It didn't take Sherlock very long to realize that there was another person stalking the base besides himself. Longer than it should have, perhaps given his observational skills, but still not too long. He has been watching this particular base for a week now. Normally it takes him less than three days to decide how best to take down another thread in the web. Not this time. Something is different. He isn't one to act on gut instincts alone, but this time they had been practically screaming at him.
So instead he sticks to the shadows. And it is through that that e realizes something is making the Russians nervous. Very nervous. These men are hardened and cruel, yet something out there is making them afraid. Whispers begin to spread. Words like привидение, Ghost, in low tones. Then, as the days continue солдат, Soldier, with much more fear.
An inkling of an idea starts to stir in the back of Sherlock's mind at that, but he ignores it for now. There isn't nearly enough data to support that theory. Then again, maybe the lack of evidence is a clue in and of itself. This is no mere professional at work here. This is someone trained enough to know how to disappear like a ghost. Add 'Soldier' to that and how many people can it be? Not many, unless there is another ghost that neither he nor his brothers know about. Unlikely. Either way, this means Sherlock must be even more on his guard. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' is not always the case.
Then Sherlock sees a symbol that has him biting back a growl at the back of his throat. It is one he is familiar with, considering that both he and his brother have a rant about the stupidity of it. An evil looking octopus with eight legs. HYDRA. Not that their symbol is a hydra, which is frustrating to no end. But then again, what do you expect from Super Nazis?
Still, this is going to make things infinitely more complicated. Moriarty was involved with HYDRA. How much? Was he a pawn to them or more? Was he missed? He curses Howard Stark – among others – for letting them regroup and grow in the very organization they formed to protect. Irony does not even begin to cover it. No wonder Rogers is handling it so badly.
This also confirms who his mysterious helper is. Soldier indeed. The Winter Soldier. Tony told him everything he could after the mess with the fall of SHIELD. Brainwashed and tortured for seventy years. Used to assassinate the impossible and the frozen again. Capable of shaking off the programming to some degree, but stability unknown. So he might be helping Sherlock. Or he might be doing it himself and the helpfulness is a side effect.
Thus far he has been ignored, but he doesn't know if that will last or not. Too many unknown elements. He should be fine as long as it is clear he is against, not with, HYDRA, but better safe than sorry in this regard.
With that in mind, he mainly continues to watch and observe. Any infiltration is quick and for information only. Or, mostly just information. He can't resist taking a few things her and there that will add up later. A flare for dramatics is most definitely a family trait. Not that he is going to risk showing off to announce his presence – he still has people to think about. But here is an opportunity to practice some neglected skills without remorse. His main goal is still to find all he can about Moriarty's involvement. Everything else is a bonus.
It's only on the third week that Sherlock comes face to face with the Winter Soldier. One second he is alone, hidden in one of the rarely used store rooms, the next he looks up to see himself being stared at with hard eyes. Sherlock doesn't say anything, simply returning the stare. In the long, drawn out moments he deduces all that he can about the assassin:
dirty, but not stinking: hygiene not important beyond smell not giving him away
bags under his eyes: not sleeping well/much
multiple weapons on his person: capable of armed combat both close and far range
able to stand completely still: the patience of a predator
eyes mostly emotionless: programming still present, but not in command
Every detail about the man screams 'deadly, ruthless assassin'. Still, Sherlock is not afraid. This is probably what John meant when he claimed Sherlock doesn't have any sense of self-preservation. Which is not an entirely accurate statement. To be fair, it's also not completely inaccurate either. Curiosity has a way of driving all thoughts of danger out of his mind. To be even more fair, it's a trait he shares with Tony. It drives Mycroft to distraction. Likely the reason he never reined it in.
Now is no different. While logically he knows he should fear the Winter Soldier, he doesn't. Not like he should. There is a normal amount of caution – but fear? It doesn't really apply here. Sherlock has bigger things to worry about then a legendary assassin staring him down.
John would have a fit right now if he knew.
But John is one of the reasons he is doing this. One of three. He has to keep them safe. He has to ensure it. So unless the Soldier suddenly has a new mark, he isn't Sherlock's problem.
Tony is going to have a fit about this too. Mainly because Rogers has been driving him up a wall searching for 'Bucky'. What a stupid nickname. Then again, childhood names often are. The mere thought of 'Billy' makes him shudder. How horribly unoriginal of him.
After what feels like a lifetime, the Soldier blinks and lowers his gaze to the mess of wires in Sherlock's hands. Personally, Sherlock is rather proud of it given that engineering is nowhere near his field of choice. But one summer, Tony took it upon himself to make sure his little brother could build anything he might need later in life. That was a fun summer.
“Mission report,” the Soldier asks flatly. Or is it Barnes technically if the programming isn't in full effect? Sergeant Barnes? Names are a pain sometimes. In any case, it comes out more of a demand than anything.
“Extract useful information then destroy base.”
“Focus,” he demands in that same tone.
