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Derek wakes up sandwiched between a blaring alarm clock and an undignified browser history. Fuck, he stayed up way too late again. He silences the alarm, squinting at the screen of the laptop he left open next to him last night. It reads:

Hotttest Spanking Videos an ass u will not beleive
gay spanking porn - Google Search
Destitute Daddy
Destitute Daddy: Just shut up and do what I tell you, okay?
how to not die miserable broke and single - Google Search
Cookie Clicker

Jesus Christ. Derek wipes the history, which is what he was clearly attempting to do when the post-orgasm sleep magic kicked in, and throws an arm over his eyes.

He’s got to stop letting himself stay awake until three in the morning. He never does anything after midnight besides play stupid pointless games and watch terrible porn. What the hell kind of porn name is “Destitute Daddy,” anyway? Out of morbid curiosity, Derek grabs the computer again and types it into the search bar, because revisiting last night’s poor life decisions is always a stellar plan.

It’s not porn. It’s a local blog about budgeting or something. Derek remembers now: he found it because he was freaked out by the staff cuts rumored to be coming today. He’s pretty sure he didn’t notice the porny title last night when he was skimming through tips about interest rates on savings accounts and how to buy a used car without getting screwed over. At least, he didn’t notice it consciously--the rest of the now-destroyed evidence indicates that some part of him probably picked up on it.

Some of these posts actually look kind of useful. Especially “How to make your own junk food”--he can definitely get behind that concept. And he likes the look of “Fun shit to do with your kids that won’t cost an arm and a nut,” because amusement park admissions rates are insane.

Derek glances at the clock. If he doesn’t hit the shower now, he won’t have time. He closes the laptop, leaving the tab open.

*

Derek doesn’t get demoted, reassigned, or fired. Obviously. His boss’s boss just called him a “rising star” in front of witnesses last week. There was never anything to worry about. He knew that, really.

He’s still feeling worn-out from all the worrying when he shows up to the after-school program to pick up Matty, who’s picking a fight with a way bigger kid on the playground when he arrives. He’s about to go break it up when the tired-looking woman in charge comes up to him and says, “Hi, Mr. Hale. Do you have a minute?”

An uneasy truce appears to be in effect by the swing set. “Sure,” says Derek.

“We’ve had some issues with Matty designating other kids as ‘bad guys’ and trying to hurt them. He seems to be having trouble with the difference between fantasy and reality.” She glances at Matty, who is now attempting to engage an unenthusiastic kid in a fake sword fight. “Does he watch a lot of violent media?”

“Um.” If there’s any media for six-year-old boys that doesn’t feature bad guys, Derek hasn’t stumbled across it yet. “He likes Star Wars.”

“We do what we can to discuss these things with the kids, but I’m sure it would mean more coming from you," she says, leaning down to fasten the chinstrap of a little girl’s sun hat one-handed without breaking eye contact. Derek is intimidated.

“I’ll talk to him. Uh, sorry.”

“I’d appreciate it.” She doesn’t reassure him that it’s not his fault, which is sort of what he was fishing for with that apology there. So now he gets to feel guilty about letting his kid watch a PG-rated movie. Great.

“Matty!” he calls, and herds him into the car. What do they have in the fridge? His Frappuccino stockpile, string cheese, a shitload of Lunchables… possibly a carrot? He decides to swing by Domino’s. Matty spends the whole drive humming the riff from “Don’t Stop Believin’” over and over, which is cute at first--where did he even hear that?--but gets old after ten minutes.

Dinner takes forever, because Matty’s views on green peppers have taken yet another random U-turn. Derek may be a terrible father who employs violent images as a babysitting resource, but he is not letting a full day pass without getting a single molecule of vegetable matter down his child’s throat, so they end up sitting there for almost an hour.

“I ate two already,” groans Matty, making faces at his plate.

“And there were six on your pizza, which means you need to eat four more.” Jesus, this kid made himself sick scarfing down green peppers literally last Monday. Derek takes his plate to the sink and starts in on the dishes from breakfast, keeping an eye out to make sure the food doesn’t end up under the rug. This is one of the many, many reasons he refuses to get a dog, no matter how much whining he has to endure.

Matty finally gags down the rest of his pizza, and then grouses his way through a math worksheet while Derek halfheartedly chips away at the massive pile of clean laundry awaiting folding on the couch. That couch cushion hasn’t seen a butt in months. It would be embarrassing if Derek ever had any guests over to judge him.

