Synopsis: A suspected case of child abuse becomes embroiled in political intrigue and Jesse's career winds up at stake.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of DM, I do own the ones that I created.

Author's note: I meant to post this a long time before now, but work has been massively hectic of late. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who read and reviewed "Need to Know". It is so nice to know there is still love for this wonderful fandom.

P.S. This was started a long time ago – and the formatting is a mess. I'll update as and when I have the time to fix it.

Thank you, Helen.

PROTECTING INNOCENCE

By

Helen Louise

"Okay, what have we got?" Jesse Travis ran towards the gurney that was being wheeled through the doors of the ER, snapping on a pair of sterile gloves as he did so.

"Infant, approximately seven months old." The EMT's tone was clipped and professional, but her distress at the age of the casualty was evident in her eyes. "Acute cerebral trauma and cranial swelling; broken ribs and respiratory distress. He's been unconscious and unresponsive since we found him and CPR was administered at the scene."

"Okay, Trauma One." Jesse forced his own personal feelings aside as he put his stethoscope to the tiny chest. He glanced up at the nearest nurse. "Page Doctor O'Reilly and have her report down here – stat." As she hurried away, he began barking out his orders. "Get him started on oxygen. I want a baseline CBC and basic metabolic panel. I need a CT and MRI. There's definitely increased intracranial pressure. Somebody alert the OR in case we need to relieve that pressure." Prising open one delicate eyelid, he shone his penlight into the child's eye. "Can someone try and get hold of Doctor Leung?" He repeated the procedure with the other eye. "Dammit," he swore softly.

"Doctor?" It was the EMT – Sonia Antonio – who spoke. She had stayed in the Trauma Room long after she was needed.

"Retinal haemorrhaging," Jesse answered, tightly. "I want an ophthalmologist to take a look at him." He stepped back. The child was stable and, until he had the results of the scans, there was little more he could do. "Where did you find him?"

"At home," Sonia's gaze remained fixed on the child. "His father was with him… Oh God, Jesse… You didn't see his name."

"Huh?" The young doctor glanced at her in confusion. He'd looked at the chart but the name had barely registered.

"This little fella is Jordan Hunter," Sonia explained, taking a half-step closer. "And his father is Bailey Hunter."

"Bailey Hunter?" Jesse repeated, incredulously. "As in the same Bailey Hunter who's running for the Governor's Office?"

"The very same." Sonia's mouth thinned into a tight line. "The man whose campaign is based solely around crimes against children. The man who has pledged to get every paedophile and child abuser off the streets of LA."

"And the man who's kid has just been brought in suffering all the symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome," Jesse thought to himself, but knew better than to say those words aloud – at least until he had more than theory and conjecture.

DMDMDM

"Doctor Travis? Doctor O'Reilly is prepping the OR," a nurse reported to him.

"Thanks," he answered, but his anger at the situation kept his tone sharp. "Where the hell's Phil Leung?"

"He's with a patient," the same nurse answered. "I left messages."

"Alright, get on to x-ray." Jesse instructed her. "I want them to get hold of their best radiologist – the most experienced they've got – and I want a C-spine and a full long bone skeletal survey. I need them to look for any indication of previous trauma."

"Doctor?"

A film was handed to him and he held it up against the light-box and then hissed out a sigh. There was definitely cranial bleeding.

"We don't have time to waste. Let's get him upstairs."

A sudden commotion at the doors had all heads whipping around to stare in that direction.

"You can't go in there!"

"Like hell I can't." The man gave truth to his words by brushing past the nurse who'd tried to stop him. "Do you have any idea who that child is?"

"It doesn't matter who the child is." Jesse stepped forwards, capturing the man's full attention. "I'm more concerned about who you are."

"I am Maurice Silverman." The newcomer drew himself up to his full – and not inconsiderable – height. "Doctor Maurice Silverman and I am the personal physician to Bailey Hunter." He fixed Jesse with a condescending stare. "And his family."

