A/N Special thanks to my niece Lauren, who chose Aberdeen as her first real word, she's 20 now and we still don't know what it meant!

The day started like any other, he was awake before the sun. This was a time Buck enjoyed having all to himself, he could lie in his bunk and listen to the other riders as they slept or sometimes he'd quietly dress and go out to watch the sun rise. His favorite days were when there was a light rain and he could lay with his eyes closed and listen to the gentle patter of rain on the roof. Today was just ordinary, Cody was mumbling something in his sleep, Jimmy and Kid were breathing loudly, both denied snoring, and Lou was curled around a pillow and smiling; Buck wondered what she was dreaming about, probably her wedding to Kid. Noah was still out on a run and not expected back until the day after tomorrow.

Buck quietly got up and dressed. He missed Sweetwater or at least the isolation of the station's location. Back in Sweetwater he'd been able to go out behind the barn and welcome the rising sun properly, naked. You just couldn't do that in town unless he got up very early and rode well out of the way of prying eyes, and then he'd either miss the sun rise or breakfast. Town life did have some perks; he enjoyed watching the people, especially the girls.

Rachel made her usual eggs and bacon for breakfast and they all enjoyed the meal together. There were chores to be done, animals that needed tending to and general mundane tasks to be done during the day. Only Buck and Jimmy were home for lunch and they enjoyed sandwiches and lemonade at the house with Rachel. They were sitting on the porch relaxing when they heard a disturbance down the street.

The stage had come in yesterday and a woman with a toddler had gotten out and checked into the hotel. Buck had noticed her only because the small child had dropped her rag doll and started to cry. Buck had handed the doll back to the mother and offered to carry her bags to the hotel; an offer she gratefully accepted. Buck had noticed a fading bruise on her left cheek near her eye and a sadness in her smile. He didn't want to be impolite so he bit back his question, she'd traveled alone. He wondered if she was running away from something or someone, the child looked fine, a bit shy, but that was normal. Now same this woman had just come out of Tompkins store almost being dragged by a man who was shouting at her very loudly. The riders couldn't hear the words but the intent was clear. Teaspoon and Barnett raced out of the Marshal's office and across the street to quiet the situation. Buck and Jimmy ran down to join them.

Teaspoon quickly assessed the situation, the woman was of average height and build with light brown hair pulled back in a loose bun. The small child was mostly hidden; all he could see was a head of soft golden curls. The man was large over six feet tall and well built; his skin was deeply tanned. This man spent a lot of time out doors and appeared to be strong. His large hand closed all the way around the woman's upper arm, she was obviously in pain.

When Buck and Jimmy arrived, along with half the town from the size of the crowd, they heard Teaspoon bellow at the man to take his hands off the woman.

"She's my wife and that's my daughter!" the man bellowed back. The child was screaming and clinging to her mother. The young mother held the child in her arms trying to shield the youngster from the raging man.

"I understand that sir but you're hurting her and we just don't allow that sort of thing in this town." Teaspoon said doing his best to get between the couple.

The woman moved as far away from her husband as possible while still standing in front of the store. Teaspoon and the man shouted a few more times and finally things began to quiet down.

"Go have your argument someplace else. Teaspoon, I want this man arrested for disrupting my business!" Tompkins demanded in his usual surly manner.

"Good idea Mr. Tompkins, lets go get this all straightened out over in my office. Right this way Ma'am. Barnett would you escort Mr…. I'm sorry I didn't get your name." Teaspoon began to lead the group across the street when it became obvious the man was not about to give anyone his name. Tompkins grumbled something under his breath as he retreated back into his store.

"Get your hands off me." The man growled at Barnett but he went along without a fight. "This is 'tween me and my wife, what am I being arrested for?"

"Mister, just come with us, you're not under arrest, yet." Teaspoon directed over his shoulder as he walked the shaking woman and crying child toward the office. He offered to carry the toddler but the mother wasn't about to let someone else near the little girl. The child was small probably under two and not old enough to talk but Teaspoon could have sworn he heard the child crying "Aberdeen" as she reached back over her mother's shoulder toward the general store.

Teaspoon spotted the two riders. "Boys, why don't you join us." It wasn't a question and Buck and Jimmy began walking toward the office. "Nothing to see here, go about your business!" Teaspoon called several times to the crowd of onlookers before he reached the office and disappeared inside.

When they were all inside Teaspoon asked Jimmy to pull the shades down over the windows to keep the curious at bay. "Alright, one at a time, what is the problem here? Please, have a seat Mrs… I'm sorry; would you please tell me your name?" He pulled out a chair on the opposite side of the desk from where the man stood between Jimmy and Barnett. Buck was standing just to the left of the woman.

