Story Notes: A volunteer on an archeological dig in Africa has just made the find of the decade. Spoilers for Daylight.
Disclaimer: Ron, I hope it's not too awful having to share your toys. The sandbox game you were playing was far too tempting, and your toys far too shiny and coveted, for a kid sister not to want to play. They are your characters—and I'm grateful; my only hope is I don't get them too dirty when I sneak them out and bury them in the sand for the afternoon. I promise to put them back unharmed when I've finished.
Author Notes: Originally published at Survival Instinct where it felt a little out of its depth on account of it being an OC-centered Roslin/Adama fic. Some of the themes [implied suicidal thoughts] might upset.
To my RL friends: Hi Guys. This might not make sense if you don't know anything about the BSG universe. Youtube "txlsplash viva la vida" for a musical recap of the relationship central to the series and to this tale. Or you could just ask me for the DVDs.
The Living are the Hearts of the Dead
(aka So Kiss Me Goodbye)
and all the wonderful Canadians I know
This was impossible.
She blinked. The tell-tale glint refused to disappear. She blinked again, and the brush slipped from her fingers. There were probably a thousand things she should do. Her brain couldn't think of any of them.
This wasn't possible.
She flinched and wiped sweat and hair from her forehead. The gruff voice from above was galvanizing; she straightened, her joints protesting.
"Prof? You should see this."
A trickle of earth fell, sprinkling her back. "What you got?"
She didn't look up. She sensed rather than saw or heard the presence peering over her shoulder. She winced at his sharp intake of breath.
"My god, Sarah. This is a complete—"
"No, sir. Not that." The discovery she had made was so shocking she had forgotten about the implications of just finding an intact skeleton. But something else in the ground made even that unremarkable. "Look there."
Professor Renfrew dropped to his hands and knees to stare in the direction she pointed.
"What am I—" He whistled. Tiny as it was, he found the impossibility in seconds. "Christ."
He leaned closer and his demeanor changed, his face suddenly speculative. "Hmmm."
Sarah's hands shook. A flush of shame washed over her. She definitely should have called the professor over sooner. Like, perhaps, when she'd become aware she'd uncovered human remains.
But she hadn't. Was it because this was her first find? Her first find?
There was something wrong. She could hear it in his hum. She hadn't done the right thing. Maybe in her haste she had ruined the dig. Maybe fate was punishing her. Professor Renfrew had every right to be disappointed. She had deliberately ignored instructions and something was off with this dig.
"Could it be a—a mistake? A hoax?"
The professor clucked.
"No point jumping to conclusions. Any conclusions," he replied, handing down a camera. "Keep documenting—we can ask questions later. Just make sure you record everything. We need to assess our options for dating this site. I'll send Andrew over to help. Get him to deal with the paperwork."
She bit down on her tongue. She didn't need company—she didn't particularly want it, either—but she knew she had no choice. She was lucky he wasn't turning her site over to one of the peppy undergrads who'd come out on the dig this season. Hoax or find-of-the-century, either way she knew her section of the burial ground was in for more attention than anyone would have guessed. Her fourth season as a volunteer must count for something. That, or her sister's reputation still lingered.
"Take good care of her, Sarah."
She jerked. "Sorry?"
"Your skeleton. Take good care of her."
The professor smiled as he rose. "If I were a betting man..."
He nudged a ragged handbook to the lip of the grave with his foot. "See if you can work it out for yourself."
She wanted to snarl. He was only trying to be helpful, but she resented these little carrots of coercion. She didn't need help climbing out of the pit of her own making.
When he'd gone—off to terrorize the newbies—she flicked the camera on and started photographing.
Her afternoon's work had exposed much of the skeleton: skull, intact; ribs, pelvis, legs—the larger bones were easy to identify. She didn't need a college education to tell her the leg bone was connected to the hip bone. But the smaller ones ... she zoomed in between the rib cage, training the lens on the small, yellowed lumps still embedded around the vertebrae in the earth. She'd only just started excavating around them, using a brush to painstakingly dislodge the earth. Some of them would be so tiny she'd have to sieve the soil just to make sure she hadn't missed anything.
She studied the bones. She had spent hours gingerly loosening the hard earth over the rib cage, brushing it clear. In a way, it was like she was rousing this woman from a long, deep sleep, bring her back to life.
As she clicked she imagined how the body would have looked when it was laid in the ground. It was straight and flat like any modern burial. The bones of the left arm lay straight against her side, but the bones on the right told another story.
When she was laid out, her lady's right hand had been placed over her chest, her heart.
And the circle of gold had been unmistakable.
Not for the first time Sarah was glad she was just a volunteer on the site. Impossible to spend so much time with these bones and not speculate. A new voice startled her out of her reverie.
"Ho, Clarke. Renfrew says you've got something I might be interested in."
"Fuck off," she said under her breath at the intrusion. A shadow fell across her. She said, "Hi."
Andrew Ndiaye, archaeologist-in-the-making, grinned down at her. "Renfrew was positively crowing when he told me to get my ass over here."
"You should stop pissing him off then."
He laughed. "I told him this section was a waste of time. That the poor schmuck set to clearing this area would find squat."
Disdainfully she raised an eyebrow and spread her arms, presenting the scene.
"Ohhh," Andrew said in mock awe. "A skeleton. Fancy finding one of those here! I told Laura this area was a waste of time last year. Bet she's laughing now. So ... are you coming to the bar tonight?"
The segue unbalanced her. She snapped. "Do I ever?"
"Ah! But this is a special occasion." His grin broadened. "Just got word. The lab got a second confirmation—Charlie's method worked. They successfully extracted DNA from one of Eve's molars again. The results are conclusive. Renfrew's already planning his statue unveiling and portrait for the cover of Time."
"Congratulations," she said.
"We manage to extract DNA from a hundred and fifty thousand-year-old skeleton—the oldest human sample of DNA yet, and Mitochondrial Eve to boot—I crack a Renfrew joke, drinks are on the house and you can't even wiggle an eyebrow?"
She shrugged. She had no use for banter.
If anything, Andrew's grin grew wider still. "You used to be way more fun, you know."
When she didn't reply, he didn't expand on his observation. "So, what's this miraculous find?"
He dropped into the excavated grave. Her lip curled. He never got the message.
His reaction to her terse response was gratifying.
"Holy frick." He bent closer. "Holy, holy frick."
She withdrew when his shoulder grazed hers in his excitement. Eve's tooth was all but forgotten, a new fervor burned in his face.
"Hell, Sarah! What the frick is a gold ring doing in a stone age burial ground?"