A/N: My prompt this year was Season 9 or 10, R to NC-17, Metallo. Hope you like it scrios!


Old Habits (SS'09: scrios)

The second the lights suddenly shut off and she's left to navigate through complete darkness Lois begins to think maybe this wasn't her best plan. Breaking into a seedy warehouse-lab set smack dab in the middle of suicide slum without letting a single soul know about it wasn't the brightest idea. Add in that her source was reluctant to even breathe a word about what was going on here and her boss apparently had ties to this place made the situation far more dangerous than she would have liked for a solo job.

Of course if she had bothered to ask or even mention her little adventure, she would have had a handsome and over protective partner in crime beside her instead of finding herself alone groping blindly in the dark.

At the thought of Clark, Lois was suddenly reminded of why she had opted to come here alone in the first place. It was the reason why she had found herself too busy to go out with him the last six days and why she always seemed to be leaving a room when he entered.

As much as she wished she could find another term for what she was doing, all her mind could come up with was the truth. She was avoiding him. Plain and simple.

It hadn't been something she planned on doing, but somehow had just happened. Since before she could remember, flight had always won over fight when it came to matters of her heart, and at this point in her life, Lois was finding it harder to break her habits than she had thought.

A small sigh escaped her lips at the memory of just how hard a time she was having dropping her bad habits.

Warm lips trailed down her neck, nipping playfully before retracing the hot path to quickly catch her lips. As Lois moved to deepen the contact, Clark pulled away with a sly smile on the lips that had just alluded her, his hands still lightly caressing her bare thighs in circular patterns.

Her body shuddered in equal parts pleasure and anticipation. She knew that smile and it always resulted in sinful things that left her moaning and breathless. When his hands stopped their enticing exploring, Lois' mouth turned into a small pout as he moved those glorious hands away from her, ending any remaining contact between them. Letting out a small sigh, she watched in amusement as he carefully opened the drawer on his bedside table, throwing her an excited grin before pulling out a box wrapped in festive red paper with a clumsily tied green ribbon around it.

"For the sake of keeping my house and my sanity in tact this year, here's an early Merry Christmas." His eyes danced as he held the box out to her.

Curiosity piqued, Lois sat up and grinned as she took her present from him, eyes lighting up as she recalled the past years of succumbing to her impatience weeks before Christmas, resulting in frantic searches for her gifts that usually left a path similar to a tornado.

"Took you long enough to get a clue." Lois grinned, her finger playing with the pathetic excuse for a bow before slipping it off the box.

Clark's sly smile was replaced with a nervous grin as she began to open the box, the excited air surrounding him along with the lock of hair falling onto his forehead made Lois smile at the picture he presented. It was times like these she could imagine him as a playful child eager for praise.

Enjoying the anticipation, Lois slowly opened the box and sorted through the gold tissue paper. She stopped short as she recognized what the gift was through the paper, her brow furrowed as she wondered what this meant. Considering the things she and Clark had been doing to one another the last few weeks, she figured they were beyond the meaningless snow globe phase. Clearly she was wrong.

Looking up to see the same excited grin still plastered on her boyfriend's face, Lois pulled out the heavy globe for closer inspection, her eyes lighting up as she realized why her boyfriend was so proud. Inside the glass was a miniature replica of the globe that spun atop the Daily Planet, hovering over two small desks that sat directly beneath it. Lois grinned as she recognized the small nameplates sitting on the desks, their names proudly declaring who belonged in those spots. Shaking her new present, Lois laughed lightly as she realized the little items swirling around weren't snow, but tiny newspapers.

Leaning forward, Lois pressed her lips to Clark's, murmuring happily. "I love it."

Before she could thank him properly, Clark placed his hands on top of hers, both now holding the globe together between them. His grin had turned more serious as he gazed into her eyes. "I love you."

The words knocked the breath from her, but before she could even begin to recover, Clark was continuing. His hands squeezed hers, nodding down at the globe. "This is where I first realized it." The eyes Lois knew so well turned distant as he peered down at the globe and Lois got the distinct impression that he wasn't here with her anymore, but back at that moment. "It was the morning of Senator Baily's press conference, you looked up from your computer and smiled at me."

Those hazy blue eyes cleared as they snapped back to hers, conviction in his tone. "and I knew…"

Lois let out a small sigh as her hand encountered a door handle and she hesitantly walked into the unknown room, her mind still lingering on the past.

She could have handled the whole thing fine if the tables hadn't turned on her. The declaration of love had thrown her off balance, but the realization it was her turn had knocked her flat on her ass. Panic had seized her heart at the expectant look in his eyes. Suddenly the walls had felt like they were closing in on her and there was nothing she could do but smile and distract him from the moment he was waiting for.

Clark's disappointment had been clear to see, but he'd let her change the subject easily and hadn't pressed her for more since.

Her reaction was silly, even she knew that. Hell, she'd already confessed her feelings in front of him and some crazed jeweler last year- it wasn't like he didn't already know. Even if he didn't catch on from that incident, the heated things they did to each other revealed more than any words could. Every encounter was fueled by more than lust, their actions saying what their voices couldn't. They had been in an odd in between these last few weeks, both silently acknowledging their shared feelings, but at the same time ignoring them. It had been a system she was comfortable with.