"Doctor Silverman, I'm Doctor Travis." Jesse refused to be intimidated by the man's attitude. "I understand how concerned you must be, but…"

"The only thing you need to understand, Doctor." Silverman made the address sound like an insult. "Is that Jordan Hunter is my patient."

"Not in here he isn't." Jesse's temper began to rise – they were wasting precious time in arguing. "In here, he is a child who needs emergency medical care. His brain is bleeding. I have an OR prepped and ready and a neurosurgeon standing by." He smiled without humour. "I'm guessing that your role as 'family physician' doesn't extend to brain surgery."

Finally Silverman's eyes strayed away from Jesse's face and towards the tiny figure on the examination table.

"It's that bad?" he murmured.

"Yes, it is." Jesse took a calming breath – the man did seem genuinely upset and it might well have been shock that had caused his initial outburst. "And we really do need to operate as soon as possible."

Silverman nodded faintly and Jesse thought the entire incident would be forgotten. Then, as he directed the orderlies to wheel the bed out of the Trauma Room, the physician caught hold of his arm.

"Don't think you've won," he hissed. "I will be attending to Jordan's aftercare."

"I'm not trying to 'win' anything," the young doctor retorted, closing his eyes briefly. "I'm just trying to save a child's life."

"Are you going to be operating?" Silverman demanded, his belligerence returning with full force.

"No." Jesse didn't respond to the again angry tone. "I don't specialise in brain surgery."

"Then Bailey Hunter is anxious to speak to you."

"He's here?" Jesse didn't know why he was surprised. He was the child's father, after all. "You can tell him I'll be along very shortly."

DMDMDM

Bailey Hunter, up and coming politician and hot favourite to win the race for the Governor's Office, sat in a chair in Community General's waiting room with his elbows resting on his knees and looking like a broken man.

Another man sat next to him – his aide and spin doctor – Miles Finnegan. He was watching Hunter worriedly.

"So, have you thought about what you're going to say to the doctor yet?" he asked into the oppressive silence.

"What I'm going to say?" Hunter looked up at him with haunted eyes. "My boy stopped breathing. He almost died and he's not even a year old. Dammit, what the hell am I supposed to say?"

"There are going to be questions – difficult questions," Finnegan persisted. "When the media get hold of this…"

"Damn the media." It was the terrified father and not the ambitious politician who answered. "I don't care what they say. I just want to know that Jordan's going to be alright."

Finnegan nodded in apparent sympathy but before he could voice his next carefully formulated words, the door opened and Maurice Silverman walked in. Hunter was on his feet in an instant.

"Maurice?" He didn't need to say any more – his eyes asked the question for him.

"He's in the best of care, Bailey. I promise you." Silverman took hold of the supplicating hands that were held out to him. Now was not the time to mention his altercation with Jordan's attending physician – it would be of no help to anyone. "The doctor will be along to talk to you very shortly."

"Maurice, please," Bailey begged him. "What happened? What's wrong with my son?"

"You don't know what happened?" Silverman's hands fell back to his sides. "I thought you were with him."

"His nanny… She found him…" He shook his head at the horrific memory. "When I got there… Jordan was… He was struggling to breathe. I told her to call 911…"

"Did she say what had happened?" At the helpless look that Hunter aimed in his direction, he guided him back to his seat. "The doctor is going to want to know."

"I didn't… I didn't ask. I just wanted my boy to be alright." Hunter covered his face with his hands and began to cry softly.

It was an awkward moment and the other two men exchanged an uncomfortable glance over the bowed head. But before either of them could say anything, a soft knock at the door rescued them. A fraction of a second later it opened and another of the Hunter entourage entered.

Robert Stenson was Hunter's Press Secretary. He was young for the job but very good at it. His had been a strong voice in the, thus far, very successful campaign.

"Any news?" he asked, sinking into a vacant seat.

"We're waiting for the doctor." It was Finnegan who answered. The two of them worked closely together and had fast become friends.

"Has anyone managed to contact Mrs. Hunter?"

That got the distraught politician's attention and he raised his head. "I spoke to Celine…" His voice was hoarse from his tears. "She… she's on her way, but… God, what could I say to her?"

