Spoilers: None that I can recall
Summary: Every oddball has his lifeline to reality.
A/N: Written for the Daniel Alphabet Soup: Letter O for Oddity. This is more of a reflective piece than anything else. Unbetaed since I was trying to get this in for Gen Day. Oops, a few minutes late.
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
If Daniel hadn't been so engrossed in his book, he might have noticed the oddity sitting in front of him.
Or he might not.
After Daniel had placed the yellowing tome back in Special Collections and walked out into the main room, he took out a small, faded leather-bound notebook and started to leaf through it. Inside were decades of notes, snatches of old theories, debunked research, and probably – well no, definitely – old hypotheses that had never made the light of day. Some phrases were carefully written and underlined heavily for emphasis; others were jammed onto the lined paper, even scribbled sideways and upside down in the margins.
He flipped back and forth, and then back again, finally finding a short piece on the Indus script. Daniel took out a pen and jotted down the word WRONG.
He smiled and snapped the book shut.
When he looked up, he noticed one of the librarians staring at a table in the far right of the room. He followed her gaze to the young man that sat alone at the table, lost in a sea of books.
Daniel frowned and turned to the librarian. "Is there something wrong?"
She glanced at him and sighed. "Everyday. Everyday he's here."
Daniel didn't quite understand the pity in her voice. This was a university library. Students and researches alike came here to tap into the school's extensive resources, both ancient and modern. There was nothing odd about that.
The woman must have seen the confusion in his face. She just shook her head. "He should be out playing. It's just not right."
He looked at the table again. Only this time, he saw it.
He was just a boy.
Daniel stood quietly, watching the child, who couldn't be more than thirteen, pore over the old texts. The table was stacked; small mountains obscured half of the boy's view. Not that it mattered. Daniel doubted the boy cared either way.
He glanced over to the librarian again. She too continued to watch the youth, her face tight and pained.
Daniel knew that look in her eyes. He knew it better than anyone.
Without another word, he started toward the young boy. When he stopped in front of him, the boy didn't even bat an eyelash. Oblivious, he kept writing in his large loose-leaf binder, more fiercely than before.
"Hello," Daniel finally said.
The boy stopped and looked up, his cautious eyes scanning him closely.
"Congratulations," he mumbled. He turned back to the table and grabbed an oversized book, flipping it open to a large glossy picture of what Daniel recognized as old clay envelopes.
"I see you're studying bullae."
The boy's head bobbed up at the remark and a look of curiosity mixed with fear touched his face. "You know this?"
"I may have studied the subject." Daniel paused, eyeing the scribbles in the child's notebook. "Though I have to say, I haven't met many people your age studying ancient civilization in such detail."
"I'm not a freak," the boy said quickly. "And I'm not the one trying to pick up kids in a library."
Daniel took a step back. "I guess it does look a bit a creepy."
"Yeah." The boy hesitated, assessing Daniel for a moment before he continued. "So, you're going to stare at me like everyone else?"
"Nope." Daniel reached over and grabbed one of the books, this one on Pre-dynastic Egypt. "Please tell me you're not reading Budge."
"Hell no." The boy sat a little straighter. Daniel didn't fail to notice the anticipation in the boy's face. "You a professor? Researcher?"
"Something like that."
"Oh." The boy seemed mildly disappointed. "They're wrong, you know."
Daniel frowned. "Who's wrong?"
"The archaeologists. They've got it all wrong."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Why do you say that?"
The boy scoffed at the open book with the glossy photos. "They all think that writing started with tokens and bullae. But they didn't."
Now it was Daniel's turn to be curious. "And you know this how?"
"I just do."
The boy sighed, throwing his pen down with frustration. "I'm not making it up."
"No one said you were."
"You were thinking it."
Daniel let out a small chuckle. People's eyes always gave them away. Half the time he had missed the disdain, the pity, the unease in their eyes, too wrapped up in his discoveries and the comfort of the knowledge that had enveloped him like a blanket. But the rest of the time he didn't. He'd seen it in the faces of his teachers, of his peers, of his foster parents.
The boy frowned. "What?"
"Well, you could be right. People are still debating what came first – writing to organize thoughts or organized thoughts to write."
The boy nodded enthusiastically and grabbed his notebook, starting to leaf through the loose-leaf pages. "I think – I think that something happened. There was a catalyst or something. Something from the outside." He tore a sheet out of the notebook and held it in front of Daniel. "See?"
Daniel scanned the page, barely able to decipher the chicken scratch on the paper. And people said his writing was bad.
But he recognized something. A phrase. He reached for the paper, but the boy had already shoved it back in his notebook, having reached for something else.
They looked like copies of articles.
"There's this one guy," the boy said excitedly, his words running together, "I think he's right." He handed Daniel the article. "It just makes sense."
Daniel stared at the article, unable to make a sound. He recognized the theories right away. He should know. He'd written then nearly fifteen years ago.
"I tried to find him to see if he wrote more, but he hasn't published in years." The boy sighed. "I don't understand."
"Academia can be hard," Daniel said quietly as he handed back the article. "New ideas are hard to swallow, especially when you lack solid evidence."
The kid snorted. "I get it. You're not one of those think outside the box people."
Daniel smiled. He couldn't believe how much he'd changed since that fateful day when Catherine had pulled up at his symposium. As a younger man, he had been bothered that no one would listen to his calls for the truth. Things were different now.
Daniel took another once over of the books on the table. Once, long ago, he had been a twelve year old buried in the vastness of the local college library. He had been the bleary-eyed child seeking adventure and knowledge within the pages of manuscripts written by peoples long gone.
He'd understood that his behavior wasn't normal for his age. He understood what an oddity was.
But far be it for him to discourage someone from pursuing what he felt was right and what made him whole.
"You have two choices," he told the boy. "You can take the easy way or you can take the hard way."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Thinking outside the box has its consequences," Daniel told him. "But if you stand by what you believe in, then I guess in the end it doesn't matter. I just want you to know."
The boy gave a slow, deliberate nod and fell silent for a moment. Daniel let him digest the information. He knew if the boy was smart enough to understand college material, he was bright enough to understand just what Daniel meant.
"One day I'm going to prove them wrong," the boy said quietly. "I need to know the truth."
Daniel nodded. He had nothing else to say to that. Instead, he looked down and withdrew his small notebook.
Years of information right in his fingertips. Some of it pre-Stargate, some of it post-Stargate. And while he never carried anything work-related or confidential off the base, he still had a career's worth of thoughts, ideas, and musings inside his book.
Long ago, he'd committed it all to memory. He'd made backups. He'd purposefully forgotten extraneous information that had no place in his muddled brain. But he always held onto the notebook. It was something tactile, something tangible and real. Something that reflected the scope of work he had done.
Maybe he used it bind him to reality. Maybe he had always held onto it to remind himself that his thoughts mattered – that he was the sane one in an insane world.
"Here," he said, handing the book to the boy.
The boy frowned. "What's this?"
"Something to ground you if you stray too far outside of the box."
The boy hesitated, but finally accepted the leather-bound book. As he started to flip through it, he stiffened, the shock washing over his face. "Really?"
"Really." He couldn't help but smile as the boy tore through the book, like it was the greatest treasure in the world.
"I hope you find what you're looking for," Daniel said. With that, he left the kid to his studies and pondered what his future might be.
Ten years ago Daniel had been frustrated that no one would listen to him. Now none of that really mattered. He'd found his place. He knew one day this boy would find his place too.
Even oddballs like themselves.