✨ Part 26 ✨

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He put a hand in front of his face so his eyes could adjust to the spotlight that was put on him. He probably looked so plain in comparison to the other performers who had time to design sets and costumes. All the lights had become dim, making him the center of everyone's attention as he stood on the stage with an awkward chuckle. He had never acted in front of so many people before and he was feeling the anxiety begin to push against his chest with an uncomfortable pressure.

"Good evening, everyone," he spoke hoarsely before clearing his throat. "I am Naruto Uzumaki and I will be playing Ryan... A man that will live forever."

There was nothing but silence as he took in one last breath to attempt to calm his nerves. Of course they wouldn't be that enthused to see some random kid reciting a few lines. Who was he to them? A commoner, a nobody? His eyes panned over the unfamiliar faces until he found one that made his heart almost stop completely. Sasuke was looking directly at him, unafraid of meeting the blond's eyes. Don't stop now. This is what I need to say.

"I've never been able to say why... why I left. And, I think it was... that I just felt so... horrible. Guilty and... unworthy. I didn't deserve to live, when so many other people have to die," he stammered, but there was something more confident about the way he spoke. "And I didn't deserve to have someone love me the way you do... and trust me so much." He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the Uchiha's face as he shook his head with a frown.

"When we first jumped off this building... I found your devotion so inspiring, so moving... but after a while, it just started to weigh on me, and... everything that had comforted me started to torture me instead." He opened his eyes again and found Neji not too far from where Sasuke was standing. He took a brief moment to look at him as well, feeling the pressure begin to tighten. "I couldn't say anything, I couldn't even understand it, and I definitely couldn't cope with it... and I left."

He managed to find Hinata as well, and she was looking up at him with a look of question, something he remembered having all this time. "I'm not trying to make excuses. I still feel... like I had no choice, like it was important to leave." His gaze trailed back to Sasuke, unable to read his face clearly through the dimness now. "But... at the same time, I regret it, because I've spent every day since then feeling like something was missing. And now, I realize... I realize what I've lost. What I've been missing all this time."

He took in a deliberate sharp breath as he looked up at the muted chandeliers. "For a thousand years, you've sought me out, you've shown me how much you cared. And... when you left... I realized that if I ever wanted to fix things... I would have to be the one to find you." It was probably a good thing that he chose not to look at Sasuke as he spoke now. "You knew you couldn't make me come back. And you were right. But I know that you never gave up on me. I know that you never stopped loving me."

"I'm going to live forever. And I don't want to spend another minute without you. You're the one." He gathered the courage to look back down at Sasuke, and he was able to make out the expression of utter distress that was plastered on his features. The erratic beating was becoming the only sound he could hear due to the silence. "I don't mean... that you're the only person I've ever cared about. I don't mean that you're the only person in the world that I could be with. But you're the one I want to be with. You're the one person, in my very long life... that I miss."

He clasped his hands together as he brought them to his lips for a moment of deep thought. "I know you have no reason to trust me again." Another pause to look back at Sasuke. "And... I can't promise that I won't change. I can't promise I won't hurt you again. You made me a promise once. I broke every promise that I ever made to you. But you've always kept the promise you made me. I think we deserve a chance to get it right."

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