A.N.: Hey guyzzzz! *cough, cough* you know the drill: excuse, excuse, yadda, yadda. I really am sorry. :'[ Writers block and my short attention span are horrible. Horrible, I tell you!

But, I want to know is how all of you found out that I like cookies! Seriously, I got at least two or three bribes for cookies and milk if I posted another chapter…

'Thoughts'

'Sign Language'

Writing

Apart from the World

Five – Sneaky Sensei

(())**~~

Naru was dropped unceremoniously on the ground by the ANBU who had caught her. He or she, Naru didn't really care to tell which, disappeared immediately after their abrupt 'delivery'.

Naru stood up and brushed herself off, feeling distinctly disgruntled. That had been the third time this month she had been caught and thrown out of a shinobi compound! What really got Naru upset with herself was that she had barely even started laying traps in ninja homes, and they were catching her like she was a mere amateur!

Naru huffed silently and stomped into her apartment, pacing up and down the length of it. She was most certainly not an amateur! Who was it that had laid traps in all the non-ninja compounds? That's right: Naru!

Well, Naru thought, pausing in her frustrated stride, no one really knew it was her that was doing this, seeing as the ANBU only thought she was being a punk kid at the moment. Only Shino, his parents and the Hokage knew about her bi-monthly 'super-secret-stealthy-trap-missions'.

But she was going to be found out if she kept getting caught! Naru continued her pacing, jerking a hand through her short blonde locks with a sigh.

Despite finishing the civilian houses a month after her second school year ended, Naru had yet been unable to successfully sneak into even the smallest, least guarded Shinobi home. It was like they always knew she was coming.

It was now three months into Naru's third Academy year and she had turned ten just recently. With each failed mission she became more frustrated and, as a result, occasionally moody. It wouldn't bother so much if she knew what she was doing wrong! That way she could spend some time training to remedy it.

With a final sigh and stomp, Naru dragged herself to her shower. After a quick rinse she tugged on her orange shorts and white T-shirt, not even taking the time to run a comb through her sopping wet hair. She was already going to be late for class at this rate and she didn't want to risk an extra long lecture from Iruka today.

The blonde girl jogged out the door, hoping they'd be discussing traps or something equally as interesting today. But it was hard to be interested in even the best things when Naru couldn't help but linger on other thoughts.

What was different with the Shinobi compounds? What wasn't she doing right?

Well, hopefully Shino would be able to cheer her up. He was always able to – some way or another.

At that last thought, slightly cheering in itself, Naru slipped into the 'Year Three' classroom, trying to go unnoticed. This, however, did not work and Naru was caught almost instantly.

"Naru!" Iruka yelled, causing most the class to cringe, "Late again!"

Naru stood there, wondering if he expected a response. Then, he seemed to return to himself, gaining a slightly sheepish smile.

"Just go sit down," he sighed finally, rubbing the bridge of his nose in an exasperated-but-slightly-amused way. Naru knew that her favorite teacher had been trying to learn sign language recently, but with his teaching schedule and occasional mission assignments he often couldn't find the time. So Shino remained her translator, but he continually insisted that he didn't mind.

While most of the class had matured over the summer and the few months school had been back in, but there were still a small bunch that still called her the "freaky-quiet-girl". Most had laid off Shino too, the whole of the class preferring to keep their distance from the duo.

As a result of this, the class still had no idea Naru couldn't talk. Shino had a hunch, however, that some of the students might be catching on. Naru wasn't sure how she felt about this, but she figured her secret would be out in the open eventually.

Naru nodded to her sensei, walking promptly to her seat beside Shino. As she plopped down she could tell that the Aburame was rolling his eyes at her. Naru stuck her tongue out at him, causing his cheeks to rise slightly from behind his collar, an action Naru had long before recognized as a smile.

