A/N: If you would like a more formal introduction to these characters, "Three Strikes" and "Lines of Scrimmage" (both also one-shots with sex) both deal with them, but this can be read as a stand-alone, too, I think. Either or. Carry on...


Paper Tiger

or

Mud, Trucks, Explosions and Other Healthy, Manly, Heterosexual Things

Friday, 10:46P.M., and Derik Carter – quarterback for the Morrison High Stingrays – sits tapping out a rhythmless beat with the heel of his shoe in the waiting room of the local county hospital. Still halfway in uniform, he stares down the clock on the far wall, glowering intently like he might at an opposing team member on field, as though maybe if he stares hard enough, the gimpy little hands will start to move their asses around in that damn circle faster and let him in to see his…friend.

He pays none of the other few persons in the room any mind. He doesn't even bother to fix his hair – which sticks out in various parts at odd angles like freshly tousled hay, the inevitable result of having suffered too many bouts of him shoving his hands anxiously back through it when it was still sweaty and impressionable. And then letting it dry that way.

Sometime early in their junior year, Lorene (his girlfriend) had snapped—or was it 'fractured?'—some complicated sounding bone in her lower left leg, the technical term for which Derik can't be bothered to remember.

He'd sent her a "get bttr soon" text and called it a day.

After relaying the situation to Quan and receiving no small amount of admonishment from his friend for being an 'inconsiderate' boyfriend and 'not romantic at all,' he'd deigned to dropping by the nearest Safeway store and picking up the first pink card he found that looked like it related vaguely to wishing someone healthier. Afterwards, he'd made—er, asked—Chloe kindly to deliver it for him, seeing as Lorene was her cheer captain, after all. So he had things to do and couldn't see her himself, so what?

Some hours ago, a messy right tackle from a frontrunner at Bayville High had landed Quan in the hospital. Coach hadn't let Derik quit the game—"You crazy, Carter? Man the hell up, he's one kid and he'll be fine. You're the quarterback, now act like it. You gonna lead these boys or curl up with your baby blanket and suck your binky 'cause your boyfriend took a hit, huh? Switch Leonard to defense and bring in one of the benchers, Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary…"—so he'd finished the game.

Now, an hour or two later, he's sitting restlessly in an uncomfortably cold, hard, plastic, jailbird-orange chair, occasionally glancing to the several-years-outdated magazines scattered on the glass-topped coffee table before him but never picking one up. Waiting.

Quan isn't his boyfriend (though, frankly, coach had no idea how close to home he'd hit when he used the term, and Derik's heart had done a panicked flip flop on hearing the word before he'd successfully reminded himself that the man didn't know a thing and was entirely kidding), but Quan is definitely his…something.

For the longest time he was just Derik's linebacker – just his friend since kindergarten, just the boy next door, his partner in crime, his second in command, his backup; the only kid who always laughed at his jokes, no matter how stupid – but several months back that…changed.

Derik still isn't exactly clear on how, precisely, but he knows it started at an 'end of the summer' party right before the kick-off to their senior year. A little – or a lot – too much alcohol on both of their parts had lead to him initiating a kiss he never quite planned on starting, which somehow progressed into some of the best sex of his life—with Quan, tottering drunk, on Quan's aunt's couch.

They'd said nothing of it to each other for a healthy stretch of time afterwards. Then, about two weeks into the new school year, the subject had resurfaced. After some amount of walking on eggshells and generally dilly dallying around, they'd fucked, again (crushing Derik's half-hope that maybe he'd just imagined it being fantastic the first time because he'd been drunk), and then…

Now

Derik doesn't know what he and Quan are doing.

Whatever it is, though, they've been doing it steady for a couple months, and he knows he likes it. It's better (and more frequent) sex than anything he's ever gotten out of Lorene (though comparing the two is sort of like comparing a slice of plain, stale and mildewing bread to a feast of Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweat potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and…well, and so on). And he likes Quan– as a person, as a friend, as a guy – more than any girl he's ever dated (that's for certain). It's just…

Well, he's not gay.

Alright, okay, so he's getting it on with Quan, yes, and Quan has a dick, yes, and that's sort of gay, maybe. Alright. A little. But…it's different. Somehow. Derik's sure of it, because he can't be gay. For…well, for a number of reasons.

First off, fags are pansy asses. And Derik is not a pansy ass. (Though, admittedly, Quan isn't really much of a pansy ass either, far from it, and Derik is pretty sure he's gay, because…seriously, he's the one taking it, right? Like, letting someone shove their dick up your ass and enjoying it is sort of the definition of gay last Derik checked, and that's gotta count for something. Never mind that Quan seems to at least show some genuine interest in the few girls he's dated while Derik…er, well, yeah…nevermind that.)

In any case, Derik likes trucks and mud and shoving four-eyed eggheads into lockers because he can. He likes hunting and football and blowing things up, not drama and choir and flower arranging, and he sure as hell isn't interested in tucking his dick between his legs and prancing around in heels or a dress. All these things, as far as he's concerned, are healthy signs of being a perfectly normal, masculine, heterosexual male.

