Melissa de la Cruz and Giacomo Puccini own everything.
They were born on the worst day in Charles Force's 10,000+ years of living. When she came to him and said they were married, he thought his life would end. But this, this was much worse. Because, as she had proved so finely when she left him, marriage vows could be broken. And for the past two years he had held on to the hope that she would see the error in her ways and come back to him. Even as he watched impassively when she kissed Stephen. Even when he bowed to the will of the Coven and agreed to marry Trinity Burden, a fellow Blue Blood he barely knew and cared nothing for. Even when Trinity came to him seven months ago and told him that the tests were positive and she was pregnant. Even when three months ago at the same party that had made him a member of the Mayor's personal advisory staff she had come up to him and congratulated him on the impending birth of his son and daughter.
But this. This he could not take, for this ended all hope. He was tired beyond belief, his hair and suit rumpled from sitting up all night in the hospital with Trinity. Eighteen hours they had been there before she at last went into the final stages of labor. It figured that the Angels of Death and Destruction could not come quietly into the world. He was sitting in the ridiculous pastel waiting room in the maternity room of the hospital and thinking vaguely about having someone sacked for painting the room that particularly noxious shade of yellow; passing the time as he waited for the doctors to allow him back into the hospital nursery to see two babies he did not want and knew he would not love.
And then she came out. He was surprised but happy to see her at first, for he did not think she would be present at an event that should have been shared between the two of them instead of himself and the stranger who called herself his wife. "Thank you for coming." He said, rising quickly to his feet and coming forward to take her hand, greedily wanting those few seconds of physical contact no matter how brief or platonic they might be.
She looked puzzled for a moment, and a part of him knew then. But it wasn't until she spoke the words that he felt his world shatter. "Oh, Trinity went in to labor, did she? Have the babies been born yet?" Her words were too casual, and her tone too light. She backed away from him quickly, trying to walk around him.
"Why are you here?" He asked, his voice unnaturally harsh and clipped.
"I…" She stuttered, looking away from him, and he knew then because her hand reached down to cover her belly protectively, but he had to hear her say the words, refused to believe it until she said it.
"Why are you here, Allegra?" He asked, and now his voice was frighteningly calm and collected. He was scaring her, he could tell, but the small part of him that felt guilty was beaten down by the larger part of him that savagely said she deserved it.
"I…that is, Stephen and I--" He hated that name, so common and so human. "We…I found out today that I'm pregnant." She said, forcing the words out. He stared at her for a moment, frozen, then slowly released her hand and backed away from her. "Charles, please," she pleaded, trying to catch his hand. "Don't be like this, please don't. Don't hate me, Micha--" He roared with fury before she could say that name, and she turned and hurried out, tears falling from her eyes. He stood for several moments staring after her, his mind in a free fall, unable to process what he had just heard.
"Mr. van Alen?" The voice startled him and he whirled around to see an elderly nurse staring at him, clearly worried about his sanity. "The babies have been fed and cleaned, and your wife's asleep. Would you like to meet your children?" He wanted to shout that no, he would not like to meet his babies, in fact he would never like to see another baby again, but instead he nodded mutely and followed the nurse down the hall.
There was a large nursery that held all the newborns, probably more than 500 on any given day in such a large city as New York, but a separate room had been set aside for Charles and Trinity van Alen's private use. Charles walked in and looked pointedly at the two nurses until they scampered out the door, giving him a nasty look. It was against hospital policy to leave newborns alone without a member of the hospital staff present, but for the van Alens rules meant very little.
Charles barely spared Trinity a glance, looking impassively at her as she slumbered before walking over to the miniature crib that held his son and daughter. He peered down at them, and instead of the swell of fatherly pride he knew he should be feeling he wanted nothing so much as to throw them out the window. One of the babies stirred and opened its mouth, waving tiny fists in the air as its eyes blinked rapidly. He smiled before he caught himself. Of course his child would be a fighter. The movements of the first baby disturbed the second one, and it too opened its eyes, but simply stared at him in curiosity and passive interest. Although he told himself he didn't really want to know, he looked at the chart attached to the crib and learned that the first child was his son, and the second his daughter.
