DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: Minor spoilers for "Loss" and "Ghost," "Pilot" from Conviction.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Kindly beta'd by Rysler.

Time Clarifies
By atsammy


It had been anti-climactic, when it came right down to it. She didn't really know what she had expected, but some lowly FBI agent fresh on the job appearing on her doorstep to tell her she was free to go wasn't it. She figured she'd at least see Agent Hammond again. At the back of her mind, she'd hoped that, just maybe, Olivia or hell, she'd take Elliot or Don or someone she knew. Instead, she got a boy barely out of his teens handing her some papers and a number to call when she'd decided what she wanted to do.

She hadn't had to think very hard. Her three days in New York City two years earlier had caused such an ache inside that she'd wanted to die when she left again. They'd moved her to Aurora, Colorado after the trial. It wasn't a small town like she'd been in in Wisconsin, thankfully. It was just outside of Denver, and it was pretty in the fall. But she wanted to go home.

Her mother's attorneys knew she was alive; she'd had a chance to contact them during the trial. When she signed her release papers, she contacted them and began the process of gaining access to her money again. They reserved a room for her at the St. Regis Hotel while they readied her mother's apartment for her. Her own had been sold as per her will, and the money given to a rape crisis centre. The estate attorney told her that her belongings were in storage, along with her mother's possessions. Before she died, her mother hadn't been able to do more than go through her clothes; everything else she owned was packed away. Her Uncle Bill had been named the executor of her mother's will, but anything he was planning to do with her belongings was put on hold when she returned for the trial. Or so he told her in the brief moment she saw him outside the courtroom after her testimony.

She'd made the call the day she got the papers. She needed to go home. She asked about Anthony, but all they told her was that he was being taken care of. She'd offered to take him after the trial, but Hammond had refused. She thought of him often, because it hurt less than thinking about home, and hoped that he didn't get shoved into the foster system.

Her first day was back in the city was surreal. After checking into the St. Regis, she'd stood at her window and just stared out at the city. It was a grey, chilly day, but she could see the city. She imagined she could see the 1-6, and she fought the urge to go there. She hadn't told them she was back yet. Or the DA's office. Her attorneys had offered to contact the DA about possible jobs, but she declined. She would, in a day or two, contact the state bar association about reinstating her license and whatever else she would have to do. Her two jobs in the program did not lend themselves to keeping up on the practice of law.

It took a week to get her mother's apartment ready. She had her own furniture from her old place moved in, but there was still a ton of space left over in the penthouse apartment. She put up several of the paintings from her mother's collection, and all of hers, but there was still a lot of white space on the walls. It was quiet, and lonely, and she thought about getting a cat. She'd been planning to adopt one in Wisconsin when Don and Hammond showed up. She still hadn't spoken to the DA's office, though she imagined the bar association had contacted them. She wondered if Branch had mentioned anything to the other attorneys, and if it had trickled down to her detectives.

She couldn't be an attorney again for about six months. The legal continuing education courses needed to be taken, there was still some debate over if she would have to retake the bar exam. She spent a week or so roaming Central Park and making sure everything she loved in the museums were still there.

The six month period, it turned out, would work for her. There was a Bureau Chief retiring about that time, and her name was on the top of the list to replace him. She tried not to focus on the fact that she would rarely step foot inside a court room as a prosecuting attorney and just be grateful to be allowed back into the District Attorney's Office at all. It had been weird, returning there to speak with Branch. He'd hugged her and said "Welcome back," then got down to business. No SVU or Major Cases; but a chance to lead a division and mentor the young attorneys. It would do well for her career, considering her record before she'd… left. She wanted to argue, SVU was hers. But she didn't.

After the fact, she wondered what had taken so long. Two weeks after her return, as she sat in the kitchen staring at a half-full glass of wine, there was a knock at the door. It may as well have been forty years, not four, because she would know that knock anywhere, at anytime. Walking to the door, she straightened her clothes and swept her hair behind her ears, telling herself to stop hesitating. Checking to make sure her new cat wasn't nearby, ready to rush out the door, she opened it, and stared into dark brown eyes. "Hi."

"Welcome home."

The End

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