"I feel older."
Loki stirred himself from his own thoughts. Those were the first words Thor had uttered in over an hour. They'd drunk through all the liquor they could find in the ship's quarters Thor had claimed for his own hours ago and since steadly made their way around the ship. Thor's quarters were lost to them when Thor insisted one of the few surviving families take the space. Every available room - and beyond - on the ship was crammed with Asgard's survivors.
The Golden Realm reduced to a few hundred souls aboard a stolen ship. It almost defied belief.
Luckily, the ship was well stocked in alcohol of dubious quality. Loki even managed to beat Valkyrie to some of it. The less remembered about the embarrassing tussle in the ship's engine room the better. He should have won.
Thor and Loki were both slumped shoulder-to-shoulder against a wall inside a narrow hall off the kitchen that seemed to some kind of storage area. Likely the place they would end up sleeping in. Bottles that had lined one wall now lay strewn around them. They counted themselves fortunate they'd made it in here before anyone else. No one else had come through the doors. Loki didn't know if someone - Heimdall, perhaps - had warned others away from them. He also didn't care.
"You look it," Loki said. For once he wasn't lying. Thor did look different. He was different. Gone was the golden mane of the golden prince, not to mention his eye. Thor had taken on a weary air in the days since Asgard's destruction. With the death of Odin and the loss of the only home either of them had ever known behind them, the experience left Thor looking more tired than Loki had ever seen him. And yes, older.
"Thanks," Thor said flatly.
"I think I even see a gray hair or two," Loki offered helpfully. "With the eyepatch, it does help lend an air of kingly wisdom about you. You can certainly use all the help you can get in that regard."
"What would I do without you?"
"Wander the universe lost, afraid to ask for directions I imagine." Loki tipped the bottle he held to his mouth, taking a deep swallow. They'd lost track of what they were drinking long ago, around the time they stopped caring how foul it tasted.
"Tastes like goat piss," Thor had said more than a dozen bottles ago. Loki hadn't argued. Too busy at the time searching fruitlessly through the storage cupboards past the flight deck for more liquor.
Thor took a long pull off his own bottle. "When we get settled somewhere, we have to figure out how to make mead."
Loki's eyebrows trekked upward unbidden. "That's your priority? We find somewhere to go, somewhere that will have us, and you want start over by making mead?"
"Do you know I don't know how to make it?" Thor said, quite seriously. "I've seen it done. But I've never actually made it myself."
Loki stared. "Mead?"
Thor turned to him. "Do you know how?"
"Of course I don't know how."
"Someone on this ship must know how. We should question our people. Perhaps one of them brought this knowledge with them."
Loki's eyebrows remained high, flirting with his hairline. "You don't want to build shelters first? Find food, perhaps?"
"I don't know how to grow food either," Thor said. "Much less how to prepare it for proper storage. Or how to build a home." His face took on a glum air. He went to take another drink only to find the bottle now empty. His face turned tragic. It was like looking at a depressed puppy. A litter of depressed puppies.
Loki handed over a new bottle and Thor brightened marginally.
"Neither do I," Loki said, finally understanding the source of Thor's frustration. "The food thing. Nor the tailoring of clothes." He lost his entire wardrobe, save for a few spare outfits he kept for emergencies hidden away with magic. He could conjure clothes at will, but the items had to exist somewhere first. The most glorious wardrobe of the Nine Realms lost to Surtur's conflagration. Loki had already searched through the survivors for his personal tailor. The man wasn't aboard.
"I lost my favourite boots," he told Thor.
Thor nodded, accepting the seriousness of Loki's complaint. "Does it occur to you, growing up as princes, we did not learn enough valuable skills for every day survival?"
"Probably not," Loki admitted. "But to be fair to our tutors, that we might one day be forced to flee the destruction of Asgard with no prior warning and only a shipful of survivors probably didn't occur to them when planning our lessons."
"Short-sighted of them." Thor broke open his new bottle and drank.
"Aye." Loki tipped back his own bottle. "We should have them flogged. If any of them were still alive, that is."
They weren't. Asgard's learning halls were gone, as were the scholars that worked in them. The libraries were gone. The halls of history. Odin's private library in his study. His other library, the secret one he thought Loki didn't know about. All Loki's books on magic, including the ones Frigga gifted to him over the years. Gone.
"All those books," Loki mourned.
"All those people," Thor tried to rebuke him, but his heart wasn't in it. He cradled the bottle closer to his chest.
"Them, too." Loki had been trying not to think about those lost. Because if he started, then he would be forced to acknowledge almost every person he'd known in his life was dead. And that was not something he was prepared to deal with. Not now. Maybe not ever.
Thor on the other hand - "Father's council is dead. Every last one. I always dreaded the thought of being stuck in meetings with them. Of being bored to tears. But now?"
"You weren't missing much," Loki promised him.
