Title: 23 Rolls of Film

Fandom: Degrassi

Pairing: Sean/Craig (pre-slash at this point, but there's subtext)

Rating: Rish(for now)

Summary: What if Sean hadn't tried to talk Craig out of running away? What if Sean had said 'yes' when Craig asked him to come with him?

            One of the first things Sean learned was that, once you've gotten used to it, sleeping on buses wasn't very hard. It was actually quite relaxing. As long as there weren't any small children on board and no old ladies were trying to talk his ear off, Sean noticed he could actually sleep through the night. He thinks they're somewhere between Tacoma and Eugene. It surprises him how easy it was to cross the border into the U.S. but Craig said it was what he expected; apparently the U.S. doesn't mind having Canadians just walk right into their country. It's kind of funny considering all the strict immigration laws here. They crossed over from Abbotsford, and no one even searched their bags.

It wasn't hard to get the border patrol to believe that they were just kids going to Seattle for the weekend ("It's a huge rock festival man; you should try and go down if you can. All the greats are gonna be there") and from there, they just kept moving South. Craig's sitting next to him now, trying to fix that damn camera. He obviously couldn't buy a new one, but it was a piece of normality, when everything is different, so he's trying.

 "Hurry up man," Sean whispers heading towards the kitchen, "go get your stuff and I'll grab some food." He practically emptied that pantry of everything non-perishables that he could find, before stuffing them in his own duffle (pitifully empty even when every piece of clothing and every personal item he wants is in it) and quietly heads upstairs. Craig is in his room, clothes being thrust into his bag, Sean tosses his toothbrush and some toothpaste at him and Craig puts that in as well. He pauses over his camera, broken and ostensibly useless. "I could fix this." He says and looks at Sean, as if for permission. Sean just nods and Craig puts it in its case and looks inside, it's empty so he walks over to his desk. He pulls out 23 rolls of film, and puts them in the film holder of his bag. Then the bag goes into the duffle. "I'll be downstairs, Okay." Sean says and moves back out into the hall. He doesn't go downstairs immediately though, he sees the door to Craig's dad's room ajar and decides to go in.

It's pretty Spartan, but Sean sees just what he wants lying out on the dresser…cash. It looks to be about $500 and Sean pockets it for use later. He knows they're going to need it because honestly? This is stupid. It's one of the stupidest things he's ever done, but Craig seems to really want to get away and Sean doesn't have any real reason to stay. Even if Emma was talking to him (which she isn't), even if his brother were a little less distant (which is never going to happen), hell even if his parents were still around, Sean thinks he'd still want to leave with Craig right now. Maybe he just met Craig a few days ago, but Craig needs him, really needs him, and Sean thinks he'd give anything to feel this way forever. He heads downstairs and just as he hits the bottom stair, Craig emerges from his room, duffle in hand, and gives him a soft smile. He comes down and they leave together, heading towards the bus station without even discussing it. They need to be away, far away, where none of this will ever touch them again.

Looking back, Sean has to laugh at his naiveté. As if running away would solve anything, but Craig looks happy or at least not sad and the further away from the border they get the closer to happy he gets. Sean thinks that by the time they reach Salem his smile might reach his eyes. He's hoping for a laugh by the time they reach Eureka. "I got it!" Craig exclaims, startling Sean out of his reverie and waking a few passengers. Sean smiles at the woman who's now glaring at them and turns his attention to Craig. "Smile," Craig says, before Sean is blinded by a brilliant flash of light. Sean wants to make some smart comment about being blinded or about how pissed the other passengers are to be woken up in the middle of the night by his antics, but Craig is smiling, really smiling and Sean can't bring himself to do anything that might ruin his mood. Sean grins back at him before yawning and Craig looks at his watch. "Wow," he whispers, finally noticing all the people he's just rudely woken up, "it's late." Sean rolls his eyes and stretches a little, before turning his head to lie against Craig's arm. Craig shifts slightly and Sean's head slips down into the curve of his neck. Craig lays his head on top of Sean's and closes his eyes.

