Disclaimer: I own nothing! No suing! Yugioh is the intellectual property of some other people.
Warning: Yaoi goodness eventually! This is your only warning!
Chapter 1: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Back Button
"No more school, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks!" Joey Wheeler crowed as he and his best friends strolled through the mall on the first day of summer vacation. He flung his arms wide to emphasize his freedom, nearly smacking Tristan in the head. "And best of all, no more class with Kaiba!" Sure, Joey was planning on spending most of his summer working, but, unlike with school, he had some motivation. He wanted to save up enough to move out of his Dad's apartment the moment he turned eighteen. Though that didn't mean he wouldn't splurge a little either. In fact, the lure of the electronics store stopped him dead in his tracks while his friends kept on walking.
Joey knew that his pals would notice he wasn't there after a few steps, so he ducked into the store to drool over the main game display. Age of Heroes – not the most enticing of titles, but the game did bear the famous Kaiba Corp logo. And, whatever Joey might think of the company's young CEO, he couldn't deny that Kaiba did put out good, solid games. Best of all, the game came with a VR headpiece to help immerse the player in the game. Quickly Joey stole a glance at the price tag. Yeah, he could afford it, but just barely.
Even as Joey reached for the game, a hand shot out and grabbed his arm. "Don't you dare, Joey Wheeler!" Tea hissed. His pals had found him.
Putting on his usual goofy grin, Joey shrugged off Tea's hand. "Relax. I start work next week, so I'll make the money back." Before Tea could offer another protest, he grabbed the game and hustled to the checkout counter with his precious treasure.
For the rest of the group's day out, Joey kept the game cradled possessively against his chest. He wasn't going to give anyone half a chance to take it away. Eventually Tristan gave him a playful shove. "Stop acting like Gollum drooling over his 'preeecious.' Go on home and play your game, you goof." Needing no further encouragement, Joey said his goodbyes and rushed home.
"Dad?" No response, which mean that Joey's Dad was either out or passed out from his latest drinking binge. Either option was fine for the young man, being preferable to having his father home and roaring drunk.
With the coast clear, Joey scampered to his room and shut the door, flipping the lock so that he wouldn't have to worry about his father barging in later. Now he could concentrate on more important things. First he tore into the game package and began browsing through the instructions. Just as he figured - they were written in RPG Gibberish. Not a problem, Joey decided. He'd simply figure the game out the old fashioned way - by playing it.
Digging around under the bed where he hid all his best stuff from his Dad, Joey pulled out a laptop. It was an older-model thing, clunky and big in comparison to the machines out on the market now. But it ran well. Rebecca had gotten it for him for his last birthday, and had refurbished it so that it could keep up with the modern machines. At the time Joey had insisted that it was too much, but the little girl had merely flashed him a puckish grin and told him that someone had to get him out of the Stone Age. Joey chuckled at the memory. He really did have the best friends in the world.
While the game installed, Joey began examining the VR headpiece. It wasn't top of the line, but that was expected. Kaiba couldn't make any money off of the game if he gave away thousands of dollars of VR equipment with it. So instead he was playing it smart and offering buyers a small taste of what they could get if they forked over more cash.
The piece itself was pretty simple-looking, Joey decided. It looked like a cross between one of those silly earpiece cellphones and a pair of sunglasses. "Huh. This thing's made for a keyboard jockey," Joey muttered. To get the in-your-face visuals the piece would provide and still be able to play, a person would have to be able to navigate the keyboard by feel. Luckily Joey had played enough games to get past the hunt-and-peck two-fingered typist stage. He could probably manage.
And so as the "Age of Heroes" welcome screen appeared, Joey pulled on the VR piece and set to work designing his character. Joey first found himself looking at two blank mannequins - male and female. Easy enough, all Joey had to do was pick. So he began fiddling with the computer's touchpad mouse and with a click, the female mannequin lit up. Joey groaned. He hated that stupid touchpad mouse. But no problem. he'd just hit the Back button and... And... "Dammit, Kaiba! You forgot the damn Back button!"
Joey glared at the screen. If he'd been a paranoid person, he'd think that Kaiba had done this to him on purpose somehow. With a growl, Joey started to close up the game. Then it hit him. Who would know? What better way to make it through the newbie stage without getting teased? Once he knew the game well enough, he could go back and create a new character. Chuckling in wicked delight, Joey set to work adding details to the mannequin.
When he was finished, he took a moment to survey the results with pride. The final product was most un-Joey-like, which was just what he wanted. Dark hair cascaded down the character's back. The eyes were almond-shaped emeralds glittering out of a hear-shaped face. The body was trim, if a little on the leggy side. Joey had cackled in delight when he realized that he could even edit the base form's bust. "I always knew Kaiba was a closet perv!" he'd snickered as he tried out different sizes. Joey had briefly toyed with the idea of using boobs that would rival Mai's, but in the end he'd decided that it looked too ridiculous. Instead, he'd gone smaller,feeling no need to compensate.
