Where the Hearts Are

“Where do you keep your heart, love? Is it free and allowed to roam?” The Doctor initiates a long overdue reunion.

Where do you keep your heart, love?
Is it free and allowed to roam?
I’ll show you where my heart is
And you shall be my home.

From morning to night I wander
From darkness to light I roam
But you are where my heart is
And you shall be my home…

As she waited for him to arrive, she hummed the tune he had taught her as a child. Fond tears welled up as she remembered those happiest of days.

The reunion itself started joyous enough for her. She wrapped her frail, ageing arms around his chest, pressing her cheek tightly against the warm wool of his jumper. He had changed so much since she had last seen him. The flowing white hair was much shorter, and now a slightly curly brown. As he whispered into her ear, “I’ve missed you”, she even detected a Celtic accent. Pulling him ever closer to her, she realised that what was once a frail, feeble body had become taut, upright. In fact, he was now so much younger in appearance than she was that she felt strange calling him ‘Grandfather’.

The happiness did not last. Looking up into his face for the first real time since his arrival, she noticed that the piercing grey of his eyes was diffused by sadness deeper than anything she had ever seen in him before.

His mouth opened and closed, opened and closed in an almost comical manner as he tried to say the words he needed to tell her. She could see the palpable fear of hurting her holding him back, strangling his words before they had the chance to emerge. Finally, painfully, he spat them out:

“I’m not your grandfather.”


Hours passed in the next few silent minutes. Later, when they had parted for the last time, Susan would look back on their life together. She would recall the minutiae that identified them as being of separate races, but which her mind had blocked out at the time – details her telepathic instincts had heard, but chosen to ignore. She would know, as she had always really known, that unlike him she was supremely mortal: death was to claim her in months rather than centuries.

However, all this was to come. For now, her only thought was of betrayal. Her life, her entire, miraculous, fantastical life, was a deceit. Her world was confined to the present, just as her body was confined to her wheelchair.

Eventually the Doctor found the courage to continue. “I… I need to tell you about your family,” he said through a voice of strangled tears. He saw Susan, her face turned away from him, clench her arthritic fists in a defiant, futile attempt to ignore him, but he continued. He had to, for himself as well as for her.

He told her of her parents, courtiers of King Louis. “Two of the bravest, kindest people I have ever met. When the revolution came, they tried to escape to your father’s native land, travelling separately in the hope of evading Robespierre’s spies. The Count — your father — entrusted the two of you to my care, so that I might escort you on the long trail. We got as far as Grenoble…”

“What happened to my mother?” asked Susan. The grey, sad eyes that met hers told her the answer.

After what seemed like hours of sobs, hugs and regrets, the Doctor continued his talk. “I tried to reach your father in St. Petersburg, but they were everywhere. I soon realised that it wasn’t Robespierre who was after us, but… They wanted you, you see — and there was no way I was going to let them do to you what they did to…” He could not complete the sentence. She took his hand in hers, and then pulled him gently towards her.

As they clung to each other, he told her of how he had taken her away from Earth, of the damage he had done to the TARDIS to stop them being traced. He did not tell her of the damage he had done to his own mind to prevent him repairing the ship, even when it had taken them back to the place it had all started… No, there were some things she should never know.

—-

Ace had been busying herself while the Doctor had vacated the TARDIS. Their next port of call was going to be during the war, he had said, so she had rummaged around in the wardrobe for some suitable attire. She was still struggling with the hairnet when the Doctor returned. The great man suddenly seemed smaller than Ace remembered: weary, his face as grey as his eyes.

As he came through the double doors, she ran to him and flung her arms round his shoulders. Then, realising that her hard-edged reputation had taken another nosedive, she pulled away.

“I’m sorry, Professor,” she said. “It’s just that you looked so… lost.”

The Doctor looked back at her. For one awful moment, he could not see the face of the intelligent, brash teenager who had come to be his best friend, but only the screaming features of a woman being dragged from the carriage: an image soon lost among the faces of the animals that had taken her, beaten and raped and beaten again until there was nothing left.

He felt a soft hand on his arm. “It’s alright, Doctor,” Ace said softly. “You’re home now.” As she brushed away the tears rolling down his ashen cheeks, a gentle smile began to emerge, and in a hushed tone, he began to sing softly.

Where do you keep your heart, love?
Is it free and allowed to roam?
I’ll show you where my heart is
And you shall be my home.

From morning to night I wander
From darkness to light I roam
But you are where my heart is
And you shall be my home…

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.