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When he was alive, Kravitz had sometimes imagined himself being a father. He just hadn’t expected “saving a baby from being sacrificed by a necromantic cult” to be a possible avenue for it to happen. Nevertheless, here he was: throwing himself through a rift in space with an infant held tightly to his chest, landing knees-first on the plush carpet of the apartment he shared with Taako. He could hear Lup screaming furiously at the doomed necromancers as the rift sealed itself behind him. They were a small group, she could handle them. Saving the child was his priority now.

Taako came out of the kitchen. Kravitz could see the confusion on his face, but cut him off before he could say anything. “I need Merle,” he said. The first healer he could think of. “I- fuck, Taako, they were going to sacrifice a baby. We need Merle, and we need him now, or she’s going to die.”

The wizard spared a moment to glance at the baby in his husband’s shaking arms. “Godsdamn necromancers,” he muttered, pulling out his Stone of Farspeech. Kravitz heard Taako dial Barry’s frequency. Barry hadn’t been working with himself and Lup that day, and apparently Merle never answered his own Stone anymore. Sending Barry to collect the dwarf would eliminate any potential travel delays. Time was of the essence. “Barold, I need you to bring me Merle. Kravitz just crashed into our living room with a fucking half-dead baby and we need a cleric."

It was a tense three minutes before another rift opened in the air in front of Kravitz. The sounds of waves and seagulls rolled over him as he dragged his attention away from the baby. Merle stepped into the apartment, the Extreme Teen Bible under his arm. “What happened, Krav?”

Kravitz gingerly held out the baby for Merle to see. It was a tiny sun elf, barely six months old. She had to have been sedated for the ritual, because there was no way he could see that she wouldn’t be shrieking in pain and confusion otherwise. The skin on the pointed tips of her ears was dry and cracking in some places. Her head had been shaved of what tiny amount of hair it had previously had. She was naked, and there were small purple bruises on her arms and legs. “They were going to sacrifice her, they were using her to summon a demon. Her ears, Merle. My gods, they’re so damaged- she’s so young, I…”

“Bastards,” Merle grunted. “Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. Taako, bring me a pillow. We’re gonna put her on the floor so you don’t drop her while I’m healing her. No offense, Krav, but I need a stable surface so I can do this.”

“Of course,” Kravitz replied mechanically. Taako retrieved their most comfortable throw pillow from the sofa and he laid the baby down. It was hard for him to let go of her, but Kravitz knew that Merle was good at what he did. At least Taako seemed to understand his anxiety. The moon elf knelt on the floor beside his husband and took his hand. Barry finally joined them as well, crouching silently beside Merle.

Merle opened the Extreme Teen Bible and placed it on the floor. “I’m gonna cast Prayer of Healing,” he said to no one in particular. Then he also sank to his knees beside the cushion, holding out his hands above the baby as he spoke in a low voice. “O Pannenly Father, please have mercy on this child…” Tiny golden flowers bloomed along the length of Merle’s wooden arm. He gently placed his palm on the baby’s chest. Warm light radiated out from the point of contact and the baby took a deep breath. Kravitz said his own silent prayer of thanks to the Raven Queen. It wasn’t the child’s time, not yet. But that didn’t mean that she couldn’t be hurt.

“I dunno if I can do anything to wake her up,” said Merle, “but she’s probably gonna be hungry when she does. Kids this young need to be fed every couple of hours, and I can't tell the last time she was fed. She's real skinny.”

“I’ll have to see what we have,” Taako said. He stood up. “Barry, you know where the linen closet is. Bring Merle a towel to cover the kid’s decency. We’ll have to go shopping at some point, whether we keep her or not. I can’t be seen dropping a naked baby at an orphanage.” Kravitz blinked. Up until that point he hadn’t considered what to do with the baby after Merle had healed her.

“So you’re thinkin’ about keeping her?” Merle asked Taako. Taako opened the icebox and disappeared behind the door up to the tips of his ears.

“Somebody has to! Maybe Lup and Barold, or Ren. Or maybe Magnus. I don’t know. Fuck, we can’t just leave her!” It was a classic Taako deflection. Kravitz knew that it would take more than this for his husband to admit it, but he knew that the baby reminded Taako of himself. Spending the majority of the first hundred years of his life on the road with Lup had made for a difficult childhood. Taako wouldn’t want to leave another little elf to fend for themselves, even one he had just met.

Barry came back with a towel. Merle helped him swaddle the baby and placed her back into Kravitz’s arms. “Yeah, you’re keepin’ her,” the dwarf said kindly. “Just like how you got all those damn cats.” Merle looked at Kravitz. “She’s gonna need a name, though.”

“I suppose she will,” said Kravitz in a weak voice.