Title: "Slipped The Surly Bonds Of Earth"
Author: CretKid aka Cal
Summary: There's something to be said of the twinkling lights of a night
time cityscape, don't you think?
Disclaimer: Don't own them. If we didn't care about them so much, we
wouldn't be doing this in the first place. And I stole a poem from
William Blake called "The Night". Luna helped me with the title and a
couple of the lines. Lida Rose and Adrienne were my beta readers and
caught my goofs. Thanks to all.
The cabin aboard Air Force One was quiet and dark, a subdued atmosphere
conducive to contemplation of nothing and everything. Jed Bartlet
reclined back in the captain-style chair, arms crossed over his chest and
hands tucked under his arms. His feet were propped and crossed at the
ankle against the seat of another chair. From his seat, he had a bird's
eye view, literally, of the world below him.
The air in the cabin was crisp. He liked the cold. Always had, and he
supposed he always would. It had been a deep appreciation for the great
outdoors, time spent in brisk, cold November air before school, that had
always been his downfall. Many a morning he had been late for school
because he had taken too long walking through the stiff grass, the
frost-covered leaves and the bright, clean air. None of his children
appreciated the cold like he did, though his granddaughter was as much as
a cold-lover as he had always been.
The stars always seemed that much brighter when it was cold.
The air always seemed that much sweeter.
The skies that much darker at night.
He remembered taking long car trips with his family as a child, driving
through the hills and valleys of long owned family farms through the
backwoods of New Hampshire. He always loved when his father would drive
at night, the dark landscape was punctuated with isolated splotches of
whitish yellow light nestled in the valleys whenever they crested a hill.
It was almost magical.
Abbey had once told him that the only time she could ever get him to shut
up was to take a drive through the countryside at night. He scoffed at
the notion, but knew it was true.
It was that same euphoric feeling he wanted to relive whenever he
scheduled a night-time flight for Air Force One. The staff moaned and
groaned at first. He suspected that Abbey had informed them of the
ability of a clear night sky to keep him quiet, and now they prayed for a
cloudless night. He had always been a night owl, the darkened skies like
a beacon for free thought. There was nothing like watching patchy swarms
of light emerging across the dark plains.
There was a knock at the cabin door. Without bothering to turn away from
his view through the window, he called for the visitor to come.
He watched as Toby's reflection filled the plastic portal, his face
backlit from the lighting in the hall. He was holding a manila folder in
his hand, no doubt a copy of the speech he was supposed to give. He
didn't want to think about speeches; he just wanted to look out the
"Mr. President?" Toby stepped into the conference room and closed the
"There's something to be said of the twinkling lights of a night time
cityscape, don't you think?"
When Toby did not reply, Bartlet scanned the reflection in the window to
see, on the off chance the light was just right, he could watch the man's
eyes roll to the top of his head. No such luck; Toby had long ago learned
how to deal with him when he was in a fanciful mood, like dealing with a
rabid mosquito. Ignore it and it will go away. Without looking from the
window, Bartlet recited, " 'The sun descending in the west, /The evening
star does shine; /The birds are silent in their nest, /And I must seek
for mine.' "
Given the Communication Director's mercurial mood swings, it was never a
sure bet how Toby would react to anything. There had been no loud
complaining when Bartlet suggested Toby accompany him, Josh and CJ on
this trip, so he assumed he had caught the man on an upswing.
" 'The moon, like a flower, / In heaven's high bower, / With silent
delight / Sits and smiles on the night.' "
Bartlet nodded, letting his feet fall to the floor as he turned in his
seat. "A William Blake fan, are we?"
"Funny. You strike me as a 'Songs of Experience' kind of guy."
"I am a 'forced to recite poetry in high school English and haven't
forgotten it' kind of guy."
"Sam can recall all fifty states and their capitals in alphabetical
"Sam is sort of freakish that way, sir."
"What, you don't think the girls go for the smart, geeky ones?"
"Not in my high school, they didn't."
"Not in mine, either. What can I do you for, Toby?"
Bartlet took the folder from Toby's outstretched hand and placed it on
the table, not bothering to look at it just yet. Before Toby could
escape, he asked, "Which is your favorite season?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of winter, spring, summer or fall."
"Those do not exist in my world, sir."
"Baseball is only played April through October. What do you call the
other 5 months?"
"College basketball season."
"Spoken like a true sports fanatic. I was never a fan of baseball myself.
Could never see the fascination with it, and the fact that it is so damn
boring to watch."
"Bite your tongue, sir."
"Football is much more involved."
"Football is a sport played by Neanderthals. There is no thought, chance
or strategy involved."
"Watch it, or you can join CJ in chanting the Notre Dame fight song."
"Begging your pardon, sir, but there is no way in hell you could get me
to sing that for you, to you, or by you without first beating me
"That's pretty much what CJ told me after the last time I tried that on
her. I think Abbey put her up to it, though."
Toby was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, but he didn't
have that look about him, as if he wanted to gnaw his arm off at the
shoulder to get out of a session of 'the President is in a contemplative
mood'. At least not yet. He knew the effect he had on his staff; he was
not immune to the looks of abject horror whenever he started to lecture
them on the national park system or the history of the Thanksgiving
holiday. If any of them had actually protested being held prisoner, he
probably would have let them leave.
He couldn't force his children to listen to him wax poetic. His staff,
It was good to be the President.
Bartlet motioned towards the chair he had his feet propped on earlier.
Toby accepted the unspoken invitation and took a seat. Turning back to
the window he watched entranced as the plane passed over yet another
patch of city light. He pointed to the spot out the window.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Toby nodded in appreciation, though Bartlet didn't think his
Communications Director found the sight nearly as awe-inspiring as he
"You're a night owl, too, aren't you, Toby?"
"Inability to sleep usually begets a night owl life style."
By this time Bartlet had grown more than accustomed to Toby's
noncommittal answers. He decided not tp push his luck. "I used to wake
the girls up and bring them out on to the back porch to look at the stars
late at night. Abbey was always ready to kill me whenever I did that.
There's just something peaceful about a clear night sky."
"I tend to agree with you, sir."
"You're only agreeing with me so that I don't keep you trapped in this
room with me for the entire flight."
"There is that, sir."
"You can't tell me you never once stared up at the night sky and wondered
about anything magical."
"No, I think there was a time once when I wished upon a shooting star.
Then I realized it was the 9 PM shuttle out of JFK."
"I could have been an astronomer, but I couldn't get past the science.
No, that's a lie. I couldn't get past the professor. He was a stodgy old
man that wouldn't know a joke if it bit him on the ass."
"I could have been a monk, but I couldn't get past the religion."
Bartlet smiled and waved a hand at the door. "You can go if you want."
Toby leaned back in his chair and stared out the window.
Leaning over to open a cabinet door, Bartlet pulled out a chess set.
"Care for a game?"