A/N: "Three Strikes" provides a good prologue to this if you're interested in another short oneshot (with smut) and haven't read it already. Same characters. This one just takes place a little later, but it can also stand on it's own. Carry on.

Lines of Scrimmage
Love, Blondes, and Other Things More Complicated Than Football

In football, the line of scrimmage is an imaginary line over which no player can cross before the snap, which initiates each play; each team has their own line of scrimmage, and the two of them are separated by an open area of field known as the neutral zone.

Derik calls the play, and the team whoops accordingly before settling into place; Quan stares ahead through his faceguard, completely ignoring the bead of sweat forming at his hairline, and he makes himself stare down the opposing defense.

In personal relationships, there are all kinds of invisible lines, too: the line between complete strangers and vague acquaintances, the line between friendly acquaintances and casual friends, the line between good friends and best friends. Then there are teammates and drinking buddies, girl friends and girlfriends and girl friends with benefits and ex-girlfriends with benefits, and sometimes, as Quan is quickly discovering in exasperatingly head-over-heels fashion on a very personal level, there can be boy friends with benefits, too.

There goes the snap, the play is off, and—BAM!—is the impact of chest guards, shoulder guards and faceguards as hundreds of pounds of meat and muscle throw themselves against one another in a heavyweight's all out battle of the brawniest. At least he's used to this.

See, the thing is: football has rules. Everyone knows where all the lines are drawn, everyone knows when a play is initiated and what it is and what it means, and the 'neutral zone' is a very clearly defined area.

Relationships have rules too, sure, just with the minor secondary detail that no one necessarily knows what they are. Or, possibly worse, some people think they do, but then they change them at will, or ignore them completely. And in personal relationships, the invisible lines move, changing sporadically without warning.

Sometimes they aren't even straight.

Sometimes they're squiggly or broken or twirl off in wild curlicues depending on the time of day or the day of the week or the number of Cheerios you ate that morning for breakfast. Sometimes 'plays' are initiated, but not followed through upon, and sometimes—well, sometimes the 'neutral zone' is thousands of miles wide and as nondescript as everything else.

And then sometimes there isn't one at all, and one wrong step has the possibility of ruining everything.

When the whistle blows, Quan disentangles himself from the group, blinking sweat from his eyes, and glancing to the clock. Halftime, he notes. About damn time. He exhales fully as he starts towards the sidelines, rolling his shoulders to shake off excess tension. Derik is at his side in seconds, already talking.

"Man, did you see their fucking fullback?" his friend bemoans dramatically. "That guy must have failed high school five times already…" He practically spits the accusation. "I mean, he was huge! That shit can't be legal, and their…"

Derik is jabbing discontented circles into his bicep as he talks, massaging the muscle with his thumb and forefinger, and his stride shows obvious favoritism towards his left leg. Quan frowns, and just that fast, the conversation is lost on him.

His step in closer is almost reflexive.

"Did someone sack you?" he asks, no longer sparing a second thought to whatever Derik is on about, and due to the suddenness, it takes Derik a moment to catch on.

"-because if they're gonna pull a…" Here, Derik's words slow, and they reach the benches. He turns a puzzled look on Quan. "What?"

"You're limping," Quan points out, "and your arm-"

"Oh." Comprehension dawns and Derik waves his hand, scoffing it off. "Nah, it's nothing," he insists. "Just got clipped at the end, there – nothin' too nasty…until that gorilla had to go and fall on my leg, but…" Apparently, something in Quan's expression betrays him, because Derik smirks. "Awww…you were worried about me," he coos, and immediately, Quan snorts, rolling his eyes and trying unsuccessfully to shrug off the forearm Derik props on his shoulder. "C'mon," his friend persists teasingly, his tone overbearingly saccharine now, "admit it…you-"

"Deri-ik!" Lorene's voice cuts in from the side in a singsong, and, blessedly, Derik removes his arm from Quan's shoulder, swiveling to face his girlfriend instead.

"Hey, babe," he greets neutrally, dropping his helmet off on the nearest bench as she approaches, and when he leans down and their lips-

Quan stops paying attention. He should get pizza while there's still time. Or a hotdog. Or maybe some coke, or…

Lorene scolds Derik loudly for making some sort of out-of-bounds touchy-feely move – complete with authentic cheerleader giggles – and Quan starts walking, opting to make his decision along the way. At least all the concessions are a safe distance from Lorene.

Five minutes later, Derik finds him making his way to the bleachers, his hands full.

"You ran away," Derik accuses, and if it were anyone but Derik, Quan would have dubbed that look a pout. As it is, he's sourly tempted anyway.

