He's in love with a woman with the soul of a tigress, one with hurricanes swirling beneath the surface of her mechanical eyes and yet when her back is to him, neck jack ports outlined in the half-light, he cannot help but notice how simply human she is as well, all curved shoulder blades and softened posture as she swan-dives effortlessly into the sea of information.

In a sense he is in love with an abstract concept, a soul, something that can be effortlessly transferred to maneuver any body and speak with any timbre and yet still always be her. Her body can speak and not be her and yet a face he has never seen before can smirk and tilt its head in a way that is so unmistakably her that he can't help but react to it. In that sense she in an etherial presence, tied to neither flesh nor voice.

Sometimes, he wonders if they have met in past lives, and if loving her was ever any less complicated than it is now. He doubts it. There is something about her that transcends reality even at the best of times, and if he hasn't figured her out yet he's damn sure he never has and never will.

On some days, the raging typhoons he's become accustomed to fade into a soft misty drizzle and it is on these days that he knows she is in doubt, questioning her own humanity and the meaning of existence. He knows because he has these days, too, but does not dwell on them the same way, laughs them off, works on cars, weight trains for hour after useless hour, but does not dwell on it the way she does. He knows he'd drive himself insane and he's half afraid she will, too, hung up and strangled by the very threads of meaning she doubts so much.

And so it is at those misting, brooding times of hers that he does his best to be by her side, offering either companionable silence or a sounding board for the ideals of past thinkers. Sometimes the sun will shine though and she will speak of ideals, of Locke and the creation of a perfect state. Far more often it will be jarring, stagnant black clouds and she will display a startling passion for nihilism and the darker side of Thessius' paradox, and he will give Heraclitus' predictable response and they will end at the impasse that human beings are not much like rivers at all. Even though the ground is familiar, torn up from the two of their muddy crossings in the rain, he continues to try in the hopes that they will reach a different answer and somehow be able to irrefutably prove their own humanity.

Suddenly, sharply, the next day she will be back, eyes storming and sparking once more as she carefully considers how to outwit and dismantle their latest opponent, how to strike him down with the deadly grace that is unique to her. She will make sarcastic remarks at the Tachikoma, roll her eyes at her subordinates and be strongly attached to the world again, having reforged whatever chain it is that keeps her from drifting away from them and into oblivion. When she is like this he can laugh, joke, they are partners and sometimes even friends who throw back drinks and talk about nothing.

And it is this very rhythm, the rocking back and forth that isn't anywhere near in time yet still manages to feel like waves in the sea, chaotic and never quite the same as the last but always predictable in the fact that they will come and go time and time again. It makes it so he's always a step behind and can never quite catch his sea-legs in time to turn the situation to his advantage and move things father or even in a different direction.

It's why their relationship hasn't budged despite seeing each other every day for years and years. Or so he tells himself.

Sometimes, he wonders if he's just the world's most lucubratory and over-rationalizing coward, and he's making excuses because he can't get the balls together to either spell out what he means or form implications beyond a certain point. Some war vet he is, surviving everything from nuclear meltdowns in Mexico to the Nemuro Landing to Deijima but can't even manage this. But then he remembers he's dealing with, the strongest person and most capable commander he's ever known, someone that most would've declared impossible from the outset for fear she'd crush lovers as mercilessly as her enemies. And that makes him feel a little better, if not much.

Even then, there was still the fact there's dozens of times he could have said something, done something, but didn't. A lot of times it was the line, something invisible, intangible, unspoken, but always there nonetheless, the fact that she was skilled and authoritative and in command. He respected that, didn't want to topple that status quo or maybe just couldn't, because playing personal feelings cards when the guns were up and the chips were down was pretty asinine even by his standards. Other times they'd just be off-duty, talking, and some tiny thing she did, brushing her fingers against her glass or leaning her elbow on the table would short his mind for a second and he'd be half in love with her by the time she sat down.

And it's a points like that that he starts hating the fact that he cares so much, missing the days when he could vehemently tell anyone who crossed his path to go fuck themselves. He's a loner, he likes it that way, and long-honed habits are hard-broken for simple things. For that matter, she's the same way, and he supposes, as fitting as it is he's drawn to someone like himself, it'd be hell to actually try and adjust his life around another person. Things would probably be the same on the other end- assuming it got even that far –-and they'd just tear each other apart. They might feel sorry doing it, or afterwards, but in the end that would be the result.

Arthur Schopenhauer's Parerga und Paralipomena. Hedgehog's Dilemma, personal intimacy cannot exist without substantial mutual harm. The two of them were doomed before they even started, sentenced to slow death of the psyche by stabbing spines. He knows he's been hurt enough in his lifetime ands can guess well enough the same of her, having watched her drifting as a phantom in the months after Kuze. And as much as something in him wants to protect her from that, be her cliched knight, the fact remains that he really can't. Human nature is, if nothing else, predictable in its unpredictability. There's no guarantee he won't lash out and break something irreparable within her, something not even re-initialization could fix, to the point it's practically a matter of time.

Yet as cold machines, they don't have the warmth to function on their own, as per Schopenhauer's conclusion. Maybe they used to, a long time ago, but nowadays he thinks if someone were to knock on his heart there would be only a clanking echo. If they're ghosts in iron shells, both of them, the metal's begun pressing up against the very essence of who they are.

For a cyborg to be a human being, it must function as and be treated like a human being. Or so would say Aristotle.

The function of a human being is happiness. Also Aristotle.

Happiness is defined as moderation on all scales and a peaceful existence. Aristotle once more.

By this count they are not and will never be human. It's a sobering line of logic, one they avoid if at all possible, even though the conclusion is an obvious one. They could cherry-pick, use another man's definition of happiness or function, but it feels like cutting off someone who's begun to speak and replacing his words with another's. The idea comes together, or not at all, and Batou, for his part, can dismiss it as a faulty definition.

He's not so sure she can, and watching her grapple with these demons tugs at a soul he's not even sure he has.