In a quiet voice she began to speak, her head was bowed as if she were afraid of them. "Thank you, I'm Mrs. Turner, Maureen Turner, that's my ex-husband Jacob and this is our daughter Elizabeth. I divorced him because…..he beats me." She paused when she heard Buck gasp. "I…."

"That's a lie! She ran….." Jacob Turner had lunged toward his wife but was silenced and stopped abruptly by the Colt Jimmy pointed at his chest.

"Thank you Jimmy" Teaspoon smiled as Jimmy nodded. "You'll get your turn Mr. Turner, now you were saying Mrs. Turner….." Teaspoon continued in his most soothing voice as if nothing had happened.

"You were the gentleman that helped me yesterday?" Maureen had turned to look at Buck once she was sure her former husband wasn't going to attack her. Buck nodded. "I know you saw this…" She turned her face slightly and the fading bruise was visible to everyone. "Thank you for respecting my privacy, I know you wanted to ask me what had happened. I won't be in town long, Elizabeth wasn't feeling well, the stage ride doesn't agree with her, and I'm trying to get to my sister's home in San Francisco. I wanted to make the trip easier on my daughter so I picked places to stop along the way. He's followed us all the way from Troy, New York. This…." She stopped and pointed to her face. "and this…" she rolled up her sleeve to reveal older bruises beside the fresh ones forming from today's encounter. Buck's eyes narrowed, Jimmy let out a low menacing growl, Barnett gasped and Teaspoon shook his head. "That's from when he found us in St. Joseph."

Buck had moved beside the mother and child and had placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She smiled up at him, tears brimming, as she tried hard not to cry. The child was still sniffling and clung tightly to her mother. Elizabeth wouldn't even look in the direction of her father as she cowered in her mother's lap.

Teaspoon glanced in Mr. Turner's direction but decided Jimmy had him under control. It amazed him how menacing a silent Jimmy could be. Turning his attention back to the distraught woman he took a deep breath. "I know this is going to be hard to answer but I need to know, has he ever hurt your daughter?"

The tears that were threatening finally began to fall. She clutched her daughter tighter to her and nodded. Buck knelt beside her as she turned to him and he put a protective arm around her. He patted her back as she tried to compose herself after sobbing for a long few minutes. "You're safe here, it's OK." He whispered, hoping it was true.

"Thank you, I'm so sorry, I'm just so tired of running and I don't know why but you all seem to care." Mrs. Turner dabbed at her eyes and nose with the handkerchief that Barnett offered her. "I was willing to stay and try to make my marriage work until Elizabeth started getting black and blue marks on her. I thought it was just the normal learning to walk bumps until one day there was a perfect handprint on her face where he'd slapped her. I took my daughter and left the next day." She looked defiantly at her ex-husband. "Even the judge said you had no more right to her. Leave us alone!" She stood. "May I leave? Elizabeth and I have had a very trying day."

"Did you hit your wife and daughter?" Teaspoon turned to Mr. Turner without answering Maureen.

"Kinda, I guess so…." Jacob Turner scuffed his feet on the floor but never took his eyes off Jimmy's gun.

"Buck, could you escort Miss Turner over to her hotel room and make sure they're all settled. I think I've heard all I need. Do you happen to have your divorce papers with you?" Teaspoon reached down and took Elizabeth into his arms so Maureen could stand. Elizabeth immediately tried to eat his badge. Teaspoon laughed.

"No, Sweetie, I'm sorry, I think she's getting more teeth. Yes, back at the hotel, I'll get them for you." Maureen apologized as she took her daughter from the Marshall and began looking around. "Uh oh, where's Aberdeen? Her doll?"

"I don't think she had it with her when you left the store, I'll check on our way to the hotel." Buck said as he opened the door and guided mother and child outside.

They hadn't gone more than a few feet when Tompkins called out to him, waving the doll. "Buck, I think this is the little girl's." Buck excused himself and ran across the street to the store to retrieve the doll. "Are they OK? That man was crazy……" Tompkins said as he handed the doll to Buck.

Buck looked at the older man a moment. "Thanks, yeah, I guess they are…. Did he wreck your store or something? I don't know if Teaspoon can charge him with anything…."

"The way he treated her should be a crime……get out of here now, they're waitin' on you." Tompkins grumbled as if he just realized he was having a civil conversation with an Indian.

