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Aimes & Pawson See What's In Store

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Aimes & Pawson See What's In Store

Written by Sophie & Pudding
Art & Characters by JuiceBox


Aimes & Pawson is an ageplay children’s picture book intended for adult audiences. You can buy the full version with pictures on Amazon or by joining our SubscribeStar.


Our goal was to create a book for story time or bedtime, with no sexual themes and maximum Little feels! Some of the words can be quite big - upwards of 10 letters long! - so you may need an adult to read it for you.

This story takes place in the winter, when Aimes and her teddy bear Pawson go shopping.


Chapter One


Snow fell in flakes over the ocean. Most of them fell into the water and disappeared in an instant. Some of them fell on the harbor docks and made a thin, white blanket over the ground. A very lucky few of them landed on the shoulders and hats of two adventurers - a young woman named Aimes and her teddy bear Pawson - as they stared out at at the huge ships and the empty horizon.


"Gosh, it's cold," Aimes shivered, wearing nothing but a short sleeve cargo shirt, a safari hat, a pair of well-worn boots, and a thick diaper. She wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm.


"Maybe it's finally time you got some pants," Pawson chided, rubbing his own magenta fur with his paws.


"I refuse," Aimes said sharply. Pants were always in the way whenever she had to climb something or get changed. Why anyone wore them at all was beyond her. And besides, Pawson didn't wear any pants either!


"This wouldn't be a problem if we left for Bermuda last week, like we were supposed to," Pawson sighed.


"I thought I had the map the right side up," Aimes pouted. It had been quite an ordeal even finding the harbor in the first place.


"This is why I do the directions," Pawson added. Aimes rolled her eyes. The sun was setting behind the buildings and every minute felt colder than the last. That was when Aimes caught sight of a sign: "Wonderland Department Store".


"Let's warm up in there," Aimes suggested, pointing at the large storefront. There was a big window with a display, and the lights inside were yellow and inviting. It seemed warm.


"Our ship," Pawson warned.


"We have a few hours before we leave port," Aimes added, knowing the time from her experience with sunsets and not at all from knowing how to read a clock. Pawson hesitated, but he didn't want Aimes to catch a cold either, so he nodded.


Aimes and Pawson hurried through the front doors of the department store, and it was very much like tumbling into a storybook. It was like stepping into another world, and one far removed from the cold, bleak, and grey sky that hung above the horizon outside. The sky inside was denoted by warm chandeliers that hung in rows above the rich, plush, and red carpet aisles. Long streamers of green garlands wrapped in baubles and tinsel draped down from the ceiling, drawing their eyes to lines of glass and steel countertops adorned with trinkets and fancy décor. Above the din and chitter of the murmuring shoppers, Aimes could hear the faint sound of a small brass band playing warm and lovely music on a distant side of the store. She could also hear a crinkling and rustling that came for once not from her own midsection, but from decorative paper wrapping stations nearby.


More importantly than any of that, it was warm. Warm, but not too warm.


And more importantly than even that, with a store this size, Aimes knew there had to be a toy department!


"Excuse me, Miss," a man said, approaching Aimes and Pawson. He was wearing a nicely pressed suit and had a pocket square on his jacket with a monogrammed W. The other notable thing about him was that there was color on his cheeks, and he never quite met Aimes' stare.

"I regret to inform you," he continued, "but you seem to be missing your..."

His hand politely gestured to Aimes, at her lower half, and Aimes wondered for a moment if she had put on the wrong diaper that afternoon. But because of Pawson's earlier comment, she quickly understood.


"Oh, no," Aimes said with a smile. "I don't wear pants."


"Right..." The man looked once more at Aimes, then down at Pawson, who shrugged his shoulders.


"That's not a problem, right?" Aimes asked, tilting her head.


The man stood there quietly, running through the store rules in his head. Shirt? Yes, she had one of those. Shoes? Yes, she had two of those. And thus, service.


"No, Miss," the man said with a bit more embarrassment, mostly for making a mistake of his own. "No, that isn't a problem at all. Is there anything I can help you find?"


"Toys?" Aimes asked, looking at Pawson with an amused smile.


"Ah, yes. Those are upstairs. Just go straight down this way and you will find the staircase on your right."


