Chapter 1: New Additions and Permanent Fixtures
CH 1: New Additions and Permanent Fixtures
Ash showed up in 2001. He introduced himself as Miles, never gave anyone his last name, and was intent on forgetting about his past. Within a week he convinced everyone to call him Ash; a name he came up with after his admiration for Bruce Campbell. He said he was just going to stay in Nebraska for a little while, a week maybe. Then that week turned into two and then three, and eventually, Ellen just decided he could stay for good as long as he helped out.
Ellen wasn't accustomed to taking people in. She helped out hunters here and there, but knew better than to put trust in strangers. But Ash was different.
The night he showed up, the Roadhouse was packed. There had just been an incident in McCook and it had all the hunters crowding together upstate to find shelter. While Jo was playing pool with some fifty year old regular, the front door swung open and a scraggly looking college boy entered. He looked way out of place with his MIT sweatshirt, messenger bag and barely-there stubble prickling out above his upper lip. Looking around nervously, he approached the bar and asked for a drink. Jo watched, amused as she could tell he had obviously never drank before.
“You twenty-one?” Ellen asked, leaning against the counter.
Swallowing heavily, the boy nodded his head. “Yeah.”
Ellen raised an eyebrow. “Don't lie to me boy. I don't serve liars.”
The boy looked down and averted his eyes. “I'm eighteen.” He said sheepishly.
Laughing to herself, Ellen nodded. “See, it ain't so hard. You just gotta tell the truth.” She smiled. “So what'll you be having?”
“Umm...” He looked at the shelf full of liquor behind the bar, his expression shifting into even more distress.
“Try the PBR.” Jo piped in from behind them at the billiard table.
The boy turned around quickly and Ellen chuckled.
“Uh, yeah, what she said.” He responded quickly, looking at Jo with relief. She smiled at him and continued her game of pool.
For the next two weeks, Ellen let Ash sleep on their sofa while he figured out where he was headed. He didn't say much, just that he couldn't go back to where he came from.
Ellen was a little suspicious. Lots of people came looking for shelter from demons and spirits and ended up being nothing but trouble, but Ash seemed completely clueless to the supernatural world that they lived in. He was just a regular boy who showed up at the Roadhouse needing a place to stay.
By the third week he had been there, Ash was in the corner of the bar one night, quietly on his laptop when a hunter came to Ellen asking for help tracking a shapeshifter. She shrugged her shoulders, knowing it would take weeks to track the creature as it usually did. The hunter seemed extremely upset. He said the monster had killed his wife and for all he knew it could be going around in her body terrorizing other people. That's when Ash butted in.
“You need help trackin' something?” He said quietly, raising his eyebrows as he stood from his seat and approached the hunters huddled together at the bar. Everyone stared at him, shocked that he had been listening, let alone had even said something.
“Why? What do you know about shapeshifters, boy?” The hunter crossed his arms at his chest.
Ash furrowed his brow, standing up straight.
“Well, I've only been here three weeks, and as much as you guys try to keep this creepy stuff you deal with to yourselves, you're not very good at it. I mean, just in the past hour I've overheard people talkin' about vengeful spirits, shapeshifters and some demon thing I can't even spell out, and I wanna be freaked...but for some reason, I'm not.” He nodded slowly to himself.
“And y'all have convinced me that either I'm in some sort of weird dream that's lasted way too long, or this is real life.”
“What'r you gettin' at?” The hunter grunted, still unsatisfied by the college boy's interruption.
“What I'm gettin' at is that even though I don't understand half the stuff you people are sayin', I think I might be able to help.” He picked his computer up from the table and spun it around to show them what was on the screen. Ellen leaned in and the other hunters squinted to try and make out what they were looking at.
“That's a location finder I've recently developed.” He smiled slightly at the other's expressions. “You said it would take weeks to find that shapeshifty-thingy,” he nodded at Ellen, “but I could probably locate it within a few days.”
Ellen cocked her head, still not buying it. “You gotta be joking.”
“Here, give me the name of a demon or whatever you people look for in your uh..line of work.”
“What? Why?” The tall hunter said, shaking his head.
“Come on, just give me a name.” Ash insisted, trying desperately to show them he was good enough.
“Okay, here's a hard one then.” The hunter smirked maliciously. “A Jikininki.” He laughed to himself.
Ellen frowned and elbowed the man in the side. “Come on, Tom, he's not a genius.”
Ash raised an eyebrow, turned his laptop to face himself and began clicking the keys rapidly.
“Japanese in origin...” He muttered to himself as everyone watched, certain he wouldn't be able to find what they were talking about. After a few minutes, Jo came over from behind the bar and leaned over her mom's shoulder curiously, trying to see what was going on.
“...ancient tomb of a priest...” Ash said again to himself, his fingers moving quickly. The hunters continued watching.
“Feeds off human flesh...” His forehead wrinkled in concentration and his computer made a few beeps and processing noises.
“Almost...there...” He said slowly, swirling his finger over the trackpad.
“Okay.” He said finally. “So I've plugged in the information of origin, without knowing direct hunting habits and only going by general basis given in locked databases, pinpointed five possible locations where this demon thing would be feeding.” He turned the computer around to face them again and their eyes widened at the detailed map on the screen with five red markers in different locations.
“You have got to be shitting me...” The tall hunter said, craning his neck closer to the laptop. “This ain't real. You woulda had to have known like Japanese or somethin' to get to the original texts for this demon.”
Ash chuckled to himself and shrugged. “It's one of the seven languages I'm fluent in.”
“Seven?” Ellen said in complete shock.
“Yeah...but I can only write in four...” He bit down on his bottom lip.
“So wait a minute. You're tellin' me that this map that you came up with in less than ten minutes , shows where the Jikininki's located?” The hunter said, completely baffled.
Ash nodded slowly. “Uh...yeah. I thought I made that clear...”
“I think I like you, kid.” Tom said finally, grinning and slapping Ash lightly on the shoulder. “How the hell did you do that?”
The other hunters started conversing amongst themselves, pointing at the screen, amazed at Ash's work.
“I dunno...it's just what I do. I make maps and look for things on the internet and stuff.” He smiled slightly.
“Ellen, you gotta keep this boy.” Tom smiled, leaning against the bar towards the Harvelles.
Ellen shrugged and cocked an eyebrow at Ash, who looked rather pleased with himself. “I thought he was just passin' through.”
Ash swallowed and looked down shyly.
“You know, we could clear out the storage room in the back.” Jo said, gesturing behind the bar.
Ellen stared at the college boy, contemplating what she was going to say.
“And he could have that spare bed we keep in the shed.” Jo nodded, smiling.
“He ain't some stray cat we're taking in, Joanna.” Ellen gave her daughter a look and Jo rolled her eyes.
“I know that.” Jo said sharply and nudged Ash in the arm. “You wanna stay?” She asked him and he picked his head up.
“Uh...well I ain't got any other place to go. And you guys seem like nice people...” He answered bashfully.
“Alright, fine.” Ellen said sighing, glaring at her daughter for instigating this situation. “But you gotta help out.” She said sternly.
He nodded quickly. “Yes, ma'am, I will.”
“And don't call me ma'am. If you're gonna be livin' here I don't wanna hear any of that kinda stuff.” She lowered her eyes at him.
“Oh...alright.” Ash's upper lip twitched into a smile.
“We could really use someone like you around.” Ellen pulled out a glass from below the bar and scooped some ice into it, then proceeded to fill it with beer.
Ash stared at the glass as Ellen set it on the counter in front of him.
“Have a drink,” she insisted, “and when you're done, Jo and Tom can help you move into the back.”
That was the night Ash became a permanent fixture to Harvelle's Roadhouse. He wasn't a hunter and he hadn't grown up in the world knowing about the supernatural. He was just a college dropout who needed a place to stay and happened to be pretty close to a genius, so he stuck around.
A week after Ash moved in for good, Jo turned sixteen. The night before, she had stayed up late trying to beat her high score on one of the bar's arcade games, becoming agitated when she couldn't get past her last winning score.
Wiggling the plastic joystick angrily and mumbling curse words at the virtual ducks as they flew by, the little title reading Game Over popped up on the screen. Jo flung her hands up and pinched her brow.
“Son of a bitch!” She shouted at the game, glaring at the flashing words announcing her defeat while the hunters at the bar gave her strange looks from nearby tables.
Suddenly a quiet, “hey” came from behind her and Jo turned around quickly, still fuming.
Ash stepped back quickly, his eyes widening fearfully.
“Uhh, sorry.” He said, afraid to say anything more.
“What? What do you want?” Jo said sharply.
“Hey, calm down, okay, it's just a game.” Ash loosened up a little.
Jo glared at him, folding her arms at her chest without saying anything.
“I mean, you already have all the highest scores...” He continued, even though she didn't seem to care about anything he was saying. “I'm just sayin'...” He looked away, feeling embarrassed for interrupting her and not having anything good to say to calm her down.
Jo sighed and diverted her eyes away from him as well. “Sorry.” She said as if she were a child apologizing for stealing a cookie from her parent's cookie jar.
“It's okay.” Ash smiled gingerly, glancing up.
“Nah it's my bad, I just get so into the game and I forget how to talk to people.” She laughed awkwardly, trying to relax more.
Ash nodded in response. “I know what you mean. I get that way with my computer. Hell, sometimes I forget that the real world exists.” He chuckled.
Jo finally looked up and smiled back. Pressing the big red button on the arcade machine to power it off, Jo leaned against it. “It's just there's not much to do around here. It's either work the bar, play games, shoot targets out back, or listen to the jukebox.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “Ain't you in high school?”
Jo narrowed her eyes at him and nodded. “Well, yeah.”
“So don't you do your homework?”
Jo laughed out loud. “No, not really. School and I don't get along that well.”
“And what about your friends, don't you hang out with them?”
Jo rolled her eyes. “Don't have any. I don't really get along with people either.” She shrugged and glanced at the floor.
Ash smiled sympathetically. “Well you seem to be gettin' along with me and I never really had any friends either...we could be friends...” He clenched his teeth, hoping he wasn't stepping out of bounds, but Jo giggled.
“Yeah, we can be friends.”
They stood there silently for a minute or so before Jo piped in again.
“So where you from, Miles?”
Ash lowered his eyes at her. “I ain't going by that name anymore. It's Ash now.” He reiterated, nodding for her to agree.
Jo shook her head. “I dunno, I like Miles.” She grinned.
“Yeah, well I don't, so call me Ash.” He put a hand on his waist.
“Okay, Miles.” Jo laughed, copying him by putting her hand on her waist too.
“See this is why you don't have friends.” He chuckled jokingly, but she leaned forward and jabbed him in the side.
“Hey!” She furrowed her brow sarcastically.
Ash rubbed his side. “It's true.”
She shook her head and leaned back against the arcade game again.
“So where you from? You never answered me.” She changed the subject and Ash sighed.
“Born in Tennessee, grew up in Lafollette.” He nodded, trying to think back.
“And then for some reason you decided to go to some college in Massachusetts?” Jo asked lucratively.
Ash raised an eyebrow at her. “It ain't just any college. MIT is a real prestigious school. I got in there on a scholarship.”
Jo looked at him blankly, not phased at all by this information. “And then you wound up here after not even a whole year there?”
Ash sighed. “Listen, it's a long story I'd not like to get into right now.” He bit his lip and she nodded, shrugging her shoulders.
“Whatever. As long as you didn't kill anyone while you were there, I'm cool with not knowing.”
Ash chuckled. “Nah, didn't kill anyone, I promise.”
“Okay.” Jo smiled. “So listen, my birthday is in...” She looked up at the clock on the far wall. “In one hour and there's a late showing of Jeepers Creepers still playing at the drive-in. Wanna come with me?”
Ash looked at her uncertainly. “Won't your mom be upset?” He asked.
Jo craned her neck and cupped her hands on the outside of her mouth. “Hey mom!” She shouted across the bar. Ellen turned around quickly.
“I'm goin' out to the drive-in.” She stated and Ellen frowned.
“No you ain't.”
“Mom, come on, it's my birthday.” Jo protested, slumping her shoulders and whining. “And plus, Miles is gonna come with me.”
Ash gave her a look, still not sure if he was okay with her calling him by his real name.
Ellen rolled her eyes and nodded. “Fine, fine. Just be careful and don't stay out too late, Joanna Beth.” She wagged a finger at her but Jo ignored it.
Grabbing her green jacket from where it was laying over a chair nearby, Jo turned to Ash and smiled up at him. “Come on, it's not that far away. We can walk.”
