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The Shoe Box Collection

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To be fair, it was Ed that started it.

Kevin was simply the one who took it too far.

And while afterwards Fin would regret ever getting the Ladies Trivial Pursuit for the tour bus, at the time it had seemed like a good idea...

A chance to show off their many years of general wisdom, acquired from travelling all over the globe and having too much time to watch documentaries whilst doing so. That was what it was supposed to be, before it became an exercise in bullshitting the 75% of them they didn’t know.

It had begun simply enough with Ed making tick-tock noises to hurry up Tyler. It wasn’t as if Tyler knew the answer anyway; he was just umming and erring trying to think up a funny gag-answer.

Then obviously Tyler had had to take revenge when it was it was Ed’s turn, making distracting movements constantly in Ed’s periphery.

The following time had involved empty water bottles being thrown. One had hit Jim, and once three were involved it was hard not to drag in the fourth.

And all was fine until Kevin ran out of ideas, or for some other, more worrying reason, and took his turn distracting Jim by running his hand up the inside of Jim’s thigh.

Then the question was more than just, ‘Name the Prime Minister of the UK during World War One.’

“Uhh... Kev?” Jim tried to shift the rest of his body away, but moving the leg closest to Kevin and thereby causing any friction was not an option. “Y-You’re-!” Jim swallowed his falsetto. “You’re kind of close to my...”

“Five seconds left, Jimmy,” Kevin purred, head nodding towards the emptying timer on the table.

Jim couldn’t get his eyes free from that salacious smirk though.

The timer kept ticking.

Eventually, “Time’s up.” Ed watched them both. “...Guys, time’s up.” Why weren’t they moving?

Uncomfortably delayed, “Too bad, Jimboree,” Kevin’s hand slid free. It caught something that made Jim yelp along the way though.

Ed and Tyler stared on, casting what short glances they dared at each other. “...You guys, uh, ready to continue?” Tyler asked.

“Yep!” Kevin beamed.

Jim flustered and made a mess of refolding his legs on the bus lounge seats.

Ed reached for a card for Tyler, casting them one final glance first. “What are you going to do next time? Do we need to fetch lube?”

“Nah, I’m just going nibble his ear,” Jim said, meeting eyes with Kevin.

“Lap dance,” Kevin volleyed back.

“Oral sex.”

“OKAY!” Tyler stood up. “I’M DONE!”

 


 

"Get off! It’s mine, you big seahorse!”

“Stop hogging the lilo, Kev.” Jim gave it another fruitless shake. “And how am I a seahorse?”

Sprawled prostrate on the inflatable bed, Kevin just raised an eyebrow at Jim’s long face, not to mention how easily he was treading water with just his legs. “I need it. I can’t swim very well.”

“You can swim fine; you’re just lazy.”

“You just want me to drown so you can move up one place in the Barenaked-beauty rankings.”

“Oh? Oh, is that how it is?” Jim sculled backwards slightly, folding his arms.

Kevin continued to lazily grin. “Yeah! So shove off and go back to doing lengths with Ed.” He was coming back towards them now, proving he could do far more than just crawl or paddle like a pup in real life.

“Well you look like a drowned cat anyway,” Jim said before popping up, then dropping and disappearing underwater.

Kevin pushed the wet, messy curls back from his eyes and watched. Did Jim really think Kevin wouldn’t notice him swimming towards him underwater, or had he forgotten water was translucent? Either way, Kevin was ready to paddle aside and fight back when Jim tried to usurp him from below.

“Hey!” Ed shouted as he reached the end. “You two are going to get us thrown out again if you keep fighting like that!” By this point, Kevin had been removed from the top of the lilo but still had majority control over it. Thanks to some dirty, underwater kicks in the area of Jim’s trunks, it looked like he might be regaining his floating castle before long.

In the end, none of it mattered though once Tyler jumped in, “CANNONBALL!” and obliterated the entire pool with his tsunami.

 


 

They’d sung the anthem.

Now they got to enjoy the free tickets that came with it.

