Crowley's knee shuddered and buckled under him as he started to step into the lift. Aziraphale braced him with an arm and a shoulder before he could do more than stumble slightly. They crossed the few paces to the handrail together and Crowley shifted his grip to it and hung on grimly. The doors closed behind them and they - and a kid, Crowley belatedly realised - were left inside.
The kid stared and the fear was familiar. The bullied kid. Right. He could practically see the cogs turning behind those scared eyes as they darted beween the two of them, catching on to the familiarity they had. A closeness in which Dr Fell knew just how to support Dr Crowley, and Dr Crowley knew him well enough to let him.
Aziraphale just blinked, puzzled, missing the point as ever. "Is something the matter? It's not as if he's that much heavier than boxes full of books, and I carry those all the time."
Crowley freed one hand from the rail just long enough to flip the kid a coin. "Put a bet on us, why don't you," he said dryly, "before anyone else catches on." Then, softer, "You should be safe from them now."
The kid fumbled the catch and the coin clattered to the floor. Scared eyes looked at it for a long moment as something barely readable flickered across the kid's face.
Crowley gave Aziraphale a look, and he stooped for the coin and offered it on a plump, open, hand. "Here."
"Thank you." The kid took it with a thin hand and pocketed it, then looked up warily at Aziraphale. "I didn't know you used the lifts, Dr Fell."
"On occasion, my dear." His soft smile was a touch strained, to Crowley's eyes, and the fury still there, if tamped down into hiding to soothe a youngster. "And in good company."
"Oh. Ok." Some of the fear dropped away, leaving only strain behind. And a shyly conspiratory smile. "I won't tell. At least not until I've placed that bet."
Dr Fell's "explosion" was the only thing in the rumour mill for weeks afterwards, accompanied by a shudder as people's imagination ran wild over how much worse it might have been if Dr Crowley carried out his threat. Dr Crowley's glare was bad enough, and the snarl he gave equally to his plants and his students if they weren't up to scratch. More than that...
General consensus was that no one would or should even dream of hurting dear Dr Fell. But they had, somehow, and no one quite knew how. They knew what had been said. That much had been picked apart endlessly. But not the why. The two students were pushed to the edges with everyone uncomfortable to even be near them, just in case it happened again, and everyone went back to their pre-signup habits for the stairs or the lifts, or both.
The two students didn't like it.
"Let me get this straight," one of the grad students said, overhearing them. "You ran into Dr Crowley and Dr Fell together, asked them both to sign up and when they declined, you explained that people who didn't were lazy slackers taking advantage where they shouldn't. And now you have the gall to complain about Dr Fell's reaction, of all people?"
They looked at each other and then sulkily at their feet.
"Oh stop that," she grumbled. "You practically insulted his darling husband to his face, what did you expect?"
"We didn't! We wouldn't."
She gave them a hard look and spelled it out. "Dr Fell's husband uses the lifts. You called him, what was it, a lazy slacker taking advantage where he shouldn't?"
They stared at her in shock and growing horror. They did. They had.
"We didn't mean to. We don't even know who his husband is ."
"I see." There was a whole wealth of understanding in the brief phrase. "Good luck apologising then." And with that she limped away.