A/N: Based off a prompt in the Sherlock Kink meme. Unbetaed.

Warnings: Gore

()

John first saw him when he was nine years old.

It was in the middle of the night and he had gotten up to get a drink of water. His mother kept a very clean house so he had no fear of stumbling over a misplaced shoe or toy. He hardly needed to keep his eyes open and spent the entire walk to the kitchen in a half-doze. By the time he finished his little plastic cup of water, he was a little more awake.

That's when John saw him.

For a moment he thought it was his father standing on top of the stairs. But there was no explanation why his father was wearing a suit in the middle of the night. Or why he had no face.

John rubbed at his tired eyes and looked again. The strange man was gone.

The second time John saw him it was on his fourteenth birthday party. He'd spent most of the day running back and forth through the small house, chasing his friends.

Harry, young and slightly jealous of the attention given, angrily stuck her foot out. Later she claimed she thought John would jump over her leg, not trip over and cut open his hands.

John lay sprawled on the floor, clutching his stinging hands to himself. The moment the pain subsided, John thought as he rolled over, he was going to kill Harry.

And that's when he saw the strange man on top of the stairs again. Now older and wiser, John immediately noticed all the oddities.

The man was incrediably tall. At six foot, John's uncle Henry was the tallest man at his party. The man on the stairs was taller, thinner, wearing a black suit and...

Dear God, had no face.

John's attentions was ripped away when his mother gave a gasp at the sight of him. John looked back at the top of the stairs and found the tall, slender man to be gone.

He'd asked his friends, his parents if someone was trying to play a prank. Everyone assured him they saw no such thing at his party.

There were no patterns to the sightings. John saw him when he was alone in the house, when his parents were home, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the night. The sightings happened within months, or even years apart. And it was only John who saw him.

Sometimes it was only brief glimpses, making him believe it was a trick of light. Other times John would literally stand at the bottom of the steps for ten minutes at a time and just stare.

It wasn't a prop. Occasionally the slender man would cock his head and once took a step down the stairs. That move spooked John so badly he'd slept at a friend's house for two days.

He thought he was losing his mind.

Then one day, Harry brought home a stray cat. Even John had to admit the fluffy grey thing was cute and sided with his sister when their parents demanded the cat be thrown out.

Harry eventually persuaded their parents to allow the cat to stay the night and the next day she would bring it to the shelter.

The cat was incrediably docile for a stray and didn't mind being snuggled or carried. The cat was, however, incrediably dirty and John volunteered to give it a bath.

The slender man was back.

As always, the sight of the man halted John's movements and for a second, forgot to breath.

The cat in his arms went berserk. It gave a great hiss and John dropped the cat in alarm. Hackles raised and eyes wild, the cat took off, dashing underneath a cabinet, refusing to come out.

The cat never calmed down and John's parents were forced to call animal control. Harry cried the whole time.

It wasn't just cats. every animal brought into the house was affected the moment the slender man appeared. A bird John was babysitting died in its cage. His mother kept finding dead spiders at the base of the stairs.

As bad as he felt for the poor creatures, it at least assured John what he saw wasn't of his own imagination. He had spent years trying to avoid the slender man, he wondered what would happen if he tried talking to it?

It took nearly three weeks after the death of his friend's bird for the man to appear again at the top of the steps. It seemed the man only appeared when John was least expecting it.

It wasn't the tallness, or the skininess that scared John. It was the lack of face. There was no indentation of a nose, no bumps to suggests eyes or mouth or ears. It was just skin and that alone made John's bones shake.

When he finally got his breath back, he said loudly, "You need to leave."

The slender man cocked his head at him.

John repeated it. "You need to leave. You're not welcome here."

The slender man took a step down. This time, John stood his ground.

And then instantly vomited.

John doubled over, suddenly feeling so damn neausous and dizzy, his knees actually buckled beneath him. His eyes watered and when he dared to glance up, the slender man was already half way down. The closer he got, the sicker John became.

