Title: Summer of '69
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Yami + Seto, 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. Standing Room Only is a film by James Perkinson. "Limelight" is performed and recorded by Rush. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: "All the world's indeed a stage, And we are merely players"
Status: 4 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Summer of '69

Ch. 2: Standing Room Only

* * *

All the world's indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another's audience
Outside the gilded cage

- "Limelight", Rush

* * *

The Grand Prix registration party was a lavish affair, held in the grand ballroom of the KaibaLand California Hotel. All the duelists participating in the tournament would be in attendance, along with even more media, politicians, celebrities and luminaries of all sorts--- anyone that would draw more public attention to the grand opening of the park.

But Seto was not thinking about mingling with the well-known and well-to-do. He didn't give a crap about the crab canapés or the truffle stuffed mushrooms being served on silver platters by the tuxedo clad waitstaff, nor the flawless white roses spilling over the display platform which held a trio of magnificent Blue Eyes White Dragon ice sculptures. It didn't matter that it was the Fourth of July, and that he had opened the parking lot for free public viewing of the most insane fireworks show he'd ever planned. He had a hacker to deal with, and that required his focus above all else.

Seto was no fool. He'd gotten off easy earlier in the day, when the KC DuelTek 760 had been hacked. Whoever had done it had done it as a teaser. They were toying with him. It was like a slap in the face. He hated it.

He'd rather be in his office working on the problem at hand. But being the CEO and the public "face" of Kaiba Corp., he was obligated to attend the party, a waste of time and money really--- but he figured he'd at least take advantage of the opportunity to meet the duelists and narrow down his list of suspects since it was possible that the hacker was not working alone. There was already one guy in particular that rubbed him the wrong way: a young man named Sieg Lloyd - and that was just from looking at the guy's application. He seemed familiar--- but Seto wasn't sure if he had actually met him at some point, or if he just reminded him of someone else.

The brunette felt a hand on his elbow and a mental nudge, and automatically turned to follow it, pasting a hopefully pleasant smile on his face for the news photographer that stood there, camera at the ready. He was tired as well as distracted, but that wasn't something he wanted the world to know. Yami was doing a good job of directing his attention where it was needed and otherwise leaving him alone with his thoughts, and Seto was extremely grateful for his help. Mokuba and Noa would probably be floating around trying to do the same as well, but Seto had sent them off to take care of hosting duties since he was stuck dealing with the media. He figured they'd do just fine.

Over by the buffet area, the younger Kaibas were doing exactly as their brother had asked, making sure that everyone was having a good time, as well as surreptitiously keeping an eye out for anyone or anything suspicious. But they didn't spot anything out of the ordinary - in fact, the only thing that seemed off was the fact that Sugoroku had left shortly after they'd arrived, saying that he did not feel well due to jet lag, and Rebecca's apparent interest in Mokuba. She was being very chatty, directing all sorts of questions at the black-haired teen, giggling at his comments and putting her hand on his shoulder as if she were his best friend. It was making Mokuba somewhat uncomfortable and flat out pissing Noa off. The green-haired teen knew he couldn't just come out and say, "Hey, Mokuba's MY boyfriend!" but at the same time, that didn't mean he had to stand idly by and watch her either. Noa was about to tell her that Mokuba had a girlfriend back home when a woman suddenly bumped into Rebecca from behind.

"That's a rather inconvenient place to stand," the lady complained with a scowl.

"Well, why don't you watch where you're going?" Rebecca snapped in response, but the woman suddenly darted past her to make a grab for Yugi, her eyes shimmering.

"Oh my goodness, you must be Yugi Mutou! Why, you're even more adorable in real life!" she gushed. "I'm Vivian Wong, but you can call me 'Viv,'" she cooed, fluttering her lashes at him.

"Um--- hi?" was all Yugi managed to squeak as Vivian wrapped her arms around him in an enthusiastic hug. Rebecca made a miffed sound, while Anzu gaped at the sight and began glaring daggers at the woman. Just who did she think she was, touching her boyfriend like that? And why wasn't Yugi pushing her away? He didn't think she was--- attractive, did he?!

"Now just because we're going to have to duel each other doesn't mean we can't be friendly the rest of the time, am I right?"

"What!? Hey lady---!" Rebecca began protesting.

"Sure, I guess---" Yugi stammered. Viv was pretty hot, but more than that--- she had his face practically crushed into her bosom. Anzu turned her glare onto her boyfriend instead.

Oblivious to the problems she was causing, Vivian suddenly released the little duelist, her sights now set on far more valuable prey. "Oh my God, is that the King of Games, Yami Mutou? And--- Seto Kaiba too? Why, he's even more handsome than I imagined! Ohhh Kaiba, over here---!" And with that, she ran off.

"He's also gayer than you imagined," Jou muttered, watching as the Chinese woman tried to attach herself to Seto only to be interrupted by a possessive ex-spirit, one who had no qualms about laying claim to the one he considered his. Without any hesitation, he stepped in front of Vivian, latched onto Seto's wrist, and led his lover towards the next group of reporters. An indignant Vivian was left standing with her hands on her hips, fuming, as Seto went on to answer more questions.