"Thank you!" Aimes said cheerily, then bounded off past the man with Pawson in tow.





Chapter Two


"There sure are a lot of people here," Aimes said, waiting for an old woman to come down the stairs before taking her turn. The staircase was wide, but she wanted to allow the woman some space to get through.


"It's that time of year," Pawson said, watching dozens of people hurry by in the aisles.


"What time?" Aimes asked.


"Holidays, you know. Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice."


"Huh..." Aimes and Pawson had been off on adventures around this time for the past few years. She had forgotten about the holidays.


"Kwanza, New Year, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Las Posadas—"


"I remember that one," Aimes said, reflecting back on the year before. They sung carols. "They really should spread these holidays out more, I think."


"Probably true," Pawson chuckled. "But many of them are religious celebrations, so having them all at about the same time means everyone can celebrate together."


"Oh, that's nice." Aimes felt like it would be awful not celebrating anything when everyone else was celebrating something. When she was growing up, Aimes had celebrated Christmas. Aimes put her finger to her chin and thought about something for a moment. Then she nodded to herself and made a decision.


All the while, Pawson was still watching shoppers go by with increasing nostalgia. When the old woman had rounded the corner, Aimes and Pawson started up the stairs.


"This time of year feels kind of magical," Pawson said to his best friend.


"I thought you didn't believe in magic," Aimes teased.


"It's a different kind of magic," Pawson said simply. Without a better way to explain it, he said: "The lights glow a little differently, and it makes you think of home."


"Hmm... I see what you mean," Aimes said, staring up at the lights. They weren't any brighter than any other lights in any other department store, but they glowed a little bit more. She thought of the Christmas tree in her living room when she was younger. The green and red bows and wrapping paper. The feeling of Pawson in her arms. He was a lot bigger then. But before the two could fall into any deeper nostalgia, Aimes caught sight of the toy aisle and raced toward it, crinkling with every hurried step.


"You know you move much faster than I can, Aimes!"


"That's to help you learn to move faster," Aimes called back with a self-assured smile. Even though Pawson couldn't see it, he could hear it in her voice.


He followed the girl into the toy department, and it took him looking down three separate aisles before he found her: on her hands and knees, diaper up in the air, looking deep into the back shadow of the bottom shelf and mumbling to herself.


"What are you looking for, Aimes?" Pawson leaned down, looking at the adjacent toys - dolls and dollhouse accessories it seemed like - and tried to puzzle out the answer.

"Toys, obviously," Aimes dismissed, then got up to her feet. The shelves were massive, almost twice as tall as Aimes herself. They were also stocked with cardboard boxes and plastics in such an array of colors that the rods and cones in her eyes had trouble keeping up.


The nostalgia from earlier, staring at the lights, flooded her again as she remembered all the toy stores she went to as a little girl. She would climb on the shelves, two or three feet off the ground, just to grab at something she thought looked cool. Pawson always hated that. Nowadays, Aimes climbed so many things that he didn't mind so much. Unfortunately, every other space on the shelf was empty. Or, the item that should have been there was pushed so far back that Aimes had trouble seeing it.


She moved away from the dolls and into the next aisle, scanning over colorful wooden blocks, cut and shaped like animals. After that was puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, many made from pictures of places Aimes had been before. Some of them were imaginary, but Aimes still felt like she had probably visited once or twice. The next aisle was full of board games and tiny musical instruments. After that was a row of hard plastic animals and figurines. With a huff, Aimes doubled back to some earlier aisles and put her hands on her hips, the wings of her diaper crinkling.


"You can't buy anything big," Pawson warned. "We have to carry everything with us. Nothing heavy either."


"I know, I know!" Aimes huffed. Then she noticed something on the shelf and ran over to it. She was in the doll aisle again, shuffling through a few different boxes, when she finally found what she was looking for. Unfortunately, she only found a small paper tag.


"Shoot..." Aimes turned the tag over and held it tight in her hand. Pawson tilted his head to see it, but he couldn't read the writing all the way from the ground. Just then, a woman walked by the aisle wearing pressed slacks and a button-up shirt. She was talking to someone else.


"Just this way, and down this aisle! Thank you!"


