The grey Monday morning drizzle could not have looked more beautiful. Well, admittedly, Danah's personal view of it was biased, mainly because she hardly registered the fact that most of her colleagues were practically drowning and turning up to their classes looking like drowned rats.

She was glad she hadn't done too many silly things today, considering her state of mind over recent events; she'd only been a scatterbrain on occasions that didn't matter – she'd had to burst back into classrooms she'd just left to retrieve her umbrella twice, and had been so eager to leave the dissected-rat smelling laboratory that she hadn't packed her books in her bag properly, and had almost faced the prospect of lugging back sodden, mud-stained books except for her quick reflexes, which saved them diving headfirst into a giant waiting puddle.

It had been a source of astonishment to her parents and siblings to find the usually quick-witted, sharp girl sometimes clumsy and accident-prone, and Lachlan had joked that he'd never want to be on the receiving end of brain surgery if she was to be one of the attending doctors. But Lachlan was the one who missed his little sister the most, of her brother and sister. He'd been the one calling and emailing to her now and then, had even condescended to manually write cards on the occasions that had passed: silly little Valentine's Day cards, even ones only foreign countries celebrated like Groundhog Day. He'd been even more whining than usual when their mother had had to call Danah and tell her that the beautiful little car that had been her twenty-first present was currently sitting in the mechanic's shed, after having been dragged away by the tow-truck – he had tried to be very careful, he had earnestly assured her. Just the sweet little car had seemed to … you know, sort of lose control, and it was begging him to drive faster … as much as she adored her brother, Danah had cursed him bitterly every time she'd had to wait an hour to catch the bus home, especially if it was during particularly bad, windy, rainy, sodden weather.

Danah herself had only driven it a few occasions herself since having got it, mainly escorting Lachlan around because he'd lost his own motorbike again in another ridiculous accident; 'ridiculous' because he had somehow managed to go through no less than four motorcycles in three years, his joyous rides culminating in the motorcycle ending up caught halfway up the metal pillars of a bridge, or having been catapulted over people's heads into alleyways. But Lachlan himself was the miracle, always standing stupefied and shocked, having escaped with only a few cuts and bruises. He'd loved motorcycles for so long, that idiot Lachlan, she thought affectionately, but the day he finally was allowed by mother to get one, he goes and gets it jammed under the back wheels of a truck. It had been a full year before her father's shock had settled down enough for Lachlan to purchase another cycle, but everyone knew they would never last long …

Motorycles … I've always loved them myself, not to ride of course, I know I could never manage something like that … but this powerful dragon-like creature, all at the control of your hands … and the wind … like flying … how much closer to flying can one get …

Understandably, but far swifter than she had thought it would, her own thoughts flew to the one subject prevalent in her mind …

I wonder … I wonder if he …

Blushing furiously, she gathered her wits enough to jump lightly over a puddle, and realised with a start that she had walked further than she usually did. Usually, she reached the end of the pathway that led up to the Medicine Quadrangle and its beautiful grounds, then she usually turned right towards the library and food court area. Instead, she had continued on, lost once again in her dream world … She was now staring up at the handsome red-and-beige brick wall of the Art and History Tower.

So many times over the past years had she passed this rather grand building, but had never ventured inside. Indeed, she had never had anything much to do with these buildings – if anything, she had believed the material of her own course so far removed from the subjects taught within this school of learning; what could the art teachers ever teach her that had some relation to chemistry and anatomy and help her attend to a patient who was in fatal risk of a defibrillating heart? It had taken her very little time to realise, especially after having completed her first year, that art and history had everything to do with medicine, that it was art and history that had been the stage-setters for everything about medicine and the sciences. Especially upon having learned of Leonardo da Vinci, a genius comparable only to the select few of earth-shattering and mind-spinning discoveries and revelations …

Before she quite knew what she was doing, her feet had glided up the steps, her books had been shifted to her other arm, the one still clutching the rogue umbrella, and her right arm was extending to clasp the handle of the giant glass door …

Breath-taking. That was it in a word. Absolutely, enchantingly breath-taking …

So caught up in this brand new world around her, she for once forgot all about being self-conscious and melting into the floor with so many strangers around her. Judging from her labcoat draped over one arm, and the anatomy and biochemistry textbooks juggling in other arm, and even the simple elegance of her clothes in comparison to the most daring art fanatics around her, it was all too plain that a medical student, a girl who would one day be one of their doctors, had stepped into their school, wide-eyed, open-mouthed and pink-cheeked.

The walls were nothing like the bleached white seemingly cleanliness of the medicine hallways and classrooms, the ugly whitewash that adorned almost every room, empty of all refinery and elegance …

These walls were slats of dark chocolate wood, loving having been glossed and polished to perfection, the shine accentuated by a magical giant chandelier that gracefully adorned the ceiling, the diamonds glinting like the thousand eyes of Argus the Watchman, who had been assigned by Hera the wife of Zeus to watch over a pretty little heifer, Argus who had been slain by Mercury, who had been disguised as a shepherd. The thousand eyes which had been taken after Argus' death, and been placed into Hera's beautiful peacock, as an eternal reminder of her faithful watchman. This delightful legend played into Danah's mind as she gazed upon a painting depicting it, hung up on the far wall, right next to the grand swirling staircase, still graced with the royal mahogany-like wood as it spiraled upwards into the next level. But the chandelier was not the only wonder adorning the ceiling – extending from the centre, seemingly with the chandelier acting as the sun itself, a giant mobile had been constructed, all nine planets, the asteroid belt and random stars and constellations were now floating gracefully, all the way to the very edges of the room.

