Step Ten: Take Down Tanner -- Win Back Tanner

Men never really know what they want. They like it much better when you tell them what they want. Especially when it comes to relationships. If you're in love with a guy, you have to make him know that he wants to be with you too. That's the first step. And I know what you're thinking. I fucked everything up once, so I should have learned my lesson when Tanner found out about the steps and all, but I've had a lot of time to think. And I've decided that if I want to solve everything and finally get what I really, truly want, I'm going to have to finish off my steps – but I'm going to amend the last one.

I'm going to win Tanner back.

I already know it's not going to be easy – he's not going to make it easy for me, either. I royally screwed up and since that night, Tanner has avoided setting foot in the coffee shop altogether and the guys on the team who do still come in have all been keeping me at a distance. Even Jon, who can never stay mad at me for very long, is giving me something close to the silent treatment. When I try to talk to him, the usual energy and enthusiasm in his voice is gone. I'm not sure how much the guys know, but they obviously know enough to all come together in an unexpected act of solidarity and completely shut me out.

I'm miserable. I can't focus. I can't sleep (although I can definitely still eat). I never thought I would feel this way. I can't believe I messed up something so good. My roommates have wisely left me alone to my own devices, still unsure of what has happened. All they know is that Tanner doesn't come over anymore and I'm nursing a broken heart. They're my friends, but I'm too ashamed of what I've done to tell them. What I did was a testament to how awful a person I am.

I invented this game. But I was so confident in my ability to play it well enough to win that I didn't see it when Tanner changed the rules on me. Now it's up to me to end it, once and for all.

I just have to figure out how I'm going to do it.

I'm sitting on my couch by myself watching the Food Network when the door flies open and Jon Feldman stalks in, looking pissed off.

I'm glad to see him, even if he doesn't look particularly happy to be here. It must mean something, having Jon standing in my living room after being ignored for the majority of the past two weeks.

"Hey Jon," I say timidly, scooting over so there's room for him on the couch. "You haven't been over in awhile…"

"What did you do?" Jon says as he sits down, all business.

One look at Jon and it's all I need before I spill everything. Up until this point, I hadn't told anyone about what happened, and I guess Tanner hadn't said a word to anyone either, not even Jon. But it feels so good for me to finally tell someone else, even if that person is now looking at me like he wants to hurl my flat screen television at my face.

"I know what I did was wrong and I'm sorry I chose to go about it the way I did," I conclude, anticipating his reaction. "But Jon, you have to help me fix this. I know you said you wanted to stay out of this, but I just need to talk to him. How do I get him to listen to me?"

"Why should I?" Jon wants to know. "I warned you not to mess with him, and you promised me you wouldn't. But you did, and even though I can't believe what you did, I'm not surprised. You had to know what that would do to our friendship."

I exhale heavily. "Jon, I'm sorry for what I did. I really am. Tanner is a great guy and he didn't deserve to be treated the way I treated him. And I'm sorry for lying to you, too. I'm a pretty shitty friend, huh?"

"Yeah, you are a pretty crappy friend," he says with a small grin. This gives me hope. If Jon isn't too mad at me, then maybe Tanner will come around too. "You're a master manipulator, Samantha Jean. And I want to be mad at you now, but I'm tired of watching my soccer team play badly and I'm sick of seeing my friends unhappy, so I guess that matters more than how mad I should be at you."

"I'm really sorry, Jon," I repeat, meaning it.

Jon nods in acknowledgement. "And I know you never apologize either, so that must have taken a lot for you to do. Maybe you're finally growing up, Sam."

I smile wistfully. "Tell me I haven't completely ruined all my chances with Tanner."

He laughs. "You haven't completely ruined all your chances with Tanner. I'm sure his ego just took a beating, and I'm guessing so did yours."

"So there's hope to win him back, right?"

"There's hope to win him back," Jon assures me. "But if you pull some shit like this again I'm not sure I'll storm into your apartment like this again and be your friend."

I shake my head. "Never again."

"That's my girl," he says, grinning at me.

"So how the hell am I supposed to get him back?" I ask, feeling helpless. "I think I exhausted my creativity trying to …well, you know, take him down."