Thor smiled without humour. "My friends are dead, too. Heimdall said they all fell." The depressed puppy returned.
"You'll see them again. Valhalla is sure be a lively place the day you land on its shores." Loki was sure no one would be happy to see him, except Frigga, even if they did let him through the door. He didn't think he succeeded in keeping the bitterness out of his voice.
"Heimdall said Sif is alive. But that you sent her so far away, she may never find her way back." The words were accompanied by a look sharper than any blade.
"But she's still alive," Loki said without much enthusiasm. "There's that."
Thor said nothing and they drank in silence for a time. Finishing their latest bottles and cracking open new ones almost in unison.
"Do you remember that tavern we used to go to? The one on the edge of the city?" Thor said.
Loki did. "The one we had to sneak into wearing disguises before we were of age?"
Thor smiled. "That's the one. They had the sweetest mead in all of Asgard."
"Yes," Loki said. "I haven't thought of that place in years. Whatever happened to it?"
"The proprietors' daughter married a Vanir. They moved to Vanaheim to be closer to her and her children."
"Ah. So the sweetest mead in the realms can now be found in Vanaheim."
Thor shook his head. "That isn't right."
"No," Loki agreed. "They don't deserve it. Vanir mead is shit."
"But," Thor waved his bottle for emphasis, "if we can find them, they can teach us how to make mead."
Loki could not fault this wisdom. Not all the Aesir lived in Asgard. There were others scattered throughout Yggdrasil. Plus there were any number of people Odin and then Loki banished over the years. There was perhaps more knowledge saved than they thought. It was a small comfort amidst the numbness.
"I wonder if they know," Loki wondered aloud. "The Vanir. The rest of the realms. About Asgard. About Odin. Hela."
Thor tapped his bottle on the ground between them thoughtfully. "I know not. We'll have to ask Heimdall. Find a way to establish contact with them when we get established somewhere."
"We're at a distinct disadvantage now," Loki pointed out. "No realm will ever have cause to fear Asgard again."
"I know," Thor said. "But we will deal with that as it comes. We'll reforge alliances. Vanaheim, Alfheim. The wars are long past and they've been our allies for many years. I cannot believe they would forsake us."
Loki couldn't share Thor's optimism. "What about Asgard's territories? Without the means to access them, we'll lose them all."
"That's it? Likely?" Loki's mimic was mocking.
"Because they were fairing so well under your stewardship to begin with?" Thor said sourly.
"I was trying to teach them greater self-reliance. Do you know much coin they cost us every year to maintain? They should thank me for all I did for them."
"Build a statue in your honour?"
"You mock, but I don't see why not," Loki sniffed.
"Because you're the only one allowed to mock others."
Loki just huffed in response.
Thor sighed, exasperation draining away as his head fell back against the wall. "What would you have me say, Loki? I have no forces. No resources. My first priority must be to ensure the well-being of the people aboard this ship. Asgard's territories have no choice but to fend for themselves, and if they cannot..."
Thor didn't finish his thought. He didn't have to. That he thought he was already failing as Asgard's king was written plain on his face. Thor drained the bottle he had at hand and looked to Loki for another.
There was none left.
Thor set his empty bottle down with a loud clink. With one last mouthful of drink, Loki's set his down as well.
"When we were younger, before everything happened, Father always said I should look to you for advice when faced with a problem I didn't know how to solve. He said you would advise me well. That I should trust you."
Loki's sound of contempt caught in his throat. Choking him. He swallowed it down and laughed to cover. "Even more proof the man never knew me." He wasn't drunk enough for this. He would hunt down Valkyrie and challenge her for whatever bottles she'd squirreled away in her quarters. As soon as he could feel his legs again, that is.
"How could he when you hid so much, so well?" Thor tone was mild. Not fooled by Loki's reaction.
"He wasn't one to talk."
"No," Thor said. "No, he really wasn't." Thor rolled his head along the wall as if the thought of lifting it away was more than he could bear. He turned enough to look at Loki full-on, bringing the eyepatch neither of them could get used to into view. "He also said that between the two of us, we would be able to come up with the right solution to any problem. So pretend for a moment I do. Trust you. What say you, brother? What do I do now? Advise me."
"Neither of us are drunk enough for this."
A small smile twitched at the corners of Thor's mouth.
"Can't we do this tomorrow?" Loki wheedled, firmly telling himself he wasn't whining in the slightest.
Another twitch of a smile. "Very well. Tomorrow then. We will begin anew."
Loki sighed as he closed his eyes, blocking out the view of the dingy hall. Thor's familiar, yet unfamiliar face. The strange warmth in his belly he was almost sure wasn't the urge to vomit. "I can't wait," he said, voice dry.
Sudden exhaustion washed over him. Loki let his mind drift against the soothing backdrop of Thor's steady breathing beside him.
Tomorrow. Begin anew.
Maybe such a thing was possible. For them. For the future.