Panicked, John dragged himself down the hall, desperate to put distance between them. He eventually surged to his feet and wrenched open the front door. When he looked back, the slender man was staring at him at the bottom of the stairs.

That was the last time John saw him for the next fifteen years.

He was more than glad to move out of his parents' house and onto University. And with the added responsibilities of medical school and life, slender man eventually became nothing more than a bad, distant memory.

War would eventually overlap those.

It was on one of the worst days of fighting John saw him again. He was always under the impression slender man was restricted to his old house and was the reason why John never saw him outside.

Too many men were falling dead or injured all around him. As soon as he was done with one man, two more were yelling for 'MEDIC!' from all directions. He was being run ragged but his head was clear. This was what he was trained for.

John caught sight of him staring out of a broken window. It had been so long and yet his body reacted just the same, stealing his breath and his thoughts for only a second.

Later in the hospital, after medics dug the bullet out of his arm, his superior officer was wondering why the FUCK did John freeze in the middle of combat, standing up in full view of the sniper, staring off into space?

John couldn't give him an answer.

After that, the sightings became more frequent. John saw him in reflections of store windows. Saw him in the park, standing near an empty playground.

'I'm seeing him everywhere,' he wrote as one of his first entries of his blog. 'Ella says it's PTSD, but how can it be PTSD if I've been seeing him my whole life?

That face, that goddamn face.'

When John checked back the next day for comments, he noticed his blog entry had changed.

'Nothing happens to me.'

Things progressively got worse from there. He began losing hours. John would get up at one in the morning to use the toilet and when he climbed back into bed- only five minutes later, he swore- it was nearly four.

John did his research years ago, trying to figure out what exactly was stalking him. Despite all the evidence he collected, John could not pin down what was following him. What kind of creature stalked his victims, make them sick from only being near them?

What kind of monster wore a goddamn suit?

()

John took to walking as often as he could, in most crowded of places. The slender man appeared before him in public before, but it didn't happen as often and he kept his distance.

Besides, it was not like John had a JOB to go to.

So he walked, not caring where he was going, or where he was coming from. On one hand, John was quickly learning the streets and found a couple of great bakeries not far from his flat.

On the other hand, walking so much was putting great strain on his limp and John found himself nearly collapsing from the pain. He could deal with the pain as long as he didn't need to deal with his supernatural stalker.

It was during one of these walks, in which John zoned completely out. He didn't want to think, he only allowed his feet to lead him.

It took him a few seconds to hear the voice behind him. "…. John Watson! It's me, Mike Stanford."

()

Nothing happened.

The sightings, the strange occurrences John had been experiencing nearly on a daily bases suddenly stopped the moment he met Sherlock.

At first he didn't notice. The day-to-day adventures Sherlock included John in demanded more attention than John thought possible. He was always running, always thinking, and even moments of rest had a twinge of excitement thrumming underneath.

John hadn't felt this calm in months.

There were times when John came home and naturally his eyes would fly to the top of the steps, checking. The slender man has gone into remission before after John left for university. Whose to say it wouldn't happen again?

Time took its toll and eventually John stopped checking the stairs before he climbed them.

He should've known that wouldn't last long.

They were giggling like idiots again. John was trying to take off his coat to hang it, but Sherlock would just repeat something the witness had said and it would send John into another fit.

"Stop!" John wheezed against the wall. "My stomach is starting to hurt."

Sherlock managed to shed his own coat and started up the steps. "Then stop laughing. It's not my fault you found that woman's voice funny."

John grinned, felt his cheeks strain from the overuse of muscles but managed to keep from giggling again. Just as he hung his own coat, he heard Sherlock from the top of the stairs, "John, look at this. I think Mrs. Hudson made us a voodoo doll."

John peered up and his grin melted off his face.

Sherlock was looking down at a tiny white doll sitting casually on the top step. It was a basic fabric doll and it was naked of all accessories. No hair, no clothes, it was as if the person making the doll gave up right after he was done stuffing the little body with cotton.

