Disclaimer: The Mass effect universe and everything in it belongs to Bioware.

A/N: Welcome to my very first attempt at writing something. A few things before you begin reading this rather long fan fiction:

1.) My story begins directly after Shepard destroys the Human Reaper. My Shepard is a Paragade. He's a good man but does what has to be done to ensure the mission succeeds.

2.) I plan to be working the Jack relationship slowly. I don't feel her character is one that was ever meant to be rushed into.

3.) This is rated M for language, violence, and adult situations. There will eventually be sexual content, but not until much further in. I think love scenes are important, but my story will most definitely not revolve around them. So if you're lookin' for a slash fic...hit that back button.

4.) Lastly, I welcome and would absolutely love to hear feedback and constructive criticism for each chapter. When I finish this fiction I would like to come back and rewrite the first fifteen chapters. Since putting this story out there I think I've grown as a writer and a lot of things need to be fixed. So, your input is important so I can try and further myself as an author.

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Story Arc #1: (Jack and Shepard) Chapters 1-15.

Story Arc #2: (Original Character and Miranda) Chapters 15-30; Introduction to O.C in chapter 9.

Story Arc #3: (To be Announced...)

Chapter One

The End Run




"We did it", Shepard heard himself say. The battle was over, his job was done. He had stopped the Harbingers plans, the reaper had been destroyed, and the human colonies were safe for a time coming. Now, all that was left was blackness. It was a fitting end for a man who had given himself so that others may live. Or at least, it should have been a fitting end. Under the shadow of death, Shepard could still feel something, and that something meant only one thing: life was still within him.

The Commander could feel his nerve endings pinch and he winced as he felt the sharpness jab at his body and joints. A sharp pain stung his ribs and Shepard groaned, blinking away the darkness and willing the light to remain in his eyes. He could feel something heavy on him. Whatever it was, it was pushing him down into the ground and making it hard to breathe. With a loud grumble Shepard pushed himself up with two hands, balancing the large object with his back and the top of his shoulders until he could find ground with his feet. With a final heave, he placed the palms of his hands flat on its surface and tossed it to the side. It was part of the collector base.

He kneeled there for a small moment, catching his breath and taking this chance to view his surroundings. It appeared he was on what seemed to be a damaged platform. To one side of it was a great, deep, and black abyss, and to the other, was what seemed to be the longest stretch of a Collector built hallway. But he could see where it ended: There was an incline at the end of it all—though it looked to lead nowhere.

Regardless, there was no time to worry about that now. There was a more pressing matter at hand: both he and his team were still in the slowly crumbling base.

His team.

The thought hit Shepard like a ton of bricks; he still had two of his crew down there with him when shit had hit the fan and parts of the base began to fall. He stood up quickly, eyes frantically searching the platform around him. He saw a crew member at the very edge. Their right arm was dangling over the side and their body was half an inch away from their fall. The Commander sprang into action, quickly coming to their aid and moving the light body back to a distance that was more comfortable for them both. He kneeled over his comrade, turning her onto her back to lightly shake her shoulders.

It was enough to stir the woman from unconsciousness. Miranda Lawson's eyes groggily blinked open. Shepard could see her mind racing at a thousand miles per minute as she tried to figure out what had just happened and where she was. Helping her up onto her feet, Shepard offered a single pat on her shoulder, and then turned to scan the remaining of the platform for his other squad mate.

His mind began to think the worse when he couldn't openly spot his second team member among the rubble and ruin, but then something caught the attention of his eye: white fabric. It was underneath a smaller part of fallen Collector ship. Shepard ran over, grasping the debris with both hands before lifting with his legs. He tossed it aside and knelt to check on the state of his second companion. Mordin was alright; he was scrapped up and bleeding from a few gashes, but he was alright. Grabbing the scientist by the elbow, it only took a second to help him to his feet.

The three gathered in the middle of the platform when Shepard suddenly heard a crackling in his ear. Mordin dusted himself off. "It is done," he inhaled sharply. "Successfully killed human reaper."

Shepard waved him to be silent.

"…c…der…om in!...Sh…rd…d…ou…read!" The commander took a step, a finger altering the frequency on his earpiece in an attempt to fix his communications system.

"Commander! Come on Shepard, don't leave me hanging! Do you copy?"

It was Joker.

A small, quick smile came to Shepard's face when he realized his system was still up and running in a semi-decent condition. There was a chance to get them off this base after all. And he knew what that meant: it was time to get back to business.

"I'm here, Joker. Did the Ground Team make it?"

Joker's voice held a clear sound of relief when he heard his Commander and replied, "Good to hear your voice. All survivors are on board; we're just waiting for you! I've got you on my locater. The ship is at the far end of the stretch directly in front of you, I'll upload the coordinates to your hard-suit just in case. It's the closest I could get."

"Got it. We're on our way."

Shepard looked to his team. With a firm nod, he turned to begin his final journey through the last obstacle they'd have to face. Upon entering the large walkway, they were greeted by three vastly sized seeker swarms. "GO!" was the only thing Shepard could yell as the three sprang to life, legs and arms pumping towards their destination. In a vain attempt to slow the swarms and allow time for his team to reach the ship, Shepard turned to face the Seekers, pistol in hand and firing violently into the black clouds. They seemed to dissipate for the briefest of moments before quickly reassembling into an even darker shade of impending demise.