Walking for about fifteen minutes along the side of the road, Jo swung her arms back and forth and asked Ash more about college to pass the time on their way to the movie. He still refused to tell her that much about his time there, but told her about how he learned to speak Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Mandarin, and Italian all in less than one semester. She told him to say something to her in each of the languages and he did, but wouldn't say what he said in English.
“You just swore at me.” Jo laughed after Ash had just spoken to her in Mandarin.
He smiled and shook his head. “Nope. Unfortunately, slang is kinda hard to pick up when you learn a new language or else I would do nothin' but swear at people and they wouldn't understand a damn thing I'd be sayin'.”
They laughed as they approached an open field with a few cars spread out by the front of the screen as it projected what seemed like the middle of Jeepers Creepers . Bypassing the ticket stand, Jo gestured for Ash to follow her through some high weeds and towards the middle of the freshly mown field.
“You don't pay?” He asked, looking back at the booth at the entrance.
“Not usually.” Jo shrugged. “But my mom doesn't know that, so keep it to yourself.”
“Okay, here's good.” Jo plopped down on the grass and straightened her legs out in front of her, leaning on her hands behind her back. Ash stared down at her blankly before getting the idea and sitting down next to her, folding his legs and setting his hands in his lap.
“I think we're late.” He said after a minute of watching what was going on on the huge screen.
“It's okay. I've seen it three times.” She smiled and leaned back.
They sat together the whole time as the movie went on. Jo kept talking to the screen, saying lines and telling the characters not to go into that room or that they should have brought a weapon to keep themselves safe. When the credits began to roll, Jo closed her eyes and sighed.
Ash glanced over at her and cocked his head to the side.
She nodded but kept her eyes closed.
“What time is it, Miles?”
Ash glanced at his silver watch. “Almost one o' clock.”
Jo nodded again.
“Happy Birthday.” He said, smiling.
She opened her eyes and smiled back at him. “Thanks.”
“You sure you're alright? I'm sorry to pry and everything...” Ash swallowed nervously.
“Yeah, it's cool.” She said firmly. “It's just my dad and I used to come here and watch horror movies when I was younger.”
Ash took in a deep breath. “Oh.” He answered, not knowing what else to say.
“Another birthday without him.” She stood to her feet and brushed bits of grass from her jeans.
Getting to his feet as well, Ash looked away, not sure if she was actually okay sharing this with him or not.
Jo nudged him in the arm. “It's fine, I promise.” She was able to tell that he felt uncomfortable. “He died a while ago on a hunt. I was real close with him, but everything's alright now.” She smiled as she gestured for him to follow her back towards the Roadhouse.
“I'm sorry.” Ash said quietly.
“Don't worry about it. I had a fun night, Miles, let's not spoil it now.” She looked out onto the open road as they walked onto the gravel highway.
They walked quietly along the shoulder, not saying anything until they could see the front porch of the Roadhouse ahead. Ash cleared his throat as they got closer and Jo looked up at him startled by the noise.
“It was for fighting.” He said bluntly, nodding slightly to himself.
Jo wrinkled her brow in confusion. “What?”
“I didn't drop out of college, I got kicked out for fighting.”
Jo didn't say anything and Ash looked away, taking that as an indication that he shouldn't have said anything.
“I woulda done the same thing.” She said after a few moments.
Ash turned to see her smiling at him. He smiled back and laughed softly to himself as they walked up the steps to the bar and he opened the screen door which screeched on its hinges.
Ellen was standing behind the counter washing glasses and there were only a couple people still left, sitting at tables quietly minding their own business.
“I'm gonna turn in.” Ash said, sighing and walking behind the counter towards his back room.
“Night, Miles.” Jo said, waving after him and hoisting herself up onto the bar counter facing her mom. It was another birthday and she felt just the same as she had the day before. Just now she had a friend.
Chapter 2: Breaking Rules and Raising Hell
CH 2: Breaking Rules and Raising Hell
The Roadhouse was packed. Hunters from all over were congregating to converse over one of the biggest hunts they'd had all year. Ash had been there for about five months now and he had three hunters leaning over his shoulder while he set up a tracker on his laptop. Jo was standing behind the bar, pouring shots for the man sitting at the counter.
“You positive the last place they were in was Grant county?” Ash asked as he clicked a few keys.
“Yeah, I'm sure of it. And we got rid of 'em all, they ain't comin' back.” The hunter nodded his head, very certain with himself, but Ash knew better.
“You may think you got rid of them, but these guys are nasty. Did you burn the bodies?” Ash looked up at the hunters over his shoulder.
“Burn the bodies? I didn't know we was supposed to do that.”
Ash rolled his eyes and sighed. “If you don't burn the bodies, the others are gonna find them and that'll just get them even more mad.” He shook his head.
“Okay, now I need to concentrate.” He waved his hand, gesturing over his shoulder for the hunters to leave him be.
Ash put his head in his hands and huffed out an exhale. Jo craned her neck from behind the bar and saw that he looked much less content than he had before. Grabbing a bottle of PBR from the shelf, she walked over to him and sat down on the table, setting the beer down in front of him. He looked up at her, his eyelids heavy and tired.
“You don't look so good.” She said, smiling at him sympathetically.
He shook his head but smiled back halfheartedly.
“Here, I brought your favorite.” Jo scooted the bottle closer to him.
“Thanks.” He picked it up and popped the top off with his thumb. “It's just that I dunno if I can get the tracking location on these demons before someone else gets killed.” He took a drink.
Jo chuckled softly. “You know, Miles, it's not up to you to keep those people safe. You're not a hunter. Everyone knows you're doin' your best.”
Ash shrugged and set his drink down. “But they rely on me. I tell 'em where to go and if I'm wrong, I could lead them straight to their deaths.”
Jo shook her head. “They can take care of themselves, it's not up to you to look out for them.” She raised an eyebrow at him and he nodded slowly.
“I guess you're right.” He looked back at his computer and sighed, taking another swig from his drink.
Jo wiped her hands on her apron, looking down.
“You know what I want?” Ash said, making Jo look up quickly.
“I want an earring.”
Trying to keep a straight face, Jo stared at him right in the eyes, his expression so serious that she burst out laughing.
“You want an earring?” She replied, trying to subside her giggles.
“Yeah, I think it would look cool.” Ash brought his hand up to his earlobe and he flicked it with his pointer finger. “Don't you think?”
Jo didn't answer, she just looked at him and cracked up in laughter.
“Stop laughin', it ain't funny.” He frowned slightly, folding his arms at his chest.
“Okay, okay, I'm sorry,” she took a deep breath, determined to stop her giggles, “I guess it would look kinda cool.”
His expression softened and he nodded. “You should do it for me.”
Jo raised an eyebrow at him. “You honestly want me poking you with sharp things?”
He shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “Why not?”
Smiling crookedly, Jo slid off the table and stood to her feet. “Okay.” She put her hands on her hips. “I got a needle in the bathroom.”
Ash looked at her incredulously. “Right now?”
“Yeah, come on.” She paused, her grin getting bigger. “Unless you're chicken.” She gestured for him to follow her as she started walking to the back of the bar.
Ash took a deep breath, finished his beer quickly and got up from the table, following her to the bathroom.
When he entered, she was in the medicine cabinet searching through a little white box. Ash leaned against the sink.
“Ah ha!” Jo said, satisfied as she pulled a little sewing needle out and tucked the box back into the cabinet. She held the needle between her thumb and forefinger and turned to Ash, whose eyebrows were raised high.
“This oughta do right?” She cocked her head.
Ash swallowed. “Uh, you gonna sterilize it first or something?”
Jo laughed to herself and nodded. “Oh yeah.” She held the needle out. “Here, hold onto this.”
He took it from her as she went back into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Unscrewing the top, Jo sniffed the contents, crinkled her nose and took the needle back.
“You ever done this before?” Ash asked, tapping his fingers against the sink.
“Nope.” She smiled.
Ash brought his palm to his face and let out an exhale.
“You chicken?” Jo asked, running the alcohol over the needle at the sink.
“No, I ain't chicken.”
“You sure, 'cause if you are, I can put it back.”
“I ain't chicken.” He narrowed his eyes at her playfully and she smirked.
“Okay, now which side do you want?” Jo asked, leaning forward and looking from one of his ears to the other.
Ash shrugged his shoulders. “I don't care. You pick.” He said, looking up at her expectantly.
Nodding slightly, Jo took his head with one hand and turned him so his left ear was facing her. She brushed a little of his hair back and squinted her eyes, leaning in close. “Okay, you ready?” She asked, concentrating on his ear.
Ash swallowed heavily again and held onto his knees nervously. “Yup.” He said, his voice shaking a little.
“It's not bad; don't worry.” Jo laughed, gripping his earlobe with one hand and placing the end of the needle lightly against it with the other.
“'Kay, here we go.” She said enthusiastically.
Ash closed his eyes, squeezing them together tightly and Jo pushed the needle though his ear until it came out the other end.
“Ow.” He called out in discomfort.
Jo's eyes widened and she bit down on her lip. “Uh...we got a problem.” She said quietly, the needle still through Ash's ear.
“What? What is it?” He asked, his voice laced with worry.
“I don't have an earring.” She said bluntly.
“Are you serious?” He opened his eyes and glared up at her. She shrugged and smiled awkwardly.
“Well what now, you just gonna leave this needle in there?”
“Umm...” Jo looked around anxiously, before her eyes got wide. “I got it.”
Ash let out a breath and rolled his eyes. Jo brought her hands to her own ear and she pulled a little silver post from it. She went to the rubbing alcohol again and ran some over the earring quickly.
“Hold onto this.” She ordered as she dropped the earring into Ash's open palm.
Stepping closer to him now, she sucked in a deep breath. Slowly pulling the needle out of his ear, Jo threw it into the trash bin by her feet and let out an exhale. She fumbled her fingers quickly trying to pick up the earring from his hand as Ash's face whitened and he looked like he was going to be sick. Pressing the post into the tiny hole she made, Jo pushed it all the way in and attached the back. Grabbing a sheet of toilet paper, she dabbed a bit of blood off his ear.
“Phew! All done.” She said sighing.
Ash's eyes were fluttering but he stood up slowly from the sink.
“Whose dumb idea was that?” He asked jokingly.
Jo grinned and patted him on the back. “You took it like a real champ.”
He inspected the piercing in the mirror and turned back to her, smiling slightly. They stared at each other for a moment before he finally spoke. “I need some beer.”
They both broke out laughing and Jo nodded. “Come on.” She grabbed him by the arm and opened the bathroom door, leading him out into the bar full of people.
Jo leaned over the bar counter and reached for a bottle of PBR while Ash sat down on one of the stools. Ellen came over, her forehead furrowed.
“Where were you guys?” She asked.
“I was making Miles look pretty.” Jo said smiling as she tossed the bottle over to Ash and he caught it with both hands.
“Huh?” Ellen cocked her head in confusion.
“Jo gave me an earring.” Ash said, turning his head to show her the new addition to his ear.
Ellen raised an eyebrow before shaking her head and turning away to get back to the hunters on the other side of the bar.
Grabbing her own bottle of beer, Jo sat down next to Ash and clinked it against his. They both took a swig and set their bottles on the counter in unison.
“How ya feeling?” Jo asked, tipping her head to one side.
Ash looked down at the floor and grinned. “Like I just got stabbed in the ear.”
Jo chuckled before taking another sip from her drink.
Ash had been at the Roadhouse for about a year and in that time he had gotten better at tracking, helping out hunters and had accumulated enough loot for his room to have its own personality that stood out from the rest of the bar. He made a little sign for his door that said, “Dr Badass is In/Out” that he changed whenever he felt like being helpful as opposed to when he was feeling like laying back and being lazy. The nickname “Dr Badass” was given to him by one hunter who came in and needed help finding a nest of vampires. When Ash located them in less than twenty-four hours, the hunter told Ellen to thank the doctor of badassery before he left to finish his hunt.
In that same year, Jo had noticed that his hair was getting long and that he hadn't had a haircut since he had been at the Roadhouse. She dared him to make it into a mullet and keep it that way. Shrugging his shoulders, Ash agreed and grew out his hair.
Now, Jo was in the middle of her junior year of high school and things weren't going so well on the academic front. She had never been one to care for her schoolwork, but when her guidance counselor said her grades were too low to get into any good colleges, Jo took that as a reason not to try that hard anymore. Even though it pissed her mom off, Jo was determined to become a hunter just like her dad was. And in her mind, she didn't need a college education for that. Ellen made her make a promise that she wouldn't drop out, so Jo had to oblige or else she would risk the roof over her head. School wasn't that bad really. She just didn't have any friends.
The week after her seventeenth birthday, Jo came off the bus one day storming through the dirt and slamming the door to the Roadhouse behind her as she made her way to the back door.
Ellen was washing some glasses when she hurried past. “Jo? What's wrong?”
“I don't wanna talk about it.” Jo replied angrily, slamming the back door behind her, making her way outside again.
Ash opened his door and poked his head out.
“What's goin' on?” He asked Ellen, his brow furrowed in concern.
“Jo's home.” She replied, sighing.
“She okay?” He stepped out of his room and shut the door behind him.
“Don't look like it.” Ellen said plainly.
“Maybe I should talk to her.”
“You sure you wanna do that? You realize that's like suicide, right?” Ellen lowered her eyes at him.
Ash shrugged and walked to the door. “Ain't no harm in tryin'” He responded, walking outside.
Ellen rolled her eyes and went back to the dirty glasses.
Ash shut the door behind him and looked out at the back yard. Jo was throwing rocks against a rickety wooden fence, knocking bottles and cans down to the ground.
“Hey, what's up?” He asked, leaning against the wall in the shade.
“I don't wanna talk about it.” She replied, tossing a stone and missing one of the bottles.
“You sure? It might make you feel better if you get it off your chest.”
“I'm fine, Miles, okay!” She snapped, turning to him, her teeth clenched. Ash could see tear marks on her cheeks and her eyes were puffy from crying.
He folded his arms at his chest and looked at her calmly. “I ain't buying it.”
She shook her head and picked up another rock. “Well it doesn't matter. Nothing can change what happened.”
Ash nodded slowly, trying to listen.
Jo threw the rock forward and it hit the fence and bounced back onto the dusty ground. She let out a yell and brought her hands up into her hair, tugging at the blonde strands and squeezing her eyes shut.
Ash continued to watch, letting her do whatever she needed to do.
She stood still, her hands in her hair and tears falling from her eyes for several minutes while the sun beat down.
When the tears subsided and she finally brought her hands back down to her sides, she turned and slowly faced Ash.
“Y'alright?” He asked gently.
“I'm pissed.” She answered, her voice cracked from crying.
“Well yeah. I caught that much, Jo-Jo.” He smiled slightly. “Tell me what's goin' on.”
She sighed and shook her head.
“Come on, you know it'll make you feel better.” He insisted, trying not to pry.
Licking her dry lips, Jo finally gave in and walked over to the wall, leaning next to Ash.
“It's the guys at school.” She admitted.
Ash raised an eyebrow. “What did they do?”
She huffed out a breath. “Prom's coming up and everything.”
“Okay...” Ash nodded, waiting for her to continue.
“Well Jimmy Walters told all his friends to ask me out and he told them that I'm easy.” She narrowed her eyes, glaring out at some unknown thing in the yard.
Ash didn't say anything. He didn't know how to respond to that so he just remained silent.
“I ain't even had a real boyfriend before, let alone ever been with a guy.” Jo crossed her arms at her chest.
Biting his lip a little, Ash spoke cautiously. “So what made them say that?”
“I don't know. They're just assholes.” She wrinkled her brow.
Ash shrugged and nodded. “Yeah, they are. Don't listen to 'em, okay?”
Jo rolled her eyes. “It's kinda hard not to when everyone's saying it at school.” She kicked at the dirt on the ground, sending a little cloud of dust rolling into the air.
“You ever had that problem?” She asked, glancing up at Ash.
He shook his head. “No, I was pretty quiet, no one ever really spread stuff about me in school.”
“No, I mean with girls. You ever have girl problems?” She cocked her head curiously.
Ash chuckled to himself and looked down at the ground. “I've had a few girl problems, yeah.”
“Really?” Jo asked, her eyes widening.
“Don't sound so surprised.” He joked.
“Sorry.” She responded, feeling a little bad.
“It's no big deal. They weren't all that bad.”
“How many girls you been with?” She asked, leaning her head back on the wall.
Ash thought about it for a moment. “Four, I guess.”
Jo raised her eyebrows. “Damn.”
“So what happened?” She cocked her head slightly.
He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “They just didn't work out. I don't think they really got me.”
Jo smiled and nudged him in the shoulder. “Well they missed out.” She pulled away from the wall and walked out into the middle of the yard.
Ash picked his head up and watched her.
“Hey, you know what would be fun?”
“What?” He asked.
“We should go into town.” Jo grinned.
“You got work tonight.” He folded his arms at his chest.
“So? Mom can deal with it.”
“You know she's gonna kill you one of these days, right?” Ash raised an eyebrow at her as she started to walk around the bar. He followed.
“Oh well.” She replied. “As long as no one tells on us, it'll be fine.”
Ash rolled his eyes and sighed, sticking close behind her as they walked out onto the side of the road.
It took about twenty minutes to get into town and by the time they got there, the sun was starting to set on the horizon. They walked through the little village and passed by the shops and restaurants, trying to decide what to do.
“We could go bowling.” Ash said as they passed Big Red's Bowling Alley.
“Hmm, I wanna do something else.” Jo answered while she looked around as if she were a tourist.
“There's the diner?” Ash pointed to a little place across the street with neon lights on in the windows.
“Mom's got friends there.” She responded.
“You know there ain't much to do in this town, Jo.” He shook his head.
Suddenly, her eyes lit up and a grin formed at her lips. “Bingo.” She said as she made her way towards a red Pinto parked outside McDonalds.
“What? What do you see?” Ash asked, puzzled. “We're goin' to McDonalds?”
Without responding, Jo stepped next to the little sports car and looked in the driver's side window.
“What are you doing?” Ash put his hands at his hips.
“Suckers didn't even lock the doors.” Jo shook her head, her expression radiating thrill.
Looking forward at the front window of the fast food restaurant, she nodded her head. “Alright, coast is clear.”
Ash cocked his head without saying anything, completely baffled at what she was planning.
Opening the door to the car, Jo sat down in the driver's seat and bent down under the wheel.
Ash's eyes widened as he realized what was going on.
“Jo what are you doing? You can't be serious right now.” He whispered anxiously, searching the parking lot to see if anyone was watching.
“Hush, Miles. You gotta live a little.” Jo grinned as she pulled out a few wires and began twisting them together.
“How the hell do you know how to do that?” Ash hurried over to her and knelt down, watching.
“Hunters.” She replied plainly.
The car started to make a rumbling noise and Jo rubbed the wires together until the steady sound of the engine vibrated through the vehicle. She grinned widely.
Ash shook his head and put his face in his hand. “I can't believe you.”
“Stop complaining and get in.” Jo said, sitting back against the leather seat and putting a hand on the gears.
Ash obliged, hurrying over to the passenger side door and getting in quickly.
“You are goin' straight to hell.” He said, still shaking his head.
Shifting into reverse, Jo looked out the rear window and pulled the car back.
A group of high school boys from inside McDonalds stood from their table and started to shout.
With a screech, Jo whipped the car around and sped out of the parking lot as two boys ran out of the restaurant.
Ash looked out the back window. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” He kept repeating, his eyes wide.
“Put on your seatbelt, Miles, we're going for a ride.” Jo smiled as she drove the car down the main street, going through a quickly turning yellow light.
“Do you know those guys?” Ash asked, frightened as he buckled his seatbelt.
“Maybe.” Jo replied smugly.
“Jo, whose car is this?” He raised an eyebrow, holding onto the bar on the roof of the car.
“It may or may not be Jimmy Walters'.” She responded.
Ash shook his head and sighed shakily. “You are gonna be in so much trouble.”
Turning onto a side dirt road, Jo squeezed the wheel tightly in her hands.
“Where are you takin' this car?”
“I dunno.” She responded, letting out a little laugh.
“Fuck, you really need to turn around.” Ash said as they flew past fields of corn and dust was kicking up from the tires.
“Woo!” Jo called out as she went on a quick curve, knocking rocks and gravel by the ditch.
The car suddenly started to sputter and Jo crinkled her brow. “Dammit.” She slapped the steering wheel as the speed began to become slower and slower.
“What's going on?” Ash had his eyes closed but opened them just in time for them to slow to a rough stop in the middle of the dirt road.
“We gotta get out.” Jo said apprehensively. As she unbuckled the seatbelt, she opened the door quickly and stepped out. Ash followed her lead and looked around nervously.
“Come on.” She grabbed him by the arm and they jumped over the ditch and started running through a grain field.
The sun was almost set and they had gotten through a couple fields before they both started to run out of breath.
“Jo...Jo we gotta slow down.” Ash said as they got to the edge of the field and could see the Roadhouse on the other side.
“We're almost...there.” She bent over, her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath.
Ash sat down on the ground and laid back, running his hands through his hair.
Jo looked down at him and laughed before joining him.
“I can't believe you did that.” He said, panting slightly.
“You ever stolen a car before?”
“Nope.” Jo giggled and put her hands over her eyes.
“And you just left it there on that road.”
“Yup.” She responded, smiling.
The sky became dark and the stars began to show.
Sitting upright, Jo looked out across the road and saw the bar.
“I guess we should go back.” She said sighing.
Ash nodded. “Good idea.”
They stood to their feet, crossed the road and walked up the porch. Ash held the screen door open and they entered into the usual sounds of hunters and beer glasses. Jo ran a hand through her hair, getting bits of grass and dirt out of it.
Suddenly Ellen approached them, her expression far from pleased.
“Joanna Beth.” She scolded, putting her hands at her hips authoritatively.
“Oh, hey mom. Listen...”
“I don't wanna hear it.” She shook her head. “How dare you think you could get away with stealing a car.”
Jo's eyes widened and Ash stepped back.
“Kent Walters called and said his son saw you drive off in his car while it was parked at McDonalds.”
Jo looked down at the floor as some other hunters looked up from their business to watch the drama.
“Do you know how much trouble you are in right now?” Ellen's eyes narrowed. “You're lucky they aren't gonna press charges.”
Jo bit down on her bottom lip.
“Ellen,” Ash piped in. “it wasn't Jo's fault. It was me-”
“Ash, as much as I respect you tryin' to be a man and stand up for my stupid daughter, I know she's the one responsible for this.”
Jo furrowed her brow and glanced over at Ash before looking back at the floor.
“It'd be best if you leave this to me and my daughter.” Ellen nodded firmly and Ash agreed, retreating back to his room and shutting the door behind him quietly.
It seemed as though she would be grounded forever, but Jo was able to get out of her punishment within a couple months, though she didn't like it one bit. She had to come straight home from school and do her homework and then work behind the counter at the bar before bed. If she broke the rules, she would have to face a worse hell that her mom could come up with. So she stuck to the rules and waited until summer when she would be one year closer to starting her career as a full blown hunter.
Chapter 3: Fighting Monsters and Clearing Wounds
CH 3: Fighting Monsters and Clearing Wounds
The summer was like any other they'd had in previous years. It was hot, dry, and boring as hell. From the day Jo's junior year ended she had been trying to convince her mom to let her hunt. Ellen refused of course. Even as hunters came and went through the Roadhouse looking for extra help, Ellen wouldn't allow it. To try and prove her wrong, Jo started training even harder out back. Every day before her shift, she would take her gun out and practice on targets. Ash showed her how to do a couple tracking tips with files and data he had on his computer, but he never got involved when Jo begged her mom to let her leave with the hunters. Part of him agreed with Ellen. He knew how Jo was just beginning at the business, but then again, she could only get better with practice. He also knew that Jo was a hard worker and could hold her own, but he still kept out of their arguments and usually took them as a cue to open up a new bottle of PBR and head to his back room. That August; however, there were other things Ash had to worry about besides Jo hunting.
It was about eleven o' clock; peak time of night at the Roadhouse. Jo had a handful of orders to fill, one included nachos and she had to refill the cheese dispenser before she could make them.
“You know I ordered a beer about ten minutes ago.” A man said sharply as Jo ripped the top off the plastic bottle of nacho cheese behind the counter.
“Just a minute!” She answered hastily, setting the cheese down and switching to the other task.
“You need any help?” Ash asked as he leaned over the counter.
Jo looked up and sighed. “Can you bring this guy his beer for me?” She held out the tall glass she had just filled and Ash took it from her.
“Only if I can have a sip.” He grinned.
“No.” She narrowed her eyes at him playfully and went back to making the nachos. “I've got enough to worry about right now.”
Ash shrugged and set the beer down at the hunter's table before turning back to Jo.
“Don't you have computer stuff to do?” She asked, pressing the button on the cheese dispenser and holding the bowl of chips under it.
“I'm done for the night 'til someone else needs my help.”
“Lucky.” She said under her breath. “Here, can you bring these to that couple sitting by the jukebox?” Jo slid two bottles of Blue Moon across the counter.
Ash nodded and took them over.
When the nachos were finally ready, Jo blew a stream of air out between her lips and sighed. “Finally.” She whispered to herself.
As she walked the bowl over to a man sitting towards the middle of the bar, he looked up, eyes flooded with the alcohol in his system.
“Thanks, pretty lady.” He said when Jo set the nachos down on his table. She smiled slightly and got ready to walk away.
“Don't you wanna stay a while?” He reached out and wrapped his hand around her wrist. Jo frowned and gently pulled his fingers away.
“Sorry, it's a busy night and I'm working.” She replied, trying to ignore the undertones in his voice.
He chuckled and brought his hand to her waist where he slid it to her back pocket and gave a tight squeeze.
Jo nudged him away, her eyes narrowed. “Sir, I don't think you should be-”
Suddenly, from what seemed like out of nowhere, Ash pulled the man up by the collar of his shirt and slammed his fist into his nose. The hunter slumped onto the table, his hand trying to cover the blood seeping from his nostrils.
“Ash, what the hell are you doing?” Jo yelled, pulling him around by the shoulder.
Everyone in the bar stopped what they were doing to stare at them. Ellen set down the glass she was filling from the tap and hurried over.
“What's going on?” She demanded as the hunter stood upright and began cracking his knuckles, his eyes fixed on Ash.
“This boy's about to get his ass kicked.” He slurred, clenching his fist. Ellen stepped between them.
“Oh no you don't.” She shook her head and shot them both dangerous looks. “Not in my bar.”
Jo let go of Ash's shoulder from where she was holding him away from the other man and stepped in. “I think he was just leaving.” She raised an eyebrow at the hunter, refusing to look to her left to see Ash fuming beside her. “Am I right?”
The man wiped his hand under his nose, clearing the blood away and passing glances from Ellen to Ash and then back to Ellen who raised an eyebrow and nodded for him to leave.
“Fine.” He said gruffly. “But you ain't gettin' my money.” Picking his coat up from where it was slung over the chair, the hunter stormed out of the bar, slamming the door behind him.
“What are you all staring at? Get back to work.” Ellen snapped at everyone staring in the bar. She turned to face Jo and Ash, her brow furrowed and her hands moving firmly to her hips. “You mind telling me what that was about?”
Ash glanced over at Jo, his nostrils still flaring with anger and his chest rising heavily. She still wouldn't look back at him.
“It's fine mom, don't worry about it.” Jo rolled her eyes.
“I'm sorry, Ellen, it's my fault.” Ash said, folding his arms at his chest. “It won't happen again.”
“It better not. If there's one thing I will not allow in my bar, it's fighting.”
Ash nodded and Jo turned away, walking back behind the bar.
“I understand.” Ash replied, his eyes following Jo as she left.
Ellen sighed and pat him on the shoulder before turning and going back to what she was doing at the bar.
For the rest of the night Jo didn't say anything, she just took orders, filled drinks and by the time everyone had left, she was quietly wiping off the counter. Ash picked up two empty brown beer bottles from one of the tables that Jo had missed and he carried them over to her behind the counter. Setting them down and leaning against the bar, Ash tried to get her attention but she was still ignoring him.
“I think you forgot these.” He said gently. “Want any help?”
“No.” Jo replied, taking the two bottles and dropping them into the trash.
Ash nodded to himself and tipped his head to the side. “I'm sorry about what happened earlier. I just didn't want you to get hurt.”
She refused to look up, but Ash could tell from the way her brow furrowed that he shouldn't have said anything.
“I don't need any help.”
“I'm serious. I can take care of myself.” Jo raised her voice, not caring that her mom was on the other side of the bar sweeping the floor.
“Yeah, 'cause you were doin' such a great job takin' care of yourself back there.”
Ash rolled his eyes and Jo finally looked up to scoff at him.
“Excuse me? What is that supposed to mean?” She put her hands at her hips and Ash could have sworn she looked just like her mom at that moment.
“You were just gonna let that guy touch you?”
“Of course not.” She snapped and Ellen picked her head up. “I was about to take care of it myself and then you came in.”
“I was doin' you a favor.”
“I don't need any favors!” She threw the wet rag she was using to wipe the counters with into the sink and stormed out the back door.
Ash groaned and ran his hands through his hair.
“What the hell is going on?” Ellen asked.
“I'll take care of it, don't worry.” He nodded at her then turned and went out the back door.
Jo was standing right outside, her back facing Ash as he shut the door behind him.
“Jo, I was just tryin' to help.” He shook his head.
“I don't need to be rescued, Miles, get that through your head.” She swung around and glared up into his eyes.
“Just stop.” She jutted in, tears beginning to form at the edges of her eyelids.
He pursed his lips together to stop himself from saying anything more.
Shaking her head, Jo looked away. Without another word, she walked past him, opened the door to the bar and shut it behind her, leaving Ash standing by himself.
For two days they didn't say a word to each other. Ash stayed in his room doing research; at least that's what he told Ellen he was doing when she came knocking to see if he wanted to come out. He just didn't feel like getting into another fight.
Jo tried to keep busy too. She worked her shifts just like all the others she had done before and on her two breaks, she played the arcade hunting game, getting high scores as usual. On that second day though, Jo started to get a pain in her stomach; a certain loneliness that she couldn't get to go away no matter how many hunters she beat at poker in the bar. Her only friend, the one who cared about her, was alone in his room and it was because of her that they hadn't spoken in two days.
The bar wasn't that busy, even for the time of night. Jo went over to Ellen who was chatting with a group of hunters about a gig one state over and pulled her aside.
“Hey mom, I'm gonna take another break. It's pretty dead in here.”
“Alright.” Ellen nodded and turned back to the conversation to the right of her.
Jo reached behind her back and untied her apron, tossing it behind the counter. She walked over to Ash's door and stopped before she knocked. The sign read Dr Badass is: Out but Jo could hear him inside with the music on tapping away at his keyboard. She wasn't sure if he would let her in, but it was worth a shot.
Taking a deep breath and hoping he wouldn't get too annoyed, Jo knocked on the door with clenched knuckles.
“I'm busy.” She heard him call from the inside.
“Miles, it's me.” Her voice was uneasy but she remained standing at the door until she got an answer.
He was silent. At least he didn't tell her to go away or turn the music up louder. Then after what seemed like forever, he finally replied.
“Okay. Come in.”
Turning the door handle, Jo was a little scared to enter his room. She'd been in there before but it was always like walking into another dimension or the back of a Spencer's Gifts shop; she had to do it with caution. He had flashing strobe lights and his stereo was blasting a guitar solo from one of his favorite alternative bands, and in the corner of the room, Ash was leaned back in his chair, feet propped up on his desk, his computer in his lap.
Jo couldn't help but grin for a moment at him. Even when he was pissed, he was still the same old Ash.
Walking gingerly through his room, Jo stepped over to where he was sitting and leaned up against the edge of his desk right next to his feet. He picked his head up but didn't say anything.
Jo looked around, her eyes trying to adjust to the flashing lights.
“What's going on?” She asked, cocking her head at him.
“Downloadin' patches for my trackin' software.” He answered with a sigh.
Jo nodded, not really sure what that meant, but pretending she did as usual when he talked about his computer things.
“So uh...I'm here to apologize to you.” She said warily, her eyes shifting down to the floor, avoiding his when he looked up. He didn't say anything but reached over and turned the sound dial all the way down on his stereo, his eyes on her now.
“So here it goes.” She sighed and folded her arms at her chest.
“My mom won't let me hunt. My whole life I've wanted nothing more than to be a hunter just like my dad and she won't let me. I know she thinks it's dangerous. I know she wants to keep me safe, but I can hold my own. I've been practicing since I was four years old and I just want to be taken seriously. I know why you did it and yeah, it was pretty sweet, but I need to be able to prove that I'm strong enough. I need to show people that I can be just as good of a hunter as any of those men out there.”
She finally picked her eyes up to see that Ash had been watching her the whole time she was talking. His face was calm and she could tell he was just listening. He always listened to her. Smiling and ducking her head back down, Jo chuckled to herself.
“Sorry...that was a bit-”
“No, I get it.” He interrupted, nodding his head at her. “Jo, I know why you were mad, I really do. Contrary to popular belief, I ain't stupid–”
“I know you're not.” She lowered her eyes at him sympathetically.
“I know you better than anyone else, and I know why you were pissed at me. I shoulda let you take care of that guy yourself, but I didn't.” He leaned forward and rested his chin in the crook of his palm. “Somethin' just came over me and I jumped in.”
Jo smiled softly and nodded. “I know.”
They sat there in silence, the strobe lights flashing around them for about a minute before Jo tipped her head back and let out an exhale.
“Ugh it's too much effort to be mad at you, Miles.”
Ash chuckled to himself. “Wanna get some drinks then?”
Jo's eyes went wide. “I thought you'd never ask.”
The rest of the summer was pretty eventless. A few hunters came into the bar one week and Ash had never worked so hard in his life to track their demon. It was a some sort of ancient thing he had never even heard of before––which for Ash was pretty rare. He had been glad when after five days of research he was able to pinpoint a location and send the hunters on their way. Jo started up her last year of high school and both Ash and Ellen had to be subjected to her complaints and outward reluctance to continue her studies. Ellen had even caught her skipping one day and just about blew a gasket. It was one of those times when Ash knew he'd best hurry into his back room to avoid getting in the middle of a classic heated Harvelle argument. Yet after this fight, something inside Jo had changed. She was practically dying to be out of the Roadhouse and start hunting. For the most part because now it wasn't just about being like her dad, but it was about proving herself to her mom too.
Halfway through her senior year a group of hunters came into the bar lead by a man named Gordon. He was tough, had a great sense of direction in a hunt and instantly caught Jo's attention because unlike her mom, Gordon treated her like an adult from the minute he showed up.
He came into Harvelle's with three other hunters looking for extra help in finding a nest of vampires in a town nearby and when Jo leaned over the counter to listen in on his conversation with her mom, her eyes widened and a smile formed at her lips.
“Vampires?” She said enthusiastically, setting a bottle of whiskey down behind the bar and walking over to where they were all standing in a huddled group. Ellen shot her a warning glance.
“Yep. I suspect there's at least three of them camping out in this old abandoned warehouse a few miles out west according to the map Dr. Badass over here made up for me.” Gordon nodded in Ash's direction and he smiled in return, always pleased to hear that his work was appreciated.
“So when are you heading out then?” Ellen asked, cocking her head to the side.
“Tonight.” He said firmly. “And if all goes well we should have 'em taken care of before daybreak.”
Ellen folded her arms at her chest. “That's in less than four hours. Are you sure you guys are ready for it?”
Gordon shrugged. “I mean we could use an extra hand or two...”
“I'm in.” Jo said, taking a step towards him.
“No, no, no.” Ellen began shaking her head instantly. “Not gonna happen.”
“Mom...” She slumped her shoulders and scoffed, rolling her eyes.
“It is nonnegotiable, Jo.” Ellen answered, moving her hands to her hips.
“But I could help.” Jo gestured toward the other hunters. “I've been practicing, you know that.”
“It doesn't matter. I won't allow it.”
Jo glared angrily at her mom while Gordon and the others looked on quietly, not wanting to get in the way.
“Ash saw me shoot the other day. I got all bullseyes and didn't miss a single one.”
Ash stood up from his seat and raised his eyebrows. “Don't bring me into this, Jo-Jo. This is between you and your momma.”
Jo turned to glare at him too. He shrugged and she looked back at her mom.
“Come on, you know I can do it.”
“Joanna Beth, I said no.” Ellen furrowed her brow and shook her head one more time at her daughter.
It was quiet for a moment before Gordon leaned over and tipped his head to the side. “Well listen, we're leavin' by nine, so if you're interested, just come by the Main Street Motel at that time.”
Ellen shot him a glance. “We'll pass, thank you.”
Jo rolled her eyes and stormed out of the bar, kicking the back door behind her as everyone tried not to pick their heads up to stare.
Ash leaned back against the table and ran a hand through his hair. “You want me to go after her?” He asked.
“Just let her be.” Ellen answered, sighing and turning to the hunters next to her. “Now boys, I'm sorry, but my daughter can't help you on this hunt. I'm sure you understand.”
“Yes ma'am, we understand.” Gordon said nodding his head.
Ellen raised an eyebrow at him and Ash chuckled to himself. “Don't call me ma'am. Ellen is just fine.”
“Yes m––Ellen.” Gordon shifted his eyes, avoiding her glance.
Four hours had passed and since it was her night off, Jo remained out back for the rest of the night, shooting targets to blow off steam like she always did when she got into fights with her mom. When the sun went down; however, Ellen picked her head up from the drink she was pouring to realize that Jo hadn't come back inside yet and it was too dark for her to even be able to see the targets now.
“Watch the bar for a minute?” She asked a female hunter sitting next to her.
Opening the back door, Ellen stuck her head out and looked around.
“Jo, are you back here?” She pursed her lips, a twinge of worry rising up in her chest. Going back inside, Ellen hurried through the bar and out another door leading to their house across the lawn.
“Jo, are you in here?” She called as she walked into the living room.
Still no response.
Opening the door to her bedroom, Ellen's eyes widened and filled with tears as she saw a box of hunting supplies sitting out unorganized on her bed but no Jo. Ellen ran out of the house, back into the bar and swung open Ash's door. He jumped, flinging a stack of papers across the room in shock.
“Jesus Christ, Ellen, what the f–”
“She's gone.” Her voice was shaky and it made Ash stop what he was doing, his face suddenly hardening in the same shared worry as Ellen's.
“She went with Gordon.”
Hanging his head back, Ash blew a stream of air out of his mouth and brought a hand to his forehead.
“You sure?” He asked.
“Ash, I know my daughter and she's not here. Where else would she be?”
He nodded and bit down on his bottom lip.
“What do we do then?” Ash stood up from his chair and placed his hands at his hips.
“We have to go after her.” Ellen's brow furrowed as if the answer to that question was obvious.
“You uh...you sure that's a good idea?” He winced a little, expecting that to create some sort of backlash but Ellen was too scared to be mean at that moment.
“Why wouldn't it be?”
“Well for one, we don't got enough vampire huntin' stuff here. They ain't that popular. What if we get attacked?” He raised an eyebrow at her expectantly.
“But that means they could attack her!”
“And that brings me to number two. Jo's got the supplies. She's also with a group of experienced hunters...and as much as you hate to admit it...she can take care of herself.”
Ellen scoffed and her jaw tensed. Ash had to refrain from smiling at the similarity between Jo and her mom when they were mad.
“If you want my opinion, I think we should wait it out.”
Shaking her head, a stream of tears fell down her cheek and Ellen let out a staggered exhale. “I don't think I can do that, Ash. You don't understand. She's my daughter.”
“Which is why you gotta have a little faith in her.” The corner of his lip curled up and he smiled sympathetically at her.
“We could send some of the other hunters after them.” Ellen perked up, her eyes widening.
Ash shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose we could. Or we could wait it out.”
“Ughh, you're not helping, Ash.” She groaned.
“How 'bout this.” He nodded and waved his hand out to the side as if to present something. “If she ain't back by midnight we can send some hunters out.”
Ellen narrowed her eyes at him but didn't say anything. He cocked his eyebrow.
“Fine.” She said finally, turning on her heels and storming out of his room and back into the bar.
Sighing, Ash looked around his room absently. He had always been good at not letting his emotions come through, even when times were hard and things became scary. As much as he acted like everything was alright, in reality it had all been to calm down Ellen. Inside, his heart was beating out of control and all he could think about was how stupid Jo had been to go out on this hunt.
It was 11:30 and Ash could have sworn that Ellen hadn't stopped pacing since she'd found out Jo had left. She kept offering him beers but he wouldn't take them. For some reason he couldn't drink right now. That was something new.
“I'm getting the weapons.” Ellen said, shaking her head worriedly as she threw a wet rag onto the counter. “I can't wait any longer.”
Ash glanced up at her and nodded, knowing he couldn't convince her anymore.
Yet just as she was untying her apron, the front door to the Roadhouse swung open.
Gordon and his gang entered. One man was limping, another was holding his head, lines of blood dripping from beneath his hand. Gordon stepped aside to reveal one of his men holding Jo up, his hand wrapped around her waist.
Ash's eyes went wide and he ran forward without thinking. But before he could reach her, Ellen stepped out in front of him and rushed to her daughter's side.
“Jo, honey, oh god.” She said underneath her breath. Jo's face was paling and she struggled to stand up straight.
“Mom, I'm okay, it's not that bad. I promise.” Jo smiled up at her mom, wincing when Ellen touched her shoulder.
“Wha–what's this?” Ellen's eyes grew wide as she turned Jo around and saw that her back was covered in blood. A fresh wound shown through the fabric of her shirt and it looked like a large piece of glass was sticking out of her skin.
“One of the vamps lunged forward, she tried to duck but it knocked her out a window.” Gordon said, lowering his eyes.
“You fell out of a window?” Ellen's voice rose.
“It was just from the first floor, mom, it's fine, I promise.” She said again, showing an obvious effort to make sure it look like she couldn't feel any pain.
“We have to get you cleaned up.”
“It's fine...” Jo said again before her eyes fluttered and she stumbled on her feet, falling against her mom's arms. Ash hurried over to hold her up on the other side.
“This ain't fine, Jo.” He said quietly.
“Shut up.” She responded so only he could hear.
“Ash, can you get her taken care of? I need to have a word with Mr. Walker.” Ellen tipped her head at him and her eyes narrowed with pure anger.
Nodding, Ash wrapped his arm around Jo's waist and walked her to the bathroom, trying not to bump her shoulder when he shut the door behind them.
Ellen took a step towards Gordon and bit down on her bottom lip. With one swift movement she brought her hand up and slapped him hard against the cheek, the crack of skin on skin ringing through the bar.
“How dare you. I cannot believe you would have the nerve to take my daughter behind my back.”
Gordon looked down, his head still turned from the force of her slap.
“I knew this kind of thing would happen! I knew she wasn't ready and you instigated it...”
Ash sighed as they listened to Ellen's rant from behind the bathroom door. Jo sat up on the edge of the sink and turned so her wounded shoulder was facing him.
“It's not that bad, is it?” She asked, looking up at Ash, her brow wrinkled and smeared with dirt.
He shrugged and opened the medicine cabinet, pulling out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, several sheets of gauze and a pair of tweezers.
“It looks kinda bad.” He said honestly, wiping his hands with an antiseptic wipe.
Jo grimaced and swallowed heavily.
Ash stopped what he was doing to look at her for a moment, realizing he couldn't get to the wound unless she took off her shirt.
“Umm, hey Jo-Jo, I can't clean this up unless you take this off...” He said, his cheeks suddenly burning.
She shrugged nonchalantly and gripped the edges of it, beginning to pull it up. Her face scrunched up all of a sudden and she let out a pained noise.
“Fuck...” She said under her breath. “I can't lift it...my shoulder...”
Ash bit his lip, unsure what to do before he raised his eyebrows and went back into the medicine cabinet. “I'm gonna have to cut it.” He said, pulling a pair of scissors out.
“Okay. The shirt's ruined anyway.” She chuckled to herself.
Ash chuckled nervously in response and moved so he was standing directly behind her. He raised the blade of the scissors to her back collar and started to snip. He held onto the fabric gently, pulling up so he wouldn't cut her skin as he made a slit all the way down her back. She rolled her good shoulder a little, shrugging the side of the shirt down her arm before Ash took it and helped pull it all the way off, turning his head so he wasn't looking at her from the front.
“Stop blushing, Miles.” She grinned looking up at him.
“Shut up.” He retorted playfully, moving to her back again. His eyes widened as he finally saw the wound up close. There was a large piece of broken glass sticking out of her shoulder and several little bits stuck in there as well, imbedded in the skin by clotted blood.
“Damn, this is nasty as fuck.” He said, grabbing the bottle of alcohol and untwisting the top.
“Yeah, it hurts like fuck too.” Jo rolled her eyes.
“Alright, now this is gonna sting. A lot.” Ash warned her as he tipped the bottle upside down and spilled the contents onto the bloody wound.
“FUCK!” She yelled, grabbing him tightly by the arm and furrowing her brow.
“Told you.” He chuckled, taking a piece of gauze and wiping the blood around the affected area.
“Jesus...” She whispered hoarsely, closing her eyes and tightening her grip on Ash's upper arm for support.
Making sure it was completely clean before he grabbed the tweezers, Ash dabbed the now discolored bandage against her back and tossed it into the trash when he had finished.
“I'm gettin' the big one out first, okay?”
“There's a big and a little one?” Jo asked, her voice raising an octave.
“Well technically theres one big one and a bunch of little ones.” He said, taking the metal tweezers between his two fingers and leaning down to get closer to the wound.
“Damn...” She said, sucking in a breath to get ready for what would come next.
“Now don't move.” He ordered.
Jo nodded, digging her fingers into Ash's bicep.
Pinching the tweezers onto the sharp edge of the glass shard, he slowly yanked it out of her, making more blood spill from her flesh.
She shook and squeezed her eyes shut even tighter.
Holding the glass out in the light, Ash tipped his head to the side, examining it for a moment. It was fairly large; about two inches wide and with a wicked sharp edge. Realizing that Jo was sitting there shaking and that this wasn't a science experiment, Ash dropped the broken piece into the trash and brought his hand to her unwounded shoulder, gently rubbing it in an attempt to soothe her.
“You okay?” He asked, still refusing to completely look at her front.
She nodded, eyes still closed. “Hurts...”
He nodded in return and exhaled. “You're doin' great, though.”
Her lips curled upwards a tiny bit.
Going back to her shoulder, Ash held a fresh piece of gauze against the bleeding area and carefully stuck the tweezers into the cut, fishing out another piece of glass. She squeezed his arm again but at this point Ash barely noticed.
He got out one, then two, then three pieces, tossing them into the trash with the others. They were silent for a bit so he could concentrate, but once he got down to where there were only a couple bits still left in her skin, he decided to speak again.
“You know, that was really stupid what you did.”
Jo opened her eyes and turned her head to look up at him.
“Goin' out on this hunt.” He replied. “Your mom was right.”
She looked away, frowning.
“She was about to come right after you but I had to convince her not to.”
Jo sighed. “Thanks, I guess.”
“I wasn't tryin' to do you a favor, I was tryin' to make sure she didn't have a fuckin' heart attack, Jo.” His voice suddenly became low and serious, making Jo's brow loosen up. “I was really worried. I mean...we were really worried.”
Ash bit his lip to keep from talking any more and he fished out the penultimate piece of glass.
“I'm sorry.” Jo said quietly. Ash raised an eyebrow at her, though she didn't see.
Did Jo just apologize? Did she not want to argue about how she was a good hunter and could take care of herself and her mom was wrong about everything? Ash was surprised. Maybe she was too tired and in too much pain to argue. Or maybe she knew they had been right. Either way, she sighed and turned her head, looking up at him.
“I know I shouldn't have gone.”
Their gazes locked for a minute, and Ash felt something in his chest wrench a little. He looked into her dark brown eyes and saw that she really was sorry. Breaking their eye contact, Jo turned away again. “You almost done?” She asked, changing the subject.
Ash turned back to the wound and brought the tweezers up one last time. “Uh, yeah.” He answered, swallowing heavily.
Once he had gotten the final piece of glass out, cleaned it up one last time and taped a heavy patch of gauze over Jo's shoulder, Ash put everything back into the medicine cabinet. She slid off the sink and staggered to her feet.
Watching her warily, Ash let her figure out how to stand on her own as he washed his hands. When she turned around to face him, he brought his head down to the sink, keeping his eyes on the water pouring over his hands.
“Would you mind grabbing me a new shirt so I don't have to go out there like this?” Jo asked, folding her arms at her chest to cover herself up a little.
“Sure. You want me to grab one of your tee-shirts from your room?” He shut the faucet off and wiped his wet hands on the towel hanging from the wall.
“That's too far away, just give me one of yours.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Come on, I'll give it right back.” She cocked her head at him and smiled.
“Fine, fine.” He laughed, opening the door to go back out into the bar.
“Pick me out something good!” Jo called as he shut the door behind him.
About two minutes later, Ash came back with a black shirt folded up in his hands. He held it out to her.
Jo's eyes widened. “Your Bruce Campbell shirt?” She asked excitedly, knowing it was his favorite.
“It's good luck. And you need it if you wanna make a speedy recovery.” He smiled as she took it from him, eyeing it like it was precious piece of art.
“Wow, Miles, I don't know what to say.”
Ash wrinkled his brow and laughed. “It's just a shirt, Jo.”
“I know, I know.” She rolled her eyes, grinning.
He turned to walk out of the bathroom again.
“Don't leave yet. I can't get it on myself.” She said.
Ash pursed his lips together and turned back slowly. He stepped towards her and took the shirt in his hands again. Jo held out her bad arm and he slipped the shirt over it, pulling her arm gently through the opening and bringing it over her head.
“Thanks.” She said, wincing a little as she put her other arm through by herself.
“No problem.” He nodded, finally looking at her straight on. A smile formed at his lips.
“What?” Jo raised an eyebrow at him.
“It's huge on you.” He laughed, running a hand through his hair.
“Shut up!” She reached forward and punched him gently in the shoulder. “It's 'cause you're fat.”
“Yeah, okay.” He rolled his eyes. “Now, you better get out there and talk to your mom.”
Jo groaned, tipping her head back.
“I can't.” She said plainly.
“You gotta.” Ash raised his shoulders.
“Can't we just sneak out and hide from her for a bit?”
He gave her a look. “No more sneakin' out.”
“Ugh, fine.” She shook her head. “But I don't want to face her.”
“Come on. You just faced a nest of vampires, I'm sure your mom isn't as bad.”
“Yeah, she's worse.”
They burst out laughing and after about a minute, Ash opened the door and held it out as Jo walked out slowly, her breath held as she went to go face her mom.
That night Ash could hear them fighting even over the blasting of his stereo. He laid back on his bed and closed his eyes, concentrating on the music in the darkness around him. Something felt different. He couldn't quite figure out what it was, but he knew that feeling he had gotten in his chest wasn't something he had felt around her before tonight. Nonetheless, he tried to ignore it.
The next few months were hard. Ellen wouldn't let Jo leave her sight. She grounded her again which just made Jo even more pissed and eager to rebel, but Ash kept reminding her that that was a bad idea. She was going to turn eighteen in less than three weeks and soon after that she would be free to do whatever she wanted. Even if that meant hunting.
Chapter 4: Fessing Up and Making Choices
CH 4: Fessing Up and Making Choices
“You know my birthday's in two days, right?”
Ash raised his eyebrows at her, incredulously laughing to himself. “What, you think I'm gonna forget or somethin'?”
She shrugged. “I dunno.”
“When have I ever forgotten?”
A smile crept at her lips and she turned away, tossing the smooth round stone she'd been holding between her fingers out on the water and watching it bounce a few times over the surface before sinking to the bottom.
“Never.” She replied, sifting through the stones and rocks by her bare feet.
“That's right.” He grabbed a rock of his own and chucked it out on the creek, watching as hit some weeds growing on the other side. He made a face and Jo turned to him, her expression looking like she was about to call him a dumbass.
“So what are we gonna do, then?” She tipped her head a little.
“Whatever you want. It's your birthday.”
“I know, but I wanna do something big, you know?” Leaning forward, Jo wrapped her arms around her bent legs and rested her chin on her knee.
“Well I ain't takin' you out to steal a car this time.”
She laughed but he was serious.
“What about a movie?” He lay back on the smooth pebbles of the dry creek bed and brought his arms behind his head, using them as a pillow.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You know you're mama's not gonna let you try anythin' too big, right?”
He heard her scoff and could tell she was rolling her eyes even though she had her back turned to him.
“You know I'm right, Jo.” He reiterated. She was so stubborn and would most likely try to do something rebellious against her mom's rules and it would get her into even more trouble than she was already in this year. Ash knew that she hadn't learned yet. Her patience was slim and it was her own fault for getting grounded so many times. Ellen was strict, but she was also just trying her best to help put Jo in line and teach her some respect.
“Yeah, yeah.” She said sarcastically. “But once I'm eighteen, I don't have to go by her rules anymore.”
He shook his head. “Well if you wanna stay under her roof, you're gonna want to.”
Jo blew a strand of hair out from in front of her face. “Then I won't stay under her roof.”
Ash lowered his eyes, pursing his lips without anything to say in response. He knew she wouldn't want to stick around after she graduated. He knew that for certain. She wanted to go far, far away from here and become a hunter just like her father had been. Ash knew that had been her dream ever since he'd first come to the Roadhouse, but he still wished it were something different. He wished she wanted to stay. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that, though.
Standing up from the stony creek-bed, Jo bent her back a little bit to each side, trying to get it to crack. She stepped over to where Ash was laying and stood over him.
He looked up at her and stared. “What?”
“The sun's down.”
Ash turned his head slowly to each side and then nodded when he looked back at her. “Yeah, I guess you're right.”
“Wanna catch that movie?” She tilted her head and the corner of her mouth went up.
Ash scooted up to lean on his elbows. “We don't know what's playin'.”
“So, we'll find out once we get there.”
“I ain't watchin' no romantic-comedy shit...”
Jo chuckled. “We'll find something.”
“You're gonna have to tell Ellen.”
Nodding, Jo held out her hand to him. “We'll make a stop back at the Roadhouse.”
Ash stared up at her with a cocked eyebrow before reaching out and grabbing her extended hand and hoisting himself up. They started walking away from the creek and Jo dropped his hand back to his own side. He hadn't even realized he was holding hers.
“You think she'll let us go?” Ash asked as they kicked through the high weeds that tickled their ankles.
“She better. It's my birthday.”
“ Almost your birthday.” He corrected and she glared at him momentarily.
They walked through the back path up a small incline from the creek and wound up at the huge grain field behind the Roadhouse. The lights were on and they imagined it would start getting busy soon.
Going in through the back, Jo hurried over to her mom behind the counter and Ash shut the screen door and latched it. He stayed out of the way as Jo asked for permission to leave, knowing by now not to get involved in important Harvelle matters of affairs.
“Come on, please? We're just going to the drive-in.” Jo's voice went up an octave and was loud enough for Ash to make out from across the bar.
Ellen shook her head.
“It's my eighteenth birthday!” She put her hands on her hips.
“You've got two days before your birthday, Jo.” Ellen said firmly.
“Come on, it's just gonna be us two. We'll see the first feature and come right back, right Miles?”
Ash perked up, eyes wide. Don't bring me into this. “Uh...”
Ellen gestured for him to come over with a quick motion of her hand. He obliged.
“You'll make sure she stays out of trouble?”
Jo rolled her eyes and made an “ugh” sound. Ash elbowed her in the side, knowing if she kept up her attitude, Ellen would never let her go. She glared at him but kept quiet.
“Yeah, we'll just go there and come right back.” He nodded firmly.
Shifting her eyes from Ash to Jo, Ellen finally gave in and sighed.
“Fine.” She shook her head, overruled. “But if I hear about anything–”
“We'll stay outta trouble.” Ash nodded again, turning to Jo. She nodded and turned away to start walking towards the door. Ash cleared his throat and she looked over her shoulder at him. He gestured over at Ellen.
“Thank you, mom.” Jo said, her tone obviously forced.
Ellen rolled her eyes and picked up a glass and began filling it.
Following her out of the bar, Ash caught back up with Jo as she hurried down the front steps.
“God, I can't wait to be out of here.” She said under her breath and Ash looked down at his feet as they walked through the trees towards the theater.
“I just can't wait to be away from her and be on my own, you know?”
Ash was silent for a minute, calculating in his head exactly what he was going to say.
“So...so you're really gonna do it, then?” He stammered out. “You're gonna leave Nebraska?”
She nodded enthusiastically, a smile wide on her face. “Damn straight, I am.” Jo ran a hand through her hair. “You know that's been the plan forever, Miles. If mom wasn't making me graduate, I'd leave right now.”
He was quiet again.
“I just wanna be out there in the action, you know? I wanna be a hunter. It's the only thing I'm good at.”
Ash turned to her, his brow furrowed. “That ain't true.”
She chuckled at him as they crossed an empty road. “No? Okay, tell me one thing I'm good at then.”
He looked back in front of him and sighed. “Well you're a good bartender.”
She made a face.
“Okay...that was a bad example...”
Jo cocked an eyebrow at him. “Told you, I'm not good at anything but hunting.”
He shook his head and started gesturing absently with his hands. “That ain't true.” He repeated again. “You're...you're good at writin'.”
She made another face at him, this time her mouth gaping open.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Well you write in those journals and–”
“You read my journals?” She butted in, her eyes narrowing.
Ash narrowed his eyes back at her this time. “No, course I haven't read your journals, I'm just sayin' that you like to write is all.”
She rolled her eyes and relaxed her expression a bit.
“I mean, you bring your essays to me and stuff, have me read 'em over before you turn 'em in. I've read your writin' and I think it's good.”
“What, so I'm gonna be a writer?” Her voice was heavily layered in sarcasm.
“Well I thought I was gonna be a computer engineer and look at what I'm doin'.”
They approached the back side of the drive-in and Jo looked over her shoulder at the ticket box to make sure they didn't see them come in without paying.
“Yeah, but at least that's kind of close to what you're doing now.”
He lifted his brow. “No...not really.”
Jo shook her head as she scouted out a place to sit away from the cars parked in the lawn. “It doesn't matter, Miles. I'm gonna leave after graduation and that's that. Why are you arguing with me about it?”
“I ain't arguin' with you...” He answered softly.
“Yeah you are.” She stopped and turned to him with her hands on her hips.
“I'm just lettin' you know that you got options.” He said plainly.
“Well I get enough of that from my teachers and my mom, I don't need it from you too.” She looked up at him, her facial expression tense.
Ash sighed and nodded eventually. “Fine. That's fair.”
Jo nodded back and turned to face the screen at the end of the lawn. Previews were still playing and she'd completely forgotten to look at what the first feature was.
“This better not be Titanic 2 .” She said jokingly.
Ash chuckled a little, still thinking about the previous conversation, unable to get it out of his head.
Jo plopped herself down on the low cut grass and folded her legs over each other. She patted the spot next to her and looked up at him as if they hadn't even been arguing a minute ago.
“You uh, you want some popcorn?” He asked, needing something to get his mind off of this.
Smiling, Jo's eyes went wide. “Yeah, sure. I don't have any money though.”
“I got it.” He smiled back at her and went over to the concession stand a little ways away. When he came back, he dropped a big bag of buttered popcorn in Jo's lap and she smiled again, digging her hand into it right away.
“Thanks, Miles.” She stuffed a handful into her mouth.
Ash sat down next to her, leaning back on his hands and spreading his legs out in front of him to face the screen.
“You find out what we're watchin'?” He was feeling a bit better but still couldn't phase the idea from his conscience of her leaving.
“We lucked out.” She said with her mouth full before swallowing. “It's Final Destination 2 .”
“'S a bit different than Titanic .” He joked and Jo nodded, taking another handful.
Ash leaned over and grabbed some popcorn and Jo inched a little closer to him so they could share.
After the first five minutes, Jo was already into the movie, talking to the characters and telling them what to do. Her eyes were practically glued to the screen ahead of them when they went to the drive-in. There was nothing that could take her attention away. Every so often, Ash would look over at the excitement on her face and it would make him smile a little and he would turn back to the movie.
Sometime during the film, Ash migrated to laying on the grass, his hands propping his head up on his arms. Jo somehow ended up leaned against him, her head on his chest. They wound up that way a lot just because it was more comfortable. Sometimes Ash would fall asleep and Jo would poke him in the ribs to wake him up, making him grumble not to disturb his beauty rest. Ash didn't fall asleep this time, though.
He kept circling their argument in his head. He was trying to think of a way to keep her there, even though he knew it was selfish. Or was it? Maybe it was for her best to be near Ellen and a place she was familiar with. She wouldn't have to pay rent if she stayed and she already had a steady job. But Ash knew that would never happen. He thought that she should try to go to college; maybe not somewhere fancy, but there were some community schools about fifty or sixty miles away. She could study whatever she wanted. Maybe psychology or writing or anything really. Anything but hunting.
It worried him thinking she would be out there on her own. She really had only been out on one hunt and it had ended pretty badly. And she hadn't even been alone on that hunt. His stomach turned thinking about what might happen to her.
He wasn't really focusing on the movie even though Jo was completely enthralled by it. He couldn't make his mind stop conflicting with him. He knew it was selfish. He knew it was stupid even, but he wanted Jo to stay. Without her, he was just some hacker that did jobs every once and a while at the Roadhouse.