The magic and wonder didn't just end there; around the circumference of the room itself, on raised miniature ancient Grecian pillars, that stood only at her waist-height, little symbols, statues and carvings of all seemingly unrelated things had been placed – she saw ancient models of the solar system, carvings and diagrams of the first 'crude' telescope, scale-size models of the world's prominent buildings, even an engraving of 'The Last Supper', a tiny carving of a knight's tomb. And in addition to all this, paintings, paintings, paintings. Everything from watercolours that were evidently done by the university's own students, to oils of lesser known modern day artists, and giant prints of more famous works. For a girl who grew up just hearing the names of incredible artworks, just hearing them spoken with passing grace and acknowledgment of their greatness, but never having seen or experienced or felt them – except from textbooks which didn't count at all – seeing a life-size reprint itself was something that made her quite breathless.

"The colours aren't as vibrant as they should be, but perhaps its just the lighting. I've always believed the lighting here does not do these prints justice." The gentle, quiet voice came from just over her shoulder, but she was still absorbed in gazing at the print of the Mona Lisa, that it was suddenly hard to tear her eyes away, especially when she noticed all the little details and strange aspects to it that she'd only read about – the 'perspective' business, the uneven skyline that was the Mona Lisa's backdrop, the barely recognisable smile, the strange mixture of man and woman …

"But it still looks so alive –"

As if finally gathering her senses and realising how rude it was not acknowledging her companion, she turned, her eyes still wide with wonder, to face him.

Her words died in her lips as she stared into sparkling, almost dancing eyes, the sparkle that made his smile seem mischievous. Dark, glossy hair caught up into a ponytail, some escaped rogue strands framing his face. The gentle tilt of his lips, as if accentuating the mischief dancing in his midnight eyes.

He had his black leather jacket again, and she fleetingly knew he had arrived in his motorbike again. Writing pad and a single textbook he was carrying in his hand, his other hand in his trouser pocket. And a seemingly ever-present impish grin permanently set into his features.

"Alive?" She saw him turn and gaze up at the Mona Lisa, with almost a pitying smile on his lips. "I'm afraid Danah, if this is your first time seeing the Mona Lisa – and I rather assume it is, with that wondrous expression in your beautiful eyes right now –" And here he leaned forwards slightly, a fleeting mischievous wink as she blushed furiously, before drawing back "– then it's rather a shame, because when you see a magnificent revered artwork for the first time, you should not be seeing a print, but the real thing." He shook his head slowly, like a parent gently chiding a child. "Terrible shame that most of the world never does get to see the works of da Vinci, Reynolds, Michaelangelo and Wren as they should be seen – in person." He grinned again, that contagious cheeky smile.

He seemed to have no idea of the thundering in her chest right now, something for which she was exceedingly grateful. He removed his hand from his pocket and trailed his finger gently along the gilt frame. The tenderness, the warmth with which he did this was almost entrancing, she didn't know why …

The morning light outside may as well have been late evening, the sky looked so menacing and dark. But within this magic she had stepped into, and the magic that had suddenly appeared beside her, the same that had been swirling around in her thoughts all weekend …

In the benevolent light of the diamonds shimmering above them, there was the quiet murmur of students around them, stopping to have a look at the wonders in this room that she was sure they had seen thousands of times since.

He was that kind of figure, although slender, and though his movements were fluid, there was a grace and elegance that spoke of something more; he was one of those who seemed to possess a kind of rippling power, so strong it could almost be felt radiating from him, even from the collar of his dark shirt protruding above his jacket collar, ivory-bronzed skin. Now, standing before her, the golden caress of the light that was flooding the room fell in gentle waves upon his slight frame, enhanced the shining glossy black of his hair, the dormant strength in his arms, delicate artist's fingers resting against and tracing the intricate patterns of the frame …

And his voice, quiet, gentle, unassuming …

"If you really like these, Danah, then I wonder what you will think of the real ones – now those really do feel like you are standing and facing something very, very real, flesh and blood before you." Those magical midnight eyes turned and seemed to burn within hers, and that gentle smile played around his lips. "Someday you must go to the Louvre in Paris and have a look at masterpieces that literally are living and breathing. Or even," Here, his fingers slid down the frame, and coming to rest by his side, he hooked his thumb into his jacket pocket, "Even one of the ancient gothic buildings in England and if you look up at their ribbed vaulting, you'll see something that resembles as perfect an imitation of man's living and breathing as you would see anywhere."

Somehow, she managed to find her voice. After all, it wouldn't do to just stand there and absorb this strange magic coming from this young man she hardly knew … but who she somehow felt she knew and had dreamed of so much now …

"Well, I always did want to go to those wonderful places, Jo, but …" She shrugged, suddenly looking away from those mysterious dark eyes, the ones that seemed to be smoldering into hers. "But it hasn't been easy lately to find time or even resources to make such a trip. Besides," Here she glanced at him again, a shy smile working its way into her lips. "I wouldn't want to visit those places by myself. I … I would more than anything like to go with somebody." Her mouth was suddenly dry … I can't believe I'm telling him these things! What must he think of –

"I agree with you Danah. I'm afraid I'm a terrible romantic as well. When we visited the Louvre as a class, everyone else took to Paris like a hand to glove, but I was the only idiot who stayed in his room, except for when we visited the museums." A sheepish grin reflected the sparkle in his eyes.

