Maximillian Pohl took operations very seriously, and he had taken pains to make sure this one went flawlessly. His instruments were arranged, the table prepared, and music played quietly in the background. Practice had honed his precision to perfection. All that remained was to do the work.

He grasped the small paper boat Katriel had given him with a pair of surgical forceps and dipped its bow lightly into the melted candlewax, turning the little craft to coat the underside completely and then holding it aloft to let the excess fall away. With great care, he set the boat upside down onto the binder clip he had replicated expressly for the purpose and examined his work.

Underneath a smooth, even coat of wax, the paper of the boat had grown dark and weathered-looking. He sat back, satisfied, and looked to his left. A pile of paper boats lay on the table next to him, the quality of their waxy sealant decreasing toward the bottom of the stack. He swept them all into the trash bin beside his desk, blew out the candle and crossed his arms, looking up at the blank ceiling of his quarters.

In retrospect, the whole situation had been in poor health from the start. Katriel Sedai had treated him as a patient, a terrible way to begin a potential relationship. He felt keenly, too, that without her intervention he wouldn’t have handled the stasis unit situation nearly so well; having someone who could directly perceive his psyche in some way assure him that he wasn’t losing his mind had been a powerful tonic.

So he’d let his gratitude get the better of him, maybe. It wasn’t so unreasonable. She was eminently capable at her job, walking the tightrope between professional distance and empathy without resorting to artificial chill or cheer. In a station full of people who liked the sounds of their own voices - and he admitted freely that he was one of them - she employed a pleasant economy of words. She smiled at his jokes. He wondered if that was part of her job description, too.

She hadn’t spoken of any attachments, but when would she have had the opportunity? All their contact had been professional, until his ill-advised invitation. At least he’d found out about Svenson before she’d been required to tell him herself. He could explain his mistake, apologize, make a little joke about transference, and they could put the matter behind them.

The boat was dry, now. He plucked it from the makeshift base and put it to rest in a little box. The scent of smoke from the extinguished candle lingered.