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Reaching an understanding

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Ethan's jet had taken them to Mexico City, though upon arrival they would have to decide where to go next. It wasn't safe for them to stay in Mexico – sooner or later Agent Diaz would find out where the jet had taken them and extend their warrant of arrest internationally. It was late, however, and after a rather sleepless night the three of them had with the whole abduction issue they could do with a good night's rest before making any important decisions.

The hotel room Ben had found them for the night wasn't quite up the standards he and Margot usually liked to book while traveling the world. It was a simple suite with one bedroom and a pullout couch for a third person in the living room. Tessa had rolled her eyes upon seeing it, but had accepted her sleeping quarters with much less fuzz than Ben had expected. Warily his eyes searched those of his other traveling companion, who was sitting on the edge of the simple queen-size bed that came with the room. Though after taking in her slumped posture and the distant look on her face he supposed she wouldn't veto their accommodations either.

"We'll have to find some extra changes of clothes tomorrow." Ben carefully said, Margot's continued silence making him uneasy. Her angry rants about everyone and everything he could deal with easily, having witnessed them on multiple occasions in the many years they had lived together, but silence he found hard to handle – the quiet rage he had witnessed only once before on the day when he and Rhys decided it was best for Margot to leave and take over the East coast operations. She had given him the silent treatment until she finally asked him "Why exactly do you want me gone?" In retrospect, Margot had probably already found out about his continued visits with Alice and only wanted him to confess in person.

He still did feel guilty about the whole situation. Margot and him, they had been everything but married for more than 15 years. They had known each other even longer. They knew each other inside out. Until he fell in love with Alice. Ben hadn't even noticed how far away he had pulled away from Margot until Reggie had called him out on it. His friend was right of course, about him being like a method actor. If the con required him to be someone else, he'd be that person from head to toe. Christopher Hall wasn't a cheater and so he stayed away from Margot. Margot of course knew of his ways, she always gave him the space he needed and didn't ask for his affection during that time.

This is why he did not realize how much he wanted to be the man at Alice Vaughan's side until the moment arrived that he was to let go of Christopher Hall and just be Benjamin Jones again. Spending the nights with Margot instead of Alice suddenly felt wrong to him. But still he kept the pretense up, at first because he thought he was just taking more time than usual to get back to his old routine and then because he was too scared to confess his love for Alice to Margot. -And then it was all too late. The only way for him to get out of this mess was to confide in Agent Dao and turn against the people that he thought of as his family. Ben could still remember the look of betrayal in Margot's eyes that day in the interrogation room.

He had cheated on her in every sense of the word, physical and emotional and then even proceeded to turn her in to the Feds. However, not everything was his fault. There was Tessa and Margot had cheated him of the opportunity to see his only child grow up.

He felt like his whole world had tilted on its axes that evening when Margot introduced him to a fifteen-year-old teenager who shared his eyes. Ben did not know how it happened but the young girl had somehow wormed her way into his heart like she belonged there all along. He had remembered the way Alice smiled at him when he confessed he couldn't explain his affection towards his daughter. Alice didn't mind that he wanted to build a relationship with Tessa and that made him love her even more. However, Ben still wasn't quite sure about the current status between him and Margot. They were ex-lovers, sure. She lied to him about Tessa; he lied to her about Alice. There was still some unresolved tension, despite the two of them knowing each other inside out.

----

Benjamin was clearly uncomfortable as he led her and Tessa into the simple hotel suite he had booked on short notice. Once upon a time a single bedroom suite would be exactly what they'd intentionally book albeit usually a little more luxurious, spending whatever night they could in the same bed together.

Until, after the AVI-con and after Alice Vaughan, Benjamin had a hard time finding his way back to her bed. She should have seen the signs earlier, Margot thought, the increasing distance, the fun Ben seemed to have while impersonating Christopher Hall. At first she accredited it to him being a perfectionist just as she was. In order to completely be Christopher Hall he had to keep the contact to her and Reggie to a minimum. She was so sure of Ben's love – they had lasted so many years without things ever getting dull – that his betrayal was all the more painful to her. When her plan worked and he ended up in jail for the painting he stole for Alice Vaughan she was disappointed to realize that it didn't help to heal her pain either.

Then there was Tessa. The beautiful little baby girl whose memory she had kept locked far away for fifteen years, until said memory came back in the shape of a fifteen year-old teenager that was the spitting imagine of Ben. The similarity between father and daughter had not been as obvious back then. Margot wondered if she would have made a different choice if it had. She recalled her infant daughter's nearly bald head, covered with only a thin fuzz of hair and the bright baby blue eyes that looked up at her inquiringly. Though neither Tessa nor Ben asked any details surrounding her pregnancy or Tessa's birth so far, she had made it sound as if she had given Tessa away right away. That wasn't entirely true. For three precious weeks she had kept her daughter with her as she tried to make a decision for both their futures.

