"Alvin, am I strong?"
The chipmunk groaned as he lifted weights on his bench in the basement—another Saturday with the children out with Dave allowed him to have some quality time to himself, something he had very little of now that he was a father. Theodore was working at a bakesale with his coworker Ying-Yang, and Simon decided to spend the afternoon with his friend Sasha at the zoo. The two had become close companions since the Sevilles had moved to Hearttropolis, having both experienced a certain loss in their lives—that and Sasha was the only level-headed female Simon had spent time with who did not get overly excited because he was a member of The Chipmunks. Since they had not been able to hang out for several months due to work, concerts and Simon's duty as a Guardian of Unity, they were going to spend that Saturday together.
Or… they were supposed to be doing so. Simon had come back early due to Sasha being called back home—her sister was ill and needed her assistance—and so the chipmunk had returned to Diamond Estates, only to find the house completely deserted, save for his brother who was weightlifting in the basement. Questions from his chat with Sasha danced in his mind, and considering his friendship with his brother had increased over the years, he sought him out for advice.
Simon sat on a chair nearby, watching his brother weight lift—he had done over two hundred in the past few minutes. Considering the talk with Sasha had ended with her saying that he was a little on the weak side of things, but not specifying where, he decided to ask Alvin's opinion.
"Come again?" Alvin muttered as he continued his work out.
Simon placed his hands under his chin. "Am I strong?" he repeated. "Do you think I am?"
"You're asking me this… why?"
"Sasha and I were talking about… personal matters," Simon explained. "And she said 'Some people are just weaker than others when it comes to these things.' And then she pointed at me saying that I was one of them. She said I was strong, but at the same time… I'm not. So in all honesty, considering how you loved picking on my thinness in high school… do you think I'm strong?"
Alvin groaned again as he held up the barbell and let out a sigh as it came back down. "Physically or emotionally?" he said.
Simon recoiled at this, paused to think, and then shrugged. "Uh, emotionally, I suppose."
"Personally… or publicly?"
At these words, the bespectacled rodent furrowed his brow in confusion. "Uh, what?" he said.
Alvin held up the barbell. "Personally, as in yourself," he began, "… Or publicly, as in with others?"
"Um, personally, I guess—!"
Simon was at once surprised and not surprised by the response. He sat up straight, looking at his brother with worried grey eyes. "I'm… weak?" he echoed.
"On a scale of one to ten, ten being the strongest and one being the weakest… You're about a one-point-five," Alvin clarified. "Sometimes, you're a four, but… yeah, that's rare."
Simon had not thought of himself being that emotionally weak. It was embarrassing to think about.
"Physical strength's about the same," Alvin continued. "You're fast and agile, sure, and you can squeeze in tight spots… But unless you're using your gift of Telekinesis, you can't lift anything up heavier than Theodore… that should count as something, considering how big boned the guy is..."
Simon stared at his hands in defeat and let out a heavy sigh.
"But… if you meant emotionally strong, publicly… I'd say you were a solid ten."
He had not expected this to be a reply, and quickly snatched up his head to look at his brother again. Alvin was just setting the barbell down on its rest before wiping his forehead and sitting down on the bench.
"I'm a… what?" Simon squeaked.
Alvin grabbed a towel and wiped his face with it. "Ten might be pushing it since I don't like to think anyone's perfect, except me on occasion," he mumbled. "But I'll say nine-point-five and rest my case."
"I-I-I… w-w-wait, does that even logically make any sense?" Simon asked, while pointing at his best friend. "The whole personally and publicly strong thing, I mean?"
"You think too much it makes my head hurt," Alvin said as he stood up and walked to the back of the room. "Not everything needs to make logical sense, Dipstick."
"But how can I be weak in one department and strong in the other?"
"Same reason I am," Alvin replied. He took giant gulps from his water bottle and sighed once he had finished drinking. "Only I'm kinda the opposite, being the pest and all. Emotionally strong for myself, yet I can be a bit of a butthead when it comes to publicly being emotionally strong. You, on the otherhand…" He turned around and pointed at Simon while placing the towel around his shoulders. "You are the strongest guy I know when it comes to emotional strength publicly."
He made gestures with his hands as he walked Simon's way. "What I mean by publicly is how you are for the people around you," he said. "And personally meaning how you are for yourself. Personally, you are the weakest guy I know, Simon." He counted down his fingers. "You were not confident through school, which was why you got picked on a lot for being a geek. Theodore was the same until our adventures with Spike boosted his self esteem—and Dave had a hand in it as well, I'll admit… and Eleanor…
"Anyway, you were cynical and uptight, you got bullied, you got backstabbed, you got scared out of your wits on KICS adventures because you didn't logically think anything was possible. You were so set on believing that everything had an explanation and relying on books to give you that proof that your brain never developed enough to really boost your confidence. Even after our adventures with KICS, you weren't anywhere near as confident as Theodore or me. You were afraid to take risks because you didn't want to get hurt." Alvin stopped in his tracks, frowned softly and held out an arm as though pointing something out. "And, don't take this the wrong way, Si, but when Jeanette died, your self esteem went down the drain. If you were emotionally strong, do you think you would have been diagnosed with severe depression? I don't even think you would have skipped your son's sixth birthday, for Pete's sake. And I said you were a one-point-five because if you were a one or even a zero, you would have probably committed suicide by now. Thankfully, you have enough brains in your big head to keep yourself from thinking of those options, even when depressed. So yeah; emotionally, personally, you are super weak."
