John first sees them when he’s 14. A red string, tied around a person’s pinky finger, trailing away for several feet before it fades away. After asking around, he realizes he’s the only one who can see them, and only if he’s standing close.
Once, when the red strings were still new, John concentrated on the people around him hard enough to see all the red strings of the people in the mall. But there were so many, going every which way, obscuring the people, his surroundings, that John felt a spike of panic - what if he can’t turn it off, what if this is all he’ll ever see, just red everywhere - that he ended up with a massive headache and the stubborn desire to ignore the red strings.
His parents aren’t connected by the string, but they’re happy anyway. Until his mother gets sick and passes. None of Patrick’s subsequent wives ever make him as happy.
Nancy, for all her pragmatism, was a romantic. It was through her that John learned about the Red Strings of Fate, which can stretch and tangle, but never break, forever tying two soulmates together. He teased her for believing in such a sappy concept and laughed when she smacked his arm. Her string trailed off into nothing, as did John’s.
John isn’t sure if it’s better or worse that he sees her on the arm of another man shortly after their divorce, the red string connecting their pinky fingers short and glowing.
John tries so hard to save Mitch. He asks about his wife, about the baby they’re expecting. He gives Mitch most of his water and carries him when he’s too weak to walk.
It’s not the court martial that breaks John, or the reassignment to the ass end of nowhere. It’s the conspicuous absence of a red string around Mitch’s grieving wife.
When John sits in the intriguing, ornate chair, everything lights up blue. It’s a relief.
Daniel Jackson doesn’t have a red string. John knows what that means. What he didn’t expect, however, was the way that strange woman - Mal Doran’s - string leads right up to Daniel’s hand, fading away just before it reaches.
John doesn't notice during the first meeting because alien technology was interfacing with his mind at the time. John doesn't notice when they arrived in Atlantis, with the city underwater and in danger of flooding, with the first encounter with the wraith chilling John to the bone.
No, John doesn't notice until Rodney bounces up to him in the corridor and went, “Shoot me!”
It is hard to ignore the waving hands and snapping fingers. It is habit to follow the string as it swung through the air, leading to - John’s pinky.
He stares. Rodney continues to talk, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
John’s arm twitches, sending the string swinging. John swings his arm until his hand was closer to Rodney’s body, watching as the string shrunk, then expands when his arm fell back to his side.
“Excuse me, are you even listening? Have you hit your head recently?” Rodney squints his eyes suspiciously.
“I’m fine,” John responds automatically. He blinked. “Did you ask me to shoot you?”
John makes sure he is present when Rodney is released from the infirmary. He follows Rodney, listening to him complain about his infirmary stay, worry about his state of health, and grumble about all the coffee he’d missed out on. When they reached Rodney’s door, they pause, and John knows this was his last chance to make a move tonight.
“What was the energy cloud like?” It was enough to get into Rodney’s room as Rodney describes what the darkness looked like, sweeping inside and leaving the door open for John to follow.
John isn’t sure where to go from there. He can't tell Rodney the truth - he’d think John was crazy. They barely know one another at this point.
He doesn't fool himself into thinking that people who find their connected one are automatically going to be happy. But John has lived with the strings most of his life, has watched couples come and go, and maybe a small part of him had been curious.
“Hey, Rodney,” John interrupts, and when Rodney falls silent, waiting impatiently for him to continue, he steps in close. He smiles. “I have a really cool idea.”
Atlantis felt like coming home. Kissing Rodney feels like completion.