Title: A Three Lick Problem
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Summary: Sherlock attempts to answer one of the world's most profound questions: how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
A/N: I survived 'The Reichenbach Falls'… but only just XD. After the last episode of season two I needed to write something silly/ridiculous/borderline cracky to cheer myself up. This is that story. Enjoy!
John walked into 221B and sighed.
"Aaaaand I should have slept at Jane's."
Sherlock's head popped out behind a giant box of lollipops that loudly proclaimed it was selling "TWO for the price of ONE!" There were at least ten other boxes surrounding him, all jumbo sized and sporting vibrant colors. Pushing the monstrosity aside he crawled on his hands and knees towards his flatmate, scattering the hundreds of wrappers that covered the floor. John was dismayed to see that the accompanying lollipops weren't actually in their wrappers but were stuck to the floor in various stages of being eaten. They were piled on every other available surface too, most notably on the couch where they were stuffed between the cushions. John also noted that balanced on the armrest was their skull - a lollipop in each eye socket. Really though, the added red and blue coloring did wonders for his alabaster bone structure.
"Oh my god Sherlock… what have you been doing?"
"It's amazing John. Fascinating even." Having reached John's legs he began patting them with sticky hands. "This is perhaps the most ridiculous and simultaneously profound question ever posed by you idiots."
"What? Sherlock-no-stop using my pants as a towel-"
"They're absorbent. And the residual moisture from your walk in the rain helps to dissolve the sugar adhering to my skin."
"Yeah, that's wonderful. But stop it." Pushing the six-foot child aside John stared, horrified at their living space. "Sherlock… what…?"
"It's an experiment." He said.
"But… where did you get all these?"
Sherlock waved his hands wildly, bouncing slightly in place. "No, that's boring. Boring question. Ask me something else."
"Oh for the love of-" Dodging the flood of wrappers John headed for the fridge.
"I picked up milk on my way home. Like you asked. Not that you care."
"Brilliant John! No, I don't."
"Well, at least you're honest." With the perishables safely away – or as safe as they could be in this flat – John turned and allowed himself to really look at their living room.
"My god… Seriously Sherlock! Can't I leave you alone for a few hours-"
"Of course you can! See, I've been entertaining myself-"
"- the flat's a mess and Mrs. Hudson is going to-"
"-get over it, I've done worse to her stuff before, you know that-"
"-and is that pop on my computer?-"
"Yes… wait." Startled by the non sequitur John paused. "What?"
"You," Sherlock pointed a long, sugar coated finger his way, "said these words exactly: 'Sherlock I'm heading to Jane's for a bit. If you blow up the microwave while I'm gone – again – I will break your jaw in three places.' I'll have you know I didn't even touch the microwave. I found other means of entertaining myself. So ha!" With a dramatic sweep of his arms a hundred more wrappers went airborne.
"… So, exactly how much sugar have you had?"
"Impossible to determine. A great deal, I'm sure."
"Fabulous." John simply stared as Sherlock began scooping up half-eaten lollipops, seemingly at random. He gazed intently at each, sometimes poking at those that showed their chocolate filling, before shaking his head and tossing them away - where they inevitably stuck to one of John's possessions. This went on for some time while John tried to decide which was the better option: ask Sherlock what in the world he was up to this time or try to sneak out while he was still hypnotized by the brightly colored candies.
Maybe he was a masochist. Maybe the old adage of cats and curiosity rang true…
"Okay, I give." He said.
"Give up. What are you doing? Come on, wow me with your latest, brilliant hypothesis. Will gorging yourself on sugar somehow save millions of lives?"
"Your explanation of the evidence before you is ridiculous." Sherlock had somehow found a pop that hadn't been opened yet and preceded to tentatively lick the wrapper.
"I was being sarcastic."
"Facetious actually. Really, your vocabulary is atrocious for a man trained at an institution as prestigious as Barts."
"Are you going to explain why our flat is now a makeshift candy factory or just insult me all night?"
A soft push and John stumbled back into his chair. "Both."
"Ah. There's that lovely honesty again."
Ignoring him Sherlock ran to the other end of the room where a portable whiteboard faced the wall. He snatched it up, running back to where John was seated, and solemnly presented himself as a professor ready to give his lecture.
"I'm not going to bed anytime soon, am I?" John sighed.
"Hush." With a flourish the whiteboard was turned towards its audience, presenting John with an abundance of complex formulas, all scribbled in Sherlock's unmistakable hand.
"Unlike some who have spent the night showering more money than their budget will allow on a girl who obviously lost sexual interest in him three weeks ago-"
"Get on with it."
"I have been trying to answer one of the world's oldest questions."
John nodded solemnly. "How your mother survived raising you and Mycroft both? Poor woman."
"No!" Sherlock scowled. "Besides, there are older, more fascinating questions. Like how Lestrade became D.I. Or why Anderson has that kitten tattoo on his-"
"Sherlock! What have I told you? Censor things before they come out of your mouth!"
He waved John's indignation away but there was a smirk playing on his lips. "Yes, yes. How sensitive you are. Now, I have been attempting to answer something of greater importance: how much of the amylase produced in a homo sapien's salivary glands is needed to dissolve the sugar, corn syrup, and citric acid mixture, enough so as to expose the cocoa concoction beneath."
One beat… Two… Three.
"Sherlock, I've had a long night-"
"Yes, watching your girlfriend eye every man under fifty must be exhausting."
"-a long day so if you'd just speak plain English-"
"Humph. If it's really necessary." Throwing the board aside Sherlock petulantly crossed his arms. "The things I do for you."
