Arthur doesn't like the idea and neither does Eames. But that doesn't stop Ariadne from persuading them.
"Bowling," she says, her eyes sparkling. "And then you guys can meet Robert!"
"We've already met him," Arthur replies coldly, sorting through some old files. Maybe if he looks busy enough, she'll drop the subject. "This is a bad idea."
She frowns. "He wants to meet you. It'll be fine; he's cool, I swear. If he didn't remember me, he won't remember you."
"You barely interacted with him during the inception though, didn't you?" Eames points out, lounging in Arthur's desk chair.
"Just one double date, guys. Please? I've always wanted to go on one."
"Just one?" Eames asks, glancing at Arthur. The look in his eyes tells Arthur that he's always been interested in going on a double date, too. Great.
"I promise," she says happily, already getting out her cell phone, "unless you want to have another."
"We'll be there," Eames promises her before Arthur can send him a look or decline the offer. They pick a night that works for all four of them and the day soon arrives.
"You're an idiot," Arthur snarls. "How in the world are we supposed to interact with our old mark? We're not even supposed to. This is against everything we worked for. We could get in trouble…"
Eames is seated on Arthur's bed, already dressed for the night. They are to meet Robert and Ariadne in a half hour at the bowling alley. Eames is extremely nonchalant about the entire ordeal ahead of them and it bothers Arthur.
"It's called 'acting', darling, I do it all the time."
"It's your job," Arthur reminds him grumpily.
"Just pretend as though you've never seen him before in your life," Eames suggests. "Use your imagination."
Arthur wrinkles his nose at the idea but buttons up his suit vest and observes himself in the mirror. In the reflection, he notices Eames's thorough, evaluating stare and clears his throat.
Eames's eyes dart from Arthur's ass to Arthur's eyes in the mirror's reflection and the forger smiles.
"If you're really worried, then perhaps you should dress down for once. Your suits are unmistakable… in a good way, mind you, but still unmistakable."
Arthur considers this briefly before straightening his tie and pulling Eames out the door. The sooner they got to the bowling alley, the sooner the night would be over.
There's something chilling about running into an old mark. It's knowing that you violated his deepest subconscious and that he doesn't remember a thing about it at all. And though it's been two years since the successful inception, it's not long enough to Arthur. In fact, a whole lifetime wouldn't be enough to him.
Robert Fischer shows no signs of recognizing either one of them when they arrive, but still Arthur is hesitant. Still he wants to turn around and forget this was ever suggested.
When Ariadne pretends to introduce Fischer to them for the very first time, Arthur tenses up at the pure blue eye contact from Fischer and exchanges an unreadable glance with Eames.
"It's nice to finally meet you, Mr. Fischer," Arthur says with a small smirk as Ariadne tightens her hold lovingly on her new boyfriend's arm, "Ariadne's told us a lot about you." Eames gives him a nod as if to tell him that he has the right idea and that he's doing fine; that he's acting. Arthur tries to ignore him and refrains from rolling his eyes. Of course he can do this.
"Please, call me Robert," he insists, turning to shake hands with Eames next, "Mr. Fischer is—was my father. He's gone now and I'm trying to be my own man."
"I'm sorry," Arthur says.
"I'm not," Robert smiles ironically, turning to beam at the girl at his side. "If I hadn't broken up my father's company, I never would have met my true love."
Eames snorts but tries to pass it off as a cough or a choke. Arthur glares at him as soon as Robert looks away to kiss Ariadne on the forehead. The architect blushes because Fischer's words can't be truer.
"So what's the occasion?" Robert asks all of a sudden, turning back to the other couple. The question throws Arthur off guard and his mouth drops in confusion. Then he realizes that the other man is staring specifically at his three piece suit.
Eames chuckles, doesn't even try to hold his laughter back as Arthur's ears and cheeks flush red.
"It's our anniversary," Eames explains when Arthur is too shocked speechless to say anything, "I forgot about it and didn't dress for the occasion. Silly me. Though, I do suppose we're at a bowling alley, aren't we, Arthur?"
