A/N: Hello everyone. I hardly got any feedback on the last chapter. Hmm...Anyway, well here is the final chapter. I hope that you like it. The situation that happened to Hisagi, Kira and Matsumoto in the first part of this chapter was inspired by true events that happened to a friend of a friend of mine. Sometimes reality is better than fiction.

Chapter Sixteen: Commitment

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach


A series of events led to Matsumoto, Kira and Hisagi relapsing. Matsumoto was sent on a mission in the Living World to take down a Hollow that seemed to have specialized in the field of devouring teenagers and being an escape artist. Previously, Shinigami after Shinigami were sent on the mission only to have them return Hollow-less and with the town of Kyoto down a couple of souls. Soul Society took it upon themselves therefore, to send an officer of a higher rank. Hence, Lieutenant Matsumoto was sent to the University of Kyoto to capture the Hollow and return it to the Twelfth Division.

On the second Monday in January on the Coming of Age holiday, after three days of no word from Lieutenant Matsumoto, Lieutenants Hisagi and Kira were sent to Kyoto University as reinforcements. It was then that they found that Matsumoto's resolve had finally cracked. Unable to abandon her post and unable to capture the elusive Hollow, added to the fact that the only bar on campus was having a sale in honour of the holiday together with the fact that she was amidst young, fervent collegial supporters of alcohol, resulted in Matsumoto relapsing in a most spectacular way. Hisagi and Kira found her in her gigai passed out on top of the bar with a beer hat strapped to her head.

"Matsumoto-san?" Hisagi quietly said as Kira poked her in the side with his index finger.

She did not budge.

"Do you think she's dead?" Hisagi asked. Kira poked her again.

"I don't think so, but it's not her dying that's worrying me – she's already dead. I just hope that she continues to be that way, not that anyone here would notice." Kira replied as he looked around the packed bar. Beer was going at a price not seen since before World War II and the students and Matsumoto, judging by her present predicament, were taking keen advantage of the sale.

Hisagi sighed. He tried to think of something that would get Matsumoto awake, inclusive of yelling free vodka for the next seven patrons to reach the bar, but realized that he ran the risk of being stampeded. Finally, it came to him. In his best impression of Captain Hitsugaya that he could muster, Hisagi yelled out,

"MATSUMOTO!"

She jumped up from the bar with such force that she fell over onto the bartender's side. Hisagi and Kira peered over the edge and were surprised when she immediately popped back up with resounding cheers from the students, but the boys seriously doubted that it had to do with her resilience and more so with her jiggling breasts.

"Captain, I shwear I washn't drinking!" She replied as she wobbled on the spot; eyes bloodshot, her face a brilliant red.

"Matsumoto, it's me Hisagi."

She narrowed her eyes at him and after recognizing the tall, black-haired Shinigami, made a disgusting sound of annoyance with her tongue.

"Go away! I'm doing reshearch on beer."

"Matsumoto-san, you did enough research to be awarded an honorary doctorate for your lifelong work in the field." Kira replied in a sotto-voice.

"But think about it." She said, "Think about all of the workers that worked to make this beer." She took a sip out of one of the tubes from the beer hat. "I wouldn't want to disappoint them. If I stopped drinking then all of their hopes and dreams and jobs would go to waste." She hiccupped.

"Matsumoto-san, are you telling me that you plan on supporting the entire Japanese beer industry by yourself?" Kira asked with sincere interest. Hisagi cast him a look.

"Why are you encouraging the nonsense, Izuru?"

Kira had the decency to look ashamed.

Hisagi gripped her by the waist and threw her over his shoulder.

"Put me down, Izuru!" She protested and proceeded to kick and scream her way out of the bar.

"I'm Hisagi."

"That's what I shaid!"

Hisagi and Kira sighed. The boys had only just reached outside the bar when the flailing and screaming Matsumoto delivered a kick to Kira's chest and a punch to Hisagi's jaw. Hisagi dropped her immediately. But the din of multiple glass bottles also rolling around on the ground punctuated the soft thud her body made from hitting the floor at a sudden speed. Rubbing their aching body parts Hisagi and Kira looked down to see Matsumoto again passed out (but this time, they suspected that it was Hisagi's fault) surrounded by six bottles of fine whiskey.

