Title: Summer of ‘69
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Seto + Yami, Noa + Mokuba, Jou + Mai, Yugi + Anzu, Malik + Ryou, Rafael + Valon + Amelda
Spoilers: none
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. Over Under Sideways Down is a film by Ken Anderson. "Lean on Me" is performed and recorded by Bill Withers. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: "You just call on me brother when you need a hand, We all need somebody to lean on"
Status: 12 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Summer of '69

Ch. 10: Over Under Sideways Down

* * *

You just call on me brother when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

- "Lean on Me", Bill Withers

* * *

The Kaibas raced down to the control room situated in the bowels of the Blue Eyes Fortress. Seto felt a little relief at the fact that the room was there; he had never thought he'd really have need of it, but since the attraction was in the geographical center of the park, it seemed to be a logical place to put a control room, in case of emergency.

And this definitely counts as an emergency! his mind screamed at him as he quickly keyed in his security code, submitted to a retinal scan, and finished unlocking the door with the electronic chip embedded in his locket. It was always a good idea to have too many safeguards rather than not enough, though at the moment, he was in quite a hurry to get in and was growing impatient with all the security measures.

Apparently Mokuba and Noa were of the same mind as Seto, for as soon as the door was open, the two sprinted in. Taking a brief moment to situate themselves, each teen chose a terminal and began logging themselves in as Seto turned on the main monitor in the room so that they could all keep an eye on Yami’s duel and gauge how badly the virus was affecting the dueling systems.

"Nii-sama, we’re in. What do you need us to do?" Noa asked eagerly as Seto sat himself at the central console and logged himself in.

Seto took a few moments to consider their current situation, mentally organizing tasks in order of importance. They had to install a new server while maintaining the old one, and then there were the anti-virus issues as well…

At least he had already taken the precaution of locking down the mainframe, booting all end users other than Yami and Leon – that had been the first thing he had done – but because Yami’s duel was still in progress, they were going to be forced to nurse the crippled system along. "You two… concentrate on keeping the current dueling system running. We need to minimize any sort of interference to Yami’s duel, such as degradation in the card graphics and animation. Be ready to replace corrupted files on the fly. I’m going to get the fucking anti-virus working one way or another, then I’ll start building the new server. Mokuba, I might need your help later on to populate it, so once Yami’s won his duel, I’ll switch you over."

"Okay," Mokuba responded, already getting down to business.

Noa paused to give Seto an odd look, then quickly mentioned, "The anti-virus IS working, but because it’s reactive rather than proactive, as long as that card continues to remain in play, the system will continue to get infected. But since the virus wasn’t in the profiles, I had to add it in, so Siegfried got a head start on us. That’s why we weren’t able to stay on top of it."

"Uh…" Seto was baffled. Kaiba Corp. didn’t have any programs like that. What company would bother with an anti-virus that would only activate after files were infected?

"The virus obliterated the other anti-viruses, but missed this one ‘cause it was dormant," Noa continued on to say. "I suppose we can try reconfiguring the other programs with the virus’ profile and reinstalling them, but I don’t see the point of that now since they could get deleted as soon as we upload them. And you already implied that you’d end up wiping this entire server rather than try to save it."

Seto grunted, not sure what else to say at the moment. He had his suspicions about what Noa was leaving unsaid, but had to deal with the Siegfried situation first and foremost. Confronting Noa about some unapproved program was a distant and lukewarm second in terms of urgency. Still… Seto couldn’t resist taking a peek at the anti-virus as he began setting up the file system on the new server. And he was surprised, even somewhat impressed, by what he saw…

How’d he find my program? And when did he find time to alter it? Seto wondered as he hurriedly glanced over the program’s neatly written code. The mystery anti-virus turned out to be a rework of an untested, unfinished anti-virus Seto himself had developed for future implementation. Somehow, Noa – and it was unmistakable who the author was as only Noa was that precise with organizing his coding – had gotten his hands on it, tweaked it to make it reactive only, and completed it with up-to-date virus profiles and a new interface. It wasn’t at all what Seto intended the program to be, and yet… it was a godsend. It was precisely the type of thing they needed to combat Siegfried’s virus. And… looking at the timestamps, apparently Noa had managed to do entire thing last night, finishing just a few hours ago. That sort of skill and dedication was admirable.

The young CEO always knew the green-haired teen had an aptitude for computers, perhaps due in part to the years he spent in the virtual world, but he had never seriously considered how talented Noa really was. And although he definitely shouldn’t have been messing around with important files without Seto’s prior knowledge or authorization, the results spoke for themselves: Noa’s anti-virus was the one thin lifeline that was keeping them afloat. Without it, the dueling system would likely resemble Swiss cheese by now, corrupted so badly that it would’ve shut itself down right in the middle of Yami’s duel.

It seemed to be a terrible waste of resources to have both Noa and Mokuba on the same project, especially since there was one, no… two more tasks that Seto was trying to juggle himself. He already knew that he’d have install the new server himself since it would require a lot of customization to get it the way he wanted it. And he had assumed that he’d have to get on the anti-virus as well. But perhaps… Seto wondered if Noa could handle the latter. If he screwed up, the new dueling system would become infected as soon as it went up. It’d be a bit of a gamble, but the system would be completely fucked to hell if Noa hadn’t stuck his nose in my business in the first place. So… let’s see what he can do. "Noa…"


"I’m going to put you in charge of the anti-virus. But continue helping Mokuba with the current system if he needs it. We absolutely need to keep it up and running the best we can, at least until Yami’s duel ends."

