A/N: Words that appear like "this" and spoken by any of the Greek characters are said in Greek. Otherwise, it's just emphasis.
Summary: A realistic twist on what would happen to someone (or someones) if they did have the unfortunate luck of being lumped with the famous 300 before D-Day. It's no instant-understanding here, folks, and just a world of confusion.
And a different take on how history could have been when it wasn't man, but nature, that had the last laugh.
"When I agreed to come on this world tour with you, Emilio, it didn't include frying under our closest star." Elena groused from her place. She sat on a burning boulder just below her twin brother, who gawked at the surrounding environment like a love-struck fool.
"Oh, come on now, Elena." Emilio grinned from high above. "You promised to leave your snarkiness behind at the hotel."
"Snarkiness?" Elena shot back. Her head popped up from her upturned hands and her balanced elbows slipped from her knees. "That isn't snarkiness, hermanito, that's honesty."
"Oh, wait – is that snark I hear? Honestly, sister, all I hear coming from you is pure babble." Emilio taunted before he quickly disappeared behind more boulders upon the hilltop. Elena's body shook from the force of her ire and she jerked up from her seat to follow her sibling.
"I'll give you babble," she murmured to herself darkly, "I'll clip you so hard behind the head, all you'll speak is pure babble."
But what she heard in the following moment was her brother's pained shout and a sound of rushing water that entered her ears.
All she could make out were murmurs. Soft ones that were easily drowned out by the crashing waves she could hear. Waves? What… what waves? We are miles from Greece's coastline. Elena's mind argued, though, that the wind and air were salty and cool. The sun wasn't burning as brutally anymore. Her body was sore and would not move. Oh my God, what's happened? Her hand automatically reached out beside her; it searched for the rough hand of her twin.
A different hand grasped her fingers, though, and Elena instinctively snatched her hand back and cradled it against her chest. Louder murmurs echoed around her now and the noise prompted her to open her eyes. Her breath seized in her throat at the sight of unclothed men above her head. Without a pause, Elena's hand swung out and clipped one of the men smartly on his chin.
As his head snapped to one side, there was a storm of laughter around her and soon the sound of her brother's voice broke through the cacophony. His sharp face appeared in-between the light skinned faces of the foreign men and his rough hands cradled both sides of her face. Elena fought to focus on his dark eyes and messy brown hair. Her mouth moved and formed his name, but she was startled to hear no voice.
"Yes, Elena. Emilio. I'm here, sister, I'm here." He leaned down and pressed a tender kiss to her forehead. It was then she realized there was a continuous throb of pain, among other things. Her hair was wet; she could feel the long strands of it that clung to her bare arms and neck. Her clothes were soaked through and her body shivered occasionally. Her eyes unfocused momentarily and her mouth moved once more; she had no clue what she asked.
"I don't know what happened, Elena." Her brother sounded terrified. Her body shook worse at the thought that if he was scared, she would go mad with whatever was frightening. "I tripped along the edge of the hill. I hit my head. I think I hit it hard enough to go crazy."
Elena smiled faintly. You're babbling, she mouthed.
Emilio's expression morphed sourly. "Now is not the time for your witty comebacks, sister." Someone else spoke now, away from her but close enough for Emilio to hear. From her brother's mouth she could hear the sounds of broken Greek that he fumbled with to speak. There was a collective silence around her, even the waves seemed to quiet down, and Elena tensed fearfully.
"Hermana," Emilio coaxed, "I need you to open your eyes all the way. I need to see if you have a concussion. Dios mio, I hope you don't." Elena frowned but obediently opened her eyes as much as she could. It wasn't enough, apparently, because Emilio reached down and pried her lids further apart with his fingers. She heard her brother sigh in relief and then mutter again in that strange language.
"What… are you telling them?" Elena croaked out. She felt unnatural relief go through her at the sound of her own twisted voice. It didn't matter how it sounded, she was just happy to not have lost it completely.
"I'm not totally sure," Emilio joked weakly, "My Greek has faded over the years. It's been a while since my last Eastern Continent tour, you know."
Elena's hand reached up and wetly smacked against his cheek in reprimand. Some of the foreign men around her smiled with a fondness that unnerved her, others were silent and still like statues of the rarest kind.
