Disclaimer: Sailor Moon does not belong to me. It belongs to Takeuchi
Naoko, Kodansha, Toei Ltd., and tons of other people.
Thank you very much for creating such a wonderful story and please
don't sue me. ^_^;;; However . . . the events of this story and
some of these characters are MY property. No stealing or the
fabulous Sailor V will punish in the name of VENUS!!!! And Artemis
will scratch your eyes out . . .


In a time of peace . . .

In a time of war . . .

Two kingdoms lived side by side . . .

Two hearts cried out for one another . . .

And thus was a legend born.

SAILOR MOON
IN ANOTHER LIFE:
GOLDEN BEGINNING

by Fushigi Kismet


It is the Spring of Love. Couples abound in
London - the streets are full of them, laughing and
smiling. Every little chirping bird has another to
chirp alongside. Yet, I, the Goddess of Love, am
still alone. It is the Spring of Despair.

She sighed, stared at the quickly drying ink on the half-filled
page before her, then turned her gaze out the window to the wet London
streets below.
A couple walked by in matching yellow raincoats, arm in arm.
They looked suspiciously like Sayuri and Todd.
"That's IT!" Minako declared, springing to her feet.
"What?" Artemis lazily opened one eye and looked up at her from
where he had been napping, curled up on her bed.
"I'm not going to take it anymore."
"What aren't you going to take?" he grumbled, a bit of irritation
seeping through into his voice. When she got that fanatical edge to
her voice, he knew it meant trouble.
"The fact that every girl in the ENTIRE city has a boyfriend but
me!"
"Aren't you exaggerating a little bit?"
The infuriated look she shot him was enough to shut him up. "Never
mind. So, since you can't take it - do I dare ask?"
"I'm going to go out there and find myself a boyfriend!!!"
Artemis heaved a long-suffering sigh, "You should be training, not
worrying over boys. Besides, it's pouring out. Why in the world
would you want to go out in that weather?"
"I'm going out!" she said stubbornly, pouting. "Anyway, it's
Valentine's Day-"
"In TWO WEEKS!"
"-and I've got to go buy some chocolate," she finished, stubbornly
ignoring him.
Artemis's ears perked up. "For me? Why, how uncharacteristically
thoughtful of you, Minako."
"Not for *you* - for my new boyfriend!"
The white cat face-faulted. Then shutting both of his eyes tightly
in a show of resuming his nap, he said, "All right, Mina. I don't
care what you do. Just stay out of trouble, okay?"
"What're you worried for, Artemis? I can take care of myself."
She stuck her fingers out in a victory sign. "After all, I am the
invincible Sailor V!"
"That's what I'm afraid of."


Aphrodite's Chocolate
aka
Venus's Mark of Love


The phone was ringing. He could dimly hear it, but he
didn't/wouldn't/couldn't? answer it. If he had possessed the strength
to do so, he would have utilized it in a much more efficient manner
than expending it on something that seemed as ludicrous as answering
the telephone. He would, perhaps, roll over onto his back. There was
always the chance of accidentally smothering himself on his pillow.
What an end that would be after all the trouble he had gone through to
stay alive. As it was, he just wanted to stay still . . . to rest a
while.
Irritation caused his brows to furrow. The damn phone was still
ringing. When would the machine pick up?
Ah, there. It was running through the spiel of his pre-recorded
message now.
". . . want to talk to me, leave a message after the squeak."
SQUEAK.
The joys of customizable answering machines.
A disgruntled voice rolled into the silence. "Kenneth, when will
you grow out of these childish frivolities?"
He snorted. Ah, yes, his father. Just when he'd thought that his
week couldn't get any better.
"I have some matters to discuss with you. Call me when you get
in." Click.
He looked down in mild surprise, having felt his fingers clench
involuntarily. Hmm. Well, his father always *had* been able to goad
him into action. However, even that little effort had been
exhausting. Still, now that he *knew* he was capable of it, he
marshaled his strength and forced himself to roll over onto his back.
Staring up at the dark ceiling as the rain lashed at his windowpanes
outside, his thoughts proceeded to wander back to the battle of the
day before. Flashes of it played themselves out and he let them, his
lips twisting into a grim smile. It was all right, wasn't it? To
wallow in his pain for once? Not the pain that shot through his body
that had long since faded from his conscious thought, suppressed so
that it was within the threshold of his tolerance, but the incessant
ache in his chest. Because he had seen the contingent of Hunters head
off in her direction. Because he had not been there to protect her.
Had she needed to be protected? He knew that she was alive . . .
was well. He could feel her shining somewhere in the shuttered
recesses of his heart. Somehow, she had gotten through the ordeal as
well. That had been a trial and while both had survived, he knew that
it was impossible that they were both unscathed.
Had it changed her? Looking death in the eyes?
The woman he had known before - she had been accustomed to the
daily struggle of life and death. There was nothing to be done about
the past. But the girl in the here-and-now . . . what of her? He had
wanted to shield her from the world. She, who had previously known so
much of its harsh realities.
He shook his head, the smile fading from his lips. What did he
know of her anyway? She was a woman in a dream . . . He had dreamt
of her countless nights for all the years of his life but what did
that *mean*? Did he love her? Did he even know her? The past was
still a mystery to him even though with every dream, details about it
and his place in that world in the past became clearer to him.
Can you love a dream?
Still, he had, here and now, the opportunity to meet her and learn
about her in this life. If she and he had both changed . . . well
then, the dream would remain a dream.
One that would always be a part of him, but as something
insubstantial - without relation to his life now. Other than the
whole transforming to save the world bit, at least.
His father would be appalled if he knew that Kenneth was even
considering allowing some "flight of fancy" effect his daily life and
decisions. Cold, hard reason was the modus operandi of the Knight
Family!
Who was it who had taught him the importance listening to the
heart?

