Written for SC103 - Service with a Smile hosted by A Damned Scientist

Setting: it takes place during Terra Firma in S4

Spoilers: lots for that episode

Word Count: about 6200

Rating: PG

Warning: This came out a little sadder than I meant it to be but when it was finished I liked it, so I left it as it was. I hope you enjoy it.

I chose the name of the agent on purpose: I wanted the man in this fic to be everything that his namesake we see on the news every day is not.

Thanks to A Damned Scientist for the beta read and the challenge!

The Quiet Man (PG)

Donald was a quiet man. He had always been quiet, even as a child.

His parents had worried about him. They had feared that he might be too shy for his own good. But Donald hadn't been a shy child. He had just been a quiet child.

His parents had felt pangs of heartache when they'd see him standing alone at school events while all the other children grouped together and played games or talked or bickered or just interacted in the "normal" way children do. They had felt sad because they feared that he might be feeling sad or lonely. But Donald had never felt sad or lonely. Donald was not a loner, not really. He loved people, he just preferred to love them from afar. With the exception of his Maggie of course.

What he loved most about people was observing them - their quirks, their small habits, their body language. There was so much to be learned when you talked less and paid attention more. Had that made him a weird child and teenager? Maybe, a little, but Donald had never felt sorry for himself and his "power of invisibility", his inconspicuousness, had come in handy later in life, when he had grown up and ventured out into the big, bad world.

As well as being quiet, Donald was also tall, broad-shouldered and muscular and, by all accounts, he should have been seen by anybody who ever met him as imposing and intimidating and yet he was not. People tended to forget that he even existed - with the exception of his Maggie of course - and that was just fine by him.

Maggie had been the one abiding exception in his life. Lovely, smart, vivacious, outgoing Maggie, who had loved everybody and whom everybody had loved. Maggie, who had embraced his quietness and loved him with all of her extroverted self.

After college, he had asked Maggie to marry him, simply, directly, quietly - "Maggie, will you marry me?"- he had asked. She had cried with joy and said yes, and by so doing, she had made that particular day, the happiest one of his life.

After that, he had joined the Army. And he had had a stellar career in it. He had liked following orders to the best of his ability and his superiors appreciated his seriousness and dedication and above all they appreciated his quiet strength and exceptional observational abilities.

Two years after that, he had applied to the Special Forces and, given his excellent results when tested both physically and mentally, he had gotten in with flying colours. He had quietly risen through the ranks and gotten to command his own unit. He had loved and respected every one of his men and women, with no exception, even though he doubted that they had ever spared a second thought about him when off duty: they followed his orders out in the field, blindly and trustfully, never doubting his decisions and that was what was important to him. So Donald had not really cared that they never included him in their social gatherings during their downtime. His missions had always been successful. He had always brought them back safe and sound and that was more than enough for him. He had Maggie during his downtime and that was all that really mattered to him anyway.

As it happens, Maggie had been the reason for his departure from the Army in the end. She had put up with his prolonged absences for five long years. Five long years when she had had no idea whether she would see him again every time he walked out of their front door. She had never said a word about it of course. She had never complained. She had never done anything to make him feel guilty. But her smile had dimmed a little with time. Her vivaciousness around him had started to feel strained, tainted by worry and loneliness. She had tried to hide it, she had really tried hard because she knew how much he loved his job. And because she loved him more than anything. But she hadn't stood a chance of course, Donald had had a lifetime of experience at noticing and interpreting even the smallest of signs in people's behaviour and he could read her like an open book.

So, overnight - just like that - without looking back even once and with a complete absence of regret or hesitation he had handed in his commission and had walked away from that life he had loved so much simply because he loved Maggie so much more and that fact alone had made it the easiest of things for him to do.

His rewards had been immediate: Maggie's smile had come back to its full, blinding force and her personality had bounced back brighter than ever making Donald's life sunny and complete again.

He had plenty of skills and he had the best of recommendations from the Army so it had been easy for him to walk into his present job as a Secret Service Agent. And, he had to admit it, it suited his personality down to a T.

