(CNN) - As each day passes, the buzz is building that Robert Gates might be asked - and agree - to stay on as defense secretary, at least for a while.
Gates himself left the door open this year, when I first asked him whether would consider serving in the next administration.
"The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me," Gates craftily replied in an April Pentagon news briefing.
When I asked him again later in the summer while touring Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, he gave the same answer but added an all-important qualifier: "I've learned never to say never."
Well, those circumstances that seemed "inconceivable" back then appear all too conceivable now. In fact, it's the talk of the Pentagon.
What we know from some of the few people who have actually discussed this with Gates is that he IS willing to stay, although not too long.
But the former spymaster is playing his cards very close to the vest. Almost no one at the Pentagon knows what's really going on over the back channels.