Notes: Tom should have lived, damnit, and he needs someone like Taylor to come back to.

Laying Ghosts

Angyl and Rina

6/11/01

Disclaimers: Tom is owned by Sony Pictures and Taylor is owned by Paramount Pictures, but mmm do they look pretty together!

Exactly two years after he had died on the mountain slopes above, Tom McLaren returned to K2. The temporary camp was behind him, and, with his head tipped back, he could make out the cloud-shrouded summit over twelve thousand feet above.

What am I doing here? For the millionth time since agreeing to this madness, Tom asked himself the question, but was still no closer to an answer than he'd been the first time he'd asked it.

"Tom McLaren! Man, I thought you were dead!" The greeting had been given in good-natured humor, but it was truer than the other climber knew. Two years ago he'd climbed K2, leading a team funded by billionaire Elliot Vaughn. All told, eleven people had gone up between his party and the six who came to rescue them. Four returned, and through some miracle, he was one of them.

The expedition had been fucked from the start; he just hadn't realized it. He'd been hungry back then, and Vaughn's contract seemed just the thing to put Summit Expeditions on the map with the big guns in the guided climb market. One million dollars for the season. One million dollars to get Vaughn up to the summit on schedule, weather and the mountain be damned.

Unfortunately, the ones who were damned were the climbers, with seven of them paying the ultimate price. Tom felt a part of his soul had been claimed for each of the lives lost. He had been the guide. The final decisions had been his, but he'd let himself be bullied by Vaughn. Peter Garrett had given him a sketchy story as to what happened in the ice cave after he'd been pulled out, while he, Monique and Wick had been working to get Annie and Vaughn out.

There was more to that story than he'd been told, of that Tom was certain. Whatever had happened, Wick and Vaughn never made it out of the crevasse. Somehow Peter and Monique managed to drag Tom and Annie to a level where the helicopter could evacuate them. The next year had been pure hell, between multiple surgeries to repair his injuries and the trial, but he'd survived.

And now he was back in Pakistan, preparing to take on the mountain again.

Any sane person would have refused, but Tom hadn't. He looked away from the summit, turning when he heard the crunch of a boot on the snow nearby. Taylor Brooks. Goddamn, son-of-a-bitch lawyer who'd put him through the wringer on the stand, then saved his ass. His client. Tom took a deep breath, feeling his ribs expand without the least hint of pain, a point that had taken almost a year to get to, and walked down to meet the other man.

16 months prior

Tom heard his lawyer murmuring words of congratulations in his ear, but couldn't manage to muster up enough energy to acknowledge the man. The past month had been hell, physically and emotionally. His first four months home had been spent in the hospital and in rehab, trying to force his once fit body to relearn the most menial tasks.

Once he'd been released, Summit Expeditions had been hit with a lawsuit from Elliot Vaughn's estate. Gross negligence; the words still haunted him, mainly because they were in a way true. He'd let Vaughn force him into proceeding when all his instincts said to turn back. If that wasn't negligence, what was?

Totally drained, Tom was trying to muster up enough strength to stand, when he became aware that someone was standing in front of the table where he was sitting. Straightening up slowly, he raised his head to meet the piercing green gaze of the Vaughn estate lawyer. "Something I can help you with, Mr. Brooks?" he asked quietly, the lingering rasp caused by his damaged vocal chords grating to his ears.

"You deserved the win. I'm glad it turned out this way. K2..." Taylor glanced out into the courtroom to H., his best friend and the man who taught him how to be a half-decent human being. "K2 leaves its mark on you where you least expect it. Gives you perspective and makes you realize what's real and what's important in life. The old boys that gave me the case didn't quite get that."

Turning his gaze back on the handsome but haunted man, Taylor grinned. "Don't let the mountain whip your ass, McLaren. It's too damn pretty for that. See ya around!" Walking down the aisle Taylor threw his arm around H., then hoisted Eric, Harold's son, up in his arms. "Who's up for ice cream?" he asked and grinned at Eric's shrieks of joy.

"Hey H., I heard about this expedition to Everest. Think Cin would loose the chains enough for us to tackle another mountain?"

Harold's vehement curse echoed throughout the courtroom and Taylor threw back his head, laughing uproariously. "Did you hear that, Eric? Daddy said a bad word! I think we'd better go tell Mommy, hunh?"

"Taylor!!"

Taylor Brooks glanced over at the expedition's guide, breaking off the conversation with Jackie and Philip Cavenaugh. It was agreed that Phillip would stay at the base camp once they got there. This trip was to put to rest their own past on the mountain and lay markers for Wolfe and Kitami on the top of the mountain.

H. had wanted to come as he'd had a definite stake in the climb, but Cin had decided to deliver young Taylor Harold a week before they'd left and they'd needed another man. So Taylor called in a favor and got Tom McLaren.

The same man who was now staring at him in almost morbid fascination.

Excusing himself from his companions, Taylor wandered over to the younger man. "I don't bite you know, unless asked of course."

Tom chuckled at that, some of the strain leaving his eyes as he grinned. "Really? Didn't feel like that in the courtroom. Damn, can still feel the teeth marks back there."

It was difficult for Tom to reconcile the laughing man in front of him with the stern-faced lawyer he'd dealt with, and the tales he'd heard of Brooks' self-centered determination both in his climbing and in his life. Apparently, that had all changed on K2 five years before.

The Taylor Brooks that Tom had heard about hadn't been the type of man to risk his life to save his friend's, and he certainly wouldn't have sabotaged a court case by giving information to the defense lawyers, but he'd done both. Tom only wished he knew why the man wanted him here.

"Looks like the weather's clearing some. I want to sit down with everyone tonight and go over the acclimatization plan."

"I'll go tell the others," Taylor replied with a half-grin. "You know, McLaren. If you have questions, all you have to do is ask. Before you ask, I know that look - I'm a lawyer, I need to know body language. Anything you want to know I'll tell, for a price. Namely someone to share a bottle of Scotch with."

Shooting a last, parting grin over his shoulder Taylor returned to his companions to tell them the game plan.

"Well, that went well," Taylor grinned as he caught up to Tom after the meeting. They stood for a few moments, looking at K2 looming overhead in the darkness. "Can I change my price?" Taylor asked quietly. "My story for yours... if you're interested that is."

The dark-haired man arched an eyebrow at that. "The Scotch still come with the offer?" he asked. Why he thought he could talk about it now, he didn't know, but maybe it would be better to exorcise the ghost a final time before starting up the mountain.

Brooks knew the story, he had to, and Tom felt as if he'd re-hashed the whole ordeal enough when he'd met up with Peter and Annie Garrett on Everest earlier in the summer. But...maybe one more time couldn't hurt.

"If it does, I'm in." They wouldn't leave base came for at least two more days, that would give him plenty of time to get the alcohol out of his system.

"Your tent or mine?" Taylor chuckled, the frigid air sending up clouds in front of him with the sound. "Mine has the booze but chances are yours will be more private."

"Sounds like it had better be mine then." Tom glanced out over the small sea of tents that made up the camp, then looked back at the man beside him. "You grab the bottle, I'll see if I can find something edible so we both just don't pass out after one sip." The lower air pressure let alcohol be absorbed a lot quicker into the body, making it far easier to get drunk than it was at sea level.

"Oh I don't know, could be kinda fun getting drunk. You never know what comes out under the influence. Oh, and Mr. McLaren? I may be a lawyer back in the real world, but here I'm just a climber and a guy. A guy who's really very interested in hearing the... real story, and possibly more than a little interested in something else too."

Shooting the expedition leader a wink over his shoulder, Taylor headed for his tent to get the party started, so to speak.

Tom stood silently, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his parka, and watched Taylor make his way through the gathering dark toward his tent. "Just what the fuck did he mean by that?" he murmured, wondering if his brain was mis-firing or if the blond had really insinuated what he thought he had.

Not that it would do him any good anyway. Okay, maybe he was interested, but in the past two years, his libido had proved stubbornly absent. With a shake of his head, the guide angled off toward his own tent, climbing inside and lighting the lantern, peeling off several layers of clothes so that he didn't get overheated in the small space.