After homework is supposed to be Matty’s free time to play, but the ordeal of the peppers took so long that it’s already bedtime. When Matty hears that, he lets out a whine that hits about thirty-seven different notes over three octaves, and then he drags out every tiny task in the process of getting ready for bed.

It’s after ten by the time Derek gets a chance to take a breath. He waits until he’s certain Matty is out cold before going to stand in the doorway to watch him sleep for a minute. It’s a little bit of a miracle that he can stand here loving this kid so much after an evening like that; but he does this every night, almost involuntarily, no matter how hard the day has been.

If he’s going to get anything like a full night’s sleep, he needs to crash right now. So of course he spends the next three hours clicking around on Destitute Daddy.

The blog is surprisingly entertaining. Derek was expecting a lot of coupon-clipping tips, but there’s more than that. It’s funny, and smart, and it makes him want to take a good long look at his finances despite his job being safe after all. He’s not in debt or anything, aside from the car he’s still paying off, but he could probably stand to make some changes. This guy claims he only earns $2,500 a month, and that he always puts $1,000 of that into his investment portfolio, which… is that even possible? Derek makes a lot more than that and barely manages to save anything. He can’t even fathom raising a kid on so little.

But Destitute Daddy does have a kid, as the name implies, and she doesn’t seem too deprived. She’s even written a guest post, presumably with some help, about how she manages her allowance. The things she talks about saving up for are the sorts of things Derek wouldn’t make Matty spend his allowance on, like Popsicles and going bowling. But she seems to appreciate them a lot more than Matty ever does. That’s something to think about.

The most interesting thing on the blog is a recurring series of posts where people send in rundowns of where their money goes each month, and the guy suggests ways they might be able to cut down on spending. It feels weird to see people talking so openly about their income, but it’s also thought-provoking. Derek doesn’t usually spend much time thinking about money, irrational three-AM freakouts aside. Maybe he should.

He opens his bank account history, an Excel spreadsheet, and a new e-mail.

*

Dear Destitute Daddy,

I’d like to submit a budget teardown, if you have room for me. Don’t prioritize me over anyone who might actually need the help, though. I’m not really in trouble, I just don’t seem to be able to save much, and I make enough that I feel like I should. I’m a single dad, I make about $4,800 a month after withholdings, and here’s my average spending from the last few months:

Rent: $1,700
Utilities: $220
Phone/internet/cable: $160
Car payment: $273
Car insurance: $115
Gas: $230
Groceries: $640
Eating out: $315
After-school program for my kid: $420

In theory that should leave $700 or so each month, but in practice I never have much to add to the savings account, which is currently at $13,406. I have a retirement plan through my job so no worries there, but my son is a third of the way to college age and I haven’t really thought about that a whole lot beyond adding what I can to the savings account. I know I should try to eat out less (this place by my office does these amazing Austrian spinach cheese pastries that cost twelve bucks a pop, which is ridiculous, but they’re the perfect breakfast). What else can I do to cut back?

Derek

 

First thing, let’s talk about prioritizing you over people who actually need help. You definitely need some help, dude. How the fuck do you spend $640 a month on groceries for one adult and one kid when you’re already spending $315 on restaurants? Do you subsist on saffron-dusted lobster? Do you have five hollow legs? Is your kid on the verge of building a cocoon and becoming a beautiful butterfly?

Second thing: unless $12 is standard market price for spinach cheese pastries, I think you work right by my apartment. FYI, the bagel shop next door to the Austrian place does a mean herb-cream-cheese bagel for a couple bucks. And I think I saw a rat in the Austrian place. Okay, no I didn’t, but seriously: cut out those pastries. No pastry is worth $12.

So, yeah, those food numbers are nucking futs. I suspect given the eating-out bill that you buy a lot of pre-made stuff at the grocery store. Start buying ingredients instead of fully-made meals and you’ll save a ton. If you don’t have time to cook during the week, check out my post on freezable meals and stock up on the weekends.

Your rent sounds high, especially considering that I know you work in an area where housing is cheaper than that. You’re not going to find rent as low as mine unless you also know the guy who owns this apartment complex, but you can definitely do better than $1,700. Plus, if you move closer to work, it cuts down on gas in the long run.

