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Where the Music Matters

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Being a radio DJ for a public access channel wasn't exactly what Santana was expecting to do when she first moved to Seattle, but then again, she never thought she'd move to the Northwest.

Growing up in her small town, middle of nowhere place of dullsville USA, her dreams were full of New York or Los Angeles and landing the perfect record contract with a big label. She'd left immediately after high school and got an internship with DefJam, and New York was big and beautiful and full of lights and a cornucopia of ladies for her to sample and get inspiration from. New York was also expensive, cold and lonely. Once the glossy veneer wore off of her cushy internship for The Man in the Big Apple wore off, she realized that it wasn't what she had expected. Not that she didn't have realistic expectations about the Industry -- please, she knew there would be hard work and assholes to put up with along the way -- but she didn't expect it to be like working at a law office. Which is what her job at DefJam basically felt like. She chalked her unhappiness up to New York not fitting right, like the designer jacket she once bought that was too large, but it was on sale and she reasoned that she could stand to gain a few pounds to fit into it.

She wore that jacket all of twice before donating it to Goodwill.

Santana figured that she had chosen the wrong coast to try and achieve her dream; she really did look amazing in a bikini after all and the New York humidity did the nastiest things to her hair. She kept working at DefJam, slowly graduating out of the unpaid internship and into a paid lackey, and looking at the in-house job listings that Universal had available. The economy had been shitty and it had taken much longer than she had liked for that position in Los Angeles to open up (and for her to convince the execs that it should be hers). She had packed everything up, not that it was much, and moved across the country to an apartment in Burbank.

Santana spent that first year in a warmth infused state of bliss where she constantly hummed California Girls like it was her theme song.

Then reality started setting in, again. As much as she loved the beach (who wouldn't, really), it didn't take long for her to start missing the rain and snow she'd grown up with. Living in a place that was sunny ninety nine percent of the year just did not go well with her natural temperament, and those sparse days when it did rain were like the apocalypse had come and everyone had gone crazy. Sometimes Santana's amazed that she's not actually in prison for killing someone. Those were little things though, things that she could put up with if her job was making them worth putting up with, but it wasn't. She had even tried switching from Universal to Warner Brothers, but it was the same exact thing. All about the numbers, the money, how do we get the cheapest shiny object and make the most profit from it.

It's not like she was a disgruntled artist who thought The Man sucked because they wouldn't pay her any attention. Quite the opposite, actually. Santana had built up a bit of a following in New York, and somehow, word about her gigs got out around Los Angeles as well. People were paying to see her on the regular and her own companies had offered her contracts. Shitty contracts where she wouldn't own the rights to any of her lyrics, music, likeness or voice even. It was their standard contract. She knew that she shouldn't think that she was better than all the artists that had come before her who had signed up with these big labels. It's just that she knew that she was closer to Joplin than Spears in the talent arena and she didn't have any of the liability issues of either. She deserved better and she knew that such contracts, though rare, did exist.

Contrary to what most people who know her would believe (well, except for her actual friends), Santana has a lot of patience. She was smart and talented and knew that she deserved more than what was being offered to her and, unlike most artists, she wasn't starving, nor struggling. Santana knew she could wait for her perfect deal to come along, she just didn't think that Los Angeles would be the right place for it to happen anymore.

Music can be done anywhere these days, and yeah, touring the world would be nice, but that wasn't really what Santana's dreams were ever made of. Her dreams were about people listening to her music and getting it, getting her and - - if she was lucky -- helping them through their life. It sounded cheesy as shit and she'd never say that aloud, not even to her best friend, Quinn. (If she did, Quinn would've instantly checked Santana into a mental institution, because they just did not do the touchy-feely stuff.) Santana had made her mind up to try and figure out where she wanted to live out of the other little musical hubs throughout the States. Nashville was a definite no go and, though she'd heard amazing things about Austin's scenes, it was still in Texas and that was too close to all she grew up with to ever want to go back.

It was actually Quinn who suggested Seattle. Well, not suggested, it was a completely unrelated Skype conversation, actually. They had been catching up on their semi-monthly scheduled video-Skype session that neither of them is allowed to reschedule or miss, when Santana fully realized that her best friend was on the same coast as her again.

"I'm really excited to teach those fuckers some proper English." Quinn had grinned into her webcam.

"By speaking French?" Santana smirked and Quinn rolled her eyes.

"You'd love Seattle, you know, there's this used bookstore that I love -- that plays the best jazz -- and lets you sit wherever you'd like all day and drink coffee from the shop next door without bothering you once."