That seems to take him by surprise. Interesting. Clearly he wasn't expecting that. More interesting is that he showed his surprise. It might be a calculated move to draw him in, but probably not. Or if it is, the objective isn't going to harm him at least.
“Not HYDRA?” this time is is closer to an actual question.
“I have no personal quarrel with HYDRA? That said, I have no sympathy nor any objections to taking this base out once it has served my needs.”
“Act soon before reinforcements arrive.”
“Reinforcements for you?”
Sherlock returns the gesture. “Alright. As you have probably guessed, I have plans to remove this base in a rather permanent manner. Objections?”
He shakes his head.
“Excellent. Now while I'm no expert, I had a good, if unorthodox, teacher. Once I finish this, I have others that will need to be planted. From there, it is a push of a button to set them off. Would you care to help?”
“Good. Now, you wouldn't happen to know anything about Moriarty, would you?”
“Asset – I –“ he seems to struggle how to identify himself before dismissing the issue, “is not given any unnecessary information. Temporary allies are not deemed important. Any non handlers are not deemed important. Targets and missions are important.”
Sherlock nods in thought. Useful in some ways, but not all. Moriarty likely never got close enough to the Winter Soldier before that final mission found a flaw in the programming – Rogers. But even if he can't tell Sherlock what he wants, he still has many useful skills. Only a fool would dismiss that. And Sherlock cannot afford to be a fool, even if he wanted to.
He stands. “Continue mission. Retrieval of information will be handled,” he says before disappearing again.
Fine then. Sherlock has a flash of annoyance of his mission essentially being stolen from him. How does he know the Soldier will bring back everything relevant? Even the smallest missed detail can spell disaster for him. Then he decides a master assassin better know how to collect important intel. That's lesson number two, right after the correct ways to kill. The Winter Soldier isn't a ghost story for nothing. He was trained and trained well, even if the methods used were horrible and immoral.
Sherlock refocuses on his part of the task. It wouldn't do to be proved the weak link in this alliance, no matter how unexpected it is. Or how long lasting. He isn't expecting any more help after this. He has his mission and clearly the Soldier has his own. Unless it turns out Moriarty was deeper in HYDRA then he suspects right now, it is unlikely their paths will cross again. And at this point, Sherlock doubts he was. Two alphas cannot coexist for long after all.
In the end, Sherlock didn't have to worry about missing intel. The Soldier brought back all of it on one handy flash drive. Convenient.
The plan went flawlessly from there. The bombs are planted and they make their escape quickly and quietly. None see them leave and none know the danger until it is too late. With a push of a button, the base goes up with a most satisfying 'Boom”, fire and wildly flying debris included.
Perhaps Sherlock shouldn't feel so gleeful about what he just did, but it has been some long months. Almost a year now. And he has felt everyone of those days since he was forced to depart. He intends to make every last one of them pay for each day he feels his heart and sanity break just a little bit more. Simply because he calls himself a sociopath does not mean it is true. It is just easier that way.
Besides, who has sympathy for Nazis anymore? Well, anyone who isn't an idiot?
Both of them stand and watch as HYDRA burns.
Finally the Soldier turns and asks, “Why?”
Sherlock doesn't pretend not to understand the question. He stares out at the destroyed base as he answers. “Because Moriarty pointed a gun at the three people I care for most and told me to choose – me or them. I chose me. It was his own fault that he didn't make sure that it stuck better.” Turning to face the Soldier, he continues, “No one fucks with my family and gets away with it.” He turns away again.
From the corner of his eye, he can see the Soldier nod, looking thoughtful. Then, “I will help.”
Sherlock whips around. “What?” he asks. Normally he hates repetition, but this time he would like to make sure he heard correctly. Did the Winter Soldier just offer his help?
“Till the end of the line,” he mutters, more to himself than Sherlock.
He doesn't know the significance of that particular statement, but he doesn't care. He now has the help of a legendary assassin to bring down Moriarty's web. It won't know what hit it.
That day, a new alliance is formed. The whisper spreads across the world, not just of солдат, Soldier, but of солдат and светлячок, Soldier and Firefly. A team to be feared by anyone who brought their wrath upon them. One brought the coldness of winter. The other, the destructiveness of fire.
Together, they took the world by storm.
bonus, taking down Magnussen:
[Would you like to make a reunion tour?]
[What and when?]
[I need to ask a man about a camera and an apple tree about a house.]
[Wow, that almost made sense.]
[Newton was right, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.]
[Yes, well looks can be deceiving.]
[And when the apple looks rotten to begin with?]
[You and fire, I swear.]
[Yes well, family trait.]
[I know. I live with your brother remember?]
[He told you?]
[What? Like it was hard to guess? Some advice, you want to keep it a secret don't let people get to know the both of you. You're too similar after a point. Are you sure the two of you aren't brain twins?]
[What in the world are 'brain twins'?]
[Clearly you aren't actual twins, but you think the same, so...]
[Is this how normal people think?]
[ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ]
[Please remind me why you are a feared assassin again?]