At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you guys faint when you see this... yes, yes, miracles will never cease! I have updated, and although I always end up lying, I do actually intend to finish this story very soon... we are reaching the end! Also, just a heads up- This chapter and the chapters to follow will be MUCH SHORTER than the norm for I Love- the reason for this is that is a) makes it easier for me to update faster, and b) keeps the action going. A big, humungous, impossibly magical thank-you to all of you guys who have stayed with this story even through the longest hiatus of all time, ever. i hope you enjoy this update, and another will follow shortly! Also, can you believe that it's been... what, two whole years since I started this story? CRAzZAY!

Test Subject

Winter passed into spring too quickly for Konan's liking that year- everything moves too quickly when your body balloons outwards with every passing week. She felt a bit like an elephant, or a watermelon on stilts, despite what Pain would say.
'You're beautiful, you always are.'
Konan had taken to throwing things at him when he started that up. She joined several online communities for pregnant women. That helped most, being able to vent about eating all the time, not fitting any of their old clothes, panic attacks, but mostly, getting seriously huge. Konan had never been particularly concerned about her weight, always feeling happier with a mug of fudge than with skinny arms and thighs, but it was unnerving to heave herself out of bed each morning and feel heavier than the day before.
Whenever Pain was around, she'd kiss him awake, haul herself out of bed and blame him for what was happening to her- stretch marks, having to pee pretty much all the time, being fat and huge and horrid- then calming down after breakfast and apologising.
Then she would go on her forum and laugh and nod emphatically and tut and sigh and glance down at herself before logging off and giving Pain a hug and a kiss and a game of scrabble.
Then came more blame and more apologising before bedtime, when she would lie next to him and watch him trail his fingers over her stomach, rising like a mountain under the blankets.

"I'm sorry for being so mean to you." she whispered one night, petting his hair softly as he kissed her shoulder.

"You're never mean." he said, tapping her bottom lip with his finger. She shut her eyes.

"I am, and you know it. But..." she covered her eyes with her hand and pulled him closer. He rested his cheek on her chest, one long arm looped over her hip.

"I'm scared." she whispered. She'd said it so many times it was as natural on her tongue as 'hello'. This bothered her in some ways, but the reassurance the words guaranteed smothered the irritation.
Pain hummed against her throat, his nose tickling her skin as he raised his head.

"Look at me." he said softly. She slid her hand off of her face and obeyed. His face was blue and shadowy in the moonlight as he lowered it to her own. He rested his forehead against hers, his breath dusting her chin.

"I'm right here. I'll always be right here." He dipped his chin down slightly, touched his lips to hers briefly. She pulled him down and kissed him, tugged at his lips and then buried her face in his neck. "Right here." he whispered, pressing a kiss onto her forehead.

"I promise."

It happened quite suddenly, just as Konan was washing her hands at the bathroom sink. Something inside her, near her navel, by her spine, something felt like a cotton sheet being torn in half. All of a sudden, she was being shredded from the inside. Her knees shook and she grabbed onto the edge of the counter, staring at her reflection in the mirror, horrified and scared and sick. Her sides were shaking; her hands were shaking.
She didn't trust any part of her any more, so she clung to the bathroom drawers and sank to the floor. She panted through her nose and gritted her teeth. It was over quickly, and the shock was worse than the pain.

She sat shuddering on the bathroom floor for a few minutes before realizing what exactly was happening. And when she realized that, she shut her eyes slowly in ultimate defeat. A contraction. She was having her baby. She was having her baby and there was nobody in the house.
The first day Yahiko left the house in two weeks was the day her contractions started. The irony settled on her like a blanket of poison oak, and she let her head fall into her hands for a few minutes in irritation and despair before remembering the phone he'd left on the kitchen table, his cell number scrawled onto a post-it on its back.
It wasn't called 'the emergency phone' for nothing, and if this wasn't an emergency, Konan didn't know what was.

She set her chin and opened the bathroom door. She wasn't sure if she trusted herself to walk, but felt silly crawling, so she leant almost her entire weight on the wall and staggered over to the kitchen. She took a deep breath and walked over to the kitchen table and stretched her sweaty, trembling hand over to the phone.
She didn't know what she would say- 'Hi, it's me, I think I'm having the baby?'- but it turned out she didn't need to know.
She moment her fingers brushed the sticky note attached to the black plastic, a gloved hand wrapped around her wrist and twisted it up behind her as another slapped over her mouth.

"Oh, don't look at me that way, sweetie. You'll make me feel bad."

Pain frowned down at his phone. He was in the middle of an in-class term paper, but Mr Hatake was busy reading his daddy porn and something was worrying him a lot more than the most suggestible areas of the cerebellum. He had received four texts in the last twenty minutes, which wasn't particularly unusual. What was unusual was the sender and the content. The first and second were from Itachi, who hadn't been seen at the school for months, and who hadn't contacted Pain or any of the others for weeks.

'Madara is more dangerous than I thought. He's not who we thought he was- do NOT let him out of your sight, I'm coming back'
'Serious complications- Sasuke's been compromised. Take Konan away right now, do not tell ANYBODY. Trust me, this is serious.'

Pain shook his head in bewilderment, ran a hand through his hair, and tugged thoughtfully at his industrial. Itachi rarely got worked up about anything, so if he was, if the supposed danger was indeed as serious as he thought it was, then somebody had stirred some shit up big time.
He selected the next message and stared at it for a few minutes, his jaw slackening. It was from Konan's phone, but the message was definitely not from her.

