A/N: My contribution to the Summer Challenge over at DI this year. This one's going to be a long one, but I can't help it! When the inspiration strikes, it refuses to be dismissed! This is also, just so everyone knows, a sequel of sorts to "The Trouble with Love" – first, because that story has been stuck in my head since and refused to go away, and second, because I just really wanted to.

I hope you enjoy this, shortcircuit85! Incidentally, for those who are interested, the challenge was "Any season, R to NC-17, "Towel." Well, this story will feature a towel (I promise), it will take place in S8 (if "The Trouble with Love" happened in S7, and (if everything goes the way I plan) it will range from R to NC-17.

Let's get started! Just remember: I own nothing but the writing itself.

The Trouble with Trust

Part One: Left Behind

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

The annoying sound of the alarm clock pulled Lois out of what had been an extremely pleasant dream involving that – as all the best dreams do – evaporated instantaneously upon her opening her eyes. Grumbling softly, she rolled over and slapped the off button before dragging her body into a sitting position. Though the sudden movement caused a few of the sheets of paper scattered atop her comforter to flutter about and fall to the floor, she hardly noticed and cared even less. Instead, she blinked blearily at her alarm clock, taking a few moments to remember why she had to get up and moving this morning; her editors at the Daily Planet tended to be sticklers about showing up on time.

Stifling a yawn behind her hand, Lois rose slowly to her feet and shuffled towards the door. She'd definitely need to get some coffee in her – and fast– if she planned on being anything close to approaching human today.

Fifteen minutes and three guzzled mugs of coffee later, she finally felt a little more ready to tackle her day. Jogging back upstairs to the bedroom Clark had offered her when her apartment over the Talon had burned down several months before, she raced over to the closet and prepared to get dressed.

As it had every morning for two months, the sight of Clark's clothes lined up neatly in front of her hit her like a punch to the stomach. Her purpose momentarily forgotten, Lois stepped forward and closed her eyes, breathing in the all too familiar scent of soap and cologne that seemed to linger on everything she touched lately. It was in the air she breathed as she lay on the couch and watched television at night, the pillow she rested her head on at night, and the shirt she was wearing even now.

Her eyes fluttering open, she grimaced in pain and glanced down at the shirt in question. Her movements slow and deliberate, she unfastened the long row of buttons and slipped the well worn cotton fabric off her shoulders. Had there been anyone around to see her moment of weakness, she probably wouldn't have displayed it; however, as she was alone, she allowed the tears to burn in her eyes (though she refused to let them fall) as she gently replaced the rumpled shirt back onto its hanger and replaced it amongst its brethren. Then, as she did every morning, she tried to push all thoughts of her best friend out of her mind as she pulled on one of the few outfits she'd acquired in recent months and prepared for work.

If only it really was so easy to forget Clark, but she had yet to figure out the trick to it. Heaven knew she'd tried everything. In the past, she'd never had much problem forgetting anyone when it was all said and done (or at least letting her pride do its best to pretend to have forgotten them), but, then again, it wasn't like this was a typical situation. Clark wasn't an ex-boyfriend, to be promptly and mercifully forgotten; he was her best friend, and he'd disappeared into thin air.

He'd promised her he'd never leave her, and then he left. She didn't know where, she didn't know why, and she didn't know when he'd be back. Or even if he'd be back. Or even if he could…

She pushed the thought out of her mind. Wherever he was, he was fine. He'd come back. Someday. Someday he'd come home, and then she'd…well, she'd either kiss him or kill him, depending on where he'd been.

Seeing the time out of the corner of her eye, Lois realized she had to hurry if she was going to get to work at anything even approaching on time. Throwing on the rest of her clothes, she raced out the door.