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White Hot Light

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As he lays sprawled across the motel bed, Castiel comes to accept this truth: He is blind.

It’s an unusual experience, being blindfolded and forced to rely on his other senses to track Sam around the room. Sam’s footsteps are light — a near-silent pad of his bare feet against carpet — and Castiel turns his face to follow the sound. He listens to Sam fumble with something — thick, scratchy, like small pieces of cardboard whose edges rub together — and catches whiffs of Sam’s sweat and cologne. Then a hard, grating drag; a sharp hiss that quickly eases into silence. It’s easily placed: a lighting match. A lit candle.

“Sam?” he says.

“Right here,” Sam replies. Cas jerks in surprise when a hand touches his shoulder, squeezes; he hadn’t realized how close Sam had come. “Ready?”

He isn’t — not really. He’s still adjusting to being denied his sight and orienting according to touch and scent and sound, but Sam’s hand on his shoulder is steadying. He nods, and Sam’s fingers tighten briefly before sliding away.

The first drop of wax is small — a bright, white-hot burst of pain on his belly — and Castiel jolts, squirming even as it fades to a dull heat. Sam’s hand sweeps across his torso, bumping across the wax lightly, but the touch is merely assessing. It’s followed quickly by a larger splash across his breast bone, feeling somehow even hotter and painful than the small taste from before, as if he’d already forgot its sharpness.

Castiel writhes under the onslaught, enduring because he needs to endure. Every time, the wax undercuts his defenses, shatters every mental preparation with its sudden and unpredictable heat. He can’t see Sam move the candle from place to place, can’t hear the shift in his arm. There’s only the wax, dripping from above, and blind, Castiel waits for it to destroy him. Sam pours little drops and splashes anywhere from collarbone to hip, and as the night progresses, Castiel is covered in a thin layer of warm wax. There’s comfort to be found in how it remains, like a shallow shield slowly blossoming over his skin and guided into life through Sam’s judgement.

“That’s it. Doing so well,” Sam says and cards his hand through Castiel’s sweaty hair. “Doin’ real good.”

Castiel cranes toward the palm of Sam’s hand, and Sam obligingly pets him before splashing wax across the exposed line of his throat. He does a full-body twist in an attempt to get away from the burning heat of it, but it just slowly crawls down his neck to pool and solidify in the hollow between his collarbones.

“That was the last of it. All done,” Sam tells him, petting him more to ease him down. “Not so bad, was it? You were amazing, Cas.”

Sagging into the bed sheets, Castiel says nothing, but tries to convey his appreciation by pulling Sam’s hand to his mouth, kissing the knuckles briefly. He feels exhausted — worn clean to the bone — and can’t bear the idea of moving another inch. Having the blindfold pulled off his eyes is like being thrust back into the world after a lifetime of darkness. Castiel has a bit of trouble focusing, turning the fuzzy shadow moving overhead into Sam’s face. It’s a bit like being born again, he muses with a little smile quirking at the corner of his lips — as if his previous life has burned away with the wax, as if it will peel away with the wax’s removal later and leave him cleaner and purer.

He was blind before.

Now he sees.