'My sweetie's a little upset with me just now, I'm afraid, so I'm doing this to make her happy. She's under just a little bit of stress, as I'm sure you know. I'll give her back her phone to text you in a minute, I just wanted you to know that she's safe and sound, and that I will personally see to it that you don't get near her again. Good luck on your term paper, Deva.'

Pain's hand clenched tightly around the phone and his jaw tightened as he re-read the message, which could only be from Madara. He flashed back to Itachi's advice to take Konan away, and only wished his friend had let him know sooner. He ground his teeth and quickly found the next message, getting a pain in his chest as he read Konan's words.

'Contractions started, he's going to take the baby. Please, please come- it's hard to be badass when you're in labour. Pain.. please, I'm really scared.'

Pain stood up quickly, sending his chair crashing to the floor. He stormed to the front of the room, the entire class staring at him. He slid his paper over to Kakashi and walked straight out, breaking into a run once he was out of the door.
His heart was hammering in his head, and he shut his eyes, swearing loudly as he imagined Konan's face as she composed that message... crying, scared... feeling everything he had promised her she wouldn't. Heaven knows what Madara planned on doing to her... what he was perhaps doing already...

He tore around the corners of the hallways, sending people flying at the walls as he passed them. He skidded into the ceramics studio, slamming the door open so hard it cracked the wall. His eyes searched the room, ignoring all the eyes on him and the shrieks of the teacher as he hunted for Sasori and Deidara. He didn't have to look long; they'd taken one look at him and stood up, heading towards him.

"It's an emergency." Sasori said to the teacher on their way out and slammed the door behind them.

"What's up?" Deidara asked, his hands in his pockets. Pain pressed a fist to his forehead in an attempt to calm himself down, at least a little. There was so much that had to be done, but they had no time whastoever.

"Madara's got Konan and she's having the baby." In a different situation, their reaction would have been great to catch on film. Deidara grabbed Sasori's shoulders and yanked back in surprise, sending Sasori staggering backwards. Both looked like Tsunade had just flashed them, only more panicked than impressed. But the shock was just the same.

"Yeah, and we have to move fast. He's gonna..." Pain cleared his throat and shut his eyes. It was impossible to think when there was a drum solo pounding away in his head, matching his heartbeat and thundering away.

"He's gonna kill the baby if we don't get there... not to mention Konan is fucking terrified and... Oh my God I have no idea what to do, fucking hell she's having a baby and I don't even-"
Something about his expression must have freaked them out, because he'd barely started to ramble when Deidara pulled back and punched him square in the face. He reeled backwards, clutching his jaw, but thanked him anyway, breathing slower.

"I need you to grab Hidan and Kakuzu. Kisame's with Itachi... Meet me at the front of the school as fast as you can. I'll get dad to trace the texts... Konan's got GPS on her phone, right?" he muttered as Deidara and Sasori ran off. He pressed speed dial 4 and listened, fingers drumming impatiently on the back of his phone as he waited for his dad to pick up.

Konan held her head in her hands.
She was sitting waist-deep in a clear glass tank of lukewarm water, completely naked except for a thin blue dress that fastened with poppers. Around her men in white coats tapped away at machines or spoke in low voices. Earlier, one of them had poked two clear tubes into her wrist, and they were now dripping a clear liquid into her. She had never felt more miserable and exposed.
The wide room was stark and white, full of machines and shelves and people, and the fluorescent lights hurt her eyes. It had been eight minutes since her last contraction, but she was still clammy and shaking.
It had been two hours since Madara had let her text Pain. She hadn't known what to write: she didn't know where she was or how long she had been there, had no way of knowing if he'd even be able to find her. She'd just sat there with the phone in her hand, crying and shaking until someone had told her to hurry up.

A cold hand on her back jerked her back to the present, and she looked up apprehensively. Madara smiled thinly down at her and she recoiled away from his touch.

"Get away from me." she muttered venomously.

"Always the fighting spirit, eh?" he said in amusement, petting her head before stepping back and taking a look at her body, slouched uncomfortably in the tank.

"I will fight you until the day I die. I will tear your heart out with my teeth," Konan said breathlessly.
Despite what she said, she didn't have the energy to do either of those things.
The fight had been drained out of her on the journey to the laboratory: she'd managed to knock out two of the henchmen he'd brought with him to abduct her, the first by slamming him backwards into the wall when he grabbed her and the second by head-butting him, but after that the contractions had begun to sap her energy and she'd been handcuffed and gagged.

"How long are you going to keep me here? Am I going to be your personal guinea pig?" she asked quietly, fingers worrying the fraying edge of her hospital gown.

"My darling girl, I am only keeping you here until you expel the baby. But yes, I am going to keep you in my sight until you are no longer useful to me, or until I get enough money in my hand to persuade me into giving you up to another like me. There is no escape. It's like I told you before- when you sleep, when you eat, when you die... I'll always be with you, either right beside you or in your mind." he said in a raspy, sing-song voice as he twirled her hair around his fingers.
Konan shuddered and began to cry again before another contraction ripped through her, leaving her clutching the edges of her tank, her muscles trembling and weak.

"Keep up the good work, my dear. We'll have that out of you in no time." Madara said confidently, strolling away.

Konan bent her head to her knees again and cried harder, sinking her teeth into her own flesh, dry, gasping sobs echoing off of the walls of the tank.

I'm really, really...really...