As it turned out, T. S. Eliot was right. It may have started with a Big Bang, but it did indeed end with a whimper.
Jacob drifted out of sleep, vaguely aware that he'd made the little noise that woke him. It was dark in the apartment, and quiet, and he should've gone right back to sleep, but something pulled him into alertness. He shifted on the rickety cot he'd bought at the Goodwill store after Adam lost his fellowship. At the time, the faculty had agreed it would be best if he take a break from the program for a while. It wasn't like they'd needed the big bed. Adam rarely slept anymore, and never with Jacob.
At first, he had to strain to hear it, a subtle, slightly dissonant chord in the melodies of structure playing across and through him. It gained strength, pulsing into something he could almost feel on his skin, then backed away, forcing him to chase the sensation, but always taking more ground than it gave. Jacob lay on his cot and listened. It was really rather beautiful.
He swung his legs out to the cold floor and sat up, the scratchy wool blanket pooling in his lap. Jacob ran his hand over the fabric. He wasn't surprised when a chunk of it disintegrated beneath his fingers, bits of fluff scattering like dandelion spores, swaying to the floor at his feet, hanging suspended in the air in front of him, even wafting up above Jacob's head to swirl lazily around the room. He cocked his head quizzically, wondering if there was time for a cigarette. Experimentally, he pulled in a deep breath of air. It felt strange in his lungs, as if the gas' volume was in flux inside him.
He'd best just find Adam while he could.
He stood up, feeling paradoxically steady, his bare feet padding across the floor. The soft noise of flesh meeting wood hit his ears far too long after his first step. He heard the sound of his second step before his foot even hit the floor. Idly, he wondered if the breakdown was in the sound wave itself, the medium through which it traveled, or his own auditory system.
Adam could probably tell him, but he wouldn't take the time to ask.
Time—or Jacob's perception of it, he couldn't be sure which—seemed to slip its constraints as the short distance between the cot and the fire escape stretched for miles and shrank to inches. The window was still there. It was open. He ducked through it without too much trouble.
The little camping lantern glowed, doggedly clinging to its function and casting out light at the proper wavelength. It illuminated the familiar figure. Jacob tried to remember how many times he'd found Adam curled up on the grating of the fire escape, scrawny shoulders hunched protectively over one of his many notebooks, unkempt pale hair falling in his eyes as he frantically scribbled equations like hieroglyphics with one hand while chewing the nails of the other down to bloody nubs. Sometimes he'd take a moment to talk, although he hadn't been doing much of that recently. It didn't matter to Jacob. Sometimes he would bring Adam food or blankets for him to use or ignore as he wished. Sometimes he'd just sit on the top step of the fire escape and watch him work, trying to feel the intangible thread that Adam labored so desperately to grab hold of and pull.
Tonight Adam wasn't hunched over his figures and equations, although Jacob saw a notebook laying at his feet, pages of writing that were unraveling the knot of the universe fluttering wildly in a nonexistent wind. Tonight, Adam stood with his back to Jacob, arms braced against the railing, staring up into the night sky. Jacob followed his gaze, and despite it all, found himself surprised.
The stars were burning out, winking out of existence in clusters or by themselves, blinking or fading or disappearing all at once.
He found himself reaching for Adam's hand, glad he could still feel the warmth of too-delicate skin through his own. Adam turned to look at him, brushing away wetness from his cheeks that Jacob hadn't been aware of, before turning his attention back to the sky.
"They're for you, you know," Adam whispered, the same way he used to whisper to Jacob, lying entwined with him in the dark. "Every jewel in the sky. I'm giving it to you."
Light was fading, laws breaking down, chaos spreading around them.
"You did it," Jacob said, not sure if the words made it out of his mouth or found their way to Adam's ears until he felt a brush of lips against his own. "It's over."
"The end. For you," Adam breathed, and the breach swallowed them whole.