Author's Note: This was written for the LJ community, summerbits. Each author had to write a series of fics involving different CSI characters and summer. This takes place sometime between the beginning of season four and the beginning of season five. No spoilers.

Make Believe in Rio
By Duckie Nicks

With a pen dangling from his mouth, Ray sits at the kitchen table. He chews on the plastic cap as he puts together a Christmas list. So far the paper in front of him is blank. The menial task feels decidedly off to him, though it's not hard for him to understand why.

He'd lived in Florida for years, but he can't get used to Christmas popping up in the middle of summer. Ray glances away from his list and looks out the kitchen window. Though a tree partially blocks the view, he can see Yelina sunbathing. A wonderful sight, he thinks, but he's always associated the holiday with snow and sweaters.

That this is hisfirst family Christmas in years makes it all the more surreal. Maybe a new pair of socks… the dark-haired man scribbles it down. He's not worried they'll fight throughout the holiday. The conflict Ray feels towards the upcoming event resides solely, he knows, within himself.

They never fought these days. Since arriving, Yelina hadn't asked why he left. She didn't yell, didn't even acknowledge the past. It was confusing – how disturbingly peaceful they were; she was barely recognizable to him.

At first Raymond thought it was for their son's benefit. But that reasoning didn't explain why she maintained the farce when Ray Junior wasn't around.

Sighing, the husband pushes his list aside. If anything, their marriage appears to be happier now than ever. However Ray also understands that it's not real. They may be together, but they are so far apart.

He even briefly believed that Yelina was faking it for him. It wasn't like her, he thought at the time, but maybe she believed he somehow deserved her allegiance.

It's completely ridiculous he now realizes, and he laughs, sitting there at the table, at his own stupidity. She had changed over the years – just as he had, but they were still essentially the same. What she'd been showing him for months, he has come to realize, is a painful truth. One that has been there since the beginning, nonetheless.

They'd been in Rio for a month, and it was their anniversary. Ray thought his wife would ignore the day completely, but she didn't. Yelina insisted on celebrating the day; he couldn't deny her. And when she presented him with a new wedding ring (his old one, he thought, in an evidence box), the truth came out.

He didn't want the ring. Or rather he did, but he didn't deserve it. Glancing down at it one last time, Ray tried to push the velvet box back into her hands.

"Take it," she said.

"I don't –"

"Deserve it?" Her voice became so cool then, smug. Expectant. "Obviously not. But…" She gave him the smallest of smiles. "The FBI used you because you can be someone you're not… Take the ring. Not because you deserve it, but because having a wonderful husband, or at least the illusion of one, is what I deserve. Put it on, and later tonight, we'll have sex to celebrate our blissful union."

And Ray agreed because, aside from the promised sex, he didn't see the difference between pretending to be a good husband and being one. He thought that if he did what she wanted, if he became that man for her, she would forgive him.

But he knows now that had been a mistake. He has tried so hard to be the perfect husband, but Yelina doesn't trust it, Ray realizes. The day after their anniversary, he bought her several blossoms of purple orchids that she always loved.

And though she thanked him for the flowers, only when she thought he wasn't looking did she tenderly finger them. The secretive gesture was enough to have him walking down to the florist each week for orchids. He isn't trusted enough to receive an honest response, but that doesn't stop him.

Part of him knows that she will never love him like she once did, will never see him as the man he tries so hard to be. But Ray isn't willing to give up, cannot do so because then she'd leave. His only hope is to continue to do everything right, to never give her reason to doubt him, to never fail. So too is Ray aware that he isn't capable of such a feat. His brother maybe, but the younger Caine knows that he is too flawed, too fucked up to be the man she deserves. How can he succeed in this when he can't even give her a Christmas list?

And he knows it's selfish, but the more she slips away from him, the tighter he wants to cling to her.

At that moment, Yelina comes inside. His list forgotten, his eyes cannot ignore the way the black bikini clings to her every curve. She does not smile at him as she grabs a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

Before taking a sip, she asks him, "Where's Ray Junior?" He doesn't know and shrugs. "I see." Her hazel eyes darken, and her voice husky, she says, "I'm… going to go change."

Ray recognizes the look on her face, understands what she's asking for, and the list lays abandoned as he follows her into the bedroom. The door closing behind them (in case Ray comes home), Yelina kisses him roughly. There is no love on her part, and his hands run through her hair, over her arms, grasp her warm hips. She does not love him anymore, but he can't resist. Because he likes pretending this is a happy marriage also.

Because if he doesn't pay too much attention, Ray can almost ignore the stiffness in her body, can almost believe this is love. Because he still hopes, if they do this enough, they'll eventually end somewhere else – someplace where he never screwed up, where she loves him unconditionally. Likes to play make believe because he cannot accept that such a place doesn't exist.

End 1/1