It amazed Naru how easily Shino could cheer her up. Just his presence brightened her day. Sometimes she wondered if it was the same for him…

Iruka started his long-winded lecture at the front, causing Shino to turn his attention away. Naru sighed and looked to the front as well. She perked up for a moment when she realized that the topic of choice today was, as she hoped, traps. But, that excitement quickly faded as it became apparent that it was something that she had already figured out on her own ages ago.

Naru sighed again and leaned her head on her palm, listening to the rapid and efficient sounds of Shino's note-taking. The Uzumaki doodled on her paper, idly sketching out a design for another trap she had in mind. Over the past year her traps had become more and more elaborate. But most of them were just sketches at the moment, seeing as she lacked most of the materials needed.

Shino didn't bug her for not paying attention today (Naru grinned slightly to herself at the pun). He knew as well as she that there was very little about traps she didn't know- by Academy standards, that is. Of course, there was still tons for her to learn, but the basics that the class was taught wasn't enough for her anymore.

By the end of the morning class Naru's paper was filled with a diagram for a simple door-jam triggered gas ambush. Naru had made sure that it could be easily practiced before she was a genin, and transfigured to a more... well, harmful level for after she graduated.

As the bell rang she stuffed the paper in her pocket, making a mental note (that she would most likely forget before the Academy let out) to check it over for improvements.

Naru skipped to the tree at the edge of the school-yard, plopping under it with her bento. Shino had recommended she start eating more than just ramen all day. Naru had whined about it for a while before eventually agreeing. But, though she'd never admit it to him, the change in nutrition did make her feel a bit healthier…

Shino soon joined her at his usual pace, nodding at her lunch approvingly. Naru rolled her eyes, but dug into the mixed vegetables and rice anyway.

'Learn anything today?' Naru signed, setting down her utensils for only a moment.

"Nothing I haven't heard about from you," Shino shook his head, taking the time to chew and swallow fully before answering.

Naru beamed, then frowned at him briefly, 'Then why did you take notes?'

Shino paused, then answered simply: "You never know when you need them."

Naru grinned at his logic, rolling her eyes amusedly. Shino pointedly ignored her, turning back to his lunch. Naru, who had finished in record time, looked around the yard for something to entertain herself with. Finding nothing, she reached into her pocket and looked over her diagram, automatically worrying her lip in concentration.

As far as she could tell, the gas-trap would be easy to put together, with just a few adjustments here and there. But, Naru scowled, her mood souring, it wouldn't be any use if she couldn't set it up without being caught!

"What is it?" Shino asked with slight concern. The disgruntled and unhappy expression always looked too out of place on her face for Shino's taste, and it never failed to make him somewhat worried.

Naru sighed soundlessly and shrugged. Shino sighed in return and nodded understandingly. He, of course, knew all about her troubles with her infiltration, but he was as stumped as she. He would have asked his parents for advice, she knew, but Shibi was banned from giving any hints –seeing as he was who gave her a 'goal'- and Minami didn't know what was wrong either.

"We'll figure out something," Shino commented after a moment of silence, placing a hand on her shoulder. Naru gave him a wavering smile, recognizing his action of affection for what it was. He had gradually grown more comfortable with her impromptu hugs, but still let her initiate them, choosing to stick to his more subtle friendly pats.

Naru nodded, cheering up slightly. They'd figure it out… eventually.

(())**~~

Naru skipped down the street, ignoring the scathing looks the villagers shot her. She had learned quite a while ago that it was better to ignore them completely than to react.

The Academy had let out nearly an hour ago, and Shino and Naru had gone their separate ways, a rare occasion in itself. Shino had a family training session this evening that he couldn't miss, and Naru, of course, understood that he couldn't just skip it. So here she was now, wandering the village by herself and wondering what to do.

She supposed she could pick a random house to lay a trap in. The chances of it being a shinobi home was very small, seeing as most lived in compounds…

Naru nodded to herself in conviction, already adjusting her route to take her to her apartment. She needed all the practice she could get anyway, and it had been a while since she had even the smallest successful mission. Maybe this was just what she needed…

Once she arrived at her humble abode she rushed around for the things she needed. She grabbed a back pack, stuffing it with wire, tacks, nails, sealing scrolls and a few different ready-made traps.

