Summary: 'We can't pay our bills, everyone in this godforsaken town hates us, yer RA's gettin' worse by the day…but I love you in a way that is soul-sucking and undying and illegal in twenty states, so let's try and make this work, yeah?' AU, Yaoi

Warnings: AU, Yaoi, Lemon, some heavy gay bashing due to nameless OC's (I'm not kidding about this, I even surprised myself when I wrote it), language, violence.

Blue Collar Angel I



For Firefly, the only person I'll probably ever be able to show this to in real life. You're awesome, babe.

You've never seen the lonely me at all.

"I'm sorry, Ichigo, but we're going to have to let you go."

Everyone dreads those words, right? They're even worse than the infamous 'we need to talk', and in the back of his mind, Ichigo knew it had been coming for a while now, but that still didn't stop from his heart cracking a little bit when he heard them.

It wasn't like he really cared about the job, it was actually pretty awful, but he desperately needed it, needed the pitiful income it provided. So much so that he tried his hardest to hide the fact that slowly but surely his hands had lost most of their mobility.

How was he going to tell the love of his life that he had lost his job, that now they would be struggling more than ever? How could he face the man that saved him more ways and times than he could count and confess that he had failed the both of them?

Ichigo closed his eyes, exhaling harshly, his breath visible in the cold December air. He wrapped his arms around himself as he walked past Hanging Dog's only grocery store, ignoring the stares and disapproving frowns being sent his way. He didn't care.

There was only one person he could bring himself to be concerned about.

He stopped at the corner of the sidewalk, looking up at the heavy, light gray sky filled with clouds that blocked the pure blue heavens. Scowling, Ichigo lowered his gaze to stare across the street where a very familiar neon sign flickered and he couldn't help but smile just the slightest bit.

Yeah, just one person.

As the only openly gay man in the pathetically small town of Hanging Dog, Ichigo had a rough time looking for work after high school. He didn't have the money to pay for college, and combine that with the fact that he was gay, very few employers had even given him the time of day. But Ichigo wasn't ever going to pretend that he was something he wasn't, he had spent far too long coming to terms with the fact that he was gay himself. He had been bullied incessantly in school after he had come out, kicked out of his family home by his own so-called father, mugged, beaten, humiliated, shunned, you name it.

That was how he had met the angel-faced, blue-haired man that had become his salvation.

It had been right after the end of high school, a warm, muggy night in June. Ichigo had been living in the only motel in the entire town with what little money he had on him that some kind, distant relatives had sent to him for his graduation. After the ceremony he hadn't been allowed to participate in because his presence might cause a 'disturbance'. And yet, somehow, the tormentors he had gone to school with, that he had foolishly thought he would never see again after he left the wretched institution, had found out where he was and apparently they had realized their own lives were actually quite boring and decided to seek him out for entertainment.

He had been walking down the hallway of the motel, a small bag of fast-food in his hand, when he heard someone whistling behind him. Ichigo had paused, turning slowly on his heel to look over his shoulder at three former classmates of his, all with cruel sneers on their faces, a malevolent glint in their usually dull eyes.

Ichigo bit his lip, his eyes flitting down the hallway, determining whether or not making a run for it was worth the effort. Don't misunderstand, he wasn't a coward by any means, but he was just so tired of fighting.

The three young men (whom he never bothered to learn the names of) licked their lips in anticipation, one clenching and unclenching his burly fists. When one of them, one that Ichigo knew to be absolutely ruthless, as he had almost sent the orangette to the emergency room in his sophomore year, took a step forward, Ichigo's feet moved before his brain could contemplate what was happening.

He felt the bag of fast-food, his dinner, drop from his grasp as he bolted down the carpeted hallway. One of his hands went to his back pocket to feel for his room key, the thin piece of plastic a comforting feeling between his fingers as he pulled it out. Ichigo could hear the heavy thuds of the footsteps of the three guys behind him and he picked up his pace.

Room number seven was all the way at the end of the hallway, and Ichigo was just passing the second door.

"'ey, faggot! Slow down, we just wanna talk!" one's jeering laughter echoed down the hallway. It hurt Ichigo's ears as it reverberated off the paint chipped walls and he nearly stumbled over a part in the carpeting. But he could see the door to his room now; he was just passing room number six.

His hands shook and he fumbled with the room key, slamming up against the door as he tried to slide the piece of plastic into the thin slot. A sudden muscle spasm in his fingers had him swearing loudly as the movement caused the key to plummet to the floor. Of course his RA would act up now of all times.

Ichigo collapsed to the ground, groping around for the room key, but he knew it was already too late as a foot came into his vision, smashing into the side of his face and snapping his head back as the rest of his body followed, his back hitting the carpeted floor with a dull thud and all of his breath leaving him in one gasp.

