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acquit me henceforth of cruelty

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As quick as they'd taken him down, Eliot knew he had little to no chance of actually defeating the two women standing over him. If he'd been one on one with 'em-- maybe. But together? He could see the surety in their eyes, their conviction in their own strength, the promise of follow-through in every movement that would end with him a bruised, bleeding heap if he stayed within range.

He didn't like being cornered with no idea what to expect and no planned extraction with any higher odds of success than M. But he did have one advantage: whatever edge these ladies had that let them punch out of their weight class, it was more a matter of force and instinct than exhaustive training. They were ready to act-- but they weren't calculating, they were counting on speed and power to carry the fight.

He bared his teeth in a fierce, combative grin as he surged upward-- then evaded, turning upward movement into a low, sidewise lunge, a stumble back, a sweeping duck, and a hard slap to the calf of the blonde the other had called Bee.

Blondie yelped in outrage at the contact, automatically hopping forward-- just where she needed to be for his sliding foot to connect with her ankle and send her toppling into the pouty-lipped brunette, Faith. Taking them down separately hadn't worked, but tangling them up left a path clear to the door, and he took it, snagging a hand in the fringe of lacy tablecloth decorating the coffee table in the center of the meeting room they'd brought him to before dropping the act. He whipped it toward them, tripping the blonde up as she regained her feet, and took two long steps forward-- then dropped flat to the floor as a freaking chair went whistling through the air toward his head.

Hand-sized splinters of lacquered wood and fabric flew through the air like shrapnel as the chair connected with the doorframe instead of its intended target. Eliot was already rolling to the side before it had stopped falling, brushing away the few lucky barbs that had found purchase in his skin as he moved, and heard the teapot shatter roughly in the space that had been occupied by the small of his back.

Hot, scalding tea splashed the back of one ankle, and Eliot swore, scooping up a massive tome someone had set on the floor next to the floral-upholstered torture device that fell under the loose definition of a 'couch'. He sent it hurtling through the air as he rolled back to his feet, converting all the momentum his body carried into the throw: Faith curled over herself with an oof as the dusty volume labeled 'Vampyr' connected spine first with her stomach. He didn't fool himself it would hold her for long, though, and as for Bee....

He had no time to get out of the way; he blocked her next blow with a deflecting arm, then swore as he slipped back out of her reach, clutching at the sharp stabbing pain that radiated up from the point of impact. The reaction slowed him too much: she followed right on top of him, looking as determined as he'd ever seen Nate over a chessboard or set of blueprints, Hardison over his computer, Sophie in front of her wardrobe, or Parker dangling from a harness in a gallery full of masterworks. Clearly, this was her thing, just as much as it was his, which meant she was probably more skilled than he'd initially thought.

There was a fire in her green eyes that reminded him of Mikel Dayan; her and Faith both, as the brunette sprang back to her feet, rubbing her stomach, and came up at her friend's side.

"Who the hell are you?" he gasped as he kicked up and back over the couch, snagging a standing floor lamp along the way to hurl in their direction like a blunted javelin. The back of the couch caught his foot, and he fell hard, half knocking the breath out of him; a clanging sound prompted a spate of swearing from Bee, but Faith was still free, bounding up and over after him.

She planted a knee on either side of his chest, breasts heaving a little as she leaned forward to plant her hands on his shoulders. "You don't even know that?" she laughed, incredulously. "Dude, you're good; but whoever sent you here totally set you up to fail."

"Think I'm beginnin' to figure that out," he panted, knowing the others would hear that through his earpiece; hoping to hear them on their way out by now. "Anyone named Wyndam-Pryce got a reason to hold a grudge?"

That got to the women where nothing else he'd said or done had managed: the smile slid off Faith's face, and Bee's fists were clenched at her sides as she stepped around the couch to join them. Her knuckles were white with the strain, and her voice was quiet and intense with predatory intention as she answered the question.

"Oh, he only thought he did before this," she replied, grimly. "If he sent someone like you here, he doesn't care about the girls or the mission anymore, and I kinda wonder if he ever did. Boy, is he going to regret it."

"So seeing as this is all a misunderstanding," he said carefully, watching her over Faith's shoulder. "Don't suppose we could call this a draw?"

"We're out, Eliot!" a fourth voice suddenly interrupted the conversation, carrying over the Bluetooth earbud miraculously still tucked inside his ear. "Got the files, too. There's some kind of strange protection on them that makes you forget what you're looking for whenever you open the safe, so I had to take the whole thing. You ready to leave?"

The two women's eyes widened as Parker spoke-- it was obvious they could hear her, however private the earbuds were supposed to be-- then narrowed in instant anger. "How about no," the brunette said lowly, staring down at him.

"How about yes, Parker-- shit!" He grunted as Faith shifted her weight forward, pressing the air out of him as he glanced toward the door once more to gauge the distance. Whatever the others intended to do-- when it happened, he wanted to be ready.

Two seconds later the clangor of a fire alarm sounded, and the ceiling shifted from a blank white expanse to a vast cascade of mint-scented water.

Eliot was pretty damned sure he managed to put his hands a few places that would earn him retribution later on in his slippery, squirming escape from Faith's grip-- and a few seconds later, he was finally, finally out the door, pelting down the front hall.

Which was framed by more doors. Which opened up as he passed, disgorging several more young women with-- fuck-- equal, unnatural strength--

Within eyeshot of the front door, he found himself once more on the floor, this time with knees in his back instead of heels at his throat.

"Got to tell you," he groaned, half to Nate, half to his bedraggled captors. "This is not the best day I've ever had."