Title: From Dusk 'til Dawn

Warnings: Tayuya's mouth and Sound Four speculation. The following story is also highly farcical in nature.

Summary: A day in the life of some of Oto's finest. Or why it's not a good idea to draw on Tayuya's face. Crack fic.

oOo

They were the ones to be relied upon in all circumstances, deadly weapons and brilliant tacticians in the same instant. Second only to a scant handful, in Oto the Sound Four (five for all those who could actually count) were a force to be both feared and revered. To the soldiers who served beneath them they were practically inhuman when the power of the curse seal turned them into terrifying forces of nature.

They were the elite.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Kidoumaru, you are such a damn slob."

…they were also about as disorderly a group as you will ever have found.

"Mmm?"

Pissed off by the lack of response to the comment she'd thrown at him as she entered his room with the intention of picking a fight, Tayuya took her irritation on the haphazard pile of books stacked by the thing that might have been a bed under all the mess. As pages scattered under the influence of a short, sharp kick, Kidoumaru finally looked up from the pile of cards at the aggravating girl who'd just ruined his zen-like state.

"What was that for?"

Tayuya jerked her chin in an encompassing gesture that somehow included his whole room while remaining abrupt and unfriendly. "How the hell can you turn your room into a shitty pigsty when we change bases every week?"

The draft she made as she stomped towards him ruffled loose sheets of paper and the spider-nin held two sets of arms protectively in front of the delicate castle three and a half packs of cards had gone into so far as he sent her an aggravated, brows drawn look. Usually jovial to the point of seeming extremely sinister, Kidoumaru made exceptions for when people intruded upon his private time.

"Did you barge in here just to say that?" he inquired huffily, folding his top pair of arms while the other two continued to shield his construction.

Tayuya gave him a blank look – did he mean she actually needed a reason to enter unannounced and uninvited into his room other than feeling the urge to piss him off? Shaking it off, she scowled and toed the ground restlessly. "You'd think with four more arms than the rest of us, even a loser like you could be more productive."

What else could he do but sigh and turn away? Tayuya and aggravation went hand in hand and it was only his petty side that prevented him from giving into the contact she sought to initiate out of sheer boredom. "Get lost, Tayuya."

"Fucker," she spat. The redhead had taken the word 'fuck' and made it into an art form, in all its different deliveries. Inflection was everything after all. Settling for a withering look at the darker-skinned youth sitting Indian style in the midst of all that chaos, she stalked towards the door, but paused with a hand on the frame. "And for the record, his High and Mightiness wants to see us in the briefing room." Kidoumaru almost expected a 'so there' to be thrown on for added childish pique, but she somehow refrained from doing so. Instead, now that her point was made along with a generous handful of her usual insults, Tayuya just exited.

Kidoumaru groaned as the reverberations from her slamming the door rippled through the stone floor and he could do nothing while his intricate project first wobbled, then tottered, then collapsed completely even as he watched helplessly.

"Tayuya, you bitch…"

Outside, the bitch was snickering all the way to the briefing room.

oOo

His High and Mightiness (Kabuto to his face) was already waiting when Kidoumaru slouched into the room. Not waiting impatiently because Kabuto didn't do impatient, but waiting in pleasant silence. Looking at the silver-haired medic in his poncy glasses, Kidoumaru knew exactly what each of the Sound Four already present in the briefing room was thinking.

Smarmy git.

The latecomer spilled himself gracefully into one of the chairs scattered around and steepled his hands. When you had six hands with which to steeple, it was fairly impressive. From further towards the front of the room, Jiroubou's glance backwards was disapproving while Sakon and Ukon squabbled unintelligibly in the chairs beside the mountain of a man. Behind them, Tayuya straddled a chair backwards, her expression blank and uninterested in one of her usual bipolar swings between pissed off and bored as all hell. Her dips into sadistically cheerful were better left to the imagination.

