[backdated to spring, 2016, not long after the boys talk about hiring household staff]
They interview Petra first and sure enough, Luke's first impressions are confirmed. She's attractive but not hot and definitely not his husband's type, her 'curviness' a huge plus in his books. "You understand we'd be looking for someone to be at our beck and call? Travel with us at a moment's notice, cook for us and the children, live in their own places here in L.A. and either with us or nearby when we travel for work or for pleasure?"
Petra smiles. "Honestly? It sounds like a dream job to me. My mother passed away last year and although I nannied before that, I took care of her for the last three years and put my life on hold while I did that. I speak several languages but I haven't really had a chance to travel and I'd love to get to use them and explore other countries and I adore kids. And cooking," she adds quickly, her smiling widening.
Alex nods acknowledgement of all she's just said. "I'm sorry to hear about your mother. That's really rough." He glances down at her professional profile, looking for a new topic. He's never been good with that forced intimacy sort of thing, particularly not with strangers. "Your application says that you have experience taking care of twins?" he asks, and right on cue Rhys whimpers. The particular sound tells Alex's conditioned ear that he's waking up but really isn't ready for it yet. Scooping him up from his bouncy seat, Alex hugs the baby to his chest to soothe him.
Luke smiles watching his husband with their son and he's happy to see a smile on Petra's face as well.
"I do," she says. "My younger sisters are twins and I took care of them when I was a teenager and then right out of school, I took care of a pair of fraternal twins – girl and boy – from birth until they entered kindergarten, at which time their mom had another baby and decided to stay home."
"That's good." They've written down a whole list of questions to possibly ask the would-be nannies, but before they get into the nitty-gritty of 2 a.m. synchronized feedings, Alex wants to make sure they're all on the same page. "Our privacy is incredibly important to us. Luke and I choose to be public figures sometimes, and it's part of our careers. But we don't want it touching our kids." He eyes Petra, trying to see through the surface and really gauge her character. "For anyone who works for us, we expect absolute discretion."
"Of course," Petra assures them, nodding. "I can't stand the paparazzi. Just because you're actors and famous doesn't mean you've given up the right to a private life and I've signed all the club papers. I worked as a bartender at the LA locations while I was in school." She blushes slightly then, lowering her voice even though they have the room to themselves. "I'm not – I'm straight, and vanilla, mostly, but I'm used to seeing everything and I'd be completely supportive of your lifestyle."
"And you know what that is?" Luke asks.
Petra nods, glancing around quickly to make sure they're completely alone. "You're in a D/s relationship. You're collared and Mr. Skarsgard is your dominant."
It strikes Alex as weird to hear their relationship described in such bald terms. Still, she's not wrong. "Perceptive," he murmurs to his husband, and takes Luke's hand.
"So, a hypothetical situation: if Rhys has eaten and burped and he's clean but he won't stop crying and you don't know why, and you've been holding him and singing for an hour already, and now Kaja decides it's her turn to get your full attention...?"
* * *
"I like her," Luke says when they've finished with Petra. "She sounds like she knows what she's doing, she's actually eager to travel, she never stopped smiling at Rhys and Kaja and she cooks." He announces the last with a wide grin, eyes sparkling. He loves cooking for his family but if he's too tired or busy with work, they default to take-out and he doesn't want to be doing that when the twins start on solid food.
"Also straight and vanilla, but I guess those aren't qualities we're hiring on anyway, huh?" Alex frowns. "Although, if she works for us then she'll develop a reputation as a fag hag. Fuckin' christ," he says, slapping a hand over his eyes. "Sorry. I don't know where that just came from."
"She's not hanging out with us," Luke points out, leaning in to nudge his shoulder against Alex's. "She's taking care of our children. I think she'll be okay."
"Yeah, you're right. Sorry," Alex murmurs, embracing Luke and dropping his head to his shoulder. "Last night kinda did me in. Aren't they supposed to start sleeping for longer stretches at some point?"
Luke laughs. "They already have." He grins and kisses the top of Alex's head. "You mean you didn't appreciate that extra hour of sleep they've slowly given us over the last month?"
"Would've appreciated it if I'd noticed it." The words are a smeared mumble against Luke's shirt. "Can't we just tell... someone to hire Petra and somebody else just like her, and you and me can knock off and go to bed?"
"Um." A waitress softly clears her throat, standing at the entrance to the private dining room they've hired for interviews. "There's a Mr. Branson here to see you."
"Elijah, right," Alex murmurs, letting go. "Can I have another coffee, please?" he asks the waitress, taking his seat again.
Elijah's much more attractive in person but he's still not Alex's type and still not what Luke would term hot. "We're interested in having two nannies," Luke explains, "so we can give you both time off but make sure we have the coverage we need. Would you be okay with that arrangement? Having to coordinate with another nanny and work together?"
