Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds and intend no copyright infringement.

The result came a little later than one hour. The lab rechecked it several times, but no matter how meticulously they tried, it didn't change. The samples didn't match. Alice wasn't Rossi's daughter. They had to let her go. Hotch wondered if he should get a warrant that would force Alice's parents to prove she really was their daughter, but in the end he decided against it. He had no solid evidence whatsoever that would persuade a judge. A decision had been made. Aaron had tried to fight it with all his heart and soul, but it had been made nevertheless. He should have seen it coming – why had he asked Reid, of all people?

Tired and worn down by the fruitlessness of all their efforts, the team packed up. Rossi left the building, telling the others he needed fresh air. Nobody questioned that after the emotional rollercoaster ride of the last few weeks. They all admired his self-composure, considering that he still didn't know where his child was and that all his chances to find her had vanished into thin air. A few minutes later Reid showed up to load his bag into the SUV. The senior agent assisted him.

"Why did you exchange the samples?", he asked.

"Institutionalizing my mother was the hardest thing I've ever done and it still haunts me in my dreams. It has shaped my personality and it hurts me every time I think of it. By making that decision I created my own personal hell. I don't agree with Hotch. I don't think you can ever truly come to terms with that. Faced with the decision between your and your daughter's happiness I figured you would choose your daughter's. Besides that, Alice is not out of your life, is she? She knows, doesn't she…?"

Rossi nodded. "I'm pretty sure she has an idea of what you did even though she won't know why. I'll explain it to her – I think Garcia will figure out some safe way of communication for us." Gratefully, he patted the young doctor's back.

A day later, David Rossi received an e-mail through a very special delivery service, set up by one of the world's best computer specialists. It contained only one sentence, but it was enough to give his life a whole new meaning: "I love you, too, Dad."

author's note: Merry Christmas everyone!