He had been standing in a corner of the room, unmoving, expression perfectly relaxed, eyes vacant and staring off into space. Alvis was faced partially away such that Shulk could only catch his face from an oblique angle, but he was certain that despite looking up fairly frequently from his work, he had never actually caught Alvis blinking. He had looked natural, but somehow also frozen in time; untouched, eternal.
Shulk supposed this was his natural state. After all, there wasn't anyone quite like Alvis. He, of course, knew better than anyone else alive exactly who and what Alvis was, but even so understood precious little.
"mm?" He looked up from his reverie, his mouth quirking into a wry smile. Now he had been the one caught being oblivious.
"Did you wish to ask me something, Shulk?"
Shulk paused. He had, but after a moment he realized he had forgotten whatever his original query had been entirely. His mind quickly retrieved an alternative, however:
"Alvis, what's it like being... you?"
At that the man (if he could be called that) raised an eyebrow. But rather than respond immediately, he inspected his fingernails. Turning his hands over, he clenched and unclenched them, and rubbed them together, appearing to be absorbed in the study of the appendages. After a moment, he finally chose to turn and meet Shulk's eyes.
"Would you like to find out?"
The two stood in the room facing each other about a foot apart. Shulk's foot, that is, not Alvis' (he had rather dainty feet). It was evening, and the last warm rays of the sun were unfortunately nearly finished caressing Alvis' silver hair, which reflected it in kind. It lent a kind of odd halo to his figure. Shulk thought it was appropriate.
"Please understand that your... processing capacity... is limited. So what you experience will selfsame be limited, and will not proceed past what you can handle. So you will be safe."
Shulk smiled. He had, of course, completely forgotten any notion of safety in the face of his own curiousity. And the face of the man in front of him certainly hadn't helped. He nodded softly.
Alvis gently raised his hands to cup Shulk's face. They were surprisingly cool. Perhaps it shouldn't have been surprising, Shulk realized a second later. Perhaps—
He gasped slightly. His vision was— no, that wasn't accurate, his vision hadn't changed at all, but at the same time it had, and he was outside the room too, and there was reyn beside— no, that wasn't right, he was floating through a vast reddish cloud— no, that wasn't where and there were stars, hundreds upon thousands of stars, collapsing (stars could collapse? fascinating and become... what is that) and and moving and there was an entire... it was spinning, unbelievably fast underneath him and at the same time there was a million different tiny pieces rushing through him but none of them paused for a second as they passed, passed through the ground and the sky and the sea and everything all at once was spinning and turning and there was a current underneath a current with hundreds upon millions upon billions of eddies everywhere someone stood and light and energy everywhere and for a split second he thought he might understand
He came back to himself suddenly. He was Shulk, in his personal office in the research building. And he was—
Hands gripped thick jacket fabric and were buried in silver locks. He felt cool fingers on his neck, and gentle support from the small of his back. His chest was warm, he noted. And— and furthermore—
He began to blush, feeling his entire body instantly rise in temperature by a few degrees. But he did not move away. Likely because he could still feel it a little bit, like a background feedback loop, a static at the edges of his vision that somehow made it clearer, a faint awareness in the back of his mind, and he knew instinctively that to disengage would
Alvis was the first to draw back. Shulk twitched slightly as he was cut off, finally entirely himself once again.
It hurt, but caused no pain.
"My apologies... you were more eager than I anticipated, and you may have gotten more than you bargained for... so to speak."
Alvis was not looking at him, was turning away. Shulk (somehow) wanted desperately to reach out; but could not. He was frozen, stars still imploding in his vision, warmth just beginning to fade from his lips. The other's usual assured bearing was gone; in its place was a wistful, turbulent countenance, like a fading stormfront. It was sad. He knew it was sad. Because he had known— if only he could just remember. He closed his eyes and licked his lips, tasting ether and firelight.
"Alvis," he said, eyes still closed, "when will you be back?"
There was a long silence.
"You already know, Shulk."
Shulk also knew that when he opened his eyes, he would be gone.