Kevin still didn’t really get this game though - Baseball. Sure he got all the rules and that but the strategies, the different kinds of pitches and fielding rearrangements... “It’s so fussy...”

“What? Now you’re complaining there’s too much thinking involved?” Jim retorted beside him. “Normally you complain about how mindless sports are whenever we drag you to them.”

“It’s that too.” Kevin leant back with a sigh, staring at the clouds that were passing more quickly than this game. “It just makes it so slow, all this strategy malarkey.”

“No, you gotta get into the game more, man!” Jim encouraged, tugging him back down from the fluffy cloud waffles of the sky. “Trying to work out what you’d do, comparing it to what the manager does; it’s fun!”

Kevin just dignified that with a frown.

“Okay, come on. Look,” Jim started. He had Kevin lean closer amongst the murmur of the crowd, beginning to gesture around the field.

With Jim explaining it the game did at least finally start making sense – and stop boring the pants off him – but Kevin still struggled to really care; it was just sports. It was just a game. All this fuss...

“All we do is play music; we’re just as pointless in the grand scheme of things, Kev,” Jim tried again, turning to face him again. “But would you say don’t make a fuss over music?”

Kevin sighed, because no he wouldn’t, knowing it would simply continue the argument.

“Come on.” Jim’s elbow nudged him. “Lighten up and lose yourself in the game, man. Stop thinking so much.”

“I thought the whole point of that grand explanation was to get me thinking about it.”

“Kevin...” The elbow kept nudging. “Come on, Kev.” Nope. Jim wasn’t getting him to face him. Kevin had taken his curled up posture, back to Jim, and he wasn’t shifting from it. “Stop being a killjoy.”

“I’m not being a killjoy...” Kevin muttered.

“Yeah you are.” That sounded like the voice Jim pulled on his teenage son when he was being difficult.

Kevin just pouted.

Then a new elbow was nudging them both.

The atmosphere of the crowd had changed too, away from general chatter to something more focussed and anticipatory, expectation sprinkled with nervous laughter.

When Kevin looked up in the direction a finger had pointed him, he understood why.

The mega-screen across in the other stands had him and Jim on it, displayed in large, slightly pixelated glory. Worse than that though: the big, pink letters. ‘KISS AND MAKE UP’

Kevin turned as pink as the letters, looking to Jim in mortification then away from that smirk; how was Jim enjoying this?! “We’re not even a couple!” Kevin shouted to no one in particular.

It didn’t matter; the calls and coos all around them were too loud. The baying pack wouldn’t be satisfied until it got what it wanted.

The only way through this was with a grumpy, reluctant attitude Kevin decided. He folded his arms, tucked his head down and stared at the grey flooring. He could even hear Ed and Tyler on the other side of Jim cheering them on.

When Jim took his face in long hands – Jeez, now he was thinking about how gracefully those fingers played bass in front of him every night – Kevin’s resistance was weak and more of a play-resistance. He accepted the kiss couldn’t be avoided; it got the crowd to cheer a satisfied roar.

But did Jim really have to try and use his tongue?!

“Asshole,” Kevin pushed him away playfully, smile on his lips as he sunk grumpily into his seat again from humiliation.

Jim just chuckled, reclining more casually. “Enjoying the game yet, Kev?”

“Complete and utter asshole...” Kevin was still smiling though.

Neither of them were smiling quite so much when they saw the newspaper frenzy the next morning though.

 


 

“So I filled it with snow, walked right up behind him and- Oops.” Tyler picked himself back up from where he had just sat down.

“You okay, Ty?” Jim asked.

“Yeah,” Tyler said, picking up what he had just sat on. “These aren’t though.”

Three Ladies looked at a pair of mangled, blue frames. The only Ladie not present was the one they belonged to.

“Great work, Ty,” Ed took them for a fiddle; “now we have one sightless keyboard player for our show tonight.”

“Kev’ll be fine; he’s got his other glasses, or contacts, or whatever.” Tyler hoped.

