The crowd had turned ugly, and they weren't a particularly handsome bunch to begin with. Anyone who's stood up on stage with only a microphone between them and a hundred or more expectant faces will tell you that entertaining them is no laughing matter. Usually, Gabriel revelled on the stage, cool, quick and confident, but tonight was a bad night.

It was a bad night for three reasons. First, the crowd was small, maybe fifty at most. Second, the crowd was only half interested in him. Third, and most importantly, the half that weren't interested were trying to watch the baseball game on the TVs that hung in the bar. Thus, his witticisms were not appreciated, and he hardly felt he owed the audience a good performance. Now, due to a poorly timed remark concerning one of the home team's most popular players, Gabriel was facing the wrath of several burly Texans. Yipe.

To say they were "heckling" would be like saying that God and Satan were mildly ticked off with each other. However, Gabriel was a seasoned comic, and stood firm under their tirade of abuse. He smiled politely and looked at his watch.

"You know, if you want rid of me, it would be quicker to just shut up and let me finish my set… we don't want to wait around here for you to evolve enough to understand language."

"We don't want to listen to no pansy-ass…"

"Double negatives sir, great job on dispelling those stereotypes."

That got him a couple of laughs from the crowd. The burly Texan flustered.

"Now you see here, you know who I am?"

"Why? Did you forget?" It was an old one, but a classic. The Texan's friends chuckled, and Gabriel knew he had the heckler on the ropes. The barman, he could just make out through the stage lights, was muttering something to them.

"I don't come here to have my team or myself insulted."

"No? Where do you go, then?" Another old one. The crowd groaned at it, back on side with Gabriel, but criticising his choice. He shrugged.

"I'd come up with some lines of my own, but I wouldn't waste them on this sap. They'd go right over his head, which, for someone my size, is saying something."

Bam. Got him. The man flustered a few more times, but the audience at large ignored him. So did Gabriel. With a slight spark of smug satisfaction, he continued, and finished what had meant to be a ten minute set, but was now closer to fifteen.

Gabriel DiAngelo had been a stand up comic, professionally, for ten years. He'd been performing on stage since he was ten, which gave him twenty five years experience. Twenty five years of facing off against loud, half-drunk schmoes who think they could do the job as well as him. As he left the stage to all the smattered applause he could hope for from such a poor turnout, he grinned and headed for the bar. He didn't mind one bit. He would freely admit he was addicted to being up there in front of people, and he would probably die an addict, because no way could he ever get enough.

He had been about to reach the bar when a sharp pain shot across his backside. He whipped around, knowing already the exact cause.

"Pamela, you know how I react to things like that."

"I was hoping you would." Pamela smiled, holding her cane in one hand, and scratching the corner of her eye under her sunglasses with the other. "Action's been a little slow tonight."

"Maybe for you." Gabriel chuckled, throwing an arm around her shoulders. "I suppose you heard that guy trying to tear me a new one?"

"Yes, and what's with all the old jokes? You been on a Marx Brothers marathon lately or something?"

"Tried and tested classics, Pammy. Now, giving that you just caned my ass for the fourth time this evening, I'm guessing you want something?"

"A drink would be nice."

"You're going on in five minutes, you can wait." Gabriel admonished, using his stern tone and everything. Pamela laughed.

"You're a real spoilsport sometimes, you know that?"

"Oh, ouch! Wounded!" Gabriel staggered into a nearby seat, and grabbed Pamela's hand. "You know I don't have many rules, but I will not let you start drinking before you go on stage."

"Fine." Pamela sniffed, poking him with the end of her cane. "Are you staying around for my set, or are you being a boring old man and going home?"

"Hey, less of the old. You'll be thirty five soon yourself."
"Not for a year yet. I take your lack of an answer to mean you're going home?"

Gabriel made noncommittal noises. Pamela sighed.

"You know there's more to life than baking, eating and Stand up comedy."

"I know that!" Gabriel sighed, ladling on the incredulity. "There's Murdock, too."

Pamela held her arms out, and he hugged her again. She patted him on the back, and began to negotiate her way backstage. Not without one last parting shot;

"It says something about your life that I don't know if you mean your dog, or your childhood crush."

Gabriel sighed.

"Good night, Pamela."

