Lone blinked hard in an attempt to break the trance she fell into watching the water. A dull ache pressed insistently against her skull at the action, under the skin of her temple, where she was sure a bruise was forming.

Her hand moved further under the water so it washed over her palm, but the thin layer of dark blood staining her skin remained; even as the clear water turned murky running down the drain. Her other hand raised to rub her skin clean and the water ran a dark, filthy color; her skin turning shades lighter as layers of blood and dust disappeared. She watched in dull wonder as her skin changed from the sickly red to a dull brown, then finally turning a light, natural color under the warm water.

The water running from the faucet was so clear. So clean. Every sink she could remember since the Vault was stained and grime crusted. Running, at best, with dull green water - which she couldn't entirely trust her Pipboy when it diagnosed it as relatively safe to drink. Only the purified water she paid a high price for had been this clear.

She felt the urge to reserve it. To collect it in her bottles. To drink it until her stomach ached.

What kind of place is this?

Intact buildings, working electricity, a semblance of a civilized society was enough to overwhelm her, but somehow that seemed more plausible than this. You can rebuild, you can repair, but how do you salvage the elements of the world? The earth she knew was all but dead.

Project Purity was one thing, but this? They weren't just purifying the water for drinking - hording it in bottles and away from any danger. People were washing with it. With warm, clean water.

How long had it been since she had a clean bath? Let alone a warm one? As far as temperature, all she could bring up was the Vault.

Cupping her hand under the warm water, she let it gather in a small puddle before ducking down and splashing it against her face. The warmth of it sank into her skin for one soothing moment before it faded away; replaced by the cool air around her.

Her skin was feverish from exertion, but the heat of the water drew her in as poured from the faucet and ran over her hands. Balmy and consoling. The soft sound of the water against the porcine of the sink and the heat against her skin made her eyelids droop; all of it threatening to mesmerize her again.

She was unwinding too fast, she knew it.

She broke away her stare, eyes darting over the walls and over her shoulder to remind her where she was and why she should hurry. The water was warm and inviting, but she didn't feel welcome here. And although the immediate danger was in a bloody pool in the next room, she still didn't feel safe. The sooner she was gone from this building, the better.

She brought her eyes back to the sink; cupping her hands under the stream again and leaning down to run it over her face. Her fingers pressed against the contours of her face, letting the water soak into her skin again. A sharp sting bit just above her eyebrow, making her flinch and pull her hand away.

Likely one of the particularly deep cuts. The nip was gone just as quickly as it had struck, so she dismissed it and continued with her process. Pooling the water and washing away the blood and the stress. The sting flashed just as intense; sharp, deep and enough to make a small sound of pain escape her lips.

She went against her original intention and looked up to the mirror. Her skin was lighter than before with tainted water dripping off her skin, and the sight of herself seemed strange to her eyes. She leaned in closer, focusing on the particular place of pain in the surprisingly clear glass of the mirror. Then she saw it; small and hidden under the blood before.

She reached up, grasping the small chunk of green glass in between her fingers and tugging gently. It came loose, pulling the skin around the area with it, and she glanced down to the green object on her fingers. Jagged and bloody. She tossed it to the side carelessly and moved on with wash her face; repeating the process twice as more glass was found.

Finally, after the water that swirled down the drain a dark color had dissipated to clear again, she shut it off and took up a nearby towel from its rack. She ignored the dull pricks of the remaining bits of glass she couldn't dig out, and wiped the water from her face.

Lone gave a fleeting look to the mirror again and noticed her clothes were just as incriminating as the blood that stained her hands and face. She glanced down at Carson's jacket, hanging loose on her form, and it was speckled with crimson drops, mingling with the bullet holes and rips. She didn't dare a look at her back, where the dampness told her the bandages had failed to contain the weeping of her wounds.

She felt a twinge of guilt at soiling Carson's prized coat. She'd have to tend to it later. There had to be somewhere in this town that cleaned clothes. Hell, with warm, clean water publicly available, anything could be possible.

Shaking her head at the reflection in the mirror, she reminded herself how lucky it was that it wasn't all her blood. If it had been, she wouldn't be conscious.

She slid Carson's coat off her shoulders; relatively easy as it was bigger than her size. But her wounds didn't seem to care for the difference. Her teeth ground together as a tight, deep burn drained down her back. She could feel the deep lacerations rubbing against the bandages, but she focused instead on how the leather of the coat, made smooth by use, felt against her hands as she pulled the sleeves free.

It fell from her form and she folded it neatly on itself. Glancing in the mirror once more, her leather armor remained intact all except for the quick slice across her chest, just below her collarbone. It bled lightly, but seemed to have clotted by this point. It wouldn't take much to have that repaired and the tear wasn't thick. She would just tally up the damage done to the suit and have it fixed all at once.

