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.
One day, Buttercup received a letter.
It was parceled up very tightly, and tied with good, coarse twine. It had traveled far, but in relatively good condition, and the postman was careful to mention that it had been delivered by messenger the last few miles from Bree to Budgeford, from where it had continued by post. The messenger had been a Dwarf in a brown hood, who, on being politely inquired, had grumbled something about the foolishness of youth and the shamefully indulgent nature of aging lords toward their youngest children before stomping off on his way.
Buttercup thought she knew what it was and left off opening it, dawdling so much that it sat for two days on the table in the drawing room before Bilbo observed rather pointedly that unanswered letters were one of the particular cruelties of life. Then Buttercup felt somewhat ashamed of herself, and finally went about opening the letter.
It was written in good, bold ink, with a strong, square hand. The parchment was tough and serviceable, giving off a rather pungent smell, and she could distinctly see a streak of gray in a corner, as of smeared stone dust, and a splotch of brown that smelled, when held to the nose, like a whiff of heady ale.
Gimli was obviously not used to writing letters, much less writing letters to a girl. The letter began “Hail to Buttercup the only niece of Bilbo, fostered of Rorimac,” went on to say “Hope you are well,” consisted primarily of “Walked all day. Very hot weather in the mountains. Got here in less time than we thought,” concluded with “Hope you are still well,” and was signed “Gimli son of Gloin son of Groin son of Farin son of Borin son of Nain who was King son of Oin who was King son of Gloin who was King son of Thorin who was King son of Thrain the Old who was King son of Nain who was King son of Durin who before was the Deathless the sixth of that name.”
Buttercup was uncertain how she should respond. Another three days passed while she considered the question.
Bilbo seemed inordinately concerned with the whole thing. He asked every morning and every evening whether she’d answered Gimli’s letter yet, and when she said she hadn’t, expressed his firm and honest opinion that the poor lad was probably languishing of a broken heart while she showed not the slightest bit of worry or attention.
“Poor boy,” said Bilbo. “I don’t think he had any idea what he was in for when he decided to go and lose his head over you.”
Everyone in the Shire was talking about it. Buttercup Brandybuck-Baggins receiving love letters from a Dwarf gentleman caller was the high point of the noon tea. Aunt Amaranth wouldn’t stop lecturing her on what a disgrace she would be to the family if she were to marry so far outside civilized society and Uncle Saradoc took to telling her that when she was the lady of a great mountain hall, he would certainly visit often as he had always wanted to try real dwarvish ale and see a real Dwarf lady. Daddy harrumphed and told her to do what she felt was right but to also keep in mind that Dwarves were a grumpy lot, all in all, who could never appreciate a good joke, and Mommy didn’t say anything at all except that she should be careful and “kind, my buttercup, whatever happens, for I’m certain even a Dwarf has a heart, however deep you have to dig to get to it.”
Merimac only shrugged. “I’ve never been underground,” he said, and that was that.
When Buttercup finally set quill to parchment, she found it easier than she’d thought. She began with “Hello to Gimli son of Gloin,” told him about the “Orcs in the hills. I’d never seen them before, but it turns out they are very stupid and easy to kill, especially if you have a few wounded Men to distract them,” went on for a while about “I like the axe a lot. The other day I used it on a Warg, and it cuts bone very easily,” concluded with “Hope you are well, too. Why is your hair brown but your beard red?” and signed it “Buttercup niece of Bilbo, fostered of Rorimac son of Gorbadoc son of Marmadoc son of lots of other people I’m always getting into trouble for not remembering.”
Buttercup had never deliberately set out to frighten off a man before, but this seemed to her a very good beginning.
Merry went with her to mail it.
“I don’t know why you’re writing to that man,” he said. “Unless you’re telling him we’re to get married? I shouldn’t like it if he kept writing to you even after the wedding, you know.” He looked up at her, setting his jaw and crossing his arms to show he meant business. “I,” said the eleven-year-old Meriadoc, “am the jealous sort.”
Five weeks later, just when she was relaxing her vigilant watch of the post, a second letter arrived, also wrapped in twine and delivered by a brown-hooded Dwarf. Buttercup let it sit for several days while she got up the nerve to actually open it and see what it said.
This time, there was a ring in it.