Disclaimer: (C) Valve, not me.

Dust trickled out of the air, a soft grey snowfall for a city that would never see another winter. The sky was an inferno. The earth was a swarming mess of the dead and the dying. Zombies flooded the streets, shuffling halfheartedly through the rubble and trash and corpses.

A pale blue line cut through the haze of dust, lining up against a zombie's head. There was a crack, like the sound of a plank breaking, and the zombie's head exploded from one side. It tumbled to the ground and lay still, like so many others that would forever stay in those murky streets.

Alyx blinked a rogue drop of sweat out of her eyes, and hunkered over the sniper rifle again. There- another zombie, crack, and there, a flash of orange and black and crowbar- crack.

And Gordon was safe again. Her heart continued to hammer in her throat.

Crack.

He was out in the open now, pulse rifle held tightly in his sure hands. Blamblamblamblamblam- two zombies fell. Crack. Another one.

It was simple. Too simple. Alyx swung her sights around, seeking out more zombies. Gordon was hard to keep track of, slipping from one place to another, hunkering down in the dark, throwing grenades and random bits of debris.

Crack. Just a small headcrab.

So intent on finding Gordon's enemies on the ground with him, Alyx did not think to look up in the windows of the buildings around him.

She did not think that another sniper would be lying in wait.

A second clear blue line cut across the street.

Alyx didn't notice.

Crack. A Zombine.

Swinging around to seek out Gordon again.

Crack. Not her this time.

Alyx hadn't fired.

But the sound of a sniper rifle had cut through the hazy world to her ears.

Time stopped. As her sight fell on a crumpled form of orange and black and red, Alyx forgot how to breathe.

Without thinking, she raised the rifle and began firing blindly into windows.

Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.

And a garbled scream. And blood. And a flatline.

Her feet were on the cracked ground before the sniper rifle was ready for another shot. Fear made her stumble. Rage made her quicken.

A zombie leapt at her from a decrepit apartment, and she emptied a clip into it.

Thought left her when she saw him, unmoving, like a discarded piece of trash, in the road.

The pulse rifle had fallen from his hands. The crowbar was feet away from him.

Alyx ran to him, knowing that it was too late, knowing what she would find.

But still she turned him over, whispering his name.

He looked almost peaceful, moreso than she had ever seen him, even before the incident at Black Mesa. His glasses had come askew. Murky green eyes were half-lidded, like he were deep in thought, or looking out hopefully over a faraway horizon.

That, and the hole in his head, and the blood. And the blood.

When the Citadel finally blew, Alyx wasn't sure who had lost the most.