The teen’s blue eyes lit up. He had figured Seto would be too curious to just let the anti-virus slide without checking it out himself, and had counted on him being smart enough to realize what had happened and who had been responsible for it. "Okay."

"I’ll need you to make sure a clean and fully updated copy of the anti-virus gets prepped for the new system before I roll it out. That shouldn’t take too long; you can probably get it done while you’re backing up Mokuba. Also, we’re going to need a couple of patches, one for end users, the other for KC employees. They need to be ready to go as soon as the clean system is up, in case any corrupted Duel Disks or workstations attempt to log on. Upload them to our intranet as well as the internet, and see if you can… 'pass it along' to Industrial Illusions as well. It is ESSENTIAL you get this done properly and quickly, or else we’re going to have to go through this all over again with the new server. Can you handle all that?"

Most people – even longtime industry professionals – would’ve been overwhelmed by all of that. Not that they were necessarily difficult tasks, but they were so short on time, and the work involved a lot of detail oriented multitasking. But Noa looked almost excited at the challenge Seto had set before him. "I think so. But I’ll let you know if I need help."

It was about a good of an answer as Seto expected. At least it was an honest response, considering the situation. And he didn’t have much choice anyway; the old system was becoming more and more unstable with every second that passed. Minimizing the anti-virus, Seto took a deep breath and focused on his assigned task. If he was going to expect Mokuba and Noa to get their portion of the work done and done right, he had to make sure his contribution was up to par as well.

* * *

After Seto, Mokuba and Noa left, Yami turned his attention back to the duel at hand. While it was up to the Kaiba brothers to minimize or counteract the damage being done by Siegfried’s virus, it was his job to put it out at the source. It was good strategy, though highly dependent on the success of both parties, but Yami had no doubt they were capable of pulling it off.

At the same time, he was also very, very proud of his friends. They weren’t just spectators or cheerleaders; they had stood up for Seto in his time of need, forming a united front against whatever else Siegfried might’ve been planning. And although Siegfried seemed to be behaving himself at the moment, Yami had no doubt that if it weren’t for the many pairs of eyes on him, he’d be trying something else, just to mess with Seto some more.

Trying to hold on to his optimism, Yami looked across the arena at his opponent, trying to decide on his next move. Leon blinked at him from the other side of the arena, a mix of trepidation and sadness in his eyes. From his expression, Yami just knew that the teen had told the truth – he hadn’t known about the virus. He hadn’t done it deliberately. Siegfried had used him, knowing that his brother wanted to help and was desperate to gain his approval. That sort of betrayal made Yami furious. He had felt that way years ago when Seto was a very different person, when Seto had lost his grip on reality so badly that he’d tried to kill Mokuba at Death-T.

It would've been be easy enough for him to Mind Crush Siegfried and remove him as a threat once and for all, but just as Seto had changed, so had Yami. So he knew that no matter how bad things had gotten, he couldn't justify killing Siegfried since technically, no one’s lives were in danger. He couldn’t even really justify putting him in a coma, though that was a far more tempting option. But if he did do that, it’d mean that Siegfried had won, by making him resort to such tactics. He’d like to think that he had learned restraint as well as mercy. Besides, it was far more challenging to try and get someone see the error of their ways and convince them to make a change themselves…

And maybe he’d feel a little bad if he were to deprive another kid of his big brother, no matter how badly that big brother had behaved.

Oh well. No point in dwelling on things that couldn’t be changed. It’d all work out somehow; it always did. "Let’s keep going," Yami announced.

Leon looked surprised. "But… the Golden Castle…"

"No card is truly indestructible. One way or another, that castle is coming down."

"I wish I had your confidence," Leon admitted softly, "but… I’ll try to do what I can to help."

The former Pharaoh gave Leon a small smile. "Just keep dueling and don’t hold back. Put your heart into it. If the only way this card can be beaten is in a duel, we’ll have to give it our all."

It seemed an odd request, to duel with all his heart and soul, but Leon had to believe that Yami knew what he was doing. He was the King of Games, after all. So he nodded his assent. "I end my turn then. Yami, it’s your turn."

Yami grinned and drew a card, but no sooner had he done that did the castle begin glowing, and Siegfried began cackling madly.

"Oops, did I forget to mention the other surprises I programmed into the card? Each turn the Golden Castle of Stromberg is in play, all the monsters on the field are forced to attack. In addition, any time the opposing player's monster attacks, half the monster's attack points are deducted from that player’s life points… And did I mention that the attacking monster is then destroyed?" the German explained loudly, a big grin plastered on his face.

"What?" Vivian screeched as Yami’s already weakened Dark Magician Girl was forced into combat with Leon’s Cinderella before being destroyed, causing Yami to lose 500 life points. She’d never heard of anything that unbalanced. How the hell was Yami supposed to duel against a card like that?

Yami scowled. This is going to be really tough. I hope Leon stays with me. The redheaded teen looked startled at what had just transpired, but upon seeing the determination in Yami’s eyes, he gave him a go ahead nod. Grimly, Yami set a card face down, and ended his turn.

