Title: Life Everlasting

Author: Jade Hunter

Disclaimer: None of the characters of Tuck Everlasting belong to me, and neither do the spring and its magical powers.

Meryaptemun: Thanks for reviewing! Um…with the story line I have planned out, Jesse will be coming to get Winnie in the year 2003. Lol. By that time, she might be gone. But this fic – which is the first part of three that outlines Winnie's life after the Tucks leave – is mostly about Winnie and her finding of herself. Making some decisions, stuff like that.

"talking"

thinking

emphasis

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I don't want to die.

Winnie bit her lip as she contemplated the water bubbling up from the spring. She couldn't help but recall her words to Mike a few nights ago, on the porch.

It was true. It had been true when she admitted it to Angus Tuck, and it was still true when she admitted it to Mike. Two years hadn't changed that, because seventeen was still too young to die, although not as young as fifteen had been.

Two years ago, she had been fifteen, had been a bit uneasy about her decision not to drink from this spring, this water. A year ago, she had been sixteen, and had been conflicted over her feelings and longing for Jesse and her conviction that life could be lived without living forever.

Now…

Now Winnie was seventeen, and in full-blown doubt of her decision. Two years ago, one year ago, America had not been involved in the war. There had been a war, yes, but it had been overseas and America had been neutral, though not all wanted it to be that way. Now there was a war, and though battle still took place overseas, there was the anxiousness of knowing that America had chosen a side, was no longer neutral, no longer safe.

Help me, she pleaded. Help me. I don't want to die, I want to live, forever if I have to, because I don't want to die, not here, not now.

But there was no answer.

Closing her eyes, Winnie inhaled deeply.

When she opened her eyes, she had made her decision.

*****

"Winnie?"

She turned, recognizing the voice. "Mike?" she called.

He appeared, and seeing her, headed over. She stood, knowing that if it had been anyone else, they would have given her a scolding for sitting on the dirt in her dress. But this was Mike, and all he did was smile in amusement at her actions.

"What's that?" he asked, peering at the spring.

She turned, gazing down at the water, then took a step backwards, nearly colliding with Mike, who had taken a step forwards.

Laughing, he steadied her.

"It's just a spring," she told him, her tone flippant.

Just a tree, she could have been saying, for all she sounded like, Just a clump of dirt. Just a leaf. Nothing important.

"I didn't know you had a spring here," Mike said, curious.

He stepped closer to the spring, and Winnie bit her lip, wanting to pull him away. But then he would know that something was strange, and would insist on staying. Winnie simply had to wait until Mike tired of the spring himself.

She shrugged, "Well, apparently we do. I found it when I was fifteen."

Mike traced the T carved on the tree. "Did you do this?"

"Of course not," she answered, rolling her eyes. "Why would I carve anything on a tree, especially a T?"

He grinned at her, then conceeded, "True. It's older than you, anyway."

Winnie froze, though Mike didn't see it as he had gone back to examining the carving.

"Really?" she asked, her voice sounding strange to her own ears. "How can you tell?"

"It just looks old, smooth, and moss grew over it," he replied, glancing at her oddly. "Are you okay? You sound strange."

Winnie cleared her throat. "I don't know," she said, truthfully.

"Do you think you're coming down with something?" he asked, abandoning the tree and spring, much to Winnie's relief. "Let's head back to your house."

He stepped past her, a hand on her shoulder, but paused when she didn't move. "Winnie?"

Winnie was looking at the spring, at the T, and thought about her choice.

"Winnie?" Mike asked again, taking a step, sliding his hand down to take her hand.

She turned back to Mike, smiling, and let herself be tugged towards her house. She didn't know what would happen in the future, or if the choice she made was the completely correct one, but it was her choice. It would always be her choice.

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~Jade Hunter~

Fin.