A/N: This story starts right after the end of the series, but before the flash forwards. I was going to write something short for Quinntana Week 2015 "Chance Meeting," but then this long story came out instead. Prepare for a slow build and tf you are a Brittana shipper, you may want to skip this one.
Quinn's senior year was nearly upon her. Her junior year at Yale had been very successful. She'd ended up on the Dean's list and found out she was actually ahead of schedule because she'd taken two extra classes that year and a couple during the previous summers. She'd really only done so to avoid having to return home to Lima. Her academic goals always came first and her mom knew that so she didn't give her a hard time and she visited Yale several times a year to see her daughter. She'd be eligible for graduation in the winter now instead of the following spring. However, before she could graduate with her degree in psychology, she'd have to complete an internship and because she hadn't anticipated being able to graduate early, she'd failed to plan properly for one.
She was taking one summer class, but it was only available during the second session of summer courses, which meant she had about 6 weeks off before it began and had nothing tying her to Connecticut. Her mother had therefore demanded a long vacation for the two of them and she couldn't think of a legitimate excuse to get out of it.
As she sat on her sofa in her small, campus apartment pondering what to pack in her bag, her phone rang.
"Quinn, this is Dr. Chance." Dr. Chance was her social psychology professor from her previous spring semester. She was also Quinn's academic advisor. "You found an internship yet?"
"I haven't really started looking actually. Why?"
"I've got a colleague in New York that's looking for some help this summer. Mostly clerical work, but he's also a grad professor at NYU and he offers pro-bono sessions on the side at a clinic in Brooklyn. He also has a practice. He's got grad students that he works with regularly, but he's looking to take on some under grads as well. You interested?"
"Brooklyn?" Quinn asked, recognizing her own tone as both excited at the prospect of avoiding her mother's vacation plans and also a little nervous about spending time in a place she'd only been a few times and many of those were reluctant trips made because Rachel needed something.
"Yeah, for part of the time. It's a part of NYU's psych program. You'd live in a dorm with other participants and it's a great learning experience. Plus, Dr. Rhodes is one of the graduate advisors so if you're considering NYU for your grad work, it's a good networking thing for you. He also teaches at Columbia every couple of years."
Quinn had to admit to herself that this sounded like the best opportunity she had to get her internship finished so she could graduate ahead of schedule and maybe take some time off from school before going to grad school. She wanted to take the money her parents had given her and travel a little bit before she committed to another 3-4 years of school. If she then decided to get her Ph. D, it would be even longer. She loved the idea of being in school for the next several years. It had been her focus since leaving Lima and watching her relationship with Puck go up in flames.
"When would I have to be there?" Quinn asked her advisor.
"Next week." Dr. Chance replied.
"I know it is last minute. Dr. Rhodes just informed me he was opening it up to undergrads today and I thought of you first. It's a four-week internship to start and then weekends after that for the next 4 weeks."
"I'm taking a summer session in 6 weeks."
"It's just the weekends. It's to wrap up whatever work you've done mostly. Initially, you'll be working with volunteer study participants, conducting minor personality tests. You'll have to compile the work into a paper to get credit for the internship."
She thought about her options for a moment. She could go on vacation with her mother or she could complete the internship she needed to graduate early.
"I'm in." She told the professor. "Can you send me the details?"
"Come by my office tomorrow after my class and we'll talk."
Quinn agreed and then picked up the phone to call her mother to explain the situation. While her mother was disappointed that they wouldn't have a few weeks together, she did understand that this was important for her daughter's future.
Quinn hung up and scrolled through the contacts in her phone. She passed Puck's name and ended up hovering over Rachel's. She thought about texting or calling to let her know she'd be in her old neighborhood. She saw Santana's name below and thought the same, but decided against contacting both of them.
So much had happened with her disconnected group of high school friends in the past several years. She'd felt even more disconnected from them since her final trip to McKinley. Her final trip was to say goodbye to the New Directions for good. She got back together with Puck and she felt comfortable that they'd finally figured it out and would make it work despite the distance. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for them to start arguing about things long-distance couples in two very different life phases argue about. Quinn studied too much according to Puck and didn't have enough time to talk to him. Puck was always in training and when he wasn't, he had little time to actually call his girlfriend on the other side of the country. When he did, it was because he had a short leave and was often drunk or at the very least wanted to spend the time hanging with his friends instead of on the phone or computer with Quinn. It didn't take long for things they'd been so confident in before to fizzle out into an amicable break-up. They'd left it at if it's going to be, it will be, but now is not the right time for them… again.
