Author's Note: This was originally written for the LJ community, summerbits, challenge. Each writer had to write seven fics, ranging from 500-1000 words, about a different character in the CSI verse. This is pre-series, so no spoilers here. Thanks to Prin for her encouragement and remarkable restraint. As always, feel free to leave reviews.

Bury your head in the Sand
By Duckie Nicks

The little boy with fingers outstretched reaches down to grab the sand, and Yelina can't help but watch her son, fascinated. He grasps two small fistfuls of sand, but unsatisfied, Ray Junior opens his hands again, and reaches down for more. His feet bounce up and down on the uneven ground. At one point, his big brown eyes meet her hazel ones, and she meets his childish giggle with a maternal smile.

When he's happy with the amount of sand he has, she watches as he giggles once more. And toddling a few feet to the right, Ray Junior drops the sand on Horatio's head. The redhead sputters, wiping sand out of his mouth as Ray squeals with delight.

"Ray… that's not what I had in mind when I said bury me in the sand…"

But her son is already fist deep in sand getting more.

Horatio looks to her for help; she grins. "You didn't say which end you wanted…"

He starts to say something, but Ray Junior strikes again, dropping another small mound of sand on Horatio's red hair.

"Yay!" Her son cheers, claps his sandy fingers together, and Yelina doesn't bother to suppress her laugh. He scampers back for more sand, but by now Horatio has caught onto the game.

The redhead looks between mother and child, the amusement dancing in his eyes. He stands up, brushes extra sand off the back of his legs, and when Ray notices that he's no longer laying down, the little boy frowns.

"No," he whines, the grains of sand slipping through his tiny hands. "Back down, carrots," the little boy orders, and Yelina snorts loudly. She hadn't wanted to go to the beach, but Horatio insisted, and now, she's glad she said yes. For a moment, she wonders when she had last felt this happy.

But the thought is immediately pushed aside, as Horatio looks at her confused. "Carrots?" he asks. And then as an afterthought – "Is that a new word?"

She doesn't need to say a word; the surge in maternal pride is answer enough, and Horatio smiles back.

Seconds later, the uncle is chasing his nephew in circles around her. Ray Junior laughs as he runs from the Tickle Monster ("I'm gonna get you," Horatio growls). She smiles again, but the pang of Raymond not being here hits her.

Yelina has tried to ignore this fact, has tried to pretend for months now that nothing is wrong. It's a task she's usually good at. Between work and a toddler intent on getting into everything, there hasn't been much time to dwell on what her husband was doing.

But as Horatio snatches Ray Junior off the ground and begins tickling him, Yelina can't help but think that her husband is missing something. He'd only joined narcotics six months ago (much to her dismay), but already… Ray came home less and less, was increasingly uncomfortable with their baby.

And just this week, their son called Horatio "Daddy." Thankfully, she thinks, neither Caine brother was around at the time. At the time, Yelina did her best to teach Ray Junior who Daddy was, but she's still not sure it worked.

When Horatio plops the sandy toddler into her lap, she's convinced it hasn't worked – and won't work because she herself is beginning to see her brother-in-law in a completely different way. She'd always thought he was attractive, sure, and part of her is convinced that the feelings are reciprocal.

But lately… she has found herself depending on Horatio in a way she used to depend on Ray. When her son threw up in daycare last week, Yelina called, not her husband, but her brother-in-law to pick the toddler up. The truth is Horatio was quickly becoming what Raymond used to be.

Which makes her problem all the more apparent; how is she supposed to convince Ray Junior that this man isn't Daddy?

"Mommy!" She has no time to think as the little boy tugs on her hand. He points towards the ocean. "Water!"

Standing up, Yelina hoists her son up onto her hip. "You want to go in?" His head bobs up and down enthusiastically. "All right."

But only a few steps forward and Yelina turns to Horatio who remains sitting on the beach. "You coming?" she asks him.

"Do you want me to?"

She's not exactly sure what he means by that. Though given that Horatio is uncomfortable at times with his new role, she isn't entirely surprised; he does like to give her space. "Of course" is her answer, and he follows her into the water.

They stop when she's knee deep, but Ray isn't satisfied. His feet kick excitedly.

"More," he orders.

Yelina looks to Horatio, and he shrugs. The current isn't too strong, but she still hesitates and says, "I don't want to drop him."

Her brother-in-law smiles and leads them into deeper waters, his hand close to one of her elbows. "Don't worry," he says. "I will never let that happen."

There is a lot of conviction in his voice, she thinks, and she believes him. And with that fear disintegrating, all that's left is the question: what exactly does her unequivocal trust mean?

End 1/1