She stepped over the threshold of the door, glancing into the living area to see Carson standing near the bar. With a whiskey bottle in his hand, his eyes scanned over the label and she leaned against the frame of the door, feeling pain behind her eyes again.

"Could I ask a favor of you?" She spoke up.

He glanced up from the bottle, "Will it involve the same as your last favor?"

Lone didn't have the energy to show any friendly response. "Could you get one of Benny's coats for me? There's some more in his room?" If she was going to leave this casino without causing more trouble for herself, covering the damage seemed like a smart move. And she'd feel more comfortable not looking like a complete wreck. "Preferably one less bold than his current one?"

Carson smiled halfheartedly, "Really? I thought you'd want something really flashy, so you could make a good first impression on the Strip. More than you have shooting up a casino and screwing up the chairman, of course."

She pressed her lips together, shaking her head gently, "I don't want to overwhelm them."

"But don't you love first impressions?"

"Yeah, I can't trust everyone to be as dazzled as you. Believe it or not, not everyone finds being held up at gunpoint nearly as thrilling."

"You're kidding? What do they do all day then?"

"Live? Or play cards or whatever it is people do around here."

"That sounds really boring."

"Yeah, well… can't all be as happy-go-lucky as you."

"Why not? It's great."

"To each their own, I guess." She shrugged, smiling lightly. "I'm still not wearing anything like what he's got on right now."

"But just think how cool you'd look if you walked out in his coat. Like carrying your kill, right? I know you offered it to me, but I'd let you borrow it this one time. Despite what happened last time I loaned you a coat." Carson added with a smirk.

Lone's eyes trailed away regretfully, down to the bundle of the coat resting in her arms. "So you noticed that." She screwed her lips together, looking back up, "Don't worry, I'll make sure it gets fixed up. I promise, I'll get it cl-"

"I was just kidding with you, Lone, don't feel bad. I've done worse to it – do you see the holes? Bullet holes, might I point out."

"Yes, but it's yours to do that with. You loaned it to me and that means I should take care of it."

"True, but it's not like you did it on purpose. You're going on like you bathed it in Jet and fed it to Deathclaws. You got in a firefight – it happens. It's happened to me. I've kept an eye on you; you've been careful with it. I'm not upset." His eyebrows quirked and a chuckle jerked his shoulders, "If anything, it looks cooler. Now, if I wear it, it'll look like I've been in something rough and maybe some Fiends will take a hint, huh?"

She gave an appreciative half smile. "I'll still make sure it gets taken care of. Is there a place I could find some soap or Abraxo Cleaner?"

"Vault 13 has a place to clean clothes; you can just drop it over there. And they have rooms for rent, so it might be a good idea to make that our next stop. I don't know about you, but I haven't slept on anything but dirt for way too long. Unless you have other plans?"

"I… I don't know yet. I just want to leave here for now." She hadn't gotten that far in her next move. Get out without more trouble was her plan. She added quickly, "The Tops, I mean. Not New Vegas. I know I still have things to handle here."

"Mr. House for one. I wonder if whatever he wanted to see you about had anything to do with this whole mess?"

She tipped her head, relenting, "Wouldn't surprise me."

Carson nodded absently. "Let's blow this joint then. I'll get you another coat – hold the checkers."

She smiled weakly, "Thanks."

A few quick, easy strides and he was gone from the room into the hall. Lone let her head rest against the frame of the door, not allowing her eyes to shut for moment even as they pled to. Soothing rest was painfully distant, but not too far, and she longed for it. But not here.

When her eyes drooped once, Lone pulled away from the frame. She needed to keep moving or she'd have to confront just how worn out she was. Getting her bag was a start, but it was located in Benny's suite.

The faster we're out, the better.

Her legs were still steady under her and didn't waver as she navigated through the simple decorations of the suite and followed after Carson. She gave a quick glance down the hall to where the guards would be standing, but found them absent from their post. She slowed her pace, eyes lingering after where they should have been and then down the other half of the hall to find it equally vacant. Curious.

It wasn't important though; not as important as her leaving this casino and all of the troubles it contained. She entered Benny's suite and found it deathly silent, all but for the distant music of the radio in the overhead speakers of the hall. Distant, cheery, and so out of place but somehow proper. The Tops went on, even if the head chairman lay in a puddle on its floor.

Her mind drew a conclusion as she listened for the sound of voices. Swank must have left with his guards and taken the girl. The guards were unlikely to take off without him and Swank didn't seem like the kind to send away his only protection. He was a good sized man with nice set shoulders, but he also had a woman with a .44 and blood on her hands nearby.