"Right, right. No funnies right now." Emilio sighed gustily and took a moment to gather his words. "Elena. I don't know how you're going to believe it. Hell, I don't believe it, but… they tell me this place is called the Hot Gates." There was a pause between the twins, one filled with disbelief, and then Emilio muttered: "We're with the three-hundred of legend, from Sparta."
"You're shitting me." Elena instantly revoked, her voice cracked and hissed. "We tumbled… off a small cliff in Greece in 2009. Don't… don't tell me we pulled… a damn fan fiction and landed…" She coughed violently because her wheezing voice and ragged breathing had dried her throat to a painful state.
It was when the pouch of rough leather and shotty bindings was pressed to her lips that something clicked within her mind. She choked on the water forced into her mouth and her brother did his best to lift her head from the ground so she wouldn't pathetically drown in her own spit. Elena pushed her brother away (who tumbled onto his ass with a yelp) and coughed hard. Once her lungs were no longer in threat of being vomited up, she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her palms and finally gazed at the faces around her.
None of them were soft. None of them resembled any face she had ever since on a man, save her father's, and she knew what such a face meant. A battle-harden face, face that was in a near constant frown in its natural state. A face that only smiled when prompted and even then, it was a tight one. Elena swallowed hard and pushed her hands into the sand and propelled herself backwards, away from them. Emilio's hands came to her shoulders and braced her.
He said something, over her shoulder, to the men around them. The closest ones bowed their heads and shuffled back a pace or two. The ones further away only gripped their spears tighter and lifted their chins higher. A strong footfall echoed in her ears, the displacement of the sand just as soft as the waves. Elena's eyes flashed away from the men around her and up to the face of the approaching warrior.
Her heart stopped mid-beat and murmured.
"Leonidas." Her brother whispered breathlessly into her ears. Elena could only nod. She could see, now that her mind had slowed and was absorbing the chaos of information around her, that none of the men were unclothed. All of them wore the deep crimson cape of Sparta, on their legs were slivers of metal that covered their shins, clothing for their lower regions, and that was all.
"Oh… God." Elena breathed. She could feel tears burn at the corners of her eyes and she brought a hand up to cover her mouth, almost instinctually. Emilio hugged her from behind and spoke up to Leonidas. The Spartan King only stared at them, stern and unafraid. His stance was one of firm authority, but with the words her brother spoke, his face softened only slightly and his muscles uncoiled a fraction.
"What did you say?" Elena could feel a stray thought, a feeling of anger for not learning the languages her Linguistic Professor of a brother had, when he had offered.
"I said: King Leonidas, my twin sister and I are very lost. We were in an accident and have been stolen from our rightful places within the world."
Elena snorted through her silent tears; her eyes never wavered from Leonidas'. "What junk is that? Were you trying to be poetic?"
"What else was I suppose to say?" Emilio growled in her ear. "Do you think you would be able to explain time displacement or travel to people who believe more in myth and legends than science?"
"They are Greeks." Elena argued with little heat.
Emilio snorted. "Greeks who lived, live, by the sword and spear. It's only a miracle they didn't kill us outright." Elena glanced away from Leonidas and could see that the other men were now growing wary of them. Of course they would, she realized, we're speaking English. It's a butchered language from all the rest.
"What would they believe?" Elena asked, now fearing the spears and swords she saw upon their forms. Emilio shifted nervously behind her.
"I woke up before you." Emilio explained. "I did my best to use what psychology I remembered. I spoke about things they knew, know – damn it, this present and past tense thing – I used something along the lines of being stolen by their Gods for amusement."
"And we were tossed into a fuckin' war?" Elena hissed and brought her eyes over to her brother's face. Her expression of petulance was mirrored in her twin's face.
"Like Greek Gods really cared – care, damn it – about what happened to the mortals they played with." Emilio snapped. "Besides, they've taken us as good luck charms."
"How the hell did you manage that?" Elena couldn't help the uncontrollable giggle that bubbled up from her throat.
Emilio gave her an exasperated look. "We're twins, hermana, what twins do you remember from Greek mythology?" Elena's mouth quietly formed an 'O' and she nodded her head. Emilio added: "If we stick to the whole Artemis and Apollo thing, we might make it through this."