"Man, I have never, never hurt like that before in my life." Tom picked up his cup and knocked back a slug of the whiskey, feeling the burn chase some of the remembered chill from his body. "I'm still amazed I made it. Wouldn't have if..." He went silent, and took another drink, watching Taylor out of the corner of his eye as he did so.

"If?" Taylor asked quietly, pouring more scotch into both their glasses. This was something that obviously was preying on the younger man's mind. Taylor was a pragmatist. He may have grown up on K2, but his self-preservation instincts were still intact. There was no way he was going to risk his people to a man who was carrying around ghosts so real that Taylor could practically see them. And Taylor found himself wanting to trust Tom McLaren the way he trusted H., maybe more. So the poison had to come out.

"C'mon McLaren, spit it out. You know you want to say it," Taylor cajoled quietly.

"Jesus, I thought you were a lawyer, not a fucking psychologist," Tom hissed, downing the contents of his glass in one swallow, then taking a shuddering breath as the heat burned its way down to his stomach.

"Look, your group is paying me to get them up the mountain. I'll do that. In some ways I trust the mountain more than I do anything. She never lies; you go up there, you're risking death, she never pretends anything else. You prepare, you've got a shot at her, otherwise... Shit." He cupped the mug between his hands, smiling bitterly, "I'm preaching to the choir here. You read the depositions. You know what happened up there. If I could find Vaughn's body, I'd kick the fucker off the glacier for the fun of it."

"I know what the dispositions said. I read the transcripts, the hard, cold facts. They were only half the story. I know it because like you said, I've been up the mountain and I know she's as cruel and harsh a mistress as any man or woman will ever have.

"I lost two team mates on that mountain and nearly left my best friend for dead all because I was scared to die. Because I was a selfish asshole who was a lot like Vaughan. I wasn't a nice man, McLaren. I was a spoiled, selfish, willful child who was more interested in his own self-gratification than he was in the people around him, including his best friend.

"But I'm not that asshole anymore and to be perfectly frank, Tom, if you're gonna jeopardize our lives 'cause you can't let go, I'd rather you stayed at base camp with Philip. I've lost too many good friends to lose anymore because you can't trust anyone. Up there we've got no choice but to trust each other. Our lives depend on it," Taylor finished quietly but vehemently, wanting, needing the younger man to understand.

"I said, in some ways," Tom corrected mildly. "Like it or not, everyone has their own agenda going into a climb. I'm trusting all of you with my life as much as you're trusting me with yours, remember. I'm also trusting that none of you are so far gone that you'd rather kill someone than waste resources on them. You pulled your buddy out of a hell of a fix, when some would have said you would have been justified to leave him. That says a lot for you, Brooks. A lot."

"So," he continued, "what exactly do you want to know? In return, my one question for you is; if you thought I couldn't handle this, why did you push to get me hired?"

"I want to know what really happened up there, Tom. Not what we heard in court, not the cold, clinical facts. I want to hear how you felt when you nearly died because of one man's greed," Taylor replied, cutting right to the heart of the matter.

"And for your question. I only climb with the best, McLaren, and you're that. You're hungry and you respect that lady we're climbing. And I wanted to see you again. I told you I would," the lawyer finished baldly.

Giving up on being polite, Tom reached for the bottle of Scotch and chugged a long swallow. He almost asked the other man why he wanted to see him again, but held back. Brooks wanted to hear how he felt? Well then, that's what he'd get.

Taking a deep breath, Tom rubbed at his mouth with the back of his hand. "You know, for a while there I felt that I deserved what had happened. It was my penance for letting ambition push common sense out of my head. I knew we should have gone back, but I let Vaughn talk me into going on. For a while there, I was ready to give up and die, but then there he was, telling me to do it. That it was for the best. That I was gone anyway." He swore bitterly, and rested his elbow on his knee, not seeing the interior of the tent, but the shadowy crevasse that had almost been his tomb.

"Guess I didn't do it fast enough, because he decided to hurry things along some. If Annie hadn't seen him, it would have looked like I died in my sleep." Frowning, Tom rubbed at his neck over the spot the needle had entered his skin. The memory of Vaughn's crazed features looming over him caused his stomach to clench, and he took deep breaths until it settled again. "You met Annie? Good girl. Sweet girl." Too bad he couldn't return the feelings she hinted at all the times she visited.

"So yes, I freely admit that I hate Elliot Vaughn and what he brought out in me, but that doesn't mean that I don't respect good climbers - or that I can't trust them."

"Would you have killed him if you had the chance?" Taylor asked quietly. "Would you have put the team, the climb, and everything at risk for just one chance to off the son of a bitch, to get a little revenge?"

Tom stared at the older man in shock, his eyes widening before going hard as agates. If that's what Brooks thought... "No! Jesus, what do you think - He deserved what he got, but damned if I'd put anyone else in danger by trying something like that. Up there you're a team or you die, it's that simple."

Taylor smiled and snatched the bottle back, taking a chug. "You'll do, Mr. McLaren. You'll do just fine. And for the record, Vaughn got what he deserved. Hope he got skewered on a Popsicle personally. Never did like the SOB. He was a prick to everyone he met. You have no idea how many of his ex 'girlfriends' we had to pay off in order to keep abuse and shit quiet.

"What an asshole," Taylor continued. "Had no respect for his partners. And what he thought about switch hitters or the ones that played in the same field... It was rather a bitter irony that the old boys had me try the case that was for sure. He was probably shitting in whatever form of hell he's stuck in. Rolling over in that ice grave of his that I was supposedly defending his estate," Taylor chuckled quietly, not really thinking about what he was saying as the alcohol began to talk.

"Shit." Tom had heard some rumors about incidents involving Vaughn and some of the female climbers around base camp, but nothing had come of any of them - or so he thought. It figured that the billionaire would also have been bigoted in other ways as well.

"Just goes to prove what an ass he was. And what do you mean, it was an irony?" The guide cocked his head, studying the older man, his brow furrowed. The light-bulb came on, and his brows rose slightly, both in surprise, and shock that Taylor would admit something like that to someone who was really only a few steps above being a stranger.

Pausing for a second, Tom measured his next words, then shrugged, and offered a half-grin. "Guess he wouldn't have been to keen to hear that his guide fell into the same categories, not that it matters now."

It took a few minutes for Tom's words to register in Taylor's alcohol-soaked brain, but when they did he was instantly erect and aching. He'd wanted Tom McLaren since the day the guy had walked into his deposition with his lawyer and the ache hadn't gone away.

"Poor Vaughn, sorry bastard didn't know what he was missing by experiencing all walks of life, so to speak," the lawyer smirked as he moved closer to his guide. "So tell me, Mr. McLaren, what's your type; blond Nordic god, accented, American, European or what?"

"Can we cut the Mr. McLaren crap?" Tom snagged the bottle back from Taylor, and settled back against his heavier sleeping bag. It was still rolled up as he didn't need the insulation at this altitude, though it certainly would be necessary once they moved to the higher camps.

Downing a healthy gulp, he handed the bottle back and folded his hands on his stomach, chuckling slightly at the question. If Brooks only knew...

"I try to go by personality more then looks, but if you really want to hear, it's the beach bunny type that usually garners a second look. You know, blond, tanned, curved or buff." He gave the other man a considering look, then shrugged. "Not that it does me any good lately."

Taylor, being the predatory animal that was in his nature to be, moved in closer, circling his prey. Oh, baby, that was the wrong thing to say to me, now I just have to prove you wrong.

Using the need for Scotch as an excuse, he sat down right next to Tom, thighs touching and body heat joining. "I prefer dark hair and green eyes, myself," Taylor husked confidentially, leaning in close to snag the bottle, fingers brushing against the back of Tom's hand as he drew away. "Someone full of piss and vinegar, able to give as well as he receives. Someone who won't let me push him around, but gets in my face when he thinks I need it."

"Switch hitter, eh?" Tom asked, acutely aware of the pressure of Taylor's body next to his, and wondering how blunt he was going to have to be about his problem before the other man understood. "Or just into variety?"