The legs were twice as long as the body.

()

"John… did that doll do something to you, or do you have personal vendetta against Muppets?"

In retrospect, John probably overreacted. He knew just one thing: he couldn't let that doll be kept around. He had taken a pair of scissors and chopped off the legs at the knees. He cut off the arms, the head, cut the torso down the middle and took the mutilated pieces and threw them into the fireplace.

"How is it," John looked away from the burning pieces to Sherlock. "that you know what the Muppets are, but not the solar system?"

"I had a case involving a man with a fetish," he shrugged. "You still haven't answered my question."

Of course John had tried to tell people about the slender man. His parents thought it was just a reoccurring nightmare. Harry called him a pussy. John tried to tell his best mate it was the fault of the tall man for the death of his bird. That little confession earned John a punch to the jaw.

"It's… nothing to be worried about," John lied quickly. "In Afghanistan, a naked doll was considered a curse. And the only way to be rid of it is to destroy it… by copping off bits and then setting it on fire."

The doll now was nothing more than a mass of blacken ash. It was unlikely this would drive the slender man away. Either way, John felt better now that it was gone.

Sherlock squatted next to him, iron poker in hand. He jabbed at the ash pile once and it crumbled. "An Afghani curse involving a nude doll. Interesting. I've never heard such a thing."

A wave of relief went through John.

"Maybe because such a thing doesn't exist," Sherlock turned his head towards John and gave him an unimpressed glare. "Very clever, John, but I do know when you're lying to me."

John pushed himself away from the fireplace. He needed tea. "Leave this alone."

Behind him Sherlock scoffed. "After the way you acted? You know damn well that's not going to happen."

He did know. Sherlock was going to bother him until he fesses up or he was going to find out on his own.

As he filled the kettle with water, he asked, "Do you believe in ghosts?"

"Oh God," he heard Sherlock moan. "Your problem involves ghosts. Wonderful."

"Do you want to listen to this or not?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes at him, but waved a hand for him to continue.

"It's not a ghost," John said, ignoring the way Sherlock jerked his head in annoyance. "This… man has been following me my whole life. I have no idea what he wants or why he only appears before me. As far as I know, nobody in my family has seen him, nobody I've met has seen him."

"Hallucination?" Sherlock suggested. "Imaginary friend, repressed memory, schizophrenia?"

"Maybe, except the patterns and habits of this man does not fit any mental disorders I've heard of. Trust me, Sherlock, I've read nearly everything just to get an idea of what I was seeing."

"What does the man look like?"

John didn't want to think about it. Not the clothes, not the long legs or even longer fingers. And certainly not the face. "He's tall. I've never bothered to take an accurate measurement but if I had to guess… nearly seven foot. He wears a black suit, and-"

"Has no face?"

()

"What's this?"

Sherlock had brought out a black leather briefcase from his room. Inside were manila folders, the edges worn out from being handled too much. "These are my failed cases," Sherlock explained, thumbing through the folders.

"There's sure a lot of them."

"Failed does not mean unsolved," Sherlock murmured with a bit of a growl. "Sometimes the bad guys get away. Here," he tossed a folder to John. "Elijah Kirkman, accused of murdering his wife and daughter."

John was relieved to see what Sherlock had was not the original police file. The man didn't need more evidence against him should Lestrade suddenly decide to prosecute.

Inside the folder held a photo of a young man with his wife and young child. There are notes, dozens of notes all written in Sherlock's hand writing. Other photographs include the car, individual shots of the family, and-

"Oh God," John moaned, closing the file. Sherlock had detail photos of the crime scene.

"The mother had her heart removed and the daughter had her stomach removed," Sherlock said, taking back the file. "Neither organ has ever been recovered."

"Why are you showing me this?"

"Because Kirkman swore up and down he did not kill them. He claimed a faceless tall man in a suit killed them."

John leaned back, stared up wide at Sherlock. "He's seen the slender man?"

