[XD Thanks so much for the reviews! I am having too much fun plotting this out. Someone stop me.
I am taking some liberties with the format of the show for the sake of plot; and also, I haven't seen it in a little while and I don't really remember the exact format. ;; Sorry.
Oh, and Tyra Banks is awesome. Srsly. Role model lyk whoa. But this is crack, so any discrepancies in her character must be blamed on the requirements of the plot and my inability to write real people. Thank you, Mizu, for helping me get Near and L IC, btw!
The men broke left and the women right at the end of the long hallway, heading to their separate rooms. Photos from Tyra and Mogi's modeling days lined the walls, and several of the models looked at them with faint longing as they dragged their bags across the carpet.
Mello hauled his four bags into the room farthest down the men's hall and dropped them on the bed closest to the door. There was one other bed in the room, and he threw a bag on top of it to save it for Matt. Then, with a deep sigh, he dropped back on his own bed and closed his eyes. He was exhausted, jet-lagged, and filled with the deep relaxation of total and utter relief. He didn't know what he would have done if he hadn't made it this far and Near had.
Mello's head jerked up at the sound of soft footsteps – only an all-too-familiar pair of sock feet moved like that. Near stood in the doorway, his simple bag slung over one shoulder. Mello hated the way one curl stuck out farther than the others where Near had been twirling it – the lack of uniformity drove him up the wall. But the photographers always loved it. Scowling, Mello snapped, "What do you want?"
Near stepped inside, pushed Mello's bag off of the bed intended for Matt, and put his own on the coverlet, not even bothering to glance in Mello's direction.
"Get out of here," Mello growled. "Matt's sleeping there."
Near looked up coolly. "Matt's sharing a room with Mikami." He hopped on the bed, opened his bag, and began to unpack his hair-care products from their special compartment in his suitcase.
Mello's mouth opened and closed a few times before he managed to speak past the ball of anger threatening to rip its way out of his chest and beat Near's head against the tastefully-papered wall. "You—you can't—not here, not in my room—"
"It's perfectly logical, Mello," Near said, pulling out his socks one neatly rolled-up pair at a time. "Left to your own devices, you and Matt would undoubtedly plan against me. I would rather face two weeks in this room than have to deal with any sabotage that might result." He pulled a toy robot from the bottom of the bag and set it on his dresser, establishing his permanence.
Mello stared at him for one long moment, then got up, stormed out into the empty hallway, and put his boot through the drywall.
"Ooh, Takada-san, your hair dryer looks so expensive!"
"It was. Only the best. My, don't you have the cutest clothes, Misa-san. I wish I still fit into such fashions."
"Oh, not at all, Takada-san, it's only that you're taller than me. You have such a slim waist to go with those linebacker shoulders—oh, I'm sorry, did Misa say that out loud?"
"Ah, no offense taken, Misa-san, I'm sure you were joking. It's so nice to have two Japanese models in the same room. We should be friends."
"Yes, we should. Best friends!"
"Of course. Now, forgive me, but I'd never heard of you before this competition… what agency were you with, again?"
"Sakura Modeling International. Perhaps you saw me on TV, Takada-san?"
"No, never… Sakura International, you say? Such a pretentious – I mean, prestigious, excuse me – little agency. I was with Yamayuri Corporate."
"Ah, the second-largest agency in Japan. I'm sure you must work very hard. A new bed every night, I'm sure, with such a high-end job."
"…Excuse me, Misa-san?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I only meant all the traveling you must do… it's such hard work being an international model. Misa could never do it!"
"…I'm so glad you're my best friend, Takada-san."
"As am I, Misa-san."
Matt was feeling distinctly awkward in his new quarters. He wouldn't have had a problem if Mello had been his roommate – he couldn't remember a time when Mello hadn't been his roommate – but this Mikami was about the stiffest human being he'd ever met.
"So," he said. "I'm Matt. I… guess we're roommates."
Mikami nodded. His back was to Matt, and he was hanging up his clothes in perfectly-pressed rows on his side of the closet rather than scattering them on his bed as Matt had.
Matt waited for a reply. When none came he added, "You're Mikami, right?"
"How long you been modeling?"
"Two years." Mikami laid a seemingly wrinkleless shirt onto the bed for future ironing and returned to the closet. "Before that I was a prosecuting attorney."
Matt raised an eyebrow. "Heck of a leap. What made you change your mind?"
Mikami finally turned to face Matt, fingering his collar. From beneath his starched shirt he tenderly withdrew a small pendant shaped like a winged heart.
Matt lifted his sunglasses and leaned closer to see. "The Yagami Agency logo?"
Mikami nodded, replaced the pendant, and picked up the next shirt in the folded stack. He held it gently, his eyes far away. "I saw the light," he said softly.
Matt had nothing to say to this. He sighed, flopped back on the bed, and wished more than ever that he were sleeping in Mello's room.