Ariadne—who, really, should know better—smiles widely in surprise and congratulates them on Eames's lie. And then it's made a big deal and they all tease Arthur on overdressing for a bowling alley and it is then that Arthur ignores the sentiments being exchanged between Robert, Ariadne, and Eames and suggests abruptly that they choose a lane already.
"What the hell?" Arthur asks Eames when Robert is off helping Ariadne choose a ball. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm preventing us from appearing suspicious. What are you doing?"
"Shut up," Arthur retorts tersely as he ties the laces on his bowling shoes. He doesn't need an I-told-you-so from Eames, not now. The bowling shoes don't look so great with the suit, but what can you do? He throws his suit jacket over the back of one of the chairs and sits down.
Eames immediately seizes the spot in front of the computer monitor and begins to enter in everyone's names.
When Eames finishes, he hums innocently and watches Arthur's lip quiver in protest at the sight of the names and their order.
"Ladies first and all that," he explains to the point man who just stares, rising to force Eames over so that he can change the names.
"Artie? That's… cute," Robert remarks when he sees the screen. Ariadne laughs along too as they put their bowling balls down next to Arthur and Eames'.
"MOVE OVER," Arthur demands immediately at that moment, hitting Eames on the shoulder. Eames puts his hands up in surrender, laughs and scooches over enough so that Arthur can halfway sit on the chair beside him.
ARTIEEE ("Really, Eames.")
ARTHSKDFAS ("Goddammit, Eames!")
ARTHUR, the screen finally reads and the point man quickly clicks 'Done' before Eames can press random buttons on the touch screen again.
He turns to scowl at his boyfriend, but the forger pulls him up onto his lap in a swift motion that leaves Arthur flailing all flustered and embarrassed and insisting that it's his fucking turn to bowl so fuck off and let go. In slightly more sophisticated terms, of course.
Arthur stands up straight and fixes his clothes before heading over to the ball return and picking up his black ball. He bought it just for this occasion and had it tailored to his specifications. He can't lose… even though he really hasn't been bowling much.
"No pressure, Arthur," Ariadne says as she takes a sip of her soda. "We're all watching you."
"No problem," he insists, ignoring Eames who is staring at him twice as intently, just to get under his skin.
He throws the ball down the lane and manages to get a strike on his very first frame. He breathes a sigh of relief and swells with pride as he walks back to his seat. Eames's expression is neutral.
"Very good, Arthur, but the night is young."
Ariadne bowls next and gets a five. Fischer bowls a tricky spare and the couple gives each other a congratulatory hug.
Arthur raises an eyebrow. It doesn't get past Eames.
"Are you feeling left out of the celebrations, darling? Do you want a kiss for your strike?"
Robert and Ariadne cuddle on the seats between turns and Eames looks over at Arthur who simply isn't paying attention; just staring at the beautiful X on the square next to his name. Eames wants to pull him back onto his lap again.
But it's his turn to bowl now.
When Eames gets a gutter ball right off the bat, Arthur slow claps condescendingly. Eames ignores him and manages to get a shining score of 3 pins for the whole first frame. He does what he hopes is a patronizing bow at Arthur before returning to his seat. Arthur then bowls another strike. Stupid Arthur.
Ariadne goes up to bowl and Robert goes up alongside her, saying that after breaking up his father's empire, he had invested in a bowling coach. So now he's decently amazing at bowling and can help her with her technique. He helps her stand correctly and teaches her how to hold the ball in the best manner and it makes Arthur roll his eyes. But Eames is very interested in their close contact and the way Fischer whispers instructions softly, patiently into her ear...
"Arthur," Eames says, running a hand through his hair as Ariadne releases the ball, "teach me how to bowl."
Ariadne gets an eight. Fischer gets another spare.
Eames bowls two gutter balls on purpose and pouts to Arthur.
"I think I need lessons, too."
"Then get Fischer to teach you."
"His name's Robert, Arthur."
Arthur's not sure if he can last eight more frames. Eames isn't sure either.
But somehow they do.