Their money runs out in Grants Pass and they have to hitch across the Oregon-California border. They reach Crescent City on a Tuesday and Sean has to smile at the thought of Emma and Manny and Toby and JT freezing and slaving away in school, while he and Craig goof around at the beach. Craig runs straight for the waves, stripping as he goes, his clothes leaving a trail directly into the ocean. Sean saves Craig's jeans from being soaked and puts them in a pile out of the direct path of the water. He strips a little more slowly, enjoying the sight of Craig, smiling and laughing and playing in the waves. Sean pulls Craig's camera out of his bag and, after fiddling with it for a few moments, snaps a picture of Craig, just as a wave breaks over him. They spend all day in the water, letting out some of the tension from all the sitting and hitchhiking. When they're finally tired, they lay out on the beach, letting the sun dry them, and not really talking about anything. They keep laying there, long after they're dry and watch the stars come out. Craig tells Sean the stories of the constellations while they lay there, thigh to thigh and side to side, until beach patrol kicks them out. They sneak in under the barbed wire fencing of a nearby orchard that night, and feast on California fruit. Oranges and apples and persimmons and avocadoes, it's the first fresh meal they've had in days and Sean tries to savor every last bite. They fall asleep in the middle of the orange grove, citrus scent hanging in the air and only each other for warmth.

They make their way across northern California by day laboring. It isn't bad money, up to $100 a day if they both pick to the fullest extent of their abilities. The first few weeks are hard, so hard Craig doubts he'll be able to do it for much longer but, despite the fact that he feels the same, Sean forces him to keep at it. The days might be hard, but there's fresh Mexican food every night and the people are incredibly kind. Craig gets used to it and as they work their way through Chico, his body doesn't complain nearly as much as it used to. Sean's body stopped complaining long before Craig's, but it still is hard to wake up in the morning. They share a tent, if it can be called that, and the nights are a lot colder than they expected. Most of the people in this camp have their whole family here and they can all huddle together for warmth. Craig and Sean have to make do with each other for warmth, but Sean has to admit that it's nice to go to sleep knowing Craig's right next to him. It's comforting to know he'll be there when he wakes up, sleep rumpled and cranky, and familiar. This life is so different from any of the others he's had before, and having Craig to hold onto at night seems to be the only thing keeping him sane most nights.

They watch all the kids get ready to go of to school every morning as they line up for breakfast. It makes Sean think of Degrassi (he refuses to call it home) and whenever Craig sees one of the little girls skip off to school, he gets this far away look in his eyes and Sean knows he's thinking of his little sister. They never talk about it; they just eat their breakfast and engage themselves in whatever the latest camp gossip is. Sean never thought he'd get tired of Mexican food, but beans and tortillas for every meal for almost a month has severely turned him off the notion. At least he thinks he is until one of the women offers to show him how to make tortillas, and then he can't wait. He stands there, covered in flour, trying to roll out the masa into something resembling those circles all the women make while every one laughs. His cheeks turn a little red and then he sees the flash. Craig looks up from his lens, laughter dancing in his eyes, he looks… happy and Sean wants to hug him. He settles for punching him in the arm, "let's see how well you do man," he snarks and Craig just shakes his head and laughs some more. "No thank you, now that I have myself a little chica, I'd better settle down and start earning us a living. You can call me Papí if you want," Craig replies in a ridiculous Mexican accent, batting his eyelashes a little, before breaking out into more laughter. By now the whole camp has turned out to see the spectacle and Sean considers making flyers "white boy tries to make tortillas…one night only." But it's nice to laugh and it's obvious every one needs it. It doesn't change the fact that Sean's going to kill Craig first chance he gets, no way, no how.

They're coming up to Sacramento and they have to make a decision. The camp is about to split up, with half moving east towards Napa and San Francisco and the other half is moving south through Stockton and the rest of the Central Valley. Craig seems to want to set up shop in San Francisco, while Sean wants to go south and towards Los Angeles. "L.A.'s cheaper Craig, every one knows it; do you have any idea how expensive it is to live in the Bay Area?" Sean asks, trying to keep his voice down and failing, he wonders if Craig was always this free with his dad's money. "Must be nice," he thinks bitterly, before Craig cuts into his thoughts, "well if the cost of living is higher, the pay probably is to," he huffs. Sean stares at him for a few moments, "God you're naïve," Sean finally says, "don't you get it? Not only are we minors and therefore ineligible to work beyond a certain number of hours a week, we're also illegal fucking aliens. They could deport us at any moment, and technically we can't hold a job here in the U.S. without work Visas. We aren't going to be getting the kind of jobs where they care about things like the cost of living. I mean even I paid enough attention in Social Studies to know that they constantly have protests in order to get a 'living wage'. That's just the way it is. So we're going to L.A., where there a lot more jobs and it's a hell of a lot cheaper to live. Okay?" Craig looks back at him as if he's been slapped, and all the happiness that's been in them these past few months leaves him, "okay," he says and starts undressing for bed. Sean joins him, unlacing his sneakers, peeling off his jeans, and stripping out of his shirt. He's about to zip into their sleeping bag when he notices Craig is still standing there, ready for bed and not moving,  with his head turned away.

