Control (by HarpistforHim)

Summary: After a run-in with a band of thieves, Adam and Joe find themselves three thousand dollars short and a long way from home. Things go from bad to worse when Adam realizes he might have gotten hit on the head a little harder than he’d originally thought. Finding your way home is difficult when you can’t see, though not nearly as challenging as hiding an injury from your baby brother.

Word Count: 2830   Rating: G

 

 

Author’s Note: Somewhere along the line, I read that a severe blow to the head can be enough to give someone temporary blindness. I don’t know if that is 100% true, but I do know that I’m a writer, not a doctor. So, for the sake of this story, that medical fact is true. Enjoy, friends!

 

 

Control

 

The world returned slowly, piecing itself back together only as fast as Adam could regain his senses.

Jagged was the ground, but he could feel pressing against his chest.

Bitter was the dirt as he spat it out of his mouth.

Though his muscles protested, they turned him over on his side.

Silence screamed, yet he could still hear the rustling of wind through the trees. The faint call of the mockingbird.

And his little brother coming to with a groan.

Joe.

His brain warned him that sitting up might not be the best course of action. When the thick veil of danger shrouded either of his brothers, however… Logic be damned.

Head spinning, Adam swallowed down wave after wave of nausea as he half-crawled, half-staggered over to Joe. His baby brother sat up with a grimace, feeling around for the bump that no doubt marred the back of his head.

“Should’ve seen that one coming,” Joe sighed. “Did they take it?”

The world had yet to become whole once more. The ringing in his ears faded with all the slowness of Joe doing his morning chores, yet his brain remained ever the stubborn one, refusing to connect Joe’s question with the response that sat on the tip of his tongue.

Take it… Take it…?

Take what?

“Three thousand in cash,” came Joe’s mournful tone. “Pa’s gonna have our hides.”

Right.

The money.

That couldn’t have been further from his mind at the moment. Not while Joe was still fussing silently with the back of his head.

“You all right?” Adam managed, not trusting his voice at first.

“Yeah.” Joe sounded more annoyed than hurt, sending instant relief rushing through Adam’s bones. “Gonna have a headache later, though.”

Adam felt his lips curve despite their situation. “Later?”

“Okay, now.” Joe shook his head. “You?”

Blinking did nothing to clear his vision, but the ringing had gone its own separate way, so Adam hoped the blurriness would follow suit. “I’ll live.”

Though he’d been going for a distracting bit of humor, Adam felt anything but alive and whole.

Joe simply shrugged. At least, that’s what Adam thought he did. The world was in and out, teasing him with the outline of a tree or a flash of a dark horse. Sport.

Forcing himself to his feet, Adam sought out his horse, calming the spooked animal with a few strong strokes to the mane.

“Shh…” He whispered, blinking hard as if it would somehow bring the fine fibers of fur into focus. “Easy…”

Somewhere off to the side, Joe bit out a curse that would’ve gotten a firm reprimand had their father been present. “They took it all!”

“And that surprises you?” Adam adjusted the reins, not particularly appreciating the fact that he’d had to feel around just to find the dang things. “I warned you not to talk about it back there.”

The indignance in Joe’s voice flared up the second he spoke. “How else were we supposed to discuss it?”

“I told you to pretend we didn’t even have it. That much cash was a big red bullseye for anyone who overheard you and your big mouth.”

“You’re not the only business one on this trip, Adam. How were you supposed to know how much I’d haggled out of that buyer if I didn’t tell you?”

With more force than necessary, Adam mounted, taking a moment to quell his nausea before shooting back with a biting reply. “We were in a public place, Joe. I told you not to talk about it and you did, plain and simple. You just couldn’t resist bragging about the deal you made.”

“All right! So, I was proud of myself. Is that so wrong? You’re just upset because we both know you couldn’t have swung a deal like that in a million years!”

“I’m upset because you didn’t listen!”

“Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” It was Joe’s age-old argument, the one Adam was certain his little brother would be falling back on even when they were all old and gray.

