So, I was just about to climb into bed last night when the word 'illusion' popped into my head, and before I knew what was happening the words were pouring out and I was scribbling them down on bits of green card (closest thing to hand). I haven't changed or altered this in any way, so it's really just stream of consciousness, as-it-came-to-me writing.

Disclaimer: As always, don't own any of it

Illusion

It's all an illusion, all of it. Her smile of greeting when he walks through the front door, her cheery "how was your day?" when really she knows he's unlikely to tell her the truth anyway, the sweet way she says "don't worry!" when he tells her he'll be late home. Again.

Sometimes, the ease with which she can lie scares her. That she can slip so easily into a role is not a comforting thought, but then it's not exactly an unfamiliar role – just an old one. After all, she loved him once. Smiled genuinely at him, had no sadness to try and hide when discussing her marriage, played the part of dutiful and doting wife gladly and with relative ease.

Now, things have changed; she lies to herself, and the world, every day. Because the alternative is too scary to face – or perhaps she's just a coward. It's all an illusion, and she worries that if she were to reach out a trembling hand and touch the perfect picture she's painted of her life, it would shatter into a thousand tiny fragments. And as much as she sometimes hates this illusion, she's not sure she's ready to destroy it. 'Til death us do part' was supposed to mean something, and she can't just walk away, not if there's any chance that things could one day change.

Some days, she truly believes that. The optimist in her encourages her to believe that her feelings will return, that this is just a phase, this feeling like she's sleepwalking through her life. Some days she believes that it will pass, and they will somehow be able to slip back to how they used to be, how they used to feel, and just be them again. She loved him once, and he's the same man – how can she walk away without knowing for sure that their love is lost forever?

Of course, some days she thinks that's ludicrous. When they're sitting across the dining room table from each other and the conversation consists entirely of "please pass the salt," she wonders what the hell she's doing. Why she keeps up this pretence, whether it'll be worth it in the end, or if she's just wasting her life. And then there's the fear – that her whole life will become such an act she won't even know herself anymore, won't be able to distinguish the truth from the lies, the black from the white, but will instead be left in a constant state of grey. If you wear a mask long enough, you might just grow unable to recognise your own face.

He smiles at her, so trusting, so believing, and part of her feels guilt, mixed with affection – it's not like she's grown to hate him or anything – and a wash of nostalgia for the days when it was all so simple. Another part of her sees the absurdity of the situation. Does he really not see? It's all an illusion, but a powerful one; he falls for it hook, line and sinker.

People look at them and see a happy couple. No children, granted, but they have successful careers, a nice home, a stable relationship. And happiness. They see happiness. People see what you let them see, believe what you want them to believe. They don't know it's all just an illusion.

So much of the time she's got her happy face painted on, the one that doesn't show how her marriage is falling apart, how the once stable walls of her life are crumbling around her, how everything she thought she knew has been exposed as a lie. Her face doesn't show it; at least, not to most.

But he sees.

He sees, but he doesn't say. He respects the line – hovers a toe over it occasionally - but for the most part, respects it. But he sees.

Of course, she doesn't need to lie as much when she's with him. If Alec's around, or her marriage is mentioned, he sees what she tries to hide, the truth that she cannot bury, not from him. But when they're working on a case, she can be herself. When he teases her about her pudding or her orange slushies, her smiles are genuine. She laughs at his jokes, enjoying the feeling of spontaneous laughter dancing in the air, so much better than the polite laughter she manufactures when necessary. When she talks to him about Emily, argues with him about working for his ex-wife, updates him on a case or shares a drink with him in his office after a long day, she doesn't need her mask, her walls, her lies. She is open, and honest, and free.

He is the one part of her life that is not an illusion.