Alex stands there, undeniably and utterly helpless as Armando first burns red hot, then begins to transform into something grey. He hopes it’s stone and not ash. Stone can be worked with, a puzzle that Hank and the Professor might possibly be able to solve. Alex hasn’t hoped in so long, he’s almost forgotten what it feels like; the tiny whisper of “but, maybe if” flits around inside him like Angel flying around the courtyard, teasing and fragile. His fists clench as he tries to push it all away. Angel has left them, gone with the man who’d done this to Armando.
His eyes prick and burn and though he’d never admit this to anyone, like, ever, it’s not entirely due to the heat coming off what used to be his friend. Armando had only just opened a door in Alex he hadn’t even known was there, and to have it kicked off its hinges and left hanging broken so soon after finding it…
He closes his eyes and swallows hard, and when he opens them again, it’s to his worst possible scenario - it had been ash, and pieces are beginning to flake and float away.
“You adapt, goddamn it,” he shouts, voice shaking. He wants to rage at the unfairness of the universe, wants to force his power down Sebastian Shaw’s throat, watch him choke and die on it. He digs his fingernails into his palms trying to center himself; he’s on the edge of control, and if he loses it, the death toll will be considerably higher than one.
Someone grabs his hand and squeezes, hard. He looks down at it, brown against his ash and dirt-streaked skin. Brown. He looks up slowly, hardly daring to believe it could be true, but then his eyes meet Armando’s warm, dark gaze.
“You...you’re…” He can’t get words out.
“I’m Darwin,” he says with a grin. “I adapted.”
Alex may not be able to speak yet, but he wraps his arms around Armando and feels arms wrap around him, too; tight, unwavering - a promise. He decides then and there to accept.