Hey all! Thanks for reading, as always. Life's been trying lately... my partner's father passed away after battling COVID-19, and we lost our beloved old cat last week, just a month after that. I'm a pretty private person, so stuff like that's against my instincts to share, but I wanted to be frank about where I'm coming from when I say please go tell someone you care about that you love them, and give any pets you have a hug. Little moments really matter, that's how I feel, and I'll be happy knowing I can spur even one on. That's all for now! I'll see you next week. Until then, stay safe and be well!
Spender shot a glance down towards Isabel, subconsciously expecting her to share his giddy smile. This spooky hike was just the sort of fun activity he used to do with Doctor Burger and the gang when he was young, or, if they ended up fighting a deadly phantom in the woods after all, just the sort of thing he used to do with Agent Summers. Those memories were painful now, but he was glad to be sharing the spirit of their best days with the next generation of Mayview spectrals.
Isabel, however, was not smiling. Instead, she was all focus... pure determined effort. Whenever Spender overtook her, Isabel would scuttle up to stay beside him, looking a little more frustrated with her tiny legs each time. Spender was instantly reminded of the fighting stance she'd snapped into that afternoon. She's training right now, he realized. This isn't fun for her. It's just a test.
Spender felt silly, then more than a little bit ashamed. He should have noticed sooner. He'd brought her out here to relax... but his presence had poisoned that goal, at least the way he saw it.
When Ángel, Isabel's father, had cut ties with Master Guerra—no, perhaps even before then—the old ghost's hopes for him had fallen onto her and Spender both.
For Spender, this was a gift. Attention, guidance, belief in his potential... these were things that he'd been missing since the Burgers disappeared; since wild, one-eyed Shrike had passed; since Agent Walker went full company man; since Agent Summers proved a fickle savior.
But for Isabel it was a weight, that much at least was clear. Master Guerra, gruff as he was, had little praise to spare, and Spender's efforts always seemed to siphon it from hers. Of course she wasn't having fun, not with him here, not after she'd been challenged by those teens. Spender was the score to beat. Even without her grandpa watching, Isabel could still measure her worth against his protege.
She started when she heard her name, looking up at Spender as if expecting some critique.
Instead, what she saw was the beam of his flashlight squeezed upwards from its origin in one swift motion, condensed into a thinner, brighter line, and tapered to a sharp point with a pinch. Spender brandished the beam sword that he'd made with his light powers and did his best Darth Vader breath impression—which, with his voice, sounded much more like a printer out of ink.
"...I am your father," rumbled Spender, glowering nerdily. He grinned right after, awaiting Isabel's big impressed reaction.
She just looked confused. "My father can't do that," she said, then, "My father hates swords."
"O-oh?" Spender sagged, his attempt to break the tension fallen flat.
"Because they make the choice to kill for you. He says a weapon that does that is for the weak. He says a weapon's only worthy use is self-defense, and one you wield that way should make you bear the weight of that responsibility. That's why he fights with sticks."
"Is... that... so...?"
"He's wrong though 'cause swords are cool, and all weapons kill. Plus Grandpa can beat him without any."
"Dang. Your family's wack, kid." Jean had apparently been listening in. Isabel shot him a scowl, then snapped back to scan the darkness in a huff. Spender tugged at his collar, flashlight beam sword hanging limply in his hand. As much as he wanted to help her, he was just no good at this.
"...I wish I could do that."
Spender perked up, curious. He couldn't see Isabel's face; she was a few feet ahead of him now.
"Do what, Isabel?"