Jaime's coming home from space today. We've got a big welcome home party planned for him. The whole family's going to be there. He's been gone almost six months, but I know he's been saving the universe. It's hard having him gone, not knowing when he'll be back or if he's okay. But at least he says he won't be going back for a while. As soon as the JLA debriefs him, he'll be home for good!
A lot's changed for me while he was gone. I made a couple of big decisions about my future, and I can't wait to tell him. I think he'll be proud.
...That, or totally flip out. We'll see.
Milagro Reyes, age 16
"Do you think I look good in it?" Milagro asked as she posed in the mirror. "It's kind of heavy."
"Heavy is good. Heavy keeps you from getting shot. Light body armor = bad." Lian said as she lay on the bed, flipping through a magazine. "So, you're really going to go through with this?"
"Well, yeah. I'm the same age Jaime was when he got his Scarab. You've been teaching me to fight for a while now, and I think I'm ready. Besides, it's not like I'm going to go fight Doomsday right away or anything. Jaime's gone global now. He's in the Justice League, saving the universe. El Paso needs a hero too."
"Hm." Lian said with a smirk on her lips. "Do you think the world is ready for the new Speedy/Blue Beetle team?"
"They'd better be." Milagro said as she bent down and gave her girlfriend a kiss. "I'd better get out of this armor before Jaime gets here and - "
"Milagro! The car's pulling up!" came a voice from outside the door. "Hurry up!"
"Coming, mom!" Milagro yelled, a hint of panic in her voice. She turned to Lian. "He's early! Help me get out of this armor!"
A few panicked minutes later, the armor had been stashed under Milagro's bed and they were in the living room as Jaime walked in the door.
"Anyone miss me?" He grinned, his sense of humor apparently not dulled by six months in the Vega sector. "I smell menudo!"
Jaime was promptly tackled by Paco, who shoved his way through the crowds to his best friend. "Dude! I tivoed the entire season of Lost: The Next Generation. Just like you asked."
"Huh? I asked you to record V."
"What? But I was sure..." Paco said with a puzzled expression.
Jaime burst out laughing. "Got you! It's good to see you again, man. Now let my family at me before you get mauled!"
Brenda playfully pulled Jaime away from Paco and pushed him towards Bianca and Alberto, who quickly pulled him into a hug.
"Mi hijo...you're staying for a while this time, right?"
"As long as I can, mom. I told the JLA to send someone else the next time they have a crisis in space. Right now...this is the only planet I'm interested in saving."
Alberto patted Jaime on the back. "I hope you know how proud we are of you. You're doing some great things out there. But just the same...we're very glad you'll be staying for a while."
"There were some great things out there in space...but nothing like here." Jaime's eyes went up to what seemed like floating miniature fireworks, hovering in the air over the living room and illuminating the party. "Whoa. Those are pretty cool. How did you - "
"I helped a little."
Jaime turned around to see Traci smiling at him from the doorway. "You made it!"
"Of course I did. I'm a teleporter." She walked in and planted a long, passionate kiss on his lips. "You didn't think that being halfway across the country would stop me from welcoming my boyfriend back, did you?"
Jaime and Traci finished embracing, and Jaime made his way through the crowd to Milagro, ruffling her hair. "Geez, kiddo, what are they feeding you? You've grown another six inches since I've been gone."
"Have not." Milagro blushed.
"I don't know. You're definitely taller." He waved at Lian. "Hey, Li. How's your dad doing?"
"Good. He's finally letting me go out as Speedy now. After three YEARS of training."
"Yeah, that sounds about right. Mind if I steal Milagro for a second?"
Lian shook her head, and Jaime ducked into the hallway.
"Okay, I can tell when something's on my little sister's mind. Spill."
"What? I'm fine, Jaime. Go out there and enjoy your party!"
"Khaji Da's been telling me your stress levels are through the roof since I walked in. I mean...I know we used to fight a lot when we were younger, but you know you can tell me anything, right?"
"Okay. Just...promise me you won't flip out? Or tell mom and dad?"
"Well, unless it's that you've become a supervillain and are planning to take over the world's water supply with remote controlled chinchillas, I think I can manage that."
"You're such a goof." Milagro giggled as she held open the door to her room. "It's under the bed."
Jaime tugged at the heavy suitcase under the bed, and opened it to find the armor. "Whoa."
"Yeah. So...that's my big secret. I want to pick up where you left off in El Paso, Jaime. I want to help people."
"And this is a Blue Beetle costume?"
"Well, Blue Beetle Jr., I guess. I don't want to step on your toes, but there's been two Batmen for a while, there are like twenty Green Lanterns, and that's just on Earth...why can't there be two Blue Beetles?"
"No reason at all." Jaime grinned. "It's funny, I always thought you'd get a Green Lantern ring or something, not take after me."
Milagro crossed her arms. "Hey, I'm keeping the dream alive. The GLC's going to notice me one of these years."
"I think they've got a minimum age requirement." Jaime laughed. "So...you really want to do this, huh? Have you trained at all?"
"Lian's been teaching me to fight for a few months now."
"Of course she is." Jaime nodded. "But Lian's a rookie too. If you're serious about this, I'll put you in touch with Tim. That's how you learn to fight for real. Heck, I think I still have some of those bruises from our sparring sessions."
Milagro gulped. "Gotcha."
"And you're going to have to tell mom and dad before you start, of course. I'll let you decide when to do it, but you can't keep them in the dark."
"I know. I don't want to. Just...not yet. Not today. They're so happy to have you back, I don't want them to worry about me."
"Of course." Jaime nodded. "I'm really not leaving again, you know. You don't have to worry about me anymore."
"You'd better not!" Milagro punched Jaime in the arm. "Do you know how stressed out everyone was? Stupid Vega Sector."
"Point taken." Jaime laughed. "Now stow that armor before someone sees it, and let's get back to the party! Mom's menudo won't last long with Paco out there."
Milagro quickly stowed the armor. Jaime turned back. "So, Lian was the first person you told about your plans, huh?"
"Nothing, I'm not surprised. I always figured you two would be best friends."
Milagro grinned as Jaime walked out of the room. Her big brother was pretty sharp - just not about everything. And she was grateful for that. But today, she had a big brother back from space, a gorgeous girlfriend waiting for her outside, a costume under the bed just waiting to be used, and a family that loved her. Life was good.