This is a plot bunny I've had on my mind, which also has served nicely as a stress release valve. For those of you waiting for the next update of Silence and Ninja Walkabout, it'll be a couple of weeks probably since I'm really busy at the moment. I'm hoping to have updated by Thanksgiving.

This story takes place when Storm Shadow is still in Cobra, but before he was subjected to the Brainwave Scanner.

The Toothpaste Bandit

It was rather dull at Cobra Command and ninjas didn't thrive on dull. They needed excitement and if you're one particular ninja, you also need revenge (even if only of the passive aggressive kind.)

It all began late one evening as Storm Shadow prowled silently around the base. Some of the Cobra elite were off in Springfield and Cobra Commander was currently gloating about some recent mission. The ninja had been left with more free time than he knew what to do with.

"I'm telling you Tony, most normal people squeeze their toothpaste from the bottom."

Somewhere on the floor below him, two Cobra troopers were trying to make time fly more quickly during their guard duty.

"That's stupid, I squeeze from the top," the other trooper replied.

"I said normal people," the first shot back.

Bored and in a mood for mischief, Tommy Arashikage's ears practically perked when he heard the two men. The ninja sat silently in the ventilation duct as he pondered this. He of course squeezed from the bottom, as any sensible person did. One did not waste something as important as toothpaste.

"You think Cobra Commander squeezes from the top or bottom?" one of the Cobra troopers asked. There was no verbal response, so the ninja guessed that the other man had replied with a shrug of his shoulders.

Storm Shadow silently left the two guards, who had no idea that they'd been spied on. A twinkle of mischief glinted in the ninja's eyes. It had been several years since he'd joined Cobra to find his uncle's murderer. Between dealing with Cobra Commander, the GI Joe team, and his own haunting memories, there was precious little that made him smile these days.

That of course, didn't mean that he kept his nose out of trouble. It was impossible to separate Tomisaburo Arashikage from the word 'trouble' and even catching a whiff of it made his nose twitch. No, the fact of it was that pulling pranks on unsuspecting Cobras helped him to keep what little sanity he had left.

Besides, did Cobra Commander squeeze from the top or bottom?

Curiosity piqued, Storm Shadow proceeded to break into the living quarters of each and every Cobra elite. Examinations of toothpaste bottles showed a range of habits. Cobra Commander did indeed squeeze from the top, as he was hardly a sensible person. He was also very fond of the brand Colgate. Destro squeezed from the bottom while the Baroness and Major Bludd both squeezed from the middle.

It figured that the last two would throw the proverbial middle finger into the bottom versus top debate.

Dr. Mindbender squeezed from the bottom and as perhaps to be expected from a former dentist, had only the finest quality of toothpaste. An assortment of floss and mouthwash also neatly framed the toothpaste and toothbrush sitting next to the sink. Storm Shadow mentally took notes as he surveyed the scientist's bathroom. The man was twisted, but he knew how to take care of teeth.

Tomax and Xamot came as a surprise, honestly. The ninja was expecting the results to either be identical, or to find that they shared the same toothpaste. To his surprise, he found that there were two separate toothpaste bottles. Both were ChaCha, which he later discovered to be an expensive Italian brand. However, one twin was very obviously a squeeze from the top kind of guy while the other preferred to squeeze from the bottom.

There was also a bottle of Sensodyne sitting on the left half of the bathroom sink. Apparently one of the twins had sensitive teeth.

Storm Shadow was determined to tell which twin was which, but he drew the line at planting a camera in the bathroom. Ninjas didn't need such things and the idea was just plain wrong anyway. He ended up employing the 'Ear that Sees' technique to determine that Tomax kept his things on the left hand side of the sink, meaning that he was the one who had sensitive teeth (and squeezed from the bottom).

The Dreadnoks proved to be the most fun. As to be expected, only Zartan, Zarana, Zandar, and Buzzer brushed their teeth. All three siblings squeezed from the top while Buzzer squeezed from the middle.

Tommy almost didn't enter into the Dreadnoks' shared bathroom, fearing what he might find. After a day of deliberation, he finally summed up his courage and entered. It was foul smelling and rather horrible. A single, nearly empty toothpaste bottle lay on the floor, pushed up against a corner. It looked as if it hadn't been touched in months.

Storm Shadow pitied the poor toothpaste bottle. Such a gross misuse of dental hygiene.