Second, Derik's pretty sure there's something fundamentally wrong with being gay.

Everyone more or less seems to agree on that, at least in the circles he's grown up with. It's not natural, or healthy, and it leads to the spread of…sexual diseases and sex crimes, or something. He's not sure exactly what or how, but he knows it's bad. Father Harris would say it's a sin against God, and while Derik's far from being a devout bible-thumper himself, he grew up in a good Christian family. So, raised on it since childhood, he knows a thing or two about that, too.

Not to mention, not a freakin' one of the guys on the team wouldn't cringe at the idea of sharing the shower room with a fag, and if Derik's parents found out what he and Quan were—? No, just…fuck no.

And anyway, it's not as though he finds any other guys attractive…

Well, except maybe Wesley; he's sort of cute from the back. And perhaps Travis, if he'd quit doing all those ridiculously stupid looking things to his hair. And maybe-

Derik cuts off his thought process. Alright, so he finds some guys at least mildly attractive. But it's not like it is with Quan. Not even in the same ball park. Fuck that, whole different planet.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, he's not "in love" with Quan. Sure, he enjoys spending time with him, but none of what they have is romantic at all. It's a no strings attached kina thing. They each have their girlfriends. They each do what they like. There's no long term plan, no commitment; not even any real discussion on the subject. Maybe the sex itself is sinful ('Sinfully good…' Derik stomps out that thought, too) but at least they aren't taking it anywhere past that. And romance between guys is like the gayest thing, right?

And yet, sometimes Derik gets the sense that the ambiguity of it upsets Quan, and for reasons unknown, that in turn upsets Derik. He's not about to admit it, of course, and certainly not to Quan, but he hates seeing his friend unhappy. If it were just some girl, he wouldn't give rat's piss about it one way or the other. Girls bitch all the time; Derik barely hears them. But see the thing is, Quan doesn't bitch. He doesn't whine, he doesn't grumble. Hell, he barely complains at all. Ever.

In some ways – okay, maybe a lot of ways – Derik really likes that about him. He's liked that about him since the beginning. But in other ways, it burdens Derik with this…responsibility, of sorts. Namely, because Quan lets him get away with just about anything, it's 'on his honor' that he ought not to abuse that power. Or something.

Except Derik isn't a responsible person. He's convinced of this and quite set on living up to that conviction, and thus it frustrates him to think that after all these years, Quan still refuses to get that through his head. It's like his friend is determined to trust him no matter how determined Derik is to prove that he's really not worth trusting when it comes to things like this, honest, and wasn't it enough, besides, that Quan had gone and turned his life upside down by-

Well, alright, technically Derik had kissed Quan, but the fact remained that Quan had let him, and-

"Derik Carter?"

The warm, female voice of a young nurse cuts his thought process off at the roots, and Derik jerks to a stand, inadvertently jamming the backs of his knees against the lip of his chair in the process, and he bites down hard on the first instinctive curse to bubble up onto the tip of his tongue. When she lifts her eyes from her clipboard and spots him, she smiles at him, oblivious. Derik dimly – and only very slightly irritably – notes that it's a pretty smile, complete with full, pink, glossy lips. Must look nice wrapped around her boyfriend's co-

"You can go in now."

He does.

The thing Derik hates most about hospitals, he decides the moment he walks in, is their infallible ability to make anyone look weak, sick, and dejected.

First off, Quan is a big guy: just over six feet tall – nearly as tall as Derik…alright, technically a little taller than Derik (but only by an inch or two, seriously) – broad in the shoulders, and built, with healthy upper arm development and well defined musculature from chest to torso. But he looks pale on the hospital bed, and drained. Almost frail.

When Derik steps into the room, Quan's previously shut eyes flit open and he lifts his head. An instant later, a small, pleased, and yet almost confused smile curves onto his lips, his eyebrows pushing together subtly, like he doesn't know quite what to make of the scene.

"Derik?"

"Didn't know you bumped your head that bad," Derik responds, and he nudges the door shut behind him with his heel. "Don't even recognize me?"

"Where's Chloe?" Quan asks a second later, dismissing the quip, and Derik suppresses the urge to frown—Why is she the first person he looks for?—and he shrugs casually instead.

"Couldn't come. Busy, or something…cheerleading shit," he answers. "After a lot of begging and whining she convinced me to come check on you in her place."

It isn't exactly true, considering all the effort he went to to make sure she didn't show up – who knows what Lorene's gonna want in payment for her aid in that matter, but it isn't Derik's biggest concern right now. Point being, he doesn't need Quan to know that he went to such efforts to get the space alone with him. It might give him the wrong impression. Derik just doesn't like listening to Chloe natter, that's all.

It has nothing to do with how much watching her hold Quan's hand or stroke his hair or kiss his cheek or lips in public makes Derik want to do ungentlemanly things to her. Like sock her in the jaw. Or run her over with a train.

