Yes, I take forever. And I'm very sorry. This has been finished for God only knows how long, and so here it is. The next (and final!) chapter will be posted next week without fail, and Ten Plus One will be officially finished.

Disclaimer: ...*sigh*

Ten Plus One
By: Saya Moonshadow

The tenth time he tries to get her to just go out with him already, it is almost the end of the semester. Christmas is only three weeks away, and he has yet to do anything productive. It's aggravating to think about, if he is to be perfectly honest with himself.

Nine attempts later, and he STILL hasn't managed it. That has to be a record or something. Surely no other male in the history of males has ever failed at asking their object of affections out nine (perhaps soon to be ten) times in a row.

Therefore, he is not expecting it when Emma drags him out to the ruins during the morning run, nor is he quite sure what to make of the pink tint on her cheeks. Is she blushing? Or is she just cold? Judging by the way she's shivering from the snow that's falling, it's fairly safe to assume she's just cold.

Yet another false alarm. Joy.

She's carrying something wrapped in tissue paper under one arm, but try as he might, Tancred can't quite make out what it is. The suspense is driving him crazy. Obviously she wants to show it to him, probably to get his feedback, but for some reason, it seems a lot more important than that.

Probably just more wishful thinking, he knows, but he can hope.

God, he can hope.

When they get to the ruins, Emma drops his arm and whips the tissue paper off of her mysterious package to reveal a small sculpture. Tancred stares at it, resting in her small hands for a moment, before it hits him what is it.

A storm cloud - a thunderhead to be exact, and it's even got tiny lightning bolts coming out at odd angles. It's not the best sculpture in the world, but at least he can tell what this one is supposed to be.

"So?" she asks. "Is this one better?"

In other words, "You're not going to laugh again, are you?"

He swallows, throat suddenly dry. "It - it's a lot better, actually. Is this new?"

Emma nods, pleased with his assessment. "Yup! I've been working hard to make it ever since that first one you saw a few months ago."

How oddly touching that she made a storm cloud sculpture just because he had laughed at her first attempt at the art. And how strange that she refuses to tell him what the first one was supposed to be.

He is so wrapped up with trying to get her to tell him, he completely forgets about his original purpose, and by the time the hunting horn sounds they are arguing good-naturedly about friends who keep secrets.

Battle Journal, Entry No. 11

Mission still not accomplished. Drummer Boy, Picasso, and the others completely fail at helping, and I refuse to discuss opportunities with the Sparrow in front of them for fear of a repeat of LAST time.

The Sparrow appears to have been working on her sculpting skills over the past months, if her words (and sculptures) are to be believed. Is there some hidden meaning behind this, or is she just trying to show that she can do it?

Why are girls so bloody hard to figure out?! Drama Queen is nowhere near this bad. Picasso is lucky. Or he WOULD be, if he would open his eyes long enough to SEE that he is lucky.

Eleventh time's the charm. Seriously starting to lose confidence here.

The Official Scoreboard for Tancred's Progress (cont.)

Going off alone with her: +8
Inspiring her to do new things: +7
Reminding her about her sculpting failures: -5
Forgetting to ask her out: -10
Current score: -85

Assessment: Score remains unchanged, with no foreseeable developments. Sigh.

Betting Pool Reminder!

Fidelio and Gabriel, you're going to be out of the running soon too if things don't start shaping up. Maybe beating him over the head with a violin or sicking a gerbil on him will help speed things along?

AN: Tancred has such nice friends. Lol. Lysander is the one writing up the scoreboard, assessment, and betting pool reminders, because it is his solemn duty as Tancred's best friend to harass him when he fails so badly at things like this. He's helped by Gabriel, who I like to imagine has a very snarky inner voice that only makes very rare outward appearances, but when it does show up, everyone around him is left speechless.

(Also a bit of Charlie/Olivia because it's my favorite pairing for this series and heaven knows there's not enough of it around here.)

Next chapter is also the final one, so please watch out for it next week! Thank you all so much for your support!