Cooking with Makoto

This is another part of the Crystal Kingdom Archives. It helps if you've read Demon Hunter's Journal first, but (hopefully) it's not necessary. It takes place after Time Passages and before Aa! Megami Senshi!

"That's an interesting smell. What is it?" Makoto stood in the kitchen door, watching Bill cooking something in a deep cast iron pan.

"This? The first step in a batch of chile." He grinned and waved the wooden spoon in his hand. "What's up?"

"Given the way you and Ami never cook anything decent, I came over to fix you something for dinner." She stepped into the kitchen and joined him at the stove. "I've heard of chile, but never tasted it. How do you fix it?"

"Tell you what. You walk me through one of your incredible pastries, and I'll walk you through a batch of chile. How's that sound?"

"That sounds good to me. Let me see what you have left from our last shopping trip." Makoto rummaged through the pantry and refrigerator, while Bill stirred the contents of the pan. "So what made you decide you had time to cook today?"

"I'm at an impasse with a mech design I'm working on." Bill shrugged, with a half-smile. "If I weren't trying to make it transformable, it'd already be done, but I'm trying to make a mech that transforms into a motorcycle. Like a Garland or a motorslave."

"That sounds like something you should get Ami or Mamoru to help you with. Or maybe Rusty." Makoto turned with a smile. "Have you ever had lemon cake pudding?"

"No, but it sounds delicious. Then again, I like lemon the way Mamoru likes chocolate."

"Great! Then that's what we'll make. Set the oven for 170, then you can tell me what you're doing."

Makoto took two eggs and separated them into two different bowls. She took the bowl with the whites and began beating them while she looked into the pan Bill was working with.

"Right now, I'm preparing the meat. I took a couple kilos of the cheapest beef I could find and cut it up like I was going to stir-fry it." Bill stirred the contents of his pan while talking. "I tossed in a dozen Hatch chile pods along with the meat and set the whole thing on the lowest setting I could get out of the stove. It should be ready for the next step soon."

"How'd you keep it from sticking?" Makoto asked, pausing now that the egg whites were stiff to add half a cup of sugar and mix it in.

"If the pan is properly seasoned, it's not so easy for things to stick, but I usually toss in a piece of bacon when I do this, just to be sure." Bill pressed a piece of the meat with the spoon and nodded as it separated under the pressure. "Great. Now for the next step. How much sugar was that?"

"A half cup. What's the next step for you?" Makoto set aside the whites and picked up the bowl with the yolks in it. She added half a cup of sugar, a quarter cup of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of butter, and a cup and a half of milk. She mixed it all together while watching Bill work on his dish.

"Tomatoes and spices." Bill grinned, pulled some tomatoes out of the refrigerator, and began coring and cutting them up. "Hmm...I think I need a couple more."

"How many do you use?" Makoto added half a cup of self-rising flour to the egg yolk mixture, then began beating it.

"Enough." Bill shrugged, looked into the bowl he'd cut the tomatoes into, and poured the contents into the pan. "Chile's not something you can make by measuring. It's kind of like jazz, you know?"

"Kind of like jazz, huh?" Makoto laughed. "So you never know what you're going to get until you've made it?"

"Bingo!" Bill grinned, chopping up some onions and garlic. "All you can be sure of is that it'll be good. What size pan do you need?"

"Two liters. I'll grease one while this is setting." Makoto mixed the contents of both her bowls, just long enough for the mixture to be evenly colored, then set it aside while she went into the pantry for a baking dish. "Are onions and garlic the only seasonings you use?"

"Nope. While you're in there, could you bring back the oregano, cumin, and cilantro?" Bill called as he scraped the chopped onions and garlic into the chile pan.

"Sure. Do you need anything else while I'm in here?" Makoto asked, looking back toward the kitchen.

"Yeah...can you get me the masa, too?" Bill stirred the chile until everything was mixed together evenly.

"Masa? What's that? Oh. Never mind. I see it." Makoto returned, carrying the baking dish and herbs. "I think you'll have to get the masa. I'm not sure you want the whole bag."