Now everything was different and she had no idea what to do.

Her instincts screamed at her to run. It didn't matter that she'd had her fare share of pursuing him and this relationship, or that he was so entangled in her life there was really no where to run to. The only thing that part of her knew was self preservation was key to survival and cutting ties before things got deeper was the only sane option. The other part of her scoffed, pointing out that she was already too deep to get out intact. Her heart was already laid bare even if she hadn't spoken the actual words yet.

It hadn't been a bolt of lightning like his realization had been.

There were a thousand moments and seconds in between that had her falling for him. So gradual that at some point she woke up with the knowledge that she loved him, as though it had been there all along- a part of her that had no beginning and no end.

The thought terrified her.

Without even trying, Clark had somehow made it further into her heart than she had allowed any other man, and now he had far more power over her than her peace of mind allowed. Her only remaining protection was refusing to say those three little words aloud. Her time with both Oliver and Clark had shown her that when she got this invested, the end was on it's way. The best thing to do was shield herself from the eventual fallout and not give too much away. When the time came, she would have to be prepared to walk away. Though her heart would be broken, her pride would be left untouched. It was a compromise she had decided she could learn to live with.

It was a jaded way to look at the relationship that meant more than any she had ever been in, but Lois was no fool. She had learned from the past, and she knew it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. Whether it would be in the form of an ex-girlfriend's return or other outside forces, Lois knew it was coming.

It was now a matter of waiting.

Fighting back the tears that desperately wanted to fall, Lois was filled with new determination to get out of this creepy maze of darkness and drown her sorrows in fudge ice-cream.

It was easier said than done Lois soon realized. She wasn't sure how long she had been walking, and was left unsure of her progress out of this place or if she was even going in the right direction. For all she knew, she was heading deeper into the building.

Lois stifled a scream as she heard the sound of shuffling close by. Fear gripped her as she realized she wasn't alone in the darkness. There was someone or something in here with her, and she could only pray that it was as blind in this blackness as she was. Heart pounding loudly in her ears, Lois hesitantly pressed her hands against the wall she had been following, blindly searching for a door handle that would lead her out of this room. As her hand slid against something slimy, a sharp gasp tore from her throat, sounding deafeningly loud in the quiet room.

She froze, waiting to see if the noise had summoned any monsters from the shadows. When none came, Lois quickly resumed her search for an exit as she hesitantly reached into the darkness while sending out a prayer she didn't encounter anything beyond what she wanted to find.

The feel of metal in her hand had never felt so amazing, and Lois sighed in relief as she turned the handle. The moment was short lived as panic speared through her when the door refused to budge, forcing her to continue with her original path and face anything that stood in the way.

Shrugging off the feeling of dread, Lois began to walk forward, her body slamming into something warm and solid within a few steps.

Before she could regain her bearings, her arms were trapped in a strong vice like grip, a warm whisper in her ear making her body quake in fear. "Leaving so soon?"

In the recesses of her mind, she recognized the voice, but her mind floundered as to where. Almost as if reading her mind, the hands gripping her dropped, leaving her to stumble back as she heard the rustling of clothes. Her mind halted at the thought, whoever was in the room with her doing something with their clothes, and Lois couldn't stop the uneasy feeling welling up inside of her.

An eerie green glow filled the room, and Lois found herself staring at what should have been a man's chest. Instead, metal and tubes covered the spot, the glow being emitted from the middle. Her eyes traveled from the grotesque sight up to the familiar face, her head spinning with disbelief.

"Corben?" In any other circumstance, Lois would have been embarrassed by the squeak in her voice, right now terror far outweighed any possible pride.

She had seen with her own eyes his body lying lifeless on the ground months ago, a big gaping hole where his heart should have been. There was no way anyone could have survived that… "You're dead."

His gravely voice sent tremors of fear through her system. "Apparently there really is life after death."

It occurred to Lois that she had just unwittingly stumbled into solid evidence of the type of experiments this place was conducting. A part of her felt like laughing, even in these circumstances, the reporter in her was still working.

"I was going to find you, you know?" Corben revealed like they were old friends that had bumped into one another on the street. For some reason, the calm he radiated freaked Lois out more than if he had instantly attacked her. "We never got to finish our talk, remember?"

The only thing she remembered was him knocking her around in his looniest of moments. Still, Lois figured it was best not to anger the cyborg lunatic she was all alone with and nodded jerkily.

His shaky hands reached out to touch her hair, and Lois fought the urge to jerk away. Sudden movements probably weren't the best course of action right now.

"You remind me of her." It was clear who he was talking about, and Lois knew they were treading on dangerous ground. The death of his sister was the driving force behind his anger and Lois prayed she would be far enough away when he snapped again. "She was fiery too, always got her way…you two would have liked each other."

Lois believed him. From what she had read, the other woman was someone she would have gotten along well with. It had been a moment of curiosity when she researched the man that had tried to kill her. What she had found was a more heartbreaking past than she had anticipated.

