Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters used in this story and am not making a profit from it.

This takes place several years before the beginning of the series. I thought of Kankuro as being around eight, but his age doesn't really matter too much. I also went with the assumption that Baki has been around and training at least him and Temari for a while.

Unfulfilled Dreams

"You can see him now, sir. He's doing much better." Baki breathed a sigh of relief. He had lost track of how long he'd stood outside the hospital room waiting for news on Kankuro's condition. After exchanging a few words with the doctor and being assured the boy would make a full recovery, he strode into the room.

"Fa-" Kankuro began. The bleary-eyed child had managed to sit up on his own. Upon realizing the visitor wasn't his father, he slumped backwards on the hospital bed and grabbed his side in pain. He looked as if he might cry.

Baki, even through his anger at the boy's carelessness, wished to comfort him but knew he could not. That was not the way of Sand shinobi. He said evenly, "He's not coming, Kankuro. Your father is very busy and has sent me to check on you."

"He's not coming at all?" There was a little shock and anger in his voice.

Baki again wanted to soothe him, but he could not coddle the Kazekage's children. It might prove dangerous. For them. Instead, he settled for, "He will allow Temari to visit you later."

A flicker of light returned to Kankuro's eyes, and he looked up again. Baki was relieved that he seemed to be making such a quick recovery. Though young, Kankuro was strong and would bounce back soon enough.

Baki turned stern. "What were you thinking? You were lucky your father noticed your presence in time to somewhat suppress his attack."

"The door was unlocked," Kankuro looked down again.

"You know that he uses that room to practice every day. Just because he didn't lock the door this once…"

"He never spends time with me!" the boy said suddenly as he glared straight at Baki.

The older man was taken aback by this outburst. "His position…"

Kankuro went on as if he had not heard anything. "When he is around, he just tells me that I need to train harder. But I've been making a lot of progress lately. I've gotten better. I just wanted to show him…"

"This wasn't the right time."

"It's never the right time! He's always with the council or alone in his office. He never lets me in."

"As the Kazekage…"

"I don't want him to be the Kazekage anymore. I want him to spend time with me and Temari. And Gaara."

"As you said, your father is always alone. This would be true even if he were surrounded by people, and it would also be true if he were not the Kazekage. Your father is a man who shoulders a great burden. The advancement of the village has always been if first concern."

Baki had never been particularly good with young children. He did not know how to sugarcoat the truth. However, upon sensing he was causing Kankuro more pain than good, he stopped.

Kankuro sniffed and turned his face away. After several moments, he looked back towards his teacher. "I know my father doesn't love me right now. He can't find a use for me."

Baki wanted to deny this, but he knew it was true.

"But I'll get stronger, and then he'll have to acknowledge me. He'll have to care about me." He looked determined, even hopeful.

Baki found himself almost overcome with the urge to hug the child, but he could not. It was not his place to do so. Kankuro was not his son. But before he realized what had happened, he had put a gentle hand on top of his head in an attempt to comfort him. "You do have to get stronger, Kankuro. I don't ever want to see you in this hospital again." He could not bring himself to say that the Kazekage's feelings towards him would never change. He saw his children merely as tools. It was one dream that could not come true. Eventually, this would break Kankuro's heart. He turned to leave. "I'll tell Temari it's all right to visit you now."

"Sensei," the boy called out to him when he was halfway across the room. The older man turned his head to him. "One day, I'll even be stronger than you."

Baki continued walking towards the door. When he reached it, he stopped one last time. Without looking back, he said, "I believe in you. No matter what else happens, remember that."