The minute we learned that Homeland would be filming in New York City this year, an image immediately popped into my head. I tossed it around back channel a few times, and found the idea just wouldn’t go away. It persisted, demanding to be fleshed out in a bigger space than a chat window.
Now that Homeland S6 has started on Showtime, the thought of Carrie Mathison running into Bobby Axelrod is still haunting my watching of the show. True, Carrie lives and works in Brooklyn. Her world is obviously very different from the Midtown Manhattan, financial district, upstate NY, and Hamptons mansion world of Bobby Axelrod. Truth be told, the world of Homeland doesn’t seem as married to place as the world of Billions is. Carrie would be Carrie anywhere in the world. But Bobby, I’m sensing, is truly Bobby only within the borders of the Empire State. Regardless, this season, the two characters are within miles of each other, so why the heck not wonder about something totally improbable yet perfectly delicious to imagine? (Also, fun to note: Max is back this season after being gone the previous season of Homeland, and he’s in my story!)
Believe me, I realize full well that the idea is as soapy as heck. Nonetheless, still super (bittersweet) fun to visualize and a relief to get down in words. So, here you have it: a short fictional encounter, a one-shot if you will, between Bobby Axelrod and Carrie Mathison. Enjoy!
Standard disclaimer: I own nothing, neither of these characters, nor their history, real or imagined, not the coffee they share, nor New York City, their current home.
Somebody That I Used to Know
“I needed the feed off the wire like yesterday, Max. What the fuck?” Carrie leans into her phone and stamps her foot impatiently. The arm not holding the phone is jutting out, her hand planted firmly on her hip. The posture allows her to take up twice the space that her thin frame would otherwise occupy.
“It’s coming Carrie. I.T. needs more time to decrypt,” Max meekly tries to get her to calm down.
“Is this the CIA I’m working with here? A tag crew in some boiler room in West Baltimore would do a better job getting a tap on these guys.” She sighs heavily into the phone and then exhales her exasperation. “Alright, alright, just get it to me as soon as you can.”
“Where are you? I’ll ping as soon as I get the file,” Max says.
“Dropped my kid to day care, about to get some coffee, you want something?”
There’s a long pause on the other end of the line. “Hello, Max…you still there?”
“Uh, yeah, are you asking if I want coffee, and you’re getting it for me?”
“Yeah, I guess I am. That’s the way it works…usually.”
“Uh, okay, does it have to be coffee? How about an ice tea? Maybe one of their mint ones?”
“Yeah, okay.” Carrie starts to hang up until she hears Max continuing to talk.
“Hold on a sec,” he says. Carrie hears background voices: a woman’s voice saying “The queen getting coffee? Can I get in on that?”
Another long pause later, Max continues, “Yeah, Carrie, you still there?”
“Yes,” Carrie states flatly.
“Celeste would like a grande pumpkin spice latte, and Rudy’d like a grande Pike Place with a bit of that chocolate powder they got.” Max pauses again, then finishes the order. “And George wants a tall capp with extra foam.”
“Okay. I’m hanging up now Max.” Carrie clicks the phone off, drops it into the pocket of her blazer and shakes her head, muttering. “Jeez, give an inch.”
While Carrie has been on the phone, a stocky little man with a beard has walked up behind her in line. Carrie senses him standing a bit too close and turns to shoot him a glare.
Through a lascivious smile, the bearded man murmurs, “Demanding co-workers, hunh?…I know the feeling.”
Carrie rolls her eyes and drones back, “Yeah, something like that.” She continues to look at him with disdain, examining him up and down, stopping at his feet which are nearly touching hers.
He looks down to where she’s looking, and finally realizing he may be standing too close, inches back in line.
Carrie starts to turn back around to face the front of the line, but as the bearded man moves back, she catches a glimpse behind him of a taller man with red hair, looking down at his phone. She focuses on the freckles on his left temple and squints her eyes. She looks away abruptly, and then haltingly looks back at the tall man’s lowered head. She shakes her head no. She resolutely turns away from the bearded man, and the man standing behind him, and frowns in thought. She continues to wait in the line, her attention now diverted by the conversation behind her.
“Hey, Axe, fuck this line,” the bearded man declares. “Don’t we have to get back uptown for that thing? Get one of your minions to stand here for you.”
“Hey, why don’t YOU head on back uptown for that thing. Get them primed up for my grand entrance,” Axe responds. “I’d like to stand here and wait like a normal person for once, if that’s alright with you.” He taps his phone on the bearded guy’s shoulder and mumbles, “Minion.”
Out of the corner of her vision, Carrie sees the bearded buy tap the tall guy on the arm as he starts to walk out of the shop muttering a clipped, “Later.” She then hears the bearded guy shuffle off and the taller man behind him move up in line to stand directly behind her.
Carrie’s turn in line comes up, she gives her order to the barista and moves to the pick-up line. She can’t help but to glance back as the tall red head gives his order.
She stares at him, then shuts her eyes tight, demanding the thoughts to go away. She tries to look anywhere but at his face, but her eyes keep going back and she reluctantly gazes at him again.
