I'm on a roll today! Here's another chapter, I hope you enjoy! I can't wait to keep going now that my motivation is back!

Michaela watched Mark's retreating back. "Wonder what's gotten into him?" she asked lightly, but her eyes were troubled. Caroline's words came back to her: 'He loves her.' She felt bad for him, but was leery of him at the same time. She knew what he would do to protect what he was after.

        She was right; Mark was already developing a plan. He had worked too long and too hard to back down now. Operation Cut Roses would be underway very shortly. He caught up with Tien a week later in her dorm room. "Hey, you hungry?"

        Tien was busily tuning her cello. "Yeah."

        "So, let's go eat!"

        "In a minute." She was concentrating on one particularly stubborn string. Almost there…

        Mark sat down on the bed and sighed. It was now or never. "So, how's…what's her name?"

        Tien barely paused. "Rose. She's good."

Mark nodded. "Are you sure she's right for you?"

Now Tien looked up at him, puzzled. "What?"

"Well, she's not exactly what I would call your type. How do you know she's really into you? I've heard some things about her. She can be a real bitch."

Tien shrugged. "Everyone has their faults," she said, but was unable to hide the uneasiness in her voice. Mark picked up on this.

"You don't know much about her, do you?"

"I'm working on that…"

Mark cut her off and spoke earnestly. "She's just a kid, barely eighteen. You need someone who is…more professional, you know?" Someone like me.

Tien chose to say nothing and went back to tuning her cello. Mark stood up and headed for the door.

"She's…oh hell, Tien, you're better than that. I bet Caroline would agree with me too." With that, he left, disappointed that he hadn't left as big an impact as he had planned.

Tien set her instrument against the bed and sighed, thinking about what Mark had said. 'You're better than that.' But he had it all wrong; she wasn't better than that. If anything, Rosie was better than that. Maybe Rosie was too good for her…

She was startled out of her musing by a loud thud. Caroline had entered unnoticed and slammed her books on her desk. "Hey. You look lost in thought."

Tien shook her head. "It's nothing." She put the cello away and decided to go for a walk to clear her head.

By the end of the day Tien had convinced herself that Rose was too good for her. Mark couldn't have meant what he said. Maybe he was trying to tell her that, but had gotten confused. That had to be it.

For the next few days Tien avoided Rose as much as possible, and this did not go unnoticed by many interested parties. Michaela tracked Caroline down to try to find out what was going on.

"I don't know," Caroline confessed, "she just suddenly decided that she didn't want to see Rose at all. It's the weirdest thing." Then Caroline remembered who had been walking down the hall, away from the dorm, as she was heading to. "Uh oh. I think I know who might be behind all this."

Michaela cocked her head to the side, going through all the possibilities. She came to a conclusion pretty quickly. "Mark." She smacked her forehead as Caroline nodded. Duh! Why hadn't she seen this one coming? "Excuse me, there are fish to fry."

As soon as she spotted him, Michaela grabbed him by the back of the neck, turned him around, and threw him into the brick wall. "What the hell do you think you're doing??"

Mark's face was a hard mask. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Michaela fought the urge to punch him. "Bullshit. What did you say to Tien? Why is she avoiding Rose?" She was determined to force an answer out of him, even if she had to break him limb by limb.

Mark wasn't budging. "She's ignoring Rose? Sorry to hear that. What a shame." He couldn't quite hide the glee in his voice, especially not from an old friend.

"You're playing with fire, Mark. And soon you're going to burn." Michaela let him go and began to walk away. Mark got the last word.

"It's not my fault if Tien doesn't think Rose is good enough for her. Maybe she wants someone who can be professional for her, and give her the love she needs."

Michaela walked into the dorm and let out a scream of frustration. Why was this happening now? Things had been going smoothly, until Mark had meddled with them. What were they going to do about it? She felt hands beginning to massage her neck and fought the urge to cry. It wasn't fair…

"You know you can't fix everything."

Typical Keisha. While she meant well, her 'words of wisdom' just made Michaela's blood boil. "No I can't, but I aim to try." She sat down on the bed, determined to bring an end to this mess.

She looked up as soon as the sounds of sniffles entered the room. Rose was standing in the doorway, a look of utter sadness on her face. "Why, Michaela?"

Michaela sighed and could do nothing but shrug. Rose sat down next to her on the bed, sniffled again, and promptly started to ramble.