"Good point," Bill laughed. He grabbed a flour scoop and headed into the pantry, returning after a moment with a scoop full of corn flour, which he dumped into a clean bowl and set aside.

"So you use chile pods, onions, garlic, and the herbs? Is there anything else in that besides meat and tomatoes?" Makoto asked while spraying oil inside the baking dish.

"There can be. Some people like to add beans to it. I do sometimes. I didn't feel like beans today, though." Bill poured some cumin onto the chile, looked at it critically, then poured on some more. He took a deep breath of the rising steam and nodded, then added a handful of oregano and about a half a handful of cilantro. "That looks good. Let me stir this up and set it to simmer. Need any help there?"

"Nope. It's ready to go in the oven." Makoto poured the batter into the baking dish and slid it into the oven. "It'll be ready to come out in about 45 minutes. How long until your chile's done?"

"Oh, an hour or two." Bill grinned as Makoto looked at him in disbelief. "It has to simmer long enough to thicken."

"What about the flour?" Makoto indicated the bowl Bill had poured the corn flour into.

"Oh, that. If the chile doesn't thicken enough, I just mix some of that in. If I were cooking just for myself, I'd use chili powder, but that'd make it too hot for any of the rest of you."

"So that's why you're cooking up so much. Did Setsuna tell you something she didn't tell us?" Makoto laughed. "I swear, she'd keep dinnertime secret if she thought she had a reason for it."

"Your point?" Bill grinned as he put the lid on the chile pan. He turned, putting on his most innocent expression. "Is there a reason to not keep dinnertime secret?"

"Yes," Makoto hissed, stalking toward him with her hands extended as she tried to keep from laughing. "So you can avoid being punished!"

"You'll have to catch me if you want to punish me!" Bill laughed, ducking past her and running for the door.

"Hihi! Is anybody-OOF!" Chibi-Usa stepped into the doorway, just in time to be bowled over as Bill ran through.

"Oh shit! Are you ok, Sprout?" Bill grabbed for her, trying to keep her from falling to the floor.

"Only if you are!" Chibi-Usa shot back, rolling with the impact and flipping Bill over her into the hall as she fell.

Makoto stopped in the doorway, laughing as she watched Bill slide down the opposite wall and sprawl melodramatically on the floor, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and his eyes rolled up in his head.

**Hey! I'm trying to play dead here! Show some respect for my acting skills!**

**We will. As soon as you demonstrate you have any.**

Hotaru giggled at Chibi-Usa's comment, while Makoto transmitted an image of Bill with a whole bouquet of roses sprouting from his chest. That broke the last vestiges of his self-control, and he joined the others in laughter.

"So what's going on, huh?" Chibi-Usa demanded, sitting up and glaring at Bill and Makoto. When they both laughed harder at her glare, she crossed her arms and growled, "Hey! I'm trying to be scary here! If you don't watch out, I'll punish you!"

Bill curled up, laughing hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. Makoto rolled her eyes and got a glass of water from the sink. When he hadn't stopped laughing by the time she returned, she poured it over his head. He sat up, sputtering and waving a hand in her direction. She grinned and stepped back, out of his reach.

"What did happen?" Hotaru asked, looking from Bill to Chibi-Usa, then to Makoto. When Chibi-Usa held out her hands, she stepped forward to help her sweetheart to her feet.

"Someone around here is trying to act like his daughter," Makoto growled, grinning at Bill. "When I mentioned something about punishing him, he broke for the door - just as Chibi-Usa was coming through it."

"Well...what did you expect?" Bill laughed. "My hair's way too long for an afro."

"Afro?" Hotaru asked, joining the others in her confused expression.

**It looks like this.**

All three women blinked at the image, then Chibi-Usa began giggling as she sent an image of Bill with his hair standing on end, looking a lot more like Yahoo Serious than anything else. That got them all laughing again - so much so that they didn't hear Ami's approach until she was among them.

"Is this a private joke, or can anyone join in?"

"Hi, Angel," Bill laughed, reaching up for his wife's hand as he relayed Chibi-Usa's image. When she joined in, giggling at the idea of her husband with his hair standing on end the way it only could if Sailor Jupiter were playing a trick on him, he tugged her into his lap.

