The roar of the ocean was the first thing he recognized. Next came the cool sensation of water lapping at his feet. Sherlock opened his eyes. He had a headache, unparalleled in his memory. Furthermore, he couldn't remember how he managed to wind up on a beach in the middle of winter.
There was salt in his hair—he'd been in the water. The tides had probably dumped him onshore. He had neither jacket nor coat, and was convinced he was suffering from at least mild hypothermia. He sat up, his vestibular system not quite convinced about which direction was up, but it was manageable. He shut down the wave of nausea that came with his eyes and inner ear not agreeing, and struggled to his feet, leaning on the rocks near him for support.
It was a lonely beach. Probably because of the rocks on either side which could cause dangerous currents. There were no signs of civilization anywhere within sight. He was in France, he thought. It felt like France. (Don't be stupid, that's hardly a logical observation!) He hadn't been in France since his grandmother had died. Wherever he was, his experiences told him that it most resembled the French countryside.
A little tickle of his senses told him there was nothing in his pockets. Not that it would have done any good, as his phone would have been ruined by the seawater. He still had his shoes, which was good as he stumbled off in an arbitrary direction, hoping to find some trace of human life.
As the hours passed, he realized just how ill he felt. All his body wanted to do was rest. To sleep. To dream. His mind was barely working, at least in the way it normally did. It was sort of jumbled like a group of chanting monks overlapping one another rather than the precise diction of his more usual thought patterns. It hurt. Or perhaps that was still just his head? Sherlock reached to the back of his head and felt scabbing. He was probably suffering from a concussion, then, as well as hypothermia. He needed attention. And a nice warm house.
The sun began to set. He'd been walking for six hours now (or so he guessed by the position of the sun. His watch had been ruined.) And then, just on the horizon, in the middle of a field, was a small house, one or two rooms. If there was no one there, at least he'd found shelter for the night.
The last mile was excruciating, both physically and mentally. He hated the country. He was frightened of its isolation—no one was around to hear you die, if someone decided to take the opportunity to kill you, and even if your body would be discovered in time to easily identify it, the chances are that the killer would escape.
To hell with knocking. Sherlock just opened the door and collapsed inside. His mind whirled again as his inner ear screamed abuse, but he was too exhausted to care. The last thing he registered before blacking out was the feel of the rough wood floor and noting that the house must have been there for some time.
He was in a bed, soft and warm. There were muttered voices, and for an instant, had no idea what they were saying. Of course, he soon figured out why—they were speaking French. So he'd been right. He shuddered. He was really in a bad way. His mind could only work on the basic levels. He was weak and it took significant effort to translate his thoughts into French, despite normally being able to do so on a whim.
"Je…je suis appelé Sherlock Holmes. Parlez-vous Anglais? Ma tête est fait mal." He hoped he'd gotten it right. The man, about the same age as Mike Stamford (though far thinner and with a grizzled hint of a beard), smiled.
"Yes, monsieur Holmes. Forgive me if my English is not perfect, however." The man handed Sherlock a piece of bread. He was a farmer—the tan lines, muscles, and house screamed it. Sherlock took it and slowly ate it. It was the first thing he'd had to eat in some time. "I apologize if your personal room has been invaded," the farmer said. "Your clothing, it was certainly…what is the word? Not ill. Ehm. It was not helping you to recover."
"I understand." Sherlock shifted in bed slightly, attempting to sit up, but moving his head was enough to induce severe nausea. He shuddered as well. He must be running a massive fever. It would explain many of his symptoms. "Do you have a telephone?"
"Not at my farm. But I can take you to the town when you are well enough."
"I was rather thinking that you should take me to a hospital instead."
"Ah, oui, that would be a good plan. I am afraid my car is not nice."
"All the better as I'm not sure I can ensure a lack of vomiting." He sat up, shutting his eyes and concentrating on keeping his bread down. He was in a set of homemade cotton pajamas, white and simple. His wife had made them for him, but she'd been dead some time (neither wedding ring nor tan line, but photographs of the man with a woman and children).
The man, who was shorter than Sherlock, helped him to his feet.
"What are the English feeding you that you are so thin?" He smiled good-naturedly, though Sherlock could not return the smile, nor could he reply, as his mouth was clamped into one position alone in order to prevent him from either vomiting or fainting.
They managed to get out to the old rather rusted pickup truck without incident. Sherlock seated himself in the passenger's seat as the other man cranked the engine. It took four tries to get it to start, but before too long, they were on the way.
The jostling and bumping of the truck as it went down the road made Sherlock feel worse. He rested his head on the side of the window before realizing it was probably not the best of ideas. His stomach churned so he curled as close to the fetal position as vehicular travel would allow. He could scarcely remember feeling worse as it seemed like every sensation was against him. He felt as though his eyes were the only part of him that wasn't burning—and yet it hurt to shut his eyes.
The trip of an hour felt like a year as they eventually entered the small town (at least it seemed small to Sherlock; it was large enough for its own hospital, after all.) They pulled into the parking lot and the man (whose name was Robert, Sherlock remembered, as he'd introduced himself during their trip) helped him stagger into the hospital.
The sign-in process was a blur. Robert did all of the work, except for once when he asked for Sherlock's emergency contacts. He gave John's number, of course—he trusted his friend more than his brother to come running to his aid. Then he was escorted to a bed at which he did actually vomit (not that there was much to speak of in his stomach anyway.)
He caught snatches of phrase that he only at present had the mental capacity to barely understand. Robert was acting as interpreter for the most part. Primarily health questions—are you on any medications, are you allergic to any medications, do you have any diseases we should know about, and, of course, what happened?
Sherlock still couldn't remember, unsurprisingly, due to the concussion. Hopefully they'd arrived in a medical facility before severe damage had been done to his brain (aside from the initial shock) and nothing worse would happen. They pumped him full of medicines and nutrients as his nausea continued to plague him throughout the day, but eventually it subsided and he was able to sleep surprisingly comfortably considering that he had no idea where he was or what had caused his concussion.
He heard, from his slumber, John's voice. He opened his eyes just in time to see John running over to his bed.
"Oh, thank God, Sherlock!" His look of relief was endearing. "We all thought you were dead!"
"What happened, exactly?"
"You don't remember?"
"Concussion. No." He pointed gently at his head (moving still aggravated his sensitive vestibular system).
"We were on a boat in the Channel, going after that art thief and he hit you and you fell overboard. It was the middle of a storm and we thought…" John trailed off, obviously with emotion.
"And you thought I'd drowned." Considering he was unconscious in the ocean in a storm, it's odd that he hadn't drowned.
"Yeah." John looked around semi-awkwardly, not really sure what to say. "Well, I guess as soon as you're feeling up to travelling we'll go back home."
"You did apprehend him?"
"Yes." John smiled and Sherlock had a vision of John as an avenging guardian angel, looming over the petty criminal, brandishing a gun, with the light behind him casting a peculiar sort of halo around his light brown hair.
"Good." Sherlock lay back and stared at the ceiling and drifted off again, peacefully this time, knowing the circumstances of his injury and that he was probably going to be fine.