A/N: The long awaited sequel to Clipped Wings. And by long, I mean several months overdue. I generally refuse to make sequels because they always end up worse than the original. However, there was a lot of reviewer pressure, so here it is.

Clipped Wings doesn't need to be read to understand this, but what happened in it (basically) is that the massacre still happened but after killing Itachi and finding out the truth about the massacre, Sasuke goes into a state of shock (in a sense) and doesn't get out of it. He lives in his old home, doesn't do anything but sit in the chair, and then Sakura comes along and changes that. He didn't speak until the end of the story, and that's where this one continues.

It's AU, by the way. No ninjas.

Sora

i.

He doesn't talk very much, whether it is her or someone else. Around others, his mouth is sealed shut, a door that is locked and the key is lost. People have to interpret his motions and small changes in expression when looking for a response.

Even that is hard. Sasuke's a closed book around them.

At least with Sakura he does something. Usually he just sits silently, their knees nearly touching as they sit on the porch and look at the world around them. Listening to her chatter idly, his eyes scan the surroundings even though he's seen them a hundred times before. Sometimes he'll nod when she waits for a response, a slow motion that fit with the lazy scene.

She tries not to take this—his lack of response—to heart, tries not to give up and think it's no use.

He's just unused to talking, she tells herself, He's doesn't know what it feels like to be listened to.

She isn't sure if she's convincing herself or just stating facts.

ii.

It takes her weeks to convince him to escape the empty cocoon of his house. He doesn't want to, clinging to it like a crab to his shell in subtle ways. Only the front door is unlocked, only the windows to the rooms they stayed in remained open.

"You need some sun, you know," she says, looking up at him from the cushion on the couch. It's a little old and ratty, stray bits of fluff sticking out from it and tickling her skin. Shifting slightly, she puts her chin in her hands and stares at him. "It's not healthy to be so pale."

Sasuke stays still, not saying anything like usual. In his hand is a book, the cover shiny and new with a small barcode proclaiming it belongs to the library. His fingers trace the page, as though to absorb the knowledge into his blood, before flipping it.

"Hey, I'm serious!" She can tell when she's being ignored—he isn't interested with the world outside as much as he is with the world in his house. "Well, I can't hang out with you half as much then. Mom wants me to show her my friends and help around the house during the summer."

He still says nothing but Sakura can tell she's got his attention by the ways his hand pauses before flipping the page. The wind blows through the window gently, picking some of the dust off the furniture. For a moment, it hangs there, the mist blocking the sun, before she sneezes and blows the cloud away.

"It's not healthy for me here too—Mom will start thinking I have allergies at this rate." She waits for a moment, adding the dramatic pause she hates, before continuing. "Besides, if you want more books and other things, then it'll be quicker. You can come to my place sometimes."

She watches him—she does a lot of that these days, watching like a predator stalking her prey—and thinks that he might agree.

It still takes her three weeks to finally pull him out and even then he has to be dragged.

iii.

"You know," she says to him one late afternoon. The sun is slowly sinking in the horizon, its honey-coloured rays blanketing them. Sasuke's skin looked slightly tanned, brushed with life. "We should go hiking one day."

He shifts his gaze from the distant tree line to her for a brief moment, a sign to continue.

"Well, not right now—it's going to rain this weekend and school's not over for a few weeks, but maybe next weekend?" She waits for a response, trying to guess if his slight shift in posture means he agrees, if the ways his eyes rove mean no. "I mean, if you want to, of course." It's bait to get him to talk but he doesn't take it.

Instead, he continues to watch the earth eat the sun. She watches with him for a while, watches as they fall deeper and deeper into the sky until it's pitch black and she can see the stars.

"I guess we should take you home," she sighs, slipping off her porch onto the dry grass. It crackles beneath her feet and she stretches before turning back to him. "Come on—you know my mom doesn't like it when I go out so late."

As she takes him home, she slides her hand into his. It's warmer than it used to be, warmer and firmer and more human than rock.

"Hopefully next weekend will be sunny," she murmurs, her voice lowering unconsciously to match the mood. A slight thrill runs up her spine when he squeezes her hand gently, a butterfly's kiss, and she takes that as a yes.

iv.

Sakura's mom didn't know about Sasuke for the longest time. She is clever and cunning, especially with Sakura who tends to keep big things secret. That is how she knew that Sakura had a secret in the first place.

Finally, though, Sakura had to introduce them.

It went better than she expected.

"Who's this?" Sakura watched as her mom slipped off the oven mitts, her hands calloused and slightly burnt underneath. They were working hands, hands that faced challenges everyday without yielding.

