Chapter 1 – Pleadings and Promises

"Please Mako-chan. You've got to do it! I already promised everyone! And it's for Valentine's Day."

Minako's big baby blue eyes implored her victim and she stuck her clasped hands under her chin to make the effect even more heart rending. It might have worked on strangers, but the party she was pleading with was, after years of contact, immune…well, mostly. Kino Makoto frowned, rubbing her temple, and slouched back against the cheap plywood and veneer headboard of her narrow dorm bed. She was definitely getting a headache.

"Minako-chan," she said, her tone rather on edge. "You did NOT just tell me you volunteered my baking services for your stupid sorority party…DID YOU?" She crossed both arms over her chest and pierced her friend with a look that promised death if the answer to her question was in the affirmative.

The perky blonde stuck a hand behind her head and laughed in an embarrassed fashion. "Um…well…"

"MINAKO!"

"Gomen nasai," she whispered hastily, "but they all raved about how good the stuff I brought to the last party was and I had kind of…well, passed them off as my own, and then…"

Makoto shot her friend a venomous look that guaranteed certain vengeance for claiming credit for her culinary talents. Not to mention the whole volunteering her services without asking thing.

Aino Minako visibly flinched. Makoto had a very intimidating stare when she wanted to and was very protective of what she considered to be her turf…in this case, the kitchen. But what was a girl to do when she needed sweets, couldn't bake them herself, was head of the Valentine's Party committee, and had a friend in a culinary arts program?

"Mako-chan, I really, REALLY am sorry about that. Honest. I swear, I'll tell them everything afterward, but I really had no choice. Please, say you'll bake for me this time and I swear I'll never ask again. Promise. Cross my heart. Swear on my mother's grave." She drew an X over her chest and then solemnly placed one hand on her breast and raised the other in the air.

"Your mother's not dead," Makoto informed her friend unkindly.

"Well a girl could hope," shot back Minako with a slight grimace, wrinkling her pert nose.

It wasn't that Minako was hateful which made her say such a thing. Far from it. However, her bad relationship with her mother was fairly notorious. Even Makoto, who'd lost both her parents to a plane crash while just a child and personally would have killed for a chance to see her own mother again, had sympathy for just how bad the strain was between Minako and her mom. Which still didn't mean that she was inclined to let Minako get away with manipulating her like this. She stared balefully at Minako, her face set in uncompromising lines.

"Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!"

"No!"

"Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!! With sugar and a cherry on top!"

"No."

"C'mon, Mako-chan. PLEEEEEEASE! How about this? I let YOU tell the girls personally. You can out me as a phony in front of the whole group AND take credit for your baking. You can get kudos and see me get humiliated in public and I'll take the whole blame. PLEEEEEASE!"

"I said no," grated Makoto, looking harassed.

"Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!! You can come to the party too. There'll be lots and lots of cute guys. You might meet someone…"

"Minako..."

Minako grinned furtively. She could hear it in Makoto's voice. Her friend was definitely weakening. It was just going to take a little more groveling on her part. Which was okay with her as long as the cookies got baked and as long as SHE didn't have to make them, since her cooking skills essentially began and ended with cup ramen and toast.

"Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!! I swear…I'll make sure you meet someone."

"Fine." Makoto gave in to what could not be helped, rubbing her temple and rummaging around through her nightstand looking for the aspirin bottle. Minako's incessant whining had definitely given her a headache. Still, she wasn't going down alone. Not if she could drag her so-called friend with her. "I'm outing you, though, for sure. And you have to pay for all of the cookie ingredients yourself. I'm not going into debt for you. Not all of us have regular income from movies we starred in when we were thirteen."

The sad fact was, despite Makoto's generous scholarship and a life insurance stipend from her parents' estate, her expenses were barely covered. Money was definitely an issue for her. She couldn't wait until she could get a full-time job and start banking some cash for herself and maybe buy a car. Lack of one had meant she'd had to leave her cozy little apartment, sublet it out to a stranger and leave virtually all of her precious plants behind to move into the dirty brown closet that the university mistakenly called a single dorm room. Its only saving grace was that it was a single since she'd been able to successfully argue that the knives necessary for her Culinary Arts major might well unnerve a roommate. So at least she had peace and quiet. Except when Minako or the girls were visiting.

Minako leapt on her friend, hugging her until Makoto wondered if her ribs were going to crack. "I know and I will pay for it." She dug around in her wallet and handed Makoto a small wad of bills, the sight of which was enough to make Makoto green-eyed with envy, if she hadn't already been naturally green-eyed. "You're the absolute best ever, Mako-chan!"

"I'm soft in the head is what I am," grumbled the young chef-in-training, banging the medicine bottle on the scarred top of the bedside table when the child-proof cap defied her efforts at gaining access to the much needed meds inside. "Never again am I baking for the Kappas. They can starve next time or you can go buy a tray of some nasty thing at the grocery store bakery or whatever. This is it…the absolute last time. Understand?"

"Well, I've got to dash and…um…see if my order's come in. New Kappa necklace, you know. Ja ne!" Minako chirped, backing across the room.

Makoto hopped off the bed. Minako was already edging out the door, a radiant smile on her face, not deigning to acknowledge her friend's demands. "Understand? Minako-chan? MINAKO!"

It was too late. The trouble-making blonde had vanished leaving Makoto with a headache, a feeling she'd stepped into trouble, and with an order for ten dozen cookies by the end of the week…which was only two days away and which would probably just get smashed into crumbs by smashed frat boys anyway.

"I'm going to kill her, so help me," Makoto swore, wondering how on earth she was going to get enough time in the postage stamp-sized dorm kitchen to bake that many cookies, not to mention fitting it into her already tight schedule of classes and part-time job. Plus she had a research paper that she simply had to finish or she'd have to slink out of school in disgrace and an exam scheduled for Friday afternoon. Just the thought of it all made her slam the aspirin bottle down with completely unreasonable force.

Without warning the lid to the aspirin bottle flew off, scattering white tablets across Makoto's hunter green comforter. While she picked them up, Makoto kept up a comforting little running dialogue about Minako and death. "Rei will help me kill her, yes…very painfully, and Usagi can just deal. After all, she doesn't really need a security double in Crystal Tokyo anyway. Ami can create some sort of hologram to deal with it. Or something. Yes, that will be good…"

When all the stray pills were back in the bottle, Makoto swigged down the last two with the dregs of her soda and then sighed. Scooping up the handful of bills, she tried to shrug off the Very Bad Feeling that was haunting her. There was marketing to be done.

(Author's Notes: Please note that I own none of the Sailor Moon characters. Please don't sue. All standard disclaimers apply. The rating MAY go up later on. P.S. This is my first multi-chapter, non-one shot fanfic, so be gentle. :)