More often than not, the people who needed the Secret Service's protection - mainly politicians or celebrities of one kind or another - resented having a "tail" all day long, never being able to conduct their affairs in private. Always shadowed by Men in Black, they felt aggrieved and imprisoned in their own lives. But when Donald was assigned to them, they somehow managed to forget that he was a constant presence by their side a little quicker and a whole lot more comprehensively than with any of his colleagues. They appreciated that he never spoke to them unless spoken to first and that he had the uncanny knack of blending in with whatever background he found himself in. Which was just fine by Donald. It made his job easier when people acted like themselves and forgot that he was around to protect them.

So that was the reason why he was here now: standing in a corner of the sitting room of the Crichton family home in Florida and blending in against the stripey grey and white wallpaper and the many framed family pictures on the wall.

This was a high profile assignment that most of his colleagues would have killed for.

Commander Crichton's return out of the blue after four years of absence and with real, living, breathing aliens in tow to boot had made the headlines of every newspaper in the world. The government officials assigned to deal with his return had been getting their undies in a twist at the speed of light trying to deal with the hype, with the possibilities that the wondrous alien technologies offered to Earth, with the media attention, with the danger that the Commander and his alien friends could be in by the hand of foreign powers and by the whole circus freak show that the entire thing had become overnight.

Donald's sterling service record had got him the call a mere day after Commander John Crichton had set foot back on terra firma. He was to be one of the chosen agents to escort and protect the astronaut and the alien lifeforms that accompanied him for as long as they remained on the planet.

It promised to be a long and gruesome stint of an assignment, there would be a lot of travelling involved. The aliens and Commander Crichton himself were reluctant - no, correct that, opposed - to having a protection detail so they would not make his or any of their lives in the Service easy.

These had been just some of the warnings that he had received from his boss when called upon to be part of the detail.

Donald had listened, nodded and simply answered:"That's just fine by me, sir." Which it was. Because his Maggie was no longer at home waiting for him and he had no reason to rush back there. No reason at all.

So tonight Donald stood, kept watch over his charges and noticed things, because that's what he did best.

A short time after his arrival with Officer Aeryn Sun at Colonel Jack Crichton's home, Olivia Crichton had handed him a glass of egg-nog. He had wanted to tell her that he was on duty and that he was not allowed drink alcohol, but she had offered it to him so politely and gracefully that it had been easier to bring the glass to his lips pretending to drink, to just wet them with the Christmassy drink, than to launch into a long explanation of refusal. Donald was a quiet man. Small talk did not come easy to him. Olivia had smiled sweetly at him when he had pretended to drink, which had made the small deceit more than worthwhile, and then she had turned back to her family and promptly forgotten about him, like people always did. Which was just fine by Donald, he was used to it.

So he went back to watching and noticing things: Colonel Crichton was excited with a nervy kind of excitement that made him almost giddy - uncharacteristically so, Donald guessed. His "dead" son was back. Tonight Jack Crichton wanted it to be a happy night, tomorrow, well tomorrow would be a new day and they could face then and not a minute sooner all the challenges that his son's return presented them with. But tonight, tonight was for celebration with his family and their alien guest, Aeryn Sun - that much was clear to Donald by the older man's jittery demeanor.

John Crichton's young nephew, Bobby, was roaming around the room filming everything that caught his eye. What an adventure for a young man to live through. His uncle was back and he had brought home with him aliens. Real aliens. Donald couldn't help but notice how Bobby's hand tightened a little more on the camcorder's handle when he was filming Aeryn Sun than while filming any of the others and how he then needed to wipe the nervous sweat off it down along the side of his trousers. Donald allowed himself the hint of an indulgent smile at the young man's obvious crush on the alien guest. He remembered his own first real crush of course. It had been on his Maggie.