The one that had kicked him in the face placed the same foot on his chest, simultaneously holding him down and callously cutting off his air supply. But Ichigo had learned a thing or two from being attacked so frequently. Reaching out with both hands, he grabbed the man's thick ankle and foot and twisted, making the other stumble back and swear loudly at the sudden pain.

However, as soon as the pressure on his chest was relieved, a hand fisted in his shirt pulling him upwards onto unsteady feet where he was thrown against the door, one of the man's faces leaning in far too close to his. Ichigo could smell the reek of alcohol and slightly metallic, sweet marijuana, making his stomach churn at the sickening scent. He grabbed the man's wrist with both hands, but the grip on his shirt was like iron.

"Fuckin' homo, ya think you're all that, huh?" the man brought Ichigo forward and then slammed him back up against the motel door, the back of his head taking most of the blow, making his vision swim. He could feel the man press up against him and he thought he would retch what little was in his stomach from the pain and the disgust at the physical contact.

"Ya know, yer kind of pretty, too bad I ain't into gay ass faggots like you."

The other two chuckled darkly, one of them cracking his neck and knuckles. Ichigo narrowed his eyes and gathered up as much saliva in his mouth as he could before spitting at the man holding him's face. Growling, the man wiped the spit off with the back of his hand and kneed Ichigo in the gut, making the orangette groan in distress and nearly double over. Ichigo coughed a little, trying to regain the air he had lost from the blow. He felt completely helpless. He wasn't weak, wasn't afraid, but he knew he couldn't take on the three and win.

What was the point, anyway? Maybe he should just hope that they would take mercy on him and rough him up enough that he died. Then he wouldn't have to live this worthless, miserable life anymore.

"I'd bet ya like that, huh? Ya fuckin' fairy, ya'd love it if I fucked you in tha ass!"The man's laughter was harsh and grating and spiteful. Ichigo closed his eyes against the sound.

He didn't want to be there, he didn't want to be alive.

But then there was a loud bang, as if a door had been thrown open and it hit the wall, and the man's laughter was suddenly cut off with a grunted strangling sound. The grip on the front of Ichigo's shirt loosened and he felt himself fall to the ground, his eyes snapping open and his vision suddenly assaulted with blue.

"The fuck do you think yer doin'?" The newcomer's voice was rough velvet, like nothing Ichigo had ever heard before. It was like the voice of an avenging angel, a savior, his savior. As Ichigo's gazed flitted over the man who had interfered, he saw that he physically fit the description too, even from his profile. He was more beautiful than any of the angels that Ichigo had seen in the many holy texts that had been shoved at him in the many attempts to 'save' his soul.

His clothes weren't much, a red plaid flannel shirt that had been left completely unbuttoned to reveal a ripped abdomen and flawless tawny, bronzed skin, and shredded jeans that looked to be stained with oil. Ichigo also noticed that the man's unbelievably blue hair was mussed and he was barefoot and there was a slight flush of dark pink across the man's perfect cheekbones and straight nose, his cyan eyes bright, like he had just awoken from a deep sleep.

This divine being had saved him? Him? It had to be some kind of cruel joke.

The angel currently had one hand wrapped around his most vocal attacker's throat and with a quick glance down, Ichigo confirmed that the man's feet were barely touching the ground as he tried to pry at the hand on his neck, but to no avail.

The other two seemed to snap out of their stupor at seeing someone attack their friend with such speed and they simultaneously snarled unimpressively. One went to sucker punch the angel in the back of the head, but with unrivaled grace, he stepped out of the way, throwing the man he had been holding up by the throat to the ground and catching his assailant in the gut with a solid kick, sending him to the floor along with his buddy. Ichigo's jaw dropped at the sight. He had never seen anyone move like that.

Before the other could react, he was lifted off of his feet by the angel's grip on his collar and pulled in so close to that perfect face that Ichigo actually found himself a little jealous.

"The next time I see ya, I won't be so nice, got it?" His voice was low and quiet, but in no means soft. The man in his grip didn't say anything, just stared with wide eyes and when he continued to do just that, Ichigo's eyes dropped to see that the man had wet himself. Apparently, the angel had noticed that too because he laughed loudly and released the man so that he fell on his backside beside his two friends, who were still groaning in agony.

His laughter was a little sadistic, condescending and very beautiful, like the sound of a broken church bell.

But apparently one of them, the one whom had been taunting Ichigo, still didn't understand that he was far outmatched.

"You ain't nothin'," he slurred, getting up onto his hands and knees. But the comment only earned him the angel's foot on the small of his back, slamming him back into the carpeted floor with a loud grunt. The other two scrambled up onto their feet, looking at each other briefly before bolting down the hallway, causing the angel to chuckle dryly.

