Alright folks, this is the last chapter. But as I said before, THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL. Also, I am aware that the last chapter was very sad and made some people wonder why I had made it so depressing. To answer that I'll tell all of you now that the sequel is much happier, for one, and everything that seems unnecessary or doesn't seem to be explained in this story will be covered in the next one. I had made chapter twelve depressing because those scenes needed to get out all of the dramatic parts to finish the plot. I apologize if it made any of you uncomfortable. Anyway, here is the last piece of Weakness.

Chapter 13: Changes

The sterilized air smelt familiar and haunting to Alvin when he inhaled. The beeps and hums of machines keeping people alive helped him meditate, and ride his mental tidal wave away from his body. It was painless, to not think. Emotions couldn't hurt you if you didn't know they were there.

Alvin knew where he was. He knew he was breathing, existing in a place that his family was gathered. When he began to think of why they were there he would recall the sharp reality of his life and he would run to hide again.

The hospital wasn't around him. Doctor's weren't passing him. Most definitely, above all else…his brother wasn't in surgery. Alvin wasn't waiting for an answer to whether Simon had made it or not. He wasn't waiting for anything. He was existing. He wasn't living…he was existing.

Someone was crying behind him. Someone…familiar…

Jeanette? Yes, Jeanette was crying. That's it…

Where was he again? What were they doing here?

Alvin fought to keep his eyes closed. Some part of him remembered that the outside world, the one he could see if he opened his eyes, was not the one he wanted to be part of. This was so much better. Bliss…blank nothingness that was all his.

The crying continued. Alvin was growing used to it. It was almost a hum…like the machines he was around…or not around. But something else was there too. A voice. Someone was speaking. Was that language? Why was someone trying to speak? Were they trying to break his euphoria?

"He's alright, Netta. He's going to be alright." Brittany…that's right. Alvin remembered her. Was she here too?

The sobs didn't falter. Alvin tried to think. If Brittany and Jeanette were here, who else was here? Memories shot through his mind. Theodore was here…he had driven in the car with Theodore. And…Eleanor was here. Eleanor…

Alvin's breath caught in his throat. Eleanor… Alvin smiled. Sweet Eleanor…

"Alvin?" The chipmunk was shaken. His head went back and forth, returning him to the reality he had so luckily escaped. Alvin's eyes opened and he saw white walls, white coated people, and his father standing over him. Dave looked weary and drawn. "Were you asleep?"

Alvin blinked. "Um…" He looked around and immediately he felt a familiar pang in his chest. His hand came up and lightly patted the spot over his heart. "No…I just dozed, I think." Dave looked down and rubbed his forehead. "Any news?"

"No." Dave shook his head. "I didn't think it would take this long."

Alvin didn't know what to say. He looked down, trying to find something to say or do that would pass the time. He leaned forward and twisted his neck to look around the corner at the others. They were all sitting on the provided couches. Jeanette was being held by Brittany, crying into her sister's hair. Theodore and Eleanor were sitting next to each other, the chipette holding her best friend as he looked on with a distraught expression. Alvin's eyes glanced over Eleanor as quickly as he could move them. He didn't want her to catch him looking.

Alvin leaned back against the wall he had situated himself against. There they were, all waiting impatiently for someone to talk to them. They were one short. They were missing their blue Einstein. Alvin selfishly wondered if they had felt like this when he had been in the hospital. He shook his head quickly. What was he doing, thinking about himself when his brother was in surgery?

Alvin pinched the bridge of his nose. He wanted to go back into that utopia. He wanted to not feel anything again. It was better than all of this worry and sorrow. He tried. The chipmunk pushed himself to go back to that blank state of mind. How had he done it before? Was it just a fluke?

He pushed himself harder against the wall and slowly released the muscles in his legs, sliding himself down to a seated position. He kept his eyes closed, still trying in vain to return to his Neverland. Alvin sighed. He was beginning to think it was a dream.

"Mr. Seville?" A deep, resonating voice spoke in front of Alvin. He opened his eyes and saw Dave turn toward a man in scrubs. Dave's expression turned from exhausted to alert in a split second.

"Yes?" He answered. Alvin could hear the movements of several bodies bustling behind him. His friends and sibling all stood up to look at the newcomer.