"Craig?" Sean asks while reaching his hand up to Craig's, "what's the matter man?" Then Sean sees them, tears, falling down Craig's face in little rivers, he pulls Craig down to him. He holds him for a second, rubbing his arms soothingly and Craig's silent tears turn into full out sobs and Sean just hold tighter, waiting until Craig's ready to talk. "Man, how do you NOT hate me? I dragged you into all of this and now we can't even afford to live anywhere. How are we supposed to get jobs to support ourselves? And what about school? I mean, I have seriously screwed us, and you don't even hate me. Why?" Craig sounds plaintive and earnest and Sean can't help but to hold him to him tighter "Craig," he says and his voice squeaks a little. "Craig," he tries again and it sounds much firmer so he goes on, "Craig look at me. This was my decision. I wanted this. You asked and I accepted; this isn't your fault. We're in this together right? I mean, I can do this as long as you're here with me, you're the best friend I've ever had Craig, are you in this with me? For the duration?" Craig looks at Sean with something akin to wonder before nodding his head, "Yeah," he says, "I'm in this with you. We'll do this… together." They fall asleep that night pressed tightly together, warmth radiating from their exposed skin. It's the best sleep either of them has had in months.

They work their way steadily through the Central Valley, until they get to Fresno, the work dries up there and they still have quite a way to go. Sean sits and counts money while Craig tries to puzzle out how they're going to get to L.A. All of his ideas are met with either snorts of derision or curt no's from Sean. Craig puts up with it for awhile then he loses his temper. "You the one who knows money right? Money and everything there is to know about California?" Craig asks him, "Why don't you figure it out?" Sean looks away for a moment, they're in a truck stop in Tulare, it's busy, Friday night, an idea comes to Sean, but he has to get rid of Craig for a few minutes. "Okay, why don't you try and find out how far away L.A. is and get us some coffee okay?" Sean asks him, praying he'll just do what he asks him to for once. "Okay, fine," Craig replies sulkily and heads inside. Sean immediately looks around, trying to find the perfect candidate, he'll only get a shot at this once, so he has to pick right the first time.

He finds him right away, he's perfect, not too big (in case he gets angry), not disgusting (and some of these truckers really are) and he looks like he could spare some cash. Sean knows what type to pick and he's actually good at this because his parents didn't always have money for booze and apparently renting him out was a better alternative than actually working. So he talks to him for a few moments, being coy and being flirty and making sure he knows that he can't talk about it around Craig and then the guy agrees, but he wants a demonstration. It doesn't take long, just something quick with his mouth, but the entire time he's doing it, he's imagining what Craig would say if he knew. Craig doesn't catch him though and he's so impressed enough with the fact that Sean found them a ride that he doesn't ask to many questions. They make their way out of the Central Valley and into Bakersfield with that first trucker. He just couldn't get enough of Sean and Sean can't decide if he should have some pride in his talent, or if he should be disgusted and insulted. He decides to be both, and picks up another trucker at the stop in Bakersfield. They continue moving south, into the desert, Lancaster, Palmdale, and then Santa Clarita, they're almost there and Sean figures he's made about $350 off the truckers, and they'll be able to put down first and last month's rent on an apartment.

It's night when they arrive in L.A. and it's beautiful. It's like the city is covered in jewels and he doesn't feel like too big a dork for thinking it when Craig actually says that out loud. They don't really have anywhere to go so they end up walking around for a while; they end up in a homeless shelter. "It's just for the night," Sean assures Craig, "tomorrow we get an apartment. With a bed," he adds, eying the cot critically. He's had worse though so he tucks himself in and tries to get some sleep. Hours later and sleep is still eluding him, he's grown to accustomed to having Craig next to him while he sleeps and it feels… wrong for him not to be here. Sean falls asleep eventually, but he tosses and turns all night. When they wake up in the morning, Craig doesn't look like he had a very easy time either. Sean ruffles his hair and starts to pull on his clothes. "It's time for apartment hunting," he says and grabs his stuff from underneath the cot. A flash of light from the side lets him know Craig's camera wasn't stolen and it doesn't take much to wrestle the camera away from Craig and snap a picture of his own.