Sucking in a sharp breath, Adam gripped the reins, trying not to pretend they were Joe’s scrawny little neck. “Well, the fact of it is the money’s gone, so I guess none of that matters now, does it?”

Though Joe’s face remained a sun-tanned blur, Adam had no trouble picturing the righteous confusion dancing across it. “Aren’t we gonna go after them? We can still get it back, I know we can.”

Exhaustion washed over him as all the fight drained away. “We were out for a while, Joe. They’re long gone by now. Best thing we can do is head home before it gets darker.”

Joe glanced up at the sky for a long moment and Adam fought the urge to roll his eyes.

“Come on.” Pressing Sport forward, he could only hope Joe would follow. After that little spat—totally uncalled for, in Adam’s opinion—he wasn’t too keen on nagging his brother to follow him. Whether Joe tagged along or not was his own decision. Adam was tired of babysitting.

For a while, Adam only heard his own horse’s hooves, plodding along at a most methodical pace. Just slow enough for Joe to catch up, whenever he stopped taking his good old time fooling around back there…

The sun hadn’t been up more than an hour when they’d set out from Reno that morning. Now, it seemed to be taking a quick descent behind the hills.

They’d been knocked out too long.

Wasted an entire day.

That’s just perfect.

And try as he might, he couldn’t bring the world into focus, though maybe that could be attributed to the low evening lighting.

Heavy hooves charged up behind him in a gallop and Joe poked his head into Adam’s peripheral vision.

“Uh, here.” The kid’s voice held a somewhat subdued tone, that hesitance of someone trying to make amends, yet they don’t quite know how. “You forgot your hat.”

Right.

A black blur flashed in front of him and Adam accepted the offering with a nod, securing it on his head. Not a second later, his skull throbbed, rebelling against the crown of the hat that usually fit so well.

You got a pretty bad blow to the head, he scolded himself. What’d you expect?

His fingers couldn’t seem to rip it off fast enough, and he could only imagine the confused look Joe was sending his way.

“Something wrong?” the kid asked.

Hanging the hat off his saddle horn, Adam tried for a wry grin, hoping to heaven he was pulling it off well. “I got knocked in the head, so yeah, I’d say something’s wrong.” When Joe made no reply, Adam went down the over-clarification route. “That bump on my head’s a little too sore right now, Joe. Besides, it’s not that bright anyway. I don’t really need the hat.”

He supposed Joe flashed his own little grin in return, pulling off his hat, too, yet Adam still couldn’t be sure. Not with the darkness closing faster than a dust cloud.

Blinking did nothing. In fact, the next blink turned out to be a curse because it was as if he had yet to reopen his eyes. His brain told him that yes, logically his eyes were open, and yet his vision remained shrouded in darkness. A quick swipe of a hand over his eyes revealed the bitter truth.

Yes, his eyes were open.

And no, he couldn’t see anything.

Fear seized his chest, eating away at his air supply.

He let it rein only a moment before logic took control.

It’s only temporary. Yes, he would go with that. A temporary result of a blow to the head.

Sure. That’s never happened before, though.

First time for everything.

Right.

Sucking in a breath, he forced his mind to calm down, to command his heart to slow its rapid beating.

Joe. His brother’s name burned on the edge of his tongue. He almost said it; almost spoke the bitter truth aloud.

But something stopped him.

That age-old need to remain in control. To lead. To prove to the world he knew what he was doing.

Early on, he had realized the only thing he could truly control was himself.

Adam blinked again. Nothing.

Leading others to believe he was fine not only helped them, it helped him. The more they believed it, the more he, too, began to believe it.

And it wasn’t as if Sport didn’t know where they were supposed to go. The trusty steed knew the road home well.

Adam carded a gentle hand through his mane. Come on, boy. Take me home…

To say the rest of the trip remained uneventful was a mere fantasy that he would have loved to make a reality. The pounding in his head and the thick sheet of black covering his vision, however, reminded him that life wasn’t always so kind.

