RESEARCH
By RakeTheSky

Disclaimer: Charmed, the Charmed Ones, Cole, Leo, Roger, and any other character of Charmed belong to the Spelling Corporation and other possible copyright holders. I, as the author, am in no way associated to Charmed. This story, however, and the characters that I have created, are my property and solely belong to me.

Notes: While trying desperately to jump-start my brain into furthering progress in Love's Intervention and Twice Cursed, my mind decided to play a trick on me and inspire a whole 'nother story instead. This is a one shot, relatively short, and begins a few hours after the Season Three episode Sight Unseen. It is also slightly AU-ish, as I decided to involve Raynor in this story too.

As always, please be kind enough to drop off a review at the end. If you enjoyed this story, I invite you to read my other works that can be found on this site by clicking the appropriate links. Any further questions or comments can be sent via email, my address can also be found on my FF profile. Enjoy!

Research

Cole looked over at Phoebe as they pulled up in front of the Manor. His gaze made its way down her body; from her soft, dirty blonde hair to the gentle curve of her neck, along her glowing, slightly tanned skin, down to her tight red top. His tongue darted out from his mouth to quickly wet his lips. This particularly article of clothing she had was certainly sexy and had his mind imagining ripping it off, but for some reason he preferred her in more floral, more covered clothes. If only to stop other guys from staring at her, he thought suddenly. Not that wearing more than a curve-hugging tube top would stop any guy from noticing her; she was stunning any way you took her. Cole inwardly groaned as he realized the double meaning of his thought.

As if feeling his eyes on her, Phoebe turned her attention to him and gave him a shy smile. "So, here we are," Cole said, managing to sound suave even as his nerves shook at that little smile.

"Here we are," Phoebe echoed, glancing at her house for a second before turning back to him. "You know," she said softly, "I really am sorry about what happened today."

Cole felt his heart leap into his throat. What happened today? I kissed her today, that's what. What she regretting that? He suddenly thought in rapid succession. "I know it must've been painful for you," she continued, "but you have to understand that Prue's incredibly protective of all of us. Not to mention paranoid."

What was she talking about? Cole wondered for a second, slightly confused. Then he remembered. Prue had set up a very effective trap in the attic today, using the Book of Shadows as bait, which he tried to take. The sisters had found him lying unconscious on the floor, thankfully in his human form, and Phoebe had immediately flown to his defense. "Don't worry about that," Cole assured her. "I understand it was all for the best intentions. Though I am intrigued that Prue chose that particular—route."

Phoebe chuckled a bit and looked down. "Well, Prue, you know—she likes to take things in her own hands," she replied.

Cole sensed her uneasiness and knew the reason for it—still; he didn't want to make her uncomfortable. "Hey," he said, reaching out and lifting up her chin gently. She looked at him with her large brown eyes and Cole felt the same melting sensation that he experienced whenever he looked at her, a feeling that seemed to grow stronger with every glance. "Believe me, this day eventually turned out to be extremely, extremely pleasant. I think the evening had something to do with it." He chuckled softly as the corners of her mouth twitched, then leaned forward as if to give her a kiss. At the last second, he pulled away.

Phoebe's eyes opened, and she gave him a light slap. "Hey!" she protested, though she was smiling.

"I'll walk you up to your door," Cole offered, his eyes twinkling. He got out of his side of the car and went around the car to open the door for her. He wrapped an arm snugly around her waist and she leaned into him. They walked up the steps, taking their time. Eventually, however, they reached her porch.

Phoebe turned to him expectantly as they stopped just outside the door. Cole looked back innocently as Phoebe growled impatiently. Just as she was about to look unsure, however, he bent to capture her lips with his. Phoebe met him halfway, standing up on her toes so she could wrap her arms around his neck.

They parted after what seemed like a far too short of a time. Phoebe gave him a final shy smile, then turned to go inside. "I'll call you," Cole said to her retreating back. Phoebe turned, reached out and gave him a small kiss on the lips, then went inside. Cole continued to stand there as the door clicked shut. Finally, he turned on his heel and headed back for his car, slowly emerging back into the real world. Raynor'll want a report, Cole realized. Though he was under the full jurisdiction of the Triad, Raynor was also closely involved with this—project, as they liked to call it.

Sighing, Cole looked up at the Manor, and at one of the windows that was newly lit. No doubt Phoebe's room. Screw it, Cole thought suddenly. I'll report in the morning. He headed for his car to drive back to his apartment.


"Belthazor," Raynor greeted Cole the next day as he appeared within the Brotherhood chambers.

"Raynor," Cole replied, bowing his head as a sign of respect toward his mentor.

"You look…cold," Raynor observed as he drew his hands behind his back and walked closer to the half demon. "I daresay you've been up there a bit too long."

