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Lapses of Judgment

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Hours later they were both on the bridge as a young man appeared on the view screen. The captain stood to greet him, "Dr. Bashir I presume?" It's an honor."

"Believe me, Captain the pleasure is all mine," came the reply from the handsome Brit. "You've become quite a legend back home over the last couple years."

"Thank you, Doctor. How is our friend doing?"

"Much better, Captain. On our way here I was able to treat the remainder of his injuries and managed to remove some of his external mechanisms." Bashir glanced down pressing some buttons on his panel. "I'm transporting him to your sickbay now, Captain. He's quite a pleasant man, very grateful to you for your willingness to help them."

"Transport complete, Captain," said Tuvok.

"Thank you, Dr. Bashir. For your kind words and your treatment of Axum. Have a safe trip home. Janeway out." As much as she enjoyed pleasantries, there was a reunion that she didn't want to miss. As the good doctor's image vanished Kathryn walked over and laid her hand on Tom's shoulder. "I'll be in sick bay. Tom, you're with me."

"Aye, sir." They both walked into the turbo lift as the captain tapped her comm badge.

"Janeway to Seven. Meet us in sick bay."

"Already on my way, Captain."

The trio arrived at the sick bay doors at almost the exact moment. Kathryn reached out for Seven before she could enter.

"Do you want to take a minute before you go in?" She asked, though the resistance she felt in her arm clearly told her otherwise.

"Why would I wait?" She was completely baffled. She'd been waiting for this day since she was twenty years old.

"Because," Tom cut in. "You've never seen him outside of Unimatrix Zero. It's not going to be the same. Not at first. He's hurt, still a Borg and he still has his fail-safe device. Chances are though he'll be over-the-moon to see you he won't be able to show it."

"Tom's right. We all know how much he cares for you; just don't set your expectations too high. Not yet anyway." Kathryn reassured and then released her grasp.

"Thank you," she said after a minute of thought. "That had not occurred to me. I am ready now." And with that she walked straight through the doors with a slow exhale, pacing herself.

He was across the room sitting up on the surgical bed while the doctor scanned him. She could tell just by looking that the previous doctor had done more work than she'd expected. He looked more humanoid than Borg—from the waist up anyway. His ocular implant appeared to be the only one left above his neck and his hair was regrown to about half its original length. She could also notice a few regenerated patches where he was recently treated. As he turned his head to see his visitor, a small but noticeable smile grew along his lips. She met his eyes and found herself lost for a moment. She walked closer to him while he stood up and the Doctor, Captain and Tom retreated to the office.

As soon as she was close enough he placed a hand on her cheek. "Annika." A single tear threatened the corner of her eye.

"I was certain I would never see you again," she said. He leaned down and gently kissed her lips.

"You will never have to worry about that again," he promised, kissing her once more. "Now, your Doctor should proceed. I would like free of the implants as soon as possible."

Seeing them part and Axum nod in their direction the group left the office and approached them.

"It's wonderful to see you again, Axum," the captain began. "I won't stay but I wanted to say thank you for what you did all those months ago."

"The thanks are to you, Captain. Without your help we would likely have all died as drones. You saved us, and allowed me to board your vessel. I am forever in your debt," he replied as he took Seven's hand in his own.

Kathryn shook her head, raising her hands in objection, "I wouldn't go that far. Someday I think I would just appreciate hearing the rest of your story. But for now, why don't you let the Doctor and Tom get to work." She turned her attention to Seven. "I'll see you at 20:00 hours," she added before going back to the bridge.

"Yes, Captain," Seven called after her, resentment seething in her voice. The Doctor had brought Axum to lie on the surgical bed so she took a couple steps back to remain out of the way.

"What happens at 20:00 hours?" Axum wondered, looking over at Annika.

"A party the captain is encouraging me to attend." She mildly scowled, "forcing me is more like it."

"Relax, Seven. You never know, you might enjoy yourself," the Doctor challenged. Looking down at Axum he continued, "The crew are having one last formal get together before we dock in the morning. I've tried to ease her into social functions but she doesn't seem to take to them kindly." Seven was irritated at his tone and disliked him speaking as if she wasn't in the room.

"Perhaps she just needs the right escort," Axum answered sending her a kid and compassionate glance.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't expect you will be up to the task this evening either. We're about to begin." The Doctor touched his panel bringing up Axum's vital signs and was prepared. His patient however was scheming. He knew once he'd arrived and seen her—he'd be at that party, one way or another. She'd never have to attend a social function alone again.