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Fan Fic / Struggle

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Struggle is a Mass Effect Fanfic, written as essentially a novelization of the trilogy, tweaking events to include more action from Kaidan Alenko (whom was absent for most of Mass Effect 2), and could be considered a Fix Fic in regards to Mass Effect 3's ending. Covering all three of the games as arcs of the overall story, Struggle expands upon and tweaks slightly what a player would have experienced within the game trilogy, including an ongoing romance between Kaidan and Shepard. It also adds a happy ending.


The fanfic itself is 90 chapters long, completed in 2013, and spawned two sequels (Resistance and Fractured) continuing the story of Shepard and the Normandy's crew

Warning for scenes Not Safe for Work - those who've played the Mass Effect trilogy know when and where the smutty scenes will occur whilst reading, as the fic stays extraordinarily true to the series. Spoilers warning for the Mass Effect games.


This fanfic contains examples of:

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    Tropes A-G 
  • A Day in the Limelight: Kaidan takes Shepard's role in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC arc, assisting Liara with her Big Bad with the assistence of Matriarch Aethyta.
    • Actually Kaidan takes Shepard's role multiple times throughout the story. Anything remotely Kasumi-related involves Kaidan, as Shepard only meets her towards the very end of the work (past anything related to the trilogy).
    • For a good chunk of the third game's arc, Shepard is out of action, forcing Kaidan - of whom is the ranking officer aboard the Normandy - into command.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Canon: Occurs throughout the fic in various ways. Key events throughout the trilogy are altered slightly to accommodate character involvement.
    • Kaidan's role within the Mass Effect 2 storyline of Struggle is tweaked to give him more presence where he'd otherwise have none. He takes over what would have been Shepard's role in "Stolen Memory" and "Lair of the Shadow Broker". There is also a significant change to his attitude towards Shepard, as he has a Heel Realization and tries to catch up to the Normandy to join them before they reach the Omega 4 relay.
    • Miranda becomes an antagonist, which provides more conflict and flavour to both the Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 story arcs.
    • When Shepard goes by herself to rescue Amanda Kenson, she's sedated for 48 hours - however, during this time, her squad (led by Garrus) search for her and ultimately rescue her from those indoctrinated within the facility.
      • Thane infiltrates and breaks Shepard out of her cell. He also attempts to take the blame for the deaths of the colonists following the destruction of the mass relay (and consequently, the entire star system) by pushing the Big Red Button himself.
    • Sidonis finds out that Garrus is out to kill him, and when confronted by Shepard, has a sniper train their sights on her. The character's backstory and relationship with Garrus is the same - his execution, however, is not.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: There's a number of them.
    • Though she's on somewhat amicable terms with Shepard in Canon, in Struggle, Miranda is a Jerkass from the second we meet her. According to the Word of God, the intention was to throw disharmony onto an otherwise stable Normandy.
    • Caleb Antella is just a downright dick whenever he shows up - though whether he was a Jerkass in canon is debatable, as he only ever authored a single message to Hackett about attempting to arrest Shepard (which the player can find in the Shadow Broker's lair).
    • Sidonis. His portrayal all but disregards canon in favour of putting Shepard into the line of fire (again).
  • Adaptational Villainy: Miranda is portrayed as a complete asshole, and borderlines on Bitch Alert, when readers are first introduced to her, and it all just progresses downhill from there. There are times where some humanity do show through, if only fleeting (and without fanfare from the author), but she overall sticks to her own goals.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Shepard's feelings about Kaidan's voice.
  • Attempted Rape: Caleb Antella spent a good amount of time pushing Shepard to her limits before attempting to rape her when she was downright exhausted from a triple shift. It was only the beginnings of the Skyllian Blitz that stopped him. Once she became a war hero, it caused him some Irrational Hatred towards her.
  • Badass Family: Both Shepard's mother and father were military, having served and risen through the ranks together. Though they aren't cold-hearted, both are capable of dropping someone with a single bullet, and are in command of some form of Alliance assets. It seems to run in the family, as Shepard is no different.
  • Babies Ever After: By the final chapter, we're introduced to Drake (Jacob and Brynn's son), Wrex and Eve's youngest (with mention that there were also others), and Shepard and Kaidan's daughter Aurora.
    • That's not to mention that Grunt has also presumably sired a few children, and Kolyat's wife is also heavily pregnant.
  • Beat: Jenkins all but demands Kaidan to show off his biotic ability by biotically throwing him across a cargo bay. Kaidan accepts, and after he threw a half-hearted blast at Jenkins, it took a few moments for Jenkins to collect himself.
    Jenkins: That. Was. AWESOME!
