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Long story short: Happy holidays, Jacobi.

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“Ah, yes. Pryce and Carter six-fourteen. That brings back memories.”

Jacobi holds his breath. Please don’t, please don’t.

“Did I ever tell you…”

Oh no.

“…about the Valentine's Day Incident? That was back in 2003, during that mission in Europe, right after…”

They had been working together for years. And from day one Kepler had been sharing these stories of his. Admittedly, the first one was pretty exciting. So was the second. It was all fun and games – for a few weeks.

“…and so by the time I arrived at the scene, the place was an absolute mess. They had not even bothered to…”

In retrospect, he had been too naive that first month. Just a month. That’s how long it took him to realise there is no way to wiggle out of a Kepler Story.

“…finally, after three days of walking we ran into this farmer, who kindly offered us some water. Which turned out to not be water at all. Haha! Naturally I much prefer a finely aged whiskey, but alas, we couldn’t refuse…”

Kepler’s stories could be triggered by anything. Trying to avoid a trigger was like walking through a mine field blindfolded and expecting to come out unscathed. It was simply impossible.

“…only just in time to defuse that bomb, just 2 seconds left, quite a feat…”

Trying to distract Kepler helped – or so Jacob had thought at first. He had tried, Maxwell had tried, Lovelace and the rest of the Hephaestus crew had tried. Inevitably they would always end up having to hear the story anyway. He had learned the hard way that it is better to accept one’s faith and get it over with. Gracefully, preferably with enough self-control to refrain from visibly rolling his eyes.

“…which is why I’m glad I got rid of my mohawk just the week before…”

He admires Kepler. A lot. But his feelings about Kepler’s stories are mixed at best. No one knows if they are true. No one dares ask. Mostly they are longwinded and boring, but admittedly Jacobi is in awe that someone can come up with so much… bullshit. And then there is the tiny spark of fear that these ridiculous, unbelievable stories may actually be true, and what does that say about his colleague?

“…take note of my trick with that yoga mat, Jacobi, because you never know when…”

But above all, he feels that if he never has to hear another story in his life, it’s still too soon. You’d think the man has to run out of stories at some point, but at this point Jacobi has given up all hope. He’s convinced ten years from now he will still be hearing them. Jacobi’s mind is starting to wander. Thankfully Kepler has never quizzed him on any of his stories, but if he’s not careful he will have to hear the same story twice.

“…thankfully, as a pyro-gourmaniac…”

He tunes out completely. Does the man never stop? Jacobi desperately tries to focus on something, anything else. He tries to look attentive, like he is most definitely paying attention, and shifts his focus to Kepler’s mouth. His stupid, attractive mouth. No, Daniel, stop that.

“…and it turns out that the holiday cheer was alive and well. Who would’ve thought?”

Right. What was Kepler saying again? Holiday cheer. Jacobi tries to focus on the words, the actual words, dammit, Daniel, just as Kepler leans in.

“Long story short: That’s how I single-handedly saved Christmas. Happy holidays, Jacobi.”