A/N As with The Villain, I have absolutely no idea where in the heck this came from. That being said, I have no proprietary claim on anything related to BTVS, that is the property of Joss and the parasitic suits that dog his heels.
TOP OF THE WORLD, MA
Buffy Summers was on top of the world, literally. As she looked out from the summit of K2, she could not help but feel the Earth below her moving, groaning and breathing, as if it was a living thing. She looked up at the impossibly blue sky, so dark that it was almost frightening, and felt as though she could escape Earth with just a hard push of her legs. She closed her eyes, and realized that she had never felt more alive than she did right then. More than alive, she felt connected, connected to every one of over six billion people that happened to also live on this little ball of rock and water. For an instant, it was as though she could feel their hopes, dreams and passions; their striving and living and dying. The feeling was so powerful it brought tears to her eyes. Smiling she looked down toward her bivouac, the rest of the team was already getting packed up. Buffy sighed reluctantly, it was time to leave. She looked around one last time; it had been a long climb, in more ways than one.
For Buffy, it had started several years ago, soon after Xander and Faith’s wedding. She was back in Rome with Dawn, between boyfriends and bored out of her skull, when Dawn’s current steady, a young New Zealander named Walter, had invited the younger Summers to go rock climbing with his friends. He had then extended the invitation to Buffy, who accepted, much to the horror of Dawn and Walter both. In point of fact, Buffy wasn’t even interested in terrorizing another one of Dawn’s long list of admirers, she just wanted to get out and do something. They got to the face and after a few minutes of basic instructions, they started up. By the end of the day, Buffy was hooked. Sure, her slayer abilities helped a lot, but it wasn’t that. While she was climbing, Buffy felt a freedom that she’d never experienced before and she realized that she wanted more. Soon she was spending all of her free time at local cliffs and climbing shops. When she had exhausted everything in central Italy, she asked Giles for a six month sabbatical. When he agreed she charged north, into the Alps. Here she learned proper mountaineering, how to climb solo or as part of a group. She learned planning and logistics and how to come up with the optimal route to the summit. She also learned that there was no margin for error and that umpty gazillion tons of rock didn’t care if you were a slayer or not. She fell, more than once, but she learned and she kept coming back.
Soon, rumors started to spread about this tiny girl who could do amazing things started circulating in the climbing community. How she was untiring, indestructible and most likely insane. But just as her star was rising, she disappeared and all that was left were tales that grew with the telling.
It was an apocalypse, the first they’d had to deal with in some time; and everyone was called in. Taking the reins of command, Buffy planned out their strategy with the same care that she planned a dangerous ascent. More than one person commented on her calm and assurance during the crisis. Honestly, Buffy was surprised herself, but then she recalled how Xander had been after he started acting and realized that, like him, she had built a life outside of slaying. A refuge that grounded her, served to insulate her in a way that allowed her function at a level far above what she had in the past. It came down to a few tense hours, but her quiet resolve inspired the other slayers and the crisis was dealt with. There had been casualties and sadly, a few losses; but it was nowhere near as costly as it might have been.
Back in Rome, Buffy thought about where she was and what she was doing. Officially, she was the liaison between the Council and the Vatican as well as the head of the slayers in Southern Europe, but it was a position that no longer held any appeal for her. Tired of her sister’s grumping, Dawn suggested that what Buffy really needed was a change of scenery. She then mentioned that the Slayer House in Denver needed a new Head Slayer and suggested that Buffy take the spot. One quick call to Giles and Buffy was headed for the American Southwest.