"That was never confirmed," Sherlock said, placing away the file. "I assumed the tall man accusation was just Kirkman's pathetic excuse to gain the insanity plea. But I went to the crime scene and deduced Kirkman was not the killer."

John felt a tiny sense of hope rise up in him. Finally, finally he may get some answers to something that's been haunting him for years. "Where's Kirkman now? I can ask him a few questions-"

"John," Sherlock interrupted. "This is in my fail pile for a reason. I may have cleared Kirkman's name but he didn't live long enough to find out. He hanged himself in his cell."

God.

John had always known deep down that slender man was capable to kill, but having the evidence stare horribly up in his face in all its bloody glory was like stepping into a special kind of hell.

"Seven months later, an American couple came to England for holiday," Sherlock said, slapping down another file. "Wife goes missing. It was a standard missing persons case, it should've never passed by me. But when questioned, the husband said a strange, thin man in a black suit had been following them."

"Is the husband dead?"

"Don't know. By the time I got the case, the husband went missing too. And this I got nearly three years later," Sherlock dropped another case file in front of John. "Beatrice Finch called the police; she said a tall man with no face was trespassing on her land. The police get there and find her dead. Neck broken," Sherlock made the inappropriate hand gesture to his own neck, completing it with sound effect. "They checked the security cameras to see if it caught sight of her killer."

John pulled out the lone photograph in the file. The photo was blurry, gritty, but there was no mistaking the image of a man, dressed in black, standing right outside of Beatrice Finch's door.

The distortion of the camera may have caused the facial features to be unrecognizable. John knew it was only because there was no face to capture.

()

John hasn't felt this angry in a long time. Granted, he was angry yesterday when he discovered Sherlock had been hiding fermenting mushrooms underneath his bed. This was different.

"You don't believe me."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "John-"

"For fuck's sake, Sherlock. You just showed me images and files of the slender man-"

"What I shown you were cases that had similar descriptions of the murderer. I never said OR implied these were of a supernatural cause. It would not be the first time, John, when a murderer tried to use paranoia and myths to cover up a crime."

"Then how do you explain me?" John kept his voice level despite frustration was boiling inside of him. And beneath that frustration was fear, and it took all he had to keep his hands from shaking. "I've been seeing this man since I was a child."

Clearly this was a conversation Sherlock did not want to have. He literally took a breath to calm himself before answering, talking as if he was speaking to a child. "I didn't exactly hide these files away, John."

John jerked his head at that. "What do you mean?"

"What I mean is, you just came back from a war. You're still suffering from nightmares. And with trauma-"

"What you're saying is you believe I conjured fake memories of the slender man after reading those files."

"Yes."

"I'm not crazy."

"I don't think you are."

John narrowed his eyes at Sherlock. There was something missing from this conversation, something John wasn't getting.

"You know I'm not lying, Sherlock," John began slowly. He wasn't sure what he was getting at except speaking the ideas out loud certainly helped. "And I'm not like you- I actually respect your privacy. You would know if I've been shuffling around in your files. So how you explain something like this? You don't believe in ghosts and yet I've seen something that cannot be explained by science. The only logical explanation is I'm suffering from PTSD or some other form of mental illness. But you know I am of sound body and mind. You know I'm not crazy and you know I'm not lying."

"Very good, John," Sherlock said, not smiling. He didn't sound very impressed.

For a moment, John thought Sherlock was going to argue with him. To turn around and say how wrong he was and tell him he was actually in a padded room in a mental hospital. Would that give John any peace? Knowing slender man was a figment of his imagination?

Sherlock sighed abruptly and said, "We need more data."

()

We need more data.

Easier said than done. Exactly what did Sherlock expected him to do? Collect the slender man's fingerprints? His DNA? The strange tall man comes to him, not the other way around.

Besides, the idea of hunting after the slender man sent a chill down John's spine. He'd remembered the last time he tried to communicate.

"I need some time to think," was what he said to Sherlock before grabbing his coat and dashed out the front door. He felt a little like a coward, the way he avoided conflict by running off. Because that was the answer, wasn't it? Sherlock wanted John to confront the slender man, go after him, try to find out what made him ticked.

