"Dean? What's going on? We're worried 'bout you? Where's Sam? How's the baby? What's happening? Call me back, idjit."

The answering machine rang through again, Dean didn't even look up. Rose was babbling as Dean spoon-fed her but he couldn't meet the vibrant eyes of the tot. Every single time he did he saw Sam. He couldn't live with it. It was only now he was starting to realise just how bad Sam had it without Jess and he had no idea where his brother was to let him know. It was fucked up.

After his initial attempts failed – and there had been a few – the demands of coping with a baby caught up with him. He couldn't hunt demons and look after Rose and the guilt of dragging his brother's daughter into this when he knew what Sam thought of his lifestyle dragged on him. Now he was alone, Cas had disappeared the moment his brother had and now a bone-deep anger was bubbling with him, ready to snap at the slightest provocation.

That was when the blue-eyed freak decided to drop in on him. Rose giggled and smiled. Dean did not.

"What the hell?" He hissed as his eyes narrowed at the man in the door way, temptation to grab his knife strong. "Where the hell have you been? It better have been tracking down my brother or so help me –"

"I did and have been doing what is necessary to protect the infant spawn," Castiel drawled, anger and annoyance lacing his words. "It was Sam or the child and your brother made his choice."

As much as Dean wanted to say otherwise, a glance at Rose stopped him. "Well thanks for the help," he sneered instead, moving forwards to collect Rose. "Now get the fuck out. I don't need your help."

"Dean."

"You didn't even try," the oldest Winchester continued to vent. "Fucking angels and demons. As bad as each other."

It happened lightning fast; one minute his back was turned to the angel with his niece in his arms, the next he was being held against the wall by his neck with Rose back in her high chair. "Do not associate me with that scum. I did what I could and there is work to be done yet."

Rose's cries penetrated Dean from replying. He turned his attention to her briefly before glaring at the angel till he let go, moving over to his niece and hugging her close to him, rhythmically stroking her hair.

"It's alright, Rosie. I'm here, darlin'," he whispered, "Uncle Dean's gonna take you home and keep you safe."

The presence of the other was behind him, watching but Dean didn't have anything else to say. He'd never planned for this.

"I'm sorry, Dean," Castiel murmured. Dean didn't need to turn around to know the other had disappeared.

"Sam? Is everything okay, love? You didn't come to dinner. We missed you. Call if you need anything, we'll pop around later this week if that's okay? Just call to confirm."

It was the first time he'd paused and actually thought about something beside him and Rose. Shit. Dean had forgotten about the Moores completely. He hadn't seen them since Sam dragged him to that dinner months ago They weren't that bad but he couldn't deal with them. God what was he even doing?

Part of his mind told him he probably needed to return that call. Another part didn't want to talk to anyone. The phone was in his hand for five minutes before he decided.

Rose looked around the room half way through her meal, whimpering quietly. It wasn't anything he wasn't used to by now.

"He's not here," Dean said flatly, but the infant persisted, her bottom lip wobbling as she stuck it out in a pout. Dean gently lifted her, sitting her on his knee and gently rocking her. He made soft hushing sounds to her, just as Sam used to, and she slowly began to quieten. Her tears ceased, left only with small whimpers and mumbles. Rose's soft blonde curls gently tickled Dean's chin as she leaned against him and put her hands on his shirt.

"Dada," she mumbled. He knew she didn't mean him.

"He loves you," the protective uncle's voice came out as a whisper. "He'll always love you, Rosie."

Once she'd calmed down enough, Rose allowed Dean to feed her again. He found himself staring at her wide, puppy-dog-like eyes. There he was again. Little Sammy staring right at him. It reminded him of so much; when Sam realised that John had been away two years longer than he'd said he would, or when he used his powers of persuasion that he knew could win his big brother over, but most of all when he looked up to Dean when seeking protection.

The hunter dragged his eyes away from his niece. He had to keep himself together. Dean took Rose back into his arms and took her to the living room, grabbing a beer on the way. He no longer had Sam to lecture him about drinking alcohol while looking after Rose. The young father didn't care that beer barely affected Dean nowadays; he just wanted to be cautious. There was no one to stop Dean now.

Dean drained three cans of beer before lying back on the couch in silence. The infant was curled up on his chest and beginning to drift off to sleep. Her soft breathing calmed the oldest Winchester, soothed him. So much anger, rage and guilt had built up inside him, and he felt dangerously close to setting it all free. The only thing holding him back was Rose nestled in him arms. She was the only one he had the, the only one with him. He couldn't allow himself to vent out his anger with her there. None of it was her fault.