"Tha' so?" he leaned forward so that his elbow rested on the knee of the leg that was holding the man down. "Ya think beatin' on people 'cause they're different make you somethin'? Huh?"

Ichigo's head swam and he took several deep breaths, unbelieving of what he was seeing. Was his savior really saying what he thought he was saying, the very words that had wanted to spill from his own mouth so many times?

The man didn't answer, mostly because the foot on his back limited his speech and breathing capacity. He just continued to wheeze, his already mottled face turning red.

"Tch, pathetic," the angel sneered, removing his foot from the man's back and giving him one last kick in the ribs before stepping away. He just grunted in pain and rolled over, passing out, the alcohol and whatever else he had consumed that night catching up with him.

"You okay?"

It took Ichigo a minute to realize that his savior was talking to him, but he didn't respond, just stared up at the beautiful blunette with stunned fawn-brown eyes. He vaguely registered that he should say something and his lips parted, but nothing came out. He felt frozen in place just from having those sapphire eyes on him. The angel crouched down so that he was level with Ichigo, a frown daring to mar his divine face, but his eyes were soft as they surveyed the orangette.

"You should probably put somethin' on that," he said and Ichigo felt like his heart would burst forth from his chest as one of his savior's hands reached out to brush along his cheekbone, the skin red from the impact of his attacker's foot and already swelling rapidly. The blunette's fingertips were surprisingly smooth as they slid across Ichigo's cheek and he felt his eyelids flutter a little bit. He may just faint.

"Come on, then," the angel said, shaking his head, a small smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. He then wrapped an arm around Ichigo's lithe waist, helping him to his slightly quaking legs. His touch was gentle, and his words were whispered and soft, so unlike what he had just displayed moments ago. Ichigo felt his hands clutch onto the man's opened shirt like it was the only solid thing in the world as he leaned into the other's broader frame. He hadn't been touched in any somewhat comforting way in so long, not since he was a small child and his mother had passed away.

He had been attacked, beaten, so many times, more times than he could count. It was a fact of life for him, something he had grown used to over the years. But never had anyone stood up for him, interfered on his behalf.

No one had ever saved him.

They walked through the room adjacent from Ichigo's, which led the smaller man to realize that it had been the door to this room that had been thrown open, obviously when the other had come to his defense just a few minutes ago. It gave him a warm, sweet ache in the center of his chest, completely foreign and yet wonderful.

His savior led him to the queen-sized bed in the motel room that was identical to the one Ichigo had been staying in the past few days. The only difference was there was a collection of empty beer bottles by the small television set and several cigarette buds in the ashtray. The bed's sheets were mussed, one of the pillows resting on the floor right beside the foot of the frame.

Ichigo felt cold as the blunette's arm left his waist as he was sat on the edge of the bed, missing the other's seemingly unnatural warmth and he shivered slightly as he watched the man trod over to the mini-refrigerator that was beside the TV and opened it to retrieve two amber beer bottles, just like the ones that littered the room.

"Sorry, don't have anythin' else, but it should be cold enough," the angel said as he handed one of the bottles to Ichigo. The orangette looked up to the other man with a confused expression written across his face, whose lips twitched upwards into a small smile, giving Ichigo a glimpse of a sharp canine. The man then took the bottle out of Ichigo's hand, pressing it where his tormentor's boot had come into contact with his face. He cocked an eyebrow in amusement as Ichigo flushed with embarrassment.

The heated, inflamed skin immediately felt better as the cold glass was pressed against it and the smaller man automatically sighed in relief, bringing his hand up to hold it on his own. Ichigo felt a modest twinge of disappointment as the angel-faced man pulled away to sit on the only chair the motel provided in the room. There was a moment of silence as he gazed into blue diamond eyes that turned slightly guilty.

"Sorry, I woulda gotten there earlier, but I was sleepin'."

Ichigo felt his jaw drop. His savior had already apologized twice and that was unacceptable.

"Thank you," he whispered breathily, the quiet of the room making his soft voice reverberate in his ear, his pure gratitude seeping into the two words with all the rapture and desperation of a dying man's prayer. The blunette's eyes widened a little, taken aback by the sincerity in Ichigo's thanks, then his perfect, Cupid's bow mouth thinned into a narrow line, his cyanic eyes turning hard, like they had in the hallway.

"Tha' happens a lot, huh?" he asked, his voice sounding a little strained. Ichigo flinched a little, his gaze then dropping to the ground, a little ashamed of his answer as he nodded.

"Why? Just 'cause yer-"

"Just because I'm gay."

The resentment and bitterness and unfiltered hatred in Ichigo's voice surprised even him. He shifted a little on the edge of the bed, feeling a little uncomfortable as he looked back up to see the other man staring at him with an intense expression, as if he was trying to see straight into his soul. It was terrifying…and breathtaking.