He stretched out his legs, feeling the slight rasp as his jeans rubbed against the older man's, reminding himself that he should be thinking about the climb ahead, not what he wished he could be doing with the man seated next to him.

"Let's just say I like playing the field and believe that variety is the spice of life," Taylor chuckled as he threw caution to the winds. Putting the bottle down, he turned and cupped Tom's face, plundering the younger man's mouth before Tom could protest or pull away.

Drawing back, he was pleased to see that the other man was flushed and panting slightly, his eyes more black than green. "Delicious," Taylor murmured, running his thumb back and forth across the moist flesh. "I've been wanting to do that for over 18 months now. Ever since you walked into your deposition."

Jesus, the man could kiss. Tom had never lacked for company when he wanted it, and had received his share of complements in regards to technique, but Taylor Brooks somehow turned kissing into an art-form. A warm glow kindled in the pit of Tom's stomach, warming him from the inside even though it seemed to stop just below his waistline.

"Talk about hard up," he husked, reaching up to catch Taylor's hands and pull them away from his face, staring at them in fascination once he could focus on them. "At that point I was just this side of a hospital bed. Your idea of variety tends toward necrophelia?"

"Nahh, I'm into potential and I saw a lot of potential in you, McLaren. More than I've seen in years. You... affect me in ways I didn't know I could be affected." Taking back his hands, Taylor scrubbed his face and the back of his neck hard.

"Christ, if H. were here he'd say that I've... that's crazy. I don't believe in that stuff, never have. I mean it's just a bunch of pretty words that people use to get each other into bed and into life time sentences of servitude," Taylor muttered, beginning to panic at the intensity of emotion he was feeling. He'd never felt like this for anyone and there'd been a lot of 'anyones' to test the theory.

Tom wondered if it was the Scotch he'd had to drink that was making Taylor's ramblings incomprehensible, or if it was simply the fact that the other man was rambling. Focusing on the look of confusion and - was that fear? - in Brooks' eyes, Tom sat up and leaned in to look at the blond. "What the hell are you rattling on about?"

"Nothing, sorry was thinking out loud. They say alcohol and high altitudes don't mix, guess they were right," Taylor replied quickly. His problem, he'd deal with it, McLaren had had enough on his plate these past two years without Taylor adding to them.

"So, how about those Dodgers?" the older man continued, picking any subject he could to turn the discussion on to more safer venues of conversation.

Moving deliberately, Tom put the cap back on the bottle and set it aside. "Don't follow baseball, more of a football fan myself. And you know -" He pulled one leg back up and rested his elbow on his knee so that he was half-facing Taylor. "As a way of changing the topic, that really sucked."

Taylor had the decency to look embarrassed as he ducked his head. "Hard to believe I'm a lawyer, hunh? I can talk up a storm in a courtroom or when I'm chatting up someone but you get me in this kind of a situation I'm pretty tongue-tied."

Taylor's eyes strayed to the vee of Tom's legs where he could just make out the slight bulge that marked the other man's groin. Taylor couldn't help groaning. Damn, how'd he get into this position again? Oh yeah, his libido. But dammit he really wanted this guy. Badly.

"Think we can try this again? I wasn't babbling, I was running, figuratively if not literally. Never felt like this before, never wanted to feel like this but now... I'm willing to take the chance. Sounds crazy I know but hey, I like taking chances."

"So I've heard."

Tom unconsciously moved his hand to rub at his right side, feeling the ridges of scar tissue even through the flannel and the thermal undershirt he wore. "And normally I'd be jumping at the idea, but there are a couple of problems."

He sighed, then continued. "First, there's the little matter of that mountain we're going up in two days. How would adding this into the mix effect everything? Secondly - " Now his smile turned slightly bitter, "Wanting to jump in the sack and being able two are two different things for me - or they have been since my last trip here."

Taylor sat there for a few minutes formulating his arguments like any good lawyer. "You have some very strong points. But allow me to play devil's advocate here, since I do it so well," the older man replied.

"Lovers have climbed K2 together before and they all came back again. In fact, many attributed the additional trust as one of the mitigating factors in their survival. They knew without a doubt that their partner would watch their back at all times. Besides, all we did was kiss, Tom, and you seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

"As for your second argument. When was the last time you tried to 'jump in the sack' so to speak? Did your partner know about your accident or was it just a pick up, someone who wanted to fuck and not talk? Instant gratification may be a fun thing, but to be blunt, I don't want instant gratification anymore. I haven't in a while. It's been coming since I climbed that beast out there. The need for - more. And you haven't been with me yet," the lawyer smirked before continuing. "All I'm saying is keep your avenues open. I'm willing to take as long as is necessary, but dammit all, I'm not letting you use this an excuse. I'm scared to death, but I still want to try. With you."

People also die up there. The moment he thought it, Tom knew that line of reasoning was ridiculous. What was worse; to have something, then take the chance of losing it, or to never have had it at all?

"You're right," he said quietly. "You just managed to scare the shit out of me, Brooks. Don't know what's going to happen, but damned if I'll walk without trying." He pressed his hand harder against his side, then sighed. "As for the last time, it wasn't that they didn't know, but that they knew too much - first hand so to speak."

He slowly let go of his side, and cupped Taylor's chin in his fingers. "Guess we'll have to see if you live up to your reputation." Saying this, he leaned in, initiating another kiss, feeling the other man respond readily and his own pulse quicken.

Taking it slowly, Taylor leaned closer, learning Tom's taste, exploring every nook and cranny of his soon-to-be lover's mouth as thoroughly as he would a crevasse he was about to scale. His hands mirrored Tom's, cupping the younger man's chin, feeling the day old growth of hair. Tracing fingers down the strong jaw, elegant neck and delving beneath his turtleneck, Taylor explored the younger man quietly.

Finally having charted every possible inch, teeth and tongue and palate, Taylor pulled back slowly lips moist and panting. "Delicious," he murmured quietly. "You taste delicious, Tom."

Not wanting to rush the younger man, but wanting to move things along, he nudged the other man into a prone position then lay half next to him, half over him as he resumed his explorations. "We'll take this at whatever speed you want. If you want to stop just say so, so help me God I'll find a way to do it."

Tom stared up at Taylor incredulously, then burst out laughing, cutting off the sound when he remembered just how noises carried through the thin tent walls. "Now why would I tell you to stop?" he asked, rubbing his thumb over the other man's lips.

His body felt heavy with desire, even though his cock remained stubbornly limp, and Tom was discovering that he was enjoying the build-up no matter what the outcome was. "I figure that either way, it'll feel good and besides, gotta keep the client happy." The last was added with a rougish grin that stretched muscles which hadn't been used in two years.

"Liked the sound of the laughter, like the smile even more. You're gorgeous," Taylor replied seriously, looking down at the younger man. "And don't you worry, I won't stop, not until we're both spent and satiated," Taylor grinned.

"I should warn you though, Tom. I'm a very exacting client. Demanding even. I don't give up until I get just what I want. And what I want is to taste you. To feel your cum sliding down my throat, to watch your face as you orgasm, see the pleasure wash over you and know I put it there." Taylor continued to purr even as his hands slid under the younger man's turtleneck to pull it up and over Tom's head, baring his chest to the cool air of the tent and Taylor's hot gaze.

"Look who's talking," Tom murmured, the chill of the air raising a rash of goose bumps on his skin. "Must have gone straight to your head when I told you what my type is. You hit every god-damned button I have and now you know it."

He slid a hand up Taylor's thigh to the bulge at the crotch of his jeans, then nodded. "Yup, right to your head." His throat constricted at the feel of the heat burning beneath his palm, and Tom itched to see more of the older man's body.

"And you're that demanding, huh? Guess we'll have to see what happens, then go from there." The whole thing was crazy, stupid, but right now Tom didn't care. Just looking at the heat in Brooks' eyes made him feel more alive than he had in what felt like forever. Getting up Everest again earlier in the season was close, but this - this was more personal even than that.

Having seen the younger man's unconscious touches to his side earlier, Taylor ignored the jagged flesh completely, not that he really cared, a scar was a scar and he had his fair share from falls. Climbing wasn't exactly an afternoon of racquetball, and a mountain was a harsh and exacting mistress who was bent on taking her toll.