Aimes raced to catch up to her, almost running headlong into the woman when she turned around. The woman took one look at Aimes, in her diaper and her adventuring attire very much not suited for winter, and didn't skip a beat.


"Hello, how can I help you?"


"I was wondering if you had any more of these?" Aimes handed the girl the little paper tag just as Pawson caught up to the group.


"Oh, hm..." The woman read the tag and looked at the ceiling, thinking to herself. "I swear there are some in the back..."


"Could I have one please?" Aimes asked, her eyes lighting up.


"I'll check for you," the woman smiled, just as someone down the aisle called:


"Excuse me, this is last year's model. Do you have this year's?"


"Oh, um..." The woman handed the tag back to Aimes and gave her an apologetic smile. "Just give me a few minutes."


The woman hurried to the customer she was helping and Aimes puffed out her cheeks. Waiting was never a hobby of hers.


"She said there were some in the back," Aimes said more to herself than Pawson.


"Oh come on," Pawson groaned. "She said she'd be right back."


"But it's a very busy store today," Aimes added. "It would be rude to continue bothering her, especially when we are quite capable of finding it ourselves."


"What if she goes to look in back and we're not here?" Pawson pleaded, hoping that reason might sway her, but Aimes shook her head with certainty. She answered:

"She probably won't even remember, Pawson. It's berry busy. And if she does, then we can meet her in the back and tell her we found it ourselves."


"But we're not supposed to be there..."


"That's just a recommendation! Like eating apples. It'll be fine, you worry too much."


"You don't worry enough," Pawson mumbled, deciding to ignore the apple comment for the time being. He had to pick his battles.


"That's why I have you~" Aimes said sweetly. Then she headed towards the wall of the toy department, looking for a door that might lead to the mythical area of every store: The Back.


Sure enough, The Back was marked with two large double doors and a sign that said "Employees Only."


"We are not employees," Pawson reminded Aimes in a last ditch effort to dissuade her.


"Well, we're employing... a... strategy to..." Aimes looked sheepishly at Pawson, who was not impressed by her feeble attempt at rationalizing.


"Fine, so we shouldn't go in!" Aimes admitted. "But I want to. And this is important. So... please?"


"Why is it important?" Pawson asked.


"I can't explain it," Aimes defended. "But you'll see. I promise."


Pawson looked at the sign on the door and then up at Aimes, who was pouting and giving him those cute sad eyes. He knew they should just wait for someone to be available to help, but he also knew they had a boat to catch in an hour.


"Fine," Pawson said reluctantly. "But you're sleeping with your pacifier all week, so I don't have to listen to you snoring!"


Aimes blushed a little and nodded her head. "Deal."





Chapter Three

Aimes and Pawson pushed through the door to The Back. The warm inviting lights of the department store gave way to cooler clinical colors. The room was impossibly tall and expansive, lined with racks that went up further than the eye could see. The middle of the room was organized into aisles, with tall shelves - taller than both of them, even on the second floor - dividing the space. In front of the two adventurers was a railing and a set of stairs leading down into the room proper.


"The building didn't look this tall from outside..." Pawson said quietly to himself, but Aimes was already heading down the stairs. She held the rail for balance and Pawson toddled along after her.


"It looks like the shelves are labeled," Aimes said, reading each sign taped to the sides of the shelves. Housewares. Bedding. Clothing. The two of them hadn't seen a single label that said Toys before Aimes was distracted by a different one.


"Diapers! Oh, do you think they have something festive? Like a Christmas one, or Las Posadas?"


"You don't even like printed diapers," Pawson argued, following his friend off course.


"No, but there are exceptions. Special occasions, holidays. And you know, if the fancy ones were anywhere near the quality and capacity as my white ones, I'd be more open-minded! The last thing I wanna worry about when being chased by pixies is if my diaper is going to leak."

"We're supposed to be looking for the toys," Pawson reminded her.


"But they're right here!" Aimes argued. "Let me just check them out."


The rack for diapers was a tall one, and Pawson's stuffy little mind's eye was filled to the brim with visions of Aimes climbing the edges of the racking like a monkey climbing a tree, or a baby climbing a jungle gym, and the thought made his stomach ache with worry.