A deep, clear voice boomed and echoed throughout the crumbling base as a more massive swarm turned the corner to greet Shepard. He quickly turned on the balls of his feet and sprinted. "Human. You've changed nothing. Your species has the attention of those infinitely your greater." Shepard could hear his heart inside of his ears, could feel the hot blood pumping through his veins, could feel his lungs aching for stillness, and could feel the sweat dripping off his forehead from within his helmet. "Those which you know as Reapers are your salvation through destruction," the voice continually taunted as he and his team turned the last corner. Three Collectors were there and began to charge with aimed guns. They fired.

But then Shepard saw it: the Normandy, his state-of-the-art ship, now heavily damaged from what was deemed a "suicide mission". And there was Joker opening the entrance, gun in hand and determination on face. He fired back just as fiercely.

Shepard could see the incline he noticed earlier up ahead. Mordin was already hopping into the ship and Miranda was near the peak about to make her jump as well. A large piece of the Collector base plummeted down towards them, only just missing both his ship and his fleeing crew.

"They're safe. They made it."

Only two things ever mattered to the notorious Commander John Shepard while on the job: Getting the mission done and ensuring the safety of his crew and squad.

The Collector base was starting to crumble around and above him. Shepard could hear as hot rounds from assault rifles and pistols flew past his body in both directions. His thighs felt blazing hot as he got halfway up the incline. Breathing was becoming harder to do; even with all his military training and the rewiring from the Lazarus Project, John could feel the weariness in his muscles and bones.

Then it happened: a tremendous screeching noise came from above. Shepard raised his eyes towards the offending sound to witness a vast piece of metal flying down and crashing into his only escape route. The force and sheer weight of the object caused the last remaining platform to plummet to the deep and dark depths below. Whatever glimmer Shepard still held in his eyes began to dim as he knew there was no possible way he could ever make that jump.

But then…he saw her, and everything became silent and slow.

Jack came rushing through the entrance hall of the Normandy and abruptly stopped in the doorway. She was clutching the frame as she looked out and onto the scene. Shepard, her Shepard, was under fire. She could see what little space he had left to run and she could most definitely see the gap in which he would have to jump.

John saw her face clearly: that beautiful, chiseled jaw line, those red, plump lips, and those hazel, expressive eyes. Her face was a face he had burned into his memory. Oh, how he knew it so well. Yet… he noticed something he'd never seen on her face before: fear. Jack, the 'badass' he'd developed such strong feelings for. The Jack he'd only begun to know and wanted to know more ofwas scared.

Shepard's eyelids closed for the briefest of moments. He could see her; Shepard remembered the words she had said—remembered the promise he had made:

"You better not die tomorrow. So don't be a pussy, Shepard. Promise me."

"I promise, Jack."

The Commander's eyes snapped open. He could feel the weight of his armor, and the heaviness in his breath. He was so damn tired. Blurry thoughts and memories flooded through him as he continued his quite literal uphill battle: one clear distinct thought echoing loudly in his mind. "Don't. Be. A Pussy. Shepard."

He took off his helmet, tossing it to the side as he ran and hearing it clank until it fell over into the abyss. Then he threw his gloves. Shepard hit the emergency evacuation code on his omni-tool. It caused a loud hiss and the air locked seals began to pop, allowing his protective torso-shell to fall off around him.

There. He could breathe. He felt lighter. With only a few more feet left to go, Shepard had a new determination blazing within him. He was not going to let his crew down— not going to let Jack down. With legs pumping and lungs on fire Shepard neared the peak of the incline, and upon taking one last and mighty step, Shepard pushed himself off the edge and into the air.

Miranda yelled for further cover fire, watching as Shepard stripped himself of the extra weight and make the balls-out leap of faith towards his safety. Both she and Joker pelted enemy collectors with their pistols and rifles, while Jack, worried and pissed, shot out bright, blue spheres of biotic energy from her clenched fists.

This was it. Make it or break it, Shepard thought. He reached out his arms out in a final act of desperation.

Whether it was God, luck, or training, Shepard thanked whoever was listening as he smashed his already hurting ribs into the Normandy's lip. He gasped in pain as his arms clung for life on the door frame. Quickly, both Miranda and Jack helped the Commander into the ship as Joker smashed the Red button inside, sealing the door shut behind him.

"Get us the hell outta' here, EDI!" Joker shouted.

"Brace for the ships Mass Accelerators."

With a noticeable kick in the engine, all onboard braced for the oncoming jolt. The Normandy was gone with a flash, behind them a huge ball of yellow and orange energy exploding out into the atmosphere.

The enemy base had been destroyed, and they had succeeded.

They had survived.

Miranda, Joker, Shepard, Jack, and Mordin all collapsed in the ships main entrance. They sat in silence, breathing heavily. Soon, they were joined by the others: Samara, Thane, Tali, Legion, Grunt, Garrus, Zaheed, Kasumi and Jacob. All of them had crowded into the hallway. Some leaned against the wall, looking over the damage done to the ship, but mostly, they were looking at Shepard.

Shepard had to let his head rest against the wall behind him, listening as he heard EDI speak over the crackling intercom. "Commander, the Illusive Man would like to have a word with you."

He raised his hand to pinch the section between his eyes tiredly. "Miranda, can you..?"

Miranda nodded, speaking up in her distinct accent, "EDI, let the Illusive Man that we will be with him momentarily. And you can tell him we have quite a bit to say."

Something in the edge in her voice said the Loyalist wasn't quite so loyal anymore.

With a heavy grunt and a wince of pain, Shepard moved to stand up with the aid of Jack. The Commander looked around at his crew with great pride before he opened his mouth to speak, "Normandy crew...back to your stations."

There was no dispute, no request for rest. In response to his command, there were only nods and exhausted smiles. Why? It was because Commander John Shepard's team had just done the impossible…

…and lived.

A/N: Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this. Comments and criticisms would be loved.