note: Yeeeeeeees, first time doing ichiruki fluff. I hope I did alright-this pairing certainly deserves my best. Takes place some time after the current manga chapters, definitely spoilers up until 459. Also, who sucks at titles? I suck at titles!

cold hands, warm eyes

She was dressed in their summer uniform.

Ichigo raised an eyebrow, "Oi, you do know it's going to be cold, don't you?"

Rukia scowled, "I left before I could get a winter uniform, idiot. So unless you want me to go in my Shihakusho, then this is what I'm wearing."

He shrugged and muttered something about being stupid and feeling free to catch her death from colds, but before they left—she through the window like usual, a habit that she'd never gotten rid of even after two years and seventeen months apart—he took the trouble to dig out one of his old jackets from the back of the closet anyways, dropping it over her head without ceremony.

Rukia spluttered, and Ichigo watched, amused, as she struggled to untangle herself from the heavy jacket.

After a few seconds and a lot of indignant noises, Ichigo finally did it for her with an off-handed, "How'd such a clumsy person got to be a vice-captain, I'll never know."

She glared at him, but there was no real reproach and his voice had held no real venom—she knew he was proud of her, just like he knew when it was the other way around without their ever having to come right out and say it. They both knew each other better than that.

"I can still kick your ass into the ground."

There were appearances to maintain, nonetheless.

He wouldn't let Rukia leave until she'd put on the jacket. Ichigo didn't know why, but he liked the way it looked on her, swallowing her small frame in dark fabric, coming down to mid-thigh even though it on him it was already small.

"Ichigo, I look ridiculous."

He huffed, "You always do, anyways."

Expertly dodging the swipe she took at his head, he rolled his eyes, "C'mon, let's go. I'm not gonna be late again because of you."

The walk to school was quiet. He still shortened his strides for her, and they still walked side by side, but seventeen months was a long time, and her newly shorn hair was testament to that. Ichigo felt like they had to learn their way around each other again;the old ease still remained—they could still read each other as easily as the last time they parted—but now it was tinged with a new kind of tension.

Ichigo snuck a casual glance at Rukia from the corner of his eye. Her face was downcast, her spine ramrod straight. Her hands gripped her bag with white-knuckled strength.

His eyes widened, surprised; maybe he wasn't the only one who felt like something had changed.

It was early morning, and the winter-sun had just risen. He'd just gotten his shinigami powers back and Rukia was walking with him to school. Those simple facts gave Ichigo the courage he needed to clear his throat roughly and say first, "Rukia, it's ok if you feel weird. I feel kinda weird too—I mean it's been a while and things have changed and—"

A flush crept up his neck as he spoke, but even as he grew more horrified, Ichigo found himself powerless to stop the word vomit, "—you know everything's kinda different now and you don't have to stay at my house if you're uncomfortable, and there're Hollows to worry about and—"

"What the hell are you raving on about?" Rukia's bewildered voice cut him short, and Ichigo was surprised when he looked down and found nothing more than confusion blanketing her features.

He flushed harder, "Never mind."

Rukia's expression softened, "Everyone changes, Ichigo, and you of all people should know that that is alright. We will simply learn these new differences, and adapt. At the heart of it we are still the same people—you're still a loud, brash idiot, and I will still always have to come running after you." There was a wicked grin on her face by the time she finished, a smile that he remembered seeing on her face so many times in the past.

He quickly looked away again and mumbled something about that's not the way I remembered it, midget.

In response Rukia…sneezed. "I never got why your uniforms had such damnably short skirts."

Ichigo turned to see her sniffling, nose red and looking tiny under his jacket. Her bag was slung haphazardly over one shoulder and she was futilely blowing into her cupped hands for warmth. Ah, so that's why she looked so uncomfortable, he thought dumbly. Well that—that he could solve.

Ichigo gave a dramatic huff, moving closer and taking her hands in his. Rukia watched him with wide eyes as he knelt in the middle of the sidewalk and rubbed heat and feeling back into her fingers. After a while she gave a sigh of contentment that made the tips of Ichigo's ears go pink, but he kept at it until her hands no longer felt like blocks of ice. He frowned; he'd need to get her a pair of gloves later.

He stood up, gripping her right hand for leverage, "Doesn't your zanpakuto specialize in ice? You should be used to the cold."

Rukia scowled, all traces of tenderness gone, "That's different! This is a gigai—haven't Urahara taught you anything?"

Ichigo only smiled, finally at ease even as she continued her tirade against unreliable gigais and cheapskate shopkeepers who didn't know the value of his best customers.

He held onto her hand the entire way to school.

note: Any feedback is loved!