Okay, playing Mello is ... interesting, because Death Note gives us two time periods.
- Mello at age 14 (assumed, since he says he'll be fifteen soon), in the orphanage in Winchester, learning to become L and playing lessons.
- Mello at age 18 (or so), in Los Angeles, advisor to a mafia boss.
.... As you can see, this is something of a skip! To do this in more detail, then, to explain Mello's little personal timeline:
Mello at Fourteen
- Mello is, as a child, raised in an orphanage. This is not an ordinary orphanage; it's an orphanage made for genius children and raises them teaching them the values necessary to gain the skills of the greatest detective of the world (the title "L"). Every child in the orphanage has a code name. Roger (the man who runs the orphanage) doesn't know their real names, so it's fair to assume that they don't either.
-----Other assumptions: Their education, while complete in some areas, would by necessity be awfully lacking in others. This isn't dealt with in the manga (it's not become relevant) but I imagine forensics, murder studies, etc were focussed on, while, say, pop culture got a bit of a skip except for what they picked up from the internet or from the times they left the orphanage, which I think it's fair to assume wasn't often. We DO know leisure time where the orphans were allowed to do as they wish happened -- We see Near staying in and doing puzzles, and Mello going out and playing.
- During this time period in the orphanage, Mello has two most notable overlapping areas:
1) He is one of the best students they have there. The only student better than him is Near, and it's pretty clear that however close he and Near were, he and Near were both FAR and away better than the other students, because when Roger called them to inform them that L had died (WHAT I SAID THERE'D BE SPOILERS), those two were the only ones he called into his office since they were the only two L would have been picking between. In other words, Mello is a super genius, basically.
2) Mello is extremely social. Both in this time period and in later (I'll get to that) we constantly see him surrounded by other people. In fact, one of his canon resentments is about how people abandon him for Near (who doesn't want them) whenever Near does better than him; we see him thinking about how hard he tries (working alone in a library) and how despite that Near does better and everyone flocks to him (Near getting his test results and surrounded by people, and Mello getting his and alone.)
------ Although Mello is extremely smart a) He's NOT the best, b) He's fourteen, so his brain is literally still developing. He's not at his full potential yet (and nor is Near).
------ Mello's socialite side can take strange forms. The first time we see him in the manga, he's just kicked a soccer ball at another kid's head (and clearly hit). However, although he's probably something of a bully/sadist, the other kid clearly isn't actually scared of him; his response is much more of a peeved "Oh, NOW you're gonna get it, Mello!" to which Mello laughs. From the character design, when we see him coming in from recess 20 days later, it looks like he's walking in with the same kid he kicked the soccer ball at, which... well, it hints at sadism/bully nature, but at the same time, I think it could also just be read as roughhousing, or the boy not taking it personally, or whatever.
- Mello is very emotional during this time period. Near (four years later, and looking back on him) describes him as someone who lets his emotions and impulses control him, and discards the most important things. This ... frankly, it matches his design. Mello in this time period is VULNERABLE. We see a lot of hurt and angry faces where there's little control in the expressions after L's death. Admittedly, it's hard to tell how it might have compared to before that news (We literally do not see Mello's face -- although we see Near's -- until after we hear of L's death; before that, all we see is shots that get the back of his head.) but in the course of a few pages he goes through screaming blarrgh to HUH WHUT DID YOU SAY to anger to hurt to shock to deep resentment, and ... yeah. Mello at this time feels a LOT.
- Mello also has a big complex where it relates to Near. He doesn't say more about it than, when Roger suggests that since L didn't pick an heir, they work together, "Roger, you know Near and I don't get along." But he looks back at Near as if Near were something that he'd scraped off his shoe. There's equal amounts fear and resentment and hate there. Since no more details are given and it's hinted at, it's fair to assume it's from the years and years and years of trying to become number one (since, well, their entire life goal is to become L) and failing constantly. Added to that, their personalities are types that, if they actually got along, would be very complementary, but when they don't get long, are horribly opposed. (Near, during this time period, is a withdrawn, anti-social quiet genius who doesn't show any emotions even when he gets the news of L's death.)