"So Ariadne, tell us the story about how you two lovebirds met?"
It's finally the tenth frame of their second and, decidedly final, game and Eames is trying to make it more of a friendly, conversational double date than an outing-with-friends-where-oh-look -now-two-of-them-are-making-out-how-quaint.
Ariadne looks a tad annoyed and embarrassed.
"I've already told you that story… several times. Arthur, too."
"I don't need to hear it," Arthur confirms. Eames just smiles.
"Oh, but it's such a nice story. I just want to hear it again and again."
"It's your turn to bowl," she points out as Robert sits down beside her. Eames glances at the score display overhead.
There are three final scores:
ARTHUR – 150
ARIADNE – 112
ROBERT – 165
He sighs lightly and stands up. This is his chance to turn the tables on Arthur and to pass him up in points. He has the opportunity for three more strikes. He has the opportunity to put that condescending little point man in his place.
Eames puts forth his best effort, as he always tries to do with everything in life.
He glances up at his final score on the screen, excited. He had knocked at least nine pins down in that last frame.
EAMES – 61
He frowns, because really the first game hadn't been much better.
"Next time," Eames declares as Arthur beams victoriously behind him, chuckling. "Yes, yes, have a good laugh."
Eames slides back into his chair and begins to press a bunch of buttons on the screen. Robert looks at him in confusion.
"Are we playing another game?"
"No—Unless you want to, that is. Are you paying, Robert?"
Arthur jolts up in a start as the final numbers on the screen begin to change.
"Now that's just sad…" Ariadne laughs when she notices.
"Eames! What the hell are you doing?"
"I'm a forger at heart, Arthur," he explains as he changes all of his frames to strikes until his final score far exceeds Arthur's. And then he changes some of Arthur's strikes to gutter balls, just for fun.
ARTHUR – 78
EAMES – 204
"There we go. Now, Arthur, where is my congratulatory kiss?"
"You don't get one. This means nothing," Arthur hisses competitively, eyes narrowed at the screen. Eames wraps him up in his arms and kisses him anyway.
Robert looks confused. Arthur doesn't notice his expression right away and Ariadne is too busy giggling at the two of them to notice.
"A forger, huh?" He says finally when Arthur succeeds in shoving Eames playfully off. "What do you mean by forger, exactly?"
They freeze up. Things had been going so well that they had forgotten that they were supposed to be careful.
Eames just winks at him slyly, as though trying to suggest that it's indeed as illegal as it sounds. Arthur goes stiff with irritation at the situation and at Eames's response, but says nothing. Fischer isn't supposed to know.
"What line of work are you two in anyway?" Fischer continues. Suddenly Eames is able to speak.
"We're employed by the government. That's as much as we can tell you."
Arthur sends him a look.
"Interesting," Fischer replies neutrally after a moment.
Arthur hurriedly begins untying his bowling shoes and gives a meaningful look at Ariadne and Eames.
"Well it's really getting late. Mr. Eames and I have got to go… back to…" He pauses, unable to think of a good excuse. "We have to go."
"This was fun, Ariadne," Eames says cheerfully as he gives her a departing hug. He shakes Robert's hand. "It was nice to meet you. Take care of her, will you?"
Arthur is practically dragging him out the door, whispering things into Eames's ear such as "I knew this was a bad idea," and finding that he can easily blame Eames for the slip-up. It was, after all, his fault.
"Nice to meet you, too," Robert tells Eames after promising to look out for the young architect, who is giving the point man a friendly hug. "And you, too, Arthur." Arthur gives him a short nod but doesn't turn to face him, hand hovering by his face as though to shield it.
"Arthur? Are you alright?" Ariadne asks worriedly, fidgeting in her spot beside Robert.
"My head hurts," he grumbles, grabbing desperately for Eames's hand, "Good night, Ariadne. Robert."
Eames squeezes Arthur's hand reassuringly and allows the point man to guide him to the counter where they pay for their two games. Then he drives Arthur home to a nice bed free of inception, bowling, and Robert Fischer and full of endearing I-told-you-sos, kisses, and victory.