By now, Isaiah Jesus has a system. It's a good system. It starts, as all the best systems do, with getting drunk.
Take a Peaky Boy out for a drink, usually after a job with the thrum of adrenaline and victory rushing through them. Wait till they get a bit excited, a bit uninhibited, then quietly drop a hand down onto their thigh and give a squeeze.
It's casual enough that it can be mistaken for a drunken accident. Most of the time it's laughed off after a protesting yelp. Sometimes he gets a look which lets him know he can take it further. When he was once brave enough to try it with Charlie Strong, he got a long slow look that implied that while interest was there, commitment wasn't. Uncle Charlie, it seems, is committed to someone else.
Isaiah hasn't gone any further down that particular rabbit hole.
When he tries it with Michael Gray, the boy almost jumps off the seat. Isaiah is just about to swiftly withdraw his hand and start up a Sorry mate didn't see you there heh- when Michael turns to him with a look of angry lustful desperation. They find a quiet corner upstairs and Isaiah is treated to the most violent and terrifying mutual wank job he's ever experienced. When they've finished, Michael lays down flat on his back and stares at the ceiling, until Isaiah pops a cigarette into his mouth.
"You alright, Mickey?"
Michael's jaw clenches and he turns to face Isaiah, "I only sleep with girls."
He's heard that one before, "Course you do, Mickey. This doesn't count, yeah? Just a quickie between friends."
Michael reaches up to take the cigarette, "I don't want to do it again." He mumbles.
"Course not." Isaiah would be happy to put it down to the usual masculine terror that seems to hit as soon as the orgasm passes but there's something else in Michael's eyes. Something dark, deep and disturbing, which suggests depths that he's not ready to face.
There usually is, with Michael.
But Isaiah can take a hint, and he backs off Michael after that. He gives it a go with John-boy when he's fresh returned from the Russians and, to his surprise, gets immediately dragged along to a brothel. Surrounded by two naked women and far too much cocaine, John-boy kneels down and gives Isaiah the most enthusiastic if not the most practiced blow-job he's ever received.
"Those Russians," Says John-boy afterwards, lounging on one girl and stroking the second, "Bloody mad Isaiah, I tell you, bloody mad!"
He's a bit too breathless to talk, but Isaiah manages what he hopes is an understanding sort of noise.
"Always wondered what that felt like." John continues, musing a little as he reaches down to make the girl above him arch up, "Can't say it's for me."
"Well." Isaiah manages, "At least now you know."
John gives a big happy laugh, "Now I know!"
He keeps away from Peaky Boys after that, starting to worry that word might get back to Tommy. Not that he thinks Tommy would be too angry about the principle of the thing, but getting a blowjob from Tommy Shelby's younger brother has the potential to be dangerous. There are plenty of other men in Birmingham after all.
A year later, he finds a Peaky Boy he doesn't even have to use the system for, because Bonnie Gold gives him a very particular nod over the Christmas potatoes. That evening, in the back of a stable, Isaiah Jesus finds himself in possession of a very energetic, very sober, and very knowledgeable young traveler. He remembers that evening for a long time - the feel of Bonnie's skin, the taste of Bonnie's mouth, the brief awkwardness of fumbling around in slick and spit, negotiating with hands and lips, and then finally, the tight hot presence of Bonnie's arse. He bites into Bonnie's shoulder to stop himself making a noise, and Bonnie groans into his neck.
It could be the start of something beautiful, but Bonnie is busy training, and Isaiah is young and fancy-free. Despite the obvious, they don't have all that much in common, and don't spend very much time together. It's a shame, but Isaiah feels that even if they don't sleep together again, there's still a comfort in knowing Bonnie's there.
And now, there's Finn.
Finn Shelby, who at some point in the intervening years has transformed from a skinny awkward kid into a very nice looking young man. The shy uncertainty that characterized his teenage years is starting to crystalize into an antagonistic desire to live up to his image of his brothers. Isaiah can't help but see John in him, and worries that he might be seeing the odd flash of Arthur as well.
He makes his move in the Garrison, where Finn is showing off the bandage from his bullet-wound, flirting with everyone, and drinking Tommy's gin out of a brandy-glass. One hand, gently pressing against Finn's thigh. Waiting.
Finn turns to him, eyes wide. His face may have lost the childhood roundness, he's all Shelby cheekbones and sharp edges, but the severe haircut almost brings it back again. He looks very young somehow, and Isaiah groans and downs his whisky. Too young.
"Sorry mate didn't see you there." Isaiah mumbles out of habit, and signals for another shot.
"Are you, was that ..." Finn is looking adorably confused, and Isaiah suddenly wishes he could just cup his hands around that little round face and kiss that look until it turned into coy acceptance. But if he did that, he wouldn't trust his chances of waking up the next morning.
"Thought you were a chair, Finn-boy." Isaiah slurs, acting more drunk than he is. The barman of the Garrison, who has seen far too much in the time he's been here, pours out another whisky for Isaiah and tops up Finn's brandy-glass with gin.
Finn's look of confusion, if anything, deepens.
Isaiah staggers home as soon as he can, embarrassed and irritated at himself. He wakes hungover to some very confused sounds from his father at the door, and when he gets there he finds a surly delivery boy holding a large bouquet of roses.
"What is this?" Jeremiah asks, baffled, "What on earth have you done?"
Isaiah takes the bouquet and laughs. Finn Shelby, it seems, has been brought up properly. This isn't going to be a dirty hand-job in a bar, or a tumble in a stable.
Finn Shelby needs to be wooed.