His first instinct is just to jump on it and agree, but Elijah's been around a little too long to let himself roll with that first instinct. "The other nanny and I," he says scrawling on a notepad as he speaks, "between us, would we be covering 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?"
"Fuck, no." Alex raises an eyebrow. He's heard a shitload of horror stories about how people treat their nannies, sure, but he still can't imagine being that person. Nor Luke. "No. We've got specific terms typed up here," he opens a folder and pulls out a couple of stapled pages, "but you'd get a full 24 off in a row each week, at least, and then afternoons and mornings here and there, depending on what our work schedules are like." He glances at his husband with a little smile. "Luke and I aren't looking for other people to raise our kids. What we do want is people who will care for our twins and keep them happy and safe, and who are flexible and willing to fit their work hours into our craziness."
Luke nods. "You'll also be given vacation time each year, benefits, sick days, but in return, we expect real willingness to work with our schedules and travel, cook, deal with, as Alex said, our craziness," he says. "We want people who really love kids and want to be there to support us in parenting the twins. If we were looking for full-time care, we wouldn't have waited this long."
"Yeah, no shit. We could have spared ourselves a lot of sleepless nights," Alex groans, and nods his thanks to the young man who brings his fresh cup. Liberally spooning sugar into his coffee, he glances at Elijah's profile again. "And I see you've got a five-year Citadel membership; whenever time's up on that, we'd comp it on an ongoing basis." And if he and Luke mess up and leave a non-disclosure stone unturned, he has no doubt that Cit won't make the same mistake. "What other questions do you have for us?"
Elijah draws his pen down his page of notes, tapping each point they've covered. "When would this start?"
"We both have a lot of publicity events coming up for movies we've already finished and then Alex is starting a new series," Luke says. "We'd like to make our final hiring decisions in the next few days and then have both nannies join us at our house in B.C. to get things settled before we're on the move."
Adding that detail to his paper, Elijah nods. "I should be able to do that."
* * *
"All right, your cell is the best number to reach you? We should be getting in touch in a few days. Thanks for coming out," Alex says, giving one last wave before he heads back into the dining room. "We're done now, right? Please tell me we got through everyone we wanted to see." His tired expression dissolves into a smile as he takes Kaja from his husband's arms. "Hey, beautiful girl," he coos, raising her up so she's got a better view of the room – not that she's old enough to care. "Can you smile for Papa?"
"Careful, she might barf on you," Luke warns, Kaja only having just finished her bottle. "And no, we're not done. One more. Madison." He glances at his watch and a sleeping Rhys. "Should I wake him for a bottle or wait until we've finished with her?"
"Nah, I hate waking them up on purpose. And I'm so tired of everybody putting in their two cents about getting them on a synchronized schedule. Fuck's sake, that's stress we don't need." Alex puts Kaja to his shoulder. God, he loves the feeling of his babies snuggled up against him. "Madison. Were you there for her first interview? Because I don't think I remember her."
Luke shakes his head. "The agency recommended her. Her resume looks good. She has lots of experience with multiples," he glances at her sheet. "Says four years with quads, so I expect she'd handle twins with ease."
"Quads? Jesus." Alex strokes Kaja's downy hair, scarce as it is. "I think then we really would need people 24/7. Does she have infant experience in particular?" he asks, leaning in to check out the resumé over his husband's shoulder. "I want to make sure whoever we hire isn't just going to put them in their bouncy seats and leave them there." And god, the uncertainty inherent in relying on someone not-them to care for the kids is already freaking him out.
"Speaking of which, I was looking at nannycams," Luke says, pointing out that Madison's resumé includes lots of experience with a variety of ages. "We might want to consider installing something at the lake at least. If they're 'behaving' there," he crooks his fingers, not sure the word's quite the one he wants, "I'm sure they'd be fine elsewhere. Plus we can probably count on them to police each other a little."
"Okay, yeah." Alex blows out a breath, shaking his head. "I fucking hate this," he murmurs, dropping back into his chair next to Luke. "I've been reading up on how to hire a nanny, and then how to make sure there's a good working relationship, and– Shit. I keep seeing all these articles about Shaken Baby Syndrome, and brain damage, and babies who simply don't get enough stimulation so they can develop right, and... I didn't even realize how scared we should have been, just when Elin was pregnant. But now it's worse."
"I know, and there's nothing to do about it," Luke agrees, "except be careful, choosy, protective without hovering..." He smiles at his husband. "It won't matter what age they are. We'll always feel like this."
"Fuck this shit, then," Alex decides, even as he nuzzles Kaja's soft cheek and gives the lie to his words.
Luke leans against him. "It's good you're concerned. It makes you a good dad," he tells his husband. "And I don't think anyone's going to look at you and ever think they could get away with hurting our babies."
