Gods Complicate Everything
Disclaimer: I do not own Thor or Quantum Leap.
Sam was barely able to process the fact that he was standing, holding onto two men and stopping them from falling into the blackness of space before the weight hit him and he staggered, desperately trying not to let them go.
The blonde one looked anxious but not particularly worried about being dropped which made for one of them. The one with dark hair looked like he was on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Even 'controlling' the leaps, he still managed to end up in the worst possible moments, didn't he?
He was about to tell them that he was going to start pulling them up when the dark-haired one spoke.
"I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us!" he cried out, desperately.
Sam had no idea what was going on. He didn't know who this man was or what his name was but he was apparently the man's father. Since discovering that he was 'controlling' his leaps, he had spent most of them leaping around as himself righting various wrongs but occasionally he still leaped into others and it looked like this was one of those leaps.
That would make him male, then, and at least fifty. He didn't know how the three of them had come to be in this position or what the man was talking about but he knew that none of it really mattered, not until he ensured that they didn't fall off into space or whatever this was.
"I'm sure you could have, son," Sam assured him in his most soothing tone.
The relief on the man's face was palpable. It was as if those words were a lifeline to him.
"Father?" the blonde man asked, uncertainly.
So they were both his sons? Good to know.
"We'll talk about this more when I get you to safety," Sam said firmly.
The blonde man nodded. "Of course."
Straining himself and feeling the adrenaline coursing through him, Sam slowly managed to bring the two back to the side of this…half-destroyed rainbow bridge. Well, alright then. This was probably the strangest place he had ever woken up in.
Once the blonde man was safely on the bridge again, he effortlessly lifted the dark-haired man, his brother, onto the bridge as well.
"Father, are you alright?" the blonde asked, concerned. "Normally pulling me up would not be such a great task."
"I…" Sam began lamely, uncertain of what to say. Apparently the man he had replaced and his blonde son (possibly his dark-haired son as well) either had some kind of super strength or else worked out a whole lot more than he had ever had.
"Ah," the blonde said, in realization. "You have just awoken from the Odinsleep. Of course."
"Of course," Sam agreed, relieved. He glanced around him. This place was just too surreal. He was on a rainbow bridge. Presumably it wasn't literally made out of rainbows but it seemed awfully fragile, especially given that there was a large piece broken off. He didn't know how that had happened but he wasn't feeling very safe here. "How about we go back inside and we can talk about what happened here?"
"That's a good idea," the blonde agreed. "Mother will want to know what has happened."
The dark-haired man hadn't said a word. He just sat down where his brother had left him and stared at his hands.
"Are you alright, son?" Sam asked him.
The blonde turned to him and his eyes softened. "Loki…"
Finally! A name!
'Loki' was rather an odd name but then, he supposed it was only fitting for such an odd place. Where was he, anyway? If only Al were still with him.
But no, he hadn't seen his faithful best friend and observer since the time the man had walked away from that otherworldly bar in order to try and get help for him and Sam had taken the opportunity to give Al everything he had always deserved out of life. Really, he should have done it years ago, back when he had first become Jake.
Would Al and Sam ever have met in that new timeline? Was Quantum Leap still a go? Had he created a new version of himself that either leapt around as well or stayed right where he belonged? Did Al even remember their adventures? He had remembered every other change (or so Sam thought but it was hard to keep track with his Swiss Cheese Brain. That was getting better but he still wasn't 100 percent and might never be) but this one was different. This was nearly half his life.
Sam might never know the answer to that and so he tried to push those thoughts out of his head. He had work to do and no idea of where to even begin.
Loki impatiently pushed himself off the floor and ignored his brother's proffered hand. "I'm fine. Let's go."
"You don't look fine," the blonde said dubiously.
"Thor," Loki snapped.
"Let him alone until we get back," Sam instructed.
Loki shot him a surprised, grateful look.
Thor took a deep breath. "Very well. But when we return to the palace, I have many questions."
"So do I," Sam said dryly. Palace?
There were two horses waiting a little further down. One of them had eight legs. Was this an alien or some genetic experiment gone terribly wrong? Or right, depending on how you looked at it. He supposed that having eight legs would make a horse go faster.
"I'll fly back," Thor informed them.
Sam wanted to ask how he could possibly do that but from the casual way that Thor had said it, that would probably fall into the realm of 'suspicious things not to ask about because you should know' that he tried to avoid.
