DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
Seto Kaiba knew he was being watched.
He had heard the soft padding of footsteps coming down the hall several minutes ago and the hair on the back of his neck was prickling in the way that it did whenever this happened. Since this was something that happened almost every night, he was well used to the sensation. He finished typing in his command and sighed inaudibly, knowing what was coming. Still, he said it anyway.
"You should be in bed."
Mokuba shuffled into the room from the doorway, his usual energy absent at such a late hour. He leaned against the arm of the leather chair and looked up at his brother. "I couldn't sleep."
A wry smile twisted Seto's lips. "It's very easy, Mokuba. You go to bed, close your eyes, think pleasant thoughts and it just happens."
Mokuba smiled slightly. "Pleasant thoughts? What do you think about, big brother?"
"Defeating Yami Yugi." The answer came without hesitation. Seto was perfectly serious but his tone was matter-of-fact, even touched with amusement. The anger that had once driven him in that particular goal had been absent for some time.
Mokuba chuckled and leaned against the chair a little more. His head rested lightly against his brother's arm. The young boy could feel the muscles underneath the thin cotton shirt moving in time with the restless tapping of Seto's hand as he impatiently waited for the computer to do something. "What are you doing, Seto?"
"I'm analyzing the duelists in the tournament that's being held in Tokyo." The answer was simple enough, and anyone else would have taken it at face value, but Mokuba heard the slight tenseness in his brother's voice and knew there was more to it than that.
For a long moment, Seto was silent. When he finally replied, his voice was so soft it was almost as though he'd forgotten that Mokuba was in the room, as though he was answering the question he'd been asking himself countless times since he'd started the analysis. "Because something isn't right."
"What?" Mildly interested now, Mokuba shifted so he could get a better look at the screen. A list of duelists' names and their rankings was visible but he couldn’t see anything unusual about it. He blinked and looked more closely, reading the names and trying to place them. With his big brother so prominent in the world of Duel Monster tournaments, Mokuba knew every major duelist in the world. Or so he thought. He frowned slightly. "Who's Evien Sanders?" In the list of top-class duelists, it was the only name he didn't recognise.
"I don't know," Seto admitted quietly. He frowned at the screen, disturbed more than he cared to admit by the fact. "I've been coming across the name a fair bit lately. It seems he's good. He's also new to the game. This is only his third tournament. His game's improving. Rapidly."
Too rapidly. The thought pounded in Seto's mind, but he left it unspoken. He wasn't even sure why he thought it. After all, it wasn't all that unusual for duelists to improve their game in-between tournaments. Or even during tournaments, for that matter. Still… there was something about Evien Sanders that was ringing alarm bells with him. He just couldn't place the reason for his uneasiness. It was almost as though he recognised Sanders from another time… and considered him dangerous.
The thought caught Seto by surprise and he immediately forced himself to focus on something else. There was no way he would even consider thinking along those lines! Other times… He'd had more than enough of that nonsense during the Battle City debacle!
Mokuba looked up in surprise as Seto abruptly stood. "Big brother?"
Seto's eyes were shadowed, inscrutable, as he turned and scowled down at the boy. "Bedtime, Mokuba. No excuses."
"Are you going to bed too? You should. It's late." There was no censure in the boy's voice, but then again there never was. Not towards him at least. Seto's scowl eased into a slight smile.
"I might as well. You'll only keep coming to check on me otherwise, and you have school tomorrow."
"So do you." Mokuba allowed himself to be herded towards the door, but he paused before leaving. "Your computer's still on."
Mokuba's knowing gaze met Seto's and the older boy winced. Sometimes he wished that his little brother didn't know him quite so well. It was true, he had been intending to return to the office for a little while longer after tucking Mokuba in.
After two weeks of surprisingly futile searching, he had finally managed to track down a photo of Evien Sanders. It was taking its sweet time to download though. If he turned off the computer now, he'd lose it.
