Originally Written: November 7th, 2012
Inspired by: The Flowers by Regina Spektor

The flowers in the garden had never been so radiant, their bulbs flared and petals heavy with the weight of water and love she showered them with. Those without flowers, mostly medicine plants, were a lush and vibrant green, bright as though reflecting back the sun they so readily absorbed. The few fruit and vegetables she grew for herself in the private garden tucked behind a forgotten wing of the house were swollen and heavy with life.

Just like her stomach.

It sickened him to see her now. But he could not stop coming to her sanctuary to watch over her; it was due both to his duty as her protector and the masochistic tendencies he had picked up since she had been married off. But the nauseous feeling that Neji fought back now as he watched Hinata tend to her garden was not the product of any hatred for his cousin; no, he had transcended that hatred for her when he was much younger than his seven and twenty years. He had in fact done a complete about face.

The sickness was a longing. An ecstatic feeling of lightness in the center of his chest that endangered to consume his entire being. It was an accumulation of love building up in his system that threatened everyday to kill him, for acting out his love would undoubtedly have him killed by his own Clan and the guards of his love's husband. A delicate treaty had been made at the expense of Hinata's freedom and no matter how Neji had contested it, she had agreed.

His actions were masochistic in that he knew that every moment with her only made him love her that much more. Her laugh and smile, her caring touch and unwavering determination continuously drew him towards her like a moth towards a flame. Yet he was no longer hers to claim. They had left that behind six years ago.

And so he grew ill.

She bent at the knees, squatting down around her swelling stomach to pluck medicinal leaves from the plant closest to her. Her hair ran a river of indigo silk down her back and curtained her face as she leaned over. He could only see the thinness of her wrist and the delicate length of her fingers as she reached out.

Since her pregnancy, she too grew ill.

Her fingers twitched over the elastic skin of the plant and then he was beside her, moving quickly from the outskirts of the garden toward its heart. Her mouth was open in a silent cry of pain as she gripped her right side and crumpled into Neji's waiting arms rather than onto the stone path. She turned into his chest and he laid his forehead to hers, muttering under his breath for her to breathe, one deep breath and another, just breathe, Hinata…

The pain ebbed and then disappeared but neither of them moved. Neji was concerned that his tight grip on her shoulders would bruise her now fine skin. But it was a fleeting thought as he sunk deeper into his masochism; he could hold her here, for just a moment, that would be enough to last him, wouldn't it?

When Hinata's husband came around the corner, searching for his wife to remind her that they would be expecting guests soon, Hinata was sitting on the stone bench in the shade of the maple tree, its large, red leaves casting a faint glow over her pale skin. Neji, standing at the entrance of the garden, bowed low to him as he passed.

He called out to her and she turned her head to greet him. Her face was wet with tears but her eyes were dry.