It wasn't the best argument that Quinn could've given, but at the time the thought of sitting anywhere with Quinn surrounded by the smell of books, coffee and rain, sounded like the most perfect thing ever.

And that was that.

Quinn had hooked her up with the radio station owned by the University of Washington. Turns out knowing a Doctorate of English is actually good for something other than tedious conversations over how she's read better fiction on the internet than some of the shit (Quinn's favorite word, for some absurd reason) that is getting published by the big houses. Santana never gave Quinn much grief over the topic, she understood it completely with her own experiences, it's just that she could only hear about the horrors of Fifty Shades of Grey so many times.

Turns out that her popularity in New York and Los Angeles was enough for word of her to spread to the people at the station, they were actually shocked that she wanted to work there instead of just asking to perform. It was a bit of a surreal interview to say the least. They wanted to give Santana her own show at a prime time slot, but she'd never even thought about making her own YouTube channel, let alone being a DJ, and was worried that her words would get lost in translation between the music and so she asked if she could start out with something smaller.

Holly, the station manager who both looked like she'd just stepped off a runway and directly from a Beyonce concert simultaneously, eyed Santana quietly for a moment, nodded, and gave her a co-host. Holly gave Santana a week to track this person down and brainstorm show ideas, before they had to go on the air. They needed to get at least three weeks worth of good ideas and music together, and run them by her for initial approval, but after that it was all theirs.

They decided to meet at a bar that sponsors the station (discount on drinks), Santana had arrived early, still getting used to traveling in the city. She sat at a table on the floor, near the middle of the venue, wanting to get a feel for the place (she had booked a gig there that was coming up, not that she told anyone that when she got there). It was a bar like any other, the decor encouraged relaxation and drinking. The floor was sticky in that well used, many drinks spilled, kind of way that all good bars have. She liked it, especially since they had an excellent selection of beers on tap. She was enjoying a freshly pulled frosty brew when a rainbow in the shape of a human plopped herself down into a chair at her table. Santana pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows, she was fairly sure that this addition to her table was a dancer. Santana had gotten used to the way they tended to handle themselves: lack of personal boundaries, gliding everywhere, complete inability to sit still and the most unique fashion sense that tends to go unrivaled. Looking at the light skinned, beautiful, blonde haired, blue eyed woman, dressed in a magenta tank top, bright cyan sweatshirt that hung off her shoulder and wearing a purple velvet bowler hat, Santana was absolutely positive that the woman was a dancer. What she didn't know was why the cat-eyed beauty had sat down at her table.

She squinted momentarily, shrugged her shoulders, and took a sip of her beer. Santana wasn't going to complain about anyone that looked like that sitting with her. Weirder things had happened in Los Angeles and New York. At least this chick looked like she showered regularly.

"You're Snixxy, aren't you?" The blonde's voice was light and wry, and carried with its tone a confidence that she was correct in her assumption. Santana turned her gaze back to her companion and raised an eyebrow. It caused her companion's smile to grow. "Thought so. You're totally casing the joint aren't you? For your gig." Santana fought off a smirk, it still gave her a bit of a thrill when she was recognized, especially in new cities. "How's your beer?"

"Not overly hoppy. I like the hint of chocolate." Santana took another sip.

"Finally, she talks!" Tinkling laughter filled Santana's ears, "I guess you're not one who needs their ego stroked, good to know for future monogamous conversations in the future."

"I'm not altogether sure that is what you meant to say, but I like the way it sounds anyway." Santana couldn't stop herself from flirting if she tried.

"What, me stroking your ego?" The blonde winked. Santana laughed, shrugged and fought from saying the first thing that popped into her mind.

"You make it a habit of sitting at stranger's tables?"

"Oh, but you're no stranger, honey." Blue eyes twinkled.

"B! Hey, I didn't know you were going to be here!" A voice cut into their solitude. The blonde's head snapped towards the voice and her face broke out into a huge smile. Santana followed the direction the woman was looking to find a well dressed man with slightly ruffled hair and glasses roll up to their table. B hopped into his lap and hugged him tightly.

"I practically live here, you're the one who is a surprise, Abrams."

The name clicked in Santana's head and she realized that this must be who she was here to meet.

"Ah, well, I'm here to meet my new co-host." He tilted his head towards Santana. B's eyes widened in shock at this information.

"No way!" She looked at Santana for confirmation. Santana gave a soft smile and nodded. "This is awesome and horrible!"

Santana was really confused and was sure that it showed on her face. Abrams, his first name was Artie according to the information Holly gave her, took pity on Santana's confusion, "Brittany's happy because she's happy for us and loves that she'll be getting to listen to us regularly. She hates that, with the way she listens to things, we'll probably be the only thing she listens to that doesn't come from this club."

