Author: Gili Estlin Hirsch

Title: A Thing of Beauty Is a Joy Forever

This story is certainly not ordinary fiction, so please read the disclaimers first. It’s not a story for everyone—not a cute rom-com with our beloved couple—but it is unusual in its depth, and certainly worth taking a look at and becoming invested in.

SYNOPSIS: Alt; There is no Callisto. The story takes place during Season Two. Gabrielle is married to Perdicus and has settled down in Potidaea. Xena, refusing to see her or admit she is hurt by and angry at her matrimony, embarks on a debaucherous, hedonistic binge, unable to stop her violent behavior from taking the forefront. In a short period of time, Xena neglects all responsibilities, including her promise for kindness and all that is good, which leaves her, mentally and physically, at rock bottom. When she finally encounters Gabrielle again, the two must admit the truth that, as it turns out, they have both been hiding.

DISCLAIMER AND TRIGGER WARNINGS: This story explores some pretty dark themes, including rape, suicide, alcohol abuse, extreme violence, and prostitution. It does not do so in a very detailed way most of the time, but those subjects are in it. There are multiple explicit sex scenes between two women in this story, and it explores sex in general in many ways—some more detailed and others less. To be clear: there are NO graphic depictions of rape of any kind, nor does a rape occur, but it is mentioned, and I do believe you always deserve a heads up about that. The suicide is not depicted in a graphic manner either.

There is a lot of sex in this story and a great deal of hurt and comfort, following a depiction of emotional and physical violence and abuse, part of which Xena engages in, and part of which she is a victim of.

This is not an “easy read,” a family friendly, or a short and fun fan fiction. It’s meant to go into the depths of Xena’s character as it was presented on the show during Season Two, and explore what it was in her that was so dark and that scared her so—what it was that Gabrielle stopped and prevented. The darkness that is found is dark indeed and the story therefore deals with many ADULT themes.

The quotes in the beginning of each chapter, as well as the title, are by poet John Keats.

Disclaimer: The characters Xena and Gabrielle were originally imagined by the creators of the television show, Xena: Warrior Princess. Xena: Warrior Princess™ is the copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Use of this material, including the likeness of its characters and any material pertaining to Xena: Warrior Princess, is for personal use and entertainment only, and not for personal gain. There is no intent to infringe upon copyright or trademark. The creators of this project are not affiliated with, and do not represent any of the actors, companies, or organizations associated with Xena: Warrior Princess. All other original characters and stories in this series are copyright © Gili Estlin Hirsch 2019.

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See Chapter One for overall synopsis and disclaimer.


Nothing ever becomes real

til it is experienced.

Touch has a memory.


Gabrielle kept her lips on Xena’s and took inventory as her body rose to life. She had no idea she had been this numb. Her chest finally started to expand, her knees shook, her mouth moved forward hungrily, searching for more. Her arms reached, as if on their own, to where Xena was sitting. She stretched her feet, and her toes came to a point, and she let one touch the rocky ground. Her breath woke up. All at once. Suddenly she was breathing heavily, feeling returning to the palms of her hands, to her nose, to her neck, her pulse rising. She had no idea she had been at a standstill until, suddenly, she was running.

Xena’s breath matched Gabrielle’s. Her hand, shaking, held Gabrielle’s cheek, pulling gently to bring her mouth closer.

You’re all I’ve ever wanted,” Xena whispered—it was a practiced line; she had seen this in her mind’s eye so many times. “You’re all I’ve wanted,” she said. “All this time.” Xena and Gabrielle moved towards each other until their shoulders were touching, and no more. Xena’s breathing became so shallow, it was almost disconcerting. The kiss wasn’t deep or frantic. It was calm and long, and soft, and Gabrielle bathed in it, like she was waiting to bathe in the water of the tub, and thoughts raced through her mind and she changed the position of her legs, and Xena moved as much as she could. She was whimpering from the force of suddenly asking, getting, what she had wanted, what she had thought about for so long.

Their mouths separated then, their faces staying close together.

Like that,” Gabrielle said in a whisper, and Xena nodded, and a tear rolled down her cheek. She opened her mouth, and pressed her forehead to Gabrielle’s, hard. She couldn’t think of anything to say. She felt her warm breath, the heavy air she now shared with Gabrielle, brush softly against her own lips.