Light found the small, gray piece of paper on his pillow when he entered the last empty room: "Hey, Light. Wanna start on figuring out L's real name? Here's your opportunity! Love, Ryuk."
Light crumpled the note up in one hand threw it under the bed, teeth gritted. He wondered if he should regret making a deal with the tall, dark fashion designer if every day was going to contain surprises like this.
L cocked his head from across the room, where he was crouched on his bed just as he had been on Light's feet a few hours before. "Is everything quite all right, Yagami-kun?"
Light composed himself, turned around, and nodded, smiling brightly. "Of course. Please call me Light, though. Yagami-kun just sounds too formal, and we're not in Japan anymore."
The bedsprings creaked as L shifted position slightly. "Of course."
They said little more to each other for awhile; Light unpacked his three trunks, sent his father a text message, and took a picture of the room for his little sister. L simply sat, chewed his thumbnail, and thought.
Presently, L unfolded himself and hopped off the bed. "I'll see you later, Yagami-kun."
"Call me Light. Where are you going?"
"The kitchen. I'm told I eat rather eccentrically. I wanted to have a word with the cook about my meals."
"What diet are you on?"
L looked back at him quizzically. "Diet, Yagami-kun?"
He walked out, hands in his pockets, leaving Light too shocked even to correct him. Not on a diet?! How is that possible? Does he have a warp-speed metabolism? Is he bulimic? Even from a distance it's clear he hasn't got an ounce of fat on him! Suddenly, Light hated L more than ever. He nearly ripped a zipper off yanking open the suitcase pocket containing his own meal-replacement bars. Well, it doesn't matter, he thought. He won't last this competition. If the stress doesn't get him, I will. I have everything he doesn't – charm, social graces, good looks, actual muscles, and now… the Death Walk!
Light pulled up his shirt and yanked the Death Walk from the waistband of his jeans. Now that the room was empty, he could finally look at it more closely – and possibly even test it to see if it worked. Glancing quickly around to make sure that all the cameras in the room were pointed away from him – he'd memorized their locations when he'd entered the room and made sure to keep his back to them as he spoke with L – he opened it and turned to the first page.
"'The model whose name is written in this Walk shall die…'" he murmured. An involuntary shudder went through him. "'This Walk will not take effect unless the user has the model's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.'" Fascinated, he leaned in closer, reading the rules as quickly as he could.
"If the cause of runway accident is written within 40 seconds of writing the name, it will happen."
"If the cause is not specified, the model will simply break his/her neck falling off the runway."
"This Walk only works on models."
"A full name must be given. Stage names will have no effect."
"After writing the cause of runway accident, the details should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds..."
An hour later, Light finished with the rules. He stared at the last page, his eyes red and dry from his furious reading. This thing… is amazing. This is the answer to all my problems.
He felt his smirk crawling across his face and made no move to stop it. The feeling of the worn leather and paper between his hands seemed to imbue him with a raw power – the power to maim, break, burn, and kill; the power to end any model's career with just a few strokes of a pen. It was a heady, almost drunk feeling, and he found he liked it.
Still smirking, he slit the cloth lining the bottom of his suitcase and slipped the notebook into the hidden pocket, then stowed the suitcase under his bed. It was time to go meet the judges – when they would all learn the date of the first runway show.
Only four hours into the competition, and already he could not wait for elimination.
The ten filed onto the small stage before the judges' table, cameras trained on their perfectly made-up faces. Mello still looked furious; Near had no emotion on his face. Light had managed to bring his smirk under control by the time he'd met the other models outside the room, and had reverted to his usual casual, disdainful expression.
Tyra smiled at them all from her elevated place at the center of the judges' table. "Welcome to your first evaluation."
The models shifted nervously. No one had mentioned anything about an evaluation. Misa started to hyperventilate.
"This won't contribute to your chances of elimination," Tyra added, and the tension positively drained from the room. "But keep in mind that how well you implement the changes we suggest you make will definitely influence future eliminations." She let that hang for a moment.
"First, though," she said, her bright smile suddenly returning, "It's time to introduce you to the five judges who will decide how long you survive on America's Next Top Model! First—" Rem stood, towering over the table and the other judges "—we have Rem, internationally renowned Parisian fashion designer and pivotal industry player." Rem's expression did not change. She sat, her blue dreadlocks swinging.
"Next: Watari, owner of the Wammy House Modeling Agency – the largest and highest in demand at any designers' show." Watari bowed, smiling genially and giving L, Mello, Matt, and Near a little wave.
"I am Tyra Banks, former Covergirl model and host of the Tyra Show… and beside me is Ryuk, rivaling Rem for designing fame." Everyone who had not noticed it before was struck by how different the two designers' styles were, and at the same time confused by the similarities in the tight-fitting clothes and metal highlights. Ryuk grinned, waved, and sat, pulling an apple from his pocket and attacking it with devilish satisfaction.
