©2003 Roger E. Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Synopsis: Timothy O’Neill makes a special dinner for Janet Barch—right after Barch makes O’Neill stop taking that completely unnecessary psychiatric medication.
Author’s Notes: MMan began an Iron Chef competition on PPMB in May 2003, on the topic of “guilty pleasures” that characters in the Dariaverse might secretly have. Ranchoth came up with a story (“Really Guilty Pleasures”) in which Timothy O’Neill has an unusually perverse secret pleasure, and I wrote a postscript to his story that has been turned into its own short story here. (I’m a steak man, myself.) This takes place after the movie, Is It College Yet?
Acknowledgements: Thanks to MMan and Ranchoth for the contest and inspirational story, and special thanks to Thomas Harris for his most excellent novel, Hannibal.
Janet Barch sighed in contentment when she finished her salad and pulled her chair closer to the table in Timothy O’Neill’s dining room. This promised to be the best meal she had ever had in her life.
And a man had cooked it. O’Neill had the Nobel Prize in Boyfriend-ology.
“Two things I’ll say for you, Skinny,” Janet said in her shrill voice, putting her napkin back in her lap. “First, you’re sure a lot wilder now that you’re not taking that idiotic medication that psychiatrist was giving you. You used to be a washed-out dishrag, no fun at all except in the sack! Oh, I admit that I love your sensitive, cuddy side, but I also love it when you’re a little bit of a rakehell, too! You’re light years more fun than that creep I married all those years ago when—ah, hell, forget it! You’re just a hoot!”
Timothy O’Neill wiggled his eyebrows up and down at his girlfriend of four years now, a fellow teacher at Lawndale High School. “Now, Janet,” he admonished with a broad grin, “you’re the wild one in this relationship, not me! Why, if it weren’t for you, my life would be an endless wasteland of existential ennui, a perfect storm of boredom! That medication did slow me down, by gosh! I can’t believe I put up with it for so long. I feel like a new man now—and I owe it all to you, my seductive sorceress of science!”
Janet laughed. This was too good to be true. “I’ll tell you something else, Skinny—you sure can cook! Tell me what the main course is, that roast you made. I’m so juiced up from smelling it, I feel like one of Pavlov’s mutts!”
Mr. O’Neill wagged a forefinger. “Tut-tut, my dear!” he said with a smile. “You know how I like to keep my guilty pleasures a secret!”
“Oh, c’mon!” Janet’s voice lowered an octave. “If you tell me the recipe, I’ll . . . make you my teacher’s pet.” She growled deep in her throat and undid her blouse another button downward. “Or maybe I’ll be your teacher’s pet. Take your pick!”
O’Neil sighed in mock surrender. “Oh, very well, but you must promise me you won’t tell anyone else! This will be just your secret and mine, my dearest!”
“You got it, Skinny! Now, spill it and get your extra credit!”
“Well,” said O’Neill, putting down his napkin, “you remember that teachers’ strike last school year? There was a Language Arts substitute who was hired for the juniors, a Mister—”
“Ken Edwards, the bastard,” grumbled Ms. Barch. Her good mood was entirely spoiled. “Ooo, I wish I’d gotten my hands on him before he started putting his filthy paws on those poor girls in his class. I’d have thought up a whole new type of corporal punishment for the likes of—”
“Ken Edwards,” interrupted O’Neill, unperturbed. “The very one. As chance would have it, I happened to run into him again, just the other day when I was taking applications for adult counselors for my Okay-to-Cry summer camp for this coming—”
“You took him on as a camp counselor?” Janet shrieked. She pushed her chair back from the table and threw down her napkin in a rage. “How could you?”
“No, no, no!” said O’Neill soothingly, still smiling. “Not at all! I didn’t hire him, dear Janet. He showed up hoping to be hired, but I did remember him—quite well, I must say. He hadn’t changed a bit. He was the same clever, slimy Ken, asking if he could get on the Okay-to-Cry-Corral staff. He apparently didn’t remember me, but I had spoken with Ms. Li and I read his file when he was fired.” O’Neill sighed. “Same old Ken.”
Barch groaned. “Well, knowing you, you probably invited him to dinner instead of punching him out.”
O’Neill looked at Barch in surprise. “Why, Janet—that’s exactly what I did! I asked him to join us for dinner tonight!”
The look of shock on Barch’s face was memorable. “You what?” she yelled.
O’Neill nodded in satisfaction. He picked up a fork, carefully speared a small piece of the prepared meat on the platter between them, and lifted it to Janet’s lips. “How did you like him?” he asked with an expectant smile.
Janet stared at Timothy. “How do I . . .” Her gaze lowered to the fork—and the piece of meat on it.
A long moment passed. O’Neill waited. He was very patient even without the medication.
“What?” said Janet dully.
Timothy nodded happily.
Janet’s mouth fell open. “I can’t . . . you’re making a joke, right?”
Timothy shook his head. With his left hand, he reached in his pants pocket and pulled out a man’s wallet made of fake black alligator leather. This he held out to Janet with the forkful of meat.
Ms. Barch slowly took the wallet and opened it. The world came to a stop. Ken Edwards grinned up at her from his driver’s license.
After a long moment, Janet looked up. Greater astonishment than hers was simply not possible.
“Really?” she asked.
O’Neill nodded, still smiling. “Quite so.”
“Oh, it was very quick, I assure you—although I was careful to let him know why it was happening first. He was quite taken aback!” Timothy chuckled at the memory. “That Ken. He wasn’t cut out for teaching, but . . . he was cut out perfectly for dinner.”
Janet blinked. “You’re not kidding, are you?”
“I assure you, Janet, I am deadly serious about my cooking.”
Janet stared at Timothy, then at the morsel on the fork.
Hesitantly, she leaned forward and took the offered bite in her mouth. She chewed reflectively and closed her eyes.
It was strange. It was different. It was heavenly.
“Skinny,” she said in awe after she swallowed, “You’ve given me the best meat I’ve ever had in my life! You can take that any way you like, and it’s still true! This is better than ice cream!”
O’Neill sighed in profound relief. “That’s wonderful, my dear! I was hoping you’d like it!” He indicated the platter. “Care for more?”
“Well,” said Janet doubtfully, “I was planning to save room for dessert, but—” She tossed Ken’s wallet aside and held out her plate “—hell’s bells! Pile it on, Skinny!” She smiled at her true love. He really was a lot more exciting without that damn medication. “You know,” she said, as Timothy gave her a more-than-ample helping, “I overheard Quinn Morgendorffer the other day talking about her cousin’s wedding, and she mentioned this particular minister in Leeville. . . .”
Shipper (Mr. O’Neill/Ms. Barch), humorous horror