Buck shook his head, smiled with one side of his mouth and, with the doll in his hand crossed the street to the Turners. Elizabeth held out her hands for the doll as soon as she saw it. "She really loves that doll." Buck said as he watched the little girl cradle the doll against her and smile. Her smile was infectious and both Buck and Maureen smiled at the tot.

"She's had it since she was born, I don't think she'd ever sleep if she didn't have the doll. I don't know what I'd do if it got lost." Maureen beamed at her daughter giving her a little kiss on her cheek.

Twenty minutes later Buck returned to the Marshal's office and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that Jacob Turner was still being questioned by Teaspoon; neither man looked happy. "Miss Turner asked me to give these to you to look over. Elizabeth is taking a nap so she'll come back for them later if someone doesn't bring them back sooner."

Teaspoon looked over the papers and then looked at Jacob Turner. "These all look like the real thing to me. Maureen Turner may still have your last name but you are not her husband any longer. It also says that the child is to stay with her mother and you are to have no contact with her unless everyone agrees to it." Teaspoon took off his glasses, placed the papers on his desk and looked the younger man in the eye. "I'm sorry to say that Miss Turner wrote a note saying that she doesn't want you arrested for assaulting her. Buck I saw you speaking to Tompkins, any damage to his store?" Buck shook his head. "Mr. Turner, I wish I could arrest you for something other than disturbing the peace but it seems that will have to do. Barnett, put him in the cell and don't let him out until he's calmed down. I think the day after tomorrow, after the stage leaves, should be about right."

"You can't hold me like that, you got nothin' and you know it." Turner spat as Barnett closed the cell door and Jimmy finally holstered his gun. "How 'bout you have your boys here run me out of town…." Teaspoon stood up and walked out of the office followed by Jimmy and Buck.

"He'll only follow that stage if we keep him until it leaves, Teaspoon." Jimmy sighed leaning against the wall.

"I know… I'll just keep him a few hours then let him go. Lets see if Rachel wouldn't mind a couple of extra people for dinner and while they're eatin' with us I'll have Barnett release him and make sure he leaves town." Teaspoon said shrugging his shoulders.

The evening was pleasant and Elizabeth entertained everyone with her little noises, cute looks and her ability to stick her toes in her ear. Barnett reported that Jacob Turner had left town without too much of a fuss and Buck once again escorted the young mother and her daughter to the hotel. To his surprise Maureen kissed his cheek as he left them at door to their room. He'd gone up to check and be sure that Jacob Turner hadn't returned. Buck had a bad feeling about the man but everything seemed to be in order. "Thank you Buck, for everything you and your friends have done for us. I wish I could stay but I really want to get to my sister's; the sooner I put this all behind me the happier I'll be."

"You're very welcome, I have a run tomorrow and I won't be back before you leave on the next stage so I hope you have a safe journey. Remember Rachel is expecting you for dinner tomorrow. Bye bye Elizabeth….." Buck waved to the little girl who melted his heart with her smile and wave. Aberdeen was firmly clutched in her small hand. Bye Maureen, best of luck." Buck smiled at the small family as he turned toward the stairs he just couldn't shake the feeling something wasn't right.

~*~*~

Screams and the sound of glass breaking shattered the silence of the night. More screams told them this wasn't a fight that had gotten out of hand at the saloon. The riders jumped from their bunks and hastily pulled on pants, boots and gun belts. Cody and Jimmy were the first out the door followed closely by the others. Jimmy saw who was screaming and fired a shot into the air to scare Jacob Turner.

Mr. Turner was dragging his stumbling ex-wife by the hair down the street toward a wagon. He was holding his screaming daughter by her upper arm and half carrying her half dragging the terrified child. "THIS IS MY FAMILY, STAY OUT OF IT!" he bellowed at the approaching riders. Suddenly realizing he wouldn't make it to the wagon he let go of Maureen Turner and held his daughter in front of him like a shield as he ran back toward the hotel. Jimmy didn't want to risk hitting the toddler.

Maureen fell into the street when he let go of her. She made a lunge for him but missed and fell with a cry that chilled the heart of every parent present. "My baby, don't hurt my baby." She sobbed as Jacob Turner slammed the hotel door closed and a crash was heard from inside the building lobby. The anguished mother's cry was the only other sound for a moment then all hell broke loose.

Buck and Lou ran to Maureen's side, her night dress was torn in places and her face was badly bruised. She'd been beaten and both Buck and Lou suspected much worse. Buck pulled off his shirt and gave it to the sobbing woman to cover herself with and she took it gratefully. They helped her stand as Teaspoon and Jimmy attempted to get into the hotel. The front door was locked and barricaded by an over turned book case. The lamps in the lobby were turned up just enough so that Teaspoon could see the desk clerk slumped over the desk with blood pooling on the floor in front of him. "Cody find out……" Teaspoon started to shout to his rider when someone from the crowd screamed.