Rachel had just gotten back to New York for her 2nd chance at leading a Broadway show and had started dating Jesse. Quinn had followed her on Facebook and in some of the Broadway blogs. Her reviews were good so far and the show was a relative success even though it wasn't well known like Funny Girl. Kurt and Blaine had returned to New York so that they could both finish up school. Sam stayed at McKinley and Mercedes ended up going back to L.A. Artie was still in New York, but he spent a lot of time in Rhode Island according to his Facebook page and had taken a lot of pictures recently with Tina who was at Brown. Quinn was just waiting for those two relationship statuses to change.
Then, there was Brittany and Santana. They'd gotten married. Quinn missed it because she'd been in the hospital having her appendix removed after it burst. She'd felt terrible about not being there to see her two best friends get married. Well, four of her best friends get married technically. She'd been packed and was ready to go two days before her flight when she started to experience pain. She saw the pictures online and looked at how happy her friends were. She'd regretted having to miss it, but at the same time, there was a pain in her heart she couldn't identify until she'd stopped taking the painkillers post-surgery. She pushed them aside and focused back on school and her future plans. Yale undergrad followed by grad school at either Columbia or NYU and then a Ph. D at any Ivy League university on the east coast.
It took a few months before the rumors reached Quinn. Brittany and Santana had separated. She'd been more shocked than she thought she would be when she first heard it through the grapevine. She'd actually heard it from Puck who still stayed in contact with Santana. She thought about reaching out, but she didn't know whom to reach out too. They were both her friends. They'd been the unholy trinity together for four years. Of course, she'd always been closer to Santana, but Santana was also the more difficult of the two to talk too and she felt that if she needed her, she'd reach out.
Rachel was the first to actually call to tell her about what happened. Apparently, it wasn't one event, but two. Through Mike, Brittany had met a dance instructor in New York. The instructor offered her a teaching job, but not in New York where she and Santana lived, but in her Miami school. Brittany took it without talking to Santana. That caused a fight, but one they could get past. Santana had gotten into NYADA after all that time of bouncing around New York aimlessly. She had just started thinking about her future in New York when Brittany dropped the news. Santana couldn't move to Miami and Brittany would have to turn the job down, which she ended up doing and got a part-time instructor gig at a small dance studio instead. She was teaching 5-year olds hip hop when one of the parents noticed her and offered her a job on one of his client's stage shows. That client with the other Britney who happened to have a stationary show in Vegas. She couldn't turn that one down and Santana understood. Brittany left shortly after and they'd spent a month apart before Santana went to visit. What she found was a very happy Brittany and one that had been welcomed with open arms into the group of dancers and had been promised a job on a tour when she was done in Vegas.
Santana found herself a bottle to drink and then a couple of more and ended up in a Vegas strip club while Brittany was working. She followed that up with a few more drinks at a club and had a couple of dances with some girl she'd just met. When Brittany walked into the club to meet Santana after a long night of dancing, she found her wife drunk and grinding against some woman that was not her and then she saw that woman turn around and connect her lips to Santana's. It only took a second for Santana to pull away in disgust and she sobered up quickly. Brittany rushed over and pulled the woman away from her and it was then that she caught a glance, according to a very dramatic Rachel, of Santana's ringless hand. She later confessed to Rachel that she took it off when she went into the strip club. She wasn't planning on doing anything, but she'd gone there to get a lap dance and blow off some steam, which Brittany never had a problem with, but that was hard to do with a wedding ring on her finger since most of the dancers then just assumed she was a straight, married chick. Brittany stayed in Vegas and Santana returned to New York.
A month ago, Quinn noticed Santana's relationship status changed to "It's Complicated" and when she texted Rachel about it, Rachel just said they'd decided to separate. Two weeks ago though, Quinn got a text from Kurt saying he was pretty sure they were done. When Quinn asked why, he told her that Brittany had met someone in Vegas… already. Quinn couldn't believe it. There was no way Brittany could do that to Santana… to her wife. She'd made a commitment. It was then that she really thought about Brittany and while she did love the girl, she'd always been much more of a free spirit than both Quinn and Santana. She'd found love so many times and Quinn had thought that maybe they'd rushed into the whole wedding thing, but she didn't offer that opinion up because she didn't want to interfere.
Another phone call from Rachel told Quinn that it was probably over. Santana had been going out and had brought some girls home to the apartment she now shared with only Rachel since Blaine and Kurt had remained in the loft and Artie had moved in with them temporarily until he could find his own place.
It was strange that when Quinn heard about Brittany and Santana separating, she felt sad for them, but also slightly nervous too for some reason she didn't care to identify. She opted to call no one about her internship. She'd get settled into the dorm first and then if she decided she wanted to let them know she was in town for a few weeks, she would. She was continually trying to put her troubled past behind her and she was well on her way. While she genuinely loved her friends from Lima, she also knew she needed to focus more on making new friends as they all continued to grow apart and move away.