In Denver, Buffy discovered two things. One was a station that was very low-key when it came to the supernatural and two was the wild and wacky world of free climbing. It only took one free ascent for Buffy to realize that this was what she loved, what she needed. The freedom from lines, the reliance on yourself and your strength and the sheer beauty of the area all made it ideal. A couple of months into it and Buffy realized that the world she had made for herself was just as important to her as her life as a Slayer. It was something that was normal (well relatively so) and could serve as a refuge from the insanity that had been her life since she was called. As a bonus, most of her fellow climbers were insanely fit and had incredible stamina . . . . Ahem. As in Europe, Buffy was soon making a name for herself, only now she was referred to as 'Spidergirl'. A guy she had met in monument Valley had called her that after he had insisted that there was no way to free climb this one butte and Buffy had then proceeded to storm right up it. It wasn’t a nick-name that she really cared for, but in her book it beat Slayer all to pieces.
Giles, Dawn and the girls of Denver House knew of her other life, but no one else did, it was her secret. So she was surprised one day when Xander was standing at the base of a face that she had just finished ascending.
“What are you doing here?”
“Funny story there, the production company received some stills and a story about this insane girl who climbed rocks better than anyone else ever has. It sounded like a cool story, so they asked me if I wanted to do the voice over narration if we decided to do a feature. Imagine my surprise when I discover that the amazing Spidergirl is you.”
“Does anyone else know?”
“Just Faith, you know I’m not gonna keep any secrets from her.”
“I know,” Buffy replied, looking around. “Where is she anyway?”
“Location filming over in Baja, she’ll be done in a week or so.”
“So now what,” Buffy asked with a bit of trepidation in her voice.
“Now I ask if you mind if I do the voice over narration when we make a documentary feature about you.”
“You’re not gonna tell anyone?”
“No, why should I,” Xander asked, honestly curious.
Buffy looked relieved, then her eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute, you just said when, not if. Does that mean you’re gonna make a movie about me?”
“About your mad mountain skills, sure. About your background, well what is there to know beside the facts that you grew up in Southern California, moved to Italy where you discovered mountain climbing. Then you came back to America and are now considered to be one of the best free climbers in the world.”
“That just about covers it,” Buffy said, even more relieved than before. “I want fifty percent.”
“And yet you’ll take five percent of the gross and be happy about it.”
“I’d be happier with five if I got to smack you around a bit,” Buffy mock threatened.
“The things I put up with to close deals,” Xander whined.
“You want to keep your stars happy, don’t you Xander?”
“Fine Buffy, one spar, but I’m so gonna haunt you if anything happens. Plus I’ll tell the camera guy to focus on your ass all the time. I can see it now, ‘Spidergirl’s butt, climbing Mount Whatever’.” Laughing, he ducked Buffy’s attempt to smack him in the head. “You know, I bet we could get our FX guy to blank everything else out so it would look like just your butt was climbing the mountain.”
“You’re just plain mean Xander Harris,” Buffy pouted.
“Yeah, but you love me for it.”
Buffy, using the name Ann Winters; took her share of the profits from the documentary and banked it. She had a plan for an expedition that needed a few years to plan. She wanted to try K2, but in the winter; something that had never been done before. Most of her climbing cronies said that it just wasn’t possible, the weather was bad enough during the summer, trying to climb in winter was just plain suicidal. Buffy listened to their concerns, but in the end, she told them that she had a plan; and she did.
The Council’s influence was instrumental in getting Buffy’s expedition permission to move through Pakistan. Word had leaked out about her attempt, but despite the huge amount of interest; Xander and Faith were the only people allowed to film the attempt. Three weeks later, Buffy was standing on the summit having done what no one thought she could do. Feeling a sense of accomplishment that she’d not experienced in a long time, she turned and made her way back to the bivouac. At her approach the head of the Yeti clan gave her a smile and a low growl.
“I know I dawdled a bit, so sue me.”
Another growl followed by a slight whine.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be back in time for you all to head north. And I promise you’ll just look like guys in fur coats in the video.”
A satisfied chuff and it turned and gathered up the pack.
“Well, back to the real world now Buff,” Xander asked, walking over.
“No, back to the surreal world,” she replied with a smirk. Then, looking back at the summit; she said, “that’s the real world.”