There was a bigger question involved John thought as he wandered around aimlessly through the streets of London. The slender man had not killed him. Beyond distracting him and scaring the bejeezus out of him, John had not ended up like his other victims.

So why was this man following him? What did he want, what was his goal?

John sighed and checked the time. He was surprised to find he'd been walking for nearly four good hours. The sun was barely setting and he played with the idea of going to Tesco to pick up a few things. It was probably best to pop back into the flat and ask if Sherlock needed anything.

He got to the flat just in time to watch Sherlock dash down the front stairs, ready to jump into a cab. Lestrade must've phoned or something. Most likely it was Mycroft who phoned, from the tense look on Sherlock's face.

John called out to him, hoping to catch him before he scurried away.

The reaction was instantaneous. Sherlock snapped his head towards John so fast he was afraid Sherlock gave himself whiplash. His eyes were wide and he looked like he'd seen a ghost.

"John!" He cried out, running over and grabbing him by the shoulders. "Where the hell have you been?"

"What? I just took a walk."

"A walk." He was practically frantic.

"Yes, Sherlock, a walk. It's what people do for fun, occasionally."

"John- you…" Sherlock had to duck his head to take a breath. His grip on John's shoulders didn't get any looser. "John," he started slowly, staring at him sharply. "What day is it?"

John frowned. "What? Why-"

"Just indulge me. What day is it?"

"It's Tuesday."

The grip got tighter. "No, it's not Tuesday. It's Friday. You've been missing for nearly three days."

()

By the time John was able to get five seconds to himself (Sherlock refused to let him go, as if going to use the toilet meant John was going to disappear again. The good doctor could not argue with that) he'd spent nearly two hours being questioned and examined by Sherlock.

'Examined' was a kind word. 'Autopsied' was a better one.

John had let Sherlock take him apart because other than 'I don't know,' he didn't have a better answer to give.

Except no matter how hard Sherlock tried, he could not explain John's disappearance. There were no track marks on his arms to indicate he was drugged. No bruises, no physical trauma to the head. Even John's watch- cheap as it was- had the correct time and date.

The moment Sherlock started sniffing his clothes, John called a time-out and declared he needed to use the bathroom. Once inside, he locked the door to give himself the illusion of privacy. He knew if Sherlock wanted to get in, he could get in.

Still, John took the five second window and began to strip. He hadn't let Sherlock explore everywhere, drawing the line at the sniffing. John unbuttoned his shirt and froze.

There was a handprint draped across his belly. It wasn't a bruise, nor was it a burn. It looked more like a giant birthmark, or an old scar.

John laid his own hand over the print. The skin didn't hurt and it responded to touch easily. But the handprint wasn't his own. The fingers were nearly two inches longer than his.

John dropped his hand, feeling sick. He didn't want to think whose handprint this was, but he knew.

A quick, thorough search of his body revealed nothing else. No other bruises, no physical indication of rape. Just a giant fucking handprint across his stomach.

As he dressed, John heard Sherlock's voice echo angrily through the flat. John knew that tone of voice, what it meant. Mycroft was here.

Worse, John knew the argument was about him. He heard his name twice already and it was bad enough to have one Holmes have his attention on him. Two was downright dangerous.

Oh yeah, the argument was definitely about him. Even before John popped his head into the living room, the brothers ceased talking and both were looking in his direction.

"John," Mycroft said smoothly. "It's so nice to see you safe and at home."

"Yeah, I'm sorry for worrying everyone. I'm not even sure-"

"Sherlock," Mycroft ignored John's apology, snapping his head toward his brother.. "Leave."

"I'm not going anywhere," Sherlock hissed. "I have a right to hear this-"

"You called for my help and you know the price of that. Leave, little brother."

John had no idea what was going on. The brothers glared down at each other, a silent argument taking place. Sherlock's glare was menacing but Mycroft had the upper hand of being older and easily experienced. Something occurred and Sherlock snapped his head away, and in a fit of anger, grabbed his coat and dashed out of the flat without another word.

