Was it healthy to think about a girl all day? Sasuke had to wonder.

He'd been off-kilter all throughout the day because of that one, incredibly small (if not annoying) incident. Even Naruto noticed the change in his demeanor, and he never noticed anything (unless, of course, it was Sakura or a coupon to Ichiraku).

While it annoyed him greatly that everyone, including his teachers, approached him with stupid questions about his injuries, the only thing that annoyed him more was his lack of concentration concerning anything outside the girl behind that damn salve.

Seriously, if thinking about girls did this to a man's psyche, Sasuke wanted no part of it.

It wouldn't have bothered him so much had it been someone he knew. He would never have accepted that ointment had it been from one his fan girls - they read too much into anything he did, whether it was a sneeze or cough - and if he had (which, again, he'd never do), he'd make sure to trash it later. So, what made this any different? What was so hard about throwing this thing away?

More importantly, why the hell was it bothering him so much?

It wasn't as if he liked her. He didn't even know her.

Itachi had once told him that he had a problem accepting acts of kindness; that not everyone had an ulterior motive; that some people were genuinely nice and some other thing Sasuke didn't give two squats about, especially since his brother had used such a dumb, cryptic proverb to emphasize his equally dumb point.

Fact was, no one did anything without some type of aim or purpose, and gods be damned before he was roped into believing otherwise. Anyone who didn't know him would probably think he was insane for such a thought, but he didn't care. They could believe people were nice for no reason. He was perfectly content believing the opposite.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Hinata! Take care, okay?"

"You too. Good-bye, Ino-san."

It took less than a minute for Sasuke to realize that his feet had unknowingly carried him to the entrance of the garden, less than a second to realize that that had been Ino's voice, and even less than that to realize who she'd just addressed. He had half a mind to enter the flowery enclosure, but if his inevitable encounter with the blond was anything like this morning, he'd rather avoid her.

Although, his pride meant more to him than anything, his self-preservation won out in the end; so, without so much as a second thought, Sasuke hurried himself - but not too fast - away from the entryway and around the corner from where he came, stuffing his hands in his pockets, angling his head, and leaning against the fence with a casual look of indifference. It wasn't until he was sure Ino was gone that he'd lifted his head, but even then, he couldn't bring himself to move from his spot.

Because it was at that moment that he realized he had not one clue as to what he'd say to Hinata. Why, he'd been so hellbent on returning her salve that he hadn't even thought about anything else. Scenario after scenario played in his head like a scratched record, but he came up short each time, his frown deepening with each thought.

Thanks for the ointment, but I don't need it. No; he wanted to let her know that he didn't appreciate her sneaking junk into his backpack (even if he really was thankful for the ointment…and needed it, not that he'd ever admit it).

You should've asked me if I wanted this first, rather than sneaking this in my stuff. He was an asshole, but he wasn't that much of an asshole, especially since she'd apologized for causing him harm in the first place. Besides, she saved him a trip to the convenience store for rubbing alcohol and her salve, he thought grudgingly, worked (and smelled) a lot better.

…Maybe Itachi was right. Maybe he really didn't know how to accept a gift for what it was. …Or maybe Itachi was just a big idiot, Sasuke thought, pulling the salve out of his pocket and scrutinizing it with a scowl, for making him question himself over something so trivial.

"Ano…, Sasuke-san?"

He looked up, his facial expression unchanged, to see the source of all his incompetence and self-doubt and idiocy staring straight at him with painfully concerned, doe eyes.

"Are you alright?"


note1: Thank you all for reading and reviewing thus far. I appreciate all reads, reviews, favors, and alerts.