Alex smiles adoringly at his husband and leans in closer. The ensuing kiss feels full of promise, like it could actually go somewhere, and that's something they've been missing out on but–
"Your last appointment is here."
Looking up, Alex nods at the unfamiliar woman standing in the entryway, having apparently been escorted there by a waiter and then abandoned to meet her fate. "Hi. Madison, is it?" he asks, getting to his feet and shifting Kaja to his shoulder then holding out his hand.
"Right." She smiles at him, shaking a fall of long dark hair away from her face. "You're Alex, is that correct?"
"Yep." He guides her into the dining room and to a chair. "This is my husband, Luke. This is Kaja, and that little troublemaker," he nods towards one of the bouncy seats, "is our son, Rhys." He takes his seat once more, watching in approval as she immediately goes to meet Rhys as he wakes, playing with him and cooing for a moment before she stands and looks at Kaja.
"May I?" she asks, holding out her hands.
"Yeah, absolutely." To Alex's mind, it's the perfect introduction: Madison seems warm and completely ready to adore the babies, plus there's all that experience on her resumé. He raises an eyebrow at his husband.
Luke gives a light shrug in response. So far so good. He goes over some of the information in her resumé with her, asks about working with another nanny, and her experience with multiples. "And you're happy to travel as needed and cook for us when you're working?"
"Very happy to do so, yes," she answers with a smile. "My last family had a little one with celiac, so I have experience tailoring a menu to specific dietary restrictions also. Just tell me what your needs are and I'll take care of it."
"So far we're good there," Alex replies, skimming her papers again. "There's some other stuff we want to ask you about, but first: do you have any questions for us? Are there any particular details of the job you're wondering about, or whatever?"
Madison smiles. "I like everything I've heard so far about the job," she says, gently rubbing Kaja's back. "And I guess you're only hiring women?"
"Women?" Glancing up, Alex narrows his eyes in curiosity. "Um, we haven't made any final decisions or offers yet, but we're interviewing qualified men also. Do you feel like you couldn't work smoothly with a man?"
"Oh, no. It's not that," she says, dismissing the question with a wave of her hand. "I get along with everybody. I'm just assuming that you want to have a woman in your home."
Confused now, Alex looks at his husband in the hopes Luke will clue him in.
Luke shakes his head. He doesn't get what she's saying either. "Actually, one of our top candidates right now is a man. We don't care either way as long as the person is qualified and we get a good feeling from them about taking care of our children." But watching her as he speaks, it slowly dawns on him... "You mean because we're a two-father household?"
"Exactly," she agrees with a beaming smile for Luke. "A mother can never take the place of an absent father. It's so critical for a child to have that strong male figure in their life, we all know the importance of that. But of course, two fathers don't equal a mother, either." Madison positively twinkles at them, looking happy at this apparent meeting of the minds.
Alex stares hard at her for long silent moments. Then he gets to his feet and holds out his arms for Kaja. "Give me back my baby," he orders. She does so, a perplexed look on her face. "Thanks for taking the time to come interview. I think we've got all the information we need."
"We'll let you know," Luke says with a tight smile, surprisingly more tired than mad at her attitude. She packs up and leaves, obviously clueless at what she'd done or said wrong but he can't be bothered to enlighten her and he just leans in and kisses Alex's cheek and the top of Kaja's head when she's gone. Maybe his own parents have set the bar too high for him to shocked or affronted. "I like Petra and Elijah."
"Yeah. We should try them as a team." Alex is still glaring at the archway Madison exited through, as if his eyes can bore into stone and destroy her. He cradles Kaja protectively, cold fury rushing in his veins. "Is she motherfucking kidding with that shit? What is that anyway, like, she's okay with gay people just so long as they don't try to have families?"
"I have a feeling she'd be the same way about single-parent families too." Luke rolls his eyes. "As in the only proper family has a man and a woman involved somehow."
An angry growl rumbles in the back of Alex's throat. But when Kaja begins to fuss, he realizes she's probably just picking up on what he's projecting – so he forces himself down off the clock tower with a last mutter of "Goddamn Dolce and Gabbana bitch," then kisses his baby girl. "You're ready to bust out of here, yeah?" he asks Luke quietly, settling Kaja into her carrier. "Need anything from the sinful den of opulence before we head home?"
"No, I think we're good," Luke says, doing the same for Rhys who's gone back to sleep. He smiles over at his husband. "I'm ready to go home."
"All right." But Alex makes no move to leave just yet. He crosses to his husband, threading his fingers through Luke's hair. "Do you know I'm completely crazy about you?"
"I know you're crazy," Luke teases, smiling, trusting he can get away with it at this moment.
Alex gives him a wry look, his eyes dancing. "It's a start."