"I'm going to demand a podcast from Holly." B nods, looking at Abrams. She turns to look at Santana, "Maybe I should demand that it's a video podcast."

Santana coughs to hide her blush and then does her best to ignore B by finishing off the rest of her beer. This really wasn't the way she wanted to meet her new co-host and she can practically feel Abrams eyes dissecting everything about her.

"Hey, Britt, hows about you do your job and get the lady another beer instead of welcoming her so hard she never returns?"

The woman pouts, her eyes twinkling in amusement, as she gets off of Abrams lap to go about doing just that, Santana assumes.

"Brittany's completely harmless, by the way." Abrams smiles at her,

"I doubt that." Santana says wryly. She knows she's right when she can visibly see Abrams hold back a laugh. "I've got to say, Abrams, I'm impressed. Takes a really secure person to be perfectly chill when his girlfriend flirts with someone else so blatantly."

"Oh, I'm totally secure, about a lot of things." Artie grins and Santana isn't sure what was so funny about her compliment, "You shouldn't go about assuming things though, especially when Brittany is involved."

"Noted." Santana was fairly sure that he wasn't just talking about the assumption she'd just made about their relationship. She wanted to ask more, but knew this wasn't the time or place. She realized something, straightened up in her seat and offered out her hand, "Shit, where are my professional manners, talking like I already know you. Santana Lopez, but my fans call me Snixxy."

"Artie Abrams," He took Santana's hand and gave a reassuring shake. "My fans call me FiddyFiddy, my friends call me various things, you'll probably end up calling me Wheels."

"I see my reputation precedes me." Santana laughs. "So, what are you into, Wheels?" Santana winks. Abrams rolls his eyes and shakes his head.

"Anything that isn't crap, especially over produced crap." He shrugs.

"Yeah, real helpful." Santana snorts.

"Don't let him fool you, he loves dancing with me to Ke$ha." Brittany reappears with beers and a basket of sweet potato fries for Artie and Santana. She winks at Santana as she pulls over a chair to join them.

"I think that has less to do with Ke$ha and more to his dancing companion." Santana smirks at Brittany before looking to Artie for agreement.

"Mostly true, but have you heard her voice when the producers haven't overly saturated the fuck out of her songs?" He swigs his beer in an excited manner.

"Ke$ha is his not-so-guilty pleasure." Brittany stage whispers to Santana, "he obviously hasn't heard that gig you did at the Troubadour last year."

"You heard that?" Santana blushes. It's one thing for people to recognize her, something completely different when they know her work that well. The music she creates has always been deeply personal to her, like little facets of her soul get embedded into the songs she weaves. When people show an obvious connection to her music, it feels oddly intimate.

"Definitely, I've got all your mixes stored in my clouds." Brittany nods, giving a soft smile.

"Not all of them." Santana states.

"Give her time." Artie laughs, "B, don't you have a club to run instead of embarrassing us?"

"It runs itself." Brittany shrugs and settles herself more comfortably on her chair. "I'll be good, though. I just haven't seen you in ages, Abrams. Let me bask in your dual greatnesses."

They actually did manage to get to business at that point, Brittany being a great help when the DJs hit a creative snag. The free free-flowing beer and food were a definite plus. It turned out that Artie and Santana were quite compatible in the music department, both being quite eclectic in their tastes while being extremely picky. Santana's brutal honesty was easily smoothed over by Artie's sass. Brittany seemed to enjoy their dynamic, at least. It would definitely bring a different tone to the station, all of the current shows being more like Washington's weather: neutral and constant. By the end of their meeting, they had more than the three week requirement that Holly gave them filled, they would just need the go ahead and they would be set.

Santana was excited. She left the bar with a buzz that had nothing to do with the beer she'd been drinking and everything to do with the meeting of peers who felt the same way she did about music. People with genuine opinions, who weren't scared to state them. She felt inspired in a way she hadn't truly felt in years.

Santana rushed to the home she shared with Quinn. (Quinn had bought the house with the thought of luring Santana to Washington in mind, it was more than large enough for both of their personalities, but small enough to feel lived in with two people in it.) She barely registered that Quinn wasn't there, just enough to tell that the woman's Mini-Cooper wasn't in their garage. Santana had parked her hybrid Q5 hastily, making sure to give Quinn enough room, and ran inside where she barely managed to catch the hook with her bag's strap that she threw in the general direction of the wall. She didn't care if it made it or not, having taken her laptop out of it before throwing it. Santana could deal with it later, when she wasn't feeling like she was wasting precious creativity by being away from her studio. Santana practically ran to the third floor of their craftsman home. A band had apparently abused the home in a past life, but they did take the time to soundproof the attic. She had first questioned their decision in doing so, instead of the larger and more practical basement, but once she saw the view from that third story window, she'd known that their decision was a perfect one.

