Although they do not leave Atlantis immediately, they do depart the way they had come, precisely as planned. Kraken sees them out, and follows them through the doorway he has no business fitting through. Aziraphale is surprised to see him change, even though he shouldn’t be; just as he and Crowley gain the fins and scales to be merfolk, Kraken’s mossy hide shifts into too many soft, slimy limbs full of suckers. He wraps himself around Atlantis, ready to guard her gates once more.
Crowley takes Aziraphale to his reef, to where they began, and they each hide their disappointment that the Siren’s Song is not lying in wait. Crowley counts the number of wrecks at the bottom, and notes what is missing from them, and the mess that has been made of his nest. The treasure in the sunken ships is not, he thinks with a warm, fond feeling, the only treasure the crew had taken; there is not a single primary feather left in his lair.
When they finally do reach the shore, they find that they have missed only a handful of years. The crew has done as Anathema had promised, and left the Siren’s Song in order to strike out upon the land. Warlock has remained behind in a port town, running a pub whose income comes more from the card games than the drinks, and he cries when he sees them both alive. From him, they are able to acquire information on where the ship has gone, and who captains and crews her now.
With the treasure they pull up from Crowley’s reef, they are able to purchase the ship outright when they find her. They pay the crew to sail her to a secluded shoreline, and to beach her beyond the reach of the tides. When they are alone once more, they pull her beyond even the high-tide line themselves, and then they dig into the earth around her, until her keel rests so firmly within the soil that she appears to be sailing the land. It takes them a couple of years, but they clean her and carve her and turn her into a home. It reminds Crowley, quite sharply, of the first time he had ever been in a port, and had seen the buildings humans make for themselves.
When they have finished making themselves a place to return to, they leave to travel.
Crowley finds that he enjoys mountains a great deal. He coaxes Aziraphale into their full forms so that they may race to the tip-top of the ranges and launch themselves out over them. Together they spend days wheeling around in the updrafts between slopes, unbothered by the cold. Aziraphale buries himself in snow up to his eyes and lazes there for three days just because he can. He stays until Crowley returns for him with a report of wild land goats, which sends Aziraphale into a fit of laughter. They’d had goats on the Song, but he finds Crowley had always thought they’d been tamed from the sea.
Aziraphale takes him to a desert, where vast dunes of sand accumulate like slowly moving waves. There is no water anywhere, but Crowley finds that their aquatic forms can be adapted to slither over the smooth stretches of sand. They leave great, wiggly patterns in their wake that fade within a day or two. Aziraphale’s experiment with swimming beneath the sand as if it were water go less well, but leaves them both laughing.
They travel among human civilizations as well, with their wings tucked tightly into the space between reality and belief, and their feathers and scales sunk below their skin. Aziraphale takes him to Paris and Rome and on to Moscow and Bangkok and Tokyo so that they can speak the languages they had learned while Aziraphale had still been human. Crowley marvels at all of the ways humans have taught themselves to prepare fish, but they find Aziraphale loves the taste of these preparations much more than Crowley does.
At every city, at every town, and through the years, Aziraphale sends himself books. They seek out authors who yet live to ask them to pen their names in ink, just inside the covers. Sometimes the authors pen Aziraphale’s as well; to my friend. Aziraphale leaves white feathers upon their grave markers as time continues to pass them by, and keeps their books on a separate shelf.
When they have had their fill of lifetimes spent on land, they take to the sea once more. Crowley shows him what is at the bottom of the deepest trenches, beyond where mortal things treat. They play in geothermal vents and drop things into lava flows. Aziraphale perches at the edge of a methane lake at the bottom of the ocean for a long time, watching the underwater waves lap at the shore, and the eels that inhabit the borders as they make dives below the surface in search of food. It reminds Crowley of the flamingos they had seen in Africa, living along the edges of a deadly lake there, too.
There are no books below the surface of the sea, not any with words still upon their pages, but Aziraphale merely turns to collecting trinkets. Pocket watches and snuffboxes and spyglasses are among his favorites, though more than a few elaborate shells make their way into his hands, and he brings them all back to their home for decoration, setting them upon his bookshelves and end tables.
Around the ship, others have settled. Neighbors, Aziraphale calls them, and when the two of them have had enough of the sea and the land, they settle into a different sort of community than either of them are used to. Crowley turns the deck of their home into a verdant garden, and Aziraphale spends time learning to cook and bake using the kitchen in which Madam Tracy had first offered human foods to Crowley. Though they have no need of money, they sell Aziraphale’s cakes and pasties to locals, and the produce that comes from Crowley’s garden, and spend their evenings sitting in the sand and reading their stories, while the ocean tickles at their toes in tiny, lapping waves, and whispers to them about ancient things.
And at the end of their tolerance for the world they are in, when they have lived all of the lives they can here, they say goodbye to the home they had made, and to the neighbors whose faces have changed yet again, and they leave. They spread their wings and return to the sea, flying until there is no land in sight, and beyond that still, until eternity vibrates gently against their shared soul. There, they dive. Past where the sun can reach, past where warmth is known, down to a sleeping city which is not so much lost as it is forgotten.
Hand in hand, they travel the ruined streets. They watch the celebrations of the past, and the crumbling of the future, and they stop to visit the dying, thriving garden at the heart of it. They share an apple, but not the core, and Crowley takes the seeds from the star in the middle of it. When they leave this time, it is to step through the Eastern gate and into the cold, vast emptiness of space, in the bright spot between a pair of binary stars the humans of this world will later name and strive to visit.
While they do not forget entirely, they do not exactly remember Atlantis either, or the world they had shared before this one, or even one another, except as one remembers a very good dream. Here, they are not called siren, but Angel, and their magic is freed from the bonds of song. They live among others who are similar to them, but not quite the same, and when half the Host is cast down to the soils of Earth, their paths diverge for the first time since they had met.
But there comes a time later on, when Crowley coils at the base of an apple tree he had planted with seeds from a forgotten city, and looks up, up, up at the Eastern Gate of Eden to where there stands an angel at guard. And when at last Crowley gathers the nerve to slither up the wall to meet him, he finds the angel unarmed and breathtaking; and when the angel smiles at him, something about it is so familiar that it feels like remembering a dream, or like waking up at last.
It feels like arriving exactly where he ought to have been all along.
It feels like coming home.
And that, he thinks, is a very good omen indeed.