Author's Note: This story is obviously AU as it's set two years following Season Five and features a pairing that was blown to hell by canon with Brain Storm. Thank God for fan fiction.

Disclaimer: No profit being made. No copyright infringement intended.

The Courting of Ronon Dex

Chapter One

"So, what's it like being ditched for a tree hugger?" Laura handed Jennifer a cold beer and leaned against the balcony where her friend stood, watching the horizon vanish with the setting sun.

The scowl Jennifer leveled on Laura threatened to incinerate her. "You suck as a shoulder to cry on."

"Don't bullshit me, Keller. We've been friends a long time now. If you were honest with me, and yourself, you'd admit the thing suffering most right now is your vanity."

Jennifer didn't reply, just tipped her bottle and took a long swallow. She normally wasn't a beer drinker, and there was something almost cheesy in drowning her sorrows in alcohol. It certainly didn't do a perfectly good bottle of Modelo justice. She hazarded a quick glance at Laura before returning to her morose contemplation of the sea's rippling tide.

"What? No long-winded explanation, complete with scientific gobble-dee-gook for why you and Rodney didn't work out, or how he and Katie have this long history of attuned understanding, blah, blah, blah?"

Jennifer wondered how fast the gossip would fly through the city if the CMO ended up in the brig for cracking a beer bottle over a lieutenant's head.

"Nope. I'm not wasting my expansive breath, thank you very much. Besides, you seem to know all the answers, Sigmund Freud."

Laura rested her elbows on the balcony railing, her beer dangling idly between her fingers. "Freud was a dipshit. I'm not a dipshit. It's simple really. You and McKay together didn't make a damn bit of sense. McKay and Katie together make perfect sense."

Jennifer's white-knuckled grip on the bottle neck threatened to crack the glass. "Jeeze, Laura, don't sugar coat it. Tell me how you really feel." She imagined the bottle neck was Laura's neck and squeezed a little harder.

"That's just it, Jenn. Everyone tells you how they feel. You don't reciprocate. Spilling your guts is far more literal for you than figurative. You've been moping around Atlantis for a week. When you're not moping, you're so perky-cheerful, it's creepy. And obviously fake." Laura briefly rested her hand on Jennifer's shoulder. "Look, if I truly believed McKay broke your heart, I'd march out of here this minute and kick his ass from one end of this city to the other. But my instinct is telling me that's not the case. Now tell me I'm wrong."

Jennifer blew out a sigh. Leave it to Laura to pull back the layers and see the truth. The thought of revealing so many regrets, so many mistakes made her stomach knot, but if she needed a confessor, she couldn't think of a better one than Laura.

"You're not wrong. Rodney and I were done before Katie returned to Atlantis. I think we were just going through the motions. Heck, we hadn't had sex in four…"

"Whoa!" Laura raised a hand in warning. "Too much information, friend. Remember, I've been inside Rodney's head. It's a scary place. I'm really not interested in hearing details about being in his bed."

Affronted, Jennifer frowned. "I wasn't planning to give you a play by play. I was just trying to emphasize…"

"No, seriously, I get it."

Jennifer banged her beer bottle on the balcony ledge. "Do you want to hear this or not?"

Laura shrugged. "Well, yeah. Why do you think I asked?"

Her wide-eyed innocence didn't fool Jennifer. "Then stop interrupting me and listen!"

The other woman raised her hand and bottle in a "mea culpa" gesture.

Another bracing swig of the Modelo and Jennifer stared at a point past Laura's shoulder. "Yeah, my vanity has taken a knock or two. Even when you both realize it's over, it still stings."

Laura nodded. "Fair enough. I don't think there's anyone can say they haven't dealt with something like that before, but what else? What really has you all sad-sack and miserable?"

Jennifer paused then plunged in with both feet. "Have you ever looked back and realized you made a truly bad judgment call? One that might have wasted years? Killed a friendship? Hurt someone who trusted you? Lost something profound?"

All semblance of casual listening evaporated from Laura's stance. She straightened from the balcony, her gaze drilling into Jennifer with the same steady intensity she displayed in a high danger situation. "Yeah," she said. "I've had my moments."

The dull ache residing under her lower ribs swelled to a crushing pressure until Jennifer sucked in a gasping breath thick with tears. The bottle slipped from her fingers, only to be saved from a shattering on the balcony floor by Laura's quick reflexes.

Laura set both bottles down before grabbing Jennifer's hand in a tight clasp. "Jesus, Jenn, what's going on?"

Jennifer blinked hard to chase away the tears that blurred her vision. Laura's reassuring grip made it easier, and she took another deep breath to ease the tightness in her chest and throat. "I screwed up, Laura, and I don't know what to do." She couldn't explain anymore, not when she was on the verge of disintegrating into a puddle at her friend's feet.

Laura's grip on her fingers tightened until her hand tingled. "Sure you do. You go back and fix it; if you can't fix it, you move on."

Jennifer sniffed and wiped her eyes with her free hand. "It's not that simple."

"Yeah it is. We just tend to throw all kinds of shit in the road to make it harder on ourselves. The challenge is keeping the road clear."

"I have a bad habit of tossing things in my path."

Laura snorted. "You don't say?" She released Jennifer's hand, gave her a quick hug and bent to retrieve the beers. "Look, as soon you spill the details, we'll plan a strategy to fix whatever you think you fucked up so bad." She handed Jennifer her beer.

Jennifer touched her bottle to Laura's in a toast. "You're a good friend."

"A veritable saint, Keller."

"I wouldn't go that far."

"I would. I just let you smear snot on my shirt, you twit. And I just changed into these civvies. You owe me a shirt."

The two women laughed and once again leaned on the railing to admire the planet's tranquil sea. Jennifer wondered what Laura might say when she told her this grand strategic plan would have to include finding one Ronon Dex somewhere out there in the Pegasus galaxy.