- Rather than work with Near (although Near agrees to) at Roger's behest, Mello says that Near is the one who should succeed L because "unlike me, Near is cool and objective" and although he seems quite calm when facing them, he turns away and has an expression of THE WORLD IS AGAINST ME. He also chooses to leave the orphanage then instead of waiting until he's 15 (at which point it's implied he'd be sent out. It's unclear whether or not the orphanage would set him up with work to use the skills he's developed or if he'd have to manage on his own; either way, he has no legal identity and likely no experience in the 'real world' -- just like any of the others when they reach 15. I presume the price of failing to become L and having to leave the orphanage really isn't a pleasant one, even if the orphanage DOES help the students out!)
- Note that Mello's fashion sense is still very Mello-y during this time period, but much more reasonable to a 14-year-old. Black shirts in a feminine cut, black jeans likewise, no shoes. XD
The Four Years Between
- These are never shown. They most I can do is draw conclusions from his life before and his life after.
- For two and a half years, we know nothing of what happened to him.
- The last year and a half, Mello's joined with a mafia group in LA as advisor to the boss and has "never been wrong" during that entire time with his advice.
- Even Near hasn't been able to track him in the meantime.
- Presumably, the missing period was spent trying to establish an identity for himself. It probably wasn't very pleasant.
Mello at Eighteen
- ...is very different while very similar.
- At eighteen, Mello has probably found religion (if he hadn't had it before in the orphanage; since we only have two chapters where we see them in the orphanage, it's hard to say); he wears a cross or two and while this could be decoration, we also see him sitting in a room at one point with a cross hanging on the wall behind him. The imagry is associated enough with him and nobody else that it's probably fair to assume he's catholic.
- Mello loooves chocolate. Admittedly, there's hints he probably liked it in the orphanage (I cannot make this shit up, but Near identifies him on the phone through secondhand reports because of the sound of someone eating a candy bar) but we never see him eating it in the orphanage while we simply don't see him without a chocolate bar here.
- Mello has control in all but name in the mafia group. Rod, the mafia boss, is quite clearly content to sit back and let Mello lead them to success through their dealings; when important phone calls come and so on, Rod just tells his men to pass it off to Mello.
- Mello wants two things: he wants to get revenge on Kira for killing L, and he wants to get revenge before anyone else (read: Near) can. "To become number one" he says (but like anything in Death Note you have to be cautious in assuming that's his only motivation, given as he says it aloud in front of Rod, who takes up the slack and agrees that, yeah, they can't be the number one crime group without the same tool Kira uses. But even if it's not his only motivation, he gets a psycho face when he says it, so! XD)
- Mello is, and this is probably the biggest difference, no longer soft and vulnerable -- at least where we can see it. Mello is ... frankly, he's terrifying.
--- Mello either feels no fear or is now incapable of showing it. When he sees a shinigami, he's startled, but not terrified. He immediately goes into calm mode, ellipsing a lot, and then thinks up a plan that can use the shinigami, rather than freaking out the way, well, everyone has so far. When he's faced with all his men dead and him cornered and everything he's worked for pretty much lost and someone standing there ready to write his real name into a Death Note and knowing what it is ... we see no fear then, either, just a calm sort of precision.
--- That said, Mello's not detatched from the events, and 'calm' isn't quite the right word, because he's utterly INTENSE. A lot of wide-eyed staring
- Mello is still surrounded by people, but clearly (to judge from his reactions to their deaths) has no emotional attachment to them.
- Mello is pretty damn sure that Raito is Kira. So is Near. That's not the point of this canon writeup, but I just figured I'd mention. Heh.
- Mello will work with the plans he have even if they seem almost absurd (ie, blackmailing the united states president, retreiving a death note through a hostage exchange and then sending it home on rocket, addicting a shinigami to chocolate (NO REALLY, I don't always have to hunt for crack in Death Note, it's there to start with!)) and most of the time, they'll work.
Where are you taking him from in the timeline?
- Mello and Near in CFUD are both taken from the time when they were in the orphanage, before they found out about L's death.
Why do Near and Mello get along, then?