"Oh," Quan responds, only very slightly deflated sounding, and Derik feels a twinge of guilt despite his—not jealousy—'frustration.'

"Do you…want me to call up Lorene?" he asks reluctantly. "See if she can't work it to let Chloe come?" Of course, he strongly hopes Quan won't take him up on the offer, not least of all because of the effort he put into making sure she stayed the fuck out, and Quan looks surprised, but thankfully only thinks on it for a brief moment before shaking his head the negative.

"Nah, it's alright," he answers, and tosses Derik a smile when he approaches. "I have you after all, mm?"

"Yeah," Derik responds, taking Quan's hand without allowing himself to think twice about it – or wonder why it doesn't unnerve him when Quan laces their fingers together afterwards, "…you've got me."

"But umm…speaking of you, don't visiting hours end at nine or something?" Quan asks, and Derik glances down to him and then shrugs.

"Ten, actually, on weekdays, but nah…I have, uh…'connections.'"

Quan frowns. After a moment, he says, puzzled, "Your dad owns the hospital, too?" and Derik laughs outright.

"Dude, no…" he answers, "…we're not quite that loaded. Nah, he just, umm…he knows some folks, that's all."

"Uh-huhh," Quan responds, and Derik grins.

"C'mon, man, lighten up. So maybe he gave a healthy donation once upon a time or maybe it was actually my mom who slept with some head doctor guy, the hell if I know—heck, the hell if I want to know, you know? So…" He props his weight against the side of Quan's cot and rounds a predatory smirk on him, "…enjoy me while I'm here, yeah?"

Quan huffs, but smiles in spite of himself. "Yeah, yeah…so when do we have 'til? Isn't this a bit of a boring hang out for you? What happened to the after-game party? Did we even win?"

"Pffff—fuck yeah, we won," Derik responds casually, as if it happened at the drop of a hat and he were the sole body responsible for their victory – which he might as well have fucking been, seeing as he's the quarterback after all, a position which, as everyone who is anyone knows, automatically means all victories are accredited to his brilliance and all losses are the combined fault of the rest of the team for failing to adequately adhere to his leadership. "And I have 'til midnight here before they crack down on me and kick me out. After party's still on, but no big since it's gonna be boring as shiiit…"

Quan blinks. "Why?"

Derik smirks. "Uh, 'cause I'm not gonna be there, duh."

Quan shuts his eyes, probably in an effort not to roll them. "Right. And so, um…what are you doing here again?"

Naturally, Derik pouts as though he's been wounded. "To make sure that my fair princess Mulan isn't sitting on her hospital bed all by herself…why else? Wanted to make sure you were…you know…like, all in one piece or whatever, jeez. Am I not allowed to do that?"

This time, Quan sighs. "Not that I don't appreciate the support and all…but that's not seriously your new sticking nickname for me, is it?"

Frowning, Derik shrugs. "Why not? I think it fits…I mean, she's Asian…" The fact that that's the only forthcoming reason he can think of doesn't faze him. Luckily, Quan's fairly used to this sort of thing.

"You realize Mulan was not princess, right?"

Derik makes no effort to hold off from rolling his eyes. "Okay, not until she found her 'prince' and got hooked up with that, uhh…err…" He frowns. "What was the dude's name again? Shawn You?"

Quan scrunches his eyes shut. "Shan Yu was the bad guy, Derik…Li Shang was the general she fell for, and she wasn't even a princess in the Disney version, not even after she got hitched or whatever because Shang was a military guy, not an emperor…"

"Alright, fine, 'warrior lady,'" Derik amends with sarcastic flare, "…whatever. Details. Why do you have to make things so complicated? And I mean come on, 'Shan' 'Shang' 'Shawn'? You gotta admit, I was close."

"I hope you never have to learn a foreign language."

"Uh, yeah," Derik agrees vehemently. "Hell, I'm shit at English as is. Can you imagine me trying to work out how to speak Ching-chong?"

"I'd rather not."

"Exactly, I—wait, what?" Derik shakes his head. "You'd rather not what?"

"Nevermind."

A pause. "Alright, whatever, look…" Derik reaches into his jacket pocket, fishing around for a moment before locating his goal and taking the deck out, tapping it to the edge of the mattress, "…I brought cards."

Quan's eyebrows quirk upwards. "Cards?"

"Yeah," Derik says. "So we can like…play Go Fish or whatever…War or something. Speed? I taught you to play Speed, didn't I? Save you from, uhh…" He squints up at the muted, glowing TV screen looming off on the far wall opposite Quan's bed, "…no-sound Lifetime channel…silently crying anorexic pregnant chicks and stuff…"

The corner of Quan's lip twitches up. "So that's what Lifetime channel's about, huh?"

"Uh. Yeah?"

"You're seriously gonna stay here, sit on my cot and play card games with me when you could be out going to that after party?" Quan asks, and Derik wonders if he's only imaging that Quan's trying not to sound hopeful. In either case, it encourages him and he huffs.

