Author's Notes

The title "The Turtle Never Sleeps" came from a billboard advertisement in Fiji. Not sure what it was advertising since all that was there was the words, but I fell in love with the words. The story's developing well in my head.

I originally put the main characters as Kouichi and Izumi, seeing as they're the only two that show up in this paragraph, but then I decided that if I expanded it just the tiniest bit, I'd be able to do a lot more with the rest of the characters as well. Izumi's father in this fic is Japanese, but her mother is Italian and she was born in Italy.

You know, the transition between Kouichi's scene and Izumi's scene, they're both reading, so if it was an animation, Kouichi's gaze would vanish into the book, then a voice, then Izumi's gaze coming out of it. Hard to explain, but the mental image made me wish for about three seconds that I could animate it.

I would have gotten this up earlier but a gum tree fell on the powerlines and the power went out and my laptop's battery isn't too good. My parents want me to retire it, but I won it so I can't let go that easily. Although, I also won the new laptop so it doesn't make sense to anyone else. I might as well wait till uni starts though; that's where we really need a good battery if the power goes out.

Enjoy, and tell me what you think. As usual, it's summer and I'm both bored and deprived.


The Turtle Never Sleeps

AU Frontier-verse. Nature cares for its own, except when humans interfere. They were animals, but they didn't have the right to that name. They were the abomination of nature.


Chapter 1

Early December Rush

'All right, that's enough. You'd better hurry off to school now or you'll be late.'

The young teen looked up from where he had been sorting through receipts, before nodding and gathering them carefully into a neat pile to continue the tidying in the afternoon.

'Sorry there's so much,' the elder male looked up down apologetically from his desk.

'It's okay,' the boy smiled. 'December can be quite a busy time.'

'True enough,' the man agreed, smoothing back his not yet greying hair. 'Would you like a ride to school?'

'No thank you,' the boy said hurriedly, settling the last of the things into its designated drawer. 'I'm not in any rush, and you have your own work to do.'

'That I do,' the man sighed, sitting back down at his desk. 'Any excuse to procrastinate.' He paused to extract something and the other hurriedly bowed.

'I'll see you in the afternoon sir,' the teen said quietly, straightening up. At a nod he slipped out the door.

'What school did you say you went to?' the man asked, a little too late. The other had already left.

It wasn't as if it was an entirely important question in any case. It had just occurred to him that the nearest school from the office complex was the one his daughter went to, a girls only one, and the next, impossible to reach in time unless one was an Olympic sprinter.

The latest file shoved the thought out of his mind. And the latest mayhem stated how useful it was to have an extra few hands in the mornings and afternoons, even to many a higher employer felt somewhat saddened at the thought that children of such age found themselves working for pay in the stead of playing with friends. Of course, fifteen or so year olds didn't exactly 'play' in their generic sense, but in the view of adults, it could still somewhat be considered as such.

Still, December was an extremely busy time, so they normally got anyone willing to work for peanuts. And they were normally high school kids. The current was the youngest so far though, barely a year older than his daughters and really looking too young. That was the part that really bothered them all, but admittedly there were unfortunately many unfortunate families around. That was the "upper" of the situation.

There was a quick rap on the door, before the receptionist poked her head through the door.

'Kazuki-kun is here to see you Orimoto-san,' she said.

Orimoto Mamoru sighed. It was going to be a long day.

'Show him in Haruna-kun.'

'Hai.'


Truth be told, he didn't go to school. Not anymore anyway, but that was a strictly need-to-know basis so he hadn't told his current employer that. It was illegal for someone to employ a teenager (or a child for that matter) during school hours anyhow, so it didn't really matter to the said employer or any associates.

The supermarket clerk didn't know either, but that was because there was a different one every time. Or had been so far. Some questioned his presence when he should be in either homeroom or first period, others couldn't care less. Then there was the rare couple who thought he was old enough to not be in school. And there was the fact that he had only been in the neighbourhood for a couple of months and probably wouldn't be staying for many months more. The deep freeze of winter was always quiet, so it was a good time to move and find a new place to settle down…temporarily that is.

The young woman manning the counter smiled down at the younger boy. 'Just the loaf of bread?'

The mop of dark bluish-black hair bobbed up and down.

'That will be 200 yen.'

The boy handed over two 100 yen coins and took the plastic with a word of thanks before heading outside.

As soon as he slipped through the automated doors, he had to fight a dim instinct to run back inside. The shops were heated throughout the winter, and the air conditioning was on full blast in the summer; there were times where one would freeze in the middle of July and sweat in January.