"Only fair that it's gone to my head. After all you're just my type too, and gorgeous to boot. Christ, Tom, you'd make a saint want to fornicate and I'm as far from sainthood as you can get," Taylor grinned as he licked his lips hungrily. "But to be fair..." Grabbing the hem of his sweatshirt the older man tugged it up and over his head, tossing it into the corner of the tent before laying down, covering the younger man with his body.

"Oh, baby, the things I want to do to you. I'm going make you want to scream. It'll be interesting to see just how quiet you can be with your dick down my throat or my cock up your ass."

Tom had a flash of a strong, tanned chest before Taylor was on top of him, looking down at him with a predatory hunger. The situation was strange for the guide, he'd usually been the aggressor in his relationships, but he wasn't fighting Taylor's handling of the role.

Far from it in fact. At the older man's heated words, he groaned and slid his arms around Taylor's back, kneading and exploring the smooth skin and down to the waistband of his jeans and the tight curve of his ass below. "You're a cocky son of a bitch, aren't you?" he gasped, feeling the rigid length of Taylor's erection rubbing against his hip. Tom's eyes widened when he felt a tiny twitch from his own member, but then it fell quiet again.

"You got that right, baby," Taylor grinned down at the younger man, eyebrows waggling tauntingly. "Wanna see just how 'cocky' I am?" the older man continued light-heartedly, keeping this simple and fun. Nothing heavy, no pressure, no worries, just two men enjoying themselves. He'd worry about the heavy stuff when he was alone in his tent or climbing the mountain.

Taylor let his hand drift down to the waistband of his jeans, toying with the button there. "So, you'd like me to expose myself for you, Tom," he continued. "How 'bout we play I'll show you mine, you show me yours. Better yet how about I show myself?"

That said, Taylor shimmied down and had McLaren's jeans around his ankles along with his thermal underwear and boxers before the younger man could say a word. "Christ, you're fucking beautiful," the older man groaned almost reverently, as he looked his fill at his lover. Bending, he nuzzled the soft cock lovingly, his tongue darting out to dance across the sleeping flesh, tasting and learning Tom intimately.

"Not - not so bad yourself," Tom gasped, kicking out of his clothes. "but - haven't seen it all - yet."

His body felt as if every nerve ending was on edge, and Taylor's breath scorched across his skin like a brand. Tom could see the need in the older man's luminous green eyes, and knew that it was reflected in his as well. Lurching up to his elbows, he grabbed a hold of Taylor's waistband, tugging until the other man shifted enough to allow him to begin stripping the remaining clothes from his body.

At this point, he didn't know what was going to happen as far as his own arousal went, but the guide knew that even if he didn't come, Taylor's attention felt damn good - and that he was going to do his best to make the other man feel the same.

"Such compliments will go straight to my head, you realize," Taylor laughed as he allowed the younger man to strip him, "both of them."

That said, Taylor dove back into his work, swallowing the soft cock into his mouth, letting it warm. Taylor let his fingers trace his lover's balls and then move further down to his perineum, caressing it with light strokes. His free hand slid upwards to brush lightly against his lover's nipples, teasing them with light strokes.

Breathing around the cock in his mouth, Taylor threw all his knowledge of sex into giving Tom pleasure. Letting the finger below trace upwards he slipped it into his mouth next to Tom's cock, wetting it, before letting it follow the path he'd already blazed, and then further, to the younger man's anus where he stroked it lightly, almost pushing in, then letting it retreat.

A shudder that had nothing to do with the temperature ran through Tom's body, and he spread his legs wider, the need building within him pooling at the base of his spine, threatening to explode into molten heat that was going to engulf all of him.

Needing something to anchor himself with, Tom chose the parts of Taylor's body that were so readily accessible to his hands and mouth. Moaning softly, praying to God that his rebellious body would come to heel, Tom ran a hand up and over Taylor's hip, then down to the heavy cock framed by wiry blond curls.

Gusting out a breath of appreciation for the beauty of the sight, the guide framed Taylor's cock with his hands, then moved them inwards, stroking along both sides of the heated flesh, raising it out from the lawyer's body and flicking his tongue over the tip, tasting salt, and musk, and man.

The older man gave a small jerk at the touch, and Tom felt the finger that had been teasing him press inside his body. Caught between the taste of Taylor and the slight burn as tight muscles were stretched, he didn't notice that his formerly quiescent penis was showing signs of life, lengthening as if reaching for more of Taylor's addictive touch.

Letting his head fall back for a moment, Taylor moaned appreciatively. "Oh god, that's good. You're a natural, Tom, so fucking good," the lawyer moaned quietly.

Returning to his pleasurable task, Taylor noticed the increased length of Tom's cock with a sense of satisfaction. Not wanting to draw undue attention to his arousal, Taylor dipped his head to suck in his lover's balls. Rolling the delicate testes in his mouth, Taylor enjoyed the heated musk, the sent of skin and sex that the younger man was beginning to produce.

Tom had to chuckle at that, breathing out the soft laugh over Taylor's now damp flesh. "Not a complete novice at it, if that's what you mean." Sliding a hand lower to cup and stroke the older man's balls, Tom lapped at the head of Taylor's cock, slowly taking him deeper into his mouth until he was bobbing his head to swallow the majority of Taylor's length with each sweep.

The light suction on his balls drew a quit moan from the guide, and his hips arched upward reflexively, the move tightening his ass around Taylor's finger and pinning it within him. God, oh God, feels so good. How does he know just the right spots to touch me? He moaned to himself, twisting sideways and upwards while continuing to suck and lick at Taylor's erection.

Rubbing his tongue back and forth along Tom's sack, Taylor let the rough surface massage and stimulate the guide's sensitized flesh. Tom's mouth caused Taylor to moan, creating vibrations that surrounded his lover's flesh and made the younger man's cock twitch and lengthen even more where it lay against his cheek.

Beginning to pump his finger in and out of the tight, sweet passage of McLaren's ass, Taylor searched for his prostate. The slight jump and quick intake of breath let the lawyer know he'd succeeded in finding the sensitive bundle of nerves. Taylor laved the other man's balls one last time before he let them pop out of his mouth. "Now the fun really starts," he chuckled as he swallowed Tom's cock again even as he pushed another finger inside Tom's ass.

The dark-haired man's breath was coming in short pants, and he moaned continually around the throbbing flesh in his mouth. Taylor tasted so good, he couldn't get enough, and the way the other man was going down on him...

Realizing just what it was the older man was so assiduously sucking, Tom froze, pulling back off of Taylor's cock to stare in stunned amazement at the blond head bobbing over his definitely erect cock. The fingers inside him twisted and spread, then brushed against his prostate again, making Tom's whole body quiver. He swallowed hard, tasting the bitter tang of Taylor's precome, then bent back to his task only to find himself unable to concentrate on the other man's pleasure because of the knifing desire shooting through him.

"Taylor - Jesus," Tom breathed, resting his head against the older man's hip, his fingers clenching around the hard muscle of his thighs.

"Oh yeah, that's it, Tommy. Come for me. You know you want to. You can feel it building up in your balls, the fire racing through your veins, the need for release. It feels so good, doesn't it? That ache as it gets close, that overwhelming need to explode. Explode down my throat, Tom. Let me taste you. Give me your come, baby, I need it," Taylor purred before deep throating the younger man's cock all the way.

Another finger pushed it's way inside the tight and snow slick passage. His fingers began to slowly fuck Tom's sweet bubble butt. Faster and faster he fingered his lover's passage as his head bobbed up and down, throat muscles expanding and contracting. Taylor's free hand reached up and twisted a reddened nipple hard, drawing a sharp cry from the other man before it was cut off with a hand stuffed in his mouth.

For long, terrifying seconds, Tom hung on the edge, caught on the precipice between orgasm and failure, not knowing which way his inner conflict was going to go. In the end, the battle was won by force, just as the task of arousing him had been accomplished. Taylor didn't coddle and he certainly wasn't gentle. He assaulted all of Tom's senses at once, demanding nothing less than total capitulation, and getting it.