"Love doesn't play by any rules," Jon tells me, sounding very much like a wise sage as he does so. "Fuck the steps. Tell him exactly how you feel and don't leave anything out. He's obviously in love with you, Sam. Remind him that he's nothing without you – but more importantly, that you need him. You want him."

I'm silent, letting it all sink in. "Jon, will you be my gay best friend?" I say jokingly. "I can't believe this advice just came from such a jock."

"Hey, I'm not a dumb jock," he says seriously. "And I mean it, Sam. You need to prove you're not playing games anymore. If you can't prove that then you two don't have a chance in hell."

Jon is so right. "I'm pretty sure I can handle that. But there's a bigger problem…how do I get him to sit around long enough to listen to this?"

Jon grins, ready with an answer. "I'll take care of that."

With that, he offers me one last smile and gets up to leave. Suddenly I'm starting to feel like anything can happen. Maybe I WILL get what I want, after all.

The men's locker room.

Really, Jon?

It is smelly and dirty and gross in here. I can imagine a million places to have this conversation with Tanner, but I've got to say the men's locker room isn't one of them. Maybe I gave Jon too much credit. Or maybe I should just be grateful Jon's managed to get Tanner and me in the same room at all.

Well, actually, Tanner doesn't even know I'm here yet and I'm nervous as hell. What if this doesn't work out the way I want it to?

Jon somehow lured Tanner into a one-on-one game on the soccer field, and when they finally call it quits and hit the showers, I slip into the locker room and quietly put a piece of paper by Tanner's stuff, in plain view. Then I tiptoe to the other side of the row of lockers, where the boys definitely won't see me, and wait.

I don't have to wait very long before I hear footsteps approaching and stopping on the other side of the lockers. There is a rummaging of clothes followed by dead silence. I quietly move to peek around the corner and watch Tanner's reaction.

"What the fuck is this?" Tanner demands, eyes scanning the slip of paper.

Jon, who is directly facing me, shrugs. "What is that?" he asks casually, the epitome of innocence.

"Five easy steps for 'Winning Back Tanner'," Tanner reads aloud. "Is this some kind of fucking joke, Feldman?"

"Nah, dude, you know I wouldn't do that to you," says Jon.

"Then who…" Tanner trails off in disbelief.

I take a deep breath and step out from behind my hiding spot. "I did," I announce.

Tanner's head snaps up and his eyes turn cold.

"You did," he says coolly, not missing a beat. "What are you trying to do?"

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jon smoothly slip out of the room, silently wishing me luck as he leaves. Tanner doesn't seem to notice that we're alone now.

"I'm trying to win you back," I tell him. I take another deep breath and recite, "Step One, get him in the same room."

Tanner continues to stare at me, not giving any indication of what could possibly be going through his head right now. It's driving me crazy not knowing.

"Step Two," I go on, "Get him to listen to you. So I know you don't owe me anything but will you please listen to what I have to say?"

He gazes at me stonily as he sits down on the bench, and I take that as his compliance. So far, so good.

"Step Three, explain yourself," Tanner says tonelessly, supplying the next step, which I already have committed to memory. Okay, he's cooperating, sort of. So he can't be that mad.

"It was stupid, what I did," I begin, shaking my head ruefully. "It was immature and selfish and purely out of my own self-interest. I wanted you but you never gave me the time of day. I saw you as a challenge, and, well, I've always gotten what I wanted. I didn't consider your feelings, or foresee that I might develop anything towards you. It wasn't supposed to happen the way it did. I kept telling myself I couldn't fall for you, because it would change everything. And I was planning on telling you the day you found out, but you beat me to it. You shouldn't have found out that way and I shouldn't have even devised a plan in the first place.

"I don't know where I stand with you now, and I don't know what I mean to you, or if I mean anything at all anymore. All I know is that when I see or think of you, I just want to be with you. The past few days have been miserable for me. I keep thinking about the person that I was without you and the person I become with you. You have always challenged me and you make me forget that there are a million other guys out there who want me, because all I can see is you. I wasn't expecting to start anything with you, but you make me want to be better."