One lens had completely popped out of the frame. The opposite hinge to that no longer worked either, stopping halfway in an utterly useless position.

Ed gave up with a sigh. “We’ll have to get these fixed in town tomorrow while we’re off.” He gave a strong look to the one who was paying. “For now, I guess we better go tell Kev.”

“I’ll tell him,” Jim suddenly volunteered, taking the broken frames. “I’ll take the blame too, don’t worry about it.”

“Why?” Tyler asked.

Jim shrugged. “Kev’s already mad enough at you for stealing those chocolate cookies he got the other day. Anything else and he might snap.” Breaking his glasses was one thing but stealing Kevin Hearn’s sweets...

“Well, I don’t know why you want to throw yourself under the bus for me but go ahead, man. Your funeral,” Tyler supposed.

Jim started making his way towards the bus door, only stopping for a brief, “’Cause otherwise Kevin would literally throw you under the bus, and I’d lose my lunch going over your massive speed bump of an ass,” before he set off for Kevin.

He tracked Kevin down with a quick text. After an awkward moment of why he needed to track down Kevin-

Kevin frowned at the mangled, blue contents of Jim’s hand. “You broke them when you sat on them?” he asked, eyebrow critically raised. “With your bony flat-pack of an ass?”

“Hey, my ass might be bony and flat but it’s muscular,” Jim claimed proudly. “I could break ten pairs of glasses with these buns!”

After a moment of staring, Kevin snorted, shaking his head. “Who really sat on them? Was it Tyler?”

“Well... maybe, but don’t go kill him or anything.” He could already see the bitter, cookie-deprived expression rising once more. “I’ll do something special for you if you don’t.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Jim sat down beside him, positioning himself at the perfect range for Kevin’s sight. “Let me be your seeing-eye Jim instead. I’ll lead you round town, make sure you don’t trip over anything or bump into things.”

“How bad do you think my eyesight is?” Kevin almost huffed.

Jim raised the glasses to his face. He had to hold the lenses separately but he could get a decent look through. “Worse than mine,” he finally said, cheeky smile included.

Kevin snatched them back. A quick inspection, sigh, and he stuffed them in his pocket for now. “Fine.” He really didn’t need the service but when Jim looked so eager... “You can have a trial run tomorrow,” Kevin deigned, standing and holding out his hand for Jim to take and lead. “But if I catch you trying to get busy with my leg, I’m throwing you straight under the bus with Tyler.”

 


 

“Whatcha looking at?”

“AH!” Kevin slammed his laptop shut so fast he opened it just slightly again to check the screen hadn’t broken. “N-Nothing...”

Jim dropped onto the seat beside them. It was a long bus ride after all. “You know you practically couldn’t be more suspicious.”

“You just startled me, that’s all,” Kevin maintained.

“Uh-huh.” Jim lead the way in staring at Kevin’s laptop. Eventually Kevin shifted it around on his lap this was getting so awkward. “You going to tell me what you were looking at?”

“No.”

“Do I have to get Ed and tickle it out of you?”

“I won’t talk,” Kevin said. “I’ll hold it in ‘til I pee myself laughing and then you’ll get it all over your hands.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Where do you think we’ll be tickling you?”

“I don’t know. Your hands get everywhere...” Kevin huffed, burrowing into the neck of his jacket.

Jim’s hand stealthily went for the laptop.

Kevin’s came down on top of it. “Where d’you think you’re going, buster?”

“Come on,” Jim insisted. “Give me three chances to guess your password. If I do, I get to see what you were looking at.” There wasn’t really much advantage to agreeing to that one of the parties pointed out. “And if I lose, I’ll let the matter completely drop,” Jim added on.

Eventually, “...Fine,” simply because these bus rides were so boring.

Jim took the slick, silver beast onto his lap, opening it up and cracking his knuckles for good luck. Kevin’s password... So many obvious things to try; it was going to be something really obscure.

What did Kevin’s life revolve around...?

“You gonna stop wasting my battery anytime soon, Jiminy?”

