Title: The Struggle Within

Summary: In "Salvation" it's obvious that the trap is for John… what if those pesky demons and the Y.E.D had been a little bit more cunning? Winchester whumpage and angst on the way 'cause it's awesome! Limp!Sam, Hurt!Protective!Dean and added Papa Winchester. Strong T rating for the moment, for strong language and graphic violence but that may change… after all that Azazel is one mean SOB!

Timeframe: AU from episode 1.21 onwards.

Disclaimer: I don't own them… fudge. Title inspired by the song of the same name on Metallica's 1991 'Black' album.

Author's Note: I've written some fanfic before, but never a SPN fic so this is an adventure into unknown territory for me :D But I love the show soooooo much and have been inspired by so many great authors on this site so thought I'd give it a go and see what happens. So this is my first (multi-chap) fic… well hopefully as long as the prologue gets a good reception 'crosses fingers'. No beta so all mistakes are mine. John centric intro... but it's necessary to kick-start the plot. Please review and let me know if I should continue! –Darkmoonshine90


"If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example." – George Bernard Shaw


It was always the waiting that got to him.

Waiting for the next attack in 'Nam, waiting for a chicken-pox ridden Dean to fall asleep, waiting for his second child to be born, waiting for a colicky and motherless Sammy to stop crying... waiting for a poltergeist to emerge from a seven-year-old girl's closet, waiting for a spirit to appear on a deserted highway, waiting for a demon to show up at a warehouse in Lincoln, Nebraska. But it was the same feeling of insignificance; simply waiting for events to come to pass before he could act in any way. Each second felt like an eternity, the silence of the Nebraskan night punctuated only his breathing.

John glanced at the battered watch on his right wrist, a Father's Day gift from a time when monsters lurking in the shadows were banished by a child's laughter or a mother's smile. 11:51 PM. He had arrived at approximately twenty minutes before Meg-or rather the demon possessing her-'s deadline, carefully preparing everything necessary for his escape plan. He had blessed the water supply stoically, his white-knuckle grip on the rosary given to him by the now deceased Pastor Jim Murphy in complete contrast to his smooth recital of the rite.

Waiting meant his mind was free to drift into dark contemplation, threatening to break the concentration required for hunting. John exhaled forcefully, his thoughts turning to his sons, a state away and potentially in more danger than the Winchesters had seen in over 22 years. The Demon- Azazel, as he had recently discovered- had taken his wife; it had just taken Jim Murphy, one of his only confidants, and Caleb, one of his staunchest allies.

It could still take his sons.

And John would be left with nothing to tether him to this life except a soul consumed by revenge and self-hatred that could never be healed. His boys were the reason he kept on fighting and didn't spend his days in an alcohol-induced haze.

Mary's death had broken John. Losing one of his sons would destroy him.

John glanced at his watch again impatiently - 11:52 – the fingers of his left hand twitching as John stood agitatedly. John exhaled heavily, trying to focus on "Meg" and her possible intentions before sighing and digging into his jacket. Opening his wallet, John tugged a small Polaroid out from behind John Osborne's drivers' license. Artificial light from a flickering security light fell upon two young faces; Sam and Dean at nine and thirteen respectively, sitting on the hood of the Impala, arms slung around each others' shoulders. Sam's face was pale, and John remembered that Sammy had spent most of the summer in a hospital in Minnesota after having to get his appendix removed and the consequential peritonitis that had crushed his baby boy's strength. Dean's stance was protective, holding Sammy close; and John recalled that Dean had barely left his ailing brother's side throughout Sam's treatment. John had given Sam into Dean's care that fateful night 23 years ago and had never truly relieved Dean of the responsibility since.

John's thoughts turned to his eldest son. Dean had been his second-in-command rather than a son throughout what little was left of the ashes of Dean's childhood. Whilst Sam questioned and rebelled, Dean was a steady source of pride and comfort. However, now John could see cracks in the facade Dean had created to disguise his fear and grief from the world. "Sam called you when I was dying!" He could see the hurt in Dean's eyes, John wanted to say that he had been there in Nebraska, had been in Lawrence too; but he knew that would only cause the betrayal in Dean's eyes to deepen. He was only trying to protect them from the danger that stalked their family but John was now starting to recognise the true costs of his crusade.

Funny how Sam had spent most of his teenage years yelling such things at him; and yet only now was the fact that he had sacrificed and hurt his boys in a different way penetrating John's hardened heart.

And funnier still, how after two decades of standing in front of them as a shield at the cost of their childhoods, John had effectively now thrown Sam and Dean to the proverbial lion.

Especially Sammy.

Sam was different in many ways to his older brother, self-assured in a different way to Dean, but modest and compassionate at the same time. Sammy was Mary's son, and sometimes John could not even look at Sam without feeling the knife of grief embedded in his heart. In the midst of their most intense arguments, John would register Sam tilting his head a certain way through the haze of fury, and his anger would be replaced by weariness and guilt. What would Mary have made of their intelligent and empathetic son? He could envision standing at Sam's graduation from law school, full of pride for his son who had a prosperous future ahead of him with Mary crying happily by his side and Dean smiling proudly. And Sam would come down to them, with a beautiful blonde clinging to his arm and John would embrace his son and tell him-

"If you walk out that door, you stay gone! You hear me Sam? Don't come back!"

All of that had burned away on a cold November night over two decades years ago, and the ashes destroyed completely one year ago on yet another November night.

John Winchester had woken up on the morning of November 2nd 1983 to his four-year-old son bouncing eagerly on his parents' bed as his wife looked on fondly, cradling their youngest son in her arms. John Winchester had woken up on the morning on November 3rd 1983 as a widower with a silent, traumatised four-year-old son and a crying, motherless, baby to care for.

He had found his way into hunting in the following months and years, driven by grief to find Mary's killer... but as his research deepened, John wanted answers about why Mary was killed for entirely different reasons. The discovery of the fixation the supernatural seemed to have with his youngest son; the cryptic "truths" whispered mockingly between shrieks of pain from demons wearing human meat suits- "Sammy's always been special hasn't he?" and his own observations had lead John to unsettling with the revelation that Sam was having visions, John was drowning in guilt, fear and despair. John fingers itched for a cigarette, even though he'd kicked the habit before Dean was born at Mary's insistence, or a bottle of Jack to lose himself in for a few hours as he'd done in the first empty weeks after Mary's death.

John glanced at his wrist again, 11:59PM. 'Showtime,' John thought sombrely, his senses alert and seeking even the slightest disturbance. He raised the fingers of his left hand and pressed a brief kiss to the band on his ring finger before pushing all thoughts of his family to the deepest recesses of his mind. He stepped forward, away from the flickering security light and into the depths of the building. He entered a central room; hunting instincts guiding his steps. The room cloaked in darkness apart from the spears of light cast between the barred window frames across the floor. Typical demon decor.

John paused, lingering a few metres from the doorway, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Suddenly, the hair on the back of his neck prickled, an unknown fear seizing hold of his heart with icy fingers. John instantly stood at perfect attention, eyes scanning the warehouse floor and ears listening intently for the slightest sound. He reached for the fake Colt revolver, expecting "Meg" to appear in the-


The cell phone vibrated innocuously in John's jacket pocket.

John shifted uneasily, knowing that it could be his boys to tell him that it was all over but his instincts were suggesting otherwise. John's fingers were trembling as he slid the phone out of his pocket, before pressing the 'Answer' key and lifting the phone to his ear.

And one second later, his life fell apart for a second time.

"You've really messed up this time John."


Author's Note: Oops, what have I done? Please review!!!! Reviews feed the stressed-out-by-Uni-coursework muse :D