He must have taken them.

She crossed the blood stained carpeting with her destination being the far side of the room. She paid no attention to the rest of the living area and certainly none to Benny lying nearby as she reached for her bag. It rested against the edge of the bar the way she left it.

Lone pulled it open by a barely attached zipper to reveal the contents strewn within. Shuffling through the uncoordinated collect of rounds, food, trinkets and a long list of other assortments, she created a small space. The bundle of Carson's carefully folded jacket was placed into the pack and it zipped closed in one precise pull.

The sound of footsteps made her lift her head. Carson appeared from the bedroom door with a plain black coat in his hand and tossed it to her in a quick motion. She caught it midair, not paying much attention to the sting at her sudden movement.

"Is the girl gone?" Lone raised the question, even if she could guess the answer.

"Yeah, they took her out of here while you were cleaning up. Swank headed right for the elevator, holding the girl with the big guys on both sides of him. It wasn't long before you came out"

Lone wasn't sure if she should ask, but she spoke the words anyways, "Did she seem okay?"

"She had her head tucked against Swank, so she didn't look up at me. But she seemed okay – 'bout the same as before. Poor girl. I'm sure whatever sweet talking you gave Swank will make sure everything goes off smoothly. Or was it rough talking; you never gave me a straight answer."

She tipped her head slightly to consider her words, "Threatening in a little less than pleasant tone? To put it simply, I told him if he didn't take good care of her, he'd have me to account to."

"Nice." Carson smirked, "See, you fit in here with the big bosses already."

She shrugged, eyes trailing back to doorway. "They took her through here?" She didn't need to gesture to the scene around her.

The girl couldn't have seen that. Swank's not that stupid.

"No, they swung around the back through that tunnel you came in. You kind of left it wide open, so they just walked right through it. Swank seemed to know right where it was." Carson added, almost implying something.

She nodded absently, looking down to the dark colored coat of Benny's in her hands. Her eyes assessed it once before pulling the sleeve up her arm; mumbling a quick thanks to Carson in the process. She forced herself not to wince at the effort once it settled up over her shoulder, making her back flex.

Her eyes caught the sight of Benny's bloody remains still unmoved from its place against the wooden bar as she pulled the next sleeve up her arm.

Why would they not take care of him yet?

"How long are they going to leave him?" She asked, her voice wary as she pulled the coat onto her form.

Carson followed her gaze, and chuckled, "Soon, I'd hope. I'm pretty sure leaving him here would very, very bad for business. Or at least the carpeting. They'll probably take care of Bethany first, then handle the rest. Swank's not the kind to leave something like that untended to. That's more the Omertas' style."

Lone tugged the jacket to settle evenly on her shoulders, "Omertas?" She tried the name precisely on her tongue, committing it to memory. "I'm not familiar with them."

"The Omertas are the family that owns the casino, strip joint, venereal-disease-plague-waiting-to-happen, called Gomorrah. The big one with the fire and the chick on the front, we saw when we came it? They seem to like fire a lot." Carson added, and she noted by his expression he didn't seem very enthused about this dwelling. "They have enough friends in low places to do just about anything they want, with anyone they want, however they want and in whatever position they want."

"Well," She grimaced, "that paints a picture."

"Yeah, just take my word for it. I don't think I could say anything more than that without having to go bathe."

She smiled halfheartedly "I appreciate your restraint."

This coat, she noticed as adjusted it with half interest, was slightly baggier than Carson's, due to Benny being slightly shorter and less lean than him. The scent that met her from the folds of the coat was also different; smelling more of detergent from being freshly washed. Yet stained with an unmistakable hint of cigarettes, which couldn't be washed out.

It felt far stranger than wearing Carson's. She had scavenged from others before - taking what armor and clothes she needed - but somehow this felt like special circumstances. She was wearing the coat of a man she had been hunting for weeks and who laid dead just a few feet away. She didn't like the feel of this coat; it was too much like Benny.

Reaching over and lifting up the same hat Carson had discarded, she placed it over her head in an attempt to hide her face. Or, more than that, conceal the cuts and blood she couldn't wash or tend to.

She looked up to Carson to find him returning her gaze. "Better?"

He raised his eyebrows, considering. "Could use some tailoring, but it's not half bad. The strange part is I didn't see any other flashy outfits around, which means Benny wore that thing of his out of choice. I've been to The Tops a couple of times now and I don't think I've seen him in any other suit. I just thought he crashed into the checkers caravan or something."

She breathed a laugh, glancing back to Benny again.

