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Forever in Paradise - Steve's POV

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Steve smoothed out his suit jacket, checking it from every angle he could in the mirror. The less they had to fuss over him, the better. All those people surrounding him, touching him like he was a mannequin and not a human being made him want to run the other direction.

Of course, if they let Danny in that group, he might not mind so much.

So much for being sure he wouldn't be in danger of falling for anyone on this assignment.

Not that it mattered if he did. He was still in the Navy, and DADT was still law. And the Navy would send him wherever it wanted, so any thought of a relationship on an island full of Navy connected people was a pipe dream.

At least he'd have an easy reference to fake attraction to the girls--he could just look off to the side and see Danny and he'd be all good.

At the sound of a soft knock, Steve straightened his suit one more time and went to open the door for Danny. “Time to lead me to the slaughter already?” Steve asked.

Danny had a blank sort of look on his face, one that made sense when his eyes traveled all the way down the length of Steve's body and back up before meeting his eyes. The sudden flush on Danny's face left little doubt as to the cause.

"Uh…yeah, sorry,." Danny said. "They’re getting ready to bring the girls in.”

Steve braced himself, focusing on breathing for a moment before he shifted his focus to Danny. “Okay, wrangle away.”

He followed Danny down the hall to the stairway, where dozens of people stood staring up, all waiting for him to descend like some stupid king or something.

He'd felt less exposed on a street in Kandahar with three bullets left and a half-rusted car to hid behind.

He started slowly down the stairs, barely controlling a twitch as almost everyone below burst into applause. He searched the crowd below, zeroing in on Danny, who was watching him with a smile.

One more deep breath and he continued down the stairs, focusing on Danny the entire way.

Once he was miked up, Steve lost sight of Danny as the hoards descended with their makeup brushes, combs, gels and lint rollers. When they decided he was presentable enough, they disappeared, leaving Danny at his side, holding out a bottle of water.

“Drink this,” Danny said. “It’s going to be a long few hours.”

“Few hours?” Steve asked, his lungs constricting at the idea.

“At least,” Danny said. “That’s assuming none of the girls trip over their dresses getting out of the limo.”

“Is it too late to quit?”

Danny nodded. “Yes. So drink that water and let’s get started getting this over with.”

Steve accepted the water gratefully, finishing it off before he handed the empty back. Danny nodded and promised to have more waiting between takes.

He turned to leave, but Steve wasn't quite ready to let go of him yet. "Hang on," he said, holding onto Danny's arm. "Is this what wrangling looks like?”

“Yeah." Danny's grin was half evil, half joy, and all designed to make Steve's perfectly tailored pants a little tight. "Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know," Steve said, lowering his voice and leaning in. "Kinda depends on who the wrangler is.”

Danny answered after a beat, his voice hoarse. “Guess you’re lucky you got me, then, huh?”

“It certainly is the best thing that’s happened since I signed on to the show, yeah,” Steve said, the chance to actually be honest about something in this place making it a little easier to breathe.

“Glad to hear it," Danny said with a smile. "Now go get ‘em, Stud.”

Steve rolled his eyes, even though the joke somehow made it easier to jump into the madness that was about to begin. “Just because I like you," he said, before he turned away, "doesn’t mean I won’t shoot you.”

***