Actors sometimes don’t know what they’re doing posing for pictures together. There they are, a part of a cast, at some event, posing with their cast mates, all to do their bit to promote their project and get folks excited about seeing it and them on the screen. Little do they realize, one actor posing with another actor, even on opposite ends of the pose, even when the characters those actors play in that particular project don’t have any time together on screen or intersect at all really in that project, can spark all sorts of ideas in those of us on the other side of the fourth wall.
Such a thing happened to this viewer upon seeing Damian on one end and Costa Ronin on the other in a promo shot from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. You see, Costa Ronin as Yevgeny Gromov in Homeland, Season 7, created the worst hell imaginable for Carrie Mathison. The same Carrie Mathison who Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody had loved so untenably in Seasons 1 – 3 of Homeland. Brody, Carrie’s one true love and the father of her child, and Gromov, her most recent and most violent nemesis on stage together? How could such a juxtaposition not light a match on the imagination? A fanfic must be written! And it was. Here’s Chapter One of a multi-chapter treatment, with a chapter posted every Friday till it’s done. A window into what it might have looked like had Brody and Gromov intersected in Homeland and Brody and Carrie had another turn.
“So how’d you end up here?”
It took a beat for Brody to realize that the kid sitting in the computer terminal next to him had said something. “Me?” he said. “Uh…I was going to be a teacher…before.” He trailed off and turned back to his keyboard.
“Teaching what? English?” The kid seemed hell-bent on continuing the conversation. Maybe he didn’t realize where he was and that he wasn’t there to make friends.
“Sort of.” Brody turned to face the boy. “Look, this stuff is sort of on the down low here, if you haven’t realized. Not really the place to share stories, you know?”
“Yeah, man, I get it,” the boy mumbled. “Just making small talk.” He seemed genuinely apologetic, making Brody feel bad for being so cold to him.
Seeing the boy sulk back over his keyboard, Brody sighed. “So. Now you know I was going to be a teacher,” he said. “Tell me, what brings you here?”
The kid’s mood didn’t lighten at Brody’s extension of an olive branch. Continuing to tap keys at his computer, he mumbled, “Just needed to get out of my basement, I guess.”
Brody chuckled and turned back to tapping keys too. He couldn’t begrudge the kid for trying to make connections. When Brody was first recruited to this place, he had been the same. After so many years in therapy, building himself up to be a functional human being again, finally to meet some people who looked like him and talked like him had been a gift.
The guys at the computers around him were mostly younger, same age and same lanky build as the Vice President’s son, that beautiful boy who Dana briefly dated. Or the age he would be now if he hadn’t been blown into bits.
Brody’s mouth twisted at the memory of the Langley bombing and he pulled himself inwards, smaller, as he stared at his computer screen. It was the moment his life had changed for good. The moment he knew there’d be no turning back. No matter how often he looked at their names on his phone, or their pictures, his family was gone. They were all gone, he may as well be too. Or so he had thought then. Before this place.
Back then, there was no next place, as his handler in Caracas had told him. Giving into the solace of heroin-induced numbness poured into his veins, Brody had believed it to be true. The only true thing, the end. But then they came to get him. Save him. Bring him back together to do their bidding. One last time.
Brody threw his head back and inhaled. He turned away from the screen in front of him to focus on the massive screen at the front of the room, a screen projecting all their individual screens and the work they were doing. A hive of sorts, each bee busily tapping away. Tracing the blinking screens induced a sort of trance. Brody continued to remember.
Truth was he’d been done long before Caracas, even before the bombing. He’d been done the minute he stepped off the plane from Germany. But they kept pulling him back in like some paler sicker version of Michael Corleone. Whatever happened to Michael at the end? Funny how with some stories, you remember everything but how it ended.
You’d think that being suspended from a crane, a rope tight around his neck, would have been the final blow. The final release into oblivion. But no such luck. Only thing his hanging revealed to Brody was the failure of the human body to give in to annihilation. You can want it to be over with every fiber of your being. But the body has other ideas. Selfishly grasping for air, struggling against the dark. He remembered hanging there, seeing Carrie climbing the fence, screaming his name. He saw her face, tears frozen into a twisted anguish, her face mirroring his own. He saw his pain reflected on her face so clearly.
His death, yet another betrayal: Her seeing it. How could he let the rope take him and leave her in that pain? So, his body thrashed and fought, as if drawing life from her. The life she was carrying inside her. He wanted it to be done, but he wanted her more. That was the last thought he remembered before he slept, the oxygen leaving his brain. The next memory he had was waking up in a bare cell on a thin mattress, mason blocks for walls and a small high window letting in the only light.
How he had survived the hanging, whether he was still in Iran, and if not, who had gotten him out and helped him heal, all a mystery to him for months. Months of crews of people working on him, getting his mind back. Finally giving him the time and space he needed to address the trauma, the demons that had taken up residence in his mind more than a decade ago, when he first went to war and was taken hostage. The counselors at this place, whomever they were, worked on pushing all the pain out and away, making it all distant. As if it had all happened to someone else. Hypnosis, meds, talk therapy, they’d used every tool in their arsenal to bring a damaged and defeated mind back to the possibilities of living.
The counselors would periodically share small details about where he was and who they were just for the purpose of maintaining his trust, keeping him open and talking. Eventually, Brody realized that all he learned from them had come from a script they had been given to follow. It didn’t matter, because he was free. A new man: cured.
“There’s a man who walks beside me, he is who I used to be.” Where was that song from? Sounded like something he’d heard in a dream. “I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me.”
Who he used to be was a distant memory, coming up like bile every now and then, but mostly far away. He forgot nothing from those far away days, but, by some miracle, his mind had been rewired. He was now resolute in building something new. His own new car smell. That is, if not for the nights alone in his room. Because it was when the world was dark and he was alone that he remembered the weight of her arm over his back as they lay spooned together. And her hand on his face, the curve of her thumb lining up cell to cell with the curve of his jaw. Her hair and his fingers tangled up in it, cupping her head as he drew her close. The memories of her breath and skin were maddening, but, thankfully, sleep descended soon enough, providing him a respite for one more day.