A/N: I do not own 300, comic or movie. Obviously. Stelios POV.

How many days are left?

At this point I'm not even sure why I bother asking. No matter how long I ponder that question, no matter how many alternatives I entertain, no matter how many times I've cursed the gods, my fate remains inevitable. The entire purpose of my life is to fulfill one goal--a single, fantastic and provocative wish of death. A "beautiful death," as it's called here. It's ironic that the only worthwhile thing I could do in life is to die.

I laugh at that last thought, pausing a moment to realize how traitorous it is. Why am I laughing?

My laughter reaffirms what I already know. "I'm a failed Spartan," I whisper to myself.

I glance down at my hands. The blisters, still wet and raw from training earlier today, are stinging and begging to be cleaned. I can't stop staring at them. Surely, Astinos has as many as I do by now. His hands are fresh and young, and have hardly experienced what it means to be a Spartan warrior. I scoff at my own pompous thoughts. If I knew what it means "to be a Spartan," I would not be standing here degrading myself while the rest of my supposedly beloved city is sleeping.

From my bedchamber, I can see the open fields and hills where we practiced today. I remember our Captain praising young Astinos, laughing and smiling at how well the boy was progressing. Am I the only one who feels this unsuccessful at the end of the practice? Am I the only one who feels so constantly distressed by those drills? Those unfeeling, morbid recitals?

I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding. Running my hand through my hair, I suddenly become aware of how sore my shoulders are. My dirty hands futilely attempt to rub out the pain. Shouldn't I be used to it by now, anyway?

I spare a glimpse at my sleeping wife, so vulnerable and fragile in her slumber. Poor woman. She must think she's married a Spartan soldier; a strong, unwavering portrait of what it means to be glorious. A single but necessary part of an entire unit of soldiers exactly like him! Shallow woman. She couldn't even begin to understand. I silently curse her for giving birth to our first child, a son. I can't even bring myself to hope for him. My only wish for him is that he may grow up believing what he's told. Questioning those rigid beliefs of our people is to resign yourself to torture, to a perpetually unanswered state of insecurity.

The tile floor is cold against my bare feet. It's past midnight by now, judging by Artemis' moon. This late night brooding is doing nothing for me. I should be sleeping, or at least trying to. Perhaps I even fail at that as well.