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things lost to the arctic

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1.

The first thing to go had been his teeth. James felt lucky to have only lost four, two of them in the back and one to the side, where no one would see. Three of them had also been spit out on the ground of King William Land. The fourth had been pulled out on their journey home as it had died and caused an infection in his gums, or so he’d been told later, after he’d come through a fever brought on by his numerous infected injuries.

Edward had brought James to a reputable dentist, just as soon as James had allowed him. The fussing over his health from Edward and Sarah had been a touch overwhelming at first, but he’d relented in this  because his missing teeth were causing him problems.

He’d never considered himself particularly vain, but he found himself becoming more and more self conscious about his smile, due to the fact that there was a gaping hole in it. More practically, the tooth he’d lost on the side of his mouth happened to have been on the side he favored for chewing, which was miserably uncomfortable.

He’d opted for ivory replacements, despite the dentist’s emphasis that replacing the missing teeth with real teeth would not only look better, but would last longer. James had responded by saying that he’d just get them replaced again when he needed to, and that he’d rather not have someone else’s teeth in his mouth. Just the thought of it left him feeling ill. He understood the practicality of it and would not fault another for it, but it struck something too close to the horror they’d experienced in the Arctic for him be comfortable with it himself.

 

2.

James was not overly fond of his prosthetic arm. It was unwieldy, made his shoulder ache, and chafed his underarm horribly. His dominant hand was perfectly fine and he’d quickly gotten used to living life one handed. He likely would have gotten one on his own eventually, something simple, but he really had been doing fine without.

The prosthetic hadn’t even come about until his first visit to the Coninghams, which had been just after his court martial. William had thought it terribly funny that James had appeared before the admiralty with the one sleeve of his dress uniform pinned up to accentuate the missing limb, as James told him about how uncomfortable they’d all seemed about the fact that the noble Captain Fitzjames did not have prosthetic yet, and how one of them had even approached him after to ask if he needed a recommendation for a doctor to get him one.

William had paused then. “You mean you don’t have one at all?” he’d asked.

Fitzjames had shrugged, saying that he’d yet to find a need.

The next day, William had written to a doctor friend of his to see about getting James measured and fitted for an arm.

James did feel bad for not liking the prosthetic, it was a pretty piece and could not have been cheap. It was highly articulated and, with some doing, James could move the elbow, wrist and individual fingers. It certainly looked good from the outside when he was dressed, but it was dreadfully uncomfortable to wear for more than an hour at a time. He also found himself constantly worrying about breaking the many moving parts when he did wear it, which for now was mostly limited to when he wanted to go out in public without being stared at and when he visited, or was visited by, William.

Mostly, the arm sat in the silk lined box it had been delivered in,  though James was always quick to assure William that his generosity had not been unwelcome, and that he was deeply grateful to have the prosthetic for all he preferred to go without most of the time. The Charlewood children, he noted, much like William’s own, found the contraption terribly amusing, although Sophie and little Alice were rather upset when they learned that James could not lift them with it.

 

3.

James knew something was wrong the moment he opened his eyes. He could still see, but something was terribly off about it and the reason was clear moments later when he tried closing just one eye and then the other. The sight in left eye was completely gone. It wasn’t too  much of a shock, his sight in that eye had been gradually worsening for some time, but the suddenness was unsettling. Yesterday, he’d still been able to make out the shapes of things, if not detailed features, through the constant fog, but now even that was gone.

“James? Are you all right?”

James started when Edward spoke up from where he lay next to James in bed. With Edward on James’ now completely blind side, he hadn’t realized the other man was awake.

“Yes,” James replied, turning his head to look at Edward properly. “As well as I can be, at any rate. I can’t see anything out of my left eye anymore.”

Edward frowned, reaching out to tenderly touch the skin next to James’ eye. “Should I call for the doctor?”

“I don’t think so,” James said. “We all knew this was coming, given how poor my sight had already become.” 

“I suppose.” Edward trailed his hand down to stroke James’ cheek. “You know I worry still.”

James turned his head just a bit more to press a kiss to Edward’s palm. “I know and I’m grateful for it. I would have fallen apart without you and Sarah forcing me to take care of myself.” 

“And we will continue to,”  Edward said. “I’ll start now by telling you that you must write to William about this or he’ll discover it the next time you visit and will force a doctor on you.”

James chuckled. “Yes, yes, but after breakfast.”