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Of course Ezekiel remembers everything. Sure, immediately after he remembers nothing of his real life, but neither do the others so that doesn’t count. And really, his imaginary ‘ideal life’ should have given the game away if nothing else because… An FBI agent? Really? Ezekiel Jones, looking flash and… catching the bad guys? Please. If anyone had asked him about his ideal life before the DARPA clusterfuck, Ezekiel would have described his own life at the height of his glorious career as the international man of mystery, thievery and tech wizardy and he would have meant. every. word.

But no one questions it, which okay, may be because they are busy saving the world as usual, but still. Small mercies, Ezekiel guesses. There’s a part of him that truly despairs at the ‘unsaved game’ explanation – seriously, has no one heard of auto recovery? What century do his fellow Librarians live on? – but mostly he’s just bloody relieved to have a reason to pretend like nothing’s changed. After all, there’s only so many times a man can have a heart-to-heart about watching his friends die, and frankly, Ezekiel reached that point after the first ride on that particular merry-go-round.

Too bad Baird and the others are more perceptive than is good for them. In some ways, Ezekiel thinks, harder than seeing their broken and bleeding bodies fall time and again, had been seeing the goddamn pity in their eyes when they realised what was going on. Harder still had been seeing that pity followed by genuine respect.

Ezekiel finds pity useless, but respect… Respect fills him with the kind of cold thread that not even the prospect of losing the game, losing his friends, had. Respect comes with expectations, and Ezekiel has made it a point of pride to ensure that no one has any expectations of him, ever, except maybe of being the most awesome person in the room, the building, the country – and then out of the country before the dust settles.

So it had been easier to let everyone believe that he remembered nothing of the endless game of death and failing and failing and failing, of watching Cassandra torn apart, the blackened husk of Stone’s body disintegrate, the way blood spurted from the gaping hole of Baird’s throat, like a river down her front and… So yes, it had been easier. A coward’s way out, the others would say, and Ezekiel agrees.

Then again, after taking the other route as many times as he has, he rather thinks he’s allowed.