He looked at them and thought that as this age they were impossible to tell apart, both having the same soft blonde tufts of hair, small round faces with dimpled cheeks, and blue eyes streaked with green that Charles knew would soon turn completely green. They were incredibly helpless, Charles realized, and he almost laughed at the idea of two of the most dangerous Fallen Angels of all time being considered helpless. He continued to look at them, watching as the little boy continued to wave his fists and wiggle as best he could in the narrow confines of the crib and the girl continued to examine everything with a wide-eyed inquisitiveness.
Some of his earlier anger returned as he realized that all too soon another child would be brought into the world, ending any hope of his and Allegra's reunion. "It's partially your fault, you know," he told his son, glaring down at the tiny child. "If you didn't keep chasing after her like a love-sick puppy, maybe she wouldn't be tempted to run astray." He raised his hand over the boy, unsure if he wanted to hit him or stroke him, when a tiny fist shot out and closed around one of his fingers. He turned his head slightly in surprise to look at his daughter, who continued to maintain her iron grip on his finger, matching him stare for stare with her clear blue-green eyes.
"Why does it matter to you?" He asked her with a sigh. "You've suffered from his infidelities even more than I." She gave no reply but pulled his finger towards her face, looking disgruntled when she couldn't fit it in her mouth. He laughed lightly at that and his dark mood passed. He bent down and carefully lifted her into his arms, mindful of her head. She was so tiny he could hold her in one arm, but he used two as he gently rocked her back and forth. A part of him knew that he was trying to punish Abaddon by taking her away like Allegra had been taken by him, but his son did not seem to mind, only took advantage of the extra space to bang his fist on the crib. Thinking about Abaddon made him realize that he didn't know what they were called, at least in this lifetime, but when he bent while awkwardly holding the baby to look at the clipboard he realized the lines for their names were left blank.
"I've decided to call the boy Benjamin." He straightened quickly and almost dropped the baby as he spun to look at his suddenly awake wife. He re-adjusted his grip on his daughter, holding her more firmly so she wouldn't tumble out of his arms. "That was my father's name before he passed on in this cycle." He continued to stare at her, and her face grew worried. "I hope that's alright. We can call him something else if—"
"No, no, Benjamin's fine," he said, trying to regain his equilibrium. "Do you have a name for the girl yet?" She shook her head.
"No, I thought you might want to name her." The clear implication was that Trinity thought he might want to name his daughter Allegra or even Gabrielle, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind he savagely beat it away.
"Thank you. I'd like that very much." He did want to honor his sister or at least their bond in some way, but he did not think he would be able to stand having a constant reminder of her every single day in the form of a child who cared her name. So what else about Gabrielle could he use? Something that reminded him of her, something that made both of them happy, but something so subtle no one would guess his intent. He hummed a few bars of music to his daughter, and it came to him in a flash.
A memory hit him, a memory of a previous lifetime, less than 100 years ago. At Allegra's—then called Christiana—insistence, they'd gone to the theater while in Florence to see a new opera by well-known but little liked composer Giacomo Puccini. The opera was creating a stir, for it was not a lofty tale of princesses and knights and goddesses and heroes as operas traditionally were, but a contemporary tale, one of the only of its kind, which was set in the poor district of Bohemia. The characters were all painters and musicians, poor artists whose lives could not have been more different from the supercilious patrons who came to see their story performed.
To his surprise, Charles had not only liked the opera but found himself moved to tears as the curtain fell on the final act. Allegra, on the other hand, had been completely inconsolable and had cried the entire way back to the hotel in the cab. "It's just so beautiful," she kept saying. "He wrote his poetry for her but she could only hear it once before she died." For the next week she murmured the words of the final duet to herself and saw the opera six more times until she had the entire thing memorized. He would never forget her delight when, on their sixteenth birthday in this lifetime he had presented her with a record of her favorite opera, La Boheme.
"Ah, Mimi, mia bella Mimi. Amo Mimi, savra ogni cosa al mondo, il l'amo." Charles sang softly to the little girl in his arms, and he smiled sadly at her. "Do you know what that means, angel? In English Rodolfo is saying 'Mimi, my beautiful Mimi. I love Mimi, more than anything in the world I love her.'" That, he thought, would be a perfect way honor Allegra without revealing his intent. But he paused. Mimi was a common name, a name not fit for the Regis's daughter. And yet he wanted to name his child after Allegra's favorite character from the opera she loved more than anything.
