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What Could Have Been

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His dreadlocks whipped around his shoulders as he turned his head and glanced behind him. There was nothing there that he could see but he knew that didn’t mean anything. A few minutes earlier he had heard the noises from the Wraith Darts. If he didn’t hurry and get off the planet it would only be a matter of time before they found him.

He had to run faster.

Heavy footsteps crashed through the underbrush as he ran towards the Stargate. Usually he was able to move quietly through the forest but today he was just so tired. It felt as if he hadn’t rested for a long time but he knew he couldn’t stop running. All he needed was just a few more minutes and he would be off this planet to somewhere new. Hopefully he would be able to rest then. He would take whatever he could get even if it was only for a little while.

As he stopped in front of the DHD he aimed his pistol just in case and began to dial out. The event horizon had barely finished appearing before he stepped into the wormhole.

 

A huge bolt of lightning flashed across the sky as Buffy staked the last vampire she was fighting. As the dust settled to the ground at her feet she rubbed her hands together. “Another one bites the dust.”

The man standing behind her didn’t comment on what he just saw. It wasn’t really any of his business besides he had other things on his mind. But he couldn’t let her little quip slip by without saying something. “I’m pretty sure that’s been said to death.”

She gripped her stake firmly in her hand as she spun around to face him and immediately froze. She couldn’t help it. It had been a long time since she had seen anyone that good-looking. From the top of his head covered in thick dreadlocks to the shoes on his feet the man was nothing if not drop-dead gorgeous. It was all she could do to keep from purring. Not that she was shallow or anything but... damn. Buffy hoped her face didn’t betray her thoughts as she cleared her throat. “Who are you? Besides a critic?”

For a brief moment Ronon debated on whether or not to answer her question. Finally, he decided it couldn’t hurt to give her his name. “I’m Ronon Dex. Where am I?”

Buffy leaned her head back to look him in the eyes. Guh, was he tall! “I’m Buffy Summers.” She supplied her name even though he hadn’t asked for it. “And you’re in Sunnydale.”

The big man slowly turned around in a circle as if searching for something. When he didn’t see what he was looking for he turned back to face her. “Where’s your Stargate?”

“My what?” Honestly if that was some new sort of pick-up line it could use some work. Especially since she didn’t have a clue what a star thingy was.

“Stargate.” Ronon repeated the word slowly stretching out each sound. “It’s this big round circle that people travel through to different planets.”

“Never heard of it.” Her eyes widened as a terrible thought occurred to her. She quickly took a step backwards. Vampires, demons, any kind of supernatural creature bring it on. She could handle those but people like... She slowly looked him up and down. It was just her luck, a man that tall and that gorgeous... there just had to be something wrong with him. A heartfelt sigh escaped her.

“Damn.” As she was poised to take another step backwards, Ronon reached out and snagged her by the arm. “Easy. I’m not going to hurt you, okay?”

For some reason she couldn’t quite fathom she believed him. Not that she couldn’t give as good as she got... and didn’t that just lead to all kinds of different scenarios in her mind. “Maybe it would help if you told me where you thought you were.” Great going, Buffy. Engage the scary man.

The muscles of Ronon’s shoulders rippled beneath his shirt as he shrugged. “That’s just it. I don’t know. I just hit random symbols and hoped it opened the gate so I can keep running before the Wraith got there.”

Buffy blinked rapidly as she stared at him. Finally her brain latched onto one word. ”Running? What are you running from?”

An angry look mixed with some other emotion she couldn’t describe crossed his face. “The Wraith.” Before she could ask, he continued, “A few years ago the Wraith captured me and put a tracking device inside of me. They turned me into a runner.”

“I don’t understand.”

He pushed his dreadlocks away from his face. “I run for their amusement. To them I’m no better than an animal. Something they can track and kill at will.” For a split second a grin appeared on his face. “At least they can if they catch me. So far I’ve been lucky. Although, I’ve had some very close calls they haven’t been able to catch me yet.”

“What can I do to help?” The offer was out of her mouth before she could even think about it.

“Help me find the way off this planet.” Ronon tied his dreadlocks back he spoke.

Buffy nodded. “Okay. But I think we will need Giles’ help. He can find anything.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s my watcher.” At the look on Ronon’s face she added, “It’s a long story. I’ll explain later. Right now let’s just get you there.”

“Okay.”

As Buffy led the way they talked about their lives. Ronon explained how he had come to be a Runner. Buffy told him about becoming the Slayer. By the time they had arrived at Giles’ apartment they felt like they had known each other for years.

 

 

Buffy and Ronon sat on the couch in the middle of Giles’ living room trying to explain Ronon’s predicament to a speechless Giles.

Giles tried not to gape as Ronon finished speaking. Stargates, Wraith, Runners... He had never heard anything so fantastic before in his life. He had a million questions he would have loved to ask but one look at Buffy’s face and he swallowed them all. “This is something of a mystery.” He muttered the understatement as he picked up a very large book and began to thumb through the pages. For a few minutes everyone was quiet as Giles read the passages. “I think... this has to be it. It’s the only explanation. I believe that your wormhole could have connected to some kind of portal somehow and that could be what brought you here. To my knowledge we’ve only had the one portal.”

“Where is it?”

As he laid the book onto the coffee table and pulled off his glasses he pinched the bridge of his nose. “The only portal we had was last year when Buffy...” He couldn’t bring himself to complete the sentence. He didn’t even want to think about it. Although, Buffy was back and in perfect health it was more than he could take to even think about her lying still in death at the bottom of the tower.