Donald had not doubt that Olivia Crichton felt happy - everything about her radiated happiness. Overwhelming happiness to have her brother back home. But she also clearly felt curiosity. She just could not hide how very curious she felt about the dark haired human-looking woman who right at that moment was sitting by her brother's side asking candidly and - without meaning it or realizing it - in the most endearing of ways if a "cat talked".

Donald knew what Olivia Crichton was wondering. He had been on the job only a couple of days and he had already heard plenty of rumours flying around about the true status of the relationship between Commander John Crichton and Officer Aeryn Sun. He had heard his own colleagues unprofessionally whisper and take bets on whether the two were or had been lovers. And that was not fine by Donald.

Donald didn't like gossip. He had no time for it. His observations were based on facts, not rumours, and so far he had no reason to believe that the two were anything more than good friends.

Granted, John Crichton looked more relaxed tonight with his family and Aeryn Sun alone than he had since Donald had first met him. His eyes tonight were clear and sparkling with real enjoyment and his whole body had lost that tenseness that seemed to be his constant companion when dealing as intermediary between government officials and his alien friends. He was laughing tonight and joking with his relatives and looking at Aeryn Sun straight into her grey eyes and leaning slightly into her while explaining about Jingles the cat's misfortunes. And he looked 10 years younger for it, Donald noticed. Still, that was no definite proof of anything.

Donald shifted his attention to Aeryn Sun. Aeryn Sun had proved inscrutable to him the first couple of times he had been in her presence. He hadn't been able to read her. And it had bothered him. Not because he had felt that his super power - if one could call it that - was somewhat diminished by this woman, but mainly because it had made him wonder what she could possibly be keeping under such tight wraps all of the time. In his experience, that was not normal or healthy.

But Aeryn Sun The Closed Book of the last couple of days was not the Aeryn Sun of tonight. The Aeryn Sun here on the Crichton couch, well, this was a different Aeryn Sun. She was laughing and smiling widely, spontaneously, and all of her face was transmogrified by the power of that smile. That smile, that smile was something special, Donald thought. He had only ever seen a smile as powerful once before and that had been Maggie's. The two women could not have been more different in looks and personality but their smile? Well, their smile made it a must for any heart to skip a beat.

Maggie had been small and pretty. Aeryn Sun was tall and nobody could have called her pretty. Beautiful, yes, exotic, yes, stunning, yes. But pretty? No, she was not pretty. And yet you could not take your eyes off her face when she smiled. Donald had enjoyed the giddiness that Maggie's smile had given him for ten, blissful years, before it had been cruelly taken from him, and that giddiness had never diminished, no matter how much familiarity and time might have tried to dim it.

John Crichton was at that very moment being subjected to the full power of Aeryn Sun's smile and, even after four years of travelling the cosmos in her company, he looked just as awe-struck by it as Donald suspected he had looked himself to an impartial observer when subjected to Maggie's.

Well, that was still not proof of anything, Donald admonished himself, and forced himself to take his eyes off the pair who were now bickering and bantering over some family pictures of Commander Crichton as a baby - as a bare bottomed baby to be precise. Had he just heard Aeryn Sun say to John Crichton that she had seen his bare bottom before? Yes, she had said that, in a low voice that had been meant just for Commander Crichton's ears but that had also reached Donald's overlooked ones. Oh well, again that didn't mean anything definitive as far as Donald was concerned. Life together on a ship makes for very few secrets and very little privacy. Donald knew that only too well from his days in the Army when he had… his reminiscences however were abruptly interrupted by a sudden knock at the front door.

Donald tensed and surreptitiously placed his hand on the gun hidden in a holster under his jacket. No visitors were on the roster for the night or at least he had not been briefed about any.

Commander Crichton stood up to answer the door and Donald took two steps forward from his corner to make sure to be able to cover the man in his care in case of an emergency. There were other agents outside of course, guarding the perimeter, so Donald was pretty sure that the visitor, whoever it might be, had been checked and cleared before being let up to the house, but still 'better safe than sorry', that was his motto.