Of course, now the slight warmth he had managed to attract had turned into icy shards. And he still had to eat a bite of breakfast. Shame one wasn't allowed to eat in libraries.

In the end, he took cover under a large oak in the park…not that open covers gave much cover to the chill.

He received a few odd looks, mostly from parents keeping an otherwise sharp eye on toddlers under the age of four and who, unburdened with a day at school, were running around in bundled blurs of red and pink and blue. Apparently mothers avoided dressing little kids in green; a wise idea seeing as that would be a tad harder to pick out of the uncut grass, dense hedges and sparse leaves still clinging to brown wood. They also avoided white, for the simple reason that it was a pain to clean grass and mud stains out of.

He was wearing a green jacket, but then, he wasn't a cute little three year old trying to run up the slide with their father standing vigil on the bottom to catch their son should they slip and fall. Nor was he a nine month old girl being strapped into the baby swing and pushed gently by their mother, what little of her cheeks open to the cold air pink from their tinge. She was wearing a bobby beanie, pink with a large pompom falling down behind her head, and a snug pink scarf wrapped around her neck. Small red hands clutched at the metal of the swing, and their owner giggled madly, unable to formulate words at her age but still happy as her mother gently swung her back and forth in her seat. The harness-like buckle was safely strapped about her, and a firm hand stayed the tongues of the wind as the child trilled in joy. From another bench, a man, slightly older than the woman, laughed out loud, sharing a smile with his wife before returning to the warm Styrofoam cup of tea and his newspaper.

Neither of them noticed the boy watching, nibbling at a slice of bread and ignoring the mix of hunger and other emotions. Sometimes it was easy to forget how it was to have a constant roof over one's head, wondered at the unfairness of it all, the merry children with their smiling faces, the taller ones prim and proper in their uniforms and complaining of homework problems…but then, those things didn't really matter to him in the current circumstance. It was only when he sat like he was, drawing out the single slice so it would both keep him on his feet and last a length of time. Two hundred yen didn't sound a lot to some people, but to others it was an amount they weren't willing to sacrifice more times than they needed to.

A crow came up to him as he was finishing, black beady eyes starving only for food as his feathers stuck out more than usual.

The blue eyes stared back, before the boy owning them offered the bit of crust he had left.

The crow cocked his head as another one fluttered down to stand beside the first.

You expect me to gobble up a piece the size of my head? The look seemed to ask.

For some reason, that made the boy grin, and the bite-sized piece of bread crumbled easily in his hand.

Now little more than crumbs, the crows eagerly nibbled away, eating half and taking the others in their mouth before fluttering up. The blue eyes followed them up, spying a nest in the trees.

For some reason, he suddenly felt cold again. But then a thin jacket over a pullover didn't offer much protection to the winter's chill.

People still gave him odd looks as he stood up, brushing himself off and then the seat he had sat on, receiving even odder looks. It was something habitual, leaving no traces except the warmth that was already fading because of the cold; it wasn't a cloth-like material or rubbery that absorbed heat and held it. Metal heated fast and cooled just as speedily, and while the light dust, soil and debris that settled between people had been brushed away, sooner or later the wind would carry them back, and spiders would weave homes where the cold warmth never touched. He hadn't seen any spider homes. Perhaps they had chosen somewhere warmer.

He should too, otherwise he would get more sick than could be dealt with.

The library was a good choice. The elderly behind the desk never questioned the too-young presence out of school. And loosing oneself in knowledge and fantasy was something that had always appealed to him. And more importantly, it was something he could hold on to.


'…I can't believe this assignment.'

'Me neither. Giving every group a different period in history, and we get the most boring one.'

'I mean, seriously? The Jomen period? Prehistoric boredom.'

'Yeah.'

Curled up in a secluded corner of the library, he hadn't expected to be disturbed. What he hadn't counted on was a junior high school class on a library excursion.

'Aargh, there isn't even a book here.'

'Maybe the encyclopaedias?'

'I hope so. I'm not reading through those fat history books for slim mentions.'

Funny…people didn't normally use the encyclopaedias during the day, he thought to himself, rubbing the sleep out of eyes.

'I'd rather read the new fashion magazine.'

'Ooh, you have it?'

'Girls, what are you doing?' A stern male voice had interrupted them.

'We were thinking of going over to the encyclopaedias,' one of the two female voices replied innocently.

'Well, go on then.'

'Well, see that you-this is still a class, and you are to work on your assignment now or in detention.' He had a classic schoolteacher look by that last sentence, looking down on the huddled form who slowly uncurled yourself.

'Excuse me?' said boy was understandably bewildered, even more so when the man pulled him to his feet.

'I'll be having a word with your teacher. Akatsuka? Or Takahashi?'

