Title and episodes from Ingmar Bergman:liberties taken with episode titlesJohn almost doesn’t answer the phone. It’s been a long fucking day on top of a long fucking year. Some days the only thing worse than the job is thinking about retiring. He doesn’t recognize the number but the area code is for LA and there’s a chance it might be Jack.
“Holly?” They don’t talk--haven’t talked in years. He only hears from her if it’s something to do with the kids. The last time Jack had a broken arm and a concussion. He’s Lucy’s emergency contact so it must be Jack. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, except...” She pauses and he hears papers shuffling and murmurs in the background briefly before it’s all cut off. “I had a visit from a film crew. They’re doing a documentary on the twentieth anniversary.”
“Yeah. I figured they came here first so I wanted to give you a heads up.”
He rubs a hand over his head, faint stubble scraping his palm. “How bad is it?”
John doesn’t need to see the shrug--twenty years with somebody and you know their tells.
“So far they’re getting sound bites from a bunch of people that have no clue about it. Most of them weren’t even with the company. You know LA though--everybody wants to be a star.”
Episode 1: Innocence and Panic
When John sees Gennero and not McClane on the directory, it really hits him that Holly’s making a place for herself out here that doesn’t include him. Argyle pegged him right. John never figured she’d make it. When they talked about him coming out here for Christmas, he figured he’d be going home with his family in tow but seeing Holly’s office and the way her boss treats her, he knows that’s not gonna happen.
Knowing how wrong he was short circuits his good intentions and they wind up dragging out the same arguments that got them here in the first place.
Then the shit hits the fan and the whole while all he can think about is being with Holly and the kids. He doesn’t give a fuck where. It’s crazy but he owes Hans Gruber and his band of Merry Men for saving his marriage.
Holly doesn’t think about it often. Oh, she still spends plane rides with her fingers clenched tightly on the arm rests, prayers at the ready, but mostly her life is ordinary and the stories stopped making the rounds of cocktail parties over fifteen years ago. People might recognize the name McClane but Gennero doesn’t blip with them. If she wasn’t still with Nakatomi, it’s possible the film crew wouldn’t even be interested in her.
Everything that happened feels like it happened to somebody else--the kind of person those things happen to--the kind of person John is. Even before Nakatomi, John just seemed to be the, what had he said? The wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time? Except he was the right guy really.
Episode 2: The Art of Sweeping Things Under the Rug
By the time they get to her parent’s house, everything that happened--or at least the details the press actually have--has been running on a loop on the t.v. for hours. There’s no question of them finding a motel. All she wants is to be with her family. The kids are already asleep, oblivious to everything that’s happened and Holly is glad. She’ll worry tomorrow about what to tell them, and keep them away from the t.v. for a couple of days until the big story is something besides the McClanes.
Her parents at least have the decency to wait until after Christmas before the arguments start. Her mother swears if it wasn’t for John, none of these things would happen to their family (her mother has always wished she’d married a nice professional man). He father says if it wasn’t for John, Holly would be dead (he’s been in a little state of hero worship since Nakatomi). Holly thinks both things are true.
John has a hearty ‘fuck off’ ready for the camera crew but they run an endgame around him and go to the head of the JTTF. He gets orders to cooperate completely. His boss wants the publicity. ‘Remind people that the cops are the good guys’. John’s had enough publicity for the rest of his life. The aftermath of the fire sale was pretty much what John imagines hell is like.
After Nakatomi and the airport it was bad but he had Holly and despite the occasional restraining order, she was good with people. That clusterfuck with Simon had shown him that alone, it was a whole different story.
Episode 3: The Illiterates
John is a good cop--he can read crazy, desperate, or afraid--it’s one of the things that keeps him alive. Reading Holly though, has always been where he falls short. The next few Christmases after DC they’d stayed home. No use tempting the fates. Maybe they should have stayed that way--tucked in, them against the world. It wasn’t like they didn’t both try, it’s just that after a while they tried less and less. Daniel was the back breaker. John knows Holly wouldn’t cheat any more than he would--it’s not about that. He’s just a co-worker but Holly likes him. They click the way people do sometimes and watching her smile with somebody else stings like a motherfucker. Daniel’s smart, successful, ambitious, and a decent guy-- the kind of guy Holly’s mother wanted for her, the kind of guy that dick Ellis was wished he was. He’s the guy John’s never gonna be.