  • Benevolent Architecture: On Feros, an invading geth ship anchors itself to the Exo-Geni building. As Shepard and Wrex check out the cables in hopes to break the ship's hold - lucky for Shepard, one is placed through a hydraulic shuttlebay door, supposedly powerful enough to sever the cable. This is a Canon event, but one has to wonder why a shuttlebay would generally need a door that could slam down with enough force to sever a very large tethering cable.
  • Bunny Boiler: Sabine, Rahna's Cerberus "handler", literally refers to Rahna as a "bunny boiler in the making".
  • Busman's Holiday: The Citadel DLC arc of the story. None of the crew are entirely pleased, Kaidan and Hackett even less so, because the whole thing was about Shepard having a break.
    Kaidan: You and I need to have a serious chat about the definition of shore leave.
    Shepard: Very funny.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks:
    Wrex: Shouldn't you be flying the ship?"
    Joker: Even I have to pee. Edi's got it covered.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: This occurs repeatedly regarding Shepard's injuries, likely in attempts to avoid being sidelined.
    • It's averted in the case of her relationship with Antella, however, as Shepard seems comfortable enough to explain exactly what happened before the Skyllian Blitz to Kaidan without even skipping a beat.
  • Coming in Hot: Following the Reaper's destruction, the Normandy is sent through multiple mass relays in quick succession - something of which it's not designed to do. The drive core nearly overloads, causing Engineer Adams to shut it down, resulting in Joker's losing control of the frigate and crashing on a planet. The reason Adams couldn't reactivate it? Because Engineering is still red-hot.
  • Completed Fic: Struggle and it's two sequels, are 100% completed.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Kaidan, Chakwas, Tali, and Joker are all guilty of this when Shepard slips into a coma following her ordeal with the Leviathans.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Kaidan gives Shepard the kiss of life, and after a few moments, she regains consciousness (and then promptly loses it due to extensive life-threatening injuries).
  • Determinator: Miranda refuses to give up her goals, and becomes increasingly psychotic in her plots for revenge against Shepard and Co, no matter what happens. It takes a bullet to the head by Garrus to stop her, but even this wasn't a permanent solution.
    • Shepard pushing forward on the Citadel following Anderson in order to activate the Crucible.
    • Rahna is pushed to her limits in her desire to have Kaidan for herself. Fueled by falsities from Sabine, her Cerberus handler and what many of the characters presume to be a mental illness, she risks the lives of Shepard, Kaidan and herself to achieve this. After the war ends, she even kidnaps Kaidan's daughter in an act of clear desperation. Hackett decides she can't be saved and puts a bullet in her.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When a "disguised" Shepard comes to see her crew for the first time, Joker makes a comment regarding how distracting Shepard's assets are to Kaidan.
    • Played with directly between Kaidan and Shepard in the first arc of the fic, before they become something of an item.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Dr. Chakwas notes that the 'L' in Richard L. Jenkins' files stands for 'Larrimore' - she further goes on to note that that's why he doesn't acknowledge it in full, and instead prefers to use the initial to recognize his namesake.
  • Escort Mission: When Cerberus attacks the Citadel in the third games' arc, Kaidan is forced to escort her to somewhere safe - this after arguing with her about her endless lying to him, Shepard and Bailey about the nature of his relationship with her. Every section that includes her infuriates the reader the point of wanting to throttle her, which is seemingly deliberate.
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: As Shepard slips by her crew to have a look at her new ship, she wears a cap tipped forward to hide the top half of her face. Somehow this fools her crew whom know her to be a famous figure, and it's only until she takes the cap off that both Joker and Kaidan realize she's Commander Shepard.
  • Faking the Dead: Kasumi fakes her own death to throw Jondum Bau off her trail, though it's left clear that he doesn't truly believe her to be dead.
  • Fan Wank: Kaidan and Shepard's relationship - Kaidan has at least 5x more to do in the fanfiction than he does in canon and stands by Shepard despite any greviences he has about Cerberus. He also tries to join Shepard when the Normandy is headed for the Omega 4 relay.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Javik, having been in cryo-sleep for 50,000 years, resulting in a huge time displacement for him when Shepard and Co. wake him up.
    • The mining workers of Mahavid lose 10 years of their lives due to being under the control of Leviathan. When they're finally back in their right minds, they have to come to terms with the fact that the galaxy is currently at war, much of which they've missed.
  • Friends with Benefits: Best describes the relationship between Shepard and Matt Coats.
  • Forgot about her powers: Rahna went through training with Kaidan, and her profession is to help rehabilitate biotics - but she never even attempts to use her own biotics to protect Kaidan or herself when the Citadel is under attack, and seems to prefer being a Damsel in Distress. Even Kaidan doesn't bring it up.