Gabrielle moved away from her just a little. She was naked now, Xena, and Gabrielle was still in her nightgown, and Gabrielle got up, lifting Xena with her, holding her waist. It occurred to her that Xena couldn’t climb the steps to the bath, or really do anything unsupported, so she wrapped her arms around her again, making sure to avoid pressing on Xena’s swollen shoulder, and sat her down so her legs were in the water. Xena couldn’t help a sigh of pleasure.

Yeah,” Gabrielle said in agreement with Xena’s sigh. “Feels good, doesn’t it?” Gabrielle smiled. Their faces remained close, and they stared into each other’s eyes, as if gaining strength or gathering force. Gabrielle turned herself around so her own feet were in the water, too. The bottom edge of her nightgown touched the water, becoming wet and heavy around her, clinging to her legs, slowly turning see-through. Xena’s mouth was open.

Without moving her hands from Xena’s waist, Gabrielle lowered herself further into the bath. The water was warm and soothing, and the steam wonderful, and the scent—lavender and roses in milk—was intoxicating, but she needed Xena closer. She placed her hands on the brunette’s waist, intending to slowly lower her into the water.

Ready?” Gabrielle said. Xena nodded. Her face was still frozen in shock.

It’s gonna hurt,” Gabrielle warned, and Xena nodded again. “Come close to me again,” Gabrielle whispered. Xena let her weight be carried down to and by the water. Every piece of her flesh stung. She hissed in pain but tried to keep quiet. She managed to keep silent until the water reached her chest.

Ah!” she yelled. “Oh,” she breathed heavily. “I can’t—”

We’re going to clean this,” Gabrielle said, and Xena closed her eyes, wincing, and Gabrielle said,

Come close to me again. Please.”

Xena opened her eyes and moved in the water until she was closer to Gabrielle. Their faces almost touching, Gabrielle nuzzled Xena’s cheek, her legs finding a footing at the bottom of the tub. Her hands rose up Xena’s waist to her rib cage, and Xena moaned, without even trying not to, without even pretending she didn’t mean to.

It was a strange, almost surreal sensation. All the dirt and the scars and the filth, her months of well-earned grime, were being peeled off. Gabrielle turned her around and pressed against her back, and Xena leaned her head back onto Gabrielle’s shoulder. Gabrielle took a sponge and then placed Xena’s arm—the bad one—in her arms. She moved the sponge along, washing the cuts, and it hurt, but whenever Xena moved, Gabrielle moved with her. She cleaned her palms and wrists and then went to her neck. Xena turned back around, and Gabrielle supported the back of her head, closing again any distance between their bodies.

Hold your breath,” she told Xena, and Xena’s hands moved to Gabrielle’s chest.

Slowly, with intent, Gabrielle lifted Xena—it was even easier in the water—so she was in her arms, and used her hand to cradle her neck as she dunked Xena’s head under the water, completely washing her hair and face. When she rose up, Gabrielle continued with the sponge. She cleaned Xena’s feet, her calves, her thighs, and Gabrielle’s stomach clenched as her hand moved swiftly between Xena’s legs, and Xena opened her mouth, gasping a stuttering breath. Gabrielle dabbed at the cut on her chest, everywhere on her arms. Then she turned Xena around again.

All wordlessly, she caressed and cleaned Xena’s back, starting low and going higher, reaching her shoulders. Gentle, gentle. She placed her hand on Xena’s forehead again, and Xena went underwater again. Gabrielle moved her hands to Xena’s neck. Then she reached for something, and poured it on Xena’s long hair, washing and massaging and fighting with the dark locks of hair. There was a brush near the tub, and Gabrielle used it; she slowly, softly untangled the knots from Xena’s hair, pressing her palm against Xena’s chest, occasionally. She froze for a moment, then. And when she moved again, her hand swept Xena’s hair aside, to reveal the back of her neck. Her lips touched the skin there, and she was surprised at the softness she felt. Xena’s hand gripped the edge of the tub for balance. Her fists clenched, and she let out a low moan.

Xena’s thinking was blurry. How do you react to getting what you wanted after you already gave up? But more than that, it occurred to her that Gabrielle had never been with a woman. She used almost impossible willpower to let her lead whatever journey they were own now. Her head fell back on Gabrielle’s shoulder once more, and Gabrielle said,

Kiss me. Again.” Then she added, “Please.”