"Serves her right," Rebecca announced before turning back to Mokuba with a smile, much to Noa's vexation. But he noticed Anzu looking at the blonde rather oddly as well. Perhaps he could convince her to have a "girl talk" with Rebecca to find out what was going on, because at this rate, he was going to end up saying or doing something he'd probably later regret.

* * *

After talking to far more reporters than he cared to, Seto followed Yami to the tables in the back corner of the room, where Yugi and the others were. Yami wanted his boyfriend to sit down and have a bite to eat, but the brunette testily protested, saying he wasn't hungry. He just wanted to get the tournament registration over and done with so he could go back to working on his hacker problem, but after checking in with Isono, it turned out that one of the duelists was not present and accounted for. And which one would that be? Why, Sieg Lloyd of course.

Oh well, too bad, so sad. Tardiness was not acceptable. They had a schedule to adhere to as the official announcement of the participants was to be televised on news programs all over the country. Seto was about to tell Isono to get the show started anyway and to announce the disqualification of Mr. Lloyd when suddenly the doors swung open and a tall, slim figure swept into the room, surveying the surroundings with a haughty air.

Seto narrowed his eyes. He instantly knew this had to be his hacker, even if he couldn't prove it yet. The man was just too cocky and smug, with a cold, predatory gaze and a presumptuous smirk. And he was stealing all the attention in the room with his flamboyant flouncing and horrendous pink hair and violet suit. It was like watching at a younger, even more irritating, version of Pegasus at work.

Sieg laughed to himself, seeing all the eyes on him. It might have been Seto Kaiba's tournament, but he was going to make sure that he'd be the one that everyone would be talking about when all was said and done. Speaking of the CEO of Kaiba Corp., he looked over to where Seto and the others were, and with a smirk, sauntered over to introduce himself. From the look on Seto's face, it was clear that while he was suspicious of Sieg, he wasn't going to just kick him out on the spot. He wouldn't be able to justify it now that Sieg he had made his appearance without revealing what had happened earlier in the afternoon. And that suited the German just fine. Plus there was the unexpected bonus of getting to meet Pegasus as well, as he was seated at the same table--- even more perfect!

"Ahh--- you must be Herr Kaiba. I apologize for being late. Traffic is quite nasty around here, isn't it?" Sieg asked, though his tone indicated he was insincere about it. Then he turned to Pegasus, and in a much more pleasant voice, said, "And Herr Crawford--- what a pleasure to meet the creative mind behind Duel Monsters!"

Pegasus blinked, then put out his hand for the pink-haired man to shake. He too caught the obvious change in Sieg's demeanor, and wondered what he was playing at. "Nice to meet you too---"

Seto ground his teeth. This guy had some nerve, walking in like he owned the place, and not even apologizing properly! Well, he wasn't just going to sit by and let some deranged lunatic steal his thunder. This was HIS park and HIS tournament! Rising to his feet, he said nastily, "I should disqualify you for being tardy, you punk."

With a dramatic sigh, Sieg made a show of checking the watch beneath his ruffled cuffs. "And I have already given you my apologies, Herr Kaiba. Besides, it would be in poor taste for you to disqualify me for no reason other than my being unavoidably delayed when the televised announcement has not yet been made--- What would that say about you as the promoter of this tournament, hmm?"

"Damn you---" Seto growled as Sieg laughed and simply walked off. He was tempted to disqualify him anyway, just to show him who was in charge, but Yami went and put his hand on his lover's shoulder and, feeling it faintly trembling beneath the tuxedo jacket, tried to soothe him before asking him to let it go. It was no time for a fight; they were going to be on the air in a matter of moments.

Despite Yami's rather calm demeanor, he was extremely worried about what this was doing to Seto. He just didn't want to mention it lest it become even more of a burden than it already was. The brunette was planning to stay up all night to work on safeguards to protect his company. Yami didn't think Seto's body could take it. He was dangerously overextending himself. But what choice did he have? Either his health or his company would suffer, and for Seto, who understood that his family's future depended on the continued growth and success of Kaiba Corp., there was only one choice. Maybe some people would shake their heads if they knew, unable to comprehend such a thing. But that unselfish dedication was something that Yami had could understand, even admire.

Still, he wished Seto would accept his help. There was no shame in that. Not that he knew anything about hacking or how to set up firewalls or anything like that, for that was Seto's speciality and no one knew how to work a computer like he did, but Yami was more than willing to boost his boyfriend's energy levels with his own. It was a strange physical side effect of their mind link, he supposed. It shouldn't have been possible. But he'd had plenty of time to consider it when they were apart, and now, as he felt the strong beats of his lover's heart slowing to mirror his own, he was sure there was some truth to that. It certainly wouldn't hurt to try, that was for sure.

Feeling Yami working to reassure him and calm him down, Seto finally relaxed his shoulders and sank back into his seat. He knew his crimson-eyed lover was right - this registration party would be broadcast worldwide in moments, but he hated letting someone get the better of him like that. But at least now that Sieg had showed up, he could have security keep an eye on him. Better that than let the man wander around unattended, giving him the opportunity to cause more mischief.