The dream-memory of her smile washed over him and was abruptly
overlaid with his image of her now - of the girl-woman who had sat on
a bench, talking to a cat, a mixture of pain and angry frustration
brewing in her eyes. A hint of desolation clung to her that was at
odds with his memories. Something about that image troubled him.
He absentmindedly rubbed at the remnants of an old scar on the palm
of his left hand as he was apt to do when troubled. Blinking, he
stopped and examined the hand closely. The skin was smooth. There
was no scar in this life.
No, he mused, he had scars that had been carried over from that
life, whether he knew of them or not. Ones that were too deep to be
seen and too much a part of him and who he had been, who he *was* to
ever be erased. Perhaps, they had marked her too. Shutting his eyes,
he gave himself over to sleep.

Mina ran down the stairs and out the house and was halfway down the
street before she realized that she had forgotten her coat. She ran
back for it and was halfway down the block before she realized that a
coat wasn't all the useful in the rain when one has forgotten to bring
an umbrella. So, back she went, dashing up the stairs to her room,
wet clothes trailing little rivers of water behind her.
Artemis stared at her for a moment before yowling in despair.
"You're such an absentminded moron . . . You'd lose your head if it
wasn't attached! You're going to catch a cold!"
"Nonsense!" she muttered through chattering teeth, steadfastly
ignoring her own chilled body as she grabbed the green umbrella
hanging from the hook on her wall. "I'll be fine. Now, YOU be quiet
while I'm gone. Okaa-san, I mean, Mum and Otou - err, Dad will be
back in two shakes of a lobster's tail and it wouldn't be good if they
caught you talking, now would it? And *I'D* be grounded for a month
probably!"
"Grounded? Whatever for?"
"Aino Minako, what do you think you're doing, keeping a talking cat
for a pet? I want that unnatural beast out of here right now! You're
grounded!" she said in a rather uncanny imitation of her mother's
voice.
"Minako, I wish you'd use a little sense . . . it's faaaar more
likely that you'd get in trouble for being Sailor V."
"Oh, no duh!" She switched into a mimicry of her father's deep
tones. "What?! You're gallivanting about in nothing but a flimsy
fuku shouting nonsense at a bunch of hentai men in rubber suits?!
You're no daughter of mine!! What do you think you're trying to do .
. . save the world?! And for heaven's sake, I always knew that mangy,
flea-bitten thing was an agent of the Devil! The DEVIL, you hear me?!
Now, don't make me send you off to one of those gaijin convents I've
heard so much about! I'd prefer you to stay a traditional Japanese
girl . . . but if I have to I won't hesitate to send you home to live
with your grandmother to be away from all of this nonsense!" She
paused and looked at Artemis with a funny expression. "Then he'd
probably haul out his shotgun and shoot you and I'd be stuck in Japan
and London would be overrun with creepy-crawlies and the world would
be doomed and then where would we be? I'd be miserable and you'd be a
catskin rug!"
"Minako, your father doesn't even *own* a shotgun."
"Oh, well." She flapped a hand at him. "He could GET one, you
know. It's not that hard. And then there are always the kitchen
knives . . ." She stopped shaking her head. "Enough of that . . .
You get the picture. So be goooood!" she sang, slamming the door as
she left the room.
He shook his head as the door slammed. But still, the voices *had*
been eerily accurate and he really *could* picture her parents saying
all those things . . . Maybe she could make it as an actress after
all? It was then that his eyes fell on the green umbrella she has
left lying on the floor.
"MINAKO!!!!!" he bellowed, and he heard her steps thudding up the
stairs as the door flung itself open.
"OH, ALL RIGHT!" she snapped, snatching up the umbrella. "So I'm a
LITTLE absent-minded! Don't we ALL have our flaws?!"
Without waiting for an answer she had pounded down the stair again
and he could only fervently hope that she had enough presence of mind
to OPEN her umbrella.