The seconds between Joe’s cry of warning and the sickening crack were barely enough time for Adam’s brain to register the oncoming danger—and not nearly enough time to duck.

One hand gripped the reins, a last-ditch effort to save himself from falling straight off his horse. The other hand flew to his forehead as if rubbing it could truly chase away the splintering pain from his encounter with what he could only assume was a hanging tree branch.

He didn’t regret the muttered curses that flew from his mouth, nor the nails that dug into his clenched palm. For some odd reason, countering pain with more pain made a body feel better—most of the time.

“Are you all right?” A thick layer of hesitation and concern coated Joe’s voice.

“Fine,” Adam ground out, giving his forehead one last rub for good measure. Like that’s going to do any good. “I’m fine, Joe.”

“What happened?

“What did it look like happened?” The sarcastic bite was unnecessary, but it slipped out before Adam could stop it. He blew out a sigh. “I couldn’t duck in time. It’s no big deal.”

“You had all the time in the world to duck!” Joe countered. “What, got your head stuck in the clouds or something?”

“I wasn’t paying attention. Just let it go, all right?” He urged Sport forward. “Come on, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

The silence was deafening, tailing Adam as he made his way down the trail. He could almost hear the suspicion radiating off his little brother.

Just let it go…

This hope was dashed the moment he felt Joe’s hand on Sport’s bridle, slowing them both to a stop.

“Hey, Adam,” Joe began, shattering that unbearable silence at last, “how many fingers am I holding up?”

Adam rolled his eyes, yet he didn’t dare feel around for Joe’s hand, no matter how badly he wanted to release its grip and just go. “I’m not in the mood for games, Joe.”

“This isn’t a game,” Joe snapped. “Just answer the stupid question: how many fingers?”

Two. That was usually the go-to number for these sorts of things. Two or four…

Well, a fifty-fifty chance isn’t the worst odds.

“Two,” he replied, adjusting Sport’s reins in the hopes that his brother would let go. “Now, can we get going, huh?”

“Wrong.” The way Joe’s voice faltered every so slightly had Adam holding his breath. “I’m not holding up any.”

Cheater.

His best guess told him Joe was studying him right about now. That would explain the silence.

“You can’t see… can you?”

It was a simple question, yet Adam was having the hardest time answering it.

“It’s fine,” he said with an air of finality. “Sport knows the way home.”

“Oh, okay, sure. Sport knows the way home. Come on, Adam, I’m right here! Why didn’t you tell me?” The frustration did nothing to conceal his brother’s worry. “So, what? You just couldn’t see this whole time?”

“It hasn’t been that long.” A truly winning argument if I’ve ever heard one.

“No wonder you bashed your head! I could’ve warned you or something. Told you it was coming! I-I could’ve helped!

“I don’t need help, Joe,” Adam shot back, taking a lucky guess and reaching out, successfully brushing the kid’s hand off his horse. “I just need to get home.”

“Don’t need help, or don’t want it?”

It was petty, he knew, but Adam didn’t answer. Spurring Sport forward, he pressed on down the trail, all the while, waging war against his determination and pride.

“Adam! Adam, stop!” Hooves pounded behind him, racing to catch up. “Come on, Adam!” And everyone thinks Joe is the stubborn one…

He wasn’t going that fast, not really, and that is perhaps why it seemed so easy for Joe to grab onto his reins and pull him to a stop. Again.

If he could just see Joe coming, he could dodge out of the way…

Since when do you act like such a child?

Sucking a calming breath through his nose, Adam glanced in Joe’s general direction. “All right, Joe. I’ve stopped. What is it?”

“Duck.”

If Adam had been able to see even the slightest blur of an object, he supposed he would’ve seen another low-hanging branch trying to make a bullseye out of his forehead.

“Come on, Adam,” Joe said, his voice taking on a softer, gentler tone—a far cry from his earlier irritation. “Just ‘cause you’re the oldest doesn’t mean you can’t let other people help you once in a while.”