She was out the door in a flash, already grinning with excitement. It really had been too long.

(())**~~

Naru tip-toed to the window of an un-suspecting apartment, peering inside and checking for anyone that might be home. Seeing no one, the ten-year-old ninja in training smiled mischievously, unlocking the window and slipping in with practiced ease.

She dashed to check around the doorways, wincing at the sound her feet made against the floor. She really had no idea how to make herself step lighter.

After a last check through of the apartment, which, Naru mused, was decorated in an awfully boring way, she dropped her backpack on the ground and started rummaging through it.

Just as she was contemplating the pros and cons of a powder trap versus a paint trap she was interrupted.

"You'll have to be sneakier than that to keep from getting caught," a lazy, drawling voice proclaimed.

Naru dropped what she was holding and whirled around, gaining a deer-in-the-headlights look. The man, obviously a ninja, was leaning against the doorframe without a care in the world, reading an orange colored book. He had gravity-defying silver hair and a Konoha headband stretched across one of his eyes, and a lazy air about him.

Naru, still frozen, noticed his Jounin's vest almost immediately and started a mantra of 'oh crap,' in her head.

Almost as if sensing her distress, he looked up from his book and flopped his hand at her in an uncaring gesture.

"Calm down, calm down. I just want to know why you're trying to prank my apartment."

At this Naru thawed from her shock and glared at the man. Ignoring his slightly surprised look, she furiously started signing at him.

'It is not a prank! It is a trap, and it is far better than a mere prank! I do not prank people, I lay traps! And don't you forget it!' she finished, putting her hand of her hips.

The Jounin blinked at her for a moment, then seemed to smile, his one visible eye curving upward into a 'U' shape.

"Maa, maa," he said, raising his hands in an 'unarmed' gesture, "I get it, don't worry. Why are you putting a trap in my apartment then?"

Naru narrowed her eyes at him, crossing her arms over her chest. He copied her, leaning against the door frame once more, content to wait for her response.

'Practice,' she replied after a moment, watching him warily for his response.

He blinked again and tilted his head briefly, but let it go, choosing then to survey the powder releasing device that lay on the floor where she had dropped it.

"You're in the Academy, aren't you? That seems to be a bit above what they'd teach you."

Naru didn't dare look away from the man to follow his gaze, only nodding in return. It was above their level, and anyone above genin could easily tell.

"Oh," he said suddenly in an 'ah-ha!' voice, turning back to look at her, "Your who's been pra- ahem putting traps," he modified, catching her glare, "in all those civilian compounds."

Naru hesitated, but nodded all the same. No use denying it when he'd guessed. And this man didn't seem like he'd just attack her for the heck of it.

"Don't worry," he said, smiling again, "Your secret's safe with me!"

Naru hesitated again, but eventually smiled back.

'Thanks.' She paused, unsure, 'Who are you?'

"Hatake Kakashi," he replied, stowing his book in his ninja pouch, "And you are…?"

'Uzumaki Naru,' she signed, though she had a feeling he already knew who she was and was only asking to be polite.

Kakashi nodded, gazing around his apartment idly. Naru shifted uncomfortably, wondering if this was her cue to leave.

Just as she was about to swoop down and stuff her supplies back into her backpack he turned back to her, peering at her curiously.

"You really should work on your stealth. I could sense you from a mile away."

Naru froze again, hesitating to ask her question. 'Sense me?'

"Oh yes," Kakashi replied, nodding in a way she supposed he thought was sage-like, "Between your loud footsteps, breathing and abundance of chakra, I think any shinobi would have been able to spot you."

Naru was unable to do anything for a moment, her eyes widening in realization. Then she smacked herself in the forehead, causing Kakashi to let out an amused chuckle.