Exhausted from her efforts, Minako decided not to make the effort
to go to the nearby store and instead boarded a bus waiting nearby and
took it downtown. Getting off at a likely looking corner that was all
a-hustle and bustle she peered about a bit until she saw an warmly
glowing window shining at her from underneath the dim glow of a
streetlamp.
In old-fashioned lettering the sign above the window read
"Aphrodite's Chocolate."
"Aha!" she exclaimed, snapping her fingers and not at all surprised
at her luck. After all, few things surprised her these days, what
with discovering that she had a special extra-terrestrial destiny and
all. That was something that was kind of hard to top with regards to
the surprise department, unless, of course, she thought, laughing, you
were an imaginary character in an anime or manga.
Stepping closer to the window, she took in the display, platters
draped in vivid dark crimson reds to show off the dark gleam of the
chocolate and the glossy sheen of the box covers.
One arrangement stood prominently in the middle, small heart-shaped
boxes tied with tasteful red ribbon grouped together, one on the
other. A little placard was placed next to them, shining silver in
the light.
"Aphrodite's Chocolate?" she read the name slowly to herself.
"That's right," a young man's voice said from behind her. "It's a
new kind of chocolate . . . a very special kind."
Minako turned, and looked up into a handsome, smiling face. Her
heart fluttered.
"Please, come in," he said jovially, gesturing at the open door.
She did so, realizing with a start that he was wearing a uniform with
the store's name printed across the front. He followed her in, still
smiling.
Returning to his place behind the counter, he said cheerily, "It
isn't often that someone just stares at the window for that long
without bothering to step inside. Besides, it's nice and dry inside
and you're sopping wet."
She belatedly realized that she had forgotten to open her umbrella.
"Ah, I . . ." she trailed off, uncertain of what to say. An
abundance of chocolate surrounded her, bars and boxes in all shapes
and sizes, colors and assortments, display cases full of fudge and
other delicious goodies, and the bell-shaped glass on the counter
under which chocolate resided. The two of them were the only ones
inside. Rain days couldn't be good for business, she decided.
"Are you, by any chance, shopping for Valentine's Day?" he asked
watching her.
"I . . . yes." She managed a smile, still staring at him.
"I take it your boyfriend likes chocolate then?" he laughed.
"Don't have one," she said quickly, watching him carefully for his
response.
"Oh? Pretty girl like you?" He shook his head. "I wonder what
English boys are thinking these days."
Minako wondered the same thing.
"So, how can I help you?"
"Um," she fidgeted for an instant, "what do you suggest I buy?"
"Everything here's good. Of course, what else would you expect the
proprietor to say?"
"You OWN this shop?!" Minako said in amazement. He couldn't be
older than twenty-four or so.
"Is that so surprising?"
"It's just . . . I-I thought you were just working here!"
"Well," he grimaced, "chocolate's not exactly the most lucrative
profession. I can't afford to hire help and it's such a small
business, anyway, that I just run everything myself."
"What, um, made you decide to go into chocolate?"
"When I was a very small boy I used to come here everyday after
school to buy a bar of chocolate. The owner was very kind and the
shop was always full of children . . . but he retired and sold the
store. The new owner wasn't so friendly and he really didn't know
anything about the business at all. After a while, business slowed
and the new owner put this shop up for sale again. By then, I was
just out of college with enough money saved to tide me over for a bit.
I already had a job lined up and everything. Can you believe I was
going to be a computer engineer?
"Ah, but when I heard this shop was for sale - It was an
opportunity I couldn't give up. It has always been my dream to own
this place," he said with a sigh. "This shop has always carried
nothing but the very best chocolate and the very best brands from the
best chocolate makers in the world. Swiss chocolate, Belgian
chocolate, dark, light, white, milk, nut-filled, fruit-filled, cream-
filled, caramel-filled . . . every kind of chocolate in the world."
His eyes held a faraway look that faded abruptly as he looked at her.
"Ah, but I discovered the best chocolate of them all," he winked at
her as though sharing some immense secret, "and I know it's the best
because I created it . . . It's right here. Aphrodite's Chocolate,
named after this shop."
"The chocolate in the window?"
"That's right." He smiled. "Here, have a piece. Compliments of
the maker." Pulling out a box from beneath the counter he opened it
and offered it to her. She took a piece of the round chocolate
gingerly between her fingers. It was intricately decorated with
flowers outlined in chocolate. Taking a bit, her eyes widened in
surprise as the rich, sweet taste rolled over her tongue.
"This is sinfully good!" she exclaimed, savoring the flavor.
"I'm glad you think so."
"You must be making millions selling these!"
He flushed. "Well, they're doing rather well on the market. I
supply the other shops with boxes and they're selling out at such a
rate that I might be able to expand soon."
"Wow! So you might be a multi-billionaire soon?!"
"Not quite. But I might actually start making a profit, yes."
"How much is a box?" she demanded.
He quoted the price and she whistled. "You really WILL be a multi-
billionaire." She paused then stuck out her hand. "Oh, I'm Mina by
the way."
"Will," he said, shaking her hand.
"Pardon?"
"William Beckett."
She snickered. "Will will be rich and successful!"
"Did you want to buy any chocolate?"
She shook her head. "Not today. I'll have to take a rain-check
until I can save up enough money to buy a box of that chocolate of
yours!" A ray of sunlight caught her eye. "Oh, look, it's stopped
raining. I probably should be getting back home now. Is it okay if I
come back later?"
"Of course," Will replied. "I'll look forward to selling some
chocolate to you. How about I walk you back out since I pretty much
dragged you in here to being with?"
He did just that, and when he swung the door open she squinted in
the bright daylight, feeling as though she had just emerged from a
different world.
"Hey, Will," the girl sweeping wet leaves from the front of the
flower shop next door said, as he and Minako stepped outside.
"Hello, Angela," he said blushing, and watching him blush Minako
felt her good mood drain away.
"Quite a drencher, wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, rather."
The girl shook her head, short brown curls bouncing about her
shoulders. "Nobody feels like buying flowers when it's pouring out."
"Do you work here?" Minako interjected politely.
"Oh," Angela looked startled for a moment, "not exactly. You see,
it's my shop. My mother's and mine."
"I see," Minako said, and looking at Will's scarlet face and
Angela's sunnily oblivious one, she really DID see.
Swallowing her disappointment she looked more closely at the two of
them.
Eyeing Will and Angela she smiled to herself, a devious glint in
her eyes.

Kenneth stared moodily at the calendar as he rotated one stiff
shoulder. He'd missed half a week of school because of his injuries,
he STILL wasn't fully recovered, despite the quick healing properties
of his Guardian mode - which weren't too helpful since he couldn't
seem to control his transformation - and Valentine's Day was next
week.
No doubt his father would call and announce that he had fixed
Kenneth up with one of his business partner's daughters for the
duration of that day. He made a face. Seeing how well their LAST
conversation had gone when Kenneth had finally been able to call him
back . . .
That was it. He was disconnecting the phone and hiding out at the
library, or the museum basement, or somewhere else he was unlikely to
be, until the whole thing blew over. If he remained at home his father
would doubtless send some of his lackeys out to fetch him. It wasn't
like he had the slightest interests in any of *those* girls anyway.
Inadvertently he pictured her, that girl, Aino Minako, and he felt
a blush suffusing his face. What was he thinking? She was just a
KID. And . . . and . . . if he *did* see her what would he even say?
'Hi, I have we met before? I think I know you from another life?' He
figured he'd have about half a second before she told him to drop
dead.
But still, even though he didn't know her, even though he had
promised himself to wait and see, to let the dream remain a dream if
it was best that way . . . STILL, the thought of her with someone
else . . . it IRKED him.
Valentine's Day. What a useless holiday.