"I was hungry," he excuses himself, trying to erase all traces of intonation from his words as he sets down his coke, "…and anyway, you seemed…busy." He sits down, not looking at Derik. "Figured you wouldn't miss me." Eventually, after a prolonged silence, he looks up, and Derik crosses his arms.

"You're mad," he asses point blank, and Quan snorts, setting down his hotdog on one side and reaching for his coke.

"I said I was hungry," he corrects, "not mad," but Derik isn't so easily convinced.

"Are you mad at me?" he asks, insistent, and Quan takes a sip of coke.

Then, "You not eating?" he questions back, ignoring Derik's query entirely, and Derik groans.

"You are mad at me!" he concludes with histrionic remorse.

"I'm not mad at you," Quan says flatly, and Derik whines.

"What did I do?" he asks, ignoring the interjection entirely. "I didn't do anything!" Quan wonders why he asks questions if he's only going to answer them himself in the following half second, but he doesn't make the observation aloud, and "Why are you mad at me?" Derik continues unawares, obviously genuinely lost.

Then, when Quan opts to answer none of his questions, Derik ditches the woebegone attitude as abruptly as a mime tossing out 'misery,' as if it and all its related expressions were a boxed set, and he plants a foot on the bleacher at Quan's side, leaning in and somehow simultaneously heightening Quan's awareness of the fact that his personal space is being shamelessly invaded as well as reminding him starkly of a Captain Morgan commercial.

"Why are you mad at me?" he repeats, glaring, and Quan notes from this distance that Derik's cheeks are still very flush from the game, and at some point the bumping and scuffling dislodged several strands of his hair from their usually well-trained position, leaving two damp blonde locks hanging just to the side of his eyes, and his lips-

There's make-up on his lips.

Quan scowls and looks away. "You've got," He makes a vague sweeping gesture over his mouth, "lipstick, still."

"I've-" Derik blinks, "Oh," and he leans back some, swiping the back of his hand and forearm over the designated are. "Okay, how about now?"

More excuses to stare at Derik's mouth. Fantastic.

Quan looks back, feigning grave seriousness. "Hmm, I don't know…I can't see…I think you got it…come in a bit closer…a little more…"

At first, Derik obeys innocently enough. About halfway in, though, he catches on and freezes. Quan tilts his head, raising an eyebrow, challenging; Derik narrows his eyes. Then, determined as ever to have the upper hand, Derik huffs and jerks sharply forward, minimizing the distance between them from a couple feet to two or three inches over the span of a half second.

Quan nearly drops his coke.

"Close enough?" Derik purrs, smirking, and Quan swallows.

He tells himself that, "Too close," doesn't come out as a 'squeak,' per se, but more like a, uh…a…uh…

He decides to leave that thought for later.

Derik grins. "Ya sure?"

"Y…eah, uhh…very…s…ure…Der-"

Derik's stomach growls, and Quan almost laughs. At least, though, the spell is broken, and as Derik leans back out of his face, pouting again, Quan smiles triumphantly.

"You are hungry," he declares, and Derik sighs, looking put-out.

"Maybe…a little…" He tosses a forlorn glance in the direction of the concession stand, but then shakes his head. "Wasn't gonna get anything, though," he insists. "Wanted to find out where you ran off to, and…" He shrugged, "…the line's ages long now, anyways."

"Hnph," Quan snorts, and then reaches to his side. "Here, then," he offers, "have my hotdog," and it takes him the longest time to process the look Derik gives him. "What?"

"Dude," Derik's expression is some hybrid cross-child of disgust, amusement, and fascination, "…you're such a fag," he professes the next instant, snatching the hotdog anyway and obviously fighting with laughter. "What kind of pick-up line is that, anyway?"

Well, with that being all the explanation Quan needs, his cheeks immediately decide to stage an impromptu light show, and when he half-chokes on his pizza, Derik laughs in earnest – loudly. Though the remorseful mental inquiry 'Why me?' is clichéd and entirely too feminized and angst-ridden for his usual tastes, Quan deems it apt for the current moment.

"That wasn't—I didn't m-"

"Quan," Derik cuts him off, grinning like a madman and leaning forward until he's, again, heedlessly invading Quan's personal space, "just shut up, alright?" He suggests it just teasingly enough that it doesn't come off rude or irritating. Or perhaps Quan's simply used to it. "I'll eat your damn hotdog…" He snickers, and Quan frowns. "Just, you know," He smirks, and then he winks, "I'll expect you to return the favor."

Quan wonders how many times it's possible to choke on one's food in a given sitting. He glowers at his friend, but by the time he swallows and clears his throat well enough to speak, Derik cuts him off with a slap to the shoulder and a shake of the head.