He grabbed his coat and bag from the hanger by the door, and looked around the little pub as the occupants turned their attention to Pamela. Smiling, he backed out into the cold night as he heard Pamela begin her routine. He knew her material as well as he knew his own.

"Just to get this out of the way, yes, I am blind, no, that doesn't mean you can stop acting like you're paying attention. People often get quite surprised, but I suppose you don't see many blind comics. Well… I don't."

Lead to joke about how she lost her eyesight; lead into discussion about her home life, and her childhood. Gabriel pulled his jacket tighter around himself, heading back to his motel room. Tomorrow would be the last gig of their current tour. He could do tomorrow's gig, which was in Palo Alto, and then drive the half hour or so to Campbell. He was so glad he'd talked Pamela into starting and ending with California gigs. It meant he could go home, chill out and do nothing for the month or two he could stick around, before they started talking about booking up some more regional spots while they planned the next tour.

Was it tiring? Yes. Did he miss the nights of just chilling the fuck out and not having to worry about writing and memorising material? Yes. Would he change it? Not for the goddamned world.

Gabriel reached the motel, and collapsed onto his bed.

How was it he could spend three days in Texas and receive only the kindest, friendliest reaction from audience members, and then come to California and get a drunken, pissed off Texan heckler?

Life, man.

He pushed himself up, and scrabbled for the pen and paper he kept on the dresser, noting down the evening's events. There was probably some sort of joke or wry observation in there if he worded it right. He ran a hand through his golden-brown hair, scratching at his neck. He could probably do with going over his material; he'd been starting with the same line for the past year or so.

"I'm Gabriel DiAngelo. No, really. My parents were not only vindictive, but also ethnically inaccurate." A simple enough joke to ease people in. Yes, that was his real name, and yes, he was fully aware he wasn't the slightest bit Italian-American. His Great Grandfather had, believe it or not, won the name in a game of poker. He'd made a whole routine out of decrypting the Chinese whispers that had developed around it. Maybe he should cut that, though? Was it honestly funny?

He grumbled, and dropped the pen and paper on the nightstand, looking at the clock. It was barely nine thirty. He was disgustingly tired, given that it was barely nine thirty. Dear Christ, he hoped Pamela wasn't right about his getting old.

He had to find something to keep him up 'til at least twenty to. He wasn't ready to admit he could fall asleep at nine thirty.

He wondered if Castiel was still awake.

Dear baby brother Castiel. If he was awake, he was probably doing something very serious and boring, which he wouldn't appreciate being interrupted by his brother's phone call. Or even worse, he could be messing around with his on-again, off-again boyfriend who he refused to tell Gabriel anything about, which would be even more offensive to interrupt.

Gabriel dialled Castiel's number.

The phone rang a few times, before Castiel's scratchy, gravelly voice crackled down the wire.

"Hello, Castiel DiAngelo speaking. Who may I say is calling?"

"This is the society for outdated relics, we were wondering if you would like to donate yourself."

"Gabriel."

He very rarely managed to make Castiel laugh. Part of him felt it was more fun to irritate him than amuse him. Actually, all of him felt that way, but it would be good to see the scruffy haired weirdo crack a smile every now and then.

"How's my favourite guy?"

"I'm fine, Gabriel."

"I was talking about Murdock."

"Murdock is well." Castiel was dead-pan. Gabriel sighed, wishing he had called Balthazar instead. He wouldn't have known what was going on, but he would have been funnier about it. "He's been slightly off his food, but I believe this is just absence from his master. "Pining", I believe it is called."

"Aww. Give him a cuddle for me. I should be back tomorrow afternoon for a little bit, so I can take him off your hands."

"Yes, Gabriel. How is Pamela?"

"As sassy as ever. She's still at the bar; I left early."

"I see."

Castiel went oddly silent. Gabriel wondered if he'd lost signal.

"Castiel?"

"Happy birthday, brother. I have to go; Murdock has wandered into the kitchen suspiciously dirty."

"Takes after his Daddy. Alright, see you tomorrow, Castiel."

"Goodbye."

Castiel hung up, and Gabriel put his phone on the nightstand with the pen and paper, lying perfectly still for a moment. Eventually, he managed to stir enough energy to change into boxers and a wife-beater shirt. He glanced at the clock.

Nine thirty five.

He snorted, settling down in the bed. Thirty five, he decided, was definitely not a good number.