No one had ever made him feel like this, and he had known this man for about ten minutes. Granted, it had been a pretty eventful ten minutes.

"Christ, kid…," the blunette scrubbed a hand over his beautiful face, as if trying to find the right words. "I'm-"

"Don't," Ichigo demanded. "Don't say you're sorry."

The other man's left, thin, blue eyebrow rose a little, but after a second he nodded firmly and for that Ichigo was grateful. His savior seemed to understand what he meant. That he was the only person that should never have to say he was sorry to Ichigo. Another moment of silence passed.

"Ya hungry?" the blunette asked suddenly, rising from his chair to walk back over to the mini-fridge. Ichigo was about to protest when his stomach seemed to speak for him, grumbling loudly. He actually hadn't had a decent meal in a while, and the food he had dropped on the ground in the hallway had been the only thing he could afford to buy that day…

The other man chuckled a little and withdrew what looked like a Chinese take-out box, opening it and sniffing it a bit, before passing it over to Ichigo, the scent of what seemed to be chicken lo-mein wafting out of the box. It smelled so good.

"You can have tha' or-"

But Ichigo was already tipping the box back, the contents of cold noodles and chicken spilling into his mouth. He made a pleasured sound as he chewed eagerly on the delicious food. He had forgotten just how good take-out could be…

"Jesus kid, I was gonna offer ta warm it up first," his savior said, tone dripping with mirth. Ichigo paused mid-chew, lowering the box of now half-eaten lo-mein to his lap and slurping up a noodle that was dangling from his lips. A blossom pink flush spread across the crest of his nose and cheekbones as embarrassment set in. The other man just shook his head a bit at the younger's actions, a grin crossing his face allowing Ichigo to view a perfect set of phosphorescently white, sharp teeth.

"Sorry," Ichigo mumbled, looking back up at the angel from underneath dark lashes.

"'Ey, if I'm not allowed to say tha', neither are you," his savior said seriously, but his eyes gleamed with amusement. Despite himself, Ichigo grinned a little at the gorgeous man, feeling a flutter somewhere in his abdomen. What was that?

The other then took the take-out box from his hands, their skin brushing ever so slightly, popping it into the portable microwave that sat on top of the miniature refrigerator. He punched in the numbers and then uncapped the beer that he still had in his hands with his teeth, spitting the metal cap out and onto the floor. Ichigo's eyes widened a little at the action, he had only ever seen people do that on television.

Ichigo fisted the material of his jeans, looking around the room and feeling the slightest bit awkward. This strange blue-haired (beautiful) man was practically a stranger to him, and here he was sitting in a motel room with him. He wondered if the blunette made it a habit to go rescuing damsels in distress like himself, or why the man was here in the first place. No one visited this bumfuck town in the middle of nowhere to vacation there.

Hah, maybe this divine creature was his guardian angel or something, wouldn't that just be hilarious?

Once the microwave beeped its announcement that the food was done, Ichigo was handed the half-empty take-out box once again, along with a plastic fork and, surprisingly, a can of diet soda. At his questioning glance, the other man just replied "Ya don't look like the drinkin' type."

But as his angel-face savior sat down in the chair once more, taking a long pull on the bottle of beer in his large hand, Ichigo could only stare down at the food and the soda. He felt that the bottle he was still holding to his face was as cold as ever, effectively numbing the pain.

"Aren't ya gonna eat? Ya seemed to be pretty hungry a minute ago," the other questioned, cocking an eyebrow. Ichigo lifted his toffee-flavored eyes to meet pools of warm blue ocean water, which narrowed as the man frowned. The orangette still said nothing as the man rose once more from his seat, muttering something about a 'concussion'.

The angel approached him, hands slightly raised in front of him and eyes still locked onto his. Ichigo felt fragile at that moment, and he didn't really know why, but he knew that if the other touched him, let him feel something he never had before, he would fall to pieces.

"Why?" he asked, his voice hoarse and thick. He felt the familiar sting of tears behind his eyes, making his mocha orbs look wet and innocent and delicate, all the things they weren't supposed to be. He had never been quite so undone before.

"Why what?"

"Why did you help me? Why did you-" Ichigo broke off to gesture at the bottle in his hand, the food in his lap. "Do all of this?" he finished. In return, his savior just smiled slightly, sadly, softly.

"I can't answer tha' until ya tell me one thing," he said. Ichigo nodded once in affirmation. The other didn't need to know that he would already do anything for him.

"How do ya know yer gay?"

Ichigo's brow furrowed in confusion, different emotions flitting through him. He opened his mouth to say something, only to be met with silence when he realized he didn't have anything to say. He wanted to look away from that questioning forever blue gaze but couldn't bring himself to.

"Have ya ever even kissed anyone before?"