"Only if we can find a ladder first…"


It was a concession that Aimes didn't want to make, but she had to pick her battles too. There was a ladder just one aisle over, and it took both of them working together to lug it all the way to the shelves of diapers. Pawson held the bottom, which was good ladder safety, and Aimes went halfway up to pick a pack of diapers off the shelf.


"A lot of these are too small," Aimes lamented, which was the same lament she would often have any time she was shopping for diapers. But then she found a box on the third shelf that was her size. She pulled it forward and rummaged around inside until she picked up a plastic pack.


"Look, Pawson! These ones have string lights on them! And the color in the lights goes away when they get wet."


"That would be convenient," Pawson said aloud. Her usual diapers didn't have wetness indicators, and Pawson had to constantly remind her to change if she needed to.


"I bet they didn't even have these on the shelf in the store," Aimes said more to herself than to her companion. "That's why we had to come to The Back. I don't know why they don't just make The Back a part of The Front."


Just then, the loud bang of a door closing echoed through the impossibly large room. Aimes caught sight of someone coming down the stairs, but it wasn't the woman who had offered to help. She quickly put the diapers back on the shelf and slid down the ladder. Her and Pawson ducked behind a large box of packing peanuts. Both of them were quiet for a while, until Aimes peeked her head above the box and saw the person heading deeper into The Back. When they were finally out of earshot, Aimes let out a sigh of relief.


"Wait," Pawson said after a moment of realization. "Why didn't we just ask them to help us find the thing you're looking for?" It's not like they would really get in much trouble for walking into the back of a department store.


"Well, this seemed like more fun," Aimes said happily. "It's a stealth mission!"


"You turn everything into a game, don't you?" Pawson asked rhetorically, but he got an answer anyway.


"Anything I can, sure."


Aimes checked a few of the signs nearby and found one that said Toys. It had an arrow pointing pointing to the right, where the mysterious worker had gone.


"Maybe they are trying to get the toy I want, and it's the last one," Aimes said, talking about the worker they were following.


"Or maybe they are looking for something totally unrelated," Pawson offered.


"Nuhuh Pawson, it's like what that Clocko guy says: the simplest answer is always the best one!"


"...are you talking about Occam's razor?" Pawson asked uncertainly. There were so many flaws with what Aimes had said that he didn't know where to start. But before he could try, Aimes shushed him for being too loud.


Aimes and Pawson hurried down the aisle toward the back of The Back. Or rather, Aimes hurried, ducking behind one box after another as the floor worker came into view. Pawson followed at a brisk pace for a teddy bear and hid behind nothing.


Eventually the aisle ended. In front of Aimes and Pawson was an archway, lit up with string lights. Written in colorful cursive lights, along the top of the arch, said "Toys". On the other side was a massive room, just like the entryway, but this one was filled to the top with colorful boxes and packages. There were no overhead lights, but instead warm bulbs on strings draped over the racks, filling the space with bright yellow light. Racks were stacked haphazardly, diagonally, and seemingly randomly, and in one of the corners was a mountain of toys. They were not in boxes or packages: just loose toys stacked on top of one another twenty feet high. For someone who liked toys - like Aimes - it was a paradise.


"Woah..." Aimes and Pawson both said at the same time.


"This doesn't make a lick of sense," Pawson said skeptically. "Everything else was racked and palletized and ordered and this is... this is..."


"Amazing!" Aimes finished.


"...chaos." Pawson corrected. "Let's just find what you're looking for and get out of here before we get in trouble."


So that was what they did. Aimes & Pawson made it past three rows of shelves - which were very distracting for Aimes - before Aimes took a half step backward and put her arm out to keep Pawson from walking forward any further. Just as Pawson was about to ask what was going on, Aimes turned toward him and put her finger to her lips: the universal sign to be quiet.


Aimes slowly peered around the edge of the shelf and Pawson did the same, albeit a few feet lower. And what they both saw was that worker from before, dressed in black pressed clothes that seemed a little too big for them. The cuffs at the bottom were brushing the floor and they had to keep pushing up the sleeves of their jacket. The worker was picking up one toy after another, muttering to themself, and then choosing a new one.


"No, it's supposed to be a pink and blue, not pink and yellow... oh, and look at this one? A knick on the side! We have to do better than this..."