- They didn't at first. Mello has been here two months (Exactly, in fact! He arrived on June 23, I believe!), and for the entire first month he and Near loathed each other. Neither wanted to work together. If Mello hung out around Near it was only because L was RIGHT THERE and he wanted to make a good impression on L before Near did.
So what changed?
- Our perceptions of the characters, I think. (Note that, ironically, NEITHER of us started out being particularly big on slash in Death Note, and both of us hadn't intended our RP to edge towards a Mello/Near relationship other than hate and rivalry *G!*) Rereading the chapters, I noticed that what Mello wants, almost as much as 'becoming #1', is acknowledgement of what he's capable of, and he wants it from the two people better than him. For L, this would be, well, being good enough that L would pick him as successor. For Near, this would be acknowledgement of his skills, etc. (Most of the first shows up in the orphanage, most of the latter shows up in mafia!Mello -- he doesn't want to kill Near, exactly, he wants to show Near he could do something Near couldn't). And because he wants acknowledgment, that means, on some level, he has to respect Near. He doesn't have to LIKE respecting Near, but it's the same reason in canon (I believe) that he said Near should succeed -- he knows, flat out, that Near is better than him at what they do, that Near is more suitable to becoming L.
- So then, Mello, with this hate-respect-wanting acknowledgement thing going on, is with Near and, even more, with L. And Near and Mello had started to play little mind games with each other -- prodding to try to make the other bare their emotional belly.
- At this point, I believe Near's player came to the conclusion that all along, Near had wanted to like Mello, and had a bit of a crush on Mello, but Mello's complexes were so out there and jarring that Near expressed his feelings through the emotional equivalent of shoving Mello off the emotional swingset. He LIKED making Mello remember he was better and seeing Mello lose it at him. It was FUN.
- Mello, in turn, HATED when Near could do that to him, but it was attention which was almost like acknowledgement, and any attention was better than nothing, and he wanted Near's attention ALL ON HIM and DAMMIT PAY ME ATTENTION NEAR and in other words, he wasn't exactly crushing but he wanted to be the biggest thing in Near's world.
- This spawned what I like to refer to as the Era of Retarded Flirting.
The Era of Retarded Flirting?
- Yeah, basically anything where they would flirt in the most ass-backward methods EVER (because, thanks to it being entirely a sadist-victim crush going on at this point, neither could admit to any positive feelings going on there (not that there were many to start with, heh)). There were a bunch of these. For example:
- Any time Near went out of his way to cut Mello down.
- Any time Mello got so angry with Near to keyboard mash.
- Nearly incomprehensible dialogue based on free association with things one or the other had said earlier. Ie, with the anon meme, Near had anonymously said to Mello: "You don't know what you do to me." On the tail end of the Era of Retarded Flirting (after the event that ended it, but it didn't end suddenly, it trailed off), Near made the mistake of crazyfacing at Mello for the first time (I think this was a day or two after the anon meme) and Mello was like, "Oh, wow, your face." "Hmm. My apologies." "I didn't tell you to stop." "Shouldn't I, then?" "That depends what the result you want is." "Why, what is the result?" "You don't know."
...which is a reference back, as I said, to the anon meme, and meant "You don't know what you do to me" but was essentially incomprehensible because they're losers. (or, to quote kid!Near from the shoutea incident, "You're just a loser. Only that has an L in it, so you're not even that. You're just an oser.")
- Anything where they flirt by quoting connotative lines of poetry at each other.
- Striketags like WHOA.
I notice they still do the last, but their dialogue is a lot more comprehensible now, and they don't striketag as much! What brought the era of retarded flirting to an end?
- L did, basically. He exposed one of their games. (On the anon meme, Near and Mello both pretended to be anons with crushes on each other, then commented with their normal journals to mock the 'anon' for liking the other. Ie:
Near anonymous: "Lol I have a crush on Mello lol rofflecopters."
Near as himself: "Pfft, I see you have someone of your own intelligence crushing on you, Mello."
Mello anonymos: "um i like relly smart guyz so i kinda like you near."
Mello as himself: "Gosh, you're so lucky, Near!"
...really, retarded flirting.)