Utilities are also high, although you don’t break down what’s included in that category--maybe check out my post on keeping the electric bill down for some tips. You can definitely get a better price for phone/internet/cable. I prefer Netflix for my entertainment, but even if you’re married to your cable, there are better plans out there. Shop around. Ditto car insurance. Don’t just buy whatever’s convenient, or stick with what you have because it’s easier. Get some estimates and make informed decisions.

Let’s talk about your savings. Unless you’re planning on using this money soon (not the case if you’re squirreling it away for your kid’s college tuition), a savings account is the wrong place for it. Keep a small emergency cushion on hand and invest the rest. If you’re wary of the stock market, there are other options for more stable securities. Savings accounts yield very little interest, so you're missing out on free money. I wrote a post about that too.

You don’t say how much you have left to pay off on your car. If it’s less than your savings, you should just pay it off now. I don’t know what your interest rates are, but I do know you’re not getting more in interest from the savings account than you’re stacking up in interest on the car loan. If it’s more than your savings, then you shouldn’t have bought that car, and I recommend selling it and getting a cheaper one. I talked about that here.

And that missing $700? The fact that you spend that much money without even realizing it means that you’re not paying enough attention. Here’s my post on free budgeting services, which might help you keep better track of what you’re doing with your wallet. Even if you’re going to blow all your cash on stuff you don’t need, you should at least be aware that you’re doing it.

So basically my advice is: read my blog. Heh. Seriously, though, I think I’ve already addressed a lot of your issues in my other posts, so check out those links and see if you can find anything helpful. Good luck!

*

“DADDY! Daddy help! Come here! HELP! DAAAADDYYYYY!”

Derek stuffs his dick in his pants and bursts out of the bathroom. “What, what’s wrong?”

Matty holds up his lunchbox. “Han Solo is gone! I can’t find him!”

Derek resists the urge to bury his face in his hands, because he hasn’t washed them after pissing. It takes a lot of effort to keep his voice level. “Buddy, when you scream ‘help,’ it makes me think you’re hurt. You scared me.”

“I am hurt! My feelings are hurt!”

“Right, and feelings matter, but…” Derek sighs. He can’t deal with feelings bullshit right now. “You got tomato sauce on him yesterday, so I washed him. He’s in the dish drainer. Maybe if you kept him in your backpack instead of--” but Matty is already thundering into the kitchen. It’s astonishing how much noise one forty-pound kid can make. Derek’s not sure he can stomp that loudly. The Berlin Wall wouldn’t be able to keep Matty away from his Han toy.

What was it the lady at the after-school program was saying about fantasy and reality?

He follows Matty into the kitchen and says carefully, “Hey Matty, do you think Han Solo is real?”

Matty looks up from his precious action figure to stare at him like he’s a complete moron. “No. Real people are bigger. Babies are even bigger than him.” He holds up the toy as evidence.

Derek bites his lip to keep himself from cracking up. “Not that Han Solo, I mean Han Solo in the movie. Do you think he’s out there in space?”

“It’s just a movie, Dad,” Matty explains patiently. “He’s a actor. Remember we looked at the pictures where you can see the video camera?”

Okay, clearly what’s-her-face has no idea what the fuck she’s talking about. Derek gives up and steps around Matty to wash his hands in the kitchen sink.

“XYZ!” Matty hollers. “Examine your zipper! I can see your underwear, Dad! I can see it, it’s bluuuuue!”

*

Hey, thanks for the post about my budget. You gave me some things to think about, and I appreciate it. I’ll try the bagel place for breakfast tomorrow, although I’m laying the blame on you if Marco sees me cheating on him through the window.

Derek

 

Hi Derek!

Sure thing, glad I could help. Sorry about the creepy pastry-based detective work, I promise not to stalk you. Unless your kid likes How To Train Your Dragon, in which case I might track you down at home and leave my daughter on your doorstep. What is it with kids and watching the same movie over and over and over?

- Destitute Daddy (also known as Stiles)

 

Nice to meet you, Stiles.

I don’t think Matty’s seen “How To Train Your Dragon.” Should I avoid it, or are you just sick of it? I’m that way with Star Wars. I used to like those movies, but after the five dozenth viewing, they get old.

I tried the bagel place. You’re right, that herb cream cheese is good.

Derek

 

Hey Derek!

