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.
The neighbors called her a curiosity. Daddy and Merimac called her their little woodsman.
Merimac gave her her own sling, and, later, her own bow. He was the one who took her to the targets and let her shoot as much as she wanted, hitting center every time. He was the one who made her her first leather shirt, a little big so that she could grow into it for a few more years.
He was the one who first took her into the woods, sling on her belt and bow in her hand.
Merimac was a rover. He was the chief hunter of Brandy Hall, the first woodsman. He showed her the different trails, the signs, the small secrets of Buckland and the Old Forest. With Merimac watching, Buttercup bagged her first birds, her first squirrels, hares, and grouse. Merimac at her back, she flitted through the trees of the Old Forest all the way to the Withywindle, though this time she had enough sense to stay out and dry. They went up and down Brandywine River, until Buttercup knew all the land from the Red Downs to the Green Hill Country up to Brogmorton, and from then on she ranged farther afield by herself more often than not. By the time she was thirteen, she knew the Four Farthings better than any hobbit alive except maybe Merimac and Daddy.
Mommy didn't want Buttercup doing those things. She protested, both loudly and with silence, letting such a young child, a girl at that, go roving through the woods as if she were some half-wild wolf pup. She wouldn't have let them do it at all, except that Buttercup begged her to let Merimac take her with him, and Mommy herself said that she'd never seen “you look so happy, Buttercup. I suppose I have no choice. If I tell you no, you'll only sneak out anyway.”
That made Buttercup hesitate, made her wonder if Mommy somehow knew about those two nights all those months ago, but Mommy didn't say anything more on the matter after that, so she put it out of her mind.
At Brandy Hall, it became generally said that Buttercup was Merimac's pet, and that she would likely someday be chief hunter of Brandy Hall. Everyone talked about what a good shot she was, how quietly she moved through the woods. Daddy even said that he wouldn't be surprised if Buttercup someday became the leader of the armed men of Buckland, for that was usually Merimac's duty and now it was obvious he was training Buttercup to take his place, just as it was given that Meriadoc would someday be Master of Buckland.
Buttercup wasn't sure what to make of all that talk; she only liked what there was to be had outside, with the clean air, the open sky, the freedom of running as fast and wildly as she wanted. The hunt was good, too, though lately she had taken to hunting more dangerous animals—wolves that preyed on the sheep and the odd fox that crept into the chickens, though Merimac had told her never to tell Mommy or Daddy that he let her do that—and didn't so much like to shoot small birds or animals anymore. She couldn't really see herself leading armed men to do anything, and besides she was still so little and young. Buttercup decided that it was nothing to worry about until she was at least thirty, which would leave her with three more years until she was of age anyway, and put that out of her mind too, until the next thing happened that changed her life, though at the time it didn't seem like anything important.
One late morning, when she was thirteen, she was on the outskirts of Hobbiton. She'd never been that far on her own before. It was her own fault, for the deer she'd been tracking had led her a merry chase westward over field and through the woods, all the way from Woody End, and she'd only barely caught up to it when she found that that was Hobbiton just down the hill.
Buttercup didn't spend much time in Hobbiton, outside of visiting Sam at the Gamgee house. She came on her own, most days, ever since Mrs. Gamgee had passed and Mommy didn't come nearly as often. These were Shire folk, who by and large thought most Buckland folk odd and considered Buttercup Brandybuck one of the oddest. They whispered where they thought she couldn't hear or see, and anytime she came by, all the old gossip was dredged back up, about the river and the boating accident and how Old Rory let his foster daughter run as wild as rabbits when she should have been home learning how to set a table.
The deer was a small one, but still too large to take back to Buckland without bruising it too much. Buttercup was thinking about what to do when she felt the hairs prickle on the back of her neck, as they always did when she was being watched, and she whirled, sling in hand.
There was no one there. She looked in the bushes, along the small path she was standing next to, into the trees, but no one stepped out and she couldn't see anyone. She thought she smelled pipeweed and soap, and thought she heard a step or two in the long grass, but she followed her ears and nose with her eyes and they didn't show her anything.
A strange feeling crept down her back. Now suspicious and wary, Buttercup decided then and there to take the deer to the Gamgee house. It had been several weeks since she'd visited, and the Gaffer had sent them a box of the largest, sweetest potatoes just the other day.
Looking around, still convinced that she was being watched, Buttercup bundled up the deer, dragged it over one shoulder, and hurried on to the Gamgee house. The feeling stayed with her almost until she came to the gate of the Gaffer's garden, and only really went away when she'd gone inside.
Sam rushed up to her the moment she came in, taking her hand and calling to let his father know she was there. He was seven years old and the most cheerful little hobbit boy anyone had ever seen, with a wide streak of common sense that was apparent even at that young age. His brothers and sisters came, too, but more shyly, and stared, wide-eyed, at the deer while Sam happily talked to her about the small plot on the garden his father was letting him grow all on his own.
The Gaffer scolded her, of course, saying how a child shouldn't wander so far from home, but he didn't say anything about the deer other than thank you and insisting she stay for dinner. The Gaffer was another one of those people who thought Buttercup was odder than odd, but would never say so for the sake of his late wife's friendship with Mommy.
Buttercup was in the garden, teasing Sam with a bit of rhyming that she'd got out of her head (“I am Sam, I am Sam, Sam I am; that Sam-I-am! Than Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-Am! I do not like green eggs and ham!”) when she heard the garden gate creak open and she looked up to see a gentleman hobbit standing in the path.
“Mr. Baggins!” gasped Sam, and then all the children were jumping to their feet, looking very bashful.
“Mr. Baggins!” said the oldest. “We didn't know you were coming!”
“Oh, no, completely my fault,” said the strange hobbit. “I was only walking by, and I happened to see a face I didn't know.”
Buttercup stood up. Baggins, Baggins—she knew that name...
The gentleman was well-dressed and stout, holding a very well-made pipe. He was looking at her as if he was trying to recognize her, and Buttercup thought she might be giving him the same look.
The Gaffer came out then, and bowed and said something about how unexpected Mr. Baggins was, but Buttercup didn't hear much of it. She was staring at Mr. Baggins, who was staring back.
“So,” said Mr. Baggins suddenly, with a peculiar tone. “You must be Buttercup. The one who pulled my nephew from the river.”
She didn't know what expression she must have made, but Mr. Baggins immediately looked extremely alarmed and more than sorry he'd said such a thing, Sam clutched at her hand, and the Gaffer and the other children gasped. Her face felt cold and stiff, she vaguely heard Mr. Baggins apologize for mentioning anything like that, and then she was pulling her hand from Sam's, she pushed past Mr. Baggins, she rushed out the garden gate, and then she was running, running, running, and she didn't stop until she saw the lights of Brandy Hall on the hill, far in the distance.
Additional Disclaimer: Green Eggs and Ham belongs to Dr. Seuss.