Author's Note: First off I have to thank GrannyP for being dedicated enough to read all of Changing Carver and for being my beta on this story among others. Any of you reading this please go read her story Sweet Memories. That is if anyone besides her is reading this.

---misplaced trust---

Chapter Five: Independence or Stupidity?

"Now, Susan, what do you think led to your intense hatred for your daughter?" Dr. Laser asked Nikole's mother in his office. The woman had been attending sessions with him since her daughter's engagement was announced.

"I guess it was because after she was born Phil stopped paying attention to me. It was all about Nikole. I married Phil because he had eyes for only me and spoiled me. After Nikole was born that stopped. Even when I was pregnant with her he would get on me for eating this or not eating this. He was constantly worried about the baby's health. It was like I was just an incubator and the baby was the most important thing."

"Was Nikole ever important to you?" The shrink asked.

"When I first found out I was pregnant and it made Phil happy, but after that it was like she was a nuisance. Some people aren't meant to be mothers. I was one of those people. I am one of those people. Nikole gave up on her father and me long ago. I may call her a lot of things, but I can't call her stupid."

---misplaced trust---

Angel was sitting in a dark, crowded bar, alone. The setting was dull, smoky, and hot. It was one of the places Angel would have frequented back in his bachelor days. It was a place he would never allow his wife to enter, unless their former occupation of choice required it.

The dark-haired guy eyed the alcoholic drink before him. He knew he shouldn't. The craving was strong. It was as if the drink was calling for him. He wasn't perfect and Nikole didn't know all about his past. She knew pieces, but not the horrible pieces. He doubted he could raise a child. The dark-haired guy didn't think he would be able to rear a child.

He picked up the drink and took a sip, saying good-bye to his days of sobriety.

---misplaced trust---

Finally Nikole collapsed on the bed. She had managed to talk Angel into leaving her alone. She felt defeated and incredibly stupid. She had let her attackers into her home, near the people she loved and cared about.

Nik just sobbed, feeling subjected to pregnancy hormones and a mix of despair. It felt weird to be so vulnerable. Now she wished Angel was there to cuddle her close and kiss her like he always did when she was upset. Angel always took care of her when she couldn't take care of herself; although there was a time she would never admit dependence on someone—especially a man—she had to admit she was becoming pretty dependent on her husband.

"Why do I always have to be so stubborn and have to do things by myself?" She asked the air silently. "Because I'm an idiot." She answered the question herself. Then the redhead buried her head in the pillow in complete frustration.

A branch crashed against the window of Angel and her master bedroom. Nikole shrieked, revealing the fear of attack that still lurked with her. "Damn you, Alex! At one time I considered you my father. How dare you rape and try to kill me. ! How dare I let myself care about your sorry ass!" She remarked. "I trusted them all. Do I even have two brain cells to rub together?"

The branch crashed against the window again; she jumped again. "Obviously not." She stated as she looked at the window at the dreary sight of a storm outside. Nikole shook her head, feeling ashamed of herself for being so scared. "The one time Angel actually listens to me and leaves, I'm almost frightened to death by a tree. Whatever happened to me being a fearless and reckless agent? I'm starting to miss those days." She muttered to herself.

She took out her phone and almost called Angel to tell him to get back there and protect her from the storm raging outside. She used to like storms, but tonight she didn't. To be honest, she felt like a complete baby and a coward. Sighing, she dropped the phone.

There was another bang against the window. Defiantly, she refused to look, assuming it was the tree. Then there was a bang again, but it sounded like a knock so she looked. A person with a black mask stood there, menacingly.

Blinking, she stared at it, making sure it wasn't a figment of her imagination. After that, she shrieked. Talk about delayed reactions. The door flung open with brute force. Nora stood there. "What's going on?"

Strangely calm now, Nik looked at her. "Is there a person standing outside the window?"

"Holy cow! Yes. Are they going to kill us?" Nora asked, panicking like any person in their right mind would.

"They?" Nik repeated. She had only seen one person.

"There are five of them." Blankly Nik looked at her and then she turned back to the window. The moment she saw the five people standing there she bolted out of bed and grabbed Nora to push her out of the room.

"AST creations. Crap. Crap. Crap." Nik remarked as she dragged Nora down the stairs to find Alexander and Phil in her living room. What are they doing here? She thought briefly. Then her mind went back to the task at hand.

"Yes, those people." The redhead darted over to the security system panel and armed it to full force. The electronic frequency made her head spin crazy with numbers, but she knew the AST kids didn't have enough training to handle it like she did. "Now they can't get in. I think their only plan was to freak me out. Now they sensed the baby from how my thinking in numbers has changed so they are going to wait until he or she is born to see if they have my power."

"Your thinking in numbers changes because you are pregnant?" Nora questioned.

"I always think in numbers. I just have to translate the numbers into words. Now consciously or subconsciously I think of the baby."

"This is really weird." Nora said, shaking her head in disbelief of what she had gotten herself into by coming to live with her aunt and uncle.

"You have no idea." Nik agreed.

Two seconds later, Angel came flying through the door, soaked from head to toe. He entwined Nik in his arms, sighing in relief that she was all right. His chin found its resting place on top of her head. He had been sitting at the bar about to down his drink, but after the first sip he realized how stupid he was being. He had a wonderful wife and an unborn child waiting at home for him.

"What brought this on?" Nik asked quietly.

"My Nikole sense was tingling." He whispered in her ear. Then he turned to Phil and Alexander. "So what are you guys doing here?"

"Dropped by for a visit, considering neither one of us has a life." Alexander answered.

"And what happened?" Angel asked, knowing that Nik would downplay the whole thing.

"Those AST things dropped by." Nora stated as her voice shook.

"Why didn't you call me right away?" He asked Nikole.

"I was trying to be independent."

"Oh, so you mean you were being stupid."