Lucivar loved his youngest niece. He really did, or he wouldn't volunteer to keep track of her when Aaron and Kalush wanted a night out, or Kalush was exhausted and Aaron was running out of energy, or really if he just felt like having a little time with the little girl.
On the other hand, she was as charming as her mother and as wicked as her father, and he most certainly did not love some of the ideas she had. She clapped her hands together and beamed at him with that face that made him feel like the best person ever and clamored, for the third time, "Dress up!"
Saying no would make him a bad person. And she would be terribly upset. Lucivar hated it when Arianna cried. And even if he suspected that she had figured out how much it upset him and sometimes did it on purpose, that didn't make it any better, really, not when he couldn't think straight because she was bawling her eyes out and he just wanted to make it better.
"I don't think you have anything that would fit me, sweetheart," he tried. She clambered into his lap and tapped his Ebon Grey with one finger.
"You could make them fit, couldn't you? If I picked something out you could make it bigger and try it on, couldn't you?"
Lucivar didn't think to lie. "Uh – I suppose so. What if I were to dress you up, Arianna? How about that?
She shook her head vehemently. "No. No fun. I want to dress you. It'll be pretty, I promise! I won't pick anything ugly or awful." She put out her lower lip and her eyes were suddenly melting brown pools. "Please, Uncle Lucivar?"
Damn all women, down to the really young ones. Lucivar sighed. "All right, all right. We can play dress up." Aaron wouldn't be back for a long while, and there was no real cost to anything but his dignity to letting Arianna play with his hair and draw on his face and put clothes on him. "You'll need something cut for Eyriens, though-"
"I know just what," she said, cheerfully, and hurried into her play room, looking more than just delighted. Lucivar followed, with a growing feeling of trepidation.
Arianna was buried up to her waist in a trunk full of clothes, legs kicking the air, and emerged, finally, holding up a dress triumphantly.
"Orion left it here," she said, proudly. "She got too big for it and said I could have it, and it has wing slits and everything. And it's not that little so you should be able to make it fit…"
She looked at him expectantly. Lucivar was still staring at the dress in awestruck horror. It was a vibrant and unfortunately loud pink, ruffled around the neck and the skirt to an absurd degree. The skirt was slashed with orange that made him grit his teeth. And Arianna was still looking at him, waiting.
"That's…an interesting dress," he said, tentatively, and Arianna nodded enthusiastically and shoved it into his hands. "Here! Here, put it on, Uncle Lucivar! I'm getting some of mama's cookies," and then she skipped out of the room.
Lucivar looked at the dress and moaned faintly. He could rip it and that would put an end to that. Unless there was a worse dress somewhere in there. He could just flat out say no and try to distract Arianna. He was not going to wear this dress.
He held it out at arm's length and thought of Arianna's big, dimpled grin that she got when he did something she liked, and thought about the expression she got when she was really unhappy, and the way her face squished up when she cried really loudly.
"Oh, shit," he said, and stalked into the bathroom to change, already working out how much bigger the dress would need to be.
In the end, he couldn't fasten the back and could barely move his arms, but he wore it anyway, and the look on Arianna's face when she came back was one of such sheer delight that his bad mood evaporated completely. So he let her serve him tea and put his hair in two braids and gave her a horse-ride, too, though he'd never appreciated how hard it was to walk in a dress. It seemed nearly impossible, this moment.
It wasn't going so badly, really, until he heard the door opening and nearly dropped Arianna in horrified shock.
"Daddy's home!" Arianna yelled, and squirmed out of his arms, disappearing. Lucivar was tempted, sorely, to make a leap for the Winds and escape now, even for the energy it would take, but to where – Daemon would never let this pass, not in a thousand years. And Saetan would likely be worse. Not to mention Marian.
And then Arianna dragged her father around the corner, expression one of utmost pride, and Lucivar attempted to keep his coolest expression, facing Aaron. With pride. He was an Ebon Grey Eyrien Warlord Prince, dammit.
In a dress.
Aaron looked as though he were trying valiantly not to laugh and the effort was making his ribs creak. Lucivar was fairly certain he had never hated anyone so much in his whole life. Arianna, on the other hand, was pointing, delighted. "Daddy! We're playing dress up and look what I put on Uncle Lucivar!"
*If you say anything,* Lucivar warned Aaron on a spear thread, with a baleful glare, *I will kill you.*
Aaron's mouth writhed. He hesitated. Looked at his daughter, looked back at Lucivar, and then said, slowly but perfectly clearly, "...it's a very nice dress, darling. Have you shown Jaenelle?"