Muffling his almost constant groans against the side of his hand, Tom twisted upward into the dark heat of Taylor's mouth, tremors racing along his body as erogenous zones he wasn't aware he possessed were stimulated into over-drive. It was the combination of a hard thrust of the other man's fingers into his body and the hot massage of Taylor's throat muscles that did Tom in.

He came, the pleasure so sharp that it was almost pain. Two years of frustration and an almost unhealthy need swept through him, leaving the guide shaking and limp once the last of his orgasm thundered from his body. His eyes were totally dilated, and, as he collapsed back onto the sleeping bag, all he could manage was a drawn out moan and a spastic clenching of his anal muscles around Taylor's fingers.

After swallowing the copious amounts of the bitter salt fluid, Taylor gave one final lick to the now soft cock of his lover. Reversing positions and slithering up the younger man, he shared Tom's taste with him in a passionate kiss. "That was the hottest thing I've ever seen in my life, Mr. McLaren, and I've seen a lot of hot things," Taylor murmured with a quiet smile.

Continuing to stare down at the man beneath him, Taylor forgot momentarily the state of his own arousal. "You're beautiful. Thought so from the minute I laid eyes on you. And that you had to be the toughest son of a bitch in the world to survive what you did, then spit in my face when I went after you. You pushed back hard, Tom, hard enough that you had me convinced within the space of a meeting. I knew the charges were trumped and I'm glad I could prove it with the Garretts' help. They're good people. You're better."

The ache in his balls let Taylor know that relief was a pressing concern. Once they started up the mountain - God, he wouldn't be able to touch Tom again but... "Feel like sharing a tent when we go up? Jackie's nice and all but she's just not my type," he teased lightly.

"And the thought of sharing body heat with her leaves me limp and lifeless," he continued to tease even as he rubbed his blood engorged cock against Tom's sated one, moaning at the sensation. "I... can I, Tom?" he asked quietly, not wanting to push too far, too fast but somehow knowing it was already far too late for that. He'd walked the razor sharp peaks and missed a step, tumbling head-first into what he wasn't sure, but wanting to find out.

For what felt like forever, Tom was only able to lie there, caught between the hard heat of Taylor's body and the downy softness of his sleeping bag, lost in a haze of satisfaction and relaxation. When Taylor's half-whispered words pierced his daze, Tom's eyes focused and narrowed slightly.

Lord, where was this going? Where did he want it to go? The one thing Tom knew for certain was that he didn't want it to end, not now and maybe not ever. Raising a hand, he stroked the older man's cheek, brushing his fingertips back through the silky hair that flopped down over Taylor's brow.

"I somehow don't think Skip will mind sharing a tent with Jackie," he breathed, hyper-aware of the brand of Taylor's erection pressed against his groin. "And I definitely don't like the idea of you being limp and lifeless." The image that accompanied that made Tom frown, and he pulled Taylor in for a kiss to banish the horrid picture from his mind.

Letting his fingers trail down the small bumps of Taylor's spine until they reached the other man's ass, Tom smiled, wiggling slightly to wrap his legs around the older man's hips. "But I definitely do like the idea of you feeling like you just made me feel, and I'm pretty sure of how to get that to happen." Twisting a hand up behind him, he reached in his pack, pulling out a tube of hand cream, and offering it to Taylor.

"Baby," Taylor breathed, an almost boyish grin spreading across his face. "You know just how to take care of me, don't you?" Bending, the lawyer stole Tom's lips once again, sharing Tom's taste with the younger man as he ravaged those lush lips.

Nimble fingers snapped open the cream and he pooled the icy lotion in his hand, warming it before running his fingers through it and then trailing their slick coating over Tom's anus. Feeling the tiny muscle wink and expand had Taylor smiling into the kiss. Oh yeah, this was gonna be good!

Breaking off the kiss, Taylor grinned down at his lover. "Sweeter words have never been spoken to me," the older man teased as he slid a finger inside the tight pucker, nearly coming on the spot from the feeling. "Oh shit, you're so tight you're almost virginal," Taylor groaned appreciatively.

Taking his time to stretch Tom slowly so that there would only be minimal soreness in the morning, the older man feasted on the climber's Adam's apple then trailed his hot mouth down to devour the peaked and tantalizing nipples. "This is gonna be better than free climbing," he teased as he worked a third finger inside even as he applied the rest of the cream to his own dripping cock.

Withdrawing his fingers he quickly replaced them with his erection and scythed into his lover, almost whimpering as Tom's heated muscles clamped down on him, giving his cock the most amazing internal massage. "Oh god, Tommy," he moaned, holding himself still for long moments in order to let the younger man adjust and let him regain some semblance of control.

Looking down at the man underneath him, Taylor smiled dangerously. "When we get back from the climb, we're gonna do this again. Except the next time you're gonna return the favor McLaren. Or maybe I can see if you're as good at riding as you are at climbing." Taking Tom's mouth in another voracious kiss before the younger man could say a word, Taylor began to move, driving his hips slowly backwards and forwards, trying to make this last as long as possible, wanting to make sure that tomorrow's climb had Tom remembering this night with each and every move of his body.

Breathing open-mouthed as his body re-accustomed itself to a sensation it hadn't experienced in a long time, Tom dropped his head back on the sleeping bag after the kiss broke, watching Taylor move over him through pleasure-glazed eyes. Each thrust and retreat felt like an eternity, one that Tom wouldn't mind dealing with at all. Just...

"Don't call me 'baby', okay?" he murmured, gripping his thighs to pull his legs farther back, allowing Taylor more freedom with his body.

"Tommy's fine, just - " He inhaled as Taylor's erection brushed against his prostate, then purred, twisting up under the older man to nip at his neck. "Can't deal with baby. Can deal with everything else though, especially once we make it back from the summit."

Taylor grinned down at the younger man. "Note to self, my baby doesn't like being called baby. Joking, McLaren," the older man grunted as his nipple was twisted punishingly. The sharp pain only made his hips snap faster, thrust harder and take his lover higher. It felt so fucking good!

"Like calling you Tommy. I like the idea that you want me as much as I want you. Want to be locked up with you for a week when we get back. Where doesn't matter as long as there's a bed, food and drink and you. Want to gorge myself on you and let you do the same with me. Want to touch, taste, feel, experience - drink you in and savor you. Want more than a quick fuck on the side of a mountain," the older man confessed as he continued to thrust, his balls slowly crawling up close to his body and preparing to release his seed into the younger man.

"A - a week alone works for me," Tom gasped, his fingers tightening on Taylor's back, then sliding lower to knead his ass. "Think we can postpone the planning session until we're done here though?"

He wanted to feel the hot splash of Taylor's seed inside him, to see the rush of his climax could the older man's green eyes. Taylor was close, Tom could feel it, and he rippled the muscles of his ass around the lawyer's cock, smiling in response to the groan that earned him. "Do it, Taylor," he murmured, sitting up enough to lick at the tanned length of the other man's neck. "Let go."

"Tommy," Taylor managed to groan out before slamming his lips down onto the younger man's and devouring the succulent mouth that had become his lifeline. Slamming once, twice, three more times into the guide, Taylor felt his shaky control finally snap and came hard and fast, sending ropes of hot seed flooding into his lover.

"Jesus Christ, Tommy," the older man finally managed to get out as he was forced to release Tom's lips in order to breathe. "I think you've wrecked me!" he continued with a husky laugh before collapsing on top of the gorgeous man beneath him, still buried inside Tom's ass.

Tom shifted just enough to wrap his legs around Taylor's, careful not to dislodge the other man's slowly softening cock from his body when he moved. "A complement from the master, I'm flattered," he chuckled, running his hands over the older man's back, then flipping the edge of his sleeping bag over them to keep their sweat soaked bodies from getting too chilled. "Looking forward to doing it again once we get back too," Tom continued, nipping at the curve of Taylor's ear.

Taylor moaned unhappily. "Shit - it's gonna be a month before I can do this again?" he bemoaned quietly. "A month before you can do me?

