They'd caught Rodney at his own front door, and it was his own fault too. He'd opted to take a cab home, and they'd been lying in wait for him; a pack of about fifteen reporters, cameramen and various technicians with their satellite trucks. He let them chase him from the cab to the door where he waved the doorman back inside, yelling for him to not let any of the jackals in. Jeff, their press agent, had told him that whenever possible he should stand on higher ground when talking to the press. He and John had cracked some jokes about lines of fire and making each shot count, and Jeff had stared for a long moment and then told them never to do that in public. The only high ground in front of their building was the single step leading up to the wide glass doors to the lobby, and that was where Rodney stopped to face down the pack.
They talked over each other, babbling out questions and thrusting microphones at his face. He glared down at them over the frames of his glasses while he mentally reviewed Jeff's list of the words he was not supposed to say to the press. It sounded an awful lot like a George Carlin routine. There seemed to be some sort of pecking order in this particular flock, and the babble gave way enough for one fellow, in an expensive suit that marked him as television even more than his side part and careful blow-dry, to shout out a question. "Dr. McKay, do you have any response to the calls for your removal from Homeland Security because of your lifestyle?"
Rodney favoured the guy with a long look and then slowly smiled. Jeff had said the focus groups all thought it was his most terrifying expression, which was reassuring since Rodney was basing it on Ronon's I'm going to shoot you now look. "I know I don't get the same amount of exercise that I once did running around on other planets," Rodney said in the clear, even tone he'd been schooled to use, "but the Homeland thing is a desk job, so I don't see the problem." He caught a couple of the print reporters rolling their eyes.
Television guy smiled a tight little smile and said, "Dr. McKay, as I'm sure you realized, I am referring to the article in today's Post quoting several members of Congress who believe you should be removed from your position because of your acknowledged homosexuality."
That's right, you asshole, I did realize what you meant, but I'm damn well making you say it. Rodney's smile got a little more genuine at television guy's obvious discomfort. "First off, I've acknowledged being bisexual, and as for the members of your Congress and their opinions, well I actually work for the IOA so..."
"But, Doctor McKay, if the Congress insisted that you be removed from a position with a US government body, the IOA would have to agree," a new voice called out.
"So?" Rodney said, turning on the new questioner, another television person, this time a woman in camera-ready makeup and a power suit.
"So, you could lose your job," she said, sounding avid, whether because she thought he should be fired, or she just thought it would make a good story, Rodney couldn't tell.
"Well, it's not like I'd starve if I did," Rodney told her with a sneer. "It's not like my partner—and my hatred for that word cannot be adequately described—is dependent on me for medical insurance, since—of course—my employer doesn't recognize him as my partner. It's not like I'm not wealthy enough to never have to work again, without even considering John's nice little pile of cash. So, beyond wondering why the hell a bunch of congressmen are worrying about my sex life, I don't really care. Maybe the voters in their districts, or whatever they're called, should ask them why they aren't doing something useful with their time." Rodney could practically hear Jeff's little indrawn breath, the one he made whenever Rodney said something a little too blunt. Well, too damn bad. If Time magazine could put him on the cover under the title Rodney McKay: Asshole Genius of Atlantis, and his approval rating actually went up as a result, then he was damn well going to play to his strength with these idiots for a change.
"With all due respect, Doctor, that's easy for you to say isn't it?" a new voice said, cutting through the babble of questions.
"You there," Rodney said, snapping his fingers at the questioner who was rumpled enough, he had to be a print reporter, "who are you? No, wait—don't answer that. It's not like I'll remember your damn name anyway. I'll just call you Not a Moron, and you're not a moron, because that is exactly my damn point. I don't have anything to lose here. I don't need any damn government to approve of my lifestyle. I don't need my job. If they want to replace me with some nice pleasant heterosexual who could never have half the knowledge or experience that I've got, then let them do it. Then they can reap the rewards of their moronic bigotry. You see, if I lose my mind and decide I want to get married, I don't have to sue anyone, I just have to hop a plane back home. I don't need the damn approval of Congress for that either." Rodney sucked in a breath, and his vision narrowed to the rapt attention of Not a Moron and the miniature recorder held out in his outstretched hand.
"Listen, I—I'm going to tell you something. I get letters from people. I don't understand it, but—they write me, asking me things. Not things I know, like how to build a Naquadah generator or how a ZPM works, but relationship things and political things, things I don't understand at all. It's—I've been made this spokesperson for gay rights or something, and I never asked for this. I'm not qualified for this, but they tell me things about their lives, and so I know that it is easy for me to say, and that it's not for a lot of other people." Not a Moron had a light in his eyes that spoke of cover story glory, and Rodney smirked back at him a little, happy to give it to him.
The familiar tones of the CNN reporter assigned to dog his every move dragged his attention back to the rest of the crowd. "Perhaps the Congress of the United States would be more inclined to listen to you, Doctor, if you took a more reasonable tone," she said.
Rodney swung around to face her. She stared up at him, and her familiar bland smile didn't hide the challenge in her eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry," Rodney said, and he suddenly remembered Sam Carter making fun of his and Jeannie's accent one day, long, long ago. "I'm sorry," Rodney repeated, rounding out the vowels. "Was I not sitting back and being oppressed quietly enough for you? Would you like me to ask politely to keep my job, the one I have because I'm the only one on the damn planet qualified to do it? Should I bow and scrape a little for you; would that make you happy?" Rodney knew he was losing control, but he didn't care; it felt fantastic, like Wraith enzyme only better, because he was still mostly lucid. "Why the hell do I have to justify myself to the US Congress at all? You explain that to me. Christ, I'm sick of answering your damn questions; you answer mine for a change. Why the hell is my private life any of your fucking business? Well? Why am I the guy standing out here on my god damned doorstep justifying myself? Why the hell aren't you all clustered around the Congressman from Nosyville asking him why the hell he cares so much who I sleep with? And while you're at it, make sure he keeps his tone civil too."
None of them, not even Not a Moron, looked too inclined to answer, so Rodney turned around and wrenched the door open and ducked inside. The doorman, Bob or Bill or whatever the hell his name was, was quick to block the jackals from following. Rodney stomped over to the elevator and paused inside to take a few deep breaths. Not a Moron wasn't the only one getting a cover story out of that. Rodney hoped someone would still be speaking to him by morning, but he wasn't counting on it being Jeff.
John called out, "Hey," as soon as Rodney had the door to the condo open.
He could hear the television blaring away, so he headed for the living room. There he was, in extreme close-up on the fifty-four inch plasma screen, red faced, spittle flying from his lips, and pontificating about the US Congress. "So, that was quick," he said to the back of John's head.
"Yeah," John said. He turned and grinned at Rodney over his shoulder and Rodney's whole body unclenched. "Jeff owes me a hundred bucks too," he added.
"Yeah, we had a little bet on when you'd blow. He thought you'd last longer, but I know you better."
"Oh." Rodney sat on the sofa beside John and strangled his tie in his not-shaking hands.
"I think Not a Moron has a crush on you," John said when CNN reran the clip a few minutes later.
"Yes, well, that happens to me all the time."
"You should send him an autographed copy of the Time magazine cover; you have about a thousand of them left."
"Smart-ass," Rodney said weakly.
"Yup, that's me. Hey cheer up, McKay. By tomorrow the story will be Dr. McKay, Asshole Genius, says he'd have to be crazy to marry that nice boy John Sheppard."
"No one who actually knows you thinks you're a nice boy."
"I'm saying," John said, drawing out all the words to an unnatural length, "that you won't get fired over this."
"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of," Rodney said glumly.