April 20th. A day with odd cultural connotations, and a day on which Sarah Walker had personally never partaken in any of the so-called traditions associated with that day.
Sarah often wondered how her life might've been different if she had done some experimentation when younger. The truth of the matter, however, was that she never felt the urge to do so.
However, when she walked into the Buy More on that Monday morning, she began to suspect that she had accidentally taken something. She wasn't sure what, but she knew that something was very, very wrong.
The first thing that tipped Sarah off was that Morgan was behind the customer service desk, but he wasn't wearing his Buy More uniform. Instead, he was wearing an unbuttoned gray collared shirt over a white t-shirt, and he looked morose.
Sarah approached the customer service desk slowly. "Morgan," she asked, "what's going on?"
Morgan shrugged and made a face. "I don't know," he replied. "I'm not even supposed to be here today."
Sarah raised an eyebrow. "Then why are you here?'
Morgan just shook his head.
Perplexed, Sarah walked away and headed toward the Nerd Herd counter – which Jeff was leaning against. He appeared to be clad in a white t-shirt, black shorts, a black baseball cap – and of all things, a black trenchcoat. "What the hell?" Sarah muttered.
Unfortunately, Jeff was the only person in sight, so Sarah went over to him. "Jeff, what's going on?"
Jeff looked down at her, shrugged apologetically, and just shook his head. "You can't talk all of a sudden?" Sarah asked in disbelief.
Jeff shook his head again, and was about to turn away when she heard a particularly annoying voice behind her. "Snootchie-bootchies, Lady Walker!"
God, what now? Sarah thought. She turned around to see Lester, wearing a gray stocking cap, a black t-shirt that said "BERSERKER", a yellow collared shirt that said "MOOBY'S" over that, and jeans. "Lester…"
She started to ask him what was going on, but then thought better of it, and instead, simply said, "Where's Chuck?"
"Back room," Lester replied. Without a word, Sarah headed toward the back, although as she walked away, she could hear Lester say something about what he wanted to do to her, and how, in rather crude terms.
She froze in her path, and Lester fell silent behind her. Sarah took a deep breath, and forced herself to continue walking, deliberately placing one foot in front of the other. Do NOT draw your gun, Walker, she commanded herself.
A moment later, she poked her head into the back room – where Chuck sat, working on a computer, clad not in his usual collared white shirt and black tie, but rather, a red and black plaid shirt and a backward New Jersey Devils ballcap. "Okay, what the hell is going on?" Sarah asked.
Startled, Chuck dropped the screwdriver he was holding. It bounced off the table and fell to the floor with a clang. He turned around to see Sarah, an irritated look on her face.
A small grin appeared on Chuck's face. "You really don't know what's going on?" Sarah shook her head. "Even Casey knows what's going on! Hell, he's taking part!"
As if on cue, Casey walked into the back room. He was wearing a t-shirt with a rather odd-looking face printed on it in shades of gray, with a brown jacket over that. "Hey, Walker," he said. "Say… would you like a chocolate-covered pretzel?"
A grin appeared on Casey's face as Chuck burst out laughing. "You're a sick bastard, John Casey," Chuck chortled.
Sarah was now simply downright pissed. Ignoring her earlier mental command to not draw her gun, she pulled it out, flipped off the safety, and put a bullet into a microwave oven sitting on a shelf. Both Casey and Chuck dove for the floor, but got up a moment later as Sarah put her gun away.
"Sarah," Chuck said quietly, "there was really no reason to murder that microwave. It never did anything to you."
Sarah rolled her eyes, and couldn't help but let a small growl escape her throat. Reaching out with lightning speed, she grabbed Chuck's left ear and twisted.
"YOW!" Chuck howled. "OW! SARAH, LET GO!"
"Tell me what's going on," Sarah growled.
"IT'S KEVIN SMITH DAY!" Chuck yelped. "PLEASE!"
Sarah let loose a frustrated sigh, but nonetheless released Chuck's ear. "Ow," he complained, rubbing his ear. "That wasn't very nice."