"At least I'll be able to sleep with you at night, wrap my arms around you, kiss your sexy neck, feel your hard, strong body next to mine, teasing and taunting me. I can't wait," Taylor chuckled and shivered, the feeling of Tom's mouth and teeth on his sensitive ear making him a little crazy. "And I'm no master here, Tommy, I'm..." Taylor swallowed the rest of the sentence that had nearly burst out of his mouth. I'm yours?? Shit, where the hell had that come from?

"Not too happy about it either." Hell, Tom didn't even know if his body was going to cooperate next time, but damn he wanted to try. "But you know as well as I do that when you're up there, your entire concentration better be on her or you'll be hers forever."

His eyes darkened to agate, and his hands tightened against Taylor's back for a moment. "Though I think we're both going to be nuts by the time we get back. Maybe you should stay with Jackie after all." Taylor's sudden change of expression worried Tom, and he nipped the older man's ear again. "Kidding, Brooks. Nobody else is sharing body heat with you this trip, not if I have anything to say about it."

"Damn straight," Taylor husked, bending to claim those lush lips yet again, finding himself hungry for Tom's taste even though he'd had it only moment's before.

"I wonder if this is what addiction feels like?" he mused out loud when he finally released those lush, glistening lips. "This need. Christ, I just had you and I want you again, Tom. I just tasted you and already I miss your tongue in my mouth, your breath mingling with mine. I'm inside you and it's not enough. You've just become my drug, Tom MacLaren, and I'm hooked," the lawyer admitted, running his thumb back and forth across Tom's dewy lips.

"Don't worry about me. Last time I was crawling up this lady's skirts I learned my lesson about concentrating, believe me! Only thing I'll be watchin' your back for is to make sure it comes down in one piece so I can get another piece of it later," the older man teased.

Tom brushed his tongue against the pad of Taylor's thumb, then closed his teeth around the digit, biting lightly. "Good thing I'm in easy supply then, isn't it," he asked before sucking on the warm flesh against his lips.

"Easy? No, Tommy, you were anything but easy. But you were worth it," Taylor confessed quietly before sliding out of the younger man and reaching for his undershirt to clean them both up a bit.

Snuggling down deeper into the sleeping bag and wrapping his arms around Tom's waist to anchor the guide to him, the older man grinned. "Maybe I'm presuming here, but you mind if I stay the night. I like having you in my arms. It feels... right."

"I'd only mind if you decided you didn't want to spend the night," Tom murmured, tilting his head back and smiling at what he could see of Taylor's face. "Besides, we need to get used to sharing a tent and this is good practice."

He scooted back into contact with the curve of the lawyer's body, sighing at the contact. "Get some rest, Brooks," he sighed, threading his fingers through the older man's and squeezing lightly. "I'm going to work you hard tomorrow."

Taylor snickered. "You saying you didn't have me working hard tonight, McLaren?" he teased as he let his eyes drift shut and his breathing even out. "And anything you can dish out I can take, hotshot."

The next day, halfway to base camp, Taylor wasn't so sure. Either climbing K2 had gotten harder since the last time he was here or he'd gotten older, and there was no way in hell Taylor Brooks would ever admit to that! In fact, Taylor's only saving grace was the fact that everyone else, except Tom, seemed to be having some degree of difficulty.

"Hey McLaren, think we can take a five minute breather?" he bellowed from his position near the back of the train. "The porters look like they can do with a break!"

Tom swung around, easily balancing his pack as he did so, and looked out over the string of people behind him. He glanced at his watch, then started back, taking the time to speak to most of the porters in their native Urdi as he passed, telling them to stop for lunch.

"It's close enough to noon, might as well stop now," he smiled, once he was back near Taylor and the others. "All things considering, we're making good time. Should only be about four hours out, everyone's holding up well."

"So we'll make base camp while it's still light, then. Good. Should give us some time to unwind. Any chance there's a hot spring up there? I kinda... well it's something for Kitami," the older man admitted quietly. "I wanna - honor him, I guess."

Tom called out a question to the head porter who answered in the affirmative. "Naser says there's one that the Japanese expedition opened earlier this summer, so it should still be uncovered." He saw the pained expression in Taylor's eyes and placed his hand on the older man's shoulder, squeezing lightly. "We'll find a way for you to do it, don't worry."

"Thanks. Kitami - dared me to sit butt naked in the water, surrounded by snow and then get out and roll in the stuff the last time we were here. Never did finish the challenge. The porters decided to up and quit so I never got to roll in the snow. I guess I owe him that much," the older man grinned.

"Sounds stupid, I bet," he continued as he ducked his head and shrugged off his pack. "Say, McLaren, feel like taking a load off and grabbing a bite with me?"

"Nah." Tom shook his head, understanding all too well what Taylor meant. There were things he wanted to do himself, once he was on the slopes of K2. Rituals he felt he owed those who had lost their lives with or in search of his party.

"Just let me check with the rest of the porters and make sure there are no issues. I'd rather have supplies that we don't need than the other way around. Pick out a comfortable rock and I'll be back in a few." Tom offered Taylor a quick wink, then started through the small groups of men, chatting with them and listening to any concerns they had.

Taylor watched McLaren as he moved easily between the resting parties. He seemed so at home, such a natural that Taylor couldn't help but wondering if maybe Tom really did belong here instead of stateside - with him. There, he'd thought it if not said it.

Taylor Brooks, the guy who didn't believe in love, didn't believe in forever, was thinking of commitment and long-term relationships - with Tom McLaren. Damn. If it didn't feel so good, so right, he might be halfway back down the mountain but he wasn't, so Taylor guessed that this was something and someone he really wanted.

"You and he work well together." Jackie Cavanaugh took a spot next to Taylor for a moment and studied her climbing partner. "And you're happier than I've ever seen you, even climbing with H. He got to you, didn't he, Taylor? The same way Philip got to me."

"Yeah, yeah I think he did. He's got guts. Damn near died on this mountain and look at him; calm, in control and totally at the top of his game. He's amazing," the lawyer admitted with complete honesty. "A better man than I am."

"A better man than you were. You've finally grown up, Taylor," Jackie grinned as she stood and ruffled his hair. "For the record, Philip and I like the new and improved you. Welcome to adulthood, Taylor Brooks. You're gonna do just fine."

Turning, Jackie smiled at the returning Tom and winked. "Don't take any of his bullshit. He may have finally reached maturity, but he's still a bit of a prick. Part of his charm."

Tom chuckled as he pulled off his pack and set it on the ground beside him. "Thanks for the advice, I'll remember it." Once the dark-haired woman was gone, he drew his arm across his forehead, then opened his pack, pulling out his meal. "So, guess I pass inspection, hmm?"

"More like I finally did," Taylor chuckled as he looked around then pulled his lover in for a quick but intense kiss. "Feel like sharing the hot spring and a roll in the snow with me? Once we get the camp set up and stuff," he asked, sneaking a wedge of apple from Tom's lunch and popping it in his mouth.

The younger man mock-scowled, aiming a jab at Taylor's shoulder for the theft before settling himself on the ground. "Gee, Brooks, didn't know you were into torture along with everything else. Sharing a hot spring with you and not being able to touch you? That defines the word for me."

"Think of it this way, McLaren, it's probably the only way I'm gonna be able to see your naked ass for the next couple of weeks or any other part of you for that matter. It won't be safe to expose anything the further up the mountain we get," Taylor grinned as he settled himself next to the younger man, slinging a friendly arm around his shoulder. "And who says you won't be able to touch me? We're not that high up yet."

Tom allowed himself the luxury of sliding his hand under Taylor's shirt for a moment before straightening again. "I say it." His voice carried a hint of regret, but also strength. "Not that I don't want to, Taylor, but if we're going to do this, we have to do it by my rules right now. We have to put this on hold for now. I can't let myself - us get distracted right now. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, Tommy, I do, and I'm sorry for putting you on the spot like that. I still want you to roll in the snow with me, if you're willing. I'll sit on one side of the pool, you can sit on the other. We can tell each other about our childhoods and our high school prom dates and shit. I just... I'd rather not do it alone."