    Tropes H-M 
  • Has a Type: Given how Tall, Dark, and Handsome Matt Coats and Kaidan look, it seems that Shepard has a particular preference.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted, as despite the canon ending to the trilogy, Shepard dies for only a few seconds, but is resuscitated - and survives.
    • In Kaidan's case, this is averted - just as he's about to obliterate himself for the control ending, Shepard realizes just how illogical the whole situation is and it's revealed the Intelligence is a dirty, dirty liar.
    • Hannah Shepard sacrifices herself and her ship to stop a Reaper from reaching the Crucible before it docked with the Citadel after a heartbreaking goodbye to Hackett.
  • Hope Spot: Thane, suffering from Kepral's Syndrome, is finally given another chance at life in the form of Mordin's nephew, Narin Solus, who develops a cure for the disease. It's all for nothing, however, as he meets his death prematurely.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Many of the non-human characters have comments about the strangeness of humans, if not other aliens.
    • The differences between the turian military and the Alliance lead to some humourous conversations about fraternisation between Garrus and Kaidan.
    • Javik tends to have these comments a lot, as every race around him were either in primitive stages during his time or non-existent. Many of his comments tend to be referring to how strange their behaviour is, sometimes to the insult of others.
  • I Can Still Fight!: It takes both Shepard and Wrex to make Grunt stay in the med bay when they deliver the genophage cure to Tuchanka.
    • Kaidan has to pull rank against Shepard, of whom was exhausted, to back down from a battle in order to take down a Reaper on Rannoch.
  • I Have Your Child: Zig-zagged in that it only happens after she was Driven to Madness by her obsession with Kaidan and doesn't have entirely malicious intentions: Rahna takes baby Aurora from a well-meaning Lena Alenko under the ideology that she was the girl's mother - she was hoping she'd get Kaidan back after he leaves her for Shepard. It doesn't go quite to her plan, however, as Kaidan points out that Shepard actually helped Rahna last time she saw her. When he leaves with Aurora, Rahna is shot by Hackett.
    Rahna: That woman is lying again, isn't she? Twisting things in your head. That Cerberus traitor took you away from me, and now she wants our baby, too!
    Kaidan: That woman you're referring to, held you in comfort once.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Liara convinces Javik to assist her in writing a book together, something of which he initially refuses to do, but changes his mind once the Reapers are defeated. It's aptly named "Journeys with the Prothean."
  • Identity Amnesia: Alex Alenko, Kaidan's father, suffers from amnesia after a serious shuttle crash causes him major injury during the Reaper war. He didn't know who he was and because of scavengers, held no form of identification when medics found him.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Shepard, surviving an explosion, the Illusive Man's compulsion and just all around hell due to the events of the third game's finale arc.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: The rules of fraternization are constantly spoken of both between and regarding Kaidan and Shepard. Ultimately, they throw the book out the window, got married, and never faced repercussions for it.
  • Inner Monologue: After falling through a fish tank and being severely injured (not for the first time), the narration contradicts itself regarding on how alone Shepard actually is. It's treated as though this is her inner thoughts, and she scolds herself for this outloud.
    Shepard: Shit. Now you're sounding like Brooks.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Just as Kaidan and Shepard were about to go at it, they're interrupted by the Collectors attacking, and then destroying, the SSV Normandy and effectively "killing" Shepard shortly thereafter.
  • Kill the Cutie: In the race for the beam, Tali goes down. It's a huge blow to the whole Normandy crew, hitting hard especially during the period of time where the Normandy is missing.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: When a Salarian diplomatic envoy is attacked, Joker "handles" the situation by reminding the attackers just who they are and how badass the Normandy was during the war. As soon as it's made clear, weapons are powered down and they surrender.
    • On Noveria, Shepard gives Captain Ventralis's forces the option of actually do their job and get the civilians out of the way of the rachni, or sticking with Benezia and Saren against Shepard and co (whom had just cleared everything thrown at them, be it rachni or Noverian forces) - and then counts down from 10. By 3, all of Ventralis's people vacated the premises with their hands up.
  • Like Brother and Sister: The relationships between Shepard and Garrus, and Shepard and Wrex. Both turian and krogan feel obligated to protect Shepard, support her during her darkest times, and are quite happy to threaten Kaidan with potential death if it means pulling his head in for her.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Downright infatuated with Kaidan, Rahna goes to great feats to try and "keep" him. Despite being told that it'll never happen between them, she emotionally manipulates him in to remaining her friend, lies to doctors and to Shepard about their "engagement", and she ultimately ends up trying to throw herself off a building. It doesn't help that she was being used by Sabine the entire time so to keep tabs on Kaidan.
  • Love Triangle: Averted in that while Shepard had a Friends with Benefits relationship, and Kaidan initially felt threatened by him, Coats explains to him that he's staying clear out of the way now that Shepard has found some real romance.
  • More Than Mind Control: Many of those indoctrinated have suffered from this.
    • Rahna, one of the very few exceptions, was carefully manipulated by Sabine (a Cerberus operative) into believing Shepard was an agent of Cerberus and was lying to and manipulating Kaidan. All this, plus falsities that Kaidan would be hers, led to her having a very dramatic breakdown involving throwing both herself and Shepard off the side of a building. It keeps chipping away at her psyche until her death.
    • When the Illusive Man is implanted with more reaper tech, he indoctrinates and forces Jan, his personal assistant, to kill the team that did the procedure, and then shoot herself.
  • Mr Fix It: Tali, to the point where she even makes quick crude repairs to EDI after an incident involving Kai Leng severely damages her.
  • Mythology Gag: When helping Kasumi Goto get Keiji's greybox from Donovan Hock, Kaidan can't help but think that Shepard should really be the one at the party - which is exactly what happens in the game.