The good side is that he doesn’t have to shoot the next person who asks if he’s called Holly yet. The bad side is every fucking other part of it. There’s yelling and crying on both sides and by the time he hangs up the phone he’s got a dead marriage and a headache so bad the only thing that would help is a chainsaw. He’s got his head up his ass anyway according to Holly so it’s not like it would be a big loss if he did cut it off.
He’d told Zeus they’d had an argument. He didn’t say it was a ten year argument with breaks in between when people try and kill them. He didn’t say that when he couldn’t stand LA one fucking second more, he’d packed his shit up and walked out. He’d wanted Holly to prove she needed him more than she needed her career. He didn’t say that he was such an asshole that it was a test,except he was the one that failed--he was the one that fucked their marriage, that fucked his relationship with his kids, that fucked up his own life.
The documentary airs and she watches it against her better judgment. She’s surprised that it’s pretty good. They’re mentioned of course but it’s just a segment. They mostly concentrate on John for the things he did at Nakatomi and later. Holly knows that must have pissed him off and she feels a little bad that she’s relieved that the focus is on him rather than her and the kids. It’s not sensational and most of their effort went into comparing pre and post 911 world responses to terrorism.
Sometimes, when she was feeling particularly melancholy--usually after too many glasses of wine--Holly used to think a movie about their life would be some cliched romantic comedy. Spunky, modern girl meets macho, old-fashioned boy. Sparks fly and of course that means they’re meant to be. Improbable romance ensues and everybody lives happily ever after.
Only happily ever after depends on where you stop the story.
Episode 4: The Vale of Tears
It’s always been easier to let John be the ‘bad guy’ in the break up. Holly knows it’s cowardly but he’s a thousand miles away and she’s with the kids every day. She’s the one that faces their friends and her co-workers. When Lucy calls up raving about her dad and some kid who apparently helped him save the world, she sounds like she did when she was five and thought her daddy hung the moon. She sounds like she did before everything fell apart the first time and never quite got put back together the same way again.
Holly knows that some day John is going to save the world and the world, for once, isn’t going to return the favor. She spent half her life waiting for that call and it’s strange to know she won’t be the one that gets it. Holly’s chest constricts and her breath comes sharp and painful like she’s standing in a cold wind. She stands there, listening to Lucy and crying about something she didn’t think she had any tears left for.
John is tense and waiting after they finish film, but it doesn’t get crazy, at least not any crazier than his life usually is anyway. Lucy tells him it’s because nobody really watches documentaries. Al calls him though and John hasn’t talked to him in years--gets but doesn’t send a yearly Christmas card. John was a petty, bitter motherfucker and after he left California, Al just reminded him of what he didn’t have anymore. He sucks at making the first move, and he’s not too great at making the second one either but maybe he’s had enough head injuries to finally learn something.
“Hey, Pal.” Al’s booming laugh comes over the line and John finds he’s grinning wider than he has in a long time .
Episode 5: In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World
Really, anybody that was surprised that some gun wielding nut with a homemade bomb in his messenger bag tried to hijack Lucy’s graduation ceremony has never met the Gennero-McClane family.
The guy is a disgruntled student, angry that he’s not graduating--in other words a complete amateur. It takes her dad less than two minutes to disarm him and within five, he’s sobbing on her mother’s shoulder while her dad calls for a unit.
“Wow, your parents are pretty awesome!” Keely is recording the whole thing on her phone and Lucy knows it’ll be up on Youtube before they get back to the dorm. “Also, your dad is kind of hot.”
Lucy reaches out and smacks the phone down. “Yeah, we’re really not gonna go there.”
They’re still on the podium, arguing about something but there’s no fire in it. Not like she remembers when she was little. The thing is, her parents have been apart for fifteen years. She doesn’t really remember a time when they didn’t argue. She knows there must have been a time when they were just happy--maybe before California, before her mom was Holly Gennero of the Nakatomi corporation, before her dad became a big damn hero, but she doesn’t remember it. It got washed away in all the bad stuff. Lucy glances back at the podium. The argument is over now, but they’re still talking, quietly--intensely. She doesn’t remember, but she hopes they do.