I got everyone into this mess; I’m going to do everything I can to get them out of it. And I have to show Siegfried he’s wrong before he can do even more damage to our family’s reputation, Leon told himself, trying to bolster his own confidence as he drew a card to start off his turn. But as if to remind him that the situation was far more complicated than that, the castle lit up once again with an unwelcome golden glow. "What now?"

Siegfried just leaned over and casually rested his chin atop his interlaced fingers. "There is one final special effect. Since the Golden Castle of Stromberg is so powerful, it exacts a high cost to remain on the field. Except the cost is paid by the opposing duelist, of course. So half of the opponent's deck must be discarded at the beginning of each turn."

"Goddamn it – this is ridiculous!" Honda exclaimed.

"I think we should just take the cost outta that bastard’s face!" Jou suggested, stepping towards Siegfried threateningly, but his sister and his wife stepped in to stop him, reminding him that it was too late for any of them to do anything about the Golden Castle, save Yami.

Despite everyone’s protests, the ex-spirit went ahead and discarded half his deck. Siegfried crowed in triumph, then addressed Leon. "Why the sour face? I’m only doing this to help you. Now hurry up, play a monster. Who knows how much time you have left before the virus catches up and decides the duel for you?"

"Damn it, he has a point. If his virus is doing what he claims, soon there won’t be any data left for the Duel Disks to run off of!" Otogi exclaimed. "Even Kaiba can’t hold it off forever!"

"How can you do this to me? To us?" Leon cried out. "How can you say you’re helping me when all you’re doing is ruining everything??"

"Don’t worry about him, Leon. Just concentrate on the duel and play your best. I promise, we’ll find a way out of this somehow," Yami told Leon. He needed the teenager to settle down and get the duel moving again, because if Otogi was right, time was of the essence as well.

"Uh… all right, I guess." But Leon still looked badly rattled. Unable to concentrate and panicking over the amount of time he was wasting, he tried to figure out what card to play, finally settling on one of his favorites. "I play Forest Wolf in attack mode…"

"Leon, no! The castle, remember??" Rebecca yelled.

"Huh?" Then his eyes widened as Cinderella suddenly spun around, kicking her Glass Slippers to attack Yami, who had no monsters on the field. Oh my God, I forgot about the Golden Castle’s special effect! And Forest Wolf had 1800 attack points, more than enough to wipe out the remainder of Yami’s points. "Oh no, I forgot!"

"Activate trap card, Dark Magic Retribution! This allows me to bring back one spellcaster from the graveyard for the duration of the battle when my opponent attacks, and for that, I choose Dark Magician Girl."

Leon let loose a sigh of relief as Dark Magician Girl’s counterattack destroyed Forest Wolf. As strange as it was to root for his opponent, especially after losing 200 life points, in this case, it was all he could do. "I’m so sorry… I forgot, I can’t even control my monsters!"

"It’s all right. Things will work out one way or another. In fact…" and Yami drew a card, initiating his turn," now that three turns have passed, Spinning Wheel Spindle will return my Queen’s Knight to the field. Next, I’ll place two cards face down, then I’ll play Card of Sanctity. Now both of us draw until we have six cards in our hands." Both Leon and Yami did as the card instructed. "Then I’ll play King’s Knight in attack mode. By having both King’s Knight and Queen’s Knight on the field, I can special summon Jack’s Knight. Lastly, I’ll play this – Royal Straight. It sacrifices my three knights to summon the powerful Royal Straight Slasher, because Royal Straight Slasher’s special effect is that it will destroy all cards on my opponent’s side of the field once I discard one monster from each of the first five levels."

"Monster effects! That’s right… Siegfried didn’t mention those!" Mai enthused as Yami made his five sacrifices, starting with Kuriboh. It was a great idea, and it showed the versatility and depth that made Yami such an amazing duelist, but when the dust had settled…

"… The Golden Castle of Stromberg is still there," Sugoroku said, disappointed.

Leon made a choking sound as he too noticed the castle behind him. "Siegfried must’ve compensated for monster effects as well." He sighed, resigned. "He was right. There’s no way to destroy it."

"Don’t say that. There’s still one thing I haven’t tried…" Yami told him. "But first I’ll play this, Time Travel, which will remove Royal Straight Slasher from play until your next standby phase." The monster vanished in a faint twinkling of lights. "And with that, I end my turn. Your turn, Leon."

"You really think you have a chance, don’t you?" Siegfried asked Yami. "Your monster would’ve been forced to attack Leonhard’s life points directly due to the Golden Castle’s effect, which meant you would’ve won, but then you’d have no way of getting rid of the Golden Castle of Stromberg. Not that you’ll have any luck getting rid of it anyway. Surely even you can see that. I told you, nothing can destroy that card!"

Yami didn’t respond to the taunts. He didn’t even look up at Siegfried. He kept his gaze straight ahead, focusing on Leon with great intensity as if he could will his confidence into the younger duelist.

He really thinks he can do it, Leon mused to himself. I don’t know why, but somehow… I believe in him. I just have to keep going… "All right, here I go…"

"Remember King of Games, you have to discard half your deck to keep the Golden Castle of Stromberg in play," Siegfried interrupted, still trying to get a rise out of Yami. He smirked as the crimson-eyed man finally looked up… but Yami was grinning broadly.

"Sorry to disappoint, but I’m afraid I can’t do that," Yami told him in his deep voice.

"It’s not up for debate," Siegfried insisted, rolling his eyes.