The sharp 'phwip' noise that snagged everyone's attention again was merely Kabuto riffling papers pointedly. "Now that everyone's finally here," he said calmly, "We can proceed." He spread the papers out in one smooth movement, like a dealer cutting a deck of cards. "The target is located in the northern periphery of Earth country and Orochimaru-sama requires it of you all to…"

It all very quickly degenerated into the usual hum-drum of Kabuto going over each meticulous detail with his usual precision that was only usually suitable within an operating room. The sound elite all heaved sighs (both of the internal and audible kinds depending on how bothered they were about offending the medic) before the fidgeting commenced. Orochimaru's right hand man could be as scary as their snaky leader himself some of the time – he enjoyed the company of dead bodies for heaven's sake – but the rest of the time, he was just plain tedious.

Booooooring.

Sitting on a seat that creaked every so often, as if it was trying to decide whether or not it could hold his weight, Jiroubou was at least trying to pay attention to the outline of their mission (though it was just one of hundreds they'd carried out before and could be walked through in their sleep) when a soft, crinkly something thumped into the back of his head. Bemused, he stooped over his knees to scoop it up where it lay dwarfed by the lake his palm made. Upon opening the slip of paper it turned out to be, he wished he hadn't.

'Oi, fatass. Move your lumpish head – I can't throw anything at Four Eyes.'

Jiroubou resisted the urge to press his face tiredly into one large hand. He looked forwards to the day when Tayuya remembered she was a woman and suddenly, miraculously developed decorum. Then again, with the company she kept, it was an unlikely prospect. He briefly toyed with the idea of ignoring the note – Tayuya was obviously being deliberately provocative to alleviate her boredom and it was best to leave her be – but in all actuality, he was fairly uninterested in the goings on around them as well.

Smoothing the crumpled scrap out on his knee, Jiroubou started penning in script that was far neater than Tayuya's haphazard, unbothered scrawl. Even her writing seemed angry.

'Please don't throw anything at Kabuto since it will merely aggravate him and make this all go on a lot longer.' He nibbled on the end of the pencil he was supposed to noting details down with before adding an afterthought. 'Watch your language. And I'm not fat.' Folding the note, he tossed it discreetly over his shoulder, eyes still firmly on Kabuto who was blithely explaining the layers of protection spread around the specialised jutsu scroll Orochimaru desired this week.

The next bundle that was chucked forcefully at him was merely an offensive sheet of pure profanity with a few scribbled drawings for good measure, plus a charming little gem right at the bottom. 'And you so fucking are.'

This time, Jiroubou really did pass a hand across his face in exasperation.

The next time something hit him, he turned to glower at Tayuya, his assumed perpetrator, but she only scowled back at him as if to say 'what the hell are you staring at me for, rat's ass?' Snickers from his right drew his gaze that way and Sakon smirked at him before returning to watching Kabuto.

This note was written in a slanting cursive, full circles over the i's and long loops beneath g's and y's – the handwriting was known from both Sakon and Ukon so he had no inkling as to which it was actually from when he opened it.

'Is it fun having love letters rejected by the red-headed bitch?'

Understandably, a response was written and thrown extremely quickly.

'Don't even suggest things like that. Shouldn't you two be listening to what Kabuto's telling us?'

Again, the reply was a swift one.

'Why bother when we know that Kidoumaru makes enough notes for the rest of us? Sadass.'

Jiroubou wasn't going to argue the truth in that, but two notes, written by two ambidextrous hands, landed beside the larger man and the effeminate pair.

'I can hear what you're writing, you know – pen strokes aren't that difficult to decipher. In short: make your own damn notes.'

'Smartass, stop trading letters with the faggots and the rhino and use those six freakish arms of yours to chuck something at Kabuto – my dessert tonight if you knock off his glasses.'

'…deal.'

"Ahem."

When five sets of eyes flashed back to Kabuto, they found that his usual bland mask had been stripped away to reveal the unamused, glittering eyes behind those innocuous glasses. It had taken the Sound Four (Five) a while to figure out that the medical genius really wasn't as aggravatingly amiable as he'd first seemed – no, that façade was just to piss off unruly children who knew they couldn't make a move against him. The real deal was a lot scarier.

