There she stood, as beautiful as ever.

"This body's always suited me; no other will do," she said, pushing the empty prosthetic body out of its chair.

"That was a remote puppet the whole time, huh?" Batou asked, stepping toward her.

"Uh-huh," she replied, the door closing behind her as she began to move in his direction as well. Before he knew it, they were face to face. And she was breathtaking, as always.

He wanted to say something, but he had never been very good with words. Not... those kinds of words, anyway. Humor, he could do. Any clever witticism, he was happy to provide. But speaking his feelings? Nah. Most of the time, he didn't even like to admit he had them, although the Tachikomas had proven what a big softy he was. Most days, he really could forget that he cared. Seeing every day the worst of what the scum of humanity can accomplish has a way of doing that to a man.

But today wasn't one of those days. Maybe it was exhaustion. Maybe it was his missing arm. Maybe it was losing his friends at Section 9, not being sure if any of them were still alive. Or maybe it was the fact that she was just so freaking gorgeous. Could have been all of the above, he didn't care. There she was, standing in front of him, and it was all he could do to keep himself from pulling her into an embrace right then and kissing the crap out of her.

Why was she just standing there? She wasn't saying anything either. Half of him wished she would. The other half wished he could.

Suddenly, light started to pour in the window as the sound of the helicopters grew louder. She just stood there scowling at it. Didn't she have the sense to realize their cover was about to be blown? After a moment's hesitation, he grabbed her shoulder and pushed her against the wall, away from the window.

She was so close to him. She'd placed her hand on his chest; it felt like electricity. And she smelled so good, not that plastic smell that prosthetic bodies often had, but a warm, spicy scent that reminded him of the better parts of South America. The helicopter was right outside the window now, lighting up her face and giving it an almost angelic glow.

As if those cold eyes of hers could ever be "angelic."

She started to lift her head, and something inside Batou clicked. Maybe it was his ghost, making him realize just how close together they really were. It didn't matter how he felt; the Major wasn't likely to give in to passion. He was tempted to kiss her, just to find out, but... now wasn't the right time. Sure, there they were, alone, with nothing to stop them. And who knew what would happen tomorrow? But Batou couldn't shake the feeling that if he lost control he'd regret it.

"By the way," he said, reluctantly pulling away from her and reaching into his pocket. "I have something of yours that almost didn't make it here." He pulled out that watch of hers, the only window into her soul that he had, since her eyes weren't real.

"I knew it," she replied, taking it and stroking it almost tenderly with her thumb.

"No matter how many prosthetic bodies you went through, this was the one thing that was always ticking away, keeping the same time as you. Nowadays that's far too fleeting." He'd asked her about that watch earlier as they escaped the Section 9 building. There had to be a story behind it, and he was dying to know. "People entrust their memories to external devices because they want to set down solid physical proof that can distinguish them as unique individuals." What made that watch so important to her? Why did she affix so much sentiment to it? "That watch is all you have, though, isn't it? Your only external mnemonic device that identifies the person who you've been up to this minute."

She looked up at him for a minute, almost seeming surprised at his insight. Well, as surprised as she ever looked, outside of battle situtations. She closed her eyes and smiled a bit at the corner of her mouth. "Those are pretty serious words," she said, putting the watch on. "Where'd you get them from, I'd like to know?"

She looked back up at him. "A watch, and weight-training gear. Both of us have clung to useless scraps of memory, haven't we?" She looked the watch over pensively.

Ah, that was true, wasn't it? He hadn't thought of his weight-training gear that way, but he couldn't deny that it was true. He didn't need it, not with that prosthetic body of his. She'd always teased him about that. But she'd noticed the same things he had. Trapped in bodies that someone else had made for them, they both had been clinging to something, anything that made them individuals.

That was what had made the Tachikomas so fascinating. There was nothing to distinguish one from the other, yet Batou had always been able to tell which was which. In spite of the fact that they all synchronized their memories, they retained separate personalities.

And yet here they were, two people who couldn't have looked more unique, yet afraid of losing themselves and their individuality.

"In all probability," she continued, "you and I are the only members of Section 9 who haven't been arrested or killed yet. Let's make sure that we both stay alive. At least, long enough to leave behind a record of what we tried to accomplish."

"Yeah, I'm not about to die without completing my mission," he replied, following her away from the window.

--

There was something about that sunset he found unsettling. He couldn't explain why, but his ghost was whispering in the back of his head. Something was amiss. He looked back at the Major, climbing up those stairs. A split second later, he noticed a red dot climbing up her neck.

"Motoko!"

Time seemed to stop as she turned and looked at him, the red dot having reached her head. Her lips moved silently. What was that shock in her eyes?

A second later, she was tumbling over the rail, her head a bloody spatter on the side of the plane. "Motoko, no! Motoko!" he cried, leaning over the rail to see her headless body splayed across the ground, already soaked in blood.

He felt strong arms take hold of him, but all he could see was her. He fought. He was pretty sure he gave them some choice words, too, but it was all a blur. He heard a voice say, "No vitals detected. Target destruction confirmed."

If he'd still had tear ducts, they'd've all been swimming. Why hadn't he just told her? He'd had every opportunity to tell her what he felt, show her how much she meant to him, and he'd wasted it, told himself there would be a better time. After all, she was Major Motoko Kusanagi. There was no way she'd get killed. He might, but she'd go on. She had to.

He could smell the blood, and it turned his stomach. He could smell Motoko's blood, that nasty metallic odor that only a prosthetic body's blood carried. It was like a mix between real blood and burning plastic. He tried to block it out, remind himself of the way she'd smelled last night, but that only seemed to make it worse. Why hadn't he just told her?! Now he would never have another perfect moment with her again!

She couldn't be gone. She just couldn't be.

"Motoko!"


A/N: Thanks for reading. This is my first Ghost in the Shell fanfic. I just thought that scene in "Barrage" was too juicy to pass up. I was watching going, "FREAKING KISS HER!" But alas. He did not. But I bet you fifty bucks he thought about it, thus the fic.

Please leave a review, kind reader!