When he tried to put his next actions in order, for memory's sake or whatever, Dean couldn't remember exactly how he'd ended the conversation with Bobby, but he'd hung up the phone at some point and continued to drink.
The tequila tasted like a bite down his gullet, numbing a path that seared when it was doused again, but only peripherally, in comparison. The bite took the greater senses away, and left something like half-asleep nerves. Half asleep nerves that only registered a half-conscious kind of pain.
He just kept sitting and drinking until he was sick, and then until he was sick again.
By the time Dean managed to convince himself he'd had enough, he barely had enough coherency to notice passing out. When he woke up to the sound of the room's radio-alarm blurting Johnny Cash through a cracked speaker, he was so hungover he could barely make it to the car.
He started it and had one momentary hesitation in which he wondered whether he really ought to be driving, and then told his pounding brain to shut the hell up. He tried not to puke as he swerved his way onto the interstate, not entirely sure where he was headed yet. He needed something in his mouth other than the taste of stale alcohol, vomit, and cheap motel toothpaste.
He made a coffee run in sunglasses. The cashier was a younger guy, who made a joke about hard parties and rough nights. Dean just shoved a twenty at him, hoping he'd be quick. Dean wanted to keep his mouth shut - not because he didn't feel like speaking, but he was pretty sure if he tried opening his mouth he'd hurl all over the dude's cash register, and that might cause problems. But then the cashier looked at him over his long nose and asked, "Is that all then or you want anything else?" right as Dean caught sight of a little heat lamp right there on the counter hovering over a greasy tray with mozzarella cheese sticks, pretzels, corn dogs, and little cups of french fries. All of which looked disgusting and likely to send Dean into the alley to puke. Again.
Dean gritted his teeth and tried to keep his mouth as closed as possible while grunting out, "Fries, too," because it sounded all of the last thing he wanted in the world right now, but he'd learned, from Sam of all people, that french fries frickin' cured hangovers. It made zero sense, and when the guy handed him his change it took all of Dean's resolve not to trash the fries right away. But after forcing the coffee and a handful of the french fries down his throat, he felt legitimately better.
Or as good as he could be expected to feel, considering the circumstances. So to rephrase, he felt like he was spiraling down a hole directly into hell. Or you know, something equally awful.
At any rate, after four hours of driving northwest-ish, he gave up trying to ignore the elephant screaming profanities in his head, and pulled over. The sky was darkening, roiling clouds edging towards the highway, faint thrum threatening thunder. He watched the storm from afar, leaning against the car to face it as it neared, and called Bobby again.
The phone barely finished the first ring before Bobby picked up and growled out a, "If you've gone and died of alcohol poisoning I'll kill ya," to which Dean had to bite back the response of I wish that rose from his tongue. Even spiraling into a sizzling despair, he knew not to test Bobby when he was using that voice. Still, Dean couldn't find any reason to be dishonest about the thing.
"Not quite, but there's always tomorrow night."
"I know, Bobby, just...forget it. What're gonna do about...about." He couldn't finish. Bobby didn't try to do it for him either, he just heaved a long sigh that sounded like scrunched paper over the phone.
"I've been thinking, and I don't think we got a better route to take than common sense, Dean. Ain't nothin' for it but to get back all the car parts."
They were silent for a long, threatening moment. A mild boom sounded, making Dean flinch. The storm was getting closer. It looked like it might begin to rain in a while. How fitting.
"Steal if you have to. You've gotta get 'em back Dean, and I know, alright? I know, but...you gotta burn 'em. There's just no way else I can think to do the thing, there's no pattern, and...well, it's gotta be done, and I don't think he would want anyone else doin' it."
And Dean knew that. Of course he had. But hearing it, just thinking about hunting down his...his brother, bit by metal bit, burning scraps of his soul or spirit or whatever away with each one...
He heard him inhale like he might say something, but nothing came. Dean put a hand over his face, scrubbing over it and then gripping his hair.
"There's, ah...no um, there's no pattern. Not that I could..." Dean gritted his teeth, forcing himself to pull in a shaky breath and control himself, "The order I sold them doesn't seem to matter, or the location," he explained, "I thought maybe the placement of the parts in the car maybe, but he...he didn't know crap about cars, that wouldn't make sense, you know."
And if admitting that didn't hurt like a bullet, Dean was a girl scout.
Bobby answered almost too quickly, and Dean barely noticed that his voice sounded hollow, somewhat guarded.
"Why he's doing it doesn't matter. If we can't predict it, we can at least work as fast as possible. We can't save everyone, but we can try to save as many as possible. Just work your way down the list. I'll take a coast and you can take the other.
"No," even as he said it, Dean knew it was stupid. He could be putting people at risk to refuse help, but then he thought of Bobby burning a piece of Sam without him there...
"Dean, you know I can help-"
"We don't know how violent he...how dangerous this could be. Sam and I...you know we're messed up. He's bound to take this to a whole new freaky level. No way, Bobby, I'm not gonna let you risk your life for us. You've done it too many times already. This one is on me, and I'm gonna fix it."
Bobby was quiet for a moment, and when he finally spoke, Dean was surprised by both his answer, and the the flatness of his voice, even if the looming storm was threatening to cut the call off, Bobby's voice beginning to break up in his ear.
"Alright. Yeah, alright..."
There was no use fighting this one. If Bobby was honest, he had no desire to be the one to burn the last remnants of Sam out of existence.
Bobby was staring at the keys still. They sat just a feet away, reflecting orange from the falling sunlight sneaking through the window's curtains. They looked innocent, beautiful even.
Dean didn't want him to get hurt. But what if...
He should tell him.
"You better start with the closest orders. Map out a route so you can just follow it, without thinking. And check in with me, even if it's just messages. You get hurt and I'm gonna be on your ass like an APB." He couldn't take his eyes off the keys, couldn't ignore now that he'd failed to notice how the house had been slightly chilled for a couple days. Cooler than the sun ought to have allowed.
He should tell him now.
Something was holding Bobby back, stupidly. he couldn't shake the image of the bouncing red ball, the sadness of Sam's eyes, the fear in his echoing voice. He couldn't shake it, and part of him didn't want to.
But he had to tell Dean. He had to tell him now.
He paused, and got nothing back but a kind of interference. His heart leapt into his throat, and his eyes widened.
"Bo-b...Bo...y...nk...ur br...ng u..."
Of course. Suddenly, all Booby wanted to say was everything except what he should have.
"You be careful, you hear me? Dean? Be careful."
Bobby just sighed and hung up. He watched the phone for a moment, wondering if he'd made a mistake...knowing he'd made a mistake...
Bobby whirled, feeling like he might be having a stroke.
The house was empty and darkening around him. The keys remained where they had been sitting all day, unmoved, the light on them fading. Bobby listened to the sound of his own panting doing nothing to fill the space around him.
No one there.
Bobby felt some part of him crumple. He covered his face with his hands. He sat for maybe half a minute, wrestling in stillness.
As the sun finally fell behind the fence around his property, Bobby made a decision. His hands dropped, his face stoic.
He went and grabbed the keys.