Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Bleach.

Author's Notes: Just a little vignette. Ichigo/Rukia.

And Miles To Go

Rukia had a cold.

It had started with a slight flush of her cheeks and an extra shine to her eyes during their morning classes. She didn't talk much, something that piqued Ichigo's curiosity and made him bait her until she snapped at him hoarsely, her hand going to her throat. After that it had been all down hill.

After vehemently denying that she had a puny human cold, Rukia had stalked home by herself, irritated with his attempts to tease her. By the time he caught up to her she was sitting on the edge of the sidewalk in the midst of a coughing fit. It had been on the tip of his tongue to yell at her for overexerting herself when she was sick, but then she looked up at him with those big dark eyes and he had felt that annoying sense of protectiveness that sometimes crept up on him when she was near. Damn those puppy eyes.

Growling with aggravation, he offered her a drink from his water bottle, silently steadying it for her as she tried to swallow between coughs. When she was finished, he knelt in front of her, offering her his back.

"Get on."

Her look was a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. "Ichigo…"

He cut her off impatiently. "Don't be stupid, Rukia. At this rate you'll be unconscious by the time we get home and I'm not dragging your limp body up the stairs." He turned his head slight to regard her with one narrowed, brown eye. "Now get on."

Rukia grumbled under her breath but she clamored on, elbowing him purposefully in the ribs as she linked her arms around his neck like a child. He stood smoothly, hooking his own arms under her knees as he straightened, finding that her slight weight impeded him not at all. She was as small as his sisters, although he would never associate the word "delicate" with the almost fearless shinigami who faced Hollows with nothing but her will and some weakened magic.

The walk home was surprisingly peaceful, something Ichigo knew would not have been possible if Rukia hadn't been ill. About halfway there, her head wearily descended to his shoulder as she slipped into a restless nap, her breathing soft and shallow near his ear. He thought about waking her up after the fifth guy smiled knowingly at him and flashed him a victory sign, but then thought better of it. After all, there really wasn't anything wrong with them thinking she was his girlfriend. Nothing wrong about it at all.

By the time he got home he was tired and, although he would never admit it out loud, a little worried. Rukia had never been this quiet in her life and it was starting to grate on his nerves.

He managed to make it into his room without anyone noticing them. Carefully, he let Rukia fall back onto his bed, turning to watch her with a frown as her eyes fluttered open briefly, blurrily.

"I feel bad," she said, obviously a little disorientated.

"You look it," he retorted before he could stop himself. Instead of yelling at him indignantly though, she simply smiled and closed her eyes again.

Alright, now she had done it. He was officially worried.

Which was why he now found himself sitting wrapped up in a blanket next to his own bed, faithfully watching his partner sleep, her small body dwarfed by the sheets he had covered her with, lips parted slightly as she breathed. She had managed to drink some chicken broth before falling asleep, a cool cloth pressed against her forehead to ward off fever. She coughed every now and then but seemed at ease, her fingers curled around his pillow.

As for Ichigo, he hadn't been able to sleep at all, and not because the floor wasn't all that comfortable. He just found that whenever he closed his eyes, thoughts of her would start bouncing around in his skull, driving him mad. Damn, even when she was asleep she was still nagging at him.

Heh. Well, it wasn't so bad really. After this she would owe him. The thought made him smile.

He was still smiling when she woke a few hours before dawn, eyes clear and the realization that she was in his bed settling over her like one of his warm blankets.

"Thank you," she said, and he silently cursed. He really was a complete sucker for those eyes.

"You're welcome," he replied gruffly, and meant it. "Now move over."

The End.