The first time Jo kisses Ash it surprises the hell out of her.
Her mother is being tedious, again, about hunting and how Jo deserves a stable life that isn’t going to kill her, and Jo’s just found college brochures on her bed. She doesn’t want to go to college and spend four years learning nothing she’s ever going to use again.
Even if she decided to stay at the Roadhouse, she already knows everything she needs to run a bar except maybe, like, taxes. And permits and things. But she can figure those out as she goes, if she needs to, which she won’t, because, oh yeah, she’s going to be a hunter like her father. She’s going to help some people and kill some monsters and leave the world a better place than it was when she started.
So she goes storming out to the bar to tell Mom that—loudly—and, well, it’s probably a good thing that the only person there is Ash, hunched over his laptop and paying absolutely zero attention to the bartending he’s allegedly doing.
He doesn’t hear her the first time, and when she repeats it he looks up, startled, and has to check what seems to be a post-it stuck to the bar before he can say, “She went out to get peanuts.”
Jo drapes herself over the back of his chair, peering over his shoulder at row after row of completely incomprehensible code. Okay, maybe college would be useful if it let her do weird genius things like Ash, but she’s pretty sure you can’t learn those at school, you have to actually be amazingly smart before you go—he was only at MIT for a few months, anyway, which probably isn’t enough time to learn everything. She wants to ask what he’s doing, but she’s already interrupted once and just because he never seems to mind having her around doesn’t mean she wants to push her luck.
So, okay, it’s probably too late already to apply for colleges—she’s pretty sure most of her classmates already did—so Mom is going to have to leave her alone for another year. She’ll think of something in the meantime.
Ash does something and the code goes away, replaced by an actual interface with search options. “Pick a state,” he says.
He turns around and gives her a look, a little cross-eyed because of how close they are. “There’s nothing in Wyoming.”
She grins. “I know. Whatever you’re doing’s gotta be good if it actually gets something useful out of there.”
Shaking his head, he types a few things in—the state, a couple of fields that look like dates, and something from a drop-down menu that he switches to “Search All” before she can see what the other options are.
It gives them three results after a bit, one of them in a box marked with yellow around the edges. Jo squints. The yellow box says “werewolf,” and both of the plain ones are vengeful spirits.
“Huh,” Ash says, clicking on the werewolf box, which expands to show more information. “State park. Clever. Maybe a ranger?”
“But what is it?” Jo asks. It looks like it’s some sort of system to do newspaper checking for hunters, but that’s…not really worth Ash’s time, is it?
“So you know how people have to figure out that something’s wrong themselves?” Ash says. “Say Bob Whatever dies in a freak woodworking accident, the newspaper just goes, ‘oh, hey, this sucks, guys,’ and most people won’t check it out unless they’re going through anyway. But this actually cross-checks any obits that match any of a huge-ass set of keywords I gave it against other keywords, and maybe it finds out that some guy who used to own Bob’s place got killed by a carpenter. Yellow’s when it thinks there’s probably something, and red’s if there’s something really obvious.”
“Awesome,” Jo says, thinking about how easy this would make things. She could pick out hunts without having to wander around checking small-town newspapers herself, and plan the whole thing out in advance. Maybe Mom would be okay with that, since she could have an actual itinerary and everything.
Ash hits a button. The windows disappear. “And it can send the information to anyone who’s in the area, if I know of someone in the area.”
“Holy—” says Jo, just as as Ash says, “I’m freakin’ amazing.”
“You are,” she says, totally not caring that usually she doesn’t go around complimenting Ash too enthusiastically, which is mostly because her mother only thinks Ash is a really appropriate companion for her because he isn’t, like, the kind of hunter who goes around thinking he can charm Jo out of her alleged virtue. Which he isn’t. So her mother’s technically kind of right for once, which is weird.
Whatever, her mother isn’t here, and this is completely awesome and probably a lot of work, because otherwise someone else would have done it already, and then somehow when Ash turns around to grin at her she ends up kissing him.
She has just enough time to think oh my God what the hell before he kisses her back, and—