After meeting with Dr. Chance, she found out there were 20 undergraduates that were accepted into this internship program and she was the final addition to that group. They would work in teams of 5 and have a graduate student act as their advisor. Quinn's team would be led by a student named Taylor Morgan and she would have her orientation the following Monday at 4pm. That gave her only 4 days to get her stuff packed and prepare for life in New York for the next 4 weeks.
The dorm was smaller than the one she had at Yale her freshman year, but at least she had this one to herself despite the bunk bed. The dorms don't get packed during the summer so the interns were given their own rooms. It was very different than her move into her old dorm though. For this one, she only brought a couple of suitcases filled with clothes, toiletries and books and her computer. The rest of her stuff remained in her apartment, which after seeing the tiny room she would be staying in for four weeks, she greatly missed. She had to run to the store to find a twin bed set since she had a queen at home and just picked up the cheapest one she could find. She ended up with a red, white and blue plaid set with white pillow cases and navy blue sheets and decided she didn't care that it made her look extremely patriotic and definitely strange. The train she'd taken had arrived at 10 and the store hadn't taken too long so she made her way over to the building where she'd been told he orientation would take place. She only got lost twice and was glad she'd given herself the extra time because she arrived at 2 minutes till four and took a seat in the back row in one of the only empty seats. She took a look around while pulling her laptop out of her bag and setting it on the desk. She counted all 20 students and looked up at the front of the room and saw Dr. Rhodes standing in front of a desk talking to someone she presumed was one of the grad students.
"Welcome everyone!" He said loudly as the grad student stepped aside. There were three others standing against the dry erase board behind the doctor. "I promise this won't take too long. This is just to get you all up to speed and then I'll let your grad advisors take over and we'll get you out of here to get settled before tomorrow." He was a tall man in his fifties with a brown beard peppered with gray and white. His hair was full and his glasses were resting on the edge of his nose. Quinn thought to herself that they might fall off his face any minute now. "I'm Dr. Rhodes. I teach social psychology and abnormal psychology here at NYU and criminal psychology over at Columbia ever couple of years. I also have a private practice and do pro bono work over at a clinic in Brooklyn. You'll be broken up into 4 groups of 5. Each group will have a specific focus or purpose. At the end of the internship, your group will present a paper to the larger group and you'll receive credit for your time here. I'll meet with each of you at the end of the four-week period to review your work. You will meet with your grad advisor on a weekly basis 1:1 and they each have office hours as well if you need additional time. You'll meet with your group daily outside of the work you perform to discuss your results with them and begin to formulate your thesis and paper."
Quinn was typing on her laptop at a feverish pace. She'd gotten in over her head. She thought she'd be doing mostly clerical work like filing or scheduling. She didn't realize it would be this intense.
"My name is Will." The grad student the doctor had previously been speaking with spoke to the group. "If you're in my group, you got an email from me last night about your work for the next two months. We'll meet after this to discuss tomorrow."
Two more male graduate students introduced themselves and said something similar. Quinn connected to the wifi and tried to pull up her email. She hadn't received anything from Taylor or the program. Why did all the other students get an email from their advisor, but this Taylor guy hadn't sent her anything?
"I'm Taylor." Quinn heard a female voice and looked up from her computer. "If you're looking for an email from me right now, you're in my group." Her hair was brown and shoulder length. She was tall and thin, but not in a bad way. She had an athletic build to her and was tan from either lying out or spending a lot of time outside. Her eyes matched her hair and she was dressed in jeans in a t-shirt that said Columbia Crew. "I didn't send one. I figured we'd just chat today face to face." Her tone was polite, but Quinn's overachieving brain couldn't help but hate that she got put into the group with the slacker as her leader.
"Welcome to the program." Dr. Rhodes repeated. "Your advisors will take over from here. They have their own requirements for this program and part of it is leading their groups so I'll leave them to it. You all have my contact information and office hours. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to reach out."
With that, he was gone. Each advisor stood at the front of the room and their interns walked toward them without direction. Quinn packed her laptop away without turning it off and followed the students toward her advisor.
"Let's get out of here. I don't know about you guys, but I try not to live in a classroom during the summer if I can avoid it." Taylor told the group of 5 students standing in front of her. There were three men and one woman in her group. She followed them all out of the classroom watching the other groups as she passed them. They were already getting started. Will was passing out papers with something important on them, she was sure and instead of that, she was being ushered God knows where.
