My apologies for so long a wait for an update! Real Life. Bleagh!

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and support over the long time this story has been worked on. You all are amazing, and let no one tell you any different!

The First Tattoo

Charley was curled up on the couch of the upstairs living room of the Garage, waiting for the Bros to arrive. Her work was finished for the day, so she'd changed out of her oil-stained work clothes into a soft red shirt and a pair of her favorite jeans. She hummed softly as she flipped through her sketchbook. The mechanic traced out a few more details for her design, putting the finishing touches on her piece. She then pulled out her colored pencils and inks, beginning to fill in the picture.

"That looks really pretty, Charlie."

Charlie jolted in her seat, immediately lifting her hands away from the papers so that she wouldn't jerk her pen and spoil the drawing. "Modo! Don't scare me like that!"

"Sorry, darlin', I didn't mean to startle ya," the grey Martian said contritely.

"Its okay, big guy. Wow, I didn't even hear you guys come in. Glad to see you here, actually. Hey, where are Vinnie and Throttle?"

"Lookin' for us, good-lookin'?" Vinnie swaggered out of the kitchen, a root beer in one hand and a plate piled high with chilli dogs in the other.

"Sure, Vin, whatever you say," she drawled with a half-smile.

Throttle was right behind him, carrying a plate for him and Modo, with the drinks wrapped in his tail. "Hey, Charley-girl," he said with a small smile.

"Hey, Throttle." The girl rearranged herself on the couch, letting Vinnie sit down next to her as Modo and Throttle took up the other chairs so they could eat. There was quiet for a few minutes as the guys ate, then Vinnie perked up at the sight of her drawing pad.

"Whatcha got there, sweetheart?"

"This? Oh, I'm putting the finishing touches on my newest tattoo design. I'm getting it done at Hank's Tattoo Parlour. You know, the shop with the flying eagle sign, that you guys stopped from being blown up a few months ago? Hank offered me a bunch of free tattoo work in thanks, and that goes for you guys too, of course. So I'm taking him up on the offer and getting some work done. Appointment's at three o'clock today."

Vincent blinked in surprise, the other Mice exchanging confused looks. "Your newest tattoo? Wait, but how do you...where the heck could you..." he gave a confused look to Throttle. "I don't get it."

"What's not to get?" Charley asked, wondering what the big deal was.

"Well, you, I mean, you don't have fur, sweetheart," Vinnie blurted out.

She blinked in confusion. "So?"

"Ladies get tattoos?" Modo sounded absolutely bewildered as he looked her over, and the mechanic was rather surprised at their not understanding this.

"Of course women get tattoos! You guys have been around enough bikers to have seen some tattoos on the girls, haven't you?"

"Yeah, but...I never figured out how they got them," Vinnie said. "How the heck are you gonna get a tattoo?"

"Uh, with a tattoo gun. Like everyone else does."

Now the three looked really confused. "A gun?" Throttle asked in bewilderment. "You get a tattoo with a gun?"

She blinked at them in confusion, glancing over at Throttle's obvious tattoo on his arm. "Yeah, a tattoo gun. You know, the hand-held engine that moves the needles with the ink."

Modo looked pale under his fur. "N-Needles?"

Charley frowned. How did they not know this? "Yes. A hand-held engine that moves a series of needles that inject ink at high-powered speeds into your skin to leave a permanent art design. That's a tattoo gun."

Vinnie looked like he was about to faint. "Th-...That's how you get tattoos on Earth?"

"Is that even sanitary?" Modo asked worriedly.

Even Throttle looked a little green under his fur. "Really, Charley-girl? With all those needles?"

She blinked in surprise. "But, don't you have a tattoo? If you don't use needles to get the ink under your skin, how did you change the color of your fur?"

Throttle subconsciously glanced at his right arm, where the Freedom Fighter insignia showed. "Its done with a special kind of laser, it shoots out a concentrated form of light in some crazy part of the light spectrum. Depending on how long the light's there, it permanently bleaches your fur a specific color. It changes the pigments in the fur so it always grows that way. Sorry, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention when I got this, so the procedure is a bit lost to me. But no," he suppressed a shudder, "we don't use needles."

"I thought that was why only men got tattoos," Modo said with a blush. "Since they have more hair to work with."

"Oh," she said with a blink. "Wow, that's a different way to do it. I think I'd prefer that to how I got my first tattoo. Or my second," she said ruefully.

The trio exchanged glances. "You have more than one tattoo? Where?" Vinnie asked, curious. After all, they had seen her in a swimsuit, and nothing had shown then.

She gave him a look, then smirked. "Wouldn't you like to know."

He nearly gaped at her before his face went pleading. "Aw, c'mon, sweetheart, don't leave us in suspense! Can't you show us? Even just one?"

"Vincent! Dont' go askin' her that! You don't ask to see somethin' private on a lady!" Modo scolded.

