Disclaimer: I do not own Kankuro, Gaara, or any of the characters used in this story.

Missed Opportunities

Kankuro stomped through the hallways of the Kazekage's large mansion. His father had just finished lecturing him on the importance of his training. He had been caught fooling around again, and his punishment was, naturally, more training. From noon until bedtime that night. Kankuro probably could have gotten off with an easier sentence had he only nodded at appropriate moments during the speech and looked more ashamed. But the eight-year-old could not keep his mouth shut. He had to talk back and tell his father how boring the whole routine was and that it was unfair that he had to do it every single day.

The young ninja should have been heading back to the practice grounds, but he was too lost in thought to worry about that and had missed the right turn. At that moment, Kankuro's mind was only concerned with how he could get back at his father. The old man was always disappointed in him for some reason or another. As the leader of the village, he rarely had any time to spend with his second child except for when he was yelling at him.

His thoughts were interrupted by a small face peaking out from behind the door almost five feet in front of him. Kankuro stopped in his tracks. It was Gaara. His father's main rule was that he and Temari stayed away from Gaara, and Gaara stayed away from them. This was usually easy because their father had ordered the servants to make sure they did not seek their younger brother out, and Uncle Yashamaru was always around to ensure he did not go near them.

Kankuro did not fully understand why this rule existed. If the Kazekage had ever explained it, he probably had not been paying attention. All he knew came from the whispers of the servants about danger and an evil spirit.

Now, however, the two brothers were completely alone. Gaara waved shyly at him. "H-Hi," he greeted and stepped all the way into the hallway. Kankuro noticed the younger child's sad eyes and wondered if he had gotten into trouble also. That idea somehow sounded odd. What could the quiet, timid child have done?

Kankuro did not worry about this for long as he realized that the perfect way to get back at his father was to break his golden rule. He immediately closed the gap between him and his little brother. "Gaara, come with me to the park. We'll play on the swings. It'll be fun."

The younger boy looked surprised, but he smiled and nodded his head eagerly. Kankuro would look back on this day years later. He would remember the loneliness engraved on Gaara's face and how quick he had been to agree to spend time with him. He would ask himself what could have happened if they had made it to the park and if it would have made a difference later on. But that day he barely registered any of this as his brother immediately moved to follow right behind him.

The children had nearly reached the door when their father and uncle caught up to them. "I'm sorry," Yashamaru said to the Kazekage as he pulled Gaara away. "I didn't even notice he was gone."

Kankuro was forcefully yanked in the opposite direction. His father began pulling him back to his office, screaming the entire time. Once again, Kankuro could not keep his mouth shut. "But he's been around other kids in the village. What's the big deal?" This comment earned him a sharp slap across the face.

His head turned to see Gaara also being led away as a small hand reached out to him. The brothers momentarily locked eyes before his father continued dragging him through the long hall. That was the last time Kankuro saw his younger brother before the big change occurred.