"Meet me behind the bleachers in three, 'kay?"

"I—but-" Quan starts, but it's useless; Derik is already trotting down the steps, his hotdog already halfway gone, and once alone, Quan sighs, picking disinterestedly at the remains of his pizza.

How was it that Derik just effortlessly won at everything, anyway? It was like there was an invisible rulebook for the Game of Life, and somewhere at the end the Great Almighty had scribbled in, 'Oh, yeah, P.S.: Derik Alan Carter wins. '

Grumbling, Quan tosses out his pizza a minute later, and two minutes after that, he's with Derik behind the bleachers.

"Alright," he grumbles, "you gonna fill me in on what we're doing here, or am I supposed to gue-"

Derik pushes; Quan's back hits the wall, and before he can even hope to retaliate, demanding lips close over his open mouth. For lack of anywhere better to put them, his hands settle on Derik's hips – clinging before the kiss is over – and that's where they are still when Derik finally draws back, giving him barely an inch of breathing room.

"Guess," he says, smirking, and Quan expects his glare doesn't come off as particularly fierce if he looks even half as flustered as he feels.

"Ass…" is thus the grand sum of his awesome comebacks, and Derik buries his snicker in another kiss, drawing his tongue over Quan's lower lip and then lapping into his mouth when he opens it, leading them into a messy, dizzying free-for-all of teeth and tongues of the sort that makes Quan suddenly very grateful to have a very solid wall behind him.

"Actually," Derik notes off-handedly the first time he deems speech important enough to temporarily distract from kissing, "I was thinking more 'mouth,' since, you know, we really don't have time for 'ass'…" and while it takes Quan a minute to put the pieces of that together, when he does, he groans.

"You…you just mean kissing, right?" he responds hopefully, and Derik's eye roll isn't particularly comforting.

"You're so middle-school," he accuses, and Quan doesn't mean to blush. It just sort of happens. "C'mon…" Derik goads him, "…grows some balls…we've got time."

"No, we…" Quan scrunches his eyes shut. "It doesn't matter if we have time. I am not blowing you at a football game!"

"Awww…why not?" Derik whines into his neck, hands now wandering shamelessly up, into Quan's clothes, and Quan fights the urge to squirm.

"Be—because…" he insists, and wonders why his pulse feels like it has to suffocate him, too, on top of everything else, as he struggles to force the argument out through a rapidly tightening throat, "…this is…it's public, and—dammit, Derik, will you get your hands out of-"

"The locker room shower was public," Derik points out, unabashed.

"I—well, yeah, sort of, but-"

"And the gym bleachers," Derik continues.

"Well, I guess, bu-"

"And your aunt's couch, too, kina, since all those people were there, and-"

"They were hammered!" Quan qualifies desperately, "And passed out…and drooling on the floor!" but for some reason, it feels like sort of like trying to build a football field out of loose clumps of sod, now, because, honestly, had every place they ever had sex been public? Really?

"C'monnn…" Derik whines again, "I'll return the favor later, I promise…anywhere you want, you name it."

Quan shuts his eyes, trying not to be persuaded, really, but it isn't fair what Derik can do with his tongue, and he finds himself shivering as his boy-friend-with-benefits starts to murmur suggestions into his skin.

"The back of my car…right after this game if you want," Derik offers. "After the bus ride back I'll drive us around to the old parking lot behind the band hall, crawl into the back seat with you, shove you down, drag your pants to your knees and suck you until you scream…and then fuck you into Saturday." He gives a teasing, complimentary squeeze to Quan's bulge, and Quan doesn't quite manage to swallow down his groan. "Or the band hall…you know that lock's been busted on the east side door for three years now, we could sneak in there and I'd get on my knees for you…open-"

"Your room," Quan blurts out before he lets himself think twice about it, and Derik blinks up at him, startled. "Your room, on your bed…I want you to fuck me there. Doesn't have to be tonight, but…I want it there."

A moment passes, quiet and unbroken. Then, Derik shrugs, still looking puzzled. "Sure, babe," he says casually, nodding, and Quan tries not to wince at the title, painfully aware that Derik just used that name with Lorene. "If that's what you want, we'll do it."

Swallowing, Quan nods. "Okay. Okay, just…" He takes a breath, and doesn't finish that sentence. Quickly, before he loses his nerve, he pushes Derik around to reverse their positions – Derik to the wall and Quan pinning him back; he's actually an inch or two taller than Derik, even though he's small, for a linebacker, and Derik's a bit big, for a quarterback – and he drops to his knees. The soft, needy sound that Derik makes when he does nearly makes the entire endeavor worth it in and of itself.