"Your son's surgery went successfully. He's stable." The doctor spoke with a small smile. There was a sound of an ecstatic outcry. Jeanette was shaking in her sister's arms, now with a new emotion than before. There was a collective release of energy through the group. Theodore, Eleanor, and Brittany all lowered their shoulders and relaxed their eyes as they sighed in relief. Dave shut his eyes and swallowed, a smile coming onto his face. Alvin followed suit, shutting his eyelids as to feel the relief that he felt. Simon was OK. He was alive. His brother was still around.

"May we see him?" Dave asked.

"He's still being settled in, but I can show you to his room." The doctor motioned with his hand to follow and they did so. Alvin stood up and followed in the back of the group. The others were murmuring to each other little comments of joy. Alvin wanted to join them and feel their happiness along with his, but he couldn't find the strength in his legs to catch up with them.

They arrived at Simon's room quickly and they all gathered in front of the door, willing it to open and be allowed in. Alvin leaned against the wall again, displacing himself from the others. He rubbed his forehead, feeling the exhaustion in his body. It was strange, his body still hurt in response to what Eleanor had said to him earlier, and his mind was swimming with worry and fear, but still…he felt strangely at peace. Alvin couldn't put his finger on it. It was almost as if he knew something was going to happen. Well, maybe not knew…but he believed that something was going to change. The pain he felt right now wasn't…

"Permanent." Alvin whispered aloud. In the corner of his eye he saw Eleanor look over at him, hearing him say something. He fought the urge to look back. When did this happen? When had Alvin begun to feel this impending end to his suffering? Almost immediately Alvin's next question bubbled up to the surface of his mind. When was this ending coming?

Alvin looked up and his eyes connected with Eleanor's. She looked at him, searching his face for a readable significance. Much to Alvin's surprise she walked toward him and hugged him around the neck. The chipmunk's eyes went wide. He hugged back, wrapping his arms around her waist. It was the first time he had touched her since he came onto her. She fit as perfectly against him as she did then. Part of Alvin had to fight from making the embrace more intimate, but he respected her boundary, and he knew that this hug was most likely out of elation of Simon's successful surgery than anything else.

They held each other for several long moments. Alvin didn't want to let her go and he was surprised to find that she seemed to have no problem hugging him this long. Eleanor tucked her nose into his neck, making herself more comfortable and familiar. He flexed his arms, bringing her closer and hugging her tighter.

The door next to them opened and a nurse came out. "You may go in now." She told them. Alvin was the first to relax his grip. Eleanor followed a moment later. Their eyes met again, their faces only a foot apart. Neither of them smiled, but their eyes starred into each others with such intensity that neither could fully understand why they didn't want to move. But they knew they had to. Simon was waiting for them and this was his time.

"We can only allow four visitors to a room, Mr. Seville." The doctor told Dave. Alvin's father turned to them and looked at each of them.

"Jeanette should go in." Alvin spoke, finally, regrettably, breaking his and Eleanor's eye contact. "He'll want to see her."

"He'll…he'll want to see all of us." Jeanette spoke shyly, trying to be kind to everyone. Brittany nudged her.

"Stop it. You're going in there. Simon will want to see you first." The pink chipette told her.

"Unfortunately, he hasn't awoken yet. We needed to sedate him for the surgery, you understand. It should wear off in a half hour." The doctor told them and they all looked at him. "He'll be in a lot of pain, but he will have a morphine drip that he'll be able to control."

"Still, Jeanette should see him first." Alvin asserted. Eleanor looked up at him with an expression he couldn't see from the corner of his eye.

"Alright. Jeanette, Theodore, and I will go in. Alvin, do you want to go into also?" Dave asked. Alvin shifted his eyes away, thinking of what he should do. Not necessarily what he wanted to do.

Alvin turned and looked at Eleanor. "Go ahead." She whispered to him. "Brittany and I can see him later."

"Alright, let's go." Dave told them. Jeanette moved first, hesitantly and meekly. Theodore followed her and Dave motioned for Alvin to come along. The red chipmunk moved away from Eleanor, feeling her eyes press into the back of his head.

The room had the same beeping as Alvin had heard outside. The heart monitor next to Simon's bed showed that he was sleeping easily and evenly. He was resting on his back, white blankets covered him up to his stomach, and a large bandage was attached to his chest. The chipmunk's glasses were off and his face appeared tranquil.