She was still staring at him in half-awe, half-confusion, wondering if he had meant what she thought he had, when she suddenly caught sight of something over his shoulder … a print of a very striking painting …

A large landscape-oriented painting was set at the wall directly opposite to where the spiraling stairs began. The staircase had been set into a large alcove area, and the painting had been hung, in what she saw now, was actually a 'pride of place' – the first painting that was seen when people ascended and descended the staircase. And it was perpendicular to the entrance, which was why she hadn't seen it before …

She could only gasp at the magic of what she was gazing at.

A landscape. Grey, brown, dreary, so unbelievably depressing, so true-to-life the way the artist had depicted a scenery of deep sorrow, as if the land around had suffered terrible, awful damage. It was actually a wide, vast country area, but none of the happy-joyful landscapes that usually accompanied country scenery. The ground looked so dead, looked really as if it been struck with something, so deceased, lifeless did it seem. Bushes rose up – technically they were bushes, but they too were just skeletons of what they had once been, wiry frameworks that might have been a living, breathing plant. Similarly, skeletons of trees were in the background, most of them valiantly trying to stand, others bent over almost at right angles, all in the same direction, as if a merciless wind had swept across the land. The sky was the most depressing, but at the same time a stunningly beautiful portrayal of grey-black stormclouds. The horizon was bleak, faded, dull – almost not there. But the clever brush strokes had somehow created something that could only be seen if the centerpiece picture was fully appreciated.

A girl. A very hazy, unreal figure. The outlines were so vague, not delineated clearly at all. But she was shimmering. There was some kind of magical glow coming from her. And the truly spectacular aspect was the way she was shining, the way the artist had made the background so dark, so depressing, that the slight figure of the girl gave the effect that some special paints had been used.

She had her back half-tuned, her face hidden. Long, almost golden hair trailed down to her waist and even in the unclear outlines, it gave the effect that it would be soft and silky to the touch; pale ivory shoulders extending into slender, willowy arms and body. A long white dress, one that clung closely but loosely to her slender body. The hem trailed behind her on the ground as she walked, and upon looking even more closely, Danah could see that the back of her dress, while seemingly a cloak, actually looked like soft, snowy-white wings, the tips of which were lightly brushing against the ground. And the incredible skill of the artist was shown very clearly here; it had been painted in such a way that the glowing mass of beauty looked almost like it was jumping off the page, giving it a fascinating 3D perspective. In the scene of dread, of loss and evident misery that the backdrop showed, this glimmering figure was … absolutely, breathtakingly stunning.

And it was then she saw the little golden plaque, a little above eye level, set just below the painting …

'A Light Before We Land' …

"What a … what a strange title …" She felt rather than heard the whisper escaping her lips. Her mind so caught up in the wonder, this pure, raw magic before her – because after what he had just told her about real living and breathing artwork as opposed to print, she could tell this was the original … obviously done by a student of this school, but still …

"Yes, it's rather a silly title, isn't it? I've often thought so, when I've passed this …"

"No, I … I didn't mean it was silly, Jo … I meant it was … it's a beautiful title …" Again, she felt his presence beside her, the strange, beautiful warmth … finally tearing her eyes away from the awe above her, she turned, gazing almost directly into his eyes. She was still reeling a little from having experienced a painting that 'lived and breathed', and her eyes must still have been glazed, but suddenly feeling his closeness again seemed to bring back her consciousness … oh my god …

However, there was an almost unreadable expression in his eyes as his gaze flickered from the picture into her eyes. It was a mixture of a scowl and a smile. "But it is silly, I really think they should take it down …"

She stared. "But – but it's so beautiful! How it must delight people as they pass it! There … there's something raw and – and sensual about it … it's like a – a magnet or something …" Turning her head slightly, she gazed up at it. "The person who did this … it was almost as if they painted something they truly felt inside them, to have given it so much love … they must have drawn it because it reflected some kind of hope they were feeling …"

The strange words couldn't possibly be coming from her own lips could they? But truly, she felt like she, just like the artist, was expressing an opinion that really was coming from deep inside her. Turning back to face him, she blushed again when she saw that he was staring at her, his mouth slightly parted.

"Danah … you sounded almost like an art scholar trying to decipher the mind of the idiot who painted this. But that's pretty amazing, I'll bet if you talked to him, he might have agreed with you on your evaluation."

Now it was her turn to stare. "You know who painted it?"

His eyes flickered back up to the painting, it seemed, to a particular location and he looked away, another impish grin tilting his lips into a smile. "Oh yes, unfortunately I do. He was young and innocent and an idiot when he painted this."

On a sudden thought, she turned around herself and stared in shock at the bottom right-hand side of the painting's edge, where the artist usually scrawled their signature.

Elegant, flowing, and yet simplistically childish, as if he had been mocking the imitation of a beautiful signature, but essentially wanting to give it his own childish, mischievous style …

… 'Jonathon Wakefield' …

Eyes wide, she turned back to him, that cheeky grin, but there was now also a red tinge in his face … as if he was blushing. She stared – was he embarrassed?

"Jo …? Y-You painted this?"