"Yes, I understand that. But I only have one card left in my deck. How can I discard half of it?"

Siegfried blinked stupidly for a moment, then looked at the other side of the arena. Already, the holographic castle was shattering, raining shards of light down on an equally startled Leon. "No… NOOO!!"

"Yes! Yami, you did it!" Jou screamed as Mai hugged him in excitement. Behind them, the rest of Yugi-tachi partied like it was 1999. Valon broke into a weird little victory dance, while Honda found it a convenient excuse to plant a kiss on Shizuka’s cheek.

Good job – I knew you could do it! Yugi told Yami once the group began settling down a bit.

The ex-spirit didn’t answer for several seconds, most likely because he was relaying what had happened to Seto, so Yugi waited patiently until he was finished. He was rewarded with a bright smile when Yami finally looked up at him. Don’t you mean "we?" You picked the cards, Aibou, and assembled a great deck. I couldn’t have pulled this off without your help.

Slightly embarrassed, the shorter duelist just smiled and let the matter drop. This really was a tough duel, though. I don’t think anyone else could’ve pulled off what you did. Siegfried almost designed the ultimate card…

His ego got in the way. He was so certain that he’d come up with the perfect card that he didn’t realize that along with the strengths, he coded weakness into it as well.

Plus he underestimated Leon, Yugi pointed out, nodding his head at the redheaded teen who looked small and lost on his platform. If he hadn’t gone on with the duel, you would’ve never been able to eliminate the Golden Castle of Stromberg.

Yes, and I am grateful that he believed in me, as you all did. But… the duel’s not over yet. Yami lightly touched the one remaining card in the deck. Maybe Leon can still show his brother what it means to bring honor to one’s family.

It didn’t matter that Yami only had one card left to draw, that he’d have to win by the end of his next turn or forfeit his title to Leon. Of course he was going to continue. Mmhmm. If anyone can do it, you can. Good luck.

Yami nodded courteously at his other half, then turned his attention back towards Leon. "I believe it’s still your turn."

"Yes, keep going, Leonhard!" Siegfried yelled, sounding crazed with anger. "The Golden Castle is no more, but victory can still be ours. The virus has already done its job – Kaiba Corp. is ruined! And Herr Mutou is down to his final card; you can still be the King of Games if you defeat him!"

Leon shook his head, and began moving his hand towards his deck. "No, I refuse. I kept going because that’s what it took to stop the virus, but I’m not continuing on. Now that the Golden Castle of Stromberg has been destroyed, I can…"

"You can't quit, not after you’ve made it this far," Yami warned, seeing what it was the younger duelist was intending. "You’re not a quitter, Leon. And neither am I. Now that the Golden Castle has been removed, we can finally duel like true duelists."

"But because of the Golden Castle, you only have one card left in your deck…"

"It’ll be enough. Let’s finish this. Do it for your family’s honor; do it to show your brother the error of his ways." Then, as if noticing the cheers of the crowd for the first time, he added, "And do it for the millions of fans watching. They came here to see a great duel. Let’s give them a show they’ll never forget."

* * *

Down in the control room, Mokuba let out a little cheer as soon as he saw the Golden Castle of Stromberg shatter into a million shards of light. A glance at his terminal confirmed it; the elimination of the castle had stopped the virus from reinfecting their database via Leon's Duel Disk. At least Siegfried had been telling the truth about that.

"I knew Yami would be able to pull it off. Take that, Siegfried!" Noa yelled more from relief than anything else.

"Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re not done here yet," Seto reminded his siblings, his fingers still flying across his keyboard. But he was also relieved… Yami had been brilliant out there, and at least now they could concentrate on rolling out a clean system instead of wasting more time trying to prevent further infection in the already corrupted one. "Mokuba, continue to focus on maintaining the current system. It needs to stay up until Yami’s duel is over."

"I know. I’ve been uploading replacement files to the existing monster hologram subsystem. It’s only a temporary solution, but it should be good enough to hold up until Yami’s done," Mokuba reported.

Seto nodded in gratitude, then turned to the other teen in the room. "Noa, your status?"

"The first patch is ready and the second is mostly done, and I’ve already placed a copy of the anti-virus on the local shared drive, so that’s ready to go when you are."

Seto rewarded Noa with a nod as well, along with a curt, "Good."

With that, the trio once again grew silent as they threw themselves back into their work. Like Seto said, they weren’t done yet. But considering Yami only had one card left in his Duel Disk, Mokuba knew that he’d only have to keep the old dueling system puttering along one more turn. Then it would be all over regardless.

I hope Yami can pull off a win, Mokuba found himself thinking as he began overwriting some corrupted trap card files with data from a backup drive, in case Yami or Leon played one of those. It’d really suck if Yami lost because of Siegfried’s cheating. He would’ve won the duel that last turn if he hadn’t played Time Travel, but then the Golden Castle would have remained active. Or he could’ve accepted Leon’s surrender, but that clearly was not something Yami would consider. So he had chosen to risk his title on the one remaining card in his deck. But if he lost… Mokuba wasn’t sure if Seto could forgive himself if that happened.

Speaking of Siegfried and victims, even though Mokuba was angry with Leon for all that had happened, he couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him as well. Like everyone else, he had wondered if Leon had entered the tournament simply to help his brother take down Kaiba Corp. And he had felt like a fool for having trusted him, for having gone as far as asking him to help them keep an eye on the other duelists for anything suspicious. But his hurt had turned to outrage when he heard from Siegfried’s own mouth that he had not only expected Leon to sacrifice his dream of dueling for the world championship, but had also tricked him into playing an illegal card because he didn’t have faith in Leon’s dueling prowess.