Jeanette moved toward him, her face twitching slightly in held back emotion. Alvin stayed back and leaned against the wall. Theodore laid his hands on the table at the foot of the bed, looking down at his big brother. Dave entered the room after all of them and stayed back, swallowing a possible outburst he could have responded with. Alvin figured that having two of your sons in the hospital within a matter of months couldn't be easy to deal with.

"He will have to go through several more surgeries. The blade went too deep to seal up the wound completely in one visit." The doctor spoke softly. Dave nodded. "Is there…any news on the stabber?" Dave lifted his head then and glanced at each of the others. No one knew anything. They had been too caught up in whether Simon was going to live or die that they hadn't gotten a straight story of how all of this had happened.

"Brittany was with him when it happened." Jeanette chocked on her words as they were spoken. He eyes didn't move from Simon's face. Alvin noticed that she had lowered herself to sitting on the side of the bed and was holding his brother's limp hand. Theodore's ear appeared to perk up slightly at this news. Alvin shook his head in confusion.

"I didn't hear that." Alvin said. The doctor moved and put his hand on Dave's shoulder.

"I'm very sorry about your son." He mumbled. Dave nodded again in thanks. The doctor moved out of the room then, leaving the family by themselves. Alvin took this chance to clear up their information. He jumped up, away from the wall and opened the door into the hallway after the doctor had been gone for a minute. He saw Brittany and Eleanor huddled together across the corridor.

"Hey, you guys. Come in here." Alvin told them. They looked up.

"Alvin we're not all allowed in there." Brittany answered.

"I don't care and neither does anyone else. We all want to know what happened to my brother." Alvin's voice was determined. He would pull into the room if he had to. He was going to find out the truth one way or another.

"Alvin, stop." Dave came up behind Alvin and put a hand on his son's back. "It's hospital policy and we don't want to be thrown out for causing trouble. We can all move out here to hear what Brittany has to say." Theodore came forward then, agreeing with the notion. Alvin's father and brother moved outside, but the chipmunk turned back and looked at Jeanette. She didn't seem to have moved or have heard anything that was just said. Alvin chose to leave her be. She was probably happier being next to Simon than out hearing what had happened to him.

Alvin shut the door behind him as he stepped out. Everyone was huddled together in a circle, all of the staring at Brittany. The usually daring chipette was blushing under the pressure.

"Umm…OK, so…here's the deal…" Brittany began.

*****

Twenty minutes ticked by and Jeanette hadn't moved from her spot. She hardly realized that the others were no longer with her. She didn't care. She wanted to be with Simon while she could be. She wasn't sure if the hospital, or Dave, would let her stay the night here with him.

Jeanette held Simon's hand tighter and brought it up to her face, placing the inner wrist against her cheek. She felt his pulse through his skin and it made her feel safe, this bodily sign that he was still with her. She had been so scared when Brittany had called her from the hospital. She didn't want to relive what she had felt. The drive over here had been a blur. Eleanor had to drive since Jeanette had been too distressed. Then she couldn't see him when she got here. The paramedics had brought him straight into surgery…and Brittany had told her that he had been stabbed…and she couldn't do anything to help him.

Tears cascaded down her cheeks and gathered on Simon's wrist. She made no move to wipe her eyes as she brought his fingers down to her mouth. Jeanette kissed each fingertip. She felt the smooth pads of skin and loved the connection of her lips on him. She pulled his hand up further and rested his palm against her cheek. Already missing the feeling of kissing him she turned her face toward his palm and kissed the center.

There was a sound of a strong exhale. Jeanette's eyes opened completely and looked down at her boyfriend's face. Simon was stirring, his face cringing and his breathing becoming irregular and sharper.

"Mmmm…" Simon's voice resonated in his throat. Jeanette's heart leapt with pleasure when she heard him. She waited impatiently for him to wake up fully, bringing his fingers against her lips again. Simon smiled weakly. "This is my favorite way to wake up." Jeanette blinked in shock. He had been stabbed and he was talking about something happy? Was he delusional? Jeanette tried to go along with it, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

"Me kissing your hand?" She asked. Simon chuckled lightly and opened his eyes. The clear blue of his irises shot through her and she began to shake against him.

"That…" Simon agreed. "But also, knowing that you're near me." Jeanette gave a teary smiled down at him. She felt his hand come to life and wipe her tears away from her eyes. She reveled at feeling him touch her. She had been terrified that she would never feel that again.

