Title: The Second Time Around

Author: val solo

Genre: Romance/adventure

Rating: PG… possibly PG-13 (???)

Time Period: NJO—post 'Dark Journey'

Disclaimer: No money is being made from this endeavor. It is purely for my own mental well-being that I write this stuff down, so no infringement is intended on George Lucas or the other talented authors writing in that galaxy far, far away. (

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Chapter 1--

Ganner Rhysode surveyed the cramped passenger cabin looking for a place to sit. He had fled the forward compartment unable to bear anymore fawning teenage girls. Usually, the handsome Jedi soaked up any and all female attention, but ever since Myrkr and all of its tragedy, he found himself being focused on more important and serious matters.

The Jedi had willingly accepted Master Skywalker's assignment to accompany a band of refugees from their home planet, which was too close for comfort to occupied Yuuzhan Vong territory, hoping it would be rather tame compared to his previous mission. That disaster had seen the death of young Anakin Solo and had taken a piece of Ganner's heart in the process. Anakin was a good kid and a great Jedi. Ganner was quick to admit that he had even respected and admired the younger man. In addition, Jacen Solo was gone and his twin Jaina had nearly succumbed to the Dark Side right before Rhysode's eyes.

What he needed now was something low-stress and simple. He assumed that escorting this group of people would be just what the doctor ordered and then chuckled inwardly as he recalled what his father used to say about making assumptions. Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined how physically and mentally draining it would be to oversee the welfare of a group of such demanding, and often annoying people.

Tame? Yeah, right.

At last, he spied two empty seats near the back by the refresher. Pushing his way through the narrow aisle, answering about fifty questions and offering several 'pardon me's', he finally reached his destination. Back here he would be out of the way and could hopefully catch a bit of quiet shut eye. If he had to make idle chit-chat for just one more minute, he might be forced to hurt someone despite his reputation as a well-mannered gentleman.

He sunk into the seat and tried his best to fit his large frame into it as comfortably as possible. These types of public transportation never seemed to account for those of broader girth, such as himself. After draping his cloak over the empty chair next to him, he leaned his head back and shut his eyes. Sleep was going to feel glorious.

"Excuse me."

The soft, feminine voice jolted Ganner out of his restful state. He sighed heavily and opened his eyes fully expecting to see one of the young girls that had been trailing behind him since they'd boarded the ship. Instead, what he saw stunned him into silence. Standing before him was a rather petite woman, probably in her late twenties, he guessed, although the glow of her smiling face made her appear younger. Her sandy blonde hair hung straight except for two tiny braids that began at her temples and were pulled to the back of her head. To be honest, she was far from the most beautiful woman Ganner had ever seen. In fact, she was actually rather plain. However, what had him rattled was the fact that her middle was obviously round with child…. very round.

"May I get to my seat, please?" she asked softly with a grin.

"Oh!" Ganner exclaimed jumping up and out of her way. "I—I apologize. I didn't think these seats belonged to anyone."

She maneuvered awkwardly into the chair and looked up at him. "Please, sit back down. I know I'm huge, but I really don't need both seats."

Despite himself, Ganner chuckled out loud and then sat back down next to her. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. "Am I taking your husband's place?" he asked, ready to move if she said yes. He was sure he noticed a brief hint of sorrow cloud her blue eyes before she smiled again.

"No… no. You're not," she replied quietly. "My husband is… dead."

Good job, Rhysode. Open mouth and insert foot… again!

"I—I'm sorry. I—"

"Please," she said, reaching over and gently placing her small hand on top of his large one. "You don't have to keep apologizing. You didn't kill him." Again, she graced him with a kind smile, and he noticed that she suddenly seemed prettier than at his initial assessment.

"Nasty habit, those manners," he said jokingly. "Get me in trouble all the time."

She laughed lightly and it lit up her whole face. "You're the Jedi, aren't you?" she asked.

"Guilty as charged. Ganner Rhysode at your service, ma'am." He offered her a gallant nod.

"Nice to meet you, Jedi Rhysode. I'm Analee Garsone." She put forth her hand expecting a handshake. Instead, Ganner, true to form, lifted it to his lips and placed a feather light kiss across her knuckles.

"And I am honored to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Garsone." Why did he do that?, he wondered. Another one of those nasty habits he supposed. They were hell to break. Plus, he enjoyed the surprised look on her face as she stared down at her hand. All at once, giggles erupted from the woman sitting next to him. Is she laughing at me?

"Very impressive, Jedi Rhysode. I'll bet many a woman has swooned over that tiny show of chivalry. Please, call me Analee."

Ganner felt his face heating up. Am I blushing?, he wondered. If he was, then it was for the first time in his life. Strange having the shoe on the other foot. Willing the redness out of his cheeks, he regained his composure. "Then by all means call me Ganner." He flashed her one of his most dashing smiles and immediately felt his confidence return.

"Oh!" Analee exclaimed sitting bolt upright in the chair. Her eyes had gotten as round as saucers as she placed both hands on her protruding belly.