"This is…" She paused, unsure if she should give his real name. "This is Uchiha Sasuke. He's a friend of mine."

"A friend?" Her mom glanced at her daughter, watching her face carefully. Sakura wondered what she saw, what exactly it was she read this time off her face. "I see."

"Sasuke," Her mom gave her a sharp look, noticing the lack of formalities in his name, something Sakura just realized herself. "This is my mom."

Eyeing the boy for a moment, Sakura's mom greeted the boy politely.

"Uh, he doesn't like to talk. In fact, today he's not speaking at all, to raise awareness against child labour. Anyways, we'll be in the backyard." Sakura hurried Sasuke out, waving goodbye, and missed her mom's reply.

"He's going to break your heart, isn't he?"

v.

Sakura tried persistently for two months to get him to talk. She'd bait him with traps and treats, tried to pull him out of the den of his silence, but it didn't work. Eventually, she had to give up.

(Sakura once tried to imagine him talking non-stop, a eager voice matching expressive hands. It didn't fit at all, he looked like a hyperactive girl, and she burst into laughter at the thought.

Sasuke heard the muffled giggles and snorts and turned to face her, raising an eyebrow when she tried to explain herself.)

Instead, Sasuke is very good at conveying his feelings through expressions. Every motion becomes a word, an expression, a secret desire that one can hear if only they would listen. So she tries, leaving the world of voices and sound for the world of shadows and subtlety. She becomes a reader, his actions the page, and tries to understand the expression painted across his face.

Sometimes, she succeeds. It takes her a while before she can understand anything and even then, she only knows only a handful of what he tells her, a fistful that she grabs and pulls out. His language is new and hard to learn.

He helps, in his own way. Sasuke's expressions repeat themselves and sometimes, albeit rarely, he does speak. When he does talk, it is in rare bursts that start and stop like a broken car. There are a lot of pauses, his throat hoarse and in need of oiling, and more often than not they are just small sentences. During these moments, she holds her breathe and wills herself to be completely quiet. Even her heartbeat sounds too loud and she fears that any noise will startle him and his voice will flee like a frightened deer.

vi.

Sometimes she likes to watch him. His arms are bony but she can see signs of what used to be muscle. It's coming back, little by little, but for now it still looks too thin, skeleton like. His hair has seen better days and she thinks that once upon a time, he must have been very pretty.

(Handsome is the word he would probably prefer but pretty is the honest, truthful word.)

He's still pretty, but in a more tragic way. It's the feeling someone gets when they come to a broken down house and remembers that it used to look majestic.

Sasuke notices her staring and Sakura gives him a nervous grin. Sometimes she wonders how he thinks of her, if he even loves her like she does him. It's easy in stories to claim to not care if the your beloved loves you back, but that takes a lot more courage and strength than she could ever possess.

For the moment, though, she's his whole world and that makes her content.

vii.

He likes to learn. Sometimes she brings him books, pages that contain the knowledge of the world, and he devours them like a hungry child.

Other times, she takes him out to the woods surrounding their neighborhood. She tells him tales of honourable samurai, men who would make their last stand with a sword in their hand and courage in their eyes. Ninja also used to go by those woods, stealthily executing plans and living in a world of moonlight and shadows.

"I'd like to be a ninja," she confides to him, "Flying through the night—now, don't give me that look! I could become a good one." She angrily stomps the ground at his disbelief and then sighs. "Well, ok, it would probably be hard and I might not be the best, but I could be good."

It's summer and the forest is a hundred shades of green. Broad leaves block out the sun in some parts, leaving small trails of light to follow. Taking a guide book out of her bag, Sakura flips it open to the last page she was on. "We found a lot, didn't we? We're halfway through the book! Soon we could be experts in finding things in the forest and survive here if we need to and…" Her voice trails off as she sees a small flower near her. "I wonder what that is."

Flipping through pages, she glances at the flower every now and then. "I think we've seen it before—yeah, we did! Deer like to eat it." She continues to read the page aloud, not noticing Sasuke looking at something at the distance. A barely audible sigh, the faintest of breaths, and he taps her shoulder when it's clear she isn't going to look up.

"Wha—" She stops, seeing what he saw. "It's a…" Realizing how loud her voice is, she whispers, "Deer!"

When they head home, she gives him a sheepish and embarrassed smile. "That was exciting but I guess I'm not a good guide. Maybe next time you should lead us."

He just keeps walking, a silent wrath, and she wonders if he even wants to lead.

viii.

When Sasuke first came out, he stuck with her like a baby chick. He didn't stick to her like glue, but he would be a step away when they moved. Sakura would be the one choosing where to go, leading him to her home and back.

