Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.

Once

I was a father once.

What?

The Doctor found Rose curled up on the couch in the library, soaking up the warmth from the fireplace. She turned to face him, and he smiled. Her lips twitched briefly, but the smile never came.

He'd wanted to give her space to think about everything that had happened today, but he'd really needed to see her. When she hadn't come back into the console room, he'd followed the TARDIS's hints until he found her. He just wished he knew why she looked so sad. Surely not because they'd been separated. That happened a lot, and she was never this sad about it.

He sat beside her, wanting to take her hand in his, but waiting, wanting to give her time. He was rewarded for his patience when she finally spoke.

"So, you were a father?"

He hesitated. He really hadn't wanted to talk about this, but the look on Rose's face begged him not to shut her out. He turned to stare at the fire, not wanting to look at her while he admitted this.

"Yes. I was a father once. My children are all dead now." Maybe she was upset that he'd never told her.

Rose hummed sadly, turning from studying him to stare into the flames. "I'm sorry, Doctor." Before he could reply, she continued. "It never stops hurting, does it? Even after you've lived so long?"

Something in her voice made him turn toward her. Tears glistened in her eyes as she watched the flames.

"No, it doesn't," he replied honestly.

Another beat of silence passed between them.

"I was a mother once," she confessed softly, and his mouth dropped open in shock.

His brain had trouble forming sentences, so he settled for voicing the only two words that would come to him. "What? Who?"

"Jimmy," she said softly. "I was sixteen when I got pregnant. Young and foolish. I trusted him to know what he was doing." She scoffed. "And when I was seventeen," she continued desolately. "I became a mother to a beautiful baby girl. I held her in my arms once…" Rose's breath hitched as she choked back a sob, but she continued. "She lived for twenty-four hours, and then she was gone."

Tears streamed down her face as she finally gave in to the sorrow that wracked her body. The Doctor shook off his shock long enough to pull her into the comforting circle of his arms. He would never have guessed that Rose, his sweet, precious Rose, had known such loss. She was right. It never got easier.

Her shock earlier took on a whole new meaning now. Knowing that he was old enough to have children, and knowing that he'd actually had children would have been enough to shock anyone, but now the Doctor realized that he'd selfishly, egotistically interpreted Rose's shock. He'd underestimated her. Naturally she'd have been startled that he was a father, but the hurt in her voice…he'd underestimated her badly.

"Oh, Rose," he said as he stroked her hair comfortingly. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

There were no words that could take away the pain, a fact he knew all too well. So, for once, he didn't talk, just held her tightly to his chest, her head resting snugly between his hearts. When her sobs receded to sniffles, he placed a kiss on her hair.

"I got your shirt all wet," Rose said apologetically.

The Doctor saw her statement for what it was. He could either take her bait and make a mundane comment like "Oh, that's all right, Rose; the sonic'll take that right out," or he could follow his hearts and keep her from running the way he always did.

"That's all right," he said softly, pulling back to gently wipe the tears from her face. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

Rose shrugged and looked at her lap. She'd hoped he'd let her hide now, behind false cheer and asinine comments, but for once, he wasn't running and it seemed he wouldn't let her run either. "It never came up."

The Doctor nodded and hummed understandingly, taking Rose's hand in his. "You could have brought it up."

"Didn't seem relevant before," Rose muttered, still not meeting his eyes.

"You thought I wouldn't understand," the Doctor stated sadly.

"Well," Rose hesitated. "You don't always understand human stuff all the time, and…" She trailed off, unsure of how to continue, but the Doctor understood.

"Without knowing that I had children, you didn't think I'd know how to talk about this with you."

Rose nodded shyly, gripping his hand tightly, as though he could pull away at any moment.

"Oh, Rose." He sighed and pulled her closer until her head rested on his shoulder.

They sat in silence for a few moments. "What was her name," the Doctor asked, wrapping her in his arms, and lightly stroking her back.

"Her name was Lily," Rose said softly, sinking into his embrace, and wrapping her own arms around his waist. "She was beautiful."

"Of course she was," the Doctor said. "She took after her mother."

Rose smiled. "What about your children? How old were they when…"

"Oh. They weren't young, not by human standards," the Doctor said uncomfortably. "I even had grandchildren."

When he laughed, so did she. "Of course you did. Old man," she teased.

"Young whippersnapper. Oh. Oh no. Rose, don't ever let me say that word again."

"Okay," she agreed. Rose fell silent, allowing him the choice to talk about them or not.

"Love was scorned on Gallifrey, considered beneath Time Lords. Still, I was always a bit of a rebel. I loved my wife. My children were created in looms; the natural way was considered beneath Time Lords too. But I loved them." The Doctor paused, and Rose held still, listening intently. "They're all gone now." He couldn't tell her why. "And it never stops hurting. I wonder if there was something, anything, that I could have done differently, anything I could have done to save them." He trailed off, but he didn't need to continue.

"Me too," Rose confessed. "All the time. I wonder if I there was something I could have done differently that would have given Lily a chance to live even a second longer."

Tears came back to her eyes, and she felt dampness in her hair from where the Doctor rested his head. They held each other tightly, resting for a moment in the arms of someone who would understand their pain.