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.
For a long time, no matter how stifled, how strangled by walls she felt, Buttercup didn't go out again. She stayed inside, like a good girl, playing with Meriadoc, visiting the Gamgees with Mommy, studying with Daddy, and helping around the Hall. The talk of Big People in the Old Forest continued for several weeks, and then they stopped coming, as suddenly as they'd started. Everyone talked about it for a while, but Big People were queer to begin with anyway, and sooner rather than later people found something else to gossip about over their ale, and then everything was back to normal.
Saradoc looked for his knife for several days, muttering about bad memories and sticky hands. Buttercup wanted to say she was sorry for losing it, but then she would have had to say how and where and why, and she just couldn't quite seem to remember any of the hows, wheres, or whys. So she said nothing, Saradoc eventually shrugged and said he'd meant to get a new knife anyway, and nothing came of it.
But none of that helped her legs or her arms, the near-pain she felt when she had to sit still for longer than half an hour. In her sleep she ran the woods, she crawled through dark places, she picked up a big knife and—did things with it she didn't want to think about. Her body felt hot all the time, like a fever, and several times Mommy made her stay in bed because of how hot her face was, which only made things worse, and the servants whispered that Buttercup was a sickly child.
Then, one day, when Buttercup was holding Meriadoc's hand while he staggered around the garden on unsteady legs, she found, under a bench, a small sling. The sight of it made her stop, made her stare, and then, glancing to make sure no one was around, Buttercup walked over and picked up the sling, and found a few small stones.
She took Meriadoc out of the garden and into one of the Hall's courtyards, where Saradoc and Merimac had set up some targets the other day to practice with their bows. She had Meriadoc sit down, made sure there was nothing bad within his reach, and then faced one of the targets.
It was as if she'd been doing it all her life. Her arm came up. The sling whirred over her head. She took aim, she swung—and a small hole burst in the center of the target, a puff of straw and dust.
Buttercup felt the blood rushing in her ears.
She turned, startled. Merimac was standing there, in one of the small doors that led back into the Hall, and his mouth was open.
“Whoa, Buttercup,” he said, a little breathless. “That's a hundred paces if it's a step! Can you do that again?”
Buttercup flushed. Merimac normally didn't have any use for her, so his attention was unusual and flattering. Turning again, she willingly fit another stone to the sling, brought up her arm, whirred, and let fly.
In the center of the target, the same hole the first stone had made huffed slightly as the second stone passed through it.
She looked back, a little shy. Merimac was staring, at her, at the target, at the sling. He muttered to himself “And with a boy's play sling!” and then went back into the house, saying nothing to her.
Buttercup felt a little disappointed. She went to Meriadoc, taking his hand and helping him to his feet, but then she heard voices at the door and looked to see Merimac coming back out, but now with Daddy and Saradoc, too.
“Watch, I'm telling you,” Merimac was saying. “I've never seen anything like it!”
He hurried over to her, took the small sling and gave her a bigger one, a man's sling that she'd seen some of the Brandy Hall men practicing with.
“Again, Buttercup,” he urged. “Can you do it again with that?”
Daddy and Saradoc were watching, looking doubtful. Meriadoc stared with wide eyes. Merimac's face was eager and expectant.
Buttercup lifted her arm and swung.