Sarah fixed Chuck with a filthy glare. "Start explaining," she said. "Now."
"Okay, okay!" Chuck replied. "Alright, so, you know how 4/20 is supposed to be a big druggie day?"
"I'm aware," Sarah deadpanned.
"Well, see, a couple years ago, the guys all wanted to celebrate 4/20, but I reminded them that Buy More conducts random drug tests, and they could all get into serious trouble," Chuck explained.
Sarah narrowed her eyes. "You weren't one of them, were you?"
"Yeah, right," Chuck replied. "I like my brain cells, thanks. Anyway, since Kevin Smith is like the king of the modern stoner movie, I convinced Big Mike to let us have a Kevin Smith Day on 4/20."
"It's really a great concept," Casey added.
"Yeah, I couldn't believe that one," Chuck said. "I never would've guessed John Casey for a Kevin Smith fan."
"And I never would've guessed you as a Clay Aik-"
"That's QUITE enough," Chuck interrupted Casey, his face turning red. "The point is, we all dress up and sort of act like characters from Kevin Smith's movies for the day…"
His voice died out as the look on Sarah's face turned confused. "You've never seen any of Kevin Smith's movies, have you?"
Sarah shook her head. "Can't say that I have."
Chuck grinned. "Well, we'll just have to change that."
Four days later
Sarah had had Friday off, and had taken advantage of that fact to visit a spa – something she never did. So, she was in a very good mood when she answered the door that afternoon to reveal Chuck, standing outside with a stack of DVDs in one hand and a six pack of Corona in the other.
Sarah raised an eyebrow as an amused grin appeared on her face. "Those aren't porn, are they?"
Chuck's eyes widened and his face turned bright red. "What – why the – no! They're not porn!"
"I'm kidding, Chuck," Sarah teased him. "Now, are you going to stand there in the hallway looking like an embarrassed teenager, or are you going to come in?"
Shaking his head, Chuck walked into Sarah's hotel room. As he passed her, without even thinking, she pushed herself up on her toes and planted a quick kiss on his cheek – something that put a big smile on his face.
As Chuck set the movies down on the coffee table, Sarah stopped, a frown on her face. Why the hell did I just do that?
Shaking off the thought, she approached Chuck. "So, what do we have here?" she asked.
Chuck turned toward her and grinned. "We have Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II," he replied. "Six of Kevin Smith's eight movies. He also did Jersey Girl and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Those are both good movies, but these six make up what is known as the 'Askewniverse'."
"The 'Askewniverse'?" Sarah asked, a slightly confused look on her face.
"Yeah," Chuck said. "Kevin Smith's production company is called View Askew, and these six movies all sort of take place in the same alternate reality."
"Gotcha," Sarah replied, although the confused look remained on her face.
Chuck grinned and shook his head. "You'll enjoy them, I promise," he said.
And Sarah did enjoy the movies. Within the first fifteen minutes of Clerks, she successfully identified four of the people that Buy More employees had been dressed as the day before. Hitting the pause button, she turned to Chuck and said, "Okay, so Morgan was Dante Hicks, you were Randal Graves, and Lester and Jeff were Jay and Silent Bob, respectively."
"Very good," Chuck said, an impressed look on his face.
Then Sarah frowned. "But who was Casey?"
Chuck laughed. "I'm afraid you're going to have to wait till Mallrats to find that out."
Within the first FIVE minutes of Mallrats, Sarah had pegged Casey as Brodie Bruce. Even though there were parts of the movie that astonished her to think of how drugged out of his mind Kevin Smith must've been to come up with them, Sarah was still amused.
And then, Chuck put Chasing Amy in the DVD player.
There were some funny parts, to be sure, like Hooper going on his anti-white rant before pretending to shoot Banky Edwards at the comic convention. But the reality was that the bulk of the movie focused on the relationship between Holden McNeil and Alyssa Jones, and the relationship itself hit WAY too close to home for Sarah's liking.