"And finally, we have Mogi – former Yagami Agency swimsuit model." Mogi simply nodded. There was a brief awkward silence.
Tyra rescued the mood. "…Okay! Time for evaluations," she said. "You will all leave the room and come in as we call your names one at a time."
The models waited for the appropriate tense pause following these words to end and filed out into the adjoining studio room. Misa began to hyperventilate again. Matt rolled his eyes, though no one could tell under his goggles.
The door to the judges' room closed behind them, and as though a horde of mousse-eating spiders had dropped from the ceiling, every model's hands jumped to their hair simultaneously. All except L and Near pulled hand mirrors and makeup kits from mysteriously deep pockets and began frantically primping in the last seconds before the first name was called.
It was not long in coming. Less than a minute later, the set director poked his head into the room. "Mello!" he whispered. "You're up first!"
The nine parted silently to let Mello through. His face was set in a look of grim determination – he would own this evaluation or die trying. L gave him a nod as he passed. Matt grabbed his shoulders right before he stepped through the door, gave him a quick once-over and a thumbs up, and pushed him forward.
Flushing slightly but encouraged nonetheless, Mello straightened his back and walked into the judges' room.
He could feel their eyes on him the instant he appeared from behind the curtain, and he shifted his walk to a confident strut, liking the authoritative sound the heels of his black boots made on the low catwalk. He stopped only a few feet in front of the judges' table and looked Tyra boldly in the eye.
She stared him up and down, unfazed by his almost-glare. "So," she said. "Mello. You're with the Wammy House, as I recall?" Mello nodded. "Hm. I like the pants – very attention-grabbing. But your whole scheme is a little monochromatic."
"I don't know," Ryuk said, chuckling. "He makes black look good. Honestly, could you see this guy in white?"
"I could," Rem said. "White and red would suit him well. His hair is just dark enough to take it."
Mello wished he could tell them why he would never willingly let white touch his body. He wished he could impress upon him the disgusting crawly feeling the very thought of the color sent up his back. Wearing white would make it feel like he was touching him. He repressed a shudder where he stood and said nothing.
"Hm… take off the gloves," Watari advised. "They make you look impersonal." Mello pulled them off and stuffed them in his pocket. "And please tell me, do you ever accessorize beyond that rosary?"
Mello shook his head. "No. I don't need to."
Ryuk fell back in his chair laughing, his wide mouth seeming to fill the entire lower half of his face. "Would you listen to this kid! Doesn't need to accessorize… we're gonna have a field day with this one!" He calmed himself, sat up, and tossed Mello a silver chain off of the collection swinging at his hips. "You've gotta accessorize, kid. Wear that as a belt. I'm having trouble seeing where your legs begin."
Grudgingly, Mello looped the chain around his narrow hips. Tyra nodded.
"Much better. Recommendations: Get a new color into your wardrobe. Accessorize. And I'm telling you this now: You will have to wear white during this competition. Suck it up or go home."
Obviously he hadn't been able to conceal his look of revulsion as well as he'd thought he had. He nodded and forced out a "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."
"Please leave through the door to the left and wait there for the rest of the evaluations to end," Tyra said. "The rest will join you when they're through."
Mello walked out the door she had indicated and found himself in another adjoining studio room – but this one was set up with a television and speakers, both hooked up to the judges' room. On the screen, Near shuffled into the room, one finger entwined in his pale curls, still in his sock feet, and stopped before the judges' table.
Mello could not believe his luck. He would be able to see every single other model's evaluation, and not a single one had been able to see his. A grin to rival Light's spread across his face. He threw himself into one of the couches lining the small room and watched the television with greedy eyes. They'll flay him. They'll roast him alive. They said I was monochromatic – at least my hair's a different color from my clothes! And at least I look like I know what a gym is—
"I've never seen anyone pull off white like this. Have you, Rem?" Tyra said. Mello's jaw dropped.
"It's incredible," Rem said, a hint of emotion in her voice for the first time since he'd heard it. "We can't ever make him wear black. He'll have to wear white for every shoot. I just… I don't think I could bear to see him in anything else." The other judges nodded their agreement.
"I never saw a better to guy to wear your stuff, Rem," Ryuk said. "And I think he's the first guy I wouldn't care to see in mine."
Mello did not notice the gouges his fingernails were tearing in the upholstery of the couch.
"The lack of accessories is bold," Watari said. "A definite statement. And his face is so high-fashion."
"Almost angelic," Tyra agreed. "It's not often that such a round face shape is that well-suited to high fashion."
The sound of Mello's labored breathing was almost audible from where Near stood, impassive, still with his finger in his hair. "He slouches!" Mello bellowed at the screen. "He fucking slouches! He's ten pounds overweight! He wouldn't know silver from cubic zirconium! He washes his hair with fucking V05! How can you call him a model?"
But none of the judges heard him. Rather, they dealt him a final, crushing blow. Mogi spoke up.
"Great," he said.
Mello buried his face in his hands and screamed.