"When you children are done playing," he said slowly, putting the emphasis on reminding them just how young they really were, "could we get back down to business?" Met with the mutinous atmosphere he'd come to know and love, Kabuto just smiled icily and pulled his trump card. "Would you rather I gave this mission to Kimimaro then?"

Irritated about being manipulated so easily, but unwilling to allow any of the fun to go to the white-haired pet, they quietened down. Just sullenly. And with promises of revenge later on.

"Good." That friendly, false smile was back with a vengeance.

Towards the back of the room someone growled and it was entirely likely that, today, some poor male was going to lose some very vital parts.

oOo

"I hate getting up early," Tayuya groused into her rice at lunchtime, stabbing it with her chopsticks. Stabbing rice really wasn't all that satisfying and she did vaguely consider stabbing Sakon instead, but passed the idea over in favour of securing the chilli oil and keeping it.

The male members of her group rolled their eyes at the familiar pronouncement. "We know," Sakon replied, tetchily so because he liked chilli oil, dammnit. Truthfully, there wasn't much that the red-topped terror didn't hate aside from her flute and painfully emasculating those who irritated her. Since Orochimaru didn't need his foot soldiers to be sexually functional, he let her – it was cheaper than anger management therapy.

He did ask her to spare the prettier ones, just as a favour.

Jiroubou was a mountain of a man compared to the scrap of a girl next to him and he went about eating methodically, his usual passive scowl creasing his forehead. He'd reached a state where he just ignored the usual bickering that raged around him on their table.

As some of Orochimaru's highest ranked minions, the Sound Four did actually have the option of dining alone in the room reserved for them. However, faced with having to share breathing space with Kimimaro and Kabuto, it wasn't much of a surprise that they chose to slum it in the mess hall with the rest of the soldiers. Banding together was only instinctive because, on their own, they were vulnerable.

At least if they ate together, they could see the knives coming and, maybe, have time to duck.

Kidoumaru eyed the bowl of rice Tayuya was methodically eviscerating (how she managed to eviscerate cooked grains was beyond him) and sighed, propping his chin on one of his hands. "And what else were you going to do with your day then? Tell me you weren't just going to waste it anyway."

Feral as she was, Tayuya bared her teeth at the smirking young man. "I wasn't going to spend all morning playing shitty card games by myself."

"Touché."

"You play card games by yourself?" Ukon asked snidely from where he and Sakon were sitting feeding each other. It was a creepy, creepy habit that Tayuya had yet to beat out of them.

The six-armed man bridled defensively. "It promotes dexterity." Tayuya made a vague sound of derision. "It does."

"Suuure."

Sometimes, Kidoumaru really hated them.

Then Jiroubou who had, until then, been keeping out of the debate/blooming fight (and wisely so) chose that moment to flash a meaty arm with surprising speed to catch the kunai that had been heading towards Ukon's face. Kidoumaru himself eyed the wrong end of a senbon trapped in Tayuya's flautist's fingers, though with little surprise since he'd heard it coming from a mile off.

The Sound Four turned as one in their chairs towards the wan-faced assassins at one of the other benches. Tayuya grinned and cracked her fingers while Sakon started a low, ululating death trill in the back of his throat. Audibly, several gulps were heard.

As they set about punishing the miscreants, Kidoumaru was also reminded that, sometimes, he really didn't know what he'd do without them.

oOo

"Nothing like a little bit of violence to work off lunch," Kidoumaru said cheerfully as they exited the mess.

Tayuya rolled her eyes at his chipperness, but didn't argue. Instead she just grabbed a server by the throat and was a little bit smug when he cowered and gibbered in her grasp. "Shut up," she said. He did, mid-plea. "Clean up the fucking mess in the dining room."

"And don't forget to scrub the ceiling," Sakon chimed in. Meals were never enhanced by guts finally losing the battle with gravity and ending up in your miso.

"Understand?" Tayuya shook the poor guy a little, just to make sure he got it all drummed into his head. The servant nodded frantically. "Good." She looked thoughtful and chewed on a lock of red hair absently, as if holding a guy who was twice her age and height by the throat was a normal thing to do. "And while you're at it make some of that soup with the dumplings for dinner. The chicken ones." She turned towards her comrades who looked alternately amused, impatient or disapproving depending on their nature. "Any orders?"