The apartment sucks. It's actually worse than suck. There isn't a word in the English language (or the Spanish one that Sean or Craig know of, then again they aren't fluent) to describe the depths of suck that the apartment has. But it's only $250 a month with water and gas and it comes furnished and it's actually the best they've seen at that price. They have their own shower (only 3 out of the 10 places they saw had showers in the apartments. The others were communal bathrooms on each floor) and the stove seems to work. It's only 1 room really not including the bathroom, the "bedroom" is sectioned off by a sheet but the kitchen, the living room and the bedroom are all in one room. They have to put down $500 for first and last month's rent and $50 to get the power turned on. The bodega on the corner was selling Catholic Saints candles 5 for $1.00 so Craig and Sean bought 20 and a lighter, they don't need to have electric light for now, candles will do just fine. They have $125 and a month until the electric bill comes. It takes about 10 minutes to put what few belongings they have away, "Jobs tomorrow?" Craig asks and Sean nods. They strip for bed, blow out all the candles and climb in together. Sean sleeps much better than he did the night before. Things don't seem so bleak when Craig is lying next to him.

They don't get jobs right away. They actually go two weeks without knowing how they're going to pay rent at the end of the month. They go grocery shopping on their second day there ("can't look emaciated for the interviews man") and Craig arches an eyebrow when Sean heads straight for the dry goods isle. He hefts a fifteen pound bag of beans into the cart before moving on towards the cornmeal. A twenty pound bag of dry cornmeal and two ten pound buckets of lard later Sean heads for the checkout and Craig hurries to catch up. "Um man?" Craig says, voice pitched into a question. "Beans and tortillas Manning," Sean informs him, "it'll be just like the old days." It kind of is, in a gnawing hungry and constant feeling of impending dread kind of way. Sean makes beans and tortillas every morning before they leave to go job hunting and they return and have more every night, spirits low and appetites diminished.

Craig gets a job long before Sean does and it isn't actually a surprise to him. The restaurant owner took one look at Craig's boyishly handsome face and offered him a position as busboy. She sniffed distastefully in Sean's direction and stiltedly informed him that she only had one position open ("I'm afraid I don't have any use for you young man."). It isn't a surprise and the money's all going to the same place so Sean lets himself feel happy for Craig and tries not to sulk about his own poor luck in procuring employment. The fact that they have money coming in soon prompts them to splurge a little; they buy a few cans of tuna fish and a few cans of peaches to celebrate. Neither admits to how heavenly the peaches taste after so many weeks of tortillas and beans or how filling the tuna is when they haven't eaten meat in what feels like forever.

Craig seems to really like being a busboy but he isn't making enough money to keep them going for long so Sean increases his efforts to find a job. He can see the unease is Craig's face whenever he stops to do the math in his head and Sean feels guilty about it. He's down by the waterfront one afternoon (getting rejected once again) when a burly man approaches him. He's obviously a dockworker, he has the weathered face and solid build of the other men down there but he doesn't look menacing so Sean just waits for him to talk. He asks Sean for a blowjob. No preamble just walks up, looks him over and asks, "How much for a blowjob?" "Forty-five," Sean replies, eying him steadily. "I'll give you twenty-five," the guy answers and Sean snorts. "And I'll take your money, but if you also want a blowjob the price is forty-five bucks, up front and you can't cum in my mouth," Sean retorts. The guy laughs and reaches into his back pocket. He pulls out a twenty a ten and a five, "It's all I've got on me kid, take it or leave it." Sean takes it and as soon as he's out of sight of the docks vomits up his breakfast.

He gets a job the next day working in a warehouse near the waterfront. The pay is shit and the hours are worse but he doesn't feel as guilty about money as he used to. When money continues to be a problem (Craig still makes more than he does) he goes back down to the docks and looks for the guy. He doesn't find him but he does find plenty of others. They all haggle over the price and Sean ends up blowing guys for anywhere between twenty-five and forty dollars but Craig doesn't look desperate anymore when he looks over at the slowly dwindling food supplies. The days of canned peaches feels really far away and Sean wishes he didn't feel so dirty all the time. It doesn't help having to sleep lying next to Craig every night, inhaling his clean boy smell, sweat and soap and the ever clinging scents of the restaurant. Sean silently prays to god that he doesn't smell like cum and the ocean before falling into a fitful slumber.