"I love you." She whispered. Simon grinned easily.

"I love you." He answered. His eyes shut again and his face grimaced in pain. A groan escaped Simon's lips and Jeanette jumped in response. "This…" Simon tried to form words. His body was finally feeling his wound. "…hurts more…than I thought it would."

Jeanette's eyes became alert and fearful. "The doctor has you on morphine. They gave you a way to give yourself more if you need it." The chipette starting moving her hands across the sides of the bed, trying to find the small device she remembered seeing. When she found it she placed it in Simon's hand. "Just push the button and it'll drip more into the IV.

Simon pushed down immediately upon instruction. "You've…watched a few…medical shows, haven't you?" Simon asked, trying to be humorous.

"I've watched House a few times, yes." Jeanette answered, her voice trying to be upbeat. Simon chuckled but soon stopped, finding the sensation to be painful. He was about to move his hand to clutch at his chest but realized that he had a bandage there. He looked down for the first time and saw the damage.

"Wow…pretty authentic, huh?" Simon joked. He laid his head back again and looked up at her, dropping the morphine device and taking her hand again. Jeanette giggled half-heartedly.

"They said you'll need more surgery when you've healed a bit more." She told him.

"Naturally." Simon shut his eyes wearily.

"Simon…" Jeanette spoke a bit louder, worried that he was falling asleep again. He opened his eyes. "What happened to you?" Simon blinked slowly, his eyes coming back into focus.

"The…" Simon hesitated. He seemed to be searching for the right memory. Jeanette wondered if he could remember what had happened. Simon looked away from her and stared up at the ceiling, his eyes moving left and right in thought. When he spoke he went slowly, trying to remember everything. "Brett…vandalized my car…and my locker…then he…he threatened to come after you…" Jeanette had a sharp intake of air in surprise. "I told him to stop…I met with him and tried…" Simon chuckled humorlessly. "I tried to push him psychologically…I tried to stop him by making him feel guilty." He sighed. "I failed…and he got angry. He pulled a knife on me and he moved too quickly for me to stop him." Simon spoke the last parts quickly to end his story. "He ran off…and I guess someone found me."

"Brittany found you…she says that she was with you." Jeanette spoke up, pushing through the new facts of what had been going on in Simon's life without her knowledge.

"Brittany?" Simon looked at her. Jeanette nodded. "Oh…I thought it was you…"

"Why?" The chipette looked confused.

"I…" Simon tried to remember. "I was thinking about you. I was lying on the ground and I was thinking about you…how I wasn't going to be able to see you again…" Simon swallowed and looked into her eyes. "I thought I was dead."

Jeanette shut her eyes quickly before her tears could spill over. She hugged Simon's arm to her, his hand coming up to her lips. She kissed his fingers delicately, reminding herself that he was here. He was with her. Regardless of what had happened earlier that day he was with her now.

"I'm sorry." He told her. Jeanette opened her eyes in shock.

"You're sorry?" Simon nodded. "Why?"

"I had given up. I had convinced myself that you—"

"Don't say that…" Jeanette told him. She couldn't believe he was feeling guilty about something. "Don't say it OK? It doesn't matter what you thought then. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lay there like that. What else could you be thinking if you thought you were dyi—" She couldn't speak anymore. When the forbidden word had bubbled up to her lips she couldn't hold back the sobs again. Jeanette shook and turned her face away from him, into his hand. Simon was able to maneuver his fingers around her head to pull her down to him. Jeanette didn't fight him. She lay along his side, crying into his neck and he held her. Simon chocked back his own emotion. He needed to stay strong for her; he needed to be her stable base. He kissed her face everywhere he could reach. His lips were soon wet with her tears.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. Simon shook his head.

"Don't you start saying that." He said. She giggled despite herself. How was it that he was always able to make her happier, even if he didn't say anything humorous?

Jeanette sat up then, lifting herself slowly to be sure not to hurt him. She brought her hands up and wiped her eyes, searching the room for tissues. She found some on a nearby table and took one.

"Wow, these hospitals are prepared for anything, aren't they?" Simon pointed to the tissue. Jeanette giggled again. She cleaned herself up as best she could and looked back down at him. He could see the apparent love in her eyes.

The door opened then and Alvin and Theodore walked inside. As soon as they saw their brother their faces lit up like it was Christmas morning.