And soon enough he got his answer anyway when Thor helped up his giant hammer and just lifted off like he was Superman or something.
Sam stood there gaping for a moment before he realized that he probably wasn't supposed to be in awe of this and turned back to the horses. Which one was he supposed to take?
Fortunately, Loki made the decision easy for him by taking the normal horse, leaving the…unique one to Sam. Not what he would have chosen had he been given the option but sometimes you had to do what you had to do.
Sam and Loki were apparently very important people if the way that they just left their horses at the doors of the palace and wandered in was any indication. He tried not to make it too obvious that he was counting on Loki to lead the way and he followed him into a room where Thor and a beautiful older blonde woman were waiting anxiously for them.
The woman had her arms wrapped around Thor as if she were worried that he might disappear at any moment.
"It's alright, Mother," Thor promised her. "I'm alright. And I'm not going to be cast out again, am I, Father?"
So this woman was a past partner of his at the very least, possibly a wife. And Thor's mother though he didn't know about Loki's. He wished there was a mirror around, then he could guess whether or not Loki was this woman's child.
"No, I don't think that will be necessary," Sam said finally.
"Of course not," Loki said bitterly.
Thor released his mother and walked over to Loki. "I've learned my lesson, Brother. My time in Midgard has done me good and there is no need for me to return." A dark shadow crossed his face. "If I even could return."
"Oh, Loki, what have you done?" the woman asked, distressed.
"Me?" Loki asked, laying a hand over his heart. "I'm not the one who destroyed the Bifrost."
Was the Bifrost that rainbow bridge? Sam hadn't seen anything else destroyed.
"Only because you wouldn't-" Thor began heatedly.
The woman held up both of her hands. "Boys, please!"She walked over to Loki and hugged him as well. He stood stiffly in her arms for a moment before relaxing into his embrace. "I am relieved and gladdened that you are okay as well, Loki. I don't know what I'd do if I lost either one of you. These past few days…Never again, do you hear me?"
"I'll…do what I can," Loki promised reluctantly.
The woman pulled back. "That's all I ask." She glanced Sam's way. "Odin, may a have a word before you deal with our sons?"
Our sons. That answered that question at least. And to have two sons openly with him? Odds were good that she was his wife, at least if this culture was anything like his own. There was no real reason to think that it was considering it contained things like rainbow bridges, super-powered men, and eight-legged horses but it was the assumption he'd be working off of for now.
Sam nodded. "Of course."
He followed her into the hallway.
"I don't know what happened," the woman began. "Frost Giants – King Laufey himself – somehow found their way to Asgard and burst into your bedroom to murder you when Loki showed up and killed them. Then Thor somehow comes back from Midgard and accuses Loki of sending a destroyer to kill him and their friends. Loki attacks Thor and then off they go!"
Sam didn't know what most of that meant. Frost Giants? Midgard? But there was one thing that he could tell and this woman was waiting expectantly for his reaction.
"That…is a problem," Sam acknowledged.
The woman's eyes were steel. "That's an understatement. And I think I know where it all started."
"You do?" Sam asked, hopefully. It couldn't be that easy, could it? "Where?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "It was when you wouldn't tell Loki that he was originally a Frost Giant and he had to find out when they went to Jotunheim and his skin turned blue when one of them touched him! I told you you should have told him from the beginning."
So Loki was adopted and hadn't taken that well? Well, that was within the realm of his understanding, even if the details were unfamiliar.
"I didn't want to hurt him," Sam told her earnestly.
Her gaze softened. "Oh, Odin, I know. I do. I never wanted to hurt him either but now it's too late. He found out in the worst possible way and then, even though it wasn't your fault, you collapsed and entered the Odinsleep before you could reassure him. I don't know what Loki has done but I know that you are going to have to fix this if you don't want our sons trying to kill each other again."
"No, I definitely don't want that," Sam agreed. Was that his mission, sorting Thor and Loki out? It was straightforward, at least, even if he didn't have any of the relevant details and knew next to nothing about the two people involved.
"An entire organ city," a blessedly familiar voice from behind him remarked. "This place is like a Catholic's paradise."
"Al?" Sam breathed, hardly daring to believe it. He didn't turn around.
The woman frowned. "Al?"
"I, uh, I'll go right in there and talk to Thor and Loki but I've got to go to the bathroom first," Sam told her.
The woman nodded. "You have been out for three days. Do hurry, though. We have breakables in the room we left our feuding sons in."
