Title: You are my sunshine

Rating: G

Pairing / Characters: Uzumaki Naruto, Tsunade, Jiraiya, Shizune, Iruka, Kakashi, Shikamaru, Sakura

Word Count: 2, 605 words

Warnings: Nothing

Summary: Naruto recovers from his ordeal, and learns to trust himself and his friends

A/N: At last! It's done! Hallelujah! You know, this was originally only supposed to be a couple of chapters, nothing like it turned out to be in the end. I guess my typing got away from me. Its weird how that happens…

FOR EVERYONE WHO R&R THE FIRST EIGHT CHAPTERS… NOW READ THE REST!

The smell of the flowers woke him up.

Naruto turned his head, and the first thing he saw was an arrangement of flowers on the table beside his bed. Naruto lifted himself up onto one elbow, staring at the fragrant purple and blue blooms in surprise. He reached out and brushed a finger against a large blossom, and that was when something else caught his attention.

There were flowers on the windowsill.

Naruto's jaw dropped. Not just one bunch, not even two, but several. Now completely upright, he stared around the room in shock, wondering where all the flowers had come from. They covered every surface, from the tables, atop the machines in the corner, lining the walls, the chairs, the extra tables that had been brought in… the only clear path was from the door to his bed.

'Did they buy out Yamanaka flowers or something?' he wondered aloud. Pushing back the bedclothes, he swung his legs over the side of the bed, and stood up somewhat shakily, holding on to the bed until he felt able to walk.

There was a little card accompanying the purple and blue flowers. Naruto picked it up, reading the words and the signature before placing it gently on the table. Hinata…

His process around the room was slow, but it gave him time to study each individual arrangement.

Cherry blossoms from Sakura-chan.

Some nondescript flowers with frogs in them.

'Jiraiya,' he murmured.

Daisies from Tsunade.

Cosmos from Ino.

Roses from Iruka.

Frangipanis from Kakashi-sensei.

A huge floral arrangement with a bowl and a set of chopsticks from Ichiraku ramen.

Flowers from Konohamaru, Udon and Moegi.

There were even several arrangements with names he didn't recognize, nothing to make them stand out save for the ANBU mark each of the cards bore.

And every single one of his friends had sent him a bunch of flowers…

Dazedly, Naruto made his way over to the bed, Iruka's words echoing in his mind.

'…you are so loved…'

For the first time in nearly three months, Naruto smiled.

'Ne, ne, Tsunade no baachan, when can I go home?'

Tsunade frowned at him. Naruto was sitting up in bed, a bowl of ramen in one hand, chopsticks in the other, and the most eager expression in his eyes.

'You want to go home already?'

He nodded. 'And I want to take my flowers with me.'

Her frown deepened. Naruto had been in the hospital for roughly a week and a half, and she was more than aware that the nightmares had not stopped. Granted, they hadn't worsened, but they were the reason she didn't want him to leave, not wanting him to be left alone with his terrible thoughts. The trouble was, that despite his terrible weight loss, he was physically healthy – nothing a few more good nights of sleep and several dozens of helpings of ramen wouldn't cure, and she suspected that Naruto knew it.

'Naruto…'

He put down the bowl. 'Please?'

Damn it. He had spent most of his time in the hospital sleeping, and when he was awake, he refused to talk about what had happened, making it difficult for Tsunade to judge the state of his mental health.

Tsunade studied him carefully. There were still dark circles under his eyes, and his eyes still hadn't regained their old sparkle despite his eagerness to go home. 'Well…' she began slowly, 'if you're sure you're up to it, I suppose you can go home today.'

'Really? Really? Really?'

'Yes, really,' Tsunade said, sitting down beside him. 'Naruto, listen to me. I know that you don't want to stay here, which is why I'm letting you go, but I want you to come to me if you need anything, do you hear me? Anything, no matter what it is or what time it is. If you don't want to be alone, or you just want someone to talk to…'

Naruto blinked up at her, surprised at how serious she sounded. 'Tsunade no baachan –'

Tsunade ruffled his hair. 'I don't want to lose you now that I've found you again. You're a brat, but an important one. Now do I have your word?'

Naruto nodded. 'I promise,' he told her simply.

Naruto stood alone in his apartment, surprise etched into his features. This wasn't right, it couldn't be right… he hadn't set foot in his apartment for two months, and yet, it was almost cleaner than when he had left it.