"Valentine's Day. What a splendid holiday," Lady Garnet mused.
"So many love-sick fools ripe for the harvest."
The youma bowed before her. "Yes, my lady."
She glared at him. "Don't think I've forgotten your predecessor's
failures . . . the ENTIRE pack of Hunters lost to TWO warriors?! It's
a disgrace I can never live down . . . nor your kind for that matter."
She sniffed. "Be certain that you obtain RESULTS for me or else you
will suffer the same fate as the one who formerly held your position."
There was an uncomfortable silence as a wail of pain could be dimly
heard from somewhere beneath them.
"They're almost done with it," she said, showing a glint of white
teeth in her smile. "They took their time to make sure the job was
done right . . ."
The youma gulped. "Y-Yes, Lady Garnet."
"How are the operations proceeding?"
"Very well. Energy is being collected and everyone who passes
through is being checked with the star crystal."
She steepled her fingers. "Do *try* not to attract an untoward
attention. We will have something to *deal* with those meddlesome
warriors soon, but for right now all that is required is to carry out
or mission without interference. When she shows up, distract her with
some disposable youma and make sure the star crystal is safely
returned here."
"Yes, Lady Garnet."
She dismissed it with a wave of her hand and it hastily left,
stumbling over its feet in an attempt to leave her presence.
"Yes, Sailor V. Soon you will no longer pose a problem."

The next day . . .

Minako threw on her coat and banged about her room in her hurry.
"Going to that chocolate shop again?" Artemis asked her dryly,
having heard all about the "really cute guy in love with the
completely oblivious girl" the day before.
"NO!" she snapped back. "I'm going to work!"
She double-checked the time on her watch. "AND I'M LATE!"
Artemis clapped his paws over his ears in case Minako actually
managed to break the sound barrier this time as she ran down the
stairs.
Peering at the carpet, he shook his head. "Hmmmm. You'd think
there would at least be burn marks."

"So this is your writing assignment?" Yuri sounded dubious.
"Yup! Can you look over it for me? Pretty PLEEEEAAASE?!!"
"Ummm," the model stared at the paper for an instant, "okay."
"Cool."
"Mina!" Boss Stanley yelled.
"Coming!!!" She turned to her friend. "Sorry, gotta go! I'll
pick it up later, 'kay?"
"Mmmm-hmmm." Yuri flapped a hand at her, still staring at the
paper in partially horrified fascination.


An hour later . . .

Sayuri slapped down the pages on the top of cabinet where Mina was
digging out white paper. "Your English is atrocious, Minako-chan!"
"Peggy said the same thing," she said gloomily. "Demo, Yuri-chan,
your English is *funny* . . ."
"What d'you mean, *funny*?" Yuri asked, mock-anger filling her
voice.
Minako smiled. "You just sound . . . weird."
"Don't be such a cheeky gel! Anywho, I do NOT sound weird . . .
It's just . . . I didn't really learn proper English. Um . . . I
watched too many Scottish and Irish shows when I got here so my
English is a mess."
"What she means," Todd said, poking his head around the door, "is
that she's addicted to accents!" He quickly ducked his head back
behind the door as Yuri flung a shoe at him.
"Idiot," the model muttered. Minako smiled, filing that term under
"Synonyms for Baka."
"Hey, Yuri-kun, do you know how to get a girl and a guy together?"
"Ohhhhhhhhhh?" There was a certain predatory look in Yuri's eyes.
"Who's this then???"
"No, not ME!" Mina said hastily. "I wish! I just made friends
with this really cute guy and he's in love with this girl who doesn't
seem to notice him . . . AT ALL."
"Is he really that cute?"
"Yes."
"And you're not going after him?"
"I don't interfere with true love! It's this rule I have."
"Aw, you softie," Yuri pouted. "Well, okay, so you want to help
the guy out?"
"That's about the shape of it."
"Size," Yuri corrected absently, tapping her fingers on the
cabinet.
"What?"
"Never mind."
Mina grabbed an armful of paper and began walking, Yuri
accompanying her, as she refilled the copier and began placing paper
in the computer printers.
"All right, here's what you do," Yuri said suddenly. "Get the guy
to admit that he likes her and get HIM to do something."
"Like what?"
"Like ask her on a date."
The blonde turned to argue with the brunette. "What if she turns
him down?"
"What if she doesn't?"
"That's true, I guess, but what if-"
"What if you got to work?" a voice broke in.
They both turned guiltily to see Boss Stanley glaring at them.
"Yes, sir!" both chorused, quickly separating and going off in
separate directions. Minako snagged her paper off the cabinet on her
way back and noticed that it was covered with red marks and a little
note from Sayuri at the bottom.

"Needs a little work. ^_-"

She sighed.


Later that week . . .

"Hi!" Minako chirped, breezing into the shop. The first thing she
noticed was the horde of people. Then she noticed that they were all
in line and clutching boxes of Aphrodite's Chocolate as though their
lives depended on it.
Making her way around the crowd, she finally found Will ringing up
purchases. "Oooh, business good?" she teased.
"Rather good."
The phone rang.
"Mina, would you get that?"
"Me?" she squeaked.
He nodded.
"Um, okay." She ran into the backroom and picked up the phone.
"Hello, Aphrodite's Chocolate."
"Oh, *is* this the right number? You *DO* still have some left?"
"Um," she glanced outside to where the people were. "Our stock is
running low, so if you want to get some I advise coming down
immediately."
"Oh dear! May I have the address?"
Mina gave her directions and hung up the phone, only to have it
start ringing again. Risking another quick glance at Will who seemed
harried but happily so, seeing as he was selling his chocolate, she
picked up the phone again. "Hello? Aphrodite's Chocolate."


Two hours later . . .