"I don't even want to know where she was hiding those." Hisagi muttered as both he and Kira bent down to pick up the bottles.

With expert timing, a Senkai gate opened up to reveal Captain Hitsugaya. The boys had to admit that it did not look good for them. With a passed out Matsumoto on the floor and with them holding three bottles of whiskey each in their hands – Hisagi and Kira had to admit that it did not look good. Captain Hitsugaya was livid.

After he ranted and raved for about fifteen minutes straight, he took in a deep breath and said,

"You know what; I believe that in order for you three to learn a proper lesson, I'll have to charge you with being inebriated while on duty."

It took nearly a full minute for Hisagi and Kira to pick their jaws up from the floor and they were sure that when Matsumoto woke up she'd be just as shocked.

When Matsumoto awoke from her alcohol-induced coma she, together with Hisagi and Kira, were charged by Central 46, the maximum fine together with a month and a half to be spent in the Detention Unit. They paid the fine but were told that they would have to wait before they could be allowed into prison.

"Wait? I have to wait to be allowed into jail?! What, my name has to be on 'the list?' Since when does prison have a velvet rope treatment?" Hisagi shouted at the Second Division female Shinigami seated behind the desk.

"Sir, please calm down. We have to wait on the relevant forms from Squad Eight."

"The Eight Division?! What the hell do they have to do with anything? It was Captain Hitsugaya of the Tenth Division that arrested us!" Matsumoto argued.

The clerk stared at her, giving Matsumoto her best do-I-look-like-I-give-a-fuck stare.

"Ma'am, is it possible to speed things up so that we could go to jail as soon as possible?" Kira politely asked. "I mean, when will the paperwork be processed? We just want to get this over and done with."

The clerk shrugged by way of answering.

And so Hisagi, Kira and Matsumoto left the Second Division thoroughly disappointed that they would not be going to prison.

But time passed and soon the three Lieutenants forgot about their outstanding stint in prison. So much time passed that Matsumoto had time to go to rehab, again; fall off the bandwagon, again; be picked up by Hisagi and Kira, again, and be caught by her Captain, again. It was then that Captain Hitsugaya remembered that the three Lieutenants had an outstanding prison sentence to serve. Thus, it was three years later that Matsumoto, Hisagi and Kira were carted off to prison for an offence committed three years ago that really and truly was all Matsumoto's fault. The stress of that alone convinced Kira and Hisagi to return to their alcoholic ways as soon as they were released from jail. Matsumoto, feeling guilty that their predicament was her fault, decided to be a good friend to Hisagi and Kira by keeping the boys company in the bars and relapsing for a third time.


Matsumoto, Kira and Hisagi sit in the head office of the Eleventh Division posing a question to me.

"Ikkaku, does the want ever go away?" Hisagi asks, near desperation shining in his eyes.

It had been two weeks after Hisagi and Kira had completed their second Rehab programme and Matsumoto's fourth time in Rehab. Scary Group Leader was now on a first name basis with Matsumoto.

"No. I think it's safe to say that no, the want never goes away. Ya just learn to live with it. It's like if ya got ya hand cut off. Ya still feel like it's still there, but ya gotta learn to live without it."

Yumichika is sitting opposite me quietly doing paperwork while simultaneously entertaining Yachiru by making origami out of the medical reports sent in from the Fourth Division. The little pink ball of energy is furiously feeding that energy by sucking on Gummi bears. Yumichika hasn't looked up from his focus on making the paper crane for her, but I know that he is listening.

"It's so easy for you, Ikkaku-san," Kira says looking tired and more depressed than usual. "It's like you just don't drink. Period."

I snort at his words and Yumichika gives me a knowing and apologetic smile. We both know that the last three years were the most trying time in our lives. It's a wonder that I didn't drink and that our relationship even survived.