The windows sparkled, open just wide enough to catch the warm breeze. The curtains had been washed, the early afternoon sunshine making patterns on the walls through the lacy nets. The floors had been washed and polished, his bed was made, the kitchen sparkled just as much as the windows did, and when he opened the fridge, he was shocked to find it full of food. Homemade ramen, cup ramen, salads, rice, sushi… all of it easy to heat up and eat. Once again, Iruka's words echoed in his mind. '…you are so loved…'

Naruto's eyes shone. Turning once more to take in the apartment, he began to arrange his flowers on every available surface. Their cheerful colours lit up the apartment even more, and he took great pleasure in the small task. Nearly an hour later, he locked the door behind him and went in search of his friends.

Neji stretched until his back ached, yawning. 'Maybe we should go back to the hospital,' he remarked. 'Naruto might actually be awake this time, and we can see how he is.'

A sudden excited expression crossed Hinata's face and she jumped up, her eyes sparkling. 'Naruto-kun!'

Neji blinked as she pushed past him, flying down the stairs and flinging her arms around a familiar orange clad figure who staggered slightly, nearly losing his balance.

Naruto found himself laughing as she very uncharacteristically buried her head in his shoulder, hugging him. It wasn't just that – it was the sight of his friends doing exactly as she had, running down the stairs towards him, surrounding him, most of them talking at the same time.

'Oi, should you be out of the hospital so soon?'

'We missed you…'

'Did you get the flowers?'

'You need to eat more…'

'Are you sure you're all right?'

'Is there anything you need?'

'Oi! You lot! One at a time!' Shikamaru exclaimed. 'We can't all shout at him –'

But for the first time since waking up in the hospital, Naruto's eyes sparkled with life, no longer dulled with half remembered pain.

Hinata suddenly realized what she was doing, and she jerked back, flushing. Sakura had no such qualms however, and for the first time that Naruto could remember, threw her arms around him and hugged him. Naruto's jaw nearly hit the floor as Ino elbowed her out of the way and proceeded to do the same thing.

He couldn't help it, laughter rising up in his throat as he looked into their faces.

'Iruka-sensei… he told me that you found me,' he said suddenly. 'He told me you all looked and looked –'

Ino glared at him. 'Of course we did, you idiot. Did you really think we –'

She clapped her hands over her mouth abruptly, remembering. 'Naruto…'

Naruto glared back, the last thing on his mind what Ino was thinking. 'That's not what I meant! I was trying to say thank you!'

Ino's eyes filled with tears. 'You're welcome,' she whispered.

'Naruto – this is yours.' Sakura held out her hand, the necklace on her palm sparkling.

Naruto's eyes widened. 'You found it –'

'Not us. Two peddlers found it, that's how we knew where to look for you,' Neji told him.

Naruto reached for the necklace and put it on, tucking it into his jacket. 'I thought I would never get it back.'

His stomach growled, and a sheepish expression crossed his face.

'Er… I think I'm hungry… ah! Why don't we get some ramen? My treat,' he said, flinging out his arms to encompass the entire group.

At that, everyone laughed. Some things never changed.

Naruto stood in the kitchen, fists clenched, his eyes on the growing shadows around him. A part of his mind screamed at him to put on the lights, to get out of the apartment, to go and find Kakashi-sensei, or Iruka-sense or Tsunade no baachan, but he did neither of them, remaining exactly where he was, the grip on his kunai so tight he could feel every ridge on the handle.

He was afraid.

Just then there was a knock on the door, sounding unnaturally loud in the silence. Naruto flinched, backing up until he was against the wall, bringing up the kunai. His hands were shaking as he fought to control the panic raging through him.

The voice outside quelled the terror, but only slightly.

'Naruto? It's Iruka…'

Naruto couldn't move at first, but he forced his unwilling limbs to put away the kunai, to walk towards the door and swing it open.

'Iruka-sensei… what are you doing here?'

His voice was shaking just as much as his hands were, and Iruka noticed it at once.

'I thought you'd like some company,' he said simply. 'Can I come in?'

Naruto nodded, stepping to one side as Iruka switched on the light.

'I see you brought your flowers home,' he remarked. 'Did one of the nurses help you?'

Naruto relaxed still further. 'No… I used kage bunshin. I thought they would look nice here.'

'They do. Have you eaten?' Iruka asked, moving over to the fridge and opening it. 'Aha… ramen. Come on, let me make dinner…'

Naruto wondered how Iruka had known he needed someone, but decided against actually asking.

'Tsunade-sama!'

Tsunade glanced up as Shizune burst into her office, her expression as frantic as her tone was. She went cold, fearing the worst.

'What's wrong?'

'The two ANBU members we had in captivity – they escaped half an hour ago, killing their ANBU guards. I've got other ANBU teams looking for them, but we can't find them as yet-'

'Oh my god,' Tsunade whispered. 'Shizune – I let Naruto go from the hospital yesterday – he's in better health now and he knows it –'

For a moment, the two of them stared at each other, the same panic in their eyes.