"Makoto says Bill's trying to act like Oneesan." Chibi-Usa laughed. "As if he could manage it without practicing for a couple thousand years first."

"Hey! I can too be sneaky!" Bill protested.

All four women looked at him, then at each other, and shook their heads as they pronounced their conclusion in unison.


"Humph! Just for that, I should punish all of you!" Bill grumped, grinning.

The others looked at each other, then at him, and moved in unison to push him to the floor, laughing as they tickled him mercilessly.

"So this is chile and cornbread, huh?" Usagi took a taste of the chile and closed her eyes thoughtfully. "I though it was supposed to be hotter."

"When I make it for myself, it is. But I had a feeling we'd have guests tonight, so I made it wimpy." Bill grinned, leaned against the wall, and watched as the others tasted it.

"Wimpy?" Mamoru asked, after tasting the chile. "What do you consider hot?"

"Don't ask," Ami groaned. "I made the mistake of telling him I could take it as hot as he could. Once. Have you ever tasted one of those little Chinese hot peppers? That's how hot the entire pot of chile was. My mouth didn't stop burning for over an hour!"

"How do you get something that hot?" Mamoru asked, reaching reflexively for a glass of iced tea.

"It's easy," Bill shrugged. "I use chili powder to thicken it. When I expect anyone else to eat it, I use corn flour instead of chili powder. The flavor's different, but it's not hot that way."

"Do you have any tastebuds left?" Usagi asked, a look of surprise on her face.

" I'll never tell," Bill purred, leering cheerfully in Usagi's direction. She squeaked and buried her face in Mamoru's chest, blushing hotly, as Bill returned to his bowl.

**She sure teases up nice, doesn't she?**

**Yes, she does, Angel. How were you able to resist before?**

**I'm not as good at being goofy as you are.**

Bill and Ami looked at each other lovingly, sharing a secretive smile while the others laughed at Usagi's discomfiture. Rei and Makoto whispered, while Chibi-Usa playfully fed Hotaru, and Minako reached for the dish of chili powder in the center of the table.

"Don't forget to save room for dessert," Bill laughed. "I'm not the one who made it, so it'll be safe to eat."

Makoto gave him a raspberry, while Ami laughed and slapped his arm.

"Dessert?" Usagi and Chibi-Usa asked, almost in stereo.

"Mmm-hmm...," Bill said, smiling secretively. "And it's good , too."

"There he goes again," Makoto laughed. "Trying to impersonate Setsuna."

"It seems to me," Rei said with a sweet smile, "if he wants to act like his daughter, he ought to look the part. Don't you agree?"

"Ha! Not a chance. She's got her mother's looks," Bill snorted before refocusing his attention from his chile to Ami's eyes. At the expression on her face, he gulped and glanced around the room to see the same playful look in Rei's, Minako's, and Makoto's faces. "Uh...."

"Now don't fight it, sweetie," Ami purred as she pushed him over, onto his back. "We all know how much you enjoy having their hands on you."

"I don't think this is quite what he had in mind," Usagi giggled. "We all know how lusty he is - even if he won't say or do anything about it."

Bill turned an interesting shade of red at Usagi's comment and made a small 'eep' noise as Rei, Minako, and Makoto joined Ami in carrying him out of the room. Chibi-Usa giggled and whispered to Hotaru, who turned just as red as Bill had.

"Mmm...what do you think, Muffin? Will they take advantage of him while they've got him down?" Usagi grinned, leaning against Mamoru with a happy giggle.

"Uh..." Mamoru turned red, looking in surprise at his Princess. "You know something I don't, don't you?"

"Of course she does!" Chibi-Usa laughed. "There's some things a man just can't know."

"I'm not touching that," Mamoru murmured, shaking his head. "Not even with my walking stick."

"Smart move, my love," Usagi purred, smiling hungrily up at him.

Bill stood in the doorway at the bottom of the stairs, his arms crossed, tapping his foot, and with an expression of annoyed patience on his face. The women had managed to get him into a fuku that looked remarkably like Setsuna's, right down to the choker and tiara. The four Senshi all had expressions of smug satisfaction on their faces, and the looks they kept throwing his way made it abundantly clear they'd thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting him into the outfit.