"I think I'll call her." Stenson's voice was, in contrast, firm and assured – it was a voice perfect for the press mikes. "She needs to come in the back way. The media are pretty much camped out the front."

"They're on to it already?" Finnegan put in, in disbelief.

"It was inevitable, I'm afraid." Stenson aimed his next words towards Silverman. "We're going to have to make some sort of a statement soon. Isn't there anything you can tell me?"

"Not until we have more details," Silverman replied. "I wouldn't want to speculate."

"But you must know something!" Hunter leapt to his feet, his frustration and fear getting the better of him. "You saw him, didn't you? God, what's taking so long? Where's the damned doctor?"

"I'll go and see what I can find out," the physician murmured in response.

DMDMDM

Jesse approached the waiting room and reached out for the door handle – just as that door was suddenly opened from the inside. Taking a startled step back, he found himself face to face with Maurice Silverman.

To his surprise, the physician didn't immediately get out of his way, but instead pulled the door closed behind him.

"How is Jordan?" Silverman didn't extend any pleasantries, but got straight down to business.

"I think I should speak to the father, first," Jesse replied calmly, successfully hiding his dislike of the man.

"I think it would be better coming from me," Silverman persisted, using his body to block the doorway. "I'm more than his physician. I'm his friend."

"And I'm his son's attending." Jesse refused to back down. "That makes it my responsibility. I can't speak to anyone about his child's welfare until I've spoken to him." He looked up at the other doctor earnestly. "Please."

Silverman sighed heavily and Jesse briefly wondered if he would be forced to call security in order to gain access to the waiting room. Then with great and obvious reluctance, the other man stepped to one side.

"He's very upset," he warned Jesse, in a low voice.

"I appreciate that." Jesse ignored the feeling that he was being patronised. He was a good doctor and he knew it – but he had a feeling that Silverman's attitude towards him had a lot to do with his relative youth. "I have done this sort of thing before."

DMDMDM

Silverman shadowed Jesse as he walked into the waiting room, but the young doctor easily ignored him. His eyes sought out Bailey Hunter – and found him immediately. He didn't even spare a glance to the other two men – both of whom, like Hunter, had got to their feet on his entrance.

"Mr Hunter, I'm Doctor Travis." He extended his hand and it was taken in a brief, but firm, handshake.

"Doctor… my son…" The words were strangled and hope warred against fear on his features.

"Mr Hunter, Jordan was very poorly when he arrived here." Jesse guided the stricken father back towards his chair and then sat down next to him. "There was some very bad swelling inside his skull and a CT scan confirmed that it was caused by intracranial bleeding."

"Dear God…"

"We've had to operate, to drain the blood and take away some of the pressure from his brain." It looked as though Hunter was about to throw up – or pass out, so Jesse hurried to offer what reassurances he could. "It's a very straightforward procedure and our best neurosurgeon is performing the operation."

"So he… he's going to be alright?"

"There are still some further tests that we need to run." Responding to the desperate hope in his voice, Jesse's tone was cautionary. "Jordan had also sustained four broken ribs. It doesn't appear as though they've done any serious internal damage, but that will need to be monitored. I'm also awaiting his x-rays. I want to be sure that there was no damage to his spine."

"My boy…" Hunter closed his eyes and ran a shaking hand over them. "My poor boy…" After taking a moment to compose himself, he opened his tear-filled eyes. "But he's… he will recover, won't he?"

"Mr Hunter, there is the danger that there could be some complications." Jesse hated the devastation that crossed the man's features as he absorbed those words, but he'd had no choice but to say them.

"What..?" The word emerged as a strangled whisper.

"There was some evidence of retinal haemorrhaging." At the blank look that he received, he elucidated: "Bleeding around his eyes. An ophthalmologist will look at him tomorrow and we'll have a more accurate diagnosis then. But that can lead to problems later in life – as can the bleeding to his brain."

"My God…" Hunter looked at him helplessly. "Can I… Can I see him?"