“I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

His daughter... Chocolate cake... Lou Reed... Pretty much in that order.

All he had to go on was the rough length. He’d seen Kevin had a pretty long-

“Jim-”

“Okay, okay!”

Jim gave his first shot. He expected the ‘incorrect password’ that ‘DaysinFrames’ got him but someone was pressuring him.

When he had a bit more time to think- “Yes!”

“What?! No!” Kevin lunged.

Jim evaded though, long arms coming in very handy. “‘Transformer’? Seriously? You went with your-favourite-album obvious?”

“I keep forgetting to change it! I don’t normally expect evil, former-friends to try and hack into my- Give it!”

The laptop stayed out of reach, Jim’s yoga-trained body contorting as a defensive barrier that repelled all attempts.

Finally Jim got a good look at the screen, at the picture of- “You were looking at a picture of me?” A professional photographer’s one from a concert, with the little watermark to prove it. Nothing more than a plain, old picture of Jim grinning and showing off with his bass. Nothing strange except, “Why were you looking at a picture of me?”

“I was using it for something!” Kevin made more desperate grabs. “I’m putting together slanderous stories about you to sell to the tabloids for loads of money!”

“You don’t need loads of money, Kev,” Jim humoured him, clicking the folder icon to bring up a whole folder of pictures. It was labelled ‘Jim’ and that was all it contained, a few dozen photos of him from various sources, fan and professional. Just before he went hunting for ‘Ed’ and ‘Tyler’ too- “What story are you going to use this one for?” Jim clicked and asked.

It was the magazine photo of him standing fully naked, aside from socks and hand-underwear. The file was just label ‘naked shot’ but Kevin’s face was so red when he finally grabbed the laptop back.

“Photoshopping: I’m going to stick my head on your body to get some more dates.” Kevin closed everything open with violent clicks.

“Really?” Jim grinned. “So you think my body is more attractive than yours?”

“Shut up!” He slammed the laptop shut once more so he could storm off. “I’m going to get some air!”

“We’re doing 60, Kev.”

“SHUT UP!”

Jim laughed to himself; Kevin rarely hit his high, strangled register like that.

Oh well. He could make it up later, maybe by helping add some new unique photos to Kevin’s collection alone.

Either way, as Jim sat back and stretched out his long body, they were certainly going to have some fun together later thanks to this.

 


 

First Kevin would look up.

Then Jim would look up and catch him looking at him. Kevin would already be smiling, and Jim would smile, but Kevin would quickly look back down at his sketchpad and return to drawing. Still smiling though.

So Jim would return to reading his running magazine.

And then Kevin would look up again after 30 seconds of safety.

Eventually, “Ow,” Kevin glanced at the running magazine that had hit his arm.

“All right, what are you drawing over there?” Jim came over to take its place on the seat next to Kevin.

“You could have papercut my beautiful arm with that...” Kevin muttered, but he let Jim see his drawing with a proud smirk.

“...Is that-”

“It’s you!” Kevin said, ignoring Jim’s perplexed and potentially offended face. “See? Grammah’s with you!”

“Uh-huh... My arms aren’t that long, Kev,” Jim pointed out first.

“They’re pretty long.”

“And my hips aren’t that wide.”

“You’ve had children, haven’t you?”

“Anna had- Never mind.” As if mooncalf-mode Kevin understood where babies came from. “Why’s my hair on fire?”

Kevin didn’t even bother answering. He just tapped his orange crayon on Jim’s head.

Jim sighed.

“I’m going to start selling copies at the merch stand,” Kevin continued, admiring it himself once more.

“Are the proceeds going to pay for my therapy?”

“I need to finish the other two first though...” Time to find his ink pen again.

“I think Dr. Seuss is going to sue you.”

“Don’t you think Ed looks kind of like a bear now? I’m going to draw him with a polar bear nose.”

“I’ll go fetch a libel lawyer...”

 


 

Something kept distracting Kevin’s attention. “You hungry again, Kev?” Jim asked, stopping.

