Selfish Gift Rating: PG
Diana DeRiggs

This fanfic is based on the many fanfic-style stories in Star Wars Tales #13. Those among us who love that Darkhorse series will understand that the Tales are not strictly considered canon. What's different? Some major things like the age, family details, etc. of the story's protagonist, which makes this story an Alternate Universe one. Enjoy it for what it is! This story is also inspired by the Arixi Arc. Many thanks to MaceVindaloo and Csillag for discussions!

While we know we are forbidden to make contact with you, we would like to see our son just once. Please.
-- Your Loving Parents

Jedi Master Mace Windu was in bed, but he wasn't sleeping. He'd deleted the message on the datapad. As was traditional, personal messages were not archived; it was up to the individual Jedi to decide what to do with such messages.

But deleting the message didn't do any good. It was burned into his memory; he saw it in his mind's eye as clearly as when it glowed from the datapad.

Deleting the message from his parents -- my mother and my father! -- was the right thing to do. Trying to return back "home" was always a mistake. Even as a fully grown man, seeing his family, feeling their tears, breaking their hearts -- it would never be easy, and might even be unpleasant or dangerous. He'd seen it happen to many other Jedi. He would not make the same mistake.

However, not making a mistake was not the same thing as not feeling bad about his actions. I'm a bad person, a tear brimmed in his closed eye, I am selfish. I deny an old man his only son, because I can't endure the pain of such a contact.

He lay still, willing the tears to not come. He tried to meditate, but unwanted emotions kept bubbling through his psyche. I cannot deal with the pain ... I am afraid ...

Admitting this weakness was painful for the senior Jedi, who was on the verge of being nominated into the Jedi Council. As a Jedi, he knew that he would forever discover weaknesses about himself, but some were easier to understand than others. And some weaknesses would never be overcome.

Like many Jedi, Mace Windu had seen his family when he was still a Youngling. It was required of all Jedi children preparing to pass into the Padawan state to at least come to know who their parents were; many chose to meet the people who had birthed them. At that point, they could choose to stay with their family and eschew any relationship with the Jedi Temple ever after, or would turn their backs on their birth families and plunge into the Jedi life completely and wholly, and forbidden contact with their families. Mace had seen his family once, but he had not let them see him. He did not speak to them or approach them. After a time, he turned away from them and walked back to the spaceport to return forever to the Temple. He closed his mind to his family's distress at losing him and he willed himself to forget.

It was all back now -- how brokenhearted his father had been ... how sad his mother was ...

In truth, he could not even bring himself to wave to them from his distant vantage point. He was ashamed of himself for not being able to control his feelings. He was ashamed at his fear that he would not be able to return to the Temple if he felt his mother's embrace, or heard the pride in his father's voice. He had resolved to not be one of the Younglings who ran off to their Mama! No one would say Mace Windu was soft! So he stood, silent and still, moving only when he trusted that he could control himself enough not to break into a run toward those who birthed him.

Why had they contacted me? Mace allowed his anger to cover his shame, understanding this was normal and understandable. He had learned long ago that controlling your anger did not always mean suppressing it.

He had wondered if his parents might be sick or dying, and perhaps they wanted to see him once more? But in his heart he knew this wasn't true. They were young when their only son was born; they were still healthy and strong. Mace wondered why they never had more sons; surely they could replace him!

Mace realized he couldn't understand his parents, a thought that was surprisingly distressing to him. Perhaps they were simply afraid that if they had more children, they would lose them as they had lost Mace? Perhaps there were things he would never understand.

Earlier that week, he had come face to face with the desperation some parents felt after giving up their Force-strong children. A bounty hunter had broken into the nursery to steal a specific child. Mace had attacked her, accusing her of selling Jedi children to a crime organization, but she accused him and the Jedi of kidnapping children for their archaic rituals and needs. She revealed she was hired by the parents, who simply wanted the baby back.

It had been beyond his imagination -- it was a great honor to be parents of a Jedi! Besides, training had started immediately, a child could not return to his former home without risk!

He'd let the bounty hunter go with her prize. He tracked her to Sullust, and watched from the shadows as she handed the child to his happy parents and watched baby and mother gaze into each other's faces. He was touched by the child's recognition of his mother.

The bounty hunter had told him the truth. Perhaps a baby is worth more to his or her family than the potential that child has to the galaxy, he mused, laying with his arm over his forehead, staring into the darkness, and maybe the bond between parent and baby is stronger than the honor of having birthed a Jedi. It seemed illogical and selfish, but it felt like the truth. Force talent was a gift to be shared, wasn't it? He wished he could understand.

He awoke with sunlight streaming strongly through his window, surprised that he had fallen asleep. Master Windu rubbed his face, disturbed at his thoughts during the night. There are things I cannot understand; I can only empathize. Though he thought the filial relationship he had with his Padawan, Depa Bilaba, might be similar, he knew he couldn't be sure. He didn't know; he might never know. He took no comfort in his revelations.

During his morning exercises, he sensed Yoda near him. The Jedi Grandmaster was meditating calmly off to the side of the vast room ... Yoda had selected Mace Windu as his Padawan learner many years ago, even though the boy had been slower than his clanmates in some ways. Though Windu was at the head of his class in all studies, the Temple worried about him, as he had not made his lightsabre by age 14, a full year after he was selected as an Apprentice. But when the time came, he created his sword from a synthetic crystal made by creatures whose bodies were compositionally identical to the rocks on which they lived. Thus he was the only Jedi to have a lightsabre that was not green or blue, but instead it glowed a bright purple, as distinctive as the Jedi who wielded it.

Yoda had seen greatness in Windu; he was as close as the Grandmaster had seen to a sure thing. Mace was the only time traveler among the Jedi; it accounted for his youthful appearance, as well as Yoda's certainty about the man's destiny. Thus when his former Padawan shook in his resolve, Yoda felt it keenly. So he found his way to the exercise room and simply waited.