*

It is somewhere near three o'clock in the morning. My eyes are bleary and I haven't eaten anything all day, but I refuse to remove from Yumichika's bedside in the Fourth Division. He's out of the coma, but for the last seven hours he wakes and falls back to asleep within ten to fifteen minutes. I am told that that is to be expected when someone is awaking from such a long comatose condition. He is sleeping again and I watch him with strange mixture of relief and anxiety. Why is he sleeping so much? Will he ever be like how he was before? It is then that I hear a faint knock on the door. I look behind me to see Captain Unohana poking her head in and curling her index finger in a gesture that says come over here. I unwillingly and tiredly rise from my sentry position at the side of Yumi's bed and drag my feet to meet her outside of the room.

"I didn't want to wake Yumichika-san." She says with a soft smile.

"I thought that was the point – to wake him from his coma."

"He's out of the coma, but that has left him tired and he needs his rest."

"Tired from what? He was sleeping and doing nothing for the last three weeks."

She smiles sweetly at me and tilts her head slightly to the side as if to say, 'oh poor, stupid Ikkaku.'

"True. But you try climbing back from a bottomless pit of darkness. You'd be tired too."

I do not tell her that for the last three weeks I too was in my own personal and figurative black abyss only surfacing to drink and dig myself deeper.

"Ikkaku-san, I wanted to talk to you because I want to know if you fully grasp Yumichika's condition."

Again, I say nothing. She was going to elaborate whether I answered or not.

"Ikkaku-san, Yumichika-san may have awoken from the coma, but it is possible that he may never return to the way he was."

My heart feels stiff and heavy at her words as if it were made of metal.

"My initial examination of him shows that he is responsive, but is only speaking when spoken to and is using only monosyllabic responses." She pauses and looks me directly in the eye. My face and brain is blank as a sheet of paper. "Some or rather, most patients, do not develop further than this stage." She pauses again to allow for her words to sink in.

"Do you understand what I am saying, Ikkaku-san?"

"Yeah, I understand. Yer saying that Yumi might forever be one step away from being a vegetable. You're telling me that most likely he won't be able to count up to his age. You're telling me that my zanpakutō, a fucking inanimate object, has more emotive responses than him! You're telling me that he probably cannot even remember who the fuck I am! You're saying that I have him, but I've still fucking lost him!"

I didn't realize that I was shouting. I didn't realize what I was saying. I didn't realize that tears were starting to sting my eyes. I stand there looking at her with rage and frustration burning me and the urge to drink hits me with shocking force. But what really gets me is that she doesn't even respond or look angry at all. If she had only reacted, I might have felt better. But no. She simply stands there radiating pity for me. It infuriates me.

"Ikkaku-san," She starts up in that calm voice that makes me want to strangle her, "do you really love him?"

"No, I don't care about him at all. My eyes are watering because this bloody room is so dusty!" I spit at her, amazing myself that of all the times this is when sarcasm comes to me. And either she completely misses it or more likely, she completely ignores it, for she says,

"I think that you really love him."

I throw up my hands in frustration.

"Kami. Everyone here is going to drive me insane. I need a drink. I need a drink now. I'm at the end of my rope and I need a drink now." I mutter and hold my head in my arms.

"Well if you're at the end of your rope you should tie a knot and hang on."

That made me pause.

"Captain Unohana, did you just make a joke about suicide?"I ask in utter disbelief.

"I sat in on one of Kira-san's classes the other day. It was very informative."


We stare at each other in awkward silence for a few moments.

"Anyway Ikkaku-san, I want you to know that despite Yumichika-san's current position there is no definite law that says that a grim bedridden future lies ahead of him. I thought that he most likely would not have awoken from that coma, but he has defied the odds and proved me wrong. So what I am saying is that he might make a full recovery, he might not."