"He's still in surgery at the moment," Jesse answered, regretfully. "From there he'll be taken to recovery and then he'll spend tonight in the ICU – as a precaution. That's where you'll be able to visit him."

"I… I understand…" But his broken voice suggested that he did anything but.

"Mr Hunter, if you feel up to it, there are some questions that I have to ask you." Jesse kept his tone gentle, not relishing the task that lay ahead.

"Oh…" Hunter looked at him in confusion. "Um, yeah… Yeah, sure…"

"Mr Hunter, has Jordan ever been in hospital before? Has anything like this ever happened before?"

"No… no, never…" The distraught man was still in shock and his voice trembled as he spoke. "He, um… He's always been so healthy…"

"Can you tell me what happened to him?"

"No," Hunter whispered in response, even as fresh tears filled his eyes. "He was just lying there… He looked like a little doll…"

"Nothing happened?" Jesse persisted, not deliberately seeking to inflict further pain on the man, but needing some answers. "He wasn't crying or sick or anything?"

"Can't this wait?" Silverman strode authoritatively forwards. "Now is hardly the time…"

"No, it's alright, Maurice." Hunter held up an appeasing hand – which Jesse was immensely grateful for. He would have had a much harder time persuading the physician to let him continue. "I'd rather just get this over with."

"If you're sure, Bailey." Silverman backed away at his employer's tired nod.

"Doctor Travis, I've no idea what's wrong with my son. That's why we're here, isn't it?" There was no sarcasm in Hunter's voice, only desperation. "Can't you tell me what's wrong with him?"

"I'm sorry, I was just trying to get some history." Jesse glanced down at his hands, taking a moment to prepare himself for what he had to say. "Was there anybody else with your son when you found him?"

"Yes, his nanny." The confusion still hadn't faded from his eyes. "Sarah – why?"

Jesse sighed heavily and took the plunge: "Mr Hunter, Jordan's symptoms indicate that he was…"

"Bailey!" The door suddenly flew open and an elegantly dressed woman – her hair a mess and make-up streaked – charged into the room. "Bailey, my God what happened? Where's Jordan?"

Hunter got swiftly to his feet and enveloped the woman in a strong embrace as she clung desperately to him.

"Celine," he murmured. "Celine, I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened. He was fine…"

"Where is he?" Celine sobbed. "Where's my baby?"

"This is Doctor Travis." Hunter half turned towards where Jesse waited. "He was just explaining…"

The rest of his words were lost as his wife immediately turned her full attention to the young doctor.

"I need to see my baby." She was on the verge of collapse and only Hunter's strong hands on her shoulders kept her upright. "Please," she begged. "Please, let me see my baby."

Jesse was spared the unpleasant task of having to deny that desperate plea by the most unlikely rescuer: Maurice Silverman.

"It's alright, Celine," he said, smoothly stepping in front of Jesse and taking hold of her hands. "Jordan is being looked after, so you can't see him right now. The doctor will let you know just as soon as you can, okay?" He was talking to her as though she was a small child, but it was easy to see that there was nothing patronising about it. It was the only way that he could get through to her. And she obviously trusted Silverman, because she visibly relaxed at the sound of his voice.

"O… okay…" she stammered.

"Everything's going to be fine, Celine." Silverman eased her back into her husband's arms and, with a reassuring hand on the small of Hunter's back, guided them both towards the door. "You've both had a terrible shock – let's go and find someplace more comfortable to wait. Celine, I'm going to give you a little something to make you feel better. You too, Bailey." He glanced back towards Jesse, suddenly seeming to remember that he was still in the room. "I'm sure your questions can wait."

"Of course they can." Mrs Hunter's distress was still keen and he couldn't have voiced his suspicions in front of her. They would only make things a thousand times worse. "I'll let you know as soon as Jordan is settled."

Silverman didn't as much as nod in response, but Jesse easily ignored the snub. The man might not have had any respect – or even professional courtesy – for him, but he had just demonstrated that he genuinely did care about his patients.

TBC