John Crichton opened the door to a pretty, blonde girl. Donald scanned his memory to find a match between this woman and all the possible relatives and acquaintances of the Crichtons that all of the agents had been made to commit to memory, and his brain pinged on Caroline Wallace, known as John Crichton's last girlfriend at the time of his sudden disappearance. Donald relaxed a little and removed his hand from the grip of his gun just as Caroline Wallace, carrying a sprig of mistletoe in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other, leaned in to welcome her boyfriend back with a quip and a kiss on the lips.

Against his better judgement Donald's eyes darted from the kissing couple to Officer Aeryn Sun.

How wrong he had been to think that she was inscrutable.

She had turned her head just in time to take in her shipmate being kissed by another woman and her face, that just a few moments before had been relaxed and bright, suddenly clouded over - just for a fleeting second - but long enough for Donald to be able to read in it a pang of confused angst and jealousy. She then turned back to the photo album and Crichton's relatives and hid her pain with a smile that had lost all of its precious lustre and authenticity.

Donald felt a quick but deep pang of angst in sympathy with her and knew right there and then that, without the shadow of a doubt, the rumours were true. Aeryn Sun and John Crichton were, or at least had been, lovers. It was none of his business of course. He would not tell anybody what he now knew to be fact. Knowing it made him sad though and he couldn't explain exactly why. He wished he could call Maggie and tell her about it. She would have said something wise and uplifting to dissipate his sadness and make him feel better. She had always been able to make him feel better. But calling Maggie was no longer an option, so Donald would have to live with his gloom.

He stepped back into his corner, cloaked himself with invisibility again and spent the rest of the night listening to Caroline Wallace chat brightly and charmingly with the Crichtons, watching John Crichton trying to act nonchalantly and failing at it and observing the erstwhile radiant Aeryn Sun slowly retreat behind a wall of inscrutability that Donald now knew covered a world of hurt.

It was three days later and Donald was behind the wheel of a nondescript black sedan, driving John Crichton and Caroline Wallace to the lake cabin where they planned to spend the weekend.

Donald knew that Commander Crichton had fought with his boss over the necessity, or lack thereof, of having an escort for this particular outing. To the astronaut's chagrin three agents had been scheduled to travel along with him and Caroline Wallace but he felt, strongly, that they didn't need babysitting. John Crichton was "the" celebrity of the moment and he had used that unashamedly to get his way, or as much of his way as he could get. He had bullied and thrown his weight around enough to strike an acceptable compromise: he would consent to taking with him just the one agent and he wanted that agent to be Donald. Apparently he had asked for him, Donald, by name - or so his boss had told him. Which had made Donald inordinately and uncharacteristically pleased with himself because he had no idea that John Crichton had even noticed that he existed. That he had bothered to learn his name was nothing short of astounding to him. Very few people ever bothered to do that.

So that was the reason why Donald was now the sole agent driving the couple to the lake cabin for the weekend. It would be a long sleepless shift, but that was just fine by him. In the Army he had been trained to stay awake and alert for up to four solid days, so 48 hours was a walk in the park really. Besides he was going to be out in the open countryside, by a lake, with a sky full of stars shining down on him and that was not too shabby for Donald. He loved the stars. Maggie had loved them too. They had spent whole summer nights looking up at the sky, talking or just "being", happy in each other's company. Donald loved the stars.

They were now almost three hours into the drive and Donald could not remember John Crichton speaking even once in all of that time. Ms Wallace was doing all the talking. She was bringing him up to date with her life and their friends' lives, with all that had happened in the last four years. She was bright and funny and to Donald she sounded ever so happy to be spending this time with her boyfriend. She didn't seem to have noticed that Commander Crichton had never once asked a question or shown any interest beyond some humming of agreement or odd grunt of acknowledgement.

Donald darted a quick glance at John Crichton in the rear view mirror. He wasn't looking at the girl, his head was turned and his eyes were absent-mindedly taking in the landscape speeding by his window. However, he must have felt Donald's eyes on him because, uncannily, he sharply turned his head and met Donald's look full on in the mirror. Donald had to force himself not to blink under that intense blue gaze, then John Crichton gave him a hint of what looked like a small sad smile that Donald was not sure how to interpret, before finally turning his attention to the chatty woman by his side.