"Che. He's always proving people wrong, Captain. Just when you think that you have him figured out, he always gives you a surprise move. Look at him. Ya think that he looks like he belongs in the Eleventh Division? Ya think that someone as pretty as him could survive on his own in the Rukongai? No, ya wouldn't think that now would ya? But he did it. Anyone would look at him and say that he wouldna last two minutes in the Eleventh Division. But look at him. He's a Fifth Seat with the power of a lieutenant. He's pretty good at defying odds and proving others wrong."

I say that speech, but somewhere inside me there is a gnawing feeling.

"Yes, he is a fighter. He survived having that sword thrust into his head. He is a fighter. He was a fighter, Ikkaku-san. He is not anymore. Do you have the commitment to bring him back up to that level?"

I pause before I answer. Getting Yumichika back up to the level he was at before would be a full time job. He is like a baby now. I would have to take an indefinite leave of absence from my duties. I would have to give up fighting everyday because my days would be filled with taking care of him. Bathing him, dressing him, feeding him, and training him. I remember what I promised him while at the Inn. I said that I would not drink. No fighting and no more drinking. Can I really give up the two most important things in my life for the single most important thing in my life?

No fighting. No drinking. What is the other option?

No Yumichika.

I know my answer immediately.

After spending two more weeks in the hospital Yumichika is finally released into my care. It is terrifying to know that after two additional weeks he is still the same way. He is awake for considerably longer now, but he still has only one and a half expressions. He looks either sad or almost confused. The rest are just blank stares.

The good thing about being an alcoholic is that alcohol keeps you busy since it occupies your every single thought and I have to admit that I liked that. I don't particularly like having to worry about making sure that Yumichika's meals have the right combination of nutrients that support brain functioning, deter cell deterioration and improve memory. That is a particularly troubling feat seeing as how I cannot cook. Every night I get up at midnight to listen to his breathing, not because I am sentimental, but because I want to ensure that I did not kill him with the beef I prepared earlier – beef that somehow looked like chicken and tasted like fish. I hate having to crush into his food additional vitamins like Omega-3 and phospha – I can't even pronounce the rest of it. I don't like that I have to feed him and re-teach him how to walk in the first month that he was back at home. I cannot stand that he barely says a word to me that isn't 'yes' or 'no' or 'hmmm.' I hate the fact that he has terrible moods that move between the extremes of terrible rage or depressing melancholy that leaves him crying for days. But what I really hate is that two thoughts really dominate my brain – I want a drink and I cannot deal with this.

It is middle of February and the winter is lasting longer than expected. Soul Society is cold and barren like my heart is towards Yumichika. I can barely look at him .The amount of emotions that I feel is almost entirely impossible for one human to have. I want to drink. I want to go back to having the emotional range of a toaster. I do not want to have to deal with this. My heart still feels heavy like iron. It hurts, literally, every time I look at him.

It is night and a slight rain is falling. The place is cold, but I do not mind because it suits my mood. Yumichika is sitting on the tatami mat inside doing his favourite thing to do lately – stare into space. I sit outside on the back veranda and try to ignore that tiny voice in my head that reminds me that the only alcohol in this room is in the form of Yumi's astringent.

"It's cold Yumi." I still talk to him, hoping that one day he'll say more than 'hmmm.' "My toes feel all tingly."

"It's called frostbite."

I chuckle appreciatively at the joke, but then I nearly get whiplash as I realize that it was Yumichika that made the joke.

I stare at him and he stares back at me with that dead-behind-the-eyes look that I've gotten since he awoke from the coma. Did he really just speak to me? There's nothing else in the room that could have made the comment. I'm almost sure that the futon didn't say it.

"What?" He says and I jump.

I rush towards him and hold onto his shoulders. There's a bit of light behind those eyes that I love so much.

"Yumi! You said more than one word since the incident. Oh my God! 'It's called frostbite!' That's like what, four syllables?"

I start to clap in an effort to sound out the syllables and absolute joy electrifies me when he gives me his classic Yumichika raised eyebrow.

"Oh Yumi," I practically melt with excitement, "I know that you want to tell me 'what the fuck is wrong with you' but don't worry. We'll get there soon."

He manages a small smile and I hug him so tightly.

