Swallowed By The Sun
by Spica

TITLE: Swallowed By The Sun
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files and its characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox. No infringement is intended.
FEEDBACK: Is welcome indeed, to spica111@fastmail.fm
ARCHIVE: Keep my info attached and you can have it.
SPOILERS: None, really.
SUMMARY: A girl and her father, out in a boat.
NOTES: Thanks to Kelly Keil for the long-ago beta and the general support, to Bardsmaid for the idea to make this a separate story, and to Vanzetti and Muridae for comments that helped.


A girl and her father are out on a lake, in a wooden boat. It's early evening and the sun is setting, while above the mountains in the east, the still pale sky turns out the first stars of the night. They have been out here for many hours, just the two of them, together alone. The boat smells of sun-warmed wood and of tar and of their silver catch in a basket on the floorboards. They've caught rainbow trout that twisted flashing in the sun when pulled over the gunwale, cascading droplets like crystal quartz.

They've seen a herd of deer on the south shore, a bay of waterlilies to the north, and one blue heron describing a sinuous 's' against the blue sky. Now they've turned towards the shore. The father has turned off the engine and is rowing the last bit of distance to land. He maneuvers the oars with easy stocky strength. The man is a Navy captain, and he handles boats as if they were extensions of his own body. The oar-blades slice into the surface of the lake like knives into butter, are forced smoothly back against the resistance of the water, and emerge again in a gasping rush of drops.

The girl sits in the back of the boat in Bermudas, a loose shirt and a blue bandana around her ponytail, straight-backed like a princess being sailed to wed a king. She is thirteen. The sunset gleams on her freckled skin and her red hair, and turns the blue of her irises translucent aquamarine. They are the same blue as the man's eyes. This girl is looking at the world through her father's eyes. The love and tolerance between them is unspoken and absolute.

It is all good, the happiness of the day trailing lazily behind them, unfolded smoothly in their wake like a swathe of blue silk.

This girl is her father's favorite. She knows it with gratitude and pride. He loves her fine mind, treasures it like a perfect pearl. The girl looks upon the rest of her family with a mixture of affection and regret. Young and innocently jealous, she is convinced they will never be loved the way she is. Missy is undisciplined, too wild, she is out of control. Bill is dutiful but lacks the divine spark, he doesn't get the flashes of intuitive intellect dancing between her and her father. Charlie is a dreamer, kind but weak - afraid of his own shadow. Her mother is a wise, practical woman, loved by her father but in a very different way, a way Dana sees but can't yet fully appreciate. Only she shares her father's particular blend of self-discipline, intellect and strength. Only she, she believes, understands him. Only she, she thinks, has been chosen.

Like her father, the girl has a mind that delights in the beauty of the particular. She likes naming objects and creatures, she takes pleasure in all the quiet surprises of learning. She wants to be a scientist or a doctor. Her father looks pleased when she talks of becoming a doctor, and so she thinks that more than anything, she would like to be a doctor.

Her father rows to shore with long steady pulls, his back against the land and the sunset. Steering towards the jetty, he angles the boat slightly with a longer arc of the left oar, and suddenly she can hardly see him against the backdrop of the setting sun. His form is just a blur of light and strong movement, and for a moment she sees him as the red sun, brilliant: solar god, Apollo, all-consuming fire and light. Heat flickers over her in a sudden devastating wildfire. For that moment, swallowed by the sun, her father becomes all men, all maleness, and Dana, on the brink of her journey into womanhood, sees in the fire something that sends a rush of pure longing and wonder through her.

But the vision is a trick of the sunset, and as the boat continues to change its angle to the sun, the trick reveals her father again entering his familiar frame. The heat leaves her, sending a chilly shiver of nameless shame through her. She is afraid of what she felt, afraid that he saw it. He is a decent, cool, reticent man, ingrained with all kinds of propriety - in fact, more like the moon than the sun. She has inherited these properties, and they have been further enhanced through her desire to please him. Their affection isn't grounded in physical demonstrations of love. She wouldn't embarrass him by assuming a right to invade his physical space, no more than she would consider embarrassing him by speaking to him of her love. Her heart is faithful, and in it passion burns with a white pure flame, but she guards it closely. She has already learnt that this is safest. She has learnt that this is the way to keep his affection, the same way that she protects his sense of modesty against her changing body, hides it from him in baggy shirts and boyish clothes.

She drops her gaze into her lap, and feels like her chest is going to explode with panic as she sees a trickle of red down the inside of her pale thigh, below the edge of her Bermuda shorts.

Heart pounding, she swipes it away with her fingers. She knows what it is, it has happened to her a few times already, but her rhythm is nowhere near regular yet. This thing is uncontrollable, unpredictable and fills her with despair - her body turning on her, ambushing her. She reaches for her sweater in the bag by her feet, and ties it loosely around her waist to conceal the smear. There are goose bumps on her skin; she is cold now. She feels sick with horror in case he has seen. He is looking away, out across the lake to the mountains and the stars. But whether from any awkwardness or just to enjoy the last poignant beauty of their day, she can't tell.

She sits quietly and guards her secrets, the perfect blue day suddenly smeared with a red blotch of sun, a red streak of blood, a red flush of shame.

The next day, playing on the beach in her bathing suit, she'll catch his gaze flickering away from her body as if it were some dirty joke the universe had played on him. So she'll put on a T-shirt and learn a little bit more about shame, and about hiding.

The next year, she'll be assaulted by the mood swings, the enthusiasms and desolations of puberty, and strive to keep it all tightly in check not to invoke the stern, disdainful gaze he has so far reserved only for Missy. So she'll learn a bit more about control.

In a few years, she'll embark on the education he always wanted for her, and receive his calm pride in her with cautious joy, like it's an undeserved gift. He treasures her rational mind. So she'll learn a bit more about living in her mind.

In another few years she'll painfully rebel, decide on a career that is not to his liking, and for the first time, she will feel his anger - an icy force, blasting her like polar winds through the disappointment in his bright blue eyes. So she will learn more about being cold.

And hiding and control, rationality and cold will become the safeguards of her life, but the girl's dreams will always be of fire.


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