Pulling his arm back, Taylor braced it on his knee and lay his head back against the boulder. "And then I'll tell you about Kitami and how he died. I... need to do this. Please?"

Feeling as if he'd just kicked a wounded dog, Tom slid his arm behind Taylor's neck, moving his head to rest on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Taylor. I didn't mean it that way." He rested his head against the older man's hair, then leaned it back against the rock, sighing.

"Shit. I just - all I could think of was how hard it was going to be to keep my hands off you. If you still want me to join you, I'd be honored."

Taylor was... flabbergasted. "Tommy - I was hitting on you, baby," he chuckled, using the dreaded nickname to get a reaction out of the younger man. "I'm a dog, I admit it. I love sex and lots of it. Used to have a flavor of the day, never mind week or month.

"I was out of line, McLaren and you had every right to put me back in my place. You lead the team, no second-guessing, no fucking around. You're in charge. I was trying to push you; I'm good at pushing buttons. You didn't let me. Don't feel bad, Tommy. You did right." Wrapping his hand around the back of Tom's neck, he held his lover steady for another brief kiss.

"But I'm gonna hold you to that dip. If I gotta freeze my ass off in the snow, so do you. Besides, after heating our libdos up, it'll be a great way to cool us down!"

"Ass," Tom growled, cuffing the side of Taylor's head. "I'm gonna bury you in the snow when you get out of that pool, so watch it." He felt profound relief that Taylor understood and accepted the situation for now, but he still had the feeling the other man might push the physical bounds as often as he could - he was, as he said, a dog.

Tom, on the other hand, knew he'd be perversely glad if that dip in the pool got another rise out of him; it'd go to prove it wasn't a one-time occurrence. "And don't call me baby!" That said, he dug into his food, knowing he'd need the energy in the coming weeks.

Leaning in close Taylor whispered. "I may be an ass, but I'm all yours, baby."

"Y'know, I don't remember it being quite this... crazy the last time I did this," Taylor remarked as he lay his head back against a mound of snow and let the hot water seep into his tired bones. "Of course, Kitami could make even the most insane thing sound perfectly logical. He was that kinda guy, and one hell of a climber too. Wolfe should never have," shaking his head, Taylor opened an eye and then winked at his companion.

"You gonna talk to me, McLaren, or keep sulking? I promise to never call you baby again." On this trip anyway, the older man amended to himself with a sly smirk.

Tom turned his head just enough to look at his lover and arched an eyebrow at him. "I'm not sulking, I'm giving an exhibition of the fine art of listening. You lawyers, talk enough for five men on your own." He laughed quietly, then stretched out in the spring, his foot bumping against Taylor's accidentally, then deliberately.

Eyeing the younger man with an arched eyebrow, Taylor slapped his palm across the surface of the water, sending a tiny tidal wave of liquid to rain over the other man. "Fine art of listening my ass," he drawled, "you were sulking, McLaren. That was almost as fine a sulk as I've seen on Eric, and that's one six year old who has it down to an art, let me tell you!

"And behave, Mr. McLaren. Your rules, but that means you gotta play by them too."

Blinking to clear the water from his eyes, Tom reached out and grabbed Taylor's arm, ducking him under the heated water, laughing aloud as the other man came up sputtering. "My mother always told me I had the perfect mouth for pouting, I just am selective about who I use it on."

"You got a perfect mouth alright," Taylor grinned, crowding the younger man up against a snow bank then rubbing himself against his lover for a few brief moment.

"I can't wait to see it's perfection wrapped around my cock, swallowing my come, driving me wild with lust, maybe even rimming my ass before you fuck me blind," he purred into Tom's ear even as his hand reached above and behind the younger man and packed together a handful of snow.

Quickly, before the water evaporated the chilly mass, Taylor snaked his hand back under the water and pressed his palm against one of Tom's nipples then skittered back to his side of the pool laughing maniacally at McLaren's yelp of surprise.

"You're going to pay, Brooks," Tom hissed, keeping his voice low so that they wouldn't draw undue attention. "Pay, and pay, then pay some more!" The chill of the snow had effectively doused the fire Taylor's touch had sparked, and now he stalked the older man, eyeing the distance between him and the edge of the spring.

"And your payment starts now!" Darting in, Tom hefted Taylor up out of the water on his shoulder, then rolled him out into the snow, breaking into laughter at the lawyer's curses and barely muffled howls.

Hopping out of the water, Tom grabbed a towel and his clothes, fearing retaliation in the form of another dousing, and moved them away from the water.

Biting back an unholy shriek as his hot skin was doused in the cold snow, Taylor rolled to his knees, ready to do battle. As he watched Tom clamber up and out of the water and grab his clothes, the lawyer quickly made a few loosely packed snowballs.

"You know what they say, baby," he crowed. "Revenge is best served cold!" That said the older man let loose a barrage of snowballs, scoring direct hits on Tom's upper spine, left buttock and right shoulder.

Snickering as he watched the guide dance around as the snow clung and melted and dripped, Taylor pulled on his pants, forwent his shoes and bolted back to the relative safety of the tent he would be sharing with McLaren.

Laughing, Tom shook off the snow and got himself dried off and dressed. Grinning at the amused and somewhat confused expressions on the porters' faces, he simply shrugged, explaining it away as a strange American custom. Pulling on his boots, he wandered over to the cookfire, slinging his towel and shirt around his neck to pour two mugs of hot chocolate.

"Thought you might need this," he said, holding one out to Taylor who was peeking warily out of the tent flap. "Might warm you up some after that." He grinned, then took a sip of the steaming liquid, not bothered by the chill on his bare skin quite yet.

"Tu es muy loco," Taylor muttered as he ducked back inside to throw on a pair of thermal pants, a t-shirt and a thick sweater. Woolen socks and his boots were next, then he was finally ready.

Emerging from the tent, Taylor took the proffered cocoa and grimaced as it was now only lukewarm. Then again, body heat was more important than steaming chocolate. "Besides I prefer to generate heat, not play in frigid things," he tossed off with a smirk.

Tom rolled his eyes as he downed the rest of his drink. He aimed a swat at Taylor's ass before setting his empty mug down and pulling on his under and over-shirt. "That why you were rolling around in the snow, smart-ass?" he asked, grinning.

"Hell no, I was rolling around in the snow, as you so charmingly put it, coz you shoved me there. Besides I needed frigid to get me under control. You tempt me, McLaren. You make me think naughty things, things that could get me into hot water," he punned badly.

The dark-haired man bent and scooped up a handful of snow, looking at his new lover meaningfully as he patted it into a ball and tossed it from hand to hand. "Let me know if you need cooling off again, Brooks. I'm sure I can oblige."

"Um, no, that won't be necessary. Damn, will you look at the time," the older man let out a huge fake yawn. "High altitude, thin air. I'm suddenly tired. Think I'll turn in. Have fun playing with the other kiddies, junior!"

Tom snorted and lobbed the snowball in Taylor's direction, scoring a perfect hit on the older man's ass when he turned to duck into the tent. "Get your rest, pretty-boy. We start acclimatization climbs tomorrow and with the way you were huffing today, you're going to need it."

He winked and grinned when Taylor spun around to glare at him, then started back to the command tent to look over the new weather forecasts.

"Huffing my ass," Taylor muttered as he crawled into the two-man tent and shucked out of the wet boots, putting on another pair of thermal socks and crawling into the thermal sleeping bag. "Just wait until we get back down this baby and I'll show him who's huffing - when I'm buried deep in his ass and making him yowl like a cat in heat!"

Pulling out his much-battered copy of "The Art of War", Taylor settled into the makeshift bed and lost himself in the writings of Sung-Tsu.

Three-quarters of the way across the treacherous knife-edge ridge, Tom stopped, kicking his crampons deep into the snow pack and driving another piton into the ice below it before hooking on a carbiner and threading the rope through it. Ducking his head to avoid most of the wind, he looked back at the three other climbers strung out behind him, nodding to himself at their positions.

Once they made it around the col, they'd make camp in the lee, away from the ferocious winds streaming in from Pakistan, sucking heat and energy away from all of them. So far the climb had been going well and the weather looked clear for a shot at the summit in three days time.

