"The First October" by Jae Gecko (West Wing, Matt Skinner, 500 words)

Matt's covered his entire career history in the past fifteen minutes, but this guy's not here to ask about his platform or his political heroes. He's here to turn Matt into a gay Republican poster boy. Matt's just desperate enough to let him.

"So let me ask you this," the reporter says. "Everybody else I've talked to for this story is either running for county-level office, or unwilling to say anything until I turn off the recorder. Neither of those is you."

"No." Matt's dreading where he's taking this.

"What makes this so easy for you? Why are we in your office instead of some anonymous bar with you looking over your shoulder every two minutes?"

If he thinks this is easy, he hasn't seen the latest polling numbers. Or the state of Matt's campaign finances. "I wasn't aware you'd prefer that," Matt says, his voice level.

The corners of the reporter's eyes crinkle, and he laughs. "Aren't you afraid that being open about your sexual orientation will affect the outcome of the election?"

Matt swallows. "It could. That's no reason to lie."

The guy scribbles something on his notes. "Support of gay and lesbian rights has traditionally come from the Democrats. Would you be comfortable voting with House Dems on these issues?"

"I'll want to weigh each piece of legislation individually," Matt says.

His eyebrows shoot up. "Are you saying you might be willing to vote with your party against gay rights legislation?"

"If it was a bad bill? Absolutely."

The reporter taps his pen against the desk, frowning. "Okay, I get that you're a politician first. But there's a difference between changing things from the inside and sticking your head in the sand." He shakes his head. "I mean, I'll be frank, you've got me wondering whether you're really any better than the guy who was so paranoid he'd only call me from a pay phone."

Matt breathes in strength, exhales. "Let me tell you something. The reason I'm not conflicted about this is because to me there's no conflict. The real difference between me and those other guys is that I'm not just honest enough to let you come sit in my office, I'm also honest enough to tell you that this isn't my issue. My issues are tax code reform, free trade, and opposition to proposed restrictions on the second amendment." Their eyes lock. "And I'll be frank with *you* -- you've got *me* wondering whether somebody who wants to mold me into his image of a gay man is any better than somebody who wants to mold me into his image of a Republican."

The guy leans back, surprised, smiles a little. "Okay," he says, nodding. He's giving in. He looks like he doesn't do that very often.

In the end he shakes Matt's hand, gives him his business card. Andrew Keller, Chicago Tribune. Matt's not sure what makes him turn it over.

Scribbled in loopy scrawl on the back, it reads: Call me. Andy.