    Tropes N-S 
  • O.C. Stand-in: Matt Coats, who in canon, is simply a major we meet on Earth, has his role extended x10. He's introduced in the second chapter of the story as being in a 'friends with benefits' relationship with Terra, and then continues to show up at various points, much to the relief of the reader.
    • Zabaleta, though only showing up once in the first game, is frequently mentioned and has a much closer relationship with Shepard. He even saves her after she's flung off a building by Rahna shortly after the Cerberus coup.
    • Caleb Antella, once a literal footnote in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, becomes a whole character with a grudge for Shepard.
    • Despite being given very little attention in game, being the author of a letter to Shepard following the Purgatory mission in Mass Effect 2, Billy is actually hired by Miranda to carve her name into Shepard's chest (with moderate success). He meets an untimely end when Kaidan uses his biotics to all but smash him into a wall as if he were a bug on a windshield.
  • Red Shirt: Jenkins. The poor guy was given more backstory in the fic only to die like he did in the first game.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The reaction two of Fist's workers give Shepard and co when they storm Chora's Den.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Shepard and Hackett are incredibly alike, especially when getting a job done or by simply through the teasing of others. When Shepard and Kaidan get married, and Hackett walks his daughter down the "isle", the rest of the Normandy crew realize the cause of those similarities.
    • Narin Solus literally speaks in the same manner as his uncle Mordin, though it's never explained why.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Subverted in that Garrus almost shoots Dr Michel whilst she's being held hostage, but had an accurate aim to hit her captor instead. It then starts a Fight Scene.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: As grandaughter to the only human to surrender to an alien race, Ashley Williams is passed over for promotion constantly, and forced to remain ground-side. It's only until Shepard puts a stop to that, but by then it's too late.
  • Someone Has to Die: An extensive and emotional argument between Kaidan and Shepard during the Mass Effect 3 arc's finale. Kaidan's side of the argument is rendered mute-point, however, after learning that the Intelligence is a deceitful little star-child and that they only truly have the 'destroy' option, meaning that no matter what they choose Shepard has to die anyway. Subverted in that while she does actually die, Kaidan was able to resuscitate her.
    • To anyone having played the Virmire mission of Mass Effect knows that the scenario can go of two ways. In this telling, however, it's Ashley that takes the cake, demanding to remain to ensure the bomb goes off no matter what. She reasons that it's the right choice, no matter how much Kaidan protests.
  • Straw Feminist: Ashley tends to toe the line regarding this. She gets particularly antsy when she and Kaidan enter Chara's Den, but it comes out in full when she takes offense to Wrex accusing Kaidan of "fussing like a female". Shepard straight up tells her to "thrash the chauvinist krogan with your feminism" later.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Shepard's unavailable for a job, Anderson and Hackett call Kaidan - whom after having an intimiate relationship with her, tends to share her views and ideologies, as well as her general positivity towards bleak situations and a distinct distaste for throwing someone's life away. Whether this is because of Canon necessity or the author's preference, Kaidan is practically considered discount Shepard by the Alliance big-wigs, even moreso when he's promoted not once, but three times over the course of the fic.

