Disclaimer: No one here actually belongs to me - I've just borrowed them to play with. All other Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights are also duly acknowledged.
"Pictures At An Exhibition"
'A Gentleman Of Leisure'
"The Apocryphal Adventures of Dawn Summers"
We all know that the Scoobies have memories of young Dawn being around during the first four years in Sunnydale, so they must also remember her actually being involved in at least a few of their early adventures. This story is set in Series 1. Welcome to 'The Dawnverse'.
'Overture and First Movement'.
Rupert Giles cautiously entered the 'Gallery Eye' in the heart of Sunnydale's shopping district, uncertain what he would find. He had only been in the USA for a few weeks, and this was the first evening function he'd attended. In the unfamiliar territory of American small-town life he still felt slightly out-of-place. Of course, in this particular small town, a vague sense of unease was a definite survival feature.
Someone asked his name, and he casually waved his 'Invitation to the Re-opening Exhibition' in their direction.
Inside, the standard selection of conventionally scruffy-looking 'arty' types usually found at Gallery openings the world over were milling about, mostly wearing the customary uniform of jeans, T-shirts, and small range of earnest expressions. There were also a few more cultured looking individuals in suits but no ties (how he hated that trend - so sloppy,) most of them looking terminally bored. Lastly there was the majority, the ones who'd really only come for the free drinks and were determined to make the most of the opportunity. Those are always with us, he thought. It all seemed reassuringly familiar, for which he was grateful.
He looked round the exhibition space, and told himself that if the artworks were really as poor as he expected of the local American artists, it might be as well to try to catch up with the third group, assuming that the wine itself was drinkable - a fair possibility, given their close proximity to the Californian wine-producing region. However, knowing that the Watcher's Council was secretly footing the bill, he expected to find that they would have funded something that was at least reasonably palatable, though they were usually notoriously stingey with their expenditure. The new manager of the gallery, Joyce Summers, the innocent and unknowing mother of his Slayer, unaware of the true identity of the Gallery Eye's new owners, would simply have been told she could spend as much as she needed to in order to get the Art Gallery back on its business feet again.
And here came a tray of glasses, right on cue, carried by someone wearing a traditional maid's uniform, complete with white frilly apron.
"Thank you, my dear," he said absent-mindedly and reached for the fullest glass he could see. As she paused and offered the tray, the furious scowl on her face registered with him, and he did a sudden double-take.
"You laugh, and I'll have to kill you!" she growled out of the corner of her mouth. The glare she gave him rather took him back. Still, considering who it was - the fifteen year-old daughter of the new gallery manager, 'his' Slayer, obviously pressed into unwilling service for the evening - he really shouldn't have been surprised. The next moment she had whisked away, before he could even start to think of a suitable reply. He told himself that perhaps he should really have a talk to her in the morning about her attitude. At any rate, for now, the wine glass in his hand demanded his full attention.
He took a sip, and found it surprisingly palatable, for which he was sincerely grateful. He was not one of those wine snobs of the Old World who couldn't believe that Californian wines were a match for the French. "Down the hatch," he thought, suiting deed to word, and idly scanned the room.
"Gee, you like to live dangerously, don't you, Mr. Giles?" said a young voice suddenly at his elbow. He glanced down in surprise to see a young girl, about ten or eleven years old, gazing up at him with a friendly grin. She had freckles, a snub nose, and yards of long wavy brown hair worn in a centre parting with a hairband. It made her look very like one of the classic illustrations from Alice In Wonderland. Also dressed in a maid's outfit, she too was carrying a heavy tray of glasses, so big it was almost too much for her to manage.
"I beg your pardon?" he said cautiously.
"You shouldn't call Buffy 'my dear'. She hates that - it's just asking for trouble," said the girl.
"Er... thank you very much," he said. "I'll keep that in mind." Then, cautiously he asked, "And... may I ask who you are? How do you know my name?"
"You showed me your invitation only a couple of minutes ago, when you arrived. Of course you didn't notice me." The youngster sighed. "No one ever does - I'm just 'Buffy's little sister'."
"Oh, I see! Sorry. So, the new manager here is your mother as well? Hm. I hope your big sister wasn't offended."
"Oh, of course she was, Mr. Giles, but she'll probably forget about you in a couple of minutes, so I shouldn't worry about it. Here, would you like another?"
Giles swiftly finished off the glass he was holding, and swapped it.
"You know, 'Buffy's-little-sister', this is really rather good wine. I must congratulate your mother on her excellent taste. And," he added, "if you tell me your name, I won't have to go on calling you BLS."
