The touch on his shoulder made Sherlock jump but what startled him more was the fact that he no longer held his friend's body but his own heavy coat. He raised his head, finding that the scenery had changed as well, his own flat replacing the squalor of John's hostel. He turned, finding the ghostly figure of his father behind him and he did not think on his response, reaching out and grasping the older man to him.
"Tell me how to prevent this?" he begged, "Please, whatever I have to do I will do it."
Sherlock found himself pushed back from his father's grip, seeing concern in the eyes so like his own.
"I cannot tell you my son."
"Please, I can't bear the thought of him facing that future," said Sherlock, "Of any of them facing it. Can my death really be the root of all that?"
"These answers you were meant to find by listening to the guides you were given," said his father, "Sherlock they are relying on you to get this right."
"But if I don't die then Moriarty will still kill John and Mrs Hudson and Lestrade," said Sherlock, "I cannot let that happen, even to save the others. I cannot allow one life to be taken for another unless its my own that is given."
"Then the future you see will come to pass," said his father getting to his feet and stepping back, "And I will have failed too."
Sherlock looked on from his place on the seeing the chains that bound his father to the boulders increase threefold around him, "Just tell me what I have to do," he said, "I don't know the answer. I need you to help me."
"I've given you all the help I can but you must find the answer within yourself or you have no hope. Think. What must you do?"
"I mustn't die," said Sherlock, "If I die then they suffer but if I live they die anyway, how can either path help? Do I leave John to a death at his own hand or leave him to the aim of a sniper? How can you ask me to make that choice?"
"I'm not asking that choice from you," said his father, shielding his eyes as sunlight began to filter through the curtains of the flat, "The sun is coming up."
"What does the sun matter?" said Sherlock, "Give me a damn answer to this impossibility you have given me."
"The sun matters because when it is up you will have passed entirely into this would and everything you have seen will be irreversible. You have spoken of the impossible before, you know that it does not always have to be as it seems."
Sherlock got to his feet, groaning with frustration, "I am tired of all your riddles, of this damn place!" he cried, "If I live they die, if I die then they are ruined. What choice is there?"
"A choice you must make swiftly," said his father, the sun's light seeming to make his form fade as it grew brighter, "The sun will not wait. Sherlock think, for God's sake. You are clever, you have to think."
"Think of what? How to die without dying? How to live without living? If I can answer that then surely I have answered the question humanity has posed since its birth," said Sherlock, "Moriarty's men have to see me die or they'll…"
His father smiled faintly, "Yes, keep that in your head," he said, "Make a choice Sherlock, make a choice in your heart and if it is true, if you are certain then you may yet have a chance to save them. Think, think quickly, you have seconds."
Sherlock shook his head, "It cannot be done," he said, "Its impossible."
"Its improbable and you're Sherlock Holmes, you are my son, you can do this," said his father, "Please, don't condemn yourself to this place."
"But I can't…"
"You can," said his father, pulling his hand from the confine of his chains, a single rubber ball cradled in his palm before he bounced it once, "Think."
Sherlock gripped his hair, looking frantically before the man chained before him and the sun rising beyond the window. He heard the door slam downstairs and the booted feet rushing up them, up to John's room where his friend would ever scream if he did not find a way out of the conundrum before him. He looked up once more at his father, seeing the ball held in his hand and he felt an idea begin to form. The idea took shape swiftly and his breath caught in his throat as he felt the air in the room begin to shift.
"Yes," said his father all but breathlessly, "Yes. Think, think. You've got moments."
In the distance a bell began to toll the morning and Sherlock met his father's gaze, his head filled with the possible that he did not need to voice as he saw the same realisation in the eyes of the man before him.
"You have chosen well," said his father, "Good luck."
Sherlock watched his father's figure disappear as the ball bounced towards him. He reached out instinctively, the bells tolling and the sun rising at his back as it flew towards him. As it landed in his palm, everything went black.
A/N: Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. Especially to WitchRavenFox and Junejuly15 who have supported me from the beginning.