In the end her fear of parenthood and the vulnerability that came with it had won out and she decided it was best to return to work – sans baby – and let her mother decide what to do with the child. It was a protection of some sort, because not knowing where her mother would take the child would prevent her from looking her up in a weak moment. And weak moments she had aplenty during the first weeks after abandoning her yet nameless daughter, even worse than pregnancy itself was the restlessness she felt in her body afterwards, the constant feeling as if something quite essential was missing. It was back then that she promised herself that she would not allow anyone else to get under her skin as much as this little baby had, steeling herself for everyone and everything that was in her future. If Ben noticed the change in her upon her return from that ominous 7-month 'Barcelona assignment' he never mentioned it. In fact she and Ben rarely talked about things in their past – so maybe that was where all their problems stemmed from.

Margot was surprised how easily Tessa fit in her life now. Despite their rough start which included several failed murder attempts she had quickly found a mutual understanding with the teenager. It really wasn't hard at all – whenever Tessa opened her mouth she heard her former 15-year-old self talking back at her. But wasn't this what made her love Ben in the first place? Their shared lifestyles, dreams and goals? Would Tessa's interests one day change and cause her to leave her like Ben did?

It didn't matter now. Tessa had entered her life and within a few short weeks had torn down all the protective barriers she had oh-so carefully constructed throughout the years. Tessa was her kryptonite and it was only a matter of time before this fact became obvious to people she truly didn't want to know about any weakness of hers. She wondered if Ben felt the same, though the genuine interest he showed towards getting to know his child as well as his latest decision to turn away from the FBI deal in order to protect her and Tessa were a sure sign that he did. Maybe it had been wrong not to inform him of her pregnancy all those years ago. Did he feel as betrayed by her as she did of him?

And now here they were. All three of them, stuck in a dingy hotel room in Mexico. Like a family. Margot could feel Ben's eyes upon her as she sat on the bed staring into space.

"We'll have to find some extra changes of clothes tomorrow." He told her as he removed his jacket and draped it over the back of a chair. They had been in situations like this before. Leaving town with barely more than the clothes on their back but in the past they had never minded – they had each other. Things were different now, not only because of the teenager who was getting ready for bed right next door but also because for the first time in their life, they had left people they cared for behind.

Margot wondered if the emotional upheaval she experienced in the past six months with Ben's betrayal and Tessa's reappearance were the reason Danny Yoon had somehow managed to worm his way into her heart. At first it had simply been sexual attraction. She had enjoyed riling him up at first, enjoying how he wore his emotions openly on his face, so very different from the people she was usually surrounded with. She also mistook him for a pushover, but Danny soon proved to be anything but that – in fact, he didn't seem to be afraid to voice his opinion in front of her, unlike the people she kept on her payroll. No, there was something refreshingly different about him. Usually she couldn't care less about breaking someone's heart, but this time Margot truly wondered if this fresh relationship would last through this sudden separation.

----

"Hey, are you okay?" Ben asked when Margot didn't comment his statement about finding fresh clothes. For them, 'clothes' was of course a synonym for everything they needed replacement for. IDs, credit cards and new phones just to begin with.

"Of course. We've done this lots of times! Why are you so anxious?" Margot gave him an annoyed look as she started to remove her jewelry and placed it on the nightstand next to the bed.

Ben sighed and moved to sit next to her. "That's true. Though In the past it was just you and I and we didn't leave anyone important behind. And if we ever took anyone along it was Reggie, not our own fifteen year old daughter."

"Well, Reggie wouldn't have settled for the couch, for once." Margot bantered, her tone slightly more amicable than it was moments before.

"Don't ignore the problem at hand, Margot. This is something else entirely! Things are different. We-… we aren't who we used to be." Ben couldn't help but to be annoyed at his companion for not taking their situation seriously.

"I stand by my point, Benjamin. We've done this a dozen of times, going dark like this. We've got a routine. It doesn't matter if it's Reggie or Tessa accompanying us." Margot reasoned.

"If you truly believe that, then why have you been brooding all day? This isn't you either!" Ben spat.

Margot flinched at Ben's last statement. "That's none of your business."

"You and I, we are on the same boat. I left Alice and you left Danny. Rhys has betrayed us both. The past year has been difficult for us and I think we should talk things through." Ben didn't realize he had moved closer to Margot until his nose caught the familiar smell of her perfume. In another lifetime, he would have moved in to kiss her and they'd both spend the night making sweet love in order to take each other's concerns away. Not in this lifetime though. The old Ben and Margot were gone.

Margot was the first to withdraw from their closeness, moving towards the en-suite bathroom. With the door open and her back to him she stood at the sink, wetting paper tissues in order to remove her make-up.

"Alice will think of a way to get the FBI off our backs. I don't dare to hope that she'll somehow get her hands on my little brother in the process as well but I have to admit that this woman does have away of exceeding my expectations."

Ben beamed at Margot's reflection in the bathroom mirror. "Were you just complimenting my fiancée?"