"BLS? Oh! Yes, that's very good, Mr Giles. Well, I'm Dawn - Dawn Summers." She put out a hand, the tray wobbled, and they both quickly grabbed for it to keep it level.
"Let's assume we've shaken hands, for now - it looks as if that might be safer," Giles said. He had little experience of children, but realised it might be advisable to be friendly towards his Slayer's younger sister. "Anyway, delighted to meet you, Miss Summers."
"Oh, the pleasure is entirely mine, Mr. Giles," she replied politely, "but you may call me Dawn if you wish." The effect of her exaggerated formal manner was rather spoiled as she burst into giggles, and they had to steady the tray again.
"You're nothing like the way Buffy describes you!" she went on chattily. "She thinks you're terribly stuffy sounding, and have a funny accent. And she says that half the time she doesn't understand what the heck you're talking about either. I can see now what she means about your accent of course, but it's not really that weird, is it, just different," she added kindly.
"Thank you so much, I think," said Giles, not quite sure whether to feel offended or to burst out laughing, but trying hard to keep a straight face either way. "Now, could you perhaps point out your mother to me - I really must say 'Hello', and thank her for my invitation. And I think I ought to have a look at some of the pictures as well, don't you? There seems to be quite a crowd here already."
"Oh, most of the staff at Sunnydale High were invited," Dawn said, "in fact almost everyone in Sunnydale of any importance was. Buffy was complaining just the other day about having to help address all the invitations, and take them into school to deliver each one herself. She hated that."
"Oh, I could tell when she handed me mine, I assure you," said Giles. "The look she gave me would probably have curdled milk at forty paces. I suppose I came this evening partly in order to annoy the hell out of her." He smiled innocently as he took off his glasses to give them a good polish, and Dawn giggled.
"You're off to a good start then!"
"You know," Giles said, mainly to himself, "I really think I'm going to be doing quite a lot of that." He didn't notice Dawn's broad grin in response as he looked round again at the crowded walls of the gallery. "Now, where do I begin?"
'Portrait of an Old Man'
As Giles strolled round the place, the exhibition appeared to be the usual sort of thing one might find in any small town - a mixture comprised of very amateur local artists painting chocolate box-top pictures, some so-called 'modern art' where the artist 'expressed' him- or her-self freely if unoriginally, and a very few genuinely interesting pieces of work that were definitely worth going back to have another look at. The whole show was relatively small, as the gallery had only three modestly sized exhibition rooms, each of them crammed with a mixed selection of work, all hung as closely together as possible so as to utilise every square inch of wall space. There were also a number of sculptures of various sorts dotted about the place, some on pedestals, some large enough to be free standing - apparently deliberately arranged so as to constitute both a physical and intellectual obstacle course. However, despite the considerable crowd, it wasn't long before he was back near the entrance again, at the beginning of the show.
"Good evening, Giles," said his Slayer, approaching him again with her tray of drinks at the ready. "Have another? It might help to blot out the memory of this evening's experience, or at least make it less painful. And these cheesy things are fairly edible - though I haven't tested each one personally."
"Thank you, Buffy. I think I will. I came by cab, so I'm not driving tonight." Again he swapped his empty glass for a full one, took a handful of the proffered snacks, and studied the fifteen-year-old as she gazed round the room.
"I take it you don't find Art with a capital A of much interest," he said.
"Huh? This lot? Nah! I reckon kids in first year grade school could do better finger painting than some of that stuff!" She pointed to a particularly garish example nearby of the West Coast Ultra-Post-Modernist School.
"See that? I could do better with a bag over my head!" she said scathingly, though keeping her voice down. "Even my kid sister could do better!"
"Dawn? I'm sure she could. I've just met her. She's utterly charming. And so very polite." He said this with a slight emphasis for Buffy's benefit.
"Have you? Yeah, everyone says that. It's either 'Isn't Dawn sweet, Mrs Summers,' or 'How well behaved she is!' or 'She's very clever for her age, isn't she?' Pah!!"
Giles smothered a grin, endeavouring to keep a straight face. Admittedly, sibling jealousy could be a very powerful emotion, but he'd never actually heard anyone say 'Pah!' before, let alone with such vehemence.
"Younger children always get more attention, Buffy. In some ways they need it."
"Yeah, right! Whatever. Oh, 'scuse me, Mr Giles, there's Willow and Xander - I was hoping they'd come," and she was off before he had a chance to remind her he preferred just 'Giles'.