A heavy, resigned sigh rattled his bones.

“You know,” he began, careful to hide the smirk that threatened his lips, “you growing up is getting to be pretty annoying. You’re becoming too wise for your own good.”

Joe’s laugh echoed through the trees. “I’ll be sure to remember you said that, older brother!”

“Of that, I have no doubt.”

With quiet reluctance, Adam surrendered.

Joe leading Sport by the reins seemed a little overkill, but Adam couldn’t deny that he appreciated his brother’s helpful warnings and the way he guided their horses out of the path of any more branches.

“I’ll get you home, Adam, don’t you worry.”

Right. Fine, that’s just fine.

His fingers itched to be in control, so he wrapped them around the edge of his saddle and squeezed. Let it be. It’s fine.

Joe’s got it.

It’s fine.

That need to lead never wavered, yet Adam did his best to ignore it because, loath as he was to admit it, Joe had a point.

A little help never hurt anybody.

And though he didn’t have to like it, with a calming sigh, he allowed himself to accept it.

Accept the fact that he, too, needed help sometimes.

You can’t do everything yourself, son.

Hadn’t Pa said that some time ago? To a young boy aching to prove himself.

Right. He should’ve remembered; should’ve known.

Pa seemed to be right more often than not.

Hours later, when his brain finally collected itself again and the world slowly came back into focus, the first thing Adam saw was his baby brother’s grin.

“Told ya I’d get you home.”

The next thing he saw was the dusty road stretching up to the barn.

“Never doubted you for a second,” Adam replied with a wink, still savoring the color and light flooding his vision.

Joe rolled his eyes, a yeah, right if Adam ever saw one. “Next time you decide to go blind, let me know ahead of time? Maybe then you won’t have such an ugly red bump on your forehead.”

The laughter was contagious and Adam gave Joe’s shoulder a good pat.

“I’ll be sure to keep you informed. Now, since I’m still recovering,” Adam continued, snatching up Sport’s reins again, “why don’t you go on ahead and tell Pa about the money while I take care of the horses.”

“Oh, no. Don’t pin that on me! You’re the oldest, you get to tell him, and—hey! Adam! Get back here! I thought you were recovering!”

Hooves pounded behind him once more, but this time, Adam was certain he could outrun them.

“Sorry, Joe!” he called back with a laugh, pushing Sport down the road. “Sometimes, you just gotta think fast!”

“Hey! I bet you faked the whole thing so I would take pity on you! Adam? Adam, come on!”

As Joe’s half-hearted protests faded off into the distance, Adam felt his face smile.

The world was truly beautiful.

And the fact that he had a family he could rely on only added to its heavenly glow.

 

The End

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Author: HarpistforHim

I am a woman with a strong love for the Lord, a passion for music and writing, and an avid reader. I’m an Adam fan through and through, and Bonanza fanfiction is just one of the many ways I fuel my passion for history. 😊 Many heartfelt thanks to you for taking the time to read my stories! ~ Olivia 🌺

9 thoughts on “Control (by HarpistforHim)

  1. Sweet! I love writing Adam/Joe together as much as you do as they’re such a great combination and play off each other so well. Thanks for writing.

  2. Beautifully written, Olivia. I’d love to see you tackle something longer. We never got to see enough of Adam and Joe together in the series, thanks for adding this to our love of them together.

  3. Malgré les blessures, les chamailleries des frères sont d’une fraicheur que seul les Cartwright sont capables. Un bel épisode, écrit, mais que je visualise bien. Une suite ? Que vas dire le patriarche ???

  4. A great brother story. Adam and Joe are equally stubborn and independent, but they make a great team when push comes to shove (verbal or otherwise). Loved the last line.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad you loved it! They truly are, which is why they butt heads as much as they do. 😉

  5. This was wonderful! Loved the banter and interaction between brothers. I could very well see this scene happening sometime.

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