"Whew!" Will said, watching the door shut behind the last of the
customers. "What a day!"
"You can say that again!"
"Oh, Mina, are you still here?"
She looked at him in exasperation. "Who do you think the wonderful
person is who's been answering your phone for the past two hours?"
He chuckled. "Just kidding! You've been a great help! Here." He
pulled out a box from behind the counter and held it out to her. "My
last box of Aphrodite's Chocolate. For you."
"Really? Just for answering your phone?"
"What? Don't you think you deserve it?"
"I don't know," she mused, remembering the plan. "Don't you think
there's someone else who deserves it *more*?"
He looked at her without comprehension. "Someone?"
"Oh, come ON, Will! Don't play dumb. I'm sure Angela would
appreciate this more than me."
To her astonishment he flushed and dropped his eyes. "I would
never . . . She deserves diamonds, not chocolates."
"Maybe she just doesn't understand what she would *really* be
getting? Will, did you really just buy this shop because you liked it
when you were little or was there another reason?"
He refused to meet her eyes.
"Oh, Will," she exclaimed, frustrated. "Can't you just admit that
you love her?!"
"That's not the problem! It's just-" He saw her startled eyes and
lowered his voice. "It's just, she's had such a hard time all her
life, struggling to keep that flower shop open with her mother. I
didn't want to go to her with nothing to offer but chocolate and my
heart. But now, now things are different. Aphrodite's Chocolate was
featured in a few ads and word-of-mouth is getting around . . . you
saw them today . . . It's going to be a success! I just know it!
And then I can go to her with *something* as opposed to nothing . . ."
She shook her head, taking the chocolate from him. "No, Will, this
chocolate is important because you made it with love. Because, even
if she doesn't know it, you made it for her. Not because it's going
to make you rich. Your heart is the most important thing you have to
offer."
"I'll be back another day," she said softly.

A few days later . . .


"So what do you think, Peggy?" she asked from where she was perched
on a table, swinging her legs as she bit into an apple. "What should
I do?"
Peggy paused mid-brushstroke. "I don't really think it's up to you
to fix up their relationship, Mina."
"Of course not! But as the Goddess of Love I ought to do
SOMETHING, right?!"
". . ." Peggy turned back to her canvas and painted for a while
before saying anything. "Maybe you should talk to Angela and see how
she feels about Will? You know . . . sound her out?"
"What is she supposed to sound like?"
*Sweatdrop* "It's an expression, Mina! You know, talk to her and
see if she likes Will too or if she's got someone else. You know,
that kind of thing. That way you'll know if he's setting himself up
for rejection or not."
"Ohhhhhh. I get it. Okay, great! Thanks, Pegs!" She hopped
down from the table and gave the girl a hug. "So what are you
painting? Huh?"
A perfect reproduction of a box of chocolate and an apple were
depicted on the canvas.
"Well, all that talk made me sort of hungry," Peggy said
sheepishly.
Minako couldn't help giggling.


The next day . . .

"Hello!"
Angela looked up from cutting rose stems and stuffing them into
little vials of nutrient liquid. "Oh, hello. Will's friend . . .
Minako, isn't it?"
"That's right. You can just call me Mina, though!"
"All right, Mina then." The woman smiled.
"Do you need some help with that?" She gestured at the pile of cut
roses and the other pile of tubes that lay on the countertop.
"I'm all right. It's just that my mother's not feeling very well
today so I'm on my own."
"Really, I'll help. I mean, it looks like you've got a lot of work
to do and that doesn't look too hard . . . just time consuming."
"Welllll," Angela temporized, "I suppose it wouldn't do any harm."
"You just stuff them in those nutrient-things, right?" She picked
up a rose and a proceeded to do just that.
"Careful of the-"
"Ow!"
"-thorns."
After one or two tries she got the hang of it and Angela got
started making some flower arrangements as one or two customers
wandered about inside.
"Soooooo," Minako said, looking sideways at Angela as she finished
with another rose and picked up another one, "errrrm, how long have
you and Will known each other?"
"Oh, let's see." Angela paused to consider. "Must be three years
now . . . since I met Will a year or so before he re-opened Aphrodite
next door."
"Reaaaallly? And where did the two of you meet?"
"Star Trek Convention."
"I see, I see." Minako nodded wisely. Then she blinked. "Wait,
back up, *what*?"
Angela giggled. "Not a "Trekkie," I see."
"Erm, no, not really. I mean they run it nights back home and it's
dubbed in Japanese and all but I don't really . . . keep up with it.
So, um, you and Will both like Star Trek?"
"Oh yes! I mean, it sounds a little silly, but I was dressed up
like a female Klingon you see and Will decided to go as Data and we
were both in line to get an autograph when we started talking . . ."
In the next two hours Minako learned more than she *ever* wanted to
about the Star Trek universe and the world of conventions . . . and
probably more than she wanted to about Angela and Will's hobby for
cosplaying. It left her no closer to finding out Angela's feelings
towards Will but what it *DID* leave her with was a healthy sense of
fear for the mental state of florists and candy shop owners
everywhere.

When Minako dropped by at Aphrodite's the following day after
finishing a long day of school and work, she had no idea where to
start with her "plan." She wondered if Will had thought about what
she had told him . . . if he had understood what it was she had been
trying to say. If he had taken action and spoken to Angela . . . ?
Will was engrossed with carefully packaging some chocolate. They
were twice the size of a normal chocolate and had intricate designs
worked in color on their surface.
"Oooh, what are *those*?" Minako asked, eyes wide.
"Those are the special Aphrodite's Chocolates that go in the
individual boxes."
"How pretty!"
He smiled. "Tell you what, I'll let you design one yourself and
keep it for helping me out lately. How's that sound?"
She grinned. "Sounds great!"