Pawson looked up at Aimes with confusion, and Aimes looked back down at him with wide eyes. She reached up to her own face and tapped her ear.


She couldn't hear what the worker was saying, perhaps? That was Pawson's first thought. Then Aimes pointed at the person and tapped her ear again. Pawson looked at the worker, then at their ear. It was pointy? Like...


Aimes made the mistake of taking a step forward just as the worker paused for breath. The slight rustling of her diaper echoed awkwardly in the room, bouncing off the walls and bending over shelves. The worker with their unusual ears turned to face Aimes and Pawson, who quickly ducked behind the shelf.


"Is someone there?" the worker called. They were quiet as they listened for an answer. Then Aimes and Pawson heard footsteps. Aimes looked around in a panic. On the shelf beside her, she found a bag of individually wrapped hard candies, which weren't toys, but Aimes didn't have time to wonder about that. She silently motioned Pawson away and then tore the bag. A cascade of crinkling candies tumbled onto the hard concrete and Aimes dashed after Pawson and hid behind the corner.


A few more footsteps.


"Oh, I guess some of these fell out... shoddy packaging job, Merry. I'll get Noel to fix it up."


For a good few minutes, even as footsteps paced around the room, Aimes was too nervous to move again. Usually her diaper didn't crinkle all that loudly, but there was something about the acoustics of the room. She exchanged glances with Pawson every so often, who was halfway between bewildered and anxious. And then finally, after what felt like an eternity, the echoing of the footsteps faded deeper and deeper into nothing.


"That was close," Aimes mumbled, letting out a huge sigh of relief.


"You acted like it was a life or death situation," Pawson said, hiding his own relief. "We would probably have just been kicked out."


"Kicked out and put on the naughty list," Aimes said, shivering. "You saw those ears, right?"


"There's no way it's one of Santa's elves," Pawson said skeptically, preempting his best friend's theory. But after a moment of looking around the massive toy room, he added: "Probably."


"It's the simplest solution," Aimes argued.


"That is not true in the slightest," Pawson said. "Either way, we should get out of here before someone comes to clean up the mess you made. Good thinking though."


"Thank you," Aimes said cheerfully. "Of course, I have to find that toy first."


Pawson was afraid of that.




Chapter Four


Aimes began looking for her toy, alternating between bending down to see things below her line of vision and standing on her tippy-toes to see things up higher.

"It's gotta be here," Aimes muttered to herself. "The lady said it was."


"She said she thinks she saw it," Pawson said. "If you tell me what we're looking for, I can help."


"No, no," Aimes said dismissively. "You'll see when I find it."


Pawson sat down on a large box that was home to a dollhouse, watching his companion search high and low, sticking her diapered butt out any time she bent down low and raising her top past her belly button any time she stood up high. It seemed impossible to him, finding anything in a disorganized place like this. It was a needle in a haystack scenario. What they needed was a magnet.


But in a way, Aimes' determination was its own magnet. She looked over every box she could find, on every shelf, and inside any alcove. She went to the pile of toys and looked through it as well. And just as Pawson began to worry less about being caught in The Back and more about missing their boat's departure, Aimes saw something that excited her.


"More diapers?" Pawson asked.


"Nope!" Aimes said brightly. "I found it!"


"Well then let's get it and go," Pawson urged.


"Okay. But it's way up there." Aimes pointed up at one of the higher shelves, past the strings of light bulbs. The direction of her finger wasn't enough to tell Pawson exactly what it is she had found, but that it was a dangerous place to find anything.


"I'll go find a ladder?" Pawson offered.


"The ladder isn't tall enough," Aimes said. "It wouldn't even get us halfway up. I can just climb up there and get it."


"You can't," Pawson said plainly.


"Oh, don't worry, I'll be fine!"


"No, I mean you literally can't." Pawson pointed at the ground level, where the boxes on the racks were so full and pressed together that there was no way to get good footing. Logistics aside, the toy was at least twenty feet in the air. If she fell, she could seriously hurt herself.


"Oh..." Aimes sulked and looked around the room. Maybe there was another way up? If she climbed around from the other side, then...


But then Aimes remembered where she was. This was a toy department!