He studies his friend's face as he helps him work his uniform down, mentally contrasting the hard shape of his jaw and the angular lines of nose with the soft, baby blue of his eyes and the gold-dust blonde glint of his hair; his strong neck and visibly bobbing Adam's apple with his suggestively parted lips and fair lashes.

Derik is the embodiment of American Pride, a poster picture pin-up of what upright, quarterback golden boys everywhere are supposed to be. And he's standing with his back to a gritty brick wall, fumbling to help work his uniform down to his ankles so another guy can suck him off before halftime's up.

It would be perfect, if Quan were a cheerleader, but he's not and the irony doesn't escape him. Then again, to be fair, this probably isn't exactly what Quan's parents had in mind for him when they sent him to the states, either.

When their combined efforts work his cock free, Quan takes it in his hand first and shoves the rest of his thoughts aside. He watches Derik's lashes sink to half mast, feeling the heat of it twitch eagerly in his palm, and noses in, eyes trained to Derik's expression as he kisses the skin at the base of his length, just above his sack. When he finally licks, drawing a broad, tasting stripe from base to tip, Derik's eyes disappear behind his eyelids, and he moans, long and ragged. It's a beautiful sound.

"Qua-an, fuck…yes, c'monn…" He pants the words, swallowing halfway through, "…put it in your mouth alre-"

Quan curls his tongue over the head, guides it between his lips, and lowers his himself down around it. Derik keens, his knees quiver, and a hand fists in the hair at the back of Quan's head; he shuts his eyes. Sweeping his tongue to either side of his mouthful, he licks, suckles and tastes, savoring the music of Derik's tangled whimpers and curses.

"Fuck yeah, baby, just like that…nnh, yes, just like that." Derik's hips give a small, impatient rock, pushing into Quan's mouth, and – used to this – Quan lets him. He lets the fingers in his hair tighten as Derik starts to drive the pace, relaxes his throat and focuses on taking in air through his nose as Derik holds him down and begins to thrust, slowly, fucking into his mouth, but never so much or so fast as to choke him. "Sweet…Jesus, you're good at this…"

Quan never knows whether to be flattered or insulted when Derik tells him that, but given the reverent tone with which Derik spouts the praise now, Quan takes the statement at face value and carries on without interrupt.

He knows Derik clings to control like a security blanket, that he gets high off it and feels like he needs it for all to be right with the world, and so – since Quan doesn't share that particular lust for power – he tends to let Derik have it whenever he wants. Thus, even here, now, when he has Derik at his mercy, moaning and trembling under his mouth, he lets Derik wrestle back that semblance of authority by steering his mouth, by using Quan's lips and throat and guiding his body the way he wants. Quan doesn't mind submitting, and in his twelve years (give or take) of experience with the other boy (though not always this kind of experience, of course; this is new), he's found it's immensely easier to simply give Derik what he wants than to deal with him after he's been denied.

He can tell, too, when Derik gets close.

His breathing deepens and grows more irregular, his pace stutters often and his hold on Quan's hair tightens and loosens sporadically. "Quan…fuck, your mouth's so hot, baby, I'm gonna-"

Abruptly, his fingers clench, yanking Quan back, off his cock, and Quan shuts his eyes instinctively as Derik pulls the hair at his nape to tilt his head up, knowing what to expect. Sure enough, after two short, slick strokes of Derik's hand over his own cock, a heady groan breaks from his lips, and the hot, messy evidence of his release spills over Quan's lips, cheeks, nose, and one closed eyelid. Lips pursing into a thin line, he waits until he's quite certain Derik has finished before venturing to open his one untarnished eye.

Above him, Derik gives a breathless, chopped laugh and then tosses him down a wolfish grin when enough energy returns to him to allow it. "Good. Wow. Have I…ever told you…how cute you look with jizz on your face?"

Quan wants to roll his eyes, but he's not sure what the effect will be with only one open eye so he ignores the question instead and motions vaguely towards Derik's chest. "Come on. I can't go back out on the field like this. Pass me your shirt."

"Mm." Derik smirks, but doesn't move, his attention still roaming over Quan's face, admiring his handiwork. "I s'pose you're right, huh. Might look a little suspicious if we let you out there as you are…" Bringing two hands up, he shapes them into horizontal 'L's, fitting them together and squinting one eye as if framing a camera shot. "Shame," he notes. "Such a pretty view…where's my iPhone when I need it?"


