A note on the title: Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew Pesach, in English Passover. In the Orthodox Church, Pascha also signifies the Holy Days of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, and in particular the Easter Vigil held on Saturday night. On that night, Christ rises from the dead, and through the resurrection all of Time is recapitulated.

This chapter is a series of flashbacks from Vader's POV. The main snippets are sequential. The snippets in italics are pieces of conversations. In snippets involving two speakers, at least one of the people in these conversations is Vader. Also, some of these are subconscious memories, meaning they may be things he does not consciously remember.

Many thanks to Le1a Naberr1e for betaing this. :) And thanks for everyone's patience. And now, on to the chapter!

Chapter VIII: Pascha

Darth Vader first fell in love with Padmé Naberrie on the night she tried to kill him.

It was only much later, when he realized he couldn't kill her, that he understood just how badly he had fallen.

Do you remember your mother?

She died when I was very young.

Vader had never wanted a slave.

It was mere chance that he happened to be there on the day Padmé Naberrie, former Queen of Naboo and political dissident, was being auctioned off. Or perhaps not mere chance. Truth be known, he was there to monitor Moff Rassert. The man had become an insufferable problem, but he was favored by the Emperor—Vader would need an excuse to kill him.

There were quite a number of slaves up for sale that day, and she was only one of many. There was not even anything particularly special about her—several of the others were "politicals" as well. They stood together, heads down, in a time honored position of subservience that seemed ill-suited to nearly all of them.

Later, writers and reporters with an excessively romantic turn of mind would say that it was her beauty that drew him to her. This was, quite simply, not true. Lord Darth Vader had never put much stock in appearances.

What drew him to her was the combination of pride and hidden fear. She held herself like the queen she had once been, and even he would not have guessed her fear, had he not been able to sense it through the Force.

She reminded him very much of his mother.

He allowed the bidding to continue until she was sold to Rassert for upwards of ten thousand credits. When the moff had finished making his transaction, Vader stepped forward smoothly and thanked him for his gift.

Rassert's angry hiss was well worth the time he had wasted at the auction.

He took the girl back to his apartment, informed her coolly that he had no need for a slave, and promptly forgot about her. He had saved her from a far worse fate, after all, and she knew it. They both knew what was normally expected of slaves in her position, but he was not asking that of her. It ought to have been enough for her that he did not.

He should have known that it would not be.

What do you remember?

She was beautiful. Kind, I think. And sad.

And I wasn't strong enough to save her.

He'd expected Padmé to run, and she didn't disappoint him.

Her chance—the chance he knew she would take—came only hours later. He had read it in her eyes: Padmé Naberrie would be no man's slave. It was fortunate that Darth Vader did not wish for a slave at all. He had told her this, but of course she did not believe him. He had never really expected her to.

His agents had located Fisto and Secura, and so, barely a day after he had acquired his slave, Vader left Coruscant without a word. He knew that Padmé would run, and the small part of his mind that was not currently devoted to tracking the Jedi was quite looking forward to her attempt.

It took him nearly a week to find them. Secura wept when he killed Fisto, and after that she was no challenge at all. He was almost disappointed.

Padmé Naberrie was more impressive. When he returned, there was a fading red scar on her left cheek, and she looked him in the eye with a defiance he had seen only in the mad and the martyrs. He thought that she was neither. He smiled.

She didn't try to run again.

And if I die? Will you forget me, too?

She insisted on talking to him.

Vader found this odd at first, as he was quite certain she hated him. He had killed too many of her friends for her not to hate him.

She asked him strange questions, irrelevant things that no one had ever bothered to ask him before. Things he had never even thought about before. Small talk. He answered because it was easier that way.

She liked to tell stories while he prepared dinner. They had begun sharing the evening meal almost from the day she arrived. Vader enjoyed cooking, and he had to admit, it was rather nice having someone to share his cooking with. The stories she told were usually old Naboo legends, fairy tales mostly, but he found that at times, he rather enjoyed them, too.

When she told some of her darker tales, he could almost imagine that he remembered his mother's face.

Death, they say, always has blue eyes. I suppose he must look something like you.

He hated bureaucrats and paperwork, and she hated idleness. It was not long before they reached an arrangement.

He gave her the non-sensitive documents he did not particularly want to deal with, and Padmé saw to their completion. He found that she possessed a keen political acumen rivaled only by his Master's, and that she was not afraid of him.