Mokuba spared a second to glance over at his own big brother, bent over his keyboard, brown hair falling into his eyes as he focused on endless blocks of data. He’d be lying if he said Seto had been a perfect big brother, but that didn’t matter. What counted was that Seto had always done the best that he could for him, even when he had lost himself to Gozaburo’s influence and his own crazy misconceptions.

But… it was okay to be just a little angry about it too, he supposed. Not that he was mad at Seto, of course. He had always loved him. But it was easy to be mad at the things that had, one way or another, contributed to Death-T, like car accidents and traitorous relatives and Gozaburo and such. So in the same vein, he wondered about the things that drove Siegfried and Leon, such as revenge and honor, respectively.

He supposed that once all was said and done, he’d end up forgiving Leon. He couldn’t really blame him for wanting to help his brother after all. In his book, that was something to be admired. And… Mokuba knew he just wasn’t good at holding grudges either. Like with Noa… he forgave him years ago, even though Noa had done some pretty horrible things to both him and Seto. And he had forgiven Yami too, even though he had knocked Seto into a year-long coma. He was glad he'd forgiven them too, because now both Yami and Noa were part of their family, and that made him happy.

Thinking of his boyfriend, Mokuba turned his attention to Noa next. He couldn’t help but smile a little as the green-haired teen unconsciously blew a few unruly strands of hair out of his eyes; his bangs were as long as Seto’s. And Noa looked just as intent as their older brother as he swiftly entered commands at his terminal, his lips pursing slightly as he concentrated on his task. Mokuba liked watching him when he threw himself into his work like that. And it was good seeing him in his element, using his computer skills to help Seto thwart Siegfried’s plan. If there were any positives to be had from all the chaos that Siegfried had caused it was that Noa was finally getting the opportunity to show Seto what he was capable of, and that Seto was allowing him to assist them in getting the dueling system back up and running. They had never talked about it, but Mokuba always had the feeling that Noa held some resentment, conscious or not, at being left out of Kaiba Corp. business. Seto was the president, Mokuba the VP, but Noa had barely received anything more than a KC email address. Even Yami had more say in what went on in the company than Noa did! But maybe things would be different now that Seto saw that Noa was an asset, not a threat. It’d go a long way in improving their relationship if they could just get over that hurdle.

But worrying about that would have to come later. Just because the virus had stopped spreading didn’t mean he could afford to be distracted. There was still a duel going on. And he wasn’t going to let Seto down, not now, not ever.

* * *

Leon spent a good minute mulling over Yami’s words. The ex-spirit had wanted to continue on with the duel even though he didn’t have to, even though he was now at a terrible disadvantage. The source of the virus had been eliminated. Leon had offered to surrender. And yet…

Do it for your family’s honor; do it to show your brother the error of his ways. Do it for the millions of fans watching.

Yami was right. All those were good reasons to keep going, even though Leon truly felt that he didn’t deserve it. If he did win… if he did take the title of King of Games… Leon knew he’d turn right around and offer Yami the chance to win it back fair and square, even if they had to duel at a picnic table and tally life points on a pad of paper. No viruses, no illegal cards, no being stuck with someone else’s deck, just two duelists and their cards.

"It’s my turn," Leon announced, drawing.

Yami gave him an encouraging smile, seeing the spark of competition slowly returning to Leon’s eyes. "Yes. But first, Royal Straight Slasher returns to the field."

The redhead nodded at Yami’s monster, acknowledging it. "Good. Because I’m playing Monster Reborn to bring Cinderella back from the graveyard. And you know what that means; I can special summon Pumpkin Carriage as well. But this time, I’m going to sacrifice them both to summon Hex Trude." The monster, which resembled an attractive woman in a red gown, sauntered her way into the center of the arena. "Now, Hex Trude, take out his Slasher!"

With 2600 attack points, Trude’s blast easily destroyed Yami’s monster, bringing him to the brink of defeat with only 200 life points.

"Crap, look at Leon’s monster!" Malik exclaimed. Hex Trude’s attack points had jumped to 3000. "Another card with a nasty surprise?"

"Trude gains 400 attack every time she destroys a monster," Leon explained. "I’m sorry, but this is the end for you, Yami. Either Hex Trude will take you down, or you running out of cards will do it for me."

I believe in Yugi’s deck. I know it won’t let me down, Yami thought as he closed his eyes and drew his final card. He smiled when he saw it was a Monster Reborn, the same card Leon had just played. "Don’t count me out just yet. I can still fight my way back! First, I’ll place one card face down, then I’ll play Emergency Provisions, which increases my life points by 1000 for every magic or trap card I send to the graveyard." Yami gave up one card for a thousand-point boost. "Next, I’ll also play Monster Reborn! Come, Dark Magician!"

Up on the balcony, Yugi couldn’t help but smile a little at seeing his faithful spellcaster. Well, not his, at least… he wouldn’t be his for much longer. He was hoping Yami would find a way to play it. That was the sign he’d been waiting for.