A sheepish grin again, his nose wrinkled slightly as he gazed up at the painting again. "In my first year. It's something I was working on for a long time, and when I finished it, my art teacher almost had a fit, he thought some miracle had taken place in his boring-as-hell classes." He scowled up at it. "Afterwards, it seems like he told the entire staffroom, and the next thing I know, this thing has been hanging here for the past five years. I've been trying to convince them to take it down, but no chance …" He trailed away, sighing.

A silence ensued, and she turned her gaze back up to the beauty above her. What a truly beautiful picture … it – almost as if it does something inside to me …

"You know …"

Reluctantly she tore her eyes away to fix on her companion, and realised he was gazing at her intently. She blinked in confusion, too entranced with the sparkle in his eyes to look away.

He himself glanced up at the painting, then back at her, almost as if something had just occurred to him.

"She looks almost like you."

Startled, she stared at him in shock. "W-What?"

"I mean it." While she stared bewildered, blushing and open-mouthed, he squinted up at the mysteriously beautiful lithe figure of the girl. "That girl was modeled on nothing less than some kind of strange vision I must have had, in a dream or something." The dark eyes slowly slid downwards, finally alighting on hers. "I didn't really think I would find one of my paintings in reality had existed all along."

She was still open-mouthed, something was burning inside her chest … she stood frozen once again.

"Well," Here, that infectious grin again, as he stepped closer, whispering to her confidentially, "Weren't you like a sudden light, last Friday? Out of the gloom, this lovely golden-haired thing fell right into my arms."

Indeed, it was about then that the rest of the room vanished, once more, just like at the bus-stop that equally grey and dismal but magical day, everything around seemed to fade away, outlines blurred, and all she was aware of was this absolutely wonderful presence in front of her …

"Jo, my man!"

A loud, cheerful voice exploded in between them, and Danah blinked, as if shocked to find they had been surrounded by a steady mass of people all along. She stared now at a couple of young men who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. She stared, half-incredulous, half-fascinated at the one who had flung his arm around Jo's neck, the force of which had actually sent him stumbling forwards.

The first thing she would notice about Cliff was his studs and piercings. The septum of the nose, the chin, one eyebrow, and of course, the ears; she half-wondered just how many more he had, but then decided quickly she didn't really want to know. She remembered a time Lachlan had whinged and pleaded and begged to be allowed to have a piercing, and had carried on for days but everyone had firmly said they would denounce him for eternity if he ever came home with a piercing. Now, of course, he had gotten over his desire for a piercing, but he had privately consulted with Danah, who had told secretly admitted to him that the only place she would accept him having a piercing was in the eyebrow, because it gave a rakishly daring look. However, staring at Cliff, with his huge collection of facial piercings, she wasn't sure whether she would still hold with her previous opinion.

While Jo scuffled, trying to get the leech off his neck, Danah saw another one peering around the arguing pair, and the first she would notice about Mike was his dreadlocks. Lily had always been disgusted with dreadlocks, and had actually shrieked out loud in the middle of the street whenever she had seen someone with them. It had been utterly embarrassing, and Danah had also held a similar revolted fascination for them, but now, seeing them on this young man, she couldn't help thinking that it definitely suited some people – and here, if any, was someone who had successfully asserted his individuality and who would never melt into the crowd. Mike had rather beautiful intense grey eyes which peered at her interestedly, a sports bag draped over his shoulder and chewing gum working happily in his mouth.

The last one she almost didn't see; although he was tall he seemed to be trying to melt into the background and it seemed to be working. What she could see of Rory's eyes reminded her of a frightened rabbit; most of his face was overshadowed by an abundance of glossy brown hair, untidy at the ends and evidently he didn't favour haircuts. Tall and gangly, he clutched his books to his chest and looked highly nervous. He only met her eyes once as if to see what had captured his companions' attention, but then looked away swiftly.

Wow … they're so varied … so different from my lot …

and somehow I get this strange feeling that these guys are real people

While Danah took in these strange but fascinating visions, Jo had managed to extricate himself from his friend's grasp, and promptly flung him off a wide grin stretched across his face.

"Cliff you overgrown ape, I always told you to watch where you swing those monkey arms." Danah watched as cheerful, powerful grip handshakes were exchanged in greeting, even the mousy Rory stirred himself enough, and he actually turned to have a nice smile, however terrified the rest of him looked.

Cliff turned and stared with enormous interest at Danah, who felt her face beginning to burn again.

"Is it possible?! Jo has finally found himself a girlf–"

Jo's arm shot out at once, expertly hooking itself through an earring on Cliff's ear, and Danah's mouth dropped open in shock and Mike started laughing, and he turned out to have a rather contagious one, a curious mixture of snorts and guffaws. Within seconds, she felt her own lips twitching into a smile, and even Rory failed to hold back a grin.

"Yeah, as you see, Danah, we usually aren't laughing with Cliff, we're laughing at him," Jo grinned, ducking swiftly to one side as Cliff stopped abruptly and swung a clumsy fist.

"I always wondered what your taste was, Jo, and it seems to be pretty refined." Danah turned to Mike, her jaw dropping. He winked at her, then nudged Jo conspiratorially. "No wonder you never seemed to go for any of our girls." He swerved out of the way at Jo's more accurate swipe with the books he was holding.