For some reason he still couldn't fathom, Ichigo found himself unable to lie, so he just shook his head slowly, very, very aware that his savior was slowly coming ever so closer, his large hands on either side of his legs, splaying against the ghastly motel bedspread.

It was the truth, being the only man around for miles that was able to openly admit he was anything other than completely and utterly heterosexual had put a damper on Ichigo's romantic life. The only thing he had to go on whether or not he was attracted to males was the fact that it wasn't visions of soft, supple, womanly flesh that kept him awake at night, but rather taut, bronzed skin laying exquisitely over defined and broad muscles, like what was being displayed directly before him by the other man's still open shirt.

The blunette gently pulled Ichigo's hand away from his face, along with the beer bottle, and brushed his fingertips along the now chilled, but still slightly swollen flesh there. Ichigo was unable to contain his pleasured shudder as it ripped through him.

No one had ever touched him like this.

It was like something from a dream and it made Ichigo wary that he might soon wake to find that none of this had been real. And if that were to happen, he may just never recover.

But maybe he had finally snapped, his mind conjuring up visions of something he needed more than anything else. Maybe he was actually strapped up in a straightjacket somewhere, his eyes unseeing as the only reality lived on inside of his mind. If that was so, Ichigo never wanted to return to sanity, not ever.

"So, then how do ya know?" the other man's breath, cool and peppermint-scented, ran across Ichigo's face, fanning over each and every nearly invisible freckle that lay on his nose and cheekbones.

"I…I," Ichigo's voice sounded more like he was choking, gasping. He could barely form a coherent thought as the most beautiful face he had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes upon came even closer to his. It was almost too much and he felt his eyelids become heavy, like he was in a daze, hypnotized by the sweet colors of blue and bronzed skin.

The hand that had been on his cheek swept over to lay a thumb against his bottom lip, the pad brushing over the pink flesh. Ichigo felt his heart start to beat wildly, so hard and fast that he felt like it may give out at any moment.

"Hush," his savior whispered against his lips and then his eyes fell completely closed, and then…

And then the only pair of perfect lips that he would ever kiss were upon his own, barely there and they were soft and rough and scary and beautiful and amazing. It wasn't enough, that gentle touch and Ichigo then found himself pressing back with his own with all of the force he could gather in his compromised state, lifting his hands up to grip turquoise locks and hold the only ever person whom had ever made him feel like this even closer.

Broad, warm hands cupped his chin and then they slid down, one to the back of his neck and the other the small of his back. Ichigo had never felt like this, cherished, wanted, on fire, and when he felt a slick muscle lick at his lips for entrance, he didn't hesitate to part them. His angel savior tasted like peppermint and the rain and something he didn't have a name for.

It didn't occur to Ichigo that this was his first kiss and he barely knew what he was doing. It didn't matter, not at all. His tongue intertwined with the other man's, nearly pulling back when he felt a bit of cold metal before he realized it was a tongue piercing, which he had never thought could be so hot until that second. The blunette seemed to know what he was doing and mapped every inch of Ichigo's wet orifice with his tongue almost hungrily, but it was he who pulled back, gasping for air after what like forever and yet not nearly long enough.

Ichigo panted, opening his eyes and being engulfed by his savior's pure blue irises; it seemed that even the now dilated pupils were a deep navy rather than black. The other rested his forehead against his, their breath mixing together as they both gasped for air. It was the most intimate moment Ichigo had ever had and after a few moments of the only sound being their panting, the blunette spoke, his mouth quirking into an amused grin.

"Well, now ya know," he said softly, his thumb coming back up to trace over Ichigo's now kiss-swollen lips and somehow the orangette knew that he was answering both his own question and the one Ichigo had asked. He felt his heart do a back-flip in his chest at the realization. "Wha's yer name?" his savior questioned and Ichigo smiled slightly, a dry, quiet laugh escaping his lips.

"Ichigo," he said.

"Ichigo," his angel savior spoke the name like it was another language, a smirk appearing on his face. "I'm Grimmjow."

And then Ichigo knew the name of his avenging angel, his own personal piece of salvation.


As they say, and the rest was history. Ichigo fell for Grimmjow terrifyingly fast, if he hadn't already the first time he had ever laid eyes on the man. But he didn't doubt that his feelings were reciprocated. It was so cliché and strange and maybe a little sad, but they were all the other had in the entire world.

He learned soon after that first, fateful meeting that Grimmjow had actually grown up in the city, orphaned at a young age and he strayed onto the wayward path before he was even a teenager. He joined a gang, beat people up for money, rose in the ranks just by staying alive and being smarter than average. By the time he wanted out, wanted a normal life where he didn't have to worry about the several hits that were out on him and pleasing his superiors, he had become irreplaceable in the syndicate and was therefore forbidden to leave. So he left, obviously, traveled to the pitifully small towns on the outskirts, until he got Hanging Dog and then ran out of money.