Checking the line a final time, Tom arced his ice ax into the snow ahead of him and started off again, the thin umbilical chord connecting him to the other three trailing out behind him.

From his spot as anchor, Taylor took a moment to watch his lover climb. Damn, Tom was good. Really good. And not just in bed either, he smirked to himself, although the younger man was dynamite there. Having Philip hire McLaren to guide them had been pure genius and a much better choice than the others they looked at. Not that he'd tell Tommy that, not up here anyway. He didn't want either of the younger man's heads to swell.

Seeing that Tom was on the move again, Taylor sighed. Rest time was over, time to get moving again.

The distant howl of the wind could still be heard in their sheltered cove on the lee of the mountain. Shivering slightly, Taylor pulled Tom more firmly against him, purely to share body heat, all thoughts of sexual desire firmly banked as they worked to make it to the peak of K2. "How much longer, you think? A couple of days or more?"

The guide set aside the radio and tugged the zipper on the combined bags a bit higher once he'd brought his arm back inside. "I'd say three or four to be conservative. That gives us a full day to pack gear up to the next site, one to rest, then the next two to try for the top. Forecast is clear for the next week. If everything works, we'll be down by then."

Tom stretched, loosening muscles that hours of work with the ice ax had tightened, and sighed. "If not... Well, we've lugged enough supplies up to last a while back at Camp 2."

"Here, let me," Taylor commanded, pulling off his gloves with his teeth then moving back far enough to begin to work at the tensed and quivering muscles. "Damn, you're strung tight. You were really working it, weren't you?" he murmured quietly.

Feathering his lips across the back of Tom's neck, Taylor kissed the younger man's neck. "You're good, Tommy. Really good. You impressed the hell out of me."

Tom chuckled softly, the sound turning into a low, pleasured groan as the knotted muscles relaxed. "Damn, you're starting to scare me here, Brooks. A massage and a complement at the same time. Watch it or I'll get spoiled."

He turned just enough to look back at the blond though Taylor's expression was unreadable in the darkness. "But thanks, for that and for, well..." Tom's voice trailed off for a moment. "Give it a few more minutes and I'll return the favor. We've got a tricky ice patch tomorrow so it's going to be even harder on the arms than today was."

"Maybe I want to spoil you," the older man husked softly, nuzzling the back of Tom's baby soft hair. "Maybe I wanna take care of you tonight the way you take care of all of us during the day. Turn around being fair play and all that. Besides I... care about you, Tommy. A lot more than may be healthy for a certified playboy like myself. Then again..." Taylor trailed off, left the sentence hanging because it was just something he was not prepared to finish. Not yet at least.

"As for the massage, I won't say no but I was bringing up the rear again so it was an easier climb for me. And a spectacular view. You've got the most perfect bubble butt I've ever laid eyes on," he grinned before delivering a low and lascivious wolf whistle, smacking his lips appreciatively.

Tom tilted his head back, meeting Taylor's eyes, gauging his expression. "One day at a time, Taylor, we'll see what happens when we finish with this lady." He smiled slightly, and leaned back to elbow the older man lightly in the ribs. "And you're supposed to be watching the route, not my ass. How the hell could you see anything anyway? Not much visible under all those layers."

"I'm a connoisseur, what can I say," the older man grinned, rubbing his ribs lightly. "Of mountains and of men." Laughing at the sound of disgust that the younger man emitted, "Hey, it needed to be said. Now relax, let me work out those knots; you need your sleep, and I wanna hold you."

"No, it didn't," Tom retorted, but he did as Taylor directed, enjoying the feeling of the other man's strong hands massaging out the day's stress. "And who died and made you the leader anyway?" Realizing that was a really bad joke to make, especially up here, he twisted again, kissing Taylor to stop his answer.

Pausing at the top of the ridge they were climbing, Tom checked the security of the line after tying it off, then looked back at the others. This was it, the summit push, and they were making good time. At this pace, they should make the top by two, and be back at camp by dark - if everything went as planned, something that was never a certainty.

Turning to scout the snowfield in front of them, the guide felt a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature invade his body. Fuck, the shoulder. Knowing they were climbing this route and actually seeing the icy expanse where he'd almost spent eternity were different things entirely, and he took a deep breath, coughing when the cold, oxygen deprived air failed to help.

Nodding for Skip to take the lead, Tom pulled his insulated thermos from his pack, forcing his body to drink even though at this elevation thirst and hunger vanished in the face of more pressing needs, like staying alive.

He heard someone come up beside him and turned to see Taylor looking at him enquiringly. "Across here, up the col and we'll be there. Weather looks like its holding. How're you feeling?"

"Better than you, apparently," the older man replied quietly, motioning for the others to pass them. Moving up behind Tom, he took a chance and mouthed off one of his gloves, his warm hand brushing his lover's cool face. "Damn, you're the most gorgeous sight I think I've ever seen."

Withdrawing his hand and tugging his glove back on, Taylor looked past Tom to the summit, now visible since they'd already passed through the cloud layers earlier. "We're almost there, Tommy. And then we'll be in that log cabin in the Rockies, a fireplace, just the two of us, for as long as you can stand it. I really like the sound of that."

"What? You're buying out the rest of my season?" Tom asked, forcing some joviality into his voice as he watched the others carefully maneuver down the slope and start across the snowfield, checking for hidden crevasses with each step.

"But that sounds good, really good. Just got to get down from here first." His eyes strayed to the featureless snow below them before moving back to Taylor's face. "And I'm fine, just... This was it. Somewhere out there anyway. It's weird seeing it again, should have thought of that before."

"Figured as much," Taylor replied softly. "Together, okay?" he smiled, nudging the younger man forward. "C'mon, McLaren. We got a mountain to climb."

Tom lifted a hand and rested it on Taylor's shoulder for a second. "You're right. Mountains to climb, things to do. Together." Tightening his fingers so the pressure could be felt through the layers of his gloves and Taylor's coat, he smiled slightly.

"You got it, babe!" Taylor laughed.

"Will you look at that view? God damn, we did it!" Laughing, not caring who was watching, or where they were - or perhaps it was because of where they were, Taylor took hold of Tom's jacket and pulled him in, claiming his lover's mouth savagely, relishing in the total exhilaration of the view, the wind, the fact that he was here again and he was with Tom.

The kiss ended far too quickly for Tom's liking, but the fact that they had to breathe made sustaining it longer impossible. "Damn, that was almost as good as getting up here," he rasped, chuckling at Taylor's scowl at the comparison.

The horizon spread out in all directions around them, and, until Skip and Jackie arrived, it was almost as if they were the only people in the world. A small cairn off to the side of the summit was decorated with flags, notes in plastic bags, and pictures, all left by those who had come before. Tom glanced toward it, and then back at Taylor, knowing he had said he wanted to leave something for Wolfe and Kitami up here.

"Just you wait until we get to that cabin," the older man growled softly. "I'll make it so good that you think climbing K2 was nothing more than a kiddie ride." Slapping his lover's ass, Taylor walked over to Jackie and, taking out the small box containing dirt from America and from Japan, as well as a personal memento from each of his friend's families, Taylor and Jackie laid them on the cairn.

"You made it guys, you're here now. Rest well," he murmured softly.

"Amen to that," Jackie added, pulling out a snapshot that had been taken in the airport just after they'd arrived in Pakistan, the group of them full of camaraderie and hope. "Enjoy the view."

Tom stood back, watching the small ceremony silently, glancing at Skip when the other guide moved to his side.

"You and Brooks, eh? Planning on continuing it when you get back to the real world."

Tom looked around again, taking in the pale blue sky, the icy wind and the presence of his companions. "This is the real world, as for what happens when we get down... I know what I want anyway."

He grinned and trudged over to the other two climbers, taking in their small gifts before laying a hand on both their shoulders. "We need to start down now."

"We've done what we came to do. All of us," Taylor replied, placing his own hand over Tom's. "We've laid our ghosts to rest, time to get back to living, eh?"

"Yeah," Tom answered, "that's exactly what it's time for."

~end~

  since 02-04-07

 

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