They proceeded in a hurried fashion down the hallway and outside where the strong afternoon sun hit Quinn's face and she pulled her sunglasses out to shield her eyes. "How's this?" Taylor asked the group and motioned toward a patch of grass with a full tree offering shade. Everyone just nodded and sat down. Quinn was the last to join in. She'd worn a pantsuit thinking she should look professional for her first day as an intern and now felt like an ass considering everyone else dressed casually and had no problem sitting in the damp grass. She sat on the cement of the sidewalk instead and waited for Taylor to begin. "I thought we'd get started with introductions. My name is Taylor Morgan. I'm a grad student here obviously with my focus on social psychology. I'm one semester away from finishing up and then I'm taking a year off to go to Australia and New Zealand. I hope to come back to get my Ph. D after that."
"Hope?" It was Quinn's voice. She'd said that out loud. All eyes were now on her.
"I guess you're next then." Taylor said to her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that."
"No, it's okay. What did you mean?" She asked.
"Nothing. It just slipped out." Quinn told her, feeling a little on the spot.
"Ok. I guess I'll take your word for it. Why don't you tell us who you are?"
"I'm Quinn Fabray. Yale undergrad. Psych major."
"And your focus?"
Quinn hesitated for a moment.
"Just psychology right now. I haven't decided on a particular focus." She admitted.
Taylor looked at her as if she were trying to peel back every layer of Quinn Fabray. Quinn didn't like it.
"Fair enough. Why are you here?" She asked her, still with that look in her eye.
"I need an internship. It's a requirement for graduation and my advisor recommended me for this one."
"What do you hope to gain from this experience?" Taylor asked her and her eyes drifted down to Quinn's feet as Quinn was attempting to get comfortable on the hard cement.
"You didn't answer that question." Quinn told her. Four other people all looked at her first and then over to Taylor who just smiled.
"That's true. I didn't." She looked up to the sky and then back at Quinn. "I hope to gain a deeper understanding of people from this experience."
"And how will you do that?" Quinn asked her, feeling her inner HBIC return to her easily as if it's always just buried right there beneath the surface.
"From dialogues like this." Taylor returned and smiled again in Quinn's direction. "Who's next?"
After about 20 minutes of giving the overview of the program, Taylor dismissed the group. They'd meet at the Brooklyn clinic at 8am tomorrow. The group all lived in the same building so they'd just take the train over together and meet Taylor there. Taylor was the only full-time New York resident. Ben was from Duke, Jack was from Purdue, Amy was from Florida State and Rob was from Notre Dame.
"Quinn, can I talk to you for a minute?" Taylor asked as everyone stood to walk off. Quinn tried to wipe the wrinkles out of her pants as she silently chastised herself for wearing them. She looked up to see Taylor standing in front of her.
"Yale, huh?" She asked.
"I'm sorry?" Quinn wasn't sure what she meant.
"They turned me down." Taylor confessed. "Guess I'm not Yale material."
"Oh, sorry." Quinn didn't know what to say.
"Anyway, Dr. Rhodes said you came highly recommended from a colleague and if you go to Yale, you must be pretty smart so I was planning on putting you in charge of the group."
"Isn't that your job?" Quinn didn't mean it to sound rude. She was just actually confused.
"Yes, I don't me do my work for me. I mean, act as a leader to the group. Make sure the work gets done and everyone has their shit together, so to speak."
"Why me? Everyone here is here for a reason." Quinn shifted her bag over her shoulder.
"Because you will challenge them. I can tell."
"Look, I didn't mean to be a jerk earlier. I-"
"You weren't a jerk, but you weren't exactly 100% honest either. What did you really mean by your 'hope' comment?" She looked off to the side for a moment at two students biking along the sidewalk and then reached her arm out and took Quinn's elbow, pulling her closer to her, but also off of the sidewalk so as not to get hit by the bicyclists. Quinn's heel dug into the grass momentarily as she gained her balance.
"I guess it was just an interesting choice of words. You're traveling and then you hope you're coming back for your Ph. D."
"How would you define your future?" Taylor asked, seeming genuinely interested.
"My undergrad will be done next semester. I'll take the spring off to travel and I'll start grad school in the fall. Once that's done, I'll complete my Ph. D and then-"
"And then you'll be what? 27, 28?"
Quinn squinted at her.
"And you know all of this will happen?"
"It's what I'm working for, so yeah."
"This is why I like social psych. People in the world can follow a similar path. Take you and me, for example, but end up with viewpoints on it. I'm working toward the same thing you are, but I can't know for sure that it will end up working out the way I envisioned it and I'm okay with that. You look at it like it is a definitive and that anything less will somehow be a disappointment."
"I didn't say that." Quinn defended.
"Is it wrong though?" Taylor asked her. Hey eyes met Quinn's and she smiled again.
Quinn glared at her.
"I have a path I've planned for myself, yes. It's taken me a long time to get to a place where I feel confident saying that so yeah, I say it definitively."
Taylor used her hand to move her hair behind her ear.
"Well alright." She laughed lightly. "I think you're going to do well here, Quinn. What do you know about social psych experiments?"