Score! You know, that place sells the herb spread for $4 a tub. Buy one of those and a bag of bagels from the store for $2, and you’ve got a week of breakfasts for half the cost of one ridiculous Austrian pastry. Savings!

It’s pretty good for a kids’ movie, but she seriously watches it every chance she gets. I think if I let her do nothing but watch that movie from the second she got home from school until bedtime, she’d be in heaven. I’m about ready to stab the TV. I’d be way happier if she got into Star Wars. The original trilogy, anyway. I’m hoping she never finds out they made any more.

Hey, so I said I wouldn’t stalk you, but actually Taylor could use some more local friends. I dunno if you actually live in the area or just work here, but if you want to get together and see if the kids get along, I’d be down. It’s totally not stalking if you show up voluntarily, right?

- s

*

The level of reluctance Matty is exhibiting about going to the park tells Derek a lot about the state of his parenting. He can’t actually remember the last time they just went to a public playground to screw around. Whenever Matty’s bored, they go to the zoo, or an amusement park, or some other place where there are defined activities. He’s rethinking that habit.

“Come on, bud. We’re gonna meet someone who has a kid about your age. You can make a new friend.” Taylor’s actually a couple years older than Matty, but whatever. It can’t make that much of a difference. Kids are kids, right?

“I don’t want any more friends,” whines Matty. “I wanna play Lego Star Wars.”

Sometimes it feels like Derek spends the vast majority of his daily energy resisting the urge to say ‘tough shit.’ “Are you gonna wear your sweatshirt, or do you want me to carry it?”

“I don’t need a sweatshirt, leave it here.”

“That wasn’t one of the options.” Derek stows a packet of fruit snacks in his pocket and shoos Matty out the door, clutching the sweatshirt under his arm. Matty’s shivering five seconds after they step out of the building, but freezing is now apparently a matter of pride. Derek rolls his eyes and bundles him into the car. He doesn't actually live near his office, but he doesn't get opportunities to meet new people very often, so he's gonna give this a shot.

Stiles said he’d wear a neon green jacket to help Derek find him, but it turns out not to be necessary, since Taylor is the only kid at the park older than four. They’re kicking a soccer ball around on the grass, passing it back and forth and trying to score goals in between two trees. Derek watches them until Matty starts fidgeting, then calls out, “Stiles?”

The guy turns around, and... whoa. Maybe it was the “Daddy” name, or maybe it was just some unexamined assumptions about what kind of person would run a personal finance blog, but Derek was expecting someone older and hairier. Stiles looks almost young enough to be in college, and he’s hot.

He dribbles the soccer ball over to them, his daughter close behind. “Hi!” Stiles shakes Derek’s hand. “Taylor, this is Derek and this is Matty. I think I got those the right way around. Pretty sure you’re the grownup.” He gives Derek a blatant once-over and then smiles at him like they’re in a bar and he’s got some intricate plans involving a bathroom stall.

Holy fucking shit. Derek did not walk into this situation prepared for the first thorough mutual eyefucking he’s experienced in years. He tries not to show how much he’s reeling. It's been almost a decade since the last time he so much as flirted with a guy, and back then he was too guilty and ashamed to enjoy it.

This guy doesn't seem familiar with the concept of shame. He's actually leaning to one side to get a better look at Derek's ass.

The world rights itself slightly when Matty, thankfully oblivious to all the ogling, yowls, “A girl? Dad, you didn’t say it was a girl!

Derek glances down at him, surprised. “What, you have a problem with girls? You love Aunt Cora. She’s a girl.”

“She’s not a girl,” Matty scoffs. “She’s a woman.”

Cora’s going to shit herself laughing when Derek relays that one. “Okay, well, there’s nothing wrong with girls. Be nice, huh? If you’re mean to her, Taylor might not share her soccer ball with you.”

“Girls can’t play soccer!”

Taylor, who’s been observing the exchange with an expression of mild disdain, narrows her eyes. “Oh yeah?”

Derek shoos his problem child off to learn a life lesson and wanders over to a bench with Stiles. “Sorry,” he says. “I guess I need to have a conversation with him about that.”

Stiles waves a hand. “Man, last week Taylor saw a cancer patient wearing a scarf around her head and straight-up asked her if she was Muslim. You can’t be in public with a kid for five minutes without having to school them on how to be a decent human being.” He props one foot up on the edge of the bench and rests a forearm on his knee like he's a Guess model. It’s distracting. "So hey, nice to meet you! I know your spending habits pretty well, but you never actually mentioned what your job is."

