Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable from One Piece.

Warning: Blood. Gore. Character death. Madness. Apocolypse.

What Lies in a Single Thunderbolt

Luffy watched as Zoro and Sanji fought their way desperately towards the execution stand. Their faces were masks of desperation, and he had never seen either of them fight so desperately. But at the same time, he was well aware that Buggy was swinging the sword up above him; he knew that no amount of desperation would help Zoro or Sanji get this far to save him in time.

This was the end, he realized.

He thought of his comrades. He knew that the road ahead of them would not be easy. He was well aware that he was the only thing that held his crew together. Why would they stay together without him?

"Zoro!" he called. "Sanji! Usopp! Nami!"

He saw his first mate and cook glance up at him with wild eyes even as they continued to fight their way towards the execution stand. He thought he would choke in pain at the thought of how he would leave them and then they would leave each other, but he couldn't let them see that. They had to stay together.

And he knew they could.

A grin lit up his face at the thought, and he finished his goodbye.

"Sorry," he apologized, still grinning. "I'm dead." And silently, Please, keep going without me.

He saw Zoro and Sanji spin around at those words, shouting in protest; that he shouldn't say such things.

But Buggy's sword had already severed Luffy's head from his body, and the moment was punctuated by the crack of a thunderbolt that struck the clearing right beside the penalty stand. The grinning head rolled off the stand and fell to the ground below, bouncing and rolling right to Zoro's feet. The body atop the stand collapsed like an empty shell, and the blood gushing from the wound became, for a short while, a waterfall off the stand to the ground below.

Sanji threw up, and the vomit mingled with his captain's blood on the ground. Zoro couldn't move. He stared down at his captain's bloodless face and the lifeless eyes stared back at them.

Sanji saw red; Zoro saw white. But really, the result wasn't all that different. They slaughtered the pirates in the clearing. Afterwards, they couldn't even remember doing it; couldn't remember the bloody mess that they had left the square in. Zoro knew that swords were useless against Buggy, and threw them to the side to clobber the man with his bare fists. But he didn't remember.

Sanji was first to come back to himself. He stared at the bloody square, and found himself throwing up again. Steeling himself, he turned. Zoro had finally finished torturing Buggy's dead body and was now kneeling on the ground in a pool of blood, clutching something to his chest. Zoro's eyes were wild.

Sanji thought he would throw up again when he saw that the thing that Zoro was clutching to his chest was their captain's head.

"Hey," Sanji said, placing a hand on Zoro's shoulder and hoping to bring the other man back to their current time and place as well. But the wild eyes with which Zoro looked up at him were unchanged. "Come on, it's me."

But Zoro did not seem to recognize Sanji. To this horrendous beast—this grieving demon—that Zoro was right now Sanji was just another person who had stood there uselessly while Zoro's captain was killed.

Yes, Sanji realized with a pang. He had been useless. Just as much as Zoro.

Well, if Zoro didn't recognize him, he didn't mind. He needed a good fight. With a roar, Sanji charged at Zoro.

And Zoro blocked him with minimal movement—and with only one arm, for he refused to stop cradling his dead captain's head with the other arm as though it were the most valuable treasure in the world. As if it still contained a part of the boy who had once been their captain.

Sanji kicked again, and again Zoro blocked him.

After a few repeats, it fully struck Sanji that Zoro was far stronger than he had believed. Maybe it was the madness. Or maybe it was the significant difference in their mental states—that Sanji knew he was fighting a comrade, whereas to Zoro he was just another enemy.

When Zoro came back to himself, he was staring into another pair of lifeless eyes. His captain's head was cradled preciously in his left arm; Kuina's sword was in his right, its blade running through a black-clad body right through the stomach.

And he was staring into a horribly familiar pair of eyes. Tortured, lifeless eyes. Sanji's dead, lifeless eyes.

Zoro did not bat an eye at the sight of the body that he knew, even without any memory of it, had suffered for what doubtlessly felt like an eternity before blissful oblivion finally came—that was how death came with a severed stomach. He had killed before. He hadn't particularly liked Sanji. Blood was no cause for him to be horrified; not even blood shed by his own hand.

So why was his stomach churning, threatening to toss up all its contents, and possibly even his innards too?

As if he didn't know.

He looked down at the still-grinning head in his arm. His captain. The only person in the world who Zoro would ever have let stand above him. The one to whom he had made the same promise that he had made to Kuina's dead body. Was he cursed to live for promises he had made to people just before they died?

But he had already broken the vast majority of one of his two greatest promises. He had said Luffy was his captain. That was all he had said, and he knew that most people in the world wouldn't consider that a very heavy promise.

He did.

Among the Straw Hats, very little needed words to be said. Though it was never said aloud, everyone knew that Zoro was Luffy's first mate. Everyone who was under Luffy were comrades. 'Everyone' came far before 'me.'

He, the First Mate, had failed to save his Captain's life at the crucial moment. Then he had killed a comrade; Sanji, whom his captain had loved no less than the rest. What if Nami and Usopp hadn't gone running off before all the commotion began; would he have killed the two of them too? Would he have even noticed? Or would their screams of horror and terror have been just two among many that he would not even have remembered?

Zoro still had not fulfilled his promise to Kuina and Luffy that he would become the Supreme Swordsman. But how could he, now that he'd killed a comrade after practically killing his Captain? A person with a heart that s o lacked control and mercy could never become Supreme Swordsman. Mihawk's sword was gentle, not brutal. That was what it meant to be the strongest. Zoro's sword was brutal, and he knew it.

This lifetime was really fucked up. No hope of repair.

So, only moments after coming back to himself and seeing Sanji's dead body and Luffy's severed head, Zoro took Kuina's sword and ran himself through.

How could he know that if he had run to the ship, he could have saved Nami and Usopp from capture, and the following execution that would be punishment for Zoro and Sanji's slaughter of all in the clearing? How could he know that had they gone on, they could have restored hope to a suicidal whale in grief, and eventually return to him with one of his comrades? That they could have saved a gentle-hearted princess from being killed upon discovery of her true identity while undercover? That they could have saved an outcast reindeer from being killed by a furious, tyrannous king? That they could have saved a tortured woman named Nico Robin from being tortured for not revealing the location of the Pluton, then murdered when she finally yielded? That they could have stopped a shady character called Sir Crocodile from obtaining the weapon of destruction called the Pluton along with the country called Alabasta? That they could have stopped a cyborg from being taken by the world government to build another Pluton—one which would cause as much death and destruction as the first?

That they could have saved the world a hundred times over on the way to achieving their dreams?

But of course, they never knew. And maybe they couldn't have done so, after all, without the ever-optimistic, ever-trusting Luffy and his instincts to guide them. They were killed in cold blood, and very few in the world ever even heard their names.

After all, how could the world know that the murder of a single man from the East Blue had been the single event that had doomed it to endless war, death, and destruction?

Author's Note: My first attempt at horror. Not that horrifying, but not all that happy either.