It’s 11.30pm on Christmas Eve when Lisbon gets the call.
“Lousy time for a homicide,” Rigsby gripes as they arrive at the scene. The flashing lights from the police car next to the house cast their faces in alternating patterns of blue and red.
“Is there ever a good time for a homicide?” Cho asks with his characteristic dead-pan humour.
Lisbon makes a motion to Grace. She’s obviously come straight from a Christmas party, because from her ears hang over-sized earrings, fuzzy Christmas trees decorated with garish flashing green, red and yellow lights. “You might want to take those off,” she says.
Grace reaches a hand to one ear and blushes, quickly removing the earrings and pocketing them.
“I thought they looked cute,” Rigsby mutters mutinously, to no-one in particular.
Lisbon isn’t sure what she’s expecting, when Jane suddenly stands stock still. He’s just finished inspecting the house (clear signs of forced entry) and the woman’s body (young woman in her late 20s, most recently worked as a waitress) when he sees something and suddenly she’s following him as he hurries up the stairs to the bedroom.
There is a young police officer standing there. He looks relieved to see them.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he says. Lisbon’s just about to ask why, when the sound of a baby’s wail pierces the air, and she notices what he’s holding in his arms.
“I don’t know what you do with a baby,” she says. She sees Jane’s lips quirk into a grin. Knowing him, he’s no doubt amused by the fact she can face down violent criminals without flinching, yet no idea how to handle a very small human being.
The police officer looks similarly unsure.
“I’ll take her,” Jane says, suddenly, moving towards the young police officer, who gratefully relinquishes his hold on the squirming infant.
“Hey, there, little lady,” Jane croons. “Let’s get you out of here.”
“Love them,” he says, as they’re driving home. It’s a seeming non-sequitor but after years of knowing Jane she’s come to realise it’s just him picking up a thread of a conversation she didn’t realise they were having.
Still, she’s confused. “Love who?” Lisbon asks. She’s in the driver’s seat and she takes her eyes off the road for a moment to look across at him in the passenger seat, where’s he’s cradling the baby.
He places a gentle kiss upon the top of the baby’s head. “You said you didn’t know what you do with a baby. Well. That’s what you do.”
It's surprisingly sweet, watching Jane interact with the baby. Almost against her will, Lisbon is utterly charmed. Jane seems to be enjoying it too. She’s seen him before with small children, and he always relates well to them, but babies are a different matter, but one he manages to handle with seeming ease and his usual good-natured aplomb.
Jane has disappeared to an unknown location, leaving Grace to mind the baby. Grace has played several games of peek-a-boo.
Grace is humming a lullaby and rocking the baby from side to side. "Hush," she says. The baby won't stop crying.
Rigby's watching Grace, a wistful expression on his face. It is a lovely picture she's presenting - her curtain of red hair falling across her shoulder, cradling the baby in her arms. It's a lovely picture, but the sound effects leave a lot to be desired.
Cho walks through the door and sits at his desk. He looks up after a moment.
"Baby's crying," he observes.
Grace glares at him over the top of the baby's head.
"You're a baby expert, are you?" says Rigsby, always quick to leap to Grace's defence.
"How hard could it be?" asks Cho.
Grace laughs. She’s starting to sound a little hysterical herself. The baby continues to wail. "Why don't you see for yourself," she says. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
“I’m a trained negotiator,” Cho reminds her.
“Don’t think it’s quite the same thing,” Rigsby observes.
“I’m sure the basic principles still apply,” Cho says.
Cho walks over to inspect. He stands next to the baby. She's flailing and waving her arms.
He stares her down impassively. She continues crying but her volume decreases.
“What are your demands?” he asks her – asks – doesn’t coo or descend into the baby talk that Grace and Rigsby have become fluent in over the past few hours. Cho speaks as flatly as he would in an interrogation.
The baby blinks up at him in confusion, and hiccups uncertainly.
"Go to sleep," he orders - and, to Grace's disbelief, the baby does.
When Jane reappears he’s clutching a small bag of baby toys and a little pink dress, which he lays on the desk. Lisbon notes that the gesture is lacking his usual dramatic flourish.
“Where did you find these?” Rigsby asks. “There aren’t many toy stores that are open on Christmas Day.
“I have my ways,” Jane says smoothly, but there’s an unfamiliar strain in his voice, and his shoulders are hunched ever so slightly.
Lisbon shoots an annoyed glare at Rigsby. She expects a trained cop to have a modicum of deductive reasoning at least, and it’s clear that these toys aren’t brand new from a store.
On the top of a pile she glimpses a pink rabbit. One of its eyes is missing.
Jane is sitting on his couch, cradling the baby, when Lisbon walks in.
"We've been able to contact the father," Lisbon says.
Jane looks up. "That's good."
"He's out of the state at the moment," says Lisbon. "So he has a clear alibi. He's catching the first plane back in, but child services are on their way to pick her up in the meantime."
She pauses, and takes a closer look at Jane. "Are you okay?"
"I'm jealous of a man whose wife just got murdered, because at least he still has his daughter," he says. "What about that is okay?"
"It's not okay," she says. "But it's understandable," she says.
She gets up, and pauses in the doorway. "Her name's Hope," she says.
"Hope," Jane repeats, a smile playing along his lips. "That's a good name for a little girl."
“Jane,” Lisbon says, standing in the doorway. “They’re here.”
She doesn’t need to say who. Of course he knows who she means.
A child protective services worker is standing in the doorway, waiting for them.
“Wait,” says Jane, scooping something up from the desk. “She seems to like this one.”
The female case worker smiles at him. “That’s great. It’s nice for her to have something familiar.”
Lisbon looks at the pink rabbit he's holding out. She reaches out a hand and touches the worn fur. It's very soft. “This looks very well-loved.”
Jane nods. “It was.”