Ichigo moved in with Grimmjow into the motel room the very next day after they met. A little rash, yes, but they both needed to save the money by only paying one fare. As an unknown man with blue hair, Grimmjow garnered a lot of attention whenever they went into the small town, especially together. Everyone learned not to mess with him, or Ichigo for that matter, when some guy asked if he knew that Ichigo was a faggot and would probably spread his legs for any man in the place and then ended up on the floor with a broken jaw, the blunette breathing fire above him. Another patron in the restaurant they had been in at the time had been impressed and offered Grimmjow a position at the steel mill, based on brute strength alone.

Two months after they had first met, Ichigo and Grimmjow were able to rent out a nice, but awfully small one-bedroom house on the outskirts of town. A month after that, Ichigo had landed a job at the same steel mill where Grimmjow worked, in the offices doing secretarial work (not that he was in the lobby, of course, because then people could see that the company had a gay working for them.)

Four years of mounting debt due to their pitiful income, glares and taunts from the townspeople that tried to run them out or 'save' them every chance they got, and Ichigo's worsening rheumatoid arthritis in his hands later and they were still together, in that small house in the same small town.

There were things Ichigo would change, his condition for one as it had just caused him to lose probably the only job he would ever be able to get, and the fact that because Grimmjow was his boyfriend the man would only ever be able to work as a steel mill physical laborer despite his potential, and that they were always constantly worrying about being evicted or having their water shut off and going without food for a couple of days (which would now be even worse considering Ichigo was now walking home with his pink slip.)

But…Ichigo wouldn't a change a thing if it meant not being with Grimmjow. The man had saved him, both literally and figuratively, and that was something he would never forget as long as he lived.

Ichigo walked along the path to their house, shivering a little inside his warm jacket, the chilled air whipping across his face and he pulled his hood up with shaking hands. He clasped his hands together, feeling the soft texture of the costly, lined gloves Grimmjow had insisted they buy for him as the cold made his RA ten times worse. He had protested at first, but had given up after his boyfriend had refused to back down. He wouldn't deny that he was grateful though, that someone in this world cared about him enough to skip breakfast a few days in a row to make sure that his hands wouldn't ice over.

He jogged up the steps to the tiny porch of their house, pulling out his key to let himself inside. He wanted nothing more than to go take a nice, warm bath and perhaps nap for once in his life before Grimmjow came home and he had to tell him the news that he had lost his job.

Holding his key to the doorknob, he tried to fit the small metal key into the thin slot, already frustrated when he kept missing because his hands were shaking too badly. Cursing under his breath as the muscles in his hands cramped and pain shot up his arms as he tried to force his fingers and thumbs to work properly. However, he became a little overzealous in his frustration and the metal slid on the slick fabric of his gloves and the key clattered to the ground, slipping in between the wooden slats of the porch.

Letting out a little huff of disbelief that crystallized in the cold air, Ichigo dropped to his knees, trying to see underneath the wooden slats for the key. But it was of no use, it was too dark under the porch and he had no flashlight. He briefly wondered if he could crawl under the porch to grab the key, but then he remembered the thing was built into the foundation and was solid cement on all sides.

The wind blew at him from the north, pushing his hood back and revealing bright tangerine hair that had grown too long as Grimmjow was awful at cutting anybody else's hair but his own and Ichigo could no longer hold scissors properly. The burst of wind seemed to make the day colder and he shuddered, sitting back onto his heels and reaching for his phone.

But who would he call? He didn't know anyone that would actually come and help him except for Grimmjow, and he couldn't call him. He couldn't be any more of a burden than he already was.

Sighing heavily, Ichigo leaned his head against the doorframe and stretched his legs out in front of him. He felt so tired, he had been barely getting five hours of sleep ever since he had started working for the steel mill, as the owner liked for him to come in early and leave late so that no 'disturbances' would happen, not to mention it seemed he liked to squeeze all of the work he could out of the orangette as he could for the least amount of money. Perhaps that had been the man's incentive to hire him in the first place.

Closing his eyes, he tucked his jacket closer to him, letting blessed unconsciousness fall over his mind like a soft blanket.


It must have been several hours later that Ichigo opened his eyes as his vision was bleary and there was an unpleasant film in his mouth. He felt frozen stiff, his joints aching as he moved the slightest bit and then he became aware of the fact that there was something on his face.

Blinking his eyes a few times, blue swam into his vision and then he realized that the something on his face were two gloved hands on either side, the thumbs brushing over his cheekbones.

"Grimmjow?" he croaked as his boyfriend's face, still perfect and beautiful after all these years finally came into focus, his sapphire eyes wild.

"Shit," the bigger man breathed. "Ya had me fuckin' scared to death, ya know that? Why tha hell are you on the porch, did somethin' happen?"

