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.
“Well, of course the very first thing I told them was that you were too young,” Bilbo told Buttercup. “They thought you were more like thirty or so, or at least in your twenties. I suppose it had slipped my mind to mention your age until then. I think I even forget myself sometimes, how young you really are.”
“Then it's nothing?” asked Buttercup, beginning to feel some relief. “They know I'm too young to marry? He won't ask again?”
“Er, well,” said Bilbo, and her heart sank again. “They did agree you were far too young to get married right off, but, well, Gimli's made it clear that he's not opposed to a long engagement, and neither is Gloin. It's dwarvish custom, you understand, these extended betrothals—gives a Dwarf an excuse to go off and do things for himself before he has to settle down. He'll still be a young Dwarf when you're of age, you know.”
“Uncle,” said Buttercup, and her voice was tremulous. “Uncle, you didn't...you didn't...”
“No, no, Buttercup,” Bilbo reassured her hastily. “Would I do something like that to you?”
Buttercup collapsed back in her chair, feeling her life beginning to charge off in a direction she wasn't ready for. Bilbo put his feet up on the footstool and for a while neither said anything.
“I hadn't thought something like this would come up,” Bilbo said at length, tapping his pipe thoughtfully, “for at least another ten years.”
“You're telling me,” muttered Buttercup despondently.
For another few moments, they simply thought, Buttercup staring into the fire and Bilbo blowing smoke rings.
“He isn't a bad lad,” said Bilbo carefully, “a lass could do worse. Much worse! He is a Dwarf; lots to be said for Dwarves, actually. And I don't think I'm being too forward when I say he's taken with you—I've never seen a Dwarf jump beard-first into a decision like that.” “Uncle,”
wailed Buttercup. “I'm eighteen
“Wouldn't know that by the way you go off on your own, sometimes,” smiled Bilbo.
Buttercup looked away, into the fire. She could feel Bilbo's eyes on her face.
“I have to say, Buttercup,” he said quietly, “I don't quite understand you. I think no one does. At first I thought you were only a child with a burden too heavy for even most grown hobbits, but you've shown me the error of that. Then I thought for a while that perhaps you were simply closer to Merimac in who you resembled than you were to Saradoc or either of your foster parents, but it's not that either, is it? It's something else about you, my girl, something strange that makes you different from any other hobbit who's ever lived. I hoped when you came to live here at Bag End that perhaps someday I might understand you, but something tells me that I never quite will.”
His voice had become soft. serious, the voice of one grown-up speaking to another. Buttercup heard in it a certain tone, a certain acceptance, as if he were speaking not to a girl, but a woman.
“You don't act your age,” he went on, “at least not most of the time. There'll be plenty who forget that you're not quite as old as you seem, and there'll be more, I imagine, who see that something in you that makes people want to know you. And there will be those men, too, Buttercup, who will look at you and see something else entirely. Now, I am not your father, and it really should be Menegilda or Rorimac who talks to you about this, but I do love you, as if you were my own daughter, and I want to protect you where I can. So for my sake, and for the sake of everyone who cares for you, be careful. Gimli is a fine lad, a Dwarf through and through, and he spoke his mind as he knew it and was straightforward with you, but there will be those who are not as honest or forthright or as honorable as he is. I don't know if anyone has ever told you this, Buttercup, but you are very beautiful, even to this old, hopeless bachelor, and there's less child in you than there is woman, even at eighteen. And there's something about your eyes, my girl, something that when you look at a man strips him bare to the bone and lays him out for all to see. Gloin did most of the talking, you know, as it isn't proper for a Dwarf to approach anyone about marriage himself, but one thing Gimli did say was that he had never seen anyone or anything lovelier than you, and that the look in your eyes was a truer grace to him than anything that had ever been brought up out of a mine or wrought at the hands of Dwarves or Men, and that is saying something for one of his race.”
Buttercup's breath caught. She'd never had anyone say anything like that about her, and to think of Gimli son of Gloin, who had glared at her so over his red beard, speaking in that way was dumbfounding.
Bilbo was watching her, eyes grave. “I won't lie to you, Buttercup. I'm not altogether against this match. You could do much worse, and I don't think it probable that you'll ever be happy with a typical hobbit, gentleman or not. And, too, Gloin is my good and close friend all these years, and I'm not opposed at all to being related to him, even by foster, which would certainly put the Shire and all the other Bagginses into quite a fit! But I'm disposed to think that you know yourself better than any hobbit your age has any business doing, and you'll tell me what you want to do or at least what you definitely don't want to do. All I ask is that you consider it, not for my sake or for anyone else's, but in terms of your own heart. I'm not any Elf or wizard, but even an old traveler like me can tell you that you won't be content in the Shire, not for all your life, and the thought of all the things that could befall you fills me with such fear as not even Dragons could occasion.”
He sat back in his chair then, his pipe to his lips, and neither could say anything for several minutes. She had the feeling that he was embarrassed by everything he'd said, and avoided his eyes, trying to find some way around the lump in her own throat.
“I'm only eighteen, Uncle,” she managed at last. “I'm not ready.”
“I know that, my girl,” said Bilbo kindly. “Don't fret. There's plenty of time. Gimli would never hurry you, and if he tries, Gloin or not I'll drum them out of the house!”
That was when, as if Bilbo's teasing threat had been a signal, Buttercup heard Gloin and his son returning from their trip into Bywater, and she rushed out the back door like a wind, face red, what Bilbo had quoted Gimli as saying about her ringing in her ears. For the rest of the day she moped about the hills south of the Bindbale Woods, considering returning to Bag End covered in mud and dog hair.
When she finally did go home that night, long after dark and after several minutes poised at the back door, listening for any sign or noise of Dwarves within, it was to find that Gloin and Gimli had come and gone, having excused themselves early in order to go home and talk things over with their clansmen. A Dwarf's espousal was crucial business, and Gimli was intent on giving the news of the open negotiations to his mother and other kinsmen.
“Open negotiations?” Buttercup's jaw was hanging. “You—you said you would think about it?”
“Now, Buttercup, no need to be hasty,” he told her, trying to look busy at his writing table. “If it had been anyone else, I would have sent them packing! But this is Gloin, one of my oldest and closest friends, and it's one thing to tell a country gentleman from the Shire no to his face and quite another to refuse a Dwarf lord without consideration.” Bilbo winced even as the words were coming out of his mouth, and he wouldn't meet her eyes.
“A country gentleman?” repeated Buttercup, and Bilbo tried to hide in his book. “A country gentleman?”
“They left something for you,” interrupted Bilbo, very obviously trying to change the subject. “A courting gift, if you want to look at it. It's right there.”
Buttercup wasn't about to be distracted from her impending tantrum, except that was when she saw what Bilbo was gesturing at and all the breath swept out of her lungs.
Bilbo watched her tiptoe over to stand staring silently down at it. A hand came up, reached out, and hesitated just out of reach.
,” breathed Buttercup. “A battle
“Gloin always was a very shrewd judge of character,” said Bilbo, leaning back in his chair. “Perhaps it's hereditary.”