Donald turned his eyes back to the road and wondered what that smile had been all about. He didn't know why but he felt an ache in the pit of his stomach. John Crichton's happiness, or lack thereof, was none of his business. His safety was of course, but not his happiness. He was well aware of that distinction but Donald couldn't help it: he liked John Crichton, a lot, and when he liked somebody he could not help but caring for them. Because that was the way Donald was built and it was just fine by him, it had served him well in life.

Within half an hour, they arrived at the cabin. Donald asked his charges to remain in the car, checked the perimeter, then the inside of the cabin before giving them the all clear. He helped them unload their overnight bags from the trunk of the car and politely wished them a good evening.

Caroline Wallace thanked him and walk into the house. But John Crichton lingered.

"Hey, man, would you like to come in and have a snack or a drink... or something?" John Crichton asked Donald, backtracking on the few steps he had already taken towards the front door.

"No, thank you Commander." Donald was surprised at the offer. He would have thought that finally having some precious privacy would rank high on John Crichton's wish list. "I have provisions with me."

"It's John, please. Just John. No sir, no Commander or Commander Crichton." John said, still rooted to the spot and showing clear signs of uneasiness. No, not of uneasiness, Donald corrected the hasty assessment in his mind, of procrastination. John Crichton, for some reason, was stalling.

"Yes, sir… er… John. As you wish." Donald agreed. Being on a first name basis with a charge was highly unusual and against regulations, but it seemed to be important to Commander Crichton so Donald went along with it.

"Well, then, I guess I'd better go in." John said, after a few - quite a few - seconds of silence. "I will see you later, Donald. Thank you for driving us and thank you for keeping an eye on us."

"Yes, si… John. I will be here if you need me." Donald said then added "I wish you a pleasant evening with Ms Wallace." He said it because he did wish it for the other man. Donald always meant what he said.

John just nodded his thanks and disappeared into the cabin.

Donald spent the next few hours sitting in the car, walking the perimeter at regular intervals and waiting for the stars to appear in the slowly darkening sky.

When night fell, Donald opened the windows and let the cool breeze blow through the car. It felt good.

Through the large windows of the cabin, he saw John Crichton and Caroline Wallace make dinner in the now brightly lit kitchen downstairs and then he saw them wash and clean up after their meal. A short while afterwards, the lights went off downstairs and a single, dimmer light came on in the master bedroom upstairs. It stayed on for a little while and then it too went off leaving the cabin shrouded in darkness.

Donald did one more perimeter check and returned to his car where he sat, kept watch and every so often gazed upwards at the myriad of twinkling lights in the sky. And all the while he thought about his Maggie, because that's what he did most of the time, even when he was busy doing other, important things.

A few hours into the night, the peace and quiet of his thoughts were interrupted by the front door of the cabin being opened and by a shoeless John Crichton - clad just in jeans, a light T and socks - stepping out onto the front porch. The cabin was still completely dark but Donald could make out some of the details thanks to the brightness of the moonlight. He wondered if there was a problem that had escaped his attention and prepared to spring into action but was stopped in his tracks by Commander Crichton advancing instead towards the car. His progress wasn't rushed or panicked so Donald relaxed and waited.

John opened the passenger seat front door and slipped inside, but not before producing from his jeans back pockets what looked like two cans of beer. He proffered one to Donald.

"Hey Donald." He said as if coming to talk to his protection detail bearing drinks in the middle of the night was the most normal of occurrences "Will you have a drink with me?" He asked, still holding out the beer. "This one's non-alcoholic. It belongs to my dad, I think. I know you can't drink while on duty..."

Donald had no idea where this was going, but he liked John Crichton and if the man needed a drinking partner and some company, well then he could do that for him, so he reached out and took the can from him.

They drank in silence for a while, both lost in their own thoughts. Donald was thinking of Maggie. He didn't know who or what Commander Crichton was thinking of, although he could have made an educated guess and he would have been right.