“Huh?” Kevin had already stopped but now hurried to catch up. “No. I’m fine.”

Jim walked back, past Kevin, standing where they had just come from to exactly what it was that had Kevin’s attention so.

A cut-out photo curtain?

“You wanted to take a picture?” Jim gestured to black cloth with comically drawn trapeze artists in flight on.

“No, I was just...” Kevin hummed around for an excuse but couldn’t come up with one. “It just looked funny,” he finally settled for.

“No kidding.” Jim had to laugh as he looked at it again. “You wanna?”

“What? You and me?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Aren’t you too cool for that kind of thing?” Kevin asked.

Jim smirked. “You think I’m cool?”

“I think you think you’re cool,” Kevin said. “I think you’re a dork.”

This required some hands-on-hips positioning. “Oh yeah? From the guy who wanted to do a fairground, photo board?”

“When I do uncool things, I make them cool,” Kevin retorted, digging out his phone’s camera.

“You mean you’re a hipster.”

“I’m not a hipster!”

“Then why do you have a hipster beard?”

“It’s not a hipster beard!” Kevin really should have learnt by this 52nd time not to get incensed about that issue. The others had obviously proven they knew nothing about cool. “We’re taking a picture!” He grabbed Jim’s wrist forcibly and dragged.

“I’m the man,” Jim insisted, pointing at the two figures.

“Fine. You just know you don’t have the curves to pull off that leotard.” Kevin gave his phone to the picture guy.

“Well, you certainly do.” Jim gave one final pat on Kevin’s hips before walking away to around his side of the screen.

Once back there, there was a shared moment of, “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” followed by, “I can't believe I talked myself into it either,” and, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Jim tried his best to smile through his disbelief as Kevin yelled, “Catch me, Jim!” ready for the camera.

Kevin just smiled at his victory.

And what a nice photo he had to post to Facebook at the end of it.

 


 

“There you are!” Kevin muttered in relief, reclaiming his phone from where it had suddenly reappeared on top of his bag. “I just spent four hours looking for you and you were here the whole time?”

Clicking it on to check his messages, Kevin stopped.

His phone wasn’t in German. (Or what he thought was German, at least.)

That was his photo of Havana and himself on the lock screen though.

Frowning, Kevin guessed his way through the settings app – Apparently ‘Sprache’ meant language – until he could click on ‘Englisch’. That got him his phone back as it was meant to be.

So, his phone went missing for four hours, despite him definitely having checked this area before, and then came back in German?

Kevin checked through his messages and email, thankfully finding nothing new and incriminating in either of the sent folders. Nor was anything in his internet history.

His photos though-

There was a selfie of Jim waving and smiling at the screen. That was followed by lots more selfies of Jim in the hotel and surrounding area, often looking like he was about to get up to no good.

Then there was a selfie where Ed had appeared in the background. Then in the foreground. Now suddenly the selfies started having weird filters and edits applied to them – Jim never had been good at all that tech stuff – and appearing from more dangerous places. That view from over a tenth floor balcony ledge, pointing straight down to the ground far below, made him want to sit down even as a photo.

Then the selfies with Tyler began, and began getting lewd. He’d forgotten about Stewart, Tyler’s strange, in-pants friend. Some of them were innocent enough, just a banana and a couple of small oranges arranged in an amusing shape. When it got to the fully naked selfie of the other three guys, which had been marked as a favourite photo too-

“WHAT THE FUCK, GUYS?!”

 


 

Oh boy. Five nights straight of shows. Thank God for that rest day tomorrow. Kevin really needed to-

He stopped in the doorway to the backstage dressing room.

Jim stopped where he was too, aside from turning around to meet eyes with Kevin. Jim was stood there in front of the mirror, nothing on but a lurid green, probably-glow-in-the-dark thong that had been thrown on stage tonight during ‘Pinch Me’. A pile of the rest of the underwear was sitting beside him on a chair.

It was silently agreed.

This would never be spoken of again.