“Jack, your dragon’s at it again!” Ianto shouted from the main Hub.
The man in question poked his head out of his office door. “How come Herman’s always MY dragon when he does something wrong?”
“He’s always been your dragon. You’re the one who found him and brought him home, I’m just the one who’s ended up looking after him.”
Truth to tell, Ianto didn’t really mind all that much, although he’d never let on to Jack; Herman was an amiable creature, happy to putter around the Hub following his primary caregiver, and was pleasant, undemanding company most of the time. The idea of being the only Welshman with an actual living, breathing dragon appealed to Ianto’s sense of whimsy, and thankfully Herman refrained from breathing fire unless the furnace went out and needed re-lighting, settling instead for the occasional gentle puff of smoke.
“But you’re so good with dragons!” Jack protested, ignoring the fact that Herman was the only dragon Torchwood had come across, and therefore the only one Ianto had any experience with. It hardly qualified him for being Torchwood’s resident dragon expert, and yet…
“That’s not the point! He’s your dragon and you should have some control over him!”
“It’s not like I can take him to obedience classes! What’s he done this time?”
“I caught him stealing my coffee beans!” Hands on hips, Ianto glared up at Jack with a ‘What are you going to do about it?’ look on his face.
“Really? I never knew dragons liked coffee.”
“As far as I know they don’t; Herman’s more of a tea drinker.” And no, Ianto wasn’t put out about that in the slightest; he liked a nice, soothing cuppa himself now and then.
“So why is he eating your coffee beans?”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “I never said he was eating them; he’s taken to hoarding them in his nest.”
“Oh.” Jack frowned. “Don’t dragons usually hoard gold and precious gems?”
“If you believe the myths, but in case you haven’t noticed, gold and jewels are in rather short supply around the Hub.”
“Ah. So in the absence of traditional dragon treasure, Herman’s adopted your coffee beans as an acceptable substitute?”
“Apparently so, and if we don’t do something about his thieving ways, before long we won’t have any coffee left. I don’t know about you, but I don’t much fancy drinking coffee made from beans that have been underneath a dragon.”
The disgusted expression on Jack’s face made it clear the idea didn’t appeal to him either.
“My thoughts exactly.” Herman was a very clean dragon, but even so, dragon-flavoured coffee was never going to catch on. If nothing else, the baby oil Ianto used to keep the dragon’s skin smooth and supple would have soaked into the beans, ruining their flavour.
“I suppose I’d better find something more suitable for Herman to hoard. After all, we can’t expect a dragon not to behave like a dragon. Hoarding precious objects is in their nature. Cat’s chase birds, dogs sniff each other’s butts, dragons hoard treasure; everyone knows that.”
“Right. Well, I’ll leave it to you then. Just don’t spend our entire annual budget on precious metals, okay? I’ve locked the rest of the coffee away where Herman can’t get at it, but that’s quickly going to become a nuisance, so I expect you to come up with a more appropriate alternative sooner rather than later.”
“I’ll sort it. Trust me, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
Several days passed, and Herman took to stealing pens, erasers, and even loose change off desks and out of pockets, although he seemed less than enthralled by his hoard. Ianto sympathised; by dragon standards it was rather pitiful. Then one morning, Jack came dashing downstairs with a small box in his hand.
“The first lot’s here!” he shouted to Ianto as he dashed up to his office. “Come and see what I got!”
“The first lot of what, exactly?” Ianto entered the office in Jack’s wake and perched on the edge of his desk.
“Sort of a dragon hoard starter kit,” Jack explained, somewhat unhelpfully, as he wrestled with the sticky tape used in packaging his purchase. “I went on ebay and found everything a young dragoon could possibly want, at quite reasonable prices too. I thought we could leave these around the Hub for Herman to ‘find’ and add to his hoard. Then if we get a couple of new ones every week, he can gradually build up a hoard he can be proud of. Much better than coffee beans or old pens.”
“Are you insulting my coffee?” Ianto raised an eyebrow.
“Of course not! It’s just that sitting on them is a waste of excellent coffee beans; they’re much better for drinking.”
“No argument from me.”
“Aha!” Jack finally managed to get enough of the tape off that he could open the box. Removing a load of protective packaging he unveiled what he’d bought for Herman.
Ianto stared in disbelief at several large chunks of golden metal. “Didn’t I tell you not to break the bank?”
“Relax, it’s not what it looks like. This is fool’s gold, iron pyrite. Looks enough like the real thing that prospectors sometimes mistakenly thought they’d struck it rich. Even if Herman can tell the difference between this and real gold, I doubt he’ll mind too much; it’s still a step up from what he’s got. I’ve ordered some semi-precious stones too; amethyst, rose quartz, calcite, fluorite… Got to keep the only dragon in Wales happy, right?”
Ianto looked out through the office window to where the plump orange dragon was sitting on his nest, gloomily contemplating his hoard of cheap plastic pens, a handful of coins, and a few old coffee beans; he definitely looked like he could use cheering up.
“Of course.” Ianto smiled; he was sure Herman would be much happier with his new hoard than his old one, and with any luck he’d leave Ianto’s precious coffee beans alone in future. “Why don’t I take Herman down to the vaults with me for a bit while you distribute these,” he gestured at the lumps of fool’s gold on Jack’s desk, “around the Hub? Then when we come back up, Herman can have a treasure hunt.”
Jack beamed at his lover. “And then can we have coffee?”
“I think I could probably be persuaded to make some.”
Iron pyrite might be fine for dragons, but for immortal captains nothing beat the liquid gold that was Ianto Jones’ finest blend.