Tanner bites his lip. "Sam…"

I'm not quite done yet, though. "Step Four, apologize. Grovel if necessary. Tanner, I know I totally fucked you over. I didn't realize who you were or what you were like or how good I would feel when I was with you. I'm sorry for hurting you and I'm sorry for the way I went about doing it. But I'm not sorry for going after what I want, because the thing is, it made me realize how much I want you. I don't want anyone else."

"Samantha," Tanner says more loudly this time.

"You really are one of the good guys, and I totally don't deserve someone like you," I conclude with a small sigh. "But I'm selfish and self-centered and stupidly optimistic, so I'm hoping you'll consider forgiving me and want me anyways, no matter how many times I screw up."

"Sam," he says a third time. This time I'm quiet. "Are you done?"

I nod numbly. From his tone, it doesn't sound like things are going to end very well for me.

"You had me when you said you were trying to win me back," he says gently, pulling me down to sit next to him.

My eyes widen in confusion. I thought for sure I would have to do a lot more groveling.

"What? Why?" I blurt out, trying to comprehend.

"I got over being mad at you within the first few days," says Tanner. "After that I was just mad at myself for falling in love with you and still caring about you and wanting to be with you, even after finding out what you did."

Whoa whoa whoa. Did I hear him correctly? Did he just say he's in love with me?

Tanner runs a hand through his damp hair. "That sucked the most. I hated being without you."

He tugs at the hem of my shirt, and I edge closer to him. His fingers brush against my stomach, sending tingles up my spine. God, I missed him.

"So I'm forgiven?"

"You're forgiven as long as you promise me no more games and no more lying," Tanner says seriously. "Because I don't think I could handle that roller coaster again."

I shake my head and meet those gorgeous eyes of his. "No more games. I promise."

That seems to be enough to satisfy him. Tanner pulls me toward him but stops short of kissing me. His face is mere centimeters from mine when I look up at him with confusion.

"What's wrong?" I want to know.

"The steps," he says.

I shake my head. "Forget the steps. I told you, they were stupid and I wish I could take them back."

"We wouldn't be here without them," he reminds me. "But no, I'm talking about your new steps. What was the last one?"

It takes me several seconds, but a slow grin beings to form on my face. I know what he's getting at.

"Of course. Step Five," I say huskily. "If he indicates there is the potential to win him back, do whatever it takes to make it up to him."

His grin is so damn sexy and irresistible. I don't know if I can wait any longer.

"You know it's going to take a lot to undo the damage those original ten steps did," says Tanner. "How do you plan on carrying out the last step?"

"I have some ideas," I say with a sly grin. Sucking up my pride was so worth it. He's worth it. "It could take all night, though. I have a lot to apologize for."

"You'd better get started, then," he tells me. And before I can say anything else, his lips are pressed against mine and I'm smiling against his lips, kissing him back.

I spend the rest of the night making it up to Tanner, showing him just how sorry I am and letting him know that I've already fallen in love with him – we do this in his room, of course, not the locker room.

And now, you may wonder, what lesson am I taking away from all of this? Easy. Love and relationships don't play by any rules and you shouldn't have to resort to manipulation and deception to get there – although it certainly does make things a little more interesting.

Even though some things have changed and I've sort of changed too, one thing hasn't.

I still get what I want…eventually.

Oh man, make-up sex is so good.


A/N: Huge THANKS to everyone who has ever reviewed/favorited/story-alerted TDT, especially those who have been here since the beginning (gosh, you guys are all really loyal!) You guys really keep me going and I know I'd be nothing without readers and those lovely reviews. I never thought TDT would turn into…well, what it did. I'll be working on Reality Check next, and possibly a couple one-shots somewhere in the mix, if I'm in the mood. Thanks again for reading.

P.S. If you haven't heard, there has been a recent outbreak of plagiarism on FP lately, and while I'm not vain enough to think that anyone would even want to consider taking my stuff and using it as their own, I'm telling anyone who is insane enough to want to copy my work that you are an evil, evil person. And I will totally come after your ass. It's really upsetting and I hate that it has happened to several of my favorite authors on FP.