Ichigo's now numb lips spread into a small smile. After all these years and Grimmjow was still so concerned, he never expected that would change, either.

"Key," he said, leaning into Grimmjow, who was kneeling over him, a foot on either side of his legs. He sighed in relief as his face hit the skin of his boyfriend's exposed neck. For some reason, Grimmjow was always warm, like a human furnace.

"Ya lost it?" Grimmjow's confused, husky voice made his chest vibrate against Ichigo's, the latter loving the feeling.

"No, dropped it. Fell under the porch," Ichigo answered, his voice gaining an edge to it as he remembered just how he had dropped it and why he had been home so early in the first place. He pulled back to look at Grimmjow when the man didn't say anything only to see blue eyes looking at him with sadness in the aquatic depths.

He hated that look.

"Why didn't ya call me?" Grimmjow asked, brow furrowing.

"'S okay, I've only been here twenty minutes and I knew you were coming home soon," Ichigo lied, ineffectively it would seem as the blunette cocked an eyebrow at him. He sighed, giving up. "I didn't want to bother you."

Grimmjow just shook his head; something he'd never stopped doing in response to Ichigo's antics ever since they had first met. He wrapped his arms around the smaller man, one around his shoulders and the other underneath his knees and stood slowly. Ichigo frowned heavily, glaring up at his boyfriend with agitated toffee eyes.

"Come on, ya know ya like it," Grimmjow teased, unlocking the door with ease and carrying Ichigo over the threshold bridal style, where he set him down on his feet, moving to the kitchen. Ichigo walked over to the leather, plush loveseat that was their only piece of furniture in the living room besides the television set and floor lamp and flopped down in it, his stiff joints protesting at the movement but then relaxing as he reclined into the comfortable seat.

Grimmjow came back into the room, now coat, hat, and glove-less. He was holding a very familiar white tube in one of his hands and Ichigo groaned at the sight of it, causing his boyfriend to smirk as he sat next to him, his broader frame taking up the rest of the space on the love seat.

"Stop whinin', ya know it makes ya feel better," Grimmjow teased, taking Ichigo's hands into his own as he pulled off the younger man's gloves. He inhaled sharply when Ichigo's knuckles, bright red and swollen, were revealed.

"But it smells so bad," Ichigo whined, determined to lighten the mood. It didn't work however, as Grimmjow popped open the cap on the tube and then worked the fragrant salve into Ichigo's hands, rubbing the substance in gently. It was such an odd sight, seeing Grimmjow's hands, large and broad and tanned, with calluses and scars from all the years of steel mill work, doing something so tender.

Ichigo sighed in relief, mostly for Grimmjow's benefit, as the salve's numbing agent started to work and he flexed his fingers a few times, fighting the urge to wince as pain shot up his arms. He let out a shaky breath, burrowing his head once more into the crook of Grimmjow's neck, placing a soft kiss on the smooth skin there. Sometimes when he was feeling especially down, this was the only thing that made him feel better. Well, that and other things.

Grimmjow, somehow sensing his disheartened mood, threaded his fingers through Ichigo's tangerine shoulder-length locks, resting his chin on the top of his boyfriend's head. Ichigo nearly purred at the feeling of Grimmjow's hand in his hair, he loved it when he did that. It almost seemed that they could forget everything if they just stayed like that forever. Ichigo was willing to try.

"I'll get ya out of tha' office soon, then ya can go to school like ya've been wanting ta," Grimmjow murmured against Ichigo's hair. The orangette had to fight the urge to roll his eyes at his love's idealistic talk and swallow past the knot that had formed in his throat at the words. He didn't know what he had ever done to deserve someone like Grimmjow, but he was damn grateful.

Determined to get it over and done with, Ichigo pulled back from Grimmjow's warm embrace to give a small, sad smile to the blunette. The look in his caramel-coffee eyes apparently alerted the other man to the fact that something was amiss, leading him to frown in confusion and apprehension, wrinkles appearing on Grimmjow's normally flawless forehead. Ichigo reached out to brush the few strands of turquoise hair that had fallen out of place per usual and smoothed slightly trembling fingers over the lines.

"Well, you don't have to worry about that now," he whispered, biting down on his lower lip. Grimmjow's frown deepened.

"And why's that?"

"I got laid off today," Ichigo answered simply, dropping his gaze and his hands to his lap as a wave of shame crashed over him. "Said my typing was too slow now and that no one could read my handwriting."

Silence sat heavily in the air for a few moments, before Ichigo looked back up to see that Grimmjow was no longer looking at him, but to the side, fists clenched on his knees so tightly that Ichigo could see the veins in his boyfriend's wrists straining against the skin.

