It was difficult to feel anything without a physical body, but agony could still be inflicted on the soul. Dean had learned that lesson the hard way.

The very hard way.

It would also be wrong to assume that any soul could feel something like salvation or comfort in Hell — now, THAT was just straight up crazy talk.

Crazier than saying Hell existed in the first place.

Crazier than imagining that Dean could ever stand a chance of escaping Hell.

—And so it is written that a righteous man sheds the last of his humanity through the blood of the innocent, and Dean breaks, grimacing and clenching what would have been his teeth at first; eventually, his frown softens away from anguish

The day's torture came to an end with the usual, bile-filled gurgle and whimper of the remaining soul. Alastair did not stick around for the routine this time.

It was then, when something far worse than agony resonated through his core as it gripped onto his arm.

He couldn't see or hear what got a hold of him, but there were sensations — a whistle of stale air, flapping and fluttering and warmth like an embrace; damn, he must have finally lost all his marbles. Dean had been under the impression that his sanity had long left the building with Elvis.

Raging shrieks pierced through the strobing, blood red atmosphere. Heavy noises like wings.

Emotions forgotten, like salvation and comfort flooded back to him. All at once, as the embrace tightened protectively around him, cutting off his view of twirling, dark smoke closing in. An irresistibly downy touch against his cheek (tear-stained, if Dean had a physical body) and he made the decision to go limp, to surrender. Turned out he was good at that.

Forty years in Hell and Dean's nostrils did finally breathe stale coffin air under a ton of earth, his throbbing, left arm crammed along with his other whole limbs against the coffin's sides, and…

how did he get here again?

Because of the indescribable horrors he had witnessed in Hades, Lazarus did not smile or laugh for thirty years after being risen from the dead. The one time he did, it was because he had seen someone steal a pot and proclaimed with his first smile since returning, "the clay stealing the clay".