Just as the Blue Eyes White Dragons belong with Kaiba, you’ve always truly been Yami’s. I’ll miss you of course, but I understand. And I’m fine with that, Yugi found himself telling the card fondly. Somehow, it must’ve understood him, for it seemed that the monster’s blue eyes sought him out, focusing on him, but when he blinked, the moment was over.

Yugi’s grin grew. He knew it sounded crazy, but he was grateful for the chance to say goodbye. Well, not quite goodbye. More like see you around.

But Siegfried’s grating voice just had to ruin the moment. While Leon stood gazing at the Dark Magician in awe, admiring the monster that now stood before him, his big brother pointedly told Yami, "How do you expect to fight your way back with that? Your magician’s only got 2500 attack points to my brother’s Hex Trude, at 3000."

Yami couldn’t resist smirking. "I guess you forgot about my two face down cards, the ones I set a while back. First, reveal Necromancy! This spell card will summon four random monsters from Leon’s graveyard…"

Leon blinked, the novelty of the Dark Magician beginning to wear off. "Wha…?" Little Red Riding Hood, Iron Hans, Iron Knight, and Forest Hunter all appeared on Leon’s side of the field, in defense mode. "Why’d you bring them back?"

"For each of those monsters I destroy in battle, I can decrease the attack power of one of your monsters by 600, provided they’re in attack mode. Next, I activate Diffusion Wave Motion. For the cost of 1000 of my life points, Dark Magician can now attack every monster on your side of the field. Plus, it’ll cancel out any special abilities your monsters would trigger upon being destroyed," Yami explained.

Leon's eyes went wide as the former Pharaoh’s life points dropped back down to 200, enabling Dark Magician to unleash his attack, destroying the four monsters Necromancy had returned to Leon. Hex Trude’s attack points were whittled down to 600, allowing Dark Magician to easily destroy her, clinching the win for Yami.

When Leon’s life points finally ticked down to zero, for a split second, it was as if time had stopped. Not a peep could be heard from the thousands of spectators ringing the fortress. It was as if no one believed what they had just witnessed. And then…

"YEAHHHHHH! BOOOYAAAAA!!" Jou and Valon both screamed from the balcony, their amplified voices carrying extremely well over the speakers, practically echoing over the park grounds, and suddenly the crowd sprang to life, cheering and whistling so enthusiastically and for so long that no one could even hear Isono trying to announce the official results.

But Isono didn’t mind at all. He was just as giddy as the fans and felt like celebrating too, though he’d have to wait until later to let loose. He still had a job to do. "And your winner is…Yami Mutou, THE King of Games!"

* * *

Noa let out a whoop and sprung to his feet, his eyes fixed on the monitor. Yami still stood proudly on his dueling platform, the Dark Magician still floating on the field before him.

"Leon wasn’t bad, but against Yami, he didn’t stand a chance," Noa said arrogantly, as if he were personally responsible for Yami’s win. Well, perhaps his anti-virus had played some role in that…

Slightly distracted by both Yami’s voice in his head as well as the content of the open windows on his terminal screen, Seto gave the older teen a half smile, though the sparkle in his eyes betrayed his true feelings. He too was thrilled with Yami’s victory, especially since Siegfried was absolutely incensed by it. But their entire dueling system had been locked down for a while now, and he didn’t want to take a minute longer than necessary to get it back up. End users tended to be impatient and highly prone to rumormongering, and Seto was determined that no one get the impression that Siegfried had gotten the better of Kaiba Corp., because he definitely hadn’t. But at least he was almost done with the install, then after that it would just be a matter of dumping data into the server, which Mokuba ought to be able to handle by himself. "I’ll make sure I congratulate him once we’re done with things down here."

Noa rolled his eyes, but he was smiling too. "Uh, yeah, you two do that…"

Seto smothered a drop-the-subject cough, which elicited a chuckle from both Noa and Mokuba, then changed the topic himself. "How are the patches coming?"

"I’m finished, and they're already up on both our website and our intranet. Hacking into Industrial Illusions now," Noa reported.

"You’d think Pegasus would beef up the security on his site," Mokuba mentioned offhandedly as he went ahead and began shutting down the current dueling system. He was feeling pretty good about the job he’d done so far; he hadn’t noticed any glitches at all during Yami’s duel.

Noa smirked. "Like that would keep me out? He’s lucky that the worst I’ve done was that animated Blue Eyes graphic for last April Fool’s. You know, the one that randomly zapped blocks of text on his website?"

Seto let loose a short laugh. He remembered Pegasus calling him about it, though all Seto had told the other CEO was that he knew nothing about it. At least Pegasus hadn’t been mad, being a bit of a prankster himself. "That was yours?"

Noa just grinned wickedly. "Anyways, let me start transferring the file, and I’ll just add a nice huge text link here…" and he made a couple of changes and clicked the mouse a few times, "and that should do it. Patch just needs to finished uploading."

Seto nodded, satisfied with the way things were working out. Noa had been a huge help. No, they weren’t completely out of the woods yet, but by working together, they had managed to pull through this latest crisis. He just hoped Siegfried didn’t have any other surprises in store for them. But, for once, he felt cautiously optimistic.

* * *

Yami smiled to himself as he finished checking in with his boyfriend. He knew Seto had kept an eye on the duel as it happened, so it wasn’t like the news of his victory was unexpected, but he hadn’t been sure how the Kaibas were faring with the virus, so he was glad to hear that they were right on top of it. Noa was taking care of ridding the system of all traces of the virus, while Mokuba was about to start dumping data into the new server. Things were going well enough that Seto even said that he’d step away from his work for a few minutes to make an appearance since after all, it WAS his tournament.

