On nights with nothing but coffee to combat his exhaustion and ramen to fill his stomach, Yugi would reach down to caress the Millennium Puzzle. Finding nothing but air, he would belatedly remember that it was no longer with him- just like Atem. When he prowled the deserted stacks at Regenstein for his next lead, he allowed the quiet whispers of "Aibou" to guide him. After coming so far, Yugi refused to believe that he wouldn't find some mention of Atem in some long-forgotten book sitting in the stacks or the backroom of the Oriental Institute Museum. But the last year and a half of searching only turned up half-baked conclusions and vague mentions in less than credible sources. His committee members grew increasingly impatient with his research and the lack of results.
He didn't need the other Ph.D. students in the department to point out he was drowning. He didn't need his professors to point out he was just repeatedly throwing himself against a brick wall. Yet with each passing day, the emptiness of Atem's absence dulled.
He didn't want the memory of the Pharaoh Atem to crumble away with his tomb and the ruins of Kul Elna.
He didn't want to forget.
Two months before the end of the semester, Rebecca drove down from Ann Arbor. She kept him company all afternoon as he dug through another pile of dead-ends. Perched on the edge of the table with her netbook balanced on her lap, she watched him with the same pity that some of the junior faculty members did. "Yugi, it's time to reconsider your topic. Your statement of research should serve as your roadmap."
But for Yugi, there could be no other topic but Atem. Because it frightened Yugi when he had to think for longer than a few seconds about what Atem would have said or done. It frightened him even more when he didn't feel immediately guilty over the delay. So he clung desperately to the idea of finding Atem in the records.
For the first time in five years, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Why did he suddenly feel he was trying to find Atem in all the wrong places?
Three weeks before he was due to turn in the second-year paper he had yet to write, Anzu turned up at the door of his studio apartment in Hyde Park. By her side was the same pink rolling suitcase she had taken on their trip to Egypt six years ago. Her make-up was smudged and her clothes slightly disheveled after her red-eye flight from San Francisco. But to Yugi, Anzu was the most beautiful sight he had seen in a long while. She simply hugged him for minutes before speaking, "Atem has us to remember him and that's enough. Come home, Yugi?"
Yugi closed his eyes, reveling in her warmth and scent. The truth of her words slowly sank in, filling his head with entire and complete images of the Pharaoh that Yugi had been struggling to recall in the months past. No book could properly convey the quiet dignity of Atem's posture. No funerary poem could adequately capture the fierce loyalty and love Atem held for them. Nothing would ring as true as the image of Atem walking into the light with his thumb up in the air forever burned into Yugi's mind.
He felt the gaps in his heart and soul begin to close- one stitch at a time.