An hour later she was just finishing up the last of her chocolate
design as Will watched over her shoulder.
"Oh, that's very good," he commented, biting into an apple.
She turned, smiling happily, the icing tube in her hand. "You
think so?"
"Yes. Who is it?"
"It's Sailor V!" she said immediately. "The greatest justice-
fighter in the world!"
"The one in all the papers?"
"Yup! That's her! She's my . . . ummmm, idol!"
"But how do you know what she looks like?"
"Uh, errr . . . guessed."
"I see." He smiled to himself. "Did I tell you the legend about
the decoration of Aphrodite's Chocolate?"
"No. What about it?"
"I like to think that it has the power to grant wishes. Because I
put so much love into every batch I make. Every piece of chocolate
brings me one step closer to my dream, you see, so it really is
granting my wish for me. I decorate them with the things that I want
the most deep down in my heart."
"Is that why so many of them have flowers?" she asked slyly, adding
another line of frosting to her chocolate.
He paused, looking at her. Then with a chuckle, he said, "That's
right. That's why they have flowers on them."
"And the angels? I thought they were supposed to represent Cupid."
He blushed. "Not quite. *Ahem* But what I'm trying to say, Mina,
is that maybe someday you'll be able to meet Sailor V in person."
"Hmmmm," she replied in a neutral voice, almost wishing she'd iced
it with a picture of a good-looking boy instead. "I guess. But that
wouldn't be *that* hard. Sailor V comes in time to perform miracles,
after all."
"Is that so?"
"Of course. It's something she's good at."
"Well then," he laughed, "maybe she'll show up in this very store."
Minako thought to herself, carefully stifling a
giggle. Aloud, she said, "Eating an apple? I
thought you subsisted entirely on chocolate!"
"No one can subsist entirely on chocolate. And like they say, an
apple a day keeps the doctor away!"
She stored that saying away for future reference.
Finishing with another flourish she stood admiring the finished
product. "Not too shabby."
"Right, now let's pop it in the freezer so it can harden fast
enough so you can take it home in a bit."
"Okay."
They had just accomplished that task when the phone rang and Will
reached over and picked it up. "Hello, Aphrodite's Chocolate."
Instantly, his expression darkened. "What? Again? All right,
I'll be right over."
He slammed the phone down on the hook and stood glaring at it for
an instant.
"What is it, Will? What's wrong?"
"It happened again."
"What?"
"Someone broke into the Choco-World shop and stole the whole supply
of Aphrodite's Chocolate."
She blinked. "They STOLE the chocolate?"
"Yes."
"And this has happened before?"
Shaking his head he reached behind the counter and tossed her a
newspaper.

The headline read:

RASH OF CHOCOLATE STORE ROBBERIES - NEW CHOCOLATE STOLEN - MAKER
GUILTY?

"I'm under suspicion for stealing my *own* chocolate, of all
things. The police seem to think that it's all just a big publicity
stunt or some such nonsense, but the other chocolate shop owners know
that it's not."
He shrugged into his coat.
"Where are you going, Will?"
"I have to go see the Choco-World proprietor in person and assess
the damage." He sighed. "I have to double-check nowadays to make
sure that they aren't just out and are making up stories to get more
from me since the chocolate's become so popular. Since I make it all
myself I can only supply a certain amount to each shop. When they run
out, that's it until they've all gotten their shipments . . . Then I
can start filling orders again. But when it's been stolen that's
another matter."
"Can I come with you?" she asked.
He shrugged. "If you want."

The took the bus and did not speak on the way which gave Minako a
little time to think and a little time to doubt.

"Mina," Will said suddenly.
She started, then turned to look cautiously at him. "Yes?"
"Thanks for . . . well, for what you said the other day. You were
right."
"I was?"
"Yeah. I'm going to talk to Angela."
"Really?"
"I've decided. Valentine's Day . . . I'm going to tell her how I
feel."


When they had gotten to the store and surveyed the damage, Mina was
more confused than ever. Why would anyone bother breaking through a
glass display window to steal CHOCOLATE?
Apparently, no one else got it either.
"I don't understand it! I just don't understand it!" the manager
at the store wailed. "How can our entire supply of Aphrodite's
Chocolate be gone?! That chocolate's in demand! We're losing
customers!"
"Don't worry," Will said grimly, "if you order more I'll get it to
you as soon as possible."
The man looked at him mournfully. "But can you manage? I realize
that it's all hand-made and we're the fifteenth store that's been hit
. . ."
"I'll manage," he said, between gritted teeth. "That chocolate is
going on the market!"

Will spent the next few days feverishly making nothing but
Aphrodite's Chocolate. He even closed the store in the meantime so he
had more time to work. For that reason Minako didn't come back to
pick up her chocolate until it was Valentine's Day.
"Ugh, rain again?" She shook her head as she ventured out that
day, actually remembering to bring her umbrella before Artemis could
tell her not to forget.
She picked up the chocolate from Will who absentmindedly got it out
for her, still working on a new batch of chocolate.
He seemed so tired and distracted she didn't have the heart to ask
him if he had bothered talking to Angela. It didn't seem like the
time or the place to broach that subject. Next door the flower shop
seemed extraordinarily busy as customers rushed in and out, making
last minute purchases. It was a stark contrast to the dark windows of
Aphrodite's Chocolate.
Angela spared a moment to wave at her. She, too, looked exhausted
and frazzled.
Mina wondered if *anyone* she knew was going to enjoy this day.
Perhaps Sayuri and Todd. Valentine's Day was a day for couples . . .
She looked at the carefully wrapped chocolate in her hand.
I don't understand . . . Why did I make this? Who is it even
for? I don't even have anyone to confess to this year. Wow, that's a
first.
It's so lonely here.

As she made the long walk home she noticed a store that seemed to
be doing EXTREMELY well. The line from the store trailed down the
street and wrapped all the way around the corner.
"Why in the world are there so many people?" She shook her head in
irritation and shoved her way to the window where she could see for
herself what they were selling. What met her eyes was box after box
of Aphrodite's Chocolate. In fact, nothing *but* Aphrodite's
chocolate.
Her eyes widened in surprise. Will was fair - he never gave anyone
more than the quota. NEVER. Whirling, she rushed out into the rain
towards Will.