Sure, Sarah wasn't a lesbian who developed serious feelings for a straight man. However, the fact remained that she was a woman who had grown far, far too close to a man she shouldn't have allowed that to happen with, and now she didn't know what to do with herself.
By the end of Chasing Amy, Sarah found herself struggling to hold back tears – especially when Holden gave Alyssa a copy of the comic book he had written about them. As the credits rolled, Sarah took a deep breath, carefully wiped an errant tear off of her right cheek, and turned to look at Chuck –
Who was fast asleep. She had no idea how long he had been asleep, so absorbed had she been in the movie. She watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, the barely audible snores every moment that gave testament to his springtime allergies.
An errant curl had fallen across Chuck's forehead. Sarah leaned over and gently brushed it back, letting her fingers linger on his temple for a moment. As she stared at his face, she found herself captivated by everything she saw there – the innocence, the kindness, the loyalty, and most of all, the love – and before she realized what she was doing, Sarah leaned over and gently pressed her lips against Chuck's, wishing she could kiss him like this while he was conscious.
When she pulled away, she heard a soft moan pass through his chest, and then the words, "Sarah, no," slipped from his mouth. Sarah's eyes widened in alarm, believing that she had awakened Chuck and been caught – but no, his chest was still rising and falling, and his eyes were moving back and forth behind his eyelids, indicating that he was deep in R.E.M. sleep.
Sarah looked at the wall, and then back at Chuck – and then, leaned over and kissed him again. He still didn't wake up, but he didn't have to – his subconscious mind responded for him. He kissed her back, and one of his hands came up to Sarah's back.
When Chuck's hand touched her back, Sarah's eyes flew open – but no, Chuck was still very much asleep. What could it possibly hurt? Sarah asked herself.
Five minutes later, Sarah was out of breath. She pulled away from Chuck and sat back on her bed – and then realized that she was no longer wearing her shirt. She was down to her jeans and bra.
An unconscious man managed to undress me while making out with me, she thought in disbelief. Looking over at Chuck, she saw that he was still in R.E.M. sleep, but had an enormous smile on his face. Sarah sighed. I wish I could do that while he was awake.
Eight hours later, Sarah felt a hand on her shoulder, gently shaking her awake. "Rise and shine," she heard Chuck say. "Three more movies to go!"
"I want breakfast," Sarah grumbled into her pillow.
"Well, this hotel does have room service, doesn't it?" Chuck asked.
Sarah sat up and looked at Chuck in disbelief. "Do you have any idea how much that costs?"
Chuck shrugged. "It's on the CIA's tab. I think they owe me a few."
Sarah smiled faintly. "You're pushing your luck, buddy."
Nonetheless, Sarah still let Chuck order breakfast for both of them from room service. Fifteen minutes later, as Sarah was getting out of the shower, there was a knock at the door.
Chuck shuffled across the room and opened the door –
To reveal John Casey standing behind the breakfast cart. "I sorta figured I'd find you here," Casey growled, wheeling the cart into the room.
"Sorry," Chuck said. "We were here watching movies last night, and I fell asleep."
"I see that," Casey said, pointing to the table. He turned to Chuck, an almost hurt look on his face. "In fact, I see you were having a View Askewathon, and you didn't invite me."
Chuck looked at the NSA agent as if he had just sprouted a second head. "Uh… sorry?" Casey narrowed his eyes and growled. "Look, Casey, you don't ever want to do anything social with me and Sarah, I didn't figure you'd want to do this with us. Besides, we watched Chasing Amy last night – do you really think you'd want to be around us during that?"
Casey sighed. "Fair point," he said. Then his expression brightened. "But that means you're watching Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob, and Clerks II today, right?"
Chuck grinned. "You want to stay, don't you, Casey?"
And so, Casey stayed. It was a little strange when he and Chuck teamed up to talk Sarah into it, but in the end, she yielded, though not without a dirty look or six directed at Chuck.
