"Welcome to the Halls of the Empress, madame," says the lady in waiting, a pretty girl with green and blue strands braided into her dark hair—a sign of aristocratic status on this planet, according to Evelyn's previous research. "And—your husband?"
She'd been hoping this wouldn't come up. "That's right, Damoiselle Aletta," she replies before the Doctor can correct her.
The Doctor is clearly about to object, so she shh-es him with a finger to her lips. "I'll explain later," she mouths. Fortunately Aletta is not paying attention, as she's already leading them away, through a maze of corridors—going from splendid to opulent to merely elaborate—until she presents them with their rooms.
No, sorry. Their room. Singular.
"This will be your chamber during your visit to Court, just ring the bell if you need anything—you didn't bring your own servant, did you?"
"No," says Evelyn, getting a word in edgewise.
"Not to worry! You'll find it's well-staffed. The Empress and the Prince Consort often have professional visitors—artists, musicians, scientists and inventors, and of course researchers like you," Aletta chatters on. "Someone will come to bring you to Her Majesty when your audience has been arranged. Do have a pleasant evening!"
"You too," says Evelyn as the Damoiselle bustles away. Then she turns to the Doctor. "Well, here we are!"
"What do you mean, I'm your husband?" says the Doctor indignantly. "I was under the impression that on Earth it was customary to inform both parties to a marriage!"
"Oh, dear, didn't you do your research?" replies Evelyn, diverted. "Unmarried men aren't allowed at the Empress' court. It's improper, apparently."
"No, that's only in the—" He stops. "Oh, this is the Topaz Era."
"That's right," says Evelyn. "Now you see."
"Yes. Thank you."
"Well, I didn't want you to get thrown out," says Evelyn. "But I didn't realize the rooms would be quite this small. I thought there'd be a sofa at least."
"Oh, don't worry about me," says the Doctor. "I don't need sleep."
She fixes him with her stare. "You may not need it, but you're much crosser when you don't get it. There's plenty of room for both of us." She smiles, sits down on the four-poster bed, and pats the fluffy rose-patterned coverlet. "I don't bite."
He's a lot less stubborn later that night, after they've both stayed up quite late going over Evelyn's notes and preparing the questions they need to ask the Empress. The bed isn’t exactly large and they’re neither of them exactly small, so there’s no question of staking out separate territories. She glares at the Doctor until he takes off his shoes and spats and coat and waistcoat—my goodness, that man wears a lot of things with pointy buttons on them—and then he turns his back like a gentleman while she gets into a nightshirt. They settle down perfectly comfortably and she turns out the bedside lamp. She’s lying on her side, facing out, and she feels him turn to take up the mirror image of her position. Back to back against the world, she thinks sleepily.
She reaches behind herself for more blanket and finds the Doctor’s hand on the same quest. She squeezes it and he squeezes back. She feels warm and safe, in spite of everything, as she drops off to sleep.
It’s been a long time since Evelyn woke up with a man’s arms around her. It’s been even longer since it was a man she really wanted around, given that the final couple of years of her marriage hadn’t been so great. For a moment, when she wakes up and feels the soft presence at her back, her subconscious brain thinks she’s back with her ex-husband, and she’s about to get up and start making coffee as quickly as she can so she can be wide awake before she has to make conversation. But in the next instant she remembers, and relaxes.
They must both have tossed and turned and ended up accidentally spooning, with his arms around her middle like a child with a teddy bear. It ought to be awkward, but it just isn’t. And unlike in rom-coms, it doesn’t seem to be changing their relationship, either. They’ve always both known exactly what type of friendship they wanted. She’s just wonderfully surprised to learn just how much snuggling fits into that friendship.
She smiles and turns over. The Doctor’s eyes flick open and he smiles back. They’re a bright hazel, she notices—worth remembering if she ever has to give a description of him. Or just to remember.
“Good morning,” he says.
She takes a deep, peaceful breath. "We'd better get up," she says. "They'll be coming to take us to the Empress soon. Are you ready?"
They get out of bed, slowly, as befits a comfortable couple of middle-aged people. "Think there's any chance of a cup of tea?" says the Doctor.
They're in their element during their audience with the Empress later that morning, Evelyn in her role of researcher drawing the old monarch out to talk about her long life and her extraordinary reign, the Doctor carefully dropping in questions that subtly reveal the information he needs. After they've talked for about twenty minutes, the Doctor and Evelyn exchange a meaningful glance: they're both happy with the information they've got. Now they'll be able to interpret the Empress' cryptic last will and testament, putting a stop to the civil war brewing on this very spot twenty years in the future. History and time travel both have their uses in such matters.
So they're ready to take their leave, but it seems the Empress isn't in any hurry this morning. "It's wonderful to see a couple so united," she tells them in her famously striking voice, still deep and resonant although now roughened by age. "Strong marriages have always been an important part of my social policy. How did you two meet?"
The Doctor takes a deep breath, but before he can start telling tall tales she'll have to remember and keep up with, Evelyn answers simply, "He was listening to one of my lectures, actually."
"Oh, wonderful," sighs the Empress sentimentally. "Drawn together by intellectual interests! How long have you been married?"
"Five years next Friday," the Doctor answers, apparently at random. Or maybe that really is how long it is since they met. Evelyn's definitely lost track.
Evelyn can see that the Empress is preparing another question, and it really isn't possible to tell the Empress of a planet to get her nose out of your business, so she's relieved when the ever-helpful Aletta appears at a side door, coughs gently, and says, "Your Majesty, your next appointment. The Chancellor."
The Empress dismisses them with a wave of her hand, seeming to completely forget about their existence as she transfers her attention to a notebook in her hand, perhaps the draft of the famous will itself. As Aletta ushers them out, the Doctor takes Evelyn's hand, and they stay like that all the way back to where the TARDIS is concealed in a service corridor.
As the Doctor programs in the next set of coordinates, Evelyn says, "Don't forget about next Friday. Are you taking me out to dinner?"
"Hm? If you like. Why?" says the Doctor.
Evelyn laughs. "It's our anniversary. You're the one that made it up!"
He turns and kisses her hand with mock gallantry. "Whatever madame chooses," he says. "We shall go wherever we please!"
"So, pretty much the same as ever."
He studies her face. He must be pleased with the genuine smile there, because he smiles back and says, "Yes, my dear Evelyn, the same as ever."