Yugi and the others were now rushing down from the balcony in high spirits, eager to congratulate Yami on his win. They mobbed around him excitedly, hugging him and patting him on the back. Valon got the idea to pick him up like some victorious conqueror, so with a little help from Jou, Honda, Otogi and Yugi, they hoisted the crimson-eyed duelist up on their shoulders and paraded him around the arena.

Grinning, Yami let them carry him around like a trophy, secretly enjoying the extra height boost they were giving him. He could finally see how high up the dueling arena really was, and how the crowd packed around the fortress looked like bits of confetti kicked up by a slight breeze. And he also couldn’t help but notice that Leon still stood on his dueling platform, alone and forgotten. He had deactivated his Duel Disk and was clutching his deck tightly in his hand. Maybe he was in shock over losing, or maybe Siegfried’s betrayal had just been too much for him. Yami felt sorry for him. He wasn’t a bad person. And Yami knew that if Leon hadn’t kept going with the duel, he would’ve never been able to take down the Golden Castle of Stromberg.

So once Yami had convinced his friends to put him down, he made his way across the arena. "You did very well. You should be proud of yourself," he told the redheaded teen.

Leon’s head jerked up, his eyes wide. He couldn’t believe that Yami would want to say anything to him at all, never mind complimenting him. "What?"

Yami held his hand out, offering him a handshake. "Thank you for not giving up, even when things got really bad."

Leon just stared wordlessly at the proffered hand. His eyes stung. He felt like total crap. Why was Yami talking like that? "But… I cheated! And the virus… And I lost!"

"But when you realized what was happening, you tried to put a stop to it. You conducted yourself like a true duelist. And that’s what matters most."

Leon blinked hard. Yami was being so kind, after all that he’d done. A true duelist? No… Yami’s the true duelist. I’m just… I screwed up so badly. He clutched his cards even more tightly as his hands began to shake, as the tears he’d been holding back began spilling over. He was horrified to realize that he was still standing on the dueling platform, as if he deserved to be there. And…Where’s Siegfried? He didn’t even come down. He must be so angry with me… I don’t know what to do! All he could see was Yami’s hand, extended out to him…

The ex-spirit was momentarily stunned when Leon took a half step forward and clumsily latched onto him, but he recovered quickly and consoled the crying teen the best he could. Strange as it sounded, he was grateful for the times Mokuba had sought him out for comfort when he had been upset; it made him feel less awkward about the whole thing. Still, he was glad that the reporters and cameramen had already shuffled off their balcony… he didn’t think Leon would appreciate seeing replays or photos of himself sobbing.

"Ach, stop blubbering, Leonhard," Siegfried snapped, finally stepping out of the stairwell and onto the sun-drenched rooftop. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

Yami scowled, and tightened his arms around Leon. The poor kid didn’t deserve to get yelled at after all he’d been through. But the tensing of Yami’s muscles and the sound of his brother’s voice brought Leon around, and he realized how odd it must’ve seemed for him to be clinging for dear life to the crimson-eyed man. Yugi-tachi were all staring at him. So he let go of Yami and took a step back, embarrassed and humiliated.

Siegfried didn’t look any happier even after Leon let go. The pink-haired man had spent many endless nights plotting to take down Kaiba Corp… how could it all have gone so wrong? He had thought he had the perfect plan… distract Seto by causing a bit of havoc, then either he or Leon – it didn’t matter who – would make the kill, winning their competitor’s tournament and capping it off by defeating the King of Games himself, thus establishing Schroider Corp. as THE force to be reckoned with in Duel Monsters.

He hadn’t planned on dueling Seto at all since the other CEO had announced that he wouldn’t be participating in the tournament, but when the chance had come up, Siegfried was quick to jump on it. Too bad he had been unlucky and not drawn the Golden Castle during the duel; it would’ve been a great way to humiliate his adversary!

Despite his loss to Seto, Siegfried had remained optimistic that things would go his way. After all, HE had specifically designed the perfect virus and the perfect card. The Golden Castle of Stromberg was unbeatable. Not even someone who called himself the King of Games should’ve been able to destroy it, and yet, Yami had not only managed to find the one crack in its armor, but pulled off a victory even after losing his whole deck. Not even his deck… his brother’s deck!

But… I still win, Siegfried realized, now smiling sadistically. Yes, Yami had destroyed the Golden Castle, but only after it had been activated, spreading his devastating virus through Kaiba Corp.’s dueling database. Even though the Kaibas had sworn to do their best to combat it, surely by this point, they must’ve lost the fight, plus all their primary and backup dueling data as well. "Ah well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. You can cry all you like, little brother. I don’t care. I am satisfied with the blow I’ve struck to Kaiba Corp."

Yami opened his mouth to respond, but then he suddenly smiled. "I guess I’ll let him tell you himself, Siegfried."

Brow furrowing, the German spun around to see Seto leaning against the wall by one of the exits. "Given up already?" he asked nastily as the brunette approached the group. Yugi-tachi parted to let Seto through, their voices quieting. They too wanted to hear the news regarding the virus.

"It was more of an inconvenience than a blow," Seto said snidely. "I expect we’ll be back up and running within the hour. Probably sooner."


