Paper Cranes

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Ghost in the Shell. I would never presume to own anything related to anything related to Ghost in the Shell… except for a few taped episodes of Stand Alone Complex and this piece of fanfiction. So don't even think about suing—I HAVE MUSES. Vicious ones.

Most people had their own little twitches.

Tics, Batou had read that they were called. Rapid blinking, foot-tapping, reflexive doodling whenever they had a pencil or pen in hand—things like that. They were automatic, and most of the time, the person who had them was so used to them that they didn't know what they were doing. There were nervous tics, too, which only appeared when the person was tense—nail biting, for instance. And most people had at least one kind of tic. Several people at Section 9 had them, in fact—and usually Batou was as used to them as the people who possessed the tics, and didn't notice them either.

Motoko Kusanagi had always been a nail biter. That was one of the ones Batou couldn't help but notice, but not out of annoyance—though he would rather have died than admitted it out loud, he actually thought it was kind of cute. They'd be working on an assignment, she'd have the whole of her attention focused on it, staring at the perp or the computer monitor or whatever, and she'd be sitting there chewing her thumbnail like there was no tomorrow. It made him want to smile, but he tried not to—there was always the chance that she would notice, and then he'd have to find some quick lie so that she wouldn't know what he was really thinking.

But now the Major had a new tic. And whereas this one amused the rest of their organization, straight from Chief Aramaki to Proto, it was absolutely driving Batou up the wall.

It had started with torn little pieces of paper. Any that were remotely square-shaped could hide themselves as they might, but they could never escape Kusanagi's absently searching fingers. And when there were no torn pieces of paper left, she would stop. Or, she had stopped.

Now it was worse. Instead of torn pieces of paper, she would take any piece of blank paper and use it. To forestall the worst of the Major's new twitch, somebody—Ishikawa, maybe—had placed a thick stack of origami sheets, plain, colored, and patterned, on her work desk. If the Major consciously noticed them, she didn't say anything about them, but she'd been tearing through them like a madwoman.

And once she was done with the damn things, she'd just set them off to the side and leave them there. Almost everyone had one on his or her desk now, and there was one for every Fuchikoma. Plus, there were the boxes that Batou had filled with all the rest. Boxes and boxes and boxes of them.

Sure, it was entrancing to watch. And, amazingly, it hadn't destroyed her other tic. Batou had to stifle the urge to shake his head sometimes when he passed by her in between assignments. There she'd be, staring off into space, her mind a million miles away while she nibbled her right thumbnail and folded pile after pile of paper cranes with her left hand.

Just with her left hand. Until he'd seen the Major at work, Batou hadn't known it was possible. Cranes were some of the most complicated things to make out of origami, and even when he'd been a kid and into that kind of stuff, he'd had to use two hands and his cranes had always turned out sloppy. Then again, when it came to perfect control of her prosthetic body, Motoko Kusanagi had things down to an art. She wasn't a legendary police officer for nothing, after all.

Cranes, cranes, cranes, cranes, and more cranes. It was really starting to drive Batou nuts. Besides, it was the connection to the other paper crane they'd found then that was starting to really irritate him.

"I wish she'd just stop doing that," he commented to Togusa when the two of them were passing by the Major's workspace one day, on their way to give the Chief their day's report on the surveillance op they'd just finished their shift on.

Togusa tried to look sympathetic, but Batou could see the corners of his mouth twitching. "Jealous?" he asked at last.

"Oh, you just shut up!"

Togusa laughed; Batou scowled.

Whereas everyone else at Section 9 had one of the Major's brightly colored cranes displayed on his or her desk, the one on her desk was not one that she'd made. It was the small, perfectly made white crane that they'd found with the body of Hideo Kuze when the whole mess with the refugees had finally been resolved about a month and a half ago.

Maybe he was being paranoid, but Batou just knew in his soul that the paper cranes the Major kept making nonstop had something to do with Kuze. And that just plain annoyed him. Quite what the Major had ever seen in that guy, Batou couldn't begin to fathom, but she had "liked" him, and that fact was as irritating as the endless stream of cranes. How did he know she liked him? He'd asked her and she'd told him!

Jealous? Well, Togusa was damn right, he was jealous!

Batou just didn't like having that fact rubbed in his face. He wanted to keep his jealousy to himself. The Major was just making it a little bit hard for him to do.

"Why do you keep doing that?" he asked her one day when the crane making had gotten too obnoxious to ignore. Her lightning left hand with its practiced movements kept distracting Batou, making it impossible for them to hold a normal conversation.

The Major just looked at him blankly for a moment. Batou sighed inwardly and pointed to the half-finished red crane still under her left hand.

There was a brief, awkward silence as Kusanagi looked down at it, then shrugged.

"It took me years to learn how to do this properly," she told him at length. "When I was a child, I had a friend who had been almost completely disabled in an accident—he still had movement in his left arm, but that was just about all. I was trying to convince him to go full prosthetic, like I had—and he told me that he would do it only if I could prove to him that I could make paper cranes with my prosthetic hands. It was… a hobby of his."

"And he could only do it with his left hand," Batou said, nodding. All right, it made sense so far. But he could still tell that this had something to do with Kuze, and he wanted to find out what.

Busying herself with the last folds of the crane, the Major went on. "You know as well as most people that I barely had any fine motor skills after I'd gotten my prosthetic body. I tried, but I couldn't do it—the movements of my fingers were too hard to control. I left the hospital he was being kept in, and I didn't see him again for years… but by the time I did, I could fold a paper crane just as well as he did."

Batou gave her a look that said, I know there's more to the story than just that.

The Major stared back at him, and the look in her eyes replied, I know that you know, but that's as far as your clearance is gonna get you, buddy.

Taking a wild guess, Batou began suspiciously, "Your friend's name wouldn't happen to be Hideo, by any chance?"

Ignoring the question, the Major held out her completed crane to him. "Here," she said. "Since you've been so interested. I need to finish my report."

Taking the hint, Batou accepted the crane, got up and walked off.

But when he looked back, she wasn't working at all. Instead, she was holding Kuze's paper crane, staring down at it with a distant look in her eyes.


Author's Note: Poor Batou. He's so unloved… and either Kusanagi-sama is entirely oblivious to the way he feels, or just knows and chooses to ignore it. (I bet it's the latter.)

I totally adored the episode of 2nd GIG that showed Kusanagi-sama and Kuze's childhood and why they had to get prosthetic bodies. Kusanagi-sama was such an adorable little kid. And I loved the whole thing with the paper cranes.

Besides, Kuze-san needs a little love too…