Padmé Naberrie infuriated him. She clung stubbornly to her Rebel sympathies and took every opportunity she could find to rail against the evils of tyranny and to criticize his Master's policies. She seemed to genuinely believe that she could convince him of the error of his ways given enough time. He found her conviction amusing at best.

And yet—she was perhaps the only person he knew who was not afraid to openly disagree with him, who would even continue to argue her point as the breath was slowly squeezed from her lungs by invisible fingers. She was confident in her inexplicable certainty that, whatever else he might do, he would not kill her.

He never did.

What do you remember?

I remember the first time I killed someone. I was afraid, and it was difficult, that first time.

Then I learned to stop being afraid.

Padmé had been with him over four months when Sabé returned.

He knew, of course, that Sabé had been one of Amidala's handmaidens when the war began. But that was a very long time ago now. When he had found her, she was scheduled for execution on charges of stealing and falsifying information. Tarkin had wanted her dead, but Vader had found a much better use for her.

She was, after all, very good at lifting information.

Most recently, he'd sent her to glean whatever she could about Tarkin's latest project, which he suspected of having a less-than-loyal intention. Her efforts had yielded a great deal of very useful information on both Tarkin and Rassert, and she had also been successful in planting a piece of very incriminating evidence in Rassert's private study.

He was still debriefing her when Padmé appeared. He'd sensed her coming, of course, and so he made certain that she heard only the worst.

He had been looking forward to their meeting, and the angry clash of words that flew between them did not disappoint.

"I did what I had to do to survive," Sabé said with finality, ignoring her former Queen's angry tears.

And Padmé had turned furiously on him, expecting him to gloat in his victory. He simply smiled, because she was wrong in thinking there had ever been a contest.

She was wrong, and that was why Sabé was far more loyal to him than she ever had been to her Queen.

What does it feel like, when you kill them?

Sometimes, I feel nothing. And sometimes, it feels like fulfillment.

It was not until he captured Bail Organa, more than a year after Padmé had first come to be his slave, that she tried to kill him. A part of him was rather surprised she had waited so long.

What did you dream?

I saw a boy. I don't know who he was, but he reminded me of someone I met once.

Of someone? Who?

His name was Penu Chadisk, and I killed him.

He waited until the vibroblade was nearly at his throat before opening his eyes and letting her know that he was awake. Almost always, that was enough. But she did not even flinch. Instead she lunged, the blade grasped firmly in her small hand, her eyes burning in the dark with righteous fire.

He allowed her to prick his skin, felt the trickle of blood and savored it. And then, almost without moving, he caught her arm and twisted, sending her sprawling onto the bed. As she fell he caught both of her hands and twisted them behind her back, turning her to face him, both of her slender wrists held iron-fast by his one hand.

And then he simply watched her. His right hand restrained her easily, his left resting almost lazily at his side on the bed. She lay, twisted half on top of him, and glared down at him, defiant, angry with him simply for existing.

She was not the first to attempt to assassinate him, and she would not be the last. But she was the first he had ever known who did not fear him.

Padmé Naberrie fascinated him.

She twisted in his grip and tried to lunge again, the vibroblade still clenched tightly in her fingers, and he laughed aloud.

And then he kissed her.

She was still for a moment, and he found an absurd kind of pleasure in knowing that he had surprised her. And then, for just an instant, she was kissing him back.

He pulled away and watched the struggle in her eyes. She wanted to hate him, he could see that, could feel it even more strongly. She had certainly hated him a moment ago. But for whatever reason, she did not seem able to find that hatred now. Yet the anger was still there, fluttering darkly over her confusion.

It was only then that he realized how beautiful she was.

He forgot himself for one ridiculous moment and released her wrists, reaching up to brush the tips of his fingers over her cheek. She was still, and he could almost imagine that she had welcomed his touch. And then in the next instant she rose and fled, her vibroblade forgotten on the bed beside him. He made no effort to follow her.

She never tried to kill him again, and he stopped choking her. Truce.

But Mom, I don't want to go. I don't want things to change. I want to stay with you.

You can't stop the change, Ani, any more than you can stop the suns from setting. This is what's right for you. You can be a Jedi, just as you've always dreamed of doing. Go with him.

I won't forget you, Mom. I promise.

It was different after that.

She spoke to him less, and there was something different in her manner, something he could not quite place. But it seemed that whenever he looked at her, it was just in time to catch her looking away.

He remembered the taste of her—the salt-iron tang of mingled fear and adrenaline as she returned his unexpected kiss. He wondered if she would taste the same if he kissed her again.