Seto sighed at the look in his brother's eyes. "Computer. Terminate download and shut down." He ignored the faint voice in the back of his mind warning against the action, preferring to focus on the smile on Mokuba's face. To him, that smile was worth any amount of inconvenience.
As his computer silently obeyed the command, Seto turned off the light and followed his brother down the hall to tuck him back into bed. He didn't think of the photo again until he was lying in his own bed, about to drift off to sleep. "I'll download it in the morning," he promised himself.
Humouring your paranoia might seem like a reasonable thing to do at 3am in the morning, but in the cold light of day Seto Kaiba just shook off his thoughts as being completely irrational. Although that voice in his mind was practically screaming for him to find the photo again and download it, he ignored it and went on with his daily routine.
"I don't believe it… it was right there!" Mokuba looked up in surprise at his big brother's growl. His eyes widened in shock when it was followed by the loud thump of Seto's fist striking the desk. He could see Seto's eyes, twin blue fires blazing with fury, and he felt an uneasy chill run up his spine.
"W…what's wrong, big brother?" He was never afraid of his brother, but even so, he hesitated over interrupting him when he was so enraged.
Seto's eyes snapped to Mokuba, an unwitting target for his temper. He was about to snarl at him when the concern on the boy's face broke through his rage, as nothing else could have. Seto sighed heavily, suddenly calm again. "It's nothing, Mokuba. I just wanted to download a photo that I found a few weeks ago, but now it's been deleted and I can't find it anywhere else."
He looked back at the computer. With his anger back under control, he was surprised to realise that he was actually shaking. He didn't understand why he was so affected by the discovery of the photo's deletion. That alone made him uneasy. Almost as uneasy as the fact that he'd almost yelled at his brother. "I'm sorry if I worried you, Mokuba," he added quietly.
"I always worry about you, Seto. Just like you worry about me. We're brothers, we're supposed to worry about each other." Seto felt a warm weight leaning against his arm. He smiled slightly and looked down into his brother's anxious brown eyes.
"I know." He gently ruffled the boy's hair. Mokuba grinned and ducked away.
"Seto!" He laughed and then leaned against his brother again. His eyes went to the computer screen and he frowned slightly at the list there. "Is that the list for the Domino City Tournament that was announced this morning?"
"Yes." Seto leaned back in his chair and watched his younger brother in amusement as Mokuba studied the list with surprising intent. If only he'd turn that focus onto his schoolwork once in a while… Seto's musings were cut short by Mokuba's sudden excited cry. "Mokuba?"
"Look Seto! Yugi, Ryou, Malik and Isis are on the list! And Joey…" Mokuba added with a sideways glance at his brother.
Seto scowled at the second-last name on the list. "Yes. I know. I'd complain if I didn't know for a fact that it's right. It was the first thing I checked. That blasted mutt somehow managed to get in…" He was still grumbling about it when he realised that Mokuba had tensed up. He knew what the boy had spotted. He'd had the same reaction when he'd seen it.
"Evien Sanders. He's on the list too? But I thought this tournament was just for the highest ranking duelists in Japan?"
"Yes. It is. Apparently his last duel upped his ranking just enough for him to qualify."
Something about his comment bothered him, although he couldn't work out what. He impatiently shook off his uneasiness and returned his attention to his brother. Although he still had a lot of work to do, he suddenly felt the need for a break. Mokuba, as always, was the perfect distraction.
"Have you finished your homework yet?" Mokuba's grimace was all the answer he needed. "Need some help with it?" His brother's enthusiastic reaction drew a slight smile out of him.
As Seto followed Mokuba across the room, he forced all thoughts of the unknown duelist out of his mind. He wished now that he'd followed his instincts and downloaded the photo when he'd had the chance, but there was no sense in allowing regrets to overcome common sense. After all, it wasn't as though he really needed the photo. He'd know what Sanders looked like soon enough.
In only a few short weeks he'd be meeting the young man face to face, during the Domino City Tournament.