Determined to help change society for the better, the ninja picked up the bottle and popped the lid off. He found that the little bit of toothpaste inside had dried up. Not to be deterred, Storm Shadow left and came back armed with three bottles of Crest toothpaste.

Tommy opened one bottle and held the opening to the dirty mirror. In fine, elegant print, he neatly wrote "Brush your teeth" across the mirror with the toothpaste. After a moment of thought, he added, "Or I'll kill you."

Then he drew a smiley face.

That done, he left one bottle in the bathroom and exited.

His message was of course met with mild curiosity and irritation. Thrasher blamed it on Zarana, which Storm Shadow took as an insult. The next day, the ninja again wrote the same message across the mirror. He also stuck a knife into the wall.

Tommy drew a lovely toothpaste circle around it.

He heard gunshots in the bathroom later that night, followed by the sound of Zarana's angry ranting at the destroyed bathroom wall.

For the remainder of the week, the ninja took to periodically vandalizing the Dreadnoks' quarters with toothpaste. He also followed silently after them during his free time. Storm Shadow took great pleasure in sneaking up to them and whispering "Brush your teeth" in as menacing voice as he could manage. The ninja then would slip away from sight.

Sometimes, if he was so inclined, he would draw toothpaste artwork on unsuspecting Dreadnoks while they slept.

This of course raised anxieties among the Dreadnok crew. Some were convinced it was a ghost. Others, the more intelligent members of the lot, suggested that Storm Shadow or Mindbender were behind it. The lesser intelligent members of the group immediately took up the battle cry.

"Mindbender's been tryin' to get us to brush he has," Ripper complained. "The bastard's going to pay."

And so, a group of rebellious bikers stormed into Dr. Mindbender's laboratory. The end result was a pissed scientist, a trashed laboratory, and an equally pissed biker gang. Storm Shadow spent about fifteen minutes laughing his ass off.

By the end of the week, every single Dreadnok kept a wary eye out for their tormentor. They walked in at least groups of two or three. One always kept his eyes on the ceiling, having been told by an amused Zartan that ninjas and ghosts liked to hide up there.

So Storm Shadow began to write "Brush your teeth" on the ceilings as well. Having become bored with using Crest for his artwork, the ninja began stealing the Crimson twins' precious Chacha toothpaste.

Cobra Commander apparently found all of it hilarious. Dr. Mindbender did as well, at least after he got over his laboratory being destroyed. The two men suspected that Storm Shadow was behind it, but neither one berated him or ordered him to stop.

However, Storm Shadow eventually grew bored of the game. He wasn't getting anywhere with his community service project and hadn't succeeded in making the Dreadnoks improve their oral hygiene. The ninja finally took it all to its logical conclusion.

He kidnapped the Dreadnoks one by one, tied them up, and squirted toothpaste into their mouths. He then left a toothbrush on each of their laps, told them to brush or he'd kill them (in quite the serious voice) and left.

True to his threat, the ninja haunted the biker gang for the next month. The twins of course figured out why their toothpaste kept disappearing and took to trying to hide it…which ended up being a useless cause. Tommy found them every time anyway.

After many cuts, broken bones, and near death experiences over the course of several weeks, a compromise of sorts was finally reached with the Dreaknoks. The biker gang agreed to brush their teeth at least twice a week, even if only to avoid death by Storm Shadow and death by Zartan (who turned out to be sympathetic to the ninja's cause).

Of course, Storm Shadow suspected that Zartan had wanted to end the toothpaste war to preserve his own sanity.

Regardless however, it was a battle won (somewhat). It had also been a lot of fun.

Years later:

General Clayton Abernathy, also known as Hawk, rubbed his eyes tiredly. A stack of papers sat in front of him, taunting him with silent mockery. They were all reports written by a recently defected Storm Shadow. The ninja was of course still recovering from the effects of Dr. Mindbender's Brainwave Scanner, so his memories were still rather hit and miss. Even so, the intelligence the ninja had provided on Cobra should be helpful.

Hawk pulled a report out of the pile. He hadn't yet had a chance to read all of them yet. The general took a sip of coffee and looked at the top of the report in his hands.

"Details on the Dental Hygiene Habits of Cobra"

"What the hell?"

*Weird plot idea finished, now off to work and unpleasant professors. Hope you all enjoyed! As for my toothpaste preferences, I generally squeeze from the middle or the top.