Xena turned. Her cuts were still burning, but a different feeling eclipsed her dizziness and the searing pain in her chest. She brought her mouth to Gabrielle’s, kissing her slowly, trying to let her set the pace.

And she did.

Like I wrote,” Gabrielle murmured, and their kiss deepened, tongue meeting tongue, and something rose in Gabrielle she had never felt before, her body straightening in the water. She reached an arm to pull Xena close to her, as close as she could, and Xena couldn’t help a whimper when Gabrielle said,

Get this off,” in a demanding whisper.

Her nightgown, heavy in the water, pooled around her. Gabrielle did what her body told her to do. She closed her legs around Xena’s waist and said again,

Off,” all in a whisper, all though long and short kisses. “Off,” she commanded, and Xena’s tired muscles came to life. She couldn’t help a movement forward with Gabrielle’s legs around her, and she ran a hand up her calf, up to her thigh, under the fabric. Gabrielle’s hands moved and cleaned and kissed small cuts, and Xena did as she was told. She slipped the straps from Gabrielle’s nightgown, and kissed the blonde as she pulled the garment up over her head.


She was naked in the water with Gabrielle. And Gabrielle was sparing nothing, her body commanding her, and her listening like the best of soldiers.

Look,” Gabrielle said, then bit down on Xena’s lip. “I want you to see.”

And Xena did look, all the way from Gabrielle’s long neck to her chest and torso and legs, and she made a strange breathing sound trying to stop herself from touching.

No,” Gabrielle said. She grabbed Xena’s hand underwater, and placed it on her chest, moving downward. “This is yours,” Gabrielle said. She wrapped her arms around Xena, pulling her closer with an urgent plea.

Lower, now,” she commanded, and Xena did lower her hand, and when Gabrielle said, “Stop, right there,” she did, using every collected bit of control she could find in herself not to move her hand from its place right at the meeting point of Gabrielle’s legs.

Gabrielle threw her head back, and Xena’s mouth went to her neck, licking and kissing downward, and Gabrielle nodded and moaned her approval. Her body thrust against Xena’s hand almost involuntarily, searching for something, hungry, empty.

What is this,” Gabrielle whispered, and Xena’s hand stayed still while Gabrielle’s legs came closer, touching her eventually with the apex of her thighs, and as soon as she did her breath hitched and she tried, unsuccessfully, not to yell, and her movements turned much stronger.

What is this,” Gabrielle repeated. Xena shook her head, holding the small of Gabrielle’s back, unable to provide an answer. Gabrielle took them to the edge of the bath, where she could stand. Xena’s hands, still strong or strengthened by the soft skin she was finally able to touch, encircled Gabrielle’s hips, locking together behind her.

Your fingers,” Gabrielle said, and Xena bit her lip and still the moan came right through the cracks in the corner of her mouth.

Your fingers, put them inside of me,” Gabrielle ordered. Her eyes were rolled back in pleasure, but then upon her request they returned to focus, and she saw blue eyes so wide and lips so inviting, and Xena arresting her movements—she could feel it, she knew her well enough. She pressed her thumb along Xena’s lips, shaking her head.

Stop,” Gabrielle said. “Stop holding back. Do what you want,” she pleaded, her breath warm and wet on Xena’s cheek as she lowered her head. “Show me what you want. Show me.”

Xena opened and closed her mouth and tried to either speak or something else but couldn’t. She still held her body hindered, and Gabrielle kissed her again.

Please,” she said again, reaching back to catch Xena’s hand and bring it forward. “Show me, please,” she begged. “How can I know what I’ve wanted,” she cried, and her breaths were short and shallow.

Gabrielle—” Xena started, as Gabrielle moved her hand lower. “Is this real? This is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Gabrielle placed one of Xena’s fingers inside of her, which left her speechless, which left Xena speechless.

Xena closed her eyes. She felt like she was drowning. Never in her dreams could she have imagined such softness. Never in her dreams could she have imagined the paralyzing ecstasy of being inside Gabrielle.

I’m begging you,” Gabrielle managed to say, and sweat or water fell down her forehead, and Xena captured her lips with a kiss.

Anything you want,” said Xena. “Everything is yours. I’d do anything for you.”