"That looks cute, Father," Setsuna commented from near the front door, where she and Sarah were slipping off their shoes. "It's missing something, though. Let me think a minute...."

While the others giggled, Setsuna walked across the room to look her father over critically as his blush deepened past red, into the purple.

**I'm going to punish every one of you for this, you realize that.**

**Promises, promises.**

**Was it so bad, my love? You certainly seemed to enjoy the preparations for putting it on.**

**So did we.**

**I say we do the same thing when we take it off him.**

Bill's mouth dropped open and he stared at the four Senshi, his gaze lingering longest on Ami, who stretched up with a happy giggle to kiss him.

**You're not jealous?**

**Silly! I'm the one who put them up to it. Even Mina-chan wouldn't have tried if I hadn't.**

"I have it," Setsuna announced, flashing her secretive smile. "Pluto Crystal Power, MAKE UP!"

The transformation brought Bill's attention back to his daughter, who smiled and held out her Key.

"Here, Father. Hold this a minute." Sailor Pluto smiled as she extended the Time Key.

"Are you sure?" Bill asked, extending a hand to touch the key.

As soon as his hand was on it, Pluto released the Key, forcing him to grip it so it wouldn't fall. Then she moved to catch him as he sank to his knees, using the Time Key to brace himself as he sagged. His eyes were glazed and his mouth moved silently in an attempt to express the sensations coursing through his mind.

"What the-?" Ami moved to catch her husband, freeing Sailor Pluto to gently remove the Time Key from his hand.

"He just confirmed what I suspected, Mother," Sailor Pluto said gently. "He'll be himself again in a minute or two."

"Confirmed what you suspected?" Ami looked up at her daughter as she returned to her mundane appearance. "What are you talking about?"

"The reason for his notoriously vague time sense," Setsuna replied, kneeling on Bill's other side to help Ami support him. "It's because he's not firmly anchored in the present. His perceptions are as much of possibilities as they are of actualities."

"So when you gave him the Time Key...," Ami mused thoughtfully.

"It amplified his perceptions. At least, that's what I expected it to do."

"Wow...," Bill whispered, blinking and shaking his head sharply. "I feel like a Civic that just got a shot of nitromethane."

"That sounds about right," Setsuna agreed. "Except you're not going to explode from the power. In fact, I'd guess you're feeling like yourself again."

"As much as I can, after that," Bill murmured. "Is that what you see?"

"Unless I put the effort into not seeing it, it is. I created the Time Key to help myself focus better. But it's been almost 20,000 years that I've been using it, so it's acquired a charge of its own."

"Uh...yeah." Bill's eyes grew distant, the way they always did when he was distracted by trying to work out a new idea.

"Time for dessert!" Makoto announced, setting a tray covered with dessert bowls on the table. "It's lemon cake pudding, so I hope nobody's suddenly developed a disliking for lemon."

"Mmm...I already had a much better dessert," Bill murmured, his words bringing a flush to the ears of the four Senshi who'd carried him away.

**So you pulled it off?**

**I did. Once we had him helpless, the rest was easy.**

**Even Rei?**

**Even Rei. She'd rather it was you, but that didn't stop her from enjoying it.**

**You're amazing, Ami. I don't think I could do that with Mamo-chan. I want him all for myself.**

**There are some things that are all for myself. I don't mind sharing the rest. Not when I know how much he loves me.**

"Well? Are the three of you going to join us at the table, or should I feed your cake to Artemis and Luna?" Makoto demanded, grinning at Bill, Ami, and Setsuna.

Setsuna smiled smugly and moved to join Sarah, while Bill and Ami hugged each other and returned to their place. It only took a few moments for things to return to normal as they all enjoyed Makoto's cooking.

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Disclaimer: Sailor Moon, Sailor Senshi, and all terms, names, etc. associated with the series are copyrighted by Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha. I make no claim to them and this work of fanfiction should not be seen as making a claim.

Those characters and concepts that are original, the Crystal Kingdom Archives, and the story "Cooking with Makoto", are copyrighted 2000 by Bill Hartwell.

Rated: PG