John knocked on the door politely, automatically smiling when a woman opened it, though he wasn't in a smiling mood. Hopefully he didn't look too insincere. "Mrs. Fisher? I'm John Sheppard."
"Dad!" Timmy's appeared behind her. "What are you doing here? Is Dad okay?"
"Everything's fine," John reassured him quickly, wincing when he realized Timmy might perceive his mid-afternoon arrival as indication of a problem. Which it was, but not a problem that needed to worry Timmy. "I left work early and thought you might want to come on home."
"Sure, I have to get my stuff." Timmy disappeared.
Mrs. Fisher frowned. "Rodney didn't mention that you would be picking Timmy up."
John should have foreseen the hesitation, which was perfectly natural and appreciated. He should have gone on home, except he hadn't wanted to be alone. "Let me call him. I was going to let him know I'll be home early anyway." He pulled out his phone, hitting Rodney's work number, as Mrs. Fisher's face relaxed. "Hey, Rodney? I'm at the Fisher's, picking up Timmy. We'll be home early."
"Is anything wrong?"
"Mrs. Fisher wants to say hi." He handed the phone to her, listening as she made small talk with Rodney, Timmy darting out around her and heading for John's car, yelling good-bye to his friend.
"Thank you," she said, handing the phone back.
"No, thank you," he emphasized, giving another smile before heading to the car, settling in the driver's seat.
"Why are you off work early? Did something happen?"
Starting the car, John sighed, accustomed to McKay inquisitiveness. "I need to talk to Rodney first, okay?"
"Okay," Timmy agreed solemnly.
"What's wrong?" were the first words out of Rodney's mouth when he walked in the door to find John and Timmy both sprawled on the floor, playing Knights of the Old Republic on the X-box. He must have left work right after John called.
"I quit my job."
Rodney's jaw dropped open in astonishment before he snapped it shut. "You love your job."
"Then what did some idiot do?"
"Caldwell tried to make me work overtime." John handed his controller to Timmy, and rolled to his feet.
"Obviously there's more to it than that. You work overtime all the time."
"He valued my commitment to you and Timmy less than the married guys to their families."
"But we are married," Rodney noted accurately.
"But not here. Only in Canada. So it doesn't really count in his eyes." John stepped close to Rodney, relieved when his arms wrapped around John's waist. "I got mad and quit."
"I don't blame you." Rodney gave him a kiss, warm and short, an 'in front of the child' kiss. "You deserve better than to work with idiots." He'd say more tonight, a lot more, with descriptive language that would be highly unflattering to Caldwell.
"You don't mind supporting me for a bit, do you?" The idea of changing careers again wasn't appealing. Maybe he should approach the county sheriff's office about a job.
"Take some time off. A few months if you'd like. We can afford it."
He was so lucky, to have married someone who had been described as petty and bad with people, but was always magnanimous and loving with John.
The doorbell rang before John could respond, and Rodney went to open it. Pierson, the department's human resources officer, stood in the doorway, with Caldwell behind him. "Yes?" Rodney asked, not having met either of them. John moved forward to stand beside him.
"You must be Doctor McKay. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm George Pierson." George offered his hand.
"Pierson, Caldwell," John said, not sure why they were here. The words they'd exchanged at work had been quite plain.
"Caldwell? You're John's boss?"
"I'd appreciate " Pierson started to say, interrupted when Rodney shoved past him, his finger jabbing into Caldwell's chest.
"You are a horrible, homophobic asshole," Rodney yelled. "And we are going to sue your ass for discrimination based on sexual orientation."
"Please, Doctor," Pierson said, soothingly. "Can we come in and discuss this?"
"You can talk to our lawyer!"
"It really doesn't need to get to that level." Pierson threw a pleading look at John. "Sheppard, please?"
"Rodney." John curved a hand over Rodney's shoulder. "Let them come in."
"Into the house of homosexuals? Are you sure you want to?"
"We would appreciate it very much."
John had to admire Pierson's determination, even if he was a bit too smooth. "Yeah, come on," John offered to Pierson and Caldwell. Rodney stalked back into the living room, followed by the others. Timmy had shut down the game, and was sitting quietly in the corner, perhaps hoping he'd go unnoticed. "Go on up to your room, Timmy," John said, and everyone took seats, waiting as Timmy left, thudding up the stairs.
Pierson grabbed hold of the conversation immediately. "Steven reported that you'd quit, and gave me a general understanding of the discussion that led to that decision. I was hoping that I could get you to change your mind."
"Why? So he could go back to being treated like a second-class citizen?" Rodney asked, practically vibrating in his fury.