"Will! Will!" she exclaimed, bursting through the door.
"What?" he said, startled by her sudden noisy appearance.
"I *huff huff* just *huff* found a store selling nothing BUT
Aphrodite's Chocolate!!!"
"WHAT?!" He grabbed his coat and quickly made his way to the
door, Mina at his side. He strode next door with brisk strides and
threw the door open. "Angela," he yelled and she turned to look at
him from where she had been arranging a bouquet for a customer.
"Will?"
He tossed her a ring of keys. "Something's come up. Can you watch
the shop for a bit? I shouldn't take too long."
"What's going on, Will? What's happening?" she asked, frightened.
"Minako's found the chocolate," he said through gritted teeth.
Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, goodness. Are you going to call
the police?"
"NO." He pounded one fist into his open palm. "I'm going to teach
them not to steal from me FIRST. THEN I'm going to call the police."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"Don't worry! I'll look out for him," Minako asserted as they
exited the shop.
Angela looked after them with worried eyes.

Will's anger simply continued to brew as they ran to the store. He
was muttering under his breath the whole way and Mina was positive
that it was a long stream of obscenities from the way his eyes were
narrowed in anger. Of course, he was justified but she was simply
glad that *she* wasn't the one he wanted to beat up.
Still, what she had told Angela before had been a bluff. She
really was worrying that Will would get himself hurt by trying to take
on the criminals all on his own. Of course, criminals who stole
*chocolate* weren't exactly high on her list of fears, but you never
knew, right?
I wonder if V will need to make an appearance?

Upon their arrival Mina noted that the line had grown *longer*.
They pushed and shoved their way through the resentful crowd, finally
making their way inside the store.
"Please wait in line," the man behind the counter said reprovingly.
"I don't have to," William Beckett snapped. "I made that
chocolate. You're the ones who stole it from ME and other honest
people trying to get by!"
"Really, sir," the man said, stepping up to him. Faster than the
human eye he had grabbed Will about the collar and lifted him into the
air so that his feet dangled, tightening his hold until he was choking
the man.
Suddenly spines burst out through his clothes and his appearance
mutated until he was no longer human-like in appearance at all, but
was rather covered in a sleek oily purple skin. The two women behind
the counter followed suit and the people in the store fled, screaming
and shouting in the manner that has only been perfected by those in a
state of complete and utter panic.
Unseen by anyone, one of the cashiers ducked out through the back
door, an oddly glowing dark crystal hidden in his hand.
The youma tossed Will to the floor and glared, his eyes glowing
red.
"Mina! Run! Get help!" Will shouted.
She took one last look at the scene behind her, then turned and
ran.
Ducking into a nearby alleyway, she glanced about quickly and
seeing no one cried, "Moon Power Transform!"

No one except perhaps Will was surprised when Sailor V stepped
through the door. They were all rather taken aback when Angela
brushed past V and ran into the store, hair disheveled, eyes frantic.
Seeing Will, she ran to his side. "Are you all right?! What's going
on?!"
"What are you doing here, Angela?"
"Oh, I left the store with Mother. What have those monsters *DONE*
to you, Will?!"
The large male youma looked disgruntled. Before Minako could stop
it, it stretched out on hand and slammed Will into the wall. "That,"
it muttered, its pale red eyes fixed on Angela's frightened face.
Will had mercifully passed out.

Sailor V was not particularly happy about the turn of events.
"Hey, you! Monster-thingy! What the heck do you think you're
doing, picking on innocent people when *I'm* standing right in front
of you?! I'm Codename: Sailor V! A defender of Love, Truth, and
Justice, and I'm hear to kick YOUR butt! Got it?"
"Who are you?" the youma grated out with some difficulty due to his
prominent canines.
"Didn't I just tell you?! I'm Sailor V!" she exclaimed, indignant.
He growled, ambling another step closer.
V stepped forward as well, refusing to back up. "I don't know what
your game is but stealing is ALWAYS wrong!"
"Don't interfere!" His teeth clashed against one another and his
voice was heavy with threat. "Or you might get hurt."
Her short hair brushed against her cheek and she stiffened in
remembrance of how close to death she had come last time. "No, I
don't think so."
His arm shot out, but she was ready for it.
However, before anything could be done about it, an orange rose
shot through the air and buried itself in the aforesaid arm. The arm
burst into a flickering mass of dust motes as the youma yowled in
pain, stumbling back a step.
Venus's gaze followed the path it had taken to rest on a tall
figure standing perched on one of the rafters.
"Are you all right, Sailor Venus?" he asked her solicitously.
She goggled for an instant, then nodded, her mind supplying her
with unhelpful thoughts like, "Yes, thanks! And . . . you are?"
"Guardian Griffin!"
The youma sprang forward with a howl of rage just as Griffin
flipped off the rafter, drawing forth his sword as he did so and
neatly slicing through the remaining arm as he landed before he
plunged the blade behind him through the creature's middle whereupon
he exploded into dust.
The whole maneuver looked effortless.
Sailor V was suitably impressed.
"My Lady."

Guardian Griffin was a bit miffed, if the truth were to be told.
He had been busy fleeing two of his father's employees who had somehow
found his hiding place in one of the school supply closets and had
been chasing him in an attempt to apprehend him and force him to
follow his father's plans when he felt her transform. With some luck
and more skill then he would have preferred acknowledging he possessed
he had managed to evade them and transform.
So here he was now, confronted with two paltry youma - having
already dispatched one FAR too easily - Sailor V looking rather lovely
and in control of the situation, and he was still not fully healed
yet. Now that he was in his Guardian guise he could feel his injuries
mending more quickly but he was still annoyed that at their first real
"meeting" she would see him at less than his best.
This must be the least dangerous situation of her career . . . and
here he was, saving her from *what*, exactly?