- Anyway, L made a post which revealed to the ENTIRE CAMP that they'd been doing this, and Near cringed into a little ball of shame and horror and Mello got mad and stood up to L for the first time in his life (thus starting a trend L probably regretted later XD) and eventually it all got sorted out and they both refused to hate L like L was hoping for.
- but here's where it all changed from the canon hate-look at me relationship, basically, because they were no longer able to keep it on a strictly 'Unpleasant Mindgames' note because everyone knew.
This had a lot of fallout, didn't it?
- regular beatings, fighting, falling back into pure hatred, and occassionally attempting to kill each other, yeah.
- Also, on Mello's side, a LOT of impatience, because although he didn't LIKE Near knowing he sort of liked Near maybe a little, he was more in touch with his feelings than Near himself was, and, well.
- On the upside, they were able to let it blossom into actual physical lust instead of keeping it emotionally scarring attacks.
- Really, that whole event where Near beat Mello into unconsciousness and Mello shot Near? Came of this coming out before they were ready. Because, well, as the one who got emotionally beat on more, Mello didn't LIKE the change but was also a little relieved at the same time, and when, after Zimmy Sue, Near began to throw up all those emotional walls and LOLZ EXCLUDE HIM AGAIN, Mello attempted to tear down the walls by force and gave Near an excuse to lay into him.
- Then, after that fact, Near thought L didn't want him around and goaded Mello, using all their old hot buttons, into shooting him.*
* And yeah, Mello liked it.
- Enter Chisame and Ban's relationship to them shifting, and also, dramatic confessions of crushes by quoting Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Because they are retarded losers. (Or, perhaps, just osers.)
Okay, so after that, it sort of settled into a more regular, if disturbingly murder-focussed, sexual relationship?
- Pretty much. Both get turned on by the thought of shooting the other in the face. Both don't want the other to die unless it's them killing them. They're not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. But they're not as mentally abusive.
- Theyr'e still pretty damn abusive, though. Tiny abusive boyfriends, we called them durign the era of retarded flirting. And also, "S&M without a safeword". They haven't changed that much in the last month, heh.
- But yeah, the beating up and shooting got a lot of tension out, and then (after Mello's face stopped swelling up so much and he could use his mouth again) the making out started focussing that energy.
- Anything else, see my canon writeups on behaviour, as it sort of explains that Mello does, yeah, love Near, but he also still hates his guts on other levels, it just doesn't come out except under really precise circumstances. Because frankly, people don't change that much that quickly.
So why did L's death go so differently?
- Frankly, sourcing.
1) He was there to see it. 'zomg L didn't pick either of us' wasn't as huge on his mind.
2) Thanks to L's in-game actions earlier, he was at a slightly better place with Near than before, but depending on how things had gone, it COULD have swung right back to the way things had been. (ie, if Near had pointed out that privately, L HAD actually picked him as successor before Mello arrived. This happened in game. Mello doesn't know about it. I expect, at this point, Mello never will, because L never mentioned it and Near chose not to at the one time he really could have).
3) It wasn't Roger -- a third party -- who suggested they work together and become L, it was Mello and Near themselves, based on camp needs.
- Had it been, say, Ban suggesting it (not that he would have)? Shit would have fallen apart. But because of the immediacy, because of the way camp has changed them (within boundaries) and because of the fact it was their decision rather than the decision of a third party who, frankly, made it seem a little like a consolation prize in canon, they agreed to.
Okay, I think I'm running out of things to say, but although you're playing Mello from early on, you mentioned the later canon. Why?
- Well, we see so much MORE of that Mello.
- So, uh, I'm sort of trying to assume that this is the first time really OUT of the orphanage, and, as a result, he's doing some of his growing up. The fighting zombies, etc, helps.
- Basically, I'm trying to write a Mello who didn't go through L's death in the same circumstances, who left the orphanage under VERY different circumstances, and who is the person he was when younger, but who has a chance of becoming the person we see in canon when he's older. Hence the sadistic edge, the slow calming-down and way he's starting to develop a fearlessness, etc. I hope it's working.
If you have any other questions, please drop them in the comments, I'm always happy to ramble about character!