Broken Chords (by Patina)

Summary: What Happened Next for the episode Woman of Fire
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G
Word Count:  1300

Hoss dug his elbow into the armrest of the settee and propped his chin on a meaty fist. The corners of his mouth and eyes turned down in longing as he watched Adam run slender fingers along the neck of a new guitar as gently as Little Joe caressed a young lady’s cheek.

Just as he’d never thrilled a gal with a gentle touch, Hoss knew he’d never be trusted with a guitar again. Last time Adam had had faith in him, that fiery Margarita smashed it over his head because his fingers were too big to make a decent chord. Sure, it hadn’t helped that a string had broken when she’d taken the instrument to show him which strings to hold down, causing Little Joe to giggle like a maniac who’d just won a jackpot at the poker table. All that laughing had swiftly brought her fury down upon the guitar and him, destroying the instrument and leaving a good-sized lump on his head.

Adam propped a foot on the hearth, balanced the guitar on his knee, and effortlessly stroked the strings with his fingertips, creating a chord. He grimaced and twisted the pegs to tune the instrument.

Hoss sighed and leaned back into the settee, legs stretched under the sturdy coffee table. Lacing his fingers together, he clasped his hands over his belly where they wouldn’t do any harm.

Satisfied with the tuning, Adam looked over his shoulder and took in Hoss’ glum appearance. It really hadn’t been Hoss’ fault that Margarita had broken the instrument. It had surely seemed like it at the time because he’d trusted Hoss to treat his cherished guitar with the care it had deserved.

He plucked a few strings, satisfied with the quality and timbre of the notes. Turning away from the fire, Adam strolled around the room, absently picking out the notes to Early One Morning.

Returning to the fireplace from the opposite direction, Adam again propped a foot against the hearth as he strummed the tune. Looking down on the strings, he glanced up without lifting his head. His brother had slumped even further down into the settee, as if he was trying to make himself smaller. Adam swiftly changed keys as his fingers danced along the strings, playing Sweet Betsy from Pike. He was disappointed the tune didn’t perk Hoss up.

Plucking individual notes that didn’t belong to any particular tune, Adam said, “It tuned up real nice.”

Hoss looked down at his hands and frowned. Wishing they weren’t so big won’t make it so. “Yup,” he finally said.

Adam cocked his head and raised an eyebrow before silencing the guitar. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“Hmph,” was Hoss’ answer.

Adam protectively held the guitar as he said, “I’m a better teacher than she is. For starters, I’ve got more patience.”

Hoss snorted as he looked at the floor to hide a half grin. Older brother doesn’t have half the patience he thinks he does.

“How about it?” Adam asked.

“I dunno,” Hoss mumbled.

“It’s easier than you think.”

“It ain’t that.”

Adam let out a long breath. “I won’t lose my temper, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Hoss sighed before looking his brother in the eye. Raising both hands, he said, “They’re too big. It don’t matter anyhow. She couldn’t teach me. You can’t teach me.”

Adam pursed his lips as he plucked a few random notes. “I taught Peggy and her hands are smaller than mine.”

“But she’s a kid.”

Hoss looked down at his feet and picked at the dirt under his fingernails. Doesn’t matter what he says—I can’t do it.

Realizing it was easier to go to the mountain than move it, Adam walked over to the settee and leaned against the arm, protectively holding the guitar in his other hand. “Come on,” he said in a low, encouraging voice, similar in tone to what he used with Peggy to instill confidence within her when he urged her to try something new.

Hoss looked at his brother from the corner of his eye, the frown on his lips remaining in place.

Adam held his breath and slowly extended the guitar to Hoss, hoping he’d reach forth and take it.

For a moment, the guitar bridged the space between them.

Hoss turned his head and looked up at Adam. Adam smiled confidently and nodded.

Slowly, Hoss pulled his hands to his belly and placed his palms against his shirt. His fingers curled in until the tips touched his palms. I’ll just break it.

“Come on,” Adam repeated, this time gently nudging Hoss’ arm with the body of the guitar.

Hoss wiped his hands on the front of his shirt and tentatively reached for the instrument. His hands were close to the instrument when he stopped. Eyebrows drawn together in worry, he looked into his brothers eyes and took heart at the confidence on Adam’s face.

Adam slid the instrument into Hoss’ hands then stepped behind the settee to guide the guitar across his brother’s body. “That’s it,” he said softly. “Rest it on your knee, like that.”

Hoss curled his right arm protectively around the guitar, gently cradling it as he would a calf or lamb. The base of his left hand supported the instrument’s neck and his fingers curled around the wood, towards the strings.

Adam rested both hands on the back of the settee. His lips curled up in a smile as he looked down on his brother. He looks like a natural.

“You ready?” asked Adam, breaking the silence.

Hoss looked over his shoulder, worry clouding his eyes.

Adam reached forward and pulled three of Hoss’ fingers to the appropriate strings. “Hold these down.”

Hoss, tongue jammed in the corner of his mouth as he concentrated, did as told and noted the tension in his wrist from the unnatural position.

“Hold the fingers of your other hand together. Yeah, like that. Now strum.”

Behind the settee, Adam’s hand moved as if his fingers were caressing the strings.

A sour chord floated out of the guitar.

Adam grimaced and shook his head. The first note is always the hardest. He’ll get the hang of it.

“I did it!” said Hoss, his lips curving across his face in a smile. He looked over his shoulder, eyes dancing with excitement, and said again, “I did it!”

Adam nodded and said, “I knew you could. Let’s try another chord. In a different key.”

“I’ll be playing as good as you in no time,” said Hoss through a laugh.

“You bet,” answered Adam, rolling his eyes while adjusting his brother’s fingers. “Now try,” he said. The result was again unspectacular.

“How about we just try some scales.”

“Some what?”

“Scales. Think of them as broken chords. You just play each note in the scale up and down until you get the hang of it.”

Hoss was only slightly better at picking out individual notes.

“Just hold down one string. Curl your fingers. Use the tip of your finger, not the nail.”

Adam moved from the settee to the coffee table where he could watch and critique Hoss’ positions on the strings.

After ten or so minutes of playing what might have passed for a scale, Hoss beamed with delight. “It ain’t so hard after all.”

“I knew you could do it,” replied Adam, pride reflected in his smile.

***The End***

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