“There. Should be steady enough.”
“Steady enough? If it falls over, I could break my neck!”
“Then don't fall, chibi. Obviously. Don't you know how gravity works?”
“Yes, asshole, that's why I'm worried.”
Dazai wrapped an arm around Chuuya's waist and tugged him close. He nuzzled into Chuuya's neck and murmured in his ear, “Would I ever let you fall, Chuuya?”
He felt the heat rise on Chuuya's cheeks. He pulled away so he could admire the flush adorning his pale skin.
“...No, I trust you,” the small, adorable man admitted. He cast his gaze upwards towards the ladder they'd just finished setting up and took a deep breath. “Fine. I'm doing this.”
Dazai let Chuuya go. He watched his boyfriend make the climb up to the billboard successfully, then followed after him. He found his balance on the metal lip of the structure, same as Chuuya.
“You brought the paint, right?” Dazai asked.
“You think I'd leave bringing it to you?” Chuuya dove into his hoodie's pockets and produced several tubes of paint. They didn't want to risk dragging entire buckets up the ladder, so this would have to do. “You'd 'forget' it, then insist we make out instead.”
That was exactly what Dazai would have done. He was going to have to vary his strategies more often - he didn't want to become predictable. Chuuya might get bored, then what would become of them?
He pouted and whined, “You don't want to make out with me?”
“Later,” Chuuya promised, rolling his eyes and smiling a little.
Chuuya tossed a tube of paint and a brush over to Dazai, who neatly caught both. He squirted out a healthy amount of paint next to his feet and dunked the brush into the mess. Chuuya did the same, and they both got to work.
Dazai met Chuuya on the playground in fourth grade. A few kids in their class approached Chuuya and asked him about the book he was so fascinated by while the rest of the children were playing tag. He'd started into what promised to be a lengthy, enthusiastic monologue on the history of men's fashion. Then-
"What is he talking about? He's so weird!"
"Shut up already, nobody cares about this stuff!"
"Are you a faggot or something? I heard your parents are both guys!"
One of the kids grabbed Chuuya's book away from him and threw it into the mud. It splattered onto Chuuya's shoes and pants. Humiliated tears welled up in Chuuya's eyes. He pulled his book from the mud and held it tight, then ran off to the safety of a shaded tree. He curled up around his book and sobbed. The distant laughter of the bullies faded underneath the sound of his crying.
Dazai watched the whole affair from afar, then approached the boy. Chuuya snapped, “Are you gonna laugh at me too?” Tears fell down his cheeks and he clutched his book to his chest like a precious treasure.
Dazai shook his head. “I wanna hear about hats in the 17th century.”
Chuuya narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You do?” he asked, daring to let a bit of hope slip into his voice. He sniffled and blinked his tears away.
“Yeah,” Dazai settled in the grass. Chuuya did the same, sitting next to him and cracking open his book so they could both look at the pictures. The edges of the pages were stained with mud. Dazai helped Chuuya wipe away as much of it as they could. He'd been those same bullies' victim, too, he told Chuuya. He would fiddle with a rubber band during class, roll it in circles with his fingers, and they would take it from him and snap it against his skin.
(Some time later, the bullies who taunted Chuuya would be suspended for making Dazai do their homework for them. Well, Dazai actually volunteered then turned them in for cheating. Nobody believed the bullies when they claimed they were set up - what fourth grader would plot something like that?)
They spent the rest of that recess together, and then spent the rest of their childhoods by each other's sides. When they were fifteen, Dazai would admit he never had much of an interest in men's fashion. He just liked the way Chuuya's pretty blue eyes lit up when he talked about it. And he'd hated them getting dulled by humiliation and sorrow.
“That's okay. You listened to me. That means a lot,” Chuuya had said, then kissed Dazai for the first time. Many, many kisses would follow.
People left Dazai behind. Chuuya didn't. He anchored himself to Dazai's side and held on when everyone else grew tired of him. Dazai pushed people – they had limits on how much they could tolerate of him, and Dazai pushed those limits until something snapped. He didn't know where the line was until he crossed it.
Not that Chuuya didn't get pissed off with him. He most certainly did, he just never snapped. He got mad, frustrated, furious, and still stayed. Dazai could push all he wanted and Chuuya would remain standing firm.