They fought to hold their mouths together, touching, while Xena slipped another finger in Gabrielle, eliciting moans that were difficult to ignore. That had been difficult to imagine. Xena’s body overtook her very quickly, and with every plea of Gabrielle’s hips, Xena met her step for step, touch for touch, thrust for furious thrust. Gabrielle’s hands locked behind Xena’s neck. She let her body rock with the pace Xena dictated now.

More? I want more,” Gabrielle said. Her voice was so high, and the push back of her body against Xena so urgent. Xena added a finger inside Gabrielle and curled all three, and Gabrielle screamed then of pleasure with more abandon than before, and it did or didn’t occur to her she should be quieter, her body jumping, thrusting, moving on its own, and Xena went wild, more than all these months she felt like an animal, ready to devour every part of Gabrielle. She placed her thumb on Gabrielle’s clit and the blonde bit down on her shoulder, hard, very hard, and it hurt, and Xena’s body hurt and the water stung but it made no difference; she kept on moving her thumb in small pulsating movements, curling her fingers, and her mouth kissed and sucked whatever patch of skin it found, pressing against Gabrielle to keep her quiet a few times.

Gabrielle shook her head then.

What—” Gabrielle started.

Xena moaned. Determined, she pushed her thighs against Gabrielle, even then not matching her in strength. Gabrielle’s body pulled Xena’s fingers in deeper, and Xena pressed harder with her thumb. Gabrielle moaned on some odd harmonic scale of breathing, slow at first, but then faster, and she didn’t know to say “harder,” so she said “more,” and “faster,” and Xena obeyed—what Gabrielle wants, Gabrielle gets. Her fingers, still connected inside Gabrielle, pushed further into the wetness and the warmth. Gathering the last of her strength, Xena used the force of her whole body to slide her fingers in and out, coaxing Gabrielle to become a part of her, to enter her. Gabrielle ascended the scale with each rhythmic keel, her body slowly losing control, hands digging into Xena, and her head shaking back and forth, as if it were impossible, as if it were a dream.

But it wasn’t. Not that she knew of, and something told her to suddenly keep her body still and simply let Xena go in and out with her fingers, and she did think to say “harder,” calling out, her broken voice a desperate whimper, “Harder!” like a command. And Xena was a good soldier. Especially when she respected the authority above her. For a minute she simply let her hand move in its original direction, and then, when she felt Gabrielle turn completely rigid, thrust her fingers harder—any sign or attempt to keep quiet were long gone. She then bit down on Gabrielle’s neck, and slowly moved her thumb in circles using steady pressure, spreading her palm, providing a surface for Gabrielle to push down upon. And then the furious shaking no of Gabrielle’s head turned into frantic nodding, begging her not to stop. She made an effort to look at Xena, though her eyes became glazed, and she nodded again, her mouth falling open, and Xena found herself nodding along with her, reassuring her that she was still connected to her.

Gabrielle’s body pulled, twisted, and suddenly stilled, for a few seconds. She found herself falling into what felt like a crash or an earthquake, and her entire body stretched, every muscle of it, starting at her calves and rising up her back, and she made noises in regular intervals, that got louder and louder, and then suddenly something happened. Everything went quiet, everything disappeared. Xena wasn’t there—just her fingers—and it was as if white had surrounded her everywhere. Gabrielle didn’t know whether to open or close her eyes, and she let the pull in her body, a tickle of the muscles, run through her, and she opened her mouth and breathed in, and in again, her voice confounded when she let it out, and then she breathed in and in and in and she shook all over and she closed her eyes and clung to Xena until her breaking point—she screamed with pleasure, for a while, too, hiding her face in Xena’s shoulder, and she felt Xena’s unoccupied hand cradling her head there. Odd, like it would not stop, and her body shook, her breath constricted and bothered, and she pulled Xena closer and tears fell down her cheeks. She didn’t know why, and she meant to say something like, this is what I have wanted, or, I wanted this so much, or, don’t stop, promise me you’ll never stop, but she managed to say only “yes, yes,” and nod her head repeatedly while her breathing was returning to normal, and still she clung onto Xena, whose mouth was open and eyes hungry and loving and she also shook and shook, unwilling to let Gabrielle drift away from her tight grip, holding onto her, even though she felt every muscle burning in her weakened body.

To be continued in part 8.