For three weeks they danced around one another, meeting in stolen glances and angry, heated debates about government and beings' rights. But Vader thought that there was something different in Padmé's eyes when she looked at him now, the anger mingled with sadness and an inexplicable determination. It was as though she had seen something in him, something he did not even know about himself. He wasn't certain he liked that idea.

In the end, it was Padmé who came to him. But it was he who surrendered.

She tasted sweet, like everything he had thought lost long ago.

What do you remember?

I remember learning to be strong. I remember the pain, and the power. I remember a demon, and I remember the way he died.

I remember learning to forget.

He never told her he loved her. She asked him, only once, and he said that a Sith did not love. But they both knew he was lying.

But he whispered it, sometimes—when they made love and he was vulnerable and couldn't hide from her. He whispered it then, his face buried in the hollow between her neck and shoulder, and he always cried. She kissed away his tears and said nothing at all.

The first time she came to him, he told her his name. Not Vader, but Anakin. He had almost forgotten it, until she came to him. He had no use for it. He was not sure why he told her. Perhaps he wanted to be known. Perhaps he wanted to be certain that he had not coerced her. Perhaps he had simply wanted to hear her say his name.

He told her other things, things he would not admit even to himself, and she was wise enough never to speak of them outside of the sanctuary of their quarters. He told her about his training, about the people he'd killed and the things he'd done, about the mother he could not remember. He wasn't sure which of those things troubled her most.

It didn't matter. He was what he was, and for all her defiance, she had evidently finally accepted that.

One thing only was changed. She called him Anakin, and he began to dream of an empire they would rule together.

What was her name?

I don't remember.

Only once had she doubted his faithfulness.

It was after the incident with Dursin, when Sabé returned broken and in tears. It took her three days to admit to Padmé what had happened, to confess the thing that the man had done to her, but Vader had never needed to ask. The terrible sounds she made reminded him too much of the only thing he remembered about his mother.

On the fifth day he pulled Sabé away, saying he had a gift for her. Padmé did not see either of them for several hours, and when they returned, Sabé was noticeably more cheerful.

He knew that Padmé was suspicious. But she was also intelligent, and in time she would see that it was ridiculous. And even if she did not, better that she should draw her own false conclusions than that she should know the truth.

He had given Sabé the only gift that would satisfy either of them. He had given her Dursin. He'd even offered to let her borrow his lightsaber, but she preferred her vibroblades. It was fortunate that he'd had the room soundproofed.

And so he ignored Padmé's questioning, almost-hurt stare, and went to com someone to clean up the mess.

What do you remember?

I remember a man, and darkness, and shuddering cold fear under the bench in the dark. I remember she was crying.

I remember her screams.

Vader never remembered how the subject of marriage had come up. But he thought perhaps they had been talking about childhood memories. Or more accurately, Padmé had been. She was forever trying to make him remember. He could not understand why she thought it so important.

She was telling him about the ideal wedding she had dreamed of as a girl. Privately, he thought the whole subject rather trite and completely out of character for her, but he kept his thoughts to himself. He had spent the whole day in councils and discussion with his Master and his Master's lackeys and was simply thankful that Padmé was talking about something other than politics.

There was a wistfulness to her voice, however, and he noticed that she did not meet his eyes as she spoke.

The Naboo, he knew, placed a strong emphasis on marriage. Evidently, Padmé was no different. She wanted to be married.

He almost laughed at her when she admitted that. But somehow, he could not quite manage it. Instead, he found himself telling her about Tatooine.

Slaves, because they did not belong to themselves, were forbidden to marry. It had been so on Tatooine, and it was so now throughout his Master's Empire. But on Tatooine, the slaves had reached agreements among themselves, and the community had considered them married. And that was enough.

He had not intended to tell her—he had not thought he would need to. After all, had he not often told her that when he had defeated his Master, she would be his Empress? But the words came of their own accord. He told Padmé that he considered them to be married.

For a brief moment, her eyes shone, but then the joy was replaced with a warm sadness. Her fingers brushed lightly across his face.

"So you too are a slave?" she whispered.

He did not answer.

Sir? Mom said if I went with you, I would be a Jedi.

No, not a Jedi. Something much greater, much more powerful than a Jedi. You will have power over all. All save one.

He liked to watch her sleep.

He did not usually sleep more than four hours a night himself. Sleep was a luxury, and one he did not indulge in more often than strictly necessary. He found his rest in meditation and silence, and he kept himself always ready.

But he stayed with Padmé when she slept. She looked younger in her sleep, and almost peaceful, that defiant spark banked, lying dormant until she woke again. She reminded him a bit of a child, but he always shied away from that thought.