"Okay, I have an idea," Aimes said excitedly, "but I'm going to need your help."


Pawson knew that whatever Aimes planned to do would be dangerous, but he also knew that she thought this one through. She was quick to jump into a situation, but when she was forced to think about things, she usually had some good ideas. So Pawson said:


"What can I do?"


That was how Aimes and Pawson began searching The Back of a department store for some very specific toys.


Once Aimes and Pawson gathered everything they needed, Aimes tied a blanket around the shelves' metal struts and pulled it taut. She fixed it in place with a series of heavy boxes at the other two corners. Then she took the toy grappling hook and shot it up the hill of toys. It took a few tries for it to catch on anything.

Pawson pulled sticky slime out of a plastic container and smothered it over the ends of three arrows from a bow and arrow kit. He spent the rest of the time trying to get it out of his fur.

Finally, when everything was set up, Aimes handed Pawson the bow. Pawson didn't understand why, and it showed on his face.

"You gotta do the climb," Aimes said.

"What? No way! You do it!"

"I wish I could," Aimes said with a pout. "But I'm heavier and the grappling hook might not hold me. Even if it did, I'd break all those toys if I tried climbing them."

"So?" Pawson said, trying anything to get out of having to do this.

"So, those toys are probably going to be important to someone, like how you're important to me. I don't want to break them."

Pawson looked up at Aimes, and he could see the sincerity in her eyes. With a groan, he took the bow. He pulled it over his body like a sash and grabbed the rope leading up the mountain of toys.


Pawson grumbled as he began to climb the rope, toddling left and right to keep is balance. For someone who had hands that could be be described as mittens crossed with paws, Pawson did do a pretty good job of rope climbing. After all, he wouldn't have made it through half the adventures he went on with Aimes if he didn't at least have some survival acumen.


"You're doing great!" Aimes called up from the floor. Already Pawson had climbed higher than the top of Aimes' head, almost halfway up the pile of toys. She didn't look away from her friend, even as he got further away, just in case she needed to catch him. He had her undivided attention.


Pawson stepped over the toys with his bare feet, but the toys didn't really hurt. The perks of having a stuffed animal body, he supposed. And under his weight, not a single toy cracked or chipped or crunched. The mountain of toys wasn't unsettled at all, even as he reached the part where the grappling hook was wedged between two boxes of wooden blocks. He had another five feet to go, but he would have to free-climb. Thankfully the pile was less steep near the top.


"You know I still don't know what to aim at, right?" he said down to Aimes, then grumbled to himself: "Just a few more feet, a few more paws-lengths and..."


Pawson grunted as he made it to the top of the toy mountain and collapsed on the mound. After a moment to catch his breath, he sat up and looked down at Aimes. "Okay! What am I shooting at?"


"See the two yellow boxes? The one on the right." Aimes pointed at a yellow box on the wall, high high high above her. It wasn't that far from the top of the toy pile. 


It wasn't the best angle for Pawson, but the box wasn't far away either. It looked like a doll or something, and Pawson felt a twinge of annoyance at the fact that all this was for some doll. But if it was important to Aimes, it was important to him too.

Pawson took the bow off his body and untied the bundle of arrows he had fashioned to the bow. He took the rope off the grappling hook and tied it to the end of one of the arrows, with the sticky green goo on the other side. He nocked one of the toy arrows, pulled it back, aimed, and fired. It went a little wide and stuck to the shelf.


"That's okay," Aimes called from the ground. "Just reel the arrow back in and try again."

Pawson pulled the rope until the arrow came back to him, but the end was covered in dirt and dust. It wasn't very sticky anymore. So he took the rope off that arrow and tied it to the next one. He loosed the second arrow and it struck the target. With satisfaction, Pawson tugged the rope and the box tumbled off the shelf, landing right in the middle of the big blanket net Aimes had built at the bottom.


"Pawson, you're incredible!" Aimes said excitedly from the ground, but as she picked up the yellow box, her expression soured. Pawson almost couldn't see it from so high up.


"It's the other one," Aimes hollered. "The other yellow one."


"You said on the right," Pawson argued.


"Uhh... yeah, I meant left." Aimes blushed and scratched at her cheek in embarrassment. She should have checked using her hands to see which one made an L.