"Alright, alright," Derik laughs, "Cool your heels, Mulan. Don't get your kimono in a knot…" and he hooks his thumbs under the hem of his shirt and jersey, stripping off both at once before tossing the combined bundle – warm and still partially sweat-damp – towards Quan, who catches it. "Knock yourself out, babe."

Half tempted to bury his face front and center in the shirts out of spite, Quan resists and makes as little of a mess as possible, wiping himself clean with just a corner of the cloth. When he finishes, he stands and passes back the garbled bundle. "Kimonos are Japanese, by the way. Not Chinese."

Derik blinks. "Oh," he responds. Then, frowning, he glances to Quan. "So…what's the dif—?" Something must show in Quan's expression, because halfway into his question, Derik exercises a rare show of intelligence and abandons it, shrugging instead. "Right, so, okay. I'll remember that. We still on for my car after the game?"

Quan opens his mouth. "Actually, I promised Chloe I'd-"

"Tell her something came up." Derik claps his shoulder. "I'll meet you out back after clean-up."

"Ah…b-" When Derik steps in, Quan loses his train of thought, and Derik reaches up. Two fingers trace his cheek, shaping the line of his jaw, his blue eyes intent and curious, and Quan's eyebrows knit together, his throat knotting as he waits for the punch line, fighting not to let eyes shut – not to swoon, not like a fucking girl. Not now. "Derik-"

"You smell like me, you know," Derik observes, his tone passive but his expression fascinated, "…like I've marked my territory or something…" Quan means to scowl, he does. But he doesn't. And Derik's lip curls up, smug and self-satisfied. "It's pretty fucking sexy."

Then Derik leans in, and Quan's eyes shut (traitorous bastards), his breath abandoning him (who needs oxygen anyway?), and their noses brush for a fraction of a second, close, teasing, and-

When the warmth of Derik's snicker breaks across his lips, Quan's eyes dart open again, and Derik moves back out without so much as a peck, looking jesting and amused in a way that has no right to make Quan's stomach knot painfully. Almost angrily, like he's being made fun of.

"Jesus. If you had tits, Quan," he professes with all due gravity – somewhat belied by the laughing shake of the head that he inserts into the middle of the statement, "…I'd date you." Then he turns, giving Quan his back and retreating back to the front: the benches, coach, and society in general.

As Quan watches, he wonders if that last statement was supposed to be a compliment, because it sure as hell doesn't feel like one. 'If you weren't what you are, maybe things would be different between us, but because you are what you are, things won't ever be…but let's just keep fucking anyway, alright?' He draws a breath, forcing it deep into his lungs, holding it there, and shutting his eyes.

He ought to break up with Chloe. After all, how can he be angry with Derik for Lorene, he reasons, when he's doing exactly the same thing himself? And anyway, Chloe deserves better; she's a good girl. Lorene may be a frigid bitch who deserves her—beautiful, stupid, addicting—jackass of a cheating boyfriend, but Chloe's sweet, and she deserves someone who'll kiss her and think of her and only her when they do.

Except he already knows he won't break up with her. Not anytime soon, anyway. Because breaking up with Chloe would mean admitting that what he and Derik have – whatever it is, if they "have" anything at all – is real. It would mean committing himself to it, and he's not sure he can commit himself to it. It's hard enough to take this – this limbo, this unknown, this ever-changing flux – when he's not committed to it, but if he was?

"Carter, put a shirt on!" the voice of their coach cuts in abruptly, and Quan's held breath breaks back out just that fast in a startled laugh. "You tryin' to give our cheerleaders heart attacks before the next quarter?"

"Sir, yes sir! Err…I mean, no sir!" Derik responds, amusement and a touch of cheek audible even from this distance, and wearily, Quan smiles in spite of himself.

Eventually, he'll have to bring an ultimatum to Derik. But first, he'll have to figure out what he wants, and right now? Right now, he wants Derik more than anything. More than his peace of mind and more than his sanity. And it's worth the unknown, worth this twisting rollercoaster of theirs, worth everything just to have him.

For now.

So, he follows after Derik to return to the front and the field, and sets his mind to concentrating on the upcoming second half of the game that he knows and loves. The game with rules. Football. He'll work on figuring out the rules to Derik's game later.

Something tells him that part's gonna be a helluvah lot more complicated.

A/N: Um, yeah. There will be more of these. Part of me wanted to turn their story into a concise "story" (you know, chapters, running plot line, etc.) but really, I think at least in their particular case, it's better told in one-shot snapshots of their life. So. I'll be dribbling out a neat little stack of one-shots and short stories for these two...at some undetermined pace. I'm not sure how frequently (or infrequently) it will be, but they'll be coming.

I hope you enjoyed. :)