It was just the most strangest feeling. She hardly even knew these guys, but there was something about them; standing here now, being teased good-naturedly about having more-than-close associations with their best friend, a young man who had suddenly, mysteriously fallen into her life … just as if a star really had swept out of heaven and fallen right into her heart …

They were the most easy-going people she had ever been in the presence of. It was an overwhelming feeling, being around young men in whose presence she genuinely did feel comfortable. Back in her normal classes, her colleagues had, for the past years they had known each other, never made her feel as comfortable, as accepted as these strangers took her into their world, after only a fleeting acquaintance …

"Is she the girl in your painting?"

Everyone turned at the soft, gentle voice, and instantly Rory seemed to shrink back, as if wanting to escape the interest he had reluctantly created. Everyone's mouths had dropped open except Jo's, who swiftly turned to Danah, grinning widely at the furious blush in her face again. His look clearly was a 'See?-I-told-you-so' one. "You got it in one, Rory old thing. This is exactly the same girl, in the same circumstances as well."

Her own mouth was suddenly dry, she couldn't even summon up the courage to refute him. She could just stare numbly at the sparkling mischief in his eyes, but … but there was also something else, something that stirred a strange emotion within her when she felt that gaze glide into her heart … what on earth …

"But – but you painted this years ago. How come we've never seen her then?"

"We've been asking you about your women for years and only now we find out you had one all along –"

"Look, will you perverts stop it? Why does everything have to be related to romance with you guys?" Jo seemed to have finally snapped under the tension, between Cliff's and Mike's knowing grins and winks. But there was no anger, only a pink tinge to his face, and he just suddenly he couldn't seem to want to meet her eyes.

"Well, maybe not for normal people, but it's strange for a bastard like you not to have been with a girl in all the time we've known you."

"Yeah, and you know what people say, Jo, about a guy your age who hasn't had a girlfriend yet." A wicked grin, Mike's grey eyes crinkled in delight.

"I don't give a crap what they say, it's not true anyway." His eyebrows had raised skeptically when Mike spoke, but now after scoffing it away, she suddenly felt his intent gaze upon her again, and she met his eyes, feeling a tightness in her chest.

Just as it had some moments before, the world around her dimmed, faded, became blurry. Jo's friends had also disappeared almost, all she felt was that strange spinning, soaring, gliding feeling again, when he turned and looked at her.

Mike now looked intensely interested, not only in the strange expression in his friend's eyes – almost an expression as if he had just realised something to be true … but there was something about Danah as well. Perhaps because he himself was an observer, but he could swear there was something electric between them …

"Are you saying your painting came true after you painted it?" Cliff was totally and utterly bewildered, and he was also blessed with a mind that was the quickest to lose interest in a conversation, then suddenly turn around and say something that had not occurred to anyone before; he could really say stuff that made them think. This strange comment was no less …

There was a silence. Danah wondered if someone was going to snort with laughter at the absurdity of the idea, whether it had been a plot or something for a boring Monday morning laugh. But she had only known them a few minutes, and she had felt that something had clicked into place inside her, something that had been denied too long …

"It happens, you know," Mike chipped in. "See, there's this crappy thing, can't remember if it's a theory or whatever, that has to do with finding something wonderful that you always knew was there, right within your grasp, but which you spend your lifetime searching for." He moved his gum around in his mouth, oblivious to the stunned gazes of his companions. Mike was never one to go around saying sentimental claptrap …! He was always the first to scorn sappy and gushy things – be it movies, songs, incidences, even girls.

Happily ignorant of the startled admiration he was receiving, he lodged the gum somewhere in his mouth and continued. "Only the lucky bastards find it before it's too late. After all, it's not everyone who can say they've found something they knew was always there, but had spent their lifetime searching for."

Another silence followed, Cliff's jaw almost hitting the floor. Then …

"Serendipity."

The soft voice once again commanded their attention, and by now it looked as if Rory was severely regretting having spoken up at all.

But Danah was mesmerized … ever since she had first heard the word, it seemed that there couldn't possibly have existed a word, a meaning even half as otherworldly … it was like a concept that belonged to a magical time, a place long removed from all the petty worries and goings-on of this modern world …

"What the heck does that mean?" Cliff had 'confusion' written across his face and looked like he was on a particularly bewildering trip, what with too many surprises, revelations and new things all in one morning.

Jo sighed. "Danah, please forgive Cliff, again, he is an insensitive wart, he knows just how to ruin something special –"

Cliff snorted. "Jo, forgive me for not being a genius like yourself –"

"Oh come on Cliff, it doesn't require genius to –"

Fuming, Cliff swung around to poor Rory, who was taking refuge behind Mike. "Rory, you hang around Jo too much, if you don't look out you'll turn into a loony like him –"

"It's the faculty of making a wonderful, desirable but accidental discovery."

Cliff stopped abruptly, then stared at Jo. "Eh?"

"Serendipity. That's what it means."

Cliff was by now standing in the middle of the little circle they had formed, taking it in turns to either yell, glare or to stare bewildered at someone. Now, he slowly turned from Jo to Danah, and his face cleared.

"Oh, I get it. See, Danah, Jo's such a chicken he can't say it to your face, but it's his way of saying you're his serendipity." Cliff smirked, triumphant at his evaluation.

If ever her face had burned before, it was nothing compared to what she was feeling now, nor could it explain the thundering in her chest. She only hoped no one else could hear it. But it was hard, especially under his eyes … without even having to look, she knew; they had been eyes she had done nothing else but dream about all weekend …

Cliff, being the insensitive wart he was, immediately forgot completely about, or probably never was aware of, his moment of brilliance.

