floc•ci•nau•ci•ni•hil•i•pil•i•fi•ca•tion (flok"su-nô"su-nī"hil-u-pil"u-fi-kā'shun), noun, act or habit of estimating or describing something as worthless, or making something to be worthless by said means.
Raised eyebrows and a glance up from the laptop at the word. “Excuse me, Colonel?”
“Floccinaucinihilipilification,” repeated patiently as elbows come to rest on the lab bench in a casual slouch.
“And if I play you in reverse, will I hear ‘Paul is dead, Paul is dead, bury my body’?”
A snort and slight shake of disarrayed hair. “And I thought my trivial knowledge was impressive by knowing the longest non-technical word in the English language.”
A shrug as fingers continue to move across the keyboard. “What can I say? There was a guy that lived down the hall from me my freshman year of college. Had a huge collection of Beatles albums…on vinyl, no less, that had belonged to his parents. They raised kids and goats and did volunteer work in third world countries with more kids and goats. He rebelled against their hippy-skippy ways by eating nothing but Lucky Charms and bologna on white bread for the first semester he was away from home. But even processed meat products and refined sugar couldn’t completely remove the flower from the child.”
A shoulder in black bumps one in blue. “So was he behind the infamous McKay toking incident?”
A smirk. “Green-clover marshmallows the consistency of sun-damaged Styrofoam are pretty damn tasty after sampling some of mom and dad’s homegrown. That is after the panic of moving in slow motion wears off and you realize the end of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is supposed to sound like that.”
“Rock is dead,” is bemoaned with exaggerated woe.
“So I’ve heard. Long live paper and scissors.” Hands flick impatiently. “So aside from showing that I know all the words forward and backward to ‘I am the Walrus’ and you’re familiar with one of rock’s greatest myths…”
“And that I know the longest non-technical word in the English language.” An index finger is raised in interruption.
“And that you know the longest non-technical word in the English language…” Repeated long-sufferingly then a second later a head tilts and blue eyes regard hazel quizzically. “Where’d you learn that anyway? I don’t remember that from the MENSA test.”
“You don’t remember much from that test, but, actually, that wasn’t on there. It was on my Useless Word for the Day Calendar. Rather ironic seeing as it means ‘defining something as worthless’.”
Fingers resume their movement over the keyboard. “Almost as ironic as you coming in here and sharing that worthless piece of information with me.”
“Not nearly as ironic as you applying that term to yourself.”
Silence as the tapping of computer keys stops abruptly only to resume with the renewed vigor of denial. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sheppard.”
Long legs straighten and arms cross in disbelief. “I ran into Elizabeth. She told me you were looking to reassign another scientist to the team. The thing is, I didn’t request a new scientist seeing as I already have one.”
“And you think that’s because I consider myself worthless? You’re at the wrong end of the spectrum, Colonel. There’s just too much to be done here in the city and I’ve wasted way too much time over the past two years going on field trips with you and the others to justify any more absences.”
“Wasted, huh? That’s what you think you’ve been doing all along, wasting time?”
Another shrug of forced nonchalance. “Seriously, what have we managed to gain from of our trips? Some exotic fruits…half of which I can’t eat because of my allergies, some interesting technology….which we never seem to bring home, and a bunch of strays that keep following us home.”
“Strays?” Eyebrows rise in surprise at the use of the term. “I’ll be sure to let Teyla know that’s what you consider her and the Athosians. And Ronon. And the Trahklins we brought back today, because that’s what this is all about isn’t it?” No answer comes, only intentional silence. “Those are people, Rodney. People that are alive because we helped them.”
“Those people would be dead if it had been up to me, Sheppard.” The venom of the words is directed inward, a mirror of what could have been. “If you had listened to me when I first told you we wouldn’t get off the ground…”
“You saved them.” The interruption is insistent.
“I saved myself. It was either that or relinquish the Jumper to the status of a giant Happy Meal container for the Wraith. And by some miracle, I did save us, even though the Jumpers were never meant to transport that many people.”
“But you got us airborne.”
“And what if I hadn’t? Who was going to stay behind?”
“It wouldn’t have been you, McKay, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
The irritated frown is met with an equally angry one. “That’s not it at all. And, oh, by the way, thanks so much for thinking I’m that much of a selfish prick. Who were we going to push out the back and have the door close in their face if I hadn’t got us off the ground? Save the women and children? Sacrifice the old and sickly? Draw straws? Rock, paper, scissors where rock really is dead? How the hell do you make a decision like that?”
“That would’ve been my call, not yours.” The tone is grim, dreading, and relieved all in one.
“You just don’t get it. You go out, play the hero, round up the refugees then dump them in my lap and suddenly I’m responsible for saving their lives. And no matter what call you make, someone would have been dead if I hadn’t managed to pull power from the inertial dampeners and divert it to the damaged drive pod, quite a few someones and thanks but no thanks, I’ve had enough of those sorts of fun and games.”
“And what would have happened if you hadn’t been there?”
“What?” A question that had obviously never been considered.
“What would have happened if you hadn’t been there?”
“Somebody else would have fixed the Jumper.”
“Nobody else could have fixed the Jumper.”
The statement is spoken as fact and is met by the shake of a head. “You don’t know that.”
“Yeah, I do.” A squeeze to a shoulder. “You can’t leave the team, Rodney. I asked you to join it for a reason. You’re the best scientist we have on the expedition, right?”
A light snort and pleased curve of lips. “Obviously.”
“Well, I only work with the best; too much is riding on what we do out there not to. I won’t settle for one of your second rate science minions you decide to dump on my team.”
“I’ll be sure to tell Radek you said that about him, seeing as he was my first choice.”
“I’ll tell him myself, if it means you’ll stay on the team.”
“Really? Can I watch?”
“Depends. You staying?”
A pause, followed by a sigh. “John, I may be the best but that doesn’t mean I’m not occasionally wrong.” The head bobbles self-consciously. “It’s rare, but it happens.”
“Look, McKay, there’s only so much ego stroking I can do before I go into convulsions. Bottom line, I ask, you deliver. You’re the best man for the job and I want you on the team. Yes or no, make up your mind, I can feel the tremors starting.”
“You do realize the next time you expect me to pull a miracle out of my ass, I may not have one up there to retrieve.”
“We’ll deal with your unmiraculous ass when the time comes.” An amused grin that broadens into a smile at the rolled eyes that greets it.
“I have no idea why I bother trying to reason with you.”
“You have me there, Colonel.”
“So we’re good?” Apprehensive eyes await an answer and get an exhalation of breath.
“Good as it gets. Which isn’t exactly saying much, but I’ll be at the briefing tomorrow morning if that’s what you’re getting at.”
The eyes lighten with a mix of relief and humor. “Then I better get going, I promised Elizabeth I’d help get the Trahklins settled into the visitor’s quarters as soon as Carson gets them checked out. You want to come and help?”
“Showing snot-nosed brats and grumpy old grannies how to operate the toilets on Atlantis?” A turn back to the laptop and resumption of typing. “I think you’re more than familiar with the word for that offer, Sheppard.”
“Worth a shot.” Footsteps retreat toward the door then stop in consideration. “Huh.”
“What is it?”
“I just realized something. There may be a twenty-nine letter word for worthless but there isn’t one for saving twenty-nine people today.”
The typing stops and a glance over the shoulder catches a waggle of eyebrows that disappear out the door. The typing resumes…
…with a deservedly gloating smile.