Ronon turned towards Buffy. “When you what?”

Buffy shrugged. “When I died.”

“You died?” Ronon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He would be the first to admit he hadn’t known Buffy all that long yet but the thought of her dying felt wrong to him. As if a vital part of himself would be missing.

Once more Buffy shrugged. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore than Giles did. “It’s a long story.” She looked away. “But it’s closed now. Right, Giles?”

Her watcher quickly nodded his head. “Yes. It is.”

A look of worry and confusion began to spread across Ronon’s face. “Then how do I get back to where I’m supposed to be?”

Giles cleaned his glasses furiously before he slid them back onto his nose. “I’m not sure at the moment. It could take us a little while to research it.” Without another word Giles began to hand out the books he had spread out on his table.

For hours silence reigned throughout Giles apartment as he, Buffy, Willow, and Xander poured over the books trying to find an answer to get Ronon back home. Or at the very least back where he was before he came through the portal.

“Oh dear.”

Xander’s head snapped up and he stared at Giles. “What’s wrong?”

“I think there may be a way to reconnect the portal on this end to the wormhole you came through.”

Ronon straightened. “That’s a good thing, right?” He didn’t know if he was trying to convince the others or if he wanted them to convince him. He didn’t understand how he had came to be so attached to her so quickly. It was as if they were one in the same, part of a whole finally brought back together again. All he was sure of was that leaving Buffy was going to rate up there as one of the hardest things he had ever had to do.

Once more Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them. “I should say not.”

Ronon’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

“It involves doing a spell.” At the blank look on Ronon’s face Giles continued, “With magic.”

Ronon shrugged. He didn’t have anything against magic... technically. And even if he did he would be willing to risk it if it would get him on the move again. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the Wraith would arrive at any minute. “Okay.”

“It’s not quite that easy, Ronon. You see, the person who has the most power to do this spell is, well....” Giles glanced at Willow as he cleared his throat.

“There is a little problem with the...”

Before Xander could finish Willow jumped in. “What they’re both trying to say is it’s me. I have an addiction.”

Ronon grimaced. He had the utmost sympathy for the red-haired woman but he didn’t understand what her addiction problem had to do with him.

“It’s an addiction to magic.” Willow supplied helpfully. “If I use it, it can get bad.”

“No one is asking you to do something you don’t want to do. It is completely up to you.” Buffy crossed her fingers and hoped with every cell in her body that just this once Willow would say no. Ronon could stay and they would find a way to beat these Wraith things whatever they were.

Willow knew what Buffy wanted her to say but she also knew that Buffy would never forgive herself if anything bad happened because of her happiness. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

Xander threaded his fingers through Willow’s. “Giles and I will be right here keeping you grounded.”

Willow shot him a grin. “Thanks, Xander.”

Buffy felt all her hope fly out the window as Willow agreed. “Guys, can I talk to Ronon for a second?” Buffy waited until Giles and the others had left the room before she spoke again. “You could stay.” Even before the words left her mouth, Buffy knew what his answer would be.

Ronon slid his fingers under Buffy’s chin and urged her to look at him. “I can’t, Buffy. You know I can’t. I don’t want to risk bringing the Wraith here. They will come, they always find me. I will not risk your life for mine.”

“I’m the slayer. I can fight them.”

He shook his head. “It wouldn’t work. The Wraith are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”

“But I’m strong. I can do this.”

A slight smile, full of pain and regret graced his face as he slipped his arms around her waist. “But I can’t. Would you willingly risk your worlds enslavement and death for me?” He paused for a moment. “Do you understand?”

Buffy bit her lip to keep from answering his question but then he already knew what her answer would be. It was written plainly on her face. As much as they might want each other they both understood the risks of staying together far outweighed the love they could find within each other’s arms.

Her voice was soft and barely audible when she finally whispered, “It’s not worth it.”

 

Slowly, Ronon dropped his hands and took a step back. “Okay, Giles. I’m ready.”

Giles, Willow and Xander walked back into the room, everything they needed for Willow to perform the spell in their hands.

As Willow began the spell Ronon glanced down at Buffy and whispered, “It’s not true, you know?”

A blank look stole across her face. “What?”

He leaned down until his forehead touched hers. “I have to leave because it is worth everything. And I would rather know that what we could have had is still out there than to stay and risk losing it all, losing you.”

Tears swam in Buffy’s eyes at his words. “Will I ever see you again?” She knew she shouldn’t ask but the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.

“Someday.” A straight no would have been kinder for the both of them but he couldn’t bring himself to put the final nail in their almost relationship. As the tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks, Ronon dipped his head down further and gently kissed her lips. He raised his head, grabbed her hand and laid it against his chest. “Until then, I’ll hold you in my heart until I can hold you in my arms.”

There was only one thing she could say. The only thing she wanted... needed to say. “Ronon, I....”

He placed his finger on her lips to still the words. “I know, Buffy.” Ronon dropped his hands to his sides and took a step back. “I...” But whatever he was going to say was lost as he disappeared.

Buffy stood immobile staring at the spot where she had lost what could have been. Hopefully, they would find their way to each other again... someday. But right now that thought didn’t offer much comfort. “What do I do now?”

Although, Giles hated how lost Buffy sounded now, he knew she would be okay. “What you always do. You go on.” Without another word he turned her towards the coffee table to begin putting the books back on the shelves.