He meets Mr. Morales by accident one Sunday when the warehouses were closed and Craig was working at the restaurant. He was walking from the bodega, laden down with cornmeal and lard when he overheard two men yelling at each other in Spanish. Sean wasn't completely certain what they arguing about but from what he could tell; they were fucking up what seemed to Sean to be a pretty basic engine tune up. He stops for a second to listen to the two of them bicker and shakes his head at them, grinning. One of them seems to notice and calls over to him, "Por que tienes una sonrisa bolio?" Sean laughs. "I'm just enjoying you two make a mess out of that tune up," he answers, stepping nearer. They don't seem like the type to get violent, despite the harsh words earlier. "Want some help?"

Mr. Morales comes out of the small house the garage Sean's working in is attached to and frowns a little when he sees Sean covered up to his elbows in grease. He snaps at the two guys in rapid fire Spanish that Sean doesn't fully comprehend but he gets the gist of; these guys are his sons and he's kind of pissed that Sean's fixing the car. While Sean's cleaning up, Mr. Morales walks up and introduces himself. They start up an easy conversation about the car Sean and his son's had been working on (a pretty recent model Toyota, not crap but nothing to write home about) when Morales invites Sean inside. Sean doesn't actually have any other place to be at the moment so after stooping to pick up his groceries, Sean follows him into the house.

It's small, and a little cramped, pretty old and the paint on the walls is peeling slightly. It's still a few hundred times better then what he and Craig have and Sean lets himself imagine he and Craig getting a place just like this in the future. He can just see Craig saving up money to buy posters and things to fill up the wall space and Sean smiles at the thought of it. Mr. Morales offers Sean a beer and Sean accepts. He enjoys the icy cold feeling of the can in his hands, the refreshing way it slides down his throat and the companionable silence between himself and his host before Morales clears his throat.

"So you know about cars huh mijo?" he asks Sean and at Sean's hesitant nod he continues, "My son's, they're good kids but they don't understand cars, no conocen, Tu sabes?" Sean nods again and Mr. Morales smile, "you though, you might be just what I'm looking for. I need some one, some one who's willing to work hard for me. I'll start you out with a job sweeping out the garage and doing maintenance on the building but I expect you to work on a car every so often. If that works out, and you're good enough, we'll see about maybe you getting hired on as a real mechanic. What do you think? You interested?" Sean doesn't actually have words to describe how he's feeling at this moment. He's always loved working on cars, he and his brother used to… anyways, he's always loved it and he used to imagine actually being a mechanic when he was younger. He had felt kind of stupid telling Emma and she seemed disappointed but Sean hadn't ever come across anything that he'd taken to as easily as cars did. He nods enthusiastically at Mr. Morales and shakes his hand.

"Now," Mr. Morales says once Sean's grin isn't threatening to overtake his entire face, "Cuantos años tienes?" he asks and Sean's face falls. "Eighteen," he lies and knows Morales can tell. "Honestly hijo, how old are you?" Morales asks in a softer voice. "Seventeen," Sean replies and at Morales' glare looks down at his lap, "fifteen sir," he answers, dread welling up inside him. "You go to school around here?" Morales asks him and Sean shakes his head, "you don't have to be afraid hijo, it's not like you have to worry about me calling la migra on you verdad?" Sean looks up at him, stricken and Morales looks at him questioningly. "Umm, I'm from Canada," Sean explains and Morales is smiling again. He says something under his breath in rapid Spanish that Sean thinks is negative… and directed towards Canadians; Sean pretends not to hear. He accepts the card Morales gives him, nodding sharply at Morales' command to be there "at 6AM sharp mijo," and leaves.

He tells Craig the good news when he gets home and despite how tired Craig obviously is he walks down to the bodega and buys Sean a small can of pineapples with what little he made that day in tips. They end up sharing it, passing the spoon back and forth while Sean tells Craig about how much he's always wanted to be a mechanic. Craig doesn't seem disappointed in Sean or his "small dreams", he looks happy for him, happy for them and when they fall asleep, Sean knows he smells like pineapples and corn tortillas, and snuggles a little bit closer.