By mid-afternoon, they had watched the last of the exploits of Jay and Silent Bob. Casey bid Chuck and Sarah farewell, and walked out with a huge smile on his face. "I don't think I've ever seen him quite so happy," Chuck remarked, amused.
Then he turned to Sarah, who didn't look so amused. His smile faded. "What's wrong?"
"Well… I thought it was just going to be us today," Sarah replied quietly. "You know, we don't get to spend much time together doing… well, nothing."
Chuck nodded and looked at the floor. "I know," he said. "But Casey has even less of a social life than either of us, and given how much he likes Kevin Smith's movies, I thought it would be a nice thing to do."
Sarah nodded and smiled. "That's why you're a better person than I am, Chuck," she said.
"Nah," Chuck replied, waving a hand. "I'm not a better person than you. We're just good people in different ways."
And with that comment, Sarah almost spilled to Chuck exactly what she had done when he was asleep the night before – but she managed to keep her mouth shut and prevent the etymological vomit from escaping.
"Anyway," Chuck said, "I should go. Ellie's getting a little crazy with the wedding – I think it'd be a good thing for me to be around, be a buffer between her and Devon."
"Of course," Sarah replied, standing up. She walked Chuck to the door, but before he opened it, Chuck stopped and looked straight into Sarah's eyes.
"Listen," he said quietly, "last night, I had an incredibly intense and realistic dream. I know that the dream happened because we were watching Chasing Amy."
Sarah's stomach started to twist in on itself. "What it was," Chuck continued, "is that it was you and me, sitting in that Jeep in that rainstorm. And I did something I've wanted to do since I met you." He swallowed, nervousness evident on his face. "It was Holden McNeil's whole speech about how much he loved Alyssa, except it was me, saying it to you. And you got out of the Jeep, and you rain off in the rain."
Chuck smiled. "But a moment later, you came running back, and you kissed me, and that's where it got to be so real. It lasted for what felt like hours – and it was wonderful."
His smile faded. "Here's the thing. When I was at Stanford, one of the classes I did VERY well in was called the Psychology of Sleep. One of the things I learned in that class was that very often, the body will react physically to things that happen in dreams." He raised an eyebrow. "It's why sometimes people who dream that they're drowning stop breathing… and it's why teenage boys have wet dreams."
Sarah smiled and looked at the floor. "But the converse is sometimes true as well," Chuck said. "Sometimes truly intense dreams are the result of something physical happening to the body."
Sarah's breath caught in her throat. Chuck had essentially just called her out on her behavior the night before. Closing her eyes, Sarah took a deep breath, and then looked up at Chuck. "I'm sure that's true, Chuck," she said quietly. "But sometimes… a dream is just a dream."
"I know," Chuck replied, nodding. "But there's something else I've come to see – and this isn't something that I've learned, but it's a change that I've seen in you over the last year and a half."
Sarah frowned. "What's that?"
A sort of sad half-grin appeared on Chuck's face. "When I first met you, I'd believe anything you told me," he said. "You could've told me that the sky was orange, and I'd agree." The smile disappeared. "But the fact of the matter is that now, you couldn't lie to me to save your soul."
Sarah froze. Her eyes widened – shock permeated her soul. She couldn't believe that Chuck had not just figured out what she had done the night before, but that he had seen right through the veil she pulled over it.
Then the smile returned. "All you have to do is tell me, Sarah," Chuck said quietly.
Sarah didn't say anything. She just shook her head silently, a sad look painting itself on her face. "Hey," Chuck said.
Sarah looked up at Chuck – and without warning, he leaned in and kissed her. Her eyes fluttered shut, and a tiny moan involuntarily escaped her chest.
After maybe thirty seconds, Chuck pulled away, a grin on his face. "That's what I thought."
With that, he said, "See you later," turned, and walked out the door, pulling it shut behind him.
As his footsteps disappeared down the hall, Sarah leaned against the wall. She closed her eyes – and didn't even try to fight off the enormous smile that slowly spread its way across her face.
"Thank you, Kevin Smith."