I've had this on my computer for ages and I thought I'd toss it up here and work on it when I can't get my main story "The Fox And The Wolf" up in time. Growing pains is a less complicated, less involved, story that I hope will help me sharpen my writing skills as well as entertain you. So, till Fox n' Wolf is updated, enjoy this.

Please note that this story has NOTHING to do with Fox n' Wolf in ANY WAY. Thank you!


Growing Pains

Chapter One: The Mission Request


Naruto slammed in to the wall.

He'd been introduced to the wall in the usual way with a solid punch to the face and an air born flight that cleared nearly ten feet. The wall he was now slumped against was one of the sturdy outer walls that surrounded Hokage tower, had it been an inner wall he would have gone straight through it. Uneven plaster and wall patches were still clearly visible from his last air born journey in this room.

The impact and subsequent fall to the floor left a dazzling array of red stars and icy-hot pain racing about him. His jaw burned the most and it crackled in a bone jarring way. Half slumped he shifted and worked his jaw around experimentally. It popped and lighting hot pain soared through him from his teeth to his sinuses. As sure as the sun rose each day his jaw was broken.

Squinting through the agony Naruto glared venomously at the woman standing fist clenched on the other side of the room. Pink hair was waving in all directions as hot white sun beams fell all around her, illuminating her in dazzling patches of glittering gold and sparkling spring rose. Her eyes were a living pool of green, filled with rage and indignation, and glaring right back at him. There was a strange ethereal beauty to her, the same sort of ethereal beauty that surrounded a leopard as it was about to kill and eat you.

His hand lifted to hold his now shattered face and he tried to stand. This had been the hardest she had hit him yet. The anger thinly veiled, hotly directed towards him, still promise another hit should he agitate her further. Defeated wholly by her vicious evil look he slumped back down and contented him self to cradle his head. He could feel his bones already mending from the Demon Fox with in, yet the healing would not be complete for hours, possibly days.

To add, literally, insult to injury, she spoke in an icy cold voice. "I TOLD you to shut the hell up, didn't I?"

He tore his eyes away from her and looked at the man standing just a little bit further away, hoping for some sympathy. Kakashi was expressionless, save for a very slightly raised eyebrow, and clearly not in the least bit concerned with the events. In his hands he held a rather large scroll that contained information on their next target, an S-class ninja who had abandoned Konoha only six months earlier.

It was partly this missing ninja's fault Naruto had been punched in to a wall. In stead of training, or searching for his own team mate Sauske -a missing S-class ninja in his own right- they were to trek off in to the very near woods and try to talk the ninja in to returning to Konoha. There would be no fighting, no training, and no interesting recovered objects or any thing. The mission was boring, with out apparent gain, and in Naruto's mind a complete waist of time and resources. Even worse was while the ninja was S-class the mission was only a lowly C-rank, with out even the reward of good pay.

Children should have been sent on this mission.

Instead Kakashi had personally requested they go, a request he had fought with every thing hie had that wouldn't actually damage any thing. It was his protests, loud and demanding, that had convinced Sakura to send him sailing into the solid wall in the first place.

Now with his jaw far to painful to speak, and to miss-shaped to form words any way, he was forced to sit and be quiet. Naruto felt anger gnawing at him as he looked up at his placid team leader who had indirectly placed him here on his ass by volunteering them. Kakashi had gone on what could very well have been hundreds of S ranked missions, making this mission just as much an insult to the white haired copy nin as it was to Naruto him self. So why he had even asked to go, asked that they all should go, was a mystery.

The question of 'why' suddenly seamed more important than the answer 'no'. After all of that yelling and arguing maybe Kakashi actually had a good reason to want this mission.

For the first time that day he'd been forced to think. To really really think. It wasn't an action he was well versed in normally and now, with a moment to reflect, he realized a moment to gather thoughts before the argument could have saved him from such a sharp blow that had sent him to the wall.

Such was irony.

What had that old adage been? Hind sight was 20/20? Maybe he'd have to make a point to stop for thought more often. Kakashi HAD told him to keep his cool during the last mission and he'd worked on it, he really had, and maybe that had played as much a part in the success as all the fighting had. Still, that was then.

Sakura was slowly standing down, satisfied he had been cowed in to silence and submission and turned to the fourth person in the room, the Hokage. "Forgive the interruption."