She barely took in the sunset over the bay that greeted her through that window, too distracted in her haste to hook her laptop up to her toys (as she so lovingly called her equipment). She actually had names for all of her various devices, but in moments of inspiration like these, she rarely remembered to use them. Santana opened her laptop and started up a program that would record her voice. She started talking, switching between the various languages she knew without being conscious of it, just trying to get all of her thoughts out while she set everything else up. It's not like Santana usually kept her equipment in disarray, but she was still in the process of unpacking and hadn't been inspired enough to need to unpack everything. She'd been lazily pulling out devices and setting them up as the need presented itself, mostly just messing around just so that she kept up her familiarity. Similar to writers who write for a certain amount of time each day, the work doesn't have to mean anything, but the practice hones the muscles.

Santana kept talking as she carefully set up everything just how she liked it, sometimes she'd hum a little melody or sing some lyrics, knowing that she could come back and listen to it all again in case she forgot anything. Her fans didn't know that it was actually her voice on a lot of the mixes she produced. Part of it was due to an inexplicable shyness she had at the thought of having to sing live in front of people, another part was that she loved contributing to the mystery that surrounded her persona. It's not like Santana had purposely built up a mystery around herself; she didn't wear a mask or hide behind hoods or a curtain like that Wizard of Fraud guy (Santana rolled her eyes every time she heard his moniker. Please, his name was Ben Israel and his jewfro was larger than his talent, but whatever floats people's boats. She wasn't going to out him for bad taste.) She just didn't do a lot of promoting for her shows. Santana would book gigs and the places would put her on their schedules and calendars, and that was about as far as Santana would go in the promotion department. She started that, in the beginning, to save herself some money, figuring that putting up fliers wouldn't distinguish her from any other performer out there. Santana would just book the dates at local clubs, knowing that people would inevitably show up for some relief after their long work days, and if she was half as decent as she thought she was, then word would spread. She was far more than decent, and word of her skills spread faster than a fire started by a match on a dry grassy mountainside in the middle of summer. So, she'd book a gig and not worry about it, and people would always find out and word would spread; the internet was a crazy place when she thought about it.

Santana always did her best to not think about it.

She liked to pretend that her music was just between her and her computer. The way she built mixes was just as personal to her as someone writing down their innermost thoughts to a journal. At least that's how she thought of what she did. It kept her honest, anything less than true and the song would fail horribly. Which is why she liked to keep her shows dark, with the least amount of lighting legally possible. Strobe lights were annoying and gave her headaches, even when she wore her glasses, and laser lights and smoke were so cliche. Every show of hers was set up like a romantic and intimate affair. Santana liked the lighting dim and did her best to make it seem like the clubs were lit by candles. It certainly set her apart even more than her musical skills did. From what she could tell, she was the only one doing such a thing. People had called it risky, not having anything to distract people from her music. Some critics tried to claim that she was being avant-garde post-modern chic or some shit that she immediately forwarded to Quinn to translate. Santana just didn't want to acknowledge that she was playing her most intimate of thoughts and desires to a room full of people. She knew that she was performing -- getting paid to do what she loved was part of it and she loved the high that came with a crowd who was completely into her flow -- but she liked to pretend that she was just at home, playing for herself. It made the jitters go away better than picturing everyone naked ever did.

Hours later, Quinn opened the door to a wall of sound. Santana didn't notice until a plate of food, chicken madeira with green beans and mashed potatoes, appeared between her face and the screen. She followed the arm with the plate to find Quinn looking at her amusedly. Santana gave an impish shrug, paused her programs and took her plate from Quinn.

"Good meeting?" Quinn remarked dryly.

"S'alright." Santana shrugged as she sat on the blood red velvet love seat that was against a wall. She grinned at Quinn's laughter before taking a bite of food. "Thank goodness you're on a cooking kick, Q."

"Yes, I know how you like your free food."

"Seriously, Q. French chef's would kill to get their food to taste as good as this."

"Are you on drugs?" Quinn eyed Santana seriously and sat down on the other end of the love seat.

"High on the music." Santana grinned through a mouthful of mashed potatoes. "You wanna hear some rough cuts while I get my nosh on?"

"I might as well have a soundtrack while I watch you eat."

Santana looked down at her half eaten plate. "Shit, I missed dinner." Quinn nodded. "Sorry, Quinn. I got all caught up in here."