By sheer chance, the first room that Sam tried happened to be a bathroom and he quickly ducked into it. He held his breath and kept an eye on the door, waiting – impossibly – for Al to walk through it.
And walk through it he did.
He was wearing khakis and a red polo shirt and he was the most welcome sight that Sam had ever seen.
Al smirked at him. "I," he declared, "am a miracle worker."
"'Miracle worker'?" Sam repeated, raising an eyebrow.
Al rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine, maybe Gooshie and Ziggy had something to do with it. And Odin might have pointed us in the right direction. A little. But when you come right down to it, it was mostly me."
"I thought I'd never see you again…" Sam said, unable to believe it. After everything that had happened, everything that had changed, after Sam had gone completely off the grid…still the man had come for him.
"Have a little faith, would you? Sure, it took a couple of months and we came so close a few times but never quite managed to get here in time but whoever this 'Odin' is he didn't get all Swiss Cheese Brained on us and so was able to help us pinpoint your location," Al explained.
"Do you…I mean, how do you even…" Sam trailed off, uncertain of how to phrase it.
"How do I even what?" Al asked him.
"You're here," Sam said, gesturing emphatically.
"I had rather thought that we had gotten past this but, if you insist, yes, Sam, I am here," Al said magnanimously. "I can keep saying it for as long as I have to."
"No, I've got that," Sam assured him, a small grin forming on his face. He had really missed the man. "It's just…I thought…Beth." A horrible thought occurred to him. What if it hadn't worked? "Did she not…?"
Al smiled, then, and Sam's fears were dispelled. If she hadn't waited then bringing her up would have brought nothing good. "No, Sam, you did it. I don't know what you did but somehow you got Beth to wait for me."
Sam's eyes widened. "You…remember?"
Al looked almost insulted. "Of course I remember! Why wouldn't I?"
"Well, I did completely rewrite the last twenty-some years of your life," Sam pointed out.
Al nodded. "There is that. But I always remember, Sam. I think it's because we're connected. But then, I remember more than you do since you've got that partial amnesia thing going on."
Sam was still staring at Al in awe. "I never would have thought-"
"And yet you did it anyway," Al interrupted. "I get it, you're a saint."
Sam's ears burned. "I'm really not."
Al snorted but said nothing.
"So, I mean, what's happened? With you, with me, with the Project…Does the Project even still exist?" Sam wondered.
"Of course it still exists!" Al exclaimed. "You really think a little thing like constantly mucking up time could stop your obsession with time travel?"
Sam grinned. "Apparently not."
"Things more-or-less played out the same on that front," Al confided. "We did Starbright and then Quantum Leap together. We did meet under better circumstances, though, as I wasn't driven to vengeance by that vending machine."
"How did we meet then?" Sam asked curiously.
"My wife left her headlights on when she got out of the car one day – it was raining so she turned them on and then forgot – and so her battery was dead. She wanted me to come and charge the battery but I didn't have any of the equipment," Al explained. "I was talking to her about it on my way out of the building and you happened to be in the elevator with me and, being a boy scout, had everything I needed in your car. Even though that was the first time we'd spoken aside from when I'd hired you, you still insisted on coming with me and saving the day."
Sam's smile turned wistful. "That sounds like a nice story."
"That's what Beth thought and I'm sure that vending machine agrees," Al told him. "She insisted on having you over to dinner and was so charmed that there was no getting rid of you even if I wanted to!"
"Then it's a good thing you never wanted to," Sam replied.
Al nodded. "Good thing."
Sam hesitated, not sure if he really wanted to know. But he had to find out and this might be his only chance. Hopefully not but it might be. "And what about me? Did I still leap?"
Al caught on immediately. "Do you mean is there some other version of you running around? No, no there's not. You still tested the Project on yourself like an idiot and I'm still left to try and clean up your messes and wonder where I went wrong with you."
"It wasn't like an idiot," Sam protested.
Al looked pointedly at their surroundings.
"It had to be done!" Sam exclaimed.
"How do you know?" Al challenged. "Do you even remember doing it?"
"Well, no," Sam conceded. "But still."
Al just shook his head at that. "So what have we got here?"
Sam frowned. "Don't you know?"
"Well, I know that we have a guy named Odin who has no depth perception and who remembers everything just fine. Some of the others you leaped into couldn't tell us the date they were taken from which made finding you harder," Al replied. "Surely you managed to pick up something while you were here."