"So, Caroline is kinda pissed at me." John finally broke the silence.

Donald wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he didn't.

"And I can't really blame her, you know…?" John said while staring ahead, then turned his head towards Donald and fixed those almost transparent eyes on him. Donald felt the full force of them on him and turned his head to meet them with his own brown, plain ones. He returned the look, but still said nothing.

"I… I tried. I really did but I… I couldn't… you know… with her." John Crichton was finding it difficult to come out with appropriate words to explain his recent bedroom failure with Caroline. This was clearly something that didn't often, if ever, happen to him - Donald could tell that from the genuine puzzlement that was mixed in with the embarrassment of the other man's admission.

"I have no idea why that happened… or didn't happen." John continued, lying to himself and to Donald, but not aware that he was doing so. "Maybe there's something physically wrong with me? Maybe I should go and get a check-up or something… did that ever happen to you?" He asked Donald and then immediately apologised: "Nah, sorry, man! You don't have to answer that, I have no right to ask you that! I'll go and see a doc when we get back…" His words petered out and he took a long, comforting slug out of his beer.

Donald still said nothing. He hadn't minded being asked the question but he could not find it in himself to lie and say that, yes, it had happened to him before. Because it hadn't. Maggie had been his high school sweetheart and his first and only lover. He had desired her for as long as he could remember - he still did. But he didn't think that saying all that right now would help John Crichton's humor, so he didn't say it and he kept quiet instead.

They sat in silence for another long spell, then John spoke again, as if the quietness of the night was too much of a burden for him to bear any longer.

"So, are you married, Donald?" John asked, then looked down to Donald's hand and saw the shiny wedding band on it and immediately felt stupid for asking.

"Yes, I am. I was." Donald spoke for the first time since John Crichton had joined him in the car. "Her name was Maggie. We were married for 10 years and 3 months. She got sick and she died eleven and half months ago." He said, simply and quietly because Donald was a simple and quiet man.

"Oh man, I'm so sorry." John said, his woes truly forgotten in light of the other man's painful confidence. Donald's words, their simplicity filled with sorrow, had hit him square in the chest. His eyes filled up with tears and he reached out and squeezed Donald's arm offering comfort.

"So am I." Donald said, because he truly was heartbroken about losing his Maggie.

Donald had no doubt about the veracity of John Crichton's sympathy: its honesty was clear in his words, his tone of voice, his expression and his instinctive gesture of comfort and Donald liked the man all the more for it.

Donald had not spoken those words about losing his Maggie out loud to anybody before now. He had not been able to. But the moment had felt right. So he had spoken them, simply and from the heart. They were out now. And it was just fine by him to share his pain with this man, who - it was quite clear to Donald - also had felt deep and lasting hurt in his life. If you knew how to read it, it was right there to be read in those blue eyes all of the time.

They sat and drained the last of their beer.

The faintest of light could be seen beginning to dawn on the horizon. John Crichton crumpled the can in his hand, cleared his throat and said: "Well, I guess I should go back to Caroline. The very least I can do is to be there when she wakes up."

Donald nodded.

"We will be leaving today, in a few hours, Donald, if that's ok with you. I don't think it's fair to her for us to stay until tomorrow."

"As you wish, John." Donald replied.

John Crichton squeezed Donald's shoulder once more and made to exit the car, but Donald had something that he wanted to say before the other man left, so he said it.

"Your problem… with Ms Wallace?" John stopped and turned to look at Donald. "I think it's your heart."

"My heart?" John asked, confused as to what his ticker may have to do with his earlier failure to launch. His heart felt fine.

"Yes, your heart. It just wasn't in it." Donald said. "You find the woman your heart desires and all your problems will go away."

John was stunned into silence for a moment by those words, then he let out a big guffawing, cathartic laugh.

"You know what, Donnie? I think you may be right."

A week later and Donald was again in another nondescript black sedan but this time sitting in the back of it was Officer Aeryn Sun.