"Those red bean buns for dessert." Kidoumaru smirked and added, "Which you owe me by the way, Tayu."

"Fuck off." Annoying teammates dealt with, her interest in the hapless underling had long since faded and she dropped the bundle of quivering limbs. The man, just grateful to have escaped, scrambled off fast enough that the Sound Four could almost hear the skid marks his shoes made when he turned the corner.

"It's so difficult to find good service these days," Jiroubou said mournfully.

"Yeah – if they're too scared shitless they start burning things." Kidoumaru grinned and clapped Tayuya on the shoulder, then skipped neatly out of the way when she tried to hit him for being too familiar. "Eh, Tayu?"

"It's not my damn fault if they're too pussy-livered and scare easy." She cast an annoyed look in Sakon and Ukon's direction. The two were snickering, heads as close as always. "What are you fags giggling about now?"

"Heh," Ukon said while Sakon sniggered. "There's a mess in the mess hall. Get it?"

The other three just stared at them and, even though they were a good thirty feet underground, a cricket chirped.

Then Tayuya shuddered and stomped off down the corridor towards their quarters. "Fucking faggots and their god-awful puns."

"Next thing you know they'll be writing limericks."

"If they do, slit my fucking throat."

"Language, Tayuya…"

oOo

The afternoon was reserved for training. Since Kimimaro didn't deign to grace them with his presence ("Thank fucking God," Tayuya verbalised inelegantly to the fervent agreement of the boys) the darting in and out of the forest surrounding the base was almost fun.

Sure, Jiroubou's nose got broken in a close scuffle with Kidoumaru and the twins were furious when Tayuya 'accidentally' managed to singe their precious hair, while the girl herself limped home on a sprained ankle, but who was counting?

All in all, Kidoumaru thought it had been a productive few hours.

That was until he got sucker-punched in the gut by Tayuya for offering to carry her.

(Incidentally, this still counted as the five 'getting along'.)

oOo

The problem with keeping a handful of very young and very gifted young shinobi in what was essentially an underground fortress was that there wasn't much to do.

And it was always a disaster when the twins got bored.

"She isn't going to be happy when she wakes up," Kidoumaru warned the pair, torn between amusement and wondering whether he should save his skin by hiding now.

"When is she ever happy awake?" Jiroubou interjected. This was a very good point that the other three boys accepted with solemn nods before the (potential) hilarity and (certain) danger of the situation reaffirmed themselves.

"She deserves this." Sakon stuck his tongue out in concentration as he wielded eye-liner with practised precision. "And isn't Jirou always saying she should act more like a lady?"

Jiroubou squinted down at a sleeping Tayuya's face. "I'm not sure any lady would wear this…" he said doubtfully.

Kidoumaru had to agree. The vampy lipstick and thick eye makeup were more likely to be donned by a prostitute than any woman with a trace of honour.

On their inelegant teammate, though, it was absolutely hilarious.

"If she kills you two," he informed the twins, "I'm not going to be the one who tells Kabuto that he needs two more people for the mission tomorrow."

"Hey, His High and Mightiness is next on the list." Ukon, Kidoumaru decided, could be extremely creepy when he smiled like that.

Beneath the expert hands of the twins, Tayuya suddenly stirred and her agemates froze. Luck was on their side and she only rolled over instead of waking up, turning her painted face away from them.

"Damn," Sakon groused until he realised that he could now doodle crude anatomical drawings on the exposed small of her back. That was amusement enough to keep him occupied.

Kidoumaru grinned and placed two of his hands casually behind his head. Another two were idly shuffling a pack of cards; the last pair scratched at his belly. Dinner had been satisfying, he was looking forward to an early night and none of them had died today.

It had been a good day. And Kidoumaru was easily satisfied.

Then Sakon's pen slipped, Tayuya awoke with a roar of outrage and they were all soon engaged in a helter-skelter chase through the twisting corridors of the underground base. However – even as he fled from a vengeful Tayuya who was hellbent on punishing her teammates – Kidoumaru laughed.

It was still a good day.