"Simon!" Theodore exclaimed. The chubby chipmunk ran to the side of the bed Jeanette hadn't occupied and grabbed Simon's shoulder.

"Dave! He's awake!" Alvin called out the door. He hastily moved to the foot of the bed, looking at his younger brother. "You're alive!"

Simon grinned. "Yeah, I'm alive." Dave came crashing through the door and met eyes with his son.

"Simon…" Dave sighed in relief and stood next to Theodore, looking down at the brilliant chipmunk. "Alvin, let the officers in. Tell them Simon can speak to them."

"But then there'll be too many of us in here." Alvin pointed out. Dave looked over at him.

"Which means you'll have to stay outside with your brother."

"What?!" Alvin complained.

"Alvin, you'll have plenty of time to see Simon. Right now we need to get the authorities in on the situation." Alvin rolled his eyes. He looked down at Simon one last time and smiled before he moved back toward the door and left. Theodore followed him glumly, squeezing Simon's shoulder as he went.

Simon heard Alvin yelling to the others outside that he was awake. He chuckled and looked to Jeanette. "Where are my glasses?" He asked. She handed them to him, finding them on the bedside table. Simon put them on in time to see two black-uniformed police officers walk into the room. Their faces were professionally blank and alert, making the chipmunk slightly uncomfortable. He felt his bed moving suddenly and felt his back curving upward so he was sitting up. He saw Dave holding an electronic pad that was attached to the bed and mouthed a thank you.

Simon held out his hand toward the officers, now in a better position to address them. They stepped forward and shook it. One of them pulled a pad of paper and pencil out of his pocket and began reading.

"Simon Seville?" He asked.

"Yes." Simon confirmed.

"I'm agent Henson. Your friend Brittany gave us this video camera…" He pulled out a rectangular Flip camera from his other pocket. "She told us that you'd be able to tell us what to look for."

Simon smirked at Brittany's passing of responsibility to him. "Yes, I can." Simon told them what he had told Jeanette. He explained to them Brett and his relationship, how he had decided to rebel, Brett's reaction, and the ongoing crimes he had committed.

"Do you have proof of such events?" Agent Henson asked.

"I have a cigarette box that was left at my locker after it was vandalized and the note he left at my house. I figure that they may have fingerprints Also, you're holding the video camera that Brittany used to film Brett and my interaction. If she caught everything, you should also see him stabbing me." Simon saw Jeanette turn towards him in shock.

"Your friend Brittany let you get stabbed?" Agent Henson's partner spoke up for the first time. Simon looked at him.

"Brittany called the paramedics, I assume. If she hadn't done that I would be dead. If you're wondering why she didn't throw herself in Brett's way when he pulled a knife on me it was because I told her not to interfere with me and Brett's conversation. I imagine that when I got hurt she ran to my aid. Brett ran away as quickly as he could afterward." Simon pointed to the video camera. "You'll probably see that in the film too."

Agent Henson started pushing buttons on the camera. Within seconds he seemed to find the right video and pressed play. The room was filled with sounds of slight wind and Brittany breathing. She had obviously turned the volume all the way up when she recorded, just so the video would pick up the entire conversation. Both officers watched the small screen attentively and pretty soon there were sounds that were familiar to the boy.

"What do you want Seville?"

Jeanette flinched at hearing Brett's voice.

"I want you to leave me alone." Simon's voice came through the speaker.

The officers watched the entire video. Simon, Jeanette, and Dave all heard the conversation and heard when Brittany gasped at seeing Simon get stabbed. There were sounds of feet running and Brittany was breathing quickly, panicking. The officers straightened when they saw something. Simon figured Brittany had gotten a picture of the knife protruding from his chest.

"Simon…you'll be alright…you'll be alright." There was sound of shuffling and a dialing phone. "Yes, hello? Hello, my friend just got stabbed, we need an ambulance now. We're on Toegen road, just over the hill on the east side, in a small clearing. Please hurr—"

Brittany's voice cut off and the video reached its end. Both officers looked up and agent Henson wrote something on his pad of paper.

"This may be a bit…unprofessional to say, but I believe you did the right thing to have someone there with you to record the incident." Henson's partner told Simon. Simon nodded hesitantly.

"Thank you." He answered.

