Ianto bounded up the stairs to Jack's office, knocking once for protocol's sake then hurrying inside without waiting for a response. Jack was staring at the contraption on his desk, not paying any attention as Ianto held up the bag he was carrying. "I have the hay you reques--"

He came to a full stop and stared.

He blinked, and stared some more. "Is that a gerbil?"

Jack looked up at him briefly, grinning, then returned his attention on the small furry creature inside what Ianto realised was a cage. It had previously been...not a cage, stored safely in the archives until someone could figure out what it was. But he had to admit that, with a gerbil inside it, it did greatly resemble a cage. It certainly looked as if it would function very well as a gerbil cage, except for one thing.

"It's rather large for just one gerbil, isn't it?" He moved closer, setting the bag of Timothy hay he'd procured at a nearby pet store on Jack's desk. He peered through the small bars of the...cage, and realised that Jack had already used shredded paper for bedding. "Is that my budget report?"

"Two years old. No one will miss it." Jack poked a finger through the cage bars and made a high-pitched clucking-cooing sound.

"Please tell me you're communicating with it, and that isn't you trying to make kissy noises at a cute little animal."

Jack appeared torn between looking hurt and leering at him. For a moment Ianto was afraid he might hurt himself, and was gratified when Jack settled on leering. "You don't mind when I make noises for you."

"Weak, sir," Ianto told him, dismissing the attempt at witticism, and looked back at the gerbil. "Are you getting more? This cage could easily house four or five."

"Yes, but this species of gerbil isn't social. Best if you just have one." Jack was bent down again, peering through at the gerbil who was ignoring him in favor of eating Ianto's budget report. Ianto reached into the bag from the pet shop and pulled out the small bag of treats he'd bought on impulse.

"Just one?" Ianto hid a smile. "Jack, are you being monogamous?"

Jack gave him a glare. "I'm not marrying the gerbil."

"Ah yes, true. Monogerbilous?"

"That better be Welsh for 'handsome and fuckable'," Jack said, still scowling.

"So you're keeping the gerbil, then?" Ianto asked, ignoring the entendre. He remembered a time when entendres were subtle -- never with Jack, but with other people. It had been nice, if a now distant memory, flirting without risking an '18' rating.

"I think I will," Jack replied. "I've named her Jimi."

"After Jimi Hendrix?" Ianto opened his mouth to ask, then realised Jack was going to have a story about having shagged Hendrix, or about knowing where the alien once known as Jimi Hendrix had returned to. "After the song 'purple sky'?"

Jack looked disappointed, and Ianto realised he'd been right. Jack had had a story about Hendrix, and Ianto was glad he'd learnt to head such things off at the pass. He looked at the gerbil instead, and nodded. "The girls are this dark purple, and the boys are a nice lavender. Babies are always born with stripes, and you find out which they are once they've grown up a bit."

"And the tusks?"

"We'll need to give her some rocks to rub them down on," Jack said. "Otherwise she'll break through these bars and get lose again."

"We can't have that," Ianto said, making a note to pick up some stones from the garden that evening. He watched as Jimi waddled over to the side of the cage and began trying to chew on it. Possibly he'd look for something suitable at lunch.

"I told the Mayor that it was a simple traffic collision," Jack said. "A lorry knocked over the light post."

"Very good, sir." Ianto watched as the gerbil began pushing against the side of the cage with her tusks. "Are you sure rocks will be strong enough?"

"They'll be fine. Good for her digestion, too." Jack grinned. Ianto wondered vaguely why he hadn't tried getting Jack a pet before now. Perhaps a normal, Earth pet. Jack might have liked a turtle, or a rabbit.

"She eats rocks?" Ianto looked at the bag of nuts and dried fruit he'd purchased.

Jack followed his look, then picked up the bag of treats and opened it, taking one out. Ianto watched, slightly stunned, as Jack took a bite.

"Thanks," Jack said, holding out the bag. "Want one? These are pretty good."

"No, thank you," Ianto managed. "I think I'll wait for curry."

"We're having curry for lunch? Great. Get me some garlic nan, will you?" Jack took another gerbil treat out of the bag and ate it, turning back towards the cage. He began making the odd clucking sort of cooing noise, and Ianto decided it was time he made his escape. He heard the gerbil make a similar sounding noise and move towards Jack. Dear god, he's flirting with an alien gerbil.

Ianto turned and hurried away from Jack's office. Sometimes he thought his mum was right. Possibly he should have been an accountant.

the end