"The things you-" Abruptly John's face discovered his hands. "No. No. We're getting off the subject. Just answer the question: what have you been doing all night?"
Snatching up the nearest pop Sherlock pointed it straight at his flatmate. "John, I present to you one of mankind's most baffling questions: how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
As a general rule it can be said that there is always a great deal of noise emanating from 221B. Shouts of different sorts –both angry and bafflingly excited- bounce around the rooms. Guns go off, fires are stared, the rapid beep of incoming texts is a constant backdrop, smashing glass, beautiful, haunting melodies played on the violin, the click and clack of computer keys. There has been, and will continue to be, an array of noises in that singular flat on Baker Street.
In that moment however: complete and utter silence.
"You are fucking kidding me."
"John it's an underappreciated question-"
"And we're done here." Levering himself up John headed towards the kitchen, trampling wrappers as he went. "Thank you Sherlock. Thank you for showing me what happens when a Holmes ingests large amounts of sugar. I'll be sure to warn Mycroft against too many biscuits. Don't want him starting any wars after all."
"Any more wars. And yes, he's gained three pounds." The words were confident, as always, but Sherlock's attention was once again fixed on the candy. He twirled the stem between his fingers, eyeing each imperfection.
"How… oh never mind."
"It is a fascinating problem though." He said, loosing interest in this particular pop, tossing it into a glass of milk.
"No. It's really not."
"It is! The sheer number of variables that need to be considered – John! Do you realize how much we'd have to take into account to answer this question?"
John jumped. "We?"
"There are numerous factors to consider: the size of the mouth, coarseness of the tongue, the amount of saliva produced per lick by each individual, the acidity of that saliva, the volume of the pop, – which incidentally may not be consistent. I wonder if it varies by color? – how much of the exterior shell is dissolved per lick, and of course the rotation factor– do we distribute the licks evenly across the outer surface or contain them to one specified area? John, this is truly a question worthy of my time and skill!"
With a sigh John abandoned his thoughts of tea and leaned heavily against the mantel. "Sherlock-"
"Don't you want to help me answer a question that people have agonized over for forty-two years? Of course, they were all idiots."
"I don't know if 'agonized' is the right word…" But John stopped. Damn if his ridiculous flatmate didn't look hopeful. It wasn't often that something other than a vicious murder kept him entertained for more than five minutes. But at the same time he'd really like to go to bed…
"I've got it." John said.
Sherlock paused in stirring the glass of milk with the pop, watching the colors combine. "What?"
"I know the answer."
"Mmm hmm." With a smirk, John nodded.
Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "That's impossible. I've spent hours perfecting the necessary formulas and have tested them on literally hundreds of subjects. While you're just-"
"Yes! Although not quite as idiotic as some."
Rolling his eyes John sauntered over. "Have you got a pop that hasn't been eaten, mutilated, or doused in something caustic?"
One flourish later and a red Tootsie Pop was dangling before John's nose. But Sherlock wasn't handing it over. "This is my last one." He said seriously.
"How sad for you."
"I set it aside to test my finalized method. You are sure you know how to solve this?"
John smiled. "Don't you trust me?"
"It gets harder the more I realize how good you are at dodging questions." But with a smile of his own he tossed the lollipop over.
"What exactly is your experiment design?" He asked.
"Haven't you seen the commercial?"
"There's a commercial?"
"Excellent." Unwrapping the sweet John held it up between them. "Now, watch closely, I don't want you to miss anything."
Sherlock nodded solemnly.
"You lick once." John licked the pop in a slightly exaggerated manner.
"Yes. A simple enough first step."
"You lick twice." He repeated his first lick, though normally this time. Sherlock's brow furrowed.
"Are you supposed to decrease the time of the second lick and the area it covers?"
He scoffed. "That is hardly scientific John."
"Just watch…" He licked the pop a third time, keeping eye contact with Sherlock – telling him to pay attention. "Now this," he said, swallowing "is the last and most important step."
"The last?" Suddenly Sherlock was leaning forward excitedly. "I always lengthened the experiment in an attempt to maintain consistence but perhaps quicker is better. How do you complete the design?"
"Like this-" and with a CRUNCH John bit down on the rest of the lollipop – not without some pain. Grimacing, he chewed the chocolate for some time as Sherlock looked on, shocked.
"That's cheating!" He finally yelled.
"Yeah well…" John shrugged. "That's how the professionals do it."
"That's just-" He cut himself off, glaring. "That was my last one."
"I know." Smiling sweetly John headed for the stairs. "You can't deny, that is one way to do it. As for how many licks it really takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop… the world may never know."
His flatmate muttered something that sounded both vicious and oddly disappointed.
"Night Sherlock. Have fun cleaning all this up before Mrs. Hudson finds it."
With the strangely comforting sounds of Sherlock sputtering behind him, John headed to bed.
Right before he crawled beneath the sheets John's phone buzzed. There was one new text message:
Doctor – would you happen to know why my brother has just spent an inordinate amount of his funds on lollipops? – Mycroft
Laughing, he sent a quick reply.
It was an experiment. They were specifically Tootsie Pops.
There was a long moment before Mycroft finally texted back.
Understood. I will send Anthea around tomorrow with some spirits. I have heard that they can be useful in removing sticky residue and, additionally, it seems you may need it.
John grinned. At least something good came out of all this. Tomorrow he'd come down to find a still disgruntled Sherlock, he'd run interference when Mrs. Hudson first saw her upstairs, then the three of them would get slightly tipsy before cleaning everything up – and they'd enjoy every minute of it.
Many thanks from this front. Night Mycroft.
And a good evening to you too John.