Cole nodded, saying nothing. It was a common myth that the World Down Below burned with the fires of Hell. Warmth and fire was actually a privilege, reserved for the Source himself. Other demons, even those with the prestige of the Brotherhood, had to bear with the chilly, sometimes frigid temperatures.

"So," Raynor continued as he resumed his slow pace around the cave, "what news do you bring?"

"I kissed her," Cole said.

Raynor's eyebrows went slightly up, but he did not break his stride. "I must admit, Belthazor," he replied. "That was not the answer I was expecting."

"Well, it's a good thing," Cole insisted. "Now, you see, she completely trusts me, which means—"

"Which means what, exactly?" Raynor smoothly cut in. "You've already gained their trust. That's why Troxa was sent in—and that's what I expected you to ask me about."

"The difference is that Phoebe trusts me," Cole replied. "Prue, the oldest and the strongest, is getting more suspicious of me by the minute. She set a trap around the Book of Shadows—"

"We know," Raynor said dryly. "We had to pull Troxa out of it. He was about to give away your—information." Raynor paused, looking at Cole as if wondering what to do with him. He brought his hands in front of him.

"I suppose, then, your next task would be to find out more about the oldest sister," Raynor said. He waved his right hand and a single sheet of paper, neatly folded into thirds, appeared in his left. He silently handed the paper to Cole and waited as he read it over.

"This is contact information. You want me to visit this person?" Cole asked.

"Yes. You'll be able to catch him right before his lunch hour—New York is three hours ahead of your San Franciscan time frame." Raynor looked him in the eye. "You know what to do."

Cole nodded and shimmered away.

Raynor shook his head. Belthazor was struggling, and he didn't even seem to realize it. It was partially why Raynor had sent him to the man in New York, to give him some perspective and to lend him a hand. The success of the mission depended on Belthazor. This was the closest they had ever been, and if he messed up, then Raynor doubted they'll ever have the same chance at the Charmed Ones again.


Cole stepped into the newly built luxurious office building in Midtown Manhattan, wearing a crisp Armani suit and holding a leather briefcase firmly in his hand. He weaved through the mass of people in the lobby and went up in one of their large, marble accented elevators to one of the top floors. After another few minutes, the blushing female secretary was ushering Cole into the man's office as his most urgent and charming insistence.

The man Cole needed to question was gathering his papers as Cole walked into his office. The man, who wore glasses and had dirty blonde hair, shot an angry glare at his secretary, who was already ducking out. He turned to Cole and was about to speak when Cole beat him to the task.

"Roger Laurens?" Cole said pleasantly. "My name is Cole Turner, the Assistant District Attorney of San Francisco—" he flashed him the appropriate paperwork "—and I have few very important matters to discuss with you."

The man blinked, looking slightly alarmed before covering his emotions with a brisk manner. "I'm very sorry, Mr.—Turner, but I have some matters to attend to—ones that involve people who made appointments beforehand."

Cole smirked. "You can calm down, Mr. Laurens. I'm not here to investigate you." His grin grew wider as Roger flushed slightly. "You see, there has recently been a case involving a Prudence Halliwell." He paused to see the effect the name had on Roger. "Since you are her ex-fiancé, I was hoping you could help us with our investigation."

At Prue's name, Roger had eagerly leaned forward, a spark that distinctly looked like revenge in his eyes. He laughed and sat back down in his leather office chair. "Oh, Prue, Prue, Prue," he chuckled to himself. "What did she do?" he asked Cole.

"Details cannot be disclosed at this time," Cole answered politely. "We can only ask you to supply any type of information concerning Ms. Halliwell."

"Well, whatever it is, I can sure imagine," he said. "The bitch had to snap sometime."

"Would you elaborate on that, please?" Cole asked as he drew a tape recorder from his briefcase. The device, far from making Roger nervous, only added to his incentive. He went on a long rant about Prue's character while Cole tried not to yawn or throw an energy ball at him to make him shut up. From the facts that Cole had gathered, Roger had stolen a curator's job from under Prue's nose, though Roger's exclamations tried to disprove that he didn't deserve the job. Still, Cole slowly realized, Prue and this Roger broke up before Prue left her workplace. He wondered what had happened between them as began to listen to Roger again.

"So, really, it's no surprise. Prue is such a wound-up, nasty little—you know what?" Roger exclaimed, as if he had an epiphany. "I bet she bitched at her little sister to death."

Cole's ears perked up at the mention of a younger Halliwell. "Who is this little sister?"

"There are two. Piper, the mousy one who cooks, and then there's Phoebe." Roger chuckled again, but this time Cole did not find his mirth nearly as amusing. "Phoebe—damn, if you've ever seen her, you'll know what I'm talking about. She's a babe."

"Really?" Cole said tightly.