Mace Windu always worked himself hard in his exercises, but today he was moving faster and harder then usual; the 'droids could not keep up with him, and he destroyed several in his frenzy. Fortunately, he had not chosen any Padawans to spar with him this morning. Coupled with his restless night, the Jedi Master was almost completely exhausted at the end of his routine. He let the fatigue permeate him as he slowly got up and dragged himself across the floor, collapsing in a heap at the feet of his master.

Without waiting to catch his breath, he gasped out -- quietly -- "I will see the sisters at the convent."

Yoda's eyes popped open and he laughed in surprise, "All these years, denied them you have! Grace them with your youthful potency, decided now have you?"

Despite himself, Mace laughed, too, "Master, serious matters always sound so funny when you state them!"

"Humor intended it was, for much seriousness cover it can," Yoda's mien grew more sober, "a surprise this is, my former Apprentice."

"Yes, Master," the man mumbled.

"Hmn ... interesting ..." the old Master wrinkled up his nose in concentration, "family this is?"

Mace took a deep breath, "My parents."

The old one nodded, "Beware, my Apprentice," Yoda used this term as a reminder that Mace would always be learning, "of altruism masking selfishness, you must beware. Remember your failure on Hurikane!" The old one was referring to an incident when Windu was 14 years old, when he first discovered that pride, knowledge, skill, and mastery of the Force did not absolve him of the burden of responsibility for his selfish actions.

"Master, how could this be the wrong decision?" Mace was mildly annoyed by the admonition, for it reflected his own late night musings. They agreed, but he didn't like it.

"Bad or good the Force will choose, my Padawan." Yoda's eyes were filled with emotion, even though he was so old and wise, "A child you bring to the universe, affect all around him he will. An accessory a child is not. A cure a child is not; new worries this babe will bring. The end, resolve, conclusion; never a child is. But a beginning, ah ... yes. A beginning a child is, of your own selfish desires independent."

"Yes, Master," Mace Windu repeated. A new thought came up to wound him; he wondered now if passing on the requests for him to visit the Arixi Convent had been purely selfish decisions on his part.

Not many Jedi knew about the Arixi; Master Windu himself did not know very much about them. He did know that they had two major missions: a healing ministry, and a mission to ensure a supply of Force-strong children in the galaxy. He had heard they would adopt out children conceived at the convent, "seeding" the galaxy, as it were. To continue to produce such children, male Jedi were called to impregnate Arixi females; not many Jedi were selected for this scheduled breeding program. Assignments were dispensed with utmost secrecy. Thus even among the Jedi, few knew anything about the convent.

Mace Windu had been chosen before, but had passed on the opportunities. He'd told Yoda that he couldn't; the idea was repulsive to him. Of course, the number of potential Jedi children was less now than in the past, and he did not protest with the concepts. Mace had simply not felt honored by the request; and feeling this way, he felt he should not accept the challenge just for the sake of obeying orders. He assumed someone else would have been sent in his place.

Mace Windu's life was one devoted entirely to the Jedi and in the service of the Force. The Jedi Code forbid possessions and attachments; Mace was not one to enter into frivolous relationships for the sake of sexual or emotional release. Thus he could never conceive a child in any sort of "normal" union.

But wrapped around the mission of the secretive Arixi, here was an opportunity to have a child, perhaps several children.

He could try to ensure that one of his children -- just one -- would be lodged with his or her biological grandparents.

With his thoughts in a whirl, he had forgotten Yoda was with him, and Mace was startled anew to hear the diminuitive being speak, "Selfish you are, my Padawan," the Jedi Master smiled at the younger man, "but understandable it is. If accept it you have then, may the Force be with you."

* * * * *

At the doorway of a thatched house on the edge of a jungle on Haruun Kal, a middle-aged woman shrieked. An old woman had shown up beside her -- quite suddenly -- and frightened her. Her husband was in the jungle, and she was alone and nervous of strangers. The mysterious being was bearing a cloth-wrapped bundle. The woman put her hand up and said, "This is one of several, a gift from your son." Cara Windu shook as she saw the dark scar in the forearm and palm of the woman, staring at the ornate pattern in wonder. It was beautiful and terrible, and she would never forget it.

"M ... my son? You know my son? How is he? Wher--"

The old woman held up her hand again and Cara put her own hands over her mouth, shaking with the effort not to cry or beg for information! She'd scolded her husband when she found out he'd sent a holomessage to their son -- now a grown man -- at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. It was expensive and foolish; their son was now an important and busy Jedi Knight, and he would not contact them. It was something they had been warned about, and should have expected, but it still stung and hurt when he did not respond; he didn't even supply a receipt in way of acknowledgement.

But this old woman was not expected. What did she mean, a gift from Mace???

The old woman tugged at Cara's hands, forcing them forward, and she carefully placed the bundle in the shaking woman's arms. "He is meant to heal." And then the woman was gone.

Cara didn't wonder how the woman had simply disappeared, for she was crying and crying ... the bundle was a squirming, hollering baby! Through her shock and tears, she knew -- this was her grandson!

"Oh, my baby ... my baby's baby ... your Daddy must be so proud ... your Granddaddy will cry himself stupid ..."

"Wait!" Cara's head jerked up, at last seeking the old woman, "You said one of several! Where are the others? Where are the other babies???"

* * * * *

Epilogue: There had, indeed, been several children. The boy here was named C'riandr Windu. His twin was given to an elderly couple on Naboo, who named him Typho. Their half-sister, Masala, who was commonly called Alasa, was raised in the Arixi Convent. Through this effort and others, the Jedi and the Arixi would survive the purge to come.

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