"FIRE! The hotel's on fire!" People scattered, racing for buckets, shovels and blankets to battle the conflagration before it got out of hand.

"Up there in that window…." Someone pointed and shouted. The men on the porch stepped back so they could see what the people were pointing at.

Framed by the fire stood Jacob Turner, he shouted. "You can't take what's mine….In a few minutes she'll be dead and no one will have her." Elizabeth was crying in his arms. From the street Maureen Turner screamed in anguish as Lou, Buck and Rachel had to restrain her from running to the hotel. The mother fell to her knees as her child was carried back into the flames by her father. Buck looked at Rachel and saw she was crying, Lou wasn't far behind but both women had a firm grip on Maureen Turner.

Buck swore loudly. Jimmy was already trying to break the front door down without success, there were too many people pushing against it on the other side. The other hotel guests, trapped inside the burning building, were desperately trying to open the door from the other side as well. Finally, in frustration Jimmy, Kid and Cody all ran at the door together. The glass shattered and the door splintered its frame. The three riders were nearly trampled by the terrified guests. They had to get everyone out. Kid immediately started assisting the people out and away from the building. The desk clerk was already dead; he'd been stabbed in the neck with his own pen. Jimmy and Cody tried to go up stairs but the flames were already consuming the dry wood. They could barely hear each other over the roar of the flames and the cracks and pops of the wood as it burned.

"We can't get up that way, I'm gonna head around back, See if you can find a ladder or something." Jimmy yelled to Cody and Kid over the noise of the fire. Already thick black smoke was banking down the stairs from the fire above. People who were trapped were jumping from the second floor windows to escape the fast moving flames. Kid stopped to help and Cody ran to find a ladder.

People were running from the back of the building, choking and soot covered as Jimmy made his way down the small alley that separated the hotel from the building next door. He looked up and saw that the flames had already gone through the roof. He knew they'd be lucky if the whole town didn't burn.

While Jimmy was trying to get into the building and help people out, Buck had managed to climb on to the roof of the hotel porch; from there he broke a window and climbed into the hallway. The room on his left was totally engulfed in flames and some instinct made him grab the wooden part of the door and pull it closed. The heat was intense, the smoke was thick up near the ceiling and he dropped into a crouch to run along the hallway testing doors then pushing them open to check for any occupants. His skin felt like it was on fire, the rug in the hallway was starting to smoke. "This can't be good" he mumbled to himself. He was glad he'd remembered to dunk himself in the horse trough before entering the flaming building like Ulysses showed them the time they rescued Katy from the burning barn.

Just then he heard an almost inhuman scream. The sound sent chills down his spine and he prayed to any God that could hear him that he would never hear anything like it again; he prayed for it to stop. He knew that the creature that the sound was coming from was in excruciating pain. Buck felt pain just from the sound. He covered his ears but he couldn't make it stop. Something large fell behind him. He looked back at the door he'd just passed; it had been too warm to safely open and now lay on the hall floor along with half the ceiling. Something that had once been Jacob Turner fell through the door the man was still alive and still had Elizabeth; he was on fire and his skin fell from his back. Buck screamed at the sight and the horrid smell of burnt flesh. The burning man thrust the child in front of him. Buck grabbed the child from the screaming fireball and ran in the opposite direction. He didn't get far. He had to drop to this knees and crawl, the smoke was so thick he wasn't sure exactly where he was; he started feeling for doors. He could hear the sounds of the red beast all around him but to his surprise he couldn't see any flames just thick black acrid smoke. He kept his shoulder against the hallway wall and hoped it would lead him to a stairway. Elizabeth was crying and choking at the same; at least she was alive.

Buck fell into a room because the door had been open. His knees and the palm of his right hand were being burnt from the heat coming off the rug. There was smoke everywhere now except the floor of this room where it was only a thick haze. Everything in the room that he could see was smoking and the upper half of the room was obliterated by the smoke. He noticed it was the room that Maureen and Elizabeth were staying in. He pulled himself and Elizabeth into the room and turned to close the door when Elizabeth cried out "Aberdeen!"