She would lie beside him, defenseless, vulnerable, her head pillowed on his chest and her lips slightly parted. She slept soundly, and sometimes, in her dreaming, she murmured his name.

She always called him Anakin.

He knew that she was not completely naïve. She knew what he had done, what he was. And yet she trusted him. He thought she was a fool to trust him.

But he still liked to watch her sleep.

Anakin? Do you ever think about children?

Yes. Sometimes.

It was Padmé who taught Vader the fine art of diplomacy. His Master had taught him what to say, how to deceive with words and actions and appearance. But she taught him what not to say, how to disguise his deeds with silence. His Master had taught him that the words he spoke had power. Padmé taught him that those he did not speak had even more.

He told her very little about his missions. He told her about the politics, the infighting, sometimes even about the military campaigns.

He did not tell her about the killings. He said nothing about the Purges. After the incident with Organa, he made certain that she did not know about his prisoners, and he gave her no inkling of his methods of interrogation.

She guessed some of it, he was sure. But what was unspoken was best. And she did not know enough of darkness to guess the worst.

He never told her about the children.

I remember once there was a boy with blue eyes who dreamed of freeing all the slaves.

What happened to him?

He died, the way all children do.

For as long as he could remember, Vader had dreamed. He dreamed the past, and the present in all its variation, and sometimes, he dreamed the future.

He saw these dreams of the future for what they were: mere possibility. His Master had taught him that dreams were never to be disregarded, but neither should he form his actions around them. They shifted, like the Force. Like the Sith.

But Vader had also learned the difference between those dreams which were simple manifestations of his own will, and those which came from some elusive elsewhere.

Two nights before the end, he dreamed his own death. He did not tell Padmé.

What do you remember?

I remember sand, and bright hot sun. I was very young, and I had fallen and skinned my knee. I was crying.

That was before I learned that pain is only a tool.

But you are still falling.

Part of him had always known that he could not keep a secret from his Master forever. It was the same part that had always known that one day he would kill Padmé Naberrie.

The other part of him, the part that spoke with the voice of his Master, said that he ought to have killed her long ago.

Sometimes, if I sat long enough in the dark, I thought she might come to me. There are ways, techniques, meditations. My master had even shown me how to call upon the dead.

But she never came. And eventually, I stopped trying.

A Sith has no use for superfluous memories.

"Kill her."

His Master's words echoed as though through a dream, and Vader realized distantly that he had been living this moment his entire life.

He had drawn and ignited his lightsaber before his Master had even finished speaking. The red glow lent his apartment an eerie, otherworldly look, like a place he had seen once in his dreams. His Master stood to the side, waiting, his eyes dark and hungry.

Vader stepped forward without hesitation, and the glow of his lightsaber lit Padmé's face with crimson fire. She did not flinch.

And that was when he made his greatest mistake. He looked her in the eye.

She was not afraid, the way all the others had been. She did not cry, and she did not plead. Her eyes asked nothing of him. They were not even resigned.

She was smiling.

And he knew that it was a mistake, but he had to know why.

What do you remember?

I remember.

I remember green. There was grass, and light, and someone was laughing. I think I was happy.

I remember three days. There was a lake, and a meadow, and we only had three days, but she would smile at me, almost like I deserved it, and it was enough.

She was remembering Varykino. He had almost forgotten it himself. Perhaps it had never happened at all, but it was there, in her mind, and that was enough.

He'd been certain, in her last moments, that she would think of her family. (After all, they had been there too, hadn't they?) But she was thinking of him. And she was smiling. He wished he could understand why.

I won't forget you, Mom. I promise.

Go now, Ani. And don't look back.

It wasn't because he loved her. Even now, he still could not admit that to himself, and in the end he found it almost didn't matter.

It was because she had seen him cry, and had kissed away his tears. Because to her, at least, he was human.

The lightsaber glowed brilliant red between them, insatiable. It cried out for blood. He did not think it cared whose the blood was.

Padmé was still smiling. He knew that she was waiting to die.

He turned away from her and spun to face his master.

And if I die? Will you forget me, too?

The Sith Master was the greatest their Order had ever seen. He wielded the Force like an extension of his will, and when his will was wholly focused, he was unstoppable.

It was obvious that he had been expecting his apprentice's rebellion for some time. They both knew that Vader, like every Sith before him, must eventually betray his master and take his place. But they also both knew that he was not ready.

But Vader had one advantage. He was fighting to kill. But he was not fighting to survive.

His name was Penu Chadisk, and I killed him.

