I kind of hate myself for writing this.
Pietros was making coffee when Spartacus got to the office. The kid wasn't his usual self, though: he wasn't whistling, or even smiling, and he was washing out the used mugs dully, without looking to make sure he'd gotten every miniscule scrap of dried residue. It was the kind of job Varro would have done.
When Pietros saw Spartacus, he filled a mug and handed it over without a word.
"Thanks," Spartacus said. He sipped the coffee. Pietros wasn't doing too badly there, at least. He thought about saying something, but "don't worry, it gets better" was right out because in Spartacus's experience, it didn't. He settled for punching the kid gently on the shoulder, and made his way to the desk and, oh, God, a horrifying amount of work.
He'd barely booted up the computer and glanced across the first pages in the topmost folder when a shadow fell over his desk. Spartacus didn't need to look up, but he did anyway; it was Varro, as always, leaning against the wall of Spartacus's cubicle. He had a mug -- Spartacus's "Thrace is for lovers" mug, the one Sura had gotten for him before she'd been deployed, before Spartacus had been demoted and transferred to a godforsaken branch office in the middle of nowhere. Spartacus eyed the mug, glared at Varro. Varro didn't seem to notice. He was too busy looking at Pietros.
"He seems upset," said Varro. He sipped the coffee appreciatively. "What's wrong?"
Spartacus nodded in the direction of Barca's empty desk. Varro blinked.
"Where'd he go?" Varro said.
"Remember the account irregularities he was talking about?"
"Yeah. Ashur said it was bullshit."
"Wasn't bullshit," Spartacus said. "Turns out we had a few million squirreled away into some side accounts the company had forgotten about. Enough to tip the balance sheets back into the black. Barca worked all weekend to put the report together. Said he was going to take it to Ashur and Mr. Batiatus. Barca thought it was his ticket out of here." He shrugged. "Guess he was right."
"Cunt could've said goodbye, at least," said Varro. "Or taken us with him." He sipped his coffee. "Still, explains why the kid's so broken up. Barca's gone against the natural order of things." Varro bent closer, grinning slyly. "You don't *leave* the intern pussy," he said. "Intern pussy leaves on its own. That's the point of intern pussy. They're like whores, only you don't pay them and you write them a letter of recommendation at the end of the summer." He glanced at Pietros. "Now look at him. It's like when you walk up to a pretty girl and hit on her ugly friend. She doesn't know what to do. This moment is completely outside of all previous expectation and experience."
A voice said, "What're you doing with those fucking accounts, Spartacus?"
Spartacus saw Varro stiffen, and thought carefully before deciding to take the other tack. Slowly, Spartacus leaned back in his chair and pivoted until Crixus came into view. "Mr. Batiatus gave them to me," Spartacus said. "Are we going to have a problem?"
"Damn straight we're going to have a problem," Crixus said. His big face was reddening. "I know those accounts. I know what to look for. I saved your fucking ass in that presentation. If I hadn't gotten you that information -- "
"But you did. And I knew what to do with it. And that's why I'm in this position." Spartacus could feel the adrenaline hitting. It was ridiculous. They were arguing over nothing, nothing at all, but while Spartacus couldn't have the job he wanted or his old home in Thrace or bring his wife back from halfway around the world, right now he had power and he could make Crixus know it. He was surprised how good it felt to win, to rub someone else's face in shit, just for a change. "If you'd run them the way they should've been run, they wouldn't be my accounts. But they are. My accounts."
It would have been a dangerous moment, but Varro broke in. "Crixus," he said. "Seen Pietros?"
"The fucker let the pot of coffee run dry," said Crixus. Spartacus noticed, for the first time, that Crixus, a pot-a-day man, for once wasn't holding a mug. "What the fuck is wrong with him? He looks like a pretty girl when you hit on her ugly friend."
"Thank you!" said Varro. "You see, Spartacus?"
Crixus said, "Are you fuckers going to tell me what's going on or not?"
"Barca left," said Spartacus. "He found some squirrelled away money, and he's moved up and out."
Crixus grunted. "Doesn't he know the rules of intern pussy?" he said. "You don't fucking leave them. You fuck them till they can't walk, then you write a letter of recommendation and tell them to fuck off."
Varro said, "Exactly!" He beamed, and held out the coffee mug to Crixus, who hesitated, then took it. He took a heavy swig.
"Thanks," Crixus said. He turned back to Spartacus. "Don't you fuck up those fucking accounts," he said, and stormed off, carrying Spartacus's "Thrace is for lovers" mug with him.
Varro said, "Holy shit. He took my mug."
Spartacus said, "It's my fucking mug."
"Still," said Varro, as if he hadn't heard, "he does know what I'm talking about."
Spartacus said, "So why are you friends with me, and not him?"
"Because I can disgust you," Varro said. "He's far more disgusting than I am. I wouldn't know how to play that. Then I'd be the pretty girl who -- " he broke off. "What's with you this morning?"
"I don't want to be here."
"None of us are here because we want to be," said Varro. "I'm only in this shitbox because I made a couple of bad bets when it came to reallocating some supplies."
"You bet that the state of Maine wouldn't need heating oil in February."
"Is it my fault that I listened to Al Gore? Fucker wins the Nobel Prize and a fucking Oscar, probably gets a bunch of fucking blowjobs, I mean Hollywood blowjobs, and I get demoted to bumfuck. And you -- "
"I was *right* when I told Glaber to go fuck himself," said Spartacus.
"Yes, you were right," said Varro. "'Fuck yourself, Mr. District Manager!' You were very right. You were so right that all the gods looked down and said, 'Jupiter's hairy scrotum, Spartacus could not be any more in the right.' And I hope that's consolation, because your current position is evidence that they couldn't be arsed to do anything about it."
Spartacus said, "How's the wife?"
Varro said, "Go fuck yourself," and wandered off.
Spartacus looked at the clock: five minutes down. Seven hours, fifty-five minutes to go.
He thought, oh god, I hate my job.