This was a sequel to a story by victoria p., 'As I Lay Dying' (available on the Wolverine and Rogue Fanfiction Archive - Victoria very kindly allowed me to basically copy her, and then beta'd this, too. Wolverine/Rogue.

Disclaimer: Characters belong to... whoever owns the X-Men, except for this version of Death, who belongs to Terry and Lynne Pratchett. Borrowed without permission, not for profit, etc etc. I'm such a tealeaf.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He laughs more these days. There is a look in his eyes that says he's finally got the joke, but he isn't telling. He laughed particularly hard when one of the 'kids' told him that he looked good for his age; he almost burst a gut over that one, and had everyone worried when he spent several minutes wheezing and trying to catch his breath. Longevity is a family trait, passed on to a select few every generation, but he saw his grandchildren's grandchildren grow old before the white started to creep through his own hair. He loved it when it grew into two white streaks, starting at his temples and weaving back into points. Nearly all but the last two generations of kids knew that it reminded him of their matriarch, his wife, long-lived but now long dead.

None of them were expecting him to get old. It just didn't seem a possibility; it wasn't within the accepted sphere of experience. But he has, at long last. The white spread, and the lines. He isn't as fast, nor as strong as he had once been - although he has never really been weak, even now, near the end.

Old age suits Logan. The calm good sense that he had always talked now has the added weight of his visible years. He spends most of his time in the garden he created. He can usually be found with his back to the gingko tree he planted in memory of his wife, his Marie. He likes the late autumn best, when the leaves turn sunshine yellow and drift down to carpet the ground beneath. He watches them flutter in the breeze for hours on end, his unerring sense instincts telling him that, some day soon, he'll be following, making food for the garden. The tree will remain a symbol and a focus for the family until the last echoes of his life died away. Even then the tree might remain: its durability was greater even than Logan's.

He is used to living. It ceased to be painful the moment he found that first white hair, and the possibility of mortality abruptly became a reality. The sharp shock and the sudden hope tightened his throat and brought stinging tears to his eyes. Maybe, at last, he would see Marie again. She bade him stay, and he couldn't disobey her dying wish. But everything must end, and now that included him. He didn't believe in God, but he hoped fervently for the Hereafter. Marie had believed they would meet again, and that comforted him. If anyone could beat the odds, win against fate, it would be him and Marie - hadn't they proved that, countless times before?

He was in the garden now, feeling the bark of the gingko press into his back. It made his back ache to sit at the foot of the tree, but he still did it. Partly his notorious stubbornness, and partly he was interested in the process of ageing. He'd seen it happen to so many others, so many brief lives in the face of his seeming eternity, that to experience it was quite a novelty. His healing factor still worked, but it had ceased to struggle against the persistence of time, which had gradually won through, inexorably, like tree roots through concrete.

He runs his hand along one of the roots, which snakes through the soil and holds the tree firmly in place. There was a storm a while back - he can't quite remember when, time never meant much to him anyway - and he stayed out all night with the tree, feeling the lash of the elements, the violence of the atmosphere, remembering... Marie liked the summer storms, the lightning crackling blue-purple through an eerie yellow sky. He prefers the thorough downpour, the tempests, where the elements - earth, air, fire and water - meld into one churning mass.

It's very early morning, and the dew hasn't dried up yet. It's promising to be a blazingly bright day - the weather has been changeable, which isn't a surprise for October, but the plants seem to like the sluicing of sunshine and rain. The air is just beginning to heat up. He looks up, and sees the dance of the yellow leaves against the vivid blue sky. A high white cloud is only just visible, and his heart is full. There is nothing more he wants in this life, and he sighs. Then something startles him, and he comes back to earth.

"Who - oh." He recognises the figure. It would be impossible not to. He's seen glimpses of it - him? - for as long as he can remember. He's never been afraid. Unexpectedly, the 7-foot tall skeleton sits down beside him in a swirl of night-black robes. It, too, leans back against the tree. Clearly it isn't in a hurry. Logan is intrigued to see, deep in its eye sockets, a gleam of blue, like a far-off star. "So this is it? I'm gonna die?"

NO HURRY.

"Oh."

I WAS BEGINNING TO THINK YOU'D NEVER GO.

"You were beginning to think...? That makes two of us. Can I ask- "

I CANNOT SAY WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU.

"No?"

NO. EVERYONE ALWAYS WANTS TO KNOW THAT, BUT REALLY, IT'S UP TO YOU. IT'S A BELIEF THING.

"Ah. So you don't know if Marie'll be there?"

I CANNOT SAY. I AM SORRY.

"Oh well." Logan stares blankly forwards, lost in his own thoughts.

MY COMPLIMENTS ON YOUR GARDEN, BY THE WAY. IT MUST HAVE TAKEN A LOT OF TIME.

"Yeah, well. I didn't have any urgent appointments."

MR. LOGAN-

"Just Logan."

LOGAN, THEN. YOU HAVE LIVED A LONG LIFE. CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING?

Logan turns slowly to look in astonishment at Death. Death grins, but really, he has little choice in the matter. "Uh, sure."

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE MORTAL AT LAST?

"It's..." He tries to find the words. It's not easy. "It's a relief," he says, at last.

AH. WELL, WE'D BETTER BE GOING.

Death stands up, and Logan does too, and feels a momentary stickiness holding him back, but he pulls loose. When he looks back, he sees that the stickiness was... him. It would be a shock, to see your own dead body, except that the chemical response that creates feelings is a property of the very thing you've just left behind. Still, it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime, and Logan feels a mild surprise. His eyes - his former eyes - are staring sightlessly up at the leaves and sky. "Hey, that was quick," he says in admiration.

HEART FAILURE. YOU WERE STARTLED.

"Startled..." His voice trails off as it sinks in. "I didn't feel a thing."

WHAT CAN I SAY? I'M THE BEST AT WHAT I DO.

He turns to glare at Death for stealing his line, but his eye is caught by something just beyond. "Hey - Marie?" He steps forwards, unaware that he is rapidly fading from view.

"Logan? There you are, sugar."

"Oh, Marie, I'm glad to see you."

"I've been waitin' for you."

"Me too, darlin'. So what now?"

Their voices are swept away on the wind through the branches. Death turns, unties his horse from the gingko tree, and grins. He strokes the horse's mane.

I GUESS I'LL NEVER KNOW.

END.