Apparently he was aid, not the teacher who normally took the class, otherwise he would have recognised that the boy he was now dragging off to a tall red-haired female was not one from her class.

'Sachiko-kun?'

She turned to him. 'Hai?' Then she raised an eyebrow at the boy he was still dragging by the arm. 'What is this?'

'One of the students was napping in the reference section.'

'I'm not-' the black-haired boy began, but the woman turned to him and he fell silent.

'Name?' she asked.

'K-kimura.'

She checked the list, before frowning. 'Not from our classes. You know the punishment for leaving the school grounds without permission is severe.'

'Hai Sensei, but I-'

'What school do you go to?' the man asked severely, but the woman took a closer look at the boy's appearance.

'I don't,' the boy replied quietly. 'I've left.'

'Leave it Adachi-kun,' Sachiko interrupted before the man could question the boy further. 'Check on the boys in the video room.'

He left to do so, and the red-haired woman turned back to the blue-eyed boy.

'Either you're telling the truth, in which case I would apologize for my aide,' she began. 'Or you're lying.' Her gaze lingered on the thin, worn jacket and the grey pants that were worn in like. 'In which case I can do nothing without proof. So off you go.'

'Hai Sensei.' He bowed politely. 'I'm sorry if I caused you any trouble.'

'No trouble at all,' Sachiko replied, waving him off, but before she could say anything, another student hailed her. 'Akatsua-sensei?'

Kouichi returned to his plastic bag and book behind the encyclopaedias. The girls had apparently taken what they needed and left, so he was on his own again.

Sleep was still pulling at his eyes, but a quick look at the clock told him he'd slept for about four hours. If he fell asleep again, he ran the risk of being late; there was only another two hours before he'd be back working again.

He really should leave; that was one mind vs. heart battle he went through everyday when the bitter cold stopped him from curling up in a dark alleyway or a small alcove or under a tree or in a cave…anywhere a thirteen year old boy could sleep without stealing from the resources that others paid for. No-one owned nature's shelter, especially when it was out of the way of industry. Sure, they paid for the park's maintenance, but was for everyone, just like the world was for everyone. Or so he rationalised to himself…or hoped. Sometimes he wondered if he was only kidding himself, but it was either that or die and the latter was too frightening a concept no matter what else.

But winter was simply too cold; he'd freeze. At night, when it was worse, he couldn't sleep for the fear of being frozen, petrified and unable to move as life ebbed away. And what would he be able to do then?

But he wasn't visiting the library to read, was he?

The blue eyes found the book that had slipped out of his grasp.


'Hey, we're going to the mall. Want to come?'

Orimoto Izumi looked up, blonde hair for a moment shimmering in the artificial overhead light, but then she lowered her head to her book and the image vanished.

'No thank you,' she said firmly, leaving no room for discussion. 'I don't feel like it.'

The brunette that had asked huffed a little and left, and a few giggles floated over to the one left behind.

'I don't know why you bother with that snob…'

She closed her book with a snap, before stuffing it into her bag and swinging the strap onto her shoulder. Sure homeroom had finished five minutes ago, but the girls normally stuck around, chatting for a lot longer, or like her, finishing off a chapter or a book, or even a Shonen Jump manga, and one girl was still shading in the skirt of Sailor V. A few had left though, including the teacher, so strictly speaking there was nothing holding her.

She really didn't feel like going to the mall, not with those girls who'd giggle over "cute" merchandise and "sexy" clothes that would cause (or so they believed) every boy in the street to stare at them, nor on her own. That was the problem with all-girls schools; no boys on campus, unless one counted some of the teachers…and the poor janitor that no-one paid attention to. Besides, her father worked in management there, so no doubt she'd have the misfortune of running into him when her mood was turning sour; a distinctly bad idea.

There wasn't as much to do it seemed in Japan as there had been in Italy. Everything was so…collected, while her country of birth had allowed one to stand on their own feet. It was funny, she reflected, because the collectiveness also ripped people apart. Joint custody she noted was practically unheard of here, and even if it didn't concern her, the thought of parents been forced in desperation to kidnap their own children for a right they should have been given was rather frightening when one thought about it. And why did people, especially girls, have to travel in groups? Adults were one thing, but it was annoyingly rare to pick out a teenager or a child on their own and not travelling from point A to point B. Of course, it wasn't entirely unusual to be by oneself, but to be repeatedly seemed to trigger the label of a societal stigma.

She hovered at her desk a few more minutes, deliberating, then swept out the door. She'd head home, she decided. And stop by the supermarket on the way. Pick up some grated cheese and tomatoes, and perhaps some tasty toppings and whip together a pizza. A heavy snack always sweetened her mood.

