Kankuro watched Gaara move the shogi piece and remove his fingers, sitting back in his chair with an undeniable smile of pride, small though the expression may be to others outside the family.

He raked his hand through his hair and smiled, though it was more a good-natured grimace. "Are you sure this is your first time playing shogi?"

Gaara closed his eyes. "Hai."

Kankuro had to chuckle. Gaara was playing rings around him. "Ah…what about here?" He moved his piece, trying to make a strategic comeback. Normally, Kankuro hated to lose. He considered himself not only competitive at shogi, but competent. His little brother displaying a natural aptitude for the game – that, or the greatest beginner's luck ever to grace any of Kankuro's opponents – instead filled him with a surprising happiness.

"Iya." Gaara moved a corresponding piece to intercept.

Kankuro stared at the board. Gaara had somehow known what he was going to do three moves from now, and moved a piece to close the gap in his defenses that Kankuro had figured out. In spite of the fact that Kankuro hadn't lost his rook then and there, he was finished. He glanced up at Gaara, scratching his cheek with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement. "You think you've got me cornered, don't you?"


Kankuro laughed and shook his head. "Well, you're right."

Gaara glowed, his pale skin flushing slightly at his success. "Niisan plays a good game."

Kankuro felt ridiculously gratified. It wasn't only the compliment, or being able to produce happiness in his brother. It was also being called Niisan, the title he'd asked for since he was twelve. He'd finally gotten up the courage when he made genin, and he'd had to wait two extra years before his attempts had come to fruition. Dragging that word from Gaara's lips as often as possible was one of his continuing goals in life.

He grinned at his brother in return. "My ototo plays a good game of shogi, too. We're gonna have to do this more often."

Gaara nodded, his expression turning somber. "I wish to play this game every day after our missions are over. We should invest in a portable set."

Kankuro blinked. Hope for a normal relationship with his brother bloomed in his chest. "You've got a deal. We'll go out and get a portable set before our next mission comes in. Then we'll be able to play shogi no matter where we are."

Gaara closed his eyes and tilted his head slightly. "I would like that."

Me, too. The words got stuck in Kankuro's throat. He reached out and gently squeezed Gaara's hand instead. "You're not the only one."

Gaara opened his eyes and gazed at his brother, visibly picking up the double meaning in those words. His chakra vibrated with shocked understanding.

He squeezed Kankuro's hand in return.