"Emilio." Elena whispered. "Not to burst your bubble of logic, but: the three-hundred and whatever strays they had at the Battle of Thermopylae all died."
"We'll worry about that when we get there."
It was mid-morning on the first day, or at least that was what her brother told her. She was so disoriented, she couldn't even tell what the path of the sun was, lest of all the time of day. She did understand, though. In history, the Spartans had waited at the Gates for nearly five days, a ploy by Xerxes to demoralize them. Elena snorted softly to herself within the folds of a cape wrapped around her. Xerxes is going to be mighty surprised during all of this.
Her dark eyes wandered from warrior to warrior. She almost laughed out right several times from hysteria or fear, but she was never sure. So many young girls and probably men would have given much to be here where she sat. Elena would give anything to be away. They're all going to die. And us along with them, Xerxes plowed through this land after the last of them fell. Elena shivered with the thought.
A young Greek next to her, who was tending to the fire that warmed her, glanced up at her movement and spoke. Elena frowned and shook her head. This language barrier is going to be a real pain in the ass. At least Emilio knows some of it; otherwise I would be entirely screwed. She did learn the Greek pronunciation of her brother's name, though, and heard when the young Greek called him out.
Emilio soon rushed over. "Are you alright? Stelios says you've gotten cold."
"God Almighty," Elena whined darkly, "can't a girl shiver out of fear anymore? Tell him thank you for his concern, and for watching me, but I'm warming up nicely. He can stop making the fire so big."
"Alright," Emilio's face cracked a small and weary grin, but he obediently turned to the one named Stelios and relayed his sister's message. It was quick and fluid, Elena realized with some jealousy, Emilio's handle on the language was becoming sturdier with every moment he spent talking to them.
And I'm still wandering in the dark. She sighed and pushed the thought away. Stelios nodded his head and dropped the planks of drift wood he had and allowed his hands to brace him from behind as he leaned back. Elena felt weary and extremely childish; she had to be watched, babysat by the youngest members of the small army. She remembered Spartans, their biggest part of training was testing themselves, and humiliation wasn't far from it.
I'm a walking practical joke to them, I bet. Elena yawned abruptly and brought her head to rest upon her folded arms that were wrapped over her bent knees. Her clothes weren't so wet anymore, but she didn't want to lay in the sticky sand with someone else's cloak. Besides, it wouldn't be the first time she had slept in such a position.
In any case, Emilio's weight soon warmed her back as he wordlessly mimicked her position and sighed. Elena smiled into the wrappings of the cloak. I figure this can't be too bad, then. As long as I have my brother, we'll do fine. For now, anyway. She didn't sleep or take a nap, but her eyes closed and her mind settled into a daze. Four more days… and Xerxes' first wave comes. Her ears were aware of the closest sounds made by the moving Greeks, but the waves not far off still blanketed everything.
I wonder if I'll see it. Elena's mind could almost picture the tumbling waves and rocky shoreline along the mountain's edge. Soon, though, she knew it would be stained red with the fallen bodies of the Persian army. Elena sighed deeply, for the best that I don't see it yet, then. Don't want a nightmare in place of a vision. It's not like I could go swimming in it, anyways. What would I use?
Elena shifted slightly; her brother's warmth burned her back. "Emilio? What do women wear here?"
"A folding dress of cloth called a peplos. Uh," Emilio mimicked her shift as he thought and both were now comfortably settled against each other, "think… shit. What movie was it?"
Elena giggled softly and Emilio reached back and elbowed her bottom ribs.
"Shut it, I'm trying to think." Emilio muttered with good humor. "Think the movie Troy. Helen, I think, wore a gold trimmed white one when they were speaking to Priam."
"Emilio." Elena whispered.
"You're a geek." There was a snort from behind her and Emilio's frame shook with the quiet tremors of his laugh. Companionable silence fell over them and both twins feel into another doze, but not for long. The young Greek Elena remembered as Stelios returned and in his hands was a skinned and butchered piece of meat.
Elena frowned. "Where's the rest of the animal?" She said out loud and loud enough for Stelios to hear. The young Greek looked up, his dark hair marring his eyes as he glanced over at Emilio. Her brother never opened his eyes, but translated her words anyway.