"The department has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. John should never feel that he is being treated as a second class citizen. I'm sure that everyone understands that some people may have bad days and are perhaps less than careful in their language," Pierson said quickly. "Working for the police is a very stressful business. Frankly, John doesn't need to quit because Steven had a bad day. This is very much a molehill becoming a mountain."
"Is that your excuse for homophobia? Stress?" Rodney sneered.
"John, please," Pierson directed to him, perhaps realizing that Rodney wasn't going to be easily pacified. Or assuming that John could silence him, which maybe he could, if he'd had the inclination.
"No," John said abruptly, standing, because while Rodney and Pierson were talking, Caldwell was just sitting on the couch, leaning back, one leg resting over the other, casually relaxed. "You can leave now."
Caldwell spoke for the first time. "Christ, Sheppard. You were in the Air Force. You lived by Don't Ask, Don't Tell for years. You want to make a big stink over overtime?"
"Yeah, I did. I lied because I wanted to fly planes. But that was only denying myself." John pointed to the mantle, to the framed picture of him, Rodney, and Timmy, in Canada, all dressed in their suits on the day that McKay-Sheppard had become an official family. "I won't deny them."
Caldwell glanced at the picture. "I didn't know you felt that strongly about it, Sheppard."
"Because what, family doesn't matter to fags?" Rodney sneered.
Caldwell frowned at Rodney's hostility. "I've never thought about Sheppard like that. He's an excellent officer."
"Then don't treat me like you do," John said pointedly.
"Jesus," Caldwell swore, rubbing the bridge of his nose under his glasses. "I never meant to, and I'm sorry if I came across like I did. If anything, I was just trying to take advantage of the fact that you give me less grief than some of the other guys. You're usually pretty receptive."
John relaxed a little bit, nodding in understanding, because he could tell Caldwell was being honest. The man was kinda clueless and thoughtless, a product of his culture, but not someone who wanted to be perceived as being intentionally homophobic.
"How do I make this up to you?" Caldwell asked bluntly, leaning forward.
"A written apology with a promise that you will regard them and my commitment to them the same as anyone else's family."
"I don't know if a written apology "
"Can it, Pierson." Caldwell stood. "It'll be on your desk in the morning."
"I'll be there to read it," John promised.
"John, are you sure that's what you want? We can sue. Ferris's attorney "
"No, that's all I want." John squeezed Rodney's hand.
"I'm not sure if putting this in writing is the best way to resolve it," Pierson brought up again. He was probably thinking of the department's increased liability if Caldwell didn't hold to his promise.
"I do, and I created the problem," Caldwell said.
"And you'll mean your apology," Rodney added, still glaring at him.
"And I'll mean it. I don't need to learn my lesson twice. Sheppard." Caldwell offered his hand, and John gave it a shake. Next, Caldwell offered his hand to Rodney, who looked suspiciously at it, but accepted it. "Doctor, you may not believe it, but I do appreciate your honesty." Then he walked out, leaving Pierson, who gave concerned looks at both John and Rodney, but quickly followed him.
Dropping down on the couch, John pulled Rodney into his arms. Momentarily unbalanced, Rodney gave a squawk, then shifted into a comfortable position, his muscles relaxing as he rested in John's hold. "Do you really think he won't be an asshole to you any chance he gets?" Rodney asked suspiciously.
"Yeah, I do," John said, nuzzling at the back of Rodney's neck. "He learned he can't walk over me. Us."
"Was this all some macho posturing? To see who has the bigger balls?"
"I didn't mean it like that." He'd fully intended to quit when he'd walked out of the station, but he was grateful that Pierson's unwillingness to risk a lawsuit meant he could keep his job. "But I won." He couldn't stop his voice from sounding smug. Speaking up and winning had definitely been satisfying.
Rodney made a disgruntled, considering noise, hugging John's arms to him. "I still think he's homophobic."
"Maybe some. It's not a perfect world," John admitted, "but this is a huge step up from Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He'd never realized how much he'd hated having to be silent until he had Rodney. If he'd been caught messing around with a guy in the Air Force, no one in the military would have supported him. They certainly wouldn't have gotten into anyone's face and threatened lawsuits.
"Any time you want to quit, John, you do it. Don't take any nonsense from him."
"I won't." He breathed in the scent of Rodney's neck, his aftershave and skin. "You smell great."
"Dads?" Timmy asked, hovering in the doorway. "Is everything okay?"
Rodney waved one arm, gesturing Timmy over. "John has his job back because being honest and assertive is the right way to live your life."
"Okay," Timmy said agreeably, flopping on the couch to lean against Rodney. "Can we have pizza for dinner?"
John laughed. He loved his family.
~ the end ~