"Um, yeah…didn't I tell you that party was gonna be shit boring?" he insists. "I mean, if you're tired or whatever I can scoot at any time-"

"No," Quan blurts – with just a little too much rapidity to keep it subtle – and Derik stomps down a happy flutter in his stomach and dons a half-assed smug look instead. Quan clears his throat, trying and failing to recover some nonchalance. "I mean, uh…it's like…if you don't mind, I don't think I'll be falling asleep anytime soon anyway, so…"

Derik's spike of concern is sharper than he anticipated. "Are you hurting still?"

"I'm alright." Quan shrugs. "I think they drugged me up pretty good, but my head feels kind of buzzy from the after-effects and there's this sort of dull ache all the way down my left side, and…well, actually, kind of my whole body, now that I think abou-"

"Do you want me to go call a—?"

"I'm fine," Quan insists, another twitch of a smile creeping onto his features, quiet amusement warming his eyes. "I'll be fine, I'm sure…these guys are doctors, you know. They're kina supposed to know what they're doing."

"Yeah…" Derik frowns, still dissatisfied and a touch anxious, but he eventually concedes Quan's point and shrugs. "Alright, umm…if you insist, I guess. So…Speed, War, or Go Fish?"

Chuckling, Quan shakes his head and says, "Go fish," with an off-handed air that seems to suggest that really, it doesn't matter much to him so long as they're there together playing it. "You know, if you can like…even find a place to put the cards," he adds, as an afterthought. Derik makes a noncommittal dismissive sound, waving him off.

"Just scootch your tight ass over thataway three inches," he instructs, marking said direction with a vague swish of his hand, "…and we'll be fine 'n dandy."

So, ignoring Derik's quip/compliment but for a flicker of a grin, Quan obliges and maneuvers himself carefully to the side, after which Derik deals.

True to his word – unofficial though it was – Derik stays until nearly midnight, playing a countless number of rounds of each proposed game in addition to making several attempts to teach Quan the logistics of poker, though his linebacker seems to consistently stall up on that process. Only when he first catches Quan yawning does he pause and insist instead that he ought to go and let Quan sleep.

"But-"

"How often do people come in here to check up on you anyway?" Derik asks as he gathers up the cards, organizing them back into a neat stack and ignoring Quan's interjection. "Didn't seem like we had a single visitor this whole time…"

"Erm…yeah, I think they'll only really come in now if I buzz for someone," Quan answers, apparently surprised by the abrupt subject change. "Why?"

Derik stands from the seat he pulled up beside Quan's cot and braces a hand on the metal headboard at the back of it, beside Quan's head. "No reason," he says even as he leans down, and he catches Quan's startled expression in a quick, almost chaste kiss before pulling back and meeting Quan's surprise in the eye. "G'night."

"Y—but…" Quan flounders for a half second before huffing and reaching out, catching a lapel from the front of Derik's jersey jacket and tugging him back down before he retreats completely. Though startled, Derik allows himself to be ushered down again and greets Quan's kiss with a pleasant shiver. While not rough, precisely, the kiss certainly lasts longer than the first, their lips and then tongues twining intimately, and only with the escape of Derik's first bottled groan does Quan loosen his grip and permit it to break.

Derik, on the other hand – his body sufficiently convinced that tasting Quan further is actually a really good idea – takes that as an open invitation to start working his way down the hard shape of Quan's jaw, catching behind Quan's neck with his fingers and leaning further in, tasting the sensitive patch of skin between the bottom of his ear and the top of his throat. He relishes in Quan's pleasured shudder, aware that the erection he'd been trying to avoid is now at full salute, pressing impatiently against the front of his jeans, but he ignores it in favor of enjoying the moment for its immediate rewards.

"Derik…" Quan swallows around his name, "…ah…despite…there not being any people coming in, you know there…are…cameras in every room of this hospital, and-"

Derik tenses, and jerks back the next second. "There are what?"

The result is the both of them, face to face, flushed, and very obviously horny. "Ah…" Quan clears his throat again, and at least he has the decency to look abashed. "There are cameras? Like, pretty typical, run-of-the-mill, security cameras?"

Derik shuts his eyes. "Quan…if-"

"I'm pretty sure they don't look at them," Quan blurts, though he unfortunately doesn't look sure at all. "I mean, like…they probably don't…unless something bad happens, right?"

Derik groans. "You…dipshi-"

"Okay, look, you started it," Quan points out, undeterred, and Derik opens his mouth immediately-

But he shuts it again before anything comes out, frowning.

"Yeah, well…" He fishes for a moment, irritated that Quan has a point, of sorts. How does Quan always manage to have a point? "I was trying to keep it all innocent 'n shit or whatever, but you…you…continued it…" he finishes weakly, eventually.

"Yeah," Quan rebounds, "…and then you continued it after that, so what? So it's all my fault?"