Reading about his life had almost felt like déjà vu. He too had been left to raise his younger and often reckless sister. Lois couldn't help but think that had things been different, she and Corben could have been friends.

"…then the Blur came…"

As he continued to list the transgressions of the hero, Corben's face took on a manic look, his hands shaking violently in silent rage and Lois shoved aside any feeling of sympathy for the man in front of her. As much as she wished otherwise, things hadn't turned out differently.

He had already tried to kill her once this year and was now blocking her exit. It was him or her, and she be damned if she was going to be the loser tonight.

With slow movements, Lois moved her hand to the back of her jeans where she had stashed a small switchblade. His head shook as he recounted the wrongdoings of the vigilante. The moment was enough for Lois to make her move and she swiped the knife at him, slashing his arm. Lip snarling, Corben ripped the blade from her hand and threw it across the room, his hand instantly wrapping itself around her neck. Toes barely scraping the ground, Lois desperately clawed at the hand cutting off her air supply.

Through the increasing haziness in her mind, Lois heard another voice call out her name. The pressure on her throat increased before she was suddenly flung across the room, her body slamming against the wall before falling limply to the floor like a rag doll.

Lois' dazed mind tried to take in the dueling men, but the throbbing in her body was too intense for her to focus.

Minutes, or maybe hours later, Lois was aware of strong arms gently cradling her. Clark's concerned face hovering over her as fire danced around them the last thing her mind processed before once again succumbing to the black void calling to her.

~*~

Eyes slowly fluttering open, Lois groaned as the afternoon light hit her face, her bruised body complaining as she moved to sit up and groggily take in her surroundings. Her bedroom was just as she had left it the night before, the only change was the slight smell of cologne on the pillow beside her.

If it hadn't been for the aches covering her body, she could have believed the night before had been just a nightmare.

Her mind worked quickly, piecing together the events of the night, and Lois realized she only recalled vague bits and pieces after being scooped into Clark's protective arms. The hazy memory of adamantly refusing to go to the hospital and Clark grudgingly agreeing made her smile, although she did remember a dark haired man with glasses showing up, poking and prodding her until he declared she was fine.

The fate of Corben briefly flickered to her mind, and Lois remembered last time he had attempted to kill her, she had brushed it aside by simply throwing out his nameplate. Hell, even after knowing the guy's tragic past she was tempted to do something like that again. Call her petty and childish, but she was going to hold a grudge for being choked and tossed into a wall.

Gingerly getting out of bed, Lois instinctively followed the scent of coffee. She stopped short as she watched Clark standing by the balcony, his gaze fixated on the globe he was gently shaking in one hand.

The pensive look on his face made Lois' breath hitch, a small voice in her head whispering that the moment she had been dreading was here. She was tempted to walk away, avoid this moment like she'd been avoiding Clark for the past week.

The other part just wanted to stop the agonizing waiting and let the other shoe drop so she could rebuild the walls around herself. Torn over her next action, Lois stood in the middle of the living room debating with herself.

She never knew what her next course of action would have been because fate had apparently decided for her. Turning around suddenly, Clark watched her intently as he walked towards her, his free hand lightly touched her bruised temple. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I was thrown into a wall…" Lois joked lamely, it wasn't her best line, but she figured it did the job because Clark's lips quirked upward.

Giving him a tentative smile, Lois waited for him to start the inevitable heart breaking moment. When he said nothing, her eyes nervously scanned the room for a distraction.

Unbidden, her eyes landed on a picture on the mantel- the only recent one she had of herself and Lucy. It was almost depressing to realize that had been a little over five years ago.

No matter how much of a pain Lucy was, Lois knew she would do anything for her baby sister. After last night, part of Lois was left wondering had it been Lucy in the place of Rebecca, if the roles last night might have been reversed, Corben the victim of her grief riddled insanity.

Lois liked to think not, but the startling truth was she didn't know. Just the idea of her little sister dying made Lois' insides clench, the thought of never being able to tell Lucy all the things she wanted to eating her up inside.

"She knows you love her."

Startled from her thoughts, Lois gave Clark a surprised look. The last week of minimal contact with him had made Lois forget how easily he could read her.

"We should see her for the holidays." Though the suggestion was made lightly, the seriousness in Clark's eyes conveyed that it wasn't a joke.

"You want to spend Christmas with my family?" Lois asked with wide eyes, unsure if she had actually heard him correctly.

This was not how the conversation should be going. Right now she should have been on the verge of tears while she let him go with her dignity in tact- not staring dumbly at him as he made Christmas plans. There was an insane, petty and masochistic part of her that felt put out by having her predictions of this relationship thwarted.

"Sure, I'd love to." Grinning from ear to ear, Clark pressed a quick kiss to her lips, ignoring her incredulous look.

Lois let out a small laugh as she looked into his sparkling eyes, the underlying message of his actions clear for her to see; no matter how often she fell into her old habits or how hard she found it to break them, he would be there every step along the way.

Grinning, Lois took the snow globe from his hand and peered down at the memory he had tried to give her.

She might not be able to tell him the exact moment she fell for him, but if he ever asked, Lois could say without a doubt the moment she knew they were going to last.

Judging from the smile on his face, he already knew.