Chuuya suggested to Dazai that he might also be on the spectrum, but so long as he lived under his adoptive father's thumb, he wouldn't get a diagnosis. His father claimed it was for his own good – so he wouldn't have to live with the stigma of autism attached to him for his entire life. Dazai was quite sure the real reason was he didn't want to raise an autistic son, so he avoided the issue entirely.
Well, it wouldn't be a problem for much longer. He'd be eighteen soon and Chuuya's guardians, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, were more than welcoming towards him. They had a room ready for him and everything. When he left his cold, unhappy home he would have a warm, loving family waiting for him. If he wanted to know for sure, they'd help him get his answer.
It was Arthur and Paul that brought the billboard to Dazai and Chuuya's attention. They'd been sharing breakfast after Dazai spent the night, when Paul let out a frustrated huff at whatever he was reading in the morning paper.
“Did you see that Autism Speaks is doing a charity walk downtown?” he asked the table. Chuuya grunted wordlessly through his mouthful of waffles.
Dazai didn't pause in writing out his schedule for the week - he needed it planned and recorded before he did anything else. The conversation occupied only a fraction of his attention. It was a great contradiction in Dazai's personality - he meticulously plotted and planned before he acted, yet he delighted in ruining everybody else's schedules.
“Yes, I did,” Arthur sighed. “There's a billboard on my way to the university. It's a bit of an eyesore.”
“What's the problem?” Chuuya asked, his voice muffled by partially-eaten food.
“Chew your food, sweetheart,” Arthur scolded gently. “The problem is the money they raise is mostly lining their own pockets instead of going to helpful programs or education.”
“Plus, the education they do provide sucks,” Paul continued. “They spook parents about how tough raising an autistic kid is, then tells us how to 'fix' them. They're greedy fear mongers.” Paul leaned over to peck the side of Chuuya's head. “My brother doesn't need fixing. Assholes.”
Though they were commonly mistaken as Chuuya's parents, Paul was Chuuya's older brother and Arthur was Paul's husband. It was an unusual family unit they had, but Chuuya wasn't the same helpless kid he used to be who cried under trees. Nowadays, if somebody dared talk shit about his family, swift and painful retribution followed. Both Chuuya and Dazai had a penchant for wickedness.
“Hmmm. Somebody should do something,” Dazai suggested, sneaking a glance at his boyfriend. Chuuya caught his eyes and smirked. He jotted down 'commit some crimes w/ bae' into his schedule for tomorrow evening.
“Oh no. You are not getting yourselves into trouble again.” Paul smacked Dazai lightly with the newspaper. “You got lucky you didn't land in prison last time!”
“Those drug charges were bogus anyway,” Chuuya commented. He finished shoveling his waffles into his gullet, then turned to Dazai, who had closed his planner and set down his pen. “Eat, dumbass.”
“Only if you feed me~”
“Like hell I will! I'll make you drown in your damn cereal, asshat!”
“Ah, young love.”
Dazai leaned back to admire his artistry. DON'T SPEAK FOR ME was painted in neat, careful lettering underneath the Autism Speaks logo. It felt meaningful and poignant. A message he and others could all get behind.
He glanced over at Chuuya. The chibi was also done with his defacement of the billboard. The smiling boy's picture was now obscured with FUCK YOU in large, red letters.
Chuuya caught his glance and shrugged. “It gets the point across.”
Dazai laughed hard enough to make his shoulders tremble. “I guess it does.”
The chilly night air was beginning to get to them. Chuuya's small body was shivering despite his coat and scarf. Two sets of winter clothes had been suspiciously left out for them before they set off. It wasn't an endorsement of their criminal activities from Arthur and Paul. It was acceptance that they wouldn't be stopped and they should at least bundle up before committing crimes.
They traversed the ladder downwards and folded it up. Chuuya hooked it under his arms before they made for home. They left their used-up paint supplies behind to make sure there was as much of a mess as possible. Plus, they paid for everything in cash so nothing would be traced back to them.
“I know it doesn't really make a difference but...it damn sure makes me feel better,” Chuuya said. The hand not carrying the ladder interlaced with Dazai's and squeezed.
Dazai squeezed Chuuya's hand back. “True. And so will blasting the most obscene music we can find during that charity walk.”
“You're such an ass. I love you.”
“Love you, too, chibi.”
When they returned home, regardless of the late hour, Arthur and Paul were waiting for them with a warm fire in the fireplace and two mugs of hot chocolate.