    Tropes T-Z 
  • Taking the Heat: With the reapers about to come though the alpha relay, Shepard is faced with launching the Project so to delay their arrival. However, as she's essentially signing the death warrants for 305,000 colonists, she hesitates - and it is Thane who pushes the Big Red Button, pledging to take the blame for her. This is ultimately subverted, however, as she later tells Hackett that since Thane had pledged himself to her, his body was her tool, thus he wasn't responsible for what was ultimately her decision.
  • Team Mom: Ever since day one on the job, Doctor Karin Chakwas has acted as the motherly figure for the crew of the Normandy.
    • On the flip side, however, many interactions with the crew indicate that Shepard herself also fills this role.
  • The Cutie: During the book's first arc, this position falls to Tali. Also results in Kill the Cutie.
    Tali: What's a 'dick'?
    Garrus: I'll explain later. (Then he thought about it, and cleared his throat.) In fact, never mind.
  • The Load: Rahna again tends to be this for anyone she makes an attachment with. She is a burden to Kaidan throughout much of the story, as he has to protect her whilst assist with containing Cerberus forces - this is annoying enough without remembering that she's a biotic.
    • Even her Cerberus handler becomes increasingly frustrated with how pathetic Rahna seems to her. Because of her gullibility, she's exploited mercilessly in attempts to rattle Kaidan and Shepard.
  • The Needs of the Many: When faced with the options for ending the Reapers, this is the conclusion Kaidan ultimately arrives at. Destroying the Reapers would mean the end of the geth, Edi, and Shepard herself, neither of the couple believe themselves capable or worthy to decide on the evolution of life (Synthesis), leaving only Control. Shepard can't take control of the Reapers due to being partially indoctrinated, but Kaidan can thanks to the thorian spores. Despite knowing that it will result in his death and leave his child without a father and lover alone, Kaidan rationalizes that one person for the rest of the galaxy is a small price to pay. Thankfully he doesn't have to when Shepard realizes just how dumb it all actually sounds.
    • In turn, Shepard also brings this point forward when it turns out there was only one true solution after all, meaning she must die for the sake of the many regardless of how Kaidan feels.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: Escape attempts pulled by Shepard at least twice throughout the fic. She stubbornly ignores Doctor Chakwas' recommendations by leaving the Normandy to assist with the assault of the Cerberus base (which essentially saves her lover's life) and does so again despite serious injuries incurred with the Reaper's destruction to bring Kaidan's father back to his family.
    • Rahna escapes from the psychiatric hospital after being deemed beyond short-term help - when she saw footage noting Shepard's pregnancy, she escaped during her transfer to a more secure unit for long-term patients, presumably using her knowledge of the hospital as a doctor whom once worked there herself.
  • The Reliable One: Jan, the Illusive Man's personal assistant, works tirelessly in the background, anticipating his needs and meeting them without hesitation. She doesn't get much screentime, mentioned just 15 times in a fic 90 chapters long, but she arranges much of the Illusive Man's projects and is known to be his Yes-Man. Her loyalty proves futile, however, as the Illusive Man uses her to kill a team that had just implanted him with additional reaper tech and then forces her to kill herself, just as an experiment of his new abilities.
  • The Stations of the Canon: As one would expect from a Mass Effect fanfiction, and as the fic is essentially a novelization, it follows the events of the trilogy to a T whenever possible.
  • The Tease: Shepard seems to have a tendency for this, much to Kaidan's chagrin.
    • Matriarch Aethyta also tries this against any male she comes across (especially Kaidan and Javik) to humourous results. Her attentions embarrass Kaidan much to Shepard's amusement and infuriates Javik. The only person that seems immune to her attentions is Cortez, who simply took whatever sexualized comment she threw at him as a compliment.
    • James, mainly to Shepard, makes himself "available" for her, though never acts upon his teasing. It backfires when Shepard jokingly makes further advances as Kaidan returns home when James is making good of her new apartment's training equipment.
    Kaidan: Lieutenant Vega.
    James: Uh, Major.
    Then he seemed to realise that they were standing in a bedroom, her sweaty, and him shirtless.
    James: It's not what it looks like, Major, I swear!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Once Vega gets aboard the ship, he and Garrus end up with this sort of relationship.
    • Kolyat and Bailey are such a dynamic duo in themselves as well. They work together with Bailey taking the drell under his wing, and became comfortable enough with each other that they snark and snipe at regular intervals. With Thane's death, they even begin sporting a father-son relationship.
  • Wall Bang Her: One of Shenko's sex scenes.
  • Worthy Opponent: Javik clashes with Aethyta much to her amusement. He considers her nothing short of a menace but can't seem to repel any of her advances or win any confrontation that occurs between them no matter how hard he tries, causing him to develop a strange sense of respect for her.
    Javik: She is formidable. If I strike out, she has won. If I do nothing, she has also won. A foe worthy of respect. There is only one solution: I will jump out of the airlock myself.


Example of: