Starting over was daunting. And in truth, Ainsley wasn't sure if that was what she was doing yet. She'd packed up most of her belongings, shipped some of it back to her parents, put the rest in the cases she was traveling with, but for the most part, she didn't know if this was a relocation or a stop along the way to... something? Everything was still catching up with her, from her use of her own powers to the reckless and sudden decision she'd just made.
Had she given enough notice at work? She was due a paycheck in a little over a week, but had she given them the right notice? Was she owed vacation days? These were things she would've known if she'd stuck around long enough to think things through.
Instead she was in Atlantic City, nibbling on a cookie she'd bought at a bakery, having texted Koa that she was around and hoping to see Summerview and unable to find it. She guessed that was partly because of the whole 'secret haven for supernatural' thing, they couldn't exactly sign post it, could they? She probably looked rather odd, standing at the end of a street, two cases beside her, a backpack on, sunglasses holding her hair back with a cookie in hand and two milkshakes perched on a case.
She definitely wasn't the average tourist. She was just hoping that Koa wouldn't mind her dropping by mostly unannounced. And she was eternally grateful he hadn't told her he was in Mexico or something.
Koa had borrowed his dad’s truck to go pick up Ainsley. He had pretty much just yelled ‘taking the truck love you!’ before leaving and heading across the bridge. He had been psyched to find out that Ainsley has chosen to come and visit, that she had decided she would be coming to stay for a while and he had never been so glad that the trip to AC was short.
He parked the truck not too far from where Ainsley had told him she would be and hopped out, hoodie tight against the chilly East Coast breeze and he found himself longing for the gorgeous climes of California, where he’d been able to sun himself like a lizard - or a dragon, he supposed - for as long as he’d wanted, enjoying the beautiful weather for what it was.
It didn’t take him long to find her, flash of blonde hair and a familiar scent settling on the wind had him turning a corner and seeing her there with her suitcases and backpack, and a cookie that was half eaten that she absolutely had to share with him because. Well. Reasons.
He walked over and stuffed his hands in his pockets only so that he didn’t fling his arms around her and unsettle her. It looked like she was coming for more than a little visit; it kind of looked like she had everything she owned with her and the smile on his face dimmed slightly with concern, though he thought he would wait for her to tell him what was going on rather than force her to talk.
“Hey, sunshine,” he greeted, clearing his throat so she’d look at him, shoulders lifted bashfully as he flexed his fingers in his pockets fighting the urge to just hug the hell out of her.
The sound of someone talking to her, actually talking to her, not just passing her and muttering something or yelling across the street had her turning and grinning already, it'd been a while now, but it wasn't like Koa had changed too much. "Gosh, your hair is just still so pretty." And there was a hint of wistfulness in her voice, but it was mostly admiration.
Ainsley wasn't just as shy about potential hugging, being that she was a hands on and full force type of person, and she did limit the amount of physical contact she had with many people. She was careful about her luggage, didn't want to knock over those milkshakes with her backpack, she had her arms out and around Koa fairly quickly. "I've missed your smiley face."
She'd missed a lot of things. The ability to be completely honest with someone, not having to hold back what she could do, being free around another person. She'd held so much back for so long it'd been nice to just be honest again with someone, and how Koa could be honest with her about his werewolf status. Mostly, she'd missed having a close friend. Which was really why she'd thought to try to go to Summerview than to go home.
"I got you a milkshake." She picked up his, and then nibbled her lip, "I also got you a cookie, but I started eating it, so I have half a cookie for you?"
Koa just beamed at the compliment. He was, after all, pretty proud of his hair. He rubbed the side of his face and as soon as she approached for a hug his hands slid out of his pockets and around her waist, just underneath the backpack and careful not to squeeze her too hard. He kissed her cheek as she drew back and he, after a moment, stepped out of her space respectfully before he snagged the milkshake that she was holding out for him, and pinching half of the half cookie she had in her other hand.
"I'll take half of the cookie that's left," he told her with a warm smile, following that up immediately by stuffing it in his mouth and chewing quickly, so that he could go right back to talking. It wasn't gentlemanly to talk with a mouthful in front of a lady, so as soon as he'd washed it down with a gulp of milkshake and wiped the back of his mouth with his hand he was ready to go.
He curled her fingers around one of her cases, "Missed you too, Ains," he told her honestly, "though I am real pleased you're here. Means you can meet some of my friends, and my dad. I mean, you don't hate animals, right? I think I'd have worked out by now if you hated animals..."
Milkshakes in hand, along with the last little corner of the cookie, Ainsley sort of felt an air of anxiousness leaving her. If Koa was around she didn't need to worry about stretching her money to last until she could figure out her next step, she didn't need to look for a hotel or anything.
Taking her other case now that the cookie was all done, Ainsley fell into step with Koa, bouncing a little. "Oh gosh, I'm literally so excited, to see your home and meet your dad and your friends and see all the things you talked about." She'd been exciting for it the whole time she'd been travelling, remembering all the things Koa had talked about.
"And who doesn't like animals? Crazy people don't like animals, Koa, crazy people." Although some people might call her that, "I love animals." Possibly too much, "Does this mean you have pets at home? Pets that I am going to love and snuggle and just enjoy being around?"
Koa chuckled, leading the way with her case towards his truck. He nodded a little, "A... a few? I mean," he paused, stopping and standing her case up, turning to look at her properly to make sure she was paying attention to him. Warm hands reached out and caught her upper arms gently.
"Okay so full disclosure? My dad has more than a few pets. He- uh- so my dad's a-" he rubbed the back of his neck, "my dad's a- a dragon." Which sort of gave away that he wasn't Roman's biological kid. "And animals are his thing, yanno? So he's got literally hundreds."
Stopping to pay keen attention to Koa, Ainsley had to process what she was just told. She'd found out about other supernatural creatures, and even Koa had mentioned a few things that did exist in a broad sense when he was telling her about Summerview, but he just mentioned a dragon. "Are you serious?" That was something that was likely to blow Ainsley's mind.
A dragon. A real dragon. That was just... A Dragon.
"Oh, should I have brought something, should we get something, I don't want to be rude and show up empty handed. Will he mind me being around, aren't his animals like, off limits? Do I look okay?" She'd been travelling a while after all, and Koa just dropped that his dad was a dragon. "I don't have anything, we need to get like a gift or something."
"Uh- yeah, I mean, he's not my like, biological dad but he found me when I was a baby and so he raised me and stuff. So yeah, my dad. Dragon. But he breathes like ice or some shit like that, not fire. He's like the nicest, coolest, best guy on the island. He's gonna love you."
Looking confused as Ainsley started fretting about gift giving he shook his head, catching her gently with both hands catching her face to draw her attention back to him. "Aiii, girl, chill. Long as you're good to his animals, he doens't mind people touching them. He's not like some dragons that'll kill you for looking at their hoard. He's super proud of his. And you don't gotta get him a gift. I mean, we could probably steal him a kitten or something- he'd love that."
To Ainsley, biology didn't make family. It didn't matter if Koa's dad hadn't been part of Koa's creation into the world, he was there to raise Koa, to teach him and love him, and that was what made them family. It was like no matter what, Sasha was Ainsley's sister, distance and biology be damned. "Hey, he's your dad, to you he's your dad, and that's all that matters." Even if, one day, someone with a blood connection came into Koa's life, it wouldn't change that.
Of course Koa knew how to calm down Ainsley when she started to go off on one; nothing extreme, thankfully, but keeping her focused certainly helped. "Being good to animals isn't hard, I am the best to animals, so I would never be not good." But it was nice to know that a dragon, a dragon, was all about people being nice to little animals.
"Oh can we? Can we adopt him a little kitten? Would he like that?" Probably not today, but maybe it would be a nice way for Ainsley to make a good impression.
"He is my dad," Koa said, alight with pride and happiness at the chance to talk about his father. He idol-worshipped the man. He really did love his dad, and it showed every time he got a chance to even claim that he was related to the guy. He rubbed the side of his head and looked around, giving the air a cursory sniff, thinking about maybe if they could find a cat to take back now it would save them having to leave again later.
He tipped his head. "C'mon, let's get your shit in the truck. I'm pretty sure I've got a good idea where we might find someone to take home to my dad." He grinned at her and started moving again, expecting her to follow.
Sometimes, Ainsley felt that pang about her family when other people got so bright about theirs. The clear pride in Koa's voice over his dad made her wonder about her own parents and if she'd ever really be able to be honest with them and feel that same pride.
She knew the answer was no, because her parents loved her, but not unconditionally. "I can't wait to meet the awesome person who raised you, because you're so awesome." Not that Ainsley ever made a secret of how cool she thought Koa was.
Following along to put her 'shit' in his truck, content to follow if Koa was sure there was a way to bring something that would both show thanks and make his dad happy, Ainsley was game for anything, "What've you got in mind?" She did notice the head thing, the thing Koa subconsciously did while focusing on something her puny mostly-human self couldn't pick up on, that cool thing where he had like wolf-senses going on.
“I can-“ Koa waved his hand near his face as of that explained everything. “Pretty sure there’s some little rescues nearby.” He definitely wouldn’t have stolen an animal from someone’s garden with Ainsley around, that was reserved for him and his dad and their animal liberation efforts.
Leading the way, his fingers loosely curled around Ainsley’s even as his other hand had the milkshake in, his eyes were sharp as he tugged her down an alley. As they approached, it was possible to hear a very faint, high pitched mewling.
Under the flap of a nearby box, three quarters of the way down the alley was a clearly stray calico cat with five kittens, tiny and undernourished, they all looked sickly.
Koa’s face crumpled. He passed Ainsley his milkshake. “You gonna be okay to have them on your knee for the drive?” He asked, reaching out to gently touch the mother cat’s head, letting her know he meant no harm. “Dad’s gonna love you if you present him with a box of cats.”
Ainsley would not have been against a liberation effort if there'd been indicators of neglect, of course, she didn't like when animals were just tied up in a yard and left out there. But this seemed less like stealing and exactly like rescuing, "Aw, poor sweeties." She had no idea how anyone could possibly leave cats on the street, and mama cat looked like a little help and safety would do her and her kittens the world of good. "They could live in my jacket and I would be fine with it."
Crouching down while holding Koa's milkshake, she hoped mama cat knew they were there to help. "When we present him with a box of cats, and help him take care of them, and nurture mama here back to health and help her babies get strong." She was very much happy with this version of gift giving. "You think she'll let you take them to the car? I have a sweatshirt we can put in the box for them to cuddle into for some heat."
"My dad is gonna love you," Koa said under his breath, eyes soft as he watched Ainsley crouching and looking at the cat. "I- I don't know if she will or not, but if we don't separate her from her babies and we get her your sweater once we're in the car... and we keep them in the box we oughta be okay."
He chewed his lower lip, "You sure you're okay with the box on your lap? Also we don't present him with anything, you do. Since it's your 'please let me crash here' gift."
Considering how tiny the babies were and the mama most likely only just had the kittens fairly recently, Ainsley wouldn't even contemplate moving any of them far away, since mama needed to stay close and keep her scent on the kittens. "Then we have a plan, for sure."
And ultimately, it was a rescue, because out here, it was unlikely all the kittens and mama would survive. "Okay, so you grab them just now, we'll get to the truck and load up?" It'd be easier for Ainsley to climb in without the box, and she wouldn't want to hurt the little ones. "My please let me crash here gift might out shine any father's day presents you have though, and I'm worried about that."
Koa grinned, “Are you kidding?” He asked, box in his arms now as he got back to his feet with minimal protests from the mama kitty, though he had also closed the lid to make her feel safe. Ainsley could fuss them all when they were back in the truck. “I am the gift.”
Adjusting his hold on the box, Koa jerked his chin in the direction of the truck. “C’mon Ains, let’s get home.”