Love – true love, leaves an imprint, one that can never be replaced or ignored. For Jesse Tuck, it was just like the ever-immovable rocks that his father had once spoken of, as constant and unchanging as the everlasting family themselves.

He now understood Miles' suffering. Now they both wandered the world, soulless and empty, never seeing what stood before them, never breathing the air around them. The liveliness that had once set Jesse apart from his brother had all but vanished, buried underneath a tombstone with a woman of extraordinary life.

Sometimes Jesse wondered which was worse: that she had not drunk from the spring, or that she had married another man. Jesse didn't blame her – if she was planning on living her full life, and living it to the fullest, marriage was inevitable part of the ever-moving current.

But it still hurt.

Nine years since he had returned to Tree Gap, twelve since Winnie Foster had died, ninety-seven since he had last gazed upon her face.

He had tried to blot her out, to erase any memory of the girl who had irrevocably marked his heart. He had searched for others, passing through all of them as if taste-testing different flavors of ice cream. No one satisfied.

Sometimes he would get on a plane, or a train, or a bus, without knowing its destination, and just ride until he decided to ride no more. He was an old soul in a young body.

He had attempted to avoid places that reminded him of her, but to no avail, for he could picture her gazing upon it all with the youthful curiosity and vigor that characterized her so well.

The place he did his best to avoid, however, aside from Tree Gap, was Paris. Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and its 1,665 steps. He did not need to reopen the scars on his heart that were already chafed daily.

Somehow, though, he still felt a pull to Paris. And when he had thoroughly traversed the world for a second time, and there seemed no other option left, Paris was where he went. His heart and mind battled the whole way there, and more than once did he consider turning around.

But he pursued his course, and ended gazing upwards, visually following 1,665 steps in their ascent to the heavens.

He took the elevator.

The sky was less blue than his last visit, more smog-filled. The city was just as active, but noisier with its engines and stereos and televisions and such. Jesse didn't even need to close his eyes to picture Winnie standing against the railing in front of him, her back pressed against him as his arms surrounded her. He could almost smell her hair. Roses, and the earth after it had rained. Scents that had smelled different, had smelled better one hundred years ago than they do today. He closed his eyes and she was real.

But not real enough, for one week of tactile memorization is somewhat difficult to recall after ninety-seven years, even if it was the love of your life.

Lightly, he whistled a tune that was both soothing and haunting.

He felt his heart split. He couldn't breathe, and the tune stopped. A girl a few feet away from him was staring at him.

Jesse wanted to throw himself over the edge, wanted to dive headfirst onto the pavement below, wanted to die. Certainly, anything was better than what he currently felt – the heartbreaking, soul-crushing pain that constricted his chest and tore at his heart.

He could still see Winnie in his arms, feel her pressed against his chest, her hair brushing against his face in the breeze. She hummed his tune back to him. He sighed.

He had finally visited Paris, and he hoped his heart was satisfied, though he knew it was not. He turned away from the rail, the image of Winnie Foster trailing through his fingertips like fresh smoke. The melody continued on, though the vision evaporated.

He headed back to the elevator, the pain welling up inside of his chest. He should not have come. But he must move.

Without looking back, Jesse Tuck forced himself to step onto the lift.

"I thought you said you wouldn't take the elevator."

Though he knew it not to be real, he still turned at the sound of her voice.

Before him was the girl who had been previously watching him, her long, curly brown hair pulled up in a loose bun, her blue eyes examining him cautiously. She stood outside of the elevator.

Though it was foolish of him to put such stock in a delusion, he exited the lift in one graceful stride. He stood in front of her.

The intensity of his gaze made her blush, and she gazed downward nervously, bashfully. "Well? Say something."

He couldn't. But his eyes passed over her, and he noticed that, unlike his usual delusions, she was dressed in the clothing of the day – a dusty rose-colored tunic and skinny jeans. His hand reached out to cup her cheek, lifting her chin. She was softer than he remembered.

"Winnie. Are you…?"

"Real? I was wondering the same thing about you."

And suddenly, he didn't care if she was a delusion. He could only do one thing: kiss her.

He felt better than he ever had in nine years, and perhaps better than he ever had in ninety-seven, and he knew that this was real. The part of his heart that ached for her, which was only placated by the visions, was filling up in a way that only the real Winnie Foster could fill it.

When they finally pulled apart, he rested his forehead to hers. "Winnie Foster, I love you."

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him close. "Jesse Tuck, I will love you until the day I die." And she kissed his cheek and he kissed her lips.

She threw her head back and laughed the laugh of the newly joyous, her hands still clasped around his neck, his hands on her waist.

And then she was pulling him down the stairs, running, practically skipping, and laughing and smiling. Down, down, down until they reached the very bottom and she turned to him and beamed. They paused only a moment to catch their breath, before she took his hand and led him back to the stair.

Step. "One." Step. "Two." Step. "Three." Step. "Four." And on and on and on until they reached Step 1,665. And Jesse's heart was once again whole, his liveliness returned, his countenance one of joy. He felt as though he was flying, floating, soaring through the air. It seemed as if nothing could bring him down.

She was real, and she was beautiful, and she was alive.

She was his, and would be his until the end of days.

A/N: Well, I'm not sure how much I like this, but, hey.

This is based off of the movie. (I read the book a long time ago, but don't recall much.)

When this movie first came out, I was in third grade, and I had somewhat of a crush on Jonathan Jackson (Jesse). Just thought I'd throw that out there.

And that had nothing to do with me writing this story! I just saw the movie again the other day, and, well...

On another note, I totally understand and agree with Winnie's decision at the end of the movie. (I understand - lessons from novels and all that, immortality is not all hearts and rainbows, etc. etc.) In her position, I probably would have done the same. But as this is a work of fiction, I see nothing wrong with her choosing immortality. In fact, I support it, because as a form of entertainment, it's awfully romantic. So this is me being a hopeless romantic.

So anyway, I might not keep this up. Just tell me what you think.

Tuck Everlasting belongs to Natalie Babbitt.