Sam considered. "I was called Odin, yes. There was a broken rainbow bridge which I think they called the 'Bifrost' and my two sons are called Thor and Loki."
Abruptly, Al sat down and fell straight through the tub he was standing near. "Oh, boy."
"What? What is it?" Sam asked anxiously.
"It could be a coincidence," Al said slowly. "It could just be some rather extreme fans of the mythology but, then again, it could be the real thing."
"What?" Sam repeated, even more urgently.
"None of these names sound familiar to you?" Al asked curiously.
"No!" Sam insisted. "And I have a maybe-wife, too, whose name I don't know. Thor and Loki's mother."
"That would be Frigg," Al told him. "Or was it Frigga? There are a couple of variations."
"Al, what's going on?" Sam asked him.
"I'm pretty sure that Loki isn't actually Odin's son but a giant," Al told him.
"Frigga said that he was an adopted Frost Giant," Sam offered.
Al nodded. "Well, that would explain it. Thor is Odin's son and the god of thunder-"
"Wait, what?" Sam interrupted.
"He's the god of thunder and Odin is the king of the gods," Al explained patiently. "Loki's the god of mischief."
"You're pulling my leg," Sam accused.
"Hey, you're the one talking about rainbow bridges," Al said defensively.
"So I'm supposed to believe that I've taken the place of a god," Sam said skeptically. That would put him far older than fifty and his 'children' dozens of times older than him…at least.
"More or less," Al said, shrugging. "Of course, they're actually Norse gods so who knows how much of what the Vikings say about them is true? I think there was something about a giant serpent who took up all of the Earth's oceans. Well, they called it Midgard."
So Thor had been banished to Earth, then? He was on a little more familiar ground there.
"Do you know what year this is?" Sam asked hopefully.
Al nodded. "2011."
So he was into the future but not that far.
"So what can you tell me about these people?" Sam demanded.
Al frowned, thinking. "Well, I know that Thor and Loki had all kinds of adventures together until Loki did something and got imprisoned forever. Odin was obsessed with the end of the universe, Ragnarok, and stopping it. Um…the Aesir – the people of Asgard – didn't like the giants from Jotunheim and Ragnarok was a battle between the two groups with Loki leading the giants."
"That's it?" Sam asked, disappointed. It was more than he had known before and he didn't even know how much of it was accurate given that those were ancient myths and already he had seen differences, particularly regarding Loki. Still, he would have liked to know more.
"Hey, I'm hardly an expert on ancient Norse mythology, you know," Al said defensively. "It was always too strange for me. That was always more of-" He abruptly cut himself off, wincing.
But something was tugging at Sam's brain, the feeling that he knew what Al was about to say. The feeling that he should know. It was someone he knew. Someone that had an interest in Norse mythology and, were he here, would have been able to help him out more. No, it wasn't a he. That was all wrong. It was…it was…
"Donna," Sam realized. "Donna was the one who loved Norse myths."
Al said nothing.
Sam's brow furrowed and he concentrated harder. Donna, the woman who had left him at the altar the way she had her previous fiancé. Donna, the woman that he had met on one of his earliest leaps when he had brought her father back into her life. What had ever happened with her? Was Al right and she had married the first man she had promised herself to? Had she ever even entered his life? Al seemed to remember her but then, as he himself had pointed out, Al remembered everything.
Donna. There had to be some reason that Al didn't want to mention her in front of Sam. Was it because they had never met in the new timeline? Was it because she was happily married to someone else? Was she dead? Or…maybe…
"Donna," Sam said again. "My…my wife."
"Donna," Al agreed. "The Norse myth nut."
Sam closed his eyes as memories assaulted him. Not all of his memories of her, not nearly all. But enough. Enough to understand that he'd been betrayed by the person closest to him.
When it was over, he opened his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Al glanced away for a moment before seeming to harden his resolve and looking right into Sam's eyes.
"She told me not to," Al explained.
Sam frowned. "That doesn't make any sense. Why wouldn't she want me to know that she married me? Did she…is she…?"
"No!" Al was quick to assure him. "Your wife didn't leave you and she's just as anxious as I am for you to come home."
"Then why doesn't she want me to remember our marriage?" Sam demanded.