"Nothing’s impossible," Seto asserted, smirking.

Siegfried shook his head, furious. His hands unconsciously clenched into tight fists. In response, Yugi-tachi stirred uneasily, ready to intervene if things got out of hand. "You lie! I don’t believe it! There should be nothing at all left of your database by now!"

Seto simply folded his arms. "Hmm, that’s funny. I swear I saw plenty of data last I checked, uncorrupted data at that. But, that’s to be expected. After all, you’re a failure, so how could your virus do anything but fail?"

Growling, Siegfried stepped forward and grabbed for the collar of Seto’s coat, but the Kaiba Corp. CEO easily evaded him. Thrown off balance by his own momentum, the pink-haired man stumbled and nearly fell to his knees.

Seto took the opportunity to gloat some more, circling his adversary like a hungry wolf. "Hmph. If you spent all the time you wasted on plotting against me on bettering your company instead, your company might’ve stood a chance against mine. Then again, it’s not like you were ever a match for me, so I guess what you were really aiming for was second place. Or, as I like to call it, first place loser."

Humiliation upon humiliation… Siegfried couldn’t stand it! He snarled audibly, wanting nothing more than the satisfaction of smashing Seto’s face in.

"Siegfried, don’t!" Leon shouted as his big brother spun around, clearly intending to have another go at Seto. He lunged for Siegfried, hooking his own arm around his brother’s, pulling back with all his might. Things had already spun too far out of control; he’d be damned if he was going to stand by and let Siegfried get arrested or beaten up for attacking Seto. "Don’t do it! Haven’t we already caused enough trouble? This… this isn’t the type of person you are."

"Oh? Then what am I? Just a failure?" Siegfried spat out venomously. So much work, so much time and energy… and he had nothing to show for it!

"No! Never! I know you better than that." Leon gripped his brother’s arm even tighter, his fingers digging into the sleeve. "But can’t you see that this obsession is ruining you? Ruining us?"

"What’s ruining us is that we cannot compete with Kaiba Corp.!"

"That’s not true. If Schroider Corp. suffers from this, it’s our own doing. We did some terrible things and we trashed our own reputation. I wish I could go back in time and undo all the things I did wrong here. I wish I had been able to duel Yugi." He paused to swallow, then turned to look at Yami, who was now standing at Seto’s side. "But at the same time, I’m glad I got to duel Yami because I learned a lot from him. Despite everything that happened, despite all the disadvantages he faced, he never complained about how unfair it was and never gave up. And now I understand – it’s the effort and the way you play the game that matters, not just winning and losing. That’s what being a real champion is all about."

Yami gave Leon an encouraging smile. "Your brother’s right," he told Siegfried. "You should be proud of him. He’s a very smart young man, as well as a fine duelist."

The pink-haired German fell silent. There wasn’t much he could say. Yes, he ought to be proud of how well Leon had done up to this point. He was one of the top ranked duelists in the world. He’d been undefeated until his duel with Yami. But somewhere along the way, Siegfried had forgotten about all of that. When did he decide his little brother no longer mattered?

Seeing that his brother’s mania had likely run its course, Leon carefully released his hold, tugging on the fabric lightly to smooth out. "Schroider Corp. has been around a long time and has survived a lot of changes. And you knew you were taking a gamble when we switched over to the gaming industry. So what if we have to compete with Kaiba Corp.? That’s just how business is," the redheaded teen reminded his brother. "But that doesn’t mean we should give up or resort to cheating. If we really want to remain competitive, we just need to try harder."

"And what if that is not enough?" Siegfried asked, sounding deflated.

"Then at least we still have our honor. And each other. And that’s enough for me, big brother."

A little surprised at the conviction in Leon’s voice, Siegfried turned and saw his brother holding his arms out towards him. Unshed tears glittered in his eyes, but he was smiling; he had meant every word that he had said. After all that he’d done… Leon was still willing to embrace him and call him brother.

"I still want to help you, if you’ll let me," Leon whispered.

A genuine smile touched Siegfried’s lips. "You’re far wiser than I," he said as he bent down to hug his brother briefly. "I’ll… need to remind myself of all those things, I suppose. And this is a good time to start, eh? And so for starters…" and then he straightened up, "Herr Kaiba, Herr Mutou… I suppose should…"

Seto rolled his eyes. "I don’t want to hear it. Just stop fucking with my company and my life, and I’ll resist the urge to pay you back in kind."

Yami smiled. Seto would never admit to it, but Leon had done a number on his big brother nerve as well. For although it must've sounded to Siegfried like Seto was threatening him, Yami knew that his lover wasn't being serious. Not that it was easy to tell, considering the expression on his face. "Seto…"

"What? I’m serious." He placed his hand on Yami’s shoulder as the two of them began walking away, their strides easily matching. The rest of the group slowly turned to follow. Siegfried and Leon lagged behind, confused, but Yami was sure they’d figure out soon enough that they had gotten off the hook. "Besides, I have a shiny new database to release, and a grand opening to wrap up, and your victory to celebrate…"

And my victory to celebrate, huh? Private or public party? Yami teased, knowing full well that Seto wasn’t going to celebrate anything until he was sure the computer problems had been dealt with.

As much as I’d like to rub it in that bastard’s face, I’m thinking… private.

Yami chuckled. He was looking forward to that.

* * *


Author’s Notes:

May 27, 2007