"So…" After a long moment of searching and failing to find an adequate retort, Derik snorts and shoves his hands in his pockets, glaring sordidly at the floor for lack of a better place to pin his stare. "Whatever," he grumps eventually. "So now, I'm horny. And there's nothing we can do about it. That's what. Fuckass."

Quan's hybrid between a scoff and a snicker draws Derik's attention back upwards, and Quan's expression is a similar mingle of disbelief and amusement.

"What?" Derik grumbles after several extended seconds of his friend saying nothing.

"You realize the difference, right?" Quan says, and Derik frowns, oblivious.

"The difference between what and…what?"

"You get to go home after this and jerk off," Quan states point blank. "Me, though? I'm freakin'…stuck here, like…all fucking night."

Derik opens his mouth, almost ready to respond, but eventually, his response is dwarfed by a cross between a smirk and a grin – too satisfied, in either case, to be fair to his friend – and Quan responds with a glower.

"And you think it's funny."

"You know what I'm gonna think about when I touch myself, Quan?" Derik asks withdrawing his hands back out of his pockets and moving back to the cot. "What I'm gonna think about when I lay back on my bed, toss my clothes off and wrap my hand around my cock—while you'll still be here layin' in this cot…alone-"

"Derik, don't-"

There's a warning edge to Quan's tone, but Derik ignores it, drawing his eyes hungrily down Quan's body instead, mentally drawing up the naked shape of his linebacker's figure minus the excess offending hospital bed sheets and white plastic.

"I really like the way you look with your jeans open but still half on," he muses aloud, saying it as though merely thinking to himself but deciding at the last moment to share his thoughts with Quan, "…shoved only just far enough down on your thighs to expose your ass, but with your back to me…knees knocked apart and just barely shaking as you bend forward, like your body's fuckin' begging for it-"

"God, fuck you, Derik," Quan snaps it, but his cheeks are flushed and the words come out breathlessly enough that it edges Derik on more than anything, his lips curling back again in a now blatantly predatory grin.

"You know sometimes I think that I like touching you…sliding my fingers up inside you and listening to the sounds you make when I open you up for me…almost as much as I like fucking you proper…" Derik's voice is probably thicker than usual, made gravelly by his own distraction and desire, but he barely notices. His eyes are fixed on Quan's expression, captivated by the slim part in his lips – the way the darks of his eyes seem to have taken over entirely, all but inking out their usual deep, rich brown – and he licks his own, suddenly dry, lips. "But then, when I finally make it in you…" He shakes his head, "…then, I know there's no damn thing in the whole of the world that feels better than your ass, glove tight and hell-hot around my cock when I'm balls deep inside you…"

Quan looks like he wants to say something, but he swallows coarsely instead, his expression some conflicted mix of anger, frustrated want, and barefaced arousal.

Drinking in that expression, Derik's tongue starts again towards his lip but he draws it back determinedly and nips at it once instead before asking, "Do you have any idea what I'd give to fuck you right now?"

"You're a fucking tease…and a jackass," Quan bites out in response, but it's not venomous so much as frustrated in the face of inevitable denial, and Derik's eyes flick up to the corners of the ceiling, seeking out the aforementioned cameras.

"You know, you could probably get away with beating one off under the sheets come lights out…"

"Live cameras don't do it for me, Derik," Quan grits out, "…and besides-"

"Or you could let me help you out right now."

Quan's eyes jerk to him, looking so thrown that Derik wonders for a second if Quan even believes he'd do it. Then, sure enough, "Are you fucking shitting me?" Quan blurts a second later. "It'd be bad enough with the lights out, under the covers, and no one coming in, but now-"

"So there's a camera there," Derik nods his head to indicate said camera, "…and over there," he nods again, "…so what? If I get on the cot and make sure not to hit your leg and cover the camera view of you with my back…"

Quan grits his teeth and shuts his eyes. "Derik-"

"I am serious."

"You're fucking insane is what you are."

"Alright," Derik concedes, and he leaves a small pause there before curving the corner of his mouth up smugly and adding his hook, "…but you can't say I didn't offer."

Quan's eyes reopen instantly to shoot him a sharp, iron hot glower. "You didn't have to start this-"

"-but at least I'm agreeing to finish it, if you want."

Finally, Quan hesitates, his resolve floundering weakly at the finish line, attention darting between Derik and the door. When Derik makes to turn, though, the words fall from him, "W-wait! Derik, just…" By the time Derik turns back, Quan's biting his lip, looking like he's mentally cursing himself.

"Yeah?" Derik asks, baiting Quan's reply, and this time Quan does curse. Aloud. Prolifically, though beneath his breath.

"Fucking, son of a—god, I'm going to regret this so bad…"

"Is that Quan-ese for 'Yes, please jerk me off, Derik,' or should I-"

"Yes, Derik, fuck you, goddammit! I-"

Derik's grin could have blinded the unprepared with its brilliance, and Quan doesn't finish his sentence due to helping guide Derik instead as he works himself onto the small cot, careful not to hit anything he might damage and propping his knees apart to either side of Quan's legs. "You're kina cute when you're pissed, have I ever told you that? You get pissed off so rarely…"

"I'm not…pissed," Quan growls half-heartedly, "…I'm…irritated, as I think I have a right to be, and sometimes, I think I hate you, have I ever told you that?"