Al's gaze turned distant. "You always fall in love so easily, Sam. Alison, Dianne, Abigail…"
Sam closed his eyes as the truth about those encounters became clear to him. He had cheated on Donna. He had cheated on her every other time he turned around it seemed. Oh, sex had very rarely ever been involved (he didn't fall in love instantly and he was never who they thought he was) but kisses had, lots of kisses. And the feelings.
He couldn't deny the truth of Al's words but oh did he want to.
"I wouldn't have if I'd only known!" he cried out, almost desperately.
"I know, I know, Sam," Al was quick to reassure him. "And so does Donna, believe me. That's why she didn't want you to know."
"She didn't want me to remember to be faithful to her?" Sam asked incredulously.
"Sam, Donna understands that sometimes – when the person you leap into is in a relationship with somebody – in order to be believable you're going to have to kiss them. Sometimes, like when you're on your honeymoon or her husband just died so you can finally be together, there really is no avoiding that if you want to save the day," Al told him. "And she knew that you'd react just like you're reacting now. That's why she didn't tell you."
Donna was too good for him, she really was. And how long had it been now since he had had the ability to go home and hadn't? How long had he left her waiting for him? He might never have come back.
"Of course, it took her longer to understand about Sammy Jo but she got there," Al mused. "And it took Sammy Jo awhile to come to terms with all of it, too, so be glad you weren't there for that one." He shuddered.
"Sammy Jo," Sam repeated. That name was familiar. That was the name of one of the people working on the Project, right? That was the name of…"My daughter."
Al winced. "You forgot that, too? Jesus, Sam!"
"I didn't do it intentionally!" Sam protested. "She knows about me?"
"She wants to meet you," Al told him. "Abigail died a few years back so I guess that's why she's so eager to meet you. It certainly made her existence easier for Donna to accept."
And to think that Sam hadn't thought that he had been leaving anything behind except an Al that he had delivered back to his true love. Did this make him a terrible person? He rather thought that it did though he knew Al would disagree. Al always had too much faith in him. "How long has it been?"
"Since I last saw you and you were ranting about some bartender being God?" Al asked him. "About a year."
A year? That wasn't bad. Of course, when he added the five additional years he'd been gone that made it six years. It was 2001 and just the same amount of time that Beth had had to wait for Al. And once they'd lost contact, Donna had no reason to think he was even alive or was ever coming back.
"Oh, don't do this, Sam!" Al entreated. "Donna's already going to kill me for letting this slip, never mind what will happen if you bury yourself in guilt."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "How could she possibly find out?"
Al blinked in surprise. "Sam, are you suggesting that I lie to your wife?"
"Why not?" Sam asked, a little bitterly. "She's been lying to me all these years."
"To protect you!" Al pointed out.
"I don't need protection," Sam bit out.
"Oh no?" Al asked rhetorically. "What do you think would have happened if you remembered about Donna after you and Abigail conceived Sammy Jo? I don't recall you having much choice there."
Sam opened his mouth to insist that he would have been fine but then shut it again. It would have been really hard on him. And there was no way that he could have gone through with kissing all those other women. He really hoped that Frigga and Odin weren't the demonstrative types.
"That's what I thought," Al said triumphantly. "But hey, forget about that for now."
"How am I supposed to just forget about it?" Sam demanded.
"You've been in here for ages and last I checked you had two super-powerful gods who just tried to kill each other waiting for you to resolve their problems and possibly avert Ragnarok," Al reminded him.
Sam winced. "Ah, that."
"Not looking forward to it?" Al asked.
"Either of them could kill me without even trying," Sam said, wincing already.
"Yeah but they don't know that so I doubt they'd try," Al told him.
"So what if I resolve everything and one of them hugs me and squeezes too hard and I just pop like a balloon?" Sam asked anxiously.
"I would be sad to see your passing but comforted somewhat by how hilarious your death was," Al answered promptly.
Sam rolled his eyes. "You're no help."
"You want help? Ziggy says that there's an 87.2 percent chance that you're here to resolve Loki's family issues."
Sam groaned. "I am not a therapist."
"Not this leap, maybe," Al agreed.
"I'm supposed to somehow avert Armageddon. The end of all things," Sam said, dazed.
"Finally, something epic and large-scale!" Al said, pleased. "Though it hasn't happened yet and hopefully never will."
"I don't know how to do this," Sam said, not moving.
"You'll be fine," Al assured him. "Just make them do all the talking."
"It can't be that easy," Sam said dubiously.
"You might be surprised," Al replied. "According to Donna, gods are notorious drama queens."