Written for Challenge 390: Treasure at fan_flashworks.
Sequel to âHoarding Instinctâ
The first thing Jack did once Ianto had persuaded Herman to accompany him down to the archives was to clear the accumulated junk from the pile of old duvets, blankets, and straw that constituted the dragon’s nest. Aside from the pens, erasers, loose change, and a few stale coffee beans, he unearthed a single earring, one of Owen’s test-tubes, thankfully empty, a walnut, a set of Weevil hand clamps, and several bottle caps.
He dropped the earring in Gwen’s drawer, fairly sure it was one of hers, shared the pens and erasers out among the workstations, put Owen’s test-tube back in the med bay, the coins in petty cash, and the Weevil clamps back where they belonged. The rest he threw away, except for the walnut. It wouldn’t do to leave Herman with nothing in his hoard; the poor dragon was depressed enough as it was.
Fetching the box that had arrived earlier by parcel post, Jack looked around the Hub, considering his options. He didn’t want to hide what he’d bought too carefully, otherwise Herman might not find the shiny rocks, but he didn’t want to leave them just lying around out in the open either; that would be no challenge at all. Part of the fun for a dragon was in seeking out treasures to add to its hoard; just handing them over would rob Herman of any sense of accomplishment and stunt his development.
Jack had seven pieces of iron pyrite in varying sizes, the largest perhaps as big as a peach and the smallest no bigger than Herman’s walnut. There was nothing too large to conceal, but even the smallest was big enough that it shouldn’t be easily overlooked.
He tucked the first one under Gwen’s workstation, half hidden behind her wastebin, where Herman should be able to spot it from his nest. The second he put in the kitchen area, where Herman was fed, poking it between a cupboard and an old crate. The next he part-buried in some rubble near the Rift pool, where Herman sometimes liked to sit and dabble in the water, splashing it about. The fourth he wedged into the grating of one of the catwalks, then he put one on a ledge near the door to the garage. That left two, one of which he wanted to hide in his office, perhaps near the radiator, where Herman sometimes liked to snooze when he wasn’t keeping Ianto company.
It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to hide one in the archives, that might encourage the dragon to poke his snout into places it shouldn’t go, so he left the last one against the wall at the top of the spiral staircase before contacting Ianto to let him know everything was in readiness.
Ianto didn’t return immediately, he was busy with the filing he’d taken downstairs with him, but he came back upstairs half an hour later, Herman trailing amiably along behind him. The dragon mooched over to his nest, poking gloomily amongst the blankets to check his hoard as he always did, and sighing heavily when he discovered that all but the old walnut was gone. Prodding it carefully under a fold of blanket, out of sight, perhaps in the hopes that no one would notice it was still there, the dragon slumped onto his nest, the picture of dejection.
“Should we tell him?” Jack wondered, watching with Ianto from his office window.
“Just give him a little while. He always goes looking for things to steal after I clear out his nest.” Ianto had taken to checking it at least once a day ever since the team had spent nearly three hours frantically searching for the keys to the SUV, only to discover the dragon had been sitting on them the entire time. He usually let Herman keep most things, only retrieving potentially dangerous items and anything the team might need, such as keys, equipment, and personal items, among them his stopwatch and Tosh’s glasses. “I hope you didn’t hide the treasure too carefully.”
“I put all the pieces in places where Herman should be able to spot them as he goes about his day,” Jack said, wondering if maybe he’d pushed the first piece too far under Gwen’s desk, or if Herman just hadn’t noticed it yet. Perhaps the dragon had his eyes closed; it was impossible to tell from this angle.
Herman settled deeper into his nest and was tugging his blankets closer around him when he suddenly stopped, tilting his head, his ears pricking up. He snorted, expelling a small puff of smoke, and stretched his neck out as far as it would go, which admittedly wasn’t very far. Unlike the dragons in most pictures, he was rather compact and chunky, lacking the sinuous neck and long, whiplike tail commonly portrayed.