Of course! She had been concentrating too much on her traps that she had been neglecting her stealth! And, of course, she couldn't be a 'Trap and Stealth' specialist without the stealth.

Though, in her defense, she hadn't had any Jounins like Kakashi to ask, seeing as the only Jounin she knew was Shino's father. And she had no idea how to make her footsteps lighter or her breathing softer, or what he even meant by her chakra.

'Why would my chakra alert you?' she asked, tilting her head in confusion.

Kakashi sighed, placing a hand to his chin thoughtfully, "How to explain this… Even though you're an Academy student, you have a lot of chakra. Now, I could tell you were here because anyone in Konoha -and other villages most likely- Jounin level and up are trained to detect chakra, and suppress their own. You see what I mean?"

Naru nodded, worrying her lip in thought. So, she needed to learn how to suppress her chakra, eh? How in the world...?

'Would you show me how?' Naru asked the Jounin hopefully, giving her best puppy-dog eyes.

Kakashi chuckled, his eye curling up again into a 'U', "Of course! All you had to do is ask, Naru-chan!"

Naru grimaced at the nickname but let it slide. He was, after all, going to help her.

Without further ado Kakashi pushed himself away from the doorway and into the other room. Naru stood there blinking after him, wondering if she was meant to follow. But with a shrug she decided she was not and moved to start packing away her supplies.

Kakashi returned in another moment, holding a tightly rolled scroll and a piece of paper he was scribbling something down on.

"This scroll," he said, holding up said item "is instructions to suppress your chakra, and this," he waved the paper under her nose, "is some tips about stepping quietly and breathing lighter."

Naru tried to snatch the paper from him, but he moved it out of her reach.

He shook his head, smiling, "You don't get it unless you tell me why you need it."

Naru scowled, but her expression cleared soon after. She supposed he had the right to know.

'You won't tell anyone?' she asked.

"I promise."

'I want to become a trap and stealth specialist,' she explained, hoping he wouldn't laugh, 'and Shibi gave me my assignment for it: to put a trap in the Hyuuga compound.'

He, however, did not laugh, only nodded sagely, "Ah, I see. I suppose that's why all the civilian compounds have been bombarded with various traps over the last few years?"

Naru nodded in confirmation, smiling slightly. Ah, that had been so much fun.

"Hmm…" he mused, "Well, I think that's a good enough reason. Here you go."

He tossed both of the items to her, and she struggled to grab hold of them at the same time. He chuckled again, pulling his little orange book from his pouch.

"Normally I wouldn't help out some punk kid," Naru scowled at this, "But I guess you have some potential. If you get stuck you can come find me, I suppose."

Naru blinked, then beamed at the silver-haired man.

"Now, I'm already two hours late for a meeting, and I still have to come up with an excuse to use! So, would you please lock the window on your way out?"

Naru nodded hesitantly.

"Great! Ja ne!"

And with that he disappeared unexpectedly in a swirl of leaves. Naru blinked at the spot where he was a second ago, slightly put-off by his abrupt departure. Then she shrugged. He was odd, but Naru thought he was pretty cool.

Naru unrolled the scroll curiously, grinning at the contents. She couldn't wait to tell Shino!

(())**~~

Naru skipped into class the next day, a large grin on her face. Shino smiled in response as she sat down in her customary spot next to him. Naru was practically vibrating in excitement when she nearly shoved the scroll into his hands.

Sparing her a curious look he unrolled the parchment, scanning over the contents. He seemed to understand immediately what this was for, and why she was so excited about it.

"Well" he said quietly, turning back to her with a small smile, "I presume you want to get started on this after class?"

Naru beamed at her best friend, nodding furiously.

'This is gonna be great!'

(())**~~

A.N.: Whew, finally done with this chapter. I really can't believe how many reviews I'm getting for this story, it's quite amazing.

There's a new poll on my profile, and it's SUPER IMPORTANT that you vote ASAP! Please? With sugar on top?

STAY YOUTHFUL!