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 old man said his name was Rorimac. His wife's name was Menegilda, and they told her that they shouldn't mind a bit if she wanted to call them Grandfather and Grandmother or Uncle and Aunt. They gave her a large room just next to theirs, one of the biggest and nicest rooms at Brandy Hall, and they said she should never fear to call out for them if she needed to.
Menegilda held her hand and asked her what her name was. She put her thumb in her mouth and shook her head.
“Just a name, wee carrot,” another man, younger, who said his name was Saradoc, said, crouching down in front of her. “Else what will we call you?”
“Don't know,” she muttered into her thumb.
They stood whispering over her head, as if she couldn't hear them. She pretended not to. Then they looked down at her again, and Menegilda said, “Well, buttercup—Buttercup! Shall we call you Buttercup? For your hair?”
She whispered “Hair isn't butter,” but neither heard her over Saradoc's big laugh and his “Buttercup! Our Buttercup.”
Rorimac was the Master of Buckland, someone had told her, and Saradoc was his son. That made them important. She didn't want them to be bothered with her, and tried harder than ever to remember who her parents were, so that then they could know who her parents' people were and then they could send her home to faces she recognized, to where she didn't feel so strange. But she couldn't, no matter how she tried, so she let Menegilda hold her hand and cried very quietly in her bed so that no one could hear her.
They all came to see her, a lot of people who lived in Brandy Hall. There was Esmerelda, Saradoc's new wife, and Merimac, Saradoc's brother. There were Amaranth and Asphodel, who were Rorimac's sisters, and Saradas and Dinodas, his brothers. They all came to talk to her and look at her and look at each other and then whisper behind their hands like she couldn't hear, “That's the one. They say she tried to pull Primula's boy from the river.”
“That wee thing?” others would say, and she didn't like it, even though she really was small compared to the other children she saw. Her feet were smaller than theirs, too, small feet with the bits of golden hair over the tops. The bottoms of her feet were as hard as theirs, and she could walk and run as well as any of them, but they said her feet were only two-thirds the size a good child's should be, and from that she thought they meant there was something about her that made her bad.
She heard them talking about her a lot.
“She was in the boat, with her parents. She was the only one who came up. Had Primula's boy by the shirt, the poor thing, never knew he'd stopped breathing halfway.”
“Can't find her relatives, poor lass. None will claim her! And they've asked and looked from Northfarthing to Southfarthing and from Buckland to the Tower Hills.”
“Old Rory's bent on keeping her. You know Primula was always his pet, and now with her boy, well. Set on raising her up as his own, the Brandybuck, won't hear anything else.”
She tried to stay quiet at Brandy Hall, tried to wait for them to stop noticing her so that she could maybe go without anyone seeing, but Menegilda never stopped watching her and then she didn't know where to go. When she tried to think about her parents, who they must have been, all she saw was water and blue and that boy with his wide open, staring eyes, and that time she did cry loudly in her sleep and did have to call for Menegilda, who came and held her until she stopped.
When she tried to think of what was supposed to be there before that day in the river, she thought sometimes that she saw people, strange people, taller than anyone else she'd seen, with small feet and strange clothes. She thought maybe she knew their names, thought maybe they were people her parents had known, but when she tried to think of their names or where they were, her head hurt and her eyes stung, and all she could see was the boy, Frodo, as he lay on the grass.
They asked her how old she was, and she couldn't say. Saradoc said that she must have hit her head in the water, and Amaranth said that she'd heard of that before, how a man who struck his head couldn't remember where he lived after. Rorimac took her on his knee and said that she must be all of six, still a baby, and everyone else nodded and said yes, that must be it.
Still, they said she was small, even for being a baby at six, and for a while she couldn't leave the kitchens because everyone kept trying to feed her. She said she wasn't hungry, but nobody would listen.
They called her Buttercup, and she answered to it, but only because she didn't have anything else to be called. She both liked and didn't like it, because when someone started to call her by that name, at the beginning it sounded right and made something feel good in her chest, but when they finished, the end only sounded wrong and left her feeling like something was missing. But Menegilda liked the name, and so did Rorimac, so she looked when they used it, and she thought it made them happy.
She tried to hang on to the things she saw in her head sometimes, like the man with eyeglasses, the woman with red hair, or the man with short dark hair and a smile she liked. There was a girl, too, with long brown hair, and she was the one she saw the most, the one it hurt most to not be able to remember the name of. They all looked vaguely wrong, somehow, too tall, too skinny, but she thought maybe that was because she wasn't remembering right.
And everything was really nice, because Brandy Hall was a nice place to live and everybody told her how lucky she was because Rorimac and Menegilda already loved her like she was their own daughter, and she thought maybe this was how it was supposed to be.
Except she couldn't forget the things she saw sometimes, like a woman with dark hair and dark eyes whose mouth was mean but whose eyes were sad She remembered them, the others, often in her sleep, and something about them kept her from really believing her name was Buttercup or that she was supposed to be there, that she was going to live there and be a Brandybuck, no matter what Saradoc or Merimac said, and there were times when she felt as if nothing was real and there was no difference between sleeping and being awake.
They had clothes made for her, and everyone said she was a Brandybuck already, Buttercup Brandybuck, and Rorimac talked about having a party and inviting everyone in the Shire so that they could tell everybody that she was going to be a Brandybuck from then on. Menegilda talked about the dress they would make her, and what sort of cake she'd like to eat, because this was a lot like a birthday.
But she still didn't feel like she was where she was supposed to be, or like anything was the way it should be, even if some small part of her was beginning to wish it was.
Then one day she was sitting outside in one of the gardens where there was a little pond when some of the boys who lived down the hill from Brandy Hall came tearing by. They stopped and stared at her, and she thought she should go inside, but before she could they came right up to where she sat and asked if she was the one who was having the party, Buttercup Brandybuck.
“Buttercup,” they said, laughing. “Invite us or we'll throw you in there!” and they pointed at the pond.
She couldn't say anything. Something in her chest was hurting so badly that she thought she was going to throw up.
“Come on!” they said, still laughing. “Or we'll give you a good splash!”
Then one of them jumped out and grabbed her arm, and the scream just burst from her mouth, “Daddy!”
The boys looked surprised, and one said, “Hey, now, we didn't mean it,” but he was still holding her arm and she was seeing the water, the blue and the dark blue and the blue of Frodo's eyes in the water, and then she screamed again and again, “Daddy! Daddy!”
It was Rorimac who came charging out of the house, Rorimac whose red face made the boys scatter to the wind, and then he picked her up and held her. She clung to him, her arms as tight around him as she could get them, she was shaking and sobbing and she was telling him, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...”
Later, when he carried her back into the Hall and was telling everyone who'd come running not to worry, it was nothing, she laid her head on his shoulder with her thumb in her mouth and said, “Daddy, can we have milk?”
And she wondered why everyone went so quiet, why no one was saying anything, why Menegilda was putting a hand to her mouth and Amaranth was wiping her eyes, why Rorimac's arms were shaking just a little where they held her, why Saradoc was hiding his face.
“Of course, sweeting,” said Rorimac, and his voice was rough like his throat was scratched.
When she lay in bed that night, she decided to start thinking of Rorimac as Daddy, and this was easier than she'd thought it would be. And when she thought again about those people whose faces she sometimes saw, she remembered a woman with red hair, a girl with long brown, a man with dark eyes and a big smile, and a woman with a mean mouth but sad eyes. She thought she was missing someone, thought vaguely that there was supposed to be somebody else, one more, but then Daddy came in with Menegilda to blow out the candle and kiss her good night, and she forgot.