He never went anywhere by himself, as though if he were alone something would swoop down and carry him away. They didn't go to crowded places either, for the first little while, just to her home and his and sometimes even the woods. Was he afraid of people or did he just dislike the crowd? She didn't know.

After carrying on like this, she finally pulled him into a library. It was cosy and small, a nearly abandoned place during the summer when no student crammed in the forgotten corners and flipped through pages of old runes.

"It's silent like your house," she commented when they walked in, "And just as dusty."

And, like that, Sasuke started to explore a little. He would take two, three, ten steps away from her when they walked, taking in everything with a quick glance. Sometimes he would see something curious and tug her hand, pointing it out with a subtle nod.

She feels like he is rediscovering the world, seeing how everything has changed while he was gone.

She also feels like he doesn't quite want to show how interested he is—his pride remains intact after all those years.

Sakura really shouldn't be surprised when he shows up at her door, all by himself without her having to go get him. He is already walking further and further away from her, so it makes sense that he is walking around outside by himself. He probably takes walks when he's home alone.

None of this should be surprising but she can't help but gasp when she opens the door and sees his face.

"You did it," she tells him with a smile, giving him a hug, and thinks this is what a parent feels, this pride and joy.

ix.

Then, one day, she doesn't see him.

For several days, she doesn't see him. She goes to his not-as-old-and-scary house. It looks nearly inviting, with the new curtains she put in and the open windows. The door's unlocked and she would be touched by the trust he has in her except for the fact that no one's home.

She goes to their old haunts, starting with her home incase she missed him heading there. The muddy, winding forest trails remain the same as the last time they went, just as hard to follow with plant growth creeping on them. His favourite corner in the library has a week's worth of dust on it and her favourite park is filled with little kids playing hide and seek.

Sasuke is nowhere to be found and she panics for a moment. Panics and then thinks, maybe he's out by himself today.

That thought doesn't work after the third day. This must be the other side of a parent's love, the side that knows that they might never see their child again.

x.

"He's not around again?" her mother asks. Sakura knows she's concerned but it feels like she expected this, like she thought that Sasuke would leave her. Thoughts of defending him dance through her mind but she closes her green eyes and calms herself.

"He's busy." It isn't a full lie—he probably is. She just doesn't know what he's doing.

"Mmmm…"

Sakura turns back to the door. "I'm going out for a bit." She doesn't want to go back to his house—it looks like an abandoned den, the residents hunting in new grounds.

She ends up going there anyways because she doesn't know where else to wait.

xi.

It's late afternoon when she sees him again. He's approaching his house, striding towards her quickly, and she wonders if he expected her to be there. Does that make her predictable, then, that he can find her so easily, or does that just make him observant?

"Where were you?" she asks (demands) as she runs to him, cutting the distance between them in half. Sakura's ready to beret him until she sees his eyes, the cool hard determination in them. It falls on her hand like a rock and she holds it for a moment before she falls silent. Something about the way he looks at her cuts off any words in her throat.

"Come," he says simply, everything about him is simple and straight to the point, and she obeys. She trails after him as they go past his house and into the forest beyond them. They've never been there before, having gone to the hiking parks near her house instead.

It's cooler in there and she shivers at the sudden darkness, at the patches of light that splatter the earth like drops of blood. A monster might come out at any sound and her footsteps give a muffled sound. The air is still, her breathing ragged, and she remains silent the whole time.

When they finally stop, it's in a clearing. The sun is lower in the sky, the treetops cradling it, and the sky is now a deeper blue. Small markers dot the field, like pearls on a necklace, with small lights stringing them together. Incense and candles mark each spot, lighting the darkening field like fireflies that flicker and dance across a spider's web.

He stops in front of three, small photographs at its foot, and she can make out his parents and brother's name. This is their grave, his whole clan's grave, and the loss he had becomes more tangible. She can feel it, taste it, and she isn't sure if that's a good thing.

Still, Sakura knows just what he had to go through to do this, just what inner demons he had to face. A way to say goodbye, a way to move on, there are so many meanings behind this action and she can't read them all. It's too hard to find all the messages he is giving her so she takes the obvious one and reaches for his hand before squeezing it quickly. It's hesitant but she can feel his fingers twine in hers and he's holding her hand just as tightly.

Sometimes, actions conveyed more than words ever could.

A/N: For those wondering, besides Sasuke letting go of the past, that meeting is sort of 'meet the family' for Sakura. He's introducing her to them.

Sorry for those expecting an amazing sequel—I always find the original is better than a sequel and it isn't any different with this one…

Hope it isn't too much of a disappointment.

Review, s'il vous plait!