'Shizune – find Shikamaru and the genin, check if Naruto is with them. Also, get Kakashi, Gai, Kurenai and Asuma in here… they'll be able to help look for him and those two. Take Iruka with you – he'll know where Naruto likes to go… and for the love of god, hurry!'

Jiraiya was already standing at the door, and as Shizune flew out of the office, both he and Tsunade went after her.

Shikamaru and the genin were on the way to the training grounds when Shizune and a white faced Iruka ran over.

'Is something wrong?' Shikamaru asked, alarmed at their expressions.

'Have any of you seen Naruto?' Iruka demanded.

Sakura went cold. 'No,' she whispered. 'No, he didn't – I mean, he couldn't have –'

It was clear what she was thinking, the same thought reflected on Chouji's face, on Kiba's, on Neji's…

'No Sakura, he didn't – it's not that,' Iruka said swiftly. 'I was with him last night… no, the two ANBU members who kidnapped him… they escaped this morning, killing their guards. We need to find Naruto before they do –'

As Iruka's words sank in, Shikamaru's eyes bulged. 'They – they escaped? You saw what they did to him and you let them escape? How could you be so stupid, so blind to what they're capable of? Have you lost it completely?'

It was the first time Iruka had seen Shikamaru so angry.

'They kept him chained to a wall, for god's sake! How the hell could you let monsters like that escape?'

Shikamaru turned. 'Split up into two groups. He could be at the river, or the monument – Iruka-sensei – did you check his apartment?'

'Empty,' Iruka confirmed. 'No sign of forced entry.'

Shikamaru swore. 'Right. Move fast, they might already have him again.'

Iruka grabbed his arm. 'Shikamaru – we're meeting outside the Hokage mansion in an hour. Whether you find him or not, meet us there.'

'Right,' Shikamaru said briefly, and ran off.

It was a sight most people found startling – a figure in a bright orange jumpsuit wielding a battered frying pan, murder in his blue eyes, chasing after a man and a woman wearing faded brown uniforms.

'How – dare – you – try – something – like – that – again!' Naruto yelled.

Fuelled by sheer rage and the power of the nine tails, he chased after his tormenters, through the busy streets of Konoha, across the rooftops, unwittingly choosing a path towards the Hokage mansion.

'In – my – own – apartment – you sick – sick – pathetic – excuses – for human – beings –'

There was a crowd gathered outside the Hokage mansion, but Naruto didn't pay it much attention. He was too angry, too frustrated, too bent on damaging his tormenters to notice that the crowd comprised of nine genin, four chuunins, five jounins and two sannin. They had made him feel like a helpless child, and he was determined to never let anyone do that to him again.

The two former ANBU members leapt off the rooftop and Naruto followed them, brandishing the frying pan as they turned to attack him.

He grinned menacingly. 'Bring it on.'

'Animal,' the woman hissed, nothing but contempt in her tone.

Naruto's grip tightened on the frying pan.

'I – AM – NOT AN ANIMAL!' he roared.

That yell of sheer fury brought everyone to a halt. Kakashi's visible eye widened as he recognized the voice and the accompanying chakra.

Turning, he stared at the sight of one nine tails powered Naruto, facing off the two ANBU members with a…

'Frying pan?' Asuma asked incredulously. 'A frying pan?'

Naruto wasn't paying them any attention. Without warning, he leapt forward, bringing the pan down in a smooth arc, the flat of the pan crashing down on the female ANBU member's head. She went down without a fight, but her partner was more cautious. He leapt back, out of the range of the frying pan's reach, bringing up his hands in preparation of a jutsu. The seal of the tiger…

Naruto didn't give him a chance to use the jutsu. He reversed the pan, jabbing the handle into his opponent's stomach. As the man doubled over, Naruto grabbed the handle, twisting the pan and hitting him across the face with it and sending him flying. Still moving, he threw the pan at him, watching in satisfaction as it hit him across the jaw.

Only then did Naruto look up to see the expressions of shock, bewilderment, and amusement on the faces of the people gathered outside the mansion. He glared at them all.

'Someone owes me a new frying pan,' he snapped. 'I was trying to make breakfast when they snuck in, and I ended up using my only pan and I want a new one, dammit!'

Kakashi surprised everyone by bursting into laughter. He was ok. Naruto was going to be just fine.

Naruto glared at him, but the funny side of the situation soon struck him, and his own laughter bubbled up.

It was his way of the ninja after all, never to give up, never to lose hope, and never to stop believing in his friends and himself.

As long as he remembered that, the world kept turning in the right direction anyway.

The sun came out from behind the clouds, illuminating Naruto's bright hair and laughing blue eyes.