Impervious, Derik shrugs. "Maybe," he admits, "…but…it's not true, so I'm not worried." Leaning forward, he catches Quan's lips again as he poises himself as promised over his friend's body, making sure that exactly what his hands are about to do remains a complete mystery to the cameras. "I know you'll never hate me…you're too busy being madly in love with me."

On cue, Quan tenses like a rail under him, just as Derik suspected he would, and for some reason – this is something Derik has yet to figure out, though he has puzzled over it – it pleases a small, buried part of him to know that the words he throws out so casually effect Quan this much. He likes feeling like his words are real weapons to Quan; it's…fun. To have that much easy power.

"I wish you wouldn't say that," Quan speaks into his mouth, an audible pang of something wound into the words, though Derik is passively aware that Quan tries not to let anything into his voice when he says them.

"Why?" Derik responds, unconcerned. "'Cause it's true?"

"I—you don't underst—it's-"

"Ask me to touch you," Derik cuts him off, and Quan falters, blinking up at him disbelievingly, but Derik holds his ground, his fingers worked under the sheets now and teasing the line of Quan's skin above his boxer shorts. "C'mon…" he prompts at Quan's silence, "…say it. I want to hear you."

"Derik…"

"Ask for my hands around your cock, Quan, c'mon," Derik prods, half teasing, half taunting, "…I know you can do it." His thumb slips just enough under the band of Quan's boxers to elicit a muted whimper of frustration before withdrawing again, and he watches the path of Quan's lip as it disappears between his teeth.

"Derik…" The sight of Quan's chest rising and falling at an increased pace has never been so fascinating, "…come on, you started this, please just-"

"Please what?"

A single, chopped groan. "Touch me, please, I want your hands on my cock, you fucking assho—ahh!" Quan arches beautifully – impressively, even, considering the debilitation of his leg – and Derik catches the tail end of the outcry with his mouth, which Quan gratefully groans into. "Derik…"

"Shhh…good…" Derik murmurs his encouragement, savoring each needy rock of Quan's hips up into his touch, "…yeah…just like that, baby, go on I got you…" Quan shivers and Derik licks along his lower lip. Immediately, Quan opens his mouth, greedy for the extra contact, and Derik delves in, thrusting with his tongue in a physical metaphor for something else as his hand works the heat of Quan's erection – pulling gently, twisting, and teasing with practiced efficiency.

The space is cramped and tight and the angle awkward, the heat seeming to gather and build in the narrow space between their two bodies, but between that and the constant looming fact that someone could walk in through the unlocked door at any time – and that there are cameras in the ceiling, though Derik's pretty sure the angle of his own body is keeping the camera view from being strictly pornographic – makes Derik's heart pound like a war drum. Like he's attempting a heist and getting away with it.

To be fair, Quan's pulse, too, is impressively fast when Derik moves down and licks his tongue over it, feeling the beat in Quan's throat and relishing in the thudding pace as much as the way it convulses under his lips when Quan swallows.

"Nnngh—Derik…" His hands clench and unclench in the cloth of Derik's jacket, his body giving tight, restrained jerks in an attempt to meet Derik's strokes without making too much of a show. Even still, he shakes his head, concern burrowing furrows in his forehead. "Fuck, we are gonna be in so much trouble if someone comes in right now…"

"Shhh, relax, babe," Derik insists back and brings one hand up, spitting unceremoniously into it, "…and try and focus on enjoying yourself for once…"

"I—mmh—it's hard when-"

"I can tell it's hard."

"You fuck-" Quan loses the latter half of his sentence to a mangled whine as Derik brings his newly saliva-slicked hand down again, wrapping it securely over Quan's eager cock and giving one or two good strokes before sweeping his thumb over the head. This promptly elicits a reluctant moan – one which refuses to be muffled by Quan biting his lip – and Derik smirks, pleased with himself.

"You worry too much," he asserts decisively.

"Yeah, and you…you don't…" Quan's words come out uneven and breathy, his lashes fluttering indecisively against his cheeks like black feathers tossed lightly by the breeze. "You don't worry enough…s-somebody's gotta do it for you. Keep you in…check."

Derik openly snickers at that, tucking the sound into the skin of Quan's neck even as he shakes his head. "And that's what you're doing right now?" he asks, at once playful and thoroughly amused, tracking each shift in Quan's expression as he watches him squirm. "'Keeping me in check'?"

"Well, I – ahh-mnh…" Clearly losing track of his sentence, Quan's words filter off for a long moment. Then, "Okay, maybe not…" he murmurs when his breath returns to him, and Derik chuckles.

