Jacobi didn't want to take the mission, but when Kepler tells him he has to, he really and truly doesn't have a choice. He tried to play off that he was sick, that he had something else going on, and any number of other excuses that Kepler saw right through, turning down every single one. Maxwell wanted to ask what was wrong with the mission, but didn't get the time to before they were all piling into the a surveillance van to go take on the mission.
It was a truly simple one, just surveillance, gathering intel, no engagement, which made them all pissy but the higher ups hadn't been 100% pleased with their performance on the last mission, which meant they got stuck with the shitty job for now.
It was New Year's Eve and it was a house party. A bunch of people there, a bunch of alcohol flowing, and a bunch of tiny short-range mics and cameras planted all over the house so that they could keep an eye on any possible deals that were happening, and keep tabs one who was really associated with who. The three of them were all huddled together in the back of the van, a draft keeping them uncomfortably cool, but there was no chance for them to go exchange for a different van.
"Jacobi." Kepler had had enough of the silence after about half an hour, which was about 29 minutes longer than almost any other human would have been able to handle. Maxwell had headphones on to listen to the various conversations that were happening in the household, and Jacobi was fixated on flipping in between screens. Kepler was really there more to supervise his subordinates, the ones who were more used to the grunt work of surveillance, but even he can only last so long with people he could somewhat consider his friends.
"Yes, sir?" Jacobi responded, keeping his eyes on the screens that showed the party going on inside.
"Why didn't you want to come on this mission?" The question drew Jacobi away from the video feeds, causing him to look at Kepler slightly wide eyed.
"Don't play innocent with me, Jacobi. You clearly didn't want to come on this mission tonight. I didn't press the matter earlier, but there's only so much silence even I can take. So I'm asking you why."
Jacobi looked back at the video feed, chuckling to himself a bit. "I, uh. Don't think you really wanna hear that story, sir. It'd put a bit of a downer on the night."
Kepler leaned back a bit in his seat and seemed to say "try me" with just his body language. Maxwell looked up and looked at the other two, somehow sensing the tension in the air, but Jacobi waved her off while Kepler gestured for her to take the headphones off. "Is.... Is something wrong? Jacobi? Kepler, sir?"
"Nothing's wrong, Maxwell. Jacobi was just going to explain why he didn't want to take the mission today."
"No I was not, I was just telling Colonel Kepler that the story is a bit of a downer and I don't want to ruin the night, so I'm not going to tell the story." Jacobi glared at Kepler, but there was no real malice behind it since he knew that if Kepler wanted, he could either kick Jacobi's ass or ruin his life, and probably both at the same time.
"I mean, I would be interested in the story, even if it is a downer. Listening to a bunch of accountants arguing at a New Year's party is quite possibly the most boring thing I've ever had to listen to, and that's after two years of working with you losers." She smiled at the end of her statement to try and soften the blow, but both knew she didn't really mean it.
Jacobi just sighed, turning completely away from the video feeds to face the other two. "Obviously I used to work on a bomb squad. That's why I'm here, and why I know what I know and do what I do. I used to have a spectacular team. It was me, Radio Bob, and Teller. Teller.... Reminds me a lot of you, Colonel. He was in charge of our little team, and highly ambitious. I joined their team on New Year's Day, and had to go through a year of probation, learning the ropes, learning from the best. And so on New Year's Eve a few years ago, it was my last night on probation, and Teller was three diffusals away from having the district record, and beating that record was the most important thing to him that night. And I fucked it up. I questioned one of his decisions that almost got us killed, calling him out on not following all the protocol. I was angry we had all almost died. And I accidentally spilled a piping hot coffee all over his hands when he was one bomb away from the record. And he was pissed, I had never seen Teller quite that mad. But at the end of the night, right before the ball dropped, signaling the end of my year of probation, we cracked some beers in the back of our van, and enjoyed New Year's."
"That's kind of a cute story though, Jacobi. It's not that bad," Maxwell said when Jacobi took a pause.
He was looking down at his hands. "That's because the story isn't over." He took a heavy sigh, and looked back up at the other two. "I made it through my year of probation, and ruined Teller's attempt at the record. So of course he immediately decided that he was going to go for the record again starting the next day. And so went another year of lots of bombs and close calls, all the good stuff that goes along with bomb diffusal. And the next year, at New Year's again, he was only two bombs short of taking the record this time. So he was even more focused on the goal. And yet again, I had done something to piss him off, so he made me stay in the van while he and Bob went in for the one that was gonna tie him for the record. So I was running surveillance, running the radios, and Teller's hand moved a little to the left while he was cutting. And he hit the wrong wire." Maxwell gasped, and Kepler's face didn't really move, but Jacobi could tell that he finally realized that pushing Jacobi to tell this story was maybe the wrong move. "So it went off, and he and Bob went with it, because someone nearby had yelled at him to hurry." Jacobi leaned back and stretched. "So, that's why I tell you both to shut the hell up when I'm taking care of bombs, and why I hate New Year's." He turned back around towards the video feeds, and ignored the other two while they made eye contact to realize that neither of them ever knew about these other people that Jacobi once worked with. The story made so much sense, since Jacobi always got twitchy when he was the one left in the van, always practically refusing to do it, why he always tensed up when he didn't have visual confirmation on both Maxwell and Kepler when he heard an explosion go off somewhere.
Maxwell took the headphones off from around her neck and got out of her seat to cross the small distance of the van so that she could give Jacobi a hug. He jumped a little when she did that, since he wasn't expecting any kind of sympathy from either of them, and certainly not a hug. "I'm sorry, Jacobi. That's terrible."
He half-heartedly shrugged her off him, not really getting rid of her but at least loosening her grasp. "It's fine, that was.... Four years ago at this point. That's why I was in such a shitty shape when I joined Goddard, but weren't we all. Join in a shitty place, probably die in one equally as shitty."
It had been three years since that New Year's Eve where he explained his hatred for the holidays to Maxwell and Kepler. His team.
Almost no one else back on Earth even really knew them, at least not in the way he did, and the few people that did know them kind of hated him, so it wasn't as though he could necessarily hang out with them.
They were back on Earth after the whole debacle surrounding the star Wolf 359. They had gone through all the Goddard mandated debriefing, and he had gotten the leftover belongings of Alana Maxwell and Colonel Warren Kepler, as the only person left alive that they were actually close to. He was sitting back in his apartment, left in the same state of disarray as when he had left, Maxwell having come over that morning early to make sure he actually remembered to get up and get to Goddard on time. He hadn't done a whole lot since returning to Earth - Goddard was still paying him, since there was no one left to tell them not to, but even then he only had so long until that ran out. It had been about two months, and the calendar had decided to come back around to New Year's. He had the ball drop on the TV, a picture of him with Maxwell and Kepler in one hand, and a bottle of scotch in the other. Next to him lay another picture, more joyous than the one in his hand, more wear and tear on the edges. The back of it read "Midland, Teller, Radio Bob, 20XX New Year's." The one in his hand read "Jacobi, Kepler, Maxwell, 20XX Christmas Party."
On the table in front of him sat another stack of paperwork. Paperwork for someone named Martin Cramer, and a new job in England working with MI-6. But he didn't want to worry about that right now. Instead he had a list of names and faces he needed to remember as the ball dropped.
And now, Daniel Jacobi.