A/N: People, this is my latest creation. Written for the 'Around the world' challenge on 12daysofclois. This will be a three part... chapters two and three will be up tomorrow and the day after. This little project took up most of my writing time lately, hence the temporary pause on Supermen. People waiting for an update of that story... only a little longer. Thanks to Abby (better known as seanmontgomery) for the beta.
So.. what are you waiting for? Go read! And let me know what you think.
A Whole New World - Part I
"There you go, miss."
A young teenage girl with a nice tanned skin and long jet black hair smiled at Lois as she put down the luggage and unlocked the door to room 104.
The hotel room was light, spacey and, apart from a few odd paintings, stylishly decorated. Had the circumstances been different, Lois would have appreciated the room, but now she wanted nothing more than to hop on the first flight back to Metropolis. Or, Lois thought as she entered the room and noticed the comfortable-looking bed in the next room, crash in a bed and sleep for days. She put down little Jason, who had been clinging to her neck, to accept the card the chambermaid had used to open the door.
"Breakfast starts at eight o'clock tomorrow morning." The black haired girl said with a rather heavy accent. "In the room to the right of the entrance hall."
"Right. Thank you." Lois grabbed her purse to tip the girl a few dollars—after all, she'd helped them get to their room, despite her rather fake smile—but only just in time realised she had to pay in euros here. Not really sure how much a euro was worth compared to a dollar, Lois searched for the largest coin and pressed it into the girl's waiting hand, hoping that it was about enough. "Thank you very much."
The girl casually slipped the coin in the pocket of her navy blue uniform and smiled politely. "I hope you enjoy your stay at Hera Hotel Athens, miss. Good night." The girl closed the door behind her and Lois turned to her little boy, who sat slumped in a recliner.
"Okay, Mister. Time for you to go to bed."
Usually when Lois brought Jason to bed he would try to distract her with silly games to stay up longer, but today time he dutifully followed her to the bathroom, didn't fool around with his toothpaste for a change, and already slept before Lois could suggest a bedtime story. Looking down at her precious boy, she kissed his forehead and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Now that Jason was tucked in, Lois had a little more time to look around and notice how comfortable and nice the room was. It looked more like an apartment than anything else with it's separate rooms. Richard really had gone to great lengths to make them comfortable. Thinking of him made the clenching feeling in the pit of her stomach intensify. How long was it now that she hadn't seen him? Months… a year almost. She wasn't looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow.
Lois sighed and opened the two large windows that offered a stunning view of the city The soft warm air of the summer evening caressed her face and Lois closed her eyes, grateful that the temperature had dropped somewhat. When she and Jason had arrived late that afternoon in Elefthérios Venizélos, a large airport that lay a good 35 kilometres southwest of their hotel, the heat had been smothering. Not that that was a surprise. Everyone knew that Greece was hot during the summer, especially a large city like Athens.
Opening her eyes again, Lois took in the panoramic view before her. The lights in the streets below ran all around the hotel, crossing each other at various points, rather like a large golden spider web. The characteristic white Greek houses climbed all the way up a hill opposite Lois's room. On the top stood a large temple, it's white illuminated stone contrasting sharply with the dark sky. It was a beautiful sight—the pamphlet Richard had sent them had described it as magical—but it couldn't fascinate Lois for very long. She sighed and focused on the street below instead. Somehow she felt more at ease with its hassle and noise. The activity took her mind off other things… like the reason why she and Jason were in Athens.
It was a little short of a year ago that Lois and Richard had broken up. Lois had been the one to end their long standing engagement, insisting she wasn't ready to commit herself fully. At least, that's what they told others. But the real reason had been Superman… everybody knew it. Richard knew it. And it had been the reason why he asked for a transfer to continue his work as an assistant editor abroad. He had moved to Greece, and Lois had only seen him once since.
Jason had blamed Richard for leaving at first, not being able to understand the complex situation. Lois glanced in the direction of her son, who was sleeping soundly. Jason was no longer angry, merely sad. He missed his father badly, Lois knew. Despite all the time he spent with Superman, Perry and Clark, he just wanted to see Richard again. Lois couldn't deny her son that, even if it meant a very painful confrontation for her.
The sudden loneliness hit hard and Lois abruptly moved away from window. She looked around the room for something to occupy herself with. She hated being in Athens right now. She wanted to be in Metropolis… close to Clark. Her eye fell on the luggage still standing by the door and decided to unpack.
Clark's been the one to drag us through the hard times this past year. Lois mused as she unzipped the front of Jason's suitcase. Every time she missed Richard, Clark would be there to distract her and somehow make her laugh again. Lois grabbed a pair of Jason's jeans and tucked them away neatly in the wardrobe. She paused for a moment and realised she had never called for Clark. He had always dropped by at exactly the right moment. Was it coincidence?
I wish he was here now. Lois made her way back to the suitcase to fetch a few T-shirts. But there's no way he'll coincidentally pop up in Athens. Only Superman might… Lois paused in her tracks. "Superman…" she whispered. Superman would know when to drop by. Didn't he say he was always around? Lois frowned as she folded the tee shirts. So, did that mean Superman and Clark were working together? Did that mean Superman would tell Clark when to drop by? Lois shook her head. She had written one story about conspiracies too many. It made no sense… Superman could have dropped by himself.