"The knife, if the paramedics were able to save it and not handle it too much, will be able to have Brett's fingerprints on it as well. Overall…" Agent Henson put his pencil away and gave Simon what he could best interpret as an attempt at a comforting expression. "I believe we have more than enough evidence." Jeanette brought her hands to her mouth and sighed in relief. Simon saw in the corner of his eye that she was smiling. He joined her, grinning as the tension released and took hold of her hand. "You'll be hearing from us. We'll get this whole situation taken care of." Henson smiled slightly and headed toward the door, his partner following at the heels.

Dave and Jeanette turned to look at the chipmunk as the police left. Simon sighed, finally feeling ease about the situation. Sure, his chest hurt enough that he could be shouting profanities, but in the end he had been wrong about him and Brett. He had been able to shut Brett down and had been able to gather evidence to put a criminal away. He had won.

*****

Several days later Alvin was sitting on the couch in the living room, his feet resting on the coffee table, and his head leaned back to look up at the ceiling. It was warmer outside, making Alvin wear his first pair of shorts for the year. It was a little jarring at first, to feel the heat. Not just because it was proof that they were entering spring but because he was able to acknowledge the heat. Before, several days previous, he would have been too distracted to think of the weather.

Something had changed in the last few days, particularly in the last twenty-four hours. Alvin had been doing pretty much what he was doing now. Thinking. Something he didn't normally do in his free time a few months ago.

Alvin continuously thought about what Eleanor had told him. He could hear her voice in his head, constantly saying the same things to him. He understood that regardless of whether what Eleanor said was true or not he knew that she believed what she said. With that thought in mind Alvin started to brew a plan in his head.

His feelings for Eleanor had not changed in that last several days. If anything they had grown to include missing her even more. He hadn't spoken to her or hardly seen her at school. He had avoided her to get away from the confusion and get away to think about what he was going to do.

Now, sitting in his living room, he finally reached the end of his process. He knew what he had to do.

Alvin stood up and walked outside, taking his car keys out of his pocket as he went. His car engine roared to life as he turned the key. The car pulled out of the driveway and started down the road, cruising down the mile-long distance between the Seville's and the Miller's.

Alvin pulled into the Miller's driveway and shut off the vehicle. He pulled the key out of the ignition and shut the door behind him, not caring to lock it. The chipmunk walked up the front lawn and stepped up onto the porch. He breathed slowly, calming himself for what he was about to do. He felt his heart hammer in his chest but he didn't let it dissuade him. He knew why he was here and he wasn't leaving until he did it.

The red-clad boy rang the doorbell and breathed out a long exhale. He waited in silence and in moments he heard small footsteps approach from inside. The door opened and Brittany poked her head out. She smiled at him.

"Hi Alvin." She greeted. The smile disappeared suddenly. "What's going on?"

"May I…speak to Eleanor please?" Alvin asked politely. Brittany hesitated for a second. She opened her mouth as if to ask another question but seemed to reconsider. Her smile returned and she nodded. "Wait here, OK?" Alvin nodded as Brittany shut the door.

He looked down at the doormat, trying to keep himself calm. His heart continued to pound heavily and his body became anxious. Alvin turned around and stepped off the porch, turning his back to the door. He just needed to move. Maybe he would calm down if he was moving. He paced back and forth in the lawn, keeping his ears open for the sound of an opening door.

Several minutes passed and Alvin was still waiting. He had expected this. He figured that when Eleanor heard that he was waiting for her outside she would hesitate to talk to him. She had every right to feel that way. In retrospect it was sort of rude, what he was doing. She had made it clear to him that they should take a break from each other and here he was trying to talk to her. But his mind was set. He knew this was what he needed to do for the best of both of them.

Alvin's ear twitched toward the sound of the door. He glanced over and saw the blonde, green-clad beauty step out of the house. Her expression was worried and nervous. It was clear on her face that she wasn't sure coming out here was the best idea. But knowing her she would think herself rude if she didn't greet him and hear what he had to say.

"Hi." Alvin said.

"Hi." She spoke timidly. Her hands dug into her pockets, her shoulders rising up to unconsciously protect herself. They stared at each other for a few moments, neither of them really knowing what to say. Alvin had to take a second to remind himself why he was there. It was a huge step for him to even hear her talking to him. "Hey, I heard that Brett got arrested. They say he's going to be put away for several years." Alvin nodded shakily.