It was a strange thing that he could never quite remember how the battle had gone. He thought perhaps it had not happened in sequence at all, but in fragments, in flashes of a lightsaber between intervals of darkness.

He remembered his Master's disgust, remembered the clash of red on red and the blackness in between, the hiss and the too-close singe of energy against his tunic, his skin, his bone, the strange clarity of the moment. I will lose my arm, but it won't matter. He was not sure how he had managed not to lose the arm, but he did remember the sound of Padmé's angry scream and the crashing of something against the far wall, shards flying. She'd smashed his most priceless vase, but that wouldn't matter, either.

He remembered dancing in and out, flashes of light and shadow, and knowing that nothing mattered, except the one thing.

And then there was a fire, but it was blue, and it was inside of him, in his bones, and something was terribly constricted in his chest, and he couldn't breathe. He thought his Master was laughing, but he couldn't be sure, because something was roaring in his ears, and there were too many voices, and every one of them was saying something different.

He had almost forgotten what pain felt like—he'd become immune to it. But the fire was in his blood, and now he remembered.

Then there was a strange hollow thunk, and the fire disappeared. He looked up (but he did not remember having fallen) and there was a vibroblade blossoming from the darker black blood-field in his Master's robe. Without thinking he reached, and his lightsaber (when had he lost it?) flew up from where it had fallen and buried itself in his Master's heart.

There was an explosion of blue fire and blackness, and then he was falling.

I remember there was a boy with blue eyes who dreamed of freeing the slaves.

He woke to the feeling of raindrops on his face and the sound of his own harsh breathing. He blinked sluggishly, trying to focus through the pain of his breath, and it took him some time to realize that the droplets were not rain at all, but Padmé's tears. His head was cradled in her lap, and she was crying soundlessly behind the veil of her hair.

He tried to reach for her, but found that it hurt far too much to move.

He managed to turn his eyes, and saw that the vibroblade was lying by her side, red with blood. He stared at it. And then he smiled.

The blade had pierced his Master's chest, and his Master's blood stained it to the hilt. But he knew that, though no blade had touched him, the blood staining it was also his own.

Padmé had succeeded in killing him after all. And she didn't even realize it.

He smiled up at her, wanting to tell her something, but it was too late.

The door into the hallway swished open, and there was the sound of a man running. Padmé leapt to her feet, eyes wild, tears scattering, and reached for his one remaining Alderaanian vase on its pedestal near the wall. Vader wondered vaguely why she did not reach for the vibroblade, but it did not really seem to matter.

A moment latter he heard a man's muffled cry of surprise, followed by a crash and the lighter, more searing sounds of glass piercing flesh, and a woman's scream of pain. But he couldn't see anything, and he was too tired to reach out with his senses.

And then there was a man standing over him, lightsaber drawn and extended at his throat, its blue flame burning away what little air he managed to draw into his damaged lungs. Vader wanted to laugh, because it was so utterly ridiculous that it should end this way, but his laughter came out as a gurgle and the spatter of blood.

Obi-Wan Kenobi stood above him, waiting. But he did not strike. For a moment, Vader wondered why. And then he realized that Padmé was there, crouched protectively over him, and that she was telling Kenobi he would have to kill her first.

Vader could not speak, but he didn't need to. He caught her eye and knew that she understood. He had not saved her from the Sith only to watch her die at the hands of the Jedi.

But she did not seem inclined to listen. She didn't move.

Kenobi seemed to reach a decision. He raised his hand, calling on the Force to push Padmé aside. Vader would have been angry, but he was too focused on keeping his breath going long enough to see this last development. For he had noticed what Kenobi had not.

Sabé was standing behind the Jedi. There was a long gash around her right eye, and the blood had matted her lids together. Vader watched as she raised a blaster and planted it squarely against the back of Kenobi's head.

"Put away the saber, Kenobi, and back away," she said. Her voice was low, dangerous, made only more so by the evident pain lurking beneath her sharpness.

Kenobi did as she said, and Vader closed his eyes, focusing on the gasping rhythm of his blood-soaked breath. Not much longer now.

The last thing he heard was Sabé's iron-hard, "And now, Kenobi, you're going to com a medic," punctuated by Padmé's quiet sobs. He wanted to tell her not to cry, that it didn't really matter, but he couldn't open his eyes.

And then there was no more sound—even the voices were silent—and he was falling away into enveloping blackness.

Next chapter: Dooku and Jocasta do some research, Palo and Riveth need answers, and Kitster plays his trump card…