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"Who are you?" Brenna managed to ask calmly. "The Winter Soldier?" She guessed. There was no reply.

The man's eyes left hers, landing on his leather-clothed arm. Crimsen dripped from between Brenna's left hand and his forearm. His eyebrows furrowed and he immediately removed his arm from her neck. Brenna watched in shock as he took her bleeding hand. He gently pryed her fingers open, revealing the metal shard the size of a quarter stuck in her palm. He was silent and expressionless as he plucked the metal from her hand, flicking it to the ground.

Brenna was surprised by the sudden delicate touch this brutal man had. He pressed his thumb right over the small wound, keeping it from bleeding further. He finally met her eyes again. "You shouldn't get in my way," he threatened her, though it sounded more like a warning in his softer voice. "I'm not meant to kill you, but if you interfere with my work, I won't hesitate."

For a few tense minutes, the Winter Soldier continued to put pressure on Brenna's palm, eyeing her sun opal curiously. When he released her hand, the bleeding had stopped. Still staring at her glowing chest, he slowly lifted his hand. Brenna watched his eyes soften into innocent wonder. He was about to touch the stone, but snapped himself out of the daze. Eyes hardening once again, he growled, "...go home." Then, he ran out if the ally.

Brenna could barely believe she was still alive. When she was caught, she'd expected him to kill her. Instead, she saw a light in him that she hadn't seen before. A light that, it seemed, no one else could see. Probably because anyone who got close to him didn't live to tell the tale. So why was she spared?

She glanced to the ground where the shard from her hand was disgarded. Brenna knelt down and picked it up. It was wet with blood, but she didn't care. Holding it, she replayed the scene of the Winter Soldier in her mind. He'd gone from ruthless to almost protective in a matter of seconds. He was a curious case for sure, but one thing was certain; there was more to him than a mindless killing machine.

• May 28, 2014 •

After successfully sneaking back into her room that morning, Brenna went to her bathroom mirror and stripped off the slightly tattered black dress. She turned her back to the mirror and looked over her shoulder. Just as she'd expected, there were scrapes and bruises lining her spine and shoulder blades. She reached back to feel them, wincing as they stung at her touch. Brenna sighed and threw on a more comfortable outfit.

In dark gray sweatpants and a form-fitting black T-shirt, she threw her hair into a tight messy bun. Then, she left her room, trying to act as if she'd just woken up. But when Brenna made it to the kitchen, she was surprised to find Natasha talking the Tony.

"Well, it would've been nice if you at least told me before taking her on this 'night-training' mission," Tony told the red-haired woman with an annoyed tone.

Natasha shrugged. "On real missions, you don't always get to prepare," she explained, "thought it would be a good lesson." She spotted Brenna standing at the entrance of the luxurious kitchen and smiled. "Hey, B," she greeted, "I was just telling you dad about our training last night."

Brenna blinked in confusion. During her hesitation, Tony approached her and gave her a hug. "I was worried when you just disappeared during the party," he told her before letting go, "you're lucky Nat called me, or you'd both be in a lot of trouble."

Feeling her blood freeze, Brenna realized what was going on now. Somehow, Natasha knew that Brenna hadn't come home last night. And even more bizzare, she was making an excuse for her. "Well, I'll let you eat your breakfast, Honey B," Tony said with a smile, kissing his daughter on the forhead. He then left the kitchen.

Meeting her trainer's eyes, Brenna was intimidated by the serious look in them. "Breakfast later," Natahsa ordered firmly before taking Brenna by the arm, "you and me need to have a talk."

Brenna felt shame enter her heart as she followed Natasha obediently. They stopped in the room they used for training. There, the women stood face to face. Natasha put both hands on her hips. "So you went on a little adventure last night," she observed.

"How did you find out?" Brenna asked hesitantly.

"I saw you glowing on a sidewalk not long after leaving the party," Natasha explained. She then asked inquisitively, "what were you doing out there?"

Brenna took a deep breath; she knew that the truth was the only thing to say. "I heard you and Steve talking about HYDRA and this Winter Soldier guy," she admitted. "I saw the fight and I just...I wanted to follow him, see who he works for. I wanted to help."

Natasha held her temple in stress. "Oh my god, Brenna," she muttered in both anger and worry, "you're lucky you didn't find him."

At this, Brenna shuffled her feet awkwardly. She cocked her head a bit in confusion as she corrected, "but, I did find him."

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