A/N: Thank you to JadeKurosaki, Umayar, and "Bang" for your reviews. And to anyone who might have put this or its author on their lists. Well gang, this is the final chapter. I hope you all have enjoyed the story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Kubo Tite et al.
His Mother, His Lieutenant
It was only a long awaited stroke of luck that Ishida's whereabouts were never discovered by the female half of Seireitei. When Tuesday arrived, Ichigo and Toushiro ventured out of their divisions cautiously. Although the "younger" captain had been out before, his friend had been secluded the entire three days between the Quincy's arrival and now. His girlfriend hadn't been as kind as Momo in dispersing the crowd surrounding the thirteenth squad. Rukia had laughed at his predicament, calling it punishment for his attitude towards the SWA.
Toushiro rather thought Kurosaki had been smart enough not to argue. Now they made their way to the Kuchiki estate, careful to look like they were patrolling. "Did your girl forgive you?" Ichigo asked, glancing over his shoulder. He was still uneasy about being followed.
"Yes, but I owe her now. What did Kuchiki have you do before she forgave you?"
"My office is now home to the latest Chappy montage."
Toushiro couldn't hold back the laugh that came out. The new lieutenant's fascination with the character was legendary. The only place safe from the rabbit was her brother's personal office. "Serves you right."
"That's what she said. At least my haori's safe." They became quiet as they reached the gate. The guard on duty let them in, looking right and left before shutting the large doors.
Ishida was waiting for them, impatient to leave the Soul Society. "I see you two are alive."
"And you're still in once piece."
"Captain Kuchiki and I found there was something we had in common."
"And what was that?"
"We can't stand you most of the time."
"Sure. At least neither of you has to look at Chappy the rabbit for the rest of your life."
A smirk rose on the Quincy's face. "Kuchiki-san certainly has a fitting sense of revenge."
"Doesn't she? You ready to leave this place?"
"More than. If I never come back it'll be too soon."
"Ah, don't get that way. You'll be here one day. Might as well get used to the place." The three young men traveled to the gate, two out of the three careful to hide their reiatsu. Since Ichigo was incapable of doing the same, it would appear that he was alone in his walk.
The large portal was ready for the transfer of spirit form to flesh and Ichigo gave his friend a smile. "Next time I call, pick up the phone, Ishida. It may be important. And tell Chad I'll give him a call later."
"Hn, you're a pain, Kurosaki. Thank you for your help Captain Hitsugaya."
"It was the least I could do. Momo said she'd have a retraction printed in the next issue about your single status. Kurosaki says you're taken." Toushiro noticed the blush on the archer's face but didn't comment. "And the next time you find Yachiru in the Living World, don't be afraid you send her packing."
"I will." With a wave the Quincy was gone and the two captains were left by themselves on the giant hill.
"He's going to be so pissed when he joins us permanently."
"If we can keep that freak of a researcher away from him."
"I have confidence Ishida will be able to take that clown by the time he's here."
"Good, maybe he'll do us all a favor and kill him. Division Twelve could use a captain like Ishida."
Ichigo smirked and placed his hands on the back of his head. "Do you want to be the one to tell him that he becomes the captain if he kills what's-his-face?"
Toushiro felt a smile creep to his face briefly. "No, but it would be interesting to see. Now, if you don't mind, I have to go ride herd on my mother. She was good about doing her work for the last few days but I'm sure she thinks she's earned a well-deserved rest from all the paperwork."
"Sure. I'll catch you later."
The white haired captain found exactly what he expected to find, his mother snoozing away on the couch, a jug of sake tilted on its side next to her. Sighing, he righted the container, surprised to find it more than half full. "Che, losing your ability to hold your liquor, are you? Good." When she didn't respond, he shook his head and went to his desk. Several stacks of reports were waiting for his signature and he decided to clear them away before yelling at her.
Lunch had rolled around before the lieutenant of the tenth woke and she smiled softly as she heard the grumbling coming from her son. "Ah, my little taicho. Hard at work as always."
"Good, you're awake. A report just came in of some Gillian in the nearby forest of the first district. I said we'd go check it out."
"Ah, my son wants to spend time with his mother. Maybe we could stop in to see your granny on the way back. I never did get to thank her for taking care of you all those years." The last part was said completely seriously.
"Sure, let's go."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Saluting, the strawberry blonde grabbed her Zanpakutou and followed after her son.
Gillian were a rare sighting since the end of the war but every once in a while one or two would manage to make its way to the Soul Society. The large foot soldiers still required at least a lieutenant class shinigami to slay so the fact that they went was not surprising. They found the plodding creature breaking down trees and terrifying local residents although it didn't seem to have used its Cero to do anymore damage as yet.