"Glad we got that one figured out…now hush up and fuck my hand like a good boy. There you go…" It surprises Derik, at least mildly, how just watching Quan can manage to keep his own body so wholeheartedly interested in every minute detail of the situation. But it does. Consistently. Getting girls off is a necessary chore in order to get them to put out. Getting Quan off is…well, Derik still considers it a service, of course, but that doesn't keep him from enjoying the view in the meantime. "Fuck, yeah…you move so fucking gorgeous, you know that? I'd suck you if I thought I could get away with it…"

Quan's answering groan immediately feeds Derik's cock, making it throb insistently in its trapped position, already pressing wantingling against the inseam of his fly. Willfully, he ignores it. And continues talking instead.

"I love the expressions you make when you've got my mouth on you…and the noises…only drawback is I can't see your toes curl up like they do when I fuck you."

Quan swallows dryly. "It-" And then, Derik knows he's found a good stroke because a strangled, half-keened moan escapes Quan abruptly and his lips fall open. "Oh…fu—Derik, yes, please, right-"

"There?"

Quan gives a wordless, desperate nod, and a minute later he's shaking, moaning into Derik's shoulder and spilling his release between Derik's palm and his own stomach. Impressively self-satisfied for a guy still sporting a raging, unattended hard-on, Derik smirks, eyeing the breathless, quivering result of his handiwork for an indulgent moment before reaching carefully over Quan to the little side table by the bed – which bears tissues among other things – and tidying up the mess as Quan filters back down from his high.

When Quan seems to have made it back safely, Derik grins cheekily down at him. "Feel better?"

Instead of answering, Quan's attention flicks down, centering on Derik's own state of affairs down south, and his brow furrows, expression guilty. "Yeah, but you're still…I mean…do you want me to—?"

"Hey, now." Derik pecks Quan's mouth to silence him. "I wasn't part of the deal. Chill…I can take care of myself later, remember?"

"Well, yeah," Quan answers, though not without hesitance, "…but…it's not…"

"Again, you worry too much," Derik cuts him off, maneuvering himself back off the cot – which squeaks and groans in protest. "When are they gonna let you out tomorrow, do you know?"

"Umm…no, I don't know…sometime in the morning."

"Alright," Derik nods, thinking it through for a moment before continuing, "…cool, well…I'll see you bright and early, then, okay?"

Quan blinks, surprised. "You'll come by again tomorrow? It'll be Saturday, don't you want to sleep in? And anyway, my aunt was gonna try and get off work to pick me-"

"Nah, tell her not to sweat it, I can come get you," Derik says, waving him off. "I'll even throw in a-" His ringtone cuts him off, and he purses his lips, reaching for his phone instead. His dissatisfaction deepens on spotting the caller I.D., but he answers anyway.

"Hey, babe, what's up?" With his attention distracted and his back turned, he misses the answering slump of Quan's shoulders and matching dissatisfied frown on his friend's lips. "Yeah…uh-huh…no, I'm still at the hospital. No, with Quan, yeah…yes, I'm 'still here'…talking, we were just talking…we played some card games and…no. No, it's too late, I'm not going…yeah, but I don't care, I—yeah, I know, Lori, and I don't give a shit, they can handle it themselves, they…whatever. Okay, whatever, I love you too…yeah…bye—oh…no, I'm picking him tomorrow, too…yeah, okay, bye."

When he hangs up, he notes Quan's expression with surprise and raises his eyebrows.

"What's with you?"

Quan seems to pull out of some internal monologue and refocuses on Derik. "What?"

"You look…I don't know, some combination of pissed off and someone-just-shot-my-puppy…what's up?"

Quan's cheeks warm nicely. "I—nothing, it's nothing. Neither of those."

"Uh-huh…" Derik says disbelievingly, but when Quan refuses to come forth with answers, Derik shrugs. "Okay, whatever. It's your deal. But if-"

"Do you like Lorene?"

Of all the things Quan might have asked that Derik would have been prepared for, that isn't one of them. "Do I…like her?" he repeats, as thoroughly thrown as if Quan just asked what the circumference of Saturn multiplied by the square root of pi was. "What kind of a question is that? I mean…I guess we do okay together, why?"

Quan shakes his head. "No reason. I was just…I guess…you guys break up a lot, but you always get back together, I was kind of wondering why…like if you really cared about her or something."

Derik snorts. "She knows I cheat on her and I know she's a slut. That's how we work out, Quan, it's not much more complicated than that…I also sort of semi-tolerate her bitching and let her do whoever she wants so she doesn't ask me many questions. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"You tell her you love her a lot."

Part of Derik feels he ought to be irritated by the prying, but for some reason it doesn't come, and he just frowns. "Yeah, well…girls like to hear that shit, I guess? I don't know…I…" He hesitates, and then admits, "I really don't give a damn about her, Quan, okay? I really…really don't, but…" He shrugs, "…I guess sometimes saying stuff you don't mean feels…required? Somehow?" Aware that he's trailing off and none too sure of even what he's saying himself, Derik shakes his head. "Look, could you just tell me what's wrong so I don't have to guess?"