was the thought that kept
running through Sailor V's head as she stared at Griffin, but its
endless loop was abruptly cut by the sound of two female youma
screeching in a mixture of horror and anger. "You killed our big
brother! For that you must face our RETRIBUTION!"
"Would you prefer me to handle this?" Griffin asked mildly.
"No, it's all right. Why don't we mop this mess up together?"
"Suits me."
The youma were growing increasingly frustrated at being summarily
ignored and dismissed. "We'll show you our TRUE POWER! Choco
ATTACK!" Two clouds made up of round pieces of chocolate appeared
around them, darting towards Sailor V and Guardian Griffin. V slid
and ducked, rolling, as the chocolate exploded around her upon impact
with the ground. From his outstretched fingers Griffin sent out a
burst of energy which impacted with the chocolates headed his way and
exploded them mid-air.
The twins cartwheeled in opposite directions circling the Senshi
and the Guardian, spikes flying from their spiny backs.
V back-flipped over them, touching down with a one-handed handstand
just as Griffin turned, reaching up his hand and *twisting* in a
motion like tugging at invisible strings. The spikes clattered
harmlessly to the floor.
The youma followed the spikes with simultaneous lightning bursts.

Griffin and V whirled past each other as the two youma's attacks
flashed past them and then they were facing each other, a hands-
breadth apart.

In that instant of stillness, their eyes met . . . grey and blue
drowning together in a sea of emotion . . . and she knew. Her heart
knew.
"Here," she said, pressing the package into his hand. "This is for
you."
Then the instant was past and the battle was on . . .

It was finished without a lot of fuss. They stood back-to-back and
as the youma circled, shrieking, the two warriors shouted their
attacks together and each one struck a youma which fell, sizzled for
an instant, then vanished into dust.
"That didn't take too long," Sailor V observed.
"They certainly didn't prove as much of a threat as your last
adversaries."
She looked at him, her eyes wide. "You were there?"
Something akin to sorrow colored his eyes. "If I had been capable
of it, I would have kept the ocean from touching the coast for you . .
. but I am not as strong as I ought to be. And for that, you have my
apologies." He reached out and fingered one of the short strands of
her hair.
V pulled away, smiling unsteadily. "No, it's all right. I've been
told that short hair looks good on me."
"You'll have no argument from me."
She colored a little, then reached out to touch his arm. "Really,
I-"
He bit back an exclamation of pain.
"You're hurt!" she exclaimed, looking at his arm.
"It's nothing," he assured her, carefully suppressing the pain, but
she looked far from convinced.
"Really," he said, his eyes and voice conveying more emotion than
he was aware of, "I'm all right now."
She flushed scarlet without quite knowing why.
Then realization filled her. "You fought them." It was a statement.
"In a manner of speaking."
"You kept the rest of them from me . . . didn't you?"
He inclined his head slightly.
"Th-"
"And that's my cue to leave," he interjected hastily. "Don't be so
quick to dish out gratitude. You never know what I might want in
return for a service rendered."
Somehow, she looked more amused than convinced. "Are you going to
be around?"
"We'll meet again." There was a hint of a smile on his lips before
he leapt to the rafters and vanished out one of the high windows.

Sailor V glanced back at where William lay slumped on the floor,
Angela kneeling beside him.
"Oh, DO wake up, Will! I implore you!" the Englishwoman said in a
voice that left no doubt as to her feelings for him. "Will! Please .
. ."
His eyes fluttered open and focused on her face. "Angela?" he
asked in a tone of disbelief. "Are you all right?"
"I am now."
And it was the quality of her voice, of the emotions in her voice
that made him smile and say, "Will you be mine, Angela Scott? I know
all I've got now is the shop, but sales for Aphrodite's Chocolate are
good and-"
She cut him off, her lips pressed to his. "You silly," she said,
smiling tenderly at him. "Of course I will."
The next instant he looked at the chaos around him and said
incredulously, "She really did come. Miracles really do happen."
"Who, dear?"
"Sailor V."
But when he looked for her to thank her . . . she was gone.

"And that's how it was," she said, having finished her explanation
of the day's battle, complete save for a few choice Griffin bits she
had carefully excised.
"Well, um, good job," was his weak response. She could tell that
he was upset at having missed the action and perhaps even a little
proud of his protege's performance.
"What about Will and Angela?"
She shook her head. "*Those* lovebirds? By the time "Mina" came
back with the police they were planning out the honeymoon. They're
going to combine Aphrodite's Chocolate and the flower shop. They both
looked really happy and hardly even noticed when "Mina" left."
"Are you happy?"
"I'm happy for them, yes. I'm glad I could help today . . . but I
can't help but feel that the battle was too easy. It's almost as
though they weren't prepared at all for me, which is something I can't
believe. Do you think that it was done on purpose? Are they trying
to study me?"
"I think you're on to something there. You'll have to be
especially careful from now on. We might have to intensify our
training schedule so you can better prepare yourself against any
future attacks." He paused. "I can't believe you were perceptive
enough to notice this. The hair isn't the only thing that's changed.
Are you *really* the same girl I found back in December, or have you
been replaced by a youma?"
She snorted. "Are there any youma *THIS* beautiful?!"
"Forget I asked."
"Oh, that's right. It's still Valentine's Day! Here, Artemis,"
she said with a soft, sad smile as she pulled out the box of
chocolate. "Have some Aphrodite's Chocolate."
He looked at her carefully. "Mina-chan . . . are you sure? Why
don't you eat some?"
She patted his head and stood up, smiling briefly. "Don't you
worry about me, neko-chan. I'm fine. Oh, Peggy's coming over later.
Let her in, would you?"
"Sure thing, Minako . . ."
She stepped out onto the balcony and slid the glass door behind
her. Gazing out at the London streets below she smiled a real smile.


Kenneth unwrapped the chocolate and stared at it for an instant.
There was a tiny picture of Sailor V smiling and posing with a "v for
victory" sign on it from within a heart.

Venus's mark of love.

He broke into a slow smile.


To be continued . . .


I wanted to write a Valentine's Day episode in time for Valentine's
Day . . . four years ago! __