After a hectic minute of calling a few additional security officers into the room and finishing camera and microphone checks, the lights in the room dimmed slightly and Isono stepped up to the podium set up in the front of the ballroom. Seto had considered doing the announcements himself being that he was the tournament's sponsor, but he'd been living in the media spotlight for weeks now, and frankly, he was tired of it. So instead he sat in the back and watched as the duelists were introduced, considering his impression of them thus far, evaluating the potential threat each one posed.

"I'm surprised you're not up there, Yami," Mai said as Isono began introducing the duelists in enthusiastic fashion. The man certainly had a flair for the dramatic, but his passionate delivery certainly would make for good TV.

The former Pharaoh shrugged, watching as the spotlight isolated each participant while Isono called out their names. "I wouldn't have minded, but since this is Seto's tournament, and Yugi's going to duel the winner of the tournament--- I didn't want to take the attention off of either of them. But I'm sure you understand."

Mai looked over affectionately at where Jou was standing. He waved at the camera as his name was announced, face faulting when Isono referred to him as the perpetual underdog. Apparently Seto had some hand in the script after all. But he recovered quickly, and even threw his wife a quick wink. With a smile, she said, "Yeah, I do." Then she squinted at the next duelist who stepped forward--- a short man with a mask concealing his face. "That looks a lot like your grandfather. Or am I seeing things?"

"No, you're right--- it's him," the crimson-eyed man confirmed.

Mokuba scratched his head. "What's with the outfit? And why is he calling himself 'Mask the Rock?'"

Yami gave another shrug, then in a low voice, explained, "I guess he didn't want anyone knowing it was him, though--- he must have known that we'd check on his references and such. That's how I figured it out, and good thing I did, or else he probably wouldn't have gotten in. He doesn't have any recent tournament experience. But it was clear to me, he really wanted to do this, whatever his reasons. So I approved his application."

"Good thing you're not running my company then," Seto added, but he had a slight smile on his face. He didn't really mind all that much, and having Sugoroku, as well as Jou and Rebecca, in the tournament, meant there were three less people he had to worry about in regards to his hacker problem. But at the same time, he still had 14 unknowns to worry about.

Leon Wilson was just a kid, but Seto wasn't dumb enough to underestimate him based on that. However Mokuba and Noa and the others had met him earlier and didn't have anything bad to say about him, so he seemed an unlikely candidate for conspirator. Then there were guys like Balfry Ginger and Abe the Monkey Man who didn't seem threatening with their goofy demeanors, but maybe they acted like that because that's what they wanted to Seto to think. He wondered the same about Vivian - did she approach him like that earlier because she was actually interested in him, as Yami claimed, or did she have more sinister motives? And then there were the others--- masked competitors, like Fortune Salim and Dr. Richard Goat, were worrisome in the fact that he couldn't get a good look at their faces. Weirdos like Totano Ialos and Sergei Ivanoff... a bodybuilder for Christ's sake. Damn--- where on Earth did Yami find these guys?

They were the ones that applied, and that were qualified. You know I wasn't going to let just anyone in, Yami gently explained. He had been very thorough with his background checks. It was just as likely that the perpetrator was present under the guise of reporter or park employee. Without more evidence, they couldn't be certain that any of the duelists were the hacker in question.

You let the Mutt in, Seto pointed out, almost automatically. He really wasn't thinking about it, distracted as he was by Sieg. But he didn't really blame Yami for what had happened. They obviously weren't dealing with a run-of-the-mill nut here, considering the level of the hack job. A guy as smart as himself - or as Sieg, he begrudgingly admitted - would've made sure to cover his tracks well, waiting for the right time to strike.

Yami rolled his eyes. You know as well as I--- Jou has earned the right to be here. He's a good duelist.

No, he's a mediocre duelist with good friends. There's a difference.


At least I know he's not the hacker. He's not capable of that. And even if he were, I know he wouldn't do it.

Yami couldn't help but smile, and since everyone's attention was on the stage in the front of the room, he went ahead and leaned against Seto's shoulder. It made him happy to hear that near-admission of friendship despite everything that was going on. But he was definitely right--- they could count on their friends to have their backs here.

Seto cocked his head and regarded his boyfriend thoughtfully. He wasn't quite sure why Yami was so pleased with his comment, but did it really matter? It was the truth. Deciding it was okay to show some affection until Isono was finished with the announcements and resulting media Q&A, he subtly slid his arm around Yami and tried to force himself to take comfort from the contact, and to relax a bit. He'd need his energy later if he was going to pull an all-nighter.

* * *

From his vantage point up on the raised platform, Sieg gloated over how well things were going for him. Even without looking, he could sense Seto's eyes on him, could feel his dislike and distrust.

Yes--- your suspicions are correct. But little do you know, I have so many other surprises for you. And by the end of this weekend, you will not only see a von Schroider crowned champion of your tournament, but the beginning of Schroider Corp.'s reign as the greatest gaming company in the world!

* * *


Author's Notes:

December 13, 2006