A/N: I am now entering new territory. This is completely different from the angst and fluff that I've done over at the anime kingdom. I've never done a GG fic before, so constructive criticism is welcome. BTW, it's heavily literature-themed which makes me really glad because I don't usually get to do this with my other fandoms. Thank goodness for lit-freaks Rory and Jess!

Disclaimer: Sadly, Gilmore Girls is not mine.

No Other Way

Prologue: Rand

Because their story was far from finished.

'People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it - walk.'

The sign was made of oak. Years of listening to her best friend's mother rattle off the characteristics of oak furniture to a wary customer taught her how the grain swirls, the color darkens, and how the smell, rich and acidic, becomes stronger with age. She could tell just by observing that the sign was definitely oak. A cheery red trim followed the edges, broken by a small crack from the lower margin extending to the tiny space between two letters. One of the brass hooks holding the sign, suspended above the entrance, was rusting.

It was not ridiculous how she figured out each and every minute water stain on that blasted sign. It was what one would expect after staring at it for over 20 minutes. Of course, she could just suck in her stomach, clench her teeth, push the door open, and go inside.

She could.

Or, she could continue her silent worship of the wooden sign above the door.

What was she doing here, anyway? Jeremy, Hannah and Lee had invited her to explore the city with them, like they did every interesting city they stopped by on the campaign trail, but she promptly refused. Mary (who was nothing like Tristan's Mary, she could tell you that) invited her on a coffee run because she shared her obsession for caffeine, but she declined that too. After two long years, she was finally here. Was she really going to spend her precious free hours doing touristy things or, gasp, sipping an espresso at Starbucks?

Two years. One hundred ninety-five point eight miles.

She knew because she drove every single damn mile until she reached his doorstep. It took her almost four hours to get there, and less than two to get out. And now, after two years, she was back.

She was insane, she concluded. Or masochistic. She liked picking her wounds, secretly reveling at the sharp pain it brought. Her mother hated this habit of hers, choosing to turn a blind eye for the sake of ignorance. Emotional wounds got the same treatment, only worse. She'd turn each one in her head an infinite number of times, until her heart ached and bled, until all her tears dried up, until her fingers stiffened from clutching at her pillow too tightly. A part of her brain she'd firmly shut down, days before entering the city, suddenly resurfaced, taunting her with "Rory, Rory, Rory, sweet and gory," deliciously rolling the R's. "Where's your bravery now?"

She slowly moved her right hand for the nth time to grasp the knob (What was the point? She wasn't going to open it anyway – like all the previous times she attempted.) when the door swung open on its own accord.

Okay, maybe not. An elderly woman with a pink hat and kind eyes stood at the doorway, shielding her view of what was inside. Protecting her.

"Excuse me dear. I'm so sorry. Were you going in?" she chirped, eyes merry. She held the door wide for her, an invitation.

She shrunk back in fear. "Uh…" her eyes wildly darted in all directions. She was still outside, but she could already feel the walls closing in on her. "I-I wasn't, what I meant was, I was just- "

The woman's kind eyes gave way to sincere confusion. Suddenly, she understood the allure of big cities – where there was an infinite number of places to get good coffee, where its inhabitants were too busy to dissect each other's lives with prying eyes and sharp tongues, where there was no girl to put on a towering pedestal to be worshipped as the fucking town princess, where the sordid affairs of Rory and Jess were unknown and, quite frankly, simply unimportant.

She sighed, defeated, then stepped into the gaping doorway underneath the oak sign that read, "Truncheon Books" in bold, black letters.

A/N: This has been done a million times. Oh, a million and one, including this.