his face. He felt completely helpless and, in truth, he was. There was absolutely nothing he could do. "I'm so sorry, Pilot."

"You ... did this," Pilot pressed out, his voice a mixture of agony and anger. "You brought this ... to Moya."

"I didn't know," he rasped, halfheartedly trying to defend himself. "I'm so, so sorry."

"Sorry won't save Moya now, John."

With a gasp, John turned and looked toward the door, finding a shadowy figure standing there. But he didn't need to see her clearly to know that voice.

"You brought this scourge on board. Yet you are the only one not affected by it. That is hardly fair," Zhaan chastised, her voice full of anger. "D'Argo is dead too. So is Rygel and now Moya and Pilot are dying as well, all because of you. I should have followed my first instinct back when we first met. I should have let D'Argo kill you. You have brought us nothing but grief, nothing but pain. And now you have killed us all." She whimpered and reached out for the wall to support herself. "Your reputation is well-earned, destroyer!" With that, she doubled over and spewed white liquid filled with worms onto the floor before she too collapsed.

John just sat there and stared at her with tear-filled eyes. She was right. He had killed them all. His only consolation was that he wouldn't be alive for much longer himself once Moya's systems stopped functioning. It would only be a matter of time before the hull of the great leviathan collapsed and killed him too.

He closed his eyes and pressed his face down on his folded arms while listening to Pilot's death rattle until that too stopped when the comms ceased working and the lights flickered off, plunging him into eternal darkness.

The smell of rot hung in his nose and silence only interrupted by the slurp of thousands of worms moving in blood hung around him like a choking blanket.

Moya's movements became so erratic that he felt like he was being shaken by a hand ... and it took him a moment to realize that he was.

"John, wake up." Aeryn's voice was insistent and her hold on his shoulder almost painful.

He opened his eyes and blinked sluggishly up at her, unable to comprehend what was going on for a moment. Then he sat bolt upright and looked around their quarters.

To Aeryn, his response was obviously odd, because she took a step back and watched him with a frown furrowing her brow.

John, however, had no sense for her confusion, only for the fact that she was standing there, very much alive and totally unharmed. "You're alright," he exclaimed, jumped out of bed and pulled her into a bearhug.

Aeryn was rigid in his arms and it took him a moment to realize that he had jumped out of bed, which in other words meant ... He leaned back a little and eyed her. "I had a horrible dream," he confessed, hoping against hope that this was reality and what had come before had been the dream.

"That's obvious," she said and pushed out of his arms. "What did you dream?"

"Never mind," he said, glad it was over. "Where's Little D?"

"With Chiana. We're about ready to go down to the commerce planet. I thought you wanted to come," she countered, still a little worried about his odd behavior.

Her words made him frown. "Hold that thought," he said and turned back to the bed and the pile of clothes lying next to it. He routed through the pile until he found the electronic calendar Caroline had given him and flipped it open. Back on Earth, it was the day before Halloween and the memory sent a shiver through him.

"So, are you coming?" Aeryn asked.

He almost whimpered at the thought, then rose and turned back to face her. "No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I ... I'm ... gonna stay here." He gave her a suddenly shaky grin. "I know I was pestering you about it yesterday, but you're right. You need some time off and I want to spend some time alone with Little D. So ... you go have fun. Knock yourself out."

"Fun?" Aeryn asked, arching an eyebrow. "I'm not going alone, as you well remember. Rygel is coming along too. That will certainly be fun," she said and sighed. "Well, if you're sure ..."

"Yeah, I'm sure. I'm staying right here. Gotta catch up with my son and ... have a heart-to-heart with Pip. It's been ages since I've really talked to her," he countered. Whether he should tell her what he had dreamt or not was something left for later. Right now, he just knew in the very core of his being that staying on Moya while Aeryn went down to the planet surface was the best decision.

Aeryn's frown deepened.

"Are we leaving or what? I do not wish to be late for midday meal," Rygel's voice rang from the comms, interrupting whatever she was about to say.

Aeryn made a face. "We'll talk when I get back," she warned, turned around and strode out.

"Where are you, you frelling Peacekeeper?" Rygel yelled.

"Shut the frell up, you slug. I'm coming," Aeryn yelled back, irritation thick in her voice.

John waited until Aeryn was out of earshot before he sank back down on the bed, feeling a little weak in the knees right now. "Holy crap," he whispered, then glanced up at the ceiling. The terror and grief of the dream – if that was what it had been – was still with him, making him shiver lightly. "Whatever you're trying to tell me, I got it," he added, addressing who or whatever might be responsible for this very tangible warning. "I gotta control my curiosity here," he added and rubbed the back of one hand over his lips.

If his years in the Uncharted Territories had taught him anything then it was that the inner voice was not something he should ignore. Even though Harvey was no more, he had learned to listen to whatever his subconscious was trying to tell him. And it was obvious that this year's Halloween-lesson was something he would not soon forget.

In a sense, it was a bit ridiculous. Zhaan had been dead a good long while now and D'Argo was gone too, and that alone should have told him that he was dreaming, but the anguish, the dread of that dream had felt so real, he could not deny it and it didn't vanish like most dreams did after he woke up. It was still very clear and sharp in his mind and that told him that someone or something out there was trying to warn him.

He couldn't bring Earth's traditions to the Uncharted Territories and he should stop trying to find replacements for them too. "In other words, stop being so damned curious," he muttered to himself and ran a lightly shivering hand through his hair.

Then he glanced around the quarters he shared with Aeryn and little D, drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "This is home. I gotta adapt to it, not the other way around," he told himself, rose and started to get dressed. Chiana and Little D were mulling around somewhere and he intended to do what he had told Aeryn he would; catch up with both of them.


He spent the better part of that day catching up with Chiana by just hanging out and chatting while they watched Little D together. The kid was having a fabulous time and Chiana seemed much more at ease when they neared the end of the day cycle.

John glanced up from playing around with Little D on the floor of the center chamber when Aeryn came in. "There are still some things on the pod that need unloading," she said and dropped several bags and a wooden box on the table top. Then she grinned and John knew she was up to something. "I got something for you," she added.

He grinned back and rose. "Let's unload the pod first," he suggested. "Pip, are you watching D?"

"Of course," Chiana replied and picked up the giggling boy.

John followed Aeryn back to the pod and together they unloaded two heavy crates which contained durable foodstuff. "So, what'd you get me?" he asked with a smirk, imagining all kinds of things.

"It's in the box I left in the center chamber," Aeryn countered and pushed the first crate into a holding area in the bay where it wouldn't get tossed around if Moya suddenly decided to be erratic.

John wondered what she could possibly have found for him and decided it was either something that would remind him of Earth or something edible. "Well, let's go check it out," he urged, all eager.

Aeryn chuckled. "You're like a frelling narl when I bring you presents," she countered, using Chiana's favorite word for kid. "Come on," she added and together they hurried back to the center chamber.

John eyed the box, then glanced at Aeryn who nodded like a proud mother. He grinned, then pulled the lid off the box. What he saw inside made him slam the lid back on while the blood drained from his face and his breath got stuck in his throat. There was a big, green pumpkin-like thing in the box and it made his skin crawl to see it.

The End