Charley laughed. "Modo, you're a prince among men. I guess I could show you one of them. Just the one, though. Nobody gets to see the other one, got it?"

They nodded, unconsciously leaning forward. Charley shook her head at their antics, turned around so that her back faced them, and casually pulled up her shirt. They immediately spun around, bright red blushes on their faces. "Cheez, Charley-girl! Give a guy a little warning!" Vinnie said, his ears deep red.

"Oh, come off it, you bunch of prudes," she said with a laugh. "It's just my back, you can look now." Slowly, they turned around, and Modo gasped out loud. "Ohhh, Momma," he breathed. "Miss Charley..."

"That's amazing," Throttle said. His eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the tattoo, his shades sliding down his snout to get a better look at it.

On the left side of her middle back was a tattoo about the size of her hand. Two deep red roses faced away from each other as thorny vines and bright green leaves twined around them. Woven throughout the vines and thorns were the words 'True Beauty Is Never Skin Deep' inked in classic calligraphy, its ink a deep black.

She found herself blushing at their looks.

"Wow, Charley-girl," Vinnie breathed in awe. "It's so clear! Like a real picture!"

"That's kind of the point of a good tattoo," she said with a laugh.

"But the detail is amazing," Throttle said, moving forward to get a better look. "And look at that bright color! You can actually see the edges of the leaves and thorns! Charley, you could never get this kind of detail with a Martian fur tattoo. The hairs shift and move the edges of the design, we can't get clear definition like this. Wow, babe."

"Wait, you said you had to get stuck with needles to get this?" Vincent interjected, looking more pale than usual.

Charley nodded. "Yeah. Spent six hours under the gun for all the line work and shading to get it clean and clear like that."

"S-six hours?" The white mouse felt his knees give out on him, and sat down hard in the chair behind him. "It took ten minutes for Throttle's!"

"Does is mean anything, Miss Charley?" Modo asked curiously. "I know why Throttle got his, but is there a reason you got yours how you did? Or is it just for decoration?"

"Oh there's a reason," the mechanic said firmly. "Roses, for beauty that can take care of itself. See? Roses have thorns, and only someone willing to look past the thorns and be careful enough to reach them can get to the flowers." She looked a tad embarrassed as she went on. "After everything with Roddie and Jack, it was, well, kind of a way to remind myself that what others thought of me did not define who or what I am. I..." she blushed again, gathering her resolve. "After the botched wedding, I if I had been prettier or acted more girly, it wouldn't have happened."

"What?!" Modo said in shock.

"You're kidding! It was totally his fault how that went down," Vincent said surprise at her thinking.

"Oh, I know, but that's not how it felt then," she replied. "That's why I added in the part about true beauty. So I can keep remembering that its only what's inside that's important, to me and to those that care about me." She cleared her throat. "Okay, enough with this mushy crap, I'm supposed to be going to get another tattoo at Hank's at three, and I need a ride. Any volunteers?"

"Sure," Throttle said. "I'll take you."

"Thanks," she said, grabbing her bag as she headed down the stairs to his bike. Modo and Vinnie glanced at each other and moving toward their bikes. They wanted to be sure their girl would be alright. Especially around those needles.

As they mounted up, Vincent couldn't help but ask, "So sweetheart, any particular reason why we don't get to see the other tattoo?"

Modo growled, "Vinnie, I'm warning you-"

"No, its fine," she said with a faint blush. "It's not the tattoo, it's the location." She gestured to below her waistline. "It was a dare when I was 16. I can't believe I went through with it now," she laughed.

Throttle glanced at her, looking hesitant. "If it's not too, er, improper of me to ask, what is it?"

Charlie gave the guys a look they couldn't decifer. "You'll laugh. God knows I did later on."

"Nah, we won't laugh, Miss Charlie," Modo said, pulling on his helmet. "Martian's honor."

She smiled. "It's Mars."


The human smiled wider, pulling out her drawing pad and flipping to a blank page. She quickly sketched out a symbol; a circle with what looked like an arrow attached and pointing away from it. "This. It's the astrological symbol for Mars. People used to think that Mars was a red star, and it was part of the constellation Ares. Ares is a Zodiac sign; basically, it means if you're born under a certain constellation, it can influence your life. It's mostly just superstition. But I was born under Ares, so my sign is Mars." She shook her head ruefully. "Born under Mars, and now I run with Martians. Life has a heck of a sense of humor, right guys?"

As she packed her drawing pad back in her bag, the trio exchanged awed looks. The biggest help and hope in their fight for Earth, and she was literally marked for Mars before they'd ever met her.

That was some big destiny stuff, right there.

"So what are getting for your new tattoo?" Modo asked, revving his bike.

Charley blushed, then smiled slyly. "That's a secret."

So what do you all think the new tattoo will be? Leave me a guess in the reviews, and if you get it right, you'll get a shout-out in the next chapter!