"Oh?" Ganner echoed. "Are you all right?"

A huge smile spread across her face. Before he knew what had happened, Analee had grabbed his hand and put it on her pregnant stomach. He was about to pull it away when he felt it. The baby had just moved right beneath his fingers. He glanced up into her bright face in wonder. He'd never experienced anything like this before. The movement continued for a few more moments, and Ganner found he couldn't seem to take his hand off of her.

"Feisty little thing, isn't it?" he finally said as he settled back into his chair.

"You have no idea," she answered.

"Maybe he's practicing to be a Jedi," Ganner teased. She peered at him out of the corner of her eyes and chuckled.

"Who knows? Maybe you're right." Then Analee sighed and closed her eyes. Ganner could sense her exhaustion and wished he could offer her a more comfortable place to rest. However, this transport was not large enough to afford the passengers many comforts, much less a private cabin with a bed. In just a few minutes, he could hear the sound of her low, even breathing and knew she'd fallen asleep. Thinking that sleep sounded like a great idea, he shut his eyes and tried to get some of his own.

A gentle tapping on his shoulder woke Ganner from his sleep. Forcing his eyes to open, he turned his head to see Analee awaiting his response.

"I need to get to the refresher," she stated apologetically. "It seems to happen quite often these days."

"Of course." He stood to allow her to pass by and then sat back down. Gazing upon the full cabin ahead of him, he found himself wondering about Analee's situation. She was apparently very near her date to give birth. By her own admission, she had no husband or anyone else with her. She seemed to be all alone except for the tiny life she carried inside her. That one had spirit, he could tell, and he had the sneaking suspicion the mother did, too. However, something about her put him completely at ease, and he didn't feel the need to lay on his boundless charm to impress her. No, Analee Garsone was the most real person he had met in quite some time, and in the midst of these perilous, war-filled days, she was a welcome breath of fresh air.

"I'm back," she said suddenly appearing in the aisle next to him. Her simple smile was so open and warm. He had heard that women who were expecting often 'glowed', but had never paid it much mind. Analee proved it to be true, however. Ganner let her back in and settled back in. "That's why I sat back here close to the refresher… because I need to use it so much," she admitted.

"No problem," he replied. "I should probably go check with the pilots… part of my 'official duties', you see."

"Okay then. Wouldn't want to stand in the way of anything 'official'. It was nice to meet you, Jedi Rhysode," she said.

"Are you so ready to get rid of me, Mrs. Garsone? I was hoping you'd save my seat. They seem to be in short supply around here."

Analee seemed genuinely surprised that Ganner had promised to return and stumbled over her words. "Well… of course… I—I'll keep it safe for you." There was that smile again. He was liking it more and more.

Making his way back through the crowded compartments was a nuisance to the Jedi, which he suffered by plastering a fake smile on his face and nodding his head in answer to the barrage of questions flung at him from every other row.

"When will we get there?"

"Are you sure the Vong aren't following us?"

"Couldn't you have gotten a more comfortable ship?"

"Can't this thing go any faster?"

The last question was one that actually almost came from his own mouth. Luckily he caught it before it slipped out. That would have portrayed a rather poor example for a Jedi, he supposed, but being cooped up with some of these irritating people was almost more than he could stand. True, he was not a shining example of Jedi patience and calm, but these people would try the goodness of even the legendary unflappable Yoda. He was sure of it.

Just as he entered the cockpit, Ganner sensed that all was not well. Fear and uncertainty were emanating from the two pilots, and they were frantically adjusting controls and pushing buttons.

"What's wrong?" he asked firmly.

"This is not good, Jedi Rhysode. For some reason, all of our systems are failing. I've never seen anything like this before." The senior pilot stopped his ministrations and looked right into Ganner's face. "It's almost as if the ship has been sabotaged. There's no other explanation."

A brief flash of panic surged through Ganner, but he quickly banished it with the Force, and calmed his nerves. "Isn't there anything you can do?"

"We've tried everything," the co-pilot said. "Our only hope is to make it to the nearest planet."

"Can you do it?" the Jedi questioned.

The two pilots looked at one another, an unspoken conversation taking place between them.

"We'll try our best."

"There is no try… only do or do not," Ganner quoted. How many times had he heard Master Skywalker say those words, never thinking he'd be using them himself. "I'll go take care of the passengers. You get us to that planet." He spun purposefully on his heels and exited the cockpit.

"Simple," he said to himself. "Low-stress, I said." He snorted. "I should have known better."

Before he knew what he had done, he found himself in front of Analee. For some reason, he wanted to tell her first before anyone else. Looking upon her sweet face and then down to her large belly, Ganner felt a pang of something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Despair? Hopelessness? Was it coming from her or him?

She sensed something was wrong by the look on his face. It was a handsome face, she had noticed, except for the scar that ran down one side. Earlier he had been so friendly and laid back, but now he looked almost desperate. "Is something the matter, Ganner?" she asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Slowly, he nodded in affirmation and sat down next to her. Taking her hand in his, he explained their dangerous situation.