Cautiously, the dragon crept from his nest and approached Gwen’s desk, which was unoccupied since the rest of the team were currently somewhere out near the Llanishen Reservoir, looking into reports of strange lights and weird buzzing noises. Stretching his neck out again, he peered around the wastebin, then pushed it carefully aside with his snout, his tail wagging eagerly.
Jack grinned. “That’s the first one found! Six more to go,” he said, sounding a bit smug as Herman picked up the chunk or iron pyrite in his mouth and trotted back to his nest with it, settling down to admire his shiny new treasure.
“Looks like he’s satisfied with that one for now,” Ianto said. “I’d better get on with some work. You should too; you can’t stand there all day watching what might be the slowest treasure hunt in history.”
“I can’t?” That was news to Jack. “Aren’t I supposed to be the boss around here?”
“So you keep telling us.” Ianto smirked at his lover. “Which means you should set a good example by doing something productive instead of wasting time.”
“Maybe I’m on my coffee break. Even bosses are allowed those.”
Ianto raised an enquiring eyebrow. “How can you be on a coffee break when you don’t have any coffee?”
“I’m not the one who makes the coffee. Matter of fact, I’ve been threatened with severe bodily harm if I so much as touch the machine. You should know; you’re the one who threatened me,” Jack said with a smirk.
“I suppose that’s your roundabout way of asking me to make some, is it?”
“Well, hiding all that treasure was thirsty work.”
“Of course it was.” Ianto sighed. “Fine, if you promise to do something productive afterwards, I’ll make us some coffee.” He left Jack’s office, calling out as he passed the dragon, “Tea, Herman?”
The dragon reluctantly tore his gaze away from his sparkly gold rock. “Rowr!” He was never one to turn down a cuppa.
Vacating his nest and tucking his treasure out of sight under a fold of blanket, Herman trundled after Ianto into the kitchen, sitting down out of the way to patiently wait for his special bowl to be filled with tea. As a dragon with a practically cast-iron stomach, he liked his tea strong and piping hot with just a dash of milk.
By the time his tea was ready, Herman had already found the second piece of iron pyrite, teasing it from its hiding place with a careful claw, and as Ianto set his dish in front of him, he seemed torn. As much as he wanted his tea, he was reluctant to let go of his prize, but he couldn’t drink with a rock in his mouth.
“No one’s going to take your treasure away from you this time, Herman. That’s yours to keep, provided you stop stealing keys and my coffee beans,” Ianto assured him. “Every dragon needs a proper hoard.” He wasn’t sure how much Herman understood, although the dragon was undoubtedly quite smart, but as he turned away to pick up his and Jack’s coffee mugs, Herman placed his new shiny rock gently on the floor, rested one paw on it possessively, and sank his snout into his tea, snorting into it to make it bubble before slurping it down. Ianto left him to it, smiling as he made his way back to Jack’s office.
By the end of the day, Herman had found five pieces or pyrite; he had yet to locate the one near the garage and the one in Jack’s office, but Jack didn’t doubt the dragon would find them both eventually. He looked so much happier, sitting in his nest arranging and admiring his treasures. He’d even showed them off to the rest of the team, when they’d arrived back tired and grumpy to announce that the lights and sounds were nothing more than a drone being flown over the reservoir and the surrounding area.
Owen hadn’t shown much interest, but Tosh and Gwen had admired Herman’s hoard, and Tosh had even added a sparkly rock she’d found out near the reservoir. It was nothing particularly special, probably gypsum, but Herman happily added it to his collection, wagging his tail in appreciation. What he had now was so much nicer than pens and bottle caps, even better than shiny coins.
He wondered if he was an especially good dragon and stopped taking things off desks, whether the people he lived with might bring him some more shiny rocks and pretty stones. Maybe if he looked around the cave again there might be more treasure to find.
With a contented huff that sent several smoke rings floating across the Hub, Herman tucked his hoard underneath himself and settled for the night. He could go treasure hunting again tomorrow.