There had even been some pre-set voice modulations, so when Joey talked, the character would even sound like a girl!
The rest of the character creation was easy: pick a job class (thief), distribute a few attribute points, and then name the character. For the last, Joey decided on Mercutia. His literature teacher would probably faint, but Joey did pay attention, and he'd really identified with Mercutio when they'd studied "Romeo and Juliet." Pleased with the results, Joey hit save and entered into the game.
"Welcome to Brighton," a cheery voice piped in through the headpiece. A cheery little elf perched in the branch of a tree. "I see you're a new player. Would you like a tutorial?" Joey ignored the elf and started for what looked like a farming village at the end of a dirt road. While the character walked, Joey practiced bringing up the various windows the game allowed and found that he was armed with a dagger, had two health potions, and 500 gold. Basic. Very basic. But he had to start somewhere.
Joey closed up the status windows just in time to see a large snail sliming its way along the path. "Yo!" he called out. "You an NPC like smiley back there?" When the snail ignored him, Joey changed tactics and gave it a poke with the dagger. The snail faded out and a message appeared - 5 Exp, 10 Gold. "Guess not."
Up close, Joey found the town looked much as it had from a distance. "This must be where all the beginners hang out." In 10 minutes, he knew where everything was - armor and weapon shop on the right, magic shop on the left, inn at the end of the path. He checked out the shops first, only to realize that one piece of new equipment would cost him everything he had. He did get a couple of weak health potions, figuring he'd probably need them. And then he went on to the inn.
"Charming," he murmured as he looked around. He was in a sunny dining area. Tables were full of people, though Joey couldn't hear any conversation. Except... Off in the corner, a knight sat by himself. Joey made his way to the table. "Hey, is this seat taken?" No reaction. "Hey, hey! Damn! Just like Kaiba to sell a busted piece of junk..."
Just as Joey was fixing to tack on a string of words that would have earned him a week in detention during the school year, a message popped up on the screen. 'Andiron would like to talk. Accept?' Quickly Joey clicked 'yes', and a voice came through the piece. "Are you having problems?"
Joey pressed the key that would make his character smile as he answered, "Kind of, I guess. I'm still trying to figure things out. So, is this seat taken?"
Andiron stood. "No, but you won't 'figure things out' sitting around here. Come on. I'll help you train."
The knight began walking out of the inn, with Joey trailing behind. As they walked, Andiron explained the basic controls of the game, insisting that Joey test them out. "Hey," Joey interrupted at one point. "How come I couldn't hear anyone talking back at the inn?"
Andiron smiled, and Joey could almost bet that he was genuinely amused with this newbie. "The voice chat only works between parties, or if you've selected a specific character or group of characters. Otherwise the earpiece would probably overload with all the noise." The knight stopped in front of a particularly large tree. "Here we are. Not many people know about this spot, and it's full of beginner monsters. You'll be able to level easily here." Andiron tapped at the tree with his sword and a door swung open.
Joey was about to enter when a new message appeared on the screen. "Andiron wants to party. Accept?" Joey didn't hesitate for a second when he clicked, "Yes."
"Ladies first," Andiron purred through the earpiece. Joey bit down on the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. This guy was totally coming on to him! Still, Joey wasn't about to turn down the more experienced player's help. Joey went through the tree, into the next area, and found himself in monster heaven. Eagerly he set to hacking and slashing with his little knife. Whenever his health began to get low, Andiron would order him to a safe platform to heal and would take over the monster-slaying.
And the whole time, the two players talked. Since Andiron didn't know him, Joey didn't feel the need to play "big dumb blonde." For once in his life, he felt like he could really be himself. "I take it from your name, you've read 'Romeo and Juliet'," Andiron murmured.
Joey dispatched a few snails before answering. "Yeah. Not Shakey's best work, really. But I really felt like I got Mercutio, y'know. I'm like him in a lot of ways. We're both expected to be the goofballs, but... There's a lot more to us that no one sees." Joey scrambled to the safe platform to rest and heal before adding, "'Macbeth' is a zillion times better."
The two spent hours killing monsters and discussing books - sharing their favorites, debating over the ones they'd both read. Both players were lost in conversation until a loud crash followed by swearing jerked Joey back to the real world. "Shit! My old man's home. I've got to go, Professor. I'm gonna go to one of those - whatchamacallem - hot spot cafes, so I'll be back on in an hour if you'll still be here."
"Are you in-" Joey logged off before he could hear the rest of what the knight was going to say.