Web has been watching Rebecca since she was sixteen years old and scored abnormally well on a state school IQ test which is quietly made available to various government agencies.

She was seventeen when she had her first boyfriend. His name was Jesse, and he was on the chess team. Web knows exactly what they did together: hold hands. He knows this because both Rebecca and Jesse were seeing therapists at the time: Jesse for what turned out to be a very permanent gay phase, and Rebecca because as a child, she had been abducted and held for a year and a half.

Web knows that Rebecca went on dates while at Stanford. Somewhere in her file is a list of names and dates, in fact. The list is not long, and the same name doesn't show up twice.

So tonight, outside Rebecca's apartment in Santa Monica, Web almost doesn't go up to her door. She's twenty-six, and she should do this, if only because it will help her work.

But he rings the doorbell anyway, and then he opens the door he know will be unlocked, and walks in. They're on the couch, Paul's hand up Rebecca's shirt. Paul pulls away first, and stands up, and adjusts his clothing. Rebecca doesn't move.

Web notices that her lips are swollen; they've been on the couch for a while. Her tongue darts out quickly while his gaze is on her.

He knows what she's doing.

"Go home, Paul," he says, without looking at him.

"Web—"

"Go home to your pregnant wife, Paul."

Footsteps; a rustle of fabric as Paul shrugs into his jacket. The door closes behind him. Rebecca hasn't moved. Her shirt is still hiked up slightly, and she makes no move to straighten it.

Web sits in the armchair opposite the couch, leans back, crosses his legs. He knows this is her chair, because the left arm is slightly more worn from her throwing her legs over it, and because it has the best reading light. And mostly because it's in a defensible corner that faces the door.

"Rebecca," he says. "You're curious."

She doesn't argue: either she knows that she's transparent to him, or she's being provocative, or both.

"Yes," she says, and finally adjusts her shirt.

"That's normal," he says, and it sounds feasibly parental, although this is a conversation he never had with his daughter. "It's normal that you're curious."

"But?"

"But don't be curious with Paul," he says. She looks away. She's testing the boundaries a little, and it irks him.

"Why not?"

"Paul is a married man. His wife is about to have a baby. Pick someone else."

Her tongue darts out to moisten her lips again. She's looking at him through a fringe of hair that's fallen in front of her eyes.

"Like who?"

"You want a list?"

She shrugs one skinny shoulder with an insouciance he knows is practiced. Most things about Rebecca Locke are.

"Maybe. You have one?"

Web stands. "If it has to be someone on the team, pick Danny."

"Why? Because he's not married?"

"Because he's not married. Because he won't fall in love with you. Because he'll let you be curious without thinking it means he has to protect you forever."

She leans back on the couch. She tries looking seductive, but doesn't quite manage it.

"You think Paul would fall in love with me?"

"Don't be curious about that, Rebecca."

She stands, suddenly, walks to the window, parts the blinds with her fingertips, and looks out onto the street. He notices that she's in her stocking feet.

"Sometimes I have this dream," she says. Web wants to open the door and get out.

"Yes?"

"In the dream—" She hesitates, and lets the blinds fall closed, but doesn't turn back to him. When she speaks, it comes out in a torrent of words he can barely make out. "I dream that a man calls me sweetheart."

Another hesitation. Web wishes he had left when he had the chance, because he knows what comes next.

"He used to call me sweetheart."

"Yes," he says. She meets his gaze.

"I think I want someone who's not him to—you know?"

"Yes," Web says. "No one could blame you."

"No one but you," she says. Web reaches for the door.

"I don't blame you, Agent Locke. But don't pick Paul."

He's halfway across the street when he hears her call his name. She's still in her stocking feet, and the lawn in front of her building is wet with dew.

"What if I've already picked someone?" She asks. She can't quite meet his eyes. Web looks away. He remembers his little girl, the last time he saw her, running out to the school bus, one pigtail already coming loose.

"Go back inside," he says. "Your socks are wet."

Rebecca chokes out a laugh, and does as he says. On the way home, Web runs three red lights, and sort of hopes he gets pulled over.

fin