"So, princess, where are you headed? Want us to escort you as well to class?" Danah stared into Cliff's cheerful face, his excitedly flailing arm almost knocking Rory unconscious.

Before she could say anything, Jo laughed. When she heard his gentle laughter, the butterflies stirred joyfully … "Sorry Cliff, she's definitely not going your way. In fact, I doubt she'll ever be going to the same classes as you."

Cliff turned to stare at him, confused, but Mike leaned around him and peered interestedly at Danah. "Are you a science student?"

Well, she knew sooner or later it would be evident by her blaringly white coat draped over her arm.

"Not just a science student." All eyes flickered back to Jo, who had suddenly decided to adopt a serious face, but his eyes still sparkled. "She's the one who'll put your face back together when it falls apart from those metal things you've stuck all over it, or gets infected from needle poisoning, Cliff." He ducked again under yet another furious clumsy swipe.

Mike's face cleared. "Oh, you're a medical student!"

"Oh, so she's one of those?"

Danah blinked, wondering at the condescending tone, then glared at Cliff. "One of what? What's that supposed to mean?"

Cliff opened his big mouth to answer, but Rory's gentle voice cut in. "But she doesn't seem like those people anyway."

Once again Rory felt everyone's eyes burning into his and he squirmed uncomfortably. Danah completely forgot to glare suspiciously at Cliff, and instead stared at Rory, bewildered. What can Rory possibly mean? I don't seem like what people …?

"At least there is a gentleman amongst us." Jo hadn't stopped smiling, and he now gave an exaggerated long-suffering sigh. He turned to Danah and gave her an apologetic grin. "You'll have to excuse Cliff, he has severe foot-in-mouth disease."

"Aw, shut your face Jo! I was just about to say what Rory said."

This time, Jo did look genuinely surprised. Black eyebrows, like delicate Japanese brush strokes on a print, were raised, astonishment spreading across his face. The other two also seemed somewhat taken aback to hear his words. He glared at them all defiantly, scowling.

"What's with the donkey faces? Aren't I allowed to change my opinion?" He sniffled, then turned to squint at Danah, who was by now stupefied at the way this boring grey morning was turning out.

These guys … are exactly the kind of ones that all my closed-in, sheltered upbringing warned me to stay away from …

Hm, and I did, like the good little girl that I am …

And yet … somehow I feel like I'm meeting real people for the first time in my life …

All this time, all these years, everyone in the medical building … these guys seemed to be ones who really do rely totally upon themselves – no rich parents here to ring them up, make sure they're financially, emotionally, physically all right …

Independence …

Danah would never really know how all these thoughts suddenly occurred to her, but she knew, instinctively, that they were the ones who really did find their own paths through their lives, dependent on nothing and no one …

… exactly the way she had been aiming for all her life …

Hiding the delight, she adopted a frowning tone. "What do you mean by 'one of those'?" Danah demanded.

Cliff scowled at her. "You're different from the other medical students. The medical, the law, the engineering students …" He allowed himself a snort before continuing. "They think they're of higher levels than us. They think if they breathe in our oxygen, it will burn their fragile little lungs, we're never good enough for them. Just art students who like to smoke pot, and who dress like hippies, who do criminal things … they reckon we're just …" He shrugged. "Nobodies."

"Yes, but who has the more enjoyable years at university, relative to them?"

A little smile played around Danah's lips as four pairs of astonished eyes turned to her, staring in shock.

"Truly! Look at the world you live in, the very wonders in this room alone! The beauty you see every day! And I don't doubt the difficulties of it. I – I remember once we had to take a History of Art subject, it took ages to get my head around the symbols, the iconographies the ancient artists and sculptors used …" Her voice trailed off as her eyes wandered, fell upon the priceless artifacts and displays. She didn't notice the looks of wonder she was receiving, nor was she aware of the rising admiration and esteem she was being held in … "It's the ones like you who can shape the imagination of the world. The generation thinkers, the 'dreamers of the dreams'." Danah smiled to herself as she quoted the line from the famous poem.

Balancing her books in the same position they'd been in all this time, she adjusted the strap of her bag, then glanced up.

Wondering, incredulous gazes, then suddenly Cliff smirked, the piercings on his face catching the light and glinting merrily. "See, I knew it! I knew she was different from the rest of them!"

Once again confusion swept across Danah's features.

"He just means you're a real girl, is all," Mike offered helpfully. This did nothing whatsoever in explanations, all it did was inflame her face further, wondering just where this was leading.

"You're not someone who thinks they're superior to anyone else, Danah. You're not … snobbish, or stuck-up." Once again, it was Rory's quiet voice which brought reason and understanding.

Jo had been standing frozen all this time, and not only was he curious at the feeling of enormous satisfaction he felt to see Danah getting on so well with his friends, but also the incredible coincidence …

Friday night, the instant message from his little brother … the little brother who was supposed to have forgotten him, the little boy who had been told never to have anything to do with the person who had once been so important to him, who had been his idol …

At least once a week, when Logan was able to escape the study room of his private school, escape the clamours of his friends, and all the extra-credit subjects, as well as the extra-curricular activities that the school required him to do … once a week, when he managed to find a spare hour, a little instant message window would pop up on Jo's computer, a little oasis of breathing time, the only contact he had with his brother.

Just as he did, he had lost himself in typing, the ease of conversation they had always been able to have … and he had told Logan about his day, especially that afternoon …

There had been a long silence on the other end, and he had wondered if his idiot brother was even paying attention. Then suddenly, a single word appeared on the message window, before the boy had to hurriedly sign off and return to his study room.