"You'll bet," Roger replied, too caught up in his storytelling to realize that Cole's comment was hostile instead of encouraging. He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "One of those easy types, you know? You'd look at her and know she was a good fuck."

Cole could barely stop himself from shaking with rage, fury, and…despair. He wanted nothing more than to slowly choke the life out of the man before him for even thinking of Phoebe in such a disgusting way. On the other hand, however, he was desolate. How could Phoebe, sweet beautiful Phoebe, his Phoebe, even think of sleeping with scum like Roger?

"The girl played hard to get, though," Roger continued. "It was really kind of annoying. She'd refuse to have anything to do with me and always push me away—but if I got it, I knew it would be worth it."

"Why did you and Prue break up?" Cole asked quietly as he slowly formed the rest of the events in his head.

Roger shrugged. "I was trying to get Phoebe to see things my way as she was leaving for New York, and I kissed her, and Prue walked in," he said nonchalantly. "Prue was pissed," he continued, his tone bordering on malicious. "She basically disowned her and Phoebe was afraid to go back to San Francisco until she had to. Told you Prue was a bitch, didn't I? Still, though, the last thing I heard before I moved over here was that they were all living together. Bet they're all miserable. A disappointment I never tried her out. Everyone had to make such a fuss about it. Besides, if we did do anything, who would care? Love and leave her, what's the big deal?"

"I see," Cole said, so quietly that Roger had to lean forward slightly to hear his words. The next second, Cole had Roger up against the wall, holding him up with one hand by his neck. "The big deal is," Cole continued in the same low voice, "is that Phoebe has a boyfriend now. That boyfriend would be me. So if I catch you saying these things about Phoebe again—no, even thinking those things—" he tightened his grip and Roger gasped for air "—you'll be a dead man. And honestly, I think that would make the world a better place. For everyone."

Even as Cole continued to constrict his airway, Roger managed out a question. "So you're…the…boyfriend?" He rasped. "Tell me…how good is she…in…bed?"

An energy ball formed in Cole's hand and he aimed it straight at Roger's crotch. Worst way to die, Cole thought, and he'd deserve it. It would be so simple—Roger would be reduced to ash, Cole would use some memory dust that Raynor had provided him for the occasion, and he'd be happy.

But out of the blue a memory hit him. In his mind's eye, he remembered how it felt when Phoebe cradled his head in her lap as he woke up from his unconscious spell. Her worried expression filled his sight, and he smiled. Roger, who saw the smile, became even more terrified at the expression than at Cole's angry words.

Unceremoniously, Cole dropped Roger from his grip. Roger immediately clutched at his throat, gasping for oxygen and massaging his neck. Sighing, Cole thrust into his pocket to take out the small vial of memory dust. "I shouldn't be using this valuable stuff on a shit like you," Cole spat savagely before taking a small pinch and throwing it over Roger's head. Enough so that Roger forgot anything that could incriminate Cole, but not enough so that Roger wouldn't remember a foreboding shadow at the edge of his mind, threatening to kill him.

Cole smiled again, emotionlessly this time, took his stuff and left, leaving Roger on the floor, to sprinkle some on the secretary.

Soon, Cole was out on the Manhattan streets again, almost humming to himself as he thought of Phoebe and how happy he'd be once he saw her again. He smiled at the people who passed him, making them glance back at the handsome, giddy man and hurrying away more quickly. Cole ignored them and glanced around, at the tall buildings, at the light blue sky. Didn't Roger mention something about Phoebe living here for a short while once? She was surrounding him with her presence.

He stopped dead in his tracks. What was he doing? The people behind him walked around him. "Tourist," they muttered, disappointed that this confident man who had the right colored clothes turned out to be a dud.

But Cole barely realized what was happening around him. He was rooted to his spot as everything rushed to him at once. His intense anger at Roger's words, his protectiveness of Phoebe, the way she mad him felt—and before it all, his heritage. His demonic heritage. What was he doing? He asked himself again. What kind of fool was he? Demons weren't boyfriends, as he had called himself to Roger. Demons weren't supposed to—to care for the ones that they tried to kill. What was—? Hell, he'd made such a mess of things.

Cole slowly shook his head and shakily began to walk. I'll go for Prue, he decided as his stride became steadier. Once I knock her out, I can leave the others alone. They won't be alone to do anything without her. Too much of a hassle to kill all three, anyways.

Suddenly, with a cry of anger, he flew his fist into the nearest lamppost, causing more people to stare. I'll make her pay, Cole thought blindly, seeing spots before his eyes. Make her pay for all these strange, dangerous emotions inside of me. Make her feel what I feel. He punched the lamppost again, causing it to shudder. Cole looked blankly at his fist as he slowly felt his heart calm down.

And I'll have to break up with Phoebe, too, Cole realized.

With all his might in his human form, Cole punched the lamppost for the third time, making his knuckles split to reveal angry, red spots of blood.