"Goddamnit," he swore under his breath, making Ichigo feel positively suffocated as the guilt pressed down on him. It was all of his fault that now they would be struggling more than ever now, as they had been barely getting by before and now their income was cut in half.

"I'll find something else, I promise," Ichigo tried to convince himself just as much, if not even more so, as Grimmjow. His tone was on the verge of desperation and he reached forward to clutch onto the blunette's work shirt, subconsciously pulling him closer. "I'm sorry."

Before he could even register that the words had come out of his mouth, Grimmjow's hand seized his chin in a blurred movement, forcing the smaller man to look up into eyes that were terrifyingly blue. A million different emotions flitted about in their depths and it made Ichigo dizzy, but he didn't dare try to pull away. He didn't want to.

"Wha's the rule about apologies in this house?" Grimmjow's voice was low and stern, like a father reprimanding his child. It made Ichigo shiver involuntarily. Seriously, it should be a sin, what his lover's voice alone did to him, even after all these years. Despite the fact that the man still had a tight grip on his chin, Ichigo grinned, reciting the words that had become law in their relationship in the past four years.

"If I say sorry, you'll give me something to be sorry for."

"Hn. That's right," Grimmjow smirked, the expression like black on satin, like red on velvet. Meant to be. "But tha's fer later."

His boyfriend loosened his hold, giving a pat to the side of Ichigo's face, but then the light-hearted moment was over as reality sunk in once more. The reprieve never lasted long anyway. A minute passed before Grimmjow spoke.

"Maybe I should go-"

"No," Ichigo said firmly, effectively cutting off the nonsense that Grimmjow had been about to say. The idea of him leaving Ichigo to back to the city, work his way back to his old position and send the orangette money from there. And it wasn't even the fact that he would be alone once more that made Ichigo so opposed to the idea, it was that the mere thought of Grimmjow being in peril, in danger that made him sick to his stomach. That was why the man had left the city in the first place, to get away from all of that. The notion that his savior would give up his relatively peaceful life for one filled with gunshots and blood and death and for him had Ichigo feeling faint every time he thought on it.

"Grimm," his voice sounded unsure, fragile, and he hated it, but the man in front of him was the only one who would ever see him like this, ever. "What are we going to do?"

Grimmjow leaned forward, closing the small space between them so that their foreheads touched and brought his warm, broad hands to rest on Ichigo's upper arms, thumbs moving in soothing circles.

"Well, we can't pay our bills, everyone in this godforsaken town hates us, and yer RA's getting's worse by the day…" he trailed off, leaving Ichigo to blink up at him with confused toffee eyes, until unexpectedly, Grimmjow's lips pressed against his in a way that was familiar and still made his heart beat violently. After a few seconds, the blunette pulled away, breathing his next words against Ichigo's mouth. "But I love you in a way that is soul-sucking and undying and illegal in twenty states…so let's make this work, yeah?"

Ichigo could only nod, not really trusting his voice after the uncharacteristic, impassioned confession from his lover. Grimmjow just smiled, his diamond blue eyes gleaming with a bit of amusement and what Ichigo had come to realize was something he had never expected to look at him with. Love.

"Now, go put on something nice," Grimmjow leered, winking once before letting his hand slide down Ichigo's back to give him a firm slap on the rear, making the smaller man jolt in surprise, narrowing now suspicious fawn-brown eyes at the blue-haired man. Obviously Grimmjow had just had some sort of idea…

"Why?" he asked, leaning away from the now manic look in his boyfriend's eyes.

"I'm takin' ya out to dinner."

A/N: Yeah…so this idea has been fermenting in my mind for weeks now, and I've really been wanting to write it. It was supposed to be a one-shot, but turned into a monstrous one, and now it's a short story, meaning like four or five chapters. Ah, thanks for sticking with me while I try to get out of my writing slump. AND YES, the good part is in the next chapter. :)

Well, hope you guys liked this one and thank you for reading! I just realized I always make Grimmjow such a hero in my writing…eh, what can I say? I love him as one. :D

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I also hope I didn't offend anyone with the crass language and attitude towards gay people in this, but it's a fact of life, yeah? :( Also, not all people in small towns are mean and hate gay men and women. I didn't mean to give anyone that impression either, it just worked for this little story. Ah, and I do not have RA nor do I know anyone with the condition, so my apologies if I didn't portray it correctly.

Oh, and I figured I may have to put this in here for anyone unfamiliar with the term.

Blue Collar: a term we use here in the United States to refer to a person who does physical labor for minimum wage. We also use this to refer to places or things that such people may associate with. Sometimes it's used as a degrading term, as it usually means the person is underprivileged and uncultured and therefore not worthwhile. It's different from the Japanese term "Blue-collar worker".

Quote is from the song "Without You, I'm Nothing" by Placebo, which is an incredible song that you should all go listen to right now.