Buck looked and through the smoke, he could barely make out the doll on the floor near the window. The smoke was pouring out of the open top half of the window giving him a tiny pocket of breathable air near the floor; he gulped it eagerly. Elizabeth wiggled out of his arm and headed for the doll, Buck scrambled after her. She picked the doll up and Buck grabbed her just as he heard a thunderous whooshing sound. Everything exploded into fire at once. Buck heard himself scream and turned his body to shield the toddler. The force of the blast blew Buck up off his feet and out the window. He was still clutching Elizabeth tightly as he felt himself flying through the air; a huge tongue of flames licked after them. Then there was nothing.

~*~*~

He woke up lying in the dirt at the side of the flaming building. There were people all around him; someone was touching him. He was going to throw up. The person helped him turn so he didn't choke and held him as thick black mucus was expelled from his body. The person was pressing a cup of water to his parched lips. He drank it and immediately threw it back up. "You're gonna be alright, Buck, it's the smoke, you'll be fine, get as much out of you as you can." He knew that voice but was too sick to place it; he drank more water and finally kept it down after several more gut wrenching tries. The voice kept soothing him telling him everything would be alright and rubbing his back as he retched. He felt safe, whoever this person was they would care for him. Someone poured water over him to cool his body and keep the person holding him from burning; the coolness felt good. The next thing he knew he was being lifted. His eyes were almost swollen shut, he felt like he had no control of his body. Strong arms lifted him and carried him away from the fire.

"Baby" Buck managed to croak.

"She's with her Momma back at Rachel's. You saved her Buck. I don't know how but you saved her." The gruff voice said as he was laid down on something soft.

Buck's last thought for the night was "I must be out of my mind…..that sounds like Tompkins."

Buck woke up two days later in the sick bed at Rachel's. His entire body hurt but he was alive. His throat was raw and parched; his lips cracked when he tried to move them. He could see a water cup beside the bed and tried to reach for it. He had no control of his hand and he hit the cup. It fell to the floor and shattered.

Rachel and Lou were by his side in an instant. "Hey look who's awake!" Rachel quipped cheerfully. She bent down and tenderly kissed his forehead.

Lou ran her hand over his head and as her fingers brushed his cheek she said "You had us worried, Cody was so worried about you he even did your chores without being asked or told!" She laughed. Buck loved the sound. He was alive.

"Water…." He managed to say and Lou disappeared only to return a moment later with a tin cup full of the sweet liquid. He was taking little sips but still almost choked when a tiny voice was heard.

"Aberdeen"

It was then that Buck realized he was holding something in his hand. It took almost all his strength but he could see a small slightly singed rag doll in his left hand and a little smiling face at the foot of the bed. "Aberdeen" he mouthed the word as his head fell back into the pillow.

"She put that in your hand when Tompkins put you in the bed. I know this will come as a shock to you, don't pass out on me! It was Bill Tompkins who carried you all the way down here. He saw you when you came out the window; he said it looked like there was an explosion or something cos of the way you flew out. You bounced off the other wall and dropped our little friend there. He caught her and handed her to Jimmy then he stayed with you. He's checked on you twice since then. You're a hero Buck." Lou smiled as she put the cup to his lips again.

Buck wondered if he was really dead and this was all a dream. Tompkins ?? "You sure?" Buck managed. Lou nodded and gave him more water.

You get some more rest. I need to make supper for the others, Kid should be back any time now and he'll be hungry. Maureen and Elizabeth will stay with you, is that alright? They wouldn't leave until they were sure you were going to be alright." Rachel kissed his head again and fussed with the bedding. Buck nodded he wanted to go to sleep, he was exhausted.

The next time he woke up the sun was shining brightly and the smell of bacon cooking made his stomach growl. He felt better, his whole body still hurt but it was somehow better. He stared to move and realized he wasn't alone in the bed. He looked to his left and curled into him was the small golden curled head of Elizabeth. His movement woke her and she smiled up at him with that lovely smile that made him feel good. "Aberdeen" she said as she sat up and yawned. The doll was lying between them.

"Aberdeen" Buck said with a smile

Finis

This story is based on actual events. The sudden explosion that sent Buck out the window is called a flashover, everything in the room reaches flash point at the same time and up it goes. It is a terrifying experience and can be deadly; I was blown out a window like Buck. Two Boston firefighters died recently in just such an explosion. The story is dedicated to them and to my friend Tommy who also gave his life in the line of duty. To the best of my knowledge Gregg Rainwater, who portrayed Buck, has never been involved in a flashover and I do not mean to imply that any of the actors have experienced any situations like this. The experiences are my own. That is what it's like to be in a building that is on fire and that's what firefighters face every time they answer the call. I hope no one that reads this will ever face a fire but if you do thank the firefighters afterwards, it means a lot to us. Jo FF/EMT-P Ret.

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