Stelios shifted on his feet before dropping into a crouch on his haunches and muttering something. Emilio laughed with a hint of compassion behind her and answered with renewed humor. Elena's gaze shifted back to Stelios just in time to see him shrug and nod his head. Elena snorted loudly.
"Alright," Elena startled them both, "what was that about me being a fat cow?"
Emilio couldn't breathe from the force of his laughter.
Apparently, she hadn't been made a joke; her Greek was just that bad. Stelios had answered that, out of pity for her, they had hunted, skinned, and butchered the animal well away from her. Emilio had responded that they were used to animals and what to do with them, and not to concern himself over it. Oh yeah, Elena had thought afterwards, I'm just making friends left and right.
It was made even better when Emilio had taken the liberty to translate what she had said during it all. The soldiers around her chuckled and roared with laughter alternatively. Stelios, the poor thing, blushed darkly and glued his eyes to the fire. Elena was caught between embarrassment and joy. She knew the price of being a soldier, having seen it in the face of her father and older brother. Even if it's at me, I'll take a laugh over anything else, any day.
Stelios muttered something at the fire. Emilio leaned close to her ear to translate: "He said; we would not treat our women like cattle, so one of the Gods would be treated far better."
Elena frowned deeply. "I really don't like that you played on their religion, Emilio."
"Neither do I like the thought of having lied to them, sister." Emilio responded swiftly. "But it was either the lie that was believable, or the truth that wasn't." Elena sighed, she knew her brother was right, but the thought was still unsettling. Stelios was quiet, but he was now joined by another.
"This is Astinos; he is the Captain's son." Emilio murmured, with a nod to the new young Greek. The youth nodded back and shifted his eyes to Elena. She went stiff for a second, but she offered him a shy nod. Astinos grinned softly and returned it. God, Elena thought sourly, it's like walking on eggshells.
"You have to teach me to speak Greek." Elena suddenly declared. Emilio glanced up sharply from the cooking meat over the fire. He stared at her and seemed to be waiting for something. She glared and he laughed.
"You can't be serious. I can't teach you a whole language in just a few days." Emilio stated humorously. "Hell, even some of my best students have trouble communicating the first two weeks in."
"But that's because their lives don't depend on it." Elena hissed. "Emilio, I love you, I really do – but you won't be with me all the time. What happens if I have to speak for myself?"
It was Emilio's turn to frown. "Elena, you can't think that –"
"It's not what I think might happen, Emilio. It's what will eventually happen." Elena was firm. Emilio sputtered for a moment or so, but Elena's dark gaze turned to a hot glare and he pouted before turning back to the fire.
"Regardless of what you think about our future," Emilio finally said, "I'll teach you what I can with what time we have."
"Thank you." Elena amended softly; and then reached over and patted her twin's head. He smacked her hand away gently, but stood and abandoned the fire side to trek amongst the other soldiers. Astinos and Stelios glanced at each other and then at her.
Elena could do no more than shrug her shoulders for them.
The morning had bled into the afternoon. Elena hadn't seen her brother since their spat. Not that she could have lost him within the bodies of the soldiers. Emilio was shorter by at least a few noticeable inches, since most of the Spartan men touched a healthy six foot something. The Spartans weren't dark skinned and only slightly tanned from years in the sun, but nothing to the extent that she and her brother were. The Spartans were fall leaves compared to the close-to-muddy color the twins were.
If anything, Elena felt more like the black sheep out now than ever. Emilio had disappeared and left her in the care of Astinos and Stelios, but both youths had been called away to participate in practice sessions with their peers and elders. Her fire had died down and her clothes were now dry and stiff. Elena shifted uncomfortably and unwound the cloak that she had since morning. Her jeans were the stiffest pieces of clothing and she was thankful to have worn a sport-shirt for her hike with her brother.
Her ears picked up on the footfall of another Spartan that came toward her. This one she recognized, though she didn't know his name. His hair was a lighter brown than those of his brothers-in-arms but not blond, and though his features weren't as young as those of Stelios or Astinos, they weren't as battle-hardened as Leonidas or his Captain, Artemis.
The Spartan stopped a foot or so away from her and bowed his head and shoulders to her. Unsure of what was expected of her, Elena nodded her head. He pulled up from the bow and his bright eyes flickered to his cloak. Elena started with remembrance.