"That's the rumor. We don't know how long he'll be in jail for exactly." Alvin paused and tried to find something else to say. "Simon should be heading home soon too. The hospital can't do a whole lot more for him until his next surgery."

Eleanor smiled weakly. "Yeah I heard Jeanette say that earlier." She waited then, beginning to wonder if he had just come over for small talk. Alvin scratched the back of his head, trying to get his motivation back so he could speak. He cleared this throat and pushed himself, with effort that seemed to him to match that of lifting a three-hundred pound barbell.

"I want to…say two things before I say anything else." Alvin spoke, trying to make his words sound confident. Eleanor lowered her chin by an inch, listening intently. "One, I want to politely ask you to let me get all of this out without commenting back. I have a lot to say and I want to tell you everything without bumps on the way." Eleanor nodded slowly, understanding. "Two, I want you to know that everything I say has not been rehearsed word for word like the last time we spoke. This is from my heart and mind. It is entirely spontaneous…well, except for one particular detail but we'll cross that bridge when we get there." Alvin looked at her, waiting for her response. Eleanor nodded again, her brow furrowing slightly in confusion. She didn't understand what else there was left for him to say.

"Alright…here I go…" Alvin looked down and shook his head quickly, trying to clear all hindering thoughts. "I've thought a lot about what you said. A lot. And I've come to the conclusion that…I don't agree with you." Alvin shrugged for an instant. "I don't agree that my feelings for you are circumstantial. What I feel is real…it's true…and it's stronger than anything I've ever felt. But I know…you're trying to be practical and protect yourself. I can respect that. It makes sense. I've hurt you, invaded your privacy, and tarnished the trust you had for me.

"So I've come up with a plan. Something I think both of us can grow from and will prove whether what you said was right or wrong." Alvin swallowed before he continued, knowing the next part was going to hurt him. "You and I…haven't talked since we were both at the hospital. It's been several days and my feelings for you have not diminished in the least. But as you said, a few days don't prove much. What we need is more time. So I'm fulfilling that wish." Eleanor cocked her head slightly. "From this point on…you won't hear from me. I won't text you, call you, or come to your house like this and invade your privacy again. If there is an emergency and we need to get into contact with each other then that's different…if we see each other, that's different. Other than that…other than those two events that have a small probability of occurring…you won't hear from me. I won't bother you anymore. And when a day comes, weeks, months, or maybe even years later…I hope it's not that long but it may be…one of us, I am certain, will break the silence and contact the other. At that time we'll come together and we'll talk this out. By then our heads will be clear…and our feelings for each other will be right there, ready for us to discuss.

"I realize that this may be overdoing it a bit…but I need to prove to you that I do care for you as much as I say I do. This seems to be the only way to really prove that." Alvin paused and licked his lips. "This is going to hurt me…I think more than it'll hurt you, and that's OK with me. As long as you aren't suffering very much that's OK with me, even if I wish you never had to suffer a day in your life." Eleanor had brought her hand to cover her mouth in astonishment while he told her his plan. Her hand fell by a few inches and her expression became something of loss.

"But…" Eleanor's voice was too quiet for even her to hear. Alvin continued speaking.

"I want you to know also, before this ends, that everything I ever told you…everything about how I feel…I never lied. Every bit of it, whether I rehearsed it into a speech or not, was genuine and real. I hope…at the end of this experiment, so to speak, that you'll be able to understand that I mean it. I mean every bit of what I say.

"And…" Alvin pulled something out of his pocket. "I know that this plan may mean that we don't speak for a long time. Longer than I'd like to think about…so I'm going to leave you a gift to remind you how I feel about you…and how I think of you. Just so you can listen to it in case you ever start to doubt." He opened his hand and revealed a tape recorder. Without hesitation Alvin pushed down on the Record button and both of them could hear the tape whirring around in the device.

"Eleanor…" Alvin began meekly, talking directly into the speaker. "…you taught me how to trust. You taught me how to be honest and how to use my heart in my life. You showed me how good people can be to one another. You showed me health, in mind and body. You never let me stray from taking care of myself. You always know that I can be better. You always tell me that I have complete control over how I live my life…and you healed me of my idiocy and I can't thank you enough.

"You showed me how to open my eyes. I was finally able to see how beautiful you are. I know now that you are one of the best people I've met in my life. You are everything I could ever think of wanting and more. You match me better than I believed anyone could.