"Madeleine." He said, trying out the name. That could be the name on her birth certificate, the name given when she was introduced to the Coven, but in his mind she would always be Mimi.
"That's a pretty name." Trinity murmured sleepily, and he turned to her. "We can come up with nicknames for both of them later." Charles nodded, content. He knew he would have no issue convincing Trinity to allow him to bestow a nickname on their daughter.
At that moment, the nurse came back into the room and walked briskly over to Charles, removing the baby from his arms. "Now stop that, you." She said to Benjamin, who had lain in the crib throughout the entire process, forgotten, not realizing or caring what important thoughts were running through his father's head. He started to cry in protest when the nurse wrapped his arms back in his blanket, but was cut short by a pacifier shoved in his mouth. He looked very surprised for a second, then sucked on it contentedly as he turned to look with interest at his sister who was laid next to him. "Have you decided on names yet?" the nurse asked them.
"Yes." Trinity said. "Our son will be called Benjamin Abaddon, and our daughter Madeleine Azrael." It was another ancient Blue Blood tradition that while a person's first and last name might change every lifetime, their middle name always remained as their true Angelic Name, as a reminder of where they came from. The nurse gave them an odd look as she registered the middle names, but knew better than to comment.
"Born at 6:24 and 6:31 respectively, on the evening of November the twenty ninth, 1985. Madeleine Azrael and Benjamin Abaddon van Alen—"
"No." Charles said sharply, stopping the nurse in the middle of writing down the children's names. He would never forget this day, a day of some of the best and definitively the worst memories of his life. He had to separate himself from her, somehow. He had to force it out of his mind, force himself to forget, force himself to move on. "Not van Alen. Force."
"Excuse me?" the nurse asked, looking from the surprised expression on Trinity's face to the resigned and bitter one on Charles'. "Are you not the father of the children?"
"I am. And I recently applied for a name change. My and my wife's last name is Force." Trinity was staring at him but dared not say anything as the nurse carefully crossed out what she'd started to write and began writing the names again.
"Madeleine Azrael Force and Benjamin Abaddon Force. Is that right?" Charles nodded tersely, and quickly turned away. The nurse wrote down the names then turned and walked briskly out of the room, taking the clipboard with her.
"Charles—" Trinity began hesitantly, but he turned and stalked out of the room, ignoring her and the babies. As he walked down the hall, her voice seemed to haunt him, singing the same words again and again.
"Mi chiamono Mimi, il perche non so. Il primo sole e mio. Il primo bacio dell'aprile e mio, che parlano d'amor, di primavera. Mi chiamono Mimi, il perche non so."
The next day, Charles van Alen walked into the mayor's office and quit his job, then quickly arranged for the mayor to be sacked. He began building up a media empire from the money he received from the former mayor to keep the scandals quiet. He called it Force News Network, and he used it to ruin the careers of anyone and everyone who knew of his former life. Charles van Alen, the kind, young, charismatic philanthropist and government worker was gone, and Charles Force, the cold, heartless and powerful media mogul was in his place.
That was my attempt to explain how and why Charles changed his name from van Alen to Force, and where the names Madeleine and especially Mimi came from. (It never made sense to me that Mimi would be a nickname for Madeleine.) I don't have a good reason for Benjamin's (Jack's) name, if someone would like to write a companion piece to this fic explaining his name that would be wonderful.
I don't know what year the Force twins were born, although at one point in Masquerade Bliss finds a picture of Allegra dated 1982, but to me this seemed a little too early. I also made up their birthday.
The words Charles remembers Allegra singing translate to "They call me Mimi, I don't know why. The first sunshine is mine; the first kiss of April is mine, which speaks of love, of springtime. They call me Mimi, I don't know why." Those words come from the song Mi Chiamomo Mimi, while the earlier words come from the song Sono Andati? Fingevo di dormire. Both are from the opera La BohemeI played around with the order of the lyrics for my own purposes. For some thoughts on the characters of Mimi and Schuyler, check out the little blurb I placed in the second chapter. (This is a one shot story contained in one chapter; the second one is all my own thoughts. Check it out if you're interested.)