But Jo had sat and stared at that single word … outside, the already prematurely dark evening became progressively darker, the rivers running down the giant windows became faint to see, but Jo could hardly move … after seeing that single word, his thoughts had grown wings, spiraled, risen higher and higher, wider …

… 'Serendipity' …

The Art and History entrance area glimmered back into focus, the hum of voices escalated, and once again he remembered where he was, and just who this vision beside him was.

Slowly, his eyes were drawn up to the giant painting above the heads. Serendipity …

A Light Before We Land …

A light …

The immediate hum of voices in the little circle faded as he cleared his throat, stepped up to Danah's side and turned to his companions who were staring with interest, delight, and in Cliff's case, bewilderment.

"Gentlemen, if you would excuse us?"

The pit of her stomach seemed to open, and she was falling … falling upwards, as if she herself had found her wings … and the stunning midnight eyes still swept into her consciousness …

"Lady, I would be honoured with your company, if you would care to have another coffee with me?"

Why her throat had once again become dry, all of a sudden, without warning she didn't know …

He actually wants to … with … me …?

Me?!

As if in a dream, she felt his hand close gently around her wrist and walking backwards, he pulled her towards the doorway, waving his books at his friends.

"I'll catch up with you morons later, okay. Just keep Cliff alive, and don't let him walk into things anymore. That stone pillar he walked into last Thursday still has the indentations of his facial piercings." Winking at them, grinning as Mike tried to stop Cliff from lunging at him, he made as if to turn around fully to face the entranceway, still holding onto her, when he was suddenly hailed from behind.

"J-Jo? I was wondering if … t-this Friday … the station? Umm, I'm going to see …"

The tingles shooting through her body, originating from her wrist where he still had a gentle and firm grip. But upon hearing a suddenly nervous and stuttering Rory, after all this time of his quiet and composed manner, was a source of curiosity as well as anxiety for Danah. As she stared at him again, her initial impression of a frightened little bunny came back full force …

Jo had turned around again, and his features broke into a light, easy, reassuring smile. Whatever the frightened gibbers had been about, he had understood it fluently, apparently.

"Sure thing, Rory old man, no problem. I'll give you a lift to the station."

She was further intrigued to see the sudden tension, stress and worry just fall from Rory's face.

Strange … what is he afraid of that a lift to the station would help …

The gentle grip was firm, insistent. She felt herself pulled through the steady throng of students milling around the large circular room, some entering, some leaving like themselves. She glanced swiftly over her shoulder to give a last wave to the three still standing by the painting. She caught a rapid glimpse of their faces turned towards herself and their best friend, and in all their faces, even in Rory's face, hidden and shadowed as it was, she could detect a slight knowing smile … what on earth …

Before she was aware, he'd ushered her out of the glass doors, once more out into the grey gloom of the mid-morning, dark enough to have resembled evening. It seemed to have gotten even darker than when she'd stepped inside. She blinked now as she stared at the wet leaves sticking half-heartedly to the pavements and people's boots and clothes, at the bedraggled students themselves as they for once willingly hurried to class, at least there they could escape the miserable weather and sit in a brightly lit room, and listen to the lecturer drone on.

She literally did feel like she'd stepped out of a magical world into a misery one, and a single thought ballooned within her mind, a single thought that overshadowed even the strange and pleasant meeting, the curious and beautiful conversations … an image, a memory that soared through the damp and dreariness, as if effortlessly cutting through …

'A Light Before We Land'

Serendipity …

"Do you have class soon?"

The gentle, deep voice cut once again into her thoughts and she turned to the man by her side, the smile hovering in his lips and his eyes seemed as if the magic and enchantment of the room had instilled itself firmly into him … he had released her hand and shifted his books.

"Umm … l-later on in the afternoon," she managed to stutter out. "This is one of my most annoying days, classes that begin at eight in the morning, then nothing for hours and hours, then night classes."

"Oh. Yes. Unfortunately for me, I understand those types of classes only too well."

They swung into the archway that led through the food courts, culminating in the giant library lawn. The food courts were a more modern, less magical source of warmth and light. Most of the students seemed to be in here, and since the area was huge and expansive, almost all the tables seemed teeming with life, people sinking gratefully into chairs with a steaming cup of coffee before them, eagerly exploding into chattering with friends they hadn't seen over the weekend. Usually, Danah hated walking through so many people at once, always felt self-conscious, but today, her thoughts were elsewhere.

Danah moved her books to her other arm, realising that for the past half-hour, they had been frozen in position in one hand. He glanced over at her as she winced. He grinned widely as he caught her pained expression.

"Ouch. Want me to take those?"

She blinked at him. "What? Oh no, it's all right, I'm –"

"Really, Danah, it's not a problem. Please."

He reached across her and gently prised her almost frozen fingers from her books. Before she could do anything, he'd effortlessly tucked them under his other arm and continued strolling, as if totally unencumbered by the presence of two brick-heavy textbooks under his arm. Just like the last time, when they had been walking down in the rain, he turned a seeming deaf-ear to her protests, another little smile.

"By the way, those morons in there. You'll have to forgive them, they're all rather lost in the head. Well, I suppose we all are, after all like attracts like, eh?"

Danah glanced over at Jo, then grinned. "Actually, I think it's 'the attraction of opposites that makes the world go round', wasn't it?"