"Oh!" She stood with the cloak in her hands and shook it out. Specks of sand flew off from it and she deemed it clean enough to return. "Right, you might want your cloak back. I bet you feel naked without it. Or, I mean, naked-err, or… right."
Elena stopped her babbling abruptly, realizing: "You don't understand a single word I say." Elena sighed through her mouth, bowed to the older Spartan and quickly retook her place by the dead fire. She folded her legs crossed in front of her and leaned her elbows against her knees. I'm absolutely useless. I wonder what Emilio has distracted himself with, to leave me here.
Elena glanced up. The Spartan had not left her yet and even stranger was that he looked as if he was struggling with what to say. Elena took pity on him, "Say what you want, mister. Not like we'll understand each other anyway." The man looked down at her when he heard her voice and tilted his head in thought. Finally he kneeled down beside her and pressed his hand against his chest.
"Dilios." He said. Elena's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. "My name is Dilios."
"De-Lee-os?" Elena pronounced reluctantly. "Is that… your name? Dilios?" He also seemed unsure, but when she repeated his name (or what she thought it was) and pointed to his chest, he smiled warmly and looked pleased. Elena was elated.
"Finally!" Elena squeaked and then covered her mouth in embarrassment. She smiled shyly at the older Spartan. "Thank you, Dilios." Not knowing how else to translate her words, she clasped her hands together as if to pray and bowed her head with them. The gesture must've been greater than she expected because Dilios cleared his throat and nodded with a look of shy pride.
He waited; Elena finally caught on what he was waiting for: "My name is Elena. Ee-len-na." Her accent must've confused him because when he pronounced her name, it was 'Helena' rather than 'Elena.' She shook her head and it took a minute or so more before he was able to pronounce it correctly.
"Elena." He said firmly. She offered him a congratulatory smile and nodded. Another Spartan came up behind Dilios and called his name. Dilios returned the call and before he left, he bowed his head to her with a final say of her name and then departed. All in all, even for so short of a moment, Elena couldn't have felt more accomplished. Hey, at least I'm getting somewhere.
Astinos had returned, wet from either washing out in the nearby river that fed into the ocean or from sweat. Elena's nose scrunched up; no, he stinks. That's all sweat. Eww. His dark hair stuck to his forehead and neck and he must've caught Elena's look before she could completely erase it from her face.
"The smell is not so horrible as to warrant that." Astinos said. Elena merely tilted her head at him and ticked an eyebrow up to her hairline.
"By the look of your face, it was a reprimand you just said." Elena responded. Astinos accepted the foreign words with a mocking tilt of his head and he even mimicked the tick of her eyebrow with his. Elena's face dropped along with her mouth.
"Hey now," she laughed, despite the insult, "I wasn't being nasty, I was only saying." Again, Astinos greeted this with both eyebrows raised in a look that rivaled a parents' look of 'oh really' with a disobedient child. Elena couldn't help but laugh; she knew a tease when she saw it, even if she didn't completely get the joke.
That's how Stelios found them. Elena was smiling into the fire and Astinos sporting a small grin. Stelios took a seat beside his brother-in-arms and jerked his head in Elena's direction; Elena lowered her eyes and eyelids, as if to show she was paying them no attention.
"What did you do, Astinos?" Stelios asked in mild surprise. "She has not been happy all morning, and the reasons are understandable. How did you paint a smile on her face?"
Astinos chuckled. "I haven't the slightest clue, my friend. Do you remember, back on the training grounds, we would taunt each other by mocking one another's expressions?"
Elena stared at the embers, the smile slowly slipping. I wish I knew what they were saying. I think that's were this loneliness is coming from, I haven't gone so long without connecting to anyone one.
"Aye," Stelios nodded his head, "I remember. You mean to say that you got such a smile by mocking her?"
"Yes." Astinos sounded as surprised as his friend. "I wouldn't have thought she would have taken so well to it, but I assumed she would have. You saw her and her brother earlier; they're like Spartan children, constantly testing each other."
"Elena," all three heads shot up at the sound of Emilio's voice. For Elena, Emilio looked much calmer: his face wasn't so strained and his shoulders were lax. He's pushed the thoughts away for now, she knew he wouldn't have come to grips with the thought of being separated one day, but Elena was not going to push too hard for now.