Her mind is whirling with possibilities. It couldn’t be him, she knows. Despite the obvious fact that he’s dead, she watched him die, it’s the hair, Brody would never do his hair up in a pompadour like that even after the Marine cut grew out. The clothes, on the other hand, are kind of like something Brody would wear: a ratty gray t-shirt, jeans. But then there are the shoes: Pumas, casual tennis shoes, but immaculate, like he must have ten pairs of the same exact shoe at home to trade out when one gets a scuff.
More than anything else, it’s the way he’s carrying himself. Carrie notices that, despite the well-worn shirt and the nondescript jeans, the man’s sight line remains steady above all the other heads in the place, like he’s looking down on it all from some great height, like everyone in the place is here to do his bidding. Definitely not a look that Brody could ever carry, looking as he always did like a wounded bird, like the air would sear his skin if it ever blew too hard. The only time Brody looked focused and sure was when he had a gun in his hand. This guy doesn’t need a gun. He looks like he could be the king of New York, if New York had kings.
After giving his order and moving over to the pick-up line, the man resumes looking at his phone, his right thumb scrolling methodically over the screen. He suddenly moves that hand off the phone, frowns at his thumb and spins it around a bit as if to exercise it.
Carrie has been watching surreptitiously and now turns towards the man. “Scrolling thumb stress injury. The new workplace hazard,” she says through a mischievious smile.
Bobby snorts and responds, “Yeah, right?” He looks away from his thumb and the phone to smile at the voice. When he makes eye contact, his smile vanishes and comes back as another kind of smile.
Now that he is looking right at her, Carrie cannot help but to continue to stare at his face. She’s incredulous, her eyes quizzical and searching, in shock. Through all of that, she can’t hold back a sardonic smile creeping up on her own face in response to the reaction he’s shown to seeing her.
She shakes away her smile and the thoughts, frowns and looks away, her eyes tearing up.
“Hey, was it something I said? You okay?” Bobby’s voice is nearly a whisper.
Carrie’s coffee order has arrived, all five cups of it. She clumsily squeezes it all into a four cup holder. Welcoming an excuse to not look at him again, she sniffs away the tears and waves it all away. “Oh, it’s nothing, haven’t lived in the city in a while, need to get used to the air.”
She struggles to balance the coffee. Despite her resistance, the perpetual internal war she fights against her own instincts, she looks up again at his face, her eyes tracing every freckle and line, finally landing on the blue of his eyes.
“Go out to the water or into the park, especially on a day when a breeze is blowing, you’d never know you’re in a city,” Bobby offers.
Carrie has barely registered what he has said. Fuck, the way his eyes change a shade of blue when he smiles. Brody never smiled like that. He didn’t live long enough to ever smile like that. She nods, feigning acknowledgement of his suggestion, his kindly offered remedy for her tears. “Wh-what…what’s your name?”
“Bobby. Bobby Axelrod.” He sticks out his hand.
Carrie balances the coffee holder in one hand and takes his hand with the other, giving it a squeeze. He winces a bit. “Oops, sorry there. Put some ice on that and stay off the phone for a while, doctor’s orders.”
Bobby smiles. “You’re a doctor?” He puts his phone away in a pocket, freeing up his hands to help her with the overloaded coffee tray. “Hey, you need some help with that?”
Carries has finally balanced the coffee tray and waves him away. “No, I’m good, it’s fine. And, nope, not a doctor. Don’t even play one on TV.”
He shrinks back a bit from her refusal for help and starts massaging his right hand with his left while still gazing at her face. As he’s doing that, Carrie notices a scar on his left hand. A thin straight line, the width of a pen knife blade.
She gapes at the scar, speechless. The coffee goes off balance a bit again, some spilling out into the tray. She hurries to set it right.
He notices her staring at his hand. He touches the scar. “Surfing accident.”
Carrie furrows her brow and mouths, “Really?”
“No, you got me. Got it fixing my kids’ bikes.”
She nods and mouths “Ah”. “You have kids?”
Instinctively, he pulls out his phone, scrolls through to find a picture and holds it up to her. “Yeah, two boys.”
Carrie nods at the picture and smiles. She puts the drink tray down on an empty table and takes out her own phone to show him a picture. “Here’s mine, a girl. Frannie.”
He smiles and nods, then looks perplexed for a bit still looking at the picture, like the girl is someone he should recognize but can’t quite. “She’s beautiful.”
Carrie’s hand quivers as she’s holding the phone showing him the picture. She quickly puts her phone away and scrambles to pick up the drink tray. She flashes a feeble smile.
He still looks puzzled, this time at her trembling, but doesn’t say anything.
“I-I’m sorry, you remind me of someone. You look just like ….someone I used to know.”
Bobby nods, no longer confused. “Nope, still Bobby Axelrod, born and raised in Yonkers. New Yorker for life,” he says. “Guess I’ve got one of those faces.”
Carrie nods back, satisfied with his answer. She exhales away the whirling thoughts and grows calmer, less shaky. Her eyes still drinking it all in.
“I’m Carrie. Carrie Mathison.”