Prompt/Iron Chef: "Random Pairing Challenge 2019."

Timothy had never expected to fall in love with Janet. Even during their relationship he could hardly deny that it was unusual. Not bad, mind you, and much more...passionate than any of his previous experiences dating, but their eventual breakup, while painful, was not fully unexpected.

Of course, he hadn't expected to fall for someone like Ruth, either, even if she was much more his "type."

They met at a cooking class—one Ruth was teaching, actually, and which Timothy attended just to take his mind off his recent troubles. "His soufflé was terrible," she would say when she told the story, laughing in a way that somehow didn't seem disparaging. They got to talking, comparing her new teaching job to his years at the school. He asked her out for tea, and she was the first person he'd met in years who agreed that it was better than coffee. At first it had just been friendly, but the next time they met it was dinner and then a dinner date and...

The age difference honestly didn't bother them much, though Ruth's family had a bit of an issue with it.

"EWW!" Quinn had cried, running out of the room. Daria's eyes had widened a bit, but then she said "Alright, but I'm not calling you 'Grandpa'" in her usual dry tone. Daria could be hard to read sometimes, but Timothy was pretty sure that this counted as a healthy setting of boundaries rather than a sign of deep-seated hostility.

Ruth's son made his feelings a little more clear.

"He can't be my stepdad! Gahdammit, Mom, he's younger than I am!"

"Jakey! I won't put up with that sort of language. And use your inside voice, please."

"But I don't want you to remarry!" Jake said, stomping his foot and crossing his arms.

Timothy took him to a football game. He wasn't much for sports himself, but the two of them bonded and on the ride home Jake said that he and his father had never had so much fun together. Then he started crying a lot, which made Timothy wonder if this bad been a bad choice of outings.

"You'll have to forgive him," Ruth sighed as the two talked about it afterwards. "He's always been a bit delicate. His father was too hard on him growing up."

"Oh?" said Timothy. Ruth had not talked about her late husband much before.

She nodded, then chuckled humorlessly. "Honestly, Nathaniel could be hard on everybody. He wasn't the easiest person to be married to, either. He wasn't a bad man," she added quickly, kneading her hands together, "but..."

Timothy thought about Janet, then put his hand over hers. Their anxious movement ceased.

"I think I understand."

She smiled, then laid her head on his shoulder.

"You're not like him at all," she mused, then smiled. "But I don't think that's a bad thing."