Kakashi turned to her as well, his face still as unreadable as before. Only now that slightly raised eyebrow was back down where it normally sat.

Belatedly, very belatedly, Naruto realized Kakashi was even more stoic than ever. Hardly a flicker of emotion had touched the white haired teacher sense he had arrived – nearly on time- to the Hokage's office. It was a little troubling to consider.

"You are sure this is where he is?" Kakashi asked, looking the scroll over again.

"ANBU has him surrounded." She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. "They are keeping their distance, as you requested."

Kakashi nodded. "Once we arrive at the first out look I'll dismiss the agents."

"All of them?" She asked. A pensive look washed over her face.

"Yes." His reply was flat and cool.

"Do you have a reason?"

"Yes." The scroll was shifted a little.

"Care to tell me what that is?" She probed. For several moments all three waited with baited breath for his reply.

A hollow silence filled the room, however, and tension started to fester in the air. If Kakashi could feel it he didn't show it. Instead he continued to look the massive scroll over slowly. After several maddening seconds Sakura glanced at Tsunade and Tsunade glanced back. Then, together they both glanced directly down at Naruto. Unease swept through him and he shrank back in to his jacket.

For a moment Naruto could almost FEEL their eyes boring in to him, but when he looked back up they were both staring at Kakashi again. The teacher was standing still as a statue and Naruto wondered if he was even breathing.

"Uh, Kakashi Sensi?" Sakura's voice was small and polite, a vast difference from her raging scream only minutes ago.

Kakashi turned to her after a hesitant moment. "Yes?" There was still no expression in his uncovered eye. The tension had grown in to a cold bubble of anxiety in Naruto. He would have screamed, demanding that Kakashi be more forth coming with information about this seemingly useless mission, but his jaw was still quite shattered.

"Do you have a reason you want to get rid of the ANBU back up?"

He lazily rolled the scroll back up and turned to point at Naruto. "Him."

The one word replies were starting to bother Naruto more than he could stand and he opened his mouth to speak. The action, snapped and with out thought, sent lightning bolts of pain through him. All he could manage was a trembling squeak. Tears percolated with out his consent, started to run down his cheeks and white haze filled his vision. He ducked his head under his arm to hide what had to have been a very unpleasant look on his face as well as a new roll of shame and horror at having cried because Sakura hit him.

Sakura. A girl.

He heard the very pink haired ninja team mate sigh and heavy foot steps approached him. He hoped against hope she wasn't coming to hit him again. To his surprise when he looked out from between his elbows she was crouched in front of him with what could have been a nearly apologetic look.

Or possibly indigestion.

Soft hands reached out and on instinct he pulled back.

"Hold still I just want to fix it." She sounded irritated and, hoping to avoid a second injury he lowered his arms. Her fingers skimmed his chin and he winced.

"Huh, I broke it this time."

He wanted to yell at her, yell things like 'yes you broke it you hit happy whore' or 'do you feel sorry now, you horrible witch'. The obvious state his jaw was in, however, kept him tight lipped. Or rather, as the case was, slack lipped in silence.

He settled for the meanest glare he could muster and hoped it looked intimidating. Instead of drawing back in fear like he wanted her to her hands rested on his face once more. That look of indigestion was turning in to a look of out and out heart burn. He half expected her to burp in his face.

A soft glow filled his vision rather than gas smelling of okanamiaki a soft vibration chilled the pain from his face. He let out a contented, pain free sigh.

"There, better?"

He nodded, his chin still cupped in her hands. All of that tension from before melted away and he wondered what he'd been so upset over to begin with.

She stood and as she moved he spotted Kakashi once more. The tension raced back. With out thinking he raised his finger to point at the white haired teacher. "YOU. . ."

Sakura raised her fist and he clamped his jaw shut. The action sent echoes of pain through him. Though the bones had mostly reknit the flesh around them was still tender.

He took a breath. Think first, think first, Sakura will hit you. . .

"Why did you point at me?" His words were a little strained, but they were quiet and calm. He felt just a little pride in his own restraint.

"Because you have a way with people." Kakashi said with the smallest of shoulder shrugs. His whole nonchalant attitude, now that Naruto was being quiet and thoughtful, did not rest well in Naruto's mind.

