The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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September 29, 1924
Arnis, Germany

It had been hours since Whittaker attacked Anneliese’s house. Ivan had been on edge ever since the incident had gone down, waiting for the possibility of another attack to take place. Eventually that feeling of dread disappeared with the fading of the storm that once raged outside, leaving nothing but the peaceful sounds of night falling around them.

At some point, Brackston had fallen asleep on the couch, exhausted from all the excitement that took place throughout the day.

This left Ivan alone with his thoughts as he paced the floor, his mind racing as he awaited word from Layla and Carter. Anneliese’s cries of pains had stopped sometime after midnight, leaving the house in an eerie silence. He wasn’t certain if there had been any complications or not, but it alarmed him that the sound of a baby crying never met his ears.

He had done all that he could to distract himself, even to the point that he had cleaned and dressed the wound from the Whittaker agent’s knife with what supplies he had. He was about to resume his pacing when the sound of footsteps entering the room quickly captured his attention.

Carter walked into the kitchen area slowly, cradling a little bundle wrapped in a blanket carefully in his arms. Carter glanced up from where he was glancing softly at the baby, taking in Ivan’s tense frame as the man eyed him cautiously. Carter managed to give a small smile, tilting his head towards the bundle.

“It’s a healthy baby boy,” Carter stated, watching as Ivan’s eyebrows furrowed together in concern, his face paling slightly. Snorting quietly as a mischievous glint shined in Carter’s eyes, he shook his head. “Relax, it’s a girl,”

Ivan gave Carter a dirty glare, his jaw clenched slightly. Ivan shouldn’t have been surprised that Carter was being his usual asshole self but with everything else that had been going wrong today, he couldn’t help but feel rigid about everything.

Carter slowly walked closer to Ivan, nodding his head towards the quiet bundle as he held her out gently. “I think it’s your turn to hold her,” Carter suggested, glancing at the man.

Ivan hesitantly took a step back, pressing his lips tightly together as he avoided looking at the bundle. He was terrified to even look, let alone, to hold her. There was something that bothered him about the idea of seeing Elinor, his Elinor, as a newborn baby. Maybe it had everything to do with the fact that it was a painful reminder that she didn’t truly belong in the present. Deep down, it made him realize that if their circumstances had been different, she wouldn’t even be in the twenty-first century, let alone with him.

Carter frowned at Ivan, confused by his sudden behavior. Carter distinctly remembered Ivan talking with him about his own fear of becoming a father one day, about how he’d have to face that reality and the fears that came along with it. As Carter stood here with the little bundle in his arms, he couldn’t help but feel that Ivan was almost being a hypocrite at this moment, for Ivan wasn’t facing his greatest fear.

“You know, Layla overheard Brackston talking to you,” Carter began, giving Ivan a firm stare. “You’re terrified that we’re going to return home and Elinor is going to be gone. If you’re really that afraid of never seeing her again, then maybe you should put your damn fears aside and take what might be the last chance you’ll ever have of seeing Elinor again.”

Ivan was taken aback by Carter’s words, his jaw hanging slightly open. Ivan wasn’t used to the soldier putting him in his place and at the same time, being right when he did so.

Ivan had barely nodded before Carter gently placed the little bundle in his arms, the feeling of holding something so small again brought a mixture of feelings to the surface. The idea of holding Elinor when she was this tiny made him feel uncomfortable, as the memories of cradling his child in his arms when she was first born flooded his mind.

His heart hammering against his chest, Ivan gently pulled the blanket down to reveal the tiny, peaceful expression of a newborn sleeping infant. Her tiny features overwhelmed Ivan, all the way down to how she slept with her fist curled up against her face, something that his Elinor was fond of doing. Ivan was trying to wrap his mind around how this tiny being could be the same person he was hoping to return to in the present.

“Time travel is weird,” he thought to himself, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips, fading instantly as another thought crossed his mind.

“What if Whittaker tries to come back to steal Elinor?” Ivan questioned softly, his gaze lingering on the resting infant.

“Anneliese has plans,” Carter explained, keeping his voice quiet so as to not wake the baby. “Apparently, Wells has some secret house somewhere in Germany that she plans to leave for tomorrow. If you ask me, that’s a bit soon to travel but she’s determined. All that matters to her is keeping Elinor safe.”

Ivan could relate to that - more than Anneliese, Wells, or anyone would ever know. Seeing her in this stage of life made him feel even more protective of her than before. Slowly moving his hand, he gingerly ran his thumb over the little Elinor’s hand, chuckling with surprise as she wrapped her small hand around his thumb.

Carter snorted softly, shaking his head at the sight. “See? She trusts you already,” Carter pointed out.

“You’re being awfully cordial to me,” Ivan observed, glancing up at Carter questionably.