With nothing to say, and beginning to feel calmer, Dean planted a kiss on his little niece's head, watching her sleep for a little while. She's grown so much, he thought proudly, fondly thinking back to when Rose was first in his arms. She'd been the tiniest little creature, so small and delicate with those large blue eyes. Since then, her eyes had become the double of her father's, and her blonde tufts of hair had transformed into wispy ringlets. She was toddling all over the place and beginning to talk, her one word being "dada".

Rose shifted as she slept and softly babbled, and with a gentle squeeze, Dean yawned and began to fall asleep himself. It kept replying in his mind. Sam disappearing, Rose crying as her uncle took his anger out of Castiel. He was rescued from this nightmare by cries and wails.

"Okay…okay," Dean muttered, sitting up slowly, "I'm up."

Rose's bottom lip stuck out in a pout, her face wet with tears, and Dean wrinkled his nose.

"Guess you need changin'," he muttered, taking her to the bathroom. He envied Sam's natural ability to decode what every different cry meant. The younger Winchester brother made everything look easy to Dean.

Rose gave her uncle a brilliant grin when he finished changing her. She kicked her legs and giggled, and her apparent joy caused a smile to grow on Dean's lips. She was the only thing keeping him from losing his mind. He had to be there for his niece or no one else would be. Dean knew too well that he was far from being the best guardian for a young child, but he knew he needed her just as much as she needed someone to care for her.

"Dean? For god's sake answer your phone. We're worried. You've got to the end of the day and we're coming lookin'."

The hunter laid in his bed, fully clothed. Upon settling in Sam's new home he'd indulged in night robes and even pyjamas, something even Sam didn't have. Besides hunts, he could stay in this house and feel homely, safe and warm Part of him knew he needed to move on, the demon bitch Ruby knew where he lived and he didn't want cops sniffing around about Sam's disappearance but he couldn't exactly hit the road with an infant.

He'd tried to put Rose to bed an hour ago, following the routine; food, bath, pyjamas, sleep. He skipped the bedtime story, placing Rose in her crib and tucking her blankets around her before leaving without another word. This abrupt bedtime startled the infant, leaving her whimpering and shouting from her crib. Dean, completely oblivious, had been taking a shower, the running water drowning out the baby's cries.

He had run to her the moment he was dressed, scooping her straight into his arms and holding her close. The infant's cries calmed immediately, morphing into whimpers and quiet babbles as her tiny fingers clung to her uncle. He said nothing, just holding her close and gently rocking her, occasionally making soft hushing sounds. He cradled her as he sat beside her crib, his hand running through her soft blonde curls. Her head rested on Dean's shoulder, eyes drooping and slowly closing. Once asleep, he placed Rose in her crib gently and tucked her in. Luckily, she didn't stir.

Dean got in bed himself, lying for an hour without getting to sleep. Sleep had been scarce for Dean. He didn't need a baby monitor to hear Rose's cries. Dean got up, unable to bear it. He knew exactly who she wanted, and the knowledge that there was nothing he could do to get her father back ate away at the eldest Winchester.

Dean lifted the infant and took her into his room, gently laying her on the bed before returning to her room to take the crib. The house felt so empty without Sam, without the clicks of the laptop keyboard or hearing Sam cooking downstairs. It was too quiet, and Dean hated it that way.

He put the crib in the corner of his room and lifted Rose into his arms to calm her down. He kissed her forehead and stroked her curls, bouncing her soothingly. Dean sat on the bed, holding her close, and began to sing the song that always sparked memories of his mother. He hadn't sung it to Rose in such a long time, but it still worked like a charm. His voice soothed her completely, her eyes drooping shut and her hand resting on his chest. Soon, her soft whimpers were replaced with small, gentle breaths.

"Sweet dreams, kiddo," Dean said softly, lying Rose back in the crib with her toy bunny in her hand and blanket tucked around her. The silence didn't last long.

The moment Dean had settled himself in bed, she started to cry all over again. With a groan of exhaustion, Dean pushed himself into sitting, scooping Rose up and taking her to the bed. He wrapped his arms around her protectively, hugging the warm bundle close to his chest. Rose quietened down and settled into his warmth, her whimpers morphing into the silence. He watched her as she fell asleep, then lay down with her curled up in his arms. Rose moved a lot in her sleep, shifting constantly. Her blonde curls brushed against his cheek and tickled his neck, and her feet involuntarily kicked him. He wouldn't have slept anyway, and he was just glad Rose was getting some rest.

Next thing he knew, it was morning and the fresh sunlight was streaming into his eyes. The infant was still asleep, nestled closet o him with her hand rested on his neck. Dean ran his fingers through her soft but messy curls, kissing her forehead and sitting up in bed. Slowly, the bright, blue-green eyes opening sleepily, her head rested on him.