Something big happened on the screen and Jo got excited, picking her head up and turning to him. “I totally called that! I saw it coming an hour ago!”
Ash smiled, not really sure what she was talking about since he wasn't quite paying attention. She was looking up at him as they lay on the grass and for some completely odd reason, Ash's mind told him that he needed to do something. Pulling his arm out from under his head, he brought his hand to her cheek and leaned his face down. In that same moment, he had brought his face to hers and pressed his mouth against her lips. For a second he forgot where he was, what he was doing, who he was even, but once it came back to him, he realized he was kissing Jo. Pulling away quickly, he froze, his eyes frantically searching her face for any sign of what she was thinking at that moment.
Jo's jaw had dropped a little and her eyes were wide and unblinking as she stared at him. She didn't say anything, but she looked like she was either terrified, confused or shocked and Ash figured it was a mix of all three. Slowly, she turned her head back to the screen and hesitated before laying back on his chest, her body tense now.
Ash's heart was racing. What the hell had he just done? He kissed Jo. He kissed Jo and she didn't kiss back. He felt like shit but put his hand shakily back behind his head and leaned back again. Was she going to forget this happened? Was she going to say something about it? Should he say something about it? There was no way he was going to be able to watch the rest of this movie. How was she able to watch the rest of the movie?
Swallowing a dry, heavy gulp, Ash closed his eyes and tried to figure something out. He had fucked up. He didn't know what to do.
When the movie finally ended and the credits started to roll, Jo pulled herself away and quickly sat up straight. She had been silent for the rest of the film. Ash kept diverting his eyes to her but she never looked at him. She didn't say anything. Nothing about the movie, nothing about the kiss, not a thing.
He figured he wouldn't say anything either. For one, he didn't know what he could say. Did he have feelings for Jo? Feelings other than best friend feelings? Something in his stomach told him he was stupid to think that he didn't for all this time.
For two, he wanted to wait for her to talk first. He was the quiet one who let her say what she wanted when she wanted to. He was okay with that this time but he hoped she would say something soon.
They started heading back to the Roadhouse in the dark, going past the back of the ticket stand, stepping over bushes and going across the road. They didn't speak. They didn't look at each other.
Ash had so many things going through his mind but the major one was that he had most definitely fucked up and it could have likely cost him his one and only friend.
When they reached the first of three large fields, Jo finally stopped and put her hand out, physically stopping him too. Ash felt his stomach do a flip and the air knock out of him from his nervousness.
Jo looked up at him, her eyes slightly narrowed, searching his face as she was trying to think of what to say. Ash pursed his lips, waiting anxiously.
Letting out a big exhale, she finally spoke. “Okay....what was that?”
He swallowed and began to stutter. “W-what?”
She furrowed her brow even more and frowned. “Don't play stupid, Miles. What the hell was that?”
“I-I'm sorry...” He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked down at the ground.
“Why did you–” She began but stopped herself, huffing out another breath and shaking her head. “Do you like me?”
Her voice was loud and rough and it made Ash jump a little. He felt like he was being interrogated; he was being interrogated and it was nerve wracking.
“I...I...” He couldn't think or speak for that matter. “I'm sorry.”
Jo rolled her eyes and folded her arms at her chest like her mom did when she was mad. “Stop apologizing.”
He nodded once, eyes still at the dusty ground. “Okay.”
Jo paused. She seemed like she was in more distress than he was. “Would you answer me, then? Do you like me?”
Biting on his lip and squeezing his hands in his pockets, Ash fidgeted as he tried to answer. “You're my best friend.”
She shook her head violently and took a step closer to him. “Stop it. I know you're not an idiot. Now please just tell me the truth.”
He took a deep inhale and slowly picked his gaze up from the ground and brought it tentatively to hers. “Y-yeah...I guess I do.” His voice was barely a mumble but he knew she heard it because she looked like a train had suddenly hit her.
Jo blinked a few times, her expression fading to an almost blank slate. She didn't say anything for a minute and they stood there in silence. Shifting on her feet, Jo swallowed and started nodding at him.
“This is why you were fighting with me.”
“I wasn't fightin' with you.” Ash replied quietly.
“You were asking me about graduation because you want me to stay here with you.” Her eyes focused on something away from him and she squinted a little more as if in concentration.
“N-no, I just was askin'. I want you to do what you wanna do...”
“What? Do you think I'm gonna just stay at the Roadhouse and be your girlfriend or something?”
He slumped his shoulders. “Why are you bein' so mean?”
She shook her head and sighed. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry, okay? This is just really...surprising.”
Ash raised his brow. “Is it, though?”
She looked up at him, confused. “What do you mean?”
Shrugging, he looked away. “I dunno...do most best friends do the things we do?”
“Yeah, they do.”
He shook his head now. “I really don't think they do.”
She ran her hands through her hair and scoffed. “So what? We don't have any other friends. You're all I've got.”
Those last words sent a wave through him and Ash took a step closer to her. She backed away suspiciously and he rolled his eyes at her.
“I ain't gonna kiss you again, okay? But you're right. I am all you've got and you're all I've got. That's why I don't want you to leave.”
Jo stumbled on her words. “Well...well you've got my mom and other hunters and people who come into the Roadhouse...”
“Oh, that's real great comin' from you.”
“Listen, I just don't want you to jump into this whole hunting thing. What if it ain't the thing for you?”
That was it. He had said the complete wrong thing and he wished he could take it back right after it had come out.
Her expression changed and suddenly the volume of her voice rose. “Hunting is what I was born for, Miles. Hunting is in my blood.”
“I have to do it. I have to do it for him and you know that! I thought at least you of all people would understand that!”
Ash didn't have anything to say. He couldn't think of anything that would calm her down. Maybe there was nothing he could do now. Maybe it wouldn't work regardless if he had something to say or not. He'd blown it.
“This is what I'm going to do and you can't stop me.” Turning from him, she stormed off through the weeds.
Ash stood here, his knees weak, watching her hurry off away from him towards the Roadhouse. He didn't think he could move. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to. If he went back into the bar, he knew he'd see Jo again if she didn't run off to her room. He would see Ellen and she would probably know something was up. He wasn't in the mood to explain.
Slowly, Ash eventually made his way to the Roadhouse, opening the front door and keeping his eyes down at the ground as he went behind the counter to where Ellen was working and grabbing an armful of beers.
“Ash, what's going on?” She asked, cocking an eyebrow at him. “Why are you so late?”
“'S a long story, Ellen.” He shook his head and didn't even look up to see if Jo was in there or not. He just walked over to his door with his beers and went inside, locking it behind him.
Jo woke up early. She couldn't sleep last night so she figured it would be stupid to just lay around in bed unable to catch any sleep. She'd done a lot of thinking, a lot of reflecting after she came home from the drive-in. Mostly, she was thinking about Ash and why he had kissed her. Did other people really not act like that with their friends? She didn't really have anything to compare it to. Maybe she had been purposely trying to not see how he felt about her but that just made her question how long he'd felt that way. There were so many things she wanted to ask him, but she felt like she needed to wait until morning. She'd been pretty harsh last night and she needed to apologize. The only thing was, Jo didn't know if she could sort out her own feelings about him.
She'd had crushes before and she knew how guys were, but honestly, Ash wasn't like most guys. She didn't really see him as being boyfriend material or anything, but there was a little part of her that stayed in the back of her mind that always liked how she could tell him anything and he would listen no matter what. That part of her liked him always being there, doing everything together. They'd gotten into a lot of trouble and done a lot of weird things, but she never looked at is as being anything romantic . But once again, she had nothing to compare this to.
He definitely wasn't an asshole like those guys at school who were only trying to get into girls' pants. He wasn't like the hunters who came into the bar either. He was just Miles.
Pulling on a wife-beater from her drawer, Jo grabbed a pair of shorts and slipped those on before quietly leaving her room as not to wake her mom up. The sun had been out for about an hour and Jo had been awake when it had risen.
Going through the back door of the Roadhouse, Jo closed it slowly so it didn't screech on its hinges. She made her way over to his door and sighed. She'd done this before and she hated it. She hated admitting she was wrong. It made her seem vulnerable and Jo refused to let herself look that way.
Sighing, she brought her fist up and knocked her knuckles against the wood right above his Dr. Badass sign.
He didn't answer and she figured he was sound asleep.
“Miles, open up.” She knocked a little harder. “I know it's early, but I wanna talk.”
There was still no answer so Jo slumped her shoulders and turned the handle, opening the door to his room.
She stood there for a moment staring at the empty bed. There were no sheets on it, just a pillow. His posters were off the wall and his stereo was missing. In fact, everything was missing.
Jo blinked, her eyes gradually filling with warm salty tears. She couldn't move as her heart sank and she was left looking out at what should have been Ash fast asleep in his bed but was now just nothing.
A couple of tears fell down her cheeks as she backed away, feeling kind of faint. He was gone. Ash was gone. Her only friend. Maybe this was a dream? Jo closed her eyes and squeezed them shut, but when she opened them, the room was still empty. She couldn't look at it anymore. It felt like he had died or something awful and she didn't want to feel it anymore.
Hurrying out of the bar, out the back door and into her house again, Jo rushed into the kitchen and grabbed Ellen's keys hanging off the nail above the counter. If her mom wanted to ground her again, she would just have to deal with it. Jo honestly didn't care about that right now.
Running over to the truck, she clambered into the front seat, frantic to get it started. Looking out the back window, she put it into reverse, kicking up clouds of dust from the driveway. “Come on, you son of a bitch.” She said desperately under her breath as she pulled out onto the road, praying she wasn't too late.
It didn't take long to get to the bus station, but Jo felt like the trip would never end. She had her foot down on the gas pedal, making the beat up Chevy go seventy and barley slowing it down as she pulled into the parking lot. Climbing out of the seat, Jo didn't even think to pull the keys from the ignition. She just slammed the door and ran into the station. Every part of her was shaking, needing him to not be gone yet. She thought the buses didn't start coming for another half an hour, but she couldn't remember.
Looking hastily from one side of the practically empty bus station to the other, Jo brought her hands to her head and pulled slightly at her hair. The world seemed like it was spinning around her and all she wanted to do was find him and say she was sorry. But then she saw out of one of the windows, Ash standing with his hands in his pockets, tapping his foot on the pavement.
Turning his head, his eyes widened when Jo suddenly ran out of the door and came at him. He backed up a little in shock.
“Miles, what the hell are you doing here?!” Her voice was almost a scream.
Ash tried to remain calm, but he couldn't believe she was here. He didn't understand it. “Jo, I gotta do this. It's the best thing–”
She shook her head from side to side, unsure if the wetness on her cheeks were from new tears or from ones she'd shed on the ride over. “No. Miles, please, I don't want you to go.”
He shrugged, looking down at her with a firm expression. He needed to be an adult about this. He wasn't going to let himself fall for someone who didn't feel the same way as he did.
“It's what's gotta happen. This way I can move on and you don't gotta worry about me fuckin' your life up.”
Jo's brow furrowed immediately. “Fucking my life up? You're not fucking my life up.”
“Yeah, I am.” He looked down and sighed. “I should have known better, ya know? Made better boundaries and shit.”
She kept shaking her head. “But I don't want you to leave me. I never wanted that.”
He rolled his eyes. “No? Why not? You're gonna be leavin' me in a month anyway, so why not?”
Her chest was rising and falling heavily, eyes red and swollen. She had nothing to say in response. He was right. That's exactly what she was going to do to him.
“I'm just gotta leave now 'cause after last night, I realized I shouldn't get involved with you.” He brought his hands out of his pockets and folded his arms at his chest.
Jo frowned even more. “But maybe you don't have to get involved like that. Can't we just go back to the way it was? Can't we just go back home and pretend it never happened?”
He shook his head. “Back to the way it was? Jo, I've felt this way for a while.”
Her eyes fluttered and another tear fell down her cheek.
“I just didn't say nothin', I didn't do nothin'. I just let it go. But last night was bad and I shouldn't have done what I did.”
“What? Kiss me?” She said shakily.
“Yeah. I should have known you wouldn't feel that way.”
Her fists clenched and unclenched and she cocked her head at him. “How do you know I don't”
Ash chuckled sarcastically. “Oh please don't do me any favors.”
“Don't be like that.” She took a step towards him and he didn't move. “How do you know I don't feel that way.”
His eyebrow raised and he paused before he answered, scanning her face. “Do you?”