Then after that was a choice between homework and the DVD she had loaned out of the library. The order didn't especially matter, as they'd probably both get done anyway. She was probably better off getting the tedious math problems out of the way as the pizza baked, then saving the English essay till after the end credits were said and done. Writing essays always seemed to burn more energy.

And that way, she'd be mostly free the following afternoon after a good workout, allowing her to soak in the bathtub until her mother came home from one of her cooking classes and yelled at her to hurry up and get out.

It wasn't like she cared what other people thought. That was why she lifted her chin slightly at the eyes boring into her back as she pulled the necessary books from her locker.

Besides, it would be awhile before she could longue on the couch watching a DVD at her own leisure. What with the holidays and Christmas coming up and all.


Mamoru recognised the three girls, two brunettes and one with hair short-cropped and black, entering the department store as he returned from another store in the complex, Styrofoam cup containing Asamushi in one hand and a paper holding a few cream puffs in the other. He knew that wasn't a particularly healthy snack but it appealed to all parts of his taste buds and he was allowed, on occasion, to indulge in the cravings of his sweet-tooth.

They probably didn't recognise him though; he had seen them a few times back at his daughter's school. They were in the same year. They even came together a few times, but it was quite difficult to discern whether there was any friendship between this group and his stand-alone daughter.

Sometimes it was very hard to tell where people stood. Especially young people, people still working to find their footing in the world. People struggling between drowning and swimming through the foliage that obstructed them. At least adults had their path, though not many would care to admit that they had drowned. In fact, many didn't even realise they had, still breathing water until not even that could sustain them. But even the few people who thought about that only skimmed the water. That was too difficult.

And the only reason he thought about that at all was because he'd moved practically half-way across the world and then back, bringing a wife and daughter who had both been happier in the only home they had known. Both too independent to easily adapt to a communist society.

But time warp healed all wounds.

'Orimoto-san?' Panting, Haruna Kimiko ran up with a bouncing bun of chestnut hair. 'I've been looking everywhere for you. Hakateyama-sama has been looking for you for ten minutes.'

Well…no wonder she had been running.

'Where is he?'

'In his office.'

'Right.' He looked at his afternoon tea, then handed it to the brunette. 'Take this to my office and when Kimura-kun comes in, ask him to start on the new stock. They're by the door in the storeroom.'

'Hai.'

She hung around for a moment to regain his breath, but he threaded through the crowd and disappeared upstairs.

By the time Mamoru managed to get back to his tea, it had gone cold and bitter.


'It's getting late,' he remarked, looking at the casual who was ironing the last of the shirts and slipping hangers into them.

'I'm almost finished,' the other said quietly, not looking up from his work. 'I'm sorry it took so long.'

'Long?' the other repeated, fingering one of the shirts. 'This wasn't supposed to be finished till Thursday morning. Didn't Haruna-kun tell you that?'

The other shook his head, looking apologetic. 'Is it-'

'It's fine.' The older man shook his head. 'Kasagiri-kun will be happy, gives her more time to set up.' He paused for a moment. 'You must be past curfew though; aren't your parents expecting you for dinner.'

'Oh, um…' The other looked shocked momentarily, before falling into a slightly nervous look. 'No. They're…not home.'

It wasn't a lie. It just wasn't what it sounded like.

'That's a shame. Why don't you come have dinner with my family. My wife would love to have you.'

The boy shook his head. 'Oh no,' he said. 'I couldn't. I need to finish this and head on home. I can't be too much later.'

'Well,' Mamoru shrugged. 'You've got tomorrow to do that. Need a ride?'

'No thank you.' He switched the iron off and bowed. 'I'd rather walk.'

'It's cold.'

'It's been colder.'

There was a lot of truth in that statement.

'Well, see you tomorrow.'

'Hai Orimoto-san. Arigato.' He bowed in farewell and slipped out, taking his jacket and the bag it was wrapped around along the way.


Post Author's Notes

You know the normal suffixes, not all the rules don't apply in the workforce. Generally one calls those lower ranked by the suffix –kun, regardless of whether they're a man or woman. –sama is used for a much higher rank, while –san is just a higher rank and not as important as a –sama. I don't think –chan is used in the workforce at all.

The scene with the school teachers…well, derivatives of that are rather common. Normally what happens around here is once you're in a class, say A, in year 7, you're stuck in it till year 10. My teachers moved me to another class, and my old teachers thought I was still in theirs. So when we split off after a joint class, the old teacher got all mixed up. And Japanese classes are twice the size of ours so higher possibility they haven't memorized the roll.