*

I look at Yumichika sitting there opposite me and I have to admit that we've come a long way. Things have changed. I have not had a drink in three years. And Yumichika is definitely a bit loopier than he was before. Yachiru has tired of him and is now busy playing a game of catch me if you can with Hisagi, Matsumoto and Kira.

"Gummi bear?" He offers me and I take a red one. I love the red ones.

"Tsk, tsk. These sweets are bringing in ants." He mutters as he observes two black ants crawling along the desk. "Bye Kane-kun." He says right before he squashes an ant under his thumb.

I look at him in exasperation. Definitely loopier.

"Sometimes ya scare me, Yumi."

"Why?" He asks absent-mindedly as he crushes another black ant. "Kaori-kun! No!" He whispers in a mock fashion of woe.

"Why? Because ya christening ants and then killing them with mock regret. That's weird."

"I can't see how they're any different from when you name the Gummi bears then eat them."

"That's different. These aren't alive." I say waving the red sugary candy in front of him.

"That makes it even worse. You name a cute, cuddly bear only to bite its head off. As far as I'm concerned that's even more sadistic."

Somehow the bickering escalated into an argument. It was intense, but I don't mind. I rather like irritating the living daylights out of Yumichika. My explanation to him is that it keeps him mentally fit. But my real reason is that it turns me on.

Anyway, sometime after I called him a pansy bitch and sometime before he called me a bald ass he threw a vase at me. I really wasn't expecting it and it hit me straight in the head. I fell to the ground and pretended to be knocked out in an attempt to make him feel guilty and also get sympathy so that later tonight I'd get some loving from him. But that didn't work out too well for me. He completely ignored me.

"Ikkaku, would you get off of the ground, before Yachiru trips on you. And clean up that glass while you're at it."

"Why the hell should I clean up the glass?!" I scream at him. My plans for getting sympathy out of him swept away, but not with the glass that I was not picking up.

"Because you're the one that made me pelt the vase in the first place."

"Yumichika!" I growl at him, but our argument is interrupted by the presence of Captains Ukitake, Hitsugaya, Unohana and most surprisingly, Scary Group Leader. I instantly start to cold-sweat. Déjà vu hits me full force.

"I swear I haven't been drinking!" I shout at them.

"Me neither!" Matsumoto, Hisagi and Kira echo.

"Relax, Ikkaku-san." Captain Ukitake says and smiles to reassure me. I do not trust him. Last time I trusted him I ended up doing a month in rehab.

"Ikkaku-san, we have just witnessed most of your argument with Yumichika-san. I cannot believe that all this time has passed and not much has changed since the two of you fought each other in Rehab." Scary Group Leader says.

Oh dear Lord, no. I already know where she is going with this. Yumichika and I exchange looks.

"So," Captain Ukitake speaks up, "We were wondering if maybe you two would like to join couples therapy."

"You see now Scary Group Leader –"

"Oh please Ikkaku-san, I cannot believe that you still refer to me by that silly nickname. You do know that my name is Yo–"

"Che. I don't wanna know. I'll probably forget anyway. I'll just continue to call you Scary Group Leader." I say waving away her comment.

She shrugs helplessly.

"Anyway, Scary Group Leader, Yumichika and I don't need no counselling."

"That's very true, Captain Ukitake." Yumichika agrees. "A lot of things have changed, but some things stay the same and should always stay the same. The way we fight is just another way of expressing our love for each other."

"Che, Yumichika. Why ya have to make it sound so sappy."

Yumi rolls his eyes.

"Ughh. Get in touch with your feelings, Ikkaku. It's much more beautiful."

"Pshh. Whatever."

"Robotic ass." He mutters at me.

"Sissy idiot." I retort.

The Captains and Scary Group Leader each raise a questioning eyebrow. We look at them, look at each other, smile and shrug.

"Love." We say simultaneously.


A/N: Yay! I've finished another fic! I would to thank all of the people that put this fic on their alerts and favourites and especially those that reviewed. You have been very vital in helping me finish this fic. You guys are the best. As always, review and let me know what you think! ^_^