Prompt: Write about seeing someone for the last time.
Summary: The Lanteans age. Todd does not. (McShep.)
It begins slowly (as age always does), creeping up unnoticed, stealthy like Sheppard used to be.
He isn’t so stealthy anymore—his joints pop, his bones creak, and he huffs too much during jogs with Ronon, but he’s still graceful. It’s interesting to see how he drapes himself over things and flops into chairs, driving Rodney, who’s often stiff and inflexible, absolutely crazy. But despite this natural gift (the man’s sixty-five years old, Rodney says, he shouldn’t be able to do that), Sheppard can’t quite work off the soft bit that formed around his belly and never left. He can’t run nearly as fast, either, or break in the new Marines.
Todd watches this. He counts the deep laugh lines around Sheppard’s eyes, and the number of extra vitamins he needs to take every morning.
Rodney’s hair is no longer brown. Well, some of it is, but his temples are dusted with grayish-white, a fact Rodney is keenly aware of.
He moves slower, even when his life’s at stake, and his laugh changes from haughty to slightly-less-than haughty, proof he’s actually learned to be humble. He develops diabetes, too, which requires daily doses of insulin.
Todd thinks it’s so typical that Rodney has a legitimate concern for his health, but now fights infirmary visits whenever he can.
Caldwell dies of a heart attack when Sheppard’s sixty-six.
It hits everyone hard; even Todd feels the man’s absence. Afterwards, Sheppard pushes himself beyond his limits, and Rodney scrambles to finish as much of his research as possible. Todd wonders at this, initially, but then Radek falls ill, and he suddenly understands.
It’s a race against time.
The notion is a punch to the gut, because Wraith have never been concerned with age, and yet he can see its tendrils wrapping themselves around John and Rodney’s bodies. They’re breaking down.
Todd tries to count the number years the two have left. It’s an equation that leaves him slightly broken, moreso than losing his hive ever did, or seeing the ghosts of a culling.
The answer is twenty-one.
That’s how many more years Rodney lives.
He dies during the night, peaceful and without a fuss. He’d taken a nap in the labs, and just… didn’t wake up. Sheppard is the one who finds him, and Todd thinks there’s something proper about that, the way they were always together and facing death side-by-side. Well, they were married after all, but it’s surprising how distraught Sheppard really is. Todd had been expecting Rodney's passing, but he’d never considered how much Sheppard had been avoiding the issue.
They don’t speak until after the medical team arrives. The doctors can’t do anything, of course, and besides, Rodney’s body glows white-gold and he turns into stardust shortly after.
Todd considers Ascension an appropriate end, but Sheppard is grieving a thousand times more than he dares let on, and finally says, “I’d always hoped I’d go before him.” He’s playing with the wedding band on his finger, and Teyla, still immortally lovely despite the years, is a soothing presence. Ronon doesn’t say much, and neither does Todd. There’s comfort in that.
They were a team of five. A quintet.
Now they’re only four.
Teyla follows Rodney six months later. Kanan’s grief is obvious. All around them, the first wave is dying out.
Ronon, a warrior who still leaves the marines wide-eyed, dies of heartsickness a week after. Sheppard gets their affairs in order, collects their things, and looks at Todd with a sigh.
“You don’t have to stay,” he says. “Look at me. Look at you. You’re exactly the same. Don't get me wrong, but aren’t you freaked out by all of this?” and twists his wedding band again, as he often does when he’s upset. He misses Rodney so much that even Todd can sense it.
“This is my home now,” Todd answers, and they take a walk around the city, going from pier to pier. They would have tossed Teyla’s ashes into the sea, but both she and Ronon turned into stardust, too, and now there’s nothing left of them.
The last six years are, perhaps, the worst.
Sheppard develops Alzheimer's. Todd doesn't understand at first, doesn’t know why Sheppard can't seem to recognize him. He researches it later, once Sheppard is so far gone that he can’t even recall Todd’s name anymore, much less where he is or what he’s done.
Todd visits every single day, well aware it’s pointless and not caring. Sheppard asks the same questions over and over again, and Todd answers without growing impatient. There’s very little left in Sheppard’s mind, and even when Todd says words like “Atlantis” or “Puddlejumper”, Sheppard doesn’t recognize them.
Todd says “Rodney”, once. It’s an accident. Sometimes he speaks just to keep Sheppard company, but the man actually looks at Todd for one clear moment, as though he might remember the days before this disease.
Then it’s gone, and Todd doesn’t say it again.
At ninety-one years old, Sheppard passes away. Todd’s there when it happens, and simply watches the chest rise and fall and not rise again. He waits, not bothering with the medical staff, because there’s nothing they can do anyway.
Sheppard turns into stardust, just like Rodney and Teyla and Ronon.
Todd rises from his chair and looks at the lights of the city.
“You are sad,” he says to her, and touches a wall. The new waves who come don’t understand Atlantis, how alive she is, how important the first ten years of discovering her were. They didn’t live through the sieges or rescue missions. They don’t know.
But Todd will be there to tell them.