"I'm sorry you had to see that," Mycroft sighed as he sat down in John's chair. "It's never pretty when I have to force my little brother out of a conversation, but it's necessary. He asked for my help to locate you and I did. In exchange, he must do anything I ask of him."

"You found me?" John breathed, sitting down as well. "I didn't even know I was gone. How-"

"It wasn't easy. You have the attentions of a very powerful, very dangerous creature, John."

Now that was like a kick to the balls. John felt his own throat seize up, and it took him a minute or two to clear it so he could speak. "You know about the slender man?"

Mycroft cocked his head in confusion. "Slender man? Oh, you mean- yes, I could see why you would call him that. I've always known him as the Operator-"

"Did you kill him?"

"What?"

"Did you kill him? I mean, that's how you found me, right?"

Mycroft shook his head. "No, I'm sorry John, I don't think it's even possible to harm him. The best I can do is reason with him, bargain with him. I can't stop him."

His belly suddenly tightened and John swore he could feel the handprint flexing. He told himself it was all in his head but that wasn't the truth was it? "Bargain!" he suddenly gasped. "What did you give in exchange for me?"

"Nothing, John. Not this time. I simply summoned him and asked for you back. I can assure you it wasn't easy, and I would appreciate it if in the future, you stay on the Operator's good side."

John sputtered. "His-… his good side? I didn't know there was a side to stay on!"

"Calm yourself," Mycroft held up a hand. "That's why I'm here, to explain a few simple rules for you to abide by. First of all: don't piss him off."

"How-"

"Sherlock told me you received a doll on the day of your disappearance. You tore it up, I believe?"

"Destroyed it, actually. Tossed it into the fire."

"Bad idea. He doesn't like to be mocked, nor does he like to be ignored."

"Or what?" John demanded, angrily. Suddenly all of this was his fault? He was to blame for his being shot? "How are you okay with this, Mycroft? Sherlock has evidence of the slender man killing people. And despite that, I should just sit back and take what's coming to me?"

Mycroft was quiet. His finger tapped twice on his umbrella before he pulled it away, leaning it against the table next to him. He then began to undress.

No reason given as he shrugged out of his jacket and started unbuttoning his dress shirt. John shifted uncomfortably, wondering if he should leave the room or turn around or-

"Look," Mycroft pulled open his shirt, baring his shoulder to him. "I've had this since I was twenty-two."

A fucking handprint was on his skin.

()

"Jesus Christ," John said as Mycroft buttoned back up his shirt. "Why? Why is he doing this?"

"I honestly have no answer for that," Mycroft said. He pulled back on his suit jacket, looking as calm as ever. "The closest one I can give is…" he gave a shrug. "He likes us."

John snorted. "If this is like, what does he do to people he hates?"

"You do not ever want to know," Mycroft said darkly, lowering his gaze and tone at John. "I've seen the pictures, John. They are not pretty."

John was unnerved by the sudden break in Mycroft's otherwise perfect calm demeanor. He'd seen the older man shout out orders, seen the epic fights between him and Sherlock. This was the first John ever seen Mycroft so shaken, he literally shook.

Mycroft looked down on his trembling hand with disgust, reached out and grabbed his umbrella. The significance behind that stupid thing, John will never ask, but the trembling stopped as soon as Mycroft touched it.

"He likes children," Mycroft continued, his voice steady. "You've seen him since you were a child, yes?"

John nodded.

"Me too. Since I was six. I used to play with him in the garden at my parent's estate."

"He kills children, Mycroft."

"I've no answer for that. He has patterns, but he is not bound by them. Why he chooses to kill some while favoring others is a mystery."

"So what should I do?"

Mycroft stood. "The rules are simple. Don't ignore him, don't reject him. You do not need to be overly friendly, but don't treat him as if he's an unwanted guest in your home."

"Will he eventually kill me?"