Derek shrugs. "Marketing." It's never been a point of particular pride, but he's good at it. "I work at Lyman, right across from that bagel place. You do demonstrations at the science museum, right?" He read that on the blog.

Stiles nods. "I was an accountant for a few years, but I’m really not wired to sit around all day by myself, so I quit after I built up my investment portfolio enough to go do something I like instead."

Derek knows all this, but it feels weird to say so. He looks over at the kids. “You said she’s eight?”

Stiles picks up on the unspoken question. “Yeah, I knocked somebody up when I was eighteen. Not one of my better decisions in life, but it’s worked out pretty well. Lydia couldn’t take care of her--she had college and then grad school to focus on--so I kinda had to step up. Best mistake I ever made.” He smiles fondly at his daughter, who’s dribbling circles around Matty. “She visits a lot, but she and I were never really a thing in the first place. She's more of a cool aunt to Taylor than a mom.”

He voice takes on an extra warmth when he talks about parenting, like nothing could possibly make him happier than being with his kid every second of his life. It almost makes Derek feel guilty for ever getting grouchy with Matty. Then he remembers the “How To Train Your Dragon” rant and feels a little bit better.

Stiles turns back to him. “How about you? Is Matty’s mom around at all?”

Derek shakes his head. “I was the one who wanted kids. She, uh, didn’t stick around after she figured out I was in the closet.” He swallows. He’s still not quite used to the idea of talking about that openly.

Stiles shoots him another one of those fuck-me smiles. “The way you’ve been eyeing me, I’m not too shocked to hear that.”

“Uh." Stiles has definitely been doing the lion's share of the eyeing here, but it never hurts to be careful. "Sorry."

Stiles snorts. “Are you fucking kidding? I’d--”

An earsplitting wail arises from the field. Derek abandons this extremely promising conversation to dash over to Matty, who’s sprawled on the ground with a bloody nose. Taylor is edging away, looking guilty.

“Sit up, lean forward,” Derek commands, hauling Matty upright. His nose doesn’t look swollen or out of whack, so it’s probably not broken, but he’s pouring blood. “Crap. Stiles! Do you have any tissues or anything?”

Stiles catches up to him. “No, sorry. Hang on, I’ll run over to the bathroom and see if there’s paper towels.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Derek gets Matty leaning forward and stems the flow with the rejected sweatshirt he’s been clutching.

“You’re gettig blood all over by sweadshird,” Matty objects, forgetting that he’s supposed to be screaming. “Whad if I ged cold?”

Derek sighs. “Well, pretty sure we don’t need to call 911.”

Stiles nods, lips tight. “Taylor?” He kneels down in front of her. “Look at me in my eyes. Did you do that on purpose?”

Taylor avoids eye contact. “He’s a brat. He said--”

“Okay, we’re going home. You are in big trouble.” Stiles steers her toward the path out of the park. “Sorry, Derek. I’ll e-mail you later.”

What, he’s not even going to make the kid say she’s sorry? Derek watches them leave, annoyed. If Matty had hurt another kid on purpose, there’s no way he’d be leaving without a direct apology.

“Daddy, it hurds,” says Matty, and starts crying again. Derek suppresses his frustration and turns his attention back where it belongs.

*

Hey Derek,

Well, I guess that could have gone better. I had a long talk with Taylor about violence and problem-solving, and I think she’s ready to try again, if you’re amenable. Maybe we could get them together to watch a movie? That would afford less opportunity for injury, hopefully.

- s

Derek almost doesn't answer. He sincerely doubts that Matty and Taylor will ever be buddies after that incident, and that was the whole point, right? Get the kids together, see if they hit it off. Clearly they didn't, so there's no reason to ever see Stiles again.

Except, well... he probably shouldn't waste the opportunity to work on Matty's conflict resolution skills. Those are important.

Justification achieved, Derek hits the reply button.

*

Stiles is wearing an ancient, threadbare black shirt with Darth Vader’s helmet on the front. “Thought it might endear him to us a little,” he explains to Derek.