"It's okay." Quinn placed a comforting hand on Santana's shoulder, "It's actually nice to see you so worked up about your music again. For a while there it seemed like you were going through the motions."

Santana shrugged and placed her plate on the floor before getting up and crossing over to her workstation. She hit a couple buttons and turned a knob; music filled up the room. Santana set the tracks to play in succession and stop when they were finished, which was par for the course when she was listening to her roughs. Quinn knew the deal, Santana had been sending compositions to Quinn for ages now, with specific criteria as to how Santana wanted her to listen. This was the first time that Santana had been in the same room as Quinn when she was getting her first listen. It was oddly unnerving for Santana. She tried concentrating on listening while eating her food to prevent herself from trying to read Quinn, but she was too nervous to register the sounds entering her ears. Santana knew she had no reason to be nervous, Quinn was her most honest and trusted critic, they were living together now and best friends for practically all their lives. Yet, Santana was nervous.

The first time Santana sent Quinn one of her mixes, it had been something that Santana had drunkenly put together the night before it was due for her music theory final. The professor gave her an A for "taking chances". Quinn had ripped it apart and called Santana's effort pathetic. Santana specifically remembers Quinn telling her that a drunken monkey would have more finesse than what she was hearing. Santana had loved it. Not only had Quinn called out Santana on her drunken and sloppily rushed mix, but she told her (in specifics) exactly what was wrong. Quinn did it so succinctly that Santana was able to translate it perfectly into one of her most favorite tracks. From that point on she forced Quinn to listen to everything that Santana didn't instantly dismiss as a 'hot sloppy mess that not even a hobo would want anywhere near them'. Quinn would tell Santana her first thoughts during their Skype conversations (before they'd get down to drunken snarkfests about each other's lack of lives) and then later email Santana a bullet point list, by the second, of what worked and what didn't work. If Santana ever gets to put out an album, Quinn will have the first paragraph of thank yous dedicated to her.

Santana had finished her food by the time the music finished playing, and had only calmed a little bit. She bit her lip as she anxiously awaited Quinn's thoughts.

"That was..." Quinn's voice trailed off and Santana looked at her for the first time in a while to see her staring off into the distance.

"Shitty?" Santana tried. Usually Quinn was more eloquent and not shy about hiding her words.

"I need some wine." Quinn stated then looked Santana in the eyes, "or a cigarette." Santana was confused and was sure it showed in her expression towards Quinn. It was as if Quinn were looking right through her and it made her think that something was horribly wrong. Santana swallowed and tried to calm down her heartbeat. "Definitely some wine, a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, and a cigarette." Quinn nodded, picked up Santana's empty plate and stood up. She headed towards the door of the room and almost left before Santana could find her voice through her fear.

"Q, wait!" Santana called out and walked over to Quinn to stop her from leaving the room, "does it really suck that bad? Should I just chuck it all out?"

"Santana, whatever you do, do not throw that out. Do not throw it anywhere. Lay it down on a bed of rose petals and treat it more preciously than those damn headphones of yours." Quinn said with a serious expression, "If you fuck that mix up, I will find that one ex-girlfriend of yours and I will make her voice your ringtone."

"Shit Q." Santana chuckled, feeling relieved.

"You know what, burn me that mix right now so that I can go spend some quality time with it." Quinn nodded. Santana picked up on the subtle reddening of Quinn's neck.

"Oh." Santana smirked, "Oh, I get it now."

"Shut up, Santana."

"No, no. I wouldn't want to get in the way of you dancin' with yourself, Quinn." Santana walked over to start burning the mix with a grin. "You go get your wine and cigs, I'll burn this and start a nice warm bath for you and yourself."

"I hate you."

"Yeah, but you'll be thanking me later, apparently." Santana winked at a scowling Quinn. "Or would you prefer to stay in here, where you can really feel the bass?"

"You know what?" Quinn straightened up her posture, and headed back into the room, "Yeah, lemme just use your couch. Close the door when you leave."

"Fuck no, I can't leave. I've got more lady jams to be making." Santana shook her head, already back into her creative head space, new ideas floating in and not leaving her alone. Not distracting her completely, though. "Feel free to use my couch though, you don't mind if I watch? Might help the process."

"I hate you, I really do." Quinn stomped back towards the doorway.

"And I wouldn't be able to live without you, Quinn." Santana called out before Quinn could fully leave. "Seriously, Q. Thank you, I'll really run you that bath, no innuendos added."

"No, that's fine. I don't need to think of you thinking of me taking a bath while thinking of you." Quinn shuddered and stuck out her tongue before closing the door behind her.