Simon was slightly startled by the amount of information coming from his brother's mouth—even nowadays, Alvin wasn't one to point so many things out. While he was protective of his family and constantly encouraged his brothers, he strayed away from long speeches that made him sound more responsible and grown up—the kid in him had never fully left.
But he did not dare to speak yet; for as much as he knew Alvin had just said a handful, he knew that his brother was far from finished.
Alvin crossed his arms and leaned on one leg as his frown dissipated. His tough blue eyes melted. "But, publicly," he said, his voice much softer than before, "How you are with others… you're real strong, Simon. You never think of yourself first, you always make sure everyone else gets a bit of the spotlight before you do, and you encourage us to keep being who we are. You always stood up for Theodore's safety when my ideas got out of whack, you were not afraid to stand up to me if my schemes got drastic, and you weren't afraid to toss something at me when I did end up doing something ridiculously stupid.
"On top of that, you always made sure that Theodore and I finished our homework before you started yours because you wanted us to understand the math problems or memorize the states in the US. You wanted us to do good, you knew we could do good, so you put our issues first before yours. You keep Dave level-headed whenever I drove, and still drive, him crazy, and whenever his job stressed him out, you noted down all the good he's done." Alvin held out his arms and smiled. "And when Mom would come and visit us, you'd drag her around showing her the things Theodore and I did before showing her your successes. Even if I was a pain in the butt, you admitted that my imagination was boundless and you even complimented certain personal projects of mine, like the model kits or that go-cart I built out of scraps from the junkyard. You were so proud of our achievements, you showed them off before we even got a chance to…" He paused here and rolled his eyes. "And then we would fight on who was the best but that's beside the point," he muttered quickly.
Simon sprouted a grin at this.
Alvin walked over to him and pulled his brother to his feet. "And should I even mention Jeanette?" he said. "I saw improvement there. She was the clumsiest, shyest, most unconfident girl I ever knew, and you made her feel like a queen." He placed his hands on Simon's shoulders and smiled. "You took time out of your schedule to help her build her confidence and reach for her dreams. You told her she was the brightest star in the midnight sky, and she believed it. You told her she could shine, and she knew it. Heck, if you would have told her she could rule the world, she would have probably believed that! And thanks to you, AJ's not ashamed of being the son of a rockstar and not being able to play piano like you. That's confidence right there." Alvin shrugged here and looked upwards. "So yeah, when it comes to yourself, and your physical strength, you're as frail as a twig, Simon," he concluded. "But you are by far, the strongest Cartoon to ever walk this planet when you are emotionally strong for the rest of us." He pulled his hands away from Simon and walked off while pulling the towel off of his shoulders. "You even remind me on days that, despite being a pain, I'm also a good father, a great leader, and a caring big brother. That's something I need help to remember on the worst of days."
Simon stayed where he was as his brother went to hang the towel up. He soaked in every word Alvin had said, almost ashamed that he had not recorded the speech on his cellphone. Adjusting his glasses, he cleared his throat and spoke up: "If all of what you said was true, Alvin," he said, catching his brother's attention, "How can I improve in the… uh, emotional strength, personally?" he asked. "Or is it impossible to improve?"
"Nothing's impossible, Si," Alvin replied. "Dave and Spike have told us that." He placed a finger against his head. "If you believe in yourself and put your mind and heart to the job, you can do anything." He turned away and slipped off his muscle shirt before reaching for his red t-shirt. "You're super weak in that domain, yes; but just because you are, it doesn't mean you can't get stronger. It'll just take more effort on your part due to the crud you've come face-to-face with in the past. It'll be hard, but it's not impossible." He smoothed out his shirt before looking at his brother again. "If this has anything to do with what Sasha said, then don't worry too much about it. My lecture was probably the long version of what she was trying to tell you. So don't let it get to you. Nature will take its course and you'll eventually build up some strength."
"… How? If I've done such a superb job so far on my own, then—!"
"Hello, what are friends and family for?" Alvin asked while spreading out his arms. "Theodore and I aren't nearly as smart as you, but we know when you need a lift in spirit. We're your brothers, Simon; we're triplets. All of one, three for all, remember? We share the same birthdate, the same crib. If there's anyone here who can help you get stronger, you know it's us."
Simon remained silent as his brother finished. He stared at his hands after a moment, twiddled his thumbs and took a deep breath before raising his eyes and smiling with gratefulness. "I… thank you, Alvin," he said. "That was… emotionally comforting to hear."
"And you ain't gonna hear it again, so you better remember it," Alvin replied while pointing at his sibling. His nose wrinkled as he walked by his brother and playfully pushed him aside on his way to the stairs. "It's embarrassing when I get sentimental around you and Theodore. You guys have to really stop being woosies, because it's getting annoying that I have to deliver these speeches just to bring your moral back up. So not my style. I'm beginning to think you two do it on purpose."
Simon brushed his t-shirt off while chuckling before running up the steps after his best friend. "But you sound so caring," he said.
"Don't make me punch your nose in."
"How about a game of tennis in the backyard, then? Is that more of your style? Because I still think I can outdo your score."
Alvin chuckled in reply. "Competition is what we do best, my dear brother," he said, placing an arm around Simon's shoulders. "Best two out of three and the loser has to clean Theodore's dishes."