SEVEN

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Liz takes a deep breath and squeezes Maria's hand. Maria meets her worried eyes with a mirrored expression.

"You sure?" Max asks and Liz looks back at him.

"Yes," she says.

She feels Maria's hold on her hand tightening and she asks her lifelong friend, "Are you sure about this, Maria?"

"If this is what needs to be done to put a stop to the insanity..." Maria says.

Maria's afraid. Afraid of what Max is able to do and what will happen if he actually can do it. Mostly she's afraid for Liz. What if Max can't do what he says and Liz will go crazy as a result of the failure? But most importantly, what if Max can do what he claims and Liz goes insane because she can't handle all the memories that were horrible enough to make Liz go to such lengths for forget them?

"Okay," Max says and scoots closer to Liz on the couch. "I need to touch you."

Liz mutely nods her permission and he gently moves to cradle her face between his hands. He then starts the process of removing each and every block in her mind, reviving her forgotten memories.

The seven minutes that follow are the most horrible in Maria's life. While Max holds Liz locked in his grip with his eyes and shuffles through her brain, unlocking memories as he goes, Liz cries, screams and shakes.

Maria is close to ripping Liz out of Max's hands on several occasions, but something stops her every time. When the minutes have passed, Maria is so shocked by the whole experience that she doesn't even feel the slightest relieved as Max lets go off Liz. She won't feel relief until Liz looks into her eyes and assures her that everything is alright. But seeing Liz slump over in the couch, she knows that won't happen.

"What's wrong?" she cries fearfully.

Max, sweat droplets glittering on his forehead, bends over Liz. His heart is pounding loudly in his ears as he brushes her hair away.

"Liz?"

"Oh my God," Liz whispers.

Maria tries to get Liz to look at her. "Lizzie?"

Liz pulls away from Max and Maria, retreating as far into the corner of the couch as she can. "Stay away!"

"Is your head hurting? Are you feeling dizzy?" Max asks, feeling dizzy himself. The exertion from removing the blocks in Liz's mind combined with the adrenaline and fear rushing through his system at the moment is almost overpowering him.

"I... Alex... You..." Liz stammers.

"Are you okay? Liz?" Maria tries, reaching out to touch her.

Liz recoils and moves out of her way by rolling off the couch. She scrambles off the floor and shakily stands.

Maria starts crying as Liz's tear-stained face and red eyes look straight at her.

"It hurts," she sobs. "It hurts so much."

"What hurts, Lizzie?" Maria asks softly, swallowing the salty tears as they accumulate in the corners of her mouth.

"Everything," Liz sobs. "Everything hurts."

Maria looks at her confused, but Max knows exactly what his former girlfriend is talking about. She's remembering everything that happened. The shooting, Michael almost dying, Max being captured by FBI, Tess, Future Max, Max breaking up with her, her breaking up with Max, being kept hostage by Brody, Alex's death, Max not trusting her, enemies, lying to her parents, Kyle being shot, risking her life. Everything.

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