“I’m only being nice because the kid is present. Once we’re out of here, I’m going back to being the biggest pain in the ass there is,” Carter assured him, a smirk forming on his face.

Ivan rolled his eyes, bringing his attention back to the sleeping Elinor. It wasn’t long before Carter had to return the little bundle back to Anneliese. Reluctantly, Ivan carefully handed the resting baby back to Carter, his heart sinking as he watched the soldier leave the room with her. His only hope was that this wouldn’t have been his last few moments with Elinor.

Present Day

Ivan was the first one to unbuckle his seatbelt the moment the time machine landed, making his way to the open hatch so that he could peer out into the lab for any signs of his Elinor. He had been uneasy the moment they left Anneliese and the infant Elinor, his nerves raging as they returned to the time machine.

Anxiety washed over him as he took in the familiar faces of Lula, Altman, and Agent Simone, where they stood at the control platform for the time machine. Ivan could feel his heart pounding quickly, his face turning pale as his worst fears raced through his mind.

Jumping down from the time machine quickly, Ivan brushed past the three members they had left behind in the present without a single hello. His only concern at this point was Elinor, wondering if what he had been fearing all along was less of a feeling and more of a sign that Elinor Elsner would be gone when he returned.

He quickly made his way down the hallway, rushing towards his room. It was the only place he could think that she would be, seeing as the kitchen and the lounge area were devoid of her presence. His heart and mind were preparing him for the worse as he placed his hand on the handle of his room, barging into the room quickly.

His heart leaped instantaneously, his eyes falling on the familiar frame of Elinor as she paced the floor. He took in the way she swiveled on her heels to face him, her familiar eyes locking with his as her look of concern shifted into a look of relief. He barely gave her a chance to respond before he approached her quickly, his arms enveloping her in a tight hug.

She was surprised by this unexpected response but she couldn’t help but return the firmness of his hug, her arms clinging tightly around his neck as she took in the warmth of his presence.

Releasing his tight hold on her, Ivan slowly pushed himself to pull away so that he could stare into her face, taking in every single one of the details he loved. His hands held onto her arms softly. He was almost afraid to even let her go, afraid that she might disappear before him.

Elinor looked away to glance down and take in the gentle way his arms held onto her. She noticed the makeshift bandage on his left arm, her eyes widening in surprise as she swallowed hard. “Are you okay?” she asked softly, panic slightly rising in her chest at the realization that her nightmare was exactly what Altman had suspected.

“It’s nothing,” Ivan assured her, gently caressing her cheek with his uninjured hand, bringing her gaze back to his. “I need to tell you something, El. Something important.”

Elinor pressed her lips together, her stomach fluttering with a mixture of nerves and curiosity. His gaze was so intense, she wondered what he could possibly have to say to her. Her longing gaze encouraged him to continue.

Sighing deeply, Ivan tilted his head towards hers. “I met your mother on this mission,” he whispered, watching her intensely.

Elinor’s lips parted in surprise, her eyes widening. “My… my mother?” she repeated softly, her heart pounding against her chest.

Ivan nodded, a small smile forming on his face. “As it turns out, your mother, Anneliese… was very, very pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl shortly after midnight on September 29, 1924,” Ivan explained, taking in the way Elinor’s eyes glistened as he recounted the mission. “I could tell that she loved you deeply, even before you were born. And believe me when I say this, El... you look so much like her.”

Elinor’s lower lip trembled slightly, tears pooling in her eyes as she leaned into the gentleness of Ivan’s hand against her face. Her memories of her mother were still fuzzy and distorted, leaving her to wonder what her mother was like. Hearing about this woman she only could have dreamed of knowing, it made her feel closer to her than she had ever felt before.

His thumb gently stroking the side of her head, Ivan leaned in closer so that he could be level with her tear filled eyes as he gazed at her softly, his eyes glistening as well. “I have one more thing I need to tell you, Elinor,” he began softly, searching for her approval to continue.

Biting back a tearful gasp, she locked her eyes onto his gaze. “What is it?” she mumbled, her voice barely detectable.

Lifting his other hand, he cupped her face gently as his eyes wandered her face for a couple seconds. “I love you,” he admitted finally, his tone soft but firm.

Laughing softly, a couple tears escaped her eyes as she lifted her hands and grasped his face firmly. “I love you too, my hurricane,” she assured him, pressing her forehead to his.

He couldn’t help the smile that crossed his face, both over the use of her nickname she had given him and the fact that she reciprocated his words. Bringing her face closer to his, his lips gingerly brushed against hers, taking in the familiar taste of her lips. His thumbs gently wiped away her tears from her face as the lingering firmness of his lips melted away any doubts, fears, or uncertainties that she had been struggling with.

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