TITLE: Swallowed By The Sun
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files and its characters belong to Chris Carter,
1013, and Fox. No infringement is intended.
CATEGORY: V, A, pre-XF.
FEEDBACK: Is welcome indeed, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
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.