"I don’t like the ending."
Obadiah’s voice drowns Steve out, and Steve tries not to grit his teeth too hard before turning to him.
"I don’t like the ending," Obadiah repeats, with that stiff smile that makes Steve want to bloody it up a bit. "Why should the courtesan chose the penniless artist over the arms dealer who is offering him a lifetime of security? That’s real love."
Out of the corner of his eye, Steve sees Tony raise a hand to scratch his nose, middle finger too prominent for it to be accidental, and has to fight down a laugh as Obadiah continues.
"Once the artist has satisfied his lust, he will leave the courtesan with nothing," Obadiah says, and the laughter Steve was compressing dies in his chest- "I suggest the courtesan chose the arms dealer," Obadiah finishes, all smiles and clenched hands.
Beside Steve, Bruce is frowning. “But that ending doesn’t uphold our ideals, sir.”
"Ideals," Tony says, arms crossed, smiling just as unpleasantly as Obadiah. When the man in question looks at him, Tony tilts his head and grins. "Like, say, the courtesan going with the man who actually loves him, not the one who wants him on his arm as a trophy husband to show off at parties."
Steve wants to cheer. He also wants to kiss Tony. He knows he can do neither.
"I don’t care," Obadiah starts, getting louder, "About your- your lot’s ideals. Why shouldn’t the courtesan chose the arms dealer?"
"Because he doesn’t love you."
It’s not until everyone’s eyes turn to Steve that he realizes it was him who said it. His gaze goes to Tony, who is wide-eyed in fear, and stammers before blurting, “Him! He doesn’t- the courtesan doesn’t love him.”
Tony is looking at the ground now so he doesn’t have to raise his eyes to meet the fury in Obadiah’s, and Steve grits his teeth so hard it hurts.
The silence is deafening, all of Steve’s ‘lot’ trading glances or being too nervous to do so, and when Obadiah finally speaks, it makes Steve jump.
"I see," he says, cold but not cold enough. He’s smiling again. "Mister Banner?"
Bruce all but flinches. “Sir?”
"The play will be rewritten with the courtesan choosing the arm’s dealer and without the lovers’ secret song. It will be rehearsed in the morning, ready for opening tomorrow night."
"Sir," Bruce says, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Sir, that’s impossible."
"I decide what’s impossible, not you," Obadiah tells him, dropping the nice act for a moment, just enough for the last word to turn into a snap. Then he’s composing himself, adjusting his tie and standing and offering an arm to Tony. "My dear," he says, with all the warmth of an igloo.
If Steve didn’t already know Tony was one of the bravest people he’s met, he wouldn’t know where Tony found the strength to meet the older man’s eyes and smile like nothing was wrong.
"Sweetheart," Tony says, all simper and put-on ooze that Steve has never heard directed at him, "I thought I’d stay behind for a while, get Jane up to speed on where I’ll be doing the-"
"You’ll do nothing of the sort," Obadiah says, all snap now. He brandishes his arm at him, elbow nearly catching Tony in the cheek. "Come," he says, like he’s telling an unruly dog to stop misbehaving.
Jane clears her throat from across the room, and Obadiah looks like he’s sucking on a lemon when he turns to her.
"I really did need Tony to stay behind," Jane says quickly. "Not long, just half an hour. Maybe an hour, tops. For-"
"Foundation," Tony says loudly.
Jane nods like a madwoman. “Yes! Yes, foundation, there’s a massive disaster with the foundation, we need Tony to save the day, please let him stay, sir?”
Obadiah’s arm stays out, elbow offered to Tony for another few stiff seconds before withdrawing. “Fine,” he says, and his shoes against the wood as he leaves is the loudest sound in the world.
Steve is already apologizing before Tony is in his arms. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he babbles, and the third is said into Tony’s hair as he strokes his fingers through it. “Sorry, shit, I didn’t-“
"It’s fine, I’ll fix it," Tony says, and Steve winces.