"Though of course, I realise your little sister hasn't had your problems," he added, but she was already out of earshot.
A little while later, Giles was once again standing in front of one of the few pictures that had attracted his attention, when he noticed he'd been re-joined by Buffy's little sister. She too was studying the picture, standing with her hands clasped demurely behind her, rather like the famous young Victorian heroine she currently resembled, her head tilted a little to one side, and a slight frown on her face. The picture they were both looking at was a small, very detailed portrait of a gentleman in dark grey seventeenth century dress with a ruff round the neck instead of a collar. He had a long white pointed beard, and was wearing a small black skullcap. In one hand he was holding an open scroll, and there was a large crystal globe in the other.
"That's a pretty old painting," he said. "The card there, below it, says it's a portrait of an old English magician called John Dee, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First. I suppose your mother borrowed it from a collector, to give some artistic perspective. She must have some influential friends."
"Yup," said Dawn. "That's on loan from the Paul Getty Museum. It's worth a whole load of money."
"I imagine it is. I've heard of him before." He didn't enlarge on how or why, but continued conversationally, "He's really rather interesting - a famous character from that time, you know. Among other things he was court astrologer to the Queen, as well as a very clever mathematician. Bit of a con-artist too, by all accounts. Used to make money telling people's futures, and believed he could find how to make gold from base metal, like lead or iron, using something called the Philosopher's Stone."
"Oh, wow! Cool!" exclaimed Dawn. "You mean like in Harry Potter?"
Unfortunately Giles had absolutely no idea what she talking about. He supposed she was referring to some item of American juvenile culture he couldn't really be expected to recognise, so he said nothing, which seemed to be safest. At any rate that seemed to be perfectly acceptable to the girl, so they continued to stand side by side looking at the portrait in companionable silence for a few minutes until she eventually said, "It's weird, you know?"
"Weird?" Giles echoed. "Do you mean something about the picture? How so?"
"You wanna see something interesting, Mr Giles?"
"Er... possibly," said Giles cautiously, wondering just what she might have in mind.
Instead of explaining herself, Dawn beckoned him to follow, and quietly led him round the corner into the next exhibition space, stopping in front of another small portrait, this time apparently of an early twentieth century man surrounded by books; a scholar in his library perhaps, or a retired business man hoping to give the impression of being an educated gentleman. This too was a painting full of detail.
Giles studied the picture for a couple of minutes, but had to admit he didn't see anything particularly noteworthy in it. The label next to it did not identify the sitter, but for some reason the face rang a bell in his memory. It was strangely familiar, but he just couldn't place it.
"What exactly should I be looking for?" he asked, but in response Dawn then led him into the last, smallest room, and across to the back of the gallery, and a third picture, this time of a family group, and by a living painter whose name he actually recognised. As he also did the sitters'.
"I see your mother really does know some influential people," he commented. "I believe that artist has a number of works in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London."
"Yes, I know," said Dawn. "That's one of them. And that second one I showed you is on loan from somebody's private collection. We have to take all three of them down and lock them away in the safe every night. That's why we've hired a security guard for the evening. But," she added, "do you notice anything unusual about it?"
Giles considered the picture, took off his glasses and gave them another polish, then went up really close so that he could examine it in detail. A large person wearing a uniform jacket and cap approached, but Dawn waved him away dismissively.
Giles scanned the picture from top to bottom, and one end to the other, before finally replying.
"Hmm. Yes, I think, now, I can see why you wanted me to have a look at these three. Interesting, very interesting. You've had a bit of time to look at them, haven't you?"
"Yes, they've been here for nearly a week, while we've been working out the hanging arrangement. I'm Mom's spare pair of eyes."
"And sharp ones at that," Giles said. "Let's just go back and have another look at those other two you showed me already. You think they all have something in common, don't you?"
"You can see it too? It's not just me? Mom always says I have an overactive imagination, and of course Buffy just says I'm a pain in the..."
"Quite!" said Giles hastily, leading the way back into the main part of the exhibition. "I'm sure you're not really. Anyway I wouldn't worry about it - big sisters aren't always right," he added thoughtfully.
They joined a small group also looking at one of the other two pictures, and then discreetly drifted back round to the first one Dawn had shown him, Giles taking care not to look too interested. In the circumstances, he didn't think it would be advisable to make himself conspicuous.
"Hello, Mr Giles," a new, male voice said in his ear, making him jump. It was one of Buffy's friends - Xander Harris, was it? Willow Rosenberg was with him, also peering at the painting.
"Ah, good evening," he replied, a little awkwardly. "Er... interesting exhibition, don't you think?"
