Matt gets the impression that John used to drink a lot: there is no beer in the trash, no beer in the fridge. The thing is, even people who don't drink alcohol regularly usually have something, for the holidays, or just in case some old friends come over. At first Matt had thought it was because John had dumped it because Matt didn't look of age. Even when he'd told him how old he was, that doesn't change that there is no beer in sight. John does have friends, even friends out of the NYPD, there's this Argyle who tells Matt about the first –and last – night he drove a limousine. He's neat, and John calls him "kid" quite fondly, and Argyle only retorts with "old man", like John's his dad or something.
He gets bits and pieces of the stories that are John's life, from his friends. Even though it took only, like, two minutes to find out everything the newspapers had on John. (The reporter, Richard Thornburg – he still has a restraint order on Holly, John's ex-wife- and Matt isn't going to ask her why, or John.) It feels like it's not enough, not nearly, not enough to explain why John is the way he is, or why he doesn't drink.
Alan Powell comes by, every Christmas Eve like clock work – it's their "anniversary". Only he gets to talk about Holly with John freely, and from listening (because Matt is good at that, even if when he talks about stuff he cares about it never seems to sink in) he learns about what John went through inside Nakatomi Tower. There is a lot that Argyle doesn't seem to know, and Matt gets the feeling that Al and John have it planned that way, to protect "the kid" – a man in his own right, full grown.
He also learns why John doesn't go into airports, or on planes. Still, every Christmas, the Washington Dulles International Airport sends him a card and a basket; Matt doesn't know what's in it, as John never opens them. There are a few boxes worth of stuff that John just keeps, unopened, he won't throw it away, but won't open it. Matt thinks its probably thank-you cards, and letters, maybe gifts, from survivors, from people who think John is a hero, their savior. All it does is make John remember those he couldn't save – and selfishly, among one of the ones he did save, his own wife Holly.
Then there's Zeus, not the Greek god, but a man who owns a shop in Harlem that John always stops by if they come around. The one time Matt stops in without John, he gets sort of nervous, he's not a racist, but having upwards of ten or so teenagers to guys and girls his age, just staring at him, glaring at him, or laughing at him, well, it brings back high school days really keenly, and Matt in school was even less cool then Matt the hacker (who almost ended America).
The shop sells computer parts, which Matt thinks is kind of cool and he goes in to check them out without John hanging around aimlessly: Zeus, he just laughs at him, at them – or with them all - and Matt laughs right back. He knows nothing is going to happen to him, he's just some geek hero, and that's just what Zeus tells his kids. He has John's sense of humor; Zeus claps on the shoulder and tells his kids to go to school, they grumble and roll their eyes, clearly having finished middle school, high school, and college with those very words ringing in their ears every day. Matt talks to them, eventually, when two guys who went to a school that was almost bombed by Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber who tried to take down Nakatomi Tower while John McClane was in it.
They tell him John and Zeus are heroes, and they tell him that no one in Harlem plays Simon says. Matt gets bold enough to ask about the beer thing, because it seems like something Zeus would know, no one else would say, he tells him that the day that he met John, he was hangover, that it nearly cost lives – that he was a borderline alcoholic, but stopped – just stopped drinking. It ruined his life with Holly and their kids, and nearly killed John – and most unforgivably to John, nearly killed the people he was supposed to help keep safe as a NYPD cop.
So John talks about beer, sometimes, but it's really only talk, to mock himself, to tease out painful memories of why: he doesn't drink or get drunk, and Matt can live with that. He wonders sometimes, what John would be like drunk, and when it comes up with Lucy, she gives him Holly's number – and Matt thinks it's the bravest thing he's done, calling her.
"Hi, um, Holly?" Matt begins, knowing he can't call her McClane, because she isn't married to John, but not knowing if she goes by Gennero.
"Yes? Who is this?" She's all business, and Matt fidgets and keeps his voice down even when he knows John is out.
"It's, uh, Matt, ma'am." Matt doesn't know how to talk to her, and there's this pause and he thinks, this is stupid, she probably doesn't even know.
"Ah, you live with John, Lucy's told me." When put like that, it makes Matt cheeks burn, here he is, living with a man and sharing his bed and on the phone with his ex-wife – who does he think he is, and why did he think this was a good idea?
"Yes, that's right ma'am, I – uh…had a question." Holly huffs at him, and Matt realizes she's laughing at him, silently, but still laughing.
"About John's drinking, yes, Lucy mentioned that you've been asking about that." Matt feels like an idiot, because with computers he's brilliant and there are few better, but with people? He always manages to be obvious, to screw something up.
"Y-yeah." Matt stutters out, and wonders if hanging up is an option. "Listen, this was stupid. I'll…I'll just go."
"Don't." Holly orders, sharp, and Matt freezes: he recognizing the tone for John's own – and he wonders if she learnt it from him, or if he learnt it from her.
"Don't leave him, Matt. My daughter, I trust her instincts, she gets them from him - John has always makes trustworthy friends – even in a crisis. I should say, he's especially good at that. It's saved his life more then once. I'm not blind; I know what you are to him. Your good for him, you are what he needs. I loved him, not the hero, but John is both, you see? I learnt that late, too late." Matt's done his research, he knows the problem with John's and Holly's marriage began before Nakatomi Tower.
"Lucy was young, but it wasn't being a cop that drove John to drink, it was his drive to be both the man I loved and the hero who he is. I asked him, every day, to come back alive. Loving a cop is hard, loving a hero is…well, it wasn't in me. It might have changed things, if I hadn't asked that of him. He saw a lot of death, and it tore into him, that he couldn't just recklessly charge in, to help, to save people. He drank the pain away and the pain in him, it was more then the love I had in me – but not more then the love he had, you see?" Matt feels still and calm inside, and he realizes that hearing that had eased something in him, something that had itched and worried at him. Holly seemed to like him enough to tell him this, but not enough to want John back and ruin what they had. Matt feared that if Holly ever wanted John back, she would have him. Matt wasn't anyone's replacement, and John had never said he would be – but Matt, well, he had trust issues.
"Thank you." He says, full of that feeling.
"Take care of yourself, and you'll take care of him." Is her final advice, a good-bye all her own (for she doesn't say good-bye, just like John doesn't). Then there is the ring-tone, and Matt hangs up, his research done. John is his to keep.