He first meets Eames on a job in Mumbai. Cobb had worked with both of them previously, but never together and Arthur finds the uncertainty of this new element on their team unsettling. He finds Eames unsettling, from the first moment they set eyes on each other and Eames turns to Cobb and says "You didn't tell me he was handsome" in that thick accented voice that does strange things to Arthur's insides.
Arthur is straight by default and for a very, very brief second he questions that default setting. But there's a job to do and he barely knows Eames at that point, so he ignores the comment and gets straight to business outlining their plan. It's that first initial exchange that would define the course of their relationship, or lack thereof, for years to come.
The job itself is simple. They have a mark, a security guard who had the misfortune of attracting the attention of some very wealthy people with cash to burn who want into the building he was guarding. The man had numerous vices, numerous ways that they could use him to reveal information. He was a gambler, a drunkard, a womanizer, and a hedonist. Arthur detailed the approach. They would use a bar setup, make him think that he was drinking the night away, and get him to confide in the bartender. Arthur had mapped out the bar, Cobb would build it, and Eames would play the bartender.
"I've got a better idea, darling." Eames was looking right at him as the endearment slipped his lips. Arthur bristled. "You," his finger poked against Arthur's chest, "play the bartender, and I'll", the finger pulled away, leaving a searing point of warmth that didn't want to fade, "get the information an easier way."
"There isn't an easier way." Arthur regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Eames was baiting him, and they both knew it.
Eames smirked. "There is, but we'll let that be a surprise."
Arthur opened his mouth, but Cobb cut him off. "Don't worry. Eames can do it." There was a slight quirk at the corner of Cobb's lips. He was getting a kick out of seeing Arthur get his feathers ruffled.
"Fine." Arthur was most definitely not pouting. "But for the record, I'm not responsible if the whole thing goes south."
Cobb and Eames share a knowing look that Arthur doesn't fully understand until they're in the dream. He's slipping back behind the bar after delivering drinks to a couple of patrons sitting at a high table when someone gooses him from behind. Arthur barely stops himself from screeching, lets out a tiny squeak instead and whips around, ready to give Eames a piece of his mind. His mouth hangs open when he comes face-to-face with a gorgeous blonde knock-out in a tight red dress. Arthur's face, he's pretty sure, has turned to match the dress and he finds language completely beyond his reach.
The blonde shifts closer, forcing Arthur back against the bar as she presses against him. She's soft in all the right areas and those areas are uncomfortably tight against him. Her hand strokes the side of his face and he gets an up-close view of her perfectly manicured nails, painted the exact same shade as her dress. She smiles at him with sinfully red lips and starts to lean towards him.
In the span of three quick, nearly-hyperventilating breaths, Arthur realizes three things in quick succession. First, he realizes that this strange woman is attracted to him but all he feels is awkwardness and rising panic and the need to make her step away. Second, they are in Cobb's subconscious so strange women should not be hitting on him and deviating from the plan. Third, he now knows how Eames is planning to get the information.
"E-E-Eames..." He manages to stutter but the rest of the words stick in his throat. Realizing that this knock-out is actually Eames somehow made the situation worse instead of better and he can feel his body responding involuntarily.
She brushes her hand up his cheek, nails dragging lightly across his skin. "Yes, darling?"
He is fairly certain that if his face gets any redder, he's going to burst a blood vessel and kick himself out of the dream. "P-please..." He's really not sure what he's asking for, though going away is at the top of that list, followed closely by coming closer and doing more things with those nails. One day he's going to make fun of Eames for taking crossdressing to a whole new level but that day is not today, not when he can barely choke out one word at a time.
The door opens and Eames pulls away with a pout marring her beautiful features for a brief second before she turns and slips into the crowd. Arthur drags himself behind the bar, suddenly very glad that he's back there and not out mingling because the bar helps hide how very flustered Eames has made him. He forces a smile on his face as Cobb guides the mark over to the bar and makes a very good White Russian. When Eames finally joins them, Arthur looks everywhere but at her and he's certain that Cobb has picked up on it.
Arthur isn't certain if the situation is enough to force him to reevaluate his default sexuality, and instead hopes that this is the last time he'll ever see Eames.