"I was merely stating a fact." Margot said nonchalantly as she disposed of the used tissue, started unwrapping a hotel-provided toothbrush and started to clean her teeth before closing the bathroom door. In the meantime, Ben removed his clothes and also put them on the chair until he was dressed down to his boxers and a t-shirt. It was an oddly domestic situation. Ben found that Margot was right. They had a routine for sure. The only thing that was gone was the romance. But hadn't the romance left their routine long before the L.A. con? Thinking about it, he and Margot had probably been more 'friends with benefits' than real partners in the past few years anyways. And now?

When Margot exited the bathroom she also was dressed in only her underwear. Without a second glance at him she slipped between the sheets of the bed. "There's another toothbrush by the sink if you're interested." she said as she went to set the alarm of the clock by her bedside.

"Margot." Ben said, not knowing how to broach the subject.

"What?" she turned her attention from the clock to him. "Look, I have no intention of doing anything but sleep in this bed tonight. No need to worry about your virtue." She said narrowing her eyes at Ben, who was still standing awkwardly at the foot of the bed.

"I wasn't worried about that." He said defensively. "It's just – where exactly are we? What are we? What is this?" he gestured at the two of them.

Margot seemed to ponder his questions for a few moments. "I don't know either. I truly don't." she looked at him softly. "But we do know what to do from here. That's a start."

Ben relaxed visibly at her answer.

"Now go and brush your teeth! I may offer to share my bed with you tonight, but I will not stand bad breath. That's where I draw the line!" Margot playfully huffed before making herself comfortable between the sheets.

As Ben closed the bathroom door behind him he couldn't help but smile. In some odd way, he and Margot were still a team. He knew her and she knew him and finally all their cards were on the table. Together they'd find a solution to all their problems. Tessa, Alice, Danny, Rhys. Their cards were all on the table, no more secrets to be kept. Ex-lovers, partners in crime, family, friends - he didn't truly have a fitting word to describe them. But tonight, in a hotel room in Mexico City, Ben finally realized that this relationship didn't need any label at all.

----

Margot felt the bed dip slightly as Ben slipped into the bed beside her. What an eventful last 48 hours. First admitting to herself that she was in fact in a relationship with Danny, then the disastrous meeting with the ominous 'Mockingbird' (who she later found out was none other than Alice's dimwit brother who somehow got lured into this scheme by Rhys), Tessa's apparent abduction and subsequent betrayal, Felicity very nearly killing her, Tessa proving her loyalty, running from the FBI only to find out it was Rhys who went behind all of their backs. No wonder she felt truly and utterly exhausted.

Instead of being in her hotel suite and making sweet love to Danny she was far away laying in bed with Ben in Mexico City. What would things be like if Danny had decided to accompany them? It had been her heart speaking and she was surprised at herself for even voicing her question aloud. It was Danny who was level-headed enough to point out that he would be more helpful in this situation by staying with Alice and the AVI team. Fleeing with them would have put him on the FBI's radar as well, even though he was so refreshingly innocent.

Her mind wandered to her daughter in the next room. "Do you think Tessa will be okay?" she whispered into the darkness of the bedroom.

Margot felt Ben shift towards her. "At the moment I think she's dealing with this much better than either of us is." He replied softly.

Margot wondered if she should tell Ben of the heart-to-heart she and Tessa had in Alice's house. "I'm afraid she'll leave." She finally admitted.

"Why?" Ben asked concerned. Margot turned to face him as well.

"She is only staying with me to learn. She wants to know what it is like- to be us. Now I have nothing. She told me that we should just go and built a new firm. But after that stunt Rhys pulled? All I really want right now is to steer clear of him and this business for the rest of my life." Margot whispered.

"I have no doubt that sooner or later you will want to get back at Rhys for this. You two have always been like this. All you need right now is a little break I think. But why would you think Tessa would leave? She just proved that she wants to be with us, even though she barely knows us!" Ben's voice rose a little in volume, though still minding that the subject in question was currently asleep right next door.

"Because I've failed her! I failed her back then and I'm failing her now." There. She said it. "She is going to leave, because apart from knowledge there is absolutely nothing I can offer her." She added as an afterthought and Margot could feel the lump in her throat become more painful by the second as she tried her hardest not to break apart in front of Ben.

She could feel Ben's arms drawing her closer to him until their faces were only inches apart.

"You're not failing her. She came to find us with every intention of getting us killed. You must have done something right. If it was only knowledge she was after she could have gotten it from Felicity as well." Ben's deep voice was quiet, familiar and soothing. How many nights had they spent wrapped in each other's arms like this? Sure, they both were no longer in love – there still were Alice and Danny – but the mere familiarity of this situation helped calm Margot's nerves considerably.

"You seem so sure. You barely know her as well." Margot said.

"It doesn't matter. Tessa. You. Me. I truly don't know where exactly we stand right now, but we're family. I'm sure Alice and the whole AVI team will find away to bring us all back together – but for now, it's the three of us and we will make it through. I know it." He said convinced.

Benjamin always had a way with words, Margot thought. It truly was a talent of his. Nevertheless she felt much calmer now. No matter what, they'd be a team. They were family. Finally, they'd reached an understanding. Wrapped in each other's arms, as friends, as family, though not as lovers, Margot and Ben fell asleep.