Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Author's Warning: major AU. Absolutely non-canon. Seriously, I am not kidding.
When Buttercup was eighteen years old, she met her first Dwarf.
Her hair was thick and long, a brighter gold than the flowers she was named for, coming to the backs of her knees when left loose. She kept it in a braid that she piled on top of her head when she wanted it out of the way, which was often. Sometimes she considered cutting it, but never actually did.
People were always talking about how mature Buttercup looked for her age. She was still small, but by her expressions, her manner, and her speech, many hobbits who hadn't met her before mistook her for being at least ten years older than she was. Bilbo said it was because there was something very grown-up about Buttercup that was atypical of such a young hobbit, and her independent nature, with the inclination towards wandering, gave the impression of an older, more standoffish sort than her looks would normally have suggested.
Buttercup didn't know what everyone was going on about. She dressed how she wanted, she said what she pleased, and went where she would. That was as far as it went, at least in her mind.
It was a lovely afternoon darkening into a lovelier twilight when she came back to Bag End. She'd been roving up near Bindbale again, trying to get up the nerve to go even farther north than she'd ever been before. The pull of the unexplored territory to the north had been on her mind for some weeks, and she'd gone closer to the border of Bindbale than ever, so close that she had nearly walked the shores of Lake Evendim. But then the Sun had begun to set, dark had shadowed the eastern horizon, and she had at last turned her feet home, making up her mind to really go the next day.
At the round door of Bag End, Buttercup hesitated, listening. She heard voices, at least three, two of them deep and unfamiliar. One was Bilbo's, however, and he sounded cheerful, joyful even, and that made her decide that it was all right to go in.
On the wall inside, Buttercup counted two unfamiliar cloaks hanging on the wall hooks, big, thick cloaks with deep hoods. Sitting on the floor beneath them were two large packs, and placed carefully on top were two battle axes, almost identical to each other, wrapped in oiled cloth.
Closing the door behind her, Buttercup was just getting ready to tiptoe on to her room when the door to the sitting room opened and Bilbo looked out.
"Buttercup!" He seemed thrilled. "Come and say hello. An old friend has come visiting with his son."
Buttercup looked down at herself. She wore a green dress, with the old leather shirt Merimac had made for her over it all, mended down one side with her own leather stitching. In a belt she had tucked her sling and a pouch of stones, and she was covered in dirt and leaves from when she'd hidden under a root to avoid a bear.
"Never mind that," said Bilbo. "They've seen a good share of the road on their way here, and I've been telling them what a great wanderer you are." There was more than a hint of pride in his voice. "Our guests know you're no lace doily."
While Buttercup tried to figure out if that was a compliment, Bilbo turned back into the sitting room and said, "Here she is! My niece, Buttercup."
She stepped in somewhat hesitantly, was nearly overwhelmed by pipeweed smoke, and hesitated again.
Two Dwarves sat in two of Bilbo's best chairs by the fire, smoke rings blowing about their heads.
Buttercup knew they were Dwarves. No one had to tell her; she'd heard enough of Bilbo's stories to have some idea what a Dwarf was supposed to look like, and these were the most dwarvish Dwarves she could have thought of.
One was an obviously older Dwarf, with a long beard braided and tucked into his belt. He wore thick, travel-stained leather, and was smoking from the most ornate pipe Buttercup had ever seen. At the sight of her, his bushy eyebrows went up nearly into his hairline.
Next to him was a younger, red-bearded Dwarf, also wearing leather and holding a matching pipe. Upon seeing her, however, the hand holding the pipe dropped down, and he stared at her as if at some unusual animal he had never seen before.
Buttercup regretted not stopping to check her hair for twigs.
"Buttercup," said Bilbo, "this is Gloin son of Groin, a dear friend of mine from back in my burgling days. And this gentleman here is Gimli son of Gloin, his youngest son."
Gloin got to his feet, setting his pipe down on a handy table and bowing at the waist. "At your service, and your clan's."
Buttercup flushed, hesitated, and then curtsied as well as she could. "At yours."
Gimli sat, staring, until a loud and abrupt cough from his father brought him to his feet. He bowed curtly, muttering gruffly under his breath.
There was an awkward silence. Was Gimli glaring at her? Gloin and Bilbo were both staring at Gimli. Buttercup wondered what she was missing.
"Er," said Bilbo. "Well! Buttercup, why don't you, ah, wash up for supper? If you aren't expected at Brandy Hall—"
"Yes, Uncle," said Buttercup, relieved, and rushed out of the sitting room.
Supper was painfully uncomfortable. Buttercup put on her finest dress, which admittedly wasn't anything the Mayor's wife would have bothered with, and sat, unnerved, while Bilbo and Gloin wholeheartedly caught each other up on news and Gimli glared at her from the opposite side of the table. He also seemed particularly tense, moving stiffly and with agonizingly correct manners, as if he were trying not to lose his temper. Whatever had gotten him angry, it had gotten him really, really angry.
Afterward, Bilbo suggested to them, "Buttercup, why don't you show Gimli here the garden?"
Buttercup went pale. Gimli's expression was dreadful to see.
"Er," said Bilbo again, and looked at Gloin, but Gloin was too busy staring at his son. "Well, then, perhaps we gentleman should retire and let my niece, um—"
"—go away," Buttercup finished for him, and curtsied to each of them, made graceful by relief. "Good night, Uncle, Mr. Gloin, Mr. Gimli." Without waiting for a response, she hurried to her room, moving as fast as she could without looking as if she were fleeing for her life.
Buttercup couldn't decide what she'd done wrong. Did she have a face that naturally angered Dwarves? Except Mr. Gloin hadn't seemed put out with her at all, had, in fact, been quite charming in a gruff sort of way. It was only his son, Mr. Gimli, who had glared at her so murderously.
She'd ask Bilbo later, she thought that night, as she prepared to go to bed. If she'd insulted the Dwarves in any way, certainly he'd know and tell her what to do about it. Buttercup listened to the low drone of voices from below, not picking out the words but only letting the sound of their voices, the Dwarves deep and harsh, like stone, and her Uncle Bilbo, moderate and gentle, mingle in her ears as she drifted off to sleep.
The next day, Gimli son of Gloin asked for Buttercup Brandybuck-Baggins's hand in marriage.