Title: Treading Water
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Michael and Lincoln (Gen)
Rating: PG
Summary (Season Two): When Michael planned the escape, it was never supposed to go like this.
Author's Notes: For prisonbreak100 ("Rain") and writers_choice ("Mess").

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When Michael included Central America in his escape plan, he never thought of it like this. Realistically, he knew that parts of it were a jungle, but he never drew the obvious conclusion.

Central America was supposed to be beaches and parrots, kickass exchange rates and drinks with umbrellas. Slashing through bushes and vines in a downpour so relentless that it filled his shoes with water didn't cut it. Who in the hell could have imagined they'd wind up here?

"How much farther?" Lincoln yelled through the rhythm of water splashing on leaves.

"About six more miles," Michael answered, hoping it was true. They were paralleling the road, going through the brush to stay hidden. It made gauging distances hard, not to mention the extra work of blazing their own trail. Michael's arms ached from swinging the machete, even after working left-handed for some of it. He traded off with Lincoln about every half-hour, but the cumulative stress on his body was taking its toll.

Out here, aspirin was as scarce as spiders were common, and at least half the snakes were deadly.

Michael was still beating himself up over how things had gone. Taking too many people along on the breakout from Fox River had led to missing that plane, and he'd had to go multiple backup plans deep just to get them out of the state. Then the money run had gone sour, what with everyone wanting a piece of it, and somehow he'd ended up with nothing—no funding, no help for his and Lincoln's future.

Instead, they'd been captured and nearly wound up going right back to prison.

In Michael's ideal version of the plan (so hopelessly out of reach, he can hardly remember the details), he and Lincoln would never have touched down on this part of the continent at all. They were supposed to go south by boat, leaving from Ciudad Madero a week ago and finishing at Puerto Limon in three days time. Now they'd be lucky to get there before their pictures were posted at every police station, train station, and mercado along the way.

"Car!" Lincoln shouted, and they dropped down into a crouch for better camouflage while they waited for the vehicle to pass. Michael could feel mud starting to seep into his shoes.

"Okay," Lincoln finally said, rising to his feet. He held out a hand and pulled Michael up, smiling wryly as he turned back to the task of clearing a path for them. The rain was heavy enough to make the machete slippery, but Lincoln gripped it tighter and just kept on going.

Michael held his breath for a moment against the frustration building inside him at the deluge of disaster that had hounded them since they first breached Fox River's walls. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to, nothing. The aggravation was thick enough to choke him.

"Michael," Lincoln called from up ahead. He stood there waiting without a trace of impatience, even after weeks of being on the run and continually dodging the fallout from Michael's failed schemes.

Lincoln hadn't complained about any of it—quite the opposite. He'd been understanding and supportive the whole way through, even when Michael was so fed up with himself he was right on the verge of giving up.

Slogging through the rain and mud in this jungle of unending misery hadn't changed Lincoln's attitude at all.

"You ready?" Lincoln asked with an encouraging smile. "Let's see if we can finish this part before dark."

Michael's feet moved automatically, quick to obey despite the distractions in his head. It was a mess, all of it—everything he'd planned, and the little that still remained.

But they'd made it out of Fox River, and they were alive, impossibly alive, and Panama was just a few days away.

When Michael thought about it, Lincoln's survival was all that really mattered. It was the only thing he'd hoped for, right from the beginning, and the only part he'd managed to make turn out right.

Someday, after they'd reached their destination and the running was over, he knew he'd finally be able to convince himself that it was enough.

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