Michaela hid a smile; Rose's only defense, talking just to hear herself talk, believing the nonsense coming out of her mouth.

"She's too good for me, I'm a plain country bumpkin who talks too much and doesn't know what she's talking about, has no clue about life or anything—"

Keisha let out a sigh. "Girl, shut up." Rose promptly clammed. "About time. First off, you're too suburban to be a bumpkin. Yes you are, girl, you live in the suburbs of Sylvan City and wear name brands. So sorry. And another thing: if she was too good for you, she wouldn't have pursued you in the first place. Uh uh, shut that trap. Don't you dare argue with me, you'll lose."

Keisha had her there, but Rose wasn't convinced. There had to be a reason Tien was avoiding her, and what else could it be other than this?

Michaela was still musing. "I smell a rat. And he stinks."

Rose snapped her head up. "He?"

Michaela nodded. "He. As in Mark. I think he said something to Tien that spooked her." But I'm not going to tell you why.

Rose read her unspoken thought. "Help me fix it."

Michaela sighed. "I'm trying, Rose. I'm really trying."

Another miserable week went by, and the effects were harming everyone, even the person who began everything. Tien was inconsolable; she didn't want to do anything. Even worse, she stopped eating. Now that was bad. Caroline finally took some initiative.

"You are not to leave this room until the situation is resolved, you understand?"

Tien refused to respond. She simply lay there, facing the wall, in complete silence. She couldn't get over the feeling of holding Rosie back, of not being good enough for such a precious flower. Soon the flower would no longer provide the fragrance in her life, a thought that left her feeling empty.

Caroline merely shook her head and left. Time to implement her plan.

Tien didn't turn around when the door opened and closed. Caroline wasn't going to leave well enough alone, it seemed. But it was a different voice that penetrated her sulky world, a much sweeter one that made her heart leap.


Tien immediately turned over. "Rosie…"

Rose immediately shook her head. "Don't. I can't stand it. Please…if you don't want to be with me, then don't."

Tien sat up. "I do want to be with you." More than anything in the world. But I can't.

Rose looked at her, eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Then why? Why are you doing this? Don't you like me?" She sat on the bed, a considerable distance away. Tien felt the urge to pull her into her arms, and this time didn't fight it.

Rose struggled faintly. She was not going to get sucked in again. Not going to. But Tien's arms just felt so right…soon enough, she fell into them and sobbed once more.

Tien couldn't take it any longer. "Rosie…I'm not good enough for you. You deserve…someone better."

Rose looked up at her in shock. What? "Are you kidding? Who told you that?" An outrageous wave of anger shocked her system. Who would be so malicious?

Tien looked away. "Someone…" Her loyalty ran deep.

It clicked for Rose. "Mark." She watched Tien blush, ever so slightly. "Oh Tien, he's wrong! You're…you're perfect for me. You're what I want, what I need. For awhile, I thought I was not good enough for you."

Tien held her close. "Never."

Rose looked up at her, hope crashing through the doubt of her baby blues. "So we try again?" Her heart hammered through the longest minute of her life, waiting for Tien to respond.

Tien said her answer through a kiss. And then all was well. Rose relaxed into her, savoring her scent and the feel of muscle against her body. "No more listening to Mark?"

Tien smiled. "Well, if he mentions food…" She laughed as she felt Rose stiffen. "No more listening to Mark. At least when it comes to you." She pressed her face into Rose's hair, loving the feeling of her curls against her skin.

Rose knocked on Tien's door, brimming with excitement. After a few hesitant weeks, things were running smoothly again. For the most part, at least. Mark was furious that his plan had not worked, and put all the blame on Rose. He was completely cold to her whenever they were within 10 feet of each other.

But that wasn't on her mind today. She had a plan, a very special plan just for Tien. She was going to show Tien how much she liked her, and hopefully everything would be forgotten.

Rose knocked on Tien's door and hopped around a little until it opened.

Tien looked down at her and had to smile. Rosie was alight with childlike anticipation; she wondered if Rose had any idea how much she glowed without really trying to. "Hi there."

Rose smiled up at her, eyes sparkling. "Are you busy right this instant?"

Tien chuckled. "No, not really."

Inwardly, Rose sighed with relief. "Grab your coat. I have a surprise for you."