He lied in a bloody pool at the foot of the bar, and she could finally accept it. It was finally over. He just wasn't her problem anymore – none of it was. This whole scene surrounding her wasn't her concern and she didn't need to worry over anything about it. She didn't have to think about things relating to The Tops or Benny or Goodsprings or any of it. She didn't need focus on it.

She looked away from Benny, turning her back to him and not even giving him the honor of her attention any longer. Because it was done.

A sudden feel of resolve settled over her as she looked away. It was over. All this time, all this stress, all this trouble, all these risks and sacrifices and everything. And it was done. He was dead. The Man in The Checkered Suit, The Tops Chairman - Benny was dead. She didn't have to hunt, beg, steal, sell, starve, bleed or suffer for his sake.

Done. What was done was done and now she could move on. Now she needed to focus on what was next.

What is next?

There were notes in her Pipboy of things people had asked her for or requested she should do. Things she should find, deliver, clear out, shoot, neutralize, negotiate with. There was the impending 'Mr. House' that dwelled outside those doors.

She felt rest, but she didn't feel a peace she thought would flood over her at this point.

Maybe it was lack of sleep.

"You okay?" Carson stretched the word, eyes set closely on her.

Lone looked up at him, realizing more time had passed staring at Benny than she meant. "I'm alright. It's just been a long couple of weeks. And then it's done – simple as that. What has it been, a few hours? Weeks of this and now it's all done in a day."

But what else was new? What did she really expect? Hadn't all her years of this sort of thing taught her enough to expect it to all come down to a few quick decisions – a few split second actions to end it all?

Searching for her father should have taught her that, if nothing else.

But that was a road not to be gone down then. She was getting out of this suite, then out of the hotel, then out of the casino and out of the whole damn situation. It was over, so there was no point lingering. She had taken all she needed and accomplished what she had to. So Lone reached down and hooking her hand on the strap of her bag and heaved the burdensome pack over her shoulder.

Carson reached forward, hand extended as he argued, "Hey, I'm supposed to get that."

She waved off his offer, "Got it. Thanks. I think you've done your part for today." The equipment contained within clattered at the movement; metal shifting inside as she adjusted it to rest properly on her shoulder. The rough material of the strap felt more coarse than normal to her suddenly cleansed hands.

"I wouldn't think of it like that. You… Hey, uh, is that glass in your forehead?"

"Out of everything, that's what you notice?" She answered, humor to her tone when she gave him an odd look. Then her eyes moved away, scanning over the bloodied and disjointed room again. She already checked where something valuable might've been kept, but the process had become a habit for her.

"It just caught my attention at the moment. And you seem pretty okay with having that in your head."

"I wouldn't say okay with it. Just tolerating. I'm not thrilled about having jagged pieces of glass embedded in my skull, if that's what you mean. I can't get ahold of anymore. I just keep pushing it deeper and it hurts too much for me to care."

"Maybe Vault 13 has a medical kit you could use?"

Lone's eyes scanned over the room again, going over places already checked and spots where nothing could be hidden; proving she hadn't missed a thing. She had already gathered all she could and there was nothing left to find. The task was over.

Her eyes fell back on the man before her, suddenly curious. "That'd be nice; but what's this about a Vault. Do you ha-"

There was a sharp crash, quick enough to startle her out of her words, and right behind her.


I think I can drop the disclaimer - does anyone really think I own Fallout at this point? I just own Lone and Carson.

A/N: The chapter title is 'Start All Over', by Miley Cyrus. (The song kind of describes Lone's life.)

It's sort of slow starting off, but I felt I needed to show Lone's unwinding. She's running on empty now and everything is going by in a haze; so, yeah, she stared at the sink for a while. Next chapter has cool stuff, I promise.

You guys cannot believe how motivating your reviews have been. I say as I've not updated since Thanksgiving. BUT THEY REALLY HAVE BEEN! I wouldn't have been able to do this or keep writing without them. :D

But okay, yeah, I'm really late and I have an excuse! Shortly after uploading that chapter, myself and my beta were commissioned to write a book for two very esteemed men. So that has taken up every bit of writing energy I possessed. I've had some to still work on my personal novel and a few fics here and there, but it's been quite a bit of a job.

But, a few lovely people egging me on with encouragement has really motivated me to update.

And also, I actually cut half of this into the next chapter, because it felt too big. So that means the next chapter is all but completely finished and I'll be posting it soon. In a few days, just to have a nice buffer period? And it has more dialogue and interesting stuff. After that, I'll try to work on the others in a more timely fashion. I still have to work on my other writings, but I'll try not to be as long again.

Hope you like it! Thanks for reading and putting up with all my irregularity.