"He doesn't kill his favored ones, John. They just disappear one day and never return."

()

How Mycroft was able to keep such a secret from Sherlock is a mystery. Once the detective came back, Mycroft warned him only once, "Do not investigate this," and left their flat.

John didn't expect Sherlock to follow that. He was preparing himself to be practically mauled by Sherlock, expecting never ending questions, demands, and perhaps a screaming match.

Instead, Sherlock stared at the closed front door, his fists nearly trembling at his side. "In exchange of helping me," Sherlock explained slowly. "I had to relinquish all of the files I had on your slender man."

John seriously doubted Mycroft needed them. "Sherlock-"

"I'm not going to investigate," Sherlock said. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but I made a deal and I will follow through." He snapped his head toward John, making him jump. "I do not ever want to call upon Mycroft again. Do not go missing again."

John can't guarantee that, but nodded anyways.

Sherlock narrowed his eyes at the lie.

()

As instructed, John stopped trying to fight it.

The Operator, the slender man now took residence at the top of the steps of the flat. John would come home, look up, and see him standing right in front of their door, staring down.

John never said hello, only acknowledging him with a nod. He'd turn to hang his coat and when he turned back to climb the steps, the slender man was gone.

Sometimes Sherlock was with him when the tall man appeared. He'd always took notice of John's gaze to the top step, and he too would look up and try to see. "What are you looking at?" he would ask, never once noticing the sudden drop in temperature.

John never answered, afraid if he said 'Nothing' would be construed as an insult.

On one particular day three months later, John came home with a black eye and split lip.

"Oh, John!" Mrs. Hudson exclaimed when she saw him walking past the sandwich shop. "What happened?"

"Mugged," John said. It was the truth. A random man had pulled him into an alley and began leveling John with punches, trying to get to his wallet.

John naturally fought back, and the punk, sensing a lost fight, ran off.

"It's superficial," he pulled away from Mrs. Hudson's insistent helping hands. "Is Sherlock home?"

"No, dearie. I believe that nice Inspector called him in about half hour ago."

"All right, thank you, Mrs. Hudson."

As soon as John entered, his eyes automatically went to the top step.

The slender man cocked his head at him.

John nodded at him and hung his coat, but this time when he turned, the slender man had not moved.

Fuck, John thought grimly. He could not turn around and walk away from this, could not risk upsetting this creature. Taking a moment to wipe his sweaty hands on his jeans, John gripped the handle bar and began to climb.

Memories of childhood piled down upon him and he was readying himself for that moment where nausea would suddenly overtake him.

Half way up the stairs and nothing happened so far.

The slender man at least had the courtesy to move aside to allow John to unlock the front door.

John had never been so close to him, never wanted to again. As he pulled out his key, John could see from the corner of his eye the rise and fall of the slender man's chest. He could see the details of the fabric, the tie, the shine of his shoes.

John dared a glance down, to look at the inhumanly long hands that rested well past the knee.

John opened the front door and stepped through, unsure if he should invite the slender man in (he didn't want to) or simply shut the door.

His thoughts on courtesy were broken when a muted THUD was heard behind him. John turned around and the slender man was gone from the door frame.

Instead, a human head was dropped in his place.

John hissed a curse and took several stumbling steps backwards. Like a dropped coin, the severed head wobbled from side to side until it slowed and stilled.

Oh God, John gritted his teeth when he took a second look.

It was the mugger.

John pulled out his mobile phone. Sent one text to Mycroft.

THE OPERATOR LEFT A HEAD ON MY FRONT DOOR.

-JW

Mycroft replied only ten seconds later.

YES, HE'S KNOWN TO DO THAT.

-MH

Despite Mycroft's blasé reply, fifteen minutes later Anthea came by to collect the head.

The woman didn't so much as grimaced as she took the head and placed it in a cooler full of ice.

"Did he deserve it?" She asked. John didn't know if she was asking for her own curiosity or for Mycroft.

Either way, the answer was the same. "Not this."