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at the end of all things

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An assistant's job is to notice and keep track of things that their boss may not. And Loquatius Seelie, bold and loud and bright as he is, distracts easily from the details.

This is where Aria finds her strength. She did, indeed, come highly recommended. She catches stories from microexpressions and small details, uses others' assumptions of her naivety to her advantage, and understands what they need - or want - from her. 

All manner of news comes to the Herald's Tome, reaches Loquatius' ears through his charm and influence. This is not Aria's job. 

Aria sees what Loquatius cannot hear, even if it will never make it into The People's Paper.

--

Aria runs through her notes quickly as she walks out of the Herald's Tome with Loquatius. "I'm very busy," he says to her every morning. "Time is of the essence." Aria has long since learned that short, straightforward briefs are his preferred method of communication, but she doubts that timing is the reason.

It's not difficult to figure out. Aria has never had the ambition to be well-known, well-loved. Working for the most famous man in Avalir has only cemented her stance.

Having others love her from afar is terrifying to Aria. Why would they care about her? But Loquatius soaks up the attention, basks in the praise, then gets up to do it all over again the next day.

Aria has seen people promise Loquatius the world. She has seen people get close, before showing what they really wanted all along. When she first began working for him, it had been a year since the divorce. She has watched him hold everyone at arm's length, waiting for people to come out and say exactly what they want from him.

Loquatius' colleagues, confidants, and close acquaintances are all direct and honest, brutally so. Aria suspects that's why the last assistant didn't work out.

She finds plus-ones for events who want to be reporters, who want to go up in status, those who Loquatius will not see after the night. Aria sees the relief, when she sets him up with yet another person whose desires he understands, whose desires he can explain.

She suspects that he believes he, just Loquatius, is unlovable. That the image and status and power of Loquatius Seelie are the only things people will want. The only things people will love.

Having others love him up close is terrifying for Loquatius. Why would they care about him?

--

Laerryn Coramar-Seelie has never needed Loquatius Seelie. It's a thought that comes to Aria when she is trying to contact the Architect Arcane yet again.

Her title, her position, her magical prowess, were all more than established before she met Loquatius, before the popularity of the Herald's Tome. Laerryn is not one for fanciful words or hidden meanings, not one to climb the social ladder. She never wanted anything from Loquatius other than himself.

Aria wonders if Laerryn ever came out and said it, and if Loquatius ever believed that. She wonders if Loquatius found it easier, after the divorce, to believe that she never wanted any part of him at all.

--

The first time she meets Laerryn Coramar-Seelie, the Architect Arcane has no idea who Aria is. After all, tonight, she is not the right-hand man of Loquatius Seelie. Tonight, she is the proud wife of a new inductee into the Abjurers' Guild.

Laerryn is not one for small talk, as those in the guild are well aware. She is sat at a table, fiddling with something in her hands as the other guild members walk and mingle around. It leaves a strange space in the socialization before the event begins, and Aria cannot help but ache to fill it.

She is in the adjacent seat before she realizes she has sat down, and motions to spinning arcane object Laerryn is holding. 

"Apologies for interrupting, but what is that magnificent item you're holding?"

"What?" Laerryn looks up and notices her for the first time. "I mean, hi. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, what?" 

"All I mean is, well. I've got a wizard at home myself, and I think my wife would absolutely adore one of those." 

Laerryn leaves the fidget toy spinning in the air as she tries to explain the directions to the little shop she purchased it from, before turning to pick up her clutch and write its name down. As she turns, Aria picks up the scent of a floral perfume.

"Oh, that's a lovely scent. What flower is that, if I may ask?"

Laerryn freezes, before responding "Issylran violet." Aria tangibly feels the mood at the table lower, though she can't quite figure out why.

It's only the next day when she's in Loquatius' office that she notices the violets in the picture on his desk.

--

Aria has long since given up any hope of completing arcane tasks for the Herald's Tome quickly. Loquatius insists on only requesting the best, the best being the Architect Arcane. No matter how busy the time, how menial the task, Aria cannot talk him out of it. She dutifully sends a message, and then she waits.

Waits for the push and pull of two hearts, for the song and dance to complete, one in which she is the unwilling middleman. She waits for a reply that will not come, a fix that has yet to be completed, and a declaration from Loquatius that he simply must speak to her in-person. 

She wonders if this was what their marriage was like. 

Did Loquatius show Laerryn he needed her, and failed to ask for the same? Did he vie for the undivided attention from her that she could give to her work? Did Laerryn strive to be heard as carefully and clearly as all the stories Loquatius tells? 

How many social functions did she attend for him, and how many did he miss for her? How many times did they blame themselves for not being who the other needed?

Did they ever notice what they were doing?

She wonders how much of this was in what Loquatius never heard.

She wonders if they'll ever get out of their own way.

--

To be known is to be loved, or so the saying goes.

Loquatius knows when Laerryn needs support and inspiration, when she will be at work or at home. Laerryn knows his biggest insecurity is his hair, and calls him "Quay," just Quay, not the mirage of Loquatius Seelie.

As they enter the grand hall, Loquatius places a hand on Laerryn's back, responding to the pleasantries and small talk as though he were batting a fly away from her. He pulls out her chair and holds her clutch as she sits and switches out his champagne for her wine. The motions are practiced and smooth, as though no time has passed at all.

Aria looks away. Suddenly, she is exhausted. This is not something she wants to notice. This is not a story that will be told in the news. This is not a story she needs to see play out. The Seelies are divorced, and watching them hurt will only do the same to her.

This is not an ending she needs to know.

--

Aria, along with everyone else, missed the coming of the end of the world. Future historians would ask, “surely they heard the howl of the Calamity?” But how could anyone have known?

And how could Aria, who prides herself on finding the details, the stories, have missed it?