The dreams that keep Dean awake aren't always nightmares. There are times he stays up deep into the night staring at the motel ceiling and just remembers, the screams and glinting knives of the Pit receding before hazy, half-formed memories he can only touch when the the night is still. In those quiet, stolen hours Dean remembers being placed on the edge between life and death, that surreal time of existing but still not living. He closes his eyes and remembers being bathed in gold.

He remembers hearing singing. He's never told anyone but sometimes when he's pulled over by the side of the road with the night all around him and the stars above him he can almost still hear it, soft singing in a language he's never learned, deep and low like waves crashing against a beach. He looks at his hand as he listens to that phantom music, tracing the lines in his palm and imagining another hand drawing them there. Sam's asked him veiled questions about the handprint on his shoulder – "don't you think that's kind of weird, Dean?"- but Dean doesn't have the words to explain how even without that proof he would be able to feel a hand pressed against his shoulder, like a memory stored under his skin.

If he holds his breath he can just bring back the moment when the singing stopped and Dean felt solid light press against his chest, the touch a caress and an order and a promise all in one. The silence lasted for a long, endless moment, just Dean and that light together in that strange in-between, then Dean remembers a loud, deafening drumming he only realized much later was the beating of his heart.

Dean sits on the bed and watches Castiel draw sigils on the floor, his blood glistening in the dim motel lights; Castiel made it clear he needs silence and solitude for this ritual but somehow that never translates to him asking Dean to leave. Dean's glad he was allowed to stay; he'll never admit it out loud but he likes listening to Castiel's voice as he chants, the way that rasp catches on the harsh sounds. If he closes his eyes it almost sounds like waves crashing on the beach.

The ritual exhausts him and Dean has to help him to sit on the bed; he braces one hand against Dean's chest and for that instant he thinks they're both holding their breath. Castiel's hand isn't made of light anymore but the feeling is still the same. "Hey," Dean says, always the first to break a silence, "remember the first time you did this?"

Dean feels a faint, faint shiver run through Castiel. "I didn't know you'd retained any of those memories."

"C'mon, Cas. Like I could forget."

Castiel nods, lost in his own thoughts. "I'd never done anything like that before," he whispers. He strokes his hand down Dean's chest, as proud as a sculptor regarding a masterwork. "I didn't know what to expect." His hand moves to Dean's waist and Dean supposes it makes sense how well it fits there. He traces his thumb just under Dean's lip and it almost feels like his lips remember the first time those hands touched them, when they'd created each crease and line and edge from nothing.

Dean thinks it can be hardly be called a first kiss. He's not sure they've ever really stopped.