"There are too many things about you that I'll miss to list on this thing…but I'll give you a few. Your smile that always lights up my day, your laugh the makes everything lighter, your hair that always shines gold in sunlight, the silk of your skin, the melody of your voice, the smell of your perfume…" Alvin began to smile. "…your spunky fashion, your sarcastic humor, your giving heart…and the fact that I feel weak whenever I see you coming toward me.

"My feelings for you, my devotion, my loyalty…if they could be measured…no they couldn't be measured. I don't know the limits of my feelings for you. No word in my limited vocabulary could tell you how I feel." Alvin paused, his smile wilting slightly as he considered his next words. "I'm not sure that I'm mature enough to understand what love truly is. But from what I understand of it and my capacity to feel it…I love you." Eleanor's now tear-covered face opened in a shocked gape. "I love you." Alvin didn't speak for a moment, reveling at how good it felt to say those words. The tape recorder shook in his hand as he desperately tried to find something else to say. He wouldn't find anything. He had said it all, and yet it hardly seemed enough. "I'll see you soon…" Alvin swallowed, resting his fingertip on the Stop button. "I love you." He pushed down and the tape stopped humming.

Alvin looked down and rested the recorder against his head, feeling the familiar pressure in his eyes. He wanted to keep his composure during these last moments with her. He wanted her to keep an unblemished picture of him in her mind. He wanted to be so much more for her. He wanted to prove that he could be better…more mature and more pure. And he wished that it could be easier…he wished that he had been a better person when it mattered. Maybe their lives would have been different and they would be having a much different conversation at that moment.

Alvin walked forward, trying his hardest to keep his face locked in place. He approached her and pressed the Rewind button. The tape whirred backward and clicked when it had reached its beginning. Now it was ready for her. It was the best gift he could give her. He held his hand out and released his grip as she took it. Alvin made sure to keep his fingers on the extreme edge of the device, sure not to touch hers as she took it.

Eleanor was crying and part of Alvin was relieved to find that their separation wasn't a one-sided strain. He took a few steps back, leaving her on her porch. Just as alone as he was beginning to feel. She watched him go. Her moist eyes seeming to chase after him with so much intensity.

Eventually, agonizingly, Alvin turned his back to her and their gaze was broken. He walked forward, toward his car, and slowly pulled his car keys out of his pocket. His car door arrived sooner than he wanted it to. He could still feel her eyes on the back of his head and he felt every nerve in his body shoot messages for him to turn around. He did so, his head lifting one final time to look at the girl he loved. She stared back, her posture having stooped slightly. She seemed to be yearning, almost pleading for something to change. Yet she was holding herself back…she wasn't running after him, she wasn't calling out. She was letting him go, some part of her knowing that this plan may be the best for them. Regardless of how much it would hurt while it lasted. Alvin felt a single tear roll down his face and he decided to let it fall. It was honest. Now she could see this raw emotion that was from him to her. He had felt it, on every part of him that he could think of. This separation was shooting through him as thoroughly as he knew it would.

Alvin's car door opened and his eyes were moved away, down to the vehicle that would take him away. He buckled himself in, turned on the car, and put it in reverse. He didn't look at the house again as he pulled out of the driveway. He had begun his new process. He had begun his new experimental life without Eleanor.

As he drove away Eleanor retreated back toward the house. Her silent crying refused to cease and her hand shook around the tape recorder. She opened the door and let herself in. Her back fell against the wood as the door closed behind her. She looked down at the recorder, cradling it in both hands and admiring it for what it was. She would be able to hear him anytime she wanted. Including…

Eleanor inhaled sharply. Her tears continued to fall as her thumb pushed down on the Play button. The tape inside began to hum and Alvin's voice filled the room…

*****

That's it. But I'm not done. The sequel will begin shortly. The title will be Vulnerable, so keep your eyes open in the following weeks. Just to let you know now, in case you didn't read my author note at the top, that the sequel is no where near as dramatic and sad as this story was. Granted, it does have a plot (or several) that are sad at times but it is not like this one. ALSO, it takes place several months after Weakness' ending. Another thing, the perspectives will be more sided on the chipettes. Weakness was more about the chipmunks and their ordeals but the next one will be turning the coin around. And the last thing is that I want to thank all of you for reading my story and especially all of you who reviewed. Thank you guys! Don't forget to look out for Vulnerable.