It’s endearing, all right. Derek can barely resist running his hands over the soft fabric. God, he hopes the kids can get their shit together. “It’s good to see you,” he says. “Hi, Taylor.” He ushers them inside and looks around. Matty seems to have disappeared.

“Hi.” Taylor is looking past him, down the hall. Derek turns around. Matty is peering around the corner, just the top of his head and one eye visible. He’s not usually shy like this--but then, to be fair, he’s not usually confronted by people who have recently caused him bloodshed.

Taylor lets go of her dad’s hand and steps forward, her little shoulders squared defiantly. “I’m sorry and I promise I won’t do it again but you made me really mad when you called me names and I deserve an apology too my dad said so,” she yells in Matty's direction.

Stiles closes his eyes. “That is not how we were gonna play this, Tay. What did you tell me you were going to say?”

She scowls. “I’m sorry and I promise I won’t do it again. But Dad--"

Well, that's good enough. Stiles obviously tried to get through to her, anyway. Derek fetches Matty from the hall and wrings a reluctant apology out of him too, after which they get the kids set up in the living room with A New Hope. Derek sticks around long enough to read the floating words out loud as per usual, then retreats, leaving Matty and Taylor curled up distrustfully on opposite ends of the couch (which is triumphantly clear of laundry for the first time in recent memory).

He turns around to offer Stiles a beer and finds himself being grabbed by the front of his shirt, shoved up against the hallway wall, and thoroughly kissed.

It’s like being flattened by a tsunami of everything he's spent the last ten years denying himself. Derek’s knees buckle and he slides down the wall, dragging Stiles with him until he’s straddling Derek’s thighs. Derek clutches at his back, digging into the muscles around his shoulder blades, pulling him closer even though there’s no more room between them...

“Dad!” calls Matty. “It’s the part with the Jawas! They’re gonna zap R2-D2!”

Stiles breaks the kiss, cracking up silently. Derek gets it together enough to call back, “Uh-oh!” which seems to satisfy for the moment. Stiles is still shaking with suppressed laughter. “Shut up,” Derek whispers, and pulls him back in.

God, he’s missed this. He may have been a shitty husband in a lot of ways, but he never once cheated on Kate, and he hasn’t had the time or energy for hookups since the divorce. It feels overwhelmingly good--the kissing, the warm pressure on top of him, the promise of sex as soon as they can arrange time alone. His brain shorts out at the thought of Stiles in his bed, naked, desperate. Derek kisses down Stiles’ jaw to his neck, and Stiles gasps, tilts his head back, tangles his fingers in Derek's hair…

“Dad! Why are there two suns on Tatooine?”

Derek drops his forehead onto Stiles’ shoulder. “I don’t know, buddy,” he calls back.

“Does that make it daytime all the time? Are there any moons too on Tatooine?” A pause, then: “Dad! I said, are there any--”

Derek bangs his head back against the wall with a thud. “We’ll look it up later, okay?” Stiles hasn't stopped grasping his hair, and it’s incredibly distracting.

“Let’s look it up now,” Matty says. “Where’s your computer? Taylor, you’re sitting on the remote. Move over, I need to pause it.”

“No, I wanna watch the movie.”

“Pause it!”

“Ow!”

Derek lifts his head away from the wall and thumps it back again. “We should get a babysitter,” he tells Stiles.

Stiles raises his eyebrows and tilts his head toward the living room, where both kids have started shrieking. “For the two of them? Together?”

This is a fair point. Derek wouldn’t want to inflict that evening on anyone. “We should get two babysitters.”

“You read the blog, dude. That’s really not in my budget.” Stiles stands up and offers Derek a hand.

Derek takes it and pulls himself up. “I’ll pay for both of them.”

Stiles shakes his head sadly. “Did I write that whole breakdown for nothing? This is exactly the kind of wasteful spending you need to be avoiding right now. Taylor! Jeez Louise, would you put a sock in it?” He heads off to break up the fight.

They get the kids settled (Tatooine has three moons, according to the internet) and hide in the kitchen. Derek leans against the counter, a little defeated. It's not like he expected to get laid today, with the kids around, but he was hoping it would happen eventually. That's looking a lot less likely, if Stiles won't let him hire childcare.

It's just sex. It's not that big a deal. He's been going without for a long time.

But Stiles is wearing a Darth Vader shirt because he wants Derek's kid to like him, and something about that makes Derek say, "Would it still be wasteful spending if we were going on a date instead of just fucking?"