Toushiro wanted to slay it before it could attracted any more hollows into the area but realized that plan had failed when both members of Squad Ten heard the unmistakable howling of the turned souls. "Rangiku, I'll leave the hollows to you. I'll take care of this guy." At his current power level, his shikai wasn't really needed but he transformed Hyorinmaru anyway. The Gillian was dispersed with easily and he turned back to help clean up the low level hollows his mother was dealing with. She was surrounded by he wasn't too concerned until he caught sight of a large Cero headed her way from behind.
"Mother!" he shouted, flash stepping to intercept the red energy beam. A large hollow was quickly frozen for its trouble and he turned back in time to see Rangiku take a hit in the shoulder. She went down, but not before slicing several with Haineko's ash.
Rangiku lay there stunned, trusting that her son would take care of the rest. Her shoulder bled profusely and she knew she needed medical attention as soon as possible. She'd been thrown off guard when he'd shouted the warning about the Cero by calling her mother instead of her first name that she had let it distract her just long enough for the hollow to take a swipe at her. "Taicho," she said, trying to get him to calm down. He was normally calm in battle but seeing her hurt was making him more of the young man that he was than the experienced captain. Sometimes she forgot how much of a child he still was.
"Mother, are you all right?" His anxious teal eyes gazed at her worriedly as he sank down onto his knees next to her.
"Help me get to Captain Unohana and I'll be just fine. Don't worry, Toushiro."
"Toushiro," she said, her voice brooking no argument. So this was what it was like to be a real mother. "I'm not going to die but I might pass out if you don't help. Who's going to carry me then?"
"Wouldn't be the first time I carted your sorry butt home." Toushiro put his sword away before helping her to her feet. "If you're sure…"
"I'm sure." She ruffled his hair affectionately and concentrated on maintaining consciousness. "Let's go."
The young man didn't argue further, lost in thought on his way to the fourth division. Unohana met them at the entrance, ushering Rangiku in and leaving the captain outside the treatment room to stew in his own thoughts. Not always a good thing.
Which Rangiku found out later when she came out, her shoulder bandaged but well on the way to being healed. "Let's go home, Toushiro."
"You could have been killed."
"Yes, but then you could have too. Neither of us is going to stop being shinigami just because we found each other, Toushiro. I was surprised by your term of address, nothing more. That was the only reason I got hurt. It's my fault for not anticipating the fact that you might call me 'mother' in the heat of battle. You always worry about those you care about. It's only natural that you would have called me that."
Rangiku sighed, pulling him into an alley so that she didn't embarrass him with what she was about to do next. "Look at me." She waiting until his eyes, almost like his father's, met hers. "You take way too much on your shoulders. Gin was like that. I want you to share some of the burden. Promise me you'll stop trying to solve everything on your own. And I don't want you to blame yourself every time Momo or I get hurt. If you do, you're not respecting our abilities as lieutenants of the Gotei Thirteen. You're not perfect, no one is. And no one who loves and cares about you wants you to be."
"Mother…" Pulling him into a hug, she kissed the top of his head. His hair sprang back into position after her lips pressed it down. "I don't want to lose you again."
"And I don't want to lose you. I love you, Toushiro, I always have. Even when you were just a little thing, nestled inside of me. We'll just trust each other, all right? Just like we always have."
"Yes," he said, choking back the emotion that threatened to clog his throat. Returning her hug, he rested his head briefly on her shoulder. "What happened today was nothing like what happened in the war but…"
"But you didn't know I was your mother back then, not until the end. Let's go. I'll fix you a cup of that tea you like. I think there are still some cookies left in the kitchen too."
"You didn't make them, did you?"
"Brat," she said, knowing he thought her sense of taste was odd. "We good?" she asked, draping an arm around his shoulders. At least he wasn't too tall for her to do that yet.
"Yes, we're good," he answered. He tried shrugging off her arm but wasn't successful. Several shinigami sighed and whispered how cute they looked as they made their way back to their division.
"That's my boy. So, why don't you tell me about your last date with Momo."
"I think not."
"Ah, you weren't doing anything you shouldn't have, were you?"
"No!" he denied quickly, flushing at the thought of what she was alluding to.
"You were!" she teased, glad to see his frown. His annoyance was much easier to handle than his sadness.
"Mother!" he shouted and had to listen to her laughter all the way back to the office. No matter how their relationship changed, some things would remain the same. Rangiku Matsumoto would always know how to get his goat.
That was just an ability unique to mothers.