"A way with people...?" He'd spoken mostly to him self, trying to process this information, trying to understand what Kakashi meant, but found him self at a loss to the Copy Nin's logic. As if on some unheard and unseen cue Kakashi slid easily in to 'explanation mode'. This was some thing Naruto was happy to see as this was how Kakashi normally acted. He was the teacher, after all, and Naruto was his student.

"You have the power to change people's hearts, Naruto. You changed Gara from being a monster. You can talk to people." This time a strange sort of softness lit Kakashi''s eyes up for just a moment before the stony expression returned.

Naruto was once again unable to speak. Kakashi has said things like this now and then, but only in passing, an off handed remark Naruto had dismissed as nothing more than a 'heat of the moment' pep talk. He had no idea Kakashi was actually using that supposed quality tactically. He glanced over to Sakura, who was giving him a sort of blank expectant look, as if the whole mission was in his hands now. A quick glance at the Hokakge showed the same expression.

Naruto snorted and folded his arms. This was NOT his mission and he wanted as little to do with it as possible. "Gara was never a monster." He turned fully to Kakashi and took a breath. He knew what he was about to say might get him another punch, so he had to say it carefully. "I think this mission is a waist of time. If he's that dangerous then what good will talking to him do?"

That lone eye gazed at him for a long long moment before turning away. "Normally I'd say it was hopeless."

"Then why. . .?"

Kakashi turned back, some strange energy rolling off of him. "I believe you can reach him."

Naruto bit back a protest. Not so much to avoid the next blow from Sakura, but because some thing about Kakashi was different. The energy rolling of the teacher was an indescribable mix of tension and anxiety. But woven in the chakra was some thing lighter and Naruto had no idea what it could be.

There was an almost imperceivable moment where Naruto knew Kakashi wasn't demanding they go, he was asking. Naruto could walk away.

But he couldn't. Looking in to that emotionless face he felt obligated some how to try, even though he didn't believe in the mission at all. Even though some thing about Kakashi was different. Even though talk had never solved any of his problems before.

This man had to be some one special for Kakashi to be trying some thing so different and for acting so strange.

"So just who is this guy any way?"

The white haired ninja glanced away. "He was my father's sensi."

A ripple of some thing cold passed through the room and just for a moment that tension from Kakashi swelled to an almost suffocating high before evaporating all together leaving an emotionless void.

Naruto had never felt such a thing from his teacher and did NOT wish to relive it. He let all remaining questions drop and glanced over at Tsunade. The older blond was biting the end of her thumb nail. For a moment she was watching Kakashi, then she locked eyes with him. She let her thumb go and cleared her throat.

"Are you willing to go on this mission or not Naruto?"

Yes. No. He didn't know any more. Suddenly he didn't know what to think or feel about it. "Yeah. I'll go." The moment he said it he regretted it. A dark foreboding welled up inside and he had to swallow it down to keep from blurting out he'd changed his mind.

"Good." Tsunade sat back and all at once the whole room was focused on her. As if a puppet pulled by unseen strings Naruto lined up with Kakashi in front of her desk. Sakura took a stand next to him. A new vibrancy passed between him and her and he stole a quick glance at her face. She was looking past him up to Kakashi with a small frown. She too must have felt the dark energy as well, he desided, and was glad it hadn't been just his observation. Nothing could be done about it now, however, all they could do now was move along with the mission. Foreboding or no.

"This man wrote many of our books on medical jitsu. He pioneered several of our more advanced healing techniques as well as a number of forbidden jitsus. He is extremely dangerous. Approach him with caution and if you do not believe you can make contact with him in a productive and safe manner abandon the mission. If he does not come back willingly do not try to capture him. You have the authority to use deadly force in any extreme you deem necessary for the purpose of self defense. Do you understand all of this?"

All three team members replied with a crisp 'Yes'.

"Good." She turned her cool blue eyes on Kakashi. "I want a FULL report as soon as the mission is over."

He gave her a small nod. "I will fill one out as soon as I am able."

"Very well. Good luck and dismissed."

Kakashi turned on his heal, Sakura following silently. Naruto hesitated, a question half formed in the back of his mind, but he couldn't clarify his thoughts enough to speak. "Latter Grandma Tsunade." He managed, then he hurried to catch up to the others.

The foreboding feeling churned darkly with in as the door closed solidly behind him.