The Secret Service rotation had seen his name assigned to be her escort on an outing to a TV studio for an interview on national TV by a famous TV host. Donald didn't watch TV unless his job required it, so he was not familiar or impressed with any of it. Which was fine, because his duty was to keep Aeryn Sun safe and nothing else mattered to him.

He had stood in the studio behind one of the main cameras within a few long strides of his charge and he had watched her being drilled - there was no other word to describe it - by that thoroughly unpleasant man, Monroe was his name, Donald had learnt.

Donald had felt a powerful surge of anger in his chest when the questions had become personal, probing, invasive. Aeryn Sun had answered them as well as she could but Donald could now see right through the cool exterior she displayed to the world and what he saw there was a slight sense of panic, a certain degree of pain and a good deal of anxiety as Monroe became more and more pressing with his queries.

Donald had gone so far as taking a step forward, tempted to intervene and interrupt what he felt was the most unfair of behaviours towards Officer Sun, but Maggie's voice had rung out in his brain - soothing, calming, reasonable. Ms Sun was strong. Ms Sun was a warrior, she did not need his help. So he had stepped back again and waited for the recording of the show to be over before quickly ushering Aeryn Sun back to the peace and safety of his service vehicle, where they now were.

Donald was a quiet man and he rarely spoke unless spoken to first but this time he made an exception and said: "Officer Sun, there is a bottle of water in the seat pocket in front of you, please help yourself to it if you wish."

Aeryn was startled out of her tired reverie and smiled a weary smile at him from the back seat.

"Thank you, Donald. It is Donald, right? Am I pronouncing your name okay?" She asked in her hesitant English.

"Yes, Ms Sun. You are pronouncing it right." Donald said and, again uncharacteristically, he felt like saying something more to take her mind off her recent ordeal. "Are you feeling okay, Ms Sun? Would you like me to increase the air conditioning setting to a cooler temperature? Is it too warm for you in here?" Donald knew of course about Sebacean heat intolerance. He was a conscientious man and he had read the briefings on all of the aliens.

"No, I am fine, thank you." Aeryn replied. She wasn't fine though. Donald could tell that there was a lot that was bothering her, he didn't know exactly what but, unbeknownst to him, he was about to find out. Aeryn took a deep breath and feeling a little ashamed about it, took advantage of the kindness of this man to unburden herself.

"I am tired of being here on Earth." She said simply, because Aeryn Sun was, at heart, a simple and direct type of person, just like Donald was. "I am tired of not knowing if John wants me here. I want to return to Moya but I am not sure if it is the right thing to do for me… for us." And Donald knew that by "us" she meant everything that mattered to her, her whole universe.

And then Aeryn stopped talking just as suddenly as she had started and her big eyes filled up with unshed tears that Donald, through the rearview mirror, could see were about to brim over and run down her flushed cheeks.

He opened the glove compartment, felt around for the Kleenex box that was stored in there, took a couple of sheets out of it and handed them back to her over his shoulder. And then he said:

"It is quite simple, Ms Sun. The only way to find answers is to ask him the questions." He felt sorry for her and he was tempted to tell her more of what he had learned in the last few weeks. He wanted to tell her how John Crichton's lips softened just a bit when he saw her and how his eyes followed her around a room and how his heart was hers. But this was none of his business and things should be left to run their course.

Donald was a simple and quiet man. He didn't meddle in other people's affairs. There were times however - rare times - when he wished he could bring himself to be a little less quiet and a bit more like his lovely Maggie. And this was one of those times. But life-long habits are hard to break, so he said nothing more and hoped for the best.

He wanted to believe that they would find a way back to each other because of one thing he was certain: Aeryn Sun was John Crichton's Maggie. And true love like that was rare and was way too precious to be squandered.

Donald knew only too well the pain that came from losing it, suddenly and forever. So he now hoped with all of his heart that John Crichton would soon come forward and make Aeryn Sun his once and for all because time is valuable and fickle and you never know when you may run out of it.

The End