A sudden rush of wind caused the curtains to billow and Lois looked up. Speak of the devil. Superman hovered just a few inches from her window, arms folded over his chest so that only the top of the mighty 'S' was visible.
"You called?" He asked in his deep baritone voice.
"Actually, no." Lois looked at him confused. "I didn't. I was thinking of you, yes, but I didn't…" Lois fell silent as she thought back and remembered. "I might have muttered your name to myself." She admitted sheepishly and she felt her cheeks grow hot. Shit! What if he was busy saving people?
The curious look on Superman's handsome face made way for a small smile. "I see. Well, if you don't need me then maybe I should leave." He moved his right arm up, ready to fly away, but Lois hurried to the window.
"No, wait!" She leaned through the window to look at him properly. "I could use somebody to talk to." In an attempt to sound a little less selfish, she added; "Unless you're busy…"
"I wasn't, actually." Superman drifted a little lower.
"No one requires saving?" Lois asked, taking as step back and opening the window a little wider so that Superman could float through easily.
"Quite a disaster-less night." Superman replied and his boots soundlessly made contact with the shining teak floor of the hotel room. "I could use some company myself."
Lois looked at the Man of Steel standing in her hotel room. She had never realised he might feel lonely at some point too. She was shaken out of her thoughts when Superman cleared his throat and shot a meaningful glance in the direction of Jason. "So, how is he?"
"Jason is doing great." Lois followed his gaze. "He is all excited to see Richard again tomorrow."
"And you?" Superman asked keenly, his blue eyes suddenly boring into hers.
He knows. Lois thought. See? He knows when I'm feeling down. "I'm not exactly looking forward to it. It's going to be painful and awkward, I don't doubt." She looked away and her eye fell on the temple on top of the hill in the distance.
"For what it's worth, Lois, I think it's great that you went for Jason's sake."
Superman's compliment fell on deaf ears. Yes, well. At this moment, coming here seems to be the biggest mistake I ever made. It took a few seconds for Lois to realise she had been thinking out loud. It was quiet for a few seconds, until;
"Lois, will you come with me?" Lois looked up to see that Superman was staring at the same temple she had been looking at. With a quick glance at her, he hovered a little into the air and stepped onto the windowsill. There he turned around and extended his hand.
"Why? Where?" Lois asked puzzled.
"I want to show you something."
Lois frowned and quickly looked at the closed bedroom door behind which Jason was slumbering peacefully. "But – "
"I'll keep an eye on him. Both of them." Superman added, tapping his temple with his index. "I can be there in less than a second if we have to."
Lois nodded and took the hand Superman extended. He pulled her up and put his arm around her waist, pressing her close to him. A tingle ran down her spine as she looked downwards and saw the buildings disappear under her feet. "Where are we going?"
Superman didn't reply her question. "What other countries have you been to?" he asked instead.
Lois blinked a few times before she answered. "Paris, Bermuda… and the General, my father, often took my sister and me to military bases."
"Did you enjoy yourself?"
Lois raised an eyebrow. What was he on about? She looked up to see his face, but the usual kind smile told her nothing. "I seem to remember you plummeting to the ground in Paris, getting kidnapped in Bermuda, and I can't imagine a military base makes for a fun playground."
"What's your point?" Lois asked, now very curious were all this was going.
"I want to show you that being away from home isn't necessarily a bad thing." He nodded at something in from of them. "Look."
Lois turned her head and was greeted with the impressive sight of the temple she'd seen from her window. She hadn't even noticed where they had been going. She cast one last look over her shoulder at the hotel, now a tiny dot of light in the distance.
"Don't worry. He's still sleeping."
The sudden feel of solid ground under her feet startled Lois, and Superman let go of her waist. She was standing right in front of the stone temple. It looked gigantic from up close. Many lights illuminated the pillars and gave the temple an almost mystical appearance. Next to her, Superman began to talk.
"This is the Acropolis hill were standing on, also called 'The Sacred Rock', one of the most popular and famous sights of Athens. It holds a good many interesting monuments." Superman walked towards the temple and beckoned Lois to follow him. "This temple is the most famous of all; called the 'Parthenon'. It was built for Athena Parthenos, the patron Goddess of Athens." Superman's low voice echoed against the stone as he spoke and Lois eyes explored the large pillars and the many carvings and decorations. "It's is only a fraction of what used to stand here. A bomb exploded," Superman pointed out, "there, when the Venetians tried to defeat the Turks and it has been plundered several times."
Lois smiled as she took the large stone steps and walked past Superman to touch one of the front pillars. It was funny how this ancient stone building in Greece could make her feel small where the tallest skyscraper in Metropolis could not.
"I'd take you inside, but there isn't much to see anymore. Most sculptures were either destroyed in the explosion, or shipped off to a museum in Britain."
Lois turned around to face him, her back pressed against the cold stone of the pillar. His face was serious and Lois had to fight back her laughter. Apparently she wasn't entirely successfully because Superman frowned and asked; "What's so funny?"
