Author's Note: A telling of Baki and Yondaime Kazekage's relationship. Name borrowed from Ariel D with permission.

A Lasting Friendship

The first time Baki met Yondaime Kazekage was on the battlefield. He was sixteen then, a newly appointed team captain with three young kids to look after, less than half his age. One of them had been injured – a kunai to the leg – and Baki had to carry him to the field hospital.

There was war, in those days.

Inside the tent, Baki found a thin man with auburn hair and tired eyes. He was dressed in a white martial arts coat and black pants, so Baki assumed that this was the medic nin on duty, in spite of the lack of appellation on his coat sleeve. But then, his team had been out for thirty-six hours without sleep.

He set his student down on the nearest cot and was explaining what happened. He asked what could be done.

Instead of correcting him right away, the man just gave him a small smile, retrieved the broken tip of the kunai from his student's leg, and bandaged the boy up.

Then he straightened and said, "I'm not the medic, you see. I'm a team captain myself. Sabaku no Hirohiko."

Baki laughed, embarrassed, and bowed deeply. "I'm sorry."

Hirohiko laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Don't be."

They'd talked over a cup of coffee.

That was the Fourth Kazekage, before he'd come to take that title.

Even though Baki hadn't seen Hirohiko for fifteen years after that first meeting, he'd often thought about that day. Unlike most people in Suna, he'd had a personal exchange with the man behind the hat, an unintentional insight into something about the man.

When everyone else was angered by Gaara's behavior and Yondaime's response, Baki just thought back to Hirohiko's gentleness with the injured boy, the way he didn't turn Baki away in spite of not being a medical ninja, and knew that Hirohiko couldn't hurt his own child, even if it was for the benefit of the village.

Fifteen years later, when Yondaime summoned him to the Kazekage Office and asked him to be the sensei to three unique children, all of different ages, skill levels, and temperaments, Baki said yes.

"They're my children," Yondaime said with a smile.

"I know," Baki said.

With that, their friendship was renewed.