"Hi," she mumbled several times, looking up at her uncle with a grin on her face. Dean couldn't help but smile with her.

"Good morning, little darlin'," he whispered, kissing her tiny hand and allowing her to cling to his fingers, "Want some breakfast?"

With a quick glance to his cell, Dean noticed three more missed calls had accumulated overnight, two Bobby, one Ellen. He really couldn't bring himself to talk to them, not now. Rose needed him too much, that was his excuse.

He left the phone on the bedside table and went downstairs to get Rose some breakfast.

"MAA," she bounced in her high chair, grinning and hitting her hands on the table.

"Shh," Dean said quietly, gently moving her hands away. She didn't stop, going right back to what she'd been doing. Dean clenched his fists, desperate to keep his frustration inside. The last thing he wanted was to lose his temper at her, but he was getting so close to it. Everything built up inside, and Dean was too afraid to let it go.

The hunter left the room as Rose started shouting for her meal. He sat on the couch, hanging his head with his fists clenched tight. He needed to vent, but being home with the baby prevented him from doing so. He stayed until he heard Rose's shouts turn into cries, but even then he stayed where he was for a moment.

"Hey," he whispered as he lifted the young baby into his arms and held her close. "I'm here."

All the tension with Dean seemed to melt away, or at least moved to the back of his mind for now, and he placed Rose back in her high chair to feed her. Dean chopped up apple and orange into small chunks and put them on a plate, and spooned out some of the filling of a cherry pie he'd been saving. He didn't want it anyway.

Rose reached for her spoon, and her wide eyes followed it as Dean scooped up a piece of orange. She opened her mouth wide and reached her hands desperately to him, then chewed on the fruit eagerly.

"Da!" she said, "Mowe!"

Dean smiled at her utterance, feeding her fruit until she turned her head away and refused. Dean's phone rang again, and he accidentally accepted it. Cursing under his breath, he held his phone to his ear.

"What you say, boy?" Bobby said sharply, "What the heck is going on, Dean?

Dean stared ahead, jaw clenched, while Rose chatted to herself and attempted to climb out her chair.

"Dean? Don't go all silent on me, son. I'm worried."

The hunter stayed silent, unable to form words.

"Dean! Talk to me, goddammit!" the older hunter quickly lost his patience, "Where's Sam?"

"Sam's gone," Dean snapped harshly, disconnecting the call and switching his cell off. Rose flinched, staring at him with wide eyes.

"Dada," she said to Dean, then turned away and amused herself with her fork, squealing with delight as she threw it to the floor and enjoyed the clattering sound.

"Ma!" Rose shouted. "Mo!"

Dean lifted her up, making soft hushing sounds to try and calm her down. She squealed and clapped her hands, grinning ecstatically. Dean couldn't help but think of little Sammy on the rare occasions he smiled as a kid. He was a reasonably serious child, not often showing his happiness. The times he did were when Dean was around. He remembered playing with his baby brother, playing peekaboo and feeling relieved at his laughter. All he wanted was for Sam to be happy. Although he knew that a young infant would not remember, nor understand, the death of their mother, Dean felt that Sam was more serious than a baby his age should be. Once, making Sam smile was one of Dean's favourite achievements.

Rose's eyes gleamed excitedly as she stared at her uncle.

"Beebee," she giggled, trying to climb on him. With a small smile, Dean sat on the couch, allowing her to climb all over him. She clung to his hair to pull herself up and used his face to put her feet. He didn't care, and he didn't object. He wasn't in the mood to calm her down with a book or get her down for a nap, when it was plain to see she needed one.

A knock at the door startled Dean out of his thoughts. Rosie squealed and clapped her hands.

"Hi!" she grinned. "Hi!"

"We're not saying hi to people at the door today, Rosie," he said flatly, but the knocking turned into hitting the door.

"Open up, Dean," Dean sighed as he head Bobby's voice. "You can't stay in there all day."

Rose stared at the direction of the door.

"Oooh," she cooed.

"Yeah, ooh, it's interesting, right, Rosie? We're gonna play a game of hide and seek," Dean muttered.

"C'mon, Dean," looked like Bobby had dragged Ellen along. "We're worried. Just let us in."

Dean stood his ground, not moving and staying as quiet as he could. They couldn't stay there all day, Bobby was right, but they could certainly try.

The door-hitting stopped, and it seemed as if they'd left. Probably gone to wait us out in the car, Dean concluded. But then came the clinking sound of a lock being picked.

"Oh for god's sake," Dean groaned moving over to the door and wrenching it open, scowling at the two people stood there.