"You are." Lois grinned "In tour guide-mode."
Superman grinned. "You haven't seen anything just yet. Come on." He grabbed her hand and pulled her close to him. Caught off her guard, Lois was so startled by their sudden close proximity she didn't realise what he was doing until she faced a new scenery... a good 500 metres away from the Parthenon.
"This is the Erechtheum," Superman let her go and immediately started talking. Lois needed a moment to clear her mind. "Another well-known and important temple. At some point even more important then the Parthenon. It was dedicated to the famous Greek hero Erichthonius." The large stone building that was much more intact than the previous one had been. "Compared to other temples, the Erechtheum's build is unusual. Partly because of the ground. He walked a few metres and Lois followed, bemused. "You see? The ground there is almost three metres lower."
"How do you know all this?" Lois asked.
"Well, I travel around the world on a daily basis. Lot's of opportunities for me to do a little sightseeing."
"You're not telling me you walk among the crowd like that." Lois amused herself for a moment with mental images of Superman with a map, camera and rucksack, playing tourist with a group of jabbering Japanese people.
Superman grinned. "I have my ways." He walked further, his cape billowing behind him, and Lois looked at him for a while. Superman seemed different. Carefree. Some might even call it 'out of character', but Lois had a sneaking suspicion he wasn't out of character at all. Maybe she was seeing him in character for the first time.
"The Erechtheum roughly exists of three parts." Superman walked further. "The main area is behind this large wall." He patted the stone. "It held the statues of Polias, Erechtheus and Poseidon."
"Held?" Lois asked.
"The Acropolis was plundered many times. Many of the old treasures are now lost." Superman walked back to the front of the building. "There was the Northern cella. It gave access to the Pandroseion; A secluded area that holds Zeus' altar, the grave of king Cecrops and the sacred Olive tree, given by Athena herself."
"I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I will have forgotten all of those names tomorrow morning." Lois grinned. "Pandroseion and Cecrops... Why can't they all be called Harry?"
Superman's eyes twinkled. "You'd better get used to the names. I've got many, many more for you." He took her hand and pulled her to the other side of the temple. "You see this expansion further on?" He positioned her in front of him and pointed over her shoulder. Lois' skin heated up where he pressed against her back despite the small layer of fabric that separated them. "That's the Southern cella, known as the 'Porch of the Maidens'. If you look well you can see that the pillars," He moved his hand a little lower, "which were used to support the roof, are replaced by six statues of robed women, known as 'Caryatids'. There is another name for you." Lois could hear he was smiling as he said the last line.
Squinting, Lois peered at the statues. "I only see five."
Superman moved from behind her—Lois' back suddenly cooled down fast—and beamed. "Very good. One of them was removed by the same British man who took the statues from the Parthenon to decorate his mansion. According to Athenian legends, the five remaining Caryatids can be heard wailing for their lost sister at night."
Lois laughed. "I don't hear a thing."
"Well, these are exact replica's of the statues. The real Caryatids are displayed in the Acropolis Museum, well preserved. We could go and-" Superman suddenly stopped talking in mid-sentence and his head snapped up.
"What?" Lois asked, her smile slowly fading.
"Jason is waking up." Superman said simply. "He isn't awake yet, but I can hear his heartbeat quicken, he'll wake soon and find you're not there."
"Oh," was all Lois said. "Right." She knew very well that this was the moment to return, but she didn't want to leave; not now she was finally starting to like the city. Reluctantly she took Superman's hand and looked over her shoulder, saying a silent goodbye to the Acropolis hill. Superman's warm arm circled around her waist and she watched the Erechtheum shrink and disappear behind the majestic shape of the Parthenon-temple.
All too soon she found herself standing on the shining teak floor of her hotel room. It looked oddly surreal after all the stone ruins that had surrounded her only seconds before. Lois lifted her head to look at Superman and opened her mouth to thank him for a great evening when a small moan sounded from the bedroom, followed by a groggy "Mommy?"
Lois shot an apologetic look at Superman before opening the door slightly and poking her head through. The small ray of light that came from the door was the only light in the otherwise pitch-dark room, and it only just illuminated the shape of a drowsy boy with tousled hair. "I'm right here, Munchkin. Go back to sleep."
As Jason let his head sink back onto his pillow, Lois pulled her head back and closed the door quietly. She turned to find that Superman was still standing in the exact same spot near the window.
"Thank you," Lois said sincerely "for this great evening. I wish we could have had more time to see Athens."
"Well…" Lois noticed an unfamiliar sparkle in Superman's eyes that she immediately decided she liked. "You're here for the week, right?"
"Well, yes…" Lois said confused. She wanted to add "How do you know?", but thought better of it once she remembered exactly who she was talking to.
"In that case I'll see you tomorrow. Good night Lois."
And with that he was gone. Lois hurried to the window and looked up to find that the Greek summer sky was clear and completely void of Kryptonians. Her eye fell on Acropolis hill. Lois looked at the illuminated stone and smiled broadly. "Goodnight Superman."