Stiles steps up close and kisses him again. "It's not in my budget. Doesn't matter what we'd be doing." He smiles, touching Derek's cheek. "I would if I could, really. To both the fucking and the date. Have faith in the kids, I bet they'll warm up to each other."

Derek's not so sure, but Stiles is kissing him again, and he's not about to argue with that.

*

It's a pain in the ass to try to spend any kind of meaningful time together with the kids around. They fight about the most random shit at the most inconvenient times, and there's no chance of getting past second base with them around. It's exhausting to keep trying.

But Stiles is great. He's witty, he's adorable with Taylor, he's always offhandedly saying things that make Derek think, and he is a true joy to look at. It's been a long time since Derek liked anyone this much. And Matty might have beef with Taylor, but he hasn't had a problem with Stiles since he saw the Darth Vader shirt. It's hard, but for a few weeks it's worth it.

And then Derek reads the latest Destitute Daddy post, called "Don’t let your landlord screw you over," and learns what exactly Stiles meant about building up his investment portfolio as an accountant. Accounting is a pretty fucking lucrative gig, apparently.

He calls Stiles on his way out of the office. He doesn't know when Stiles gets off work, but he's not having this conversation either over e-mail or in front of the kids.

Stiles answers right away. "Derek, hey, whassup?"

"You own two houses?"

There's a brief pause before Stiles says, "Uh, yeah? I thought you knew that. I've mentioned it on the blog a few times."

"Why the hell would you rent a place to live in if you already own two?" Derek unlocks his car and gets in, trying to figure out how much time he can waste being pissed and still pick up Matty on time.

"Tax reasons, mostly. The deductions are better on investment property. I can link you to the post I--"

"No," Derek cuts him off. He doesn't want to read another fucking blog post about money. He squeezes his eyes closed. "Sorry, this... shit, this isn't gonna work."

It wasn't going to work anyway, he tells himself. The kids hate each other. He’s just hastening the inevitable.

"Wait, what? Because I own real estate?"

Derek ends the call like a total asshole and rests his head on the steering wheel for a moment. Shit, he can't believe he just did that. But how is it possible to have hundreds of thousands of dollars in net worth and still refuse to spring for an evening of babysitting?

Maybe that's how you get hundreds of thousands of dollars in net worth: by never having any fun. Fuck, Derek will take his $13,406 and be happy.

*

Hey Derek...

Dude, I have no clue what's going on. If I fucked up, I'm sorry? I honestly thought you knew about my assets, it's all out there. But I don't get why it's such a big deal. If this isn't working for you, obviously that's your call, but could you at least loop me in? I really thought we had the potential for a good thing here.

- s

 

Dear Destitute Daddy

New reader here. Guess I haven't had time to go through all the archives, so I might have missed a few things. I'm just wondering, since you're more acquainted with the intricacies of the frugal mind than I am, if you could interpret this situation for me. If someone is sitting on several hundred thousand dollars but still can't part with a few bucks for the sake of some time alone with a person they claim to really like, would you say that's abiding by the principles of frugality, or would you say it's just a sign that they're not actually very interested? I feel like I'm receiving a pretty clear message, but maybe I'm misreading something.

Also, your blog name makes you sound like a porn star. FYI.

*

Two days later, Stiles stomps into Derek's office and throws a little paper bag at him. "You're a dick," he announces. He points at the bag. "That's a grand gesture, all right, because I might also have been a dick, but I want to make this totally clear: I am not the only dick here, and I am the only dick actually putting forth an effort to fix anything instead of just being all sarcastic and passive-aggressive."

Derek can't help grinning. "You mean, you're sorry and you won't do it again, but I made you mad and you deserve an apology too?"

There's a brief moment of stony silence, and he thinks he might have gone too far, but then Stiles starts laughing. "Okay," he says, dropping into the chair by Derek's desk. "Let's try this again. I'm sorry. I started doing the extreme-frugality thing to make sure I could provide for Taylor when she was born, and it’s been my top priority for so long that it’s just automatic now. But I do want to spend time with you, and I want to fuck your brains out, and I think I’m willing to make some compromises.”

Derek lets out a long breath. "You're right, I'm a dick too. I'm sorry about that. And, um, I also want to..." He glances at the open door. “Spend time with you."

