Will Bailey squinted out the glass doors and watched as a few camera crews set up. Journalists hugged themselves against the autumn chill and checked their watches. Most of his staff was out there as well, probably waiting to find out what the big fuss was. Only Sue and Elsie knew why his nerves had been shot since the previous evening; why he'd called for a press conference.
He'd told Elsie the previous day right before setting up the conference with Sue. He had complained about the legislation and how it was already becoming a talking head battle. "Do you know how much we worked on this? We were this close to getting filibustered."
"So, do something." She'd made it sound easy, like it was his place to take action at all.
Someone squeezed his shoulder, jerking him from his memory. Will jumped and then noticed Sue's face behind him in the glass.
"Everything is set up. Lynn and Jake are inside for when the phones start ringing."
"I like your confidence," he said, the corner of his mouth twisting. All the cameras he could see outside were just for stations back home. "I'm just the new guy." Again, he mentally added.
Sue did not seem bothered by this non sequitur. "Someone has to start making waves," she said.
"I'll see you out there." She squeezed his shoulder once more, then slipped past him and out the doors. Will watched her step up to the microphone and call for attention. Not for the first time, Will wondered if he was doing the right thing. He took a deep breath, and walked out to start his press conference. Sue smiled at him like he was doing something brave or important. Will forced himself to return her smile; he wondered what the best word was for a person who only did something brave when it was safe to do so.
A coward, probably.
He cleared his throat.
Ramona Pennington checked her recorder, ensuring for the twentieth time that it had batteries and was working. This was her first decent assignment since being sent to DC; she didn't want to screw it up.
"First time?" a guy with blond curls tied back asked.
Ramona laughed politely. "Kinda. That obvious?"
He smiled. "You seem nervous. I'm Devon Grey." He held out his hand. Ramona shifted her recorder to her left hand and took his.
"Ramona Pennington, with the Oregonian. You?"
"Oh, I'm with the Congressman. I have a blog though, if that that counts."
"Not quite the same thing. So, any word on why the Congressman has called this conference?" She waved one hand toward the podium set up a few feet away.
Devon shook his head. "You'll have to wait just like everyone else."
His cheek dimpled. "I have to wait, too."
Ramona looked back at the podium. "Well, I hope it's something exciting."
"My paper has been sending me to write all the political fluff. You know, senator meets school kids kind of stuff."
"Too good for the AP like everyone else?"
She shrugged. "Our state senator is a humanitarian."
"Yeah. Not that I mind, of course. I just—"
"Imagined something a bit more hard-hitting?"
"Something like that," she agreed. "Fewer photo ops and more questions."
A small woman with short, red hair approached the podium. "Excuse me, everyone. Thank you for coming out here this afternoon."
Ramona fumbled to turn her recorder on. Devon slipped her a business card. "I'll talk to you, later?" She nodded, and pulled out her notepad and pen. She might have said something, but the Congressman was walking toward them. "He looks nervous," she noted. Devon didn't respond.
The Congressman cleared his throat.
"Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Will Bailey, in case you don't know me." Ramona chuckled along with everyone else. "I'm a Congressman from Oregon. I'm also an officer in the United States Air Force Reserves, and I'm gay."
"Damn," Devon said beside her. "I think you got your wish."
"And Amy, have you—" Josh's cell phone beeped, interrupting the afternoon staff meeting. He frowned. "Just a minute."
Check news now.
"The First Lady's chief of staff? Yes. Where's my remote?"
Otto picked it up from the edge of his desk and held it out to Josh.
"What's going on?" Lou asked.
Josh turned on CNN. The bottom of the screen read 'Congressman Will Bailey (D) Exits Closet.'
"No shit. Bailey?"
"That weasel," Josh said. CNN started to re-air the press conference. "He's high jacking our news cycle."
"Didn't you want the legislation humanized?" Otto asked.
"Well, yeah," Josh said, pushing his hair back. "But, you know, by our people. Kids, active members, damn it. Lou, get control over this?" Lou nodded. "Remind them exactly who made Will scum-sucking Bailey's announcement possible."
"We'll cover it in the next briefing."
"Okay. Okay. Where were we? Oh yeah, Amy, the education thing?"
"I have meetings with Whitson and Adams after this."
"Good. Keep me posted. We're done here. Someone tell Margaret to get me Will Bailey, ASAP, okay?"
Josh turned the volume up and watched Will announce that he was gay. "You couldn't have waited a few more days?"
Her flight was delayed another two hours. Kate trudged back to the small airline's café and set up her netbook. Travel was always the worst part of her work. The café was filled with other airline zombies. She ordered another coffee, and sipped it slowly while she checked her email.
She had one rescheduling a meeting later that week and another from Elsie Snuffin. Elsie's linked her to a couple news sites.
Will came out of the closet at a press conference. The TVs are buzzing, but he isn't talking to anyone. He was really uncertain about it when we talked last night. I think he could use a friend. If you have time, do you think you could call him? Take care of yourself!
Kate clicked one of the links and watched a few stops and starts of footage before closing her netbook and slipping it back into her bag. She didn't need to watch; she could imagine it well enough.
She pulled out her phone and called directly to his desk. A woman answered. The voice was fuzzy, but Kate recognized it as belonging to Will's chief of staff.
"Hey, Sue. It's Kate Harper. Can I talk to Will? I know. Tell him it's Kate. I'll wait."