"Sure is," the girl said. "This one's quite old, isn't it? Buffy was just telling us the Directors of some museum up-state had offered to lend it for the opening of the exhibition."
"Very generous of them, too," Giles said. And the thought popped into his head: 'Offered? Not asked by Mrs Summers? I wonder what, or who prompted them to do that?'
"Excuse me, Mr Giles," said Buffy, reappearing at his elbow, and he turned round quickly to find himself facing an attractive woman of about his own age.
"Mr Giles, may I introduce my mother?"
"Mrs Summers. Delighted," he said, shaking hands. "I know your daughter already, of course, from school, but it's a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for my invitation. It's a fascinating exhibition, absolutely fascinating. A... er... very wide range of styles."
"Why, Mr Giles, how nice of you. When Buffy mentioned you were new in Sunnydale, like us, I felt I just had to invite you along."
"That's most kind of you," Giles said. "I know she's made several good friends in school already," - and he nodded at the two Slayerettes, Willow and Xander, who were hovering in the background.
"Yes, we were very lucky. This gallery job came up absolutely out of the blue, just at the right time for us, and my daughters were both able to transfer up from Los Angeles without any delay. This is Dawn, my youngest," she added, putting an arm round the younger girl. "I asked her to help out her big sister this evening. It's a little late for her but since it's not a school night..."
"Yes, we've already introduced ourselves. She's very kindly made sure I had some wine and nibbles, and we were just discussing the paintings."
"I do hope she hasn't been pestering you, Mr Giles. I've told her just to keep taking the drinks and snacks round, and make sure everyone has something."
"Not at all. She's doing a magnificent job, I assure you. She must be a great help to you - she was telling me she even helped you work out the hanging arrangement."
"Oh, yes. I only have one permanent staff member at the moment, and an extra pair of eyes and hands has been absolutely essential."
"And you're expanding the place, I take it? You've got a very wide selection of works on display for this Inaugural Show. And Dawn tells me you've even been lent a few very nice pictures. You're very lucky - you must have some very influential friends."
"Oh, we had some help from the Town Hall here in Sunnydale, arranging to borrow those," Joyce Summers said. "They're as interested as we are in getting the Gallery back on its feet as a cultural resource, so they offered to help us negotiate the loan of a couple of works from out of State, and even one from abroad. It all makes for good publicity.
"Apparently the previous gallery owner-manager had already been working on this exhibition before he had to sell up and move away rather suddenly. Family problems, I believe. Bad luck for him, of course, but very good luck for us. Anyway, when the new owners took me on as manager, they suggested I pick up the idea, take over the planning work that he'd already done, and use it for relaunching the Gallery. It would start my new career here with a bit of a splash at the same time. The plans included arrangements to borrow a few pictures from other galleries, including one from the Paul Getty Museum, up state. How could I possibly say no?"
"Every little helps, of course," said Giles politely. He couldn't say anything about it, but he already knew the true circumstances of the previous owner's sudden departure from the town - the Council of Watchers could be curiously ruthless when the circumstances demanded it.
"Oh, absolutely! And it's been a great boost. The people in the Mayor's Office have been such a help. It's been real good of them," Joyce Summers said enthusiastically. "Oh, there's the reporter from the local paper. You will excuse me, Mr. Giles, won't you, please? So nice to have met you," and she rushed away to deal with the publicity aspect of the Art Show.
"Nice lady," he said to the Slayer who was still sanding there at his elbow. "You're very lucky."
"She doesn't know," Buffy said quietly, out of the blue. "About me, that is. Not really."
"I should bloody well hope not, Buffy," said Giles sharply, though equally quietly. "And let's try to make quite sure we keep it that way, shall we?"
Buffy nodded curtly, and marched away to rejoin her friends.
"But I do," said a little voice at his other elbow, surprising the life out of him. He looked down, and there was Buffy's little sister smiling up at him again.
"Erm... I beg your pardon? You do... what?" he said cautiously.
"I know," said Dawn. "About Buffy. You don't really think my big sister could keep something like that from me, do you?" Her expression was perfectly serious, and he suddenly had the unenviable sensation of the gallery floor under his feet turning into quicksand.
"Um... exactly what is it you think you know?" he asked cautiously, hoping he was misunderstanding what Dawn had just said.
"She Slayer, you Watcher," the girl said matter-of-factly. "I know all about that. Why else do you suppose I wanted you to take a look at those pictures, Mr. Giles?"
End of 'Overture and First Movement'.