She took a breath and shrugged her shoulders. “I...I don't really know.”
Grabbing his duffle bag, Ash turned away from her. “Jo, you don't have to lie. I know you could never love me.”
She scoffed at his turned back. “Maybe you just need to give me a chance, Miles. I did just find out about this yesterday.”
He shook his head, turning back to her. “And what? You said it yourself last night. You ain't gonna stay here and be my girlfriend.”
She exhaled and crossed her arms over her chest. “You could come with me.”
He stared at her. That was something he never ever thought he would hear. Jo had always wanted to hunt on her own. She said that she wasn't going to make the mistake her dad had, she wasn't going to have a partner. So this hit him like a brick wall and Ash just stood there staring.
“I stayed up all night thinking about it. I don't know exactly what to do. I don't know what I want or how I feel about you. Maybe I could be your girlfriend, maybe not. But I know that I really don't want you to leave.”
He sighed and looked away over her shoulder as the bus pulled into the station. Jo heard it and her eyes widened when she turned and saw it come over. She turned back to Ash who was holding his bag in his arms. Her eyes went wide as she looked up at him.
“Jo, it's time for me to go. I'm sorry but–”
She wasn't thinking. She had done enough thinking to break her head in half in the past twenty-four hours. Jo needed to make her point and she needed to make it now.
Lunging forward, she brought both hands up to his face and stood on her tiptoes against his body, pressing her lips against his. He staggered backwards a little and pulled away.
She had tears all down her face again and he thought he could feel his own eyes water.
“Don't you dare get on that fucking bus.” She said against his lips, leaning up and kissing him again.
He closed his eyes and let his duffle bag fall from his arms to the ground so his arms could wrap around her waist and he could hold her tight.
He parted his lips as hers slipped between them, pushing warmly against each other in unison as their breath tangled against their skin and soft sighs escaped their mouths.
Suddenly the bus horn startled them both and they broke apart.
“You coming?” The driver called out the window from the front seat.
Ash turned to Jo, a half smile lingering on his lips. She grabbed both of his hands pleadingly and stepped closer to him again.
“You sure about this?” He asked, looking down at her.
She laughed, nodding her head. “I don't know how to be a girlfriend, I really don't. But I know that if you leave, it's gonna break my heart. So, yeah. I'm sure.”
Letting out a staggered exhale, Ash raised his chin at the bus driver. “Sorry, I uh...I changed my plans.”
The man in the driver's seat shook his head and grumbled something under his breath before pulling away.
Ash turned back to Jo and brought a hand to her hair, brushing it away from her face where it was sticking to her damp cheeks.
“How did you get here so fast?” He asked.
Jo shrugged and slid her hands up his shoulders to rest at the back of his neck. “I took mom's truck...” A grin crept at the edge of her mouth. “And I sped.”
He shook his head and rolled his eyes. “All for me?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Stop thinking so low of yourself, Miles. I need my genius to help me with my homework.”
He scrunched his nose at her and nudged her in the shoulder. She jabbed him in the ribs and he let out a little noise in protest before she pulled him back to her.
“But we should go back before mom decides she wants to call the sheriff on me.”
When they got back to the Roadhouse, Ellen was sitting at the counter, a beer in her hand. Jo went in first and when she saw her sitting there, she seriously considered running back in the other direction, but Ash pushed her inside.
Fortunately, Ellen had seen that Ash's room was empty since Jo'd left the door wide open. She was pissed about her taking the keys to her truck, but wasn't as upset as they thought she would be. She knew that something was up but she was just glad that Ash was back and Jo hadn't crashed her car. Setting her beer down, Ellen walked forward and brought her hand to the back of Ash's head and kissed him on the forehead.
“Don't scare us like that, Ash.”
He made a little face, kind of weirded out as to why Ellen had kissed him, but letting it slide because it just meant he was needed. And not just needed, but wanted too.
Jo and Ellen went back into the house and made bacon and toast while Ash set his room back up. He was amazed that he was able to fit his stereo and his laptop into the same duffle bag he'd arrived with.
For the rest of the day, they spent it like any other Saturday. Jo worked on some homework and Ash read over her math problems, leaving notes on almost every single one. Ellen cleaned up the bar and restocked the shelves, then she went out and mowed the lawn in front of the house until it was time to open up the Roadhouse for the night.
Jo slid an empty glass across the counter to her mom and Ellen scooped up some ice and filled it with liquor. Wiping her hands on her apron, the blonde went around the counter to where Ash was shooting pool with a couple of hunters. He didn't see her coming from behind him as he bent down to hit the cue ball across the green felt. Jo swiped the stick from his hands and he gave her a funny look.
“You have the worst aim.” She shook her head and nudged him out of the way as she bent down and hit two striped balls into the corner hole, spinning the cue between her fingers as she stood up.
“Show off.” Ash joked, snatching the stick from her. She shrugged and walked back behind the counter.
The night seemed to drag on and Jo kept glancing at the clock. It was almost midnight, which meant she would be eighteen.
Ash lost the game of pool he was playing and he went back to his table at the corner of the bar and started fiddling with his laptop. Yet when the clock was about to hit twelve, he got up from his chair.
Jo had her head down as she scrubbed a dirty glass when suddenly the jukebox came on and she looked up at the sound of Def Leppard's “Two Steps Behind”. Ash came over and leaned against the counter.
“I love this song.” She said smiling.
“Wanna dance?” He asked, cocking his head.
She laughed. “You hate dancing.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Ash walked around the counter and took the glass from Jo's hand, setting it down and pulling her over to the back of the bar where no one was sitting. He took her hands and placed them on his shoulders, then put his own hands on her hips.
Jo laughed again, her cheeks reddening. “What are you doing?”
“Dancin', what's it look like?” He started to sway awkwardly, tipping on one side, then the other.
Jo ducked her head and looked at his feet. “Well you're bad at it.” She moved closer so his hands were at the small of her back and she could wrap hers gently around his neck. She started to lead them slowly in small circles.
“Well this works too.” He joked and started to lean his head down to kiss her. Jo's eyes widened and she shook her head, the smile still at her lips.
“Don't kiss me while my mom's here.” She whispered.
He shrugged and continued to let her lead him.
When the song ended, something random came on and Ash recognized it too. He rocked his head back and forth and Jo raised an eyebrow at him.
“What?” He asked, grinning.
“This is a dumb song, I wanna change it.” Jo started to walk away, but Ash grabbed her by the wrist and put his hand at her back, puling her to him again and dropping her into a dip. She giggled as her hair touched the floor and his went in her face. He pulled her back up started singing the words of the song to her.
“I been searchin' for a heart of gold...”
She made a face and pushed him off. “You're distracting me from work, Miles.”
He made a face back at her and pointed at the clock as she went back behind the counter.
“You see what time it is?”
Jo looked up quickly and smiled, her teeth showing.
“Happy birthday, Jo-Jo.”
She couldn't stop grinning as she quickly untied her apron and rushed over to Ellen.
“Mama,” she said in a singsong voice. “Guess what time it is?”
Ellen turned to her, glancing at the clock and smiling.
“Happy birthday, baby.” She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek but Jo quickly rubbed it off.
“Can I take off the rest of the night?”
Ellen sighed and looked out in front of her. She glanced at Jo and nodded once. “Stay out of trouble.”
Nodding happily, Jo rushed back to where Ash was. “Go for a walk with me?”
He had no reason to say no.
They went out the back door and Jo ran forward, spinning in a circle with her arms out at her sides.
“I'm eighteen, Miles!”
He chuckled and leaned up against the outside wall. “Yup. Just a month left and you got graduation.”
She furrowed her brow a little, sensing that he was still worried about that subject. “Hey.” Walking over, she stopped directly in front of him. “I told you, you're coming with me.”
He smiled down at her and shrugged.
“Jo, you really don't gotta rearrange your life plans for me.”
She pushed up on her tiptoes and kissed him quickly on the lips. “It's not a big deal. You can track the demons and I'll kill them. It's plain and simple.”
He laughed softly. “I feel like I'm getting' stuck with the girl's job.”
Jo nodded. “Yup.”
He pulled her close and put his hands against her back. “What if I don't wanna be a girl?”
She shrugged and kissed him again. “It doesn't matter, 'cause you are.”
“So you kiss girls now? You know that makes you a lesbian, Jo-Jo.”
She jabbed him in the side and he chuckled. “Well then if you're a girl, then I guess I'm a lesbian, huh? Your hair's long enough.” Grabbing a strand of his hair, Jo twirled it between her fingers before he brought his lips roughly against hers.
“Don't you make fun of my hair.”
She pulled away teasingly before going back and kissing him some more. “What are you gonna do about it?”
He grinned against her lips. “I dunno...”
Jo ran both hands through his hair and brought them to his neck while she continued to kiss him. The little bit of stubble above his lip tickled and she made a little giggling noise. Ash ran his hands along her back, his fingers trailing their way to her shoulders and down her arms while their tongues slowly explored each others mouths.
The entire morning before this, Ash had been dead set on leaving Nebraska for good. He thought he would never be able to make it work here. But now with her lips against his, breathing in her scent as they kissed, he had changed his decision completely. And to be honest, it wasn't really to do with the kissing. It was because she had come to get him. She stole her mom's car at five in the morning and raced over to convince him to stay. Then to find out that she wanted to make it work with him, it practically put him in heaven.
Pulling away slowly, Jo's lips dragged against his. He rested his forehead against hers and looked her straight in her big brown eyes.
“This has been the best birthday.” She said softly.
“But it just started.” Ash smirked.
“It doesn't matter.” She ran her hand along his face and rubbed her thumb over his warm lips. “It's still the best.”
The sun was rising over the horizon and light was starting to poke through the shades in Ash's only window. He yawned and rolled over, kicking the sheets a little as he turned. Before he could fall back into the dream he was having, he felt a sleepy kiss against his lips. Opening his eyes, he smiled over at Jo, her head resting on the other pillow.
“Mornin' birthday girl.” He said, bringing his hand up and ruffling her messy bed-hair.
She swatted his hand away with her own and scooted over closer to him. “Don't mess with my hair, Miles.” She protested groggily, a yawn of her own escaping her lips.
“Why not? It looks so great.” He joked, wrapping his arm around her.
“It's your fault it looks that way.” She raised an eyebrow at him.
He shrugged nonchalantly. “I ain't denyin' that.”
She kissed him again, sighing against his cheek.
“How ya feelin'?” He rubbed his hand against her bare arm, caressing the soft skin there.
She smiled at him. “Older.”
Ash smiled back and nodded. “Well it is your birthday.”
Jo giggled. “So where's my present?”
His eyebrow raised. “What are you talkin' about? That was your present.”
She wagged her own eyebrow at him. “Well I want another one.”
He shook his head and bit down on his bottom lip to keep from grinning too wide. “You're gonna have to wait.”
“And why is that?” She blinked at him, pretending she was serious.
“'Cause we gotta get up before your mom does.”
Her eyes widened and she sat up quickly, the sheet falling off her chest. Ash's eyes wandered for a moment. She didn't pick it back up.
“You're right. We've got to get dressed.” She started to slide out of the bed, but he took her wrist and gently pulled her on top of him, the sheets between them.
Ash kissed her neck right below her ear. “Just 'cause I ain't givin' you another present now, don't mean you ain't gonna get one later.”
She grinned and raised an eyebrow at him. “Only if I get to use pliers this time.”
He wrinkled his brow and widened his eyes. “And what exactly are the pliers gonna be for?”
Jo looked up at the ceiling and shrugged. “Oh, I don't know. I'll figure it out though.”
He let her go and she rolled off the bed.
Ash watched her as she dressed quickly and part of him felt like this was all some dream he was having. There was no way Jo would be his girlfriend in a million years. He wasn't her type. He wasn't good enough for her.
Yet when she reached over and tugged on his hair, Ash craned his neck back, frowning up at her. “Ow.” Nope, not a dream.
“If I have to get dressed then so do you.” She put her hands on her hips and looked down at him still laying under the covers.
Sure, he was a geek who knew more about computer tracking programs than about anything else. He drank a lot and would sometimes fall asleep at random places in the bar. He wasn't a hunter and he didn't have a fancy muscle car. But he was Ash and he was her best friend. As Jo looked down at him, she realized that it wouldn't be hard to be his girlfriend. She was more worried about him being able to put up with her than she was about anything he ever did. Yeah, they were an odd couple, but as Jo giggled watching him look for his boxers on his cluttered floor, she knew it was right and that somehow they would make it work.