"Walking on Eggshells"

by Donny's Boy

Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the plot relating to Alvin and the Chipmunks, and I am making no money from this story. I mean no harm.

Warnings: Nada!

I. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Smooth, cold, utterly impenetrable. Like a wall of stone. As she sat in the high school cafeteria, picking idly at the salad in front of her, fifteen-year-old Jeanette Miller watched him from a distance with keen gaze. He was leaning back and talking with his brothers, smirking and superior and aloof. Every so often he'd shrug and make a comment, the smirk never leaving his lips. She hated him when he was like this.

And he was often like this.

Bits of conversation drifted back towards her. If she tilted her head and concentrated, she could just make out their voices over the din of the crowded lunchroom.

First came his brother's voice, unmistakably loud and brash: "So I've been thinking ... about after we graduate? Maybe we could do a reunion tour or something like--"

"You? Thinking?" He laughed, and Jeanette winced at the harsh sound. "That'll be the day, Alvin."

He was very smart and intuitive. He was, therefore, incredibly adept at pinpointing others' weakest points. It would be different if he didn't understand how he hurt people. But he did. He understood all too well.

Goodness gracious, how she despised him sometimes.

"Ha ha. Very droll, Simon." A playful snort, laced with the barest hint of something else. Of something real and hidden away. "Anyways, not all of us knew since age five which college they want to apply to ... "

She was startled by a set of fingers snapping in front of her face. "Jean? Hey, Jeanette?"

Whirling around, she noticed Eleanor leaning forward, a concerned crease in her brow.

"Oh!" Jeanette flushed in embarrassment. She was usually much better about not getting caught. "Sorry, Ellie. I guess I went into Absent-Minded Professor mode."

Brittany giggled quietly at the in-joke, and Jeanette felt her facial muscles relax into a smile. She hadn't even realized how tense they'd been, and that worried her a bit. She didn't like to lose control like that. It wasn't ... safe.

Meanwhile, Eleanor's expression remained the same--concerned, uncertain. "Is anything ... " Her eyes flickered towards the boys' table for the briefest moment. "Is anything wrong?"

"No," replied Jeanette, definitively. Because, really, there wasn't. And although it took a good bit of her control, she managed to keep herself from thinking about Simon Seville for the entire rest of the day.

Frowning thoughtfully, she stepped through the apartment door and began sniffing at the air like a bloodhound. There was something wrong. But what? She tossed her bookbag onto the couch and headed for the kitchen. As soon as she poked her head in, she saw a glimpse of red baseball cap and immediately realized what was wrong. Alvin Seville was stationed at the stove, holding a spatula and looking, for all the world, as if he was cooking something.

Something that smelled absolutely dreadful.

Trying and failing to hide her growing sense of horror, Jeanette gasped, "Alvin! Why are you making dinner?"

"Because Theodore's in his room. Where he has been the entire day." The older boy--no longer a boy, honestly, but now a man of nineteen--scowled and menacingly pointed his spatula in her direction. "Because your sister broke his heart!"

She blinked at that. "Eleanor? Did they have a fight?"

"You should have seen it," interjected a voice from behind. Jeanette turned around to see Brittany standing beside her, arms crossed tightly over her chest, shaking her head in amused disbelief. "It was a fight for the ages, Jean. For ... the ... ages."

"Oh. Oh, my." Jeanette glanced back towards the bedrooms and swore she could just barely make out the sound of sobbing. "Poor Ellie. And poor Theo, too."

Brittany scowled at that. "Poor Theo, my foot! He broke our sister's heart!"

"You mean your sister broke my brother's heart," shot back Alvin angrily.

"Alvin, dear ... as per usual, you are wrong, wrong, wrong."

"Brittany, my love, I am afraid that it is you who are--"

At this point, Jeanette decided to stop paying attention. While Alvin and Brittany continued bickering in the kitchen, she headed for the bedroom that belonged to Theo. She stopped outside the door, took a moment to steel herself, and then lifted her hand to knock. Then she heard a quiet, strangled sob and turned around.

The door to Simon's room stood wide open and revealed the pair of brothers inside. Theodore laid on the floor in a fetal position, tears streaming down his furry face, while Simon crouched beside him, his hand resting lightly on Theo's shoulder. Jeanette held her breath, torn between her desire to stay and observe and her respect for the boys' privacy. Neither Chipmunk seemed to realize she was there.

"Theodore." His voice was soft. She hadn't even realized his voice could be this soft. "Hey there, Theodore ... c'mon. Look at me, Theo. Please?"

When Theodore didn't so much as twitch, he sighed. He reached over and gathered his baby brother into his arms. Slowly he rocked Theodore back and forth. Then he began singing, in a quiet, steady voice. She couldn't hear what exactly he was singing, but she didn't think it mattered. It was his tone, not his words, that was meant to reassure. His voice, gentle but strong, as unwavering as stone, never once faltered.

After a few minutes, Theodore stopped crying.

Her strong, protective Simon. But not her Simon, of course. Alvin and Theodore's Simon, perhaps, but never her Simon. Silently she pulled shut the bedroom door.

She loved him when he was like this.

Quietly she sat in one of the university library's plush, over-sized chairs and pondered the mysteries of stone. The problem, she decided, was that stone was so inflexible. It could be used to keep you out ... it could be used to protect ... but it could never choose how it would be used. It would simply stand there, existing in all its stony glory, until the forces of the outside world slowly wore it down through erosion.

"Am I really that fascinating?"

Jeanette blinked dazedly at her studying companion. "Hmm?"

He chuckled. "You've been staring at me for the past five minutes."

"I have?" Jeanette quickly schooled her features into something approximating surprise and bewilderment. "Uh. Well. You know me. I must've been daydreaming."

Sitting in the chair opposite hers, Simon shook his head good-naturedly. "Jeanette, I must say, that's one of the things I've always loved about you." He rested his hands on the open pages of the book he'd been reading, a large volume on biochemistry. "You never change. You're always good old Jean."

She smiled tightly.

His eyes flicked back down to his book, and he resumed reading. "So, what were you daydreaming about?"

"Oh, nothing much. Just a poem I was thinking of composing."

"Yeah?" His lips curved into the barest hint of a grin. "You'll have to let me read it when it's done. I don't know much about literature, I admit. But I know genius when I see it."

She tried very hard not to blush. "Don't be silly, Simon. I mean, my stuff certainly isn't bad ... at least, er, I hope it's not ... but still, it's hardly--"

"Modesty is for the talentless," Simon interrupted, with an imperious wave of the hand. "In all seriousness, though. I've been telling you for ages that you should publish."

She swallowed and tried to ignore how her heart fluttered within her chest. Honestly, it was more than a little ridiculous that, even after all these years, he could have this effect on her. She was twenty-two years old, for goodness sake! She was a few months away from graduation. From the beginning of true adulthood. And she was entirely too old to still hope for miracles. To hope for stone to soften.

At that sobering thought, she sighed. Then she took a pen from her bookbag, opened up her trusty, ever-present notebook, and began writing: He is stone ...