Quan opens his mouth. Shuts it. Frowns, and then, apparently resigning himself, he says, quietly, "Do you ever ask yourself what we're doing? Like…us, the two of us?" and Derik's heart thuds painfully in his chest, like someone just dropped the collective weight of the opposing defense team flat on top of his ribcage.

The question, of course, naturally draws to mind his own recent debate with himself on that very topic prior to making it into Quan's hospital room. It's a question that's been banging around the inside of Derik's head since he first locked lips with Quan, staggering drunk at that ridiculous summer party, and yet, it's not even a question he likes facing on his own with only himself and his personal insecurities to deal with. So to be faced with the prospect of discussing it with Quan? No way in hell.

"I…uhh…well…" 'Breathe, Derik,' he insists to himself, '…think. Talk. You're good at talking. Say something. Say anything.' "I…guess, but-"

To his great relief, Quan apparently takes pity on him. "If you don't want to talk about this now-"

"I don't," he blurts immediately, and he feels a brief stab of guilt at Quan's curbed wince – probably due to the immediacy of his response as much as anything – but he can't help it. How could he possibly discuss things with Quan when he doesn't even know himself what he's thinking? "Sorry, I just-"

"It's alright," Quan says, and for once Derik realizes that it isn't. Not all the way anyway, but it's nice to hear the reassurance. "It doesn't matter, I was just curious. We can…talk about it later, or something, don't worry about it."

Later.

Derik swallows dryly. Yeah. Later. Preferably a long, long time later…or never. Instead of saying that, though, he just nods. "Yeah, okay," he agrees. "So, umm…I'll see you, then. Send me a text in the morning or call me when you know when they'll let you out?"

"Sure." Quan nods. "I'll-"

"Oh," Derik blurts as an afterthought, mind determined to jump to anything but the topic he just narrowly escaped, "…I was gonna pick up some Mickey D's breakfast for you so you don't have to choke on whatever they're feeding you here…any requests?"

Finally, a hint of a smile makes an appearance on Quan's lips and he rolls his shoulders noncommittally. "Anything. You know what I like, anyway, and I'm not too picky."

"Right." A thought occurring to him, Derik smiles, a flicker of mischief slipping into the expression. "Sausages it is, then. Lots and lots of long, thick, juicy-"

Quan promptly wads up a fresh tissue and tosses it, turning it into a makeshift projectile weapon and grazing Derik's retreating shoulder as he makes for the door. "Ass," he asserts, and Derik flashes him a grin once out of range.

"Night."

Quan hesitates, something lingers in the air, and for a fraction of a second, Derik is insanely tempted to about-face, return to Quan's bedside and kiss him once more properly before he leaves. Then, Quan offers up a semblance of a smile and a quiet, "Goodnight." When his eyes flick a fraction lower, though, his smile gains a little believability, and Derik is all but positive he's teasing when he says, "Have fun on your date tonight."

"My—?"

"Your date with Ms. Five." Quan holds up a hand and wiggles the five fingers before curling them as though gripping something and making a jerking motion. Realization dawns with a blush, and Derik huffs as Quan chuckles.

"Yeah, uh-huh…maybe I will. Goodnight, Quan."

"See you."

"Right."

And this time, Derik does leave. Only on pulling the door shut and hearing the finality of its metallic click behind him does he realize how much he didn't want to leave – at all – but he makes himself walk down the nearly empty hall anyway (it's late now, and most of the rooms are quiet and dark). He checks himself out and walks out to his car, ignoring the bite of the sharply cold air and trying his utmost to concentrate on nothing at all.

No matter how he fights it, though, Quan's question – his own question – eats at him, nipping at the sides of his conscious when he shoves it aside and then devouring him afresh when he allows it to resurface properly. And he knows, somewhere along the line, he's going to have to face it head on. Escaping it tonight didn't make it go away, and avoiding it in the future won't turn it into dust.

But it's complicated – more complicated than just him and Quan – and it makes his head hurt, and Derik hates thinking anyway. He always has. Any problem that couldn't be solved with brute force and possibly a really large hammer or some explosives honestly just isn't Derik's type of problem. That's what God created nerds for, right? And yet, for once in his life the option of holding some egghead up by their shirt cuff until they agreed to solve the problem for him isn't available either.

This problem, he's fairly certain, is going to remain until he and Quan solve it together.

Derik sleeps rather fitfully that night.


A/N: Zhi lao'hu (纸老虎) or "paper tiger" is a Chinese phrase that basically means (as you might guess) someone who looks fierce or puts on a fierce front but is actually conflicted on the inside or not nearly as tough as they pretend to be.

Again, there will be more one-shots for these two coming, published at pretty much whatever pace I feel the inspiration to write them up, but this story will not update seeing as it's a oneshot, so if you're interested in keeping up with them you'll kina have to just keep an eye out (sorry for the inconvenience in that respect).

These things take many hours to write; take a minute or two to review? :)