Pawson sighed and pulled the arrow back up the mountain of toys. Sure enough, the sticky goo was not so sticky anymore. He untied the rope again and knotted it to the tail of the final arrow. Thankfully the left box was closer than the right one.


The little teddy took a deep breath and shut one eye as he lined up his shot with the toy bow, and then held his breath as he zeroed it in. His tongue stuck out the side of his mouth in concentration and he loosed the arrow.




Time seemed to slow down for just a second as his eyes followed the arrow until, with a wet SPLOTCH!, the sticky end impacted the box and held tight. With one gentle tug on the rope, Pawson dislodged it and caused it to tumble down perfectly into the net below.


Aimes picked up the box with wide eyes, bright with excitement. It was exactly what she wanted! She hugged it tight to her chest and told Pawson to come down.


The way down was not much easier than the way up, but it felt safer. Pawson scooted along his bottom, like a child going down stairs for the first time. When he finally made it to the concrete floor, he felt exhausted.


"Let's get out of here," he said.


"Yes, let's!"





Chapter Five


Aimes and Pawson made their way back to the stairs on the other side of The Back. Pawson didn't even think to ask about the doll until both of them were pushing their way past the Employees Only door and into the department store. As they rounded the corner, Aimes nearly bumped into the same woman a second time.


"Oh, I was just looking for you," the same woman said. "Sorry it took so long. I can look for your toy now if you'd like."


"Actually, I found one," Aimes said with a smile, holding up the doll in her hands.


The woman looked at Aimes, at the Employee's Only door just a few feet away, and slowly nodded her head.


"Well... if that's all for you, I can ring you up?" the woman asked.


"That would be wonderful." Aimes rummaged through her backpack to find her wallet and paid for the doll.


Pawson sat by the front door on the bench, still rubbing gooey green slime off his paws. When Aimes finished checking out, she met up with Pawson - a box in her arms - and the two headed outside.


It was then, under the light snowfall, that she handed him a box. This box was about the same size as the doll box, but it was wrapped in beautiful magenta paper and a large silver bow. Pawson took it, but his face was full of confusion.


"What's this?"


"It's a gift," Aimes said simply. "For you."


"For me?" Realization dawned on Pawson and the whole picture came together. The trip into The Back. The effort Aimes went through to get this particular toy. Even the fact that she wouldn't tell him what they were looking for. "This was all for me?"


"Of course, you silly bear!"


Pawson looked at the gorgeously wrapped gift and then up at Aimes, and then down at the gift again.


"Well, come on!" Aimes said impatiently. "Open it!"


The sun had gone down quite a while ago and the lights from the harbor lanterns reflected off the snow, covering the harbor in a warm glow. It was like a postcard, or a picture on a puzzle. Even though Aimes was in just her short-sleeved shirt and her diaper, she wasn't even the least bit cold in that moment.


Pawson started pulling the beautifully wrapped paper off his gift. Sure enough, what he found wrapped up was indeed a small doll, but this doll was dressed in a short-sleeved cargo shirt and a safari hat. It looked a lot like Aimes, if Aimes had brown hair and it wasn't so frizzy. And if Aimes ever wore pants.


Pawson stared at the package for a while, at the doll inside, and felt warm. He held the box close to his chest and smiled up at his best friend.


"I love it, Aimes," he said. "Thank you so much."


"It wasn't any trouble," Aimes lied cheerfully.


"Oh, I should have gotten you something though," Pawson realized. But Aimes said:


"No need. Remember our first Christmas together? I wasn't even a year old. I actually don't remember anything else from when I was that young, but I remember opening up my favorite gift. You. Every year, as long as you're with me, then I get that gift all over again."


"Aimes..." Pawson didn't know what to say.


"I know I can't give you a gift as good as me," Aimes laughed, "so I hope this one comes close."


"It does," Pawson stuttered, trying not to get too choked up. "It's perfect."


The two of them were quiet for a moment, together in the warm light and the cold snow. Then Aimes got goosebumps on her thighs and felt the urge to move onward, as she always did.


"Ready for our next adventure?" Aimes asked, taking Pawson by the hand.


"With you, Aimes? Always."



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