He glanced over at her, a mixture of surprise and pleasure racing through his features. "Well, I suppose that's extremely, irrefutably true, as well."

Beaming, she once again adjusted the strap of her bag, and suddenly something beautiful spread within her chest. Truly, this morning was already nothing short of magical …

"I loved your friends, they're so real."

It would be a curious comment in the best of conversations, but this was a definitely weird one. Jo stared at her, then burst into laughter. "They're real? What does that mean, Danah!"

But Danah turned and faced him seriously. "They're real. They're not artificial."

Jo stared. The intent, beautiful blue gaze … she wasn't joking around. Real … artificial …

"My colleagues are artificial, Jo. That's what I meant."

He stared at her, understanding her slightly, but was about to ask more when he noted the sudden hardness, heaviness in her voice, then realised she was gazing somewhere ahead of her, intent, her eyes hard. He slowly followed the line of fire.

Even in the huge swarming mass of students, the girl Danah was staring at stood out. How could she not, not only was she striking-looking, but she was surrounded by three or four young men, whether they were friends or bodyguards, Jo couldn't really tell.

The way this girl walked, the arrogance in her jawline, a sharp, aquiline curve to her nose. In addition, Jo winced when he saw the men around her were obviously dunces who had fallen for the age-old 'rocks' area; she seemed to have been abundantly blessed in the cleavage department, and she was blatantly letting everyone else know as well just how blessed she was. She was very evidently the kind of girl who had very few female friends.

They were about five or six metres away, each group approaching each other from opposite ends of the giant arcade, but Jo could still clearly hear her voice, just as loud and arrogant as one might have suspected.

It would have been extremely hard, almost impossible, to imagine they could avoid the encounter unobtrusively. The pathway down the centre of the food court arcade stretched unbroken its entire length. Indeed, as they came closer, the girl's eyes seemed to fall upon the pair in front of her. Jo had a fleeting thought she must have been lazily looking ahead to see if they were anyone to whom she should have moved reverentially to one side for, or if she could bowl them over without a second thought, something not alien to her.

At that instant, as the girl, who, it seemed would normally not have given Danah a second thought, appraised them, Jo understood in that instant of time what Danah had meant by artificial … he didn't even need to communicate with these people approaching him, to know what they were like; they were like all the hotshots, wannabes of this world, no originality whatsoever. They were not anybodies whom someone would profit having an acquaintance with …

Feeling Danah squirm beside him, and catching sight of her thunderous scowl, he glanced off to the right, and saw it. An escape.

A cheerful smile, then his arm found her slender wrist again. She turned to him in surprise, her steps faltering.

"It's this way Danah. I wanted to take you to a new coffee shop. The shortcut is up these stairs." He nodded off to the small exitway at his right, a spiraling stairway that led to the level above, the same level ground from which they had just descended.

Something flashed in her eyes, whether it was wonder or profuse gratitude, he didn't know, all he cared was that he had her hand tightly in his and swiftly swung her away, out of the path that would have inevitably shot raging electric sparks all over the place. Besides, it was a relief seeing the lines just drop away from her face, just as they had done over their first coffee …

Swiftly, wordlessly they ascended the stairs, then emerged into the sharp, fresh and biting chill of the grey morning again. But it was a welcome one, for once.

Danah was still in somewhat of a state of shock, triumph having flashed across her eyes when she'd caught the briefest glimpse of the other woman's expression when she'd caught sight of Jo, then the sudden departure …

"I wasn't exactly lying, you know, there is a nice coffee house up here, and that was a shortcut to it."

Danah fought down the emotion welling up inside her, to return his smile, her heart warming as she heard his deep chuckle.

"Jo …"

"Don't bother thanking me or anything, I saw enough to understand what you said."

She stared at him, speechless, and he winked back cheekily at her.

Within moments, he had again ushered her into another little coffee shop, but this time had taken a table further inside, since the window views here were nothing to boast of.

Draping her coat over the back of her chair, she clasped her hands together and gazed at him intently across the little table-for-four, where he was absent-mindedly playing with and arranging the salt and pepper shakers.

"I'm treating you to coffee, that's right, isn't it?"

"You're doing no such thing, Danah. Sir Rory already put us all to shame with his gentlemanly-ness, so I'm afraid I refuse to be outdone by him."

"But –"

"Anyway, lady, so let's say I owe you for this one, you're going to have to hope to repay me next time."

A slight pause, and something deep stirred within his eyes again as she stared at him. A smile suddenly hovered on her lips. "Next time, Mr Wakefield?"

He blinked, then a warm smile spread across his delicate features. "Next time, Dr Milton-Smith."

Now it was her turn for surprise. "How did – how did you know –?"

A deliciously wicked sparkle was in his eyes as he triumphantly indicated her textbook, which he had placed with his own in the chair between them. "I had a stickybeak in there."

The coffees arrived in the middle of the surprised silence, silence that gradually turned into easy conversation, and once again, the rain ran its rivers down long bay-windows, and a golden velvety warmth inside the coffee house permeated into everyone, warming up both chilled bones and hearts …

As he stared at his companion across the table, he played back the incredible events of the previous Friday … and now, this morning …

How sweet and bright and cheerful she looked, at ease and comfortably chattering away. The vivid, beautiful blue of her eyes, the glint of the warm light above off her hair …

A light …

A light before I land …

He smiled …

Serendipity …