"Emilio," Elena returned the greeting seconds after. Her brother dropped beside her when Elena subconsciously moved slightly to offer him a space beside her, away from the jagged edge of the mountain behind them and the fire before them.
"I won't be able to teach you writing, that's harder." Emilio quickly began a battle tactic Elena recognized from childhood that Emilio used to keep control of their conversations. She smiled at the familiarity of it and said nothing but answered with a nod of her head.
"We'll try and start with the basics. I know you're smart, but do you remember your learning style?" Emilio questioned. He folded himself up beside Elena, much like she was, but faced her a bit more than the fire.
"I'm an abstract learner." Elena answered promptly. "Auditory. Oh! Right, Dilios spoke to me. I think he said something like, 'my name is Dilios.' If you repeat that, I'll have it."
Emilio blinked at her. "Dilios. The Spartan soldier came up and just randomly began talking to you?"
"No, geek." Elena smacked him gently across his face. "He came back for his cape, and then said something along with his name. I assumed that's what he was saying, and then he left." There were hushed snickers across from them and both twins glanced up just in time to spot Astinos and Stelios wipe their faces clean of any humor.
Elena turned back to her brother with a tick of a smile. "What are they laughing at? They've been giggling for a while."
"I'm not sure." Emilio said softly, his eyes leaving the Spartans just after hers. "If my history lessons serve, when Spartan boys were trained they fought amongst themselves. I think the girls and women were also encouraged to humiliate them, so it might be that."
"Wait," Elena felt a light bulb form in her head. "That would make sense, because they cracked smiles when I smacked your face back on the beach."
"I guess it brings back memories of home, being mistreated." Emilio snickered. Elena could only roll her eyes and resist the urge to smack her brother again. Too much, she thought, and it won't be funny any more. Gotta keep that as long as possible.
"Alright," Elena redirected, "language, words, learning – go."
Emilio, like the true linguist professor he was, was completely in his element when he began. Even more so with a student that truly wanted (needed) to learn what he had to teach. Not to say her brother was the best, because once the Greeks around them realized what Emilio and Elena were doing, they would butt in to correct Emilio on his accent or speech structure. Despite having learned most of her high school and college curriculum through pure lecture alone, Greek was proving a resistant subject.
By the end of the afternoon, with interruptions from well-meaning Greeks and her brother's habit of easily being sidetracked, Elena only learned basic and painfully simple sentences. She could now ask for food, water, and be allowed to relieve herself (something she promptly used once she realized she had gone a whole morning with no bathroom break). She learned the names of the Spartans assigned to her care as well as the polite way to greet them.
It was toward the evening when the twins realized that the encampment around them had gone still with tension and their once loud and cheering voices had dwindled to whispers and rushed sentences. Elena noticed that their Arcadian companions had disappeared from the edges of the Spartan camp. She mentioned this to Emilio, who could only shrug as to why they might have disappeared.
"It's only the first day, I told you." Emilio explained again. "They don't abandon the Spartans until after they learn of Ep – you-know-who's betrayal."
"You-know-who?" Elena giggled. "First Troy and now Harry Potter? Really covering our bases, aren't we?" Emilio only glared and punched her shoulder lightly. Elena returned the gesture smartly with a feign slap up to his face that he tried to block, but it turned into a shove at the last minute. On his back, Emilio kicked out his foot and caught her ankles; he knocked her out of her crouch. Elena landed on her ass with a yelp and as her brother righted himself she promptly delivered a vicious punch to his gut.
"Ow, geezus, Elena!" Emilio groaned. "That's cutting pretty close to the belt, don't you think?"
"Emilio Suarez." Elena said firmly. "We are a pair of twenty-six year olds acting like children. Did you expect fairness?"
Emilio glared. "I suppose not."
"Then the moral issue is resolved." Elena stated factually. At this point, both twins could hear the soft chuckles from around them. Elena turned and she could see her closest companions Astinos and Stelios were doing their best to keep grins off their faces. The other Spartans farther away from the circle were openly grinning and chuckling amongst themselves.
Emilio laughed, too. "I guess we put on a pretty childish show for them, huh?"
Elena could only smile.
A/N: It's my first posted fan fiction, but not my first writing experiment. Please let me know what you think!
And just for the record, my characters will be long gone before the final battle.