Stiles smirks and sticks his foot under the desk to nudge Derek's ankle with his scuffed-up knockoff Converse. "Open the bag."

Derek peeks inside. It's a spinach and cheese pastry. "Wow," he says. "I thought no pastry was worth twelve bucks."

"That is absolutely correct," says Stiles firmly. He glares at the bag. Then he looks up at Derek, and his face softens. "But, you know... other things are."

Derek sets the bag down on his desk and gets up to close the door.

"You have to eat it," says Stiles. "I know it's symbolic and all but I paid twelve dollars, you cannot just waste--"

"We'll share it." Derek drops to his knees in front of Stiles. "Later."

*

"Rocky Road," says Matty. "Double scoop waffle cone. Please," he adds as an afterthought.

The teenager behind the counter grabs a cone and opens up the display case. "And how about you?" he asks Taylor.

She squints at the flavor labels. "Do they all cost the same? And is it more to get a cup or a cone? And how much--"

"Prices are right there," the guy says, pointing to a sign.

She reads it carefully. "I'll have one scoop of mint chocolate chip on a sugar cone, please," she decides, and takes a tiny gold change purse out of her pocket.

"Are you paying for your own ice cream?" Matty asks, intrigued.

"Duh." She shoots him a contemptuous glare. "Are you letting your daddy pay? Don't you have your own money?"

"I do too!" Matty protests. He roots around in his cargo pants for the dregs of his allowance, producing coins from all six pockets. Taylor pretends to ignore him while extracting exact change from the neatly-divided compartments of her little purse.

Derek watches from a distance, fascinated, as Matty eagerly bangs down handful after handful of change on the counter. "I've never seen him so excited about paying for something.”

"Personal financial responsibility is exciting shit," Stiles says wisely. "You'd know that if you ever read my--"

Derek groans. "I don't understand why you guilt-trip me if I can’t quote every post from memory within six hours. I do read it, I just don’t read it instantly, okay?"

"It's been eighteen hours since the last one and you still haven’t read it."

Derek elbows him in the ribs. "I'll get around to it, Daddy. Promise."

Stiles elbows him right back. "Will you stop saying that around the kids?"

"Oh, you want me to say it when the kids aren't around?"

"No, jesus." Stiles wrinkles his nose. "Fuck off, dude, I was nineteen when I started the blog, I thought it was funny. I can't just abandon my brand now."

"Even if it's false advertising, because your net worth--"

"I was nineteen! I really was destitute back then!" The kids wander over with their ice cream, and Stiles aims them ahead onto the sidewalk as they all start walking back to Derek’s apartment. "Anyway, the blog is still geared toward a low-income audience, so it's not false advertising."

Derek leans in close and murmurs, "Well, the part where it implies that you're a porn star is pretty accurate, anyway." He slips an arm around Stiles' waist and pinches his ass.

Stiles gasps. "Okay, you know what, you're paying for that," he tells Derek, and calls ahead, "Hey munchkins! It's Saturday tomorrow, so I'll make you a deal. If you guys stay in the living room and don't bug us tonight, you can stay up until eleven."

Derek sighs amid the whoops and cheers from the kids. "Matty's gonna be cranky as hell tomorrow."

"Yeah, well." Stiles lowers his voice. "I'm going to be cranky as hell tonight if I don't get your dick in me."

"Mmmm." Derek smiles at him.

"And you know what else?" Stiles says, a tease hovering in his voice. "I was at the store the other day, and I decided fuck it, we're switching to those stupid luxury condoms you like."

Derek stops short. "Are you serious?"

"Yep."

"The brand I was wearing that time--"

"Yep."

"The ones that cost--"

"Yep." Stiles grabs his hand and tugs at him until he starts walking again.

Derek doesn't know whether to fuck Stiles silly or take him to the hospital to get his head checked. Eventually he settles on, "I love you."

Stiles squeezes his hand. "When Matty’s older, I'm gonna tell him exactly what circumstances led to you saying that to me for the first time."

Derek squeezes back. "Yeah? Then I'm gonna steal your computer and post to the blog about your oh-so-frugal chocolate budget."

"Well, I